Published 10 May, 2019
Travel Guide: Japan
My little Japan travel guide is finally done 🙂 I really wanted to write this down for my memories while it’s still fresh because I know it quickly fades and would be even happier if by doing so it’ll be helpful for one of you planning a trip!
David and I took this trip solo as in adult only and it was a big deal. It was a big deal first of all because, Hello JAPAN! But it was an even bigger deal for me because it was the first time I’ve ever been without Geffen for so many days. I was nervous and scared and happy and excited all at the same time. I knew Geffen was taken care of by the best of the best AKA my mom and dad. Still, going away for 10 days and being on the other side of the world made me really anxious but being back now and seeing everything was absolutely FINE, I’m SO GLAD we did it. Alone time really did us good and its always nice to remember what it was like when it was just the 2 of us.
Where did we go?
Tokyo – total culture shock in the best sort of way. Overwhelming. So much to see. I feel like we could’ve been here for months on end and still barely cover a glimpse of what this city has to offer. Take advantage of the crazy toilets, check out the ninja museum, be a tourist at the Shibuya crossing (largest crosswalk in the world), go pet some owls and hedgehogs, because you can. Stroll around Takeshita Street in Harajuku and eat rolled crepes. Go crazy in the Daiso dollar store. Go play at an arcade. Explore Yoyogi park & Meiji Shrine. Have a late night yakitori & beer crawl around Shinjuku. Make friends with the one English speaking guy to help you order from the better non touristy menu.
Also, go and sing karaoke cuz how could you not?!
Kyoto – Matcha heaven. Peaceful yet bustling. Could totally see myself living here.
Drink all the matcha humanly possible and consume all the sticky sweets that go along with it. My favorite discovery was a konjac jelly with sugar syrup and peanut powder in a little alley in the streets of Kyoto. Don’t know the name of the place or the dish that I was eating but it was magical.
Nara – is a can’t miss location. Cherry blossoms! shrines! All the deers! Free roaming! Eating from you hand! It was our absolute favorite day. Getting lost in the little streets and markets, we also made it into a vintage toy museum and a traditional matcha and sweets tea shop. It was amazing.
Hakone – we got caught in really bad weather and it decided to snow on us but we had fun snuggling in our room and catching up on shows we never get a chance to see back home. Also braved the cold to check out POLA Museum and a delicious lunch in Nobu.
HOT TIPS & things I wish I would’ve known earlier:
For early risers – Everything opens crazy late – I’m talking 9-10am at best even for morning coffee (earliest we could find was 8am and only in one place) so plan ahead as it can be really annoying for jet lagged individuals in need of coffee. Having said that, there’s excellent coffee and latte art everywhere. Try the milk tea lattes. Amaze.
Breakfast – we ran into a lot of traditional Japanese menus (duh!) but I’m a creature of habit kinda gal and love my plain ol’ fruit/ veg/ egg/ yogurt & toast situation first thing in the morning. It was quite difficult finding western options like the ones we’re used to so it you’re opposed to smoked fish, fermented soybeans and soup first thing in the morning (like this person right here 🙋♀️) plan accordingly. David was loving it though so it really depends on your personal preference. I have some of our favorite spots listed below.
Transportation – Get the JR (Japan Rail) pass. It’s totally worth it. It gave us a full week of unlimited transportation including bullet train to and from our next destination. Metro at rush hour is indeed insane. It’s super clean and efficient but between the hours of 8-9am & 5-7pm avoid if possible or suck up your claustrophobia. Taxis are highly expensive and it’s tough explaining yourself to the driver if you don’t speak Japanese but if it’s really your only option – Google translate is a life saver!
Staying connected – Pocket WiFi really is a lifesaver (we went with Ninja) . No need to fret with local SIM cards, most of the time had great connection and we both got use out of the same device.
Hotels – Other than the traditional shampoo/ body wash offered, we realized that you get a full bathroom kit in every hotel you stay including toothbrush, toothpaste, hairbrush, hair ties etc even at the most economical option. How cool is that? Would’ve been nice to know ahead of time to minimize on the packing.
Convenience store – never did I know Seven Eleven is such a gem in Japan. Food is fresh, delicious and cheap. Perfect for a quick lunch to take on the train. My favorites were the tuna onigiris and fluffy egg salad sandwiches. Equally as good are Lawson and FamilyMart. They are all over.
Food – amazing fresh food everywhere although surprisingly there isn’t a lot of fruit and vegetables readily available. I was craving a salad or smoothie so bad and felt that in most restaurants I just ended up eating carb and fish heavy meals (or lots and lots of meat for the meat eaters).
Some favorite spots:
Nishiki Market – explore and taste the many food stalls.
Sobanomi Yoshimura for handmade soba noodles and soups (get there early because there will be a line)
Breakfast – Kyoto – Hibi Coffee and Len Kyoto Kawaramachi
Favorite Coffee/ Tea Spots – Weekenders Coffee, Ippodo Tea, Santomi Center for the sawada style coffee (as in matcha with a shot of espresso, your heart will be pounding for the rest of the day but so worth it)
Breakfast – Blue Bird Coffee and Crisscross
Favorite Coffee/ Tea Spots – Turret Coffee Ginza (I had their house latte and David went for the coffee with a red bean and cherry blossom flavored popsicle)
So there it is! Really just a tiny snippet of what we did on the trip. Forever grateful that we were able to go together and spend quality time just us two.