Tokyo

I spent two weeks in Tokyo! I never really thought about how hot it would be when I got there, it’s hot like a Michigan summer! 95 degrees and 100% humidity! Oh boy! I will use this one blog post to talk about all of the places I went while in Tokyo! Grab some tea or coffee and prepare yourself!

The first thing I did when I got there was to explore the Imperial Palace Gardens. They were so beautiful! There were so many types of plants I have never seen before, it also allowed me my glimpse of bamboo 😀 Afterwards I just wandered around the main area around the Tokyo station and found a great mall with rooftop access perfect for photographing the station!

For photos of Tokyo click here!

SHINJUKU

I spent a lot of my time in Shinjuku due to the fact that it is where I was staying the majority of my trip! Unfortunately it stormed most of the time I was in Tokyo because of a coming typhoon but I did manage to get some pretty cool shots!

I went to the Government building which I was able to take photos of from another building! It has two towers at the top where you can look at the city in 360 degrees for free! It was incredible to look out and as far as the eye could see, it was only buildings! That blew my mind. The architecture of the larger buildings was really amazing and I loved the difference in design all in  one small area.

I also went to the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden and it was amazing how quiet and peaceful it was in there, especially being in the middle of the city. It had many sculptures and play places for children. I could’ve spent all day there if it hadn’t started a downpour once I made it through the whole thing! I ran for a mall before it really started falling!

The amazing thing about Tokyo and Shinjuku is its underground walkways! You can get pretty much anywhere without going above ground! If you don’t get lost that is……..

For photos of Shinjuku click here!

ASAKUSA

I love Asakusa! I went there a few times while I was in Tokyo and I just love the proximity of old historic and industrial modern. I met up with some really great people to wear yukata around the main area! We went out to eat and I was able to try the beverage of choice in 1948 (made due to lack of money and time to make real beer)! Its called Hoppy and its a non-alcoholic beer that you pour into a glass with shochu (a distilled drink similar to sake). It was actually really good and refreshing!

The Kaminarimon and Hozomon gates are quite the impressive thing to see. Giant lanterns protected by oni. Nakamise street connects the two with many shops as a path to the Senso-ji temple, a truly magnificent landmark. I discovered a wonderful place to view Asakusa’s main area for free on the 8th floor of the Miharashi Cafe, the Asakusa tourist info center an amazing and photogenic building itself!

The Tokyo Skytree is the tallest tower in the world and the second tallest structure (second to the Burj Khalifa). Seeing this in person totally blew my mind. I walked past it a few times on my way to the old town area of Sumida (an amazing place to wander for hours). I did not have a chance to go up in the Skytree but if you have the opportunity I definitely recommend it!

For photos of Asakusa click here!

GINZA:

Ginza is rich people land!!! Every store there was stories tall and absolutely beautifully crafted. I could not get enough! The main attraction for me though was the Hakuhinkan Toy Park. Multiple stories of any toy you could possibly imagine was hours of browsing fun!! But my real reason for visiting Ginza was to see the Tsukiji Fish Market and Sukiyabashi Jiro.

I will probably never be able to afford a meal there but I have been greatly inspired by the man who owns and runs the three Michelin star sushi restaurant. I was able to sneak down to where the shop is located and have a peak through the doors into the kitchen! It was like meeting all of my favorite famous people in one place. Unfortunately there are no photos allowed in the area, and I decided to respect their wishes. At least I have my memory of seeing all of the staff working in the kitchens through that open back door.

Tsukiji is the worlds largest fish market, and one of the largest wholesale markets. It was very easy to get lost in there! 😀 Unfortunately I only captured a few photos and terrible video (I hope to salvage some of it!). I definitely recommend going as early as you can. I arrived at 9am and the fish market was already getting ready to close up!!!

For photos of Ginza click here!

