With the 2016 Japan trip coming closer by the day, there are a things I would like to do and see more this time around since there are 14 days to just slowly enjoy the experience. We seen many of the major attractions within Tokyo so I can focus on the things I, and perhaps many other tourists, overlook.
This time around, I would like to do more things on my own instead of sticking with the flock the whole time. This way, I can do the things I want to do without dragging anyone else. I definitely would like to check out the coffee scene since most of Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee beans do end up in Japan. In addition, I would like to try Japanese craft beers and bars. Eat more ramen – including tsukemen (dipping ramen)- and sushi as well, since last time one of my friends did not like sushi at all.
Here is a, by no means complete, list of things I would like to do while in Japan this time around.
Toranomon Koffee – I originally wanted to try Omotesando Koffee, one of the highest reviewed coffee shop on Yelp and TripAdvisor, but they closed down on December 2015 due to costly repairs. This is their new location. It’s a shame since their old location had such a nice atmosphere – converted old Japanese home – but this will have to do.
[Edit: I picked this place as my #3 top coffee shop. Pleasant experience. I wish it was closer to where I was staying, a bit out of the way.]
Robot Restaurant – Anthony Bourdain claimed this was the greatest show on earth. My friend said it was pretty interesting and fun that was definitely worth the experience. Other friend said this is something you can only see once. Robots, women in bikinis, lasers, lights, and alcohol. Sure, why not?
[Edit: An one time event for me. This is the “gaijin” spot. It was interesting and had its moments but you can skip this; not worth the price at 8,000¥ . Many hotels will have discounts vouchers, just ask them or 6,800¥ at this site.]
Disney Sea – might as well, right? Described as a mini Disneyland Tokyo but with alcohol, I have not been to Disneyland for over a decade so this might be an interesting experience. Did I mentioned there is alcohol?
[Edit: Decided on the after 6 pm ticket 4,200 ¥. Did not went on any rides, lines were too long. I saw the night show at the lake, drank some sake, and walked around. Quite beautiful, even in the dark.]
Umegaoka Sushi No Midori Sohonten – picking this sushi joint purely on reviews. There’s two locations, Shibuya and Ginza, and both have long lines prime hours according to the reviews and photos. High quality with reasonable prices, maybe these are the reason for the lines.
[Edit: Check my favorite places post for my thoughts.]
Kikanbo – saw this place while watching I’ll Have What Phil’s Having. Japan is not known for spicy foods but this is a spicy take on ramen; mind numbing spicy ramen, I might add. In fact, you can choose the level of TWO spices – red chili pepper and szechuan pepper – when you order the ramen. I’ll probably try “hot” during my first trip and “demon” on the sequential visit. Wish me luck. By the way, I did not put many ramen joints on the list because my friend will be taking us to all the popular ramen joints he tried over the years.
[Edit: Check out my favorite ramen in Japan for my thoughts.]
Hitachino Brewing Lab & Baird Taproom – two of the craft beer brewery I want to visit in Tokyo. A quick look at Beeradvocate shows that the Hitachino (Kiuchi Brewery) and Baird beers dominate the top of the list. Hitachino Brewing Lab is located in Akihabara and Baird has a few locations, but I’m aiming for the Harajuku location.
[Edit: Check my favorite places post for my thoughts on Hitachino. I only stopped by Baird once while in Harajuku but I enjoyed their Suruga Bay Imperial IPA.]
New York Bar – the bar of Lost In Translation in the Shinjuku Park Tower, where Park Hyatt is located as well, on the 52nd floor. Probably over hyped with high prices due to the movie but I still want to visit this place. My friend who been there did not think it was worth the 2,500 ¥ admission fee but it’s one of those iconic place to visit, I guess. Plus, the place is literally across the street where we’re staying.
[Edit: Did not have time, sadly.]
The Peak Bar – located in the same building as New York Bar, on the 41th floor, this bar – apparently also featured in Lost In Translation – has a happy hour special, called “Twilight Time,” for 5,000 ¥ that gives you unlimited drinks and snack food between 5-9pm. This place should like a better deal than the New York Bar, even with the price increase – the special was 3,500 ¥ a year ago. Potentially a lovely place to relax and enjoy the night skyline of Tokyo with a bunch of beers and cocktails.
