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How I went to Japan with just around RM7k! – A 10 Day Itinerary (Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Uji)

I decided to write a separate post documenting my itinerary and solo experiences throughout my trip because I didn't expect it to be so eventful. I had a great time exploring the country on my own, and there were plenty of funny and unexpected moments that made my 10-day trip even more memorable. As mentioned in my previous post, I focused solely on the Kansai region this time, which includes Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, and Uji.

For more details on how I planned my trip, you can read: This is how I plan my first trip to Japan as a female solo traveler


Day 1: Kamo River, Kyoto Station

After spending almost 2 hours for immigration clearance due to the long queue at Kansai International Airport, I went to pick up my pre-booked tickets from Klook, and got myself ICOCA card and exchanged HARUKA airport transfer tickets. I took the Haruka express bound to Kyoto station which was very convenient. Upon reaching Kyoto station, I got myself the Kyoto city bus day passes and stored my luggage at the coin locker before exploring the city.

I didn’t do much on my first day because the internet connection was down and I was completely lost in the city. I managed to navigate myself to Kamo river with the help of a kind local. I bought some convenient store food and snacks from 7 eleven and had a picnic at the river bank. It was peaceful and calming to watch Kyoto locals cycling, jogging, walking their dogs, and even playing music.

Before it got dark, I made my way back to Kyoto station and had chazuke at Dashi Chazuke at Kyoto Porta. Chazuke is basically tea or dashi poured over cooked rice which is a popular healthy fast food in Japan. After a satisfying dinner, I finally checked in my hotel and called it a night.


Day 2: Gion Shirakawa, Ninenzaka, Yasaka Shrine, Maruyama Park, Shoren-in Temple

I got ready by 5 am and walked to the famous Gion Tatsumi Bridge. The cherry blossoms were still in bloom despite the peak bloom period being over.

I managed to take a few pictures before taking a bus to another popular photo location, the Yasaka Pagoda. Not to be confused with the Yasaka Shrine, it is also known as the Hokan-ji Temple. It is located on Ninenzaka Street in the Higashiyama district. It is a favorite spot for photographers, with tripods lining up as early as 6 am, and several wedding couples having their pre-wedding photo shoots.

I was done taking pictures along the beautiful and empty streets of Ninenzaka and Sanenzaka at about 7 am. With plenty of time to spare, I joined the queue at Starbucks. But not just any Starbucks, it was the first tatami-floored Starbucks in a traditional machiya building. The queue was long, and the crowd was bustling. However, I managed to have my morning coffee in one of the rooms.

I had a kimono rental appointment at WaPlus Kyoto, which is within walking distance from Starbucks. I chose a light-colored kimono, and the fitting was completed in less than an hour! My kimono rental package cost around 7000 yen, which included insurance, a hairdo, basic accessories, and bag storage. The shop is located opposite Yasaka Shrine, making it very convenient if you're planning a photoshoot there. While it is connected to Maruyama Park, unfortunately, the Sakura season was already over.

I then made my way to Shoren-in Temple for some peaceful alone time. The garden at Shoren-in is incredibly calming and therapeutic. This temple is relatively quiet, hidden, and not widely known to tourists.

Day 3: Ninna-ji Temple, Shinkyogoku Shopping Street

Since the peak bloom period for Sakura has passed, I had the opportunity to witness cherry blossoms in full bloom thanks to the late-blooming species called Omuro Sakura. These beautiful trees are predominantly found in the Ninna-ji temple compound, and with a 600-yen entrance fee, I was able to access the garden. It was truly worth the visit as the cherry blossoms were in their most magnificent state. Many local Japanese visitors were present, exclaiming "Mankai!" which means sakura in full bloom.

The Omuro Sakura cherry trees are shorter than the regular Somei Yoshino variety, making them ideal for portrait photography.

For lunch, I enjoyed delicious and affordable yakiniku at Yakiniku Douraku. They offered amazing set lunch options priced below 2000 yen. I chose a set lunch that included 14 types of meat cuts, such as wagyu, pork, and chicken, along with soup, rice, and side dishes. The meat was incredibly juicy and melted in my mouth.

After the fantastic dining experience, I strolled through the Shinkyogoku Shopping Street. This vibrant shotengai is lined with numerous interesting shops. I came across a store specializing in canes and walking sticks, as well as another one selling beautifully handcrafted Japanese fans.

Day 4: Arashiyama, Kinkakuji

I started my day as early as 6 am with a quiet and peaceful morning walk at the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. It was very calming and soothing to be surrounded by the tall bamboo trees. However, the path turned out to be shorter than I had expected.

Most of my mornings in Arashiyama were spent with another solo traveler I met at the bamboo grove. It was such a spontaneous decision that we even went boating together on the Hozugawa River after grabbing a coffee from the famous % Arabica. 

I trusted her boating skills as she claimed she always went boating with her nana in Nottingham. We rented a boat from the Hozugawa Riverbank for an hour. There were floating food stalls along the river selling snacks such as grilled squid, oden, and other dried snacks. I ordered grilled squid and enjoyed it in the middle of the river while taking in the scenic view.

After exploring enough of Arashiyama together, we parted ways. I took a bus to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion. It is a two-storied Zen temple covered in gold leaf. The golden temple is a mesmerizing sight, surrounded by a beautiful garden with a pond that reflects its majestic presence.


Day 5: Fushimi Inari Shrine, Uji

Your trip to Kyoto would not have been complete without a visit to the thousand red torii gates at Fushimi Inari Shrine. The torii gates form a trail that leads all the way up to the summit of Mount Inari. I admit I was there mainly for the purpose of taking photos, so I opted for the shortcut. However, I noticed that the torii gates were not well maintained when I visited. They appeared to be in need of a fresh coat of paint.


During my trip, I also made a visit to Uji, the birthplace of Uji matcha. It happened to be a rainy day in Uji, and seeking shelter, I decided to explore Byodo-in Temple. I spent some time at the museum, where I learned about the history of Byodo-in Temple, which was built in the late Heian period. 

Since the rain showed no signs of letting up, I took a stroll along one of the rows of teahouses in Uji in search of a sweet treat. I indulged in a matcha parfait at Nakamura Tokichi, while sitting at the counter, overlooking the Uji River. It was the best alone time I've ever had.

Before leaving Uji, I had purchased a variety of tea products, including tea leaves, matcha mochi, matcha sweets, matcha powder, and matcha cookies. When you're in Uji, you have to indulge in everything matcha.


Day 6: Nishiki Market, Haruka Abenos

I saved Nishiki Market for my last day in Kyoto because I wanted to dedicate the entire morning to enjoying fresh seafood without feeling rushed. Moreover, my hotel was conveniently located right next to Nishiki Market, making it easily accessible. I arrived as early as 10:00 am to explore the stalls before the crowds started pouring in around 11 am.

I indulged in fresh salmon sashimi, uni, and oysters at a random seafood stall, all for only 1700 yen! I also stopped by another stall for some delicious grilled scallops that were juicy and fresh. Nishiki Market offered a wide variety of Kyoto specialty foods, including Japanese pickled vegetables (tsukemono), tofu, and dried fish. Before leaving for Osaka, I couldn't resist buying some Japanese desserts and sweets such as daifuku, Sakura mochi, and warabimochi.

 In Osaka, I visited Abeno Harukas for its observatory to witness the breathtaking sunset and the mesmerizing city lights at night. I had pre-booked my tickets online via Klook and redeemed them at the counter. The observatory on the 58th, 59th, and 60th floors provided a 360-degree panoramic view of Osaka city. 

I ordered a drink at the Sky Garden 300 café and sat facing the glass windows, savoring my drink while watching the sun slowly descend. When night falls, there are projection mapping display on the observation deck windows.


Day 7: Nara

Nara is known for its bowing sika deer, which the Japanese believe to be sacred. They roam freely around Nara Park, and you can interact with them by feeding them deer crackers, which cost 200 yen per stack. I learned something interesting about the deer - when they bow, it doesn't necessarily mean they are greeting you; it simply means they expect food in response to their bowing action. hey may appear to be tame, but they can be aggressive when they are hungry. 

