Japan

I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list.
— Susan Sontag

You know how every year all your Facebook friends seem to be vacationing to the same country? This year that was Japan. Every few weeks I'd see friends post about their trip there. Maybe it was because of the $400-500 flight deals this summer? Anyways, we didn't get that deal :P After a $700 ticket and a layover in Beijing, we were super excited for 9 glorious days in Japan! My first time!

First stop - Tokyo:

Sensory overload! People, advertisements, shops everywhere. Dragged our luggage through the crowded streets of Tokyo to our Airbnb. We stayed in this tiny apartment in the heart of Shibuya. Literally not possible to run out of things to do in this city.

Shibuya crossing - said to be the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. View from a starbucks on the 2nd floor. So many tourists at this window trying to get this shot - finally it was my turn!

Shibuya crossing - said to be the busiest pedestrian crossing in the world. View from a starbucks on the 2nd floor. So many tourists at this window trying to get this shot - finally it was my turn!

First lunch stop was a random ramen place. this chart shows how to enjoy the noodles...

First lunch stop was a random ramen place. this chart shows how to enjoy the noodles...

tsukemen: Nodoles and broth are separated and you dip one into the other. Or go to tsujita if you're in LA : )

tsukemen: Nodoles and broth are separated and you dip one into the other. Or go to tsujita if you're in LA : )

my idea to visit a hedgehog cafe, hehe. Harry Hedgehog in roppongi requires advanced reservations which you can do online. there are also bunny, owl, and cat cafes....

my idea to visit a hedgehog cafe, hehe. Harry Hedgehog in roppongi requires advanced reservations which you can do online. there are also bunny, owl, and cat cafes....

Sleepy in my hands : ) felt kinda mean disturbing them during the day in their sleep (hedgehogs are nocturnal)...

Sleepy in my hands : ) felt kinda mean disturbing them during the day in their sleep (hedgehogs are nocturnal)...

Close up of Harry the hedgehog! you get about 20 minutes to handle the hedgehogs for each reservation, and option to take them home as pets....

Close up of Harry the hedgehog! you get about 20 minutes to handle the hedgehogs for each reservation, and option to take them home as pets....

Below: The food court at Shibuya train station in Tokyo (near the Hachiko statue), how is a food court so fun and inspiring!? 

Asakusa district for a walk among throngs of visitors, local snacks and souvenirs.

Asakusa district for a walk among throngs of visitors, local snacks and souvenirs.

Unassuming delicious noodle shop! no idea what we were ordering, but that was often the case....

Unassuming delicious noodle shop! no idea what we were ordering, but that was often the case....

start with a bowl of plain (yam?) noodles.

start with a bowl of plain (yam?) noodles.

then add sesame oil and seaweed flakes, finish with mustard.

then add sesame oil and seaweed flakes, finish with mustard.

oh my.

oh my.

akihabara district

akihabara district

electronics and manga paradise

electronics and manga paradise

the famed meiji shrine. a sanctuary in the city.

the famed meiji shrine. a sanctuary in the city.

not super crowded, amazing.

not super crowded, amazing.

Beautiful Hamarikyu Gardens
matcha and traditional sweets at the tea house

matcha and traditional sweets at the tea house

View from tea house (cropped my feet out of this photo because we had to wear the tea house indoor slippers with my socks, hehe).

View from tea house (cropped my feet out of this photo because we had to wear the tea house indoor slippers with my socks, hehe).

while at the gardens, make a stop at the Nakajima no Ochaya tea house for a cup of matche green tea and some sweets (about USD$7 per person. and enjoy the gorgeous view!

while at the gardens, make a stop at the Nakajima no Ochaya tea house for a cup of matche green tea and some sweets (about USD$7 per person. and enjoy the gorgeous view!

Tokyo by night. All the neon lights come on just like how one imagines Tokyo to be.

