My First Trip to Japan (A belated diary)

During May through to late June I was overseas visiting family and nicely enough we managed to make room for a little side trip to Japan (with me stuck with the job of planning the trip of course lol).

It was a short trip of “7 days” (I put this lightly because half a day was spent travelling to Japan and the last day was mostly dedicated to getting back to Tokyo on time to catch our plane) where I tried and failed to squeeze in everything I wanted to see in Japan. I’ve gained some experience from my mistakes so hopefully my belated diary post about my trip will help any of you with your future plans to Japan.

Warning: This post is going to be a long one because I love writing things in excruciating detail.


Content:

Note: If a link has the 📍 emoji next to it, it means that I linked the location in google maps.


—Day 1—

One week before our flight to overseas I got some JR passes because we’ll be using the Shinkansen and the Narita Express, so it’s convenient to have a JR pass to make reservations (because apparently its free to make a seat reservation if you have the pass?).

Anyway as soon as we got out of customs/security I was completely lost in trying to find the JR Ticket office to exchange my “coupon” I got in my home country for a real JR Pass. I had to gather up all my courage to ask the lady at the information desk for directions 😂 You’ll find that the people working at the airport are very helpful and friendly.

The people who work at the JR Ticket offices are also very helpful, especially when helping you reserve a seat on the Narita Express or Shinkansen, asking what your stop is and finding you a train that’s convenient to you. I took the Narita Express, but you can take other modes of transport like the Keisei Skyliner, the Limousine Bus (usually drops you off and picks you up at certain hotels) and a regular/local train. However it’s not recommended to take a taxi from Narita Airport to the inner city of Tokyo because they’re expensive as hell considering the huge distance between the two places.

View from Narita Express before entering the city

When I got to Ikebukuro station I was hit with huge anxiety trying to find the right exit. It was even stressful when at the time I had no SIM card or data to access a map app. I’m use to travelling around by train but lawd… navigating the train stations of Tokyo is anxiety inducing especially with Ikebukuro’s station interior being completely white and everything looks the same so I sometimes find myself going in circles or having no idea where I’m going. So it’s kinda best to ask people around, possibly someone who doesn’t look busy.

Anyway we eventually got out of the station and found our way to the hotel. Considering we were tired from the trip and being stressed we decided to not do much for the day and just go look for some place to eat…. which was a big missteak because we all have different tastes and were craving completely different dishes 😂 We eventually just went to an underground yakitori place–which is not the best place to go for dinner and is a place where people can smoke–that had some cheap (and good) chicken skewers and cute tapioca milk tea drinks despite its exterior of being a place for people to get drunk.

We later stopped at a 7-Eleven and god…. I could just live off 7-Eleven food in Japan because they got some good selections to choose from. I picked up some pudding just to see it jiggle and damn does it jiggle.

It was tasty btw.

Bonus: Here are some images from the Godzilla pop-up store inside Ikebukuro station to promote the new movie “Godzilla: King of the Monsters”.

I really wanted the Godzilla themed sukajan but alas… it was 38,000 yen (about US$349 or AU$500). It was cool though.

—Day 2—

Day 2 didn’t start off good. My sister caught a cold from other tourists during our other trip before we went to Japan and it seems that my mum caught it too while I was the only strong one in the party (I guess my strong will to persevere to see all the places I wanted to go to kept me from catching the cold?). I had planned a lot for the day but it turns out that my plans were pretty bad because I tried to fit in 3 activities in one day without thinking that everyone would be able to keep up haha.

We left the hotel at 11am and spent the rest of the day looking all over the place for belts for my fam…. a whole dang day 😂 But at least we spent that day looking around Harajuku.

Location: Harajuku

If I hadn’t turned around after using the pedestrian crossing I wouldn’t have noticed how cute and quaint the exterior Harajuku station is. We only explored a small portion of Omotesando (I think that’s where we were), but it’s a very chic place that has a lot of stuff ranging from cosmetics, bath bombs, scented bubble bath liquid and some cafes. Not to mention a good handful of clothing stores.

My main mission of the day was to find the mythical “Sailor Moon Store” my sister was talking about. Thanks to google maps I was led to where it was and apparently it’s part of a bigger building called 📍”Laforet“.

There are two entrances for this building, one is located facing across 📍Tokyu Plaza and the other entrance is hidden in a small street and has this nice aesthetic at the front. I can’t remember how many levels are in this building but it’s got “half floors”, like there is a Floor 1 as well as a Floor B0.5 and a floor 1.5. If you want to use the elevator to go to a .5 floor you have to take it on a similar .5 floor. So if you’re on Floor 2 and want to go to floor B0.5 you’ll have to go down a small flight of stairs and catch the elevator on floor 1.5 to go down B0.5… kinda a hassle considering I just end up going down all the flights of stairs to go down to 0.5 anyway lol.

Anyway the reason why I talk a lot about floor B0.5 is because the Sailor Moon Store is there. There are actually two sailor moon stores on that level, one store for apparel which included sailor moon themed yukata and sailor suits (as well as a gacha) and the other store across from it is where all the merch is sold. I don’t have any pictures because most of the stores in Laforet kindly tell you not to take any photos so no pictures from me. The merch store has a couple of stuff ranging from hard candy, cookies, pens, figmas, plushies and keychains. There were these keychains that I was eyeing at that were really cute, the theme of the keychains was based on desserts and each dessert is based on a sailor scout motif. I can’t remember what Jupiter’s was but I really wanted to get it until I looked at the price (maybe it was 1,500+ yen for a small thing like that).