SHIBUYA & HARAJUKU

I went to all the quintessential places in Shibuya: The famous Shibuya crossing, Hatchi’s statue, and Shibuya 109. But I have to say that the best part of my visit there, was that the typhoon that had been creeping in all week finally hit! It was incredible, the amount of rain and the color of the sky were just amazing.

Harajuku was so super cool with its colorful and odd clothing style and the shops greatly reflected that with their merchandise and decorations. This is the best description I have of Takeshita street! A recommendation for Harajuku is to definitely visit the Kawaii Monster Cafe. Have you ever seen the music video for “PONPONPON” by Kyary Pamyu Pamyu? Well the artistic director made an entire cafe experience like it. It was crazy, colorful, and delicious!!!

Harajuku has a beautiful shrine as well that everyone should visit when they can. It is large and has some very impressive tori! It was and wonderful area for photos, even when it was storming!

For photos of Shibuya & Harajuku click here!

AKIHABARA

Land of electronics, otaku, anime, and maid cafe’s. It is a colorful magical world. Please go there and try to visit as many shops as you possibly can! I don’t have a whole lot to say about this place but I did get to see some of the original key frames from the anime Arslan Senki (The Heroic Legend of Arslan). It was beautiful and amazing to see the whole process in front of you. This was all at the Tokyo Anime Center. Yes. I am a huge nerd. I am aware. 😛

For photos of Akihabara please click here!

GOODBYE JAPAN

I took the wrong bus. Got off at a different station. Still had enough money to get to Narita. All while dragging around broken luggage. That was quite the interesting trip. I saved my self one last stick of dango to eat before I went through security. It was a bitter sweet moment. To this day I still crave it! I was so excited to go home and see my family and my boyfriend and my Lily bird 😀 (She’s my green cheek conure) Being away from home really made me appreciate my city and my family and the range of international foods available to me.

Also pizza and ranch. Man did I miss that stuff.

I really hope to go back soon and to maybe even spend a year there. I fell in love with the people, the architecture, the food, the conbini’s, the land. I miss it terribly. A piece of my heart will forever be planted in Japan.

Thank you for taking this journey with me!

 

For the last few photos click here.

For video footage on my YouTube channel click here!

Sarufutsu

I have been making these posts in somewhat of a chronological order, with one exception. Sarufutsu. I wanted to save this one for last before I move onto Tokyo. This is the town that my friend from the states live in, and where I spent a good chunk of my time right after getting to Japan. I am afraid I did not take as many photos as I would have liked. I spent so much time with the people of Sarufutsu and never really took my phone out for photos. These people were so amazing and hospitable and I miss them dearly. I just want to say thank you to the amazing people who invited me to share in a slice of their lives. Words cannot express how much I truly appreciate it.

Well, emotional bit aside!

This place is so beautiful and the people just as much so. Famous for their milk and hotate! Hotate is the Japanese word for scallop. I had never had one before and was a bit scared to try them (as I am not a fan of seafood or fish). Let me tell you, these giant hotate fresh off the grill is one of the best things I ate in Hokkaido! Going along the lines of food, there is a sweet little bakery on main street that had wonderful anpan with Doraemon’s face on it! If you are ever in town, there is a great little ryokan on main street. Kasai Ryokan was where I had my first real Japanese meal! The family there was so much fun and had a great time at my expense when I tried sashimi for the first time.

I had the opportunity to hang out with a wonderful group of people who invited me to their many get-togethers. The first one being ‘the time I helped smuggle sake and cigarettes to the boss who I was meeting for the first time in the hospital just after his surgery’. I had many great conversations with this silly group of people, involving beer, coinage, and country differences. Later when I went to a bar-b-que to celebrate a birthday, they surprised me with some craft chocolaty beer (and let me tell you, it was fantastic)! In previous conversations I had with them, I remarked on the fact that I hadn’t seen any since being in Japan and was craving it quite badly. They found some for me and bought it! I couldn’t believe it, they are just the sweetest!

