Thursday, December 24, 2015

Japan trip Autumn 2015, Part 10 - Travel notes: Planning, Tips, Accommodations & Pocket wifi

This last blog post is just going to serve as a conclusion and "catch all" for the various tips, comments and small reviews that didn't seem to fit into a previous blog post. There isn't a particular set theme that this will follow, but I did my best to sort things into categories.
The day-by-day posts in this Japan trip Autumn 2015 series were written in a quasi "travel diary" format, similar to the way I wrote the trip posts for my Spring 2015 trip with each day of the trip having one blog post regardless of locations visited or whether we did anything particularly exciting, and I included all the mundane details of everything that we did, boring or not. This may not be the best way to present information to someone who is looking for quick insight into something, but I find that the diary format is best for me and my recollection, especially when I need to reference something later and it's usually the most inane pieces of information that I can't remember months from now but luckily were included in a blog post which jogs my memory.

I had been conflicted on what to call this series in terms of season. I feel like when I was growing up and not really concerned with knowing the exact dates of equinoxes or solstices and thought of the traditional seasonal dates according to month. This is especially confusing in Hawaii probably since we don't really experience "seasonal change" and don't even need to rotate your wardrobe or specific break out autumn or winter coats. If I can recall correctly, I remember learning that March through May was Spring, June through August was Summer, September through November was Autumn and December through February was Winter. Or something like that. I didn't really consider breaking it down to the exact day or anything. But as an adult, I realize, this year 2015, Summer went well into September actually and Winter doesn't start until practically Christmas! And I just feel like that's really weird for some reason lol. I guess you can't argue with the actual definition of seasons though so I'm going to call this my Autumn trip even though it feels to me like Winter. And it really is technically Autumn. Additionally, we did do some koyo viewing which directly relates to Autumn, so Japan trip Autumn 2015 it is!

Christa and I were planning a trip together while being half an ocean apart. We were in different time zones and had different work schedules. We had a lot of time to plan for the trip since we booked the flight in February and it wasn't until November, so weren't in an urgent need to communicate information but wanted to be able to just drop notes, links and suggestions at our leisure.
Our solution? Google doc!
We each had access to edit and view and could get to it from mobile device or laptop. Easy to add content and you can also do comments. I set up a loose calendar format and we would put any changes or things to note in a pre-defined color. (I was lavender text and she was pink text.) Miscellaneous notes, suggestions that didn't have a set date or other general information would go at the bottom.
Basically this was where we dumped anything related to the trip that we wanted as a resource from maps to blog posts/websites (for activity recommendations), hours of operation to expense estimations and more. We had our flight information, hotel reservation confirmation number, all these things in one single place and we could easily print it if needed.
I found it a lot easier than having multiple emails in a chain or going back and forth in text messages because we would often chat about non-trip related things and I'd have to scroll a lot to find information that was relevant.
I also ended up printing the document before leaving so we would have something to quickly reference with or without wifi access. It served several purposes for me because I used it to write notes on when I didn't want to use my phone (battery) and also included some names of places that were easier to point to when asking questions about an unfamiliar place/pronunciation.

