Japan: Introduction

  1. Introduction

“Why Japan?”

We were asked this question by many Japanese people on this trip, and to be honest we didn’t have a great answer. We’ve been wanting to go to Japan for a while – but why? Well, a lot of our other friends have been to Japan and really enjoyed it. We were interested in observing a culture that’s so different from our own. And we were ready to eat our way through the Japan. We had a great trip and I’m excited to share reviews and highlights in this trip report!

Booking the flights:

I blogged in detail about how we booked our flights to Japan here, and then later had to change them here.

Max and I flew United’s Dreamliner to Osaka in BusinessFirst (which we paid for with 75,000 United miles each).


We ended our trip flying Korean Air from Tokyo Narita to SF, with a short layover in Seoul. We each transferred 63,000 Chase points to Korean Air to pay for the seats.


Choosing hotels:

We spent four nights in Osaka at the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel for a total of 140,000 Marriott points. This was my favorite hotel of the trip, followed closely by the ryokan.


Upper Floor Superior 1 Queen at Osaka Marriott Miyako.

We spent four nights in Kyoto. The first two nighs were spent at ANA Crowne Plaza Kyoto, which we redeemed for 30,000 IHG points/night. The last two nights in Kyoto were spent at Kyochimaya Ryokan Sakura Honganji, which was ~$80 per person per night:


Japanese style room at our ryokan

We took the shinkansen train from Kyoto to Tokyo and spent four nights in Tokyo at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo. I paid for the stay with my Citi Prestige card to utilize the fourth night free benefit.


Hyatt Regency Tokyo lobby

Getting around:

The Japan Rail Pass is very popular for tourists, but we didn’t end up getting it. The pass is only available to tourists. It’s about $260 for 7 consecutive days, but the train travel on our trips didn’t fall into the 7 day window. Additionally, the pass does not allow you to take the fastest types of shinkansen trains, which would have added on more travel time to our day trips.

Instead, we got the JR Kansai – Hiroshima pass for the first five days of our trip which was about $130. For non-JR transport and for after our pass expired, we used an ICOCA card (similar to a Clipper card for you Bay Area readers) and Kyoto one day bus passes.


IC card


Kyoto one-day bus pass

Staying connected:

Our plan was to get a wifi hotspot since my iPhone 7 is locked, and a SIM card for Max’s unlocked Nexus 6P.

I ordered a pocket wifi from Global Advanced Communications for 11 days, which cost $70. I chose the hotspot the same way I select a bottle of wine at a restaurant – the second cheapest. I was able to pick up the hotspot from the post office at the airport; apparently the model I selected was sold out, so they upgraded me. By the end of the trip we had use about 20 GB of data. (I want the one with the bigger GBs!)

When we arrived in Osaka, I picked up a SIM card for Max’s phone at a vending machine by following the instructions here. Unfortunately it didn’t work 😦 The docomo SIM card does not use the same network bands that the Nexus 6P supports, which I later discovered on this reddit thread.


Thanks for nothing stupid SIM vending machine

I also carried a battery pack with a built in lightning cable to keep my phone charged.


All the things:

We did SO many things in Japan. Harry Potter World, (getting lost going to) Ōkunoshima (Rabbit Island), Osaka food tour, Maricar and many more.


Follow this trip report for more details on all of these!

→ Part 2: Review: United 787-8 Dreamliner BusinessFirst SFO-KIX

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