It was the spring of 2015 at Kansai International Airport when I first dreamed of bringing my family to Japan. Me and my friends were Manila-bound after our 5-day tour in Osaka and a family of 4 was seated behind us when the little boy started praying as the plane prepares for take off. The prayer goes like this : “Lord, thank you for giving us the opportunity to travel as a family. Keep us safe during our flight. Amen.” I imagined that family was mine.
With so much love for The Land of the Rising Sun, I knew I’ll keep coming back and I haven’t forgotten that dream of bringing my family to Japan for a vacation. Back in 2018, I had the chance to bring my mom for a 7-day tour in Tokyo – it was still incomplete as my nephew and niece were not with us. Fast forward to 2020 – my family’s first flight of the decade was bound for Tokyo, Japan. What makes the tour more special is having Boss Mona, my boss from previous company, also joining us on the tour.
BTW, if you want to know about how to be a sponsor for the Japan Tourist Visa, check out my guide here.
We all know that Japan is really expensive but I have been traveling DIY-style and keeping the damage as low as possible. Below is our family’s expenses during our trip to Tokyo.
Airfare and accommodation were already paid in advance and I had almost a year to save up for the pocket money so I was prepared.
Tickets were scored during Cebu Pacific’s Anniversary Seat Sale way back March 2019. I remember when payment did not push through and I encountered a time-out when I was booking. Within 24 hours, I received the itinerary through email which confirms the booking.
Taal Volcano awakened during the week of our departure which caused the shutdown of NAIA and flights were getting cancelled. Lucky for us, NAIA reopened and gradually resumed operations a day before our scheduled flight.
Tokyo, let’s go!!!
Narita International Airport
We arrived at NAIA less than 3 hours before our flight. Long queue for bag drop and immigration that we had to run to the boarding gate. We haven’t had the chance to have lunch at the airport so we just had snacks during the flight.
We arrived at Narita International Airport past 7PM and there was a long and slow queue at the immigration. Our baggage were already arranged by the airport staff and handed to us when went to the claim our luggage. We met Boss Mona at the arrival hall and waited for her to exchange some Japanese Yen. My niece and nephew were greeted by the winter breeze and they seemed to enjoy it lol
We boarded the last Keisei Limited Express Train bound for Asakusa and arrived almost 12 midnight. Good thing it was direct train which stops at Asakusabashi Station where our hostel is located. Had we need a transfer, we might miss the last train as it was already 12 midnight. We checked in fast at Hostel East57 and called it a day.
Shibuya Scramble Square
Alarm was set for 7AM and met for the free breakfast at the hostel. First stop was Shibuya and we got kinda lost lol. The last time I was there, Shibuya Scramble was not yet built so we were going into circles into the new building. We saw a Family Mart where we had a quick bite. We finally managed to get to the most famous crossing in the world as well as visit Hachiko Memorial Statue.
We then headed to Harajuku were lots of items are on sale. I bought my mom a bag and scarf. The sales ladies were amazed as I lip-synched BoA’s Dakishimeru song haha. Don’t forget to eat crepe here and also check out the chocolates on sale. We walked to Laforet where we looked for the Sailor Moon Store. Last stop for the area was Meiji Shrine before heading to Akihabara.
My nephew was hungry again and I told him I know a place in Akihabara. We then went to Akiba Yodobashi’s 8th Floor where we ate ramen and fried chicken. Boss Mona went to shop at BIC Camera for some anime merch while my nephew and niece played Nintendo Switch demo games. We dropped by Donki which is just around the street before going home.
Sounds like a very big day with Disney Land and Disney Sea on the itinerary lol. My nephew and niece did not totally care about entering the amusement parks so it’s a good thing so I won’t have to spend more. We just enjoyed the outside scenes and ate lunch at the food court.
Next stop is the Tokyo Tower where we checked the Mugiwara Store as well as the anime store on the second floor. We did not purchase the Tokyo Tower pass and opted to go to the nearby Zozoji Temple instead.
My nephew was hungry and I know a place near Kamiyacho Station with good food at very affordable price. We had a heavy late lunch and then walked to Roppongi. We spent a lot of time in Donki and bought pasalubong before going home 😀
It was raining the next day in Tokyo. We had our usual free breakfast before heading to Asakusa Station to buy our Nikko Pass. We only bought the 2-Day World Heritage Pass since the 4-Day Nikko All Access Pass is expensive and going back to Tokyo would mean forfeiting the pass. We opted to ride the local trains since riding the limited express train would cost more.
The train guy was very generous to write us a guide where to transfer stations. We were on the train almost all day and when we finally stopped at Kinugawa Onsen Station we thought we could see the snow but sadly there’s none. We checked the area for a bit and had lunch.
We then rode the train bound for Tobu Nikko but we got confused because it went backwards – we thought it was a wrong train. We dropped by to the next station and the lady said it was a correct train and the next one would be in 45 minutes. The lady was kind enough to let us enter the museum cause it was blistering cold outside (1 degree).
We finally got to Tobu Nikko but it was already past 4PM and it has gotten dark. Sadly the tourist information was already closed so we didn’t get to ride the free tour bus. We explored the area for a bit and had dinner before going back to Tokyo.
I would say it was a failed mission since we did not get to see the shrines and not even a drop of snow lol. But it was fun – the train ride itself was a treat. Definitely going back to Nikko.
