Now, before we get into the post proper, I'll be the first to raise my hand and admit i'm not an expert on travel in Japan. (A Girl & A Bald Traveller is a blog on exotic travel, not usually on Typical Singaporean destinations like Tokyo) In fact, I think most of our friends have traveled Japan more extensively than we have.
Our travel experience in Japan is limited to simply Tokyo, Osaka, and Kyoto. This post is a result of a combination of both our travels in Japan in 2015. This time, we will focus only on Tokyo. If you'd like to read about "The Girl's" solo trip to Osaka & Kyoto, just click on the link below.
A Girl's Solo Trip. 10 Days in Kyoto, Osaka & Tokyo @$1.2k Nett! (Including AirTickets)
What we ARE experts on, is how to travel a country as inexpensively as possible, WITHOUT spending the trip like a beggar and WITHOUT forgoing mandatory travel experiences (you can't travel to Japan and just eat bread and water to save money surely).
Yes, and sleeping at peoples homes or spending our nights shivering in the cold under a bridge to save money isn't our idea of a vacation either. We only believe in realistic yet comfortable travel.
With that, lets begin.
(Some points may be an overlap if you've already read The Girl's solo travel experience)
Sensoji Temple; Asakusa, Tokyo
How much should a ticket from Singapore to Tokyo cost?
Because Tokyo is a typical Singaporean travel destination, many airlines offer "promotions". If you don't mind flying budget, promotions should cost any where from $300 to around $450 SGD Nett. In fact, "The Girl's" Return air-ticket from Singapore to Tokyo cost just $280 SGD! (Courtesy of a UOB + Scoot promotion)
Now, obviously these kind of promotions don't come by all the time, but securing a promotion for around $450 SGD is fairly easy. If you're paying more than $450 for a budget flight, you're overpaying.
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The "Bald Guy" in Kabukicho (Tokyo's red light district)
How many days should you spend in Tokyo & what's there to do?
In our opinion, Tokyo City itself doesn't deserve anything more than 3 days.
Sure, there are interesting quirks here and there in the city (we'll come to that later) but generally, if you're planning to spend a week in Tokyo, do yourself a favor and get out of the city.
Nearby Hakone offers the best views of Mt Fuji and a Japanese Onsen experience.
It was a cloudy day in Hakone and my "view" was restricted to this.....
THIS, is what the view from Hakone is supposed to be like on a clear day.
View of Mt Fuji from Hakone. Imagecredit Wikipedia
Hakone deserves 2 days of your time. As part of the Hakone Free Pass, you can sail about the lake on a Pirate Ship (above) and hopefully view Mt Fuji, ride the cable car, visit the geothermal region, soak in a hot spring, and basically laze around enjoying the Japanese nature.
If you have a day left, visit Kawagoe (also known as Little Edo) in the morning.
Think of Kawagoe as a substandard Kyoto. It deserves just half a day. Obviously, if your time in Japan already involves Kyoto, skip this. But if you're like many Singaporeans who travel to Japan just to visit Tokyo (no idea why), an "ancient Japanese" atmosphere is an interesting alternative to the endless buildings in Tokyo city.
Streets of Kawagoe (Little Edo)
As for the other half of the day?
Visit the Meiji Jingu Stadium and catch a Baseball game (example of a general game's ticket pricing), soak up the atmosphere of watching a match together with passionate Japanese fans in a stadium. I know, Singaporeans don't watch baseball. (we only watch soccer) That's fine, I don't watch baseball either. It's all about the atmosphere. Surely a visit to Japan isn't just about sashimi, anime and cherry blossoms right?
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Of course, experiences in Tokyo aren't limited to the above.
Visit the Imperial Palace or the Meiji Shrine (boring stuff for aunties & uncles). Or perhaps you're feeling rich and you'd like to be ripped of while enjoying a bird's eye view from the Tokyo Tower? (the view from Tokyo's city hall is free) If you're in Tokyo on a weekend, drop by Takeshita Street and be amused by the anime cos-players decked out in their favorite costumes.
Maid Dreamin is probably the most popular Maid franchise in Tokyo. They are everywhere!
If you like the quirky or have paedophilic instincts, have a sake at one of the Maid Cafes in Akihabara and be waited upon by 12-16 year old girls parading and dancing in a Maid costume (disclaimer: I was there for the quirky experience, not the pedophilia).
That being said, visiting a Maid Cafe in Tokyo ranks among one of the weirdest experiences i've had. It's worth a visit, if you can afford the entrance fee and expensive drinks. (hint; it's not cheap)
Sneaking a photo at a Maid Cafe. Photography apparently is banned. Ssshhh...
When you're done with all the above, wake up at 4am to visit the Tsukiji Fish Market and queue (Singaporeans favourite) for the world's most expensive sushi. Walk around the street bazaar in Ueno and wash down your day with an overpriced beer in the Roppongi Hills.
If you're having a sleepless night, head to Kabukicho (Tokyo's red light district) to pay for some company. Yes, it's not limited to men; ladies too can have their pick of dolled up Japanese gigolos.
Where to stay in Tokyo?
The dining/ common area of a typical Japanese hostel. Not too bad eh?
Fortunately for pampered Singaporean travelers, budget accommodation in Tokyo is fantastic.
Even the most fussy Singaporean should find Air B&B, Hostels, or Capsule Hotels in Tokyo pleasant enough for a night of sleep. Hostels cost anywhere from $25 SGD to $35 SGD a night. Capsule hotels cost upwards of $50 SGD. Anything more than $50 is expensive in my book.
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"The Girl" in a capsule hotel (this was in Kyoto though; just an example. In Tokyo, she stayed in hostels)
For the benefit of our overseas readers; Singaporeans tend to find $100 accommodation cheap, and anything less; unthinkable, unlivable, and tend to say "why spend so much money to visit Japan to suffer?" and proceed to give you a weird look like "why you'd travel all the way just to save on accommodation?"
That's usually why most Singaporeans spend half their life getting into debt; and the other half, trying to get out of it.
Visit Hostelworld for a list of cheap accommodation in Japan.
I'd suggest staying at locations along the JR Yamanote Line as most of the major districts like Shibuya, Ginza, Shinjuku and Ueno are found along this line. Fortunately (if you're open to hostels) many of the cheapest hostels are found in the Ueno district of Tokyo; all you have to do is find one within walking distance to the JR Line.
Ueno also happens to be home to a couple of Tokyo's highlights; namely the Zoo and Ueno Park where you can gaze at Cherry Blossoms all day long. Don't get the month wrong though, Cherry Blossoms bloom in late March to early April.
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If you've tattoos like I do, one question you'll absolutely need to know is "am I allowed in public onsens?" (Just in case you don't know, tattooed men are generally banned in public onsens)
The answer is NO, your not allowed; BUT if you're obviously a foreigner (with tattoos), some public guest houses might make an exception. (like how they did for me)
Your worst case scenario? Book a more expensive room with it's own attached Onsen.
How to get around Tokyo?