- Tips before your trip to Japan
- Melbourne to Sydney with a tight stopover
- Kansai Airport to Osaka Station via the Kansai Airport Rapid Service – ¥1,190
- Late night ramen in Umeda
- Visiting a Lawson and 7-Eleven
Before the trip
Before traveling to Japan, you need to do a few things:
- buy the Japan Rail Pass if you are traveling to various cities – we bought a ‘[Ordinary Car] 14 Day Whole Japan Rail Pass’ on Klook for AUD$579.35 per person (total AUD$1,158.70) and if lucky combine with a 15% cashback on Cashrewards.
- rent a pocket Wi-Fi or buy a mobile sim card and have it delivered to your hotel – we went with Japan Wireless for $5 per day for both me and my wife’s internet use. Each pack comes with charging lines, a portable battery and a return address envelope for drop-off at the airport on departure.
- consider buying travel insurance to give you peace of mind in case you get hospitalised or lose something valuable. We usually go with TID or Travel Insurance Direct. For this trip, we opted for no insurance, because we had both been to Japan and didn’t feel the need.
- bring physical cash with you since many places in Japan only accept cash payments outside of the big cities – we brought over ¥3,000 in cash. We exchanged our money in Melbourne at United Currency in Flinders Lane. We recommend checking the exchange rate at least two to three months before your travel date to lock in the best bang for your buck. We exchanged when the currency was AUD$1 to ¥74.45, which is poor when only a few years ago in 2013-4 we were exchanging at AUD$1 to ~¥95.
- bring a credit or debit card to make purchases in the big city – we used Citibank Debit Plus account. The Citibank account has been super useful throughout my trips as it allowed for cash withdrawals and over-the-counter payments. You can add your own currency to the card and we found the exchange rate is generally very good. We found that our bank cards from Commonwealth Bank, even though they had the Mastercard symbol on it, could not be used to make cash withdrawals at most Japanese banks/convenient store ATMS or over-the-counter. Never get the Commonwealth Bank Travel Money card, it is the worst card ever as it has a horrible exchange rate and it doesn’t work anywhere except at major department stores.
- book your accommodation in advance – we booked at least six months before our holiday. We found some fantastic deals on Booking.com and Expedia by visiting the websites on different days and re-booking if it was cheaper.
Lookout for my post about what to do before going to Japan for more details.
To the airport
It was typical Melbourne winter weather when we were leaving, just horribly cold and miserable. We knew we were headed into Japan’s summer, so we only had the jacket we wore from home to the airport. Our clothing in the luggage just consisted of light shirts and shorts/skirts to cater for the hot, humid weather in the Land of the Rising Sun. Unlike the typical Australian scorching dry heat during summer, which feels like you are under a solarium, we knew Japan’s summer would be hot, humid like a sauna.
When packing, we made sure to leave at least two-thirds of our luggage space empty, because we knew we were going to buy quite a lot of things. On our return, we had no place for the many things we ended up buying and receiving.
We caught arranged to be picked up by the South East Airport Shuttle service from our home to the airport to catch out 7:00 AM flight. We would be leaving from Melbourne Airport’s Terminal 3 to Sydney for a short stopover before catching another flight on the Qantas QF33 from Sydney to Osaka.
We were really excited when we learnt that we were taking Qantas’ QF33, a double decker airplane, Airbus Industrie A330. We made sure to select our seats on the upper floor and near the entrance. Being near the front of the plane makes it easier to get in and out.
For this trip, we decided we would start our journey to Osaka as it meant we didn’t need to waste a day or two having to circle back to Narita Airport. We would be leaving via Narita Airport like our previous trips.
TIP: I highly recommend leaving Japan via another city to the one you arrived in. It is easy to travel from city to city especially if you bought a Japan Rail Pass.
We bought our tickets early back on 17 August 2018, almost a whole year before the trip, and got it when Qantas was running their Qantas’ Japan Deal. Each ticket was only $643.60 return.
Prior to the day of departure, we constantly had changes to the Sydney to Osaka flight. At one time the flight was scheduled to leave at 12:55 PM, but it finally landed on 9:55 AM which meant we had a really tight stopover when we arrived from Melbourne at 8:25 AM. The other thing to note is that unlike Melbourne’s airport, Sydney’s domestic and international airports are completely separate and you need to catch a bus to ferry you from the domestic terminal to the international terminal.
I remember arriving at 8:40 AM and making a mad dash with our carry-on backpacks to the bus and then through border control, which felt like eternity, and then sprinting with all my energy to the boarding gate. On arrival at the gate, the plane had already started boarding. Oh well, no chance to enjoy the airport before departure. We were absolutely beat and puffed out from the running.
I have traveled on budget airlines before and I have sworn never to travel with them again, unless the prices are irresistible. I find that Qantas does a really job with its service, on-board entertainment and food.
The selection of movies and television shows was great, it was a mixture of latest releases, all-time favorites and cult classics.
The food was decent for airplane food. I had the pork belly on rice, with a slice of garlic bread and butter pudding. I was expecting some really horrible food, but it all went down really well. We got served drinks, ice-cream and dumplings later in the evening.
It takes a good 10 hours from Sydney to Osaka. You could easily fit about five two hour movies in that time. Just make sure you fill in your arrival card completely, e.g. all questions must be addressed and boxes ticked, on the plane before touch-down, it makes going through immigration easier.
