What I ate: 100 Yen sushi

June 25, 2015

I love to eat and my all time favourite food to eat is sushi! Japan is a mecca for foodies. My friend Keiko was nice enough to take us to a 100 Yen sushi restaurant. It was the best because they also had the rotating sushi! 

I was famished after spending the whole day in Nara. We went to Kura Sushi in Osaka. Each plate was 100 Yen with some plates being more expensive but those are marked differently. It was such a fun experience!! and so cheap as well.

5 Tips to save money in Japan

June 21, 2015

Japan can be expensive and I was intimated by the thought of spending a lot of money on a trip. This is the main deterrent when I ask people if they want to go to Japan. They always say, "it's expensive there". But it's not. It's mainly the same prices as in Toronto. It's actually cheaper to eat out in Japan than in Toronto.

I was lucky enough to go there when the Canadian dollar was higher than the Japanese yen. But I still based my calculation on 1:1 ratio. 100 Yen equals - $1 CDN essentially. 

There are ways to save money while traveling in Japan. It doesn't have to be so costly. But of course if you have cash to burn then the sky is the limit.

1. Book hotels directly - It is cheaper to deal with the hotels directly than booking through hotel sites (i.e. Expedia, Travelocity, etc). I booked most of my hotels on Expedia and I had to pay extra fees. If you book with the hotel directly; it's cheaper and no extra fees other than tax.

This was my first time in Japan and even with the help of my friend Keiko, I was still apprehensive about booking directly with the hotels in Japan. It is easier of course if you have a Japanese speaking friend who can call the hotel directly but most hotels have English sites so take advantage of it.

2. Check train tickets - A lot of people who travel to Japan will purchase the JR pass. Depending on your itinerary then it might make sense to do so but it is very expensive so I suggest doing your research first and figure out your itinerary before you think about purchasing the pass. The pass must be purchased in advance outside of Japan.

We had a one way trip from Tokyo to Osaka without looping back to Tokyo so it did not make sense to purchase the JR pass. It was even cheaper to take the the local train for example from Kyoto to Osaka. It only cost less than $10 (one-way) for the train ticket.
The most expensive ticket I purchased was for one way from Tokyo to Nagoya on the Nozomi - it was $119 per person

In total, I spent $180 on the train. If I got the JR pass, it would have been over $320 (as per my travel agent). You can use Hyperdia to calculate train fares between cities. 

And if you want to go on a cheaper route without taking the train then you can also travel by bus. I almost did this but my travel partner wanted to take the train (great experience!!). You can use Willer Express. It's really cheap but of course the travel time is longer. Just make sure you book it in advance to reserve your seat, cancellation policy applies so be sure to check.

3. Food - When it comes to food, it's definitely cheaper to eat out in Japan than in Toronto. First of all, no tipping!!! Ramen is cheap and so are other foods. 100 yen sushi restaurants do exist! I ate a lot of different items and it was very affordable. I especially love ordering set lunch and dinner bento's. It came with everything for a really good price. 

Also, you can purchase food at convenience stores for a really cheap price. I bought sushi as snacks and it was delicious. Cup noodles were the best for breakfast and oden as well. There are a lot of choices and Family Mart became my best friend! They had everything including alcoholic drinks (unheard of here in Ontario).

4. Take advantage of free activities - The best thing is life is free, right? You can walk around every street in Japan and not get bored (for me at least). Walking around is the best way to get to know the city/town. I love getting lost in little streets and finding gems along the way. Parks, shrines, and temples are mostly free. And if it isn't it's a very small fee to pay for entrance.

5. Souvenirs - It's so easy to go insane shopping in Japan. I recommend buying food as a souvenir. I bought a whole lot of kit kat's and matcha flavoured chocolates in Don Quixote. Snacks are the best presents as it is inexpensive and interesting. I also raided Daiso (100 yen store) for more knick knacks - I bought origami paper, washi tapes, pill boxes, stationary, etc. Go bananas for 100 yen! Uniqlo and GU is always great for cheap clothing. I got my sister's heat tech clothing for winter. We don't have it here in Canada yet.

And there you have it! Anything is doable on a budget.

If you have any more tips, please let me know!


June 18, 2015

Our main reason for visiting Nara was to see the famous Todai-ji temple. From the train station, we decided to walk instead of taking the bus around Nara. It was a great exercise and we got to see all the deers roaming around Nara. 

We entered the temple gates and I was already in awe of the wooden gate and the Great Buddha Hall (daibutsuden) building. It's a large building made of wood. It has been rebuilt twice already because of fire. I can only imagine the big undertaking it took to rebuild it! Must have been a big construction and I wonder how my trees they had to cut for this building.

The daibutsuden building houses the largest bronze buddha statue. It was massive! and they had other statues inside the hall as well. 

I think every school children in Japan was on a school trip because every site we visited was packed with kids. I loved that they had matching clothes and hats for each school. A tree trunk was inside the hall with a hole at the bottom of it. Each kid was supposed to go through that hole and get a picture taken. It was hilarious to watch them and try to squeeze their body through that hole. Let me tell you that I would get stuck inside that hole with no way of getting out if I have to do it. We had a good laugh with that incident.

Nara, Japan

June 9, 2015

Jumped on the train for a day trip to Nara. It's one of the oldest cities in Japan. I was so happy we made a trip here even if only for the day. I loved walking around in Nara and going inside the different shops.

I never heard of pressed sushi until we were in Nara. I saw shops in Nara selling it. I was curious to try it so we went inside a shop and we got a free tasting and tea! It was amazing! I had the mackerel and it was delicious! I loved the presentation of the food while it was served to us! Only in Japan. We ended up buying a box of mackerel to take back to Osaka with us. 

Nara has tons of deers roaming around. It was insane! But you have to be careful because they can get violent. I kept my distance while getting my photo taken. You will see stands to buy biscuits for the deers. I was tempted to buy it but decided against it after watching people getting swarmed by the deers because of it. I didn't want to get attacked. The deers really loves biscuits but they are very aggressive so just be careful! They will follow you and try so hard to get those darn food!

We witnessed a deer stampede while walking around. You will see signs everywhere cautioning tourists about the deers. At least, the antlers from all the deers have been removed so it's a lot safer!

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