Project Japan 2014

This is a follow up of sorts to my first Project Japan post. Like the previous file, this Excel file has the itinerary, the budget, the actual expenses, and the list of all the trains I’ve ridden while in Japan. This file also includes the Japan travel tips that is listed in this post.

A scene in Tsumago

The Japan Rail Pass is not the cheapest transport option. Though I am a big fan of the JR Pass, I have to say that it is not the cheapest option when getting from Point A to Point B. There are overnight buses that are cheaper, and saves you a night’s accommodation. However, if you want to ride the bullet trains, the pass is a great option, as it can save you some money, and those trains are crazy expensive. The JR Pass is also good if you plan on traveling great distances. If you are limiting your trip to just Tokyo or just Central Japan, you’re better off buying the JR East Pass (for Tokyo and the Kanto area), or just paying for each train individually. I suggest that after you have drafted your itinerary, plot how you’re going to travel from one point to another, tally the JR train fares, and see if it’d equal or be more than the cost of the pass you plan to get.

Hyperdia is your best friend. Whenever I am planning a trip to Japan, is my go-to site when it comes to transport queries. It shows me the trains to take, how long it will take, the cost of the ticket, and different options if I miss a particular train. Unfortunately the official app for mobile devices is limited to certain countries, but there are third party apps that can pull the information from the site.

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Ekiben. One of the reason I ended up going to Fukuoka is that my friend Khursten wants to go on an Ekiben trip. Ekiben is basically train bento. What makes this different from the usual bento is that they offer regional specialities. In the big stations, look for the bento shop that has the Ekiben logo (there’s Ekiben written in it, don’t worry). In Tokyo Station, near the South Exit, there’s a big shop that sells different bento. It has a display in one wall of the different bento they offer, including an octopus tentacle bento, served in a small clay pot.

Your peso can go a long(er) way. I learned the hard way that the Philippine peso is getting much better rates for the Japanese yen, compared to the US dollar. However, not all money exchange kiosks in Japan exchange peso (if you can find them, that is). The solution is to buy Yen in the Philippines before your trip to Japan. Sanry’s Money Changer sells Japanese Yen, but you have to buy in ¥10,000 increments.

ATM it. If you have no time to exchange money before you leave Manila, or if you run out of yen while in Japan, you can use your ATM card to withdraw money in Japanese yen. Just make sure that your card has the Visa or Cirrus logo. One more thing: international cards can only be used at 7-11 ATMs and the ATM in the post office. My BPI ATM worked without any problems, but you need to notify BPI before you leave that you will be making international withdrawals, otherwise you won’t be able to use it. A good security measure, but quite a hassle, especially if you have a shitload of things to finish before you leave.

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Debit it. If you have a debit card, you can use this to pay for goods in shops that accept credit cards. Basically, as long the shop accepts Visa or Mastercard, it should work (of course, your card has to have the logo). My Sterling Bank of Asia Shop N’Pay debit card worked without any problems in Japan. This means I was able to pay directly from my account, without having to withdraw the money from the ATM. The rate’s not too bad either. Do note that a lot of hostels and guesthouses do not accept credit card payments, so be sure to ask ahead if you plan to card it.

Tax Refund. If you went crazy shopping, note that you can get a tax refund for items over ¥10,000. You pay for the list price first, then claim the refund at the customer service counter. Just make sure that the shops you’re buying from is licensed for duty free shopping.

Free wi-fi. If you’re like me, wi-fi is the one of the prime criteria when you’re picking a place to stay the night. How about when you go out? The big train stations in Tokyo (Tokyo, Ueno, Shinjuku, etc.), Osaka, and Nagoya have free wi-fi. You’re just required to register or login/accept every time you want to use the wi-fi. You can use the Japan Free Wi-Fi App, but at best, we just used it to see where there are free wi-fi and forgot about it afterwards.

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Souvenirs. As I mentioned before, the Japanese are big on souvenirs. You’ll find a souvenir shop (or two) in most tourist places. However, if you’re on a strict budget, you can do your souvenir shopping at the hundred yen stores like Daiso and Seria. Just note that the prices do not include the tax yet, so the total comes out to ¥108 per item. Another cheap option is Don Quixote, which has branches in various cities in Japan.

