Thanks for tuning back in and welcome to Part 2 of our Japan trip! This one is even more photo heavy than the last one, I think, so maybe that'll make up for how much text I put in these blogs. I do go more into detail about the Tokyo Metro in a moment for those of you that are interested. I know most of you tuned in for food recommendations, so I also have a few more great spots for you in here.
Speaking of food, Tokyo 7-Eleven is seriously amazing. I wish ours in the states were so nice. They were always so clean and the "to-go" food was surprisingly really good. We had a few late night snacks/meals/ice cream bars while we were there.
I forgot to mention in the last blog, but we ate at a conveyor belt sushi spot numerous times during our stay in Japan. There are two similar locations that we went to--the main one being Genki Sushi in Shibuya. It's a very short walk from the Ginza and Fukutoshin lines/Shibuya Crossing.
The other spot is Uoebi Sushi. A little further down, but if one has a long wait, you can easily pop into the other. They have pretty much the exact menu/system going, just different names.
Very cheap, delicious sushi with quite a few vegeterian options!
Alright, I'm going to try to breakdown the Metro as easily as I can. There are multiple companies running the Metro system, so you have to purchase multiple tickets if you want to be able to easily to get to some destinations. The easiest and cheapest thing to do is go to the Ueno station (G16) and purchase a 3 day tourist pass. We didn't do this until the end of the trip (out of sheer laziness,) but we wish we would have--it would have saved us a decent chunk of change.
The 3-day pass costs only a little bit more than the 1-day pass. I think 1500 yen for a 3-day and 800 for a 1-day. The 3-day pass covers the Toei and Tokyo Metro lines and makes travel really simple.
We stayed in Asakusa and depending on which way we walked from our hotel, we got on G17 or G18. We took the Ginza line for most of our stops. We took Ginza to Ueno and purchased our 3-day pass there. We could only buy a 1-day pass at the other stations near us.
For our JR pass (which took us to Kyoto and Osaka,) we had to go to Tokyo Station and go to JR Pass West Office. We took Ginza line from G17 (Inaricho) to G14 (Suehirocho) and then took a JR line to Tokyo Station. This was the fastest route and since we didn't have our JR pass yet, we paid maybe 200 yen a person for a short, one way trip to Tokyo Station.
Once in Tokyo Station we went to the JR Pass office to get our passes. We bought a 7-day pass and that was 29,110-38,880 Yen a person (depending on what type of seating you chose.) This gave us access to the Hikari Shinkansen which took us to Kyoto and back and Osaka and back during our stay. A one way ticket for the bullet train is 13,080. So, it was definitely worth the price of the JR pass to go ahead and get it.
We didn't end up going back to Kyoto for one more day like I'd wanted, but we were SO exhausted by the end of the trip, it just wasn't worth it to us haha.
The travel was the most expensive part of the trip. We got a great deal on our flight and even with the JR passes, this trip was a lot less expensive than our Paris trip last year. (Which I will blog about soon...I just took SO many photo and I'm still overwhelmed haha)
After being completely worn out by our Kyoto trip the day prior, we took an easy day and visited the Maxell Aqua Park. Entry was 2200 Yen a person and they allow reentry with that day's pass.
This aquarium was beautiful. They had light shows, interactive fishtanks displays, two amusement park rides, and little soundscapes. The Aqua park has 350 species of some 20,000 marine creatures and performances that change depending on time of day or night.
We love Zoos and Aquariums. If you've seen any previous travel blogs or my instagram stories, I'm sure that's obvious. This one is up there on my list because of how cool some of the displays and tanks were. (And how clean everything is compared to the amount of people that it sees every day.) Honestly, one of my favourite parts about Japan was how clean they kept public bathrooms.
One of my favourite part about aquariums is the jellyfish. This definitely was no exception. You come around the end of a hallway and turn into this dark room with floor to ceiling mirrors and incredible lighted tanks and fixtures. I could have stayed in here for a really long time. What can I say? I like coloured lights and floating creatures.