The other stores in Laforet are mostly fashion stores, each store has their own unique theme and style going on. From sophisticated chic to ‘idgaf what you think, this is what I like to wear’ punk clothes. The bottom levels of the building has a good amount of ‘lolita’ clothing and I even spotted an Angelic Pretty store. A big range of gorgeous and cute clothing but the price will make your wallet cry. But I guess that’s the price you pay for ease of mind through expressing yourself through clothing.

There was also a store seemed to be dedicated towards plus size women with sales assistants who were also plus sized but when I try to look it up on the Laforet website I couldn’t quite find it so maybe it was a pop up store? 🤔 I’m not sure, but either way it was nice to see it in a sea of stores that have small sizes on display (as a foreigner it’s a bit hard trying to find your size haha).

Next up is the never ending journey to find the legendary belt…

Psychedelic entrance

We checked out Tokyu Plaza for a little bit for some belts as well as something to eat but there’s not a lot of restaurants in there except for Starbucks (which has a nice outside dining area btw) or “bills” restaurant that had a big line waiting to get in. So we went back onto the streets to look for a place to eat and eventually we all agreed to eat at a basement cafe.

The basement cafe was pretty quaint with waiters wearing snazzy uniforms and a smoking and non-smoking area. I’m guessing all basement restaurants have smoking sections at this point? Anyway we were seated in the non-smoking section right next to the smoking section 😂

It was kinda expensive and I think I accidentally asked for 2 iced coffees instead of 2 ice teas. They gave us a small, tiny milk jug the size of half a thumb to share between me and my mum lol. Not gonna lie but that iced coffee was bitter as hell, my bad for trying something different. The carbonara was tasty but was a small portion (they served it one of those hat shaped plates where the pasta was in the small indentation lol). But the dessert was good.

After eating we went back to looking for some belts and after going back and forth between Laforet and Chicago. Eventually we just gave up and bought men’s belts at Chicago.

Some info on Chicago, there are two stores on the same street in Harajuku. The one we went to was 📍Chicago Omotesando. Most of the clothes sold there are ‘vintage’ international and Japanese clothing, you can find cheap kimono and yukata there (heck I ever saw bridal kimono for when you’re getting married). Though I have a feeling that by vintage they mean second hand 😂 The store really smells a little musky, no offence, but I guess if you like the smell of old clothes you’ll enjoy browsing through Chicago stores. It seems like they only sell men’s belts though, no lady belts 🤔

Anyway we had to go back early because my mum’s cold was setting in. Because there was still more time left in the day I decided to go and discover what Ikebukuro has to offer and take a journey to “Otome Road“.

Location: Ikebukuro

I went to Sunshine 60 Street in Ikebukuro that lights up nicely with neon signs at night. There was a 📍Sanrio gift store that sells a big range of sanrio mascot characters. There was a small shelf space dedicated to Cogimyun merch (who is apparently a character made out of dough?) and was pretty cute. There was some Aggretsuko merch at the back though they were just small stuff like badges, small plushies and a blind box of Agrretsuko vinyl character figures. I was tempted on getting the blind box but it was like 1,800 yen per box or something and it didn’t have my man Haida in it.

I stopped by SEGA GiGO Ikebukuro and tried my hand at getting something from one of those UFO catchers. I forgot how to play Sega’s UFO catchers where I thought I could freely move the claw instead of being restricted to move horizontally and then move vertically when done with moving the claw horizontally (I remember doing the same mistakes when playing it virtually in the Yakuza games). I also made the mistake of taking on the UFO machines that have boxed prizes. It may seem easy to just grab the box in the middle but that won’t get you anywhere in terms of getting it into the chute 😂 Anyway I gave up and just rolled in an A3 gacha machine bc at least I’m getting at least something.

I took a detour to see the Otomate building. Never went inside but its advertising Crimson Clan on it’s billboard.

The start of Otome Road, every store beyond this point is an otome hotspot

Anyway onto Otome Road. They call it Otome Road as the stores in the area mostly stock goods and other stuff aimed at girls/women, though visiting it in real life I’ve realised that it’s a very small area. I dunno if I dumb or not but when I went into the animate building I was under the impression that it was a normal animate store that sells books/good/games but it’s more like a cafe? I didn’t go anywhere beyond the ground floor so lol, I’ll never know bc I’m a dumb dumb.

The store that I liked the most was the 📍Lashinbang right next to the animate building which has a lot of bargain bin anime DVDs, cheap Drama CDs + character songs as well as cheap otome games, though their selection of second-hand Switch games is limited. Funny thing is I saw Ikemen Sengoku for the PS Vita on the shelf for about 4,000+ yen, I was requested to review the game and was hoping to get it while I was in Japan but I thought to myself “Maybe I can get it cheaper elsewhere” little did past-Billy know was that she made the wrong decision as she couldn’t find it anywhere else and when she got back to the store on her final day in Tokyo it was gone. I also missed the opportunity to buy the Nintendo Switch Diabolik Lovers game just to have a good laugh at it.

The other Lashinbang store next to it was mainly smaller character goods merchandise, a hot spot for those who want to collect merch of their fav boi to add to their itabag or character shrine to worship to. Obviously these goods are kinda second-hand and are also trading items, if its items of popular characters the store can turn a profit by charging ECT (a term I’ve come up with, stands for “Egregious Character Tax”), the more popular the character the more expensive their goods are. Same goes for items that are now rare like these Readyyy! Birthday Badges.

Next up I went to Kbooks next door. One thing I’ve learnt is that there are many Kbooks stores in Ikebukuro, each store having a speciality from Anime to Video Games to merchandise of youtubers? yeah. Anyway the one I went into had the first floor mostly dedicated to Touken Ranbu and other popular anime/games, I got my Hasebe noodle stopper there though looking back on it I dunno if 2,400 something yen was the right price for it haha.