Tourist trap alert! Its hard to miss the giant sign at the Robot Show/restaurant if you're out and about at night in Shinjuku. It's hard to tell what the Robot show was about...but we gave it a try since it was so "popular". Haha it was a mistake (the entire thing was just tacky)...better save your USD$80 and go to the swankiest cocktail bar ever, with the most delicious drinks - at Gen Yamamoto!

Golden Gai, a series of old alleyways filled with tiny bars that seat no more than 8 people. It's really cute.

Golden Gai, a series of old alleyways filled with tiny bars that seat no more than 8 people. It's really cute.

Gen Yamamoto's bar, the epitome of mixology! A tasting menu for cocktails made with fresh, seasonal, and unique ingredients. Intimate and cozy atmosphere.

Gen Yamamoto's bar, the epitome of mixology! A tasting menu for cocktails made with fresh, seasonal, and unique ingredients. Intimate and cozy atmosphere.

Yummy watermelon slushy cocktail, one of the 6 from our tasting menu!

Yummy watermelon slushy cocktail, one of the 6 from our tasting menu!

Second stop - Hakone:

Quiet seaside village about an hour train ride from Tokyo, on the Odakyu Express Romancecar. Average age of the visitors there was 70. At the train station when you arrive, look for the luggage service office where you can send your bags directly to the hotel (very reasonable fees) and start exploring the town comfortably. I found this service so useful and thoughtful!

You can see Fuji Mountain from most parts of Hakone

You can see Fuji Mountain from most parts of Hakone

Just a handful of activities to do in this tiny town, and this boat ride is one of them.

Just a handful of activities to do in this tiny town, and this boat ride is one of them.

This is me photographing each meal at the suuuuper luxurious modern ryokan, Gora Hanaougi #shameless Totally spoiled here, and I'll reveal why at the very end. Hehehe.

This is me photographing each meal at the suuuuper luxurious modern ryokan, Gora Hanaougi #shameless

Totally spoiled here, and I'll reveal why at the very end. Hehehe.

Last stop - Kyoto:

Kyoto was beautiful....just like how I had imagined old Japan to be. It blew my mind just how old some of the temples are. 

Just Goh With It - Kyoto - 3.jpg
fushimi inari shrine
kyoto surrounded by mountains

kyoto surrounded by mountains

arashiyama bamboo grove - gobeforethe crowds or not at all....

arashiyama bamboo grove - gobeforethe crowds or not at all....

no crowds above :D

no crowds above :D

a much more pleasant bamboo forest - there was only one other person on this trail!! We walked this path on our way to Adashino-Nembutsu-ji Temple. 

a much more pleasant bamboo forest - there was only one other person on this trail!! We walked this path on our way to Adashino-Nembutsu-ji Temple. 

a real life geisha! they say there are only a handful of them left in kyoto...

a real life geisha! they say there are only a handful of them left in kyoto...

rice ball

rice ball

soybrean flavoured ice cream that tastes just like chinese tofu pudding (豆花) yummm 

soybrean flavoured ice cream that tastes just like chinese tofu pudding (豆花) yummm 

aritsugu knives - it is so sharp.

aritsugu knives - it is so sharp.

declicioussss sukiyaki at mishima tei - pricey and requires advanced reservations

declicioussss sukiyaki at mishima tei - pricey and requires advanced reservations

first time seeing chestnuts in its shell

first time seeing chestnuts in its shell

snoopy themed snacks, hehe

snoopy themed snacks, hehe

they'll also carve (freehand, omg!) your name in kanji onto the handle if you like.  

they'll also carve (freehand, omg!) your name in kanji onto the handle if you like.  

gudetama became my favorite character

gudetama became my favorite character

Just Goh With It - Kyoto - 1.jpg

Only in Japan:

Japan travel tips?

  • You still need cash in most places
  • Most people speak limited English. Google Translate to the rescue!
  • Many casual restaurants have a system where you purchase a meal ticket at the entrance
  • Relax at all the gardens, temples, tea houses that you come across. It's the best during long travel days.

We're engaged! Best trip ever with my amazing man.

Can't wait to explore the rest of Japan next time!