We vlogged this trip here, take a look on my youtube channel. Subscribe for more videos!
DAY 1 DAY 1 DAY 1
Landed after approximately 10 hours in flight in Tokyo!
Singapore airlines economy class wasn’t too bad. They had good snacks like apples, bananas, cold sandwiches, chocolate bars. I had a USB charging port, an awesome selection of movies (Frozen movie watch party in seat 43B heyyy) I didn’t get a chocolate bar though. And, it’s interesting, these airlines serve vegetarian meals first, like way ahead of the other meals.
Caught up with the rest of the group and we all took this airport bus shuttle to the hotel. It stopped at multiple hotels. The nice guy tagged our luggage and we boarded the bus. It even had USB outlets to charge our phones. I was pretty excited when I saw that I could charge my phone. I’d forgotten if the voltage was the same in Japan as it is in the US, but I didn’t have a converter on me. So, trial and error, I guess.
It worked. Thank goodness.
Not to say I would’ve risked having my precious phone electrocuted! We had a vague sense that it was the same voltage since this wasn’t the first time going to Japan.
The bus ride to the hotel near Shimbashi Station – Shiodome was a long 40 minutes, but it was a good time to catch up on some zzz’s. I do feel like I’m getting older and these long international flights are harder to sit through! I’m such a grannie.
After reaching the hotel, which had the most uh-mazing smelling lobby I’ve ever smelled, we settled in our hotel room.
It was pretty small. Like bed, bathroom, TV. Yup. There was a wine fridge though? priorities.
There’s a plaza outside the hotel that also includes Skyview Tower which takes you allll the waaaay up to the cityscape and it’s a beautiful 360 view of Tokyo and we found a nice, quick ramen restaurant in the open plaza, Caretta Plaza. Our udon was just around $4 USD for wakame udon aka seaweed udon. Cha-ching! Cleaned up after our own table after this light meal. And here’s a visual representation of the holidays in Tokyo:
Gotta reapply your facial and hand moisturizer because Tokyo is brrr cold and dry.
DAY 2 DAY 2 DAY 2 DAY 2
Woke up bright and early for a day of ramen and cup noodles and more noodles. Noodles are supposed to symbolize longevity, so I hope all this noodle business works out in that way.
We took a combination of rail lines (Google Maps works as well) and found our way to the Ramen Museum at Shin-Yokohama. It didn’t seem too far from Tokyo. The question was how to get to the museum from the bus stop. It’s not very obvious which exit to take from the station and which direction. There happened to be a tourist center in the bus station and they told us which exit and what streets to look out for. Thank goodness.
Out into the windy and bright morning sun, we walked and arrived at the Ramen Museum. There’s senior citizen (50 yen), adult (260 yen), and youth fare. First thing you see when you enter is a nice gift shop. Then you proceed into an underground small courtyard of various ramen noodle soup choices.
The ramen sat in a layer of oil. We ordered the shoyu ( soy sauce like) and the original tonkatsu (pork bone broth) it tasted freshly made with its hot broth and fresh elasticity of the noodles. But it got very heavy and greasy. The broth separated into two very distinct layers. So we ate like half. It made us uncomfortable. We knew that we should have finished it because of, you know, culturalreasons.
We got looks from some teens who were sitting at the next table over. They finished their bowls even with add ons, like cheese and scallions.
Oh well. I think I got very used to LA ramen. Los Angeles has some of the most flavorful Japanese restaurants and I think that’s just my palette now?
After some fun walking through this themed dining experience in the Ramen Museum and shopping for cute ramen-themed merchandise, we braced the winter sun again for another adventure. This time the Cup Noodle Museum.
We took the bus to Mina station which was a private rail so we paid extra outside of our pre-bought JR pass. We had to pay additional train tickets multiple times throughout this trip in Japan. So Mina station tickets were 180 yen per person one way. The train was very nice with polished wood panel.
Once we exited the station, the wind came at us from all directions. Again we had to consult a map. We had a map from the Ramen museum actually! It was supposed to lead us to the Cup Noodle Museum but it had a nonexistent train stop on there in the directions. Strange? So, after a while we knew not to trust the map that came from the Ramen Museum showing us how to get to the Cup Noodle Museum. Go figure.
