Trip to Japan

Hi! Today I want to share with you one of my most favorite trip this year. Japan! 
It was early morning in Chicago and I was checking out Secret Flying's Facebook page.At the time I found this $394 ticket from Chicago to Japan (Round Trip) Direct Flight! It took me less than 5 minutes to decide that I'm going to Japan! And I contacted all my besties right away.

Actually this is not my first trip to Japan. Around 2013, my mom and I went to Japan and we covered some of the major tourist places in all Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka: Asakusa Temple, Tokyo Sky Tree, Shisaibashi Suji, Osaka Castle, some of the Castle and Historical places in Kyoto as well.

I was accompanied by two of my baes in this trip: Maria and Arthur. For most of us the trip was about 7 days long. We started off with Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Tokyo (again), Kawasaki, Fuji, and Nikko.

When we first got to Tokyo, we went to Ichiran Ramen right away! Have you heard about Ichiran? Basically you order the ramen using a vending machine. You are then seated into single chambers and get to enjoy super umami ramen! The price was also really affordable, somewhere around $9 per bowl. Definitely one of my favorite meals in Japan. 


We then headed to a capsule hotel located in Akihabara. Hotels in Japan are super pricey, so capsule hotel is a great choice for travelers who travel themselves. Actually the capsule hotel that we stayed in was super nice! It looks like an airplane and super clean and cozy. I ended up booking this capsule hotel a couple more nights towards the end of the trip. The cost of staying in the hotel was about $50 per night. 



I ended up getting a 45 minutes sleep for the day. Art and I woke up at 3:00 am and take a cab to go to Tsukiji Fish Market. We were in the line for this super popular sushi restaurant that can only fit 10 people at a time. Maria went to this place the day before at 6:00 am and she said it took her 6 hours to get into the restaurant. We arrived around 3:30 and successfully got into the store around 6:00 am. Oh my Gosh! The sushi there is sooo heavenly. You can really feel the freshness of the fish. I think we paid $50 for 10 sushi and a soup. They present and introduce the sushi one by one so customer can enjoy each of their fish.

After we are done with this delicious breakfast, we went around the market to see people cutting big tuna, shopped for cute little cakes and all. It was a fun time!

Right after Tsukiji (around 9:00 am), we departed from Tokyo to Osaka using Shinkansen aka Bullet Train. It was a delightful experience! Shinkansen is really fast and the cleanliness level is beyond airplane! I think it took us around 2-3 hours to get to Osaka, and we took another train to get to the area we are trying to reach.




In Osaka we visited Osaka Castle and Cup Ramen Museum (by Nissin), we saw a gazillion types and names of ramen. We also designed our own ramen: toppings, flavor, and packaging! It was really fun. Maria even really wanted to marry the founder of Nissin! *jk. 

Can you imagine how sleepy I feel by then? I only slept for 45 minutes after that 12 hours flight and we were pretty much out the whole day. We walked to the Art Museum in Osaka


In the evening, we went to Dotonbori to find popular snacks in Osaka: Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki. We actually found one of the best Okonomiyaki in Japan and we really enjoyed the meal! Dotonbori was super fun and if you would like to find snacks, this is the place to go!


Closing the day in Osaka, we took another bullet train to go to Kyoto! After we arrived in Kyoto station, we actually took local trains to a small place on the mountain to find our private onsen area: Ogotoonsen. It was rough to go there at night. The train station was rather small and the people there did not really understand much english. It was really dark during the time, and hardly cab came into the station. But finally we did ride the cab and got to the hotel. 


The room we booked actually has an outdoor onsen and bathroom. It was actually weird to see! But the hotel also has multiple onsen (hot spring) maybe like 10 of them. Each onsen is dedicated to either female or male guests. 
This is one of the picture we took at the Onsen. Actually you need to be completely naked to enter an onsen. But it was really early in the morning so no one was in the Onsen and so Maria and I were really enjoying our little photo session. This onsen is probably our favorite onsen. You can see the vast view from the top: mountain and lake. In the other onsen, you can see views as well either a garden or the same scenery as the picture below, but covered by glass.


After enjoying the rest of the onsen and our super fancy Japanese breakfast, we then took the train back to Kyoto. We had a reservation for Kimono dress up and make up, then went up the Higashiyama District to this temple. I can really feel the culture and how beautiful Japanese kimono was. The only thing was, it was a bit hard for me to breathe in this kimono. I think the undergarment was a bit tight for me. 


Wearing the same kimono outfit, we went to Fushimi Inari. It was sooo beautiful! 
Basically it is a temple, but the beautiful part of it is that there are 1,000 of these gates with different writings from small to big, hiking the mountain to the top in a loop. Wondering how I became so educated about this? The cab driver actually told us about this, using a body language, too! :) 


Higashiyama District and Fushimi Inari have a lot of food vendors. People who comes or comes back from the temple can enjoy a variety of great street food like chicken teriyaki, these fish cakes, cream puffs, ice cream, takoyaki, steaks, mochi, and many more... 




We went to find this Gudetama Cafe. The line was long, but whatever! We wanted to enjoy the experience. Look at these cute food, can't resist! 


After Kyoto, we took the bullet train again to go back to Kyoto. We stayed in Shinagawa Prince Hotel.
In the morning, we took the train and bus to Kawasaki to visit Fujiko F. Fujio Museum
Just recently I learned from my American friend that apparently Doraemon is unknown here. Well well... If you grow up in Asia, or at least Indonesia, like me. Doraemon is like every 90's kids's friends. I would wait for Doraemon episodes every Sunday at 9:00 am. 


In this museum, we will see the history and how Doraemon was made by Fujiko F Fujio. Actually there are other cartoons that was also included in the museum like P-man! We took pictures with some of its sculptures and we visited its cafe as well. The food below are caserolle, mango cheesecake, and french toast. The food was alright, not special, but the cuteness is extraordinary!! 


