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I had a fantastic vacation!

Coming to Japan? Learn about the hot spots, best restaurants, best places to see, where to go and where to stay. Whether sharing your experience or planning a trip, this is the place for discussion.

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bloritsch
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I had a fantastic vacation!

Postby bloritsch » October 27th, 2014 9:56 pm

Thanks to information from this forum, and some of the videos on "Rachel & Jun's" channel on Youtube, I felt we were well prepared. We spent 9.5 days in Tokyo and 4.5 days in Osaka. We rented apartments using the airbnb.com site, which was a lot of fun, and gave us a Japan experience you can't get from a hotel. First, some highlights:

  • It's less expensive to live in Tokyo than in the Washington DC area. We fed three people for less than it would to feed two people back home.
  • Shimokitazawa is like a hidden gem in Tokyo, well worth the visit. This was our home base, and there are all kinds of excellent places to eat. My daughter found a dress she loved for 500 yen at one of the local shops.
  • Almost everything we ate was perfectly prepared and delicious. The only exceptions were places not known for their food (Tokyo Disney Land buffet and Karaoke-Kan snacks).
  • Even when the trains are crowded, very few people were rude (something made very clear as we were going through our layover back in the US).

By luck of the draw, we stayed in Shimokitazawa during their third annual Curry Festival. The curry festival lasted between 10/10 and 10/19 in 2014. As we were enjoying our breakfast al fresca at the Segafredo coffee shop, we were handed a map of over 100 participating shops all in the Shimokitazawa area. It was fun watching the town wake up around 10:00 am and the shop keepers setting up their displays along the main walking path.

We visited one major area of Tokyo a day and felt like we barely scratched the surface. A couple surprising things that were a bit of a culture shock were the number of shops that blasted unedited gangster rap from the US, and the sheer size of the major train stations. I think we clocked like 2 km a day in Shibuya or Shinjuku every time we went through those stations.

Probably the biggest highlight of the trip for me happened in Osaka. We were looking for a place to eat, and decided to try an izakaya around the corner from our apartment. I handled most of the transactions with my broken kindergarten level Japanese, but nothing prepared me for a restaurant who's menu was only in cursive style kanji. There were no pictures, and no English menu. Thankfully, the chef behind the counter read our bewildered faces and helped us out. Armed with no other recourse, my daughter breaks out with the 「お勧めは」 (o-susume wa) phrase we learned here. The chef recommended the sashimi, and then asked us what kind of meat we liked. I said 牛肉 (gyu-niku / beef), my wife and daughter said 鶏肉 (tori niku / chicken). I still don't know the name of the beef platter, but it was so tender it was like meat butter. Delicious. We found out on our second visit that the chicken dish was called チキンナンバ (Chicken Namba). It was fried chicken expertly prepared. This highlight was both because it was a victory in communicating without any English support, and because the food was so good.

I don't know how soon it will be, but we will definitely return.

community.japanese
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Re: I had a fantastic vacation!

Postby community.japanese » November 2nd, 2014 1:33 pm

Bloritsch san,

Konnichiwa.
Thank you for sharing your experience in Japan.
I would like to hear from you more.

Yuki 由紀
Team JapanesePod101.com

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bloritsch
Been Around a Bit
Posts: 42
Joined: August 28th, 2007 11:23 am
Location: Washington, D.C. area
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Re: I had a fantastic vacation!

Postby bloritsch » November 2nd, 2014 10:09 pm

One of the impulse things we did was to visit a bird cafe. I don't know how common it is, but this cute little cafe sits right across the street from the entrance Studio Ghibli museum. They had live birds, all of which were in a glass case. There was the main dining area, and an expansion area in what amounts to a high end tent.

Our deserts were presented in huge bird cages, as was our check when we were done. It was a very cute shop and made us think of our niece. Of course, everything we had was delicious. My daughter claimed that the french toast was the best she's ever tasted. My wife and I had cake and coffee. One thing I miss about Japan is the number of places you could go and get an excellent cup of coffee. In our area we have Starbucks, which chokes out the competition from people who actually make good coffee.

When we told my niece about the place, she informed us "We need to have one here. Not just in America, but right here. I'm going to make it happen. Oh, it's going to happen..." She's all of 8-9 years old right now, so who knows in a little over a decade maybe there will be a bird cafe in our town.

community.japanese
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Joined: November 16th, 2012 5:54 pm

Re: I had a fantastic vacation!

Postby community.japanese » November 9th, 2014 3:34 pm

Bloritsch san,
Konnichiwa.
Thank you for the post.

Yuki 由紀
Team JapanesePod101.com

kasie007_504327
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Re: I had a fantastic vacation!

