Everyone love Japan.
It has a rich culture, people are polite and there’s great food to eat.
It’s a very popular and safe vacation destination for many people.
I needed a break from work and also was also planning a solo trip to Japan for quite some time.
What stopped me from doing it was fear and uncertainty on how much to spend in Japan.
Japan trips seem expensive. However, with economic easing by Abe, traveling to Japan has become more affordable in 2016.
Hence, overcoming my fear, I decided to take action and flew solo to Osaka!
“Are you crazy?”
These are some of the comments by Singaporean colleagues and acquaintances.
Has anyone said that to you when you told your friends or family that you are traveling solo to another country?
In life, you only can move forward when you move out of your comfort zone.
And this trip has helped me to move towards my goal in life.
This post is to show how easy it can be to be traveling in Japan.
It is not a totally budget trip but it can help you to plan your budget and itinerary for visiting Osaka, Kyoto and Nara!
It is essential to plan your trip for Japan as your days are limited and some trips might take a long time. Here are some tips to prepare for your trip.
1. Plan Your Budget
Before you head for your Japan trip, you’ll need to estimate a budget for your spending. First have a rough idea of how much you want to spend for your air ticket. It’s good to be cheap, but try to be flexible with the few dollars.
Next is your accommodation. For the number of days how much are you willing to spend? Will it be in a hotel? Hostel? Or Airbnb?
Hotel will be the most expensive but it gives you the comfort. More suitable for family trips.
Hostels and Airbnb or capsule hotels are cheaper and offers a glimpse of Japanese culture. Suitable for couple or small group travels.
Finally, spending. Don’t need to plan, set a budget instead. Say you are going to have a budget of $500 for your spending while there.
Once you have your budget, you’ll need to track your spending when your are travelling so that you can estimate your spending for the next few days.
Some of you may use an envelope to put a set amount for daily spending.
For me i found a useful iPhone/Android App called TrabeePocket which I use it to enter and track my spending.
It’s more flexible this way as you may meet with unexpected spending or stumble across something that is not to be missed!
In Japan, cash is king. So make sure you bring cash.
If you have remaining currencies from other countries, you can exchange various currency to Yen at the Kansai Airport just right after you exit from the arrival gate. Very fast and effortless.
Leave most of your credit cards at home. Use your credit card to spend in their airports instead.
2. Use Google Map to plan your itinerary
Google Map is a great tool to plan your trips as it has all the addresses and location of places you want to visit for sightseeing. It is a good way to plan your accommodation as you will prefer to be located near trains, supermarket and convenience stores.
You can create your own map in Google Map to plan your itinerary.
You can view my itinerary map of Osaka to help your planning. I have marked out places of interest that can help you with your planning.
Use Google Map to plan your transportation timings so that you can make use of the timing to maximise your day trips.
3. Reserve Your Wifi for Internet Connection In Japan
Internet connection is a must if you want to check transportation routes and timing in Japan. GPS location will be very useful to find specific locations where you want to go.
You can either buy a SIM card in Japan or reserve a Wifi router before heading to Japan.
You can check out my review of Changi Recommends’s Wifi router which I used during the trip.
4. Check Out Online Guides And Special Discount Passes
Check out online guides for planning your itinerary. Some of the guides (Osaka) I used are:
As transportation may be expensive, you may want to consider getting rail passes.
5. Trick to Travel Around Japan’s Railway/Subway Network
Now here’s the trick to navigate around Japan’s transportation easily.
All you have to do is open up Google Map on your phone. Select the place you have saved in your map and click for directions using public transports.
It will show you possible routes, the time taken to travel and also the cost for the route!
So just follow the signs to the right train line and take the route suggested by Google!
Tip: There’s another app you can use is Navitime for transportation app.
Now let’s proceed with the trip!
Singapore – Kansai International Airport – Osaka
Took the budget airlines Scoot for my trip.
As it was quite a last minute decision to fly, it’s quite lucky that I still managed to get decent prices for my trip.
It was a non-direct flight, stopping by at Taiwan Kaohsiung for a transfer. But the transfer plane is the same plane. You proceed to transfer at the airport and get back on the plane again.
For longer flight budget airlines, I like taking the 787 Dreamliner as it provides more leg room and better seats.
After a long flight, I finally landed in KIX, Kansai International Airport in the late afternoon.
How to Get From Kansai Airport to Osaka
To get to the train station, follow the signs to level 2 and cross a bridge to the Railway station. It’s quite easy actually.
Buying ICOCA Card From Airport Train Station
With no time to waste, I needed to get the ICOCA card for traveling around Kansai area in trains and buses.
So just find the JR office located at the train station of the airport and queue to get the ICOCA card.
The ICOCA card is very useful for traveling around Kansai area as you don’t have to worry about buying train tickets. Just recharge at any machine in the train station (read how to recharge your card).
Saves you lots of time, plus the card can be reused if you come back to Osaka!
To get the card, you have to purchase the ICOCA+Haruka pass package (¥3,100). The Haruka pass allows express travel to the main station in Osaka. (Remember to watch the TV demonstration while queuing to learn how to take the Haruka train!)
So for the first time visitor to Osaka, just purchase the one-way package if you are staying in Osaka. You can travel back to the airport at a cheaper price using the Nankai Line.
