My First Trip To Japan Together With My Mum!

This is my first trip travelling out of ASEAN region, where I have to plan every bit of the itinerary myself.  For previous family trips to Sydney and Perth, I am generally tagging along, being a follower.  However this time, it is going to be a duo trip with just my mum and myself, which I am both looking forward to, while at the same time worried about how things will turn out there and then.  Nonetheless, the decision has been made by late last year, and I booked the flights for 2, flying with Scoot to Kansai Airport for our 9 days 8 nights trip.  Feels good that a goal set early this year is materialized!

Without further ado, I will share the travel journey below:

Day 1

Arrived at Kansai Airport in the afternoon, and we grabbed a quick snack at the famous 551 Horai outlet.  Then after much complications with the Haruka Limited Express, we are finally able to board the Hello Kitty's train direct to Kyoto!

 Haruka Limited Express

We reached Hearton Hotel Kyoto in the late afternoon.  I was pleasantly surprised with the good size of the hotel room for 2.

After a short rest in the hotel, time to venture somewhere near.  We had a stroll from hotel all the way to Kiyomizu-Gojo, and towards Yasaka Shrine.  However as sun sets quite early at 6.30pm, and many shops and restaurants close rather early too, therefore by then it was quite dark and there's nothing much we can see in the dimly lit gardens.  Moreover, since we are tired, we just end the night early, bought some simple sushi back to the hotel for dinner! 

 Yasaka Shrine

Day 2

It was a super duper early day.  We woke up at 3.45am local time, to catch the first train to Arashiyama Bamboo Forest!  It was quite worthwhile since I'm a morning person (and my mum is fine with waking up early too) and it's great that the crowd is thin that early.  It was a serene and tranquil walk through the forest which we truly enjoyed.


Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Next we walked back to the Kimono Forest, which is next to the train station.  Following a short rest, we continue the walk all the way to the Togetsukyo Bridge where we took a breather to enjoy the scenery and the sound of the flowing water.  Then we went to a small cosy cafe for a brunch and for mum to rest her legs.

Kimono Forest

 Togetsukyo Bridge

After Arashiyama, we took the bus to Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Shrine.  Definitely interesting to see a golden shrine, and the garden is quite gorgeous.  We also tried the matcha ice-cream with gold flakes!  Nothing special, but gimmicky!  After which we proceeded to Nijo-jo Castle.  Nothing much in the castle, but it does have a beautiful garden.  I suppose the only regret is that mid-May is no longer the Sakura season, else it should be an amazing view.


Matcha Ice-cream with Gold Flakes

Garden in Nijo-jo Castle

After all the walking, time to deal with the hunger.  Surprising stop at Kyoto's Ichiran Ramen branch and there's no queue!  We quickly went in to try this famous ramen for the first time.  Really good I must say, and it got the stamp of approval from my mum!  After the meal, we strolled to Nishiki Market to look around, and then we walked back to the hotel for a short rest.

Ichiran Ramen

 Nishiki Market

In the evening we went to Kyoto Station to see the famous Kyoto Tower and also the LED light display on the steps of Kyoto station.  We ended the day with dinner at a random restaurant in Aeon mall.  Nothing too spectacular, just so-so.  Not wanting to return empty handed, I bought a pack of strawberries back to hotel for the night!

 Kyoto Tower

Day 3

Once again, super early simple breakfast, before heading to the renowned Kyoto’s Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka, followed by the famous Kiyomizu-dera.  Once again, thankful for the early morning (yes, we woke up at 4am local time again) and the minimal crowd that allowed us to enjoy the peacefulness and tranquil walk along the streets.  By the time we are at Kiyomizu-dera, the crowd has already built up!  With some time on hand, we slowly strolled back to Yasaka Shrine to have a glimpse of it in the day, how it compares in the night.

Ninenzaka and Sannenzaka


Later in the day, it's finally time for mum to experience her Kimono moment.  We went to Rikawafuku Gion store to rent their Kimono.  After getting changed, we slowly strolled to the Heian Shrine and garden for photo taking.  After all that hassle, mum was tired and we went back to the store to return the Kimono.  Hopefully mum likes this experience.  For lunch, we went to nearby Musoshin Ramen in the Gion area, based on Google reviews.  The ramen is not bad, but it's through the comparison that I understand why all my friends say that Ichiran Ramen is the best!