SEGUE

I had a great opportunity to go with my friend to his english classes and introduce myself in english to many elementary classes! The kids were so cute, well behaved, and attentive. It blew my mind. I was also able to meet the middle school classes and was forced to sing for them! It was so cute to hear them all afterwards imitating it 🙂 The kids were so great and loved to include me in their activities, the language barrier meant nothing to them and babbled at me in japanese faster than I could even think, of course this was after introducing themselves in english! They were all so great and worked so hard!

I honestly hope I will be able to return and meet them all again! They are a beautiful village full of beautiful people. Thank you Sarufutsu for being such a large highlight of my time in Japan.

 

Thank you for sharing this great adventure with me!

For photos of Sarufutsu click here!

Noboribetsu – Jigoku Matsuri

Welcome back!

During my stay in Atsuma, me and a friend took a trip to Noboribetsu! Famous for its abundance of Onsen and incredible sulfuric volcano valley.

Starting out by touring the Jigokudani or Hell Valley was very incredible. This was my first time seeing something of this magnitude in person. I was quite overwhelmed. The colors of the valley were so vibrant and rust colored, with small contrasting rivers of hot spring water. I’m not gonna lie, it smelled something fierce! But got used to it pretty quickly. The trail for the valley trails all throughout the mountains going from dry earth to vibrant green forests. At one point there was a large river that flowed hot through the mountain. The special thing about it was that you could take off your shoes and stick your feet in!

Afterwards we went to the Dai-ichi Takimotokan onsen with seven baths and two saunas, the outdoor onsen even had a bar!! HOW COOL IS THAT! It was heaven after traipsing through the valley! Finishing off with some tea and a milk (as per onsen ritual) we headed outside where the Jigoku Matsuri was beginning!

The Jigoku Matsuri or Hell Festival is very famous in Japan. At night the town comes alive with traditional dancing and amazing taiko performances! There was delicious street food everywhere which I did not even try to resist! The festival was so lively and exciting! I loved it! Next time I go I would like to be there for Saturday and Sunday of the festival and maybe wear my yukata and join in the dancing! 10/10 would recommend.

Thank you for continuing this adventure with me! I hope to see you again!

For photos of Jigokudani click here. For photos of Jikgoku Matsuri click here! For the video footage on my YouTube channel click here!

 

Atsuma

If I could choose to live anywhere in Japan, I would choose Atsuma.

It is a perfectly sized town situated near Chitose and it is very easy to get to Sapporo from there for big city shopping. They have the most wonderful community of people. They have some of the best food that I had in Japan! The people of Astuma are very proud of the things that they harvest and make with their own hands and quite often many places you go will serve/sell things grown/made in the town itself!

I went to the best restaurant in Japan (in my opinion so far 😛 ) that made its own tofu from the crops in Atsuma! There was a big window into the back where you could watch them make it! You could buy food whole sale and also little homemade trinkets as well as sit down for a meal. I had the most amazing creamy lemon pasta with lemon tofu. Decorated with some haskap sauce. Wow. It was incredible and I am still constantly craving it!

Haskap is a blue honeysuckle berry that is similar to a blueberry. But because I learned of it in Japan lets just call it Haskap 🙂 It is slightly more tart than a blueberry and is wonderful savory just as it is sweet! You can find it in coffee, jam, tofu, etc. My favorite way that I ate it was in a creamy pie similar to cheesecake at the Momo Cafe.

Momo Cafe is the cutest cafe that I visited during my stay in Japan. They are known for their abundance of cats and other wildlife that regularly visit the customers. There is a garden around the cafe where the ladies who run the shop have places they put food leftovers for the animals. Due to the constant presence of people and food, they have become rather friendly to the people who visit!! Aside from cute animals, the ladies who run the cafe make some of the best pastries I have EVER had! Especially the Haskap Pie. It was to die for.

You can follow Momo Cafe Twitter here!

There was a new bread shop right across the street from the Momo Cafe. Built to look like a traditional Japanese home, it is a calming and comfortable place to have my favorite barley tea (mugicha) and try a homemade bread. I had a pumpkin seed bread that was absolutely delicious.

