My friend, Karmen, and I discuss how cool it’d be to spend Halloween in the area around Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. It’s a crazy annual affair.
3rd March 2018
AirAsia has cheap-ish tickets! I book them on a whim because I’ve been having a hard time and retail therapy is just so damn effective on me. I may have issues. Lol.
19th October 2018
I land in Tokyo, Japan.
Yup, that’s how my 2-week solo trip to Japan happened.
That’s basically how most things happen with me, really. I just go with the flow when things line up and present themselves to me in a serendipitous manner.
The 2 weeks I spent in Japan were filled with calm, happy days that were interspersed with thrilling moments.
It’s probably because I didn’t plan a packed itinerary. Sometimes, I just wandered the streets and allowed myself time to enjoy all the gems I discovered along the way.
I visited Tokyo, Hakone, Fuji, and Osaka. And I celebrated Halloween in Shibuya with my friend, Karmen, just like we talked about months before.
Here’s my RM8,000-ish budget breakdown of my 2-week autumn trip to Japan:
– Inclusive of return tickets to Tokyo International Airport (Haneda) and two AirAsia value packs
– 14 days and 13 nights
|Fuji Hakone pass||RM300|
|Theme park and |
– Tokyo DisneySea, Fuji-Q Highland, and
Universal Studios Japan
Use these booking apps to save time and money:
- Klook – great for booking and keeping track of activities, tickets, passes, etc.. I booked the majority of my activities and passes using this app. It’s easy and shows me everything I’ve booked in one convenient location.
- Airbnb – helps you find some nice local housing. Not recommended if you’re travelling alone in Japan cause it can get expensive (e.g.: RM400/night). I booked an Airbnb for the weekend and split the cost with my friend.
- Agoda – they usually have special discounts that make accommodation in Japan pretty affordable. I booked the majority of my hostels here. The great thing about Japan is that most of their hostels are really nice and clean. I had zero bad experiences.
Here are some tips I have for when you travel in Japan:
- Buy a Tokyo Subway ticket and use less of the JR line (green line) to save money
Do this if you can because there’s no discounted pass for the JR line, which runs along the main train stations. I bought three 72-hour Tokyo Subway tickets, which I utilised A LOT. The Tokyo Subway Ticket can be used for the Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines. This is the most worth it thing I can suggest that you get while in Japan. The Tokyo Subway line will also get you to the main areas you want to visit, though a bit more walking is required sometimes.
- Bring good walking shoes
I walked a minimum of 20,000 steps every day. Japan is really pedestrian-friendly. My adidas Superstar sneakers were really comfortable for walking long distances. My black and white Nike Roshe Run shoes, on the other, didn’t provide much comfort in terms of long-distance walking. But they were cushy enough for short distances nonetheless. I used them during my trip to Hakone and Fuji.
- Get a pocket WiFi
Looking for WiFi connection will get tiring after awhile, especially when you’re on-the-go. It’s easier to get a pocket WiFi that you can carry with you on your travels. It’s usually more cost-effective too, as opposed to buying a SIM card. I used Roaming Man (pick-up and drop-off was a KLIA2) ’cause they had a promo that time at RM12/day for Japan. My connection was fast and stable the entire time I was there.
- Check out depachikas – department store food hall basements (e.g.: Isetan,Takashimaya, Keio, etc.) – for bentos, and cheaper food at night
- Use Google Maps to navigate your way through Nihon
- You must experience and enjoy naked time at an onsen – it’s so freeing!
- Eat expensive in the day, and cheap at night (restaurants with expensive dinner sets usually have cheaper lunch promos)
Arrival in Tokyo – Shin-Okubo District
Friday, 19 October 2018
- 2pm: Time to leave Kuala Lumpur and head to Tokyo!
- 10.30pm: Plane’s landed on time at Haneda Airport (Tokyo International Airport). Whoo!
- 11pm: We get off the plane at 11pm. I rush to the immigration counter with the new friend I made on the plane, Putri (btw, check out Putri’s Instagram feed, she takes awesome pictures!). Why are we rushing? Well, the last train leaves at midnight! Ermahgerd. Felt like I was on The Amazing Race. Was kinda fun though, so it’s okay.
- 11.30pm: Got our luggage (there are handlers by the baggage carousel that are arranging the bags as they arrive, so cool!). We rush to board our train. At this point, we just follow the crowd of people, they’re obviously headed to the same place – the train stop that leaves the airport.
