MARCH 30: ARRIVAL
On our first night in Japan, we headed straight to our hotel. We had just traveled by plane from Seattle to Seoul, then Seoul to Japan. I’m too tired right now to do the math, but we left our apartment in Seattle at 8:30AM (Luke picked us up and gave us a ride to the airport – it was really sweet) and arrived at out hotel room in Kamata, Tokyo a little bit before 11:00PM.
We flew Korean Air and it was really nice! They had a pillow and blanket, along with slippers and a toothbrush with toothpaste. They also served two full meals (I’ve gotta remember to order a vegan meal for our flight home ahead of time) and plenty of drinks – including coffee, tea, juice, wine, etc.
After our four-hour layover in Seoul, which included food and switching airports, we boarded out two-hour flight to Haneda Airport. Like I mentioned, we went straight from the airport to our first hotel.
9HRS – our first hotel – was a capsule hotel that seemed to exist in a dystopian future where we all dress the same, follow the same schedule, and don’t make eye contact. It was awesome. Everything seemed so sterile and untouched. The pillows were bean-shaped and quite uncomfortable.
MARCH 31: PINK LATTE
Wow, I did not sleep well. I’m not sure if it was the uncomfortable bean-shaped pillow or the man snorting snot instead of blowing his damn nose all night, but I think it was both.
Nikoli and I headed to 7/11 first for me to get some cash, 10000¥ to be exact, and a bag of apple slices that were extremely cold. We then went to Glitch Coffee (a coffee shop my friend Tom had recommended we check out) after taking a train. There was a mixup at the coffee shop and we ended up drinking someone else’s order. I’m glad that it wasn’t enough coffee to get Nikoli going though, because it wasn’t enough for me either. We headed to an American chain across the street and drank another 16oz or so before heading to Akihabara.
The Owl Café that we were heading to was reservation only, we found out as we were walking in that direction. We decided to skip and try to find the art supply store that has the wall of markers that Nikoli wanted to go to. We tried two different ones, but neither of them turned out to the one. In between the hunt for markers, we stopped for vegan sweets at MOR Happiness where I ate a very dry matcha muffin and bought two other things that I have yet to eat.
The only thing left on our agenda for the day was the Seven Gods Temple – Senso-ji. We went there and to a few other temples and shrines today and walked about nine miles total.
For dinner, I had two beers and some udon noodles with vegetable tempura from a place called Musubi which happens to be on the same block as our second hotel. (They were sold out of their vegan “octopus” balls tonight.)
I’m currently laying in bed at our second hotel – Seven Garden. It’s another capsule hotel, which is cool, but I do miss sleeping next to Nikoli.
APRIL 1: KARAKOE
Today I woke up at 4:00AM. It was way too cold and dark to actual leave the place we were staying, so I decided to get on Twitter to kill some time.
Did you know that Netflix is like very different here? “RuPaul’s Drag Race” is a Netflix Original in Japan, along with “Isn’t It Romantic” – a romantic comedy starting Rebel Wilson that I don’t think is even out in the US. I added a few things to my queue – things that won’t even be available to me once I return home – before I decided to try and sleep some more. I was able to sleep a lot more – four more hours. Luckily the hostel had plenty of coffee for Nikoli and I.
We drank our weight in coffee and headed to Ginza for Nikoli to try and find the art supply store again that he desperately wanted to visit. We found it and actually discovered that it is two separate stores near each other, not just one big store. Nikoli had plenty of stuff to look at and ended up purchasing some stuff.
After the art supply store, we headed to a book store in Ginza Six that Saxon recommenced we visit. It was mostly art books and I wanted to buy a bunch of them and a bunch of magazines, but I only ended up buying a Japanese copy of the first “Harry Potter” book for Katie. The series is actually split into 20 books here instead of 7. Nikoli and I reloaded on some coffee at the Starbucks near the book store, then headed to get some ramen.
We stopped at a ramen shop right outside of Ginza Six and quickly slurped down some delicious ramen.
We headed back to Akihabara so I could try and find some Japan exclusive Nintendo Switch stuff, but failed, bought a Pokémon keychain, tried to win Garet a One Piece toy from a claw machine, then decided it was time to head to Kyoto. We went to Tokyo Station and picked up our rail passes, then hoped onto the bullet train – the Shinkansen.
A little less than three hours later we were in Kyoto! We checked into our hostel – Glansit Kyoto Kawarayamachi – then headed to get dinner at Kamehamcha, which was fucking amazing. We walked around some of the stores after, then found ourselves at a karaoke bar named Barcode that was around the corner from our hostel.
The energy was amazing. Everyone was jumping around and clapping for whoever was singing. I felt the need to sing, but my nerves would not allow it. Even though they had 27 My Chemical Romance songs to choose from.
We headed back to our hostel to call it a night shortly after arriving because it had gotten a little late and we wanted to be up early the next day.
So I am sitting in my third capsule now as I write this. For some reason, Nikoli and I were under the impression that we had our own room for two nights, but I guess we were wrong. I’m really hoping that we do in Osaka.
APRIL 2: PEACH COKE
Tuesday morning I woke up around 6:30AM, while Nikoli was already awake because he couldn’t sleep again. I found him in the small hallway that had two barstool seats and a table.
It wasn’t until today that it really his us: nothing is really open before 11:00AM. The only exception is some Starbucks locations, which we are relying on more than I thought we would.
I got some gluten-free vegan chocolate pancakes today that were pretty terrible. They were very sandy.
Highlights of the day were definitely visiting Kiyomizu-dora at night and the geisha performance. The geisha performance was so beautiful, but photos weren’t allowed.
Also, I had some more ramen today that was pretty good and creamy.
