Japan 2015

Shinjuku Gyoen

Here’s a fairly business-like blog post about our trip to Japan this past April. I’ve included our photos, itinerary and advice we were given prior to embarking and some advice from our trip. Enjoy!


Here’s a link to all the photos I took on the trip. Connie took many more and with better quality.

Arashiyama Bridge


Here’s our planned and actual itineraries.


Time Thursday – April 9 Friday – April 10 Saturday – April 11 Sunday – April 12 Monday – April 13 Tuesday – April 14 Wednesday – April 15 Thursday – April 16 Friday – April 17 Saturday – April 18 Sunday – April 19
City   Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo/Kyoto Kyoto Kyoto Kyoto Kyoto/Tokyo Tokyo Tokyo/Atlanta
Lodging   AirBnB AirBnB AirBnB Hana Hostel Hana Hostel Ritz-Carlton Ritz-Carlton Tama Ryokan Tama Ryokan  
6:00 AM
7:00 AM Dynamic Tour
8:00 AM 7:45am-Tour Pick up Bike Tour
9:00 AM Shinjuku Gyoen Starts @ 9am Arashiyama
10:00 AM @ Shinjuku Station Shinjuku Gyoen Bamboo Forest Nara Walking Tour
11:00 AM Monkey Park Drop luggage @ Ritz
12:00 PM Depart ATL –> ICN Harajuku w/ Naoko Lunch: Fu-Un-Ji
1:00 PM Shrines
2:00 PM Rabbit Cafe Train to Kyoto Train to Tokyo
3:00 PM
4:00 PM Arrive ICN Depart NRT –> DTW
5:00 PM Depart ICN –> NRT Ends 5:10pm Check In @ Hana
6:00 PM Bike Ride
7:00 PM
8:00 PM Arrive NRT Depart DTW –> ATL
9:00 PM Exchange JR Pass
10:00 PM Train to Tokyo Party Arrive ATL
11:00 PM
12:00 AM


Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday – rainy 59 Thursday – sunny 72 Friday – sunny 62 / windy 72 Saturday – sunny 70 Sunday – sunny 73
Gontran Cherrier – French bakery Coffee at Cafe Bore McDonald’s breakfast Donuts from Starbucks McDonalds Pastries from train station Anything left in Kyoto we want to see (check bags at the Ritz) Starbucks breakfast McDonald’s breakfast
McDonalds (pork sandwiches) Japanese BBQ at Chinzanso Ramen for lunch at Fu-un-ji Lunch at Honke Sakuranochi Kotokiki Chaya Fushimi Inari-Taishi Nara classic tour – 10 am Nishiki market – food stalls Ueno Zoo Airport McDonald’s Lunch
Dumpling place with Naoko Street food in Asakusa Pringles and ice cream  Bamboo Forest Macaroons Lunch in Nara – Katu Donburi Travel back to Tokyo Tokyo National Museum (next to zoo)
Bubble tea Ramen at Ginza ABC Ramen  Left JR Pass on train added 5 hours to trip from Tokyo to Kyoto  Monkey Park Check into Ritz A few more things Check into hostel
Genki Sushi (on the track) Dinner at the Ritz Train back to Kyoto Dinner in Tokyo – pho
 Engagement! Gion in the evening –
Japanese BBQ at Chifaja with Chi
Relax at the Ritz


Below lists out where we stayed through out our in trip in order with a quick review of each.

Place Address City Comment Link
AirBnB Yoyogi 2-7-6 602 Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 151-0053 Japan Shinjuku Central location. Provides pocket WiFi which is clutch. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4259665
Hana Hostel Hybrid Inn Kyoto Hana Hostel, Japan, 〒600-8149 京都府京都市下京区 不明門通七条上る粉川町 229 Kyoto Clean, friendly. Odd smell but not enough to discourage. http://kyoto.hanahostel.com/
Ritz-Carlton Hokodencho – Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, Kyoto Prefecture 604-0902 Kyoto AMAZING. http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/Kyoto/Default.htm
Tama Ryokan 1-25-33 Takadanobaba Shinjuku Tokyo 169-0075 Shinjuku Meh. Wouldn’t stay here again. http://www.tamaryokan.com/


I’ve included an expenses table excluding cash/food.

