As if September wasn't exciting enough for me (turning 30 and all) we had a trip booked to go to Japan. My boyfriend has been around the world, and like many other Americans has never been anywhere in Asia. I was lucky enough to go a few years ago making it one of my favorite places I have ever been so when we discussed trips Japan was obviously number one not only because I couldn’t wait to discover more, but I wanted to share the little that I knew with someone else.
Japan is obviously intimidating (I mean for us at least) when planning a trip. We wanted to plan the least touristy trip while hitting all the spots you just cant miss. We had ten days to plan so after a lot of research I decided to start in Tokyo for two days, head to Kyoto for two nights, head to Hakone for a night and back to Tokyo. I did this so we had a rest in the middle. Tokyo can be very exhausting if you truly want to do everything so I figured I would give us a taste, rest then paint the city red, for the finally of our trip . Below are my ins and outs, tricks and tips for eating, sleeping, shopping, and traveling in Japan. You will notice that I did not list anything about Hakone, because as beautiful as it was, we stayed in a ryokan (traditional Japanese Hotel) that we hated, it was a waist of money, you sleep on the floor, and we couldn't stand the food, on the positive we got great photos! I do recommend finding a place outside of the city life with Onsens (Japanese hot springs) and experiencing the small villages.
Getting around: If you plan on traveling from town to town in Japan you need to pre order a Japan Rail Pass. You can’t purchase the passes while you are in Japan so order them at least a week before you leave for your trip. They have different options on how long you want (we did seven days and activated when we headed to Kyoto) The pass is good for all JR lines, any private lines you purchase the ticket per ride. You have to reserve your ticket to your location before catching the train, you can do this online, we just went into the office before we wanted to go somewhere and reserved a seat.
https://www.jrailpass.com/?utm_source=google&utm_medium=cpc&gclid=CPe9roHZ8c8CFQdufgodoa4LZwWe flew into Narita Airport, it's the biggest airport in the area. If you are going straight to Tokyo take the train from the airport, a cab will cost you at least $250, a train is $25 a person.
The Train system in Japan seems confusing but if you are a visual person like me it is really easy so don't steer away. By the end of the trip I didn't even look at a map, everything is color coded, you pay by the distance you are going simply find your destination on the map and the price of the distance will be next to it.
**** Order a pocket wifi. You can get this from the same site you get the train ticket and pick it up at the post office of the Narita airport.
What to wear: I couldn't do a blog post without talking about what to wear! Japan is really humid. I highly suggest checking the weather before you go be sure to pay attention to the humidity because 75 degrees with 80% humidity is a totally different thing then just 80 degrees. due to Japan's somewhat conservative culture I felt awkward wearing my little denim shorts. I wanted to wear stuff that wasn't too clingy, conservative, and comfortable for all day wear. I packed mostly knee length dresses, overalls, jeans and dresses for night with a sweater or two. Comfortable shoes are a must, we left our hotel around 8a.m. with an outfit change around 6 only to get right out to walking. As you can see I doubled up on the PARKER dress :) you can get one here
Hajimemashite- Nice to meet you
Arigato Gozaimas - Thank you!
Anda Gyoza: The Best dumplings we have ever had. Also located in our favorite neighborhood, Nishihara. Order everything, the dumplings, rice, get it all. We ate here twice, once for lunch and again late night. If you find yourself in the area at night open a couple doors we found some of the coolest little bars some of which seemed like we were in someone’s apartment.
FUKU: Yakatori, again located in our favorite area Nishihara, great for dinner try to get a reservation at the bar.
Gyozaro Harajuku: Amazing dumplings/ gyoza perfect for lunch
Sushi Bar Yasuyda: Some of the best sushi I have ever had. Make sure you reserve a seat at the bar prior to your trip. The chef studied in Brooklyn therefor takes our American requests very well. He has a huge sense of humor so speak up!
Mr. Farmer: Great when you need a break from all the Japanese food, healthy salads and Juices perfect for lunch. It is also right by the Watari- UM museum.
Ichizo: Ramen in Naka- Megaro, you purchase your ticket outside and bring it in to give them. Ask for help if you want something other then their favorites, as the menu is not in English.
The Great Burger Harajuku: Because sometimes you just want a burger in an all Americana setting.