Packing & Luggage
For this trip, since I would be traveling with just Christa and I knew I wouldn't be able to rely on her to help me lug around my bags, I brought only one check in suitcase and planned to have one rolling carry on suitcase and a large tote for my personal item. While going over to Japan, I packed my rolling carry on suitcase (actually the Liz Lisa rose embossed carry that I purchased and used during my last trip) with my clothes and essentials and then packed the carry on suitcase into the check in luggage. It just barely fit, but thankfully it did lol. Doing this assured me that I had my entire check bag as vacant space for purchases since I knew that everything I was bringing with me would fit into the carry on.
For this 7 day trip, I chose 5 outfits to bring with me + 1 outfit for the airport/wearing on the plane both ways (which would not need to be packed). I anticipated being able to purchase at least 2 more while in Japan that would cover the last two days, but also was prepared to do laundry and re-wear 2 outfits if needed. Since I wanted to keep what I was bringing with me to a minimum, I limited myself to one outer piece and one pair of footwear. After looking through my wardrobe and considering the weather, I picked my Liz Lisa faux leather riders jacket that I had purchased during my trip in the spring and my Liz Lisa OTK boots which don't get used nearly as much as they should. I considered bringing a coat but I didn't want to deal with the bulk of it. I figured that if it was really cold enough to warrant wearing a coat, I would buy one there. I also planned to purchase at least one more pair of shoes during the trip, so that would be good enough since I need at least two pairs to rotate footwear throughout the trip since we do so much walking. I was also sure to pack two long sleeve tops (one being a knit turtleneck) which I could use for layering and would match with every outfit if needed. I tried on each outfit in different combinations before committing to each item lol.
I made a short "Pack with me" video for my YouTube channel which briefly shows how I picked which items to bring and then how I packed them in my rolling carry on.
I don't know if this is a "duh" for some people but if you buy a lot of stuff like me and worry about overweight fees when flying, your best friend will be a luggage scale. My family has one and so does S. I don't usually think about packing it because someone else I'm traveling with usually takes care of it. This time, I FORGOT lol. I worked a full 8-hour day before going straight to the airport to leave for Japan, so I had to be sure to be packed and ready by 06:00 and bring all of my things with me to work. At 06:35, I realized I forgot the luggage scale. I carpool to work and didn't have a car to go and buy one during a lunch break or anything, but luckily my dad was able to bring me one when he picked me up to drop me off at the airport. The luggage scale was especially important this time because I was only bringing one check-in suitcase and during my last trip, I almost reached the 50lb limit (before fees) with TWO check-in bags lol. If I bought even a similar amount that was in just one suitcase, I'd need to be really careful about approaching 50lbs and the scale really came in handy. The suitcase I brought with me could have easily fit more items, but because of the weight, I knew to stop packing things in there and start looking to my carry on bags instead. If you don't mind paying overweight fees or if you have a really good idea of what 50lbs (or whatever your airline's limit is), then you don't need one, but it's worth it to me to pay for a luggage scale once than have to pay surprise overweight fees or bust open my bag to rearrange things at the check-in counter every time I travel.

Camera & Photos
Photos and video clips in these blog posts were taken with my new iPhone 6s. I specifically purchased it for the trip knowing I would be relying on it as a camera. It was also my intention going in to the trip to take more photos and to better blog the trip overall. I think that you can see that many of the posts for this trip were extremely photo heavy. This is partially because Christa is okay with having her face uncensored (so I didn't have to do any edits in that regard and was just able to post freely), partially because I made a conscious effort to take more photos, and partially because we did more activities in which photo taking was appropriate during this trip in comparison to other trips where I did mostly shopping (and photography is often frowned upon in stores). I also thankfully had a willing both photographer and photo subject in Christa that S is usually not. While not all the photos are composed perfectly, I'm glad to have a plethora of snapshots to help remember my trip.

