Aaaand that concludes our Japan 2016 Trip! ⛩🍣 🍜 🇯🇵
I'll definitely be back! This time, to explore Osaka and Kyoto! I might skip Tokyo for the next one, mainly because shopping isn't really why I want to travel. So, it's only fitting that I go back to Japan's Foodie capital, Osaka, and discover more of what Japan's food scene has to offer! And, hopefully, I won't be suffering from sore throat and dry cough next time, so I can binge on all the desserts I didn't get to have on this trip! 😂
Till next time! 😀
They say travel is good for you. They say it opens your mind to other cultures. They say travel changes you and makes you a better person. Now, I'm not sure about all that, I'm hopeful that it did, but one thing I did realize from this trip was how discipline and high regard for social etiquette really makes a difference in society. Having experienced the daily commute in Manila and comparing that to Japan, it makes you wonder why we do things a certain way. Why we're not always on time, why we blame everything on traffic, why we cut in line, just to get ahead, without any regard for our fellow passengers. It's sad, when you think about it, and I realized that we Filipinos put ourselves first, before anyone else. We think our time is more precious than the person lined up in front of us at the train. We're selfish, and we make excuses to justify why we do it. It's sad, but it's the bitter reality I now have to face again! 😆 #realizations
(Haha sorry, that got deep!)
21 September 2016
And we have boarded! (On time, if I may add.) Dim the lights, we're ready to take off. Destination: Manila, PH. 🇵🇭
While waiting for our boarding call at Gate 97-- which is extremely far from the predeparture area entrances, btw. Note to self, always, always, always assume your gate will be the farthest one from the entrance.
After shopping, we grabbed a quick brunch at UCC Cafe. We ordered the Ham and cheese breakfast set with Yoghurt and salad, and Homemade Waffle with Pumpkin.. something. 😆
Nothing to rave about, we just needed to eat. Haha!
Tokyo Day 3 - We checked out of our Airbnb very early because we knew we had an hour and a half train ride to Narita Airport.
We got off at Shinjuku again, where I experienced Tokyo Train Booboo #1763837372 and lost my ticket. 😔 We then bought Narita Express tickets, which was the quickest way to get there. We could have gone another route, but it involved around 6 train transfers and we didn't want to risk it! 😳 The fare was expensive, at around 3200¥ per person, but we figured it would still be cheaper than risk missing our flight! 😂
The train was excellent, per usual. Japan, you're doing it right! We arrived on time (on the dot, as always!).
At the airport we still had to do a lot of shopping, so we headed straight to the Airport Mall at the 4th Floor. We grabbed some Royce, Kitkats and other munchables as pasalubong, as well as some Japanese rice toppings and seasonings in case we miss it when we get home! Hmmm can't wait to try out Salmon flakes and the seasoning later! 😆
In the nearby mall at Sasazuka Station, was an Osaka Ohsho, a gyoza place we had in the Phils that I wanted to try our in Japan, just for comparison! Haha.
We ordered a gyoza set and crab omu rice. Everything was good, as expected! A good meal to cap off our last night in Tokyo.
Enjoying Shinjuku's night light while heading for Shinjuku Stn.
Next on our itinerary: Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.
We read off an article somewhere that it had an observatory that offered a spectacular view of Tokyo, free of charge! Who were we to pass that off? 😆 So we headed to the building, went through bag inspection and got in the elevators to the observatory.
The views were indeed, spectacular! Not 360, though, but the windows were large enough to accomodate the dozens of tourists trying to capture the amazing view of Tokyo.
It wasn't dark enough when arrived, so we waited until it the sun had completely set to fully enjoy the Tokyo lights. It was extremely difficult to photograph though, because the windows were reflective, and there was a lot of light coming from inside. So all you could see is literally everyone trying to cover up the reflection to get a good photo! 😂
Upon arriving at Shinjuku, the differences and similarities between Shibuya and Shinjuku became clear: they were both shopping districts, but there were waaaay less people in Shinjuku. We were able to go in and out stores without having to concentrate on not bumping into other people! We should've gone here earlier! Haha!
We wanted to checkout Isetan mall's basement-- a dessert heaven according to our Google Search, but we saw a lot of shops along the way that we wanted to check out: Yodabashi Camera, Bic Camera, Adidas (again! haha)
When we got to Isetan however, it was clear that it wasn't for us. The desserts, while they all looked amazing, were too high-end and expensive for our taste (and budget!) so we left empty-handed, again! Haha!
