DAY 1Sep 27 2016
It's been an incredibly hectic day trying to get everything sorted before I go but I'm glad I finally made it to the airport in one piece and with all my luggage intact.
I'm now just patiently waiting to board my 6pm flight to Singapore within the next few minutes and am looking forward to spending some quality time with my sister, niece and nephews during my 22h layover.
Sayonara Sydney! See you again in late March :)
DAY 2Sep 28 2016
It's been a full on day. It started with a short stay at the Ambassador Transit hotel, it really was value for money especially for convenience.
Later that morning I took a cab to my sister's. It was the first time I had a long layover and had the option to pass through immigration to explore the city. I must say Singapore makes the process easy.
We left shortly after my arrival for lunch.
The main highlight has been Andre's Restaurant. Thank sis for taking me here! This place is not only classy, but also gets kudos for the presentation of food as well as the emulsion of flavours behind each dish which had intricately been prepared.
Check out some photos from today's lunch degustation.
In the late afternoon we went and had foot reflexology and then went home to see my niece and nephews.
We went to Crystal Jade for dinner and then back home for some dessert, to eat some cakes we picked up earlier in the day from 'Awfully Chocolate' at Star Vista.
Below are pics of what was on offer. We took about 5 of these with us. I especially wanted to try the Butterscotch ones.
I ended up eating a sliver of the butterscotch ones. Thus the end result...
I then said my goodbyes to a special few - my sister included and headed back to Changi airport for my flight out to Narita. Which means.. I shall be in Tokyo in less than 10 hours :)
Changi Airport Terminal 3
Narita International Airport
DAY 3Sep 29 2016
Today mostly consisted of travelling. I had a midnight flight from Singapore to Narita.
Immigration was easy, I had a note written in Japanese by a colleague requesting they put a temporary visitor stamp instead of activating the holiday working visa. It worked a treat, no more stressing about HWV concerns and needing to use my JR pass.
I ended up arriving early at Narita and had to find my way to the Post Office so I could swap my SIM out with the one for Japan so I could use data on my phone whenever I needed to.
I should've packed lighter because I was already feeling overwhelmed by the travel I needed to do just to get to my Apartment. Thank god they drive you there and help you with your luggage. I filled out some paperwork at fontana apartments in Nakano and they handled the rest. I even got to swap out a few items from my room.
I live in Asagaya, a few stops away from Shinjuku on the Chuo Rapid line.
My room amuses me, the stairs leading to my room get progressively smaller as you climb them and tighter around the staircase, you also have to crouch down a bit to open and enter my room - it reminds me of that Willy Wonka scene before they enter the candy room.
Based on the picture above, the top of my head lines up with the top of the curtains. This should give you an idea of how short the height of the room is haha.
Other than that, I really dont mind the place, it's clean which is the main thing, I just need to get over having to share bathrooms. I do wish they were a bit cleaner, but they're not terrible which is the main thing, need to get over my princess--ness for some things lol. Besides, I'm only in this guesthouse for 7 weeks in total.
I like the location. It's pretty convenient and don't mind the 10 minute walk to the station. There's shops on the way including the ever convenient Lawson store.
I will continue to unpack tomorrow but for now the bare necessities are out for easy access. I still need to buy some things and will probably fo that tomorrow at a 100 yen store.
Btw recycling is big in Japan, everything needs to be separated properly otherwise garbage collectors won't take it, there are even people in the neighbourhood keeping watch. I had my first taste of sorting things out for recycling today. It was painful - I hope to have the rules embedded in my brain.
I spent a little bit of time to explore the Asagaya and Shinjuku. I was asked by a friend to take photos of the various vending machines. There's one for practically anything you can think of.
I also grabbed a few snacks on the way back from exploring Asagaya and Shinjuku.
I liked the milk jelly with orange dessert but probably wouldn't have it again unless I was in the mood for it. I love Lawson convenience stores. The Saint Germain snacks were okay, nothing spectacular to report.
Anyway this pretty much sums up my day. I'm off to bed.
DAY 4Sep 30 2016
First stop of the day was at the Tokyo Soup Kitchen in Takadanoba station. I loved the Lobster Bisque soup. It really did taste french and was enough to keep me going until I made it to Shibuya.
Shibuya is always inundated with people. I especially came here because I wanted to go back to an old favourite of mine, Genki Sushi as well as find a Citibank ATM so I could take out money with my Citibank Plus Account and not worry about international transaction fees. FYI - the banks/ATMS you can visit/withdraw from are called Prestia.
Genki Sushi is the best Sushi train experience I've ever had. The food is ordered via the touch screen. Once ready your touchscreen will advise it's on it's way and slides out along the conveyor belt in front of you. Once you've taken it off the belt you press the button on screen to send it back.
As you eat you might be prompted to indulge in a game on screen and if successful you win food vouchers/discounts to come back and visit. Pretty cool.
Today I went to the Daiso 100 yen store in Harajuku. This place has four floors of anything you can possibly think of. As I've resigned to the fact that I will have to live like a student this was where I had to shop to get the room supplies I needed.