There was one night where I was able to try my hand at calligraphy! I didn’t do too bad!! The students there chose to put my name in Kanji (Chinese characters) it is 笑舞里 pronounced エブリー.

To further the amazingness of the people in Atsuma, I was invited to dinner with a family who fed me a Japanese dinner and gave me the most amazing gift of a custom made Yukata (summer kimono). It is so beautiful and I am so incredibly grateful for that family! Later another lady invited us over to help us put on the yukata and we got to walk around in them! She is such a nice woman! I really miss those people!!

If there is somewhere I could recommend someone a relaxing time in Hokkaido I would definitely recommend Atsuma! It is full of wonderful people and a beautiful town that is a blast to explore!

Don’t forget to check out the photos in the gallery!! You can see the photos for Atsuma by clicking here!

Thanks for adventuring with me!!

Otoineppu Part 2

So I did get to go back to my favorite Village in Hokkaido!

I spent another five days in Otoineppu, just exploring more and taking photos of things I missed last time. For instance, I was able to get some great shots of the soba flowers! They weren’t in bloom when last I was there.

While I visited I was able to attend a third Obon Festival! The even had a professional Enka singer there, (Enka is a type of music that greatly resembles traditional Japanese music) she was incredible and had a wonderful connection with the audience. Of course the people of the town were amazing as per usual and it was great to see them again! I also finally got to try okonomiyaki for the first time!! And OH MY SWEET BABIES its amazing. {even though it was a frozen cheapo kind} Afterwards there was a fantastic fireworks show over the river!

Since it was my last time there I had a ‘last meal’ of some strawberry chiffon cake and an amazing blueberry wine from Hakodate (which is a place in southern Hokkaido that I wish I could have seen).

Well that’s all for now! This visit was a lot more leisurely 🙂 I really hope I can go back sometime!

Thanks for stopping by!

Don’t forget to check out my photos! Just click here for part one and here for part two!

Sapporo – Matsuri

Matsuri is the Japanese word for festival! Matsuri are such a common occurrence (mostly in larger cities) that you could make it to three in one night if you wanted to!

I did two in one night, both were Bon-Odori, it is a festival to celebrate ones ancestors. The first one I made it to was one where they put a lantern in the river to symbolize someone who passed away. It was very beautiful. There were Buddhist Monks chanting the whole time. It was quite a solemn affair.

On the way back to where I was staying I stopped at Odori Park where they were also celebrating obon. They sing the Soran-Bushi and do a synchronized dance to taiko around a large Yagura. It is really fun and very cool.

The night I first got to Sapporo there was actually a HUGE Hanabi (fireworks) show on the river. The subway was crammed with people in Yukata making their way to the hanabi matsuri! It seemed like the entire city was showing up for the super long super amazing hanabi show!

There is actually one other matsuri I went to, called Susukino Matsuri. It is located in the susukino area of sapporo. I had no idea what it was for until I went there, turns out it is a Yosakoi matsuri! I am so happy I got to see it first hand! Unfortunately I did not take any photos of it, but I did get PLENTY of video!! Those will end up on my youtube channel! ….eventually

Thanks for stopping by!

Click here for City photos, here for food photos, and here for matsuri photos!

For the youtube video footage click here!!!

Sapporo – Food

Wow, I ate so much awesome food in Japan, and let me tell you…I did not take many photos. Shame on me.

Firstly I would like to thank the conbini of Hokkaido, Seico Mart, for supplying me with Love Love Sand and a catchy jingle that will never leave my ears. You have the best conbini fried chicken.

So the first food I ever had in Japan was a bag of Calbee wasabi chips. They were interesting. Fixed that right away with my first meal of yakitori! It was a smoky loud hole in the wall that appeared out of no where. Everyone inside was having a great time, and so did I! Later, when I came back to Sapporo I had some great shio yakitori and a huge potato mochi. If you ever have the chance to eat potato mochi…take it!

