We spent an amazing 36 days in Japan! We did a lot of traveling, and we went back and forth between a lot of locations, cities, and districts. To make things easier to read and write, we have grouped everything in our travels into city locations and not exactly by time.
First up is Tokyo! Tokyo is divided up into districts and wards. To keep things all organized we kept all the districts and wards of Tokyo separate, even though some of these locations we visited days and sometimes weeks apart from each other. The districts and cities we visited in Tokyo are:
This is our last post on Tokyo before moving on to Kyoto! We put together a few thoughts and ideas here regarding our trip in Tokyo below, but first, we have one last sushi bar!
Just Like Kyubei, we first heard of Sushi Bar Yasuda from TV. Anthony Bourdain's "Parts Unknown" travel showcased the bar. We were eager to eat there every since. Chef Yasuda owned a very well established and popular Sushi Bar in New York, but after 27 years in New York he picked up and moved back to Tokyo. Sushi Bar Yasuda was located in an area that we didn't visit or walk around in. We ended up taking a Taxi to get there, had dinner, and then taxi'd back to the hotel, so we do not have much to say about the area in which it is located.
We were served by Chef Yasuda himself, and boy, does he like to talk. He talked to everyone at the table, and continued talking the entire time that he was making sushi. His hands were dizzily fast, but he always had time to flex a bicep, proud that old age hasn't slowed him down one bit.
While the sushi was tasty, we felt it had been a little over hyped by American media. Unlike the other Sushi locations we visited, every single diner (about 6 couples) at the Sushi Bar Yasuda was a white American. If you enjoy your dining experience with a bit of show and flash, you may enjoy Sushi Bar Yasuda. If we had to pick, we would pick Kyubei over Yasuda though.
With everything we saw and took pictures of, there is 1,000,000 more fascinating things about Tokyo we did not take pictures of. Each district inside of Tokyo unique in itself and worth a visit.
We arrived in Tokyo at the opening period of Sakura season. It was still too early, and while the trees were begining to sprout pink and red leaves, they were no where near their full potential. With all of the parks that are full of Sakura trees in Tokyo, it is best to see it mid-season, to get the best of the viewing.
Sakura Season is not the only reason to visit Tokyo though! The architecture is amazing, and their parks are designed with special attention and care. Walk as much as you can. There is so much to see along the way.
Cats are pretty common in and near Tokyo parks, but they aren't always easy to spot.
Large maps can be found on city corners to help you navigate.
The police, workers, and metro stations attendants are also very helpful. Even when they did not speak English they did their best to assist us if we had a question or were lost.
The parks are lovely to walk through even without the Sakura Trees and we would love to come back in the Fall when the leaves began to change colors, but eventually your feet will get very tired of walking. At the end of every day we couldn't wait to get our feet up and let them rest. For the days when you are too tired or you just can't stand to walk anymore, a taxi is a quick option. Plus they are pretty cute looking!
Taxis are available almost everywhere in Japan. They aren't the cheapest option,nor the best option, and normally you are never too far from the Subway or Metro, but if you are in Japan for a few days, there will come a day when you just don't want to walk anymore and you say, "I'll just take a taxi this one time." Don't let anyone shame you into not taking a Taxi. It's almost an experience in itself, a different way to experience the city.
We also found that Park Hyatt hotel was pretty far from the JR station and opted for a taxi most times (15 minute walk). There is a Metro nearby but they do not accept the JR pass. In contrast, The Peninsula hotel is easily walk-able to a station that accepts the JR Pass (4 minute walk). We hope in the future to try out more Airbnb locations, but our recommendation would be to stay at The Peninsula hotel for at least 1 night to see the best that Tokyo has to offer.
The only thing more convenient than Taxi's in Japan and the convenient store's of Japan. There are tons of different convenient stores all selling pretty much the same products. We will talk about a lot of them in future posts, as many times we made stops for snacks and lunch and even sushi! It is hard to believe but all of the perishable foods at the convenience stores are normally sold out by the end of the day and everything not sold out is normally replaced. The one we visited the most while in Tokyo, was none other than 7-11 (Seven-Eleven).
7-11 is huge in Japan, and if you can find one you should check it out. Our first week in Japan we only used 7-11 for coffee, but later on we bought so much more.
