5 Weeks in Japan: A Journey of Discovery and Adventure

japan trip 5 weeks

I embarked on an extraordinary journey to Japan that lasted for five weeks, from the end of January to February. This trip was an absolute whirlwind of experiences and discoveries, and I am excited to share with you everything I learned about this incredible country along the way.

Let me tell you, these past five weeks have been nothing short of incredible. I found myself exhausted most nights, whether it was from exploring the sights or hitting the slopes for some skiing. There were even a couple of days when I had to take a break, staying in bed and watching movies or getting some work done. Japan’s unique blend of weirdness and magnificence truly took its toll on me. And to top it off, one of those days was spent dancing all night at Richie Hawtin’s performance at Womb Club – my tired body needed some rest.

During my time in Japan, I experienced a series of “firsts” that will forever stay with me. From visiting a maid cafe and a robot restaurant to indulging in public naked bathing at the onsens, and even skiing down a challenging black run – these moments pushed me out of my comfort zone and left a lasting impression.

I must admit, these five weeks also took a toll on my wallet. I blame it on my “ah, I’m only in Japan once” mentality, coupled with the expenses of skiing. However, I firmly believe that Tokyo is actually cheaper than London, and I urge you not to let the concern of costs deter you from visiting Japan. But we’ll dive into that a little later.

In case you’ve struggled to keep up with my constant updates on social media and my blog, I’ve decided to consolidate all of my experiences into this comprehensive “5 Weeks in Japan Trip Round Up” post.

Places Explored

  • Tokyo
  • Nozawa Onsen
  • Nagano
  • Kyoto
  • Osaka
  • Wayakama
  • Nara
  • Yamagata
  • Hakodate
  • Sapporo

Tokyo: A City of Unmatched Uniqueness

Out of all the places I visited, Tokyo holds a special place in my heart. It is truly a city like no other, brimming with its own distinct charm and character. Each “borough” within Tokyo has its own unique atmosphere, akin to little villages. In a matter of minutes, you can transition from the tranquil greens of a park to the bustling business districts, and even the electric energy of Shinjuku.

Countless Highlights to Cherish

During my journey, I encountered numerous highlights that left me in awe. Here are just a few of them:

  • The Otaru Snow Light Path Festival in Photos
  • The 52 Coolest Things to Do in Tokyo: No Messing About
  • I Dressed Up as a Geisha in Kyoto and Got a Starbucks
  • Skiing in Japan
  • A Bizarre Maid Cafe Experience in Tokyo

Embracing Japan’s Vibrant Festivals

Japan is renowned for its vibrant festivals, and I was fortunate enough to witness and partake in several of them. Here are a few that stood out:

  • Sapporo Snow and Ice Festival
  • Nara Festival
  • Tokyo Fireman Festival
  • Diojin Fire Festival in Nozawa Onsen
  • Otaru Snow Light Path Festival

Instagram-Worthy Moments

Of all the posts I shared on Instagram, one particular picture stole the show. It encapsulated the essence of my incredible journey through Japan, capturing the beauty and uniqueness of this captivating country.

Getting around Japan

For most of my travel within Japan, I opted to use the convenient Japan Rail Pass. Additionally, I took a few tram rides in Hokkaido and relied on taxis when I couldn’t find my hostel in Kyoto. However, I must confess that navigating the Tokyo Subway system proved to be a challenge, and I often found myself lost.

Culinary Delights to Savor

No trip is complete without indulging in the local cuisine, and Japan certainly didn’t disappoint. Here are some of the best meals I had the pleasure of experiencing:

  • The chicken curry at the top of Mount Zao.
  • The sushi feast at Humaru in Sapporo.
  • The Yonazawa steak in Shimokitazawa.

If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out my 3-week Japan itinerary!

A Few Regrettable Culinary Experiences

While Japan offers an array of delectable dishes, there were a few meals that didn’t quite hit the mark. Here are some of the worst culinary experiences I had:

  • The Sneeze Noodles at a cafe in Shinjuku.
  • The bento box at the Robot Restaurant. I’m still not entirely sure it was edible.
  • The chicken curry at The Hilton in Niseko, which ended up making me ill the following day.
  • The deep-fried greasy batter balls at the Sapporo Festival – a taste I wish I hadn’t experienced.

Counting the Cost

Including all expenses such as accommodation, five days of skiing (including rentals), a three-week rail pass, various adventures in Tokyo, gifts, a few clothing items, and all food and drinks, I spent a total of £2367.34 over five weeks in Tokyo. This equates to an average of £473.46 per week.

If we exclude the cost of skiing (approximately £500, covering lift passes, ski rentals, and equipment), the total expenditure amounts to £1867.34, averaging at £373.46 per week. It’s worth noting that you can tailor your expenses to your budget, making it possible to experience Japan for even less or indulge in more luxury.

Curious to know just how expensive Tokyo can be for a week? Let’s find out.

Top Tips for a Memorable Trip

Here are a few valuable tips to enhance your journey through Japan:

  • Check out the Japanican.com website for discounts on various activities and experiences. The savings can be significant – I managed to save 50% on the Robot Restaurant, and it was well worth it!
  • Prepare for the freezing temperatures in Japan during winter, not only outside but also in hostels and hotels. Make sure to pack warm clothes, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself layering up in bed to stay cozy.
  • Convenience stores like 7/11 and Lawson are a godsend in Japan. You can find everything you need, from gig tickets to directions, and they also offer a wide selection of food, drinks, and even SD cards.
  • Opt for shoes that are easy to take off, as you’ll find yourself removing them for various activities and establishments. Trust me, my hiking boots were a hassle!

Reflections and Lessons Learned

Looking back on my journey, I can honestly say that I have no regrets. However, if I were to nitpick, here are a few things I would have done differently:

  • Taking the train from Niseko to Sapporo proved to be a time-consuming and costly choice. In hindsight, I should have opted for a direct bus, which would have been quicker and more affordable.
  • I would have spent an extra day skiing instead of attending the Sapporo Ice Festival. While the festival was enchanting, I could have explored it fully in a day, and an additional day on the slopes would have been a delight. Although it may have put a strain on my budget.
  • In retrospect, I would have allocated more time to Kyoto rather than Osaka. Kyoto’s rich cultural heritage and historical sites left a lasting impact on me, and I long to return and explore it further.
  • The accommodation I booked in Osaka turned out to be less than ideal. Throughout my five-night stay, I realized it was the worst hostel I had ever experienced. Despite the bargain price, the subpar facilities left me uneasy and uncomfortable. Lesson learned – sometimes it’s worth paying a little extra for a better experience.
  • I should have researched the ATM situation beforehand. Unfortunately, my Visa debit card didn’t work, resulting in over £100 of credit card cash advance fees and foreign transaction fees. Needless to say, this was an unwelcome surprise.

In conclusion, my first-time visit to Japan proved to be an unforgettable adventure filled with new experiences, breathtaking sights, and delicious cuisine. If you have any questions, doubts, or simply want to share your feelings about visiting Japan, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. I would love to help you make your own remarkable memories in this amazing country.

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