We then grabbed a quick lunch at one of Japan's "sushi train" places, Genki Sushi. 🍣 🚂
After our Tsukiji visit, we set our expectations very low for Genki, considering the price point, but it turned out not bad! A bit clumsily-made, though, in my honest opinion, but it still tasted good, and the experience was fun! I wouldn't recommend this to everyone though, because although it wasn't bad, it wasn't that cheap either, which makes we wonder if we could've done better at a more traditional sushi place... But, oh well! It was still a nice experience. 😂
Afterwards, we continued shopping but we didn't buy much for ourselves, mostly just for pasalubong. Haha. So when we got tired and didn't know what to do anymore, we decided to head to Shinjuku!
20 September 2016
After Meiji, we headed back to begin shopping!
I didn't really take a lot of photos in the malls, but we went in Loft and Tokyu Hands to check out stationary, home stuff and random bits and pieces to take home as pasalubong. Checked out Zara and Bershka. We also went in a lot of shoe shops-- Adidas, ABC-Mart, Under Armour. And some electronic shop-- Bic Camera.
When we arrived, the place was already packed with tourists like us! There wasn't really much to see, but you can't take a trip to Japan and not visit a shrine.
We wrote on a wooden plank our "prayers" and signed our names and offered it to the deities enshrined in Meiji. ⛩
After walking around for a few minutes, we headed for Meiji Shrine, which is just beside Yoyogi Park. When I say "just beside", I mean it looks near if you check on Google Maps, but you don't have direct access to one from the other. We had to walk outside and around to get in. By the time we arrived in the main shrine, our feet were already tired! 😅
After eating, we were once again too early to go shopping because the stores were still closed, so we decided to pass by Yoyogi Park, which was the Central Park of Tokyo.
It was a bit of a walk from Shibuya, but the weather was nice, so we didn't really mind.
The park itself is nice, clean, and very conducive to early morning jogs. I can imagine it would be nice to wake up and go there everyday. There aren't many attractions though, so it really is just a place for relaxing and enjoying nature.
Once we figured out-- no, scratch that, asked for help from staff in figuring out what to do next, (haha), we finally were able to place our orders! Yey!
Not long, our ramen bowls arrived and we enjoyed the best ramen everrrr! 😍 The dining experience in Dotonbori was nicer, but this definitely tasted a lot richer! Better than Ramen Nagi / Ippudo, dare I say!
Afterwards, we bought "souvenirs", which were instant ramen boxes outside to take home for us and for Tingting's pasalubong. Can't wait to try these!!
We haven't had our breakfast yet, so we stopped by Ichiran Ramen 🍜. It's open 24/7 and is usually packed with people, but apparently, Japanese don't like having ramen for breakfast, which is good for us! We had the entire place to ourselves! 😂 One disadvantage though was that we didn't know what to do at first, and didn't know how to order! We spent a good 10 mins debating on whether we should sit down or wait for staff to go out. Turns out, they only opened one section, and we sat down on a closed one-- which explains why no one answered when we pressed on the service call button! *facepalm* We also tried filling out the ramen preference sheet which was in Japanese by using the Google Translate app. When we were sat down in the right section, the staff offered us an English version. Haha! *double facepalm*
SHIBUYA CROSSING, HACHIKO
Tokyo Day 2 - Today is shopping day, so we thought we'd start it off with a trip to Shibuya, one of Tokyo's famous shopping districts! Oh, and one more thing, it stopped raining!! Yeyy! We still brought our umbrellas though! #praning
Getting off at Shibuya Station, we exited at the Hachiko gate and snuck in a photo with Japan's most famous dog. (Reminder: watch Hachiko again) We arrived pretty early, so there weren't any people near the statue that we didn't notice it at first! 😂
After a few photos, we were ready to cross what was arguably the world's most famous crossing, the Shibuya Crossing!🚦🚥 It was rush hour when we left for Shibuya, so there were a lot of people in the train already, let alone the crossing!! It was nice to experience it at its peak though, and the Japanese really know how to avoid bumping into each other! Haha. Just one silly observation. If that were in Manila, I'm sure I'd have my feet stepped on, at minimum.
