Second stop - JAPAN! My infatuation for Japan began way back in 2004 when Gwen Stefani dropped her album "LOVE. ANGEL. MUSIC. BABY" where most of her songs were inspired by the Japanese Harajuku street culture. It got to the point that my sister, her friends, and I dressed up as Harajuku girls in college for Halloween. Anywho, I figured if it took me almost three decades to visit Korea than I had to go to Japan because who knows when I would have ever have the opportunity again. Plus it's only two hours away from Korea by plane!
Japan has to be one of the best countries to visit during Autumn. Andrew and I absolutely fell in love with Japan the moment we arrived. We loved it more than Korea simply because there's so much to eat, see, and do! Japan is such an offbeat, cool, fun place to be and you'll never run out of things to do. We checked out multiple cities but the three major cities we explored were Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka. My personal favorite was the historical city, Kyoto. The feeling of being in Kyoto was exactly what I imagined Japan to feel like: peaceful, quaint, beautiful, and somewhere you'd want to settle with your long life partner and start a mochi shop. By the way, there are some truly amazing mochi shops in Kyoto. We stayed in Japan for about 10 days and it still wasn't enough time. We will have to go back in order to finish checking out all the things we couldn't experience such as: Mario Go-Karting, snowboarding in Hokkaido (let's make it happen Deborah), and Michelin star omikase. Take a look below of all the details from our trip! Next post will be on Thailand.
THINGS I LEARNED IN JAPAN
- Almost everything is opposite. Walking on the left side of the sidewalk, steering wheel is on the right side, reading books from right to left. • Take the metro because taxis are not cheap.
- Taxi doors open by itself before you get in. So neat!
- JR Rail Pass was the easiest method of transportation to get around for tourists. It ain't cheap but it saves you money if you're traveling long distance in Japan. Purchase it online.
- Overall, the country is safe and people are very respectful, polite, and hardworking
- Andrew and I really want a Shiba Inu one day and we were looking forward to seeing tons of them on the streets. We were kinda disappointed that we only saw two the entire trip. :(
- There are almost zero Japanese people that reside in the DMV area so it was so fascinating to people watch. So many Japanese people have cute and pretty/good-looking faces that look all natural. Although I did notice a lot of guys pluck their eyebrows super sharp/thin and have asymmetrical hairstyles. No offense but I thought that hairstyle died in the 90's. Ah!
- On the streets, I could tell the difference from a Japanese, Korean, and Asian American guy. The trick? Japanese guys have sharp asymmetrical hairstyles, Korean guys have bowl cuts, and Asian Americans have the pompadour cuts. Every time we passed by someone with this hairstyle, we used my cheat sheet and it never failed!
- I would say Japanese people are pretty open about their sexuality. Females on magazine covers are very risqué, bookstores have anime porn on covers which I accidentally picked up (eek!), and a lot of their ads seem to have sexual innuendos.
- Instead of pulling and pushing doors, there are sliding doors where you have to push a button to open.
- We don't regret eating ramen almost everyday. The ramen is different and so much better that it puts most ramen in the U.S. to shame!
- There's a difference between Japanese and Korean udon. I prefer the Japanese style.
- Japanese street fashion is unique and it doesn't compare to anywhere else in the world. I really admire how they're so carefree and shameless and no one seems to judge them.
- Culotte pants are a big fashion trend in Japan and I was so disappointed when I left mine at home. I knew I should've brought mine!
- There's onigiri at almost every convenient store and it's perfect to eat on-the-go!
- Everything is very clean and there are no stinky street corners
- Slurping your food is encouraged and considered a compliment towards the chef
- Don't buy items in Shinjuku street hagglers because they're scammers.
- Easy to get around (mainly because Andrew was my navigator)
- Some stations people line up to get into the train so there's no pushing or shoving
- There are beverage vending machines everywhere so you'll never go thirsty!
- Most ramen and udon restaurants make you order your food via a vending machine which dispenses a ticket which you then hand to the chef.
- Green tea soft serve is so delicious, especially at Kinkaku-Ji.
- There are lockers at most train stations which is awesome for travelers who need to temporarily store their luggage.