Heian Shrine

 Heian Shrine Garden

Musoshin Ramen

Before we end the day, we went to Fushimi Inari Taisha.  It was super crowded as it was in the late afternoon.  However we just took a short walk and we U-turn back as mum was exhausted.  On our way back we saw Ichigo Daifuku!  I wanted to try matcha flavor but it was sold out, so I got to settle with the chocolate one.  Nothing spectacular, just mochi plus strawberry, but insta-worthy for sure.

 Fushimi Inari Tasha

Ichigo Daifuku

Day 4

Overall today will be a relaxing day and because of this, we finally got the chance to try out the hotel breakfast on our last day in Kyoto! It was quite tasty with a good variety!  Then with some time left, we walked from the hotel to the nearby Imperial Garden to take a look.  Apparently mum is bored of the greens, so she's not fascinated.  Then on our way back we passed by a church!

Later at noon, it's time for the migration as we continue our journey from Kyoto to Osaka!  Upon arrival we quickly make our way to the hotel, Chisun Standard Osaka Shin-Imamiya Hotel.  In comparison this hotel room is way smaller, but will make do because of budget.

Not to waste the evening, we went to Dotonbori to see the Glico man, and try the Takoyaki.  Before eating, mum says she is not a fan, but after tasting, she actually likes it!  For dinner, I searched high and low in Google, and finally found one.  Kaisen Monogatari, serving quite authentic local food.  It was packed with locals, but the staffs are also nice and accommodating to foreigners like us who cannot speak Japanese. It was a delicious meal, satisfying my cravings for sashimi.

 Glico Man


 Sashimi at Kaisen Monogatari

Day 5

Today is going to be a relaxing day in Osaka.  Hotel breakfast to start the day, my favorite got to be the curry rice because it is the spicy type and not the usual sweet japanese curry type.  After our filling breakfast, our first destination will be Shinsekai and the Tsutentaku Tower, which is within walking distance from our hotel!


Then we moved on to Osaka Castle where it started drizzling.  As I can sense that my mum is a little bored with castles and gardens, we just continue to hang out a bit, then we went to the nearby Keihan City Mall for coffee break and shopping.

 Osaka Castle

Not knowing where to go next, and since it's raining, we went back to Dotonbori for some sheltered shopping.  For dinner, we went to 绿野菜 for shabu-shabu buffet!  It is a yummy restaurant with a good variety and selection of vegetables and meats and it's always good to be able to eat to our fill!  One important point is the waitress serving us is actually a Taiwanese lady working there!  So without communication problems, she even helped to give us a JPY 500 discount because my mum is eligible for senior citizen price!  After the meal, we just went back to hotel to rest!


Day 6

Today it's a trip to Nara!  It is important to note that although the deer are adorable, but they get are still wild animals that can get feisty if you tempted them with the crackers but gave them none.  They will try to get your attention by nibbling your clothes and pants if you do not give them the crackers fast enough!  Nonetheless still loving the experience.


Mama and Baby Deer

After the adventure and photo-taking with the deer, we strolled to the Todai-ji temple where I strolled around the garden to take some pictures, while mum rested at a pavilion (because she is no longer interested in anymore gardens).  We ended the morning with a toasted savory mochi, which is not really to my liking though.

 Garden at Todai-ji Temple

After Nara Park, we strolled to Nakatanidou to watch the Mochi Show.  However the place is too crowded and I can't really see how the master pounds the mochi, instead only able to take some pictures after the crowd disperse.  Indeed their mochi is really soft and tasty, bit we wonder how it will differ if it's left overnight?

Nakatanidou Mochi Show

After the short show, we went to Harushika Sake Brewery for some sake tasting.  This is an impromptu trip because I am running out of places to visit as I have to cancel all my original plan to visit more shrines and gardens nearby.  Thankfully, Google is able to help me with the search, and with many good reviews, I decided to bring mum for this experience.  There were 5 different sake flavors for us to try for JPY 500 per person, which is quite worth it, but I suppose I am still more of a sparkling wine person.  And that marks the end of the Nara trip.

 Harushika Sake Brewery

Sake Menu

So we went back to our hotel for a rest, and for dinner, we went back to Shinsekai to see the difference between day and night.  Indeed it's much more lively at night and it's buzzling with diners.  We choose to dine at Janbo-Tsuribune Tsurikichi.  Super lively and crowded shop with a huge variety of food, just the great place for me to get my sashimi fix and some sukiyaki for mum, and that marks the end of the day!

