Japan is a dream destination for most Filipino travelers. But before you make your first step on the Land of the Rising Sun, you need to work and save big time. First is to get the visa and next is to accumulate a sufficient travel fund. Why is money included in the picture? Because it will dictate how many days and how will these days be spent in Japan. This two-week Japan itinerary I’ll be sharing had months of research that required me to consult several friends who’ve been to this Asian destination.
The trip happened after I resigned from work and extending the money on my travel fund was a real challenge. ‘Cheap Japan itinerary’, ‘budget 2-week stay in Japan,’ and ‘Japan travel budget tips’ are some of the keywords that I fed to search engines on my quest to produce the cheapest yet exciting two-week Japan itinerary. But I don’t suggest to leave your jobs just for this trip. If you have a super nice manager who approves leaves up to 10 days, this fits you. For those who aren’t, you can still use the other parts of this itinerary in planning your Japan trip. Before anything else, these are the cities included: Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, and Himeji.
DISCLAIMER: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you think it will be more convenient for you to purchase these activities/passes before your trip to Japan, kindly book them below. The commission I’ll get for every successful booking comes at no extra cost to you.
THINGS BEFORE YOU GO
Like what I’ve said in the previous paragraphs, visiting Japan is not as simple as flying to Singapore or Hong Kong. Filipinos entering Japan needs to apply for a Japan visa. For first-time applicants, a single-entry for 15 days is the usual visa-type being granted by the embassy if you are qualified based on your application. Unlike for South Korean visa, where you need to apply at the embassy directly, applying for a Japan visa requires you to visit their affiliated agencies where you need to submit your documents and application form after paying the processing fee. For Japan visa application, check the embassy’s website for visa-types, documents, and application form. I applied for my Japan visa via Friendship Tours and paid Php1,200.
Japan has four seasons and each provides different experiences and landscape views. Checking the weather also helps you plan for clothes (don’t miss the OOTD shots!) that you’ll jam inside your luggage. Check-in baggage is not my thing and I don’t want to bring bulky winter clothes so I decided to visit between April and September. But July and August are the hottest months in Japan and you don’t want torrential rains defying some plans on your visit. Autumn attracts tons of tourists as it’s perfect for outdoor activities. However, Spring really allures everyone to visit Japan because of the sakura (cherry blossom) season.
Bringing US Dollars is best but you can already get Japanese yen (JPY) from major banks and money changers in the Philippines. Airports are always not the best place to buy and convert currencies. So if you’ll bring dollars with you, I advised you to get enough yen for buying train tickets out of the airport. You can always change your dollars in Japan banks or money changers accessible to your accommodations.
BUDGET TIP: NO JR PASS PLEASE!
JR Pass is the best way to move around Japan and having one will make your transfers from one prefecture to another smoothly and faster on the Shinkansen. However, the convenience that JR Pass brings also requires a hefty amount of money. A 7-day pass is already JPY38,880 (USD350) and the 14-day pass at JPY62,950 (USD570).
I don’t have a lot of money to spare so I did my research. But if you have limited time and wanted to visit tons of attractions, I recommend getting one. Book in advance before your visit because the pass is not that widely available in Japan. There are several affiliated agencies in the Philippines selling JR Pass but for seamless purchase, get your Japan Rail pass from Klook. Click here to check the variants and prices.
My quest for a 2-week Japan itinerary that won’t utilize a JR Pass but will still bring me to places I’d like to visit started. Good to know that some cities and prefectures offer tourist passes that allow tourists to have unlimited rides on subway and buses and others even include free activities and admission to some attractions. If you have plans of following my itinerary, here are the tourist cards/pass you need to purchase. The total accumulates to JPY20,300 which is almost half the price of the cheapest JR Pass and this already includes savings on free admissions on attractions that come with some of the passes.
You can click the following passes/tickets and purchase them in advance from Klook. Avail discounts and promos for cheaper rates.
- 48-hr Tokyo Subway Pass (2 days in Tokyo) JPY1,200
- Hakone Free Pass (1 day in Hakone) JPY5,200
- Willer Night Bus from Tokyo to Kyoto JPY3,900
- 3 days Kyoto Bus Pass (3 days in Kyoto) JPY1,500
- 3-day Kansai Thru Pass (for Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, and Himeji) JPY5,200
- 2-day Osaka Amazing Pass (2 days in Osaka) JPY3,300
It’s also better to fly-in to Narita Airport in Tokyo and book a flight out of Kansai Airport in Osaka, or the other way around. Getting to and out of the airports is swift because of the train networks both in Tokyo and Osaka.