I bought a laundry basket, coat hangers and all the fun boring stuff you need when living on your own. I spent about $20 aud all up so I'm pretty pleased with that.
I was pretty stoked to come across Cookie time since I've only been able to get my hands on some from my trip 5 years ago to Queenstown. Other than that, I've been fortunate to have awesome friends like Jim and Sijia to send me some this year (thanks guys if you're reading this)! I bought a few of them home with me...I was keen to get that giant mini bag of them but I'll need some friends to help me get through them all. I'll wait until a large group comes to visit before making the large bag purchase.
I needed to kill a few more mins before the Owl cafe so I ventured into the Tamagotchi store nearby. It was pretty cool, there was so much merchandise and the display versions of the game were pretty cool. It was a shame that it was all in Japanese though. Tamagotchis are also now in colour.
You can only visit the Owl Cafe during the designated time slot. It costs 1500 yen for a visit and includes a drink. You spend about 35 mins with the Owls which is enough time to hold them and take photos of/with them.
The staff were always around for questions and guidance. Some of the Owls have different likes/dislikes. My favourite one was Wasabi (the one pictured underneath my main photo on the left). He's super friendly. He's also the same breed as Hedwig in Harry Potter. Apparently they can live up to 50 years. I want one!
The night ended with me heading to Shinjuku for Yakitori in Yakitori Alley. I couldn't find the place I went to four years ago which was a shame but at least the places are now better at conversing in English. The food was tasty too.
I also went to the LABI electronics store, It has so much stuff. Any tech/gadget/appliance you can think of really.
That was my day, I was buggered by the end of it.
DAY 5Oct 01 2016
Had a very chilled out day today at home catching up on sleep and doing some chores.
In the evening I ventured out to Asagaya where the jazz markets are usually held. Bought a few food items for dinner and then headed back home.
The goodies included chicken with mayonnaise, teriyaki sauce and rice and Lipton Milk tea.
DAY 6Oct 02 2016
Upon arriving in Harajuku today I came across some volunteers with signs displayed with 'Need help?'
These volunteers were available to anyone in the vicinity that might need help whether that be a question or directions somewhere.
When I first visited Tokyo, I requested the help of one of these guides for an entire day. It's an initiative supported by the government and is done through a website.
Once a guide had been assigned to me, I'd converse on email on what my plans were and all I needed to do was fund their meal and transport (basically just the cost to take you around).
I thought it was great. This is an example of why I love Tokyo so much - it knows it's audience and caters very well to foreigners.
Have you ever heard of the story of the dog Hachiko? If not, look it up. There's a statue at Shibuya station.
The reason why I mentioned it at all is because I'm assuming it's free to ride just like the similar bus operating in Asakusa. The one in Asakusa was of a Panda though.
I'll do some research and find out if thing Hachiko Community bus services anyone to the main attractions around Harajuku for free. If it is, I'll definitely jump on it another time and see where it takes me.
As I hadn't revised much of my hiragana in the last few weeks prior to getting on a plane over here, I decided I would check out this funky cafe.
Niko and... cafe is pretty neat, the coffee was great (I had an iced caramel latte). What really appealed to me about this place was the fact that it was not only a cafe but also an apparel clothing store and by the looks of things they also appeared to sell 'green products', there's even a wall covered in greenery.
Heaps of people seem to venture here to get a coffee - there are power outlets in the tables, magazines and books are laid out for your leisure.
I enjoyed my visit to Niko. I'll definitely be back if not for the coffee but because there's no time limit/fee to spend at the cafe if you're looking for an alternative place to study or complete work, that isn't home.
DAY 7Oct 03 2016
It was my first day at the language school Genkijacs. The school is located 1 stop away from the heart of Shinjuku or about a 10 min walk.
Upon arrival I had to complete a test on hiragana so they can allocate students into the correct classroom groups.
In our single lesson today we learnt a few phrases like "sayonara", "konnichiwa", "sayonara", "ohayo gozaimasu" (means good morning) etc. We also did revision on hiragana and learnt about the impact of intonation for some words. We also had to practice writing in hiragana too, this was a bit challenging for me since I had only just learnt how to read the characters of the alphabet.
Oh by the way, they don't speak a word of english in these lessons. I feel like I'm having to translate interpretative dance through words. I know this will be good for me though in the long run.
The teacher also left us with homework, which I'm pleased to admit I got full marks :)
Every friday the school organises what they call a "party night." Students can sign up for a dinner and socialise outside of class. This week we are going to have Shabu Shabu. These events are self-funded.
They also offer movie nights, for students to be able to watch japanese movies with english subtitles and be immersed into the culture with free popcorn provided.
They also facilitate language exchange options. I signed up to that so I can be paired up with someone who wants to improve their english whilst they help me with my Japanese.
After orientation we had an hour to spare so we ventured around Shinjuku and landed in Isetan. I led everyone to the food hall and was pleasantly surprised to find one of my fav dishes in my face. I bought it and ate it all.