Postby kasie007_504327 » February 9th, 2015 11:48 am

I want to visit too!

community.japanese
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Re: I had a fantastic vacation!

Postby community.japanese » February 9th, 2015 1:03 pm

kasie007 san,
konnichiwa.
Do you mean you want to go to the bird café bloritsch san mentioned or want to visit Japan in general?
Anyway please do and have a good experience!
Yuki 由紀
Team JapanesePod101.com

Kelicia
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Re: I had a fantastic vacation!

Postby Kelicia » August 29th, 2016 4:56 am

Bloritsch, Wow that sounds like you had an amazing experience!

I'm still waiting for that special time when I can travel to Japan too because I've been planning it for almost a year and a half now! :shock:
I think it's a really cool idea that you visited both Tokyo and Osaka since I've been trying to decide which one I should go to- but I guess I should just go to both now.
In your opinion, did you prefer Tokyo or Osaka more?

I really really want to go now after hearing what you got up to, it sounded awesome!

bloritsch
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Joined: August 28th, 2007 11:23 am
Location: Washington, D.C. area
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Re: I had a fantastic vacation!

Postby bloritsch » August 30th, 2016 3:59 am

I felt like Tokyo had a wider variety of things to do and places to see, but I also didn't spend enough time in Osaka. It's really hard to say what I liked more. I will say that if you've been to Disney outside of Japan, you've been to Disney inside of Japan--it's the same. The only reason we went there was because my daughter had never been to Disney at an age she would remember the trip. Two birds, one stone.

If you like shopping, or just like food, I highly recommend checking out Shimokitazawa. It's so different from the mainstream places like Shibuya and Harajuku that it will really drive home how diverse Japan really is. If you love coffee, there are two places you have to check out: Segafredo (great place for breakfast as well), Ballon D'essai (great art in your latte foam).

For Osaka, if you aren't buying breakfast at a hotel, I would recommend just going to one of the many Starbucks. It's one of the few places open for breakfast we could find. There's a lot of places we didn't visit, and if we had more time we would have.

I'd recommend spending a week in both cities. In 2014 when we were in Japan, your shinkansen ticket was $130 one way from Tokyo to Osaka per person. The JR Rail Pass makes sense if you intend to do a round trip on the shinkansen within one week. Otherwise it's just too limiting to be able to make it a value. If you do spend one week in Tokyo and one week in Osaka, you may want to look at leaving from Kansai international airport. It makes for a very long travel day if you take the shinkansen back to Narita airport just to get on a plane like we did (noob mistake).

If you are landing at Narita airport (unless you fly ANA or JAL that's probably the airport you'll be arriving at for Tokyo) routinely check the Narita Express deals. They change regularly (every 6 months?), so you'll have to verify that a deal you were expecting doesn't go away. When we arrived, if you were a tourist, you could get a deeply discounted Narita Express (N'EX) ticket and a 2,000 yen loaded SUICA card for less money than the bus. Count on a 90 minute train ride after your long day of travel. The worst part of our vacation was getting to Japan, which was only surpassed by leaving Japan since we had so much fun and didn't want to go.

Last pro-tip: when I plan big vacations like this, I have a binder printed at Kinkos or some other copy place that has all the instructions on how to get to your hotel/apartment rental, as well as instructions for picking up cell phone rentals, etc. Roaming data charges can be incredibly expensive, so if you take your smart phone put it in airplane mode for your trip. The apartment rentals we had lined up included a pocket wi-fi which was very convenient, but we had to get to the rental before we could use it. If there is more than one way to your rental, you may want an alternative route printed out as well. It doesn't happen often, but the last train we had to take was completely shut down due to a "personal accident". I had to break out my poor Japanese skills to figure out an alternative route. I'm glad I did that since the attendant at that station gave us a free ticket to get back on the train we just got off of for free.

I don't want to scare you off with that last thing, but those types of things can happen in any country you visit. Just know that just about everyone we talked to was very helpful even if my Japanese and their English was basically at a 5-year-old's level. Plan on your first day after you arrive just being a recovery day.

community.japanese
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Re: I had a fantastic vacation!

Postby community.japanese » September 10th, 2016 5:00 pm

Kelicia-san, bloritsch-san,
konnichiwa! :D
bloritsch-san, thank you for great advice and tips!! I'm amazed how you plan (even making a file/binder)!! :shock:
This is something we all can learn from you.
Kelicia-san, please feel free to ask questions; not only J-Pod staff, but there are very kind and
helpful colleagues in this community just like bloritsch-san. :kokoro:

Natsuko (奈津子),
Team JapanesePod101.com


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