• Japan Travel Tips and Guide

Katsukura, Kyoto Station, Kyoto


It's going to be difficult to go Tonkatsu (breaded pork cutlet) dining with 2 vegetarians and an almost-vegetarian! However, I read about this Tonkatsu chain on Pauls Travel Pics and it sounds perfect, not least because of the amazing Tonkatsu Read more

Veggie Ramen at Kagetsu Arashi, Tokyo


I am so excited about Veggie Ramen! Although I am flexitarian (Vegetarian which I want to be, and not often in Japan!) my boyfriend is a strict vegetarian - which includes not eating fish! It's always been tricky finding Read more

Shinjuku Nakamuraya, Shinjuku Tokyo


This is just a quick note about a recommended Indian restaurant in Shinjuku. Despite making a great curry, Nakamuraya make the famous 'curry-pan' (bread) as well as other bread and sweet items on their basement and first floors. Western, Read more

Things to do

Morning Walk Around Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Posted on by schuki in Shinjuku, Things to do, Tokyo | Leave a comment

Shinjuku is a cool place, the landscape varies hugely from the high-rise buildings of the business district in the west to the mid-range shopping streets and nightlife to the east. It seems like a great place to hang out in the evening, with all the bars, restaurants and game centres of the station area, but there’s also a lot to do during the day too. I’ve taken this route before jumping on a train at Shinjuku station to head elsewhere (Ghibli Museum!), but you could easily do all this, take a long lunch, then head out to the Shinjuku shopping/nightlife until you drop. TIP: Go on a sunny day.

Shinjuku Gyoen

The top pick of best parks by CNN Go in late 2011, and I totally agree. The large gardens are beautifully maintained and really make you feel like you’ve been transported somewhere else (save for the high-rise in the distance!). There’s a small entrance fee, 200 JPY for adults, and for this you get to walk round their country-themed garden areas (English, French and Japanese) and ponds at your leisure. You’ll get a map when you enter, you can find an online version here. Shinjuku Gyoen can be found south-east of the main Shinjuku station, see maps below.

Shopping Round the Station

Head back to the main station. If you’re dying for retail therapy then head into Takashimaya, a giant department store just south of Shinjuku station. It’s a high-end department store, but has dedicated a whole end of the building to Tokyu Hands, my favourite Japanese lifestyle store. In the station itself, let the girlies stop by RanKing RankQueen – there are millions of beauty products in Japan and this store takes the highest ranked ones and sticks them in one store. Whatever you buy it’s going to be good. Last year I bought a a load of super-girly products for my mother, some she now swears by.

TOTO Showroom

Anyone who has been to Japan know that the Japanese have the best toilets! Why?! Well there’s the heated seats, the music or fake flushing sounds for your ‘modesty’ and even a bidet for cleaning your bits and pieces (some westerners get a little weirded out by this, I say, go with the flow…). TOTO is one of Japans largest and best known toilet and bathroom appliance manufacturers, and their Shinjuku showroom is a pretty fun place to go visit. First of all – IT’S ON THE 26TH FLOOR of the L-Tower building west of Shinjuku station, I say this because I spent 45 minutes circling the base of the building expecting a ground floor showroom (I should read addresses!). Needless to say, if you think the toilets are a bit weird then at least the view is great. Once you’re up there you can take a look around all the new high-tech toilet and bathroom magic, from motion sensor toilets to up-lit bathtubs. It’s like Yodabashi Camera meets Ikea but for bathrooms (seriously). One of my fav sections is the integrated bathroom units. Japanese bath-time usually consists of you washing yourself with soup and shampoo seated on a small stall, then rinsing yourself with a shower, afterwards you climb into a bath for a long a relaxing soak. At TOTO, you can buy whole seat-shower-basin-bath unit, which were the perfect size for me (5’3″), but not for my boyfriend (6’2″)!

