Osaka is the last stop in Japan. The intention was to have it be relaxing – which it was but it was also pretty “action packed”. And I use that term loosely because “action packed” means something totally different when you’re in your thirties. This leg of the trip consisted of lots of food, claw games, and sightseeing.
A trip to Osaka would not be complete without a visit to Osaka Castle. As we headed up towards the castle, it looked almost ominous due to the rainy clouds that were hovering over us. I have to admit, I was a bit angry that we got rained on but not long after I nearly bit off the Mr’s head, the clouds parted ways and the skies started to light up again.
Right outside the castle walls were these beautiful cherry blossom trees that rested next to some very steep steps. While there was a long line to take photos (gotta get that ‘gram photo), we managed to get our pics and scurry out to get some more yummy eats outside the castle.
Because we needed to stuff our faces some more, we went to explore Dontonburi and I was amazed at how underrated this place is! I just LOVED IT! As soon as you set foot in the general vicinity, you can smell the food that were sizzling on the outdoor grills. And I can’t leave out all the arcades. THE ARCADES! There were probably nearly 10 on each block – ok, exaggerating, but it surely felt that way. I’m ashamed to admit how much we spent but it was all in good fun (for me – frustration for him).
Before concluding our trip in Japan, of course we had to find the perfect location to see some more cherry blossoms and The Mr. did not disappoint with this one.
Kyoto, Japan is one of those undeniably idyllic cities in the world. Swarming with tourists, maybe, but utter perfection nevertheless. I may also base this on the fact that the cherry blossoms were in bloom which only enchanted me more. Sakura petals were softly fluttering in the wind before they free fall into the canals below – I mean, COME ON!
After we checked into our not-so-impressive AirBnb, we decided that we would spend as little time there as possible and headed out straight away. We took the rail and walked over to the Pontocho area. The narrow alleyways of Pontocho was a great way to spend hours getting blissfully lost.
Just one block to the west, was Kiya-Machi Dori, a street along canals that were illuminated by LED restaurant signs luring hungry tourists inside to have a taste of their culinary offerings. Tourists (including myself) crowded each of the bridges that arch over the canal to get the perfect IG shot of the cherry blossoms.
We capped off the night at a second floor bar called L’EscaMoteur Bar (138-9 Saitocho, Shimogyō-ku, Kyōto-shi, Kyōto-fu, Japan). Many reviews dub it as “gimmicky” and that may be true, but we still thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. The cocktails were both unique and delectable. Fair warning though, it’s a TINY space so it was pretty crowded – they had to turn away many guests while we we there so having a Plan B in place before your visit may be a good idea.
At the break of dawn, we headed out to do even more touristy things. First stop, Fushimi Inari-taisha.
We planned to arrive early in hopes to take photos of the empty gates. While we did arrive relatively early, everyone had the same plan as we did. Thankfully, most people were respectful of each other as we each tried to capture the perfect shot.
Our next stop – the bamboo forest. Before we actually arrived, we found ourselves a little turned around – which ended up giving me some pretty cool pictures. Nevertheless, we made it! Of course it was filled with people who also wanted to take a leisurely IG inspired stroll in the forest but that didn’t take away from it’s beauty.
As we were heading back we noticed people lining up to get into some garden so we figured we would follow the crowds to see what it was all about. We paid a 500 yen entry fee and were immediately immersed in a winding pathway of blooms.
The next morning, we woke up early so we could check out the Nishiki Fish Market. While the market wasn’t as extensive as the one in Tokyo (at least it didn’t seem like it), we enjoyed how easy it was to find ready to eat seafood skewers at every turn.
After we stuffed our faces, we headed to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). Let me tell you, that place is NUTS. From the lines to get into the garden, to the lines to take photos of the pavilion, to the lines to walk through the garden was exhausting and infuriating at some points. Despite my complaints about the crowds, the Golden Pavilion did not disappoint. It’s a sight to be seen.
During our stay in Kyoto, we met up with my cousin’s friends from NorCal. Fun and friendly, we were able to enjoy some delicious food, refreshing drinks, and great casual conversation at Maruyama Park. Most known as the go-to spot for cherry blossom viewing parties, the park remained busy despite the rain.
That concludes the cliff notes version of our trip to Kyoto, Japan. But before I conclude this blog, I’m going to include a few more photos of the cherry blossoms (because why not?) and the vlog in case you want to see what I wrote about in vlog form 🙂
Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for our Osaka adventures!
During our trip to Japan, we tried to incorporate a couple legs where we could get some R&R to recover from a jammed pack schedule. The first one was Fujiyoshida, Japan. I specifically chose Fujiyoshida because of it’s short distance from the Chureito Pagoda to hopefully catch a glimpse of the elusive Mount Fuji.