Next up was the arena area! We arrived just in time for the dolphin show. The dolphin show was about 20 minutes long and had the creatures and the trainers performing for the audience. There was a water and light show included and the dolphins leaped so high into the air and created monstrous splashes, soaking the first 4-5 rows of the audience.
The animals were highly intelligent and really enjoyed making splashes and watching the audience squeal. I've never seen an aquatic show before, but I'm sure this one tops most.
Right after the arena was a small opened area for another show! We made it right before the Penguin show began. The employees brought out two penguins from their enclosure and rolled them out on this "grassy" platform. They danced for the audience and kept playing with each other.
They ended up racing and doing tricks for everyone while the audience kept yelling "KAWAIIIIIII". One of the penguins cheated and skipped all of the obstacles so he could hit the bell first and get the treat.
They spun and danced for us while we stood under a constant water mist. This show was much shorter than the Dolphin one, but entertaining.
When you move to the next area, the space opens up to a penguin, seal, and otter exhibit, with some of the large water tanks visible in the back.
The otters were super playful and one kept trying to be in front of the other. He was crawling on him and kept trying to get close to everyone at the window. They had a huge area to run around and a tubing system that led them from a water tank to dry land to a bed area and more.
Next to them was a seal they happily swam around and did little tricks for those watching.
The penguin enclosure was clean and had little to no smell. I normally hate the penguin area at zoos and parks because of how much it smells, but this one was clean and "penguin fragrance" free.
On the way to the huge water tunnel, there was a wall area with diaphonized specimen and other preserved creatures. I looove diaphonized creatures. It's quite cool.
Next up was the aqua tunnel that had all kinds of sea creatures swimming around and above you. We sat and watched all of them swim about and made weird noises at the sharks. (Here is what makes us laugh)
Next to the tunnel it was something like a reptile room with lizards, turtles, snakes, and a random capybara.
The aqua park wasn't a huge place, but it was very entertaining, clean, and indoors. Totally worth the ticket fee (which is quite low, anyways.)
We did more wandering and shopping and stopped for some shaved ice near our hotel. This was not like your typical shaved ice/snow cone. The ice was shaved super thin and was accompanied by ice cream and topped with strawberry syrup. Delicious. We shared one because the serving size was monstrous.
While we were in Japan, I found some new favourite treats. Kirin Lemon is an amazing soda. It's a super carbonated lemonade that is tart and sweet. Peach Fanta is the hands down the best Fanta with Orange Fanta next in line.
Gongcha has really amazing boba tea. They gave us a gift for waiting in line and we need up going back to them a couple of times. Their boba was really good and the tea had such a strong, delicious taste to it.
I also found this ice cream wafter bar called Choco Monaka Jumbo in the 7-Eleven. It is amazing.
If anyone knows how to get Kirin Lemon and Chocolate Manaka Jumbo to me, please let me know. I even emailed Kirin Lemon about it haha. They said it's too expensive to try to sell in the US, which I understand. I still want it sooo bad.
We spent the rest of the day wandering about and ended up at this amazing "hole in the wall" ramen place that had meat free ramen! No fish broth or anything. I was so happy Jonathon found this spot. It is Kyushu Jangara Ramen in Akihabara
Veg Ramen! Finally. <3 It can be vegan if you don't include the egg.
Full and exhausted, we went back to the hotel to sleep and prepare for our long trip to Osaka the next day!
We got ready early this morning to make our way to Universal Studios Japan in Osaka!
The trip is about 3 hours by bullet train, so we stopped by 7-Eleven for breakfast and took it with us to eat on the way there. (It is acceptable to eat on a bullet train, just not normal trains.)
We made it to the park right after opening and the park was already slammed! On a weekday, too. I had only ever been to The Wizarding world of Harry Potter (at a Harry Potter convention) so I'd never really been to the rest of Universal, and Jonathon had done all universal, but no Harry Potter.
