Japan 2024!

Day 1 – SJC to Narita

And here we go again! We loved Japan so much last year, that we decided to go again this year, but this time in March instead of February which I think was a good call since it is a few degrees warmer and is less prone to rainy weather…but I’m getting ahead of myself (3 days behind in blogging ahh!).

We woke up at 7am and ubered to SJC around 8:45am ($20) and checked in at the counter where they weighed our bags. Like last time, we are only bringing backpacks so that we don’t have to pay for luggage, and it’s actually very doable. We met up with Brandon and Josephine at the lounge and tried to fill up with eggs and potatoes before the flight. I also brought with us shredded cheese, cut up Kara Kara oranges, bell peppers, and cucumbers to have something healthy for the ride.

Our flight was supposed to be at 11:10am, but don’t think we started boarding till then and also didn’t fly out till 11:30am. We remembered to refill our water bottles before the flight this time. I was getting a little hungry so I got a mini ramen bowl for 300 yen. The flight was pretty smooth most of the time…little did I know that the next day will probably be our hardest this trip.

Cost: $1026 plane tickets + $20.01 Uber (old credits) + Udon on plane 300 yen (travel charge erased w/pts)

Day 2 – Narita to Odaiba

The flight was pretty smooth sailing until about 30 mins to landing. That was when we hit turbulence. I think most planes going to Narita also had this trouble and we circled the airport for a little longer. The plane would make sudden drops every now and then and Anson’s stomach wasn’t having it. The person on my right and people in front of us used the barf bags.

We landed (and everyone clapped!). I was secretly praying that we wouldn’t die. There were a good many people compared to last year (didn’t get a whole row to ourselves this year) so customs took a little longer. We said goodbye to Brandon and Josephine at the airport, got data working on my phone, ate our customary premium salmon onigiris, sandwiches with the crust taken off, and chicken salad from Lawson (1470 yen), then went to the train station.

I can never sleep on planes, so I was pretty sleep deprived and couldn’t make many sound decisions after this. We probably shouldn’t have stayed in line for 1/2 hr to buy the PASMO passport to save 500 yen each and just bought individual tickets for the Keisei Narita Skyaccess, but what’s done is done. We took the 5:25pm Skyaccess to Shimbashi station which arrived at 6:45pm (1414 yen) and transferred to the Yurikamome at 6:57pm getting off at Tokyo Big Site (388 yen each) after 28 mins, and walked to our hotel, Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington hotel.

I booked this with my Capital One travel credit for $237.74 (guess I’ll just keep this in since had to pay CO annual fee) Check in was at a kiosk where you have to enter where you’ve been previously and where you’re going next (so big brother :). The hotel room is…cozy and has a nice view of the city but it is all we kinda need. We went out to Lawson for more food (1069 yen)…then we crashed 🙂 Travel days aren’t my favorite…

Cost: Skyaccess 2828 yen + Yurikamome 776 yen + Lawson 1470 yen + Lawson 1069 yen + 3 nights hotel $237.74, Pocari Sweat drink from hotel vending machine 180 yen = 6134 yen + $237.74 = ~$270

Day 3 – Georgetown, Joypolis, and Daiba Park

So jetlagged 🙂 woke up at 1:30am, stayed up for a couple hours, and woke up again at 6am. Bought tickets for our hotel’s in-restaurant breakfast place called Georgetown at the hotel (2200 yen/pp). It’s kinda expensive, but I think it’s worth it since breakfasts in Asia are AMAZING, it is convenient and a good source of our veggies for the day, and since it is considered a hotel charge, I’ll be able to get it credited from my Capital One travel points.

Speaking of breakfast, some examples of the food was sashimi, ikura fish eggs, shabu shabu fish, salad bar, tandoori chicken, various meats, natto, rice (that comes from a machine!), miso soup, various desserts, fruits, etc. Looking forward to this for the next two days too!

We left the hotel around 9:30 and proceeded to walk 1/2 hr to Joypolis, an indoor SEGA theme park. I bought the tickets for $20/pp on klook (charges erased with CO points). I don’t like the cold, so I have bundled up with 2 pairs of pants, 2 jackets, gloves, scarf, and fuzzy hat…this will probably be what I wear every day lol.

