Long winded travelogue as usual. 😉
I wanted to visit my ultimate dream country this year due to a symbolic reason but because time & money did not align with my stars, I choose Japan as my second choice. Having experienced winter and spring in South Korea, I’ve always wanted to experience autumn and Japan really excels at that.
By the time I made up my mind to visit Japan, I have only 5 months+ left to book flights and accommodation to coincide with my approximate calculation of autumn foliage timing. I choose to go with full service airline as the price difference compared to budget airline is minimal (besides, I don’t think I want to walk few kilometers right inside KLIA2
yetagain). For accommodation, it proofs to be a very challenging affair since it was peak timing for autumn foliage (3rd & 4th week Nov and early December) and I only started looking for places to stay with 5 months to go. Every hostels I looked at were fully booked (not dorm, I go for either double or twin room). And imagined how my eyes had looked when I saw how much a hotel room cost in Kyoto? It’s like those animations where your eyes jump out of the sockets in sheer shock. Hahaha Fyi, they cost few thousands! Siao ar. Eventually I found hostels that only open for booking 3 months before the intended staying date. So I targeted those and booked right at the dot so I could secure the rooms I want.
We visited the big three prefectures (since it’s our maiden Japan trip – for some of us); Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka and threw in two more (Nara & Yamanashi). For 16 days and 15 nights (20th November to 6th December 2016) – same length as my Europe trip, we visited Osaka, Nara, Kyoto, Yamanashi (Fujikawaguchiko) and Tokyo in my first ever open-jaw trip. I arrived in Osaka and flew out from Tokyo. Reason was because if I were to return back to Osaka from Tokyo and flew back home from Osaka, I would need to spend extra $$ for the Shinkansen (bullet train) ticket from Tokyo to Osaka… which is not cheap btw. Why fork out the extra?
One thing I’m super proud of is I was able to lug my DSLR around for 16 FULL days! Thanks to my weekly exercise and cushioned backpack. Because of that I ended up with over 5.5k photos!!! Another smart move that my sis and me made were to take a small empty luggage with us. We predicted there will be lots of shopping and we were right. And if I can do this again, I will pack way way lesser… yeah so that I can fill in more stuff. LOL. It’s almost winter time and we’re in layers most of the time, so it’s not much different if you wear the same inside outfit for 7 days (hahaha NOT kidding, we washed it la).
Ohh, another reason for choosing Japan was because I’ve seen and heard so many people visiting this country and it has always made me wonder and curious… is it worth the hype? I’ll tell you on day 16. LOL Another BIG question: is Japan expensive? I’ll let you know by the end of this travelogue!
Malaysians need visa to visit Japan but if your passport come with embedded microchip, then you don’t need to apply for short-term visa.
I booked my open-jaw Japan trip with Japan Airline (JAL). The flight to Osaka were a codeshare flight with Malaysia Airlines (MAS). Meaning the flight is operated by MAS. The flight from Tokyo back to Malaysia is by JAL.
We all got a shock when we had to self check-in, print our own boarding ticket and luggage tag. Aiyoo What happened MAS? It’s like flying with low cost airline. Also, from dropping our baggage to the flight snack/meal to the attitude of the stewardess and smiles given, the present day MAS were a stark contrast to few years back. The service given by JAL for my trip back to Malaysia on the other hand were really wonderful. I was greeted with beautiful genuine smiles from the moment I checked-in. Not that MAS people didn’t smile but you can sense something is missing.
Our snack on board MAS at 1.45am! Hahaha This chicken wrapped snack were horrendous.
Yeah, it was a night flight. I managed to doze off and on.
Breakfast at 5.17am. Apparently I choose the wrong breakfast.
Guess who I saw when I was queuing at the immigration in Kansai International Airport? Marina Mahathir!
First thing we did after coming out from the arrival hall was to buy a sim card.
We got this 2GB Japan Travel Sim (validity 3 months) data plan by IIJmio for 4320 yen. Most prepaid sim card for tourist has validity for 14 days (max) and since we will be in Japan for more than 14 days, we got this one which is valid for longer period. So it’s about RM10 for 16 days of usage. By day 16, we nearly used up the 2GB. We mainly use it for Google maps and for checking train schedule and weather. And should you use up the 2GB, you can recharge it. Setting up the phone was easy (come with instructions). I have no issue with the coverage. Everything was good. Check out https://t.iijmio.jp/en/index.html for more information.
We bought the Japan Travel Sim at this Global Wifi counter at the South wing of arrival hall (1F) in Kansai International Airport. They don’t accept cash. Only credit card. We initially went to the North wing (same floor, few meters away) which also has a Global Wifi counter but were told they don’t sell it.
Next, it’s a short walk to Kansai Airport Station.
ICOCA card is a transport card synonym with HK’s Octopus card, London’s Oyster card, Seoul’s T-Money and Taipei’s EasyCard. I didn’t buy any other passes (except in Fujikawaguchiko), only used ICOCA for my 16 days travel in Japan. It’s really convenient! The only transport that cannot be used with ICOCA is the Shinkansen (bullet train) and some other local transport network like in Fujikawaguchiko.
