Osaka: Our Japan Travel Diary

Osaka: Our Japan Travel Diary

Time for the next instalment of our Japan Travel Diary: Osaka!

If this is the first post you’re seeing please check out:

Tokyo – What we did

Tokyo – What we ate

Kyoto – What we did

Kyoto – What we ate

Our Japan trip vlogs!

Now onto Osaka. We had two days in Osaka – one for the city and one to spend in Universal Studios.

Day 1

We began the day at Umeda Sky Building. It’s a tall building in Osaka that boasts a 360 view of the city. It was the perfect day for it too!

I somehow managed to take no photos of the building but it looks like this.

The escalators were especially cool as they are on the outside of the building.

Then we visited Osaka castle. It was so pretty! You can pay to go inside but we preferred to look at the gorgeous exterior.

Namba Shrine

Namba shrine was a must do for me and not because of the shrine but of the stage that sits next to it. It’s a dragon head! I only saw this in a couple of places online and it was pretty quiet when we visited so a good one to visit for something quirky that’s slightly off the usual tourist track.

Plus the shrine itself is nice to look at too.

I became what’s known as a “drainspotter” while we were in Japan and this one in Osaka of the castle was by far my favourite. Why can’t our drain covers look like this at home?

Shinsekai

This area of Osaka was a must on my list do list as it was very visually appealing to me. Plus Topher’s a big fan of lit up cities at night so this was a perfect location. There was just so much to look at as well as eat but that’s for a whole other blog post!

Dotonbori Street

Dotonbori Street was the last stop of our day and well worth leaving until last. You can go during the day which is ideal for avoiding crowds but crowds is what we were after. When the street is full of people at night time there’s just an amazing atmosphere. Long lines of people, delicious smells and lights everywhere.

When we go on holiday we’re usually back in the hotel room at night after a full day but this had to change our ways. Alive is definitely a word I’d use to describe Dotonbori st.

Day 2

Universal Studios Japan

Up bright and early we headed across the city on the subway to Universal Studios Japan. I’d done my research and it told me that the Japanese tend to queue up early an hour or so before parks open so we managed to get to the gate at 8.30am. It was a good thing we did as they started letting people in at 8.40am. And they were running!

How to describe USJ? It’s like it’s American counter parts but with a distinctive Japanese twist that you can’t replicate. It was fascinating walking around and I especially enjoyed people watching here. Young or old people will wear the merch and I am so down for that. Who says kids get to have all the fun?

And of course we had to visit the Harry Potter section. We both agreed weather wise it was the most accurate of the three we’ve now been to. And it was mainly the same but in Japanese (of course). Only the Japanese merch game is way better. I went nuts for their tins of sweets as the tins were perfection. Check out our haul to see what I mean.

Take me back!

Next up will be everything we ate in Osaka.

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Kyoto: Our Japan Food Diary

Kyoto: Our Japan Food Diary

So looking back through my photos to put this post together it turns out that we ate basically nothing in Kyoto. So this is going to be a short Kyoto food diary.

We only spent 36 hours in Kyoto so here’s our food diary.

Bento Box

kyoto food diary - bento box

Bento boxes are by definition “a single-portion take-out or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine”. Thank you wikipedia.

So when you take the shinkansen/bullet train it’s practically the law that you get one. At least that’s what I told myself. Getting a 6.30am train from Tokyo to Kyoto meant that Topher and I needed breakfast so this was a both convenient and delicious solution.

I got myself a salmon onigiri (which is a filling like salmon, tuna, etc. surrounded by rice and wrapped in seaweed to make a triangle shape), a milk tea and a bento box. The bento box consisted of deliciously marinated beef on a bed of sticky rice.

One thing to mention is that this bento box was cold. And yet it was so delicious I still dream of it now. Bento boxes can also come hot but I went with this one. If you’re in Japan get one whether you’re riding the shinkansen or not.

Nishiki Market

After a jam packed morning we headed to Nishiki market for lunch.