Because it was getting dark I took one quick look at 📍Mandarake. It’s a huge ass store filled to the brim with doujinshis, collectable merchandise of anime/games/even stage actors, figures and other goods. The shelves filled with doujins are neatly organised with tabs showing what series it is, the type of pairing, doujins specifically with a certain character as the uke etc. I saw some A3! doujins but didn’t have the time to inspect each and every doujin and shelf.

—Day 3—

Day 3 was when we kinda got our shit together and left early. Day plan was to go to Meiji Jingu then go to Disneyland, but because we underestimated the budget of the trip we had to make a side trip to a money changer. I wanted to see Yoyogi Park considering its in the vicinity of Meiji Jingu but alas…

Location: Meiji Jingu

So we’re back at Harajuku again at the Meiji Jingu entrance and gosh its gorgeous. It’s summer time so foliage in Japan is a pleasant green.

The path to the shrine is a bit long but the scenery is gorgeous. It’s interesting how a big area filled with tall trees and greenery is in the middle of the city.

There are little side trails on the way to the shrine but because I didn’t want to push my luck by dragging my family anywhere I want to I decided to just keep going forward.

Also met a friendly crow/raven just near the shrine. It looks similar in size to the ones in Australia but a little bit bigger and their tail feathers & wings seem a big longer. I regret not getting down on one knee and propose to it took a better picture of it at a good angle. When you get to the shrine you’re allowed to partake in the customs such as purifying yourself and praying. When you’re at a purification fountain there may be a sign with instructions in English on how to purify yourself but when I was at Meiji Jingu I didn’t see a sign. However a local was kind enough to guide me to do it properly. You could always just skip it if you’re a tourist but I guess you’re missing out the experience of doing it.

On a good day you’ll often see marriage ceremonies going on at the shrine, though on the day we went there seemed to be a lot of couples getting married at the shrine. I guess everyone wants to be a bride in June. We were fortune enough to see a marriage procession and gosh, everyone at the shrine was completely silent just watching the bride and groom. Not something you see everyday unless you go to shrines every day to see people getting married 😂. Again being short with time I couldn’t fully explore Meiji Jingu other than the main area but I did take the chance to have a little prayer at the shrine.

Here’s a compilation of pics I took at the shrine:

We ate at Italian Tomato Cafe Jr. (a mouthful of a name), which is a bit cheaper than the place we ate the previous day. It’s also close by to a hedgehog cafe which caught my eye from the cute advertisements like a picture of a hedgehog wearing a tiny top hat.

I tried out Italian Tomato Pizza Pasta Cafe’s curry with chicken and it was pretty good. It’s a shame they didn’t have more chicken to balance the meal because it felt like there was more curry and rice than there was meat (I just love meat). I also tried their chocolate cake and its as good as a chocolate cake can get.

I would recommend eating there again if you can’t decide on which place to eat at. Also has a nice view upstairs of Omotesando.

One nice tidbit of this place is that in the upstairs area, once you’ve finished eating it’s encouraged that you take your tray to the tray collection area near the top of the stairs so an employee can take it away, which is quite convenient when you want to clear out tables for the next costumer. I found this to be the case with other eating places as well like KFC and MOS Burgers.

Location: Shinjuku

Next up a pit stop in Shinjuku looking for a money changer because google maps told me its the only nearest place lol. I was looking for a certain money changer because their rates online looked good but apparently when we got there it was “Closed”, but I guess it was shut down or something because the place looked kinda shady.

So we went looking elsewhere and found that almost every other place has shockingly bad rates. At the time google says 1 Australian dollar equals 75 yen, which is a starting point and I wouldn’t bet any money changer would have that rate but the ones we saw gave us rates ranging from 64~67 yen. YIKES. We settled down with a place that gave us a rate of 71 yen because we’re tired af.

During our journey looking for the money changer I spied another shrine hidden between two buildings in the hustle and bustle of Shinjuku. After looking it up for this post it turns out to be one of the entrances to the 📍Hanazono Shrine, which dates back to the 17th Century.

We also walked past Kabukicho–Shinjuku’s redlight district and inspiration to my favourite game location “Kamurocho” in the Yakuza series. Just walking past it makes me feel familiar and nostalgic with all the streets and alleyways. Though I won’t lie when I say I was a bit intimidated from the thought of entering further into Kabukicho even in broad daylight haha. Also the little Godzilla head poking out from a building was pretty cute, especially with the new Godzilla movie poster looks like it’s looking up to it 😂.

We checked out Don Quijote for souvenirs but the cheapest we could find was something for 400 yen. There goes the thought of buying a bunch of 100~200 yen souvenirs for everyone at home haha. Though I did find some weird but funny novelty items, like the dong keychain (avert your eyes, link is NSFW).

Location: Disneyland

Tokyo Disneyland Hotel looking like a mansion/castle from a fairy tale

Next up, Disneyland, but also having to deal with Tokyo Station. My goodness its like a labyrinth, if it weren’t for the signs pointing the right way we would’ve been lost. So we take the train from Tokyo Station to Disneyland. I read online that on weekends, if you buy tickets after 3pm it’ll be cheaper. The regular 1-day pass costs about 7,400 yen or so but the starlight pass is 5,400 yen after 3pm. Bad mistake on my behalf because we spent like 2 hours waiting in line for a restaurant because we were hungry and tired.