I saw a lot of questions online from people who seem to be from similar climates that we have here in Hawaii inquiring about the temperature in Japan during November. I think it's quite different how someone from a warm year round climate would react to the November weather versus how someone from some place in Canada or NE region of the US would deal with it. For me, I'm often chilled in 70F weather and therefore anything in the 60sF, I think is COLD. Many people, I'm sure, if you lived in a place where that's an average temperature for much of the year, might think that's a very pleasant temperature.
I wanted to note my personal experience based on being someone who is from a warmer year round climate who is not used to cold weather at all. We were there during the last week in November and the earliest days of December. The weather forecast was as predicted above (↑) 1.5 weeks out. It seemed like it was going to be fairly "warm" by autumn standards with most of the days being 17C. However, the very first day of our trip was Nov 26 and we would be at Tokyo Disney Sea that day - spending much of our time outdoors and near the ocean which typically makes it feel even colder. That was to be the oddball day temperature-wise and the day that we would be least prepared for since it would the first time we'd be out and about in Japan at all. I packed and brought layers accordingly but due to the temperature rise in the subsequent days, I decided to forgo bringing a coat and figured I could always buy one if I needed to. I've been to Japan in late March before which I figured would be similar weather and told myself I could tough it out.
As it turns out, I continued to check the weather in the week leading up to our trip, and this is what the weather report looked like the day before we left -
So it turns out that it would be significantly warmer than we thought it would be compared to the projected forecast for Tokyo from about 1.5 weeks out, and I'm glad I didn't go balls out on heavy winter items.
That being said, I still made sure to purchase a few heattech items from Uniqlo - 2 camisoles and 1 pair of knitted tights. Since I wasn't bringing a coat, I figured I should compensate in other ways including my OTK boots with long socks underneath. The boots had helped keep me warm-ish when I was on the East Coast in around 40-50F weather a few years ago, and I rarely get to wear them at home. (I say warm-ish because I was still kind of cold but not unbearable. I really wasn't prepared for the weather to be that cold for that trip.)
As it turns out, what I brought was actually somewhat perfect although there were a few items that went unused. I only wore a heattech cami + layered with the turtleneck on the first day (for DisneySea) and I did think I needed it since it was rainy and cold most of the morning and then got pretty cold at night. The other cami wasn't really needed although I don't think it was a mistake to buy two. I considered the knit tights to simply be too thick and didn't wear them on any day. However, my leather gloves that my mother gave me did come in handy on various occasions throughout the trip. Sometimes my hands were cold although most of my body was not. I found the weather in both Kyoto and Osaka to be warmer than Tokyo (as expected) and I sometimes thought it was too hot to wear my jacket during some parts of each day and was fine in just a short sleeve dress since I was also wearing the OTK boots and doing a bit of walking. During the last two days in Tokyo, I felt somewhat adjusted to the weather and didn't really feel all that cold with and sometimes without my jacket except when it got closer to night time.
If you look at my OOTD post for November & December 2015, you'll see the (recreated) outfits I wore for each day of the trip. I was fine in what I was wearing - not too cold and, since I was able to take off the jacket as necessary, not too hot regardless of being indoors, on the train or outdoors. There were many other (local Japanese) people wearing coats, but I don't feel that it's necessary to wear or bring one as long in the weather as long as you layer correctly and especially if you don't spend all day outdoors and the sun is out for part of the day.   
My skin was fine for the most part although just slightly dry. Not as compared to the spring when my hands got incredibly dry and scratchy and my face, in particular my nose, got a bit dry as well. I didn't even need to use any kind of lotion on my hands during this autumn trip. To some degree, I think what helped for my face was wearing a mask for the last few days. It helped protect from germs but also the wind and other elements. I did moisturize my nose area on one or two days as a preventative measure, but long as I had the mask on, for the most part, my face was okay in the weather (for dryness and for warmth) and not as much of a problem as it was in the spring.

Portable charger
This was mentioned a bit in the budgeting post, but I ordered it online from Amazon on Nov 17 via Amazon Prime free 2-day shipping. A couple weeks before the trip, I realized I might want a portable charger. S and I have gotten along fine without one in the past, but we rarely stayed out all day and often took breaks back at home base where we'd charge all our devices as soon as we got back until the minute we left. When I was heavy into researching for our Disney visit for this trip, it finally dawned on me that we could possibly be out from literally like 06:00AM to 10:30PM or later. And I'm sure much of that time would be spend just waiting around with nothing to do but go on Tumblr, and we would also be likely to be taking a lot of photos and videos as well. If my phone battery was able to survive all that, it probably wasn't the case that the pocket wifi unit would be able to keep up as well. By that time, it felt like it was too late for me to order what I wanted from Amazon (because even with a Prime account, it sometimes takes 2+ weeks for an item to arrive in Hawaii including the processing time), but luckily Christa had just ordered and received one from Amazon and suggested I let her order the same one for me due to the fast shipping. She has Prime but lives in California and the item would actually arrive in two days -__- lol. Due to our tight schedule for this trip and the amount of time we would often be away from a reliable place to charge devices, it made sense (for the price), for each of us to have 1 charger that could be used for either our phones or the pocket wifi.
We relied on at least one of the chargers each day. For the DisneySea day, we pretty much exhausted both of our chargers because we needed to charge both our phones and the pocket wifi. On most other days, Christa would charge her phone and still have enough power to charge the wifi as well while we used my charger as a back up if necessary. Since we stayed out all day on most days without stopping to charge anywhere, having a portable charger was really helpful, especially because the wifi provided by the Airbnb didn't have the best battery life.

