Welcome to Travel Diaries, a Refinery29 series where we tag along as real women embark on trips around the world and track their travel expenses down to the last cent. Here, we offer a detailed, intimate account of when, where, and how our peers spend their vacation days and disposable income: all the meals, adventures, indulgences, setbacks, and surprises.
This week’s travel diary: A 27-year-old retail buyer spends 10 days exploring Tokyo by herself.
For questions, feedback, or if you’re interested in tracking your travel expenses during an upcoming trip email us at email@example.com.
Occupation: Retail Buyer
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Trip Location: Tokyo, Japan
Trip Length: 10 days
Annual # Of Vacation Days: 21 days (includes vacation, sick, and personal days)
Cost: I found a direct flight on All Nippon Airways leaving from JFK in New York to NRT in Tokyo, which means I’ll only spend 14 hours on the plane each way. On the way back I am flying out of HND in Tokyo back to JFK. The roundtrip ticket cost $850.
Cost: I opted to get a hostel for this trip since I plan on spending most of my time exploring the city versus chilling inside. I’ll be staying at the Emblem Hostel Nishiarai which was $39 a night for 9 nights. It’s about 30-40 minutes via train from Downtown Tokyo. It had great reviews and a gym, so I don’t mind the commute.
7:00 a.m. – Yay it’s finally Tokyo day! I wake up pretty easily due to being so excited. I get ready, pack up the last bit of my toiletries, and put them in my luggage.
8:15 a.m. – I call a Lyft to the JFK airport, luckily I’m going the opposite direction of traffic so I should get to the airport within a decent amount of time. $43.18
8:50 a.m. – I get to the airport and the flight has an excess of business class seats open so there’s a deal to upgrade to business class for only $450. I have never flown business class and figure if I ever do, now is the time. I accept the deal, make it through security and hang out in the business lounge until my flight starts. The lounge is pretty nice and has a breakfast buffet. I grab some fruit and toast to munch on and a cup of tea. $450
Daily Total: $493.18
3:10 p.m. – Flying in business class was such an experience! The food selection included unique varieties of fish, steak, lobster salad, and higher-priced wines. The best part was having a seat that converts into a bed for the long flight. It was totally worth the cost. The flight itself was smooth and was only 14 hours.
3:35 p.m. – I make it through customs in record time. You can tell the airport is getting ready for the Olympics since there is construction going on throughout the terminal. After grabbing my luggage, I look for an ATM machine to take cash out. I always get cash out of the ATM machines since the currency exchange rate tends to be the best that way. I take out 50,000 yen which is equivalent to $470.32 USD. The withdrawal fee for the machine is $2.01. $2.01
3:40 p.m. – With my stack of colorful yen in hand, I stop by the convenience store in the airport to grab a bottle of water ($1.15). The store is next to the counter that is selling train tickets so I read the board to make sure I find the correct train. For some reason, I thought the train would be more like a subway train, versus an Amtrak type train. I purchase my ticket ($22.91) and find the boarding gate. Luckily, there are plenty of signs telling you which way to go. $24.06
4:00 p.m. – The train for Downtown Tokyo arrives and before we get on, I notice that the chairs automatically turn to face the direction the train is going. This is a pretty cool feature to see since some folks may not like traveling backward on a train. During the ride, I notice that there are an ample amount of solar panels aligning the railroad track.
4:50 p.m. – I arrive in downtown Tokyo and realize that I need to transfer to the local subway train. There is a ticket ATM-type machine I use to purchase a ticket. I haven’t had time to figure out the value of each bill and the coins I have, so I put a large bill in the machine and get a plethora of coins in return. $1.48
5:10 p.m. – The train arrives at my next transfer point. I quickly realize every time I have to get on a different color train line, I need to repay which is annoying. I buy another ticket. There are multiple signs (obviously mostly in Japanese) so it takes me more time to figure out which direction I need to go. I find the correct train and board it. $1.58
5:25 p.m. – Finally I’ve made it to my hostel. I accidentally took the longer route and walked up and down a flight of stairs unnecessarily. The hostel is clean, well lit, and is right by a grocery store. It has a college dorm-type of feel to it. When you walk in there is a bar and an open room to the right. On the second floor, there is a mini kitchen, a shared seating space, a laundry room, and a patio. I check in and pay the remaining balance in my room.