#waitingforlunchtime I was looking forward to see what other great food/meals we could find nearby after class.
We went to a place nearby and I have to admit the Curry Don was delicious. I didn't expect much from the place we found as there weren't many people around, we were all just getting hungry whilst thinking of where to eat nearby that wouldn't be too costly.
Every monday there's a free tour of Shinjuku organised through the school and led by other college students in Tokyo. Tonight a bunch of us joined that tour.
Here are a couple of pics from the outing.
And before you ask, yes that's really Godzilla in Shinjuku. It's not a photoshopped pic.
We also went to another 100 yen store (not Daiso). Whilst we were there I was craving bubble tea with another student so we ordered some from 'Pearl lady'. Hands down the best bubble tea I've ever had. Mainly due to the tapioca pearls. They were made fresh and had a caramel type taste to them. I will definitely get another when I'm in the vicinity.
And I ended the night with a Kaiseki meal near home. It was definitely a challenge to order my meal with the owner who didn't speak a word of english. Thank god for pictures.
I really enjoyed today. I met some really cool people from class and felt like I learnt a fair bit of Japanese on my first day.
Can't wait for tomorrow's lesson to begin!
DAY 8Oct 04 2016
Today I learnt that I don’t know Japanese.
I was asked to learn Hiragana (one of three Japanese alphabets) so I can read the course book and follow the exercises.
So I did learn hiragana to be able to read and identify the characters before I left for Tokyo.
However it became quite quickly in this 2nd lesson that they meant "master" the hiragana so you can not only read it but write each character as well as identify their sound. Asking someone to "learn" hiragana is not the same as expecting them to have mastered it. We weren't even taught how to draw each character of the hiragana alphabet. My bad for taking literal meanings.
We even had to write down a conversation to introduce ourselves and actually roleplay from memory. So not a beginner's class if you're expected to do that right after a few minutes of learning the new words and structure, needless to say I survived.
To give you an idea of pace - we haven't even completed week 1 yet, we are already looking at sentence structure and grammar, having to arrange conversations in the correct order and knowing the correct use of particles. For absolute beginner this should only start at about week 3 at a normal pace (as quoted by a friend of mine who has mastered Japanese already).
A bit much to expect a complete beginner to master this in a few hours, don't you think?
There is homework every night and new material everyday.
I've just been cooped up in my room each evening just to try and stay afloat this accelerated course with the help of a friend for translation.
Thus, explains why I haven't blogged for a while.
DAY 9Oct 05 2016
Day 3 of Genkijacs we were already covering material on time, calendar dates (which days 1 to 14 are not the same so you have to memorise how each of them is written).
We learnt how to ask for someone's phone number, numbers, how to ask for the time, what is AM and PM, what are the opening times for a particular place eg. Post Office. It was expected that we learn and master how to write all the above out in hiragana as we had to complete homework exercises on all of this.
Wednesday night is movie night at the school. They play japanese movies with english subtitles and provide us with popcorn. We watched a movie called "Handsome Suit", it was quirky but funny.
I recommend watching it if you wanted to wach a lighthearted comedy in Japanese.
I visited Pearl lady again on the way home and dropped by 7 eleven to buy my dinner. I bought beef don (only ￥400!) from there and a Melon Soda from the vending machine by my Guesthouse.
These are my 3 new favourite discoveries in Tokyo.
DAY 10Oct 06 2016
Today at Genkijacs we had to complete some listening comprehension exercises. Basically this involved having to listen to conversations and fill in the blanks with the correct hiragana on the page.
We also went through some vocab and were asked to memorise about 20 items for next morning's class. I now know this meant learn how to read, write and say each one by tomorrow. There's just not enough hours in the day to do that unless you never go out.
I seriously started to question if I'm doing the right course. I really love their teaching style, I am engaged to learn every class but the pace of it is crazy. I haven't seen much of Tokyo since this kicked off. I doubt I will be able to sustain this momentum for 6 months. I wanted more of a balance with my time here ie. learn the language but also have time to explore.
Later in the evening I went to dinner with a few people from class. I didn't manage to get the name of the place but it came highly recommended by a teacher at the school.
The fried chicken was great, crispy skin with a salty peppery flavour. Now I even recommend it!
I also ordered Tonkatsu as my main. Crispy and delicious. You really can't go wrong with food in Tokyo.
DAY 11Oct 07 2016
Today was actually a fun day. We basically did revision at Genkijacs and I have to say, even though it's been really intense I am amazed at how much I've learnt so far just in a week.
It really is a great school, it just doesn't suity needs right now being so "intensive". I've decided to stick with them for 3 months and then continue to learn on my own. Given the amount of content we have gone through so far, by three months I should be able to sustain basic conversations and requests from my learnings at the school.
Every Friday there's a ceremony for graduating students, they're required to write a speech. It was cool to see the different levels in ability and to have an idea of what's expected in the future.
Friday night is also known as "Party night" at the school. We all went to Shabu Shabu for dinner. It was all you can eat. I loved it and had placed myself as the designated cook and orderer. For ￥2500 it was great!