City Type Location Price USD Status Total: $1,251.93
Tokyo Lodging AirBnB $314 $314.00 Paid
Kyoto Lodging Hana Hostel 13600 JPY $114.71 Paid
Kyoto Lodging Ritz Carlton $0 $0.00 Paid
Tokyo Lodging Tama Ryokan 16000 JPY $133.00 Paid
Tokyo Tour Dynamic Tokyo 24000 JPY $200.22 Paid
Japan Train JR Pass $490 Paid


We got engaged at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto!


I received some really good advice from friends who had have previously visited Japan. I’ve copied/pasted it below.


There’s obviously lots to do in Japan, but I think the most important thing I need to know before I go ahead and suggest a bunch of stuff is… your budget. In 10 days, you can do a bunch of stuff, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be just in Tokyo too. Japan has a “Japan Rail Pass” for foreigners (around $260 for 7 days) and that allows you to ride on any train, including bullet trains, anywhere in Japan (just not the Nozomi super express). Using that, you can visit other cities like Kyoto and Osaka.

In Tokyo, I’d suggest visiting Asakusa for souvenirs, Tsukiji fish market if you like seafood, Shibuya/Harajuku/Omotesando (all close to each other) if you wanna shop for fashion, Akihabara for all things electronic, Tokyo Sky Tree if you want a view from the tallest tower in Japan, and around Shinjuku Station for a bunch of department stores for high-end Japanese fashion and electronics.

In Kyoto, the main focus is temples and meiji-era Japan’s atmosphere. There, I’d suggest Kinkakuji (Golden temple), Kiyomizu-dera, Gion-machi (traditional Japanese style streets). Food in Kyoto is fresh and good, so look up places and I’m sure you’ll find something good.

In Osaka, there’s Osaka Castle, Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki (you’ll have to look those up if you want to know what type of food they are), and Shinsaibashi (main shopping area there.

One of the biggest advice I could give is to go stay in Hostels rather than hotels if you are looking to have more of a cultural exchange. Hostels still have 2 person private rooms, and usually have a lounge area where people go and hang out after dinner. In Osaka, Hana Hostel was amazing and I got to talk to so many locals there. In Kyoto, J-hoppers was a similar story.

Fushimi Inari Taisha

I guess one last thing is that if you want to be able to travel around easily, you may want to rent a portable wifi hotspot. You can find good cheap services online, with pick-up available at the airport when you arrive. Just make sure if it’s delivery-based rather than counter-service, the airport post office has a closing time. Using the hotspot, navigating on the literally hundreds of train services in Tokyo will be easy. You just have to type in your starting and ending train station in Google maps and it’ll tell you the exact route (with in-between stops as well). You can also set when to leave or when to arrive by, and just know that trains there are NEVER late haha.
Let me know if you have any other questions! I’ll be happy to help out.

P.S. April may be during cherry blossom season, so that would be awesome!

Ueno Zoo




SO, this is what I can remember from my trip to Kyoto. Plenty more to do that I’m sure you can look up as well, but I just did what my parents/aunt/cousin wanted to do and enjoyed myself plenty. I’ve also been to Tokyo a few years back but cannot remember enough details to give you a good idea of where to go/do, but Tokyo should be easy enough to plan yourself as well 🙂

Sights to see:

  • Arashiyama (bamboo forest)
  • Tenryu-ji Temple
    • registered as a World Heritage Site
    • Both this temple and Arashiyama are located in the same small town in Kyoto; the main road along both is filled with little shops you can walk through/eat at.
    • EATS: There’s a tofu stand right outside the temple (looks like an outdoor vendor) where you can try different types of tofu (refer to @donutsandbacon for pic of tofu) – fried, silky, oily. I also got tofu donuts which were interesting and good. In addition, there’s a well-known marinated eel over rice restaurant on the same road (I don’t know the name. it’s hard to find because the sign isn’t very big and it doesn’t look like a restaurant from the outside). Ask around for it and you shall be directed there!
  • Kyoto Castle – good to walk around and get a feel of the Japanese castle; I thought it was breathtaking and was intrigued by a how the moats/structures were built on huge boulders.

