Turning Japanese: Kyoto and Osaka on a budget
MANILA, Philippines - Rich culture, ancient history, inspiring tales of the Samurai and romantic books on the beautiful yet untouchable Geisha…I’ve been in love with Japan since I was a child.
I loved the first wave of anime in the '80s: face glued to the television, mouth agape. I have dreamt of living in the Land of the Rising Sun ever since.
Breathtaking novels such as "Memoirs of a Geisha" and "Shogun" painted images of Japan and its heroes in my head. After watching the film "The Last Samurai," I was finally convinced to go.
With today's Free Trade Agreement between Japan and the Philippines, exploring Japan and soaking in its culture is but a few clicks away. I booked the cheapest flight of Cebu Pacific to Osaka for only P7,500 round trip, packed my bags and dreamt of Samurai, Geisha and Sushi.
Kyoto, one of the oldest Asian metropoleis
Since Osaka was more affordable to stay at, we decided to land there and leave our things while we hopped on a train and explored the metropolis of Kyoto. A train ride from Osaka to Kyoto and back cost about P540.
There were two options: a 3-hour scenic route with fewer locals and comfy chairs or a one-hour SRO [standing room only] speed train.
My tip: I suggest you take the scenic route going and the fast train back.
We stayed at Hotel Keihan Kyoto, which was right across the train station and adjacent to the mall. I spent P9,500 for 3 days and two nights there.
Kyoto, described in one word, was peaceful. I must have lost 5 lbs walking the quiet and quaint streets. Its beauty lay in its temples and castles. The temples touched my heart and brought calm to my soul. Each sacred place had its own story.
Here are my suggested must-see temples [and a palace] in Kyoto:
- Ginkaku-ji Temple
- Honen-In Temple
- Imperial Palace
- Kinkaku-ji Temple
- Kiyomuzi Temple
Another place I visited was Pontocho, the old Geisha Village. It had a scenic bridge with a whole community enjoying the flowing water under. Music, dancing and lovers hand-in-hand greeted me as I followed the drumbeat and cobblestone street.
At night, I experienced authentic Japanese cuisine for under P250 a meal at the Nishiki Market.
My tip: Make sure that you are at Nishiki Market from exactly 5pm to 8pm. The food kiosks close as soon as their stocks run out.
Osaka, the 'nation’s kitchen'
Osaka was a more budget-friendly city to explore. Our 4 days, 3 nights stay amounted to only P7,500 in total. We stayed at the Hotel Monterey Grasmere.
Right under the hotel was a grocery that sold fresh Sushi, Sashimi and other Japanese favorites like Katsudon and Ramen.
My tip: Wait until 8pm when they start giving their Sushi at Sashimi at 40% to 60% off. A plate of assorted Sashimi can go down to P175 to P250 only.
To further enjoy Osaka on a budget, I bought the Osaka one-day pass. It only cost P1,000 and included entry tickets to all the major sights in the thriving city plus subway tickets — great savings!
The Osaka one-day pass includes:
- Osaka Castle
- Tsūtenkaku Tower
- Santa Maria Cruise
- Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel
- Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden
Another favorite destination was Dotonbori, formerly known as the Pleasure District. It offered great shopping deals. Located in Dotonbori were buildings of H&M and Uniqlo, to name a few.
My tip: Dotonbori is known as a main destination for food tourism.
My budget-saving tips for traveling to Japan:
- Book your flights early, specially when there are seat sales
- Book a hotel near the train station, subway and grocery
- Find out about sale prices in the grocery like the Sushi at Sashimi at 40% to 60% off that I mentioned above
- Make sandwiches and snacks for sightseeing. Walking burns a lot of calories. You’ll get hungry.
- Look online for great deals from the tourism programs of Osaka and Kyoto. A classic example is the Osaka one-day pass.
- Choose your restaurant wisely. A good Ramen or Katsudon meal should cost about P200 to P400 only.
- Take the subway and trains. It is so easy and affordable. The directions and routes are very easy to understand.
As I child, I dreamt of living in Japan. Through traveling to the country — on a budget — I finally lived my dream. - Rappler.com
Japan is a must-travel destination for Filipinos because of its scenic beauty and calm atmosphere. Travel in style while still on a budget; click here to know more about how you can save up on your travel and hotel accommodations.