Arigatou, Tokyo: How to Maximize a Trip to Japan on a Limited Budget
If you had told me that I would be in Tokyo in 2014 for a week with only a month and a half to prepare, I’d tell you you were crazy. But it happened.
Sure, it has always been at the back of my mind to revisit Japan, but it is one of those wishful thoughts that you just dismiss because of one word: budget. It has been, after all, the most expensive city in the world for years until recently. As a freelancer-slash-newbie-entrepreneur, you just don’t go and fly to expensive cities. At least, that’s what I thought. But traveling has become more and more accommodating to budget travelers like me.
Last August, one of the truest friends I had in high school messaged me to say she just got engaged. She also told me that I had significantly contributed to the person she is now and, so it would mean a lot to her if I could attend the wedding. Needless to say, I said I would go. I just really didn’t know how. I had just come from another trip then and I had another big project coming up that would require a huge amount of my resources.
I did end up going to Tokyo, though, and I did not even have to resort to begging for food on the streets or anything like that. Here’s what I learned: a trip to Tokyo need not be expensive. I want to share the things that helped me with my trip. Take note that I only had a month and a half to plan for this trip, so it could be way cheaper if booked way earlier.
Find Cheap Flights
Searching for the best possible flights usually means staying up late at night after work hours. I found out that some rates for flights go cheaper in the wee hours of the morning and some flight schedules that do not appear during the day appear late at night.
Tokyo is a huge city made up of different districts. There was a point during the trip in search of a particular store when we ended up walking about 2-3km. After we got to our destination, we realized that we had already passed two train stations. Although we ended up eating a lot that night, we realized that we saved ourselves from spending on a train ticket by walking. So, if you can walk it, walk it. Tokyo’s streets are safe and never boring anyway.
Wi-Fi helped us a lot when we planned our itinerary for the day. We downloaded an app called Navitime, which shows the different routes that people can take. It even includes the cost and the schedule of the trains. We had a pocket Wi-Fi lent to us by the owners of the place we booked through AirBnb and it was very helpful when we needed to access Google Maps. It was also helpful in communicating with each other (via Viber, FB Messenger, and iMessage). We also used Wi-Fi to look for the best, cheap restaurants to go to. Tokyo has a lot of free Wi-Fi spots. The most helpful one is in the Tokyo Metro stations. You just need to register with your e-mail address. (Don’t worry, they don’t spam. I haven’t received anything at all since our trip).
An izakaya (a type of Japanese drinking establishment that serves food to accompany the drinks; casual places for after work drinking) dinner with Paulo (on his way to earn his PhD in Tokyo) in Takanobaba
Meet Up with Friends
I know how important it is to stay in touch and be kind to everyone you meet, but it was on this trip that I witnessed that significance in action. In Tokyo, we met up with some of our friends who are current residents in the city. This really helped us learn more about the culture, the places to go to, and we even got treated to free rides and free meals in good restaurants. It helped me see that the kindness you give out somehow finds its way back to you, and no person you meet is ever really irrelevant in your life.
It’s cheesy, I know, but God really provided for this trip. There were times during this trip that I would worry about the money that we had, calculate, and then something would happen and it would be like God was saying, “Why did you even worry? I got this.” We received so many blessings that we did not ask for. Many unplanned incidents led to better events (and became cost-efficient) for us.
It’s very similar to life. You don’t fully know how it will turn out but when an opportunity presents itself to you, you just have to seize it, and trust that everything would work out. I’m very happy I boarded a plane to Tokyo in 2014. It just reminded me that taking a leap of faith is worth the while. I’m looking forward to discovering new places, and I guess this list is a good place to start.