When we arrived at Sasazuka Station, we looked around the mall a bit and realized the stores here were more up our speed-- cheaper and unique to Japan! I bought home scents #titamode and eyed some socks and a jacket I liked but didn't buy yet.
We decided on buying dinner and just eat at home again, so we bought some meals at a stall which sold bento-type meals which looked interesting. I went for Salmon, and Jaybee went for Karaage. Both were average, but still better than most pre-cooked meals we've had in the past! And it's cheap. Haha!
So that's it for Tokyo Day 2! The rain was definitely a bummer, but weather reports say there's little chance of rain tomorrow, so here's to hoping! Fingers crossed!
After eating, we headed for the outlet park. It the usuals-- Adidas, Nike, Reebok, Puma, Rockport, Gap, etc. As well as some local Japanese brands.
Unfortunately, we didn't find anything we liked, so we decided to home empty-handed. 🙁
On our trip back, however, we finally realized why we made a mistake earlier! Apparently, the Keio Line had 6 types of services-- Special Express, Semi-Special Express, Express, Semi-Express, Rapid, and Local-- each with it's own skipping patterns and lines. Whew.
When we FINALLY arrived, it was already 2pm, and we were starving! We found this Udon place near the station and decided to check it out!
The restaurant's style was you had to get a tray and go through some side dishes you could choose from, order your Udon (what toppings, size, hot/cold), and then pay!
Not sure if we were just hungry, but the Udon was good!! I'm not usually one to order Udon as I would prefer Soba for thinner noodles, but this was surprisingly not too overwhelming! The texture was nice, and the flavor was just right. Plus the egg was perfectly poached! The side dishes were average, nothing to rave about, but the udon made it worth it! Plus, it crosses off one thing from our loooong list of Japanese food to try on this trip! Haha!
After Uniqlo, we decided we had enough of Ginza. Haha! It was too high-end for us, similar to SG's Orchard Road, and PH's Greenbelt 4-- nice places for window shopping! Haha! 😂
So, we decided to head to Minami-Osawa to go to an outlet park recommended by a friend who lived in Japan. The train ride to Minami-Osawa was estimated to be 1:30mins long. Yes, it was that far. Plus, it didn't help that we didn't know we had to get off at one station to transfer to another line. 😅 We had to backtrack a few stations and find the right line. Haha! Tokyo Subway Booboo #3!
19 September 2016
After touring the garden, we walked to the main Ginza area to go to K.Itoya, a 12-floor stationary store which came highly-recommended by Kam. It had literally every paper and pen you can imagine, plus a lot of cute stuff as well. We did'nt really buy anything though, because it was all too expensive. 😝 To give you an idea, they had a 400,000¥ pen. 😳
After K.Itoya, we headed for Uniqlo Ginza, the largest Uniqlo in the world. It was a few blocks away, so we passed by the Apple Store and a store called GU before finally arriving at Uniqlo. It really is the best Uniqlo store I've ever been to, with 8 floors to boot!! Too bad we weren't actually looking into buying anything. Haha. Plus, all their clothes were for Autumn/Winter wear already, which we didn't really need. 😂 Still worth a visit though!
When it was time, we headed for the Himarikyu Gardens again, and found that it was indeed, open! 😂 I do hope they change the sign, I don't know how many foreigners might have been misled by their sign! :))
Anyway, we went in, paid the 300¥ entrance fee, and started looking around!
The garden looked beautiful, as expected. Everything looked well-kept and the Japanese tea houses and bridges added a nice touch. Too bad it was raining though, it would have been nicer to be able to sit on the benches to enjoy the view. It was still great, though! Definitely worth paying a visit, especially after a sushi breakfast at Tsukiji.
After eating, we tried to go to Himarikyu Garden which is this huuuge garden just near Tsukiji to kill time before the Ginza stores open.