Yeah you heard right. This is our first time to Disneyland so we didn’t know about the rules where it is discouraged to wait in line for restaurants as the people who reserved seats earlier have priority over the ones waiting in line. So we’re waiting in line for over an hour and when we got upstairs we had to wait in a waiting room for a table to be available. So the line we were in was just to wait for a seat in the waiting room 😂

The food was good though, but I wouldn’t say it was worth the wait. But at least I witnessed something cute from the neighbouring table. I dunno the specifics but this is what I figured out, there were two girls at a table and there was this handsome waiter serving their table almost every time and sometimes flirting with one of the girls. Eventually the girl got a cake with candle so I was wondering if it was the girl’s birthday or if it was her anniversary with her boyfriend who was the waiter. Either way it was pretty cute.

Anyway my mum was feeling under the weather from waiting and walking as well as her cold taking toll so we were given 1 more hour to look around in Disneyland before we went home. We only got to explore a little part of “Fantasy Land” before our time was up.

At that moment Disneyland was having an Easter event (yes in June) so there were a bunch of egg-bois statues hidden in different locations. Also there was supposed to be a fireworks display but “due to poor weather conditions” it was cancelled. Talk about bad luck.

Anyway here’s some pics I took:

Though it was a short stay in Disneyland and we didn’t get to explore much, it was okay. Would’ve been better if we just bit the bullet and just paid 2,000 yen more for the day pass and spend one whole day there 😂

—Day 4—

Day 4 my sister and I were left to our own devices as our mum wanted to rest for the day. Which means a whole day to ourselves in Akihabara buying stuff that is potentially useless but yeehaw anyway.

Location: Ueno Park

But first a pit stop at 📍Ueno Park. Honestly I wanted to go to Sensou-ji but I also wanted to go with everyone so had to skip on that and just have a stroll in Ueno Park.

We went there on a weekend so it was more lively. There were tents pitched up selling small knick-knacks to kitchenware to paintings. There was also a display of beautiful bonsai near the Tokyo National Museum.

Ueno Park hosts a lot of things such as a Starbucks cafe, Museums and art galleries, a zoo and a buddhist temple surrounded by a pond. Really is a good spot to have a Sunday stroll with the family.

There is also a shrine hidden amongst everything, though you can’t miss it when the flags catches your eye.

Before leaving Ueno Park for Akihabara, I noticed this statue near the National Museum of Western Art. I had to take the picture by being sneaky because it looked so hauntingly beautiful but I couldn’t get any closer as the gates to the museum was closed.

Thanks to a tip off of a passerby going “あっ!地獄の門だ” when I was taking the shot, I looked it up and turns out its “The Gates of Hell” by Auguste Rodin. Apparently there are seven of these gates around the world.

Location: Akihabara

This is what the whole trip was building up to lol. I shopped till I dropped but unfortunately I didn’t get everything on my list. Seems like the road is closed on Sundays so pedestrians can freely walk on the street and take pics like this.

I checked out FGO Arcade at SEGA Akihabara but was too intimidated thinking I’d make a fool of myself. At least I took a pic of Gil.

I bought a few figure/statue stuffs, though I found out that figures are more expensive on the main street. I got a figure for dirt cheap at 800 yen at Lashinbang in a narrow street behind the main street when it was being sold for 1,500 yen or more on the main street.

This 📍Lashinbang store I would highly recommend for your cheap figure needs. When I first entered I saw some second-hand figures in plastic bags on a rack for a good price, though I dunno whats been on those figures *shudders at the thought*. There was a second-hand Anzu Futaba prize figure that I was tempted to get though I noticed the dust collected on her dress. Though it’s easy to get the dust off with a vacuum or something. They also sell unopened prize figures for a good price as well.

Though I may have went a little ham when I found badges and straps of my favourite character…

📍 Kotobukiya, located in the same street as Lashinbang, is also a good place to get new figures and goods. Though don’t expect a good discount, but at least it’s not overpriced either. It’s also a great place for plastic model, doll + figure making enthusiasts as they sell tools like acrylic paint, epoxy for model/figure building, tape, tools for carving and sculpting etc. There are also a couple of dolls like cu-poche, Good Smile Company’s Nendoroid Dolls and other stuff to customise your own doll.

Also on the same street is a 📍 Traders store that sells cheap games (I’m guessing preowned games). They’ve got a clear sign/tab showing where the otome games are at:

Kenka Banchou Otome 2nd Rumble has been cut down in price. Was released back in March

Volks Hobby Paradise building with a Rose of Versailles doll as an advertisement billboard on the side

📍 Volks Hobby Paradise is also a good place to look for character goods and figures though that place ain’t cheap. The prices of their figures/statues are a bit more expensive but not crazy expensive. Though be warned it has a lot of floors.

I wanted to check out 📍 Amiami’s store which is 2 floors in a building. Though I couldn’t find what I was looking for. There was a lot of girl figures but not a lot of ikemen figures. Also be warned that R18 figures are out in the open at this store, so maybe not a great place to take an unsuspecting family member to. I was a bit disappointed with the store though… But turns out this was 1 of 2 Amiami stores in Akihabara. I looked it up after my trip and found out there was 📍 another Amiami store located on the edge of the Electric Town. Maybe in an alternate reality I could’ve gone there instead and found stuff that interested me… 😅 So I would recommend checking out both stores for some goodies.

While looking around for something sweet to eat (I refused to go to one of the Maidreamin cafes because I felt kinda embarrassed but boy did the desserts they have on the pamphlet looked good) we found a pop-up Racing Miku store.

There was a good amount of Racing Miku merch in this pop-up store. Some mugs, umbrellas, tapestry and jackets/shirts. Though being a cheap ass, looking at the prices made me refrain from buying and instead just rolled in a racing miku themed gacha for 300 yen lol.

