|This place has one of the best tasting ramen's I have ever had in my life!|
|One you try these Tsukumen Ramen Noodles and Broth, you'll see all the difference!|
One thing I cannot emphasize enough is how amazing and wonderful Japan's food is! It is my number one favorite cuisine because not only is it appealing to the sight and smell, but more so on the taste! It's light, flavorful, and organic in taste. And when you're in Japan, it's always a culinary feast! It motivated me enough to learn the Japanese language since I had been watching the Youtube channel, Cooking with Dog prior to actually visiting Japan. Let me tell you this: the food that I tasted in Japan was just probably some of the best that I have ever had! Ramen and sushi just doesn't taste the same anymore once you've tried Japan's most original! I've traveled as far as USA to explore and taste the wonders of this world. I still have more to go such as in Europe, but Japan was by far the best in terms of food and cultural appeal! I know I still have more countries to explore while I am young, but so far, Japan has been the winner of all the countries in Asia I have been to!
|Welcome to the shopping district near Ueno Park called Ameya-Yokocho!|
|Vanilla soft serve ice cream with dried strawberry bits mixed in! Yummy! =)|
Another place I went to while I was in Tokyo was Ueno Park. Since Aiko-onechan had work the whole week, it was just me, myself and I to explore the whole area of Tokyo! She literally taught me all the paths to go explore, and thankfully, Japan's public transportation system is one of the most convenient and organized ever! Once I arrived in Ueno, I asked the guards for directions in Japanese, which is すみません。上野公園は何処ですか？(Sumimasen. Ueno-koen wa doko desuka?)
It means "Excuse me, where is Ueno Park?" And the guards will all reply the whole basic right, left, up or down in Japanese plus hand gestures which is why I mostly understood what he said! I asked the tourist information center there for a map of the park as well. To say that, it's 地図をもってますか? 英語ください! ありがとうございます！(Chizu wo mottemasuka? Eigo kudasai! Arigatou gozaimasu!)
It means, "Do you have a map? English please! Thank you very much!" And off I went to explore and take photos of the beautiful place and beautiful people, particularly the super cute kids!
|Japanese babies are some of the cutest babies I have ever seen in my life! Kawaii!|
|I've always seen these arches on TV or online, but I'm glad I got to see it for real!|
While I was taking pictures like the kids, I got weird looks from their mamas. I just said to them that their kids are so cute in Japanese! They knew I was a foreigner when I said that I couldn't Japanese too well in Japanese! That was the longest conversation I had with native Japanese people and it felt good knowing that I could speak to them a little bit! I said to them: "可愛いですね！ごめんなさい! 日本語がよく話せません! 私はフィリピンの出身です。あなたの名前はなんですか?" (Kawaii desu ne! Gomennasai! Nihongo ga yoku hanasemasen! Watashi wa Firipin no syusshindesu. Anata no namae wa nan desuka?)
It means: "So cute! I am sorry! I cannot speak Japanese very well. I am from Philippines. What is your name?" And from that point on, I was not afraid to approach and talk to people in Japan, which is great because in this country, it is difficult to find English speaking people!
|Welcome to Meiji-Jingu! Look at that giant arch!|
|Yoyogi Park is a wonderful place to relax and have fun!|
So out I went to explore the entire park, take pictures and then go shopping at Ameya-Yokocho (アメヤ横丁) for clothes, chocolates and souvenirs! That shopping part is just accross Ueno Park! There are people of all races selling there from Nigeria, Taiwan, Brazil, Iran, you name it! And guess what? They all speak Japanese! It was interesting. After I got so much souvenirs, I decided to go to the Harajuku part and see the Meiji Shrine (明治神宮). My friend Ken-san from college called me up and told me to meet him there at around 5pm. So I went around exploring the place and all I need to say is just WOW! I have never been to such a different and beautiful place. And the best part was, I was traveling on my own! I got to tour around the other places such as Yoyogi Park (代々木公園) where people come to run, frisbee, relax, practice dance, etc. It feels good knowing that other tourists make an effort to speak the Japanese language around here. Much respect!
|Shibuya crossing! When I thought about Japan, this was the image I had in mind!|
|Order as much as you want here! Sushi here is fast and yummy!|
When I met up with Ken-san, we went to Shibuya crossing where I got a glimpse of the millions of people crossing that place! I was ecstatic to see how beautiful it was! It was the perfect blend of culture, history and technology in one piece! Ken-san brought me to this sushi restaurant called Genki Sushi (元気寿司) where we got to see quick, efficient, and super cute service with exceptional sushi. Your sushi order form is on the touch screen monitor in English or Japanese, and you get to order your sushi there. Once it's ready, it arrives like an automatic trolley. You take the sushi out and then press the button to bring back the automatic trolley to the service crew. Their sushi is pretty fresh and amazing too! After that, once your bill is added up, it just sends the bill to the cash register where you pay the amount. Talk about convenience of technology! I love it!