Salmon Sashimi & Sea Urchin

kyoto food diary - sashimi

As a lover of sushi and seafood, this salmon sashimi was right up my street. Perfection! The sea urchin on the other hand I could take or leave. We just wanted to tick it off our bucket lists. The taste was fine but the texture was…interesting. I’ll leave you with that.

Torched Scallops

kyoto food diary - scallops

I say torched because the guy literally blow torched them there and then before handing them to me on a stick. These were the best things I ate all day. I hadn’t seen them on any blogs or vlogs – I just saw a woman with them that day and hunted the market until I found them. Recommended.

Tako Tamago

kyoto food diary - octopus

Yes indeed that is an octopus you see. And not just an octopus; a glazed octopus. And not just a glazed octopus; a glazed octopus with a quail egg inside its head.

I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this taste-wise as much as I did. It was actually pretty nice. But only if you like seafood. If you don’t then steer clear of this eccentricity.

And unfortunately those are all the photos I have. For dinner and breakfast the next day we went to a convenience store (kombini) which you can actually see on our Kyoto video here.

And the next day for lunch we headed to another branch of our beloved Sukiya which I first spoke about in my Tokyo food diary. And that’s it!

Stay tuned for my next instalment where we head to Osaka.

If you can’t wait for that I’m happy to tell you that all of our Japan vlogs are up on my Youtube channel. Enjoy!

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Kyoto: Our Japan Travel Diary

Kyoto: Our Japan Travel Diary

Time for the next instalment of our Japan Travel Diary: Kyoto!

If this is the first post you’re seeing please check out:

Tokyo – What we did

Tokyo – What we ate

Our Japan trip vlogs!

Now onto Kyoto. We only spent 1 night here and had a day and a half crammed full of activities so here we go.

Day 1

We began the day waking up at about 4am to check out of our hotel and get the subway from Shibuya to Tokyo to catch a Shinkansen (bullet train) to Kyoto just after 6am. So an early start!

The shinkansen experience was amazing – miles better than our trains in the UK. Though we were in the regular economy carriage it was amazingly clean, comfortable and well taken care of. We got bento boxes which I’ll go into more detail on in my Kyoto food post coming up next and just watched the sights of the Japanese countryside whizz past.

Oh and we saw Mt Fuji!

After arriving in Kyoto around 9.30am-ish we made our way to our Japanese style apartment we were renting to drop off our bags. Big thanks to our host who let us do that!

Next we were off to our first tourist destination of the day…

The Bamboo Forest in Arashiyama

It was pretty busy but it was just after 11am by the time we got here so if you’re looking for those instagramable photos of empty paths get here early! As I mentioned we were only here for one night so our early morning get up was saved for Fushimi-Inari on Day 2.

Arashiyama

I thought the cherry blossoms in Tokyo were pretty but they had nothing on the ones we saw in Arashiyama! Kyoto cherry blossoms bloom slightly later than the ones up in Tokyo so we got luckier with our timings for this part of the trip.

Monkey Park Iwatayama

Not only do you get to hang out with monkeys at this hilltop park but you get an amazing view of Kyoto! Though be prepared for a 20-30 minute hike uphill…Definitely worth it though. The Japanese macaque monkeys roam freely and it was cool to see them chilling out in their natural habitat.

Nishiki Market

By this point we were starving so we headed to Nishiki Market for lunch. This place is a haven for foodies as the street food here is exotic and plentiful. More on about what we actually ate in my next post!

Tea Ceremony

Doing a tea ceremony was on my bucket list so before we left on our trip out to japan I found this place online that is based right near Kinkaku-ji in Kyoto. It was a great experience and was fascinating to learn about the history behind tea ceremony’s as well as having some tasty matcha. Even Topher enjoyed the matcha.

Kinkaku-ji

Also known as the Golden Pavillion, this was a must do for Topher and I. Kyoto has a ridiculous number of shrines and temples which you would have to spend years visiting to get round them all so you just have to pick a handful if you’re on a short trip. This was one of ours. How gorgeous is it? We got here about 4.30ish so just before it closed at 5.