Some of us decided to have an early night but not without taking a different route home to explore Kabukicho and witness some of the nightlife.
I spent my evening watching a Japanese movie "Akai Ito", a bestselling drama in Japan.
I'm aiming for 3000 hours of passive Japanese listening this year.
DAY 12Oct 08 2016
This afternoon I ventured out to Asakusa for some cultural enlightenment. The path to Sensoji Temple is one of my favourite destinations to visit in Tokyo.
The area is littered with markets along the way to the Temple, offering a range of items from souvenirs to desserts, drinks and other goodies. I made a few stops along the way to feed my face with delectable treats.
There's one place in Asakusa I always come back to, and that's the place which sells Redbean waffle-like cakes (Ningyo-yaki). It's located towards the end of the main strip of the markets just before you reach Sensoji Temple. Also known as Nakamise-dori Road/Street.
Ningyo-yaki is a traditional Japanese street-side sweet snack cooked in specially moulded casts filled with red bean paste covered in batter. They're best eaten hot and are cooked right in front of you. It's best to note that because they're made fresh they will only last up to 3 days.
I could eat twenty of these. If you're a sweet tooth, you definitely want to try some even if you're not a fan of redbean. I'm indifferent about redbean but I absolutely love these treats!
Ever had those delicious rice cracker treats from an Asian supermarket? These ones are made fresh.
I chose the one with seaweed as it was the most popular, but they also have other flavours on offer.
Firstly, they dip the rice cracker in soya sauce and then wrap it with seaweed. It's nice to consume it together when it's hot.
I came across this stall which looked like they sold mochi. As I approached the store more closely I realised that was not the case.
This store sold dumpling-like cakes that were deep fried in vegetable oil.
It was really interesting to eat this as I wasnt sure what to expect. The outside had a damper texture with a sweet potato flavour on the inside.
Definitely worth a try. If you don't like redbean, there's many other flavours on offer. I just went for the one they said was the most popular.
I would eat this again. It was an experience.
A very famous Japanese dessert is dango. It's a riceball dessert. You can get all different flavours include green tea flavoured dango. Again, I stuck with tradition that I bought the most popular type which is dango covered in soya sauce. The flavour was interesting and not what I expected. The soya sauce sweetened the mix of rice balls and tasted as if it was caramelised.
I liked dango alot and bought two of them and consumed all in one sitting.
Below is a picture of Okimuji.
The steps for Omikuji include donating 100 yen, shaking the silver box and retrieving a fortune number out of the tiny hole (a chopstick will fall out with a number on it).
Match the chopstick number with the appropriate box to retrieve your fortune note. It's depicted in several languages.
If you get a good one you're meant to hold onto it or if you get a bad one, you're meant to tie it on the lines where the other people have left them to get rid of your bad luck and make sure it doesn't follow you.
Omikuji is avaliable at any Temple, not just Sensoji although for some reason it feels more special to do it there.
I hadn't eaten properly all day and decided to have meal at Aoi Marushin to fill the void of breakfast/lunch/dinner.
I was pleased with my choice, it was crispy and delicious "tendon" tempura. This doesnt actually mean tendon, but rather a bunch of ingredients friend together, forming a large connected piece of tempura containing the ingredients which have been fried together.
It was yummy but expensive, if it weren't for the latter I'd probably visit again.
I really enjoyed visiting Asakusa again.
If you're in the area don't forget to make a trip to the visitor centre and check out the view of the Tokyo Skytree from the rooftop. It's quite lovely up there and best of all, it's free.
DAY 13Oct 09 2016
This afternoon a bunch of us went to Robson's located two mins from Shimo-kitazawa station for Poutine.
Poutine is a Canadian meal consisting of French fries, topped with cheese and light brown gravy. I was extra hungry so I added roast beef and mushrooms woth extra cheese because everything always tastes that much better with extra cheese.
It curbed my serious appetite and craving. It wasy first time trying Poutine and I really loved it. It totally tasted better than it looked. I was stuffed by the end of it.
Robson's also sold Banana wrapped in bacon. The banana was sweet and tasted slightly caramelised, it was not bad with the bacon around it. I expected saltier but the bacon was more on the sweet side.
I liked it but will admit that it's not really memorable and could save space for something else much more delicious.
After lunch a few of us split up in groups to explore the area as there were small stalls all around the station.
A few of us stopped by Starbucks to try a new drink. There was a hot and cold version of Nectarine and Peach tea. Whilst it sounded like a simple drink, it really wasn't.
The cold version was like drinking cake through a straw. It tasted like a sweet peach cake that was creamy with a hint of sour due to the nectarine. Both were really delicious.
The hot version was really special. The cream on top mixed with the hot tea gave it a really nice creamy flavour with a tangy citrus taste. As a special treat there were bits of peach floating in the tea.
It definitely is my choice of dessert.
We made our way back to Shinjuku for some karaoke and spent 3 solid hours at karaoke kan singing english (えいご）songs from rapping Eminem to Adele and P!nk. It was lots of fun. Free drinks (non-alcoholic) also help.