|Fatty tuna belly and tuna maguro for the win! With unlimited Matcha green tea!|
|Shibuya at night from Hikarie. You have see it in order to believe it!|
Ken-san and I went to see Shibuya crossing at night time from a higher point of view by going in the building called Hikarie Tower. There, we got to see the beautiful view of Shibuya crossing at night. Honestly, this is one of those places that is better seen in person! It's amazing to see the crowds and bright lights! And also, it's so clean and fresh there! People actually obey laws, rules and regulations and cross when it's supposed to be time to cross. It's refreshing to know because living in Philippines, you don't see that lot. It's all so shocking and exciting at the same time! After this place, Ken-san and I decided to go have dessert at this hidden place near the Shibuya train station. When you're in Japan, it's best to go explore the places because all the food here is amazing to look at and eat! Before heading home, Ken-san and I decided to get dessert. I was craving for matcha green tea so we looked around and found this hole in the wall dessert place near the Shibuya train station. It was so good since I am a Matcha green tea addict, and Ken-san also enjoyed his Matcha shaved ice dessert. We parted our ways after having a quick chat here.
|Matcha Anmitsu and Matcha green tea is heavenly!|
|Waited THREE HOURS in line just for sushi at Tsukiji Market!|
The next day, I woke up at around 4am to ride the train at 5am to Tsukiji station and meet up with my other friend, Sayuri (さゆり). It was her day off and she wanted to go do something different so we decided to go to Tsukiji Market to have sushi for breakfast. Little did we know that the line there was super long! We arrived at the line for Sushi Dai (寿司大) at 7am. Guess what? We got to sit down and eat at 10am! I have never waited in line for food that long in my life! But all that waiting was worth it as I got to try the best and freshest fish in the world. Let me tell you: 11 pieces of sushi for 4000 Japanese yen is well worth it because that is fatty tuna belly sushi right there! That fish is one of the most expensive fishes out there selling as much as $10,000 USD for one fish! Check out the marbling of that tuna in the picture below, and you'll see what I mean!
|Japan's most prized fish: Fatty Tuna Belly! The winner of all the sushi's I had!|
|Gundam robot in Odaiba for the win! I was so excited here!|
After we had sushi, Sayuri-san and I decided to get ice cream and then ride another train to see Akihabara first. After, we got cake and took a train next to Shinkansen going to Odaiba to see the monuments such as Gundam and the replica of the New York Statue of Liberty! This area was so futuristic! It was overwhelming honestly to see all that technology and beauty in one place! Really, it's just so animated and I think that's one of the many things that appeals to Japanese people and tourists! I am honestly more of a fan of technology and futuristic places rather than just traditional areas. Japan does it right for me. We went here because Sayuri wanted to go to a public bath to relax during her day off. And the fact that we were walking all over since morning time!
|Bowing down to the beautiful land of the rising sun!|
|Super yummy cake in a cup worth every yen because of its freshness!|
Then to relax, Sayuri and I went to Odaiba hot springs to do the public bath and then simple foot massage. This was a bit pricey at around 5000 yen for the entrance to the facilities and then around 3500 yen for the foot massage, but the good thing was that you can stay in the hot springs all day if you wanted to! I should warn you though that this public bath does not welcome people with tattoos so if you have one, it's best to find another hot spring in Tokyo. They have lockers here and people providing towels along with a vending machine that sells underwear! And also, be prepared to be completely naked in front of others! Hahaha! Male and female is separated in two rooms, however you are only allowed to have with you a super small towel inside the hot springs and sauna! It seems awkward for me at first, but the Japanese men and foreigners don't seem to mind being nude so I became comfortable with the fact that I was completely naked in front of them! Also, the massage I got (wrapped up in a kimono hehe!) felt so good that I actually fell asleep during the massage! Amazing really to have that feeling and then to have ramen noodles and dessert around the area. Now I know why Sayuri like this place. If you are looking for a place to relax, unwind, and have a relaxing time in Tokyo, this is the place!
|You'd never know that this was the appearance of the public bath house in Odaiba!|
|Sayuri now feels super relaxed after the public bath and massage!|
The next day, I went to visit one of my brother's high school friends named Masayuki Shoshi (所司政幸) whom I haven't seen in over 14 years! He wanted to catch up with me after all these years so he showed me around such as areas like Roppongi. We went shopping at stores like H&M and made me try all sorts of food from vegetarian udon noodles, Japanese KFC, to grilled bar food, and even raw horse meat! I went around Masa-san's district called Ojima (尾島) to see the chill lifestyle there as well as to try riding Masa-san's super difficult to ride bike! It was very challenging but so fun! We had nomihoudai
(飲み放題), which made me so drunk because I had beer (ビール), shochu (焼酎), and sake (酒)
in one night! Masa-san is a hard drinker, and since I was feeling so drunk, I stayed overnight at his place! Honestly, hanging out with that dude made me seem cooler than I really am! Glad to have spent time with him!