Right from Kawasaki, we went back to the heart of Tokyo, Harajuku! We went to check out some of the shops. I am so so so so so in love with local brands and shops in Japan. I would walk through the street all day long. I mean they sell one of a kind things you won't find in big chain stores like Forever XXI or H&M. I also found this little shop that sells Japanese Uniform Fashion. I really wanted to buy it but it was really expensive for the thing I wouldn't be able to wear (in the US) everyday! Each piece cost close to $100, yeah a bit much for me. 

Still in Harajuku, we roamed around Kawaii Monster Cafe, Pompompurin Cafe, Line Friends Store, and we had this super delicious Gyoza at Harajuku Gyoza Lou! It was sooo good. Three of us ended up ordering 36 pieces of Gyoza! And the bill came out total of $18. Oh in Japan you don't give tip as well! Super yummy worth it and affordable! I can eat these gyoza all day long! 



This night was one of the roughest night, at least for my pocket it was. We ended up having at least four dinners. Besides the gyoza above, we went to have our first Kobe Beef at Gyu-an!
You know it's only as big as my palm and it cost around $100!! YOLO. But yeah we shared the meat between the three of us. So each of us probably only got 3 pieces of small meat. We really ought to enjoy the beef. 


Travelling with Maria means eat in abundance! After we went to eat Kobe Beef. We went to a restaurant next door and again ate Kobe Beef! I forgot what's the difference between the two, but this one cost a bit less for more food. So yay! But my wallet started to crack and break. Boo.


Reviving from all the food and fullness, we went to an Owl Cafe in Akihabara. It was really strange actually! We got to pet different types of Owl and even put it on top of our arms. We also saw some fighting owls, but for the most part they are peaceful. Honestly I've never seen this many owl this close, too. They are such beautiful and lovable creatures, unlike what I thought they were. The entrance to this cafe wasn't excessive. I think you can get in with $9 and inside you can purchase hot coffee and stuff from the vending machine. 



Throughout the night we went around Akihabara to stalk Japanese in the arcades! Oh if you don't know Akihabara, it's like the capital of all anime, games, and arcades! The Gods of games are there. I couldn't imagine all these people with suit (looked like they just came from the office) tapping on buttons very accurately on each of the game as if they know what's coming next.. Combo 10000, 10001, 10002. Like perfect and not missing anything. I couldn't believe what kind of creature did I just see in front of my eyes?

We closed the day with another meal! We ended up realizing that our pocket broke and chose Yoshinoya! Yoshinoya is like McDonald's in the US. Fast food, but better! They serve rice with marinated sliced beef. It was a really humble but delicious meal! 

The next day, we just traveled around Shibuya area looking for stores and food (again)! Hear out what we had for lunch: we went to eat the sushi on the belt in some small restaurant, we ate ramen, and we also ate Yakitori. After these meals (finally) Maria left to the airport, Art and I took some rental car and started driving to Fujisan area. We got there around night and stayed in some airbnb home. 

In the morning, we hit the road and started climbing the Mt. Fuji. We also visited Kawaguchi Lake. It was really interesting when our car actually climbed to the mountain, the road is paved in such way so that we can hear the melody of Fuji Mountain song! Isn't it smart? 


At night we went back to Tokyo and enjoyed a delicious Japanese barbecue in Kintan
Again, we stayed in the Capsule Hotel,but this time in the Tsukiji location!

On the next day, we started hitting the road again and drove to Nikko
We went to see Kanmangafuchi Abyss. Super cool place to walk around. Besides the Abyss, we also walked around Shinkyo Bridge. We also got up the mountain of Hangetsuyama from Akechidarira Plateau, and we saw from afar, Lake Chuzenji.


Art and I drove back to Odaiba now as we had a reservation for One Piece Cafe! It is located at this Fujitsu building in a new island called Odaiba. The food to me was alright and the presentation was alright. But the restaurant has some sculptures and it definitely would entertain those who are One Piece fans, like Art in this case. 


We didn't stop there! We traveled around Odaiba and found this big Gundam statue at the DiverCity Tokyo mall. 


We also sneaked into Tokyo Disney Sea at night. One thing that all of us didn't get to do and probably looking to go if we ever go back again! 

We then went back to our capsule hotel in Tsukiji.

In the morning we went to go around Ueno Park before we need to depart to the airport. I was feeling kind of disappointed because during the time we went there,it was supposed to be sakura bloom time. Apparently it was too cold still for the Sakura to bloom. So this is the best picture we could get around Ueno Park. Ueno Park is very big, we went around and see a lot of Japanese people sit down and did picnic in the park. There were some festivals and street vendors! We got to try the grilled squid sold there.


We then took the Narita Express to go to the Airport and flew back to Chicago. 

By the way I sew some of the outfits I wore to Japan: The blue/yellow flower dress I made specially for my trip to Fujiko Fujio Museum, sakura skirt that I wore in Kyoto at Higashiyama District, and this last Vintage sakura colored peplum top worn at Ueno Park. I did plan out my outfit for this trip and I was so excited when I knew it was supposed to be Sakura season in Japan. Unfortunately, I can only wear them, but the mother nature wasn't quite in agreement with me at the time.

For those who will travel to Japan! Hopefully this post can help you find places that you should really go to. For those who didn't think they want to go to Japan. Buds, seriously Japan is such a beautiful country! There are even many more places I would like to go but I did not get a chance. I am definitely going back to Japan again next time!
For those who are looking! Make sure you watch out for deals! I've been seeing a couple of super affordable tickets less than $500 from U.S. Cities to Japan. 

If you have any question or comment, please drop them below on the comment section!

xx.

Catherine. 

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