It’s important to note that the Japan Rail Pass did not cover the entire leg there. We had to pay about 1000 yen each – but don’t quote me on that, it’s been a while.
We stayed at Hotel Mystays Fuji which we booked through hotels.com. The hotel is relatively new so the rooms and amenities are still in good condition. Unfortunately we did not have the Mt. Fuji view due to lack of availability. The hotel is a 5 minute walk from grocery stores, 100 yen store Seria, and several restaurants.
I have to admit that as much as I b*tch and moan about needing some time alone to relax – I got bored of relaxing. The Mr just can’t win, can he? Sorry, love.
The best views of Mt Fuji happened on the day that we checked out of the hotel – go figure. BUT WE GOT TO SEE MT FUJI! We caught our first glimpse when we went to grab coffee down the street. We rushed back to the hotel to go get my camera and took a 700 yen cab ride to the Chureito Pagoda.
Almost 400 grueling steps later, we reach the pagoda.
We were too early for the cherry blossoms but the views did not disappoint.
Everything about the Chureito Pagoda was serene from the modest temple to the traditional Japanese details.
So thankful I had my male model along for the ride.
We didn’t vlog very much but feel free to take a peek at what we did manage to capture!
So many things to do but where to start? That was the challenge we faced as we were coming up with potential agenda items for our upcoming trip to Tokyo. Yes, there were plenty of blogs and recommendations from sites but we wanted reassurance from people we know. Luckily, we discovered that a friend of ours travels to Tokyo for work on occasion so we were in luck. When we asked him what is one of the top things we should do – he mentioned that the Robot Café would definitely give us a unique and interesting experience.
Per his recommendation, we did the following:
Booked tickets well in advance of our trip
Skipped the addition of meals, as you can probably find better food options
Made sure to have “enough” beverages prior to the event
As we got to the Robot Café, we had to check-in and grab our tickets in a building directly across the main entrance. Afterwards, we walked into a waiting lounge area where we could grab drinks and enjoy some random shows while waiting. 10-15 minutes before show time, we were told we can head to our seats. We walked down a number of steps, saw a “special” room, made it to our seats, got more drinks, and then the show started.
I’m not even sure where to go from here…all I can say to describe the experience is “What happened”? You’ll just have to check it out yourself to get that experience. Definitely a must if you want to check out the crazy, animated, out-there culture you can only find in Japan!!!
Where is it? Shinjuku Robot Bldg. B2F, 1-7-1 Kabuki-cho, Shinjuku-ku
What automatically comes to mind when you hear “fish market”? Narrow stalls, the sound of water hoses, fish carcasses perfectly lined up, delectable food stalls, but more importantly, that smell – you know what I’m talking about. The Tsukiji Fish market was everything you would imagine MINUS that dreaded stench.
We didn’t get up at 4am to witness the auction because I read that you needed someone to bring you in and I didn’t care to wake up that early to be perfectly honest. We arrived around 9am and dove right in. The alleys were crammed with locals and tourists alike. Of course, tourists – myself included, had our phones and cameras out to capture all the excitement. There were stalls upon stalls of dried seafood, fresh seafood and kitchen items – just in case you were missing something to prepare your meal.
To my surprise, there were two indoor fish markets in addition to the outdoor market! I’m assuming this is for temperature control so all the fresh seafood wouldn’t go bad. In true Japanese style, the buildings were spotless and very well maintained.
The best part, obviously, are the food stalls. Fresh seafood prepared right before your eyes, how could you go wrong?! My favorite had to be the scallops on a stick. At roughly $2 a stick, I still wonder why we didn’t go back for seconds or even thirds. Another crowd favorite was the mochi. I didn’t think I’d enjoy mochi that wasn’t filled with ice cream (darn westerner) but I was so wrong.
Next time you are in Tokyo, for the love of all things holy, don’t skip the fish market. You’ll be kicking yourself in the behind if you do! Even if you are not a die-hard sushi diner such as myself, there is still plenty to see – and eat!
Where is it? Oedo line to Tsukiji-Shijo station, exit A. The closest JR station is Shimbashi station but be prepared for a 15 minute walk. But expect this to change shortly (if it hasn’t already) as the Fish Market will be moving to make way for the 2020 Olympic Stadium!
I’m back with another Japan video. This vlog will cover our first full day in Tokyo.
