TRIP | 3 months in Japan – RECAP Part I
It’s time to sit, look back and analyse this particular period of my life. I don’t have my captain Nemo journal to help this time, this thing is a trap anyway. Once I’ve put some information in there, they won’t come out, surely not to land on a blog post… It would be like doing the job twice. I’ve tried it and the result was beyond bad : 3 years to report a 1 month trip (in 2013).
Well, I digress. I’ve done a few round trips between France and Japan througouth 2016, then I concluded with a 3 months journey : it’s not big but it’s my first significant experience outside France. I went with a WHV – Working Holiday Visa (although the Working mention wasn’t much of any use).
Here is my analysis of this period, articulated around 3 aspects : the journey in itself, everything related to expenses and finally, the emotional side.
1. The journey aspect
I had no precise idea of the itinerary. When I was preparing my program for the WHV, I could already picture myself traveling each area with my backpack, strolling from right to left, hitchhiking, sleeping under the stars, taking a train and get off at any random station.
The goal was to really cover the whole country by taking my time, especially the southern part because of the sunshine and the tonkotsu as well as the northern half (Tohoku, Hokkaido) because still unexplored to date… As shown on the map below :
Anyway, I don’t know in what movie I thought I was but the reality caught me : the increase in prices of accommodation, the difficulty to find something available, accessible, not too badly located, comfortable (I’m no longer 20… Wild hostels are no longer a possible option for me), season not ideal to visit certain areas, etc.
I spent a lot of time searching on Airbnb (by far the most convenient) and other accommodation websites, in French, in English, in Japanese… Unfortunately it was very thin. My tour was limited to what was available and on a reasonable budget. I made an L-shaped circuit and an article will be devoted to each of the cities visited.
Tokyo | 20 days
Osaka | 1 month
Wakayama | 1 month+
Osaka | 10 days
Tokyo | 4 days
I usually love fluttering around from cities to cities, but I was forced to make on month blocks. Advantages : it limits transportation costs, you get long stay discounts, you can really take the time to enjoy and explore thoroughly. Disadvantage : you’re stuck in the same place while there’s so much Japan to discover. It’s okay, I’m here, that’s what matters.
2. The financial aspect
That was hot. That was tight. Once the basic needs are covered (eat-sleep), there’s not much left. And when you’re in Tokyo, my God… Basically, you take the budget you’ve set, and you increase it by 50% automatically (unless you’re Beyoncé, you shouldn’t have too much trouble).
Tokyo : I had planned a budget of 700 dollars…
…For 20 days, okay, 20 days! When I saw this sum had evaporated from my bank account in not even 10 days, yet I was hosted at a friend’s during the first week and I almost didn’t take any transportations…
…I raised the bar to 1000, thinking 300$ would be enough for the 10 remaining days, still without taking transportations and with the accommodation already paid… NA-I-VE-TY. I finished with a total bill of 1200$ for 20 days : ‘( distributed as follows :
How could I have saved? No goodies shopping, no clothes shopping, no “luxury” restaurants (more than 1000 ¥ the meal), less shopping in conbini, book a dormitory accommodation.
Honestly, would it have been possible? Nope. With the exception of purchases in conbini and “luxury” restaurants, I could have hardly done without the rest.
Osaka : I had planned a budget of 800 dollars for one month…
…And that was perfect! Escaping the capital was a clever move, otherwise, I could already change my return ticket to the end of September. Osaka is indeed the third biggest city in the country, but it does not vacuum your money like Tokyo-Dyson-city.
I ended with a 700$ bill for one month, because :
◼︎ After Tokyo, I had this “eeerr, have to calm down now” which influenced my expenses
◼︎ Some expenses were less costly (accomodation and food)
◼︎ I did less socializing
◼︎ The city is smaller so it was “easy” to do everything on foot.
How could I have saved? By sleeping in the street and/or not eating.
Honestly, would it have been possible? Hmm no… no.
Wakayama : I had planned a budget of 600 dollars for one month…
When I noticed I had the crazy-walletosis in Tokyo, I immediately raised the budget for this part of the trip but also revised down some of the following steps. Wakayama is one of them.
I was convinced that apart from the sea and the mountains, I wasn’t going to see/do anything crazy in Wakayama so 600 dollars all-inclusive seemed doable. Then you discover that prices in supermarkets out there are the equivalent to prices in organic supermarkets here in France… It calms you down. I made menus worthy of a low-caloric diet, you have no idea.
I finished with a 700 dollars bill for a little more than a month, counting salad leaves, thirds of tomatoes and half carrots. Luckily rice was unlimited…
How could I have saved? By sleeping in the street and/or not eating.
Honestly, would it have been possible? Eeeh no.
Last days (Osaka et Tokyo) : open bar…
Towards mid-November, a series of unforeseen events forced me to advance my return to France at the beginning of December (instead of mid-February). So I OPEN THE VALVES, you have no idea of how relieved I felt. The idea was “you quit Japan, you don’t know when you come back” so…
In all, I spent a certain amount, I’m not too sure, I don’t want to know too much but I think it was around 600 dollars for 15 days. ERRATUM : Hmmm… When creating this infographic, I realized it was more than 800 dollars :-/
Few words on accomodation :
Satisfied with the price-quality ratio, they were mostly apartments with small kitchen, bathroom and living room. Pros : wifi included, washing machine, well located. In Tokyo, I was living in kind of a minshuku in Meguro district. Pros : very good location, very good value for money (about 26$/night) even if it starts to be quite a sum if you stay for a long time. That being said, it’s difficult to expect less than 25 $ a night in Tokyo, for a place where you have at least your own room.
What made me nut is the fact that in March/April 2016 – CHERRY BLOSSOM SEASON – you still could find WHOLE APARTMENTs in this price range (20-30 $ per night).
Few words on food :
When you go shopping in a supermarket, you drop an arm, seriously. You’d be better off buying pastas and snickers at Don Quijote. And by pastas, understand a pack of soba or lyophilized noodles in bowl because spaghettis – official dish of the poor here – are not cheap out there.
Of course, the expense must be modulated according to the equipment you have (fridge, freezer, rice cooker, cooking appliances…) and according to your diet (if you love rice and fried food, it should cost you less than if you’re the kind that eat fresh vegetables, meat…).
Few words on transportation :
I barely used any public transportation… Only in Tokyo or to get from one city to another. I didn’t take the subway once in Osaka or Wakayama. So yes, you make long walks, about 20-25 miles a day, you end up like a wooden puppet but I don’t regret for a second : it’s good for health and you make a lot of discoveries or encounters 🙂
Few words on activities :
I preferred low-cost leisure activities such as walking (with or without photoshoot), visits to shrines/temples and other monuments, matsuri, chilling in a park… It’s a good way to discover Japan but also to meet people. And also let’s be honest : the outings (restaurant-concert-karaoke… all the “classic” stuff) eat your budget like crazy…
This is it for the first part of this recap, see you very soon for the second part, concerning the emotional aspect.
– Freepik from www.flaticon.com