Sunday, July 23, 2017

Itinerary and Expenses: 9 Days of Nerdiness in Kansai

I'll tell you a secret. I fell in love sometime in my 10-day Japan trip in autumn of 2015. I had a quick love affair with Ainokura Village in Toyama Prefecture and I fell madly and totally in love with Kyoto. I fell in love and I promised I'd go back for another visit.

381 days later, I was back in the arms of Japan. This time I made like a gentleman and took it slow; I did not bolt through cities like what my friends and I did in 2015. I stayed in the Kansai Region for nine days, stepping foot in just four (Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, and Osaka) of seven prefectures (the other three are Hyogo, Mie, Shiga).

Since I was traveling alone, I went all out in nerdiness, visiting temples, shrines, and historical places, and, most importantly, as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region that time and distance would allow.

In planning out my itinerary, I tried to keep within the same budget as my 2015 trip: an average of Php 4500 per day for accommodation, food, transportation, and admission fees.

This trip happened late November 2016 with the exchange rate at 0.465 PHP for every 1 JPY

Accommodation. Like my 2015 trip, I set aside Php 1500 a night for accommodation, for a total of Php 13,500 for 9 nights (about 29,000 yen with an exchange rate of 0.465). In Osaka, the cheapest hostel I found was 1100 yen a night, but I eventually settled for a single room (though bathrooms were shared) in business hotels, which cost me 2500 yen (less than Php 1200) per night. In Koyasan, I wanted to try the temple stay, but it was way beyond my budget (temple stay would cost at least 9,700 yen a night, with breakfast and dinner), so I settled for the only guesthouse in town, Koyasan Guesthouse Kokuu, where a capsule space costs 3500 yen a night. Nara and Kyoto hostels were a bit more expensive compared to Osaka (dorm beds would cost an average of 2500 yen a night; whereas in Osaka, 2500 yen could already be a single room), but still within my budget. If you're comfortable staying at hostel dorm rooms, set aside a budget of at least 2500 yen per night (some can cost up to 3800 yen a night, depending on the area).

Transportation. Neither the JR Pass nor the JR Kansai Area pass was beneficial to my itinerary. Instead, to get around, I paid the regular fare using the Kansai One Pass (only for tourists), an ICOCA or IC transportation card that could be used in various train/subway lines in the Kansai area. Although this did not offer fare discounts, it did provide convenience. Rather than buying a ticket every time I had to ride the train/subway, I could just tap the card at the turnstiles (provided, of course, I had enough credits in the card). The Kansai One Pass also offered discounts/benefits at various tourist sites. For traveling within the city, I took advantage of unlimited ride passes such as Koyasan World Heritage Ticket, Nara bus pass, Kyoto bus pass, and Osaka Visitor's Ticket (for Osaka municipal subways/buses/tram only). I planned out my route in advance to make the most of these unlimited ride passes.

Food. I spent an average of 2,200 yen a day for 3 meals, snacks, and drinks. It was a good mix of convenience store boxed meals (400 to 600 yen), set meals from donburi shops (450 to 1000 yen), and restaurants (meals from 1100 to 1500 yen). For Japan, I advice to budget at least 3,000 yen per day for food.

Admission fees. There are temples, shrines, parks, gardens that can be entered for free. Most though would charge an admission fee (from 200 to 1500 yen). Some transportation passes offer discounted admission fees to some tourist attractions (expenses marked with an asterisk in the above table are discounted rates). The Koyasan World Heritage Ticket came with 20% discount coupons for Kongobuji, Kondo Hall, Konpon Daito Pagoda, and Reihokan Museum. The Kansai One Pass offered discounts/benefits to many attractions around the Kansai area, but I only used it at Monkey Park Iwatayama in Kyoto (100 yen discount) and Osaka Museum of Housing and Living (free audio guide rental worth 100 yen). With the Osaka Visitor's Ticket, I was also able to get a 100 yen discount on the admission fee for the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living.

Pocket WiFi. It was important that I had a pocket WiFi for this trip. Luckily, Flytpack sponsored me for the entire duration of the trip. If not, it would have cost me about Php 3000 for the 9 days rent of their pocket WiFi plus courier fees.

Plane ticket. Like all my other posts about trip expenses, I did not include the plane ticket, because the ticket cost would depend on where you're coming from and which international airport in Japan you wish to start/end your journey in. But since this post is about Kansai, I will tell you that I flew in and out of Kansai International Airport in Osaka via a budget airline, with a connection in Manila. Much as I wanted to fly direct to Osaka from Cebu, I found it too expensive. The regular roundtrip ticket for the direct flight would cost around Php 22,000 (on sale it would cost at least Php 13,000).

Japan is the most expensive country in Asia that I have traveled to, but with a bit of planning and research, a trip to Japan need not break the bank. Fewer number of days and concentrating on just one or two nearby cities, of course, will cost less. But, I warn you, once you visit Japan, you will want to keep coming back!

Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
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

Kansai Diaries (2016)
9D/9N | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka (you're here!)
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

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