When you tell people you go to a certain place, they’ll often respond with amazing experiences they’ve had or things they’ve heard from others. It’ll be often in the form of an inquiry (Will you go do X or Y?) or recommendation (You HAVE to do x, seriously). I don’t respond well to the later form. I can be quite stubborn, thanks to my father, so when someone tells me to do something, I’ll often disregard whatever they say.
I like to find things out on my own. Everyone prefers different things and I’m lucky that my husband likes most of the same things in regards of vacation activities. But for our Tokyo trip, I know we’ll be doing some things that aren’t high on his priority listen. He’s willing to compromise for me.
Going to a ryokan
Going to a ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn, is an experience that’s truly unique to Japan. The standards for the guest service is exceptional and most ryokans have food to die for.
But they include seafood. Ryokan are traditional and the food reflects that. They often include traditional dishes to complement the rice and miso soup. The traditional Japanese diet doesn’t include meat, fish only, because of the Buddhist principles of earlier emperors.
Most ryokan also have a public onsen, hot water baths. The baths are now separated by gender, but the nudity is still enforced. If you’re not comfortable being naked in the presence of others, this won’t be a good experience. You’ll only get a tiny to cover yourself as you walk towards the bath, but the towel cannot touch the bath water.
I’m very self conscious and I don’t need a bathing house full of Japanese women to confirm that my body is indeed different from theirs. I could solve it by booking a room with a private onsen and do my own ritual, but that’s even more expensive. Not really an option.
We both don’t like fish or seafood. Making us go to a sushi bare is torture. In relation to that, we won’t be going to the newly renovated Tsukiji market either.
Visiting the Robot Restaurant
This is also one that nearly all guide books mention and one I’ll happily pass on. We’re on a budget and going to an overpriced restaurant for below average food and weird entertainment is not on our list of things to do.
The Robot restaurant allows you to film and through the wonders of the internet, you can see the performances without going there. There are different performances so I don’t know if the one you’ll see online is the same as they have there. The performance I saw was a psychedelic experience that reminded me of the Power Rangers. People in elaborate costumes fight using robots as vehicles. I have no idea what the story was about despite it being in English.
It’s filled with lots of colours, lights and smoke. It’s definitely an experience, but not one that I can’t do without. To compare, the robot restaurant experience will cost you 8000 yen without meal. A one day ticket to Tokyo Disney is 7400 yen. Which one would you pick?
If you’ve read my latest post here or follow me on Twitter, you might have heard that I’m going to Japan this year. We’re just visiting Tokyo, but there’s so much to do and so much I want to see, that we won’t be bored.
My interest began many years ago, but I was already Pokemon daily and regularly watched Dragonball Z, Sailormoon, or other dubbed anime on Jetix. But there is one other pop culture franchise that truly launched me into the otaku world: Kingdom Hearts.
I’m not even talking about the game (which is amazing), but the TV ad that ran before it came out. I loved Disney and Final Fantasy, and Kingdom Hearts had both. The anime look just completed it.
The ad had the amazing soundtrack done by Utada Hikaru. The song is called Simple and Clean in English and Hikaru in Japanese. I fell in love with that song and I spend two hours looking for it online. I don’t remember if the ad actually mentioned it, but I missed it. The Japanese version popped up first and later I found the English version. But I was hooked.
I explored more of Utada’s music and found Maaya Sakamoto later. She’s also a well known seiyuu. One of the shows she did was Escaflowne which was one of the first animes I watched.
From there on, I went into jdrama. Kimi wa Petto was my first, with Matsumoto Jun. I loved his acting and looked him up. He is the concert master of the boyband Arashi. He provides the MC when necessary when they do live performances.
I just found out there’s a remake of Kimi wa Petto on Viki from a few years ago and I might have to watch it now…
Arashi was the biggest snowball. From there I found more jdramas, other
Japanese artists and connected more with the Japanese culture from
watching their variety shows. If you need something fun to watch, try
finding episodes of Himitsu no Arashi with English subs. Below is a
highlight reel of things they do.
All of the Arashi members did their own shows and series. By watching most of what they’ve done, drama or real life things, my knowledge and interest in the Japanese culture became larger.
My wish to visit Japan and see the places from the series in real life, taste the foods that they showed, but most of all, I want to try the sweets.