It’s a Tuesday and Joypolis opened at 10am…and it was packed! Why are people not in school??? They had some cool rides like a Sonic rollercoaster ride and Transformers 360 ride (Anson opted out since he can’t take spinny rides) and did this treadmill competition one instead). They also had these three “rides”: Wild Jungle, Wild River, and Wild Wing which had basically the same concept but you watch a screen and your vehicle shakes with the action on screen. Some activities were all in Japanese and not as fun since we couldn’t understand the context. I think that they could have streamlined getting on the rides and acknowledgement of rules better, but hey…this ain’t Disneyland 🙂

We then proceeded to explore Daiba Park. We saw the Gundam statue and then walked some familiar paths that we did last year. We saw their Statue of Liberty, grabbed a Peach tea from a vending machine (170 yen), walked the beach and a segregated park of the island, weren’t really hungry still even though we didn’t eat lunch, bought tomatoes and cucumbers from OK Store Odaiba (536 yen) and salad and premium onigiris from Lawson (782 yen), ate dinner while listening to Ask Pastor John, then crashed at 8:30pm (and I’m typing this at 4am…been up since 1:30…don’t feel bad…I feel totally fine lol)

Cost: Breakfast 4400 yen + Joypolis $40 + Peach tea 170 yen + groceries 536 yen + Lawson 782 yen = 5888 yen + $40 = ~$78.80 (breakfast and Joypolis credited = actual total ~$10)

Day 4 – Teamlab Borderless

After having breakfast again at the hotel (2200 yen/pp), we decided to walk to Teamlab Borderless. The husband wanted to walk over the Rainbow Bridge like we did last year. We left the hotel around 9:30am and got to Borderless at 11:25am. I bought these tickets on klook at the same time as Joypolis and it cost $19/pp which will be erased with Capital One points.

This was the only thing I planned for the day, and I’m glad it was as see spent about 3.5-4 hrs here. The place is a digital art museum, and it was magnificent to look at. It was pretty dark and there are no signs to where everything is which keeps the ambiance mysterious. It is up to you to just explore all the rooms. The lights and art work would frequently change in the different rooms. One room had stringed up lights from the ceiling, another had balls moving around, another had lily pads. We also were able to color in a certain aquatic animal and they would scan in our drawing and it would display in their large sea aquarium area. We aren’t very good at drawing, but we wrote the words “A+P 2024” on our turtle.

Another highlight was going to their En Tea House (had to pay 600 yen per drink, but it was worth the experience!) We were seated and shortly, a woman would bring out our tea putting it in a circular bowl. I’m guessing a projector would sense it and then a flower would start growing until there were multiple flowers where your tea is in your bowl. Once you started drinking from your bowl, the petals would scatter across your table and it would repeat over again until your tea was finished.

Overall, I’m pretty happy that we were able to experience this place. We then walked over to Tokyo Tower to take some pictures, and then took the Yurikamome (388 yen) back to the hotel. We bought food from Lawson: Anson’s premium onigiris, salad, pasta carbonara, and a lemon drink (1403 yen). Still not over jetlag, so after dinner and shower, I think I feel asleep at 5:30pm and probably could have slept longer except needed to brush teeth 🙂 At least I didn’t wake up till 3am! Yay!

Cost: Georgetown breakfast 4400 yen + Teamlab Borderless $38 + En Tea House 1200 yen + Yurikamome 776 yen + Lawson 1403 yen = $38 + 7779 yen = ~$90 (breakfast and Teamlab Borderless credited = actual total ~$23)

Day 5 – Travel day – Odaiba to Hakone

We opted to not do breakfast buffet today, and I was up pretty early, so I explored the different convenience stores in our area: Lawson, Daily Yamazaki, Family Mart, and 7-11. I got us 2 salmon onigiris, bean thread, 3 eggs, beef onigiri, sushi roll up, sandwich, yogurt, 2 salads, and 2 drinks for 1019 yen + 1556 yen. Checked out of the hotel around 10:30am.

We decided to take it easy today and are taking our time traveling down to Hakone. Took the Yurikamome from Tokyo Big Site to Shimbashi station for 28 mins (388 yen each) The trains are still a little confusing for us and we ended up accidently exiting the station and paying 150 yen each 🙁 We took the Tokaido subway for 1.5 hrs to reach Odawara station (1514 yen/pp).