By the end of karaoke, we were all hangry (or maybe that was just me). The group split up and half of us headed to Salvator near Shinjuku station for some Pizza and Pasta.
It doesn't compare to the italian places back home but was a nice change to all the japanese food we'd been having.
DAY 14Oct 10 2016
There was no school today as it was a National Holiday, so the school organised an excursion for us instead.
Today we visited the Japan Open Air Folk House Museum in Kawasaki City, about an hour away from Tokyo by bus.
Many of the Old Folk houses are on display. These houses tell of an important historical period in Japan, as they were home to merchants and farmers from the old traditional Edo Period.
The houses are similar to those you'd see in Europe, in places like Austria or Switzerland. I loved the thatched roofs, they are quaint and charming.
We were also fed awesome Soba on the grounds.
The soba was great and tasted even better since it was funded by the school.
I have plans to visit Shirakawago in November for the full folk house experience.
Vending machines are awesome in Tokyo, I was really impressed to find out that this one in particular sold both hot and cold drinks.
Also some talented person was handing out impressive origami in the shape of a grasshopper made out of actual grass.
In the evening we went to a restaurant by the school, which sells the famous fried chicken found in Nagoya.
It tasted as good as it looks.
For dessert I decided to eat another Snoopy so I had the darker shade this time. It tasted exactly the same as the white one, just the icing on the top was different.
I also tried Pumpkin kit kats for the first time which is a Halloween special. They were nice and sweet. I liked them as much as the Matcha ones.
DAY 17Oct 13 2016
So, I've really tried to keep to a blog entry a day which has proven to be a challenge whilst I'm at Genkijacs. In saying that I'm changing the format to once a week, unless there is alot of activity on any given day.
Anyway, here's the week the school week that was.
On Tuesday evening after school we went to Kinokuniya to find some Japanese books. It's actually not that easy to locate on foot, but once inside the plethora of books offered for purchase is astounding. At least 7 floors on any books you can think of. I picked up 3 for my japanese learning.
We also went to Book off which is a cheap secondhand store for electronics and books. Unfortunately, everything in book off is in Japanese, meaning you can't buy foreign secondhand texts or electronics here, at least that was our experience at the one in Shinjuku.
On Wednesday we went to Koreatown to have some korean bbq. Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures as we were all starving marvins.
On the way home it became quite nostalgic to me as I walked a different route to get back to my station and realised that when I first came to Tokyo, I stayed at a hotel 1 block away. That trip changed my life.
I've started to notice my sense of navigation is getting better as I'm relying less on my phone's GPS to guide me.
Also Wednesday marks the day we were introduced to katakana in class. Honestly, that's incredibly fast-paced in my opinion.
DAY 18Oct 14 2016
Today we went to a restaurant that offers All you can eat Okinomiyaki, but we didn't actually opt into that as most girls were full. I'm kinda relieved we.didn't either because after we ate our 1 to 1 ratio portions with our drink, we were stuffed. I guess I'd recommend coming here for buffet if you hadn't eaten anything beforehand.
It was pretty cool that you not only made these by mixing and crushing it together and then adding the sauce, bonito flakes etc on top. I think we nailed the presentation.
We had different flavours of okinomiyaki. Bacon, Cheese, Octopus and Pork. All were delicious but the bacon and cheese ones were my favourite.
Also on my way home I went by Lawson's and bought tickets to Sumo in Fukuoka for November. Can't wait!
DAY 19Oct 15 2016
Later in the day, we went to the Hedgehog Cafe. It was a pretty awesome, even at the cost of 1400￥ just to hold these adorable creatures for 30 minutes.
They were little prickly things but once they were comfortable and at ease they'd lay down their spikes so it didn't hurt when holding them. Fortunately I had a sleepy one, so I never had to deal with it trying to bite or poop in my hand. I count myself lucky!
You can also buy a hedgehog from the cafe, the prices average from 30,000￥ each. I won't be taking one back with me but may consider one last visit to the cafe before I head back home in March.
Nearby the Hedgehog Cafe was a foodies market in Roppongi, we decided to check it out and sample some of the foods as well as the gardens nearby.
Finally, we went to visit Shibuya for some Japanese inspired gifts, and I remembered that Cookie Time was there, so we sang a song at the Open Air Karaoke, played a few games there to win prizes and also enjoyed the crazy large shakes.
We left pretty happy - we got cookies for our efforts in singing.
On the way home I went by Book Off and purchased a secondhand DS game that will hopefully help me with my Japanese learning, once I reach a certain level of competency.
I was really pleased with this find. It's bilingual so it should help with my comprehension and reading, as well as understanding the nuances of the Japanese language in comparison to the English language.
This marked the end to my very busy weekend.
DAY 25Oct 21 2016
This week we learnt a few numbers in Kanji. It's interesting to note that the different meanings in Chimese vs Japanese even though they share the same characters.
It's been a really busy time for me studying Japanese. Not only am I having to get accustomed to new surroundings in my everyday but also get accustomed to new sounds on a daily basis.