Come back later to follow me as I prepare for the trip of a lifetime. If you want to know more about something specific (like my obsession with Arashi or Pokemon) let me know in the comments below so I can dedicate a separate post to it.
I’ve been watching anime for a long time and with Netflix including more foreign programs, I’ve been watching more drama shows and reality series as well. Through watching that, I’ve learned some basic Japanese phrase, but it’s not nearly enough to survive a trip to Japan.
When I first met my brother’s girlfriend she was impressed with the phrases I knew. Most of what I know are the oneliners from anime and manga.
That’s nothing special, right? That’s why I’m slowly expanding my vocabulary with Duolingo. It’s become easier for me to recognize words in sentences, although the sentence structure is still hard to understand. Grammar (no matter what language) has always been my weak point.
I don’t think Duolingo is the perfect tool to learn Japanese. After the first basic lessons, you will learn harder words and phrases which use those words. But they don’t talk about the words used to connect nouns. So the one thing that I’m struggling with, they don’t explain.
Luckily, through my interest, I’ve already bought some books on learning Japanese. Combining these source has been a great way to increase my mastery of the language and I notice that when I’m watching Japanese series, it’s easier to recognize what they’re saying. I still need subtitles to confirm what they say, but I can look away for a second and know that I haven’t missed much.
I hope that by the time we go to Tokyo I will know how to ask my way, understand directions, know how to order food and read a menu.
It’s been a long time wish to go to Japan and my brother gave us the tickets as a wedding gift. His girlfriend is Japanese and she even offered to show us around. I’m really looking forward to the trip, but we still have to save up for accommodation, transfers and public transport and food. But my shopping list is growing as well.
Right now I’m looking at what I want to do and see. My husband is okay with everything. He will let me guide him to all the awesomeness of Japan. We’ll probably only go to Tokyo for now (we don’t want to leave our dog with my parents for too long).
Karaoke and visiting an arcade are high on my list. I know the guys won’t like the first, but they’ll enjoy the second. Tokyo Tower is a must see, since chances are slim that I’ll ever go to Paris to see the real one. Tokyo has another tower, Skytree. It also has an observation deck, but I’m more interested in the shopping area around it. A Pokemon Center is located there and there’s an aquarium. I always love going to one when I can.
I want to go to Asakusa as well, the more traditional side of Tokyo. The temple there is a huge tourist attraction because it’s big and beautiful. See how crowded it is?
I want to see the traditional and the modern Japan, so a visit to Akihibara is a must. Maybe we’ll go to an arcade hall there.
Most people will say that you just have to have sushi while you’re in Japan. We’re no fish eaters though, so we’ll skip the sushi bars. I’d like to go to an izakaya and have curry rice, I want to taste delicious ramen, and sweet snacks.
I watched Kantaro: The Sweet Tooth Salaryman, a Japanese show about an office worker who loves to check out desserts around Tokyo. All shops in this show are real and I hope to visit some of them. In particular the parfait shop in Shinjuku and maybe the pancake shop.
In one of the episodes Kantaro is craving a melon parfait, and my, does it look delicious! All of the fruits are high quality and are served with whipped cream and/or ice cream. The prices are high, but it’s worth it. There’s almost always a line for these delicious treats.
In another episode Kantaro wants to eat pancakes. We have pancakes here but the Japanese pancakes are very different. Look at how fluffy they are! I’d soak them in maple syrup before I eat. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.
My fountain pen hobby is expensive. One of the pros of going to the Japan will be cheaper prices for the Japanese brands. The Iroshizuku ink is half the price of what I would pay here. There are also limited editions which aren’t sold outside of the Tokyo stores or Japan.
Tokyu Hands is very high one my list. People say it’s the place to get stationery. They have everything from vintage to cute to fancy. There are a ton of Youtube videos with stationery hauls. I could watch them all day, but it won’t be good for my wallet. I’m definitely setting a budget for Tokyu Hands so I can’t spend too much.
Itoya is another store for pen and paper lovers. After the renovation a few years ago, the look of the shop changed to a modern style and dedicated each floor to its own theme. The third floor is probably the place where I’ll spend most of my time, the one with over 2000 fountain pens.
This is just the beginning of what I want to do. I still have to look into things a little more and learn basic Japanese to I can find my way around when we’re just with the two of us. Have you ever been to Tokyo or have tips for travelling there? Please leave them in a comment below!
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