Location: Ikebukuro

So it’s our final night in Tokyo before going to Kyoto. We got our tickets reserved for back and forth between Tokyo and Kyoto as well as the Narita Express going to the airport for the final day. Though it was a tight schedule to plan out, the people at the JR ticket office managed to get us seats for our trip back to the airport. Though it also meant we couldn’t make a single mistake on our 7th day or else we would miss our chance to be at the airport and miss our flight.

Anyway I would like to take a moment to mention 📍”Lumine” located near/inside Ikebukuro station. We only went there once to look for a belt on day 1 but my first impressions of it was pretty good. Essentially its like a mall with different fashion brand stores but what I really like about it is it’s 2~3 stores of restaurants located in it’s higher levels. They’ve got a restaurant for almost every cuisine from Thai food to Chinese food to Taiwanese food. A good couple of the restaurants have display cabinets of realistic looking fake food to entice you. I wish I had taken photos because they were mouth-watering. Also the desserts looked good too. I think most of the prices for the restaurants and cafes are mid-range in price.

Too bad we never had the chance to try out some of the food. Though if I do go back to Japan I’d try to dine there at least once (and stuff my face with desserts).

Also while we were exploring Lumine we accidentally found ourselves at the top floor. Apparently they hold cooking class at the “ABC Cooking Studio” at the top floor of Lumine. It was pretty neat to look at as the walls of the studio have windows on them and the studio looked so clean and welcoming.

—Day 5—

Wake up early, last day in Tokyo (at least half a day in Tokyo). So I decide to spend an hour or two to do last minute shopping near Otome Road… by myself.

Location: Ikebukuro

I’ve taken a liking to Ikebukuro, mainly because its my home base for the trip. Its very chic, quaint and kinda reminds me of my city.

I tried to revisit some shops I had went to the other day but because most shops open at 10am I had to wait around for a bit, so I took some better daylight pictures of Otome Road.

I eventually just hang out at 📍 Jeans Mate which is open 24 hours and waited until 10am. Turns out this store had belts for mens and ladies for a cheap price of 900 yen (1,000 yen with tax). There was also yukata for sale for0 about 7,000 yen. I couldn’t exactly find my size, though there was yukata with the length of 164cm… I’m about 172cm so unsure if I could fit or not 🤔 But the patterns for the yukata was very nice looking.

Checked out 📍 Animate Ikebukuro and its a good place to find female oriented DVDs/books/manga/games/CDs. Though I kinda noticed that the floor for female oriented manga was mostly filled with BL manga and a small portion of shoujo/TL. I think I even saw a shelf dedicated to omegaverse manga 😂😂 The selection of ikemen figures was kinda disappointing as well as the video games shelf….

Had to do a double take, but yes theres only two shelves worth of games in this branch

I shouldn’t have expected to have cheaper prices but the selection of games on the shelf is pretty limited. Private Academy VerRose wasn’t even on the shelf. Ikemen Sengoku–a game released in early 2018–was still at the ripe price of 6,300 yen when compared to the newer 2019 Switch ports that are also 6,300 yen. You’d think now that the PS Vita is dead the prices of PS Vita games would fall but nope. Anyway if there are any better Animate branches to get an otome game fix just holler down in the comments below.

I didn’t get anything from Animate and when I checked Lashinbang at Otome Road I found out the Ikemen Sengoku game I wanted was already gone. So basically I wasted a morning achieving nothing except buying a belt for myself lol.

Location: Kyoto

On our way to Kyoto via Shinkansen. We got our ekiben (train station lunch boxes) near our platform entrance. I really wanted the karaage ekiben but they were sold out and my mum was rushing me because she thought we missed the train despite having 20 minutes left on the clock. I got the chicken rice bentou and right after getting it I saw the delivery guy arrive to replenish the karaage ekiben stock 😂 Oh well.

I think I got the kids meal, maybe? 😅

The chicken rice bentou was pretty good. I underestimated how chock full it was. So basically we got some chicken rice with peas, some karaage (I think?), fried shrimp/tempura shrimp, some spaghett underneath the shrimp, a small salad, macaroni salad? with prawns, I think there was baked potato slices but I cant remember. I wanted to eat all of it but started to feel under the weather. It seems like my body just gave up on day 5 from guiding everyone and going out every day and just accepted all the cold bacteria/virus lol.

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On the Shinkansen to Kyoto 🚅

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I really enjoyed the ride to Kyoto via the Shinkansen. It’s better than travelling by plane where you get bad leg room or poor seat comfort and then having to be pressurised all the time during the flight. In the Shinkansen you’ve got a good amount of leg room, you can lean back your chair to a good extent, there’s lavatories in every other car, there’s also an attendant selling food and drinks from her cart, it’s not too noisy and is a smooth ride. Plus there is free wifi on board and an outlet to charge your devices, though sometimes the wifi goes out for some reason so I had to use my data most of the time.

Arrived at Kyoto 2-and-a-half hours later, got to our hotel and decided to go out for dinner. I really wanted to go to 📍 Gion to go to an okonomiyaki restaurant for dinner but things didn’t go as planned as I was too dumb to find the right bus stop. Google maps kept telling me to go to the Karasuma Gojo bus stop and located the bus stop in the middle of traffic.

I tell you what, don’t trust google maps with directions to bus stops in Kyoto.

So we gave up and ate at 📍 Yoshinoya that you can see in the map above. It’s fairly cheap for a good meal. At this store you’ll have to order through a machine near the entrance (the waiter/attendant pointed us to the machine as it was our first time at this sort of place). I paid about 800 yen? for a katsudon and I thought I pressed the “small” order but when it came in it was still too big for me. I couldn’t finish it sadly because I was full but also because I was too embarrassed with my sloppy chopstick skills to continue eating. It was still good though. The tea at this place is complementary with your meal and you can refill any time during your meal.