Views from Tocho

This is why you go on a sunny day! There are many viewing platforms in Tokyo but the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (Tocho) is easily one of my favourite. Firstly, it’s free. Secondly, although it’s not the highest (Tokyo Sky Tree is now tops, followed by the Mori Tower in Roppongi) the views across tokyo are to die for and on a sunny and clear day you can get shot of Fuji reminiscent of the famous fuji wood block prints. For those CLAMP manga fans, this is also the famous tower featured in the X and Tsubasa series, and the architecture is pretty cool. You can chose to go up to the top of the North or South tower, it doesn’t matter which you choose, the view and height is the same. Work your way around the floor, using the maps below the windows to spot the sites. Look out for the gardens around the Meiji Shrine, Tokyo Tower and , of course, Fuji-san. If you want some info on what to do next, on the way out on one of the lower floors you’ll find a Tokyo Tourism office.

What next?!

I always head to the Sqaure Enix store after a trip to Tocho, because it’s so close, but unless your a Square fan there’s little need for you to go here. If you’re hungry head back towards the station to grab some food, the business district is a little sparse, there’s also a great deal of shopping around here too. Whatever you do – have a great day!

 

Shinjuku Gyoen


View Larger Map

TOTO Showroom

1-6-1 Nishi-Shinjuku 26th & 27th fl, 03 3345 1010, 10am-6pm, closed 1st & 3rd Mon of month

View Larger Map

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building


View Larger Map


Gion Tokuya, Harajuku, Tokyo and Kyoto

Posted on by schuki in Dining, Dining, Harajuku, Kyoto, Things to Do, Things to do, Tokyo | Leave a comment

I actually found out about Gion Tokuya by surfing the Harajuku listings in Tokyo TimeOut, and the term ‘sweet parlour’ instantly got me hooked. The original branch is in Gion, the Geisha district in eastern/central Kyoto, and apparently typical queues for the original branch can go on for an hour. About Food in Japan talks about Meiko (Geisha in training) coming here for a tea time. At the time of writing the Harajuku branch was relatively quiet, although I don’t suppose it will stay like that for long! Located on the first floor of the new United Arrows building in Harajuku, which s rumoured to be due to the United Arrows Representative Director liked Tokuya so much he invited them to be part of the new development. Unlike my ‘Sweets Paradise’ post, the ‘sweets’ served at Tokuya are much more traditional. About Food in Japan talks about the special, Hanami Komochi, which consists of a set of mochi you cook over a braiser on your table and comes accompanied with five different ingredients which complement the mochi flavour. Oishii!

Kyoto Branch
570-127 Minamigawa, Gioncho, Higashiyama, Kyoto, Kyoto 
Gion-shijo station (Keihan Line), 075 561 5554 
12noon-6pm
Tokuya Hon warabimochi ¥1,200; mochiyaki zensai ¥1,000; tea set (matcha green tea and cake) ¥800
Kyoto TimeOut listing is here
 


View Schuki in Japan in a larger map

Tokyo Branch
B1F/1F 2-31-12 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo
Meiji-jingumae Station (Tokyo Metro Chiyoda Line) or Harajuku Station (JR Yamanote Line), 03 5772 6860
Mon-Fri 12noon-8pm; Sat-Sun, nat. holidays 11am-8pm / various holidays
Tokyo TimeOut listing is here
Japanese Menu here


View Schuki in Japan in a larger map


Square Enix Showcase, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Posted on by schuki in Shinjuku, Things to do, Tokyo | 1 Comment

The Final Fantasy series of games is quite easily one of my favourite video game series of all time, which meant visiting the Square Enix Store in Shinjuku is always on my list which visiting Tokyo. The store is in a pretty strange place, given it’s fandom you think it would be in the middle of Akiba, but it’s actually found aside the business district of Shinjuku. Be careful when coming out of Shinjuku station, it’s one of the largest and busiest stations in the world, and if you pop out of the wrong exit it could be a long walk until you get to where you want to be. If you take the long tunnel heading west towards the Tokyo Metropolitan Government building you can’t go too wrong, just make sure you come up onto (what looks like from this map from Tokyo Pocket Guide) Koshu-Kaido Ave, and pass the Park Hyatt hotel that featured in Lost in Translation, and eventually you’ll find the Square Enix store on your left.