Ghibli Museum tickets
Even though I had issues getting my rail passes for the summer trip, I still thought JTB wouldn't be a bad choice to use again because at least I was familiar with the process this time. The Ghibli Museum was a must do for Christa and JTB was pretty much the only way for us (as foreigners) to get the tickets ahead of time. The museum is quite popular so you should be sure to book as soon as possible.
I should have written this all down when I was going through the process but I was just SO irritated and it was months ago so I thought it would be too early to start documenting. That was stupid because now I've forgotten a lot of details (although I do very vividly remember being irritated lol) but anyway, this is my best recollection of what you need to know about ordering Ghibli tickets through JTB.
You must pick a date and are locked into that date when you make the purchase. Your name is also on the voucher because the type of ticket you have is for non Japanese citizens.
JTB sets the price. It doesn't matter what the cost of the ticket price is in yen. We paid $14 each for admission tickets inclusive of some JTB handling fee. (The cost in yen is 1000yen).
You have to pay for FEDEX shipping unless you can pick up the tickets from two specific JTB offices (one is in Torrance, CA and I think the other might be in NY). We have a JTB office in Honolulu but they would not ship to the Honolulu office and let me pick them up from there. Believe me, I tried. FEDEX shipping is $14. However, you CAN ship the Ghibli tickets with your Rail Passes which qualify for free shipping. If you don't order them at the same time though, you have to count on JTB not screwing it up. JR Rail Pass vouchers can only be ordered 90 days in advance of your first date of use. However, Ghibli tickets can be reserved earlier than that and you do want to reserve them ASAP.
Tickets for the month go on sale 3 months prior. I screwed this up because I didn't understand it properly. We wanted tickets for Nov 27. I thought that I would go to the JTB website on Sep 1 and be able to buy tickets for all of Sep, Oct and Nov. This is WRONG. Tickets for Sep, Oct and Nov are available starting AUGUST 1. This really screwed us up because most of the month was reserved by the time I looked at the website since all of November was available to purchase starting a month earlier than I was visiting wtf. We were EXTREMELY lucky to get our second choice of Nov 28.
In any case, you really have to know that you want to go to visit and what day ahead of time. It will not work to try to reserve these tickets 1 month before.
The website does display what days are already booked or available for the dates that can be reserved for on the right side. I just wasn't constantly checking in/I didn't have a good understanding of the process which is why I didn't realize that August 1 should have been my ideal date to reserve the tickets and NOT September 1. Please don't make the same mistake I did. Also, just because the calendars there say that a date isn't sold out, doesn't mean they AREN'T. They don't update the calendars immediately so I wouldn't say that seeing that a date isn't sold out means you can wait to book the ticket. My advice is to book AS SOON AS YOU CAN on the first of the month, 3 months in advance.
The other thing is, the purchase process is NOT instantaneous. It's either by phone or email. I chose to do email reservation since I've had a hard time with the service line people before and also because the phone line is not manned 24/7 and I realized I could make the reservation at night when the offices are closed. I thought it would be best to get an email in right away rather than wait to call which I could always do the next day as well. The downside with emails is that they are not always quick to respond so you wonder if you're getting passed by. I reserved through email though and it was fine. You will have to provide your credit card information through a phone call when they confirm (through email) that the dates you want to reserve for are available.
If you know someone in Japan, you might try to get them to purchase the tickets for you through a Lawson's ticket machine. It is abundantly cheaper this way, especially at the current USD JPY exchange rate since the yen price is 1000yen ($8.30 USD) and if you went through JTB, you'd be paying $14 ticket + $14 shipping for one pass ($28.00USD). (If you're buying multiple passes, then yeah the shipping gets split a bit better but if you're just buying 1 or two, the shipping price really increases each individual ticket cost.)
In the end, we did get the tickets and I didn't have to pay for shipping since I ordered the JR Rail Passes a week-ish later, but let me tell you I was SO irritated throughout the entire process and kept having to make multiple phone calls. It likely wouldn't have been so much of a headache if I had reserved on August 1, but I should still be able to make a reservation for a day that's still available without so much stress regardless. I really don't understand what's the purpose of having a JTB office in Honolulu if I cannot pick up the tickets from there but whatever.
I talked about this in my last set of blog posts but for the record here as well, if you're ordering the JR Rail Pass from JTB (and you are getting them shipped to Hawaii - I'm pretty sure it's Hawaii specific), you will get an email that your order is "cancelled" but you will still receive it. They still have not fixed that glitch.