There is also a kimono/yukata rental place nearby. I saw a couple of people wearing yukata walking around on the streets so I guess you won’t feel out of place (well as long as you’re wearing yukata with someone else imo).

—Day 6—

Next day is baby’s day out. I had planned to go to Fushimi Inari Shrine but I didn’t want to further exhaust my family so I decided to go to Nijo Castle and the Golden Pavilion.

Location: Nijo Castle

This time I got my shit together and caught the right bus to Nijo Castle. For those who don’t know, 📍Nijo Castle (or Nijojo) was founded by Tokugawa Ieyasu (I’m pretty fond of this historical figure for some reason, maybe because of Sengoku Basara) and was the castle where the Tokugawa shogunate resided until it became imperial property and eventually was donated to the city of Kyoto.

Gate entrance to Ninomaru + entrance to Ninomaru

You’re allowed to walk inside Ninomaru but you’re not allowed to take photos inside and you must take off your shoes at the entrance way before going further in. The floorboards of Ninomaru are called “nightingale floors” as they make sounds whenever stepped upon. It kinda makes a chirping sound.

The walking segment includes walking through the hallways and peering into each room (yeah, you’re not allowed to go inside the rooms). Each room has different wall designs/paintings. A couple of the designs include tigers, hawks, cranes and other forms of nature. There are also plaques and signs inside Ninomaru explaining each room as well as dummys/dolls recreating important scenes in certain rooms.

After the walk inside Ninomaru we explored some of the gardens and the lookout tower. There are a couple of moats inside the castle and in those moats are koi carps–a couple of grey carps and a few orange carps. There’s a gachapon that has fish food near one of the bridges where the koi carps often hang out. You can feed them and watch them go crazy.

Also spied some birbs from the lookout tower. Unsure what the first bird is but it was stretching out its wing as it chilled on the moat wall. The other birb is a hawk? I think. It caught my eye when I saw it circling near the castle. I tried my best to zoom in as close as possible despite it being far away but I think you can make up what it is.

The Honmaru section of the castle was being renovated so I didn’t get a good look at it, so I’m unsure if you’re allowed to walk inside it or not. There were other gardens and some pit stops to rest. The whole place was nicely taken care of, especially the garden.

Here’s the rest of my pics when at Nijo Castle.

Also if you’re hungry for some burgers and don’t mind the couple minute walk I suggest to go visit 📍Mos Burger that’s on the second floor of a supermarket. I really loved their teriyaki chicken burger and it’s meal is at an alright price.

Location: Golden Pavilion / Kinkakuji

Despite a bit of an overcast on the day it eventually became a bit hot, especially when we were at 📍 Kinkakuji. Hell my face got red from the sun beaming directly onto my face.

But I guess it was worth it to see the golden pavilion. There isn’t much to do after seeing the pavilion except following the path to a temple where you can pray, light an incense or light a candle that has writing engraved on it. There are candles for success in studying, getting a job, family health etc. There are also some souvenir shops near the exit.

Here are some more pics:

There are a few ice cream stores/stands nearby. Though the one we ate at was outside the entrance to Kinkakuji, a little store called 📍 Yamazaki-An. There is a seating area outside with umbrellas to shade you from the harsh summer sun. There are limited flavours though: mocha flavour, vanilla flavour, half-vanilla and half-mocha and finally mocha flavour with gold sprinkles. Yes, they use gold leaf pieces as sprinkles. Its a nice relief when you’re visiting in summer and they also serve tea.

There are more stores down the road and we happened upon one selling some interesting items. Like a Shinsengumi Spongebob Squarepants (plus minions), eye masks saying “Do-M King” and “Do-S King” as well as many more novelty goods.

—Day 7—

Spent the whole day travelling from Kyoto to Tokyo so we could catch our flight back. Don’t try this at home kids because it was stressful as hell trying to beat the clock but we made it on time. I would definitely not do that again (I don’t want to push my luck) so maybe next time if I spend my last days in Japan I would use the nearest airport to catch a flight back home. We couldn’t explore Narita’s departure area’s stores but there were some good souvenir stores near our gate.

The store on the left offers a lot of omiyage in the form of snacks to get for your friends, family and coworkers back at home. The ones we got was small rounded cakes that have a soft outside and a jelly-like inside which was strawberry flavoured. There was also a Hello Kitty themed snack omiyage though we only got just two boxes of the strawberry one. There was a good amount of people buying at least 10 boxes and the place is really busy with people getting their last chance souvenirs.

I really love the packaging these omiyage come in, its so aesthetically pleasing and neat. So maybe next time I’ll try to bring home one of each type of snack omiyage available 😂


—Overall Thoughts

Honestly I’ve been wanting to visit Japan ever since I started learning Japanese in high school and seeing classmates go on study trips/student exchange to our sister school in Japan. So was it worth it? Despite all the bad luck we had during the trip, piled on with our Australian dollar plummeting because of tension between America and China making us lose more money when exchanging to Japanese yen (it still hasn’t recovered btw), I thoroughly enjoyed it. Makes me want to go again now that I have a little more confidence in exploring Tokyo and I’m more familiar with a few of its train stations. Hopefully next time I don’t have a mini-meltdown from having to figure out wheres the exist in a train station.

Though I do have a lot of regrets with this trip. Like, I should’ve just had a whole week in Tokyo instead of deciding last minute to go to Kyoto for 2 days (turned out to be 1 and a half days) or I should’ve booked a 2 week holiday to fully explore Tokyo and Kyoto. Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. Though I guess that’s what mistakes are for, so you can learn from it and have a better experience next time. Next time I won’t force a lot of activities into one short trip and maybe next time I should just invest in an IC card if I’m not travelling too much across Japan lol.