When someone asks what my favorite food was, I will always answer with Soup Curry. It is comfort heaven in a bowl. It’s no wonder almost every other foreigner I met was telling me to have the soup curry! IT’S SO GREAT!

Segue.

RAMEN. My first ramen was at a cool place called Q. the only places to sit were around a 16 person table! Sapporo is famous for their shio ramen and me being a salt addict. Of course I ordered it… Holy food. The bowl was so huge and so yummy. Even though it was a zillion degrees outside, the hot ramen was delicious.

Segues are hard when talking about random food.

So yeah, Indian food. Its amazing in Japan! That is all.

COFFEE! So you may have heard about vending machine coffee. It is actually pretty great. It comes in cans and you can buy it pretty much anywhere. Hot or cold. But when it comes to a real, good, hot cup of coffee: no such thing exists. So when I first saw a starbucks, I jumped for joy! Breve all the way! I know thats a boring thing to talk about but I was SO HAPPY to have good hot esspresso! And if it had to come from starbucks, so be it!

Finally, Beer. In the hear of Sapporo is Odori Park. A HUGE park that, during the summer, hosts the largest Beer Garden in the world. Seating aprox. 13 thousand people, it’s an incredible sight at all hours of the day! It is a wonderful place to go when you are stuck in 95 degree weather and need to cool off, ice cold beer with frozen foam on top from Asahi is the best! Also there is stall food. You can seriously spend a whole day there.

Thats all I will say about the food for now. Send me questions if you have any! There was so much food, it’s impossible to cover it all in one blog post!

Thanks for stopping by!

Click here for City photos, here for food photos, and here for matsuri photos!

For the youtube video footage click here!!!

Sapporo

SO! Now that I am back online, here is the continuation of my Japan journey!

Next I stayed in Sapporo for 2 weeks! I loved it! As of right then, it was the largest city I had ever seen. I have been to Chicago many times but somehow it seemed so small in comparison, and Sapporo is actually smaller when looking at numbers. It was incredible to see that many buildings as far as I could see with only one side interrupted by mountains.

I did so much in Sapporo. So much, that I will have to split these blogs into three parts! Part 1 will be just photos of the city and places I went. Part 2 will be the food I ate there. Part three will be all of the Matsuri and Hanabi (festivals and fireworks) I went to! A good chunk of my exploring was documented with video so look forward to seeing that up on my Youtube channel!

First of all, the Sapporo Station is SO HUGE, and SO CONFUSING. I got lost so many times and I still don’t think I could find my way. It really is a beautiful station, I recommend spending a day in the 3 or 4 malls attached to it!

The Old Hokkaido Government Building was very stately and western looking. It was also incredibly hot. It made up for it by having some really cool artifacts.

I promised some people I would make it to the Sapporo Beer Museum, and boy am I glad I did! I even had a friend take me on the tour 😀 Definitely one of the coolest things I saw.

I had to throw in a photo of the first place I had Soup Curry, a.k.a. the best Japanese food ever. Ouchi is my favourite place for soup curry hands down! It was located right outside of the end of the Tanukikoji Shopping arcade.

The Tanukikoji is the coolest place I have ever gone shopping. It is about 1km long with almost 200 shops! Food is everywhere and it smells amazing. There is even a green grocer and some stall food. Roasted corn is a popular stand to have in many locations of the city. (The Japanese have a huge obsession with corn)

Finally my favorite stop in Sapporo was the TV Tower. It overlooks a huge park called Odori. Famous for the largest beer gardens in the world! The TV Tower has a 360 degree viewing platform 295 feet from the ground and that is were I took some of the best photos of my whole trip! The tower had a cute shrine with the cartoon version of the tower next to it 🙂

I hope I didn’t forget anything!

See you next time in the episode titled Sapporo – FOOD!!!

Click here for City photos, here for food photos, and here for matsuri photos!

For the youtube video footage click here!!!