What Did We Do in Osaka, Japan?

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.

Shrine in Osaka, Japan

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.

Osaka Castle in Osaka, Japan

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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.

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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).

Dontonburi in Osaka, Japan

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.

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Oh! And don’t forget to watch the vlog!

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Enchanted in Kyoto, Japan

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.

Pontocho Kyoto, Japan
Pontocho in Kyoto, Japan

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.

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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.

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At the break of dawn, we headed out to do even more touristy things. First stop, Fushimi Inari-taisha.

Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto, Japan
Fushimi Inari-taisha in Kyoto, Japan

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.

Bamboo Forest in Kyoto, Japan

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.

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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.

Nishiki Fish Market in Kyoto, Japan

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.

Kyoto_GoldenPavilion

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.

Maruyama Park in Kyoto, Japan

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 🙂

Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto, Japan

Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for our Osaka adventures!
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Japan Vlog: Kura Sushi, Old Castle and Anata No Warehouse

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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!

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Adorable parfait

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?

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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:

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Journey to Tokyo!

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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.

Plan with me: How to Plan a Trip to Japan

How to Plan a Trip to Japan

As you can see by the title of this post, we are going to Japan! To celebrate 10 years of being stuck, er, madly in love with each other we are jetting off to Japan to celebrate. In addition, we will be spending a few days in South Korea! Mainly because we procrastinated and all the award seats from Japan were full but we were able to book award seats from Seoul instead. It was really a blessing in disguise. Our trip is planned for the end of March through mid-April, just in time for Sakura season!

Many people have asked how we plan our trips so I decided to write this blog series to illustrate how I normally plan our trips. Now, don’t get it twisted–I don’t claim to be a travel expert nor do I have aspirations to become a travel agent so don’t get all judgy on me because if that’s what you’re here for, you can get on outta here.

Before we get into the gritty details, I’d like to give a brief description of what our travel style is in case our interests don’t align, you don’t have to continue wasting your precious time here. We like to be organized when we travel but we do love a little spontaneity. We don’t like to plan our trips down to the minute because to us, that’s more stressful than enjoyable. We enjoy to eat, sightsee and I LOVE to shop. We also love our gadgets so don’t be surprised if cover a lot about them.

I’ll start with how we booked our tickets because that usually is the first step to planning a trip, right? Like I said earlier, we booked our business class flight from Seoul to Los Angeles using reward points. We paid $122 in fuel surcharges for the both of us. We decided to wait to for a deal to pop up before we purchased our outbound ticket. I set a deal alert via airfarewatchdog to email me whenever there was a dip in prices in the route we specified. Luckily for us, that delightful day came on a not-so-breezy day in October and we booked our direct flight to Tokyo from San Diego for $770. Let me calculate our total cost for travel thus far: $892 for the both of us. We still need to book our tickets from Japan to Korea once we decide how many days we want to spend in each country.

We have looked into the Japan Rail Passes (JR Pass) which retail for $279 for a 7 day pass and $445 for a 14 day pass but we are holding off until we figure out how many days we will be in Japan–so we’ll come back to this topic.

What we like to do as we plan out a trip is to pin all the places we want to visit on google maps. That way we get a visual of which area we need to stay in and in this case, figure out how many days we will spend in each city.

Here is our map so far:
How to Plan a Trip to Japan Google Map
Google Maps helping me visualize all the places I want to visit

As you can sort of see by the map, we have mainly looked into Tokyo, Mt Fuji, Kyoto and Osaka with a few other places sprinkled in there. I will go into detail about what we have planned for each city on the next post because I’m still unsure myself!

There you have it! This will be the first of many blog posts about how I am planning out my trip. Is there anything you want to see next? Let me know in the comments!
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Good Ol’ Minnesota

Before we make our final move to California, we did a stopover in Minnesota to spend some time with our family. The Mr was with us for about a month while Ittybot and I stayed an additional 2 weeks.

I’d have to say that “crazy” is an understatement. There was a lot on our list of things to do and time was not on our side. The Mr’s side of the family lives in a small town 3 hrs south of the major city that my family lives in, so we had to divide our time between the families while squeezing in a 4 day trip to California to find a place to live.

All the craziness aside, it’s always amazing to see Ittybot interact with his cousins. I’m a little, ok – a lot, behind on our vlogs but when I get around to getting those posted you can just see the glee in his little face! It makes my heart melt. And the little cousins are fantastic with him. They take such great care of him. There is no shortage of love amongst them.

Take a peek at some of the pictures of our time in Minnesota!

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Celebrating Lao New Year in Minneapolis! Location: Bouasavanh in Brooklyn Park, MN
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A relaxing day of food and fishing at the cousin’s house.
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Hanging out on the new pontoon!

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We’re moving…AGAIN!

California

I have seriously waited SO long to be able to say this….WE’RE MOVING!!!! Yes, again. This time, we are moving to the west coast…SUNNY CALIFORNIA! *Queue the crowd cheering audio track*

This is been in the works since July 2015. Yes, you read that correctly – JULY 2015. It has been a long time coming and I am ecstatic that it is finally happening. The Mr accepted the position back in January and due to some unforeseen company changes, it stalled our relocation process. All that mess aside, we will be flying out of Amsterdam at the end of March!

Our experience here has been unforgettable to say the least. We traveled the world, raised an infant in a completely new country without any family nearby, and we conquered it all as a strong, cohesive family unit. I cannot even begin to express how thankful I am that I have The Mr in my corner. He is the most understanding and supportive person on the face of the planet. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it 1000x over – I hit the freaking jackpot with this one!!

I can’t say that the past 2.5 years was paved with rose petals. I had many, MANY days where the constant Holland gloomy weather got me down. I struggled with self-identity, battled with pseudo relationships, and dwelled in self-hate. I wish I could say that I conquered them and come out the other side a stronger person. It’s not that sort of storybook ending. The melee is far from over but I will continue to trudge on and kick its A$$.

I’m excited for what California has to offer. I have been doing extensive research on all the places we can take Ittybot and of course all the foodie offerings! We go to bed each night talking about all the fun and exciting things coming our way. We have some serious goals and what the bots have next in the horizon is nothing short of AMAZEBALLS.

I’ll conclude this here and I’m sure you will hear from me again in the near future!

JoopJoop,

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