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When I think of my favourite country in the world (second only to Thailand), two words come to mind:
Tremendous and terrifying.
Tremendous because of the tremendous effort the Japanese put into EVERYTHING.
Terrifying because everything, literally EVERYTHING they touch (be it an Airbus 320 or a bowl of ramen soup) is executed with so much surgical precision it blows my mind. I’m TERRIFIED they’re going to take over the world.
The gentle meowing of your hello kitty alarm wakes you up.
You yawn and walk into your gerbil-sized bathroom. While you brush your teeth, your bathtub automatically fills with water, warmed to a perfect 41 degrees.
You soak your muscles, laughing at the hilarious gameshow hijinks broadcasted from the TV screen, perfectly positioned at eye-level.
You dry off and hang up your towel. The entire bathroom transforms into a dryer, ensuring your towel is perfectly warm and fluffy for your next bath. All this while you fry up some eggs on your compact stove-top, which with the flick of a button, reveals a hidden compartment containing a mini-toaster and oven.
You head into the subway after breakfast. Each staircase is neatly labelled with footstep patterns, showing the exact direction you need to go.
You marvel at how everything runs like a perfectly rehearsed ballet even though the subway is stuffed like the inside of a Mexican piñata.
At lunch, you order (what you think is) a simple bowl of soup.
Turns out it’s not a bowl of soup, but a whole production. Not only can you customize the ingredients to your exact liking, each customer get their own booth–a private bubble of serenity where you can slurp to your heart’s content.
When you take that first sip, your head nearly explodes. The blissful concoction of savoury, umami, garlic, and spicy elements makes you discover tastebuds you didn’t even know you had.
At that exact moment that you realize that everything you’ve eaten and everything you will eat after leaving this tremendous and terrifying country, will be a disappointment.
Because in Japan, food isn’t just sustenance. It’s art.
We ate lots and lots of art during our time in Japan.
Like these beautiful, tender cuts of Kobe beef:
Or this sublime Chirashi bowl:
Or these perfectly orchestrated plates of sushi:
Or this juicy, plump, seductive portion of Yakatori:
Or this adorable, “melty and yummy” cheese tart:
And after coming to the conclusion that Japan had single-handedly ruined all other food for us forever, we decided to distract ourselves with some of the most outrageous entertainment Tokyo had to offer.
I had no expectations going into the show known as “The best show I’ve ever seen in my life” according to Anthony Bourdain.
All I knew was that it involved robots and lasers and costs well over 10 Million dollars to build.
Now, normally I’d say more money doesn’t mean better quality, but in this case it TOTALLY does.
And as someone who thinks Lord of the Rings is boring and fell asleep watching Cirque De Soleil’s acclaimed “O”, I’m not easily impressed.
But I can honestly say, the time I spent watching this show was probably the best 45 mins of my life.
Here’s a little taste to give you an idea:
If you can still feel your eyeballs after this, you aren’t human.
Which is why we needed to recharge with some exercise and green spaces after all that food gorging and pupil wrecking.
So we decided to climb Mt. Takao.
One thing we discovered in Japan was that while the food and accommodations weren’t expensive ($56/night on average for a studio apartment on AirBnb, $5-6 for a bowl of ramen at the train stations), cell phone data was.
It would’ve cost us $50CAD for just 1 week of data, so we decided to look up everything with the free wifi at our AirBnb and just wing it with offline maps when we’re out and about.
Turns out, the best free wifi was actually at the top of Mt.Takao.
And I guess the views weren’t bad either.
Oh Japan. Is there anything you can’t do with absolute perfection?
(No. The answer is no)
So how much did Tokyo, supposedly one of the world’s most expensive cities, cost us?
|Category||Cost in CAD/couple||Notes|
|Accommodations:||$59/night||Surprisingly, I was able to find quite a few studio apartments on Airbnb under $70 in the popular Shinjuku area of Tokyo."|
|Food:||$40.50/day||$32 for eating out, $8.50 for groceries. We managed to find a lot of good cheap restaurants using Japan Cheapo and Tokyo Cheapo. One of our favourites is a conveyor belt restaurant with daily special sashimi plates for as low as $1.30 CAD a plate"|
|Transportation:||$15/day||The subway was pricier than other places in Asia, but we were able to save money by walking a short distance to the circle line so we wouldn’t have to switch lines so often. We also realized that if you’re staying for a month like we were, it didn’t make sense to buy the rail pass. It was expensive ($200/person for unlimited travel) and only limited to a week, so it makes no sense for long term travellers. Also, there are budget airlines like Peach that had better deals.|
|Entertainment:||$18||There were lots of free attractions in Tokyo, like parks, mountain hiking and the government tower where you can see the entire city. There is even a free waking tour around the royal palace. So even thought we spent $77CAD/person on the robot show, spread over the 9 days we spent there, it didn’t do much to our budget.|
Japan was SUPPOSE to be crazy expensive, but we only spent $66 CAD/person (or $50USD/person) in Tokyo! And this is including pigging most of the time and the robot show! ($77CAD or $58 USD per person).
The more we travel the world the more we realized that there are a lot of misconceptions about travelling. Regardless of how dangerous or expensive your friends tell you a place is, you won’t really know until you actually get there. Because what we learned is that so-called “expensive” places aren’t really that expensive when you consider the 2 economies that exist: local and tourist. Once you become FI and location independent, you can access the local economies because you no longer have to spew money at the tourist one.
And as for dangerous, our friends were completely wrong about Thailand and Mexico.
As it turns out, the most dangerous place and the only place I wouldn’t go back to without a suit of armour resides in a deceptively serene, sweet little forest in Nara, Japan….
Which I will tell you about in the next travel post.