Talk about sensory overload to the max. I can understand basic questions and conversations, read hiragana (one of the Japanese alphabets) and respond to easy questions. It's more than I could ever do back home.
Getting my head around how the language works really screws up your thinking. It doesn't work in the same way English does so there's a massive rewiring of your brain in the way you process the language. I hope overtime it will get easier for me.
In the meantime I'm finding it fun to play around with sentence rewording for my own amusment. It's still something I really need to work on but apparently is normal to have trouble with this, especially if you don't already have a second language under your belt.
DAY 26Oct 22 2016
On Saturday I checked out the local Jazz Festival which happens every October in Asagaya.
I've noticed the area being flocked by people during this time, moreso than usual. A band plays on an open stage near the train station and additional fopd stalls are setup around the markets area.
I do like the Asagaya area, where I live is nice because it doesn't get too loud but I'm also nicely located between two of the main railway stations for convenience.
But going back to the food....
This place was great. They have an english menu so it makes it easy if you can't speak the language. From memory this place is called Torizoku, there's several of them around Tokyo and it's pretty cheap.
It was about 280￥for 2 pieces (not including tax, it's about 8 percent on top). It's a price that's hard to beat.
They cook the meat on charcoal or the stove, It's really tasty, fresh and affordable. I do believe they use quality ingredients because these skewers tasted better than some of the places I have been to in Yakitori Alley.
I will go back there again for sure when I have another craving for Yakitori.
DAY 27Oct 23 2016
On Sunday I attended a Meetup Photography walk at Inokashira Park Zoo in Kichijoji.
The Zoo part is actually quite small, but this place is still worth a trip. Japanese parks and gardens are beautiful. I always feel zen when I spend hours alone at these kinds of places.
The zoo had a variety of animals, some of which would not be seen back home in Australia. They had raccoons, owls and chipmunks.
The Chipmunks were so cute. they're housed in an enclosure where they can run freely. They're pretty quick little things so its hard to take a good shot, you would often see them scurrying to the other side of the enclosure, sometimes running over your feet. It was pretty amazing to be so up close to them.
This is some of the gorgeous greenery I was talking about.
The park and everything about it is unlike what we see at home.
I really loved capturing the shot of the bamboo trees, I haven't really seen that anywhere else so far, in Tokyo.
One aspect of Japan that's really different, is one of their selected primary modes of transport. A large proportion of people elect to use bicycles to get around.
Back home, bicycles are few and far between being on the roads or even on dedicated bike lanes.
I took the above shot as I left the park, I just thought it was something interesting that should be noted.
In the evening I spent some time revising homework in preparation for Monday's classes.
DAY 33Oct 29 2016
This Friday we went to the Incubator, a Science Bar near Yotsuya station, close to Shinjuku.
They charge a door entry fee of 500 yen but it's definitely worth the experience. They make drinks from Strawberry DNA which you can take part in mixing together.
Everything we had was pretty tasty. IMy drink tasted like Sangria with lemonade, and the price wasn't too bad either.
Some of us opted in for smores, melting marshmallows on skewers over the provided bunsen burners. It's a cool bar to visit in Tokyo, just don't expect there to be a lot of space inside and you'll need to make reservations. It can only fit about 12 people comfortably inside at any given time.
On Saturday, I decided to visit Ikebukuro, and I'm ashamed to say it, this was my first visit to the area.
This place is gadget, technology, manga, anime central.
Inside the station there's a department store, it reminded me of Isetan with it's diverse selection of food that had been imported from all different parts of the world.
I was on a mission, so I didn't get time to actually look around, sample or buy anything from this place. It definitely have to be a next time visit.
Ikebukuro has an abundance of Game stations, they're everywhere and they usually consist of games across 2 or 3 floors.
Walking around Tokyo during the week of Halloween you'd see every second person pretty much dressed up for the occassion.
As I was making my way to Sun City I had to take a photo of the crowds. People really go all out here.
Anyway, my main reason for coming to Ikebukuro was to visit the Pokemon Store that I had been reading about for several months before I actually arrived in Tokyo.
So now here's my review after finally reaching this place/mecca/whatever you want to call it.
Cool doesn't begin to describe this place. Upon arriving there was a giant walking Pikachu to promote the new Mario and Pikachu collaboration by Nintendo.
The store sells all sorts of merchandise, the decorations from the wall interior, counters etc all resemble a Pokemon centre. Pretty cool if you ask me.
Here are some photos.
Expect to pay a fair bit if you come here. It's not cheap but still worth visiting even just to check out the place. I love the statues in this place. It really does feel like you're in a different place.
I ended up with a Pikachu onesie but I didn't buy it from this store, the price was too inflated for my liking. Don Quixote is best for costume stuff.
DAY 35Oct 31 2016
This week started with Halloween in Shibuya.
In Japan, Halloween is a serious thing. I figured since I'm not sure how many opportunities I'll have to celebrate Halloween in Tokyo, I decided to join in on the fun and dress up.