APRIL 3: 67 FLOORS
Today was definitely the most exhausting day of the trip, so far. While we didn’t take as many steps as yesterday, we did climb about 67 flights of stairs, according to my iPhone. This was because of our visit to Fushimi-Inari Taisha.
It was so cool to see all of the gates and there were so many! I thought we were almost through at one point (or at least I was hoping), but we were only halfway.
After hiking around for quite some time, we got some street snacks at the base of the mountain. I got a twisted potato in a stick, Nikoli got some chicken and peppers on a stick, and we both enjoyed some orange juice that they blend still inside the rind.
We headed to Nara after and stopped into an owl café. I was a little scared to pet the owls in fear that they might bite one of my fingers off, but fought that fear for a moment. Nikoli got to hold a little owl named Mii, which was super cute.
We checked into our hotel right at the check-in time in order to rest a bit and drop off our bags. Nikoli did a quick face mask and dozed off, then we headed to Nara Park.
Do you know what’s in Nara Park?! Deer! And lots of them! I got to pet some and some of them also greet you by bowing! It was too fucking cute.
We also checked out Tōdai-ji Temple, which has the largest Buddha statue made of bronze! My jaw dropped when I saw it because I really had no idea it was going to be that big.
We ended the night at a small bar with hidden rooms called Lamp Bar. You could tell the bartender knew what he was doing and took it very seriously. The two Belgian beers that I got came in nice branded glasses and Nikoli’s two cocktails looked very interesting: an old-fashioned and a cocktail in a taller glass that had matcha and whiskey in it.
Also, the bed here at Hotel Base Nara sucks. It’s like less than a futon mattress and is just on the floor in this loft area overlooking the other more comfortable twin bed.
APRIL 4: “I THINK THAT’S A NEWT”
We didn’t really stay in Nara that long because it didn’t have much to offer for us, other than the Nara Park and Tōdai-ji Temple. So we headed to Osaka in the morning.
Originally, we had planned to leave early in the morning, but we had entered the starting and stopping points into Maps incorrectly. Therefor, our originally planned three-hour journey from Nara to Osaka only turned out to be a thirty-minute subway ride.
Deciding to cross off the biggest thing on our list first, we headed to Osaka Castle. Absolutely overpacked but still amazingly beautiful, we spent a bit of time walking around and venturing inside. The inside of the castle has been completely gutted and turned into a museum. If it wasn’t so packed, I would recommend going inside and learning about the history. Instead, skip the museum, hangout outside more, and research later if you truly are interested in the history.
Later the same afternoon, I found myself trapped in a giant store searching for Japan exclusive Nintendo Switch items. This time, I found one. Too bad it was a pre-order for Resident Evil Biohazard that isn’t set to come out until May 23.
Once night fell, we strolled through the streets. We started with Doutonbori Street and zig-zagged our way around, exploring the sights, the signs, and the melonpan. We also found a very small rock-themed bar that felt very American. I paid $10 for a can a beer from Oregon.
APRIL 5: HANGRY
Desperate for a vegan option that wasn’t just rice, I found a place called “Ain. SOPH Ripple” in Shinjuku-Ku shortly after arriving back to Tokyo from Osaka (this time a three-hour train ride). “Ain. SOPH Ripple” is one of a few locations under the “Ain. SOPH” name, but probably the better of the two that I tried. I really liked their veggie burger, but I absolutely loved their matcha tiramisu: devoured in just a few bites. After getting something to eat and some caffeine in our systems, we spent Friday exploring Shinjuku and Shibuya.
Mostly, we shopped around attempting to find clothes to take back to the States. Being surrounded by that many people in Shibuya and Shinjuku was so exhausting, so we found ourselves in a bar before 9PM.
“Hachigatsu no Kujira” is an interesting little underground bar off the main streets of Shibuya. I ordered myself a drink (“Blade Runner”), Nikoli ordered himself one as well (“Girl Interrupted”) as we browsed the menu with probably 100+ options of drinks named and inspired by movies. I read a review that you could order by saying an movie title you want, even one that is not on the menu, but we left after one drink to try and fit more excitement into the night.
APRIL 6: YOSHI
Our last day in Japan started with donuts. Not a bad way to start a morning, right? I ordered myself two donuts (“Sakura” and “Kyoto Uji Matcha”) and Nikoli ordered himself one (“Hibiscus”). They were so fucking good and I’m going to dream about them. Donuts at home are nowhere near as good as those donuts were.
We spent most of the day wandering the streets of Shibuya again, plus a little bit of Harijuku – hoping that the fashion district of Tokyo would have some clothes for us to want to buy and bring back home.
We were disappointed though and found nothing to bring home, other than a jacket that Nikoli purchased within the first few days because it was miserably cold. We would stop into shops inside or outside of malls and finds racks filled with clothes that looked like cheap ripoffs. If not ripoffs, then we found ourselves surrounded by second-hand designer clothes that were still outside of what we were willing to spend for clothes that were either not our style nor in great condition. Surprised to say, but Japan did not meet my expectations for shopping for clothes. But it did meet quite a few expectations.
Like winning Yoshi in a claw machine in an arcade for 100¥! As the claw dropped I said aloud, “I don’t know how I’m gonna get him back to the States if I win him.” “Looks like you’re gonna find out.”
APRIL 7: DEPARTURE
I didn’t find out. I left Yoshi behind. Tucked into bed in the hotel room we stayed in our last two nights in Shibuya – Hotel Zenit Shibuya (honestly they had the only comfortable pillow during the entire trip).
We woke up and packed, got ready, and headed out the door to Shibuya Station in order to get to the airport for our 12:20PM flight back home. After a two-hour flight to Seoul and a five-hour layover, we boarded our flight back to Seattle.
Our trip to Japan had it’s up and it’s downs, it’s excitements and disappointments. But overall, I’m very happy that we got to go.