The vlog opens with us preparing to board the N’EX (Narita Express) from Narita Airport. This train ride was included in the Japan Rail Pass so we were able to board for “free”. You do have the option to reserve your seats ahead of time but we didn’t plan ahead so we had to ride in the unreserved cars – which had plenty of room. The train was immaculate! It was clean, spacious, had hooks for your coat, a drink holder and plenty of leg room. It was honestly nicer than our flight in!
Once we arrived, we spent some time wandering Shinjuku Station because, well, we were lost. We eventually found our way to our AirBnb and dropped off our things.
After dropping off our things we wandered around the Shinjuku area to see what was near us and then headed to Ikebukuro area to grab some sushi at Kura Sushi. Ok, I have an confession: I am not a sushi fan. Whew, so glad I got that off my chest. My whole life I just figured that I never ordered the right sushi roll or I just wasn’t getting the “good stuff.” Now that I have had sushi in the homeland of sushi, I can honestly say that sushi is not for me. So I will let the Mr take over from here.
Discovered this place as we were waiting for the Alice in Wonderland Cafe and thought it would be fun to check out. Walked in, got a waiting ticket, then got seated relatively fast. It is a conveyor belt sushi place but is pretty unique due to the fun casino like game you can play with your empty plates – more about that in a bit!
In regards to the food, definitely would say it has great value – decent tasting sushi at a relatively cheap price!
Back to the casino like game – once you collect 5 plates, you can insert them into a slot and have the tablet above you “run” a game. We had no idea what the different games did but it was pretty fun watching the animations! Unfortunately, we didn’t win anything as our characters fell off cliffs or got crushed by boulders…haha crazy right!?
Ok, I’m back. One of the themed cafes I really wanted to check out was the Alice in Wonderland Cafe. I was under the impression that the different themes were all housed under one roof only to find out that they were all spread out around Tokyo. We ended up visiting Alice in an Old Castle in Ikebukuro. The cafe was down a flight of spiral stairs and shared the basement with 2 other equally amazing themed restaurants. The host was gracious enough to quickly explain the rules of the restaurant which were: 1 food, one drink item per guest and a 500 yen sitting fee. Since we already ate beforehand, we only ordered a couple drinks, fries and parfait. What the cafe lacked in taste, they made up in presentation. The attention and detail that was put into the decor and food was impressive! Take a look for yourself!
After the cafe, we made the trek to the Anata No Warehouse arcade. The Mr was compelled to visit because he saw something that paid homage to Mortal Combat?
Unfortunately, they banned video and photography (obviously I snuck some in) so I will do my best to explain. The arcade was 3 floors of sensory overload. The first floor had several large arcade games and a TON of claw games – MY WEAKNESS. 2nd floor was full of arcade games, pool tables, darts and ping pong tables. Lastly, the third and top floor had all the pachinko games and other games for cash rewards. We put in 100 yen in some game that dropped balls similar to “plinko” on the The Price is Right — apparently we were doing ok because we were playing for a solid 15 minutes. Not bad for 90 cents of entertainment!
This pretty much sums up our first full day in Tokyo and I have so much more show/tell you so hang tight! Watch the vlog below:
We have been back from Japan for a couple weeks now and I’m just getting around to editing the footage we compiled during the trip. I’ve been avoiding them but the longer I wait the less likely I will edit them so here I am with the first vlog from Japan! Actually, more like our travel day vlog but it contains footage from our flight and the footage from the capsule hotel!
We flew Japan Airlines on a Boeing 787 on the usual sunny San Diego day. As we were boarding the first thing I noticed was how cramped it was. I realize that because we were flying economy I wasn’t going to get a luxurious lounger but I was pretty bummed at how little leg room we got considering it was an international flight. I’ve heard a lot of good things about Japan Airlines so maybe I had set my expectations a little too high? Other than that, I was still under the weather so I was extra stuffy and extra gross. I usually can’t sleep on flights so I stayed up almost the entire flight. All in all, my time on the flight was horrible.
After a grueling 11 hour flight, we landed in Tokyo at Narita airport around 5pm. After checking in at the 9h capsule hotel, we walked around the restaurants and shops at the airport in an attempt to stay awake until 9pm.
The 9h capsule hotel was an awesome experience. It’s the perfect place to stay if you have a flight during the wee hours of the morning. They provide you with a bag that contains a towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, slippers, and the most unflattering pajamas ever made. Men and women are in separate quarters with separate bathrooms, separate showers and separate pod areas. The capsules themselves are spacious but I’m also only 5’3″ so it may be a squeeze for the taller folks. 9h capsule hotel is a no frills sort of place that provided just what we needed, a place to sleep. To be honest, it was nicer than some of the Airbnb’s that we stayed at during the remainder of the stay but we will come back to that later.
Enough of my babble, here is the vlog to fill in any gaps.