Our first stop was the Wizarding world. We wandered through Hogsmede and stopped into all the shops. We waited in line for the Wand Experience and Jonathon was chosen!
When we were done with that experience and went into Ollivanders, the associate showed us the want that "chose him," and it happened to be the wand that I had chosen for my self 8 years before. Fate ;P
I don't think I've ever seen so many people in a theme park before. All the rides had ridiculous wait times. Someone said that during peak visiting season, rides could be 500 minute‽
Our first stop was Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey where the wait was 2.5 hours+ long...and we waited the entire time for it. We were all the way in Japan after all. May as well!
Thankfully, it was a cloudy day. The temperature wasn't bad and the sun wasn't beating down on us, so the wait wasn't miserable. It's such a cool ride, I just wish the wait hadn't been so long!
Once we exited the Forbidden Journey, we stopped to get some butterbeer. We enjoyed the beverage and once finished, we headed out of the Wizarding world to check out the rest of Universal.
By then, we were quite hungry, so we stopped for some overpriced park food. I had a pizza slice and he had a hotdog. Nothing special. We spend some time wandering through the park and decided to ride the Spiderman Ride. That was about a 90 minute wait. The ride itself was totally different from the Florida one! The was one ride I did get to ride before.
By then, our feet were just aching from all that standing, but there was one more ride we wanted to experience! I wish we could have ridden more, but the wait times were just insane on all of the rides, we wouldn't have had enough time even if we stayed open to close at the park. The express passes only work once and for one ride only (or if you buy the pass its 4 rides) but that line was just as long and those passes sell out before/as soon as the park opens.
Our last ride was a relatively new one (2016), The Flying Dinosaur. It is steel flying roller coaster found only in Universal Japan. It locks you into a prone position and is the longest flying roller coaster, currently. That was also a 2.5 hour wait. It felt like FOREVER. But once we got to the ride, it was dark out and we got to fly through the air and view the park from above at night with all the lights on. It was very cool. I was anxious about the ride for no reason whatsoever...but I'm no wuss. I made myself do it.
After we completed that ride, I really wanted to go on one more, but we didn't have time. If we waited and then took the 3 hour ride home, the station's trains would have stopped running for the evening and we would have been stuck!
After we left the park, we stopped at an awesome popcorn stand and got giant bags of popcorn for dinner that we ate on the train ride back. I don't think my feet have hurt more in my life haha. I welcomed the 3 hour ride back. I just wish they turned the interior lights off.
The next morning I was craving eggs, so we went to Eggs N Things--A popular Hawaiian themed breakfast spot. We went to the one in Ginza since we hadn't been in that area yet. We got a balcony spot with a lovely city street view and stuffed our faces with giant portions of breakfast food. (We definitely didn't eat lunch after this. SO much food)
We got their strawberry pancakes with whipped cream tower and eggs Benedict. I had the vegetarian option and Jonathon had seafood on his. Delicious.
We spend a god bit of the day exploring Ginza and going back to other areas of Tokyo. When it came time for dinner, Jonathon found a place called Kuriya located in Shinjuku and right next to the Godzilla head.
The restaurant was located in a tiny basement room. It, of course, was vegetarian friendly, but it also was smoker friendly, so there was a bit of a cigarette smell since a lot of the customers chain smoked while they ate. It wasn't as smoky as Paris was. They had vents, so it was bearable.
I think the place was run by a couple? It was a woman and a man and they were running the entire place. I think cooking, too. I think the man tried to shoo us away because they were full, but we said we could wait and after about 15 minutes, we were seated and the woman seemed very happy to see us, and if she was faking it, she was an excellent actress.
The food was delicious and came out fairly quickly. Jonathon had a ton of different meats on skewers and I had a delicious radish salad with Japanese herb plum perilla dressing and I also got an item that was Camembert cheese and pumpkin lightly fried. So yummy.
