2016 | Undiscovered Paths

Countdown: Approximately 90 Days

As usual, before I even finish on 1 trip agenda, the next one has emerged. Partially I haven’t posted the next few posts in the “Nature Trails in Autumn” trip is because some of it will be replicated here.

[Updated 26/07 with changes in itinerary]

With every trip that I’ve planned thus far, there has always been a theme so I’d know how to go about planning it. With that in mind, this trip’s theme will be Undiscovered Paths. Reason being that this time, for the first time, I’m planning a trip that redefines my schedules – you’ll understand soon enough.

The general itinerary is below – I haven’t really gotten down to the details on timings and schedules! Will update again once I have the details! Hotels are already mostly booked though so I doubt there will be many changes from here on. 🙂 Excited!

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For privacy purposes (again), I will not be listing our travel dates until we return.

  • Day 1 – Head to Airport, depart Singapore | Night on Plane
  • Day 2 – Arrive at Tokyo Narita Airport, Tokyo DisneySEA| Night in Shinjuku
    • Highlights: Sukiyaki Lunch, Tokyo DisneySEA
  • Day 3 – Takaosan | Night on Night Bus (to Toyama)
    • Highlights: Exploring Takaosan, Ukai Toriyama, Takaosan Onsen, Night Bus
  • Day 4 – Tateyama Alpine Route Part 1 | Night in Murodo
    • Highlights: Bijodaira, Midagahara, Murodo
  • Day 5 – Tateyama Alpine Route Part 2 | Night in Matsumoto
    • Highlights: Murodo, Daikanbo, Kurobe Dam, Matsumoto Horse Meat Dinner
  • Day 6 – Oku Hida, Shin Hotaka Ropeway | Night in Hirayu Onsen
    • Highlights: Shin Hotaka Onsen, Hirayu no Mori, Hirayu Ootaki Park, Kaiseki Dinner
  • Day 7 – Kamikochi, Hirayu Onsen | Night in Shizuoka
    • Highlights: Kaiseki Breakfast, Kamikochi, Travel to Shizuoka
  • Day 8 – Shizuoka | Night in Shizuoka
    • Highlights: White Water Rafting
  • Day 9 – Shizuoka| Night in Fukuyama
    • Highlights: Fruits Park
  • Day 10 – Shimanami Kaido | Night in Okunoshima
    • Highlights: Cycling through: Mukaishima, Innoshima, Ikuchijima, Oomishima, Okunoshima
  • Day 11 – Shimanami Kaido | Night in Fukuyama
    • Highlights: Cycling through: Okunoshima, Tatarajima, Ooshima, Imabari
  • Day 12 – Miyajima & Hondori | Night in Himeji
    • Highlights: Miyajima Hiking Trails, Shopping Street, Hondori Shopping Street
  • Day 13 – Himeji, Yumura Onsen | Night in Yumura
    • Yumura Onsen Town, Refresh Park Yumura
  • Day 14 – Yumura, Hamasaka, Osaka | Night in Osaka
    • Yumura Onsen Town, Hamasaka Free and Easy, Dotonbori
  • Day 15 – Arashiyama, Osaka | Night in Osaka
    • Kuromon Ichiba Market, Arashiyama, Shinsaibashi
  • Day 16 –  Arashiyama, Osaka, Return to SG | Night on Plane
    • Kobe, Osaka Kaiyukan
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Payment for USJ Studio Pass and Express Pass Online

This page is a guide on payment only. To see how to purchase Studio Pass and Express Pass online, click here.

For express passes only, click here.


Few things you’d need to know about the payment guide. In order to purchase these online, you would have to apply for a Club Universal membership. It’s free, so no worries.

Whether you’ve purchased Studio Pass or not, you should see this on the right side of your screen.

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Click on the box that I’ve, well, boxed up in red. This will begin your application process.


APPLYING FOR A NEW ACCOUNT

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Please click the image above. I have put in the translations for you to follow.