- We wanted to tryout one of those Michelin star sushi restaurants such as Jiro's but making a reservation is nearly impossible.
- The food is either sweet and savory, not spicy
- The younger generation is really into anime, KPOP, and rock.
- Don't get bento boxes at random convenient stores because they're usually not fresh. The best ones I've noticed are at markets.
- Unlike Korea, not a lot of Japanese people speak English which made it difficult at times to get around.
JAPAN (Not all listed)
FUUNJI : Delicious dipping noodle (tsukemen) that Andrew absolutely loved! There's another tsukemen ramen nearby that I loved but I don't know the name of. | ROBOT RESTAURANT : Trippy robot show! | COCO ICHIBANYA : Delicious Donkatsu over curry. Thanks Allen for the rec! | SUGOI NIBOSHI RAMEN : Popular ramen spot but I thought it tasted too fishy for my taste. Not bad but not the best. The space is super tight! | FLOWER MARKET TEA HOUSE : Loved this beautiful flower shop cafe. Right up my alley! Get the Rose Parfait, it's beautiful and delicious. Be prepared because there's usually a long wait. | SHIBUYA CROSSING : Smaller than I expected but still fascinating to see. Go to the Starbucks to get a better view of people crossing the intersection. | ICE MONSTER | TOTTI CANDY : Cute Cotton Candy! | HARAJUKU : Go shopping or checkout the unique street fashion. | TSUKIJI FISH MARKET : Watched the live tuna auction that's first-come, first-serve basis and limited to 120 people. We started waiting in line around 1am and got in around 4:30am. It was a once in a lifetime experience but I would never do it again because it was uncomfortable and painfully tiring. Make sure to get sushi for breakfast at the the nearby restaurants. | TOKYO TOWER : If you're into One Piece, there's an amusement park/store inside the tower. | AKIHABARA : Electronic Town. I ran out of memory cards so I bought a few flash cards which was very helpful. | TSUKIJI GINDACO : There are more than one location but go to the one in Akihabara because they sell Croissant Taiyaki that's shaped like a fish. It's tastes amazing! Don't forget to get Takoyaki. | AKIBA FUKUROU : OWL CAFE! One of my favorite things we did. This cafe is very clean, quiet, and they have tons of owls in different shapes and sizes. Mr. Kuppi was by far my favorite! You can't video record but we snuck a few shots in. :P | OZ OWL CAFE : We stumbled upon this owl cafe which wasn't as strict in terms of recording and noise. It wasn't as clean though and they didn't have as many owls. They did have Sugar Gliders and Hedgehogs which made up for it! | FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE : Definitely go early in the morning! | ARASHIYAMA : Bamboo Forest! | IWATAYAMA : Monkey park. Do not make eye contact with the monkeys or they will try to attack you! KINKAKU-JI : Golden Temple. Get the green tea/black sesame ice cream near the entrance of the temple. It was the best soft serve we had in Japan! | HOKAN-JI TEMPLE : Loved walking around here especially at night in the Gion District. I got to wear a Kimono but they were a bit pricey compared to the Hanbok rentals in Korea. | CAFE BIBLIOTIC HELLO : Andrew surprised me and found this adorable cafe knowing I would love it! | ICHIRAN RAMEN : Individual booths to eat your ramen without having anyone judge you for getting extra noodles! Such a fun experience! | MENBAKAICHIDAI : Fire ramen! The ramen was decent but it was more about the experience. | KODA-JI ZEN TEMPLE ILLUMINATION : Stunning illuminated park | | DOTONBURI : It's like a better version of Time Square on steroids! | OSAKA CASTLE | NARA PARK : Feed and hangout with tons of deer in the park. Be prepared, the male deer are more aggressive and if they know you have food they'll start going through your pockets! One deer chomped on Andrew's stomach. LOL. | TODAIJI TEMPLE : Inside Nara park, this temple is so much cooler to see in person. It's incredibly huge and I couldn't help but wonder how they built this back in the day. | MOMOFUKU INSTANT RAMEN MUSEUM : I was really looking forward to this museum but it was a big let down. It's small and there's not much to see but you get to customize your own cup noodles!