|Japanese kids and their super cute uniforms just like anime!|
|Bubbly Masa-san hasn't changed in years! Still the same lovable guy!|
|Raw horse meat sashimi anyone?! It tastes like beef and lamb in a weird way!|
The next day, after recovering from a hangover (LOL!), I decided to do some laundry when I got back to Aiko-onechan's place. After, I met up with Sayuri-san again to help her move some things into her new apartment unit. I got some mochi dango balls there and people were laughing at how much I got! When we got to Minamoto Park, I got to talk to her kind landlord in Japanese a bit, and kept Sayuri-san company until her date at night. She treated me to more mochi dango balls at the same stall I went to that morning! I met up with my dancer friends Kristina-san and Kouichiro-san at one of my favorite shopping stores called Don Quixote (ドン·キホーテ), which has affordable gifts, toys, souvenirs, and even dirty sex toys! Hahaha! I gave them my mochi dango, then we headed out to Izakaya (居酒屋) which also serves grilled bar food and drinks, which I drank even more sake (酒) again! Huhu! But honestly, I had a good time with my dancer friends. Kou-san was my dance teacher or Sensei
(先生) for popping back in Manila. I recommend you try Izakaya within the Ikebukuro (池袋駅) district because it's one of the most affordable places in Tokyo.
|This tower is so beautiful, but we only passed by while in the car!|
|Mix of old and new here in Minamoto Park!|
|Yummy bar food to compliment drinks in Izakaya!|
|My dancer friends Kristina and Kouichiro! Masters of popping and locking!|
For the rest of the week, I just went around some more such as exploring Akihabara, Shibuya and also the older districts of Japan with my cousin Aiko-onechan. She took me to wonderful sights and also a beautiful organic restaurant with awesome karaage, veggies and beef! The kobe beef in Japan is extremely pricey, but one taste, and you'll see all the difference! The food around Shinjuku is amazing so I recommend you go on your own and try out any place! After that, I went on a blind date with a random person for dessert! We met up at Saizeriya (also a good place to go eat!) and had dessert at Chikatetsu-Akatsuka area. The street area once you get off at Chikatetsu-Akatsuka station in Tokyo Metro Train has all kinds of places to eat. You'll notice that the place has a big sign that says Saizeriya. Try any of them! I had flourless chocolate cake in this district!
|Flourless chocolate cake during my blind date here!|
|The ever so famous Hachico dog in Shibuya! Top spot to meet in Japan!|
I went around Akihabara the next day to see all the wonderful animated stuff there. I recommend you walk around there in the afternoon to see the wonderful things you can buy for souvenirs. You'd be surprised at the costumes people wear there! It's really a fantasy place for those anime fanatics! I admit I had my days of being obsessed with anime even until today! When I met up with Aiko-onechan later that day, she took me to one of the more older places in Tokyo called Kawagoe-shi (川越市) where I got to see the more traditional side of Japan. Really, if you look into it, you'd still find those hole in the wall places like this in Tokyo, but you just need to look carefully. Other places like Kyoto, Nara, and Osaka have more of that, but that's another story. We went back to Shinjuku to get the Kobe beef that my family wanted, at an extremely premium price! Wow was that beef expensive! Then on my last night in Tokyo, I went to go clubbing and partying at Shinjuku-sanchome (新宿三丁目) and met many people even Filipinos there! I had an extremely good time drinking and dancing on the stage!
|The person in this cosplay maid costume is actually a man with a full beard and moustache!|
|Don Quijote, AKB48, anime, that's Japan for you!|
All in all, I have to say, my introduction to Japan was an enlightening one. I never thought that I could experience culture so different from mine and all others! Japan is in their own fantasy world full of color and imagination as well as originality. I was always surrounded by these traditional cultures where people were not as polite or as enthusiastic as the Japanese people I met were. I have my cousin Aiko-onechan to thank for all the support and accomodation she provided me there. Japan really is this amazing and diverse country that you must go to! Believe me, I've been to several places in Asia and even United States. Japan is none like any other! If you can, spend your vacation in Tokyo, Japan because you will be amazed at how much Japan has to offer in terms of technology, food, and culture! 日本国は大好きですね! ありがとうございました！気をつけて。また会いましょう！^_^
|Yes. Kobe beef is that EXPENSIVE in Japan! Only the best.|
|Walking around these traditional streets of Kawagoe feels so refreshing!|
|Kawaii plush toys! These are absolutely adorable I love it!|
|Aiko-onechan and her ice cream. Arigatou-gozaimashita!|
Tips: Please prior to going to Japan, know at least the very basic Japanese language! It is important to know that though the people at the airports speak English, not all of the locals in the city do! So it is for your own benefit to know the very basic Japanese phrases to get by during your time there. Study the basics and also if you have an iPhone or Android phone, there are Japanese phrasebook apps available for free online. Another useful thing is to check out phrasebooks online, such as the popular Wiki phrasebook for Japanese. To see this phrasebook to get started, click on the link below. Arigatou-gozaimasu and good luck! =)
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