Friday, April 19, 2019

Japan Travelogue Day 8: Getting to Osaka (without JR pass), Kaiyukan Aquarium and Tempozan Ferris Wheel!

It's time to move on to the second part of this Japan travelogue. For the next couple of posts, i will be covering on Osaka and Kyoto! But before i go on, let me just share on the planning process for this transit from Tokyo to Osaka. The easiest and the most convenient way to travel from between Tokyo and Osaka (or anywhere else in the region as a matter of fact) would be to get the popular Japan Rail (JR) pass.

There are a lot of different JR passes available and it can get really confusing but it really depends on the regions you want to visit to decide which is the most suitable pass to get. The most popular pass would be the all-in JR pass which cost SGD$358 for 7 days validity, SGD571 for 14 days validity and SGD$731 for 21 days validity. My first thought was - Gosh, the airfare and accommodation is already quite a sum and now i have to pay a few more hundred dollars to travel around? How much is this trip going to cost??

Me being me, i decided to research intensively and read articles after articles online, using the JR calculators available online and found out that the expensive JR pass would be worth it IF ONLY you are traveling to and fro Tokyo - Osaka because the 2 way trip cost would have amounted to almost the cost of the 7 day JR pass. Most people would fly in and out of Tokyo via Narita or Haneda airport so getting the JR pass will make sense. BUT if you book a multi-city trip like me meaning - flying into Narita and out from Osaka, you then only need to buy a one way train ticket!

*Did a quick search on Singapore Airlines and it cost SGD$808 to fly in and out of Tokyo and SGD$821 to fly into Tokyo and depart from Osaka. That's only 13 bucks difference.
The next thing now is, how much are you willing to pay for your one way ticket? The fastest would be via the Nozomi train - 2.5 hours at ¥14,450 (SGD$175) or the slower Platt Kodama - 4 hours at ¥10,500 (SGD$127) I chose the latter because for an additional 1.5 hours on the train, i saved SGD$48. If you make the effort to take an early train, the 1.5 hours shouldn't matter much and that $48 that you saved can be used to offset some other things like your meals or attraction tickets. (Not forgetting that you are also just paying $127 instead of the $358 JR pass by getting the multi city air ticket!) So proud of myself. *flicks hair*
It's important to read up on Platt Kodama train as well because there are certain conditions to fulfil and you have to make a trip down to 1 of the 4 JR offices to purchase the train tickets at least one day before use. Oh! Your train ticket also come with a drink voucher which you can exchange at the train station. Cheap thrill, lol. For more info on Platt Kodama, here's the official website - https://www.jrtours.co.jp/kodama/english/

*I'm not sponsored by JR or any entities for the information above.
The lovely AirBnB that we stayed for the entire week in Osaka.
The owners were very friendly and we communicated via line to send us directions and weather information even before we arrived in Japan. Not only that, they waited patiently for us at the apartment and made sure we were comfortable before they left. There were snacks on the table and even a folder full of information on Osaka, attractions and even eateries around the area! On the last day, they offered to hold our luggages at their own place as our flight was at night. So thankful to James and Tammy! :)
First lunch at a restaurant beside our AirBnB - my favourite Katsu with egg! 
Because we took the early Platt Kodama train at 7.30am, we arrived in Osaka at around 1pm which leave us ample time to explore Osaka on our first day! First stop was to visit the famous Kaiyukan Aquarium!
I'm a HUGE fan of zoo and aquarium and i was particularly excited to visit Kaiyukan because they host a couple of WHALE SHARKS. Whales are like spirit animals and it's in my list to see them in real life (preferably in the wild but this will do for now. lol) I was so so so mesmerised by these gigantic creatures. 
But i have to be honest and say that i was a little underwhelmed by their size. I mean i always expected whales to be huge (Well, technically these are sharks but still.) These whale sharks are huge but i expected them to be even bigger. Like the size of a bus or something, lol. Not complaining since i spend at least a good 30 mins alone staring at these majestic creatures swimming round and round in the aquarium.
One day i will visit Cebu and swim with them. Also, i can't wait to go out to the sea to whale watch when i'm in Sydney this coming august! I hope i see something amazing!!! *cross fingers* Please please please.
Bought the admission ticket bundle which comes with a ride on the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, one of the world's largest Ferris wheels. The skies was already dark by the time we exited the aquarium. (The skies tend to turn dark really early in Japan) The sight of the Ferris Wheel lightings is just wow. So pretty!
The entire ride is about 15 mins. Enough to take photos and enjoy the amazing view of Osaka.
Would you prefer the day view or the night view from attractions that allow you to see from a height?
We decided to head over to the famous Dōtonbori, the main tourist attraction to get our dinner. Not gonna cover much on this place (yet) because i'm quite sure it will be covered in one of the new few posts. In fact, we didn't walk much because we decided to head back to your AirBnB for an early night because the next day is... highly anticipated UNIVERSAL STUDIO JAPAN!

Right on track,                         

Monday, April 8, 2019

Japan Travelogue Day 7: Meiji Shrine, Harajuku, Hachikō and Robot Restaurant!