Places to go:

  • Gion: it’s a cultural town apparently known as the Geisha district. I didn’t really see it there but perhaps we weren’t really looking. I think you can make this a day trip with the following activities:
  • Kiyomizudera Temple: it’s up on a hill but to get up there, you go up this old street filled with souvenir shops, Japanese delicacies/street food, matcha green tea softserve, restaurants, etc. In addition, there is a store on that street where you can pay approx. $45 USD to dress in traditional Japanese clothes (refer to @jilliancheng IG for reference). Pretty cool experience to dress up, they let you walk around in the attire all day. Good things to eat, reasonable prices for souvenirs/packaged Japanese snacks you want to bring home, etc.
  • Dress up in Japanese clothes
  • Walk around downtown Gion in the late afternoon/evening: they have a little ‘night market’ type deal with again, small shops with interesting trinkets/souvenirs (realistic looking sushi keychains), soft serve, restaurants and produce. If possible, ask for directions to the market/shopping area as I don’t know the name of it.

Things you must eat:

  • Real sushi
    • Try uni, try tako, try everything raw and delicious!!! Unless you don’t like raw fish then you’re SOL
  • Ramen
    • Tokyo has better ramen than Kyoto so I’d go to Tokyo for it. I mean, pretty much any ramen place is good, we usually just walk into one and never disappointed
  • Matcha green tea soft serve
  • Strawberries
    • I’ve only gone to Japan in the winter which is their strawberry season; they’re the sweetest strawberries I’ve ever eaten. Not sure how good they’ll be in April
  • Cantaloupe
    • also the best cantaloupe I’ve ever had but again, not sure about the seasonal fruit in April
  • Japanese-style meal.
    • Don’t remember what it’s called but you should do a breakfast or a dinner Japanese style where you kneel on tatami mats and they serve you several small courses.
  • Corn soup from a vending machine
    • for the experience. Comes out hot and tastes delicious…if you like corn soup
  • Japanese BBQ
    • Went to this place in Kyoto right down the street from the Kyoto train station. I’ve attached a pic of the chopstick with its Japanese name because I couldn’t find its English name anywhere.
      o Really good and not really as expensive as I thought it’d be. The beef is unbelievably high quality, marbled meat.
      o Try the raw beef if you’re feeling courageous, if not, the beef sushi is good and all the bbq meats are good.
  • Lawson
    • It’s a convenience store but you should check it out and get some cheap eats/drinks just for funzies to try out (packaged cronut wasn’t stellar)
  • CRAB
  • Anything and everythingMatcha flavored
    • I honestly love matcha green tea but it’s not for everyone.
  • Takoyaki
    • Octopus balls. It’s like, octopus pieces in some bouncy batter with some veggies.
  • Unagi don
    • The marinated/barbecued eel over rice thing I mentioned at the top.


Our Advice:

  • Get a mobile hotspot/pocket WiFi. There is barely any free internet in Japan. McDonald’s doesn’t provide free internet. Only Starbucks does (that we found).
  • McDonald’s didn’t accept credit card. The overwhelming majority of restaurants do not accept credit card. Bring cash.
  • Bring lots of cash. We brought 44000 JPY for two, around $400. It wasn’t enough so we ended up getting cash at 711 at their ATM with our US debit card. Cash is King/Emperor!
  • Taking a tour is worth it. The Dynamic Tokyo tour took us to all the major spots. We wouldn’t have visited half of them without going on the tour. Worth the money.
  • Eat lots!
  • JR Pass is essential to making your trip worth it. If you plan on going to Kyoto then there’s no reason not to get the JR Pass.
  • Have fun!

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