Ever since Harajuku Girls by Gwen Stefani hit our radio in 2004 I have lusted over the culture of Japan. Back in April, I embarked on my first trip to the land known for Hello Kitty and Sushi to discover one of the most incredible countries in the world with some of the most beautiful people in the world. My friend Claudia and I decided to jump on the Japan travel train and book a 10 day trip to Osaka, Kyoto and finally Tokyo.
4 Days in Osaka
I must admit, Osaka was not my favourite place I visited on my trip, but looking back, this city was the perfect introduction to Japanese culture. We stayed in an Airbnb in Shineskai. This area is perfect for a foodie wanting to experience every traditional Osaka dish imaginable. Day one was spent exploring the area of Dotonbori, stopping at the famous Ichiran Ramen. We ended up eating at Ichiran in all three cities we visited, and every time was just a good as the last.
On our first night official night in Osaka we went to the most incredible restaurant called Tsurikichi. Not only did the restaurant have the most incredible sashimi and sushi, but the tables were set on three giant boats that customers could fish off the side into the water below. In terms of themed restaurant this one went above and beyond my expectations.
Universal Studios Japan was a must do for me. I would highly recommend spending a day in the incredible park if theme parks are your thing. I personally am not a huge fan of theme parks, otherwise known as 'Line Hell', but of course I couldn't go to Osaka without going the Harry Potter World.
After reading one too many blog with tips and tricks on conquering the crowd that is Universal Studios Japan, it was decided that we would wake up early to be in line in time for the gates to open. I would highly suggest this as the line was already incredibly long even 30 minutes before opening when we arrived. Of course, once entering the park the first and only thing on our agenda was Harry Potter World. The rest of the park felt like walking through my childhood dreams. The park was drowning in Snoopy, Hello Kitty, Sesame St and to my discomfort, Minions.
Day three could have been one of my favourite days of the trip. We took a day trip to a small little town called Nara which is around a 40 minute train ride from Osaka, and with the incredible trains in Japan, getting there was a piece of cake. Nara is famous for the Nara Park which is full of beautiful Deer. They did however bite, you have been warned (we definitely weren't).
2 Days in Kyoto
The first day in Kyoto consisted of a lot of Google Maps to find our Airbnb. We stayed in a sweet little apartment that I would recommend to someone looking to stay for a longer trip two nights. The location was not as central as we hoped and we found it difficult in the mornings to find places to eat. Luckily for us, we only had two mornings where we had this issue.
The second day on our Kyoto adventure was packed full of tourist trap activities but that was our fault as we booked our trip during Cherry Blossom season when the crowds were in full swing. Our first stop of the morning was to the Fushimi Inari Shrine. I would recommend not visiting here during peak time if you can. Exploring the shrine turned into a sea full of people being herded through a never ending yet magnificent orange tunnel.
We then made our way to the complete other side of town to discover the bamboo forest. The part of town itself was incredible, the streets were full of incredible restaurants and shops, however I found the bamboo forest quite underwhelming. Maybe it was the hundreds of people around us but getting an incredible shot of this place was hard.
4 days in Tokyo
It's not a surprise that Tokyo was my favourite part of the trip. The huge metropolitan city was full of incredibly quirky streets. Like the majority of tourists, our transport of choice was the bullet train. The most efficient way to get from Kyoto to Tokyo. My biggest tip for this journey is have your phone and pocket wifi charged because three hours is a long time. Also, if you are travelling during lunch like we did, buy lunch before you board because unlike the Hogwarts Express, the train does not serve food.
The Airbnb we stayed at in Shinjuku was insane! Although the room was small, the apartment had a large balcony with a view over the city all the way to Mt Fuji! I would recommend this place to anyone travelling in a party of two.
Our first official day in Tokyo we went to the fish market. The trains getting there were an experience in itself so if you like your personal space I would prepare yourself because most moshpits come with security guards to pull you out, this one does not. It was all worth it to have sushi for breakfast. The rest of the day was spent in the incredible Harajuku. One of my favourite places in the city. We got an ice-cream and cuddled a hedgehog. What a day.
The last two official days were extremely laid back. We explored Shinjuku which was full of incredible shops and unique experiences. We went to the famous Robot Restaurant and 4 months later (Yes, that's how long it took me to getting around to writing this blog post) I am still shocked. If you are interested to see what it looks like in the head of a 4 year old after a bottle of red cordial, buy a ticket. The second last day we explored the area of Shibuya where we ate the coolest restaurant Genki Sushi. It was the next level version of Sushi Train.
Japan, I will be back.