Airbnb in Shinjuku
We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in Shinjuku from Nov 25 to Dec 1, 6 nights. Christa was the person who actually introduced me to Airbnb and is the reason I used it for my summer Japan trip. She took the lead in picking a suitable apartment for this trip after we agreed on a few important factors. We didn't want to spend more than $100 each per night. The apartment should be close to a major JR station, preferably one along the JR Yamanote line and not too far from Haneda Airport. We agreed on this one and she booked it back in February after we had purchased our airline tickets. Although we were planning to spend one night in the Kansai area, we decided to double book the night with Airbnb because we were under budget and didn't want the hassle of having to check in and out of so many places and worry about the luggage we wouldn't take with us to Kyoto/Osaka.
The apartment was easy to find and indeed as close to Shinjuku station as the hosts had promised. We had no issues getting into the apartment even though we didn't arrive until around midnight on the first night. It's a pretty small apartment, but what else can be expected in Tokyo. One thing that bothered me is that it didn't have a closet. There were three knobs and hangers just inside the entrance to hang coats but there was nowhere else to hang things. None of the curtain rods or door frames or knobs could support hangers with clothes. After the first couple days, we realized that we were actually in a building that contained mostly small businesses and that's probably why we didn't have a closet. The bathroom was reasonably sized though and there were two twin beds and additional bedding for a third person if necessary. You would have to do a little furniture rearranging if you had a third person and it would be very squishy though. We did not meet the hosts, but they seemed nice enough. I think that they didn't speak/read/write English though because we had asked for a little translation help and they weren't of any assistance. The pocket wifi device we were provided with worked pretty well in the Tokyo area but not so well in Kyoto and Osaka, and we had to use an alternate charge cord because the one provided was ineffective.
Overall, this Airbnb apartment was adequate but not amazing. It was a bit small (even keeping my standards low). For example, the bathroom door hit the bed and couldn't open all the way. I also wasn't overly fond of a lack of a closet or just a rail to possibly hang clothes from. I did like its location in relation to Shinjuku station but it's a large station and the closest exit was one at the very south of it. Even though our "home base" was in Shinjuku, we really didn't spend any time there except a tiny bit on Day 2 when we went to two specific stores that were practically inside the station, and Day 7, but that was after we had already checked out. That's because we spent all day away from the apartment and any time I thought about going somewhere in Shinjuku, it just seemed so far because most places were closer to the north side of the station and it just seemed like a long walk lol. That's probably a poor excuse, but we really didn't get to explore Shinjuku as much as we should have given our location. I would continue to look to Airbnb as an option for accommodations because I like the price and variety of listings, but I'm not sure if I would stay in this particular apartment again. Although it was a little more expensive, I prefer the Airbnb apartment that S and I had stayed in during the summer in Shinagawa. (Although that could possibly be because I've come to realize I prefer to stay in Shinagawa in general.)

Hearton Hotel Nishiumeda
We stayed here from Nov 29 to Nov 30, 1 night, while we were exploring the Kansai area. We had limited time during the trip, but since this was Christa's first experience in Japan, I wanted to be sure that she got a little taste of the area outside Tokyo as well as introduce her to catching the shinkansen (with the JR rail pass). Kyoto and Osaka were obvious choices during koyo season. I didn't feel we could adequately conquer both in one day, so this required a one night stay. We decided to stay in a hotel versus an Airbnb apartment because we some of the flexibilities/amenities that come with a hotel, like being able to leave our luggage at the front desk. Initially, I had looked at hotels in Kyoto, but the ones we were interested in based on our criteria and price range were already booked! That wasn't too surprising given Kyoto is very popular in autumn. Christa managed to find the Hearton Hotel Nishiumeda, and we booked in February.
I liked the location of this hotel. It wasn't extraordinarily close, but close enough. To get to the hotel from JR Osaka station, exit from the Sakurabashi exit or exit through the Eki Marche and cross the street to the Albi (Outdoor) shops. Walk through Albi and then continue straight and cross the street once more and the hotel will be right there to your left. From the exit, it's about a 3 minute walk or less if you don't have to wait for the lights.
The room had all the essentials and average amenities but don't expect a lot of pizazz or extras. The thermostat cannot be adjusted (this may be seasonal). We were only given one key card and it needed to be inserted into the slot just inside the door which controls the power. (When the card is inserted, it allows power to be provided to the room - lights, tv, etc. Without the card, you don't have power which is supposed to be energy saving.) This is not too much of a problem, but if we had wanted to separate (Christa in the room and me out shopping or something), I either wouldn't be able to get in without her opening the door (which she couldn't do if she was, for example, taking a shower) or she would be sitting in there without power. The other issue we had was that there weren't enough outlets in the room to charge all our devices. This was remedied by using one outlet and a splitter but there is only one outlet in the bedroom area and it's by the desks, not the beds. There's another in the bathroom by the sink (obviously not the best for charging electronics) and two more near the floor by the door (also not great unless you want to put your devices on the ground).
Overall, the room was more-or-less adequate for what we wanted which was just a convenient, but not too expensive, place to sleep. If I was on a budget and only staying a short while, I would consider staying here again although I'm not fond of not being able to control the temperature. If I'm looking for a slightly better overall hotel experience in Osaka and convenience and low price are not my number 1 priorities, I would still choose the Westin Osaka though. Their huge rooms and excellent customer service are hard to beat.