[Edit: I got sick on the day this was planned.]
World’s Second Best Freshly Baked Melon Pan Ice Cream – with a name like that how could you not pay this place a visit? Melon pan, ice cream, and a pinch of sarcastic modesty in your hands; enough said.
[Edit: Tried the one in Osaka at Dotonbori. I got mine fresh out of the oven with a nice scoop of ice cream. Delicious. I would eat this again.]
Kamakura – an outlying area located about an hour south from Tokyo, Kamakura is a small city with many beautiful temples. Called the “Kyoto of Eastern Japan,” I look forward to just checking out the scenery, temples, and shrines in the area.
[Edit: Decided to go to Osaka instead. Friends said there was not much to see.]
Suntory Distillery – what can I say, Lost In Translation sold me on the Suntory brand. How can you resist Bill Murray? As such, I would love to visit the distillery for their whisky, which located between Kyoto and Osaka. Having a 7-day pass to use the bullet train, I might use a day to visit this place. The tour is out of the question since it’s been fully booked but the tasting room will do just fine, if I can get in, of course.
[Edit: Did not have time.]
Kyoto – we have two official days in Kyoto and my friend will be guiding us to all the major sites that he thought was worth a visit so I’m not too worried about attractions here. However, I can come back by myself later since we all have a 7-day JR pass to Kyoto. Places I would like to visit are Fushimi Inari Shrine, bamboo groves at Sagano, and Kiyomizudera so far. Apparently, Fushimi Inari Shrine is opened 24 hours, so I might do a night jog up the stairs for kicks.
[Edit: I love this city. So charming and atmospheric. I even made a solo trip back here to revisit a site and took my time. Only got to visit a few sites due to our short stay so I’ll definitely be back.]
% Arabica – seems like the coffee joint in Kyoto to get caffeinated according to TripAdvisor and Yelp. They have two locations, Higashiyama and Arashiyama, in Kyoto so I’m looking forward to grabbing many cups during the stay there.
[Edit: I picked this place as my #2 top coffee shop.]
Chojiro – a sushi place located in Kyoto, this place has good rating on TripAdvisor with good prices. This place is a conveyor belt style sushi joint but the quality seems pretty good. There are high quality sushi joints in Kyoto but this will do for me.
[Edit: I thought this place was above average. There was a long line when I was there, probably other tourists drawn by the reviews. If you’re in the mood for sushi, not a must visit in my opinion.]
Osaka Castle – to me, the most iconic castle in Eastern Japan is Osaka Castle. I know Himeji Castle is THE castle to visit in Japan, but I have no plans to visit that region this trip; this will have to do. This castle has historic significance value to me as it was the intended base of operation for Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who unified Japan and ended the Sengoku period.
[Edit: I made solo trip to Osaka to visit this castle. Much smaller in real life. Unfortunately, the visit would be eclipsed by an unplanned visit to Himeji Castle a day later. Still worth a trip if you’re not going to Himeji.]
Minami (Namba) – probably the most famous district in Osaka is filled with shopping and restaurants, plus Dotonbori is located here. If you’re in Osaka, there’s not much reason not to visit this place. To be honest, I just want to experience the atmosphere here; there’s not really anything here I have to try or see.
[Edit: I was only able to be here for an hour or so – I had to catch a train back to Tokyo. Tons of people and food of all kinds. I tried a few fried skewers and melon pan ice cream. Next time.]
Umeda Sky Building – this unique modern building houses an observatory with 360-degree view of Northern Osaka. Only charging 800 ¥ per person, I would be crazy not to at least visit this place at least once and they have a food court. Win-win.
[Edit: Beautiful building. I enjoyed the journey to the top more than the view itself but Osaka Castle can be seen from here. Although nice, you can skip this. Use the tunnel passage; I took the long way around.]
Of course, this is just a rough list. We will probably try a wagyu restaurant and other random places while there. Mainly, I look forward to just stumble upon places that leave me smiling while walking out the door. And another thing, I should watch Lost In Translation again, it has been years.
The photos were from my friend’s previous visits to Japan.