When we got there we saw the sign "Closed for today". Imagine our disappointment! We decided to look a bit closer and realized that the sign looked permanent, which was weird for a "closed for today" sign. Just right below it, were the Opening and Closing times - 9am-6pm? That's when we realized that it must be a translation error, and they might have meant it to say "Closed for now". 😂 So, we decided to just come back when it opened and stayed at a Lawson for a cup of coffee. ☕️
Sushi Dai is always on top of the list whenever I search for Tsukiji Fish Market. It also came highly recommended by Kam! But it always came with a warning, it's a bit pricey and the wait could take 2-3 hrs. Since we arrived later than what was ideal, we didn't bother to find Sushi Dai anymore. After looking around, we found this place inside the market which serves Chirashi (Sashimi Rice Bowls). A bit pricier than our usual meals, but we figured it would be worth it!
We sat down, ordered the most assorted-looking thing on the menu because we wanted to try everything! Haha! The food arrived and it looked goooood! Loved loved loved the Tuna, Salmon and the other white fish in it (haha), and realized that I'm pretty basic when it comes to sushi because I didn't like the eel, shrimp and uni at all. :( It was my first time to try these, and I figured if I wanted to try them, this would be the place to do it! Oh well, at least I tried it! 😅
Tokyo Day 2 begins! We originally wanted to wake up super early, to make to the tuba auction at Tsukiji Fish Market, but we were both feeling sick that we decided to skip the auction and just have sushi breakfast there.
The market itself is a bit far from where we were staying, so we had to do two train transfers. We encountered a slight bump when we tried to go to the wrong exit and train staff had to inspect our tickets and guide us to the right exit. Wooops! If the Osaka Subway took was a level higher than SG's in terms of difficulty, Tokyo's is 2 levels higher than Osaka! >.<
Anyway, when we finally arrived at the station near Tsukiji, we had to walk a bit to the market. It was raining and the wind was making it extra chilly! 🍂 Autumn in Japan has officially begun!
When we arrived at the market, there weren't too many people, so we decided to look around first before eating.
When we got there, almost all stalls (except dessert stalls) were on sale! There were prices in red, which we thought were the actual price, indicated the price OFF for an item. So an item originally 1300¥ had 400 OFF label, now just cost 900¥! We chose Japanese-looking ones that we didn't really know what they were and picked our desserts.
We went home and enjoyed our dinner at the Airbnb. We still didn't know what we were eating, but they were yummy!-- which is all that matters :)
And that caps off Day 1 in Tokyo! Not much happened, so we're planning our strategy to make the most out of Day 2 :)
After resting for a bit, we decided to explore the Shinjuku Area a bit for dinner! We looked around malls near the station, all of which were too expensive for our taste (and pockets!) Haha! We ended up going to the basement of Odukyu Dept Store (Food Section) and decided to buy take aways instead!
Upon arriving at our Airbnb, we realized we were too early for check-in. 😣 We arrived at 1pm but check-in wasn't until 3pm! My mistake, I was looking at check-out time which was at 11am. We decided to kill time and have lunch first at Coco Ichibanya, a well-known place for its Curry Dishes! Ordered Pork Tonkotsu with Cheese Curry and Hamburger with Cheese Curry. (They must've though Filipinos really liked 🧀)
The food was goood and the heat was really nice for the chilly/rainy Tokyo weather. :) We wanted to stay until we could check in but they were looking at us funny, so we decided to leave. Haha! 😂
18 September 2016
From Tokyo Station, we needed to transfer to Keio Line to get to our Airbnb. We followed the signs but we were led to the platform right away! We didn't know where to buy tickets so we figured we'd just ride the train and pay for it when we get to Shinjuku Stn. When we arrived, we tried to explain to the train lady why we didn't have any tickets. She asked us where we came from and when we said Tokyo Stn, she just said "Okay, you exit". 😳 We didn't know what to do, so we just exited without paying for our ride! 😆
Day 3 -- Goodbye, Osaka! Hello, Tokyo!
We checked out of our Airbnb pretty early in the morning, and headed for Shin Osaka to buy our tickets for the Shinkansen. We didn't want to risk buying from a machine and getting it wrong because they cost too much, so we decided to buy it from a ticket booth. The guy didn't know much English but we were able to sort it out. After asking for a few more directions, we were able to find the right car and waited for the train.
We were both pretty excited for the Shinkansen, and it did not disappoint! We only bought tickets for non-reserved seats becase they're much cheaper, but the seats were reeeally nice. So much leg room! And the facilities were top-notch, as expected. :)
The ride took around 2 hr and 37 mins. (Yes, that's how exact it is). 😆 We exited the train, and we were officially in Tokyo!!