The Prince Shinagawa N Tower
We stayed here from Dec 1 to Dec 2 for our last night in Japan. We agreed to stay out last night in a hotel because our flight back to the US was departing at 23:55 and we'd have to figure out what to do with our luggage for the whole day after checking out. If we had stayed at the Airbnb, we'd have to make our own arrangements (forwarding it to the airport ahead of time or storing it somewhere at a cost), but with a hotel, you're usually able to leave your baggage in the lobby or bag storage area with no additional fees or worries. My first suggestion was the Prince Shinagawa since I've really enjoyed staying there during past trips. It's in a good location for catching the shinkansen and also for access to Haneda Airport. There's a shuttle that takes us to the airport at the exact time we want to be there without being 2 hours early for our flight at 23:55. The downside is that this hotel is not overly cheap nor are the rooms particularly big, but if you stay at the N Tower, you do get free breakfast. Since we were a bit ahead on our hotel budget, we agreed that the convenience of staying at the Prince for one night was worth the price which wasn't extraordinarily bad when we split it.
Because I'm very familiar with the hotel, we had no issues finding it after leaving Shinagawa station from the Takanawa exit. We left our luggage with the front desk since we arrived before check-in time and was able to leave and come back when we were ready. The hotel was able to receive the pocket wifi package and also had a place to store our luggage when we checked out. The staff was friendly but efficient, and we didn't have any particular issues. I would continue to recommend and stay at this hotel again if I wanted convenience and good service.

Pupuru pocket wifi rental
We weren't initially going to rent a pocket wifi device for the last two days after checking out of the Airbnb, but the more I thought about it after returning from my trip in August, the more I realized, it was worth the $30 for the convenience of having wifi wherever we went and not just the hotel. Especially because we might end up doing things or going to places I wasn't familiar with and it's just zounds easier to navigate with wifi access.
I decided to go with Pupuru again because I was happy with the service we received when renting from them back in March. I think they were having a sale - 400yen instead of 600yen per day. I ordered the wifi for 2 days - for use on Dec 1 to Dec 2. If we were to use the wifi on Dec 3, we would receive overage charges. The wifi needs to be back in the packet to be returned on Dec 2.
We received it at the hotel on Dec 1, but it hadn't arrived 12:30 when we checked in. I had requested for it to be delivered in the morning but I guess it didn't make it. It was there by 14:30 when we returned though. As before, the wifi was easy to connect to and the device was pretty self-explanatory and actually mostly charged and ready to go when we received it. We had excellent connection for the majority of the time we used it, and the battery life was reasonable although we did have to charge it on the go near the end of Dec 2 after being out all day. Returning the device is also no problem. Just put all the contents back in the bag and then put it in the envelope and then into a mailbox. I mailed it from the Prince Shinagawa Main Tower lobby when we were waiting for the shuttle to arrive because I didn't want to have to deal with it at the airport and possibly bringing it home with us.
I'm glad we decided to get the wifi for the final two days because I think we would have been very confused in Yokohama while looking for a Hello Kitty Restaurant Café that's no longer there and then panicking and trying to figure out what else to do. Having wifi connection in general is just extraordinarily handy when traveling, and I'm happy with the service/devices/product I have received when renting with Pupuru and will likely order from them again if the need arises.