I found a Yoshi Kigurumi(onesie) in Don Quixote and decided to wear that over the Pikachu one I had bought a few days earlier.
It was pretty cool, the area near the Hachiko Dog Statue was flooded with people dressed in costumes ranging from Alice in Wonderland characters, Nintendo characters and some roles from scary movies. Some were even dressed as pumpkins and security cameras, basically any character from a movie or show could be spotted in Shibuya.
DAY 39Nov 04 2016
This morning we went to Brunch at Sarabeth's located in the Lumine Building 2 in Shinjuku.
Apparently this is a famous cafe from the likes of NYC. The food was great, I had Eggs Benedict with Smoked Salmon and a side of Bacon. My friend had some pancakes. We were both stuffed by the end of it, even though I wanted to order more food initially.
I would like to come back to try the farmer's omelette, French toast with strawberries and lemon pancakes. Basically, I want to come back and try everything I couldn't on the menu.
I didn't find it to be that expensive, especially when you compare the prices to back home. The cost of the meal was about the same as in Australia.
It was nice to have some Western food for a change.
As it was a National Holiday in Japan yesterday, there was no class scheduled, so they organised an excursion for us to attend instead.
The excursion was located in Asakusa with a Taiko Master. We spent an hour and a half with him learning various drumming techniques and then worked on those arrangements together.
I had more fun than I expected to have. I'm glad I signed up to the event.
On the way back to Asakusa station we stopped along a couple of key photographic spots in Asakusa.
In the distance is the Tokyo Skytree and the weird Sweet Potato looking thing is actually the Asahi Office Building.
Reservations at a Sushi restaurant/venue are pretty much impossible in Tokyo. The usual thing to do is line up and that's usually a sign of a great place to eat because people are willing to wait for the food.
We ended up at the branch in Okubo. Whilst the food was okay, I didn't think there were any standouts. For me, it was just a place to eat if you have that sushi craving and everywhere else is full or isn't available for ages.
On the way home I went to the Lawson convenience store to buy some dessert.
I came across Haagen-Dasz Green Tea Icecream Sandwich. It was surprisingly better than I had expected. Between the two biscuit wafers is a layer of fondue and along the edge of the greentea icecream is greentea flavoured chocolate. Definitely worth a try. It was the highlight of my evening.
DAY 41Nov 06 2016
This weekend I attented two coffee meetup events.
The first one was hosted at Unlimited Cafe. This place had the best tasting coffee in my opinion...although it could be because this place specialises in alcoholic coffee beverages.
I had the Hot Buttered Rum Coffee.
The hot coffee consisted of half a tablespoon of floating butter, combined with a shot of rum and their own coffee mix.
The cinnamon stick is then mixed in wuth the coffee to your liking. You're also meant to bite into one of the raisins as you take a sip. The end result is a slightly sweeter, nuttier taste of coffee in your mouth.
It's good compromise between having a full on dessert or a an alcoholic beverage at a bar.
I'll be back, there were other drinks I didn't get to try.
The bar food was good here, I liked the smoked duck meat and seafood risotto the most. Just don't expect to fill up on it.
Tonight we went to Cafe Nova, short walk from Kuramae station (near Asakusa) for "Coffee Cupping". Coffee cupping is also known as coffee sampling. We taste tested about 7 different varieties, with the barista showing us the correct way of sampling coffee.
My favourite was the coffee from Guatemala.
If there's one thing I have to recommend as a standout, it's the Affogato. The espresso coffee tasted soooo good when combined with icecream and oreo. It was divine!
DAY 46Nov 11 2016
This week I didn't have school which was a huge relief as I needed to get ready to pack for my big trip starting Sunday.
This week was also the first week I started iTalki lessons. I had two different teachers this week, my review of this platform is that it can be a bit of a hit and miss.
What I do like about iTalki is that it gives students more of a say on what they'd like to learn as well as "how", by hacing the option of selcting from a range of teachers and sample their different teaching styles.
The teachers are able to upload a video about themselves in order to encourage students to take lessons with them.
There are trial lessons and package lessons. Trial lessons should always be taken first as it helps you to figure out if you both work well together and if you're aligned.
I had a great first teacher and then I had a dud. The second teacher wasn't really organised and even forgot what I wanted to learn despite briefing her in advance to let her know what I wanted to work on.
The other teacher who was organised, had his own method for teaching which really gelled with my kind of learning.
He believes that students learn a new language through input. He believes that you should really only try speaking the language once you feel comfortable so that the words just easily fall out of your mouth, otherwise you're trying to acquire the language beyond your means.
should just flow naturally which it will once you get more exposed to the language itself. In other words, if you're forcing yourself to speak it and it doesn't come natrally to you then it means you're wanting to speak before you can even walk. In other words, it's pointless and doesn't help because ultimately you only acquire a new language by input anyway. His lessons only require me listen and let him know when I don't understand anything, which means easy lessons for me which means no stress especially for when I come back to group lessons at GenkiJacs after my 3 week break.
Above is a pic of some of the food that was consumed by yours truly at Yakitori place opposite the Granbell Hotel in Shibuya.