We purchased groceries (tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and oranges for 1540 yen) since Hakone has NO supermarkets, and bought the 3 day Hakone Freepass at the Odakyu Sightingseeing Service Center for 5,400 yen each…I’m a little conflicted on whether we wanted to start it today or tomorrow since Saturday is projected to rain all day 🙁 We bought lunch at Lawson (1007 yen) and ate the food while waiting for the shuttle bus to our hotel.

I used most of Anson and my points to book 3 nights at Hotel Indigo Gora. This place is a 5 star hotel…and we feel a little out of place lol. Each room has it’s own onsen! They had a mini bar (not that we would get anything from it), but we are able to use it to store some leftovers/groceries. We took a stroll outside near the waterfall lake, got onigiris and butter chicken from Lawson (840 yen), and ended the day soaking in our onsen (this’ll be a daily thing to get our points worth)!

Cost – Breakfast: 1019 yen + 1556 yen, Transport to Odawara: 776 yen + 300 yen + 3028 yen, Hakone Freepass: 10,800 yen, Groceries: 1540 yen, Lunch: 1007 yen, Dinner: 840 yen = 20,866 yen = ~$140

Day 6 – Hakone Freepass

I got us breakfast at 7-11 again (got other kinds of onigiri since they don’t have Anson’s favorite which is sold at Lawson, eggs, gyoza, milk on sale, and cheese wedges for 2097 yen). We left the hotel around 8:30am and proceeded to hike uphill to Gora Station. Since we have the 3 day Hakone Freepass, it covers our transportation for the next 3 days (though we probably won’t be able to make it worth the cost since tomorrow is gonna be pouring, but it was nice to have the convenience instead of buying individual tickets especially with so many people around).

We took the Hakone Tozan Cable Car up to the the Hakone Ropeway that had a clear view of Mt. Fuji and stopped at a destination that sold black eggs (didn’t get) and black ice cream (400 yen) that just tasted like vanilla. Took the ropeway down to Hakone Sightseeing Cruise on a pirate ship on Lake Ashi at 11:25am. We ate pasta carbonara, salad, milk tea, and onigiris for lunch (1658 yen) before heading on the cobblestone hiking path where we met an Australian woman who walked and talked with us down to the Amasake Tea House where we shared an Amasake Tea and sesame mochi (1,100 yen). It was a nice ambiance with rustic dirt floor, heater, and the trunk of a tree used for the table. It was nice to talk to fellow travelers and see where life was taking them…each person has their own unique story to tell.

We parted ways and hike a little more down the “path” back to Yumoto, but it was a little scary since part of the hiking path was sorta in traffic with very little walkway. The cobblestones also didn’t end and made it not as conducive to walk quickly as we didn’t want to roll or sprain our ankles (though I’m glad the path was all downhill…I wouldn’t survive if it were uphill). We decided to take the Hakone Tozan Bus to Yumoto around 4:50pm and then the Hakone Tozan Railway back to Gora Station. Dinner (and food for tomorrow since it’ll rain) was at 7-11 where we got onigiris and a pork and rice dish (2136 yen) and ended the night soaking in the onsen again (hey, there’s an onsen tax and this hotel is fancy schmancy, so might as well use it!)

Cost: Breakfast: 2097 yen, Black ice cream: 400 yen, Lunch 1658 yen, Amasake Tea House: 1100 yen, Dinner: 2136 yen = 7391 yen = ~$49

Day 7 – Rainy day at Hotel Indigo

Pros for traveling during low season (coulda fooled me) is that flights and accommodations are cheaper. I had hoped to be here for the cherry blossoms, but because it’s much colder, looks like they won’t be blooming earlier this year…which brings up the cons: the unpredictable weather patterns. I had planned for us to hike from Hakone Yumoto to Mt Sengen and then to the Chisuji Falls before ending the day at Hakone Gora Park, but the rain had different plans (glad we didn’t though since it would have been grueling uphilll!)

