All photos taken with the Nikon D5500
One of the things I love about my relationship with Airbnb is how game they are for unconventional methods of collaboration. When they heard that I was headed to Japan again, they threw me a little challenge: doing a day in Osaka for 50SGD. That’s less than what I sometimes spend in Singapore per day even, but anything to spice up my trip a little, right? Challenge, accepted. So here we go: The Airbnb x Jemma BSG Challenge. (Spoiler: I won.)
When headed to Japan, most people recommend allocating 100SGD for expenses per day you are there. Now I dont know what sort of holiday these people are used to, but that’s pretty luxurious by my standards. So Airbnb boldly halved the recommended budget to see if the BSG could stick to it – and if so, how.
The exchange rate for my trip was 90.09 yen per 1SGD, which is pretty damn good I think. I always change my money at Simei Eastpoint’s Basement, because they have the best rates in the East. For reference, tampines tried to give me 88.9 on the same day.
Ergo my budget in yen for the day was 90.09 x 50 = 4504.5yen.
I didn’t want to just do a normal day within Osaka – because hey, that’s not too difficult right? Just dont spend anything except on three meals and you should be able to keep it to just under fifty. But theres no fun in that, and realistically speaking you’re going to want to do things, so I planned for this $50 day to include a day trip to Nara plus one other attraction. It’s going to be a freakin all rounded $50 day full of experiences you guys! Budget trippin doesn’t have to be miserable!
I wrote down every single thing I spent in that day, which I will detail in:
I started off my day at the FamilyMart right at the foot of my Airbnb apartment building. Family Marts, Lawrys, and 7-11s are all pretty common in Japan, and they’re the staple of any budget trip because besides selling relatively cheap and convenient fare, they are also awesome. I had a coffee and two eggs, as per my daily breakfast abroad.
Total spent: 331yen.
Because we were planning to budget it out in an extremely photogenic way, I proposed a picnic in Nara. Penny was really enthusiastic about it because she apparently has this thing going on called #picnicgoals, where she picnics in every city she hits.. but okay. It meant she already had a picnic mat, which was great! All we needed was the food. For that, we went to one of the takeout places in the train station that charge you by weight. This one was called Cook Deli.
We got a variety of things to share: japanese salads, onigiris, weird rolls… basically, japanese dishes which looked interesting and new. It came up to 470yen/person split between the five of us.
Now I know what you’ll say – it’s not fair, you can split everything by five, so of course it’s cheaper, right? Wrong. With more people, you need more food, and so even though the number of people you can split your cost with rises, so does the amount you spend on food overall. And we had two guys with sizeable appetites, so I think it was a pretty realistic gauge.. Generally, from experience, once you have over 2 people in your travelling party, food costs can go quite low because you can split everything.
We also got a lovely Japanese torched cheesecake (bottom row) because it was Penny’s birthday! 😀 That was 110yen/person.
Total spent: 911yen.
From there, we navigated the train ticketing system (alright, Candice did it, she had the best direction sense of us all) and bought our tickets to Nara!
Tip: Take the private Kintetsu Kyoto Line instead of the JR Nara line. It’s faster and cheaper, taking only 35 minutes for 560 yen. That’s only SGD6++ for a day trip out of Osaka!!! Crazy.
The Kintetsu Kyoto line, which is what we took, drops you off in the centre of Nara, which is far more preferable to the JR Nara line (a 20 minute walk to the city centre), so trust me when I say take the Kintetsu Line. Ask someone there if you dont know where to take the train!
Total spent: 1471yen.
From where the train dropped us, it was only about a five to ten minutes walk to Nara Deer Park. The deers roam free, which is a pleasant surprise – I expected to pay an entry fee to see and pet the deer. The only thing you really have to pay for, which is optional anyway, are deer biscuits. This is optional and I dont know whether to recommend it or not because deer go batshit over these biscuits and will aggressively upskirt you in an attempt to get your biscuits. That’s what those antlers are for. So, yeah. It’s your call.
We went to the grounds opposite the deer park to have our picnic first, because they were relatively deer-free and we didn’t want to have to deal with deer trying to eat our food off the ground.
Picnics are the best. Im going to appropriate Penny’s #picnicgoals and picnic everywhere I go from now on. It was the best way to spend an afternoon, just lounging on the grass and eating weird things we didn’t know the name of.
I 100% recommend picnicking because they add a nice cozy twist to any holiday. In Japan though, they’re not necessarily much cheaper than dining in a small eatery. In Europe, however, I picnicked across Salzburg and Switzerland, and it was the cheapest way to see those cities, hands down.
Ok, with lunch done, it was time to get some deer action going!! No entry fees, as mentioned before, so it was really open house all around.
Because I am a Singaporean, I had to have a selfie with a deer. Unfortunately, that resulted in this:
Hilarious, I know.
I still think I fared better than my friends though:
The key is not to be scared of them, people! Fear never looks good in photos!
Anyway. I decided to go all out and buy a pack of deer biscuits, because they were only 150yen and I wanted to see what would happen if I did.
The conclusion is: deer dont leave you alone once they know you have the biscuits. In fact, they go quite crazy – this particular one kept lifting up my skirt with its antlers, because idk, maybe he thought that was where I kept the biscuits?! Crazy deer. So basically the biscuits were finished in no time since you cant move along much if the deer around you know you still have biscuits – they just harass you until they’re all gone.