For the 3rd and 4th input fields, you are supposed to fill in the phonetic sound of your name in FULL WIDTH KATAKANA. Please use this website to translate your name if you are unsure how. Please key it in separately – so that it translates separately. http://www.sljfaq.org/cgi/e2k.cgi

Below that, select your birthdate. Japanese follow YYYY/MM/DD

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Now, select your gender. The first one 男性 is for MALE, and the other is 女性, for female.

The next field メールアドレス[必須], is for email address. Key in an email address as the example shows in the input field.

パスワード[必須] is password. Key it in twice as the example shows.

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This is for contact details. 連絡先[携帯電話番号または自宅電話番号どちらか1つ必須] – requests that you input a contact number in, be it home or mobile. You can simply put your hotel’s number in. Remember to omit the dashes in the number if you are copying from the hotel’s website.

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Ok this is the tricky part. This requires your address. No worries though. Under the first field “郵便番号[必須]”, simply key in the hotel’s postal code. This usually looks like “431-4929” or marked with a T with an additional horizontal line above. Key in that and let the system search for your hotel address by clicking the dark grey box next to it.

Once that is filled, it should automatically fill in all other columns. ビル・マンション名など”, you may leave blank.

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Agree to the terms and conditions by clicking on the checkbox like above, and click on the yellow box to continue.

You should be sent to the next page, requesting that you key in your credit card details at the bottom.

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  • First field “カード番号 “ is for your credit card number.
  • “カード有効期限 ”is for your card expiry date (MM/YY)
  • “セキュリティコード ” refers to your security code, which is the 3 digit number behind your card.
  • “支払い方法[必須] Last field is whether you wish to make lump sum (一括払い) payment or revolving credit (リボ払い).

You will then be sent to a basic summary where you can confirm your details. You can turn on auto translate to check if you wish.

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Here, you’ll need to consent that you have checked the right number of passes, the right number of adults and children, and the right admission date. Once all 3 checkboxes are ticked, you can click on the yellow box at the bottom to confirm.

After this, you will be sent to your credit card payment page.

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Here, it’s basically a verification page. The information in the top yellow box refers to the date you have chosen to visit USJ, as well as your order number for verification purposes. Below, you’d see what tickets you have purchased. To get the QR codes that you will need, simply tick on the checkbox and click on the blue button and it should open the QR code instantly for you to print / save a copy of!

*Note: Last screen and steps credit to Yi Lin and Oktavienna for being kind enough to advise me on what happens next!


IN CASE YOU NEED TO CHECK YOUR CODES IN FUTURE:

Go here.

Login using your Club Universal Membership Login (email) and password. You should be able to go back to that same page.


CONCLUSION

Thank you for taking the time to reading the guide, and I hope it helped you! Please let me know!

know if you encountered any steps that are out of my guide, and I will try to put them in if I am able to simulate them.

Thank you, and thanks for waiting so long for this to come out.

Purchase USJ Express Pass ONLY Online

Hello! This page gives you a quick guide on how to purchase USJ Express Pass online, without the Studio Passes. If you wish to purchase Studio Pass and Express Passes online at the same time, please see my other guide here.


STEP 1:

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First, you click the 3rd item on the box as shown in the image above. Select the dropdown menu with the calendar on it to pick your date.


STEP 2: 

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A calendar should open like above. On the top is the year and month that you’re currently viewing (in the guide’s case, 2015 of April), along with [next month] button on the right.

Below it you will see the different dates you’re looking at. Boxes that are white with blue boxes mean that the date is still available for booking, whereas grey out boxes mean that you cannot book it online anymore (usually meaning that you have to purchase in Japan, not that it’s sold out).

A purple star represents days where the Starlight Parade is performing. However, do take note that usually the Starlight Parade performs almost nightly – but the schedule doesn’t come out until a later period. So it isn’t strange to not see a star if you’re booking 3 months in advance, only to have it appear at a later time. Also, rain and bad weather may affect the parade’s schedule, so don’t bother too much about it! The timings in the various boxes show the opening and closing time of USJ on the day that you are booking.

