Japan Diaries

Updated: Jul 30

This blog is about my trip to Japan in 2017 and @schmmuck 's trip in 2018. He also travels frequently while managing his full time job. On his trip he had covered some really awesome food joints across Japan. You're sure to drool over the pics.

Documenting his and mine itineraries, food hauls, trips and tricks so you travelers can get the best out your Japan trip

Before we jump into itinerary I suggest please go through my blog about planning your Japan trip https://www.outofofficedaku.com/post/planningjapan This will give you a lot more insight and help you understand Japan. You will not only enjoy this blog more but also will help you planning your trip.

Let's begin...

Against each attraction I have tried to mention

(Mode of transportation to reach it/Station name) (Entry fee)

The details of the next destination will have info on how to reach from first destination

Confused...Read on you will figure out...

Get to Japan and as you make yourself comfortable in your hostel/hotel check around for supermarkets. You would love to try out all the unique items to eat and carry on the go.

Supermarkets to look for

  • Lawson

  • Family Mart

  • 7-Eleven

Tip: Living in a hostel with residential complex. Just look out for kids going to school or office goers early morning. They tend to pick up snacks on the way to the station. The best places to have a good breakfast and start your day.

Tokyo

Day One

Kaminarimon Temple - (Metro/Asakusa Station)

- The Kaminarimon was first built in 941 AD by Taira no Kinmasa, a military commander

Kaminarimon Temple

Sensoji Temple (Walking)

- Tokyo's oldest temple

Nakamise Shopping Street (Walking)

- Nakamise Street which connects the main gate of Sensoji Temple, Kaminarimon Gate, and the main hall

Ueno Street (Metro/Ueno Station)

- Ueno street is also know as Ameyoko is a busy market street along the Yamanote Line tracks between Okachimachi and Ueno Stations

Ameya-Yokocho

- Open air market

Tokyo National Museum (Walking)

- Established in 1872, is the oldest Japanese national museum, the largest art museum in Japan and one of the largest art museums in the world

Akihabara (Metro/Suehirocho or Okachimachi Station)

- Famed for its electronics retailers, ranging from tiny stalls to vast department stores

When at Akihabara check the below things to visit:

  • Maid Cafes - Cosplay themed restaurants

  • Laox - Tax free souvenir items

  • Don Quijote - Discount store

  • Radio Kaikan - Animation goods

  • Super Potato - All types of video games and consoles

  • Gamers - Video games, CDs, software related to games

  • Mandarake - Collectibles

Tip: If you have plans to shop from here suggest keep this visit to the end of your trip

Day two

Tamagoyaki - Omelette on stick

Tsukiji Outer Market (Metro/Tsukijishijo Station/Free)

- Also known as Toyosu Market. If you're here at 5 am you can see fish auctions marketplace. You can visit it any time of the day for some delicious food

Food recommendations:

Tamagoyaki - Japanese style omelette on a stick

Tip: Please don't come in way of the workers in the market. Early morning is a peak time. Also stay within the marked safety yellow lines if checking out the area which has trucks unloading

This reminds me of how efficiently Japan operates. So I was sitting and watching the sea food trucks come in for loading. The lady supervisor explained me how they do it.

Normal trucks open from the back and need two or more persons to unload and load goods.

This is how their truck opens up. All goods are unloaded and kept behind the yellow line. A single forklift operator unloads the whole truck in <10 mins. And takes another 15 mins to reload it.

During this 30 mins break the driver of the vehicle finishes his morning breakfast and is ready for the trip. Normal trucks which open from back take more then 2+ hours for the same task. Also long boxes are a pain to load in them. Efficient...

Back to the daywise itinerary

Hamarikyu Gardens (Walking 500 meters/300¥)

- Public park in middle of the city

Shibuya Crossing (Metro/Shibuya Station)

- World's busiest pedestrian crossing

Tip: Get to the Starbucks outlet and go on the first floor for some epic views of the crossing. Also good location for your time lapses

Food recommendations:

Uobei or Genki Sushi - Delivers your sushi at top speeds directly to your table by miniature bullet train

Shibuya crossing view from Starbucks

Hachiko Memorial Statue (Metro/Shinjuku Station)

- Bronze statue honoring Hachiko, the famously loyal Akita dog.