6:50 p.m. – I take a quick nap, freshen up, walk around the Adachi area where I’m staying to find a little Korean-style BBQ place that seems cheap but has many people inside. The photos of the food look good so I walk in. There are shoes by the door so I take mine off as well and get seated. The menu is all in Japanese but the waitress has an English version she brings me. I order the chicken with rice. The raw chicken comes out in a marinade which I cook on the Korean-style grill. I take a few bites and notice that this chicken has a different texture than what I’m familiar with but the food is still pretty good. I use Google Translate to take a photo of the Japanese menu and realize the bits of chicken are the gizzards. Once I’m done eating, the waitress gets on one knee to give me the check. She stays there while I find the money to pay which puts pressure on me to hurry up (not sure if that was intentional or not). She gives me my change then I head back to my hostel to fall asleep. $7.71
Daily Total: $36.84
7:40 a.m. – The room I booked is a shared room for four females. Somehow I got lucky and no one else is in my room during the night. This is for the best since I keep waking up throughout the night (thanks jet lag). My hotel offers all-you-can-eat breakfast each morning so I head down to grab some food. For breakfast, I have toast, eggs, miso soup, rice, and tea. I am doing a photographer walking tour today so I get ready for that after I’m done eating. $2.78
11:10 a.m. – Once I’m dressed for the day I head back to the train station. There are multiple train ticket machines and after trying four of them, I find the one that sells the reusable commuter passes. The pass is called Pasmo and can be used across the various train lines. I purchase the pass and put 500 yen on it. I take the train to downtown so that I can be on time for the tour. Luckily since it’s daylight and I’ve had proper sleep, it’s much easier to navigate the train directions. $9.27
11:40 a.m. – The tour starts in the Asakusa area by the police station. Before walking to the station, I stop by 7-Eleven which looks similar to the US one but they have ready-to-eat food options that actually look good. After checking through to make sure I get the right beverage, I get a bottle of water then walk back to the meeting spot. ($0.79) The photographer shows up and I happen to be the only person on the tour. I had booked this tour through Airbnb Experiences prior to coming to Japan since it had great reviews ($43.62). The photographers take loads of photos and are able to explain more about the area and the Japanese culture. $44.41
1:40 p.m. – Once the tour is done I realize I’m starving. I see a small sushi place that has plates going around a conveyer belt. I get a few pieces of various shrimp and salmon rolls. When I enter, the woman working voluntarily mentions that they don’t have avocado or veggie rolls because they only sell real sushi. The sushi completely matches the hype and the salmon is probably the freshest I’ve ever had. $9.06
2:00 p.m. – I’ve heard about different animal-themed cafés in Tokyo so I walk around to find the owl café. Instead of paying money to someone for entry there is a vending machine I use. On the vending machine I select one entry and also the option to hold an owl ($16.69). The vending machine then spits out a receipt which I hand to the café employee. She takes the ticket, lets me pick which owl I want to hold, and gets the owl ready with a leash for it and gloves for me. The café is not what I expected at all. It reminds me more of a tiny Rainforest café instead of a coffee shop. Customers are able to pet any animals in the café but you have to pay to hold them. I hold a baby owl for five minutes and am surprised about how heavy the small bird is. “Hedwig” is here too but the workers note that he is heavy and not the friendliest creature, so I leave him alone. There are other larger owls, foxes, and birds I pet in the café too. $16.69
2:45 p.m. – I get all the animal petting out of my system and see a Don Quixote. I would equate it to a Japanese version of Walmart. This store has multiple floors with small aisles, bright lights, and colors. This seems like the perfect place to grab some snacks to bring back to the US. In the candy section, I see some Ruby Chocolate Pocky and Sparkling Pocky to purchase. $15.30
3:30 p.m. – One of my good friends loves Gundam and I see that there is a Gundam-themed café in the Akihabara area. I get back on the train and go towards the area. The café is clearly a tourist trap. It’s a decent-sized café and they’re playing episodes of the show. I get a soda that has an obnoxiously sweet blue syrup. After drinking a few sips I stop because I feel like I’m drinking straight sugar. I buy a character shot glass for my friend and walk around the neighborhood. This area is known as the anime center of the city. $10.03
5:30 p.m. – After walking around I look for somewhere to get dinner. I notice a Go Go Curry place that I’ve tried in NYC but want to see how the authentic version compares. The restaurant is set up like a mini diner and I have to order using a vending machine that only has Japanese. Luckily there are photos of the meals. I push a few buttons and pray what I order is what I wanted. I give the meal ticket to the server. When my meal comes out, it is correct (yes!) but I accidentally ordered a large cup of milk. I eat the curry which is amazing but leave the milk untouched (I haven’t had milk in decades). $7.41
6:30 p.m. – Now that I’m nice and full I head back to my hostel. When I arrive at my train stop, I top off my train card ($9.26). I feel pretty dirty from being out so I shower and fall asleep (boo jet lag). $9.26
Daily Total: $124.23
8:30 a.m. – Yet again, I’m the only person in my hostel room for the night. I wake up, get dressed, go down to get breakfast. Today it’s potatoes, sausage, eggs, and toast ($2.78). I’m getting used to this reliable daily breakfast. One of the hostel employees mentioned that the hostel is offering calligraphy lessons at 10:30 a.m. so I sign up for that as well ($4.63). $7.41
10:30 a.m. – I relax downstairs and read my book Firefly Lane until it’s time for the class. There are four other people from the hostel that join. They’re from New Zealand, Canada, and Scotland. I didn’t realize how long it takes to learn calligraphy! The class is a fun time and I learn how to write my name, Ohio (since I’m from there), Tokyo, and Japan. In the class, I learn that Japan is called Nippon in Japanese. After practicing my strokes, I let my artwork dry, drop it off in my room then head to the train station.