It’s a pretty small store. The ground floor collection is a base for mass plushies and a collection of most of the Square Enix games (Final Fantasy, Dragon Quest etc.) and soundtracks, and a really small collection of super awesome t-shirts. Last time I was there they had a monochrome T-shirt of Midgar, which I was so desperate to get for my boyfriend but failed as they didn’t have his size (sizes do seem to be limited). Upstairs is more spectacular, it looks like every mega final-fantasy fans idea of a perfect room. It holds all the Kotobukiya figures in a lit glass cabinets, replical jewelry from the games, and a life sized Sephiroth embedded in the floor. REALLY. (So awesome).

I don’t ever tend to buy an awful lot here but I will always visit every time I’m over the Tokyo to play homage to the great Square Enix!


View Schuki in Japan in a larger map


Meiji Shrine and Catching a Wedding, Harajuku, Tokyo

Posted on by schuki in Harajuku, Other, Things to do, Tokyo | Leave a comment

One of the most glorious and beautiful shrines in Tokyo, the Meiji Shrine is dedicated to the Emporer Meiji and his wife Empress Shoken. I visited the shrine twice and I will be returning this year! It has a modern feel to it, with grand structures, open courtyards and muted colours. There’s a sense of tranquility when wondering around the shrine and the surrounding gardens. This is one of those strange places in Tokyo where you wouldn’t believe you are in one of the worlds largest and busiest cities.

Make a Day of it

My favourite way to see Meiji Shrine is the arrive early (9am) at Harajuku Station (on the Tokyo loop Yamanote line) and walk through Yoyogi Park, under the giant gates and past the large sake barrels to the shrine buildings. Chose to come on a Sunday so you have a better chance to catch a wedding (see below). Spend some time taking in the buildings and read the prayers on the wooden plaques left by others (or write one yourself). I tend to take part in the washing of hands/mouth and praying, if you want to do the same just copy a local who know’s what they’re doing!

Visit the Empress’s gardens (just before the entrance to the shrine buildings) for a relaxing walk. On your way out make sure you cross the bridge by Harajuku Station, if you did come on a Sunday you have a chance of catching the groups of Cosplayers that gather here.

The location of this shrine is perfect – after a relaxing morning you can head straight into the Harajuku craziness of Takeshita Dori (Takeshita Street), where you will find gothic, lolita and alternative clothing, and then cross on back to Omotesando, where you will find the more elite stores in Omotesando Hills and along the main street. Whenever you feel hungry, my favourite place to stop for food is Sakuratei that server amazingly authentic Okonomiyaki in a super eclectic setting (graphite everywhere!). Sakurtei has a great menu and also has a ‘make-your-own’ option, which made my veggie boyfriend really happy!

If you’re still awake take a long walk to Shibuya through Yoyogi Park (if it’s before 5 you might catch the swing dancers who turn up most Sundays) and then have a drink in (in my opinion) Tokyo’s hot-spot for nightlife.

Planning on seeing a Japanese Wedding

Meiji Jinja is a beautiful shrine and as so is obviously an extremely popular place to hold a traditional Japanese wedding. On my first trip to Tokyo I wasn’t lucky enough to catch a wedding, even though I turned up on a Sunday. I later found out about the Japanese ‘lucky day’ system, Rokuyo. Rokuyo is based on the life of buddha, and all days in a month are designated as either lucky, unlucky, or a combination of lucky/unlucky divided by morning, noon and afternoon.

After a lot of research I stumbled across seiyaku.com which has an extremely helpful calendar showing each day of the year and how lucky each day is according to the system. We were extremely fortunate during our last trip to have a Taian day (the luckiest day) fall on a Sunday during this trip. I was so hopeful of seeing a Japanese wedding but wasn’t too sure after the year before. So, when arriving in Harajuku I ran to the shrine, elated to just catch the end of the wedding, then, I saw three more! Wedding after wedding, and on a perfect day too.

