Let me start off this travel diary by saying that I never thought I would be back in Japan again, with my family, so soon. After our trip in Hokkaido two years ago I thought it would take me around 5 years, to earn enough for the family, to go back to my favorite vacation destination. But my mom is not getting any younger and our lives are not getting any easier – what better time than now?
So when my mom was down with traveling we wasted no time in booking our plane tickets and hotel (she might change her mind!). We decided to complete our itinerary from way back 2014 and that was to go to Kyoto. My knee got injured before so we weren’t able to go on a day trip in Kyoto and I was never forgiven because of it. (Is it my fault they have so many stairs???)
One of our most important To Do’s before the trip was to get a JR Pass. JR Pass essentially is a 7 day free pass to all JR railway. Yes it is pricey, around 12k pesos per person but it also lets you take the Shinkansen, which one ticket already costs 13,500 yen on a reserved seats train (that’s about 7k php). We opted to take the JR Pass because also of the convenience since we just flash the pass in the JR booth to get in the train station. We no longer need to buy any tickets prior to entering, as long as the train we are taking is located in the JR track. Most of Tokyo anyway have JR trains. You can get a JR pass in the Philippines through travel agencies like this one.
Once you purchase your JR Pass here in the Philippines, they will give you documents and receipts to give to the JR train booth in the airport. It’s located one floor down from the arrivals area and the people that work there speak English (yey!) so we had assistance in booking our Shinkansen seats for the entire duration of the trip. Note that Shinkansen are very prompt so always arrive at the train station earlier than what’s written in the ticket. Also, you can change a reservation just by going to the Shinkansen or JR booth in any train station.
Our hotel is located in Ikebukuro which I chose because it’s a setting in an anime that I watched years before. Sakura Hotel (the name is cute too) is actually quite far from Tokyo Station (about 11 station away huh)) and I know my mom and brother will forever blame me for this. But it’s a really nice place! Ikebukuro I mean, not Sakura Hotel. The crowd is young so there’s lots of cafes, bars, karaoke, pachinko and many more (and I think there are yakuzas around)! We saw a lot of people in school uniforms so it might be the ideal destination of students cutting class. My mom was like, “Wala bang pasok ang mga ito?!” (Don’t they have classes!?) Our hotel room was….cozy. But with our huge luggages we had to crab-walk to move in the room. I know my mom will not stand for it but we were in Japan and she can’t do anything about it. Ha.
After depositing our stuff in the hotel, we were off to Shinjuku to visit Sekaido. I talked more about Sekaido in another post because it’s art related and I spazzed too much there. After my mini-shopping we were dead tired already (the family with low energy) so we wanted a quick dinner and rest because the next day is for Kyoto! Finding a quick dinner in Japan is difficult, mainly because there are so many choices and everything looks good. My brother wanted ramen so we found the nearest ramen shop to eat. It was also very cold so a bowl of hot soup is super welcome.
Got distracted in Shinjuku station because they have a store selling tea with cat printed merchandise. How can I resist? Bought a T-shirt, a souvenir and a lip balm.
I’ll end my first Japan post here. There’s not much pictures yet because we just landed and our airplane selfies aren’t very interesting haha. Please look forward to the Kyoto and Hakone post soon (in the next long vacation kekeke~)!