Yasaka Shrine

Our last stop of the day was Yasaka Shrine. Afterwards we wandered around the streets of Gion until it got dark and we realised how shattered we were! I’m not even sure what this place below is called just that we stumbled upon it and it looked pretty.

We got back to our apartment and this place was huge! It’s a definite must do to try and stay somewhere like this. We couldn’t really afford to stay in a pricy ryokan which is a traditional Japanese inn so this was a great alternative.

Though one downside was that we did both get a bit freaked out during the night as we realised the place reminded us of the horror film The Grudge. Both of us had the thought but didn’t want to freak the other out so didn’t mention it at the time! Something we definitely laughed about the next morning.

Day 2

Fushimi-Inari Shrine

This was right at the top of my Kyoto bucket list so we got up super early and headed to the south of the city to arrive at the bottom of Mt Inari just after 6am. Something that I highly recommend if this is something you want amazing people free photos of. It was just us, a handful of tourists and some super polite photographers who had the place to ourselves. Perfect!

It is a long hike though so decide amongst your group how far you’re willing to go! If you just want some cool gate photos you don’t need to go far at all. If you want the amazing view of the city you only need to go halfway. If you want bragging rights for getting to the top of Mt Inari, then you will be doing the entire thing. We did the entire thing.

I cannot stress enough that if you just want the gates and the view you don’t need to go to the top. There is no view at the top as there is a hut in the way. There is a shrine but that is it. Oh and this cool sign that proves you did a crap load of cardio. Yeeeessssss. But this is definitely a tired face that regrets wearing a jacket on top of a jumper!

This is the view that you get halfway up. Pretty!

I’m glad we did the whole thing though. Such a beautiful place. By the time we got back to the bottom at around 8am there were a lot more people streaming in so the 6am arrival was worth it for our photos and footage we got. I’ve also seen on vlogs I’ve watched where people arrive around noon and the place is packed! So if you’re going decide what time works best for you.

Philosopher’s Path

I’d heard great things about this walking trail so added it to my must do’s. I wasn’t sure if we’d catch the cherry blossoms but we did so that made it even prettier than I can imagine it looks all year round.

This was the last thing we did in Kyoto before heading back to the apartment, getting our bags and heading to Kyoto station to catch a train to Osaka. So I’ll just leave you with this photo of a building across the street from our apartment that made us giggle.

So stay tuned for my next post: What we ate in Kyoto!

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Tokyo: Our Japan Food Diary

Tokyo: Our Japan Food Diary

Time for one of my favourite things to talk about when it comes to holidays. The food!

I’ve already posted about the first leg of our trip to Japan here where we spent the first few days in Tokyo.

You can also check out my vlogs from the trip. I’ve just posted Day 1 up on my Youtube channel and can’t wait to get cracking on the rest.

So, onto the food. Here’s what we ate during our first few days in Tokyo.

Genki Sushi – Shibuya

This was actually the first and only time we ate sushi while we were in Japan! Surprising but there is just so many different variations of Japanese food that you can get. We wanted to try everything!

Plus this was our first meal in Tokyo and I was so jet lagged that I only took this photo…oops! We mainly stuck to nigiri sushi and my favourite was definitely the fatty tuna. So good!

Genki sushi is kind of like conveyor belt sushi but you order dishes and they come to your table via a little train type thing. So fun.

Sukiya – so many locations!

Sukiya is like staple Japanese fast food. They mainly serve gyūdon which is basically a beef and rice bowl. We found this next to our Shibuya hotel so we ran in out of the rain and it was exactly the kind of comfort food we were after.

We both had beef, rice and cheese. It was so good that we ate at two more branches on our Japan trip.

Street Food at Asakusa

When we went to Senso-ji on the first day we decided to try as many kinds of street food as we could.

Ningyo Yaki

These are little cakes filled with red bean paste. So cute and tasty! We both enjoyed them even though Topher isn’t a huge fan of red bean paste.

