Sushi, Disney, Trains and Yen..... Our Recent Trip to Japan
Hi beautiful readers!
As promised, I thought I would write up about my trip to Japan with my 5 year old daughter Tayla. I particularly wanted to focus on my experiences and provide some tips for if anyone is interested in travel there. In all, the holiday was about 10 days from when we left our home in Townsville to when we returned.
We got a really great deal via Jetstar's Friday Frenzy. I sign up for a lot of airline and travel company emails and keep my eyes out for great deals. I would jump onto the internet and sign for as many as you can - every now and then you can get some incredible gems! I love Jetstar, Cudo Travel and Princess Cruises.
Besides one night where I stayed with a relative, every other night I stayed in hotels. I booked all of my accommodation through Expedia, and I have generally had no major issues with them. The only downside was they forgot to let my Tokyo hotel know that I had a child staying with me so they had initially booked me in a smaller room. Thankfully the hotel manager was amazing and upgraded my room to a bigger and ladies only floor for free so that I had room and was comfortable.
In Cairns we stayed at Sunland Leisure Park which was exceptional value and would highly recommend to anyone who is looking for really getting great value. For $55 Tayla and I stayed in a cabin with an ensuite and our cabin was right across from a small play area and right near the pool. The pool had a really awesome slide which we took full advantage of! The room was self-contained and very well maintained. It was also only about 10 minutes from Cairns Airport which made it really easy to make the transition.
In Osaka we stayed at Hotel Shin-Imamyia for four nights ($138). It wasn't the flashiest hotel, but it served it's purpose. The rooms were clean and the bathrooms were reasonably clean. I wasn't fussed on how infrequently the bins were emptied in the bathrooms, but in all the showers were reasonably maintained. Having a toilet in the room was convenient so we didn't have to go to another floor in the middle of the night (the ladies bathroom is on the second floor). The staff were polite and helpful when they needed to be but not overly welcoming. It was close to a Lawson's (7/11) but you had to walk about 15 minutes to get to any eating outlets. I did appreciate the convenience of being close to the train station, but at times it was a hinderance when you were continually awoken by the trains leaving and returning. But as I said, it served it's purpose, although I will look into other options if I return to Osaka.
In Tokyo we stayed at Palace Japan Hotel for three nights ($124.68) And this by far was my favourite hotel in Japan. I found the lady who managed the Hotel to be extremely friendly and welcoming and she spoke english really well. She took the time to show me around the hotel and gave me a lot of useful information about the area. Like Osaka, the room was small (which is standard in Japan), but I found it was a brighter and more welcoming room. We stayed on a ladies only floor which was nice and peaceful. The bathroom was exceptionally clean and very well-maintained by a group of cleaners every morning. The kitchen was easily accessible and they provided a water cooler so that I could top up my water bottle every morning and afternoon (this saved us a few bucks). It was close enough to the station where it was easily acceptable but you weren't distracted by the sound of the train station. There was a 7/11 on the corner of the street and a very good quality grocery store across the road. There is a cafe on the corner and a HJ, Maccas and Denny's about 5 minutes away. I would highly recommend staying there if you are ever in Tokyo.
We generally got around Japan by train and foot. I found that 'Google Maps' was a big saviour for me at times. I needed a little help initially to work out the train stations and subways, but once I figured it out, travel become easy. it's reasonably cheap to get around and some zones varied from 140 - 240 YEN. My tip is to get a JR Pass if you intend on exploring Japan further (because Osaka to Japan alone is 14000 YEN). You can get a seven day pass for about $300 AUD for adults and about $170 AUD for children. Just make sure you check your activation date otherwise you will get caught out! I activated mine slightly too early so mine had expired when I was due to head back to Tokyo which in turn cost me slightly extra. You need to order it before heading over and a collection ticket will be sent to you in the mail. Get it activated at the JR office which is situated at the Airport. One thing to note is there are A LOT of stairs around. Most stations have escalators and lifts, but sometimes it gets so busy that the stairs are a quicker option. They also have TONS of places where you can hire a bicycle to ride around, so if you're feeling a little adventurous why not give it a go! I am considering hiring one next time I am in the country when I go to the outskirts of the cities.
As you know, Japan's currency is the YEN. I got myself a pre-paid currency bank card before I left thinking that I would just use my card everywhere…. how wrong I was! The whole time I was over there I only used my card three times outside of using an ATM. Most places in Japan take cash over card and are very honest in how they interact when it comes to money. They will always show you the cost on the till then show you what you gave them then count the change out. They take a lot of pride in keeping their business' honest. All of the convenience stores had ATMs to take cash out and depending on where you were, there were plenty of them around. I didn't realise this until I got to Osaka Castle to which I had to walk about 30 minutes to find an ATM!