Hence, we changed course and I splurged on the fancy breakfast at our 5 star hotel (3729 yen/pp which will be credited with Capital One points). There were eggs Benedict, omelette station, various Japanese small eats, drinks, desserts, pasta, salmon, etc. I don’t know if it was mind blowing, but I appreciated the ambiance.

I dressed in their traditional yakuta robes and checked out the public onsen and drank some roasted tea at the hotel lobby. After some blogging, in the late afternoon, the rain died down, so we took a stroll along the waterfall river before eating our onigiris/sandwiches we got from 7-11 the previous day. We ended our last night using our private onsen.

Cost: Breakfast at hotel 7458 yen = $49.72 (but $0 after Capital One credits)

Day 8 – Hakone Gora Park, Foot bath, and Odawara

Woke up early again and got breakfast from 7-11 for 1426 yen (got shrimp gratin and my little treat today was a strawberry banana smoothie for under $2! The store attendant helped me with the machine since I looked like a helpless foreigner lol).

Since it was forecasted not to rain in the morning, we took the hotel shuttle up to Gora Station (glad we didn’t walk uphill!) and checked out the Hakone Gora Park. It is relatively small but had a variety of sections: a place for a traditional tea ceremony (sad we didn’t bring cash), cafe, crafthouse to make pottery, glassblowing, etc, greenhouse, rose garden, and hanging wisteria tree. We also saw some cherry blossoms.

Bought lunch again at 7-11 for 1563 yen (this time, kimchi fried rice, chicken gizzards, and salad). I checked out the foot bath that is outside the lobby (the water was nice and hot!), we had late check-out at 2pm and I did the foot bath again before taking the free 2:30pm hotel shuttle back to Odawara station, bought groceries for 810 yen and checked in to our Toyoko Inn hotel (the 3rd smallest hotel we’ve been in). We finally ate out at Yoshinoya where we could get an English menu on our phone. We both got set plates and found out we could also get free refills on rice. I feel like the Yoshinoyas in Japan are much better than the ones in the states. They even have set menus that come with individual hot plates for about $5. Odawara seems more like a transit town, and since it was raining and we had already seen the Odawara Castle on the way to Hakone, we decided to take the rest of the night easy before we go on our way to Yokohama tomorrow.

Cost: Breakfast 1426 yen + Lunch 1563 yen + Groceries 810 yen + Yoshinoya 1453 yen + Toyoko Inn $83.36 = 5252 yen + $83.36 = ~$35 (Toyoko Inn $83.36 was credited)

Day 9 – Cup Noodle Museum, Yokohama Chinatown

Toyoko Inn came with free breakfast (wasn’t the best, but Anson liked the hard boiled eggs and I guess I liked the milk pudding and getting enough veggies). We had to check out at 10am, so proceeded to take the Ueno line from Odawara to Yokohama (990 yen/pp). Walked 15 mins in the rain to The Square Yokohama for our 2 night stay.

We first thought we’d have to put our luggage in storage, but our room was ready at noon, so we rested for a little bit before heading out to the Cup Noodle museum (500 yen/pp. It was inspring to hear that the maker of Cup Noodle was 48 when he invented the product. He saw a need before anyone else and was able to gain from his work.

We later headed to Chinatown after the rain died down. Most of the stalls were selling the same things. We got a Peking duck roll, and pork belly bao, and frozen glazed strawberries on a stick (1330 yen total). We saw the coolest orange juice vending machine where they squeezed 4 oranges to make juice for 350 yen. We then walked back to the hotel and stopped at Lawson for some onigiris and sandwiches (1126 yen).

Cost – Transport 1980 yen + Cup noodle museum 1000 yen + Chinatown 780 + 550 yen + OJ 350 yen + Lawson dinner 1126 yen + The Square Yokohama $180.51 = 4786 yen + $180.51 = ~$32 (The Square Yokohama $180.51 was credited)

Day 10 – Anitouch, Cosmo World Ferris Wheel, Conveyor Belt Sushi

Rain, rain, go away…yeah, fares are cheaper in March, but that means that you have to contend with weather. It rained all day today, and we, being cheap, decided to walk to World Porter’s. Yes, only a 15 min walk, but my shoes/socks weren’t too happy.