After you have decided what day you wish to purchase your Express Pass for, click on the blue button to continue.

Once that is selected, you will be brought back to the previous page. Click on the yellow button to continue.


STEP 3:

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You will see something like the above image. Once again, my translations in red. Again, I must stress to double check the Katakana in the screen shot against the website, as they will add passes time to time, and I’ve only captured the basics. Click on the grey box if you wish to know more (though it’s in Japanese). Once you’ve decided, click on the yellow box with the cart next to the appropriate choice.


STEP 4:

You’re given the choice of Direct In or Home Delivery. (the option in the middle, Park Exchange, is not valid for Express Passes, and will not show up in your page).

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  • [ダイレクトイン] Direct In – QR codes will be issued immediately after purchase. You can print out a copy, or save it on your phone. Please print as well, in case your phone doesn’t work on the day, you still have a spare copy. Remember not to fold it along the QR lines, as that may affect the reading as well.
  • [宅配] Home Delivery – deliver it to your home. Please note that this is not available for hotels. Shipping costs are also not included at this point (Y450)

As advised previously, I recommend Direct In, as it is super convenient. However, select whichever method you prefer and continue scrolling down.


STEP 5:

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Now, you select the number of express passes you want. There is no difference between adults or kids here, so just the number you wish to purchase and continue scrolling down.


STEP 6:

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Now, this is the tricky part. FIRST, DISCLAIMER. This is only eligible for those who have selected passes that are valid for the Harry Potter area. If you have selected other passes, you probably will not see this section. Skip if so. For those who have selected Express Passes that allow you to book your slots for Harry Potter area, this part is for you.

On the drop down menu, select the time that you wish to ENTER the AREA. This is not the time you will take the ride. The ride timing will usually be approximately 15minutes after your entrance time. It’s okay to be a little earlier, in my experience.

To see the timings, click here. (this is the same link as the one in the box below the dropdown menu)

First column (in dark blue) explains the entrance timing.

For example, 8:50 ~ 9:50 means you can enter anytime from 8:50am to 9:50am. There will be a signboard telling you what time admissions they are currently taking. But to re-enter, you will need to re-queue. Your express pass will not cover it. The 2nd column

The 2nd column (i.e. 8:50 ~) tells you that you can spend time inside anytime FROM that period of time, as long as you don’t exit. Meaning to say that once you enter, you’re free until you choose to exit.

The 3rd column (i.e. 9:00~9:15) is the time that you must join the queue to ride the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Once again, there is a signboard next to it telling you what time is available for entrance. Do not join the normal queue – the express pass queue is different. Ask if you are not sure.

Once you have chosen your time, click on the cart box at the bottom to continue.

Once that is done, you have added both Studio Pass and Express Pass to cart. On the top right, you can click the cart to confirm your purchases.

Go to the Payment Guide to continue.


Sidenote: Please note that if you use auto-translate for your browsers, this page will have an error. You will not be able to select the time. Make sure that you’ve turned off auto translate – refresh the page if you have to by choosing a different number of sheets for the express pass and then changing it back.


Purchase USJ Studio and Express Pass Online Guide!

Here is a step by step guide for all those out there wanting to purchase USJ Studio Pass and Express Pass Online. If you only wish to Purchase Express Pass online, please see my other guide here.

STEP 1:

For Studio Passes, click the first box – this should be automatically highlighted when you enter the page. It would have the words “スタジオパス” on it. This means “Studio Pass”.

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Your window should look like this. Below, there is what seems like a calendar icon on a button. Clicking on that will open a new window.


STEP 2: 

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A calendar should open like above. On the top is the year and month that you’re currently viewing (in the guide’s case, 2015 of April), along with [next month] button on the right.

Below it you will see the different dates you’re looking at. Boxes that are white with blue boxes mean that the date is still available for booking, whereas grey out boxes mean that you cannot book it online anymore (usually meaning that you have to purchase in Japan, not that it’s sold out).