- 12.30am: The train ride is exciting. I’m smiling like an idiot to myself. I part ways with Putri first, who also happens to be travelling on her own, and arrive at the Korea Town of Tokyo, Shin-Okubo district. I stop at Shin-Okubo Station, which is one station away from Shinjuku Station via the JR Yamanote Line (green line).
- 12.45am: I check-in to my first-ever capsule hostel, nine hours – Shinjuku North. It’s super clean, minimalistic, and sorta… futuristic? All-in-all, a very comfortable stay. My capsule is surprisingly spacious. And they give you a toiletry bag that includes – a towel, slippers, pajamas, and a toothbrush and toothpaste. The only thing is that you need to check-in and check-out every day. But well, you get a new toiletry bag for each day, so…. yeah. Basically, if you’re not a fussy person, stay here. It’s worth the money, and feels safe and clean.
- 1.30am: I chuck my trusty Deuter Act Lite 40 + 10 hiking backpack in my locker, have a nice hot shower, and sleep. Oh, what a night.
Day 1 in Tokyo – Shinjuku, Harajuku
Saturday, 20 October 2018
- 10am: Went to collect my Tokyo Subway tickets about 1km away from my hostel. The weather is nice and cool since it’s the beginning of autumn. Next, I buy my Fuji Hakone pass and Limited Express Romancecar train ticket at Shinjuku Station for my 3-day 2-night Hakone and Fuji trip on Tuesday, 23 October 2018.
- 11am: The winds bring me to Takeshita Street, a popular street in Harajuku. It’s one stop away from Shinjuku Station via the JR Yamanote green line. The vibrant street is already busy with locals and tourists alike. I see Gyaru and Lolita girls scattered along the street.
- 12pm: I finally try the famous Ichiran Ramen – known for its single booth seats for people who want to eat alone. The ramen is yummy, but it’s nothing to shout about, for me.
- 1pm: I keep wandering the streets and somehow end up in Yoyogi Park. It’s nice in autumn; leaves are beginning to change in colour. I witness a traditional Japanese wedding at the famous Meiji Shrine that’s adjacent to the park. A huge crowd actually gathered to watch the bridal procession, yikes. I’d be freaking out if I were the bride.
- 2.30pm: I walk down the tree-lined boulevard of Omotesando that’s connected to Meiji Shrine’s entrance. The people and shops along this huge road are super fancy. Supercars and superbikes rev down the road now and then. The noise gets sort of annoying. I find a Dominique Ansel bakery and try some of their signature desserts. I like the cookie shot the most. It’s a shot glass shaped chocolate chip cookie filled with vanilla milk. Yum!
- 4pm: I make a quick stop at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden just for funsies. Saw a pretty rare sight of sakuras blooming in autumn. Then I walk over to Shinjuku’s shopping area. It’s filled with tall buildings and neon lights. The area is bright, blinding, and alive.
- 7pm: Dinner is some yummy sushi at a random sushi store I find along the streets of Shinjuku. A piece of nigiri sushi costs about 120 yen (RM4.50).
- 9pm: I get a drink at another random izakaya (informal Japanese pub) nearby before heading back to my hostel.
Day 2 in Tokyo – Shinjuku, Kabukicho, Ginza
Sunday, 21 October 2018
- 10am: I head out after a quick convenience store breakfast to collect my DisneySea tickets, and take a long ass walk to Origin Kitchen – a shop that sells cheap bento (single-portion packed meals) for about 400 yen/RM15 – through Kabukicho, an entertainment and red-light district in Shinjuku.
- 1pm: I have lunch at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. Yup, I’m there again. It’s a beautiful park, okay. My favourite thing to do there is sit under a shady tree on the vast green field and just… be. The weather is nice and chilly; the sky, a clear bright blue; trees sway, and leaves rustle with the gentle winds of autumn. Every visit I make there throughout my trip is absolute perfection.
- 4pm: After a few relaxing hours at the park, I head over to Shinjuku to do a bit of shopping at Gu, Uniqlo’s sister fashion chain. I’m given a face cover to wear as I try on clothes so my makeup doesn’t rub off, how mindful of them. Paid 1,300 yen/RM50 for a nice pair of fancy-looking checkered pants. Yay!