 Tsutentaku Tower

Dinner at Janbo-Tsuribune Tsurikichi

Day 7

Today is the day trip to Kobe.  First we went to Harborland, and to "Be Kobe" Park to look at the pier.  After that, we took a break in a cafe with some hot tea.  Later in the afternoon, we went to Nunobiki Herb's Garden and Ropeway, which is probably my mum's favorite place for this trip (I don't understand elderly's love for flowers).  We took a cable car up to the top, and we slowly strolled down to see the various flowers and herbs along the way.  As the spring season has passed, not a lot of flowers were in full bloom but it's captivating nonetheless.  In late May, the best is probably the Rose Garden, as can be seen from the variety of roses found blooming here.  After the long stroll, we took the cable car down to the starting point.

Be Kobe Park

 Kobe Nunobiki Herb's Garden and Ropeway

For dinner, you guessed it right!  What could be better than Kobe beef in Kobe?  After some googling, I chose Kobe Beef Wassia as the restaurant of choice and definitely it did not disappoint.  The staff was kind enough to allow us to order just one set meal instead of 2 (I cannot really eat such good quality beef as I am worried of gout attack, but I cannot deny my mum her opportunity to try the good quality beef).  The presentation of the beef ladder was appetizing, and the beef itself is juicy and tender (yes, I went ahead to try three slices)!  Overall, I think it was a great experience, with good food and good ambience.  

Kobe Beef Wassia

Initially I have planned for one more stop in Kobe, which is the Earthquake Museum that would let us understand and relive that fateful day in 1995.  However as mum was tired, and by that time, it was near the closure time of the museum, the Kobe beef will mark a good end to our day in Kobe.

Day 8

Today is the last day to tour around Osaka for the full day, thus I decided to bring my mum to visit the Umeda Sky Building to get the insta-worthy pictures of the escalators as well as the sky view of Osaka from the 39th floor.  The basement has various restaurants with vintage alleys where we took nice photos as well.

 Umeda Sky Building

Vintage Alley

After that, we went to the nearby Pokemon Center to see my teen-hood!  To my dismay, it's quite disappointing as it was not as grand a place I thought it would be from the photos I saw in Google.  Probably I have lost touch with the current characters but other than Pikachu and Mario Bros, I don't know anything else, so it's just a touch and go (Yes I know One Piece, but not a fan).

 Pokemon Center

Finally we went to Tema to try the famous Harukoma Honten.  My mum was disapproving as it was still early and she is still full from the hotel's breakfast, but I insisted because it's the last day I can try it!  It definitely did not disappoint.  It's sushi is really good, and I would say it's the best amongst all others I have tried this far.  It's unagi is huge, mouth-watering good and tender. My conclusion, its a superb meal not to be missed, oishi!

Harukoma Honten

 Delicious Sushi

In the afternoon, we got to do what tourists do when you run out of ideas, which is to visit the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan at Osakako Station.  Lots of beautiful marine life, both big and small!  As usual, the whale shark is the most amazing due to its size, the penguins are forever cute, and the chubby seal is just a little, too chubby!

Osakako Station

 Whale Shark



After the walk, mum is tired so brought her back to hotel to rest while I roamed around alone.  Later in the evening we went to the street side container foodstalls, Naniwa Food Garage, located just opposite our hotel to have our dinner.  We had ramen with pork cutlet and yakitori.  The pork cutlet is so good! Super crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside!  Definitely a 5* pork cutlet in my opinion! This place is too underrated, and definitely needs more advertising!

Naniwa Food Garage

 Pork Cutlet

After dinner, we strolled to nearby Don Quijote to buy some snacks to bring back home!

Day 9

Time to say goodbye!  At the airport, saw the beautiful Starbucks mugs that I am contemplating to buy, but in the end, logic tells me not to (got to remember I am still working hard towards Barista FIRE).  So we just went for the final ramen treat at Mensho.  Well, I suppose airport food just pales in comparison to the other ramen shops elsewhere. After the meal, time to board the flight to scoot back to Singapore!

