Temi in Japan

 Miyajima at Sunset

Miyajima at Sunset

Like Mari said in her UK post, this is a long one, so get comfortable. Last month I was lucky enough to visit Japan with my good friend Leah. Over the course of two weeks, we visited 3 major cities and ate our way through our arbitrary food checklist.  At the end of this post you can find the super cool video Leah made of our trip. 

Tokyo

Our first night in Tokyo, we stayed in First Cabin Tsukiji, which we realized was a bougie capsule hotel after we stayed in other hostels. We had initially planned to go to the popular Tsukiji tuna auction, but it was closed on Sundays. Instead, we explored Tsukiji's  outer markets, starting with a delicious Uni breakfast at Sushi Kuni followed by all kinds of street yums including, shaved ice, mochi, grilled seafood, and more.

 Uni bowl from Sushi Kuni

Uni bowl from Sushi Kuni

We walked off all that food at Harikyu gardens.  It felt like we were melting as we walked by the flower gardens and tea houses, but the scenery was worth it.

 Harikyu gardens

Harikyu gardens

In Shinjuku, where we later moved to, we stayed at Imano Tokyo hostel and our first stop post check-in was to find some Japanese curry. Coco Ichibanya  did the trick. 

We were on our way to Harajuku and Omotesando when we stumbled upon this buffet- style bakery. According to Leah  this is a pretty standard setup with Asian bakeries. However, it was novel to me and I was delighted by the "fill your tray and pay" method. 

 Le Petit Mec Tokyo

Le Petit Mec Tokyo

Post shopping and people-watching, we visited Meiji temple which was is smack dab in the middle of the city a few blocks from Harajuku.

 Meiji Temple

Meiji Temple

After two full days in Japan, we finally had ramen. Our first stop on our ramen tour was Ichiran ramen. I have to admit that it's worth the hype! The broth was so flavorful and I'm a huge fan of the vending machine ordering.  Who needs someone asking how everything is tasting when you are slurping down piping hot ramen.

 Ichiran Tonkatsu Ramen

Ichiran Tonkatsu Ramen

Still riding on our jetlag, we were up bright and early the next day.  We spent over an hour watching people at the Shibuya crossing from the Starbucks above. It wasn’t too crazy during the day, but it was still a sight to see. We eventually got hungry and stopped by Pablo where our lives were forever changed by the most amazing cheese tarts. They are called tarts because its cheese cake in a tart crust, but the center is gooey and not fully cooked and it's creamy deliciousness that my words cant do justice. 

 Pablo cheese tarts

Pablo cheese tarts

 Pablo cheese tarts

Pablo cheese tarts

We didn't think we could top the cheese tart experience, but then we went to an owl café. You read that right, owl café. The small ones were super cute, but the larger ones looked like they didn’t have time for us silly visitors. 

 Owl Cafe

Owl Cafe

Tokyo has all these beautiful oases in the middle of the city. We visited the imperial palace or rather the imperial palace gardens because we weren't allowed to go to the palace and chat with the emperor.

 Imperial Palace

Imperial Palace

Saddened we didn't get to dine with Japanese royalty, we settled for gyu katsu at Gyukatsu Motomura .

 GyuKatsu Motomura

GyuKatsu Motomura

Kyoto

The next morning we headed to Kyoto. I felt under the weather when I woke up and ended up sleeping the whole day. Leah and her brother, who we met up with in Kyoto, went adventuring without me. After much needed rest, I was feeling much better and we woke up early the next day and tried to pack as much as possible into the day. We started in Arashiyama where we stumbled upon a maiko having a photoshoot.

 Maiko

Maiko

Next was the bamboo forest followed by a short 25 min hike up to the monkey park. While taking in an amazing view, we fed monkeys apples and peanuts 

 Bamboo Forest

Bamboo Forest

 Arashiyama Monkey Park

Arashiyama Monkey Park

From Arashiyama we headed to Kiyumizu-dera, a temple that sits on top of a hill. 

 Kiyomizu-dera

Kiyomizu-dera

We left Kiyomizu-dera to get aburo soba noodles. Definitely one of my favourite meals in Japan. Aburo soba translates to oil noodles, basically soba noodles in an oil sauce. We added some sesame oil and vinegar for extra flavor. We were also given a poached egg and my oh my, it was so rich, almost like a carbonara.  Unfortunately the restaurants name was in Japanese, but you should definitely try aburo soba noodles if you are ever in Japan. 

 Aburo soba noodles

Aburo soba noodles

Our last stop was Fushimi Inari temple. It's popular for its numerous vermillion torii gates. We didn’t go through all the gates because it was dark and we were tired, but we still got some cool pictures in the night time.

 Fushimi Inari

Fushimi Inari

Osaka

Before we knew it, it was time to head to Osaka. We stayed at an airbnb in Dotunbori and just spent the day exploring the area, including trying another cheesecake place Rikuro's. I didn't think it came close to Pablo. It was more fluffy and jelly like and had a heavy egg taste.

Later, Leah had our first experience of Japanese nightlife. We partied till the break of dawn and then slept till almost 2pm the next day. With most of the day gone, we ended up taking a quick trip to Nara in the evening and 'playing' with deer. It was more like sitting as close to deer as possible without getting head-butted in order to take a cute picture. 

 Deer park - Nara
 Deer park - Nara

More castles and their respective gardens were explored. Below is the back of Osaka castle. 

 Osaka Castle

Osaka Castle

Hiroshima & Miyajima

Our last day in Osaka, we took a day trip to Hiroshima and Miyajima. We visited the peace park at Hiroshima and it was a really moving experience.

 Atomic Bomb Dome - Hiroshima

Atomic Bomb Dome - Hiroshima

Starving, we had to have Hiroshima style okonomiyaki. 

 Hiroshima style okonomiyaki

Hiroshima style okonomiyaki

Later, we took a short ferry ride over to Miyajima, one of my favorite places in this trip. It's popular for Itstukushima shrine, and this Great Torii that looks like its floating in the water during high tide. I definitely recommend coming here during sunset, because the view was just gorgeous.

 Miyajima floating torii gate

Miyajima floating torii gate

Tokyo - Again

Our last few days in Tokyo were spent doing activities we didn't get to do the first time.  We visited Odaiba and went to Ooedo-Onsen Monogatari. They had different baths, salt scrubs, massages etc. It was perfect after almost two weeks of traveling. 

 Inside Onsen Monogatari

Inside Onsen Monogatari

We spent the night in Tsukiji again to try and make the tuna auction.  We arrived there at 3:40am and it was already sold out! Defeated we thought we would get in line 'early' for Sushi Dai which opened at 5am. We ended up waiting almost 3 hours in the cold rain. Would I wait in line for 3 hours in the rain with almost no sleep again? No. But is it worth visiting? Yes.

 Sushi Dai - Tsukiji market

Sushi Dai - Tsukiji market

We also stopped by Akihabara where we visited the various electronic stores, manga stores and  got all you can eat Gyu-Kaku (Japanese BBQ) for dinner. It was 2 hours and up to 80 pieces of meat. Between the two of us we barely did it any justice.

Our last day in Tokyo, we rented kimonos and explored Asakusa and Sensoji temple. It was a good end to our two week trip and we got some great photo-op moments.

 Kimonos in Asakusa

Kimonos in Asakusa

 Kimonos in Asakusa

Kimonos in Asakusa

 Sensoji Temple

Sensoji Temple

Through our whole trip, I was forcibly convinced to high-five in front of monuments, food etc. Leah took all our videos, pictures and high-five moments and made this super-awesome video that gives me all the feels and nostalgia. It's our whole trip in 5 mins. Enjoy!

 
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