12:00 p.m. – I top off my train card since the payment machine line is short. I really wish there was a weekly unlimited ride option here. I board the train in the direction of Shinjuku. $9.26
1:00 p.m. – I do not have too much of a plan today so I simply start walking around. I love bookstores and I see a large one that I explore around. There are handwritten notes on the books and a good-sized English section that has the current New York Times best sellers.
1:45 p.m. – I continue to walk around Shinjuku and find a sandwich place called Freshness Burger. They’re playing Say My Name by Destiny’s Child so that’s a sign to me that I should top in. I grab the chicken burger that is okay and a bottle of water $5.00
2:30 p.m. – Meiji park is nearby so I walk there next. I knew the park would be large but I didn’t realize how large it truly is. Shrines are located around the park and some have restricted entry. There are barrels of wine and sake that were given as a gift to the deities whose souls are still in the park. I also pass by what seems to be a bridal party. It gets me wondering what a traditional Japanese wedding is like.
3:15 p.m. – Finally I make my way out of the park and walk to the Harajuku area. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this area reminds me of what Limited Too would be if it had its own street: glitter, bright colors, and sugar-powered food are all over the place.
3:30 p.m. – There’s a shopping center with a food court, I go in to get a snack. At the Frit café, I get Belgian French fries and a cranberry lychee soda. There’s window seating in a window that overlooks the main street so I sit there people watching as I eat. Of course, the lychee soda has some super sweet syrup but I was intrigued to try it. $7.13
4:30 p.m. – I take the train further south to hang out in the Shibuya area. The area reminds me so much of a clean version of New York. I always hear that this is the main tourist point but there was nothing super unique that stood out to me. Of course, I go to the Shibuya crossing area which is allegedly the busiest pedestrian crosswalk in the world. I am amazed by how organized everyone was while crossing the street. After this, I walk around for a little but nothing stands out to me in comparison to the other regions I’ve seen.
5:30 p.m. – Next up is to check out a super modern bookstore I have heard about. I take the train to the Daikanyama bookstore. If Nordstrom did a collab with Pottery Barn and sold books, it would look like this bookstore. The lights aren’t too bright and there is a minibar with wine. There are larger bottles of wine by the cookbook section and also a wall of Mont Blanc pens. If I lived here I would totally come here regularly. For a Friday evening, I’m surprised about how packed the store is.
5:50 p.m. – There is a Starbucks inside and the cashier speaks immaculate English. I get a grande Yuzu citrus tea and a chocolate chunk cookie. Once my order is ready, I go upstairs and sit in the music area of the bookstore which is playing The Beatles. The tea is fabulous and I wish they had these in the US. Finally, I find a drink that isn’t too sweet here. $7.00
7:00 p.m. – I hop on the long trek back to my hostel. My feet are killing me since I’ve walked over 15 miles on this trip so far.
7:45 p.m. – I stop at the supermarket before I head back to pick up an Asian pear and water. I love Asian pears so this is the perfect place to try them. $3.04
Daily Total: $38.84
8:00 a.m. – I wake up and get dressed. Can’t believe I’ve been here for three days already! Still, there is no sign of me having anyone else in my room.
8:40 a.m. – Head downstairs and get my breakfast of eggs, juice, miso soup, and toast. After I eat I lay in bed for a bit longer. It’s pretty dreary outside and today is a more chill day for me $2.78
11:00 a.m. – After reading my book, I make my way to the Tokyo equivalent of the Washington National Mall. There’s a spread of museums in the area and for a city, there’s an ample amount of nature surrounding the area. There’s a hodgepodge of tourists sitting around small tables and a reflecting pool. There’s a Taiwan Day going on and different vendors from Taiwan are showing off their artisan products. There are some products I want to buy, but I cannot figure out how to purchase the items, or if they are even for purchase. There are not any price tickets and there is only one of each unit set up. I give up.