Walking mileage
If you're wondering how much walking to expect to do in Japan (if you're not getting transported everywhere by a tour bus) -
Christa has a Fitbit Flex and through it she tracked how much walking we did throughout the trip...except on the last day where it ran out of battery and she didn't have the charger lol. That day's results were incomplete, so she didn't send me a screenshot. The 6 above are for Day 1 - Day 6, with Day 1 starting at the upper left (reading left to right and top to bottom). I linked each day's blog post to the corresponding screenshot if you're interested in what we did each day that corresponded with the number of steps. S had been tracking our steps somewhat similarly on past trips with just iPhone apps and apparently the numbers are quite comparable, so I feel like this represents a reasonable expectation for walking. We did about 10 miles a day with the first two days being a bit more irregular because Day 1 was DisneySea and we did a lot of walking back and forth and all around the park all day, and on Day 2 we hardly did any walking because we were sitting in a salon for 4 hours and then were a bit tired from the day before so we purposefully didn't seek out a lot of exercise! But in general, it seems that we walked around 9-10 miles a day! I somehow survived that all in heels (whether it was my Liz Lisa OTK boots or Liz Lisa pom pom pumps). Although I have to admit that my feet were really hurting at the end of some days, it's definitely doable as long as you rotate between shoes on different days and rest them when you can.

I'm really happy that I had the opportunity to take this trip with Christa and experience Japan in autumn. I've gone so many times during the summer now and it's good to be there and not be so sweaty lol. The changing colors are so pretty as are all of the (Christmas) illuminations, and the weather was just right - not extraordinarily cold or dry or hot. I would gladly visit Japan during this time again, but I'm just sad there aren't that many things I want to buy during this season for both snacks and clothes! I have several new experiences under my belt that I had never done before such as visiting DisneySea, getting my hair cut/colored at a salon, going to the Ghibli Museum, watching ramen set on fire right in front of me, eating batter-covered leaves aka momiji tempura, exploring Yokohama Chinatown, checking out Ueno Zoo & so much more! This was the third time I visited Japan this year (and specifically Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo), but there's always so many different things to see and do - it never gets old!
I put together my version of a "vlog" of the trip which is really just a compilation of the video clips I shot during certain activities.
I still don't have the balls to walk around and actually seriously vlog or talk to the camera. Sorry, it's a bit of a hodge podge but I really don't have enough to actually string them together a bit more seamlessly. Hopefully you can still get an idea of what some of the places were like!

Let me know if you have any comments or criticisms about the format of this series or if you have any further questions that I didn't end up covering on any of the blog posts. Did I go into too much detail? Too little? This last one was kind of all over the place since it pretty much contained everything I wanted to say that didn't get included in one of the past ones, but truthfully, there's a lot that goes into every trip! I've come to really enjoy blogging about my trips because it helps me keep track of what I've done and what I might want to do again. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed sharing it!
Japan trip Autumn 2015 posts
Part 1 - Day 1, November 26: Tokyo DisneySea
     Part 1a - Planning for Tokyo DisneySea
Part 2 - Day 2, November 27: Hair Salon NALU, Shibuya & Harajuku
Part 3 - Day 3, November 28: Ghibli Museum, Shirohige Cream Puff Shop, Ikebukuro, Rikugien Garden & Nagomi no Yu
Part 4 - Day 4, November 29: Arashiyama, Fushimi Inari & Fire ramen in Kyoto
Part 5 - Day 5, November 30: Minoo Park, Kaiyukan, Tennoji, Namba & Umeda in Osaka
Part 6 - Day 6, December 1: Shibuya, Yokohama (Chinatown) & Seirinkan
Part 7 - Day 7, December 2: Ueno Zoo, Alice Café & Yebisu Garden Place
Part 8 - Liz Lisa & Other shopping purchases
Part 9 - Budgeting for a week in Japan
Part 10 - Travel notes: Planning, Tips, Accommodations & Pocket wifi

Japan trip Summer 2015 posts
Japan trip Spring 2015 posts
Japan trip Summer 2014 posts


  1. Honestly, I don't know how phone works over there, but is it possible to use roaming with your phone so you don't have to rent pocket wifi?
    My provider had this 1 week internet roaming package and it was lot cheaper than renting pocket wifi.

    1. It's definitely possible to use roaming and I have a friend who prefers to do it that way, but I find it cheaper to do the pocket wifi because it's not as limited to the data/how many texts I can send/receive. Plus, you'd need to do a roaming plan for each phone whereas for the pocket wifi, you can often connect up to 10 devices (tablets, phones, laptops etc) for the same price. It depends on the carrier for sure and what you're planning on doing with it.