A purple star represents days where the Starlight Parade is performing. However, do take note that usually the Starlight Parade performs almost nightly – but the schedule doesn’t come out until a later period. So it isn’t strange to not see a star if you’re booking 3 months in advance, only to have it appear at a later time. Also, rain and bad weather may affect the parade’s schedule, so don’t bother too much about it! The timings in the various boxes show the opening and closing time of USJ on the day that you are booking.

After you have decided what day you wish, click on the blue button to continue. Once that is selected, you will be brought back to the previous page. Click on the yellow button to continue.


STEP 3:

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On the next page, it will give you a summary of the day you have chosen, along with the types of passes valid during that period of time. Here is an example – please note that there are more types than what is shown above.

I have translated a few, please click to view larger versions. My translations are in red. Please double check this against your selection by checking the Katakana.

Once you have decided, (in the case of this guide, I will select a 1 day studio pass), click on the yellow button with the cart on the right side.


STEP 4:

Now, you will have to choose the METHOD of delivery. The page will show you your previous selection, as well as the date you have chosen. Scroll down till you see this:

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[5 December 2015] UPDATE: As of today, I am told that due to resellers and 3rd party auction sites, DIRECT IN (as below) is no longer an option available for STUDIO PASSES – DIRECT IN for EXPRESS PASSES seem to still be available. As such, the only options available now would be to do a park exchange.

For those who are apprehensive about the Park Exchange manner, it is strongly suggested that you simply purchase the Express Pass separately – as you can buy the Studio Passes while you are in Japan directly from USJ. Do note that I did read somewhere that on busy days they do stop selling passes momentarily, so you want to get there early – the last thing you want to happen is not being able to use your express pass because you don’t have a studio pass!

As in the image above, you will be given 3 choices. Basically:

  • [ダイレクトイン]Direct In – QR codes will be issued immediately after purchase. You can print out a copy, or save it on your phone. Please print as well, in case your phone doesn’t work on the day, you still have a spare copy. Remember not to fold it along the QR lines, as that may affect the reading as well. (THIS IS CURRENTLY NO LONGER VALID – as I’m not sure if this is a temporary or permanent solution, I have chosen not to remove this content yet)
  • [パーク…] Park Exchange – exchange your pass at the park. You will require your credit card (the one used to make this purchase) as well as telling the counter staff “WEB purchase”. Note – you will probably have to be there earlier as you would need to queue to exchange now. Hopefully they re-implement the Direct In method soon…
  • [宅配] Home Delivery – deliver it to your home. Please note that this is not available for hotels. Shipping costs are also not included at this point (Y450)

STEP 5:

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Now, you choose the number of studio passes you require.

  • 大人[12歳以上]refers to adults 12 and above
  • 子ども[4〜11歳]refers to children between 4 to 11
  • シニア[65歳以上] refers to elderly 65 and above.

Please note that for children, the Japanese school year starts on the 1st of April. If your child is admitted into Junior High in that year (meaning he turns 12 that year), he will be considered an adult if he is entering the park on April 1st or later. Between January 1st to March 31st, he will still be considered a child and is eligible for child pass.

Select the number of sheets (number of studio passes) you want per category, and click the yellow box at the bottom to add to cart.

[Stop here if you only wish to purchase Studio Pass, and proceed to the Payment Guide. Continue if you wish to purchase Express Pass with Studio Pass].


STEP 6:
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If you wish to purchase an Express Pass, continue on. You will see something like the above image. Once again, my translations in red. Again, I must stress to double check the Katakana in the screen shot against the website, as they will add passes time to time, and I’ve only captured the basics. Click on the grey box if you wish to know more (though it’s in Japanese). Once you’ve decided, click on the yellow box with the cart next to the appropriate choice.


STEP 7:

Similarly, you’re given the choice of Direct In or Home Delivery. I’ll copy and paste the information in case some of you guys joined halfway and didn’t read the top.

