Tokyo Travel Itinerary
I have decided to leave for Tokyo, Japan on December 9, 2011 which is a Friday, and return on December 18, 2011 which is a Sunday. My round trip ticket will cost me $1282. The outbound flight will last almost 12 hours which will bring me to Tokyo’s Narita International Airport on December 10, 2011, a Saturday afternoon. My $2500 sojourn in the chosen destination will officially start on a Sunday. It is nerve-racking and exciting at the same time.
Before I get to my itinerary though, I need to get my requirements ready. First, I will need a U.S. passport. It’s a good thing I have one already, which will not expire in the next 6 months. But if I hadn’t, it would take me 4 to 6 week to process a U.S. passport application. For a U.S. adult citizen to apply for a passport, anyone can go online to http://travel.state.gov/ which will show you the whole process. A brief rundown is as follows: submit in person a completed Form DS-11, evidence of U.S. citizenship, identification, a photocopy of the identification document(s), payment for fees which amounts to $165, and one passport photo.
Since I would be visiting for less than 2 weeks, I won’t need a visa. This privilege can extend up to 90 days, and is called “visa-free” stays. When I get there, it would be important for me to take note of the U.S. Embassy’s address in Tokyo in case I lose my passport or if I find myself in a difficult, tight situation. No one knows what can happen in a foreign land, right? Anyway, it is located in 1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420, and their number is 81-3-3224-5000.
It would also be prudent of me to enroll in a free service by our government, the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, which will keep me up-to-date with important safety and security announcements, and help my family get in touch with me in case of an emergency.
Japan is a highly developed country, and Tokyo is its capital. Although it has widely available tourist facilities, some areas remain to be off limits such as the coastal areas of Northeast Japan still recovering from the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami last March, and also areas within 20 kilometers of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. Radiation however is believed to impose low health and safety risks if exposure lasts less than a year. Occasional aftershocks, however, are reportedly common to be felt in all of Japan. As for terrorist incidents, there had been none since 1995. So I it is quite safe to visit Tokyo.
Before setting the dates for my long-awaited travel, I was told to visit our family doctor to have my health checked and get vaccinations that I needed before my journey. It was fortunate that I had planned this well over 6 weeks ago, so there was time for the vaccines to take effect. Routine vaccine shots I received were for influenza, chickenpox, polio, measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus. If I had planned on going to rural farming areas, I would have also received shots for Japanese encephalitis. Also, avian flu still thrives in Japan, so I was advised to steer clear of birds and chickens. Other suggestions my doctor gave me were to avoid unpasteurized dairy products, wash my hands often with soap and water or alcohol-based gel, especially before eating. Other valuable information on health safety can be found in http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/.
Japan’s language is Japanese, and their currency is Japanese Yen. One U.S. dollar is approximately equivalent to 78 Japanese Yen. Standard of living is definitely high and one of the highest in the world.
As for my itinerary, I will be spending 7 days wandering around Tokyo, and maybe spend a day or two in nearby Kamakura, Yokohama, and Kyoto. It is winter time now, and Tokyo experiences relatively mild winters with little or no snowfall, so I imagine the weather to be really nice.
After arriving in Narita International Airport, I will catch the JR Narita Express to get to Shinjuku. I have booked myself in Rose Garden Hotel, which is a 3-star hotel, charging $34 a night which is not too bad and actually one of the least expensive hotels in the area. This is where I’ll be staying for the rest of my trip. I have chosen Shinjuku since it is centrally located and has numerous links for transport.
Official Day 1: Sunday
I will start my day in Shibuya and go to Meiji Jingu Shrine which is a Shinto shrine located within a forest of 175 acres. This area is covered by 120,000 evergreen trees, and visited as a place for recreation and relaxation in the heart of Tokyo. Around Shibuya are major trendy shopping centers and is considered the fashionable district of Tokyo. In the afternoon, I will have a chance to witness the fashion in Harajuku which is purportedly a spectacle not to be missed. Cafes and restaurants will usher me into the evening.
Official Day 2: Monday Kyoto
I have made reservations for a Kyoto day tour. My mode of transportation from and back to Shinjuku will be the bullet train. The tour will take me to Kinkaku-ji, also known as the Temple of the Golden Pavilion, which is a Zen Buddhist temple. It is one of the most famous buildings in the whole of Japan. Up next is Heian Shrine which is another Shinto shrine. Then the Otowa-san Kiyomizu-dera which is an independent Buddhist temple that has a great view of Kyoto from its soaring veranda. Next is the Kyoto Imperial Palace, the residence of the Imperial family until the capital was relocated to Tokyo in 1869. Then the Sanjūsangendō or the Hall of the Lotus King which houses 1001 statues going as far back as the 13th century. And finally, the Nijō Castle which is a flatland castle.
Official Day 3: Tuesday
Day 3 will be another day tour to see Mt. Fuji through the bullet train. Lunch will be served on the famous mountain, then attend a cruise on Lake Ashi and ride aerial cableway at Mount Komagatake while revelling the view of Hakone National Park.
Official Day 4: Wednesday Kamakura and Yokohama
This time I will be going to Kamakura and Yokohama via the Shonan-Shinjuku line to Ofuna Station, and transfer to Yokosuka line to Kamakura Station, and transfer again to Enoshima Dentetsu line to Hase Station. From the Hase Station, it will be a 500-meter walk to reach the Kotokuin Temple where the Great Buddha resides. Then off to Hase-dera which is one of the great Buddhist temples. Next will be Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū which is the most important Shinto shrine in Kamakura. Then Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gūwhich is the most significant shrine in Kamakura. Then off to Yokohama through the Rapid Airport Narita train to see the Yokohama Landmark Tower, Yokohama Museum of Art, the Ferris Wheel at Yokohama Cosmo World, the Nippon Maru - Sail training Ship and the Yokohama Maritime Museum.
Official Day 5: Thursday
This time I will head to the Ueno Park which has the Toshogu Shrine, Bentendo Hall Temple, Tokyo National Museum, National Museum of Western Art, and the Tokyo National Science Museum.
Official Day 6: Friday
Day 6 will be yet another day tour to Toshogu Shrine, Lake Chuzenji, Nikko World Heritage, and Kegon Waterfall.
Official day 7: Saturday
My last official day in Tokyo, I will spend in central Tokyo. First stop will be the observation deck of Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for its breathtaking view. Then the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden which is said to be lovely. Next stop will be Ginza for my final shopping before I come back State side.
It was exhausting planning this trip but I imagine it to be worth all the headache it had caused me the past days. I am excited to immerse myself in a very foreign culture, get to know a few of the locals, and see the world from a Japanese perspective. This will be enlightening as well as educational for me. I cannot wait.