A much delayed update on my trip to japan in the past year. But it was such an amazing experience I still wanted to share it with you.
We traveled for 2 weeks, heading to Tokyo and Kyoto, as well as Bangkok. It was our second time in Tokyo and we were excited to bring in our new passions and interests to explore what the Japanese has done in these industries. Of course, the trip was centered around food, as all our vacations are.
Japan is always an amazing destination in our minds due to our love for Japanese cuisine, as well as my very superficial knowledge of the Japanese language, making traveling a little bit easier. We had first visited Japan 3 years ago, and it was our first trip together as a couple. This time, we wanted to truly experience and explore the city as much as we could as we would have if we were to live in Japan. We wanted to avoid the tourist spots (and traps) as much as possible. So the obvious choice in accommodation was AirBNB.
We were situated in Yoyogi officially, but really was between Shinjuku and Yoyogi stations on the west side. Our host was an amazing person, and we even got to meet her for Sawada-san sushi [later]. Although the apartment was small, the amenities were fully-stocked. It was an adjustment from the Canadian living spaces, but we fit in right away because it was clean and cozy. We were also provided a portable wifi which I carried everywhere with us, proving to be incredibly useful and now I never want to go travelling in a big urban city without one.
Of course, we used the JR Rail pass for any long trips, but we had our passmo cards to take the subway in Japan. Because we had been before, we knew there were two different companies in Japan regarding subway lines (unlike what we were used to in Canada). There was the Tokyo Metro and the Toei Subway.
In terms of loading your card, it’s a simple game of putting in the money at the machines and following the instructions. There are also videos on youtube that might help you with that, but all machines have the English option so don’t worry!
Areas explored, activities completed
Omotesando is sort of the hipster, artistic, loud area that is really up and coming right now. Moreover, lots of designer stores are located on its main street, including Céline, MIUMIU, REDValentino, Hugo Boss, D&G, Burberry…
Really one of my favourite areas I’ve been to in Tokyo, trumping Roppongi hills.
An equally artsy place as omotesando, harajuku is a little more feminine and contains more of the art industry as it has been developed more. There were also lots of clothing boutiques, all with amazing interior designs. One of the stores we visited had a large selection of Valentino Mens and was displayed in a three -storey house, where they displayed grooming products and Byredo candles and perfumes in the bathroom.
Cup Noodle Factor – Yokohama
The cup noodle factory was a must for us, as we’ve lived part of our university lives off of these extremely convenient and innovative foods. We booked a instant ramen-making session, where we kneaded the dough, pressed it through the noodle machine, coated it with the seasoning, and finally watched as our ramen was dehydrated using their deep fry-dehydration technique. We also designed our own cup noodle, which is complementary with the admission.
Golden Gai – Shinjuku
We went to the bustling bar scene in Shinjuku, near the red-light district. tfung was extremely interested in whiskies and so we wanted to go to the whisky bars of Golden Gai.
Mori Art Museum
As I had started to develop an interest in art from the city of Montreal, I decided that going to an art museum in Roppongi hills was a good idea. Furthermore, they had a Star Wars exhibition in the same tower, and a Naruto exhibition, so not much more was needed to get me there. We went to the Simple Forms: Contemplating Beauty exhibition, where we witnessed the marriage of physics, visual deception, and simplicity.
At Roppongi hills, we walked around and were able to get some free beer from a marketing event. Normally, if you’re into some shopping, this is a great spot for it, as all the brand names are present here.
Sake tasting in Tokyo Midtown
Nishiki Market in Kyoto (food is below)
For a better description, click here.
Gion in Kyoto
Exploring Gion at night certainly reminded me of Memoirs of a Geisha. And while tfung doesn’t share this sentiment, it was certainly a time of pondering and reminiscing for me.
Arashiyama & its bamboo garden
The bamboo garden of Arashiyama was one of the single most magical and breathtaking places I’ve been to. As if driven directly into a book or novel, I felt as if I had been transported to another world. A must visit in my opinion!
Shinkansen + Donburi (Osaka)
Universal Studios (Osaka)
I just couldn’t resist going to Universal Studios (US). What’s better was the fact that they had a Titan exhibit at COOL Japan! sector of the US. The merch was pretty cool, although we didn’t buy any, and the photo op was certainly fun. We also signed up for a Resident Evil-themed “Escape room” which was intensely fun. It was extremely difficult with the language barrier, as we were always a step behind with the announcements. Luckily, the iPads we were given had English options at least (among other languages).
And of course I can’t leave US without going to Harry Potter world! tfung wasn’t a huge HP fan, but too bad! I just had to buy butterbeer (wasn’t really to my taste), take a photo with the Hogwarts Express, and line up for the Hogwarts tour ride.
Again with the Memoirs of a Geisha references, I can’t help but think back to the scene where little Chiyo was running through the Fushimi Inari gates to make a donation for her wish. The further and deeper you go into the gates, the less people there are – perfect for some photos 🙂
In terms of food, of course this is the big one and so I will separate each restaurant and location into its own separate post.
Day 2 (Tokyo):
Bills Omotesando – Chic brunch location in Omotesando Hills
Maisen Tonkatsu – Katsu in Omotesando
Sawada-san – Ginza. Unfortunately, we do not have any pictures of the 2 Michelin start Sawada-san because he does not allow cell phones or cameras. However, we loved the food, it was absolutely amazing, the most complex, labour-intensive, innovative flavours we’ve ever had at a Japanese restaurant. For more details, please feel free to comment/send me a message!
Day 3 (Tokyo):
Ichiran – Shibuya
Day 4 (Tokyo):
Konaya – Oazo Building near Tokyo Station
Day 6 (Kyoto):
Shoraian – Arashiyama in Kyoto
Because kfung is an avid caffeine intaker, she had quite a long list of cafes to visit. It is expected there will be coffee involved in all her travel plans from here on out. Here are the highlights in Japan:
Toranomon Koffee – Toranomon
Omotesando Koffee – Omotesando
Note: unfortunately, Omotesando is now closed.
Streamers – Shibuya
Hiroshi Sawada, the owner, is a latte art champion and thus led this cafe in becoming one of the more popular ones in Tokyo.
ROASTERY – Omotesando
% Arabica – Kyoto Shijou
Weekenders – Kyoto