Anyway here’s the pros and cons I’ve experienced with travelling in Tokyo+Kyoto, as well as some tips:

Pros

  • Pretty safe, safe enough to walk around at night (though still be cautious)
  • Trains are punctual and clean, I even spotted a train with a “women only” car
  • Shinkansen is convenient, comfortable and fast
  • 7-Eleven is the go to place to get cheap meals and dessert if you want to really squeeze every penny
  • Yen coins are quite handy when you want to pay the exact amount for something without getting more change in coins
  • Most customer service will speak English, there are signs with English on it and there are English menus available at restaurants so it’s not too hard to get by without knowledge of the Japanese language (but it does help to have a few Japanese words drilled into your brain)
  • Desserts are so good in Japan I don’t know why. They look so good and tastes even better
  • A good range of food to choose from in most areas. If you find one restaurant there’s bound to be more nearby
  • Streets are clean
  • Trains like the JR Yamanote Line are very convenient in terms of showing the next stops via a screen on top of the doors. You can keep track of where you are and it will also tell you how many minutes it’ll take until you reach the station you want to get off
  • Kyoto buses are also fixed with screens at the front of the bus showing what are the next stops in English, Japanese, Korean and Chinese. There are also little graphics depicting castles, temples or shrines on top of certain tourist spot bus stops on the screen
  • Though I didn’t get one on this trip, IC cards are pretty useful from paying train rides to buying drinks at a vending machine. Hell you can even pay for certain arcade games (like the UFO catcher/Claw machines) with your IC card

Cons

  • Most stores (excluding some food stores and 24 hour stores) usually open at 10 am, 11 am sometimes and 12 pm for certain businesses. So its a bummer when you want to go out early because you have a busy day scheduled and want to visit a hobby store first thing in the morning but it doesn’t open until 10 am or 11 am (or even worse, 12 pm)
  • Non-residents cannot get a SIM card that is talk/text/data unless they pay extra (sometimes talk/text/data SIM cards for tourists will cost 5,000 yen or even 7,000+ yen) or get the somewhat cheaper option of a data only SIM card (I got mine for about 1,500+ yen for 1.5GB of data and lasts for 30 days but even that is too much for a SIM). Its recommended to get a smart phone to rent if you’re keen on using a phone to call and text people within Japan
  • Its hella expensive sometimes. A guide book on Kyoto I got before the trip that was made in 2017 said that admission for certain places was at a cheaper rate than what I experienced in the year 2019 (admission for the places I went to was at least 200 yen more than what was described in the guide book). Its even worse when your currency is weak and can’t compete with the USD and Euro
  • Beware of bicyclists when walking. Its nice to see places like Tokyo and Kyoto adopt bicycles as a major mode of transport but sometimes its a hassle as a pedestrian when sharing the footpath with bicycles going at high speed (and I bet bicyclists find pedestrians a hassle as well). Each time I see a bicycle heading in my direction I freeze up not knowing which direction I should go to avoid getting hit 😅
  • Japan is a bit more lax with places that allows smoking. I found that the times I went to a basement level cafe or restaurant that they allowed smoking. If you’re quite sensitive when inhaling smoke it’s probably best to avoid basement eatery
  • JR Pass is quite handy for breezing through train station ticket gates by showing them your pass but it comes with a downside as it doesn’t cover riding subway lines or buses in Kyoto. I tried to avoid using subway lines as I didn’t want my JR Pass to go to waste but it would’ve been much more convenient and quicker to take the subway to certain places. JR Pass also doesn’t cover their faster Shinkansen trains that skip a few stations so you’ll have to cough up more money if you want to arrive at your destination more quickly

Tips

  • There are a couple of money changers in the city that have not-so-great rates. I’d suggest changing money in your own country as you are more familiar with the area and prolly won’t get lost searching. Make sure to shop around each possible money changer to find the best rate
  • When taking buses in Kyoto and you don’t have an IC card (Suica or pasmo), you can pay for your ride with yen coins. The flat rate of riding buses in Kyoto is about 230 yen (one way) and you must pay the exact amount in coins before exiting the bus. It’s always hand to prepare the coins before getting on the bus and keep it in your pocket so you don’t hold up people when searching for the right amount of coins (there is also a machine that breaks your 1,000 yen bills into coins but does not accept higher than that). Also take note that you enter Kyoto buses at the back and exit at the front door.
  • Recently “Tax Free Shops” have popped up around Japan (or at least Tokyo). If you see a store that has this sign it means that if you purchase certain goods such as clothes, cosmetics, jewellery etc over 5,000 yen and you are a foreigner as a temporary visitor you can get the 8% consumer tax refunded but only as long as you show your passport and you apply for the tax exemption on the same day. So it’s best to carry your passport around if you plan to go on a shopping spree (but it kinda sucks when you’re at a tax free store and you buy something below 5,000 yen). Though there are a couple more rules to it so check out the official website
  • If you want to get Disneyland merch but don’t want to pay to go inside the park to go get them you can shop at the Bon Voyage store outside of Maihama Station
  • Also best to avoid rush hour when riding trains. Rush hours are 7:30~9:30 am and 5:00~8:00pm, though it really depends on what train line you’re taking
  • If you missed out on getting a data only SIM card at the airport you can always get one at Bic Camera. Their stores are almost everywhere you go so its hard to miss it
  • Something that also comes in handy is Handy, its a complementary smartphone that certain hotels have in every room. It has data, has the essential apps installed into it like google maps and also gives you offers/discounts at partnered places. It can also make local and international calls (international calls are limited to a small handful of countries). So if you don’t want to cough up money on a data only SIM card or the more expensive talk/text/data SIM card then it’s worth looking out for a hotel that offers a complementary Handy smartphone
  • If you’re on a short trip or visiting for a week or two, it’s prolly best to pack lightly or at least have a medium to small sized suitcase as hotels can be small and it is hard to lug around a large suitcase on escalators and in Shinkansen + trains (medium and small luggage can be stowed on the baggage shelf above your seat but large luggage is a little more tough to stow away in the Shinkansen–usually put it in the space behind the last row of seats… though it still troubles the people who have the last row seats)
  • If you don’t want to catch a cold during the trip it’s prolly best to take a lot of vitamin C, keep hydrated and don’t forget to pack (or buy) hand sanitiser. Sometimes the smallest cold can ruin a trip for you