Getting to and out of Narita International Airport
For Narita Airport, if it’s too overwhelming to try commuting on several trains on your arrival, take the Tokyo Skyliner and arrive in the city in just 41 minutes. Another option is the Narita Airport Limousine equipped with comfy seats, nice leg room, and free Wifi. What did I do? I asked the help of the airport staff to purchase a single journey ticket to Asakusabashi, where my hostel is located. Travel time was around an hour and price was JPY1,100 (USD10).
Getting to and out of Kansai International Airport
If you booked one or both of your plane tickets via Kansai International Airport, swift options are the KIX Airport Limousine Bus or the train servicing the Kansai Airport – Namba route. On my case, since my Kansai-Thru pass was still working on my last day, I availed the free ride on my way to the airport.
TWO-WEEK JAPAN ITINERARY
Day 1 – 4 Tokyo
People tell you that once you experienced the crowd at Shibuya Crossing, the busiest pedestrian in the world, and had a picture with Hachiko, you already visited Tokyo. To clarify, you only visited a spot of Tokyo. Literally, because the two are located in a single intersection. Tourist activities and attractions in Tokyo can be segmented into five categories: temples and shrines, remarkable buildings, parks and gardens, food tripping, and shopping.
Must destinations: Sensoji Temple, Tokyo Natl Museum, Shibuya Crossing, Hachiko Square, Tsukiji Market (was burned down few months ago), and Meiji Shrine.
Parks and gardens: Yoyogi Park, Shinjuku Gyoen Garden, Ueno Park, Hibiya Park, and Imperial Palace and East Garden.
Shopping Areas: Akihabara, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Harajuku, and Takeshita Street.
Remarkable buildings: Tokyo Tower, Tokyo Skytree, and Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
Day 5 Hakone
With my desire to see the famous Mount Fuji, I decided to purchase a Hakone Free Pass. The coverage of the pass starts on a train ride from Shinjuku to Odawara Station. Other inclusions are unlimited rides on the Hakone Tozan Train, Cable Car, and buses. From Gora, take the Hakone Tozan Cable Car and transfer to Hakone Ropeway. Marvel at the beauty of Owakudani, a volcanic valley with active sulfur vents. Kuro-tamaga, or black eggs, are sold at the shops at Owakudani Station.
You could also visit and take a cruise in Lake Ashi by taking the Hakone Ropeway to go to the Hakone Sightseeing Cruise terminal. If you’re a One Piece fan, you’ll surely love the ship. It was a cloudy afternoon and my desire to see the majestic Mount Fuji turned into watching locals fishing at Lake Ashi.
Day 6 – 9 Kyoto
Out of all the cities I’ve visited on this Japan trip, I considered Kyoto as the highlight destination. This charming prefecture in Kansai is overflowing with history, culture, and landscapes. The only downside is the steep admission fees on shrines and palaces and the bus fares (buy a daily bus pass!). Landmarks not to miss are the Kyoto Imperial Palace, Ginkakuji Temple, Kinkauji Temple, Ryoan-ji Temple, and Kiyomizu-dera Shrine.
Of course, Kyoto is famous because of two unbelievably breathtaking sites: the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and Fushimi Inari Shrine. Don’t be fooled by the bamboo grove because the view on the first segment of the attraction wasn’t that nice. Walk until the very end of the road for the best spot bordered by mighty green bamboo trees. I went to the bamboo forest around 6 PM to avoid the hordes of tourist. This goes the same with Fushi Inari Shrine which I visited around 7 in the morning. The torii gates get crowded at times and it’s best to go to the far end of the series of gates. You can also hike to the top of the hill and traverse around 10,000 torii gates. End one of your days in Kyoto by waiting for the sunset on the viewing deck of Kyoto Tower.
Travel tip. Most temples and shrines in Kyoto close for tourists as early as 4 PM.
Day 10 Nara
Nara is famous because of the deer park. Even few meters from Nara Station, you could already spot one. Just be careful though because the animals will follow you if they know you have a deer food. Locals selling the food are culprits to these incidents, LOL. If you’re done with the deer, take a walk around the temples. Suggestions will be Kofuku-ji Temple, Isuien Garden, Todai-ji Temple, and Nigatsu-do Temple.