After dinner, we hopped on the Ginza line and went to Ueno to walk down Ameyoko. Ameyoko is a busy market street the used to be a black market following World War II. There was a Taito Station over there (gaming) that had a Hedgehog plushie we kept trying to win for my mother-in-law. She asked for a Japanese hedgehog, so we tried to get her one! Fake or not. But, it wasn't happening. Jonathon almost got the hedgehog and as soon as it went over the drop area, it fell and went back to the starting position.
We saw lots of shops there - gaming, clothing, candy, fish..etc. but it was late, so most of the stores were closing. We walked up and down for a bit and then went back to the hotel for the evening. We ended up coming back to this spot later in the week.
The next day, Jonathon found a place that had these crazy popular jiggly/fluffy pancakes in Harajuku. BUT, they are complicated to get. They only serve 20 of these orders at a time and they serve them at 11, 3, and 6. The seatings are set 15 min apart, so even if you get a ticket for the 11 o'clock serving, you might not be able to eat until 1 or so. We were a 20 minute or so train ride away and were not feeling that much waiting and hanging around. You'd have to queue up early enough to even get one of the tickets, so we decided to go and get their other gourmet pancakes instead.
The place is called Cafe & Pancake Gram and is located in the middle of Takeshita street. We got there and had to wait about 45min or so for a time slot to be seated, so we walked around and found an AMAZING outfit shop nearby.
I had been on the quest for an all gold outfit after being invited to Kat Von D's 10 Year Anniversary party for her cosmetics brand, Kat Von D Beauty. I only wear black and gold is not my color, so I was struggling with something.
We walked in this shop and it was full of these amazing, handmade, one-of-a-kind costumes. I tried on one of the futuristic gold ones up front, but it didn't flatter my arms, so we wandered in the back and found this perfect outfit on a mannequin. We asked if I could try it on, so I dressed down in the middle of the store, and it fit...shockingly. I'm huge compared to Asian standards (especially in the bust area.) Jonathon haggled with her tiny bit and we purchased the outfit. It was more than I wanted to pay, but it was for a special event and it was so unique, it was worth it.
The shop has no internet presence, unfortunately. The woman makes one of everything and she became popular because there were/are some Japanese pop stars that liked her designs. I wish I could order from them from the USA...I would love to have more of the costumes. I don't think I was supposed to share photos, but since they aren't online anywhere, I wanted to share a few.
The photo below is the outfit I purchased from her. It was a lightly boned corset and pleated skirt. It had big shoulders with fringe attached to them. So cool. The headpiece was made by my dear friend Sarah and the boots are Jeffrey Campbell Big Litas that I sewed boot covers for.
I'm so happy we found this place because now I have this super cool, unique outfit from Japan.
By the time we were finished in that amazing store, it was time for our slot at Cafe Gram. J and I both got their Tiramisu Pancakes which were DIVINE. Something that I would definitely consider a dessert, not breakfast, but it was still so good. It was super rich and creamy. Definitely a sugar overload.
After breakfast/brunch, we went to Ueno to check out the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo. It was very cheap to enter, about ¥620 and we spent pretty much the rest of the day here.
Most of the exhibits had English on them, so we were able to read about what the were seeing. I didn't write any of it down, because that would make this blog 300 pages long, so I hope that these images are enough for you! This place was really cool and consisted of two buildings with multiple floors and huge rooms with displays in them.
After spending many hours at the Museum, we met up with an old friend at Ueno Station. He is originally from Texas, and we met him at Dragoncon in 2010. He moved to Japan a year or so ago and we hadn't seen him in a really long time, so it was nice of him to take a train down and visit with us for a couple of days before we headed home.
After we met up with Chris, we headed to a fancy little spot that has yakiniku/Japanese charcoal BBQ so they could have wagyu beef. I think it was Toraji? I didn't write it down because I didn't expect there to be anything I could eat. Surprisingly, there was something on the menu that I could eat! They had multiple salads and the option to get raw veggies that you can cook on the grill. They both got a meat platter and got to cook their own meat.