- 7pm: I head over to Roppongi Hills, Ginza – an upmarket area where fancy people hang out. Why am I there? Why to check out the Catastrophe and the Power of Art exhibition at Mori Art Museum. I also check out the skyline of Tokyo at night at the Tokyo City View observation deck that’s in the same building. Nice view, but a bit expensive.
- 8pm: I wander the fancy streets of Ginza, and even pass by a couple walking a pretty Standard Poodle. After a quick dinner somewhere I can’t remember, I head back to relax.
Day 3 in Tokyo – Shinjuku, Harajuku
Monday, 22 October 2018
- 10am: I get breakfast at a Family Mart and make my way to Ueno Zoo. The zoo is big and hilly. It takes me an hour to get there from Shin-Okubo, and it’s the first time Google Maps lets me down – the app says we’re one station away, but the train makes other stops in between. Heeeelp! Luckily some nice locals tell me when to switch trains. We don’t understand each other, so we communicate by waving our hands around. It works somehow.
- 5pm: I’m arrive at Takeshita Street after a couple of hours trudging up and down the inclines of Ueno Zoo. I’m here to try a Harajuku crepe, finally! I get a strawberry crepe with fresh cream and chocolate sauce from Marion Crepe. It’s yummy and really filling.
- 7pm: I head back and get a cheesy beef bowl from Sukiya for dinner. After that, I squeeze in some Netflix time – they have The Big Bang Theory in Japan! – before turning in for the night.
Day 4 – 6 in Hakone and Fuji
Tuesday – Thursday, 23 – 25 October 2018
- 8am, Tuesday, 23 October 2018: It’s time for my 3-day 2-night trip to Hakone and Fuji! I take a small bag with me and leave the rest of my luggage in a coin locker in Shinjuku Station. I take a 75-minute train ride via the Limited Express Romancecar to Hakone-Yumoto Station. My day in Hakone consists of long walks and scenic tours. At night, I head over to Tenzan Tohji Onsen, an onsen that allows people with tattoos. Most onsens don’t because tattoos are a cultural taboo in Japan.
- Wednesday, 23 October 2018: I head over to the Sengokuhara pampas grass fields to check out the golden lalang. Then I head over to Fuji by bus using my Fuji Hakone Pass.
- 8am, Thursday, 25 October 2018: I meet the great Mount Fuji in the morning, and ride crazy roller coasters for the rest of the day at the Fuji-Q Highlands amusement park. They are incredible! If you’re a fan of roller coasters, this will be your heaven. After, I head back to Tokyo via bus and make my way to Guest House Denchi in Asakusa.
- Read all about my 3-day 2-night Hakone Fuji trip itinerary here.
Day 7 in Tokyo – Asakusa
Friday, 26 October 2018
- 11am: I’m not much of a foodie, but I do love a good oyakodon. I line up with a bunch of locals at Tamahide, the birthplace of this yummy Japanese rice bowl dish made up of chicken and egg. I share a table with two sararīman (white-collar workers). They’re nice enough to suggest some places for me to visit.
- 12.30pm: I head over to Sensō-ji, an ancient Buddhist temple in Asakusa. As I walk there, I pass through the Nakamise shopping street after Kaminarimon – the iconic Thunder Gate that leads to Sensō-ji.
- 3pm: Since my 2-week trip does not include a visit to the popular Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto, I make due with the Nezu Shrine in Bunkyo instead. It’s about 40 minutes from Sensō-ji by train. It feels nice walking through the tunnel of vermilion torii gates Nezu Shrine.
- 4.30pm: I check out the Tokyo Dome and the amusement park nearby. It has the world’s first centreless Ferris wheel. There’s a Moomin concept cafe that I check out. It’s okay, but expensive.
- 6.30pm: Dinner is conveyor belt sushi from Sushi Go. And then it’s my first-ever visit to a Don Quijote, Japan’s biggest discount chain store.
Day 8 in Tokyo – Halloween
Saturday, 27 October 2018
- 11am: It’s Halloween weekend! I check in to the Airbnb my friend, Karmen, and I booked for a couple of days. We’re meeting for the weekend before we split up and continue our solo trips. We stay in a quaint studio that’s in Harajuku.
- 12.30pm: After that, I take a stroll up Harajuku area in search of food, which turns out to be a yummy bento from Maisen, a famous tonkatsu restaurant in Tokyo. Along the way I see a lot of interesting architecture.