Kinako Dango

This doesn’t look like much but wow oh wow was it good. Dango is mochi balls on a skewer and comes in many different varieties. This type is covered in soy flour which tasted like peanut butter in my opinion. I think this is my second favourite type of dango.

Mitarashi Dango

Say hello to my favourite type of dango. These mochi balls are covered in a sweet soy sauce. Served hot from the street they were the best treat of the morning.

Daifuku

Daifuku is mochi stuffed with red bean paste. This particular type also came with a large strawberry on top. Topher was happy to find that this vendor also did a version where it was stuffed with thick custard instead of red bean. Both were delicious though a little messy to eat!

Melon Pan

Our final bit of street food was a melon pan ice cream sandwich to share. Melon pan is basically sweet bread. It’s name comes from the outer shell which is a criss-cross pattern that looks like a melon. This particular shop that I got it from only had a few flavours of soft serve ice cream to choose from (despite having about 30 you could have in a cone!) so I panicked and chose matcha.

Topher does not like matcha at all so I had to eat a lot of this…oh well!

Toraji

Korean BBQ has become pretty popular in Japan and I saw this restaurant on youtube so had to give it a go. This particular branch was in Shinjuku and we both went for the lunch set meals. You get a plate of meat and veg to cook, a bowl of rice, a bowl of miso and some little side dishes. It was one of our more expensive meals but pretty reasonable considering how much food you got.

Mensho San Francisco – Shinjuku

This is a chain that was started by a guy originally from Japan in the USA but a branch finally opened in Japan. I’d heard it was good so we decided to give it a go. We both went for their wagyu beef ramen which was very good. The beef cooked itself in the broth!

A Happy Pancake – Shibuya

Ever since I discovered soufflé pancakes online a few years ago I’ve been dying to try them. So A Happy Pancake had to be added to my list. We showed up just after opening and had to wait about 20 minutes for a table. I just went with the original ones with maple syrup and honey butter and they were to die for!

Keep in mind if you ever go here that the pancakes take a while to cook so bring your patience with you. They are definitely worth the wait though.

Reissue – Harajuku

If you’re looking for something a little out of the ordinary then get yourself to this 3D latte art cafe. They have a book full of options and the creations are super cute. Rather expensive though!

Street Food in Harajuku

We also decided to try some random Harajuku food (minus their famous crepes as we were too full from breakfast) as we walked around.

Potato Tornado

We got this ginormous thing covered in soy butter and it was delicious though in some places a tad too salty.

Sanshoku Dango

We picked up this dango in Daiso which is a 100yen store. We spent a fair bit of money in here. They do all kinds of snacks, homeware and beauty stuff among other things. This was my least favourite dango but it did have a lot to live up to with the other two we tried. I just wanted to be able to hold an emoji!

Calbee Store

Calbee is a Japanese snack maker famous for their different type of crisps. You can get fresh ones in their Harajuku store with different toppings. We got some crisps covered in chocolate sauce as well as some veggie flavour sticks. The pink wrapped one was a freebie we were given at the till.

We both enjoyed the potato stick things – the regular flavour were all sold out. And I loved the chocolate covered ones. It reminds me of when I was a weird kid who would put plain crisps and chocolate in my mouth at the same time.

The freebie was one we opened on the shinkansen (bullet train) the next day. They were prawn flavour crisps covered in strawberry flavour chocolate. Topher liked – I did not!

Food Show – Shibuya

Food Show is a food hall in a department store in Shibuya. We were low on time and money at this point in the day so I got this luxury egg sandwich I saw on Youtube and Topher got a pork bun and some pork gyoza.

My egg sandwich was amazingly good and I wish I’d been able to buy a second one. I will never be able to replicate this at home.

Topher loved what I will forever call his pork feast. And that’s everything we ate in Tokyo!

Next up, our adventures in Kyoto.