12:30 p.m. – The sun is beaming proudly outside so I take a break at Starbucks and order an iced baked apple pie tea and a cinnamon apple muffin. My goal is to try their different beverages here that we don’t have in the US. It’s too sweet for me (you’d think I would learn by now) and there are small pieces of squishy apples, but it’s still pretty good. I’m starting to notice a theme here of overly-sweet drinks. $7.19
12:50 p.m. – Get my ticket for the Tokyo Museum. Unfortunately, they’re sold out of the English audio guides so I’m selfishly hoping there are translations inside. $5.74
2:00 p.m. – The museum taught me things I didn’t realize beforehand about Japanese culture such as how historians can decipher which period a Buddha sculpture is from based on the folds on its body. Also, Westerners used to not think Japanese created “real art” since the Japanese focused more on metalwork and storytelling for art. I didn’t realize that the Japanese had to work hard to get their art recognized by the West since they didn’t consider their dividers and scrolls art. Artists were forced to learn how to paint with oil and take lessons in Europe. I go to the gift shop for some souvenirs. I end up getting a deck of cards, green tea wrapped in light brown paper that has Japanese designs and words on it, and two postcards. $29.84
3:00 p.m. – Next up is for me to take the train to the Ginza area, but first I grab a bottle of water. The Ginza area is known for having higher-end boutiques and restaurants. It is the more modern/upscale part of the city. $1.02
3:10 p.m. – In order for me to function, I stop into the mall to get some food. I always forget to eat when I’m traveling. I haven’t had a vegetable in a while so I get a grilled shrimp salad with a side of miso soup. The restaurant is equivalent to a Nordstrom café and has a large floral display in the middle. The salad was amazing! One of my best meals here next to sushi. $11
4:00 p.m. – There is a pop-up shop that has beautiful jewelry for under $10. It doesn’t look like the cheap-y type jewelry you’d see at a Forever 21. I pick up four pairs of earrings and a necklace. I’m walking around and seeing all the stores here are the same in the US, and the Japanese-specific brands in the mall are pretty pricey for me ($200+) for some jeans. Plus nothing really fit me in Tokyo since women tend to be more petite and the sizes reflect this. $30.70
4:15 p.m. – Go to the Dover Street Market to see what shoes they have but one of the associates gives me a dirty look up and down, so I leave. Walk around to a few more stores but I realize that nothing here is in my size. The largest sizes I see are a 28 and I need a 31, so I make my way back to the hostel. Obviously it’s not meant for me to shop here.
5:00 p.m. – Before I make the journey back to the hostel, I stop to top off my card. $9.27
6:40 p.m. – I head down to the café area in my hostel and order a burger with fries. After, I read my book until I fall asleep. $9.45
Daily Total: $106.99
8:00 a.m. – Last night it finally happened, one other woman joined my hostel. She is from France, has retired, and will travel around Asia for two months. I wake up, talk to her, then get some breakfast ($2.78). I’m thinking about doing a day trip so I start looking at trips to Mt. Fuji. I book a day tour using the site Veltra for Wednesday since the weather should be nice. ($85.67). $88.45
10:50 a.m. –I head to Koto City for a tea ceremony and a sushi-making class that I had booked on Airbnb. The ceremony/class is hosted by a retired woman whose daughter suggested she do Airbnb experiences to stay social and occupied. I happened to be the only one who booked the experience for the day, so she and I get the chance to bond. She is the sweetest lady! We make three types of sushi using veggies she grew in her garden and fish from the farmer’s market. For the tea ceremony, she dresses me in a gorgeous blue kimono. We do an abbreviated version of the tea ceremony since the traditional one can last for hours. This is probably my favorite part of the trip so far and would totally recommend it. $75.60
2:40 p.m. – I leave the home and make it to the train stop but pick up a bottle of water. Sumida City, which has more touristy things, is close so I start walking in that direction. There’s an aquarium there and I think that would be a good way to spend some time in air conditioning. $1.11
3:00 p.m. – Within Sumida City, there is a collection of shops and an observation deck called Sky Tower. It’s inside a larger mall-type area that also has a food court. I stop by Cold Stone to get some ice cream (birthday cake remix is my go-to). I’ve been craving some since it’s 85 degrees and it’s the only ice cream place I’ve seen today. The two women putting the ice cream together were singing to each customer. They sang the “Hi Ho” song from Snow White to me in Japanese $4.63
3:30 p.m. – Once the ice cream is finished, I get a ticket to the aquarium. I thought there would be more to see, but the aquarium is tiny! It’s mostly filled with small schools of fish but I enjoy seeing the penguin and koi fish exhibit. Koi fish are a symbol of good fortune in Japan so they’re a big part of the culture. The aquarium is not something I would recommend, especially since it is overpriced. $18.91
4:10 p.m. – I make my way back near my hostel. Since it’s Monday, a lot of places close at 5:00 p.m., so there isn’t too much going on tourist wise.
5:00 p.m. – Back at my train stop, I refill my train card since it’s running low. $18.53
5:10 p.m. – The hostel has a laundry room which happens to be empty. I start doing laundry. I thought it was going to be cooler at night and in the mornings than it is and I need to wash my tops. I continue reading my book as I wait. $2.32
6:30 p.m. – Laundry is complete and I take a walk around my neighborhood of Adachi. It’s so tame compared to the popular parts of Tokyo and easier to navigate. I find a cute Italian place named Salvatore and order wine with a margarita pizza. I get a table outside which is ideal for people-watching. One thing I appreciate about Tokyo is that although they have restaurants on different floors of buildings, they keep a large menu on the ground floor so you can see photos of what each place serves along with pricing. $17.71
8:00 p.m. – I finish with dinner and I start walking back to my hostel. I’m trying to stay up until 9:00 p.m. so I can call my dad back in the US at 8:00 a.m. his time, but it’s SO HARD. This jet lag is a pain.