  • [ダイレクトイン] Direct In – QR codes will be issued immediately after purchase. You can print out a copy, or save it on your phone. Please print as well, in case your phone doesn’t work on the day, you still have a spare copy. Remember not to fold it along the QR lines, as that may affect the reading as well.
  • [宅配] Home Delivery – deliver it to your home. Please note that this is not available for hotels. Shipping costs are also not included at this point (Y450)

As advised previously, I recommend Direct In, as it is super convenient. However, select whichever method you prefer and continue scrolling down.


STEP 8:
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Now, you select the number of express passes you want. There is no difference between adults or kids here, so just the number you wish to purchase and continue scrolling down.


STEP 9:

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Now, this is the tricky part. FIRST, DISCLAIMER. This is only eligible for those who have selected passes that are valid for the Harry Potter area. If you have selected other passes, you probably will not see this section. Skip if so. For those who have selected Express Passes that allow you to book your slots for Harry Potter area, this part is for you.

On the drop down menu, select the time that you wish to ENTER the AREA. This is not the time you will take the ride. The ride timing will usually be approximately 15minutes after your entrance time. It’s okay to be a little earlier, in my experience.

To see the timings, click here. (this is the same link as the one in the box below the dropdown menu)

First column (in dark blue) explains the entrance timing.

For example, 8:50 ~ 9:50 means you can enter anytime from 8:50am to 9:50am. There will be a signboard telling you what time admissions they are currently taking. But to re-enter, you will need to re-queue. Your express pass will not cover it. The 2nd column

The 2nd column (i.e. 8:50 ~) tells you that you can spend time inside anytime FROM that period of time, as long as you don’t exit. Meaning to say that once you enter, you’re free until you choose to exit.

The 3rd column (i.e. 9:00~9:15) is the time that you must join the queue to ride the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Once again, there is a signboard next to it telling you what time is available for entrance. Do not join the normal queue – the express pass queue is different. Ask if you are not sure.

Once you have chosen your time, click on the cart box at the bottom to continue.

Once that is done, you have added both Studio Pass and Express Pass to cart. On the top right, you can click the cart to confirm your purchases.

Go to the Payment Guide to continue.


Sidenote: Please note that if you use auto-translate for your browsers, this page will have an error. You will not be able to select the time. Make sure that you’ve turned off auto translate – refresh the page if you have to by choosing a different number of sheets for the express pass and then changing it back.]


Purchasing Studio Passes and Express Passes Online – 2015 Edition

So, it’s been a few months since my first guide came out. Clearly, USJ has updated their site not long after my guide was out. A lot of you are still sending me emails, so I’m guessing there are still people looking for a guide. So, I’ve finally found time to update the guide! Here you go!


Sidenote: Do note that this guide is not complete: I’m missing what happens after the transaction is completed. If anyone would like to give me a hand in this, please do send me screenshots if you are able to! Just email them to bloodprincess@live.com. Please do not send me the QR codes – they are private and meant for you only.


First, go to http://www.usj.co.jp/ticket/. Note that this guide is only telling you HOW to purchase. Please already be sure of which passes you wish to purchase. Information can be found on the English version of the USJ website on types of Express passes.

Also, a short disclaimer here – the passes tend to change from time to time, so at the time of writing the passes may cost differently / have a different package from when you are reading this. At this point in time, the express pass allows you to purchase advance reservations to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, as well as book a timeslot to take the ride. This cuts the queue down considerably, as when I went, the queue was 200 minutes long! No joke – the pass saved my life. Please read up on the different various passes before you decide which you want to purchase. If you’re confused, drop me a comment I’d try to help!