- 2.30pm: Walking is tiring. So I stop by a Lawson’s for a pizza bun at Lawson’s. It’s so cheesy and yummy. Then, I head back to the Airbnb to wait for Karmen to arrive from the airport.
- 6.00pm: We rush to pick out our Halloween outfits from a Don Quijote store in Shibuya so we can make it back in time for our 1-hour slot of doggy fun at the Mamebeshiba Cafe along Takeshita Street, Harajuku. The puppers seem well-taken care of, and the place doesn’t stink of dog. Mameshibas are smaller versions of the Shiba Inu.
- 9.00pm: We arrive at Shibuya Station. It’s packed with people dressed in their Halloween gear. The Shibuya Crossing is craaaazy. There are policemen stationed in all four corners. We walk on the streets of Shibuya and take photos with random strangers. Really flashy cars drive past us, and I see a number of creative/weird/unique/funny costumes.
- 11.30pm: We decide to hit Golden Gai in Shinjuku, a small area known for its narrow, winding alleys and countless tiny bars. It’s nice, but a lot of the bars charge a 500 – 1,000+ yen cover. Sheesh. 666 is my favourite bar of the night. It’s a cool metal bar with no cover charge and 666 yen drinks. We bar hop a couple of times before calling it a night at 5am.
Day 9 in Tokyo – Akihabara, Ginza
Sunday, 28 October 2018
- 1.30pm: Our day starts late, because… yeah. We share an omurice and a thick, fluffy pancake for lunch a random place in Harajuku.
- 3.00pm: After lunch, we walk down the street to meet Brown the bear at a LINE shop. He’s in his Halloween costume. It’s cute. Next, we head over to Tokyu Plaza to check out its mirrored entrance that has a futuristic, kaleidoscope vibe. Then, we walk around and do a bit of shopping. The almost 4x MYR – JPY currency exchange rate makes me feel sad. Boo.
- 6.00pm: We head over to Akihabara, an area known for its many electronic, manga, and anime shops. It’s bright, very bright. There, we check out a sex mall that’s 7 stories tall. I see more tourists than locals in it. It has very interesting stuff, I recommend visiting one. 😉
- 8.00pm: Dinner is sushi and sashimi at a random restaurant we spot along the Akihabara streets. Then we head over to Ginza.
- 10.00pm: We walk around Ginza before getting Hakata-style yakitori and beer at this really nice izakaya, Jomon. It’s on a road leading downhill from Roppongi Station. The staff there are boisterous and the atmosphere is great. It’s a good night.
Day 10 in Tokyo – Tokyo DisneySea
Monday, 29 October 2018
- 8.30am: Time to meet Mickey and the gang at DisneySea!
- 9.30am: You know you’re at the right place when you see people dressed up as Disney characters. Queues for rides are about 2 hours on average. The best ride for me is the Journey to the Center of the Earth ride. We waited 2.5 hours for that ride because all the express passes were snapped up super quickly. The Fantasmic! water show at night is spectacular. The music, lights, fireworks, everything is just so… magical.
- 9.30pm: After 12 hours of Disney fun, it’s time to take the train back from Tokyo DisneySea. What a day.
Day 11 in Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Tuesday, 30 October 2018
- 12pm: I get to say hi to Hachiko outside Shibuya Station. Lunch is at Genki Sushi in Shibuya. The food is fresh, yummy, and cheap. You order it on your own with an easy-to-use tablet. After, we head over to the Starbucks that overlooks the Shibuya Crossing. It’s located in Tsutaya, a video rental chain store. The view’s pretty nice.
- 3pm: We part ways for a bit after lunch. Karmen goes to check out Yoyogi Park, and I visit the MoCHA cat cafe in Harajuku. Hands must be sanitised before you enter the cat area, and you need to wear a pair of slippers provided by the cafe. It has just the right amount of cats to avoid overcrowding, and the area’s well-kept and clean.
- 5pm: I meet Karmen again outside the cat cafe. We head over to Café Ron Ron in Harajuku, which serves all-you-can-eat conveyor belt dessert. The bite-sized desserts are delicious and really adorable. There are Halloween-themed desserts too. I eat… way too much. It costs 1,800 yen for a 40-minute session, with a 100 yen discount if you follow them on LINE. After, we head back to our Airbnb to freshen up.