Arriving at Kansai Airport
We arrived at 17:00 PM at Terminal 1. There were several check points we had to pass before we could exit to the train station, but in a typical Japanese fashion it was all handled very promptly. There were at least two checks, a passport check and security check, which took around 30 mins, before we could get our luggage to leave.
We grabbed our luggage from the baggage claim and dashed to the train station. We were staying near Osaka Station so we purchased a ticket on the Kansai Airport Rapid Service for ¥1,190 per person. You can buy this ticket from a regular machine. If the machine’s text is in Japanese, you can select English by touching the English button in the upper right corner. You just need to select your destination and the number of tickets you are buying.
An alternative is to purchase their Icoca, Suica or Pasmo prepaid cards and load it up with the appropriate amount. These cards are dispensed from certain machines at the station and cost ¥500. You can use these prepaid cards anywhere in Japan on their public transport, vending machines, fast food outlets, etc.
The train ride took 70 mins from Kansai Airport Station to Osaka Station. We had our huge suitcases and backpacks in tow. I felt bad having such huge suitcases, because the train was narrow and we were taking some of that space with our suitcases that someone else could enjoy.
Osaka Station to Hotel
We stayed at Hotel Monterey Le Frere Osaka near Osaka Station. We decided to walk 7 mins from the station to our hotel. We really didn’t need a taxi or Uber. It was a straight forward walk, the only hard part was walking across a highway pedestrian crossing.
The hotel was really nice. It was in a nice location with several restaurants and karaoke joints.
Right below the hotel was a bigger than usual Lawsons. Here is a video of what it looks like inside.
We couldn’t call it a night without a late night ramen run. We decided on a place with no flashy signs and was popular with the locals. We found this joint, don’t even know the name, but can point it out on a map, and it was awesome ramen.
The ramen was packed with flavor. The pork was very tender and delicious, the noodles were firm, the soup was oily goodness and the garlic served as a good balance to the rest of the flavors. It was only ¥800 a bowl.
We couldn’t go past 7-Eleven without buying the famous Michelin star instant ramen. Only ¥210 per bowl!
Overall, we just arrived in Japan and felt like we accomplished quite a bit. All that planning before arriving counts.
Stay tuned for Day Two – Osaka: Grand Front Osaka, Osaka Aquarium, Pokemon Center Osaka and Expocity.
If you want to see my comprehensive full day itinerary, click on any day below.
|1 (19 June 2019)||Melbourne to Sydney | Sydney to Osaka – arriving at Kansai Airport and grabbing some 7/11 Michelin ramen|
|2 (20 June 2019)||Osaka – visiting the Grand Front Osaka, Osaka Aquarium, Pokemon Center Osaka and Expocity|
|3 (21 June 2019)||Osaka – a full day at Universal Studios Japan and dinner at Dōtonbori|
|4 (22 June 2019)||Osaka to Himeji | Himeji to Hiroshima | Hiroshima to Osaka – a day trip to Himeji Castle, the Shinkansen and Atomic Bomb Dome from Osaka|
|5 (23 June 2019)||Osaka to Koyasan – the wondrous trip into the mountains and wandering the spooky Okunoin Cemetery|
|6 (24 June 2019)||Koyasan to Fukuoka – taking a Shinkansen to Kyushu and visiting the Pokemon Center Fukuoka and Canal City|
|7 (25 June 2019)||Fukuoka to Huis Ten Bosch | Huis Ten Bosch to Fukuoka – an attractive theme park that will blow you away in many ways|
|8 (26 June 2019)||Fukuoka to Nagasaki | Nagasaki to Fukuoka – visiting the Dutch town of Dejima, eating Champon for lunch and dining at Iron Chef Chinese’s restaurant for dinner|
|9 (27 June 2019)||Fukuoka to Kyoto – fire ramen, seeing monkeys at Arashiyama and a Maiko|
|10 (28 June 2019)||Kyoto – ramen cooking class, Fushimi Inari Shrine and Esperanto Photo Studio|
|11 (29 June 2019)||Kyoto to Nagoya – Supreme/Bape Store and Nabana no Sato|
|12 (30 June 2019)||Nagoya to Takayama – Hida Folk Village and Takayama Old Town|
|13 (1 July 2019)||Takayama to Shirakawa-go | Shirakawa-go to Takayama – visiting Shirakawa-go by bus and eating delicious curry|
|14 (2 July 2019)||Takayama to Kanazawa – visiting the Ninja Temple, dressed in kimono at Kenrokuen and Omicho Market|
|15 (3 July 2019)||Kanazawa to Tokyo – Ginza Pokemon Cafe, Akihabara, and the best ramen in Ikebukuro, Mutekiya|
|16 (4 July 2019)||Tokyo – Nikko for the Kegon Waterfall, Toshogu Shrine and Kanmangafuchi Abyss|
|17 (5 July 2019)||Tokyo – Gotemba Premium Outlets, the Fuji Five Lakes and Mt Fuji|
|18 (6 July 2019)||Tokyo – Tsukiji Fish Market, Ghibli Museum, Shibuya and Roppongi Hills|
|19 (7 July 2019)||Tokyo – teamLab Borderless, Diver City, Iron Chef Michiba and Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa Hanakohro|
|20 (8 July 2019)||Tokyo to Melbourne – morning at Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa Hanakohro and Rabu Ginza|
|21 (9 July 2019)||Melbourne|
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