Japan 2016

Continuing on from Hong Kong, it was time to head to Japan! And if you haven't read my Hong Kong post - it's coming soon!

Tip #1: Research and plan as much as you can! As my sister says, JaPlan!

As soon as you know when you are travelling, I would recommend buying your Japan Rail Pass (depending on where and for how long you will be in Japan). 

We bought a 7 day pass for £178pp, which allows you to travel on most Shinkansen (bullet trains) and unlimited travel on the JR line. The JR Pass does not include subway trains but day tickets can be bought for an additional cost in Japan. 

How to get your JR Pass?

  1. Order your pass online from JR Pass and have it delivered to your home (do this as early as you can as if you leave it too late you will have to arrange to pick it up in Japan and it's a hassle)
  2. Bring all the documents you are sent and swap it for your JR Pass at a JR office in the airport
  3. Travel away but always carry your JR Pass and passport with you!

Once you've collected your pass, you will need to book your train seats at the JR Office and let them know which station you will be travelling to. You can do this on the day or in advance, which is great as if you pick the right side of the train you can see Mt. Fuji!

We found the train system to be a whole new level to St Pancras! Tokyo station alone is like an underground city. Full of shops, restaurants, bakeries and many many entrances and exits..

Our trip started with a delayed 2AM and turbulent flight so we were exhausted when we finally arrived in Narita. Still ill from the initial Hong Kong flight, I wanted to go somewhere warm and filled with fluffy things.. Calico Cat Cafe!
Ken's grumbling soon stopped after he saw two munchkin cats :) You can buy drinks and cake inside as well as cat feed. It turns out they weren't so interested in the toys but stuck to people with cat food..

Approaching lunchtime, we headed to Mentsudan in Nishi-Shinjuku for some fresh, handmade udon noodles.
I chose to have it with raw egg, spring onions and crispy tempura crumbs as well as a slice of taro tempura. Warming, comforting and yet so simple, the hot udon noodles cooked the egg and it was delicious. You can add extra toppings for an additional charge but some of them are free. I just wish I had chosen the bigger bowl.

We checked into our Airbnb flat in Kabukicho, which was small but comfortable - perfect for travellers. 

With a 12 minute walk to the station, we headed out to have some dinner. Excited to go to a highly recommended sushi restaurant, we entered to only be turned away by the chef "no English". Confused by what just happened we stood on the doorstep to then face another chef who said "resuvu only" despite clearly being enough seats..

With no other backup restaurants we walked and found a popular looking place called Ebisu Nikuzushi, so joined the massive queue. Turns out what we were queuing for was meat sushi with one of their delicacies - horsemeat.
I had one bite and found the thought of it too much so stuck to my avocado sushi and edamame beans. The texture and smell of the cold chicken sushi reminded me of cat food - best to avoid it.

On day 2, it was cold but sunny so it was a perfect day to head to the Imperial Palace. Unfortunately it was closed that day but we got to see a few cherry blossom trees :)

For lunch we went to Tokyo Ramen Street based at Tokyo station. It might be a little hard to find so just follow the signs. Be prepared to queue. We picked the longest one once again and found you place your order on a machine and it takes your money too. The order goes straight to the visible kitchen and is very quick. Here the ramen noodles are served cold and in a separate bowl to the hot broth. You dip the ramen into the hot broth and eat it as you go along. I found the broth too salty for my liking and prefer my noodles hot. 

After a filling lunch, we headed to Ueno Park where we admired the beautiful scenery and went on a swan boat :)

Being not too far away, we stopped at Ginza and found so many toy machines! We spent at least an hour just choosing and trying our luck with them. 

Scared of not being able to visit one of the cutest bakeries called Floresta later on, we decided to squeeze it in just before dinner. Based it Sasazuka, it requires buying a separate ticket as it's in a different zone. Floresta sells the most adorable donuts but because we went just before closing time, they had all run out! Thankfully, they had some frozen ones available so we took a pack of those. They were even kind enough to give us some free plain donuts!

For dinner, we thought we'd might as well try to find somewhere in Sasazuka as it was past 9pm and we'd paid for our journey here. Wandering around, I saw an sign for Okonomayaki and chose to go in to Matsuya. As we entered, it was completely empty but we were pleased to know our waitress could speak English and was so helpful. We were invited to sit right by the stove so we could watch the action whilst talking. It was a lovely way to end the evening.

Also if you are staying in Shinjuku Kabukicho area and love arcade games, make sure you stop by (it's near Shinjuku Face on Google Maps). It's full of Japanese arcade games, dance machines and photo booths so if you've always wanted to have big eyes have a go!


Wanting to cram in as much as possible we booked a few nights in Kyoto. Looking back in hindsight, we spent more time commuting than enjoying the place. 

We picked up some food for the train ride to Kyoto. As were travelling from Tokyo to Kyoto we requested to sit on the right side of the Shinkansen we were able to see Mount Fuji about 30 mins into the the journey!

Our first prefecture to visit was the Fushimi-Ku. It's open 24 hours and is free entry so we went around 9pm. Not realising how many steps there were till we reached the top, we almost gave up as it completely different at night time. There isn't much lighting and lots of mini grave-like shrines so it was quite spooky. On the plus side there weren't any crowds to worry about so we reached the top 1.5 hours later. The maps are slightly confusing but the view at the top of the mountain is very much worthwhile. 

For dinner we went to Gyoza no Osho Shichijokarasuma. Known for it yummy, crispy gyozas, we ended up ordering two plates! You won't be disappointed.

Day 2 we headed to the Bamboo groves. After seeing so many beautiful pictures on Instagram, you realise that their colour has been heavily enhanced once you see the real thing, but nonetheless are still amazing. 

En route to the cherry blossoms by the bridge, we found an old man with various popcorn samples including matcha. He worked out that I love matcha and invited us to his upstairs shop where everything was matcha! This is by far the best matcha tea I've ever had.

As we had planned to have dinner at Ippudo, we explored the area nearby and found Nakagyo-ku - a large sheltered market set up on one long road. We had to try the tuna and fatty tuna. The chu-toro (medium fatty tuna) just melted in your mouth but I still preferred the toro (fatty belly part of the tuna). We also tried deep fried chocolate croquettes and wagyu beef.

And if you've never seen chestnuts in their spiky shell - here's what they look like!

With a bit of time to spare we stopped by the Kyoto Bengal Cat Forest - a cat cafe full of cute bengal kittens! They loved boxes!

After petting lots of kittens, it was time for Ippudo! I had only heard good things about this place so had high expectations (which probably wasn't the best idea) and went for the classic pork broth with nori and thinly sliced pork. I can't say I found anything special about it but it was warming and perfect for a cold day. The gyozas were slightly crispy but very oily.

Back to Tokyo

For our last two days we visited various places including Sensō-ji, the famous beautiful temple in Asakusa. 

We also found some huge Kagetsudo (melon pan) as big as my head! Soft, delicious bread with a sweet, crispy topping; it's definitely worth a try. They also serve hot and cold drinks such as yuzu tea if you need warming up.

Renown for their freshly prepared sushi, we went to Midori Ginza for dinner. For all the top restaurants, be prepared to queue. We took a ticket from the machine and waited for 2 hours to be called. To keep warm we kept walking around the nearby shops and shopping centre. The wait was worth it. We had a seat right in front of where the chefs make the sushi. 

Tip #2: Bring medication with you. 
I learnt the hard way and we had to try and communicate with non-english speaking pharmacists. We ended up spending £20 for just cough syrup and flu tablets. But on the plus side we learnt "seki" means cough.

My sister recommended visiting Yakitori Alley. It was a little tricky to find as it was slightly hidden with not many signs. I think it's become a bit touristic as English menus are available and are all the same. I found the food overrated so maybe skip this one.

Mr Bean
I recognised this brand from Singapore but although all of their products contain soy, they also do add dairy to their ice creams. I had to try their black sesame soft serve and it was yummy! Soft, sweet and so satisfying. Ken went for the chocolate sundae with vanilla soy ice cream and chocolate sauce and found the black sesame was better. 

Shibuya crossing
We visited this famous crossing twice because the first time we went it was pretty empty. The second time was such an amazing sight. We crossed it many times and here's what it looked like:
A video posted by Naomi Loo (Make-Bake-Travel) (@naomi_loo) on

On our last night we happened to find the most amazing Katsu curry for a very, very reasonable price! It was called CoCo Curry House and they're a chain can be found in various locations. There was so much to choose from I kept changing my mind. In the end I went for Chicken pieces with Katsu Curry and Ken went for a Chicken cutlet with Katsu Curry. It was delicious, comforting and very filling, a perfect way to end our trip.  

If you made it this far, thank you for reading and I hope you enjoyed it :)


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