Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Roam Around Japan with a Swagger

With a swagger, a portable WiFi in my pocket, and these apps, I roamed around the Kansai Region of Japan (my 2016 solo trip) like I owned the place...at least that's how I imagined myself. The point is, with the help of these apps, I didn't look like a lost puppy in the streets of Japan. Or so I hoped.

I didn't sleep in streets or alleys or subway stations in Japan like a homeless person thanks to Booking.com. I love this website/app because:
  • it is easy to use – I just enter the location, date, number of persons, and click search. And because I have a maximum budget, I filter it by price and choose from the list.
  • it has a map – it shows the exact location of the hotel/hostel/guesthouse/inn and also shows other nearby accommodations (and the corresponding price).
  • it encourages guests to leave reviews – guest reviews are important!
  • it offers free cancellation – most accommodations on Booking.com offer free cancellation up to a certain number of days before the trip.
  • it requires no down payment – most accommodations on Booking.com will only ask for credit card details to confirm the booking but won't charge it (unless you cancel the booking after the free cancellation period). There are also accommodations that don't require credit card details to book! Payment will be upon check in.
Download Booking.com app here: Android | iOS

In Japan, time is gold. And transportation fares are as expensive as gold! Before the trip, I pinned all the places I wanted to visit. Doing so helped me save time and money. How? During the trip itself...
  • I didn't have to search for places and reorient myself every time. Minutes saved.
  • I could change around my itinerary based on my energy level, weather, and the location/proximity of the sites I was interested in. Bus/Train fares saved.
  • I could find shortcuts or take less trodden paths, like alleys or through residential areas (an added adventure).
  • If I find something new and interesting that wasn't part of the plan, I could pin it on my map to remember its location in case I wanted to go back. Minutes saved from searching again and/or from racking my brain trying to recall the location.
Download Google My Maps app here: Android

Japan Trains
Japan's rail network is impressive that it can get impressively confusing. Even locals get confused! (I have seen it with my own eyes!) There are many different rail operators. There are many types of trains: shinkansen (bullet train), express, limited express, local, etc. In short, there are many choices to get from point A to point B anywhere in Japan! The Japan Trains app will pare down the options depending on the information you have entered. The results will show the departure time, arrival time, fare, and number of transfers. Click on one of the options to find out more about the route: which lines and connections to take, arrival and departure times for each connection, fare for each connection, and time it takes to transfer/walk between stations.

Download Japan Trains app here: Android

In the city of Kyoto, Arukumachi Kyoto app trumps the Japan Trains app. Although there are subway lines and railways in the city of Kyoto, most of the city's attractions can be reached by bus, and obviously the Japan Trains app is only for trains.

For Arukumachi Kyoto app, just enter the departure and arrival areas (it doesn't have to be specific, just enter the street or tourist spot) and it will give more specific suggestions (station, bus stops, or spots). Search results will give you several options to get to your destination, showing the departure and arrival times, total bus fare (and if the 1-day Kyoto City Bus pass can be used), number of transfers, and what modes of transportation to take. Click on one of the options to find out more about the route: which bus/subway/rail to take, arrival and departure times for each connection, fare for each connection, and time it takes to transfer/walk between stops. Click on a connection to view the map. What I love about Arukumachi Kyoto's map is that it shows your current location, so when you're on the bus and have no idea if your stop is approaching, just check the map and watch the dot (you) move. Don't forget to press the bus stop button nearest you lest you miss your stop.

Download Arukumachi Kyoto app here: Android | iOS

With the guidance of the weather app, I could strut around the streets not looking like a fool for not wearing the right clothes, not looking like a newly hatched chick if I was caught in the rain mid-strut without an umbrella, not looking like a jello shivering on a blustery day.

Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger (you're here!)
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Castle and Tenjinbashisuji Shotengai
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

Kansai Diaries (2016)
9D/9N | Nov 2016 | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Osaka: Day 0: Arrival
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado
Wakayama: Day 1: Going to, Sleeping in, and Eating in Koyasan
Wakayama: Day 1.5: West Side of Koya Town
Wakayama: Koyasan Sidewalk Shorts
Wakayama: Days 1.75~2: Okunoin, Three Times
Nara: Sleep, Eat, and Explore Nara City
Nara: Day 3: Horyuji, Hokkiji, and Some Japanecdotes in Ikaruga Town
Nara: Day 3.5: Yakushiji, Toshodaiji, and Heijo Palace Site in Nara City
Nara: Day 4: Early Morning at Nara Park
Nara: Day 4.25: Naramachi Walking Tour
Nara: Day 4.5: Todaiji, Yoshiki-en, and Kofukuji in Nara Park
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Kyoto: Day 5: Rainy Day in Uji City
Kyoto: Day 5.5: Tofukuji, Kawai Jinja, Shimogamo Jinja
Kyoto: Day 6: Ginkakuji, Ryoanji, Ninnaji
Kyoto: Day 6.75: Gion Night Walking Tour
Kyoto: Day 7: All Day in Arashiyama
Kyoto: Day 8: Last Day in Kyoto
Osaka: Day 8.75: Dizzying Dotonbori
Osaka: Day 9: Osaka, Over and Out


  1. I also use Booking.com, I exclusively book through that site, they usually have the lowest prices and no other fees! Google Maps have been super useful for me in Taiwan, I assume I'll still use it in JP. will take note of your other recos :)

    1. High five, Mariane! Thanks for reading the blog. My JP posts are super late! Hahaha!! When are you going to JP?