We walked quite a few long blocks. It seemed to be in a corporate district by the water. There was a river here and even an amusement park! If you’ve ever been to Santa Monica in California, this area reminded me of it. It was a mini-Santa Monica. We even saw a ferris wheel, rollercoaster, and they sold funnel cakes!
The Cup Noodle Museum had a more modern feel compared to the Ramen Museum. Make your own Cup Noodle was around 300 yen per person on top of the 500 yen admission to get into the museum. Then there are noodle-making workshops that you have to reserve and sign up for. We didn’t get the chance to do this. However, making your own cup noodle was pretty fun! I colored mine and tried to mimic the theme of the cup noodle cup!
After some photos with some art exhibits here and there in this museum, we headed back to Shimbashi Station for dinner on the Tokaido Line.
Travelling in a group of 9, no Japanese restaurant was going to seat us. We went to 10, yes 10 different restaurants and no one would take us. How about if we split the tables, 5 here and 4 here? No. How about 3 tables of 3? Nope.
Strange. What if we had come in as separate groups? I bet the answer would’ve been different.
And so we settled for the restaurant inside the hotel. And then something very paradoxical and strange happened.
It was a disappointing Chinese restaurant with an offensive racist non-Japanese waiter.
Asked him what a tea written in Chinese Asian beauty tea was. He was like where are you from. We said we are American. Then he was like but what is your background. We said Chinese. Then he said well it’s a Chinese tea. And gave us a look like we’re stupid. Like wtf? Just bc I’m Chinese I’ll know what an Asian beauty tea is? Here’s an example. That’s like me calling a food concoction, “racist bastard” putting it on a menu with no description:
Would you know what Racist Bastard meant?
HA! No! Some people are narrow minded or dense.
So then mom says yea but it’s just a name. Then he was oh well it’s like a black tea.
DAY 3 DAY 3 DAY 3
Yes, it finally time to visit the Harajuku District. I was excited to see interesting clothing, food, and anything really at this place that is so famous.
There’s a creperie in Beverly Hills that sells crepes associated with the Harajuky district. So, we ordered a crepe in the real Harajuku district. We just had to order a crepe. And it was good! (~700 yen)
Walked around with it. Then we saw some interesting knock off cartoon characters. And fuzzy onesies. And shoes. Runway-fashion-magazine-never-wear-to-work-shoes! It was all pretty cool and interesting.
Then the real fun begins: Harry the Hedgehog Café! It had bunnies as well, but we didn’t visit that part. It was hard to find since it was down a small road. There was a line and there quite a few people who made reservations. We didn’t make reservations, so we waited half an hour on a weekday in the afternoon around 2PM.
Finally we entered the charming little shop. The lady was nice and she seemed to be European or American and also spoke Japanese. There were Japanese workers as well. We had to pay 1600 yen for every 30minutes or so with the hedgehogs.
We could even feed them if we wanted to. Some hedgehogs were sleeping, all curled up in a ball. Some hedgehogs huddled together while they slept.
Then the nice lady handed me a hedgehog that had curled up into a ball in the palms of her hands. Basically it felt like this: Ouch and ooh! The quills are pretty sharp but it has a soft under belly. My single finger stroked it from head to tail. It’s tiny legs and arms were so adorable. It was squirmy but I don’t blame it for being like so. It was transported between boxes and they’re nocturnal. It’s hard for them to be awake during the day.
Kind of like me in the morning.
Then we headed off to Akihibara!
Had the best port belly ramen there. And to think we just stumbled upon this place. The generous chunk of pork belly just melted in your mouth. The creamy broth was beautiful.
There are arcades in Akihibara as it seems to be part of what it’s known for. The first floor is reserved for more high-paying customers. The higher floors are for cheaper games. You’ll find the young boys on the top floors.
Then we headed to the famous Ginza district. There are a plethora of designer name shops, so I’d expect to spend a lot of money here. Some day.