If you’re planning on catching a wedding refer to the seiyaku.com calendar and turn up at a temple on a lucky day – preferably Saturday or Sunday (Sundays are better). Don’t dispair if a lucky day doesn’t fall in the weekend on your trip, one blog post I found did mention that weddings on unlucky days are becoming more popular, since they are often cheaper to hold weddings on these days.

Meiji Shrine – on JapanGuide.com


View Larger Map

Fujiko F Fujio (Doraemon) Museum, Kawasaki City

Posted on by schuki in Things to do, Tokyo | Leave a comment

I always knew Doraemon existed but it wasn’t until recently that I realised it’s totally awesome! As some of you know I’m learning Japanese, I’m probably at an intermediate level now, and to study for my JPLT exam last December I started watching Doraemon to help with my listening skills. And I got a little addicted (or a lot, whatever!). Doraemon is a kids show, but it’s super cute and really funny. I’m so hooked I bought a pair of Doraemon gloves from the last MCM Expo in London, and if I see any fans in London they always point them out!

Anyway! Fujiko Fujio was the mastermind behind Doraemon and this museum is dedicated to his work. Just like the Ghibli museum, this place is hardly just for the kids. There’s walls of manga, artwork, and outdoor play area, a short movie space, a special exhibition centre and GIANT DORAEMON EVERYWHERE! The museum is 30mins outside Shinjuku on the JR Odakyu Line, perfect for a day or half day trip.

There’s a great roundup of the museum and short history of Fuiko Fujio and Doraemon at the Japan Times website, and Japan Guide has a great thread in their forum about travelling to the museum by public transport (visitors can catch a shuttle bus from Noborito Station). You can also find all the information you need on their website, which is full of English so no need to pass through Google Translate!

Please note: The museum requires reservation! Please see their website here on how to reserver tickets (looks like purchasing from a Lawson store within the month of your visit, but check it out to make sure!).

Fujiko F Fujio Museum
2-chome 8-1 Nagao, Tama-ku, Kawasaki-city, Kanagawa Prefecture, 214-0023

Open Hours: 10:0 – 18:00
Each day, entrance time is divided into a quarterly time-schedule:
(1)10:00  (2)12:00  (3)14:00  (4)16:00

Adults and University Students 1,000 yen
High School and Junior High School Students 700yen
Children (4 years or older) 500yen

Website


View Schuki in Japan in a larger map

Edo Tokyo Museum, Sumida-ku, Tokyo

Posted on by schuki in Things to do, Tokyo | Leave a comment

Tokyo has a museum collection to rival the best in the world, and my personal favourite is the Edo-Tokyo Museum. The museum tracks the history of Tokyo from the Edo period to the Tokyo we know today not only with a great selection of artefacts, but also with fascinating indoor recreations of traditional architecture such as the nihonbashi bridge and a kabuki theatre. From what I remember from my last trip you need to get there early to get a full tour of the Kabuki Theatre (we arrived at 3pm and were too late). Blurb below is from frommers:

“The building housing this impressive museum is said to resemble a rice granary when viewed from afar, but to me it looks like a modern torii, the entrance gate to a shrine. This is the metropolitan government’s ambitious attempt to present the history, art, disasters, science, culture, and architecture of Tokyo from its humble beginnings in 1590 — when the first shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, made Edo (old Tokyo) the seat of his domain — to 1964, when Tokyo hosted the Olympics. All in all, the museum’s great visual displays create a vivid portrayal of Tokyo through the centuries. I wouldn’t miss it. Plan on spending 2 hours here.”

