Enjoy some famous Kobe beef in Kobe, Japan. I just went for lunch and had hibachi style kobe beef steak. Fantastic. You can also walk around the town a bit. It's not big. There may be more to see in the nearby countryside. Easy to get there from Osaka by train. Takes about 45-60 minutes.
- Flights: $62 (redeemed credit card points)
- Lodging: $1,359 (guesthouse, capsule hotel, AirBnB, apartment)
- Transportation: $325 (taxi, metro, train)
- Activities: $82 (temples, aquarium, etc.)
- Food: $1,200 (estimated $40/day)
- Transportation. Shinkansen are the high speed trains and are wonderful to get around the country. This is different than the maglev bullet train. You can get a Japanese Rail Pass if you plan to use the train a lot. These are for tourists only and therefore need to be purchased in your home country. Leave yourself enough time to have them delivered.
- Sleeping. You will likely be sleeping on a thin futon mattress on the floor which is common in Japan. Some places have beds, but it's not common, at least not in guesthouses, apartments, and ryokans. Fancier hotels may have more western style accommodations.
- Best Time To Go. The weather is very similar to the Northeast U.S., probably most similar to Washington, DC. Mild in spring and fall, hot in summer, and mildly cold in the winter. Cherry blossoms bloom towards the end of March, which is the most popular, and nicest, time to visit Japan. I went in December/January. Didn't find it too cold and certainly not many tourists.
- Internet. Portable wi-fi devices are very popular in Japan. You can get your own, or if you rent an apartment through AirBnB or something, many hosts will be using them and let you use theirs. The device operates on a cellular network and acts as a wi-fi hotspot to which you can connect a mobile device or laptop for internet access. Pretty outstanding.
- Learning Japanese. I started learning Japanese about two months before visiting using Memrise, which is free or you can sign up for an annual membership for some added perks. Brilliantly done website and app, I had a blast learning Japanese since DuoLingo doesn't support the language (yet). Japanese is comprised of 3 alphabets, Hiragana (base learned in school), Katakana (includes more foreign words converted to Japanese characters), and Kanji (tons of characters). I found it easiest to learn Hiragana first, then Katakana. Kanji is super cool, but will take longer to learn. I got by fine without learning it, but I still want to and it definitely won't hurt if you do learn it. Check out the app Kana, which is free and a great reference for Hiragana and Katakana characters.
- Onsen. Typically you shower and enter an onsen fully naked, so don't be shy. Men and women are separated.
- Ramen Noodles. Toppings - chashu (sliced roast pork), moyashi (bean sprouts), negi (leeks). Soups - tonkotsu (pork bone), shio (salt, mild), shoyu (soy sauce, savory), miso (hearty)
- Other Food. Yakitori - grilled chicken skewers. Sukiyaki - thin slices of beef. Shabu-shabu - thin slices of beef/pork. Tonkatsu - pork cutlets. Okonomiyaki - savory pancake. Fugu - poisonous globefish.
- Food Establishments. Izakaya - drink houses that serve food. Kaitenzushi - conveyor belt sushi.