Tip: Want to know more watch the movie "Hachiko - A dog's tale. Make sure you have a tissue box handy

Harajuku (Metro/Harajuku Station)

- Center of Japanese youth culture and fashion. Should not be missed

View from top of the observatory

Meiji Jingu Gardens

- Public garden adjacent to Meiji Shrine and Yoyogi Park

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (Metro/Tochomae Station/Free)

- Observatory tower. It's is possible to see Meiji Jingu, Tokyo Tower, the Tokyo Skytree and Mount Fuji

Omote-sando (Metro/Omote-sando Station)

- Designer boutiques and shops of international brands

Golden Gai

- Six narrow alleys make up this place which are connected via more narrow passages or as Schmmuck says " This is where people come to get sloshed"

Food recommendations:

Eat at Yakitori Alley or the memory lane. Its walking distance from Shinjuku Station

Harajuku Gyoza - Tasty dumplings

Day trips or one night stay trips from Tokyo

Nikko - It's a Unesco World Heritage Site. Small town tucked away in the mountains. It also has many Shinto shrines and temples. On a clear day you can view Mt. Fuji from here.

Hakone - Part of the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park. It's on way to Mt. Fuji. Can be stopped here for a night and then headed over to Mt. Fuji

Matsumoto - Mountain town which has the black and white Crow Castle. Stroll along the Nakamachi-dori street.

Yokohama

Some of the biggest Chinatowns. 30 mins from Tokyo

Food recommendations:

- Motomachi

- Uobei - Conveyor belt sushi

Tip: If visiting Yokohama and love cars don't forget to visit Nissan Headquarters and check out the cars. It even has the Nissan GTR. The staff are super cool and helpful.

Spending a week in Tokyo also would be less. Choose your things and make your personalized itinerary. Here's few more in case you would be interested

Yanaka - If your want to experience old Tokyo

Sugamo (Old Ladies' Harajuku) - Series of shops catering to elders. Most shops are wheelchair friendly

Ryogoku - If sumo wrestling interests you this is the place to go

Tokyo water bus - Sightseeing via boats

Ghibli museum - If animation fascinates you

For kids:

Tokyo Disneyland

Tokyo Disney Sea

Tip: Don't forget to take the 8 am metro from Shinjuku. Dress well :)

The above itinerary can be done in 2 days or 3/4 days. Depends on your pace and time.

Let's head to Mt. Fuji. This can be a day trip from Tokyo or you can make your hub at Kyoto or even stayover near Mt. Fuji. Or start from Tokyo, do a day trip at Mt. Fuji and headover to Kyoto. Again depends on the time you have.

Mt. Fuji

Day three

Mt. Fuji (Train/Otsuki and then transfer to Fujikyu Railway for Kawaguchiko)

- Mount Fuji or Fujisan) is Japan's highest mountain. Don't think I need to give description for this attraction

Tip: Check weather and plan your trip. A clear day would be suggested

When reaching the railway station you can buy a pass which has a cable car + bus trip + a boat trip. It's worth it

View from top of the Panoramic Ropeway
Schmmuck cycling around Lake Kawaguchi

Panoramic ropeway

- Lovely views of Mt. Fuji and the city

Lake Kawaguchi (Cycle/Bus/Walking)

- One of the five lakes of Fuji five lakes. Second largest

Tip: Rent a cycle and go around this place for some lovely views

Oishi Park

- For the best views of Mt. Fuji

Maglev Exhibition Center

- If bullet trains fascinate you this is a must visit. Museum about bullet trains and also a testing facility. You can also ride in trains doing test runs. (Do check booking etc as they need to be done months in advance)

Food recommendations:

Hoto noodles - Famous local dish

Tip: Do try the hot springs when in this area. Some have lovely views of Mt. Fuji

Convenience and efficiency in supermarkets

Pic one: The fridge has a refill door from the back. So while its been refilled it does not cause inconvenience to the customer and also superb way to get the cold ones in the front and the new ones behind for it to cool

Pic two: The shelf shifts out for the worker to arrange and stand comfortably while arranging the food items

Kyoto

Day four

Fushimi Inari Taisha (Train/JR Inari Station/Free)

- Important Shinto shrine in southern Kyoto

Tip: Carry mosquito repellent when visit this place post 4 pm. Climb up the mountains for some insane views of the sunset and the city. Visiting it in the late hours also makes up for good photos while the sunlight passes through vermilion torii gates.