No. 3 on our checklist -- Pablo
Pablo is known for it's cheese tarts. It opened last week on Manila, but the lines there are crazy, so we thought we'd try it here! There was a line, but it wasn't too bad. We were planning to buy both Regular Cheese Tart plus a Matcha flavored one. Too bad they ran out of Matcha flavored ones, so we just went with Regular Cheese Tart - Rare.
We did take away bec we knew we couldnt finish it in one sitting. We took it home and enjoyed it for dessert and breakfast for the next day! 😉
Up next in our checklist was--
2 - Okonomiyaki
We didn't really know where to go, but I had this starred on my Google Maps so I might have researched it before. It was found in a side street, away from the hustle and bustle of the main streets, and there were 3 people in line outside. We figured we could try it out. It was our first time in a restaurant-type place in Japan and didn't really know how things went. They gave us a menu which had English translations. We decided on one type of Okonomiyaki and Yakisoba. For drinks we ordered Ginger Ale. We were seated near the chef's "grill" so we could see how our food was cooked. The Yakisoba arrived first and it tasted like sweet pancit. Haha! It wasn't exactly like pinoy pancit, but pretty close. The Okonomiyaki came next. It was really good but I shouldn't have ordered the Beef Tendon. (Didn't know what it was when we ordered 😅) It was still pretty good! Adding lots of mayo made it extra yummy!
A few hours of rest after, we were now ready for Dotonburi Part 2! We had three things to cross off our checklist.
1 - Takoyaki
Since it was our last night in Osaka, we had to try this. We looked for the stalls with the most number of people lining up and lined up too! It was raining, but that didn't stop us! Good thing our Airbnb had umbrellas for us to use!
Back to the food-- Takoyaki was gooood! Really hot though, and the texture was a bit runny, but it was still yummyyy!
After that, we decided it was time to leave USJ! But not without the obligatory photo-op at the entrance and at the Universal globe.
And that concludes our trip to Universal Studios Japan! Florida, you're next!! 🇺🇸
Before leaving, we stopped by all the Gift shops to see if there was anything interesting we could get. Haha! Of course I still went straight to the HP area, but didn't buy anything. (Pats myself in the back!)
Since it was raining and our feet were already tired, we decided to go on one last ride before leaving USJ. We chose this Spiderman 4D ride because it seems to have good reviews and it wasn't too scary like Jurassic Park's Flying Dinosaur. Waiting time was arouns 180mins, but was definitely worth it! :) (Still not as good as HP though hehe)
17 September 2016
After, we didn't really have any other rides we wanted to try, so we just went to the show-type ones that didn't take too long.
Went to Backdraft and Waterworld - both of which were in Japanese, so we couldn't really understand anything. Haha! Good thing Waterworld was our 2nd viewing since we saw that in USSG too :)
Walked around a bit more, and decided we were ready to leave WWoHP. :( I didn't really want to but I knew I'd end up spending much more if we did (haha)! So we left the village... but not without stopping by the Weasley's Ford Anglia first!
...and we met Spiderman and his buddy! Haha. #random
Photo-ops at Hogwarts Express! :)
After eating, we went to Honeydukes...
Since there were still a lot of free tables, we chilled for a bit while enjoying our Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice. :) The atmosphere inside Three Broomsticks was really nice. I wish there was an actual place like that in Manila!
Ordered Shepherd's Pie w/ Salad, Fish and Chips, Butterbeer and Pumpkin Juice! Both drinks were too sweet for my taste, but then again, it's the experience that we're after! Haha! Now when I read HP again, I'll know what their food tasted like :)
Seeing a couple of people lining up for Butterbeer at a stall along Hogmeade, I remembered that we should try out Three Broomsticks before it fills up!
When we found it, we went inside but realized that it was still 9am!! Too early for lunch, but since we didn't get breakfast, we figured we should still eat before it gets packed.
After that, we looked around the shops at Hogmeade (a sentence I never though I would ever write down!) and checked out the fun wand-magic stations! Didn't buy a wand, bec it was too expensive haha!
Photo-ops at the Hogsmeade Sign and the Black Lake!!
