It’s no secret that I have enjoyed both sabbatical trips I made to Japan. Here’s some good links.
Here’s a good link on how to use Suica cards to get to/from the airport and some general guides. Great if you have 12-48 hours in Tokyo and want to see as much as you can in a short time.
Tokyo’s Piss Alley
Every time I go to Tokyo, I end up eating at Piss Alley as often as I can get over there.
While there, I always try to drop into this place that serves amazing eel skewers. The old man appears to have more or less retired, but his daughter is there now running the show and was great to talk with.
Owl Cafe – I went to Owl Village and had a great time. They seemed to genuinely want to take care of their Owls and treat them well. Still, I can’t say as I would ever do it again.
While in Kyoto, don’t get scammed by overpriced tourist kimono places. Also, it’s very hard for men to find yukata and kimono. Turns out, however, there are some amazing resources. Here’s some links that discuss places to pick up quality and used kimono for men and women.
Here’s some of the suggested places:
- Nishijin Textile Center – great place to pick up quality men/women’s kimono at very reasonable prices. Men selection was a little limited.
- Takashimaya – upper-end department stores like Takashimaya have dedicated kimono floors (It’s the fifth floor in the Kyoto Takashimaya)
- Shinkyogoku Street and Teramachi Street
- Chicago – 1st floor is vintage clothes, 2nd floor is Kimono
- Ofuku- Kimono World
- Yukata Shop Sakura
- Travelocity discussion – https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g298564-i2712-k5742495-Kimono_and_yukata_shopping_in_Kyoto-Kyoto_Kyoto_Prefecture_Kinki.html
Hakone is known for its hotsprings and as a favorite getaway for Tokyo city residents. It’s a bit of a resort trap in my opinion, but worth the trip as it’s good quality and affordable prices. Bonus points for riding the crazy boats across Lake Ashi, seeing an Edo period taxation and border control station, and taking the Hakone Ropeway cablecar over an actively smoking volcanic Mt Hakone.
Finally, there’s the hot springs themselves. Mingled among the hundreds of hotels, ryokans, and resort spots, there are some amazing experiences.
How about bathing green tea, sake, in a wine bath? Yeah – I did those, and they’re 100% real:
Or the Doctor Fish which are tiny fish nibble at your toes:
Osaka and Yakiniku/Wagyu and Kobe Beef
Here’s a really good guide on how to cook/eat and enjoy Wagyu and Kobe beef. Trust me, there is a difference between good Wagyu/Kobe beef and the low grade stuff most Americans get. Do not hit any of the tourist-trap looking places. Do some research and get a recommendation for high quality places that locals go to. If you’re not paying around $100 for a meal of about a 6-12 pieces, you’re probably not getting the real stuff. Once you do, you’ll never have realized how beef can taste. Meat that literally melts on your mouth is a real thing and worth having once in your life.
If you ever watch GameCenter CX, then you are familiar with Arino’s attempts to beat old video games. One of the things he uses are cooling pads. Last time I was in Japan, I bought some. Here’s what they are.
If you are further south, check out the Memorial Cathedral for World Peace at Hiroshima. I went to mass here and prayed that we never see nuclear weapons used in war again.