Kinkaku-ji

Gion

- Traditional entertainment district lying north and south of Shijo Street

Yasaka Shrine

- Shinto shrine in the Gion District

Kinkaku-ji

Zen temple whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf

Nishiki Market

- Renowned market place to Kyoto's renowned food joints

Day five

Tenryuji temple (Train/Keifuku Arashiyama Station/500¥)

- Built in 1339, it's registered as a world heritage site

Hogonin Temple (600¥)

- Known for its seasonal gardens and statues

Togetsu-kyo Bridge

- Bridge connecting islands. Nice views

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove

Arashiyama Bamboo Grove (1000¥)

- Torii tunnels of Fushimi-Inari-Taisha Shrine and Kinkaku-ji Temple. You need to visit it to experience it. Also one of the most photographed site in the city.

Tip: There are hand driven rickshaw drivers that will take you around. They are not cheap. Please don't negotiate with them. It takes a lot of effort to carry passengers and they deserve to be paid good.

Kodaiji Temple (600¥)

- One of Japan's greatest historical figures, by Hideyoshi's wife Nene who is also enshrined at the temple

Tip: When visiting shrines/temples do check the rock/stones patterns on the ground which are done each morning. You will be mesmerized

Yasaka Shrine

- Famous shrine in Kyoto

Gyoza Hohei

Food recommendations:

- Gyoza Hohei

- Opp to Togetsu-kyo Bridge there multiple shops selling rice crackers. Try the different flavours. Good souvenirs to take back home.

Day six

Egg and ham combo

Food recommendations:

Yoshinoya Kyoto Rakuhoku - Good breakfast options

Sushi no Musashi - Sushi

Nara Park

- Established in 1880 it is one of the oldest parks in Japan. Also the hub for many other attractions

Tip: Do buy Shika senbe and feed the deers

Todai-ji Temple (300¥)

- Large temple with a big Buddha statue

Yoshikien Garden (Walking)

- Three distinct gardens with river flowing beside

Kofuku-ji Temple

- Family temple of Fujiwara. Consists of 150 buildings

Suntory Yamazaki Distillery (1000¥)

- Tour of their factory and whiskey tasting sessions. Booking can be done at https://www.suntory.com/factory/yamazaki/

Day seven

Food recommendations:

Sukiya - Good breakfast options

Himeji castle (One hour in train from Kyoto/1000¥)

- Japan's most beautiful surviving feudal castle

Kyoto Castle (Metro/Nijojo-mae Station/600¥)

- Also known as Nijo castle

Kyoto Imperial Palace (Walking/Free)

- The residence of Japan's Imperial Family until 1868, after which the capital and the emperor moved to Tokyo

Kyoto Gyoen National Garden

- Park that surrounds the Kyoto Imperial Palace and Sento Gosho

Yasaka Shrine (Free)

- The shrine where the Gion festival is hostel

While in Kyoto there few other attractions and food places which you can check and add in your itinerary

Attractions:

Kyoto Railway Museum

Kyoto National Museum

Sagano Railway - 25 min ride for 7 kms on a old fashion train. Lovely views

Gion Matsuri - Procession of floats. Event happens on 17th July each year

Tip: There are more than 30+ temples/shrines in Kyoto. Drill down to the ones you want to visit and make your plans

Food places:

Pontocho - Narrow lanes offering inexpensive Kyoto cuisine

Nishiki Market - Fresh food market

Fushimi Sake District - District with sake breweries

Osaka

Day eight

Osaka Castle (600¥)

- Large castle with gardens which was reconstructed

Hokoku Shrine

- Part of the Osaka Castle park

Abeno Harukas 300 (1000¥)

- Observation deck on 60th floor. Nice views of Osaka

Food recommendations:

Takoyaki

Naruto Taiyaki Hompo - Famous for Japanese sweet of fish‐shaped pancake

Dotonbori - Most famous restaurants in this area.

Schmmuck quotes this moment as

" What could be more iconic than tripping on Takoyaki at its birthplace, Dotonbori in Osaka"

Kuromon Market - Popular market street for seafood

Asahi Suita Brewery - Offers free beer tours

Official tourist website for Osaka: https://osaka-info.jp/en/

The next destination we going is Hiroshima. You can spend a night there or do a one day trip from Kyoto. Bullet trains make the trip possible. Start at 6 am and you're back by 10 pm back to Kyoto.

Hope you will be buying the JP Pass which gives unlimited access to bullet trains. Don't know what I am talking. Read planning your trip to Japan here first: https://www.outofofficedaku.com/post/planningjapan

ALternative plan: If you're a foodie make your night stay at Fukuoka instead of Hiroshima. Why? Check out the food trail that Schmmuck went on when he stayed here.

Ichiran - Japanese ramen food-service business specializing in tonkotsu ramen. Birthplace of Tonkotsu Ramen in Hakata. A ten storey building now

Yatai Okamoto Nakasu

Yatai Mamichan - Ideal for your first Yatai experience (Street food)

Aji No Masafuku - Local cuisine

You can start off early the next day and head to Hiroshima

Hiroshima

Day eight

Peace Memorial Park

- Once a commercial hub now a memorial

Hiroshima peace memorial museum (200¥)

- History of Hiroshima before and after the bombing. (Must visit)

Atomic Bomb Dome

- Symbol of the "peace city", Hiroshima

Note: A free postcard is given with the entry fee to the museum. There's also a post box once you finish the tour. Stamps available at the souvenir shop

Miyajima ferry terminal

- To go on the island

Note: Ferry is free with JP Pass

Itsukushima Shrine (Ferry/300¥)

- Giant torii gate

Alert: Renovation work is currently going on. The gate is covered in scaffolding. No end date to its completion.

Food Recommendations:

At Miyajima island

Grilled oysters (Left pic)

Maple leaf shaped buns stuffed with choice of fillings (Middle pic)

Hiroshima

Okonomi-mura - Six stories of food theme park (Right pic)

Each day I came across how efficiently Japan has designed things around them. So this is in the public washroom. The hook is on top of the door for hanging your bag, purse etc. This is done so it's at your eye length and you don't forget your things hanging in the washroom. As you walk over to open the door you will surely spot your item.

Simple...

Tip: Heading back from Hiroshima to Tokyo book yourself on the sunrise train. Overnight journey from Hiroshima to Tokyo. It's a lovely ride back on normal train after all the bullets trains you have rode in. Make sure you book the tickets as soon as you land in Japan. They go off very quickly.

(Free with JP Pass)

I am a vegetarian, so what food did I have in Japan. Don't worry there are many options. Check out what to eat. Supermarkets have many ready to eat options and the staff are really helpful reading out the contents and finding vegetarian options for you

Name of some restaurants

Tokyo

  • Nagi Shokudo

  • T’s TanTan - ramen

  • Falafel Brothers - Middle eastern food

  • Ain Soph

Kyoto

  • Ain Soph

Name of food items

  • Shojin ryori

  • Okonomiyaki - Cabbage based noodles

  • Zaru soba - Noodles

  • Tofu

  • Japanese curry (AKA kare raisu) - Ask for veg option

  • Kushiage - Ask for vegetables

Also do check out the Survival guide for vegetarian / vegan food by Shivya https://the-shooting-star.com/2019/07/13/japan-vegan-vegetarian-survival-guide/

Still in doubt. Print the below and take with you :)

Translation: To whom it may concern: I am a strict vegetarian. Therefore I do not eat any meat, fish or fish products. Please make sure that my food does not include any of these items.

関係者各位

私はベジテリアンですから肉と魚と魚製品が食べられません。料理から除いて頂きます様お願い致します

Watashi wa bejitarian desu. (I am a vegetarian.)

わたしはベジテリアンです。

Niku ga haitte imasu ka? (Does this contain meat?)

この料理は肉が入っていますか?

Tamago to cheezu ga taberaremasu. (I can eat eggs & cheese.)

卵とチーズが食べられます。

Niku to sakana wa taberaremasen. (I can’t eat meat or fish.)

肉と魚は食べられません。

Dashi to katsuobushi wa taberaremasen. (I can’t eat dashi or bonito fish flakes.)

出汁と鰹節は食べられません。

Few other things on my mind...

  • There are a lot of owl, cat and dog cafes in Tokyo. Do check them out. I visited the owl cafe and it was lovely

  • Make sure you try out all the functions on the super tech toilets

  • Do visit the gaming parlours and try out some games. It's crazy in there

  • Try out a new coffee/tea/beer while you are there. I am sure you will not have to repeat the same brand

  • If you have two days spare you can add a trek to Mt. Fuji. All equipment can be rented. DO check the climbing season details

  • You can send postcards in different shapes to India from Japan

  • Try and get a nice semi transparent cover for your passport and JP pass. You will need to show it very frequently at railway stations

  • Make sure you carry a coin purse if you would be using cash

More of such tips on my other blog about planning trip to Japan / https://www.outofofficedaku.com/post/planningjapan

Ending this blog with a word which originated from Japan and we Indians are well versed with it...

"Sayonara"

Check out Schmmuck's Instagram for his wonderful travel photos : https://www.instagram.com/schmmuck/

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