Edo Tokyo Museum
1-4-1 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 130-0015
03-3626-9974

Dates: Daily; not Mon
Cost: Admission ¥600 adults, ¥480 college students, ¥300 seniors and junior-high/high-school students, free for pre-school children
time: Daily 9:30am-5:30pm (to 7:30pm Sat)

 


View Larger Map

Sweets Paradise, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Posted on by schuki in Dining, Shinjuku, Things to do, Tokyo | Leave a comment

About 4 months ago I went on a crazy rampage to find a all-you-can-eat cake buffet just like the one they girls visit in Lucky Star. For those who don’t know Lucky Star is a slice of life comedy anime which follows a bunch of girls around their day to day life. On one occasion, they head to a cake buffet, where you can eat as much as you like as long as you finish everything on your plate (yeah, you can guess what happens!).

Wanting to relive all may favourite anime episodes in Tokyo I ran a major hunt for the best cake buffet joints and ‘Sweets Paradise’ has come out tops! For 90 minutes and ¥1480 you can have all you can eat cakes, sweets and pasta (?!) and the selection is vast! Just check out their site! Interestingly, and perhaps not surprisingly, I have found a few blogs which described the cakes as so-so, including Nihon a’Jamie, but as she says:

‘the decor more than makes up for the food!! Plus, it’s buffet, so if you are hankering for cheap all-you-can-eat cake, and rainbows, then why not!!’

Check out her site for pics of the sparkly Shinjuku branch, which she went to for her friends birthday treat!

Sweets Paradise
1F Chitose Kaikan
13-8 Udagawachō
Shibuya-ku
渋谷区宇田川町13-8ちとせ会館1F
They even have a facebook group!

Note: if90 also has a great blog post about Sweets Paradise!


View Schuki in Japan in a larger map

Himiko Boat Cruise, Toyosu, Tokyo

Posted on by schuki in Things to do, Tokyo | Leave a comment

Ok, Thanks to a great post on tripadvisor (hats off to “mamajelli”) and some serious scrutiny of the Suijo Bus site I think I have this figured out! The problem existed where I really want to go on this boat! But, the Himiko only goes on a set path and the company that runs the cruise (Suijo Bus) haven’t made their site incredibly easy to use for the average non-speaking-japanese-westerner! Thanks to “mamajelli” and a cool blog from Danny Choo I’ve got it sorted. You can get the Himiko from Asakusa or Odaiba, problem being that these stops are incredibly popular and busy. Danny Choo says it’s best to go to Toyosu, as you’ve got a much better chance of getting on (check out his site for a map). You don’t need to reserve tickets, it seems to be a cross between a mini-cruise and a normal public transport boat, but because of it’s ultimate coolness you will have to wait in line, so arrive early. The Himiko seems to depart at 12:40, 14:40 and (possibly) 16:40 and set you back arounf 1060 JPY, but the website is confusing so it’s still best to double check! If some people find the design to be recognisable as an art style they have seen before, it may be because the designer, Leiji Matsumoto, was behind titles such as Yamato and Galaxy Express 999 (and credit for this ref goes to Danny Choo).

mamajelli’s awesome advice is below:

suijobus.co.jp/cruise/line/as_od_line.html

According to their website, Himiko runs from Asakusa to Odaiba, to Toyosu and then back to Asakusa.

  • Asakusa to Odaiba (50 min)
  • Asakusa to Toyosu (75 min)
  • Odaiba to Toyosu (20 min)
  • Odaiba to Asakusa (60 min)
  • Toyosu to Asakusa (40 min)

The time table is here.http://www.suijobus.co.jp/price/index.html

Himiko is the “gray line.”http://www.suijobus.co.jp/cruise/index.html

Ohara School Ikebana Class in English, Aoyama, Tokyo

Posted on by schuki in Aoyama, Things to do, Tokyo | Leave a comment

The beautiful Japanese art of flower arranging seems like a dreamy way to spend a morning in Tokyo. At Ohara you can take part in a two hour lesson taking you through the basics of Ikebana and instructing you how to make your own creation. A fantastic way to delve into a classic Japanese cultural pastime. The class costs around 4000JPY and takes place every Wednesday and Thursday morning (although do check the site to confirm). Ohara will provide all materials and take you through Ikebana at your own pace.