That’s about it for my long winded diary post about my first trip in Japan. Hopefully I get another chance to go back but I don’t think that’ll be any time soon 😔 I’ll write another separate post on the goods I got during my trip though it’s nothing too spectacular.

Thank you very much for reading until the end!

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Playing otome games by moonlight, suffering by daylight.

7 thoughts on “My First Trip to Japan (A belated diary)

  1. It was super fun to read about your trip! I feel you on the 7-Elevens, the convenience stores in Japan have so much good food at the ready that if it didn’t feel like a waste of the trip I’d just keep eating there, heh. The castles are so beautiful…I don’t know if I’ll ever visit places beyond Tokyo in the future, but they look like pretty neat places to consider! First trips to Japan always feel a little haphazard even if you have things all planned out – it’s a lot easier to get your bearings when you’re going a second time round. Glad you had fun, though! Hope it wasn’t too hellish figuring out the train lines and feeling better from your cold.

    Also man that otome shelf of Switch games doesn’t have any of the original ones at all LOL. (Though they also seem to be quite expensive secondhand at the moment.) IIRC there’s a building somewhere at Shinjuku or Shibuya with load of games at the basement area but I can’t remember the name…after a while all the Lashibangs and such start blending together. Congratulations on the merchandise haul! 💪

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tokyo has its charm points but its always worth checking out old heritage sites as well, especially in Kyoto where certain places look like they’re from a previous century (because they are lol). Even if its a one day trip to Kyoto or anywhere else beyond Tokyo, it’s still worth the experience.

      Anyway I haven’t explored much of Shinjuku or Shibuya so hopefully next time I’ll check it out and maybe I’ll actually hit the gold mine of otome games lol.

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      1. That sounds like a plan…I did hear Kyoto was a bit of a tourist trap, though, so that makes me a little apprehensive. One day trips outside of where you stay seem a little stressful to plan! At least the Tokyo shrines are still pretty nice to check out. The photo details you took were super pretty…architects are amazing.

        If you check out every seemingly interesting-looking store it could probably take you a whole day, heh. There was a lot of them when I last went but maybe there’s less now. I also forgot to mention the jacked up prices for the Readyyy badges you posted holy shit I know my friend caved into buying a 4000 yen one but I didn’t know how extreme the prices got…12000 yen…damn…secondhand stores know they have power and are not afraid to stand their ground.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s true 😔 Though from my one day experience Kyoto didn’t seem like a hassle, then again I’m not too bothered by large tourists groups but I guess it’s nice to see certain places without the crowd.

        The normal readyyy badges that weren’t birthday themed seemed a little bit cheaper but not as cheap as other franchise’s badges. Plus Uta seems to be a high priced character considering his birthday badge is selling for 12,000 and his normal badge is selling for 4,000 yen. Yikes. Though tbh I was very close to buying a readyyy badge (one of rayglanz’s badge) because I doubt I’ll see readyyy merch being sold in second hand merch shops a year from now. They’ll prolly be rare collectors items 😂

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  2. That’s good to hear! We did go out of our way before to visit some more obscure places, so maybe it won’t be that bad when actually doing it. Kyoto definitely looks beautiful enough to warrant everyone gathering there!

    Readyyy will live on in the scalped merchandise 😂 The 4000 yen was for Genshin! La-Veritta and RayGlanZ seem to be pretty expensive hoo boy. A luxury few can afford…maybe you should’ve invested and sold it off for a profit, heh. I’m kind of impressed at how bold the prices are considering how the series…well…you know. Makes me feel bad for people who do collect them.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh man I feel you on a lot of your points in your overall thoughts. Especially about the metro lol in China and South Korea the government owns the metro so there’s onlh one line which means you only need one metro card but in Tokyo… Oh my god lol I’m glad I looked it up beforehand or else I would have been so confused when I flew into Haneda! 😂
    I got lucky with my trip, my friend I met up and stayed with like goes to Tokyo every other year so she showed me all the good places haha 😏 she also had a working rental SIM unlike me who bought an intl plan but the internet was shit and would disconnect constantly leaving me kinda fucked when she left a day and a half before I did to go to Kyoto lol whoops 😂
    Unfortunately I only had about five or so days there so I could only stay in Tokyo. I definitely want to go again though and seeing your post made me super nostalgic haha 🤪

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, my city has only one government owned train service so hearing about all these other train companies owning different lines in Tokyo alone made me go whut. You really need to do a lot of research before going to Japan 😂 If I never researched I think I would’ve had a more harder time trying to guide my family around (rly didn’t want to pay a tour group big bucks for something I could try and do).

      I was also thinking of getting a SIM for Japan back in my city before the trip but maybe I dodged a bullet there. Though the SIM I got in Japan for my trip in Kyoto seemed pretty stable in terms of internet 🤔
      Anyway I hope you get to go to Japan again some day! I get the feeling of longing each time I see my blog post too 😂 like “damn I wanna go again ASAP”

      Liked by 1 person

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