We actually headed to Ginza for something way more unique, different, and thrilling: eating fugu (blow fish). Blow fish contains a deadly amount of toxin that can kill you. So, the chef is supposed to taste it first before serving it to the customer. What a sacrifice to be a chef that serves fugu. I mean, risking your life for a culinarydelicacy? That’s dedication. We just had to try eating this deadly fish.
Once we reached the restaurant, they seated us in tatami mat rooms with sliding doors. It was a private space for our party. The menu featured several styles of fugu: fried, sashimi, salad, charcoal grilled, porridge, or a set menu of all styles. It wasn’t terribly expensive, but it wasn’t cheap either..
We were perusing the menu looking for some form that would satisfy our appetite and we saw that the menu said they served it so fresh it’s still kicking! Ha, funny.
But it was still kicking! Imagine a live piece of fish still pulsing and kicking on the plate. That’s fresh sashimi for sure. If you stomach it, watch it here. If it had been on my chopping block, I would’ve ended it’s misery right then and there.
The texture is fun to chew when it’s in shredded form. When it’s cooked, it tastes like any cooked white fish. Delicious!
Needless to say we survived eating this deadly fish this time.
DAY 4 DAY 4 DAY 4
This day started off with a long train ride to Kyoto. It was about 2.5 hours by bullet train.
The hotel room was supposed to supply well water through the drains, so the water would be special as we washed our hands or showered, but the hotel didn’t offer it for some reason. 🙁
The room was very spacious.
DAY 5 DAY 5 DAY 5
Just a train ride away, Fushimi is right outside a train station. You can see it from the train station.
We hiked Mount Inari which features the famous orange fiery columns of the Fushimi Shrine. Prosperity and fortune are associated with this shrine. Apparently one can donate thousands to hundreds of thousands to erect a column.
The mountain is about 300 km high and it took us around an hour to reach the top. There are plenty of steps. Maybe next time I’ll count how many steps there are.
And the highlight of this hike was a cute white and black spotted kitten.
I spotted an onyx black cat just inspecting some trash on the side of the path. A lady was adoring cooing/making noises at it. It didn’t really care for her. Cats. It just continued with its prodding at the box. After a while of watching it, I turned to continue our ascent and I said see you at the top! Then a kitten meowed at me from my right side. I turned to look and the kitten glanced at me for one second. It was a small fluffy one. Then it darted behind me as it crossed to the other side and disappeared from my sight.
Afterwards, we searched for some delicious matcha green tea fondue. We asked a tourist center for some directions to the matcha green tea restaurant/dessert restaurant. It was located in an area that was filled with yummy dessert shops featuring matcha.
DAY 6 DAY 6 DAY 6
Some members on the trip mentioned that they wanted to go a hotel that had hot springs somewhere. It was located in Hakune.
It was in the country side and hard to find. It took us 3-4 hours to get there since we got lost. We took a bullet train and got off at the wrong station. Then the wrong bus. It was dark when we arrived at our hotel. Most restaurants were closed. We settled for French food in a Japanese hotel.
Learned a lesson –should clarify and check each step of the way. Once we got on a bus, we should check with the bus driver if this is going in the right direction. I think our navigational skills and sense of initiative are improved after this trip.
The hot springs water fills a tub in the back of the hotel room. There’s a nice open balcony-like area. The surroundings are pitch black because you are in a forest. The tub is designed in a stone pattern. It’s plastic though because I think rock is permeable. The hot springs was very hot and my skin turned a nice red after a couple minutes. It was also very soft.
DAY 7 DAY 7 DAY 7
We took the train back to Tokyo. Near Tokyo there’s a station called Shibuya station. There are great shopping areas there.
Shibuya Crossing is a famous intersection where people cross from more than four directions. It’s a sea of people crossing a large intersection.
We also visited Hachi Station which is dedicated to the faithful dog Hachi. If you don’t know about Hachi I suggest you watch the Netflix movie Hachi. It’s heart breaking and it made me bawl like the time I watched Dumbo.
And so, this concludes my great trip to Japan. Until next time ~