PRE REQUISITE:
You will need the following:

  • To know the date you are going (this date cannot be changed)
  • To know which Express Pass you wish to purchase and if you wish to purchase Studio Pass as well (I would recommend to do so as it doesn’t cost much more and it saves the queue and hassle, especially if you can’t speak the language)
  • Credit Card – this doesn’t have to be a Japanese Credit Card. I’ve heard a normal VISA/MASTERCARD will do. Not sure if Debit Card is accepted but I suppose it should be
  • To know how many people are going with you, and if they will need passes as well (Express Passes only allow 1 person to enter per pass, so you cannot share passes. Buying passes at 2 different dates may result in different entry times for Wizarding World of Harry Potter).

Okay, now that you have all that information with you, we can start.\


WHAT IS STUDIO PASS AND EXPRESS PASS

Studio Passes are basically your entry tickets – they do not cover anything besides the entrance fee. They can be purchased both online as well as in Japan, however if you are purchasing Express Passes online, I would recommend you to get the Studio Passes as well. The reason being that you save the queuing for purchase at USJ, and also you save the hassle figuring out where you can go to purchase, and if there will be a language barrier.

Express Passes are basically “jump queue” passes. There are various types of Express Passes, which gives you priority queuing in various types of rides. Each Express Pass is only valid for 1 use per ride stated, and is not tagged to anyone in particular. A staff will scan your QR code upon entry into the priority queue. Express Passes can also be bought at the park itself, but are usually pretty quick to sell out (I’ve heard Japanese queue way early in the morning to rush in for Express passes). The Express Pass can also save your queuing time, leaving you time to enjoy the other facilities. For example, a queue at HP Forbidden Journey ride took me less than 10 minutes (constant walking – the queue was not standstill at any point), while the normal queue was estimated at 200 minutes during my trip in April 2015.

Also, if you are into the Harry Potter area, take note that USJ does warn tourists that if the area is too packed, they may restrict entrance. So if that’s your highlight, Express Pass is your answer.

To find out more about Express Passes, you can read up on Express 3,5, 7 here (http://www.usj.co.jp/e/ticket/). Of course, there are more than just these options, but those are available in the Japanese version only. Most foreigners go with Express Pass 5 or 7, depending on the rides that you want to take.


STEP 1:new1

This is the main page you’ll purchase from. On the right you’d see the box with a magnifying glass icon. Below it are 4 boxes. These 4 boxes allow you to (in respective order), purchase Studio Pass, Annual Pass, Express Pass and Others.

For simplicity sake, I am splitting this guide into 3 different parts – you will understand as you go along. But before we dive deep into the guide, first some simple explanations.


GUIDES:

Japan 2015 – [Day 0] Planning and Booking

I’ve been super excited to write this post for a reallly realllly reallllllly (continues on this way for another 5minutes) – long time. Been holding back because I really did want to do an extensive post without having to update it over and over and over again.

This trip has been in planning progress for almost 7-8 months, since I promised my friend Phyllis that I would accompany her to Japan in Spring of 2015. We rallied another friend Sue into going with us, and the planning started. Initially there were a lot of issues – what date to pick. We knew we wanted to hit sakura season, but it turned out sakura season was harder to plan than winter! (see post here).

I’ve been to Japan once a year for 3-4 years now, so I have a pretty decent idea of how to go about doing things and planning my itinerary. So somewhere in October, we started looking at flights. In November, the flights were finally cheap enough for us to purchase, but Phyllis decided for her own personal reasons to back out of this trip. So Sue and I booked a 2 man trip instead. We were a little disappointed, but excited nonetheless.

The Planning Stages

Tickets:

After the tickets were booked, planning for itinerary started. I knew that we would definitely need to do a lot of intensive booking when the time came (especially at the 3 month and 2 month to go marks). A lot of research went into planning the various parts of the trip – For planning, I almost always revert to Japan Guide.

We were due to fly on JAL, departing Singapore Changi Airport, and arriving at Haneda Airport. Our return flight was departing at Narita International Airport, arriving back in Singapore Changi Airport. (Sorry guys, I’m not going to post the dates here until after I return for privacy issues).