Pokemon Mega Center Tokyo
We woke up late the next day and even missed our free breakfast. My mom was frozen from Nikko’s zero degrees and opted not to join us because she was tired – plus she’s been to those places. We went to Senso-ji Temple in Asakusa and it was crazy filled with lots of tourists. Starting from Asakusa Station up to the temple, it felt like there’s a procession going due to the overwhelming number of tourists. We checked the nearby shopping malls and also Donki. My nephew was already in a bad mood because he is hungry – luckily, we found a nice restaurant with cheap meals so we had lunch there.
Next stop was the Pokemon Mega Center in Ikebukuro. It was also filled with lots of people and the queue to the store was just crazy we decided to skip it. Also there’s the new Pokemon Go Team Lab and Pokemon Cafe as well as Mugiwara Store – check those if you wish to buy merch.
Last stop for the day was Odaiba where the real-life size Gundam is standing. I’m always amazed by the Yurikamome Line’s fully automated train but sadly we didn’t get the front seat cause there’s a lot of tourists. We then walked to see the Statue of Liberty but it is being renovated. I told my nephew we are in New York and he bought it lol. We continued to walk to Aqua City and there’s the new JUMP Shop with so many anime merch. We continued to walk to Odaiba Kaihinkoen Station where a nearby grocery is located. We bought some groceries before heading home.
We went back to Asakusa for dinner and went to Donki to finalize Boss Mona’s pasalubong.
Nissan Gallery Global Headquarters
Boss Mona’s flight back to Manila is scheduled for this day – I felt kinda sad because it felt different – like the group would be incomplete and I wish we’d all go home together.
We had breakfast and we went to Asakusabashi Station to accompany Boss Mona to the train bound for Narita Airport. We parted ways and we then went to Shinagawa Station to catch a train bound for Yokohama.
Originally, we planned to go back to Nikko if only the Nikko Pass was valid for coming back but sadly going back to Tokyo forfeits the pass. Knowing that we could only use the Nikko Pass once – we decided to go to Yokohama since we haven’t been there.
No plans really – it’s just a date for two. We dropped off at Yokohama Station and followed the signs to Minato Mirai. We bought some chicken at the station and then we ate them at Starbucks while having their new Valentine drink. We stumbled upon the Nissan Gallery Global Headquarters and we were welcomed even though we were not there to buy a car – it was nice to see their presentation/demo and we’re free to take pics even inside the cars.
We continued to walk to Minato Mirai and there were lots of major company HQs – Docomo, Shiseido, Fuji Xerox, Sony to name a few. The roads and parks were all filled with trees and I can only imagine how it’d looked like during sakura season.
We entered Queen’s Square mall and explored a bit. Next to it is a themepark called CosmoWorld as well as the nearby Cup Noodles Museum. We did not enter those since there’s lots of people.
We had lunch at the nearby Yokohama World Porters. I got sleepy and took a nap at the bench lol. We then walked to Sakuragicho Station – mainly because of the 5 Centimeters Per Second theme song called One More Time, One More Chance.
We boarded the train bound for Shin-Yokohama Station where the Yokohama Arena is located. I just wanted to reminisce Utada Hikaru’s 2010 Wild Life concert which was held here. We then had dinner at Cubic Plaza before going home.
Tokyo International Forum
This is the day my nephew and niece have been waiting for. They did not really care about Disneyland and DisneySea – just the zoo and they’re good to go. My nephew even wore his triceratops costume for this day!
We had our usual sandwich and orange juice for breakfast and headed to Ueno Station. We saw some affordable bento just outside the station and bought some. We immediately spotted Ueno Park where lots of people are relaxing and having a bite. We ate here as well before heading to Ueno Zoo. The zoo offers free entrance to kids so this is really a great alternative to Disneyland lol
We spent most of the day here as well as Ueno Park. We then went to Tokyo Station where we ate dinner. We explored outside a bit and stumbled upon the Tokyo International Forum – a venue for BoA’s The Face Tour as well as Xmas Live 2010. It was crazy going home because it was rush hour.
It was a bit early and my nephew is still hungry so we had pizza party as well as few shots.
It was a fine sunny day and perfect for exploring some gardens and shrines. We went to Rikugien Garden at Komagome but seeing how the trees are frozen, we opted not to enter and decided to come back on an autumn or spring season. We found a good place to eat so we had lunch.
Next stop was Nezu Shrine. We boarded the wrong train so we went back to Komagome Station so we won’t be charged XD. We reached Nezu Shrine where there was an injured kid. They asked me if I have band aid and hey, I have it! Lucky you guys! 🙂 I have never been to Kyoto but being in Nezu Shrine gave me that vermilion torii feels in Kyoto.
We went back to Asakusabashi and saw some luggage for sale. I bought one because I have so many Donki pasalubong. We then headed to Ebisu to meet our Japanese friend and she treated us to a snack-all-you-can bar. We walked to Shibuya Crossing and it was crazier at night.
Narita International Airport
Alarm set at 5AM to do final preparation. We had our final breakfast at the hostel and said goodbye to their crew who treated us so well during our 9 day stay in Tokyo. We boarded the Keisei Express bound for Narita International Airport and had quick lunch. We used up all our Suica money on Family Mart to buy quick bites and more pasalubong.
Buy Pasalubong at Don Quijote stores. They are tax free for foreigners with 5k yen and above purchase. We have been to their Akihabara, Roppongi, and Asakusa branches.
Find cheap restaurants and eat there – they are usually fully packed so they are not hard to find 😉
Use up all your Suica credits on Family Mart at Narita International Airport – you can use the credits and top up yen in case the card gets insufficient funds.
Utilize free entrance/passes for kids – example is the Ueno Zoo where kids can enter for free. 🙂
Enjoy Tokyo and if you have more time, have a side trip to Nikko and Yokohama! ❤