Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Travel Diary ✧ Winter in Japan | Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka

About a year ago, I dreamed of visiting Japan and planned madly for the day to come. When I booked my plane ticket in October, I was still not quite comprehending that it just became real. 

 I was in Japan for 9 days and it was one of the BEST trips I've ever gone on. The culture, the food, and the lifestyle were remarkable. The locals were super friendly and courteous and the customer service was superb. Did I mention the food was incredible? I felt like I stepped into a ramen world and I loved it. My friends and I visited Tokyo and Kyoto, and made a spontaneous half-day trip to Osaka. All of those places were beautiful and unique and left an everlasting impression. And what they say is true - everything is SO clean in Japan. From the heated subway seats to the high-tech public toilets, I wanted to bring it all back with me. That was wishful thinking on my part, but I do have many, and by many I mean 300+ photos, and 5 hours+ worth of footage from the trip to look back on. 

Below is a travel diary documenting what I did each day followed by the respective photos as well as a travel vlog at the very end. Get ready to do a lot of scrolling because I have TONS of photos to share. So sit back, relax and scroll away :) Enjoy!

Day 1 - 12/29
First stop was Meiji Shrine in Shibuya. We then took the metro to Harajuku and after finding a quick place for ramen, we shopped at Wego and Spinns and did a little major damage in a tax-free drugstore called Ainz. After getting dessert at a fancy tea and cake restaurant two stores over, we walked to Takeshita Street and the first thing we did was purikura! Having shopped a bit, we went back to Shibuya. We walked on the Shibuya Crossing and it was pretty awesome. For dinner, we ate nearby at Genki Sushi, which is a chain restaurant where you order on a screen and the food comes to you on a conveyer belt. So cool!

Day 2 - 12/30 
Early in the morning, we went to Tokyo Station, mainly to exchange our JR voucher for the JR pass. The underground station was massive and had stores like The Pokemon Center and Totoro. For lunch, we got to experience ordering ramen from a vending machine for the first time! The highlight of the day was going to Asakusa for our yukata rental reservation at Yae. It took about two hours for us to get dressed. We walked to Sensō-ji Temple and had a super fun photo session in our yukatas. We had solo & group shots, and a lot of tourists wanted pictures with us. We found these matcha cream filled taiyakis in one of the indoor shopping centers near the temple and and they were super yummy. Four hours later, we were back in our normal attires and per the yukata rental's owner's suggestion, we got monjya and okonomiyaki at Roku Monsen for dinner. It was very entertaining to watch the food being cooked in front of us. Before going home, we went to Shibuya and got an awesome view of the Shibuya Crossing from the Starbucks on top of the bookstore.

Day 3 - 12/31 
We started the day shopping at Takeshita Street. There was a store that had a variety of cute shoes. The crowded shopping street actually has a lot of shops that sell cheap and cute things. We continued our shopping spree by going to Shibuya 109 and walked the entire 8 floors. Later that night, we went to Asakusa for New Year's Eve at the Sensō-ji Temple. There was a huge crowd when we got to the entrance gate, known as the Kaminarimon Gate. We were basically in line at the entrance all the way to the temple. We made it to the second gate when we did the countdown for New Years and welcomed 2017! On the other side of the temple, there were lots of food stalls. We saw government officials ringing a huge bell in an elevated area. I heard they ring it 108 times at midnight.

Day 4 - 1/1 
We visited Ueno Park, which is a prime location for seeing cherry blossoms in Spring. Then walked to Ameyoko, an outdoor shopping street lined with mostly food markets and restaurants. In the evening, we went to Akihabara, the anime and gaming central of Tokyo. We grabbed a quick dinner at Mos Burger.

Day 5 - 1/2 
We left the house at 5am to go to the Tsukiji Fish Market. Sadly, they were closed for the New Year holiday, so we visited the nearby Tsukiji Hongan-ji Temple. After getting breakfast at a sushi bar in the Fish Market area, we took the train to Odaiba, an artificial island, and went to the Miraikan Musuem. We had an hour to spare before the museum opened, so we rented bikes and rode around the area. The place had a Silicon Valley feel with all the tall and modern building structures. The museum was super interactive and cool. We watched a demo featuing the robot, Asimo! Because we were up so early, we still had a lot of time after the museum, and we wanted to shop again so we went to Takeshita Street. We pretty much knocked out by 10pm since we were up so early.

Day 6 - 1/3 
For our last day in Tokyo, we did some major shopping. The original plan was to go to the Aoyama Flower Market Tea House for brunch, but we found out it was closed for the holiday. We went to Kiddy Land, and I felt like I was stepping in every kid's dream. It had all the toys you can imagine. From the Sanrio characters to popular Japanese cartoons, it was cuteness overload. Thanks to Yelp, our lunch spot was Tonkatsu Masien. The place is known for their wide selection of meal sets. I ordered a set that included fresh salmon, tuna, and hamachi nigiri, chicken katsu, soup, and soba. It was SO good. Definitely worth the 40 minute wait. After refueling, we shopped at Takeshita Street again. We also visited Shinjuku and shopped inside a mall that connected to Shinjuku Station. Dinner was Ichiran Ramen in Shibuya. We ordered from a vending machine and seated ourselves in this single booth setup where each seat was a cubby with blinds in front. There wasn't much face to face interaction with the server. It was definitely an experience! And to think the place is a franchise. So cool. After shopping at Tokyo Hands and before heading home, we finally saw the Hachi statue on our last night. We didn't have to look far for it because it was right outside the Shibuya Station.

Day 7 - 1/4 
We checked out of our Airbnb in Tokyo in the morning and took the Shinkasen (Japanese bullet train) to Kyoto Station. Later that day, we visited the Nishiki Market. I got a matcha soft serve that had a vivid green color. It was the best matcha ice cream I've ever had. The matcha flavor was rich and not sweet at all. That evening, we walked to Gion, a shopping district famous for spotting Geishas. Dinner was at Chijori, where we ordered from an iPad and the food comes to you on a conveyor belt. Similar to Genki Sushi, but much better quality.

Day 8 -1/5
For our last full day in Kyoto, we visited the Arashiyama Bamboo Forest and the Fushimi Inari-taisha. Because we didn't have time to go to Nara Park, we made a spontaneous trip to Osaka! We went to the Kuromon Market and found snacking scallops at a really good price. At night, we walked to the downtown area, Dotonbori and ate ramen at Ramen Tidori. It was a super small ramen bar that had only six seats. It was our last meal in Japan and it was probably the best one out of the entire trip. We made friends with the ramen chefs and got a selfie with them :)

Day 9 - 1/6
Heading home + a day of traveling. The bullet train from Kyoto Station to Shinagawa St. took about two and a half hours. We saw Mount Fuji on the train coming back. We arrived at Haneda Airport in the evening. The airport had pretty lights and plenty of tax-free shops. Made a few last minute purchases consisting of food and souvenirs before boarding.

✻  ✻  ✻



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