Post-Trip Thoughts

This is the longest trip I have with my mum, with just the 2 of us.  In addition, I am very glad and grateful I have the ability to sponsor this trip for the both of us, thanks to the dividends received from my portfolio, that enable me to fulfil this wish.  Before the trip, I was rather stressed and unsettled because I am very uncertain how the subway works, whether I will get lost with my mum, and whether I need any day pass of any sorts (such as Kansai One Day Pass etc).  In the end, I just forgo any of these passes and just went ahead with the ICOCA card, because I do not expect my mum and myself to travel much as the trip is meant to be slow and leisurely (except the super early mornings in Kyoto).  I think I made the right choice to forgo the stress from wondering whether I need any pass.  ICOCA works perfectly fine, and just need to top up the cards at the top up machines at every subway and for us, I do not think the savings from getting any pass is significant, so ICOCA is fine for us.

In addition, I would remind myself to plan any itinerary in future with additional optional travel spots or activities.  Each day should have a couple, or maximum of 3 spots or activities that are must-visit or must-do (this is personal because that is the maximum amount of travelling my mum can do without feeling too tired at the end of the day).  On top of that, I will need to plan one to two more optional activities or tourist spots, just in case those planned do not suit the my mum's preference, so that I have back up plans and alternatives instead of having to rush to find things to do at the very last minute.  It is always easier to eliminate than to add on activities from a plan!

As many would know, going on a trip with parent(s) is very different from one with friends, partner or kids.  Sometimes emotions flare up because of things not going to plan, especially when I myself is also a first timer to Japan where the rail and subway network is a nightmare!  The same platform has trains going to different places, and the trains are also classified as 'local', 'semi-express', 'limited-express', 'super-rapid' etc.  It is really quite stressful for me in the first few rides, and finding an escalator or lift is not always easy.  Holidays also meant that if one wants to enjoy the view and scenery, walking is inevitable.  This will mean that I have to constantly remind myself that frequent breaks are a must, and always keep in mind to check out if my mum is tired.

For this trip, my mum is the main character, and I am just an accompanying character.  The itinerary is planned according to what I think she would like, and places that she got 'sian' along the way were changed last minute to somewhere else that is different.  To be honest, it was not easy, as that meant every night or morning consist of re-evaluation of the upcoming itinerary whether changes and adaptations are required.  Personally, I am not exactly the most patient and gentle person (I seriously think that I have anger management issues) so frankly speaking, there are times where I exploded internally during this trip.  However it is also this trip that made me learn to control my emotions, to learn to communicate, and to be a tad more patient, not because of anything special, but solely because she is my mum.  

She is the one who gave me life, raised me the way I am, and made me the person I am today.  I am also very grateful that my mum is very patient and accommodating with me, and she just embraces all my "internal explosion moments" and took a step back, while I took seconds to calm myself down to continue the journey.  Without her understanding during these moments, I believe the trip would not be able to continue without hiccups, and end on a good note.  Regardless of all the good and bad moments, I cherish this opportunity to have a trip solely with her, and it's especially sad but true, to know that she is aging.  One day, her mobility will weaken further, so it's moments like this that I cherish, where memories are created and remembered, and no matter how challenging it may be, I still hope that I can bring her to places she has yet to been, yet to see.

Just some numbers for the trip!

Return Flights (via Scoot) for 2: SGD 940.24

Accommodation (3 Nights in Kyoto & 5 Nights in Osaka) for 2: SGD 723.62

Insurance for 2: SGD 115.00 

Transport + Meals + Shopping + Souvenirs: JPY 144,915.00

Total Damage: SGD 3,096.27 (based on exchange rate SGD 1 : JPY 110) 

Bye bye Japan, and hopefully my wish and plan for new adventures next year will materialize!  Barista FIRE, here I come!


  1. Hi BF,

    Thanks for sharing. Very nice and thoughtful of you to plan and bring your mother for a holiday, and to Japan no less. Hope she enjoyed the trip.

    And its so much sweeter when the holiday expenses are all covered by passive income!

    As you are still young, continue to work and you will be able to grow your passive income even more. And at FI, you will be able save more than 100% of your earned income in each successive year!

    Can see how I did it here :

    1. Thanks mysecretinvestment,
      I hope my mum enjoyed it too.

  2. Hi! I just did a mother and me trip to Osaka-Kyoto in April too! Just wanted to add to the learnings - bring a collapsible stool next time for her to sit while we explore the station or wait for the train. Note that we can also check out the station maps beforehand on where the lifts are.

    1. Hi Anonymous,
      true true. There's a lot of improvements that can be made, but as a first timer, it was too stressful for me at the train platform, because it took me one wrong ride to note that the same platform has different types of trains, such as limited express and local. Nonetheless, it is a learning experience, and may the next trip be better!


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