10:30 p.m. – After dozing on and off, then speaking with my dad, I head to bed.
Daily Total: $227.26
7:40 a.m. – I wake up and head down to breakfast. Last night was the best I slept since I’ve been here. I only woke up once at 4:00 a.m. due to another woman from Germany joining the hostel room $2.78
9:10 a.m. – I leave the hostel and catch a train to Disneyland. I have never been to an international Disney property, so I’ve been excited to see how the Tokyo version is compared to the US ones. The ride lasts about an hour due to it being so far south of the city.
10:10 a.m. – I finally make it to Disneyland! I walk towards the welcoming gates and get more pumped the closer I get. I buy my ticket ($73.71) from the surprisingly non-existent line and grab a bottle of water before going through security. ($1.11) $74.82
10:45 a.m – Since Halloween is a few weeks away, the park is decorated for the occasion with Mickey pumpkins and ghouls all around. The entrance is full of different food and gift shops. Right away I want to start buying souvenirs, but I only look around in the shops to get an idea of what I’ll get later. I spot some ears, but knowing myself, I put them back down since I know they’ll get on my nerves an hour later. After walking around I start waiting in line for a Space Tour ride. R2D2 and the other Star Wars characters were speaking in Japanese but I could still get the gist of what they were saying based on their gestures. The ride is great and has plenty of sudden drops/pulls for entertainment.
11:25 a.m. – Nearby is Space Mountain and the wait is about 45 minutes, so I get in line. People say this is their favorite ride at the park and I’ve never been on it. The line is long but this gives me an excuse to people-watch.
12:10 p.m. – Space Mountain is better than I thought it would be! Since I am alone I get to sit in the front by myself (lucky me). The ride starts by going up a hill slowly and then there’s a short drop. The track has plenty of sharp twists and jumps to keep you on the edge. Also, the inside of the ride is completely dark so you cannot see what is coming up next, which adds to the excitement. If the wait wasn’t so long, I would go on a second time. I’ve seen enough of the Tomorrowland area so I head towards Fantasyland.
12:20 p.m. – Right away I spot my favorite ride, It’s A Small World After All. I love how the ride showcases the various cultures around the world. The line is short and I enjoy the ride as much as I did when I was a kid.
1:00 p.m. – Before I forget to eat again, I find a restaurant, Bears Country Kitchen. For lunch, I order the chicken with tomato sauce, potatoes, veggies and rice along with oolong tea. This meal is more delicious than I thought it would be and is one of my favorite meals in Tokyo. $14.60
1:30 p.m. – Lunch is finished so I start walking around again. A parade is happening down the main part of the park so I watch it for a moment.
2:00 p.m. – Once the parade has concluded I do the Western river railroad ride and then the Mark Twain steamboat. While I’m on both rides, people keep waving at each other which I thought was interesting. I haven’t seen people wave at each other for the sake of just being nice before.
3:00 p.m. – I’m parched so I buy a bottle of water. Most of the lines are 50 minutes but it’s too hot to wait. The sun has been beaming down on everyone. $1.85
3:20 p.m. – I get in line for the canoe ride. It’s only 15 minutes and it’s a nice break from the sun and standing on my feet.
4:00 p.m. – I grab a churro after the canoe ride is done. Using a paddle is much harder than I imagined! At the food stand, they’re also serving hot dogs in a tortilla which looks disgusting. $3.25
4:30 p.m. – The parade pops up again but now it is the Halloween version. I watch it for a bit then grab some ice cream $2.78
4:40 p.m. – I get on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride since the queue is only 10 minutes. The ride is pretty boring since it’s just talking about capturing Captain Jack Sparrow.
5:10 p.m. – Once the ride is complete I stroll to the New Orleans-themed portion which is based on The Princess and the Frog. I buy a customized engraved makeup brush for a friend from a jewelry shop. $24.88
5:20 p.m. – I’ve walked around the whole park at this point so I go back to Tomorrowland. I wait in line for Star Tours again since the line is short.
6:10 p.m. – I’m exhausted and want to start purchasing some souvenirs. Back near the entrance of the park, I buy a Stitch mug. $9.28
6:20 p.m. – There was a red T-shirt I had seen earlier that had “Tokyo Disney” written on it in Japanese. I’m pressed to find this shirt so I re-track my steps to find it. Walk all around the park again and am about to give up. The shirt ended up being in the same store I was initially in, but at the back, in a room I didn’t realize connected to it. $17.64
7:00 p.m. – At this point, I’ve walked around 10 miles in the park and begin to leave. I catch the train back to the hostel.
