Japan 12-Day Travel Guide

Sumiyoshi Taisha in Osaka
Konichiwa! We've been to Japan just recently and we stayed there for 12 days or 2 weeks. It was early to mid-September, the end of summer.

We mainly stayed in the Kansai Region, specifically in Osaka and Kyoto. We also did different day trips in Himeji, Kobe, and Nara from Osaka. We were also able to visit Nagoya, a city located in the Chubu Region.

It was definitely a good 2 weeks in Japan. We were so scared to spend in our first days, knowing that we'll be there for 2 more weeks. But through careful planning and by balancing everything out, we made it (with savings from our pocket money!) while enjoying every bit of our stay!!!

Below are smart travel tips and a summary of our itinerary to help you plan your trip. If you have anything to ask, feel free to comment below and I'll try my best to answer.

The more detailed itineraries shall be completed soon. (Note: Done with Osaka, Himeji, Kobe, Nara, and Kyoto. See bottom part of the page for the links.)

BUDGET

For the "balanced" traveler (not too tight on the budget, not too YOLO as well), I think this will do for your day-to-day needs:
  • P180-P280 for breakfast at a convenience store or an affordable cafe (eg: Doutor Coffee is afforable compared to other cafes. Other cafes will cost you P500/pax for coffee and a breakfast sandwich.)
  • P385-P650 for lunch in a restaurant
  • P385-P650 for dinner in a restaurant
  • P220-P280 for lunch or dinner in a convenience store or a grocery (excluding water/drinks)
  • P185-P250 for a cup of coffee in a cafe
  • P50 for a cup of coffee in Family Mart
  • P250 per bottle or glass of beer if you're drinking out
  • P100 per can of beer if you're buying from a grocery (and drinking in your Airbnb or hotel instead)
  • P170-195 for a cone of ice cream
  • P215-250 for a cone of ice cream outside a famous temple or tourist spot
  • P75 for yummy onigiri
  • P195-250 for 6 or 8 pieces of takoyaki
  • P50 for a 1-liter bottle of water from a convenience store. (Buy the 1 liter bottle/the big one, then just refill your tumblers or smaller bottles for your daily travels. The small bottled water is more expensive as it costs the same as the big one.)
  • P150-300 for castle and temple entrance fees (normally)
  • P86-110-135-or more for train rides not covered by your passes (price is relative to the distance of your destination)
Forex used is 0.48 PHP = 1 JPY

Salmon sushi from a conveyor sushi belt
ESSENTIALS
(YOU'LL NEED THESE OR ELSE YOU'LL DEFINITELY GET LOST AND/OR SPEND MORE)

1) Pocket WiFi from KKDAY
  • A high-speed internet connection that can connect more than 1 device. It's cheaper than other brands (not mentioning these brands here; ask me instead) and you'll be needing this in navigating Japan on your own. Highly recommended.
2) Google Maps
  • Refer to this for directions - what train or bus to ride, which platform to use, what time is the next train leaving, where to walk, how much is the commute, etc.
  • Refer to this for directions if you think Google is not sufficient, or if you want to double check Google's answers. It's the best app you'll need for extra reference. What's good about this is it states the train station's Exit # you'll be needing to reach your destination.
4) Train Passes Booked in Advance

The passes you'll book will depend on your itinerary (or you may base your itinerary according to the benefits and perks of your train passes, for you to be able to make the most out of your purchase). Here are the passes we bought for our 12-day stay in Japan:

  • We used this in Day 2 and Day 3 for touring Osaka. It gave us free and unlimited use of the Osaka subway, tramway, and buses. Note that this does not include the train lines of private companies, like JR, Keihan, etc.
  • Free entrance to the Osaka Castle and the Nishinomaru garden, Shitennoji Temple, the HEP FIVE Ferris Wheel, Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden Observatory, and more. Click on this link to learn more.
  • You should use this pass for 2 consecutive days.
  • A 1-Day pass is also available.
Dotonburi in Osaka
4B) JR West Kansai 2-Day Area Pass
  • We used this in Day 4 and Day 5 for visiting Himeji, Kobe, and Nara. It gave us unlimited use of the Special Rapid Services, Rapid Services, and local trains on JR-WEST Conventional Lines.
  • I just realized when writing this post that you can get a 20% off discount in the Himeji Castle when you present your JR West Kansai 2-Day Area Pass. Take advantage of it; we weren't able to do so!
  • Click on this link to learn more as it's also valid for non-reserved seats on the Kansai-Airport Express HARUKA.
  • You should use this pass for 2 consecutive days.
  • 1-Day, 3-Day, and 4-Day passes are also available.
Himeji Castle. Definitely a must-see.
4C) Kansai 3-Day Thru Pass (Klook)
  • We used this in Day 6, Day 7, and Day 8 (for traveling from Osaka to Kyoto, and within Kyoto). This pass gives you unlimited access to most subways, private railways, and buses throughout the Kansai district. Click here to learn more.
  • From our experience, the Kansai Thru Pass was valid on all train lines (Hankyu, Keihan, Eizan, etc.) and municipal buses we rode within Kyoto.
  • No need to use this pass for 3 consecutive days. (You may use it on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.)
  • A 2-Day Pass is also available.
  • Click here to learn more from Surutto, the official supplier of this pass.
Welcome to Kyoto

Tip: You might want to use the Kansai 2-Day Thru Pass for Day 4 and Day 5 instead. It's cheaper by 500 JPY compared to the JR 2-day Pass and it can also bring you to Himeji, Kobe, and Nara. Also, I think it's valid on more train lines within Osaka and the Kansai Region... You won't be limited to the JR lines.

But then again, it would depend on where you'll be staying in Osaka. If your hotel or Airbnb in Osaka is more accessible via a JR train line, then the JR Pass might be more cost-efficient.

If you're traveling Kyoto though, I highly believe the Kansai Thru Pass will be more cost-efficient. I've read from another blog that JR lines aren't that widespread in Kyoto.

5) Google Translate App
The Japanese are not that proficient in English. You may converse via this app if you really need help with directions, the menu, bike rental queries, and a lot more.


6) Powerbank

7) Multi-socket Adaptor Plug
If you're traveling as a group and you only have 4 sockets in your Airbnb for charging your devices (eg: cellphone, powerbank, pocket WiFi, camera battery, powerbank, etc.) after a long day, then you're going to have a problem. Bring a multi-socket adaptor to be able to cater to everything and everyone!

ITINERARY
(SUMMARY)
(CLICK ON THE AVAILABLE LINK/S BELOW FOR THE PUBLISHED ITINERARIES)

PART 1 (click here for our itinerary)
Day 1, Saturday: Arrival
Day 2, Sunday: Osaka (Osaka Amazing 2-Day Pass)
Day 3, Monday: Osaka (Osaka Amazing 2-Day Pass)

PART 2 (click here for our itinerary)
Day 4, Tuesday: Himeji and Kobe (JR West Kansai 2-Day Area Pass)
Day 5, Wednesday: Nara (JR West Kansai 2-Day Area Pass)

PART 3 (click here for our itinerary)
Day 6, Thursday: Goodbye Osaka, Hello Kyoto (Kansai 3-Day Thru Pass)
Day 7, Friday: Kyoto (Kansai 3-Day Thru Pass)
Day 8, Saturday: Kyoto (Kansai 3-Day Thru Pass)
Day 9, Sunday: Kyoto
Day 10, Monday: Kyoto

PART 4 (pending)
Day 11, Tuesday: Goodbye Kyoto, Hello Nagoya
Day 12, Wednesday: Nagoya; Departure


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