Ohara Center of Tokyo (Ohara Kaikan) International Division, 7-17, Minami Aoyama 5- chome, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8607, Tel: 03-5774-5097 / Fax: 03-3407-3728, Email: international@ohararyu.or.jp

@Home Maid Cafe, Akihabara, Tokyo

Posted on by schuki in Akiba, Dining, Things to do, Tokyo | Leave a comment

After much deliberation I have decided that our maid cafe of choice will be the @Home Maid Cafe in Akiba! I’ve been checking out many a maid cafe and read a lot of recommendations, although CNN Go swayed me with their great overview of this Japanese craze. @Home has five floors of moe madness, super cute maids and a nice little drinks menu. Anything that inspires two hours of queue’s on the weekend is worth it! Blurb from CNN Go:

@home café: Moe maid heaven

Service offerings: The insanely friendly and cute maids are masters in conversation. They also chant “moe moe kyun” over your drinks to make them taste better. Certain foods, most famously the omelet rice, include the maid writing on your food with ketchup, as cute little addition.

Pictures and games are on the entertainment menu for just ¥500 a pop. The maids sing and dance too, and CDs and merchandise are available.

Downside: The line can be two hours or more on evenings and weekends. Inside, time is limited to an hour and the seating charge starts at ¥500. Being as saccharine sweet and kinetic as it is, some customers might leave with a headache.

@home café: Mitsuwa Building 4F-7F, Soto-Kanda 1-11-4, Chiyoda-ku, tel. 03 5846 1616, www.cafe-athome.com

Odakaya, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Posted on by schuki in Shinjuku, Shopping, Things to do, Tokyo | 1 Comment

Not too sure my boyfriend is going to be overly keen on this one! Odakaya specialises in cosplay wigs and accessories for major dress-up. I’ve been checking out the awesome pics from La Carmina‘s blog and it seems like I could leave this store with a lot of sparkly things that I will never use but revel in owning. Sparkly eyelashes look particularly delicious!

How to get to Odakaya? Go out the east exit of Shinjuku station, walk across the street and slightly to the right (past Studio Alta), then turn left. Look for the blue and white Odakaya sign. For maps and more, please refer to La Carmina’s Tokyo Goth Lolita Punk shopping guide.

Oslo Batting Center, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Posted on by schuki in Shinjuku, Things to do, Tokyo | Leave a comment

Our hotel is in Shinjuku, not a million miles away from Kabuki-cho (go figure!). I’ve read about a batting cage nearby and this seems to be it! Apparently it’s open till the small hours. I’m no good at batting (hey, I was a swimmer) but I might give it a shot! Embarrassment is fun :/

2-34-5 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo

Panasonic Centers, Tokyo

Posted on by schuki in Ginza, Odaiba, Things to do, Tokyo | Leave a comment

Japan leads the way with so much technology, especially in terms of consumer entertainment. Large companies often have showrooms, large stores that act like museums show casing the new products that are yet to be released, or perhaps just in the development stages. Panasonic has two amazing showrooms, on focusing on technology for your home, and another on their larger products.

Panasonic Centre Odaiba

Open from 10:00 to18:00 (Last entry to Resupia: 17:00), Closed on Mondays and during the year-end and New Year holidays, free except for the exhibition on the third floor of RiSuPia, 3-5-1 Ariake, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0063, +81 3 3599 2600, two minutes’ walk from Kokusai-Tenjijo Station on Rinkai Line, three minutes’ walk from Ariake Station on Yurikamome.

Panasonic Living Showroom Shiodome

Open from 10:00 to 18:00, Closed wednesdays (except for holidays),Obon holidays,year end and New Year holidays, 1-5-1 Higashi Shimbashi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-8301, +81-3-6218-0010By train * 5 minutes walk from JR Shimbashi Station * 3 minutes walk from Shimbashi Station on the Ginza and Asakusa Subway Lines and the Yurikamome Line * 2 minutes walk from Shiodome Station on the Oedo Subway Line