The next day, we took Chris to a lot of the same places we visited when we first got to Japan. That meant going back to the Purikura booth and Kiddie Land. We got more Gudetama merch, this time keychains. Jonathon got one with meat, and I got one with veg. Sheer luck.
Once we got our Harajuku fix, we headed to the Nezu Shrine to see the Azalea Festival. I think a lot bloomed super early this year, so it looked like we are at the far end of the festival's time. Not as many blooms as there could have been, but it was still a beautiful place. The Shrine grounds were lovely and they had lots of stalls up for food and games.
We walked the grounds and went through the small Torii gate tunnel. The guys got food and I watched the kids play some of the games in the stalls. When we were ready to leave, there were women quietly moving about on a stage. I stood and watched for a moment and then more came out and music started playing. I wish I knew what it was, but I did include the short video down below. It was so beautiful.
There was a small shinto shrine on Chris' list that he wanted to see, so we took a train over to it. I honestly do not remember the name of it. I'll ask him and edit this if I hear back. It was secluded from the main road and was in the middle of tall, modern buildings. It was strange coming upon it since it didn't quite look like it fit in. There was no one there, which was really nice, so it was quiet and calm.
After the shinto visit, we were hungry so we went back to Genki sushi. (I think we ate here 5 times? 🤷🏻 It's good and cheap!)
The guys ate a ton of different sushi rolls. I ate more avocado rolls and I fumed at some really rude foreigners who were acting rowdy and clipping their GoPro on the belt that the sushi rode on.
We wandered about Shibuya and Asakusa and enjoyed our last evening in Japan.
This was our final day! Bittersweet. I was so ready to come home and eat Beyond Burgers and American breakfasts haha. We had just enough time to visit the Ueno Zoo before we started our long journey back home.
We got there right at open and the zoo was insanely packed. I really wanted to see the baby panda, but you have to have purchased tickets and won a special lottery to be able to do so. We did wait in line to see the male panda! By the time it was our turn to get close and see him, he had moved and hidden from everyone. So, these are the best shots I could get.
The zoo was pretty neat. Lots of exhibits you'd normally see in your average zoo. Most of the animals were really active. Especially the nocturnal ones. I did get a few photographs of those, but they aren't the best. The room was pitch black with just a tiny pinpoint of red light, so I did my bet with no tripod and a very slow shutter speed.
There are two photos where a bat has food on her chest and she's hanging there and eating it. Sooo cute.
It definitely was a really hard to get good photos in Japan, especially at the attractions because of the amount of people EVERYWHERE. I'm still not over that. So many people everywhere. People queuing up hours before something opens. It was pretty crazy.
We finished the east side of the park and headed over to the west side of the park. It was a 5-10 min walk or you could wait for a while and take the Zoo train. We walked.
I was excited for the vivarium. It had skeletons, reptiles, snakes, fogs..etc. (and a penguin right outside) The pig nosed turtle was probably my favourite just because of how strange he looked. I always love seeing all the frogs and lizards.
There were more nocturnal exhibits and other basic zoo animals. We got to see an Aye Aye up close, and it's definitely as bizarre of a primate as you read about.
We finished up the Zoo and it was time to say our goodbyes. We headed back to our hotel to pick up our bags and said goodbye to Chris and made our way to the airport.
I should have mentioned in the first blog, but we flew Singapore air to and from Tokyo and flew Alaska to and from Portland to LA. Singapore Air gave us a very comfortable, smooth flight (that might have been because of my medicine though), the staff was incredible, and the vegetarian food wasn't that bad.
Alaska is always good. The might not have the newest interior, but they have some great pilots and I prefer to fly Alaska when I'm flying in the states.
If anyone is interested in a cost breakdown, just let me know and I can edit that in. I just don't want to spend the time if no one is interested!
Thank you so much for reading or viewing. I hope this was helpful to any of you that are interested in Japan, trying to see if you can eat in Japan, or just like looking a pics. I'm sorry it took so long to put up...I take way too many photos. Ha.
I'm working on a short blog for our recent trip to Yellowstone, and that'll be up soon (: