Visiting a Wonderland of Food, Culture and Gardens
As many of you know, Teddy and I have twin girls that just turned 2 years old in February. Here they are all dressed up for Easter, and meeting a bunny. Laurel is not so sure about touching the bunny.
They are so fun and sweet and snuggly, but man, they are exhausting! We really haven't taken a trip away from them since they were born, and we also haven't gone on a big vacation since our honeymoon! We had a nice window of time this spring, so we decided to go for it! I've been interested in visiting Japan for a while, and for some unknown reason, my husband went along with it! (I know the reason, it's because he's awesome.) Japan has the most rich culture and delicious food. Tokyo and Kyoto (the cities we visited) in particular are incredibly clean, organized and safe cities. For those of you that have never considered visiting Japan, I would encourage you to think about it! It is beautiful, and quite easy to navigate. The people are extremely polite and very helpful and kind to tourists. I learned a bit of Japanese before going, which was helpful, but there are English signs and menus all over the place. The food can likely be as adventurous as you'd like, but it helps to know how to use chopsticks. The shopping is like nothing I've ever seen, the Japanese cultural experiences are super fun and parks and gardens are all over the place. There's something for everyone! For those of you that have been wanting to go, JUST DO IT. You won't regret it.
Now, I wanted to share about our trip, just in case our itinerary could help some of you. Plus, it tells you a lot about the offerings of Tokyo and Kyoto! We went at the end of March, which was the perfect time to go. HEADS UP: this will be a verrrry long post. I'll put a condensed version at the very bottom. The cherry blossoms were blooming a little bit earlier than usual, so we saw them right at their peak.
FYI, 100 Yen is about $1. So if something costs 3000 Yen, you can basically tell yourself it's about $30. It's $28.05 exactly, but a little mental rounding for your sanity never hurt anybody. We brought a little bit of cash with us, but I don't think it was necessary at all. The ATMs in Japan are easily accessible and our debit card's withdrawal fee was a lot better than the exchange rate in America. In other words, it's cheaper to get cash once you're already in Japan. Some places take credit cards, so we did that when we could. If anyone asks you whether you'd like to pay in Yen or Dollars, say Yen. That way, they won't charge to extra to cover the exchange rate.
We took the subway A LOT. We did get JR passes for 1 week to use to and from Kyoto and for our day trips from Kyoto. But the subway was extremely useful in Tokyo, and always on time. We used a Pasmo card the whole time. You buy it once, and you can add money whenever you need to. DON'T LOSE IT! There are also taxis all over the place, just in case your knee gives out like mine did for a couple of days. It is very helpful to have an address in Japanese to show the driver. Many of them do not speak English.
"Irasshaimase" = Welcome or come on in. Most shop owners and restaurants will shout this when you enter.
"Arigatou Gozaimasu" = Thank you very much
"Kudasai" = Please
"Sumimasen" = Excuse me
"Toire wa doko desu ka" = Where is the bathroom?
"Mizu wa motto, kudasai" = More water please
-I highly highly highly recommend using My Maps from Google. You can add different pins for each item on your itinerary, and color code them or label them, or add notes, or use different layers for each leg of your trip. It places them all nicely all over the map, and it gives you an easy way to plan your days efficiently so you're not running back and forth and wasting money and time on unnecessary cross-city travel. This was especially helpful for this trip because Tokyo is so humongous. It was really simple to just stay in one neighborhood for the first part of the day and another neighborhood closer to our hotel in the evening. I'm definitely a daytime person, and was much more willing to travel farther in the morning than in the evening, when all I wanted was sleep.
-Get reservations for as many places as you can. And get them through your hotel concierge. Japan has lots of people living in it, and they all want to eat at the same restaurants you do. Save yourself some heartache and get those rezzys.
Day 1 // Monday
We arrived into Narita airport on a Monday at 3pm. We took a train from the airport all the way to Shinjuku station, and walked a short way to our hotel. We used up quite a bit of credit card points for our airfare and hotels, so we got to stay in some pretty amazing places. In Tokyo, we stayed at the Park Hyatt hotel in Shinjuku. If you like Japan at all, you've probably seen Lost in Translation with Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson. Most of that movie featured the Park Hyatt, and I think that's pretty neat. Our view was amazing. We could see Yoyogi park from our room and the Olympic stadium going up from our breakfast table.
When we got to our hotel, it was pretty perfect timing to get checked in, go grab dinner, then come back and fall straight asleep. It made our jetlag so much more manageable. We walked to Shinjuku for dinner at a place called Numazuko, which was a conveyor belt sushi place, and it was deeeelish. Highly recommend it. Most everything is Nigiri, but you can order rolls or particular favorites from the chef behind the counter. Our favorites were the eel, yellowtail, cooked salmon with pickled radish and marinated tuna. We started walking back to our hotel, but got sidetracked and went into a Don Quixote, which is like 10 stories of craziness with everything you could imagine. The first floor we went into was a pachinko parlor, which was LOUD but really fun to see in person. I bought some pretty adorable toys for Laurel and Rebecca, but tried not to go too crazy on the souvenir buying on the very first night!
Day 2 // Tuesday
This was our first full day in Tokyo. We had breakfast at the hotel and headed straight for Asakusa Shrine and Senso-ji Temple.
We then walked along Nakamise-dori, which is a cute little street with lots of tiny shops.
Once you're finished walking around this area, there's a park across the river called Sumida Park. You can spend as much time there as you like. It's nice because you can see the Skytree from the park. If you really want to, you can go up in the Skytree and have a pretty neat view of the city, but it costs something like $20 a person. It was rainy and cold when we were there, so we didn't spend much time at the park. Instead, we walked back to the area we had been in earlier that morning. Our lunch spot was over there, but we were still too early so we went to an owl cafe and said hello to some owls, a capybara and plenty of other critters! It was so quirky and a fun way to waste time.
Lunch was a tiny little Ramen spot called Ramentei Asakusa. At most of the ramen places in Japan, you pick what you want on a vending machine either outside or just inside, and it prints out a little ticket for you to give to the people inside. The ramen was incredible. The noodles were freshly made, the broth was rich and it was the most satisfying, warming meal for such a gloomy day. Plus, I think it was something like $5 per person.
After lunch, we headed to Ueno Park (again, would have been better NOT in the rain, but still fun to see.) Then, we explored a bookstore called Tsutaya Bookstore over by the park, and that was fun to see. But I just love bookstores, so obviously that is optional. We had a quick siesta at the hotel after that, because we were powering through our activities due to the rain. We made our way back out for a snack at Harajuku Gyoza-ro which was really tasty. We had already walked so much, that a second dinner would not have been a problem for me, but we tried to keep it light and just shared an order of steamed dumplings and an order of fried.
After snacktime, we explored Omote-sando which remindeed me a lot of Fifth Avenue in New York. Lots of beautiful stores. But because we are thrifty, and get distracted by cute things, we spent time in a store called Kiddyland instead. It had about 1 million toys, and I really enjoyed seeing it all. In the classic Japanese way, most everything had an adorable face. It seems to me that they can make anything look cute! Again, I really had to restrain myself from buying everything in sight. We went to see Shibuya Crossing which is the most busy intersection in the world. It was really a sight to see. Hundreds upon hundreds of people poured into the street with every rotation. It was also pretty fun to walk across and feel the energy of the city. Sometimes in the quieter moments as you travel, it's hard to remember that this tiny little part of the world has something like 37 million people in it. We went to another sushi place in our neck of the woods for dinner, but I probably wouldn't recommend this one. We headed back home after that, but Shinjuku is such a lively part of town, especially at night. There are tons of fun spots to check out.
Day 3 // Wednesday
On Wednesday, we trekked all the way out to Minato to go to the Ghibli museum. Studio Ghibli is an animation studio that produced lots of fun movies like Spirited Away, Ponyo and The Cat Returns. We LOVE those movies in our house. My girlies have not watched many movies in their lifetime, but the ones they have watched - and love - are Ponyo and My Neighbor Totoro. The museum is really fun, and it houses many amazing concept art sketches and paintings from the movies. It is breath-taking. Hayao Miyazaki is the most talented man. I want those skills.
We also had the opportunity to watch a short film called Boro in their cinema, which was adorable. We didn't make it into the original group, but they tell you that if you are okay with sitting on the floor, you can wait for everyone else to sit down. It's not really sitting on the floor, though. They let you sit on the stairs and on a couple of benches. Totally worth it.
You have to buy the tickets for the museum ahead of time, and they sell out really fast! The tickets go on sale on the 10th of the month before at 10am Tokyo time. For example, our tickets for March went on sale on February 10th. We had an alarm set so we would be ready to buy right when it hit 10 o'clock! Even though we did that, lots of the time slots already sold out. So be warned! We went with the 10am time slot, which ended up being perfect. You can grab lunch at the little cafe or you can find lunch in Minato.
We also planned to explore Inokashira Park after lunch. HOWEVER, it was snowing and turning into slush and my shoes were absorbing all the water and getting my socks all wet and we were freezing and miserable and I didn't want to spend any more time outside. So we decided to just head back. I was pretty sad because Inokashira park is the one with the swan boats. This picture is from Bri Emery's (designlovefest) trip to Japan. (Just so you know what I'm talking about)
For dinner, we splurged on one of my favorite meals of all time, and definitely my favorite meal of the trip. Kyubey Sushi in the Keio Plaza Hotel. If you are willing to splurge on anything, please splurge on this. It's in a traditional style tatami mat room, so you take off your shoes and sit at the counter on little cushions. Your legs have a place to go, so you're not sitting on them the whole time, don't worry. We had the Omakase (sampler) Nigiri menu, which included lots of tasty items and some sake. We were very happy. The chef was very kind and told us everything we were eating, using pictures and a little bit of English.
You have to be willing to try new things, but it is all delicious. Things I would never want to try in a million years! But they were all really tasty. We ate sardine, squid, fatty tuna, lean tuna, seared tuna, very fresh shrimp which he introduced us to and then murdered in front of us haha, the shrimp head and tail which got cooked until crispy like little chips, amberjack, a sushi roll with tuna, cucumber, Japanese squash, miso soup with clams, “shellfish” which I think was a clam, sea urchin (really liquidy consistency which we liked better than the cream cheese texture), flounder, fish bone chips (??? Sounds so gross, looks so gross, but tastes good), seaweed chips, a radish sandwich with spearmint and sesame seeds, eel, and sweet egg (aka Tamago) sushi! The standout favorites were the sardine, seared tuna and the sea urchin! Our least favorite was probably the roll because it was the last thing and we were super full already. But we really enjoyed everything! I loved this place.
Day 4 // Thursday
On Thursday, we headed to Harajuku Station (Take the Omotesando Exit) and make your way to Jingu Bashi, which is a famous bridge where cosplayers gather on weekends. I think it would be really fun to see that, if you have a chance to go there on the weekend. We went past the bridge to walk through Yoyogi Park and see the Meiji Jingu Shrine. Yoyogi Park was so lush and quiet and beautiful. We have a few pictures of it, but it's impossible to capture how peaceful the park was, or how crisp and fresh the air felt.
After that, we walked through Harajuku, some of which felt like Portland or San Fran or something. Lots of cute and quirky shops and cafes. We stopped at a place called the Deck Coffee and Pie and Teddy had a cappuccino and I had a cherry and cream cheese hand pie! Both delish. It was nice to get inside and get warm for a minute. Depending on the time, you could go get lunch at a ramen place called Afuri which we really liked, or you could explore Takeshita-dori first and then come back. About an hour is a good amount of time for seeing Takeshita street. Afuri had your traditional kinds of ramen (Shoyu = soy sauce and Shio = salt), but they also offer Yuzu ramen. Yuzu is a Japanese citrus that is similar to an orange. It's pretty unique and tasty.
Takeshita-dori is a big, long street that is like a high school girl paradise. They have lots of cute little accessory shops, clothing stores, creperies, cat cafes and cotton candy shops.
After lunch, we took the subway to Shinjuku station (which is massive) and got above ground as soon as possible. We then did a little shopping in the Lumine and Isetan department stores. I bought a beautiful gray-blue duster that will be featured heavily in my photos because it was the perfect layer for the weather during the rest of our trip.
Before dinner, we went and had a drink in the New York Bar in our hotel and watched the sun set over Tokyo. Alternatively, you could watch the sun set from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. which is also in Shinjuku. We had dinner with friends at a Teppanyaki place called Seisen-tei at The New Otani Hotel, which was in a building in the beautiful Japanese garden.
Day 5 // Friday
On Friday, we made our way to Kyoto on the 8am JR Shinkansen (bullet train) using our JR passes. You have to buy your tickets beforehand to get a reserved seat. It's a long trip, like 3 hours, so I would definitely do that if I were you. You can buy tickets for JR trains at the train station. Once we got to Kyoto, we used the subway to get closer to our hotel. We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Kyoto (a gift from my Dad, THANK YOU DAD) and it was breathtaking. The hotel is absolutely gorgeous, and the hospitality is unparalleled. It's also right on the canal, so the views are gorgeous.
We ended up walking along canals most of the time in Kyoto. It felt so peaceful, with the breeze blowing off of the water and through the trees. This city already felt much more leisurely than Tokyo. It felt slow paced and quiet, despite the fact that it's also a large city.
After checking in to our hotel, we had a 12:00 lunch at the Sodoh Higashiyama which was Italian food with a Japanese flair. The wooden building it was in was very traditional. We sat next to handmade glass windows, looking out onto a little Japanese garden. I really loved the atmosphere of this restaurant. The food was delicious too. They had three set menus with a couple of options to choose from in each course and it was very affordable. My starter salad was beautiful, with plenty of fresh vegetables. I don't know what Japanese farmers do to their produce, but literally everything was a delight. The in season strawberries in particular were out of this world. I also had the chicken dish and a strawberry tart. All delicious.
From lunch, we walked to Kiyomizu-dera Temple along a cute little street with lots of fun shops. Just about every other girl on this street and up at the temple was wearing a kimono. It must be a fun thing to do with friends because they were all laughing and taking pictures. Sounds like fun to me! We took our time exploring the lovely Kiyomizu-dera Buddhist temple and accompanying buildings. There was a pretty incredible view of the city from up there, as well.
Walking back to our hotel, we accidentally stumbled across an area of town called Gion, which is where the Geishas live. The cherry blossoms were starting to really bloom over here, so we just embraced it and took lots of pictures.
For dinner, we went to a Geisha show at Gion Hatanaka which is a traditional ryokan right next door to the Yasaka Shrine. Because we got to dinner early, (because we are early to everything) we were able to quickly check out the Yasaka shrine and then walk back across the street to dinner. I have to be totally honest, I did not enjoy the food. The show was fun. The two maikos and one geiko played the shamisen and danced and sang songs. Afterwards, we had an opportunity to talk to the Maikos (Geishas in training) and Geikos (Geishas) for a brief time, which was really interesting. They came around with a translator and we got to ask them questions. That was pretty fun, because under all that makeup, they are just normal girls! I asked the Maiko what she does if her face gets itchy and she laughed a little and just kinda patted her face. Apparently that works, but I'm not so sure. Geishas that have finished their training get to wear a wig, but Maikos have to have their hair done up in crazy hairstyles and they have to sleep on a special wooden pillow to protect it. We asked her about that and she said she is really excited to finish her training because of it! We then we played a couple of games with them, and that really got everyone to loosen up and have fun together. All in all, we enjoyed this night a lot, but I didn't eat much haha.
Day 6 // Saturday
On Saturday, we walked to the Philosopher's path, which is in a really lush and peaceful part of town. Plus, it was nice and cool outside and not very crowded. It was lovely. Lots of volunteers were out pulling weeds and tending to the pathway.
We took the path to see Honen-in Temple which was my favorite temple we saw because it's so small, peaceful and not as touristy. Plus there's moss everywhere and it's really beautiful. Highly recommend this short detour.
We also went to Ginkaku-ji aka the "Silver Pavilion" and that whole area was really beautiful as well. It was a lovely morning. There's just something about the crisp air in the Japanese forest that smells fresh and cool. I really don't know how to describe it, but I wish I were there right now.
Lunch was an Udon place called Okakita and it was the first time we'd had to wait in line, but we only waited for a few minutes. The noodles were really tasty and obviously freshly handmade. They just taste better. We walked back to our hotel along the canal, which is dreamy, skipped over the rocks to our hotel and had a siesta before heading back out to get coffee at % Arabica Kyoto (which has crazy delicious coffee) and to check out Nishiki Market. Nishiki Market was a covered shopping area with tons of shops and food stalls. It was busy, but still really fun to check out. We were originally planning to have dinner at Ramen Sen No Kaze but instead grabbed some pizza at Goichi Pizza because we were in the mood for something other than Japanese food. Goichi pizza had really good Neapolitan pizzas, but if you go to Ramen Sen No Kaze, let me know how it was!!
Day 7 // Sunday
On Sunday, we grabbed breakfast at a place called Smart Coffee. We had to wait a bit, but it was worth it. We had french toast and coffee and were such happy campers. We took a train to Fushimi Inari for some hiking. It's the Shrine with hundreds and hundreds of orange Torii gates winding up the mountain. Pretty crazy. It's much more crowded at the bottom, so push on through the throngs of people, and make it up the mountain for some good exercise! Unfortunately, my knee had started hurting on Saturday from all the walking, so we could only go about 1/3 mile up. It's quite a hike.
We made an impromptu decision to eat lunch at Tiger Gyoza (delish) and were extremely happy with it. We picked it without knowing anything about it, and it was one of the best lunch spots in Kyoto. Like 59th best of 12,800 something restaurants in Kyoto. Who knew??
We explored Gion some more later in the afternoon, as well as Maruyama Park and Ishibe Alley. Maruyama Park was a really fun little park with lots of picnickers there to see the cherry blossoms. There was a MASSIVE cherry blossom tree in the middle that was just amazing to see.
Ishibe Alley is a literal alley that is being preserved in it's original state, so it feels like you are walking back in time. Everyone is very quiet, out of respect, so it feels very surreal. Such a cool experience!
Dinner was at a Michelin Star restaurant called Sushi Kappo Nakaichi. It was really tasty, but still didn't beat Kyubey, in my opinion. It was a little more challenging, food-wise, and the Kyoto style sushi is a little too funky for me.
Day 8 // Monday
We grabbed breakfast at a French boulangerie called Shinshindo, Sanjo Kawaramachi and they had a sit down breakfast, as well as a pastry and breads area which you can take out. We did BOTH haha. We got some bread and a couple of macarons for snacks, and had some breakfast in the cafe. It was so satisfying and a lovely way to start the day. We trained to Arashiyama and saw all the bamboo groves. It was a truly amazing sight. It's easy to quickly walk through without being impressed, but I highly recommend that you stand still for a bit and try to drown out the crowds and really see it.
At the crossroads, there is a little Japanese garden and teahouse that you can pay extra for. We usually don't do that sort of thing, but decided to go for it. We don't regret it one bit. It was such a well-curated and tended garden, and much larger than I expected. It made me want to come home and plant only Japanese native plants, which would obviously be a mistake, but it was still inspiring! Plus, we felt like we were the only ones there and they had these really neat stone paths that my hubs really liked.
After the bamboo groves, we walked through town past some cute shops and crossed over the big river to get to the Iwatayama Monkey Park. We bought our tickets and hiked, like really hiked up the big mountain to see the monkeys! It was so fun and I fed one a banana. There were lots of cute baby ones and we took tons of pictures.
We headed back down to the river, but had some time to kill before our lunch reservation. I had talked to the concierge at our hotel about getting a reservation at this really great sea bream restaurant in town, called Taishou Hanana but all they had was a 1:45 time slot. So we sat by the river eating our bread and macarons and then we got Teddy a coffee at %Arabica across the river.
We wasted time until 1:45 ONLY to discover that I had never confirmed the reservation and they didn’t have a spot for us. The line was at least an hour long, so WHOOPS. We walked for a while trying to find some lunch but a lot of places had already closed. We finally stopped at a Lawson convenience store and bought some chicken nuggets and some salt and pepper chicken. I don’t wanna make a big deal out of it, but it was the best chicken of my life. Suuuuper tasty. Also we were really hungry so that helped. But just remember that when you're wandering around Japan with nothing to eat. They have fruit and Onigiri and plenty of yummy things for a quick lunch.
We rallied and went straight to the golden temple. It was beautiful, but mostly just a bunch of tourists in front of you and bumping into you. Also the temples are always just kind of meh because of the number of people. Much preferred the Honen-in temple and Ginka-Kuji because they were quieter and you could kind of get a feel for what it’s supposed to be like. To be completely honest, I think you could skip it.
Dinner was at a place that my sister told us to go to, called Tato Tapas and it was a Spanish tapas place, with a hilariously fun owner and a really casual, warm vibe. A great escape from tradition. We drank sangria, ate lots of meats, cheese and bread and listened to a lot of ABBA, Barry Manilow, A-ha and George Michael. It was a really fun night, with lots of laughter. Highly recommend it.
Day 9 // Tuesday
This day was our crazy day. We did Nara (with the deer park) in the morning and Osaka (with the aquarium) in the evening. Even our concierge had told us, "I hope you know what you're doing," which is Japanese for "You are insane. What are you thinking." But we didn't care. We were prepared and determined. We knew it was going to be more time on trains than usual, but we didn't plan to really see all of either city. We just wanted to hit a couple of highlights so we could dedicate more time to Kyoto and Tokyo.
We had breakfast in our hotel and trained straight to Nara. From the train station, we just hopped on a bus that said Nara Park and jumped off when we saw a bunch of deer. We still weren't technically in the park, but we had fun meandering over there. We walked to and through the park, which was amazing. We bought some of those crackers that you can feed the deer, and hid them. The deer that hang out right by the crackers can be a little aggressive so we went and found a quieter area. I liked to go find a sleepy looking nice one all by itself and be like, "wanna be my friend?" And if it was like, "yes, even though you aren't going to feed me," I’d surprise it with crackers! Yay deer. I loved it because I am basically Snow White and I love all animals, no matter how gross and scraggly and cracker-obsessed.
After seeing the deer, and a great deal of the park, we moseyed on over to Parco Okonomiyaki for a somewhat adventurous meal. It was really good, and a fun experience. Okonomiyaki is like a savory egg pancake with cabbage and whatever protein you like, topped with yummy sauce. It was nice and filling, and very affordable.
We trained to Osaka and went straight to the Osaka Aquarium. It was really neat. They have a massive tank in the center of the building with whale sharks and gigantic sting rays and lots of other fish. The glass required to hold that much water is incredibly thick. It's unreal. You enter at the top of the building and kind of wind your way around the center tank, and there's a huge, adorable gift shop at the bottom. We liked the whale sharks, crabs and jellyfish the most.
Next, we went to the Umeda Sky Building which is both an amazing architectural feat, and a great spot to view the city of Osaka.
We watched the sun set there, had a drink in the Stardust Lounge in the building, then wandered around in the garden on the ground floor of the Umeda Building for a little while before our 8:00 dinner reservation at Alto Tritone. We could definitely have made a 7:00 reservation instead, but whatever. Alto Tritone was a family run business that makes delicious freshly made and hand-stamped Italian pastas. We really liked it a lot, but I'm sure there are amazing seafood places in Osaka if you prefer that.
Day 10 // Wednesday
On Wednesday, we trained back to Tokyo. It was really sad to leave our amazing hotel in Kyoto, but we were starting to feel ready to go home. This time, we stayed in a different part of town at The Park Hotel which is sort of a boutique hotel in Shiodome. It was cute, but quite a bit smaller than we had grown accustomed to. The breakfast in the hotel was really easy and pretty yummy. Once we got checked in, we grabbed lunch and then headed to the Imperial Palace to view the cherry blossoms, and MAN OH MAN were they going nuts. They were definitely at their peak when we got back to Tokyo. It is so dreamy.
Dinner was at Washoku En Shiodome and it was delicious, with a nice view. The service was slooooow but there were lots of tasty things on the menu to choose from.
Day 11 // Thursday
Thursday was our last full day in Japan! We went to Tsujiki Market first thing (which was at like 9 am haha) but the timing ended up being perfect. We had time to walk around the little shop areas, and then by the time we made our way to the wholesale area (10 am) they were letting tourists in. Apparently, we get in the way when chefs are buying their fish early in the morning haha. It was a little crazy with all the little vehicles driving around, but it didn't smell nearly as bad as I expected it to! It was really fun to see such a large hub of activity, knowing all the thousands of people all over the city who would be eating these fish later that day.
After the fish market, we went to Hamarikyu Gardens, which was really quite beautiful. Obviously, lots more cherry blossom viewing opportunities.
Lunch was at Thank Ramen which is a really funny name, but it was really delicious and a great farewell to the amazing lunches we had while here.
After lunch, we stopped by Shiba park and saw some more beauteous trees, as well as Tokyo Tower.
Dinner was amazing. We ate at Makoto Sushi and loved every second of it. Somehow it felt younger than the other places we had eaten. The chef was young, but obviously very talented, and very kind. We probably should have ordered the larger meal, but grabbed a dessert at Mister Donut before going back to the hotel.
You should all go to Japan and eat their tasty food and see their beautiful sights and meet their adorable animals.
3 | 19 // Monday // Tokyo - Park Hyatt Hotel // Arrival into NRT at 3:15pm → Get luggage, etc. → Train to the Park Hyatt Hotel → Dinner at Numazuko near the hotel and explore a bit
3 | 20 // Tuesday // Tokyo - Park Hyatt Hotel // Asakusa Shrine → Senso-ji Temple → Walk along Nakamise Dori (shops) → 5 minute walk to Sumida Park along the river → Skytree ($20 to go up) → Lunch at Ramentei Asakusa (walk-in) → Ueno Park (optional) → Tsutaya Bookstore → naptime → Snack at Harajuku Guozo-ro (gyozo) (walk-in) → Explore Omotesando (try Kiddyland) → Shibuya Crossing → Sushi for dinner
3 | 21 // Wednesday // Tokyo - Park Hyatt Hotel // Studio Ghibli Museum at 10am → Lunch at Ghibli Cafe → Inokashira Park → Dinner at Kyubey Shinjuku (fancy)
3 | 22 // Thursday // Tokyo - Park Hyatt Hotel // Get to Harajuku Station and take the Omotesando exit → Harajuku Bridge aka Jingu Bashi → Meiji Jingu Shrine → Yoyogi Park → Explore Takeshita dori and Omote-sando → Lunch at Afuri (walk-in) → Shinjuku Station → Department stores, food stalls in the basement → Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building (closes at 6:45, aim for sunset) → Dinner at Seisen-tei in the New Otani Hotel → Back to Hotel
3 | 23 // Friday // Travel to Kyoto - Ritz Carlton Kyoto // Shinjuku Station to Tokyo Station (15 minute ride) —> JR Train from Tokyo Station to Kyoto at 8:03am —> Drop luggage at hotel —> Lunch at The Sodoh Higashiyama → Explore Kiyomizu-dera → Yasaka Shrine → Geisha Dinner at Gion Hatanaka
3 | 24 // Saturday // Kyoto - Ritz Carlton Kyoto // Philosopher’s Walk → Honen-in Temple → Ginkaku-ji → Lunch at Okakita Udon (walk-in) → Naptime → Coffee at % Arabica Kyoto → 3 or 4pm Nishiki Market (Closes at 6pm) → Dinner at Goichi Pizza (walk-in)
3 | 25 // Sunday // Kyoto - Ritz Carlton Kyoto // Breakfast at Smart Coffee → Subway to Fushimi Inari Shrine→ Lunch at Tiger Gyoza (walk-in)→ Kyoto National Museum → Gion (walk along canal) → Maruyama Park → Ishibe Alley → Drinks at Rigoletto Smoke Grill and Bar —> Dinner at Sushi Kappo Nakaichi
3 | 26 // Monday // Kyoto - Ritz Carlton Kyoto // Arashiyama Bamboo Grove → Iwatayama Monkey Park → Lunch at Taishou Hanana → Golden Pavilion aka Kinkaku-ji → Ryon-ji Temple → Dinner in town at Tato Tapas
3 | 27 // Tuesday // Nara and Osaka - Ritz Carlton Kyoto // Nara Park → Kofuku-ji Temple → Lunch at Parco for Okonomiyaki → JR Yamakoji Kaisoku Express to Osaka → Aquarium, Umeda Sky Building and/or Dotonbori → Dinner at Alto Tritone → Back to hotel in Kyoto
3 | 28 // Wednesday // Travel to Tokyo - Park Hotel Tokyo // Train back to Tokyo → drop off luggage at hotel → Lunch → Head to Imperial Palace to view cherry blossoms (closes at 5) → Check in to hotel → Dinner at Washoku En Shiodome
3 | 29 // Thursday // Tokyo - Park Hotel Tokyo // Tsujiki Market → Tsujiki Hongan-ji → Hamarikyu Gardens → Lunch at Thank Ramen → Shiba Park → Tokyo Tower → naptime → Dinner at Makoto Sushi at 7pm → Mister Donut
3 |30 // Friday // Tokyo - Check out of Park Hotel Tokyo// Travel Day (flight at 11:15)