- 7pm: We take the train to Shibuya. It’s time to shop and chill. We hit a couple of duty-free shops – Matsumoto Kiyoshi, Daikoku Drug, Sundrug, and Don Quijote. It’s a cold night, so dinner’s yakiniku and beer at yet another random restaurant. I love Japanese-style BBQ. It’s so good!
Day 12 in Tokyo – Odaiba
Wednesday, 31 October 2018
- 12pm: We check out of our Airbnb and head over to Shinjuku Station. I drop off my luggage at a coin locker and get my small bag in preparation for my overnight trip to Universal Studios in Osaka.
- 1pm: We get lunch at a small curry shop near a Burger King in Shinjuku Station. My hamburger curry rice is under 1,000 yen if I remember correctly. It’s gooood.
- 3pm: We head over to Odaiba to check out the teamLab Borderless exhibition at the Mori Building Digital Art Museum. It’s amazing! Some of the art moves from room to room, and the exhibits are interactive. There are 5 sections: Borderless World, Athletics Forest, Future Park, En Tea house, and the Forest of Lamps.
- 7pm: Karmen and I part ways when we arrive back in Shinjuku. I make a pit stop at nine hours, the hostel I stayed over days before, to shower. You can pay to shower, stay overnight, nap, and even use a desk for work.
- 8pm: Time for dinner with my ex-colleague, Tracey. She brings me to Cona Shinjuku near Shinjuku Station. They serve cheap 500 yen pizza, though they do have a cover charge. We talk over wine, then go for yakitori and beer afterwards.
- 11pm: I board an overnight all-women’s bus headed to Universal Studios Japan at the Shinjuku Expressway Bus Terminal, which is directly connected to Shinjuku Station. The seats are comfortable and come with a hood that’ll cover your head for privacy. Each of us gets a fluffy blanket that smells of nice, light floral detergent. I head off to dreamland pretty easily.
Day 13 – in Tokyo – Osaka
Thursday, 1 November 2018
- 8am: After 8+ hours, I arrive at Universal Studios Japan in Osaka.
- 8.30am: The gates open and I rush to the The Wizarding World of Harry Potter area. There’s not much of a crowd yet. Maybe because it’s a Thursday morning. Anyway, I get to ride all the rides there at least twice before 10am! Woohoo!
- 10am: There are more people now. I take a break and get some food before spending the rest of my day trying the rest of the major rides – Jurassic Park The Flying Dinosaur, Despicable Me Minion Mayhem, The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, and the Hollywood Dream The Ride Backdrop ride. I don’t have to wait long because I bought an express pass from Klook and I queue in the single riders line.
- 8.30pm: I end my day at Universal Studios Japan with 3 consecutive rides on the Hollywood Dream – The Ride roller coaster. Each seat comes with a list of soundtracks to choose from as background music. There’s an indescribable feeling as you fly through the sky on a cold and windy night whilst blasting the song ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams, with white lights illuminating your way.
- 10.20pm: Time to head back to Shinjuku. I board another overnight all-women’s bus by the same company – Willer Express. Sleep comes easy because I’m dead tired. What a fun day!
Day 14 – in Tokyo – Shinjuku, Haneda Airport
Friday, 2 November 2018
- 7.30am: I arrive in Shinjuku. I head over to nine hours to freshen up and get yet another pizza bun (this time from a nearby 7-Eleven).
- 10am: I get one last bento for lunch at the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden from Keio’s department store in Shinjuku Station. There are so many pretty bentos to choose from, gah! On my way to the garden, I get a hot taiyaki (fish-shaped cake) for dessert.
- 2.00pm: I meet Karmen for one last lunch in Japan. We share an Original Pancake House souffle pancake. It’s so fluffeh! The restaurant’s in the Lumine Est shopping mall next to Shinjuku Station.
- 3.00pm: I walk over to Shinjuku to buy souvenirs.
- 7.30pm: I pick up my luggage from the coin locker I left it in the day before in Shinjuku Station. Then, I reluctantly take the train to Haneda Airport.
- 11.21pm: I board the plane early, because of Japanese efficiency (boarding is suppose to be at 11.45pm). We take off at 11.32pm and land in Kuala Lumpur at 6.19pm. And thus ends my trip.
Oh Japan, how I’ll miss you. ❤️