On board JR Kansai Airport Rapid train, 1190 yen which departed at 9.48am. The reason it took longer was because it’s some sort of a commuter train. It stops at many stations along the way. In this photo, it was practically empty and by the time we reached Osaka Station, it was full. As you can see, the train is spacious enough for us to place our luggage beside us (at the walkway). You can even change the direction of the seat on the 2 seater; as in sitting following the train’s direction or opposite by pushing the seat’s back. Coz you know some people cannot tolerate travelling in opposite direction. Cool eh?
We reached Osaka Station at 11am. So busy is this station that I felt like I’ve stepped into a different world. Everyone were walking VERY fast. They knew exactly where they’re headed. And here we are, looking as if totally lost. But we’re not actually lost; we’re just looking at signage while trying not to block the waves of people with purpose!
We saw Marina Mahathir again at one of the restaurants in Osaka Station. Btw, here’s something out of topic: I have once walked beside Michele Yeoh. I didn’t went nuts by shouting “Michele Yeoh!!! Michele Yeoh!!!” because I respected her privacy. Michele Yeoh even queued behind my sis. 🙂
We stayed at Ana Crowne Plaza Osaka for 3 nights. It’s a 4-star hotel and most probably my first ever 4-star hotel stay. I don’t usually stay at pricey places but this situation is different because we didn’t pay a single cents throughout our stay. 🙂 We redeemed my sis’ Reward Nights points for 2 double bed standard (non-smoking) rooms x 3 nights. And because we didn’t pay a single cents, I have a nagging feeling we will be treated lesser than those that paid full price. Well, guess what? I am FULLY SATISFIED with Ana Crowne Plaza Osaka’s hospitality. They are really professional. I would definitely stay with them again if I’m no more a cheapskate gal (hahaha). Fyi, one room per night is about US$150 (RM670 based on present time exchange rate)… sam tung if I have to fork out this much. So, I’m really grateful for this. Yes, we got to save $$. Ohh and we also got upgraded to double rooms at the 23rd floor (tsk, suites are at 24th floor – top most floor). Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
And because I’m so happy staying here, I’ve been calling this place as just Ana. ❤️
Looking at this photo, I bet you have a sense of the room size. I guess this is Japan standard. I love hanging out at the chair and looking over Osaka below. It’s also where I had my breakfast every morning and check out the passerby below if they bring an umbrella on forecasted rainy day. Haha
Top left: pillows, robes, hangers, umbrella, brushes, slipper, iron board
Top right: Hello! Vanity area.
Bottom left: Love this toilet. Love the seat warmer the most.
Bottom right: a shower and bathtub
I actually find the toilet and shower area to be more spacious than the sleeping area. LOL Not complaining.
After checking in, we decided to give our tired body a rest. By 3pm, we are ready to tackle our first shopping activity.
This is the road just beside Ana. Walking up these steps will take you on a bridge (called Nakanoshima Garden Bridge 中之島ガーデンブリッジ) crossing Dojima river and then walking along the river on Nakanoshima to Yodoyabashi Station. I love walking here. It’s so pleasant and beautiful. I’ll show more in next posts. Nakanoshima is a narrow sandbank (island) which reminds me of Paris’ Île de la Cité which I have the opportunity to visit four years back. I love both Nakanoshima and Île de la Cité.
From Yodoyabashi Station, we took the subway to Namba Station. We’re heading to Sennichimae Doguyasuji but got a bit lost because the subway exit we went to brought us to steps that climb higher and higher inside a building. Weird! So I suggested tracing back to another exit and walk outside. Easier this way.
This is Sennichimae Doguyasuji 道具屋筋商店街, a covered shopping street selling restaurant related supplies and decoration. Compared to Kappabashi (Tokyo’s kitchen street), the number of shops here are way lesser since the street is shorter. Nevertheless, I found what I was looking for here. Shops at Kappabashi are mostly selling repetitive stuff.
Most shops at Sennichimae Doguyasuji started closing at 6pm.
After shopping at Sennichimae Doguyasuji, we stopped by Takoyaki Doraku Wanaka (just outside the kitchen street) to get our first takoyaki fix.
Besides Sennichimae Doguyasuji, there is another covered walkway nearby lined with restaurants. We passed by here while heading to our dinner place. For dinner, we had okonomiyaki at Fukutaro. Check out the link to read more.
We stopped by 7-11 and Foodium (24 hrs) near Ana to grab some snacks and breakfast for tomorrow.
Back at the hotel, it’s time for persimmon. We bought 2 pieces at 322 yen (~RM12). Place of origin: Nara. Of all the persimmons I sampled in Japan, this is the BEST one. It’s very soft, sweet and juicy. Yummmmmmmy!
That’s all for day 1. More to come.