We went to Animal Touch Minatomirai (4600 yen) where we were able to feed and pet some pretty cool animals! There were baby chicks, guinea pigs, meerkats, and chinchillas, and my favs were the lemurs, capybaras, and tamarins. We then went on the Cosmo World Ferris Wheel ($8.52) which ran rain or shine. We bought groceries (1095 yen) where I got these nice quality pieces of salmon for less than $4. If we bought at the end of the night, it would have only been $3!

We rested in the hotel before going out for conveyor belt sushi called Hama Sushi (introvert’s dream sushi place) where we ordered from a pad and the food would come out from the conveyor belt in record time. We ate a little before hand, but even if we didn’t, this place was pretty inexpensive (1804 yen). We then got more groceries (818 yen) and had even more sushi in our hotel room lol! I wish we did this more often during our trip!

Cost: Anitouch 4600 yen + Cosmo World Ferris Wheel $8.52 + Groceries 1095 yen + Conveyor belt sushi 1804 yen + Groceries 818 yen = 8317 yen + $8.52 = ~$55 ($8.52 credited)

Day 11 – All good things…

Should I really consider this as one of our vacation days when it is just getting to the airport lol?

We ate breakfast at the hotel. Items I liked were the bamboo shoot curry and pomegranate vinegar drink. We packed up and left the hotel at 11am, walked 17 mins to Yokohama station, got on the Ueno purple line to Shimbashi station (483 yen) and transferred to the Asakusa red limited express line at 12:10pm since it makes fewer stops to Narita (1414 yen).

It took us a while to check in since I think there was a miscommunication about why we had to be in the bag drop line. Even the attendant felt bad for us and didn’t even weigh my bag. But after we got thru that and security, we bought 3 boxes of Tokyo Bananas and 1 box of Strawberry Tokyo Bananas (4440 yen), then went to the ISS NOA airport lounge. They took away all the ANA lounge access on Priority Pass, soI was pleasantly surprised to have this place to rest, eat mochi, omurice, matcha chocolate, and to refill our water bottle.

I got 2 boxes of white chocolate cookies (1760 yen) on the flight since it’ll be credited as a travel expense. We were sat next to the window and middle…maybe we will pay for seat selection next time so that we can have an aisle and middle in the middle part of the plane so that we don’t bother others and they don’t bother us. I totally recommend everyone to use Mobile Passport Control to do customs when coming back internationally…it is even faster than Global Entry!

Overall, what did I think about this trip? I don’t think I liked it as much as last year’s. People go to Fushimi Inari, Nara, and Arashiyama for a reason. I did plan for hiking for Anson in Hakone, but didn’t know the terrain was so steep and that their trails are not as defined as in the states and included the highways. We saved some money by taking local trains, but it feels a little more stressful than having the JR pass. I am glad we got the PASMO passport when we arrived since it meant that we didn’t have to buy individual tickets for each ride. Rain is also pretty unpredictable and because of it, we had to change some plans. We ate more at convenience stores this time around (though I didn’t feel deprived because of that…there is so much variety and you can try so many different things). If we were to come again, we might want to buy more from grocery stores since it is even less expensive and they have quality sushi on the cheap!

I’m not unhappy with our trip, though at times, it feels like all cities are kinda the same though Japan’s are cleaner/safer. Crowds are also not fun, but they’re just a victim of their own success. I think it’s more that I felt a little distracted this time around since I had booked this trip before we decided on moving back to SoCal, and our minds have been filled with plans for the move but not being able to push forward because we still had this trip to go on. Now that it has come to an end, we’re going back to reality and will need to find an agent and fix up our house to get it ready to list on the market. On to a new adventure!

Cost: Transport 966 yen + 2828 yen + Tokyo Bananas + 4440 yen + Cookies 1760 yen = 9994 yen = ~$55 ($11.73 credited)

Cost of Trip:

Flights: Zipair $1026.30

Hotels: $83.36 + $180.51 + $237.35 = $501.22

My Capital One charges: $135.39

Anson’s Capital One charges: $122.79

Anson’s BofA charges: $216.65

Cash: $250

Total = $2,252.35

Credits for trip

All hotels $501.22 + Joypolis/Borderless $78.30 + travel credits $137.10 = $716.62

Total = $2252.35 – $716.62 = $1535.73

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