Itinerary:

With the tickets booked, I now could more or less plan the itinerary properly. This would determine what hotels had to be booked, what items would require booking before we left Singapore, and the amount of time leeway we had from place to place. Planning an itinerary for me, also meant scheduling travelling time and places to see, as well as the cost we’d need for travel, accommodations, and all the nitty gritty details. It would give me an oversight of how much time we could spend at a certain place, and whether it was feasible to add additional sights or not at a later date. But more importantly, it gives you a timeline of the things that would require attention, so you don’t forget anything.

For transport, I love using Hyperdia – anyone that has ever planned a trip to Japan knows how accurate Japanese trains are – and that really helps when you’re planning your itinerary. You get a gauge of how much time you need to find your platform, how much time you’d need to transit, and how much time you’d be on a particular mode of transport.

With all the sights we wanted to see planned, I knew that when the 3 month deadline came, we would have to start pre-booking some of the sights that would require advance bookings.

Hotels:

Booking of hotels was a little trickier as a lot of hotels were pre-booked almost 6 months in advance. Most hotels in Japan request for payment upon arrival, so I joined in the madness and pre-booked my hotels! (Hey – you can always cancel if you find better options at a later date). For hotels, I prefer using Booking.com and Rakuten Travel (FYI – the Japanese website usually has more options and promotions than the English counterpart).

I knew that for my trip this time we were going to go to a few places – Kanazawa, Kyoto, Hakone, and then Tokyo. With that in mind, I had to book 4 different hotels in 4 places, ensuring that, in my case, they were non-smoking rooms, preferably with toilets and bath provided in each room, since I was afraid that my friend would not be comfortable using public baths right from the start.

The Booking Stages

I didn’t like the idea of running into the possibility that my plans would be ruined because we did not pre-book items where it was possible, especially since in most cases the cost doesn’t come up to be much more than if we were to book it there. So as much as possible, I proceeded to book most of the things I could online.

Pocket WIFI

One of the things I booked WAYYYYY beforehand was the WIFI router from GAC. Global Advanced Communications has a great pocket WIFI that I used on my last trip. I knew that the battery would not last if we had left it on the whole day, but I also knew that if I brought along an additional powerbank it would suffice to charge it while we continued using.

I purchased my pocket WIFI not long after booking my flight in November. They have many different types and plans for any kind of trip, even rentals of phones and SIM cards. But for mine I went with the 75mbps pocket WIFI – the exact same one I used last year. Collection for these pocket WIFI would be at a counter in your arrival airport, or whichever address you provide to them. If you plan to arrive before the post office opens at the airport and wish to collect it there, then a small premium will be charged, but you can collect your WIFI the moment you land – which for me, is awesome!

Universal Studios Japan Tickets and Express Pass

Universal Studios Japan (USJ) was one of the places we wanted to visit – mostly because of the Harry Potter section. I had done a lot of research and they do mention that you may not be able to get in / there would be a long queue. I am a person who didn’t like queuing, so I opted to purchase an Express Pass. Now, in most places they’d tell you that Express Passes can only be purchased in Japan / in USJ. This information… is wrong. Don’t go to agencies. They charge you crazy prices and on top of that you may have to purchase it in a package with a hotel!

I did a lot of research on this and I’m telling you…

YOU CAN BOOK EXPRESS PASS TICKETS 3 MONTHS IN ADVANCE IN YOUR HOME COUNTRY AND PRINT IT OUT. (for guide, click here) This makes it so much easier because now you don’t have to worry about not getting in, or having to rush there to be earlier than the other people – which by the way is IMPOSSIBLE. Japanese are really crazy and enthusiastic about their themeparks.

However, the only downside to this is that this booking platform is only available in Japanese. Don’t worry though, it’s on their official USJ website – so it’s definitely not a fake! In fact, if you use the QR codes, you don’t even pay for shipping! It’s awesome!

