(Nov 26, 2013)
Besides travelling to Europe, Japan was another country on my must travel list after getting an AU passport (no visa required anymore).
So when I found out that some uni friends from the Philippines were planning to go as well in Nov, we ended up organizing a group travel to see Japan during autumn! I was super excited not only because I love Japan, but also because I get to travel with friends that I haven’t seen for at least 10 yrs.
We didn’t join a tour group and just planned the itinerary ourselves. Me and 2 other friends (one of who is currently living in Japan) did the planning and research for the sights and accommodations. The itinerary was for a 2 week trip, with some people from our group arriving or leaving earlier throughout the trip. But before we began, everyone first met up in Tokyo for dinner in a themed restaurant 😀
First thing we did upon arrival at the airport was get a wifi rental. Each group booked from different rental websites, but for our case I got our wifi rental from here. You can reserve it ahead of time and just pick it up from the airport upon arrival. We did a lot of travelling to different prefectures in Japan, so this was one of the providers where the wifi worked for all of the locations we visited.
Next we had to figure out how to ride the train to get to our accommodations. At this point it was just me and 2 other girl friends, so we were on our own trying to figure out how to get to our hotel. You can ask the info booth in the airport (they can speak in English) what train to take to your accommodations. In our case, our hotel was in Toyocho station so we took the Keisei main line to Ueno, then we had to then transfer to another train to get to Toyocho station.
The tricky part is figuring out how to buy tickets for the 2nd part of our train ride. There were ticket machines you can buy from and they were in English, but it doesn’t say in the screen what amount to choose! So we were scratching our heads trying to figure out what button to press.
I only figured this out later on, that though they don’t specify the location in the machine, when you check via hyperdia it tells you the amount value for a specific route. I didn’t know this at that time, so to play it safe I picked the cheapest price here. Then when that wasn’t enough to exit out of our station, we went to the staff near the exit, showed our ticket and paid the difference between what we have paid and the actual price.
It took a while (75 minutes train ride), but we found our hotel. We stayed at Sotetsu Fresa Inn Tokyo-Toyocho.
It was affordable (mid range prices for accommodations are around 3,000-4,000 yen per person), walking distance to the train station, included Wifi, small but clean rooms, and for the ladies, you get a small set of skincare products.
There was no initial deposit required to make the reservations, and had a flexible cancellation policy (which were all part of my requirements). Sotetsu Fresa Inn actually has multiple branches around Tokyo. This branch in particular is best if you plan to go to Tokyo Disney. But there are other branches which I think is more central to Tokyo. (My other friends stayed at the Nihombashi Kabayacho branch).
After freshening up, we headed to Ikebukuro station to meet up with the rest of the group for dinner. To celebrate our mini college reunion, and kicking off what was to be an awesome trip, we had our first dinner in an Alice and Wonderland themed restaurant.
My friend posted more about the restaurant in a separate entry here. Overall the food was visually nice to look at, but not authentic Japanese, and also nothing special in terms of flavor. (And not cheap as well)
Still a really fun set of people to be with and everyone was talking to each other while eating and taking pictures.
After dinner we all split up again to head back to their accommodations. Once we were back to the hotel, all of us were tired and ready to sleep, but first took a few more pics in the sleepwear provided by the hotel..
And laughing at the “unique” TV viewing available in Japan.
Next day is when we officially start our Japan travels, as we head off to Kyoto to see the colors of autumn at it’s best 😀
- The Narita airport website shows a map of the stops that the trains from Narita airport makes. So if you’re looking for convenience from Narita, try to find accommodations near the train stations along this route.
- Remember the website hyperdia.com this is our go-to site for figuring out what train to take to go from one place to another. This not just shows you the route, but the price as well for that route. The ticket machines just display the amount value and not the locations, so you need to select the amount based on the price of that route.
- If you under pay the ticket price, don’t worry, you can go to the staff in the station and show your ticket. You will then pay the difference between the actual price and the price you have paid and get a new ticket.
- For tourists, get the JR pass! Especially if you’re planning to do a lot of train travel in Japan.