Our adventure, and the first leg of our trip, started with an 8-hour flight from Honolulu to Narita. We were excited. We planned this for months, and it’s finally happening!

Needless to say, bulk of our trip was paid for by credit card points and miles. Yes. We charge almost everything on our credit cards. And we pay them off right away. This way, we have zero credit card debt, and we’re amassing travel rewards.

We usually allocate $2000 per person as our budget for an international travel, regardless of how many country destinations. After coming back in Hawaii, I did my little spreadsheet, and for this 15-day trip, I am happy to report that we only spent $1500 per person in total. This amount included everything – flights, hotels, tours, travel insurance, food, transportation, gifts, tips, and miscellaneous stuff. Totally winning! We were $500 per person under the budget. We create our budget so we have a crystal clear picture of how much the expenses are going to be.

Now that we have the financial report done, let’s get right into the fun!

Highlights

This was our second trip to Japan. We pretty much covered everything we wanted to do on our first trip, so this time around, it was more relaxed.

Konjiki Hototogisu – Being a traveler means being a foodie. Being a foodie means finding the best food and best restaurants out there. What else comes to mind? Michelin-star restaurants. The problem is, these restaurants are expensive. The good news is, Tokyo houses most of the Michelin-star restaurants in the world. As an icing on the cake, a few of them are affordable, including Konjiki, a soba house. We waited for almost an hour before we got in. And sure enough, our ramen didn’t disappoint. It lived up to its rating.

Nezu Shrine – The red torii gates are mesmerizing. The shrine has huge trees, azalea flowers, temples, and even a pond. The entire place is relaxing and serene as it is away from the city’s hustle and bustle. You get that “Old Tokyo feel” while roaming around the district.

Shibuya Scramble – Walking in one of the busiest (if not THE) intersections in the world was an experience. If you are not a people person, don’t come here. LOL. We also saw Hachiko, the dog statue. Short story: master and dog walk to the metro everyday – master passes away – dog goes to the metro everyday without fail for nine straight years waiting for the master to come back – dog dies – what a story of love and loyalty!

Harajuku / Yoyogi Park / Meiji Shrine – These spots are close together and should be done in a day. We did this itinerary on our first trip, but it was worth doing it the second time around. Harajuku is where you can find all cute things in the world: Hello Kitty, Line friends, and even young people doing cosplay. Yoyogi park is a huge, beautiful park where locals go, and Meiji Shrine is dedicated to the Emperor Meiji who helped Japan become a superpower.

Food and people – Just being in Japan means having a plethora of good food to choose from everyday, and being treated really well by polite people. If that is not a good vacation, I don’t know what is.

Tips

  • Instead of changing your money at the currency exchange booths, withdraw local currency using your debit card from the ATM. The exchange rate is higher and the fees are lower. Check with your bank about their foreign fees and compare. Don’t forget to notify your bank/s about your travel.
  • For US citizens, we don’t need a visa if we are staying in Japan for less than 90 days.
  • The best mode of transportation is the metro / subway. It is convenient and it is cheap. Tokyo is well-connected.
  • Japan is not a tipping country.
  • US electronics don’t need any converters in Japan. You can just plug in your devices in the outlets.
  • Be quiet, courteous, and respectful of others. This should be basic, but we saw some tourists who didn’t have these etiquette.

I highly recommend Japan to anyone. With the variety of things to do in Japan, it is truly a prime destination. It is one of those destinations that each person has to go to at least once in their lifetime.

I’ve attached some pictures from our trip. I hope you enjoy.

A Michelin star at last!
Red torii gates at Nezu Shrine
Azalea flowers
Line Friends
Barrels of sake at Meiji Shrine
Rose garden at Yoyogi Park
Hachiko statue across the Shibuya crossing
A traditional Japanese wedding we’ve witnessed while at the Meiji Shrine
Shinjuku at night
Costume fitting at the Narita Airport
We spotted Godzilla in Tokyo!