Quick and dirty guide to travelling in Japan (mostly Tokyo oriented) for Singaporeans

Go cheaptickets.sg or some other site to find the cheapest ticket to Japan. Tokyo has 2 airports, Narita, Haneda. Haneda is nearer to Tokyo (about 20 min train ride). Direct flight is about 6~7 hours. Depending on traffic, customs might take 30~60 minutes.

Fastest way from Narita to Tokyo (Ueno) is via the Keisei Skyliner (about 40 min train ride) but a bit more expensive. You can buy 2-way tickets online at their website for a slightly discounted price.

From my experience, best is to land in the morning/afternoon. Most hotel’s check in time is 2pm. If you arrive early, you can ask the hotel’s concierge to keep your luggage until you come back to check in. If you leave on a late night flight, you can also ask the hotel’s concierge to temporarily keep your luggage after checkout.

If you plan to travel outside of Tokyo for a few days during your trip, it would be good to spend the last 1~2 nights in Tokyo if your flight departs from here. It would be risky and too much of a rush to travel from Kyoto back to Tokyo for your flight.

And if you plan to stay at the same hotel after returning back from outside of Tokyo, you can ask the concierge to keep your luggage at a small fee per day. Then just travel out with a lighter luggage.

Remm Akihabara is a not bad hotel (their elevator system is a little annoying though). Can book online at hotels.com. At off-peak periods, a night’s stay can be around $100 SGD. Akihabara Washington is also near by and pretty good. Both hotels are right next to JR Akihabara station.

Get a SUICA card (similar to our ezlink). Can buy from their ticket machine. Most machines should have a button on screen to switch to English. Might need a deposit. If I’m not wrong, the card expires 10 years from the date of the last transaction. You can use SUICA at most convenient stores and trains throughout Japan. Just show them the card to indicate you want to pay using SUICA. This will help you reduce the amount of loose change.

Get a data SIM card (https://rental.cdjapan.co.jp/ or at the airport). No eSIM as of the time of this blog post. Google maps is pretty reliable there. Can help you find directions and even tell you which train to take, and give you suggestions on what places to visit and dine at.

As for amount of money to bring, 10,000 JPY for every day you are there is safe. But if you don’t shop a lot, 5,000 JPY/day should be enough. This amount includes travel, food and some shopping. Use the meal prices at McDonald’s to gauge if a restaurant’s food is expensive or cheap.

Compared to my first trip to Japan, more places accept credit cards now. There are some cards like YouTrip or DBS’s Multiplier account that helps you make payment in foreign currencies at lower transaction/exchange fees. If you go this route, you can bring less JPY cash. Cash is still needed at some places. Topping up your SUICA for example.

JR Pass is only good if you plan to take Shinkansen out of Tokyo. Have to buy it here in Singapore (JTB), then exchange for the actual pass at a train station or airport when you’re there.

Don’t get from Chan Brothers. When I wanted to get a 14 day pass, they tried to sell me 2x 7 day passes which is more expensive.

Once exchanged, you will have to go through a manned gate at every JR station. Just show the staff your JR pass and you will be allowed to go through. You cannot use the JR pass for metro lines. They are both different train operators.

You can also make reservations for the Shinkansen at certain stations that have a counter only for Shinkansen travellers. I would a list of dates and times and the train number, departure and destination, and make those reservations as soon as possible. If you are unable to make a reservation, there are free-seating carriages so just arrive early and queue up.

Japan 2017 – Day 10

Today is my last day in Japan.

Did some more treasure hunting at Book Off, a place that buys and sells second hand books and some other electronic devices and games.

Relaxed at a cozy coffee place where you can see the main road in Akihabara.

Got an alert that my flight was delayed by an hour. So I continued spending time at the coffee place until noon where traffic police begin sealing off the roads to cars for “Pedestrian Heaven”, where everyone can just walk on the roads.

Then it’s just taking my own sweet time heading to the airport for my flight back.

The loot for this trip:

I watched a Haruka Ayase movie (Honnouji Hotel) during my flight here and now I’m a fan.

Held back on buying manga as they are heavy and I’m running out of space at home.

The best item was the music box from FFXIV which I had my friend B, help me buy.

Japan 2017 – Day 9

The plan for today was to meet with another couple from the FFXI days. This time, there was a new addition to their family, a baby girl.

But unfortunately their baby was down with fever and couldn’t meet up.

So I went on with the lunch plan at a supposedly famous place.


Japanese curry rice!

There was a queue of about 10 right outside the shop as I got there. It was about 1 hour before their closing time.

A lady from the shop asked how many there are in my group and I said only 1. And then she proceeded to put a “We’re closed” sign behind me.

I was lucky to be the last customer for the day.

It was a long 40 minute wait before my turn came.

Inside, it was just a small space with 2 tables for 4 persons each, and the counter seats another 4.

I sat at the counter right next to a tall and huge Japanese guy. We both ordered the special curry except he asked for extra and I asked for less rice.