Which made us wonder – why dont they attack the deer biscuit stalls? There were pushcarts stocked with deer biscuits everywhere, and they didn’t look particularly well protected. If anyone knows, please enlighten me 🙂
Anyway, I decided to nominate myself as the deer whisperer, because I was relatively unafraid of them – they didn’t look like they were the sort to attack people, and I really wanted some good pictures with them HAHA. Priorities!
So that was Nara deer park for us. I think it’s safe to say it was my first time seeing deer up close, and it was really lovely! They’re incredibly annoying and obnoxious without being violent, and remind me of my cat, which is probably my favourite thing about them. When I posted the deer pictures on instagram my dad texted me to say you could get fleas from them and die, but so far I’m ok, so I think all is good. Go forth and hang out with some deer.
We then headed to a sushi conveyor belt place in Nara central which was supposed to be pretty famous, although I dont know the name of the place.
The sushi was so good I think I could die. I split everything I had with Penny – three dishes: roasted salmon, hotate, and frozen ichigo bliss. It came up to 640yen/person, which was pretty steep for someone on a budget I think, but really, really good.
After that we were thirsty so Penny and I split a giant carton of grapefruit juice for 70yen each at a 7-11 store.
Super recommend buying the huge 1/1.5l cartons over the lame 500ml ones if you can, because they’re so much cheaper! Usually even when travelling alone, we’ll buy the big one and just carry it around, hugging it like a bolster. Girls get away with this easier, I think, because people just dismiss it as being cute. Lol. Gender stereotypes in action, but okay.
Total spent: 2331yen. (sushi + deer biscuits + grapefruit juice)
By this time it was pretty late in the afternoon, so we decided to leave Nara for Osaka Castle, one of those must-see things in Osaka.
I think all of us fell asleep on the train at some point because we were so exhausted by then. I’m telling you, fending off deer looking for biscuits is no joke. Anyway, the train ticket from Nara to Osaka was 560yen, and we topped up another 50yen to swap the ticket for one to Osaka Castle. Ask a train conductor if you need help with this – that’s what we did.
Total spent: 2941yen.
We timed it so our visit to Osaka castle would coincide nicely with the sunset, and it was lovely! The castle is quite a walk from the train station, which was a nice way to unwind after the long train ride and shake off the sleepy remains of our nap.
The castle was closed by the time we got there, which was ok by me because I dont like going into castles and what not – had enough of those when living in Europe, and learnt the hard way that these things are nicer from the outside than from within. *cough*Neuschwanstein Castle*cough*
Plus if you stay outside you save on the entry fee, woohoo!
The outside of Osaka Castle, though, was lovely. It’s a modest climb up, which means it affords some pretty awesome views of the cityscape and of the sunset. We stayed for an hour perched on the stone walls surrounding the castle, waiting for the sun to set.
As the last of the sunrays left, so did we. Dinner was had at a random joint, one of those vending machine eateries. I dont remember much about it but I do have a picture:
I also wrote down how much it cost in total per person – 630yen. Our train back to Namba, Osaka, where we stayed, was another 240yen.
Total spent: 3811yen.
Back in our area, we walked around for a bit before heading back, which is what we did every night: explore a little bit more of the Dotonbori and Shinsaibashi streets near our place. We discovered the best gyozas in the history of gyozas along the streets of Dontonbori and had some pretty great waffles in Shinsaibashi..
Shared Gyoza: 50yen
Shared Waffles: 100yen
And much later at night, after lazing around in our apartment and unloading our bags, we went for a midnight supper run at a Matsumo outlet near our place. In case you didn’t read my Keeping with the Kyotians post (TSK), Matsumo is one of the three 24hr eatery chains in japan that are absolutely amazing. You order via a vending machine, which gives you a ticket which the people there collect from you in exchange for hot food. AMAZING.
We had curry rice and a beef bowl, split between Mart, Penny, and I. Didn’t care for the curry rice because I have zero tolerance for spicy food, but the beef bowl was incredible. I MISS IT EVEN NOW. Japanese gyudons are the best!!!
Stuffed and happy, we thus concluded our day and rolled cheerfully back to the apartment 🙂
Total spent: 4274yen.
Original Proposed Budget: 4504.5yen
Picnic food: 470yen
Ticket to Nara: 560yen
Deer Food: 150yen
Shared Sushi: 640yen
Shared Grapefruit Juice: 70yen
Ticket from Nara: 560yen
Ticket topup for Osaka Castle: 50yen
Ticket from Osaka Castle: 240yen
Shared Gyoza: 50yen
Shared Waffles: 100yen
Shared Matsumo Supper: 313yen
Actual amount spent in SGD: $47.5
It came as a mix of relief and surprise that I managed to stick within the budget – honestly, I didn’t know if I would be able to because fifty bucks is quite easily blown for me in Singapore. I think that’s because I cab to my meetings a lot on the basis that time is money, and cab fares accumulate quick. Plus, Japan is known to be a pricy Southeast Asian country, and to me you’re always more liberal with your spending on holidays than at home, because everything is very Once in a Lifetime and all that, you know?
But I think if you read through the post, it’s pretty clear that we didn’t suffer at all from the budget restriction. At no point in the day did I feel like I was missing out on anything because I had a budget limit placed on me – I think that comes through pretty clearly in the post, we basically did a whole bunch of things for very little money. It could have been less, even, if we didn’t indulge in midday sushi or random roadside snacks – but I think that’s the point, that we could enjoy all these little things and still not bust 50 bucks a day.
So, yeah! Very proud to announce that the Jemma x Airbnb 50bucks a day challenge was a success 😀 It is totally doable you guys, so stop thinking that Japan is going to be unendingly expensive and leave you bankrupt, and start planning for your next trip there!