Another Travel Day. But there was still some things to see in Kyoto before we wrapped up. The Kyoto Imperial Palace, or Gosho, was the former residence of the Emperor of Japan. But the Imperial family hasn’t resided here since 1869, when the seat transferred to Tokyo. Access is limited by formal request, except for two times a year where the gates are opened to the public. And we happened to be there for one of those times.
The hotel had bikes for rent so we decided to impromptu change things up and ride around town. Kyoto is relatively flat and its streets are laid out in a grid formation, which makes it perfect for bicycling. See if your lodging has access to bicycles, or there are a number of options around town, as well. The Kyoto Cycling Tour Project is one option, and they provide rentals as well as guided tours. Things started off a little wobbly, but improved towards the end.
So, in order to maximize the intake of cultural sites, we arranged for a day-tour of Kyoto and Nara. If you’re ever in the area, we suggest you do the same. We arranged our tour via Japanican, a subsidiary of JTB. One can only do so many temples and shrines, but this tour gives a really nice overview, and makes accessing Nara easy. I should add, there is an important reason why you should see Nara along with Kyoto and Tokyo – by doing so, you’d be visiting the New Capital (Tokyo, 1869-present), the Old Capital (Kyoto, 784-1868), and the Ancient Capital (Nara, 710-784).
But, to begin, the Japanese breakfast of champions: 7-11 musubi and coffee.
Travel day! Kyoto bound via the Shinkansen (the only way to travel). I’ll cover how to travel via train, subway and Shinkansen in a later post, but it’s hard to overstate how simple, convenient and efficient mass transit is in Japan. For those that haven’t been, you’ll love it.
But first: laundry. And trying to figure out this combination washing machine/dryer at the hotel. It needs to be said, Japan does almost everything right, but our experiences with washing machines and dryers in Japan leave a lot to be desired.
Okay, let’s bring back the travel in travel hacking and do a trip report. This one is going way back to 2012 and is really the genesis of our little experiment. You see, this was our honeymoon and we spent a lot. A once in a lifetime type trip, really. But it got me to thinking about the possibilities in replicating the experience. Only cheaper. And I think you’ll find our subsequent Japan trips, although shorter in duration, to be equally awesome. But, first, baseline awesome so you understand where we’re coming from.
T had never been to Japan, while I had lived there for a couple of years and knew how to get around. So we planned on hitting some of the major touristed areas: Tokyo, Kyoto (and Nara) and Hakone. Our flight was on US Airways (via United Airlines), coach seats, and entirely unremarkable.
To begin, here is the first page of our itinerary. The complexity and detail of which has only increased on subsequent trips.
My cousins are not great planners. Fortunately for them, I am a great planner. These are their stories.
Two travelers, two cards. It was late November when J and D mentioned they wanted to go to Japan in March but they hadn’t started planning. After I got over the shock, we jumped into action. We starting searching for cheap flights and hotels (not cheap, no availability), and in the mean time, I had them both apply for the Barclay Arrival Plus World Elite MasterCard (review). As the cards were en route, we found non-stop roundtrip economy flights on Korean Air for around $920 each and held them for 14 days without paying (which is a nice feature). And as this was going to be a Tokyo only trip, so we eventually found an inexpensive no-frills business-type room at the Pearl Hotel Yaesu, about an 8 min. walk from Tokyo Station (Yaesu North Exit), 8 nights, $1,100. Which, for late March with last minute planning, was about as good as you could ask for. Cards arrived in the mail, they started making their minimum spend, and $3,000+ each later, they exchanged their 46,000+ miles earned (40,000 bonus plus spend) for $460+ in credits for a total of $920+ in savings. Continue reading “Trip Report: Two Simple Trips (to Japan) with Credit Cards”