Ok so I have an extremely fussy eater so it did makes things slightly difficult at times. But we made it work. Luckily there were a few McDonalds and Subways around which made some decisions easier and luckily for me, Tayla loves sushi rice so we shared the sushi (I ate the meat and she ate the rice). The only advice I can give about food in Japan is be mindful of where you are as it does impact the price. I tried to avoid the major train stations to eat food (particularly Tokyo station) as it was quite significantly expensive. I found a lot of grocery stores did some yummy meals in their prepared food area at a reasonable price and even their sushi was great value. Depending on the areas you are staying in, I found a few places that did some great breakfast deals. One particular place you got an egg, a piece of toast and a coffee for 500 YEN. I really enjoyed the curries over there and definitely want to learn to make Japanese curries now that I am at home. They are very big on vending machines for selling drinks and they are EVERYWHERE. Just be mindful of the costs of them. I know with water, the majority were around 100 YEN but there were some cheaper ones and some even got close to 200YEN. As sad as it sounds, my favourite meal of my entire trip was a spaghetti marinara at Disneysea! It was seriously the most incredible meal. I also loved the sushi in Osaka - there was a place about 10 minutes from my hotel which made beautiful food.
Places to go:
I went to quite a few places. To save me writing an essay about each place, I will just give a brief outline of what each place was generally like, rough cost and any tips for that place. I don't want to say too much because I think everyone's experience of a place is different.
Osaka Castle: Roughly about $10AUD (maybe a little more - I can't remember exactly. It was quite cheap). Kids were free. The views from the top were beautiful and you could get some stunning views of Osaka. As you went down, there were quite a few small items to look at and some mini docos you could watch.
Osaka Park: Free! There's a park not far from the Castle which is pretty amazing. It's quite a large park with plenty to keep the kids (and adults) occupied. I particularly loved the massive tube slide they had. It had a cool little musical tone as you went down.
Osaka Aquarium: About 3000 Yen in a package with the Observation wheel and 1700 Yen for children. An awesome aquarium which boasts roughly six levels and has such a massive range of sea life.
Observation Wheel: You can get in a package with the Aquarium but kids do get charged separate (400 Yen). A cool like experience where you get a better view of the city of Osaka. They have observation wheels all over Osaka and Tokyo and I recommend at least trying one. It doesn't break the bank and you get some beautiful views.
Legoland: A cool place to bring out your inner child! Everything is made of lego and caters for all ages. My recommendation is to check out the lego replica of Osaka. It's fully functional and moves! I think I paid about 1600 Yen to get in and Tayla was free.
Osaka Science Museum: I paid about 800 Yen (Tayla was free) to get in. There's about five levels of exhibits and interactive activities for the kids (and big kids!). Each level focused on a different area of Science. The ground floor was full of interactive activities that the kids could enjoy before leaving.
Osaka National Art Gallery: The general exhibit was about 400 Yen and the visiting exhibit was 2700 Yen. I opted out of the visiting one as Tayla and I were getting a little tired and were keen to get back to the hotel. The general exhibit had some nice works.
Disneyland and Disneysea: Great spot to go in Tokyo and was easy to get there by train. I would consider the rides at this park more suitable for the older kids but the general entertainment and things to see were worth the entry! I can't remember the price off the top of my head, but jump onto the Disney website for prices and more info. One tip is to definitely book your tickets online as it will make getting in there quicker and easier. My favourite part of the whole trip was the Castle at Disneyland - it was such a magical experience and just all the small quirky details were awesome. Definitely worth the experience. Just try and go outside of peak times or you'll be practically swimming through crowds!
Harajuku: A cool area in Tokyo for some great shopping! I got some awesome deals there with my favourite place being a cute little jewellery spot called "Paris Kids". I got a cool little jewellery surprise back for 350 Yen and it was loaded with stuff!
Hope this blog was somewhat helps answer some questions about travelling to Japan. Just remember that all experiences are different and I am providing some feedback based on my own experience of the country. Although I had a lot of fun over there, I really struggled with the business of it. Being back in a more chilled out area back at home has been nice. But in saying that I would definitely love to go back! In the meantime, I am starting to look to 2016 for ideas!
Have a happy New Year everyone!