Brooklyn Pancake house: We found it really hard to eat for breakfast in Tokyo as it seems like nothing opens until at least 11 unless you go to a 24 hour ramen place, so breakfast at the hotel or 7/11 is the best, but this place was great if you can wait until 11:30 to eat!
There is so much to see in Tokyo, go in everywhere you wont be disappointed.
I stocked up on face masks and eye drops from the convenient stores, not only are they great to have but they make great gifts.
Acme: Really cool furniture
Flamingo: Vintage, you will find these everywhere but they have everything you could imagine.
Naka- Meguro: An area about a 20 minute train ride from Tokyo, full of tiny vintage shops Ichizo is the ramen place we stopped at around here for lunch.
Opening Ceremony: Just moved to Harajuku so cute
Harajuku has a lot of vintage off of the main crazy street. I love a place called DOG it is full of crazy lady gaga esq type clothing and is surrounded by other Americana vintage stores.
Grandfathers: This was our favorite bar also has records. It’s through a bright hallway in the back of a building and not quite found by the tourists yet.
Kareoke: Kareoke Kan is the bar that is in Los tin Translation, but there are tons of places to go, just make sure you google to make sure they have an English list otherwise no fun.
Golden Gai: Golden Gai is a little ally in Shinjuku full of tiny bars. Each bar sits about 5 people, don't be afraid to open doors, and sit right down. Some of them are themed or up tiny stair cases, try them all! We loved a place called ACES.
Drunkards Ally Shabuya: Also filled with crazy tiny bars crawl up the stars to anyone and sit right down.
JBS Jazz Bar: A bar full of records, the guy that works here plays all the music and bartends its amazing.
Albatross: Tiny Bar down a really cool ally, stop and grab a skewer on your way
Go to an animal café: we went to a hedgehog café in Roponggi called HARRY
Watari- UM: Contemporary art museum. Its small, but also in a great neighborhood!
Harajuku- This is where all the teenagers hang. Takeshita is the street full of people, Harajuku girls etc. Harajuku is full of crazy vintage stores, we had to come twice to hit them all. Make sure you go into one of the photo rooms and take photos that make you look like a “real American girl”
Yoyogi Park: You can walk through here on your way to Harajuku
Tsukiji Fish Market: Do this on one of your first days while you have jet lag. We did not want to wait in line, but supposedly the best restaurant is Daiwa Sushi. They cut the line off at about 10 so get there before you walk around.
Robot Restaurant: If you can get in to see the room do, but I do not recommend the show, its expensive and cheesy, we left early ;/
Red light district in Shinjuku: Full of love hotels its super safe and fun to walk through at night.
Grandbell hotel Shinjuku: The rooms are super small and very well priced for the traveler on a budget.
Cerillian Tower Shibuya: There isn’t any charm, it's a huge hotel, but it is very comfortable. The breakfast is great and I am obsessed with the pool here.
Hiro Gion Yamanaan: Japanese BBQ, this was the best meal of our whole trip. They have an English menu so don't be afraid to ask!
Sushi Iwa: Amazing sushi, the chef speaks English and is awesome, this was Steve Job’s favorite sushi in the world.
Gogyo: Ramen great lunch spot order the miso ramen
Sou: Prefixed Tappanyaki restaurant (like Benihana but traditional). You have to reserve your meal prior to arriving as they have limited ingredients. I would only recommend this if you are a prefix type that likes to try different things!
Kyoto Hostal: Has the best whiskey ginger I have ever had. Stop in during the day for a quick drink.
L’Escamoteur Bar: Really cool themed bar with amazing cocktails run by guys from Sweden
Sayura Vins Fins: This place is a very local bar/ supposedly restaurant where geishas entertain their guests. Sit at the bar and try all their whiskeys!
Masuya Saketen: One of many sake Bars! They are everywhere go do a sake tasting!
Gion District: Go on a hunt for Geishas in the coolest place ever
Pontocho-dori: A beautiful street to walk, if you are lucky you might catch a geisha
Kiyomizudera Temple: All the red temples, so many tourists but you can’t miss it. Buy a ticket to go inside and kneel to pray and hit the gong!
Inari- taisha Shirne: The Red hallway shrines, very touristy but cool!
Hotel Kanra: I loved this place they had amazing recommendations, and the rooms were so cool. They also have a great breakfast.
I hope you enjoy!