Andrew and I just had our very first trip to Japan, and hopefully it will not be our last! There were so many memorable moments on this trip, I do not even know where to begin. But lets start from the beginning! We got many suggestions, advice, tips, and recommendations from many friends and family, so thank you to all of you for adding to our fantastic trip!
After landing in Narita from our direct flight from Calgary, we headed straight to Osaka via the Shinkansen (bullet train). The ride was so smooth and pleasant and there was even a person with a cart going down the aisle offering snacks and beverages for sale! Talk about great available service. Since we got in rather late, we raided the 7-11 at the train station for onigiri and other delicious foods. It was actually a bit overwhelming but we quickly became familiar with the 7-11 since we ended up going there or to a Lawson’s everyday. There were even hot beverages ready to go as well! Amazing!
Our first destination the next morning, bright and early was to Arashiyama where the infamous bamboo grove was located. This place was seriously magical and photos cannot do them justice. I highly recommend going early to beat the crowd. Anytime before 8:30am would be the best! We then headed back to Osaka and attended our first Japanese baseball game! The Buffaloes were playing the Eagles. Though the Buffaloes lost, the Eagles put on a good game and it was fun seeing subtle differences in the atmosphere of the Japanese game versus a North American game. Fans seem much more polite to each other by calmly clapping or waving their flags to show team spirit. We then Headed to Dotonburi and explored the night life there and ate tons of Takoyaki!
We visited the Osaka castle the next day which I also recommend visiting early (probably before 9am to avoid crowds). Afterwards we headed to do a self-guided tour at the Suntory Yamazaki distillery. We met some friends there and they were able to do a tasting of some of the whiskey as well. We had dinner back in Osaka at an Okonomiyaki restaurant in the Kiji Umeda Sky building. Locals were lined up here and they only serve about 30 people at a time. The flavors were very good, but we were pretty hungry and decided to do a second dinner down the hall at Coco Curry. This place did not disappoint for katsu and I was very pleased to have tried both of those places.
Next we headed to Hirsoshima early morning (once again) to see the beautiful Great Tori during a high tide at the Miyajima Island. We found many local deer there, some seemed very interested the street food that I bought. Afterwards we went to the city and visited the Peace Memorial Park. The next day consisted of the Fushimi-Inari Shrine and Nijo Castle. The Fushimi-Inari shrine was very packed with people by late morning. It is a pretty long hike to go through all the towers, but the congestion of people do decrease as you progress through the path. We then checked into our traditional ryokan (Japanese inn) for one night where we enjoyed their traditional kaiseki dinner while wearing yukatas. Though their beds consisted of mattresses on the mat floor, they were surprisingly very comfortable! Early next morning (7am) we checked out Gion Tatsumi Bridge and Kiya-Machi Dori street to enjoy the vast cherry blossoms in full bloom.
We spent the last part of our trip in Tokyo where we spent a full day at DisneySea and enjoyed many sights and foods from throughout the city. DisneySea is a unique nautical themed park only found in Tokyo. The vibe is very different from traditional Disneyland, but for a Disney lover, it was still definitely a must. Duffy (Mickey’s huggable bear) was the most popular character that popped up at DisneySea and I may be wrong but I think you can only get Duffy merchandise at DisneySea. Everyone were carrying stuffies of Duffy and his girlfriend, Shellie May, so naturally I had to get one as well. =) We went on three rides, Flounder’s flying fish coaster, Indiana Jones, and Journey to the Center of the Earth. All were very fun. Indiana Jones was very similar to the American ride, but still equally enjoyable. Journey to the Center of the Earth was definitely worth checking out with a mix of leisure and thrill in the ride elements. We spent most of our time just taking in the vibrant atmosphere and tasting the delicious foods.
Tokyo was in full bloom with cherry blossoms at every park. Chidorigafuchi Park was one of the most notable parks, but I highly crowded. I actually preferred the quiet sidewalks of the Meguro-gawa canal. On an early morning, you can take in the beautifulness of the cherry blossom canopies with no crowds. We visited the Seaside Top World Trade Center (while using an online coupon) to get a 360 view of Tokyo. We made this visit particularly on a Saturday night and this is when the Tokyo tower has its special lights (Diamond Veil) during 8pm-8:30pm. During the rest of the time, the landmark lights also comes in two versions, summer and winter. We are still in the winter months so the lights are all orange, while the summer months would have orange and silver lights. So the Diamond Veil during our trip was Dream pink, representing Dream and Happiness. The tower was a beautiful purple and red color. This was the icing on top to end our trip and we could not be happier.
We ate tons of good foods there, my most notable would be Pablo’s cheesecake, Abura Soba Noodles, Coco Curry, and 24/7 Coffee&Roasters Pancakes! We brought back a variety of goodies including different flavor Kit-Kats, Toyko bananas, Royce matcha chocolate, and soda candies. I also feel blessed to be able to share all these moments with Andrew. He was very patient with me on all our morning trips and helped navigate way to all of our favorite food adventures. I could go on all day about our trip, but this blog would be way too long, so I will end with our video recap. I hope to be back again sometime in the future. Thank you for the memories, Japan! Until next time…
- “Not all those who wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien