Our Airbnb apartment was located in Shinjuku, an area we highly recommend for staying. There is a lot to do and it’s very well connected. The Shinjuku Station is the busiest train station in the world (with 35 platforms, over 200 exits and 3.64 million commuters every day).
The transportation system is very confusing. There are 3 different operators so you might end up buying 3 tickets to reach your destination. Most of the time we took the JR Yamanote Line that connects many of Tokyo’s major urban centers. The Tokunai Pass (730 JPY) allows unlimited rides within the 23 wards of Tokyo.
Our first excursion took us to the Takeshita Dori area, which is very popular among young teenagers and world famous for its cosplay fashion. We saw some crazy people but not too many... The close by Yoyogi-Park with its Meiji shrine is a welcoming get-away from the nearby hustle and bustle. It is one of the largest parks in Tokyo. We strolled around for some time enjoying the cold but sunny day.
From there it's just a quick walk to the vibrant area of Shibuya with Tokyo’s and maybe even the world’s most famous pedestrian crossing. About one million people cross the street every weekday. First we took part by crossing the street twice than we went for Starbucks on the north side to have a perfect view of the whole scenery. It is quite impressive to see so many people trying to cross a street.
Back in Shinjuku the Tokyo City Hall offered us a free observation deck with good views over the city. And again in a local restaurant not fare from our place Udon was our choice for dinner.
The next day two dreams came true for Niels. But we had to get up very early to catch the Shikansen (first dream) to the Gala Yuzawa ski resort in Yuzawa Town (2nd dream was skiing in Japan). And on top of that we met Isaac again - the crazy Australian we met in Kyoto.
The area is famous for its massive snowfall and we found out why: we had 2,5 - 4,5 m of snow but on top it was snowing like crazy for the whole day. Thanks to the Japanese efficiency the bullet train station is located in the same building as the gondola. After a 77 mins train ride from Tokyo you step off the train, buy your ski pass, rent your gear and you're already good to go! It couldn't be any easier. Snow conditions were excellent but the lifts are completely out of date. Due to the heavy snowfall the visibility was poor and made the ski day an adventure.
Coming back from our adventure there was only little time for a quick dinner before a crazy, over-the-top experiences started - the Robot restaurant. First of all, it has nothing to do with a restaurant, it's a SHOW: As soon as you arrive you're getting a sensory overload of colors, glitter and bling-bling. The spectacular musical performance includes bikini-clad troupes of taiko drummers, lasers, robots, weird animals, battling women, crazy costumes, and much more.
After the show we went to an area called Golden Gai, which is a small part of Shinjuku specially known for its nightlife. It consists of six narrow alleys, connected by even narrower passageways. Over 200 tiny bars, clubs and restaurant are squeezed into this area and most of them have space for not more than 10 people. We found a small karaoke bar packed with 6 people but squeezed in anyways. After having a drink Eva joined the Australian karaoke group for hours while Niels preferred having a conversation with the other 2 guests 😉 the night was much too long and the local whiskey gave Niels a headache even before going to sleep. It was an awesome but exhausting day so that the next day we only did a little bit of sightseeing.
Thank you Tokyo for the awesome time!
Skiing was fun... noooo reaaally!
See, we had fun!
And someone loved the food - so much that that someone stay at the station and didn't go skiing again
Niels went for 2 extra rounds - including one rescue mission for a 2 chinese that never skied before
Look who we met again! Isaac from Australia! He had as much fun as we had!
The craziest show in the world - the robo restaurant. We were pre-warned but still it was crazier than expected.
We found amazing Udon - but not as good as in Osaka
The world famous crossing directly in Tokio and apparently the one were most people cross every day.
Niels was deeply impressed by all these skyscrapers in Tokio. We have endless picture of tall houses..
Niels dream came true - riding on the bullet train
As soon as we entered it someone wanted to sleep and miss the most amazing ride on a train!
Getting up early is not our favorite thing in the world but this time it was necessary to get the most out of our day in Kyoto. Going from Osaka to Tokyo one passes through Kyoto. Therefore, we decided to make a day trip. Eva planned the whole day including transports and sight seeing. She decided to visit 3 major temples as well as some smaller shrines and temples in the area.
We'll give you an idea about our 1 day itinerary just in case someone is planning a trip to Kyoto.
The best and cheapest way to get around Kyoto is to buy a 1 day city bus pass. You can get it outside of Kyoto main station. Buses leave right in-front of the ticket office.
The tour started in the Kiyomizu Temple area. To get there you have to take bus # 100/ 106 to Goji-zaka station from where you can explore the area. If you walk down to Gion station you'll pass-by several other temples. But of cause the highlight is the Kiyomizu Temple complex with its spectacular location overlooking the city. That is also why it's very crowded with tourists. There is a slight chance that it was even more crowed the day of our visit due to public holidays. But than again we got some nice pictures of Japanese women wearing their traditional clothing which looked beautiful.
From Gion we took bus # 100 to Ginkakuji -Michi station. Where the Ginkakuji temple - which is also known as the "silver pavilion" - awaited us. The silver pavilion was never actually covered in silver - the name was given before the plans to cover it in silver were discarded. Unlike the Kiyomizu area there is not much to see besides the Ginkakuji temple and the surrounding sand garden.
Bus #204 took us from Ginkakuji-Michi station to Kinkakuji-Michi station where the counter part to the silver temple is situated. But this time the name Kinkakuji is suitable. It is derived from "the gold leaf" that the pavilion is covered in. Especially around sunset when the temple is put in a warm golden light it seems to glow golden.
On our last stop we bumped into Isaac and a british friend of his. We started talking while trying to hit a small fountain with coins. Obviously Eva was the only one able to hit it.
We think this is the nicest temple we have seen on our rtw so far...
There were a lot of tourist in Kyoto but that was for a reason. We loved this little city
One of the temples was quite impressive, especially from a contractual perspective.
View from the top
Eva found new friends immediately 😉
And we had Udon once more... Still the ones in Osaka are unbeaten!
The very moment you ask for directions in Japan you have a personal guide. Almost every time we asked for the way we were taken by the hand and directly brought to our destination. And that is only one example of the extrem japanese friendliness.
As we found out there is no better way to start your day than having Udon for breakfast at 12 am. Udon is mostly served hot as a noodle soup in a mildly flavored broth. Because of the language barrier we ordered Udon with ? (no idea) but both of our meals turned out to be amazing and for only 350 Yen (around 2,50€) a true bargain.
We highly recommand buying the so called “Osaka amazing pass 3 days” for only 3000 Yen (21€) which allows you to have unlimited rides on trains and buses without paying admission to 28 popular tourist sites.
Lunch break in the Shinsekai neighborhood of Osaka, which is famous for its Kushikatsu. Thats a Japanese dish of seasoned, skewered, grilled and deep-fried meat, seafood or seasonal vegetables. The neighborhood is great but the dish is not really worth to try – the oil used to fry overweighed the rest of the flavor.
Walked to Floating Garden Observatory in the Umeda Sky building. Another skyscraper but only 173m high with an amazing architecture and a 360 degree open roof top observatory let you overlook the city of Osaka. Especially at night all the lights look amazing.
Second day of sightseeing.
Exploring the area around Namba Station: Dotonbori Area, which is a busy shopping area with thousands of people, countless restaurants and shops. Within the area the Hozenji Yokocho Alley is an old narrow stone path which is lined with friendly traditional restaurants, shops and bars. Very quiet and completely different from the rest of the Dotonbori Area.
In a booklet we found a recommendation for a restaurant in the Dotonbori Area where they make Okonomiyak - a Japanese pancake. The batter and other ingredients were pan-fried on both sides on a teppan (in front of us). A bit skeptical we ordered only one (ham and cheese) but after trying it we went for another one. It did not seem to be a typical tourist restaurant and therefore we were the only “non locals”. Being very hospitable they proudly invited us to try a Japanese dessert. It's very hard to describe. I would call it a jelly-like confection covered with a dry powder which tasted a little like a sugar-peanuts mix. The consistency as well as the flavor was weird therefore we played rock scissor paper who had to finish both portions – guess who lost (Eva... haha)
Two busy but amazing days gave us a good impression of the city, the lovely people but it’s not nearly enough time to get to really know this amazing city!