I met up with my friend who is living in Nara, and we walked to Kasuga Taisha, where I got my deer omikuji because it's adorable. We had soba noodles for lunch before going over to Nakatanidou, the famous mochi pounding place known for its live performance.

 However, the chewy mochi filled with red bean was not worth the hype. Personally, I prefer Daibutsu Ichigo's daifuku, which is located  a few steps further away from the mochi pounding place.



Day 8: Kuromon Market, Tsurimi Ryokuchi Park, Tempozan Ferris Wheel

Kuromon Market is another paradise for seafood lovers. I did find that the fresh seafood in Kuromon was more expensive than at Nishiki's. I had the chirashi don, a mixed seafood sashimi bowl, at one of the restaurants there.

After enjoying a hearty breakfast, I visited Tsurumi Ryokuchi Park, a large botanical garden that showcases seasonal flowers with a charming windmill as the backdrop. It was spring, and the nemophila, also known as baby blue eyes, had just bloomed. This park is primarily known to locals, as I observed many elderly individuals spending their time exercising, having picnics, and even drawing.


At golden hour, I took a ride on the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, which offers a stunning view of the Osaka Bay area. It's even free for Osaka Amazing Pass holders. Additionally, for solo travelers, they allocate an entire cabin just for you. The sunset view was breathtaking, especially when observed from high above.



Day 9: Dotonbori, Osaka Castle, Dotonbori Sunset Cruise

After enjoying Takoyaki for breakfast, I headed to Dotonbori for the obligatory photo with the Glico man. Good news for Osaka Amazing Pass holders, the Tombori river cruise is free. On the same day, I booked the river cruise to secure a spot for the evening slot and watch the sunset.

Osaka Castle is another iconic landmark in Osaka that should not be missed. The castle compound is expansive, but I chose to admire its beauty from outside while enjoying a matcha ice cream. The entrance fee is free, once again benefiting from the pass holder privilege. However, I was too tired to explore the castle's interior.

I discovered another tranquil spot at Osaka Castle called Nishinomaru Garden. It's likely quiet because it requires a separate entrance fee of 200 yen without the benefit of the Osaka Amazing Pass. This garden offers another perspective of Osaka Castle, showcasing its surroundings with an outer moat where the river cruise sails through.

I had my late lunch at Gyukatsu Motomura, a famous tonkatsu place. Afterward, I returned to Dotonbori for the sunset cruise. I booked the best seat at the far end of the boat, ensuring an unobstructed view of the sunset. The cruise was led by an energetic tour leader who introduced us to the various bridges along the Dotonbori canal, all while entertaining us with trumpet playing and singing.


Day 10: Hiraoka Coffee, Kansai International Airport

On my final day in Japan, I had a strong desire to dine at a retro kissaten café. During my search, Hiraoka Coffee emerged as the closest option to my hotel. This century-old establishment is an old-school coffee shop that exclusively serves black coffee and doughnuts. Its simplicity exudes elegance. I absolutely adored the atmosphere, as it transported me back to the 1980s. 

Later, as I made my way to the airport, I found myself enjoying an ekiben that I had purchased from Shin Osaka station.

Here is the budget breakdown of my solo trip

Flight tickets RM 2.4k
Accommodation (Japan & transit lodging in Taiwan) RM1.3k
Food RM1.5k
Transport RM540
Travel insurance RM150
International roaming pass (Digi) RM100
Activities (kimono renting, foot massage, travel passes/tickets) RM 550
Souvenirs RM480

Total  RM 7020

Going on a solo trip allows you to have complete control over when and how you choose to splurge or save because it's your money and your terms. The budget for your travel depends on your travel lifestyle and priorities. For me, comfort and convenience take top priority. Thankfully, finding clean and safe lodging at a reasonable price in Japan is relatively easy. You don't necessarily need to stay at a 5-star hotel to experience good hospitality and service. When it comes to food, I occasionally indulge in expensive options like kaiseki or wagyu, but I also enjoy convenience store food and no-frills Japanese fast-food chains like Sukiya.


Personally, one disadvantage of solo travel is not being able to share meals and try a wider variety of dishes. Accommodations can be more affordable when traveling in a group, as it opens up options like Airbnb. There are also group discounts for tickets, although this rarely applies in my case.



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