The special comes with a variety of toppings.

The owner even offered to give more meat and rice to the huge Japanese guy after he was close to finishing, while I was struggling to finish my “smaller” portion.

I never went hungry for the rest of the day after this meal. It was also delicious, making it worth the long queue time.

I went to Ikebukuro next. I wanted to see the sun set next to Mount Fuji again like I did in my first trip, 10 years ago.

Headed to Sunshine City, went up to the observation deck and was mildly displeased at how much it has changed.

Before entering the observation area, you had to be in a small room where they put on a CG simulation of some planes flying around the building and “shattering” the glass windows.

A section in the observation area now has a few VR booths.

While waiting for sunset, throughout my time at the observation area, you can keep hearing screams from the women at the VR booths.

At first, Mount Fuji can’t be seen but I got to see this breath taking view of the sun shining through the clouds.

Then when the time came, I got to see the shadow of Mount Fuji with the sun setting next to it.

Japan 2017 – Day 8

Left the manga cafe at 6:00am for the first Shinkansen back to Tokyo. It’s about a total of 6 hours ride with a stop in Shin Osaka.

Bought some bread from the bread store for breakfast and went to get my bags from the coin lockers.

And this is when I had the first panic of the entire trip.

I couldn’t retrieve my bags from the coin lockers.

Though I said panic, I was still pretty calm throughout the entire thing, munching on the bread along the way.

Reading the signs, it says that after 12am everyday, you will have to pay another 300 yen fee.

I tried to put in my coins but the slots were blocked. Sign says that lockers are opened from 7am, but my train leaves at 6:59am.

I called the number on the locker and hoped they would send a security guy to help me but they couldn’t. Or maybe wouldn’t?

Resigned to my fate, I went to make reservations on the next train back, which would disrupt my schedule for the day by about an hour.

And then I went back to the locker area still munching on the bread while waiting for the lockers to work.

But at around 6:50am, a sudden thought came into my head telling me to try putting in the locker key before inserting coins. I tried it and it started accepting coins and unlocked!

I quickly grabbed all my stuff and rushed to the platform.

Made it to my train in time.

Back in Tokyo, Akihabara, I checked into my hotel, washed up, and went to meet another friend from FFXIV for the first time, H.

It was a short meet up at Ikspiari, a shopping mall right next to Tokyo Disneyland. Had some dinner, matcha tea and we window shopped before parting ways.

I spent the rest of the night at Disneyland with the after 6 night passport which is cheaper. Managed to get on all the thrilling rides before they had to close for the day.

The last time I went to DisneySea, so this time, I went to Disneyland. They had already begun with the Christmas theme. It’s only November!

Japan 2017 – Day 7

So for my 1 night in Nagoya, I stayed in a cheap business hotel. During midnight while I was in my room, I could hear noises like doors closing. Didn’t bother me much as it wasn’t too loud.

But in the morning at 6am when I got up and started preparing, while using the hairdryer, I heard 3 knocks on the wall. Probably woke up the guy next door.

It’s a 4 hour long Shinkansen ride from Nagoya to Hakata. Which is why I got up early.

Arriving at Hakata, I stored my bags in a coin locker at the station.

I had a few hours to kill before my beer tour in the Asahi beer factory. So I walked down to Canal City, had breakfast, and decided to watch the movie, Hyouka.

The tickets here are a little more expensive than in Singapore. And because of this, I thought there would be less commercials at the beginning.

I thought wrong.

And the other mistake I made was not checking how long the movie was.

I ended up late and missed my scheduled tour at the beer factory.

I called them up to see if there was another tour after my slotted time or if I could just tour the place myself but was told not possible.

With the factory tour plans cancelled, I went to Tenjin area for lunch and window shopping.

Walked around before deciding on a hamburger steak restaurant.

My un-Japanese way of entering the restaurant and communicating with the staff probably gave it away that I am a foreigner. But instead of giving me an English menu, she gave me a Korean menu. I asked for a Japanese one instead.

I suppose there are lots of Korean tourists in the area.

When food was served, the guy seemed to say something to me in Japanese in their native speed so I couldn’t catch what he was saying.

I poured a little bit of the sauce onto the hamburger steak and started eating. As I looked around the restaurant, a sign on the wall says not to put the sauce onto the steak.

That’s definitely what he was saying, I thought to myself while embarrassed.

Did some more window shopping until evening where I met another couple from my FFXI days for dinner and drinks.

They both have quit FFXI and moved on to FFXIV.

Similar to my second trip to Japan, I spent the night at a 24 hour manga cafe. This time I opted for a flat space but I think I should’ve gotten the reclining chair one as it’s more comfortable sleeping on a cushioned seat than the hard wooden floor.

If I remember correctly, it was around 3000 yen for a 10 hour package.

You can tell there are a lot of other people using the place as a cheap hotel from all the snoring.