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Tokyo: Our Japan Travel Diary

Tokyo: Our Japan Travel Diary

Me being me I had to take about a million photos on our trip to Japan. Especially of both the sights and the food so naturally I have had to split them into separate posts. Even then I’d still probably grab a brew before sitting down to this one…

First up, our first stint in Tokyo.

If you haven’t seen the trailer to our whole trip – check it out here.

Day 1

We flew from Manchester Airport via Helsinki, Finland and our trip started at around 10 in the morning our time. It finished at 9 in the morning Japan time. Ouch. Oh and did I mention we couldn’t check into our hotel until 3pm? Double ouch.

We took a coach from Narita Airport to Tokyo as it’s actually between an hour and an hour and a half trip between the two. Neither of us are particularly good at sleeping on planes (though Topher is a pro at falling asleep on any other mode of transport!) so we were tired!

The train is slightly quicker but we opted for the bus as it was half the price and we could hand our luggage over to the bus driver. Then all we had to do was navigate the subway from Tokyo station to Shibuya.

We dropped our bags at the hotel and went out for lunch before mooching back just in time for 3pm check in. We were desperate to get showers and fresh clothes we after we sorted ourselves out it was back into the wilderness of Shibuya. Lots of rain this evening so we mainly spent our time in shops. Hello Disney store!

We spent a fair bit of time in Tokyu Hands which is a department store. So many weird and wonderful things in there.

We managed to stay out until around 9 before heading back to the hotel to collapse.

Day 2

In the morning we had a little lie in and then headed over to the other side of the city. Asakusa is an older area of Tokyo which houses the oldest shrine – built in 645 AD. Sensō-ji. Our plan was to explore and sample the street food.

We got lucky with the cherry blossoms as I thought we’d miss them all but there were still a few blooming when we arrived in Tokyo. Yay!

It was about 11.30 by the time we got to the temple so as you can see it’s pretty crowded. Sensō-ji is open from 6am though you can wander through the main grounds 24/7. So if you want photos with less people around then get there early!

It was a beautiful day so even though it was crowded I’m happy with my photos.

The building in the above photo is Tokyo Skytree; a popular tourist attraction that boasts some amazing views of the city. We didn’t go here as I was given a tip for a free view of the city that includes Skytree in it.

That was the building we headed to in the afternoon. Shinjuku Government Building also has amazing views and if the day is super clear, you can even see Mount Fuji.

Unfortunately by this point the clouds had rolled in but it was still an amazing view of the city. Definitely recommended and you can’t go wrong because it’s free!

Afterwards we headed to Sunshine City in Ikebukuro purely so that Topher could visit the Pokemon centre. He had an amazing time and spent a lot of money! Sunshine city is basically a shopping centre with a load of stuff attached like an aquarium and mini theme parks. A perfect day out if it’s raining. We were tired so it was Pokemon, a couple of shops and then back to the hotel.

Day 3

Harajuku day! I’ve been dreaming of visiting Harajuku since I was 15 so the rain did not stop me today. Topher and I got suited up with our rain gear and headed out. Shops don’t tend to open until at least 10am so we had a little lie in.

Our first stop was Meiji-Jingu which is a shrine that can be found in Yoyogi park. The photos below are of the tori gate and the barrels of sake you can find on the way to the shrine. The photos I took of the shrine itself weren’t that great so just look out for it in my upcoming vlog!

Then it was off to Takeshita Street for some shopping.

Not many photos due to the amount of rain and shopping bags we were both carrying! Money was spent. No regrets.

We also managed to find a place that did Purikura. It’s basically a photo booth only Japan has taken it to the next level where you can practically make yourself look like a doll. Topher was up for a laugh so we gave it a go. The results make me chuckle and this is now on our fridge at home.

We also had a wander around nearby where we found a Lush store. I wouldn’t usually rush in to one abroad but I heard they had lots of Japan exclusives. Plus it was worth it for this wall alone!

I may have purchased a few things…

Then it was back to the hotel to pack as we had a super early bullet train out of Tokyo to our next city.

Next up, what we ate in Tokyo.

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