8:00 p.m. – Back at the train station I refill my card for tomorrow ($9.22), then I go to the store across the street and get two Asian pears ($6.08). I normally eat fruit every day and haven’t been doing so here. $15.30
9:00 p.m. – The hostel kitchen is closed for dinner so I head back to the grocery store. Their fresh meals are half off after 9:00 p.m., so I get shrimp, pot stickers, and sparkling water. I eat the meal at the hostel then go to bed. $4.08
Daily Total: $171.26
7:00 a.m. – Today I am taking a day trip to Mt. Fuji. Some more women arrived last night so now the hostel room is full.
7:40 a.m. – I dress in sweatpants, a t-shirt, and a windbreaker. I assume the mountains will be cold so I want to be prepared. Once dressed I ride the train to the meet up spot in Shinjuku. I look pretty weird in contrast to the Tokyo population who are dressed for a day at work. The train is at the fullest point I’ve ever seen and I see the infamous train pushers who are ready to push people in to make space on the train if needed.
8:30 a.m. – After surviving rush hour, I make it to the meeting point train stop. I see a local café and get a chocolate muffin. $2.14
9:00 a.m. – The directions had said to meet at a certain building in the business area. I don’t see anyone else for a while so I start to walk around the building, nervously looking for other tourists. After realizing I’m on the wrong side of the building, I find my tour group. Luckily I showed up early enough to still be on time for our 9:20 a.m. departure. After getting on the bus, I realize this was the first time I’ve actually rode in a vehicle during my time in Japan. Cars are driving on the left side of the road which I hadn’t noticed before that moment. The highways are packed but they look well maintained. After about 30 minutes or so we are out of the city and surrounded by grass and smaller houses during our ride towards Mt. Fuji.
10:30 a.m. – We make a pit stop at a rest area and I grab a bottle of water from a vending machine. The stop has super clean, spacious bathrooms randomly. I’m pretty sure in general Tokyo has the cleanest public bathrooms that I’ve ever seen. $1.11
11:20 a.m – The tour group finally makes it halfway up the mountain opposite of Mt. Fuji. The bus stops, pulls over, and lets us walk around. There’s a souvenir store and a decent view of Mt. Fuji. It’s getting cloudy so it is not clear enough to see the mountain easily. At the store I grab two t-shirts, two jackets, and a coaster as a souvenir. I plan to use these as gifts for my dad and brothers. We only have about 40 minutes on the mountain which felt really short to shop and sightsee. $102.96
12:00 p.m. – We go to a local town for lunch which randomly has a French theme. The area had small shops and a tiny amusement park. We head to a nearby restaurant that is decorated for a fine dining experience. The meal is presented very elaborately and included salad, two kinds of bread, chicken in red sauce, and custard for dessert. This is covered in the cost of the tour which was great. After lunch I go into the stores but there is nothing in particular that interests me. I sit on a bench facing the amusement park and watch the roller coaster riders scream as they drop from the highest point. I sit here amused until the bus is ready to depart.
2:30 p.m. – Next up is a stop at Lake Kawaguchiko which has a nice view of Mt. Fuji. Once we arrive, the tour leader guides us to the cable cars. The cars are quite small and they force as many people in them as possible which makes the ride uncomfortable. We take the journey to the top of the mountain and are able to see a breathtaking view of Mt. Fuji. After 30 minutes or so pass, we take the cable cars back down to the foot of the mountain. Then we catch a boat to take a cruise of the lake. Being on the water is refreshing and it gives me a chance to reflect on how lucky I am to be able to be on this trip. Never had I thought I would have the chance to see Mt. Fuji. Some other solo tourists and I take photos of each other. The cruise lasts 40 minutes then we dock.
3:45 p.m. –Back on land, I go to a souvenir store and get a peach ice cream since it’s included in the cost of the trip. I also buy a green tea cup with a drawing of Mt. Fuji $7.15
4:00 p.m. – I sit down by the lake eating my ice cream until our bus leaves at 4:40 p.m.
6:20 p.m. – The tour group makes it back to Tokyo and I catch a train to my hostel.
7:20 p.m. – I get back to my hostel and order a burger with fries for dinner. I’m getting a tad tired of Japanese food at this point and looking forward to cooking again. I’m worn out from the long day, so I go to sleep after I’m done eating. $9.66
Daily Total: $123.02
7:00 a.m. – I wake up and start listening to the “Up First” and then the “Robinhood” podcasts. I normally listen to both daily to stay abreast of the news, but I haven’t done so during my trip. After both are finished, I get dressed.
