Erica and Matt Chua: Japan

Japan is what the world could be, if we all worked a lot harder.  For example, Tokyo is home to more than 30 million people, yet the streets are cleaner than restaurants in the USA.  The food chain is so trusted that meat, included beef and horse, is consumed raw.  Rush hour traffic is orderly, composed and quiet.  The grass is so green and pristine that it looks fake.  The trains run on the second, show up at 12:00:07 and you missed your train.  When you have a Japanese person explain why things are the way they are you can’t help but laugh and think, “Yeah, that makes so much sense…why is it done differently at home?”  While many things are lost in translation, understanding the order and practicality of Japan is a wonderful experience.

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DON’T MISS: Nara, imagine traditional Japan hundreds of years ago, what you are imagining is Nara.
MUST SEERaw meat restaurants in Tokyo; Harajuku and Yoyogi Park (Tokyo) on Sundays to see people wearing crazy clothes such as “cosplay” and the Dancing Elvises; Arashiyama  hill and forest temples (near Kyoto); Shinjuku (Tokyo) at Night.
MUST TASTESushi at Tsukiji Fish Market…really sushi anywhere and everywhere in Japan.

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TRIP PLANNING A week is enough to see the major sights of Tokyo and Kyoto, but 10-14 days would make the trip much more enjoyable.
GETTING AROUND: Trains.  The train system, especially intra-city, is among the world’s best.  Avoid traveling during rush-hour.

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OUR COST PER DAY (2 ppl): $77.58 without accommodations (we Couchsurfed)
COST OF A BEER: $3 at 7-11.
KEY MONEY-SAVING TIP: Take the bus instead of the train from Tokyo to Kyoto.  We paid $36 each for the bus instead of over $160 for the bullet train.  This was only possible because we had a Japanese speaker arrange it for us, so find a friend.

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YOU NEED TO KNOW: Japan is expensive, think Switzerland expensive.  Public transit often costs $2-4 USD a ride, a short taxi fare is $20, a meal rarely costs less than $20.  That said, it’s all worth it, Japan is an amazing country.
IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We would buy a Japan Rail Pass and travel extensively through the country.  It would have cost a lot more than what we did, but allowed us to see a lot more than we did.
HELPFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE: How to travel Japan inexpensively.  Is a Japan Rail Pass worth it? Free attractions in Kyoto.   Please send us any sites you found useful and we’ll add them!

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WE WERE THERE FOR: 3 weeks
OUR HIGHLIGHT: Couchsurfing with Takeshi in Tokyo and Masato in Arashiyama.
WHERE WE WENT: TokyoArashiyamaKyotoOsakaKobe, Nara, Mt. Fuji
WE REGRET MISSING: Okinawa and Hiroshima

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