You may want to consider buying the Kansai Rail Pass or Kansai Wide Rail Pass, which will allow you to travel using JR trains around Kansai area for unlimited times.
This is useful if you are traveling multiple or very far away places like Himeji in a single day or 2.
If you are traveling to near places like Kyoto or Nara on separate days, stick to the ICOCA card.
To get to the train, enter via the blue entrance and go to platform 4, which is the non-reserved section. Be prepared to stand if there are many people especially during peak periods.
It will take about an hour to travel from the Airport to Tennoji Station.
As I was staying in a rented apartment (using Airbnb) in the outer region of Osaka, I had to change to the subway to Nagai, which is 3 stops from Tennoji.
After a short walk from Nagai Station, I reached my apartment!
It’s my first time using Airbnb, so it’s quite a good experience and I like my room in the apartment a lot.
It’s clean and neat. I experienced how it feels to stay in a Japanese apartment!
Tip: During immigration, you need to write the your Airbnb address and bracket “Airbnb” in your immigration card. Provide your host’s contact number too in the immigration card.
After doing a check in, I put my stuffs and proceed to Dotonbori!
To get to Dotonbori, take the subway to Namba Station. Then look for exit which points you to Dotonbori.
Dotonbori is one of the best places in town for shopping and eating. It’s a really bright place with big screens and bright signboards. It has many restaurants and street stalls serving many varieties of delicious food!
Osaka is famous for it’s Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki. Hence, when you land in Osaka, these are the two first food that you must try!
Check out some of the restaurants in the Dotonbori website!
And I had my first Okonomiyaki at this restaurant called 福えびす 道頓堀店!
I really like it when they prepared it and place it on the hot plate. It allows the pancake to remain hot for eating. The one here was really delicious! The vegetables are crisp and crunchy! It’s good to have a partner traveling so you order deluxe varieties and share. Yes, it goes well with beer!
7-6 Souemoncho, Chuo Ward, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 542-0084, Japan
If you are looking for ramen, why not go for the famous Ichiran Ramen?
One of the best ramen in Japan. You must try this.
A lot of times, you will encounter buying food via a ticket machine. Don’t worry, just observe what people do and copy!
If you are still clueless, read this simple guide to order your Ichiran ramen in Japan!
Be prepared for long queue during dinner time! Thankfully if you stay within walking distance, it’s open 24 hours.
一蘭 道頓堀店 Ichiran Dotonbori shop
Japan, 〒542-0084 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, Chuo Ward, Souemoncho, 7−18
Shopping in Osaka
There’s just so much shopping in Osaka! If you are the shopping type, be prepared to bring more cash for shopping! There is the Shinsaibashi district for your shopping needs!
For 2016, for girls, if you are looking for bags, you should buy the Anello bags in japan which are now very trendy in Japan and Asia. The bag looks good and very spacious for putting lots of stuff in it. Not to mention it’s inexpensive. Perfect bag for a cabin bag!
OTC Medicine and Beauty Products
You can buy many tax free beauty products and also OTC medicines. Heard that their medicines are very good and effective! Very popular with Koreans.
Check out the Top 50 Medicines and Beauty Products by Japanese Pharmacists.
Sightseeing In Osaka
Other than the famous Dotonbori, there are other sightseeing that you have to visit. Here are some of the sightseeing that I visited during my trip in Osaka. There are much more to see in Osaka so if you have more days in Osaka, you can visit other places. Below are some of the places I visited in my tight schedule.
Good place to visit to see the one of the castle in Japan. Located in a park, the journey towards the castle is more enchanting during the Sakura blossom in Spring. Best time to go in Summer is before sunset, where there are less people and the castle looks beautiful at sunset!
Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
From Osaka Castle, take the Chuo Line to Osakako Station.
One of the largest aquarium in the world, Osaka’s Aquarium is a must visit! The value of visiting inside the aquarium justifies the high price of the entry ticket.
Never seen a whale shark?
You got to see it in here. I’ve been before SEA aquarium in Singapore. This one beats the Singapore aquarium due to the jaw dropping 8 floors of exhibitions with constant view of the central tank!
Cost: 2,300 Yen for adult ticket.
Tempozan Ferris Wheel
After your trip to the aquarium, for couples you can board the Tempozan Ferris Wheel for a romantic moment. Depending, good time to take will be sunset or the night.
Notable Visit: Universal Studios Japan (USJ)
Notable trip you can make if you have the budget and friends for fun is Universal Studios Japan (USJ). A fun way is to take the ferry to USJ which you can purchase the ferry ticket from the aquarium ticketing counter. Looks exciting!
As it was late in the night and approaching closing time (restaurants close at 9pm), I had dinner in the shopping centre in the Tempozan Market Place. Entered a restaurant selling Tonkatsu. The tonkatsu served is really good and is at affordable price. I ordered their promotion tonkatsu. Seriously good.
Japan, 〒552-0022 Osaka Prefecture, Osaka, 港区海岸通1丁目1-10 天保山マーケットプレース 3F Tempozan Market Place
After that I move on to my day trip in Kyoto and Nara. Stay tune!
Air Ticket Scoot From Singapore to Kansai Airport: $614.58 (last min booking)
Spending: $423 (Estimated for Osaka, Kyoto and Nara inclusive transport, food, all spending)