Day 7 in Tokyo, this trip is probably the longest time i've been away for a holiday (at that point of time) I'm not sure if i mentioned earlier on how this 2 week in Japan is planned. Basically 1 full week in Tokyo, then transit to Osaka for another week with a couple of day trips to Kyoto in between the days. So this is going to be the last post on Tokyo before transiting to Osaka! Most people will probably get the oh-so-expensive JR pass for trips like this but i did intensive research and managed to save half the amount without the JR pass. I'll share more on the next post! As for now, Day 7. That's one week in Japan already!
Woke up early in the morning (as usual) and decided to walk to the nearby McDonalds for breakfast. 
First stop of the day - Meiji Shrine. I always feel that when visiting a new country, you need to experience the culture. It shouldn't be all about shopping and attractions. Like for example, when visiting Bangkok for the very first time, one should visit the floating market and the 4-faced buddha. When in Seoul, go visit the Gyeongbokgung Palace and learn the history. Basically somewhere which allows you to learn and gain more knowledge along the way. This way, you will learn so much more from traveling. After which, you can do whatever you want the subsequent time you visit the same destination.
Different ways of writing prayers and wishes at the Meiji shrine.
When walking towards the shrine, you will be greeted by barrels and barrels of sake and wine along the side of the pathway. The colourful sake barrels are presented as gifts to the shrine by sake manufacturers. If you are looking for a place at Meiji Shrine to take your OOTD or insta-worthy shot, this long stretch of barrels will make a really good backdrop as you can see from the above two photos :D
I'm not sure if i mentioned this in the earlier post but i've always wanted to visit Japan for the longest time. I have this saved album on my instagram and inside this album are a collection of photos which i remind myself that if i ever go to Japan, i MUST find the place and take a photo there. The above is one of the those places - Tokyu Plaza Omotesando Harajuku by Hiroshi Nakamura.

The entrance is this kaleidoscope of mirrors which makes every shot taken there so interesting. I was so excited when i saw the actual place right in front of my eyes. Next thing i did was to start posing to get my instagram shot (so typical i know...) Just look at the photos above. The reflection of the street omgggg.
Takeshita Street. The most famous shopping street in Harajuku!
You will never miss the famous crepe shop when you are at Takeshita Street! Basically there are a couple of touristy thing to do (mostly snacks to try) and having a crepe is one of them. There is soooo many combination to choose from and i got myself a strawberry cheesecake crepe. It was sooooo good :)
Harajuku is also one of the place in Tokyo where you will find fashionable teenagers. It is the center of Japan's most extreme teenage cultures and fashion styles, but Harajuku also offers shopping for adults and because this place is a tourist attractions, it's usually packed with people.
Another famous snack is this giant rainbow candy floss from Totti Candy Factory. I did a quick search online and found out that this candy floss cost 900 Yen which is about SGD11. I would actually consider since it's a good photo prop, now i a bit regret not getting it. (lol) I'm not so sure about finishing the whole thing tho, the size is gigantic and you can't really carry it around and eat along the way cos it's so crowded (plus it's rude to eat and walk at the same time in Japan)... and also doesn't all candy floss taste the same???
Freshly fried Calbee! This is also one of the must eat because it's fresh from the fryer! Deep fried on the spot and you get to choose your toppings like the typical hot and spicy, cheese, salt and butter and even have your chips drizzled with Royce chocolate!! As much as the Royce chocolate seem tempting, i had the harajuku special - Maple Syrup with Cream cheese (330yen, SGD4) I also ordered a serving of the Calbee sticks, fresh from the fryer too! With that said, Calbee+ is a definite must try when visiting Harajuku! 
The famous Hachikō statue in front of Shibuya Station.
Went back to the famous Shibuya crossing to have a view of how it is like in the day. There are a couple of good spots (for example Starbucks) to watch the magic of Shibuya crossing but these places are always filled with people so it's not that easy to secure a spot to take a photo or video. So... i went to do a quick google and found an unorthodox way to get a really good view from high up. It involves sneaking into a hotel and getting into a guest lift so that you can make use of their access card to get to a certain level. The view from the hotel was amazing and i managed to get a really good time-lapse of the crossing.
Last activity of the night was a visit to the famous Robot Restaurant. (Special thanks to KKday for sponsoring the tickets!) I had no idea what to expect from this show but apparently it was hyped as one of the best experiences in Tokyo so i was kinda excited that night. Not so sure about the restaurant part because all we bought was popcorn and drinks. I think they got sell Bento sets but nah. Not interested...
It was quite a show! Totally beyond what i expected. I don't even know how to explain what i watched and i'm quite sure this can only be found in Japan. There is so much going on with all the dancers, lights everywhere and these huge ass props that i don't know how they store them backstage. It's really quite an eye opener. If it's your first time to Tokyo, you might want to consider spending that $65 to catch this show! This basically sums up my one week in Tokyo! 

In the next post, it will be about transiting to Osaka and spending a week there. Half way through this travelogue! がんばり続ける! No idea if whatever i just pasted make sense because i just google translate "keep it up" and they gave me these. HAHAHHAHA


Half way through!