P.S. The Black Lake really is black! Haha
Post-ride: That's me, spending waayy too much than I should be spending on a gift shop. Haha. #noregrets
The ride was awesome. I would line up 3 hours for it because the pre-ride was basically a tour of Hogwarts!! 😱 Wanted to go back but figured we should take advantage of having less people in Hogmeade first! :)
Once we were inside, everyone kept on walking, so we just went with them. I then realized we were heading for Hogwarts where the HP 4D Forbidden Journey ride was! I was so happy that we were able to get in so quickly that I cried some more. 😭 Hahaha!
Waiting time for the ride usually took 3hours, but we were already in after 15minutes!!! 😱
When the park opened, everyone rushed inside and most were running towards WWoHP. I was thinking that they were all heading for the Timed-Entry ticket booth, so I was expecting that maybe we could go in but in the afternoon.
While everybody was still running, I realized that we were inside WWoHP already, and that they just opened it for everyone! I couldn't believe it, and started crying! 😭(haha tears of joy!).
Day 2 - Universal Studios Japan Day! We were planning to go really early because we weren't able to book Early/Express Passes to USJ. But instead of waking up at 4, we woke up at around 5 already because I couldn't sleep the night before. Huhu.
I was preparing myself for the possibility of not being able to enter WWoHP at all because it was a Sunday and there were lots of people in line already when we arrived. We arrived at around 7am, and the park was to open at 8:30am...
After eating we decided to stop by a 7-Eleven to get food for breakfast (onigiri) and try some of their matcha ice cream. Needless to say, I've never been more impressed with convenience store food! 😅
Finally decided on a Ramen place which had seats by the street. We chose this one because we just had to pay via Vending machine and give he ticket to the guys behind the counter hehe. Ramen was gooood and very filling! And it was cheaper than Manila Ramen restaurants to boot!
After freshening up, we went around Dotonbori which is literally just a few steps away! Lots of people but not too intimidating. Looked around a bit before decided where to eat dinner.
Found a Pablo store with NO LINE! We wanted to try it but decided to just pass by after dinner if it was still open. (It was'nt.) Also found Osaka Ohsho! And while looking for Ichiran Ramen (which had a line) we stumbled upon the Glico Sign for the obligatory tourist shot.
When we got to the building, we tried to open the lock as instructed by the airbnb owner. We couldn't get it open at first! We got so stressed but finally figured our that we were trying to open the wrong mailbox! Woops. 😆
Anyway, so we found the place, figure out the lock, (haha) and got in! It's a really nice place! It looks like a storage place from the outside and the ceilings are really low but it's super clean and so space-efficient! Makes me wish I could turn MEM1 in to this!
Immigration and customs were a breeze. And because we didn't have luggage checked-in, we were out in minutes! Good choice. Note to self for next trip: just bring carry on!
We purchased a local sim card for 2700yen which was good for 7 days. The lady knew enough English to handle the transaction and we were able to get it working right away! :)
We then had to figure out how to get to our Airbnb near Nippombashi Station. We tried the ticket machines but couldnt figure it out, so we had to buy it from the counter. (They spoke really good English!) We showed them which station we had to go to, and he offered is 2 options. We went with the faster but more expensive one (Nankai Limited Express). We figured out how to get to the platform and was greeted by this really nice train! :)
One thing to note though, we got our ticket at 8:57, the train was to leave at 9:04. Jaybee didn't adjust his watch yet so he thought we still had an hour to spare!! Good thing I adjusted my watch! ⌚️️
Arrival at Kansai International Airport. Their runway was huge and the lights made it look like a field of Christmas lights! 😍
When we got to the building, naturally we just followed where everyone was going and got surprised when we were led to a train! Turns out, you needed a train to get to the main building!
After eating, we proceeded to the departure area, which was suprisingly not crowded. All other gates were filled with people except ours. Hmm. Maybe not a lot of people take this flight!
Only waited a few minutes in the departure area for boarding because we weren't too early as we were for our SG flight.
Plane wasn't full! We didn't have a seatmate! Yey. Also, our flight is surprisingly on time. Which means we'll have time to go around Dotonbori for dinner!
Japan, here we come! After check-in and immigration (which didn't take as long as our SG trip), we had a few minutes to spare. We decided to get some snacks at Tokyo Cafe. I know, why eat at Tokyo Cafe when we're going to the real thing anyway? It was the place with the least people! And to be fair, they weren't actually serving Japanese food. Haha!