8:00 a.m. – I go downstairs for breakfast and there’s a free walking tour at 10:30 a.m. I eat my breakfast and read my book until it’s time for the tour. $2.78
10:30 a.m. – I go on the walking tour and meet some people from Canada that are staying in the same room as me and others from the US. We take a tour of the local shrines and learn more about Buddhism. We also see a bell that the Japanese used to warn the citizens of military invasions during World War II. We also eat some Japanese rice crackers that are like round wheat thins that have sesame seeds or some other flavor mixed in.
1:30 p.m. – I go back to the hostel and chat with the girls I met on the tour for a while.
2:00 p.m. – My cash is getting low so I go back to the Asakusa region since the train fare there isn’t too high. I see a small Turkish shop and grab a halal gyro which tastes great. $5.07
2:35 p.m. – The area has a plentiful amount of local vendor shops. I go into a few and finally settle on two magnets for my friends. $7.10
2:50 p.m.- I’m feeling the heat from the sun again so I order chocolate ice cream from a street vendor. If you haven’t noticed yet, I may have a slight addiction to ice cream. $3.04
3:20 p.m. – After all of this walking and moving around I need to relax. I find a spa on Yelp that has good reviews. I get a traditional Thai massage for an hour and it is just what I needed. I have seen cheaper places around, but this place had the cleanest and most professional setting for the area I was in. $64.06
4:30 p.m. – Stop at Starbucks to try the Gold Sweet Potato Macchiato finally and it is pretty good! The drink does sound strange, but when you think about it, a pumpkin-flavored beverage sounds just as weird. $5.35
9:00 p.m. – Back at the hostel I rest then go out to dinner with the girls in my hostel. One is a vegetarian which is harder to be than you would think in Japan. After checking out a few menus we find a place that has some vegetarian friendly options. We take off our shoes and sit on the floor since the tables are all on the ground. I get fried rice and a glass of red wine. $7.94
10:00 p.m. – I get back to the hostel, chat with the girls and go to bed at 11:30 p.m. Two of the girls staying in the same room with me are from Toronto. They’re around the same age and we spend time talking about tech stocks. They’re only in Tokyo for a few days but will visit Osaka and Kyoto during their two week stay in Japan. For people I just met, they are extremely welcoming and I wish I had met them sooner on my trip. Of course I’ve adjusted to jet lag during my last days here.
Daily Total: $95.34
7:30 a.m. – I wake up and am sad that my last day has already arrived. Especially since I’ve just made friends in the hostel.
8:30 a.m. – I get dressed and start packing up my suitcase. I need to leave here at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow so I want to be as packed as possible.
9:30 a.m. – There is a local bread store across the street I walk to and get chocolate croissant and a chocolate pizza pie for later. For breakfast, I have the croissant along with one of the Asian pears I had purchased the other day. $4.49
10:30 a.m. – I head down to Ippodo and try some tea in their tea room. I smell the different blends they have available and sample a few as well. I end up getting bags of Sencha, Hojicha, and Genmaicha which are all different types of green tea. $18.94
12:30 p.m. – While walking around I notice a food truck. I order a Japanese curry sandwich for lunch since it’s close by. It comes with a chicken cutlet, gravy, cabbage, and soy sauce. The weather outside is gorgeous so I sit outside for a bit to people-watch. I end up in the Marunouchi part of the city which looks likes it’s home to corporations. The Rugby World Cup is going on and this part of the city had posters and decorations for the event all over the place. $4.62
12:40 p.m. – Yet again, I’m thirsty. There’s a nearby subway station so I go down there since each station tends to have vending machines. This station is gigantic! I grab a bottle of water and continue wandering around. Farmers have organized a farmers market in one of the underpasses. The produce is gorgeous but the prices are shocking. They’re selling premium grapes for $16 and Asian pears for $9. $1.02
1:45 p.m. – Now I’m tired of the heat so I catch the train back to my hostel. I refill my card with enough money for the return and the airport. $8.31
2:15 p.m. – I make it back to the hostel, charge my phone, and eat the chocolate pizza (imagine a pizza crust with chocolate smeared on it, but the chocolate dries so that it does not make a mess) thing I bought earlier. My feet are killing me!
3:00 p.m. – With my last day coming to a close, I want to see more local places. I take a walk around the neighborhood and try to find the local shopping district. It’s pretty small and most of the shops are closed when I arrive. You can tell that this is an older part of the city. The roads are narrow and barely fit more than two cars at a time. The houses sit on the road and are nestled close to one another there are no front, side, or back yards. One thing you cannot miss is the abundance of bikes. Each house has a bike (presumably one per family member) either attached to the small space they have at the door or between the homes.
4:00 p.m. – I stop by McDonald’s and get a small fry before heading back to the hostel. I only have 3000y / $27.60 left and I want to make sure it lasts $1.38
4:30 p.m. – After arriving back to the hostel, I take a nap.
5:30 p.m. – I’m up again and start reading my book. It’s so sad now and I start sobbing at the last 80 pages. The book is SO GOOD but I know I probably look crazy for crying in my bed during this amazing trip.