To Nihongo or not? Japan is an easy place to travel in, even if you do not know how to speak Japanese. If you’re sticking to the big cities, you’ll find that a lot of places have signs in both Japanese and English, and you’ll find someone who can understand and speak a little English. The farther you go from the city, however, you’ll run into some problems, as there are little to no English. If you’re completely paranoid and want to travel with a tour guide and interpreter, do contact our tour guide from our Chubu trip, Ms. Yoshi Tomiyama. She’s a very nice lady, energetic, cheerful, and have a great sense of humor. Her e-mail address is

Project Japan 2014 (2536 downloads)

Great hotel deals in Tokyo via Agoda

Article by Nina Fuentes

Nina doesn't aim to travel to every country in the world -- she just wants to travel to the places that means the most to her. She started traveling in 2006, and hopes to travel for as long as she can. Her travel blog, Just Wandering won the Best Travel Blog in the 2010 Philippine Blog Awards and in the 2011 Nuffnang Asia Pacific Blog Awards.

This Article Has 16 Comments
  1. Jenn says:

    Thanks for the info, especially on Hyperdia. I think I saw your post on Takayama which got me interested. Anyway, I went in 2012 and enjoyed my time there immensely. I will look into that Ekiben thing, sounds interesting… :)

  2. Didi says:

    Super duper love love Japan!! :)
    I was in Tokyo last year and Osaka this year.. I want to go back to Osaka!!


  3. melovillareal says:

    ay pabalik balik ka na ng Japan:) Quiapo lang?

  4. Raks says:

    Hi Nina!

    Im planning a trip to Japan in April 2015 for Cherry Blossoms for 7 days max. Im contemplating on the JR Pass, since Im planning to see Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo and maybe Mt Fuji if possible. I can book a Mnl-Osaka and Tokyo-Mnl flights. In this case, is it practical to get the 7 day JR Pass? Would appreciate your advise on this. Thank you :-)

    • Nina says:

      Hi Raks, sorry for the late response. It’s a good plan, flying in to Osaka and out of Tokyo. That would save you the hassle and time traveling back to Kansai Airport to catch your flight. Regarding the JR Pass, even if you take the shinkansen from Osaka to Kyoto, and then Kyoto to Osaka, it might end up costing you more. Unless you take an additional shinkansen ride or two, would it break even with the cost of the pass. I strongly suggest that when you draft your itinerary, list down all the trains you will be taking to the destination you picked out and jot down the costs for each and tally everything up that will be covered by the JR Pass — similar to what I did in the Trains tab of the Project Japan 2014 file. I hope this helps :)

      • Raks says:

        Hi Nina,

        Thanks for the response. Yeah, at least now im certain with the flights that i will be booking :-) will need to research more on the trains that i will be taking to determine if its more practical to get thr pass. Thanks again :-)

      • Nina says:

        You might also want to look into the Japan Bus Pass. There’s an overnight bus from Kyoto to Tokyo, which can save you one night’s accommodation.

  5. Uptourist says:

    Japan is a common destination this 2015. It really helped that they opened their doors. So many people are interested in their country and culture.

  6. Sarah Cada says:

    I want to go to soooooo many places in Japan, my 10-day trip will surely not be enough! Sortakinda like Raks last year, I’m flying out of Manila into Tokyo, then my return trip will be from Osaka to Manila. I’ve opened so many tabs on destination suggestions, and I’m getting a little overwhelmed with wanderlust, so, naturally, I closed everything as if to start from scratch and consulted your blog. Hehe. Thanks for the spreadsheet! I’ll use it as reference. :)

    • Nina Fuentes says:

      Hahaha yay!! The best way to start with your itinerary is to pin down the places you really want to visit in Japan, then from there you can see where’s the optimal area for your accommodation :D

      Thanks for downloading, and I hope it helps you! I didn’t blog a lot about Japan, but if you have additional questions, just ask :D

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  8. Kim says:

    Hi, I’d like to know at which ATM in Tokyo were you able to use your BPI Debit Card as I have heard that not all foreign cards are accepted in 7-Bank ATMs and I couldn’t find any information with regards to which ATMs work with a BPI Debit Card.


  9. Fabienne says:

    Thank you for the article!

    I generally avoid ATM because of the fees and the unfavourable rate at the exchange offices.

    Just discovered a new mobile app for my next trip Fairswap. It allows to exchange cash currency in real-time by meeting with each other at a pre-agreed location.
    Widely, you can post your need in foreign currency and if there is someone nearby facing the reverse need, then he can contact you and you will meet him and make the swap.

    Could be a good way to change before travelling or get rid of some leftover after holidays

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