Make sure you check if the store you are in is two stories also! Most of the one 7-11 in crowded areas will have a second floor where people will go to hang out and eat their foods and snacks and read books. You'll also find some crazy products!
dried squid/Octopus, headache relief patch, pink tube product
Seeing that headache relief patch reminds me of a very important point I'd like to make and if you are planning to go to Japan you should read this. YOUR DRUGS ARE NOT WELCOME IN JAPAN. Japan has very, very, very strict drug laws and many over the counter medicines are not available and sometimes illegal in Japan. Allergy medicines and aspirin medicines must be purchased from a pharmacist. They are pretty easy to find and most times in big grocery stores or shopping malls, but I make the point to let you know you should stock up BEFORE you need it. If you have any issues that you normally keep in check such as allergies, heartburn, migraines, etc, you should research an equivalent product that Japan sells and pick it up upon arrival. Google is normally very easy for that kind of research. Once again, do not, without exhaustive research, bring your drugs to Japan, even if you have a prescription. You will also get sore eventually. Find out what Japanese Aspirin looks like so that you can pick it up when you need it. Or ask the pharmacist for the store and they will gladly help you.
All the food you are going to eat is going to have to come back out sometime, and for that, I would like to welcome you to the wonderful world of Japan's toilets.
They're heated, they squirt water, they "massage", and they let you play nature tunes such as "running water" to cover up the noise in case you have a hot date outside the door. I wish American's spent this much time perfecting the toilet. Humans spend an average of 1.5 years on their toilet in the their lifetime, we might as well make it cool! On a serious note though, a lot of people assume that because the bidet is popular in Japan, there will not be any toilet paper. This is wrong. We never had any issue, in the entire time of our trip, finding toilet paper. Even on the island of Yakushima deep in the mountains there was toilet paper. They don't use napkins (handy wipes instead), but they have plenty of toilet paper.
All this talk comparing Japan to America, it seems like a good time to mention HAMBURGERS! Yes, they exist in Japan, which isn't that surprising, but for those curious, yes, they taste delicious too! Who cares, right? Why fly all the way to Japan to have burger? That is a good point, if you aren't going to order something different than what you would have back home, we didn't find anything worthy of making a "special trip" to eat, but if you find yourself wanting a good burger, or just something to break up the sushi dinners and lunches, we recommend, Freshness Burger.
We first encountered Freshness Burger through the poster above that I saw in the store window. I was intrigued by what looks like a giant tomato on the burger. I snapped a picture and continued about my day. Throughout our time in Japan, we kept seeing Freshness Burger, and eventually decided we would check out what a Japanese corporate company hamburger taste like. If you missed it, we tried Burger King when we went to Skytree in Sumida,
it wasn't anything different or tasty at all. It still tasted like bland American Burger King.
Freshness burger wasn't that bad though and they are really easy to find.
They also serve booze!
The burger and ingredients tasted fresh! So if you feel like a quick burger, avoid Burger King and McDonald's and try out Freshness.
For a Japanese twist on a steakhouse combined with the an establishment that has started 50 years ago and has 3 generations of family working at it, Hakushu,
in Shibuya was a very interesting experience.
We ordered Kobe beef, sirloin steak, and seafood, and it was all served with vegetables and a slice of white bread to soak up all the juices.
Hakushu is very popular with the locals and books up quickly so be sure to make a reservation.
That ends the majority of our trip in Tokyo, and next we tackle Kyoto, a city about 311 miles away (500 km). The way to get there is using, what I consider to be Japan's contribution to "the wonders of the world", the JR train system.
Before we go any further, if you are planning to visit Japan you should go here and purchase the Japan Rail Pass.
The Japan Rail Pass is NOT sold in Japan and only available to tourist. There is some research that should be done on your part, and it might be more expensive than buying all the tickets you need individually, but for convenience... it is amazing. We upgraded to the "Green car" reserved seating pass, and we never had any issues while we were in Japan. It was worth every penny. It also serves as an easy bathroom finder, since bathrooms are difficult to find in Japan, all rail stations have them but sometimes locked on the other side of the ticket counter. The Rail pass gets you in and out without paying anything extra!
Stations and trains get very crowded. During our trip we road a few trains that had standing room only.
Keep your eyes open for signs around the train stations. Some of them are hilarious and interesting and tell a story without needing to understand the language.
If you have to go long distances, the Japanese Shinkansen is a god send. The Shinkansen is a high speed bullet train, capable of speed up to 200 mph (320km/h). We arrived in Kytoto in only 2 and half hours.
Good Bye from Tokyo! See you next in Kyoto!