7:00 p.m. – After trying to get myself together and make my eyes less puffy, I take one last walk around the neighborhood and try to find food. I end up going to the same Italian place I’ve been to before. For dinner, I choose a shrimp and mushroom dish with a baguette accompanied by the Asahi super dry beer from Japan. $12.79
8:40 p.m. – I head to Don Quixote to see if there is anything else I want to buy with my yen. The one closest to my hostel isn’t as large as the others and doesn’t have any fun Pocky or Kit-Kat flavors. I go back to my hostel after looking around and decide to use the rest of my coins at the airport. I call it a night and fall asleep since I’m beaten.
Daily Total: $51.55
5:20 a.m. – I easily wake up and get dressed while trying not to wake up the whole room. I check out then head to the train station. Luckily there are elevators to help carry my luggage and it’s not too busy now.
7:00 a.m. – Man the train got busy with other travelers halfway through the journey! I make it to the airport, check-in and I drop off my bag. The airport has a 7-Eleven with some funky Kit-Kat flavors, but the line is super long. I’ll just get something after I get through security.
8:00 a.m. – The airport mostly has high-end retailers like Gucci, Prada, Rolex. I wonder how often people impulse-buy these $1,000+ items during a layover. There is a tourist shop I go into to get some chopsticks for my cousin. $4.62
8:15 a.m. – I’m down to my last few yen. I’m starving so I grab a BLT. $5.48
8:40 a.m. – I order French fries to use up the rest of my cash. I’m still hungry and want something to hold me over until the in-flight meal. I’m only leftover with 80 cents so it’s fine. I’m surprised about how well my cash has lasted me. $3.05
9:00 a.m. – There is still some time before I need to board the flight so I go to another store. From the Duty-Free store I use my credit card to purchase a box of rainbow box of Pocky ($11.08), plum wine ($20.30) and a peach liquor ($15.69) $47.07
9:40 a.m. – I get back to the gate and get ready to board the flight. It takes off at 10:10 a.m. and we will land in NYC at the same time which means I’ll still have my whole Saturday available.
9:45 a.m – We land in NYC 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Luckily the seats were still comfy, but of course, I would have preferred the business class seats again.
10:25 a.m. – There’s a surprisingly short line in customs. I make it through customs and catch a 30 min Uber back home. I’m ready to shower, jump in my bed and sleep. $42
Daily Total: $102.22
How did you prepare for this trip?
I looked at various travel websites to see what attractions I should check out. I mainly referenced Time Out Tokyo, Airbnb Experiences, and Trip Advisor to see what others recommended.
Do you have credit card debt as a result of booking this vacation?
Nope, I paid everything off on my card so I did not have a balance. While there I used cash to help budget.
Did you use credit card points or miles to pay for parts of this trip?
No, for this trip I put everything on my credit card to help collect points, but I did not redeem any.
When did you book your flights? Do you think you got a good deal?
I booked the trip in June. Flights were available for under $700 but those included 14+ extra travel time hours because of layovers/connections. Due to my flight being direct, I think it was a good deal.
What was your favorite part of the trip?
The tea ceremony! I had seen this done on America’s Next Top Model years ago and did not realize how detailed the process was. The tea ceremony that was booked through Airbnb was hosted in an older woman’s home who is now retired. Since it was just us, it was an intimate gathering and she gave me a book that explained the process. The process includes having to clean the utensils for serving and sitting in a respectful manner.
What was the best meal or food you ate while you were there?
Japanese curry from Go Go Curry. They have one in NYC but Japanese curry is something that is hard to find period, so being able to have it in Japan made it even more special.
Is there a tourist trap you wish you had avoided?
Not really, I almost did the Robot Restaurant but didn’t do it since I heard it was not worth it
What advice would you give someone who is traveling to the same location?
Assume that most of the time you’ll be using cash. The city (outside of going to American or European shops) isn’t as credit card friendly as you’d imagine.
Is there anything about your trip you would do differently in retrospect?
I probably would have made an effort to find another day trip outside of Tokyo. I didn’t really learn anything about the other cities in Japan until after I arrived.
Would you stay at your hostel again?
As a solo traveler, yes – it was a good price, clean, spacious for a hostel, and the other guests were nice. If I was with someone who could split the cost of a room, I would stay closer to downtown Tokyo.
Where were you located in a specific city and would you recommend staying in that part of town?
I was in the Adachi part of Tokyo which was fine since it was less touristy and crowded compared to Shibuya. If you want to be in the middle of the busy areas, I would recommend staying in Shinjuku or Shibuya City.
Is there anything you wished you had time to do, but didn’t?
Real-life Mario Karts would have been cool if I knew how to get an international driving permit.
Do you feel like you were there for the right length of time? Would you have come home sooner or stayed longer given the chance?
Seven days probably would have been fine instead of ten. The additional days gave me more time to relax versus running all over the city every day.
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?