Day 11 Himeji
Another UNESCO Heritage Site forced me to go to Himeji. Since the city is included in the Kansai Thru Pass, I spared a day to see the Himeji Castle. Himeji Castle was built on top of a hill and also famous for White Egret Castle because of its structures and roofing. I paid a discounted JPY800 admission fee because of my Kansai Thru Pass. You can enter the castle and disentangle the history out of its six floors. From the topmost floor of the castle is a sweeping view of the city.
Day 12 – 14 Osaka
My activity in Osaka started with Universal Studios Japan. With my experience at USS, I made sure I would also visit its Japan version mainly because of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Enjoy a day full of fun from the thrilling rollercoaster rides, 3D and 4D indoor rides, mascots, and other activities. To complete your Harry Potter experience, don’t forget to try the Butterbeer!
Since I purchased an Osaka Amazing Pass, I went over the list of attractions that comes with free admission. I utilized the unlimited ride on subways to get to attractions like Shintennoji Temple, Keitakuen Garden, Tsutenkaku Tower, rides such as Wild River Joypolis and HEP Five Ferris Wheel, and sunset atop of Umeda Sky Building Floating Garden Observatory.
On my last day, I spent the entire morning at Osakako area for a Tempozan Ferris Wheel ride and scaling the 55–story Cosmo Tower. For more details on the Osaka Amazing Pass, check my separate post detailing on the savings and conveniences of having one. Of course, how can you miss Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi, the busiest districts of Osaka for shopping, food, arcades, and karaoke.
WHAT TO EAT
Most people say that food in Japan is expensive and I already prepared myself for it given that I eat a lot. Cheapest ramen bowl I’ve tried was JPY650 and the most expensive from Ichiran Ramen House for JPY1,080 (including add-ons). Japan is also the best place to have sushi and a JPY1,500 gave me a sushi platter having 8 types of heavenly bites.
Chicken Kaarage, one of my favorites on my trip because of the wasabi sauce, is normally JPY500 for 3 pieces served with generous steamed rice and thinly-sliced cabbage. Street-food and skewers are also options but I didn’t go that way because prices are not significant compared to set meals.
And this I tell you, the cheapest meals I’ve had were from convenience stores. Yes! 7-eleven, Family Mart, and Lawson offer bento boxes for as low ad JPY350 that already includes rice, fried chicken, varieties of fish, and tofu. Food are not that bad especially if you’re on a budget.
WHERE TO STAY
Friends suggested Airbnb for a cheaper option but it’s only feasible if you’re in a group where you can split the rate. For solo travelers, capsule and dormitory accommodations are still better and cost-efficient. Thanks to Traveloka for the series of discounts and promotions and I was able to book all my stay on a slashed rate.
For my 12 nights (one night was spent for a night bus to Kyoto, saved me another night at a hostel), I stayed in six dormitories: two hostels in each key city; Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. For Tokyo, Hostel EAST57 near Asakusabashi Station, IMANO Tokyo Hostel near Shinjuku Station, Lund House and Mosaic Hostel Kyoto in Kyoto, and The DORM Hostel and Roots Hostel in Osaka.
Capsule and pod beds in Japan range from PHP750-1,200 per night. Towels are sometimes not part of the inclusions and you needed to rent one on your stay. Breakfast is also not included on hostel rates yet some offers a 24/7 water, coffee, and tea area. Shower is in pod concepts like jumping into a capsule and shower amenities are always provided. All hostels I’ve stayed in have their own laundry facility with rates of JPY300 for wash and JPY100 for 30-min dryer. Here’s the breakdown of rates I’ve booked thru Traveloka.
- Hostel EAST57 JPY2,800
- IMANO Tokyo Hostel JPY4,800
- Lund House JPY2,800
- Mosaic Hostel Kyoto JPY5,000
- The DORM Hostel Osaka JPY6,000
- Roots Hostel JPY3,700
SAMPLE EXPENSES | Japan Itinerary: Below PHP37000 for 2 Weeks
Transportation JPY6100 Tourist Passes JPY16400 Food JPY21300 Accommodation JPY25100 Tokyo National Museum JPY620 Hakone Exhibition Hall JPY400 Shinjuku Garden JPY200 Ginkakuji Temple JPY500 Kinkakuji Temple JPY400 Ryoanji Temple JPY500 Himeji Castle JPY800 Universal Studios Japan JPY7600 Kyoto Tower JPY700 TOTAL: JPY80620 ~ PHP37000 ~ USD720 **JAPAN VISA PHP1200