JR Passes

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Few days ago, I just purchased my JR passes. For those who don’t know, JR Passes are rail passes that give you free rides to anywhere along the JR tracks. At Y29110, this cost is almost equivalent or cheaper than a round trip from Tokyo to Kyoto and back. While the JR Passes are not for everyone, they do save cost if you’re planning an intensive trip like mine.

The catch is – JR Rail Pass has to be purchased in your home country. You’re provided an exchange order, which you will then trade it for your pass upon arrival in Japan. JR Rails also have other types of passes, including JR East Pass, JR West Pass etc, which allows you free transport for a fixed number of days within that particular zone. JR Rail Pass however, is for the whole of Japan, and comes in 7, 14 and 21 days. You can purchase JR East Pass while you’re in Japan, but JR Rail Pass must be purchased in your home country.

Also, this pass gives you a lot of flexibility. You don’t have to worry about missing your shinkansen. Just book another one at no cost! It saves a lot of time management and worry that you may miss your train.

I purchased my JR Rail Pass from Japan Experience. At SGD$315 a pass (+ $23 shipping), it saved me a total of more than $100 than if I would have chosen not to purchase this pass.


To read more about my Spring Japan 2015 Trip:

The Madness of Sakura

Picking dates for this trip has been a headache. Anyone who has EVER decided to go for Sakura trip to Japan is crazy. Sakura, or cherry blossoms, takes approximately 1 week to go into full bloom, and then starts to hit their peak season, before falling. All in all, this process can take anywhere from 2 weeks, to 3 if you’re lucky.

Predicting sakura season can also be a disaster. Sakura season cannot be predicted too early because it is highly dependent on the weather preceding Spring. Depending on how cold the winter before it was, it could delay, or quicken the sakura season into Japan.

The catch?

Try booking a hotel for April anywhere after November and you’d find your pockets in a deep hole. Hotels start booking out as early as 6 months before April – and prices start to soar to incredible heights. Cheap hotels book out incredibly easy, and the only options left are either expensive, or really inconvenient.

What would of course, be the worst, would be – after all that planning and researching, to go there and completely miss the Sakura season. Remember that the whole period only lasts as good as 2 weeks, and if you’re intending on taking a 1.5 week vacation (like me), here are some things you can consider.

  • Planning to go to different cities at once, that have sakuras blooming on different weeks. That way even if you’re early / late, there are other cities that potentially would be still in bloom.
  • Check the Sakura Festival dates. This usually is a good gauge of when the sakura is blooming.
  • Keep a close eye on the weather and try to spot several patterns. If it seems to be blooming earlier, you’d still have time to switch your itinerary around so that you’d at least be able to catch a little bit of it.
  • Check Sakura Tours. Most of these tours only run on certain dates, which obviously have been predicted by a certain method for these travel agencies. Can’t go too wrong if the dates you have chosen coincide with theirs!

In this situation, I knew that autumn came early this year. Which in my mind meant that winter would come early (which it did). I also knew that in the recent years Japan winter has been colder and colder. In 2014, sakura blossoms were delayed because of the cold winters that Japan had.

Based on these information, there were 2 equal possibilities. That SPRING would also come early, and in that case, sakura would blossom early. OR that winter would be so cold that sakura would blossom late.

I made an educated guess bet that spring could potentially come early this year. Following the average blossom peak periods that most websites support, and as a back up plan, I planned to drop by Kanazawa, whose blossoms typically open 1 week later than Tokyo.

If in the situation that we were TOO LATE, at least I would be assured that Sakura would still bloom during that time. And in the situation that we were too early, the 12 days that we would be there would definitely give us enough time to see at least some sakuras in Tokyo or Kyoto.

Even despite all this, I still feel nervous, watching the weather very carefully, and praying that my prediction is right, or that I have taken the necessary precautions to ensure that I wouldn’t completely miss the mark.

Of course, this happened in 2013, where sakura started blooming in late March. But hey – I’m going to be there in Early April, so unless it starts blooming MID March, there’s probably no way I would be late. More than likely I would be too early. FINGERS CROSSED!