This place is always packed out by 8 or 9pm. It's pretty reasonably priced too. I recommend going here if you're in the area, it's on the quieter side of Shibuya, not only is Akiyoshi great, but there are several restaurants on this side worth trying.
Tonight I also had my first taste of 'Sparkling Sake' aka Mio. I love it, it's addictive. The taste reminds me of Moscato. The best thing about having this tonight is knowing that it can be purchased at most convenience stores for only 450-600 yen a bottle (500ml).
I had been waiting for ythis particular Friday to come around since I made plans to join some girls on their visit to this cafe.
Since 1998 I've been a fan of the Final fantasy series and since last year I've been trying to find my way here. Reservations are done online in Japanese so you can imagine, my attempt to make a booking failed miserably. This time around I didn't have to worry about that because the girl organising it can speak, read and write Japanese. I was so happy.
On the day of arrival in the allocated timeslot on your ticket, you are given a coaster as a gift which you can select a haracter of your own choosing. You also get a ticket for the lucky draw prize.
The lucky draw prize is drawn once inside the cafe. The winner gets a delectable customised dessert to share with the other people on the table. This is pictured below.
The guy who won this cake was meant to share this with his friend on the table but the two of them couldn't finish it, so he shared some with all the other tables including ours.
The interior of the cafe is decorated with memorabilia from the long spanning series. Most of the items in the cafe though reflect the merchandise from the most recent games. I had hoped that it would have more merch from FFVII but I just had to settle for some stuffed toys upon a shelf from that game.
There's a lot of food and drinks on the menu and surprisingly, most of what we had we were quite happy with. Being a themed restaurant I didn't expext much with the food, just because they generally don't do that very well. But, Eorzea cafe has good food and drinks. I'd definitely come back just to try to the different drinks.
What's also an added incentive for coming back is they give you a different coaster for each food item you choose.
DAY 47Nov 12 2016
On Saturday I caught up with some friends from Sydney. We stumbled across a 100 yen per yakitori place in Godzilla lane. They only serve chicken yakitori, it was tasty and worth it for the price.
On the same day I also visited the Meiji Shrine where they were also holding a Chrysanthemum festival. You could see rows of Chrysanthemums on display as you were walking along the path to the Shrine.
DAY 48Nov 13 2016
Yokohama marks the beginning of my epic trip around Southern Japan.
DAY 59Nov 24 2016
I've spent the last three nights and two days in Osaka. Whilst I've had a nice time in Osaka I was disappointed by the lack of things to do. After about a day I was ready to head elsewhere but as I paid for accomodation I decided to use it as my base to rest and rejuvenate. It's been really full on traveling from place to place.
Anyway there were some highlights from the trip.
Over the course of two evenings I found myself spending most of my time in this area. It is really pretty at night. I went on the 20 minute river cruise which wasn't cheap for the duration but it did add to the experience.
This area is what I would call a foodie's mecca. If there's one thing Osaka does well, is that it knows what good food is. Even though Tokyo also has good food offerings, in my opinion, what Osaka has over Tokyo is the concentration of good food in one area. It really makes it easy for you to pick a place to dine, especially after you've been walking around all day.
The Dotonburi is a must visit for anyone visiting Osaka in the near future.
The next day I went to visit the famous Osaka castle.
I found the castle grounds were more interesting rather than inside the castle itself.
Upon reaching the area there appeared to be a falcon/Hawk (I'm not good with identifying bird species) in which a trainer was teaching it to go and come back to him. It was pretty unexpected and cool to see. The bird was also 'friendly' in that it didn't mind other people petting him.
Osaka castle is pretty to look at from the outside, however, inside there wasn't really anything that made me go wow. It really was just a typical museum. I would say it'd only be interesting if you're really interested in Japanese history, although you could easily read about the castle online and save yourself some money.
Before leaving the Castle grounds you must try Takoyaki from here. Although a little stingy on the actual octopus-per-takoyaki, it's really worth trying especially if you've never had it before. Mine was cooked to perfection. It's something I'll definitely remember from Osaka for years to come.
The next morning I went to the Umeda Sky building because I wanted to check out the German markets around there that are held every year around the Christmas period.
It wasn't very big but was really cute to wander around and pretend you're in Europe for a brief moment.
After checking out the markets, I went up to the Observatory. The views are spectacular. I love taking photos at dusk.
If you like Shopping, Osaka has great shopping arcades here, some thst even stretch to 2.1km long.
I checked out a few. I think if I stayed long enough I could probably fnd everything I wanted and more.
An honorable mention here would be the Tenjinbashi Suji arcade. It's been coined the longest Shopping Arcade in Japan.
I think Osaka is great for a stopover and perhaps if I had some friends there it would've made the experience more enjoyable but as a lone traveller, there wasn't much here to see, so after having a good meal or two, you'd probably find yourself like me, wanting to head back to your room for some much needed rest. Which in hindsight, was probably the best thing for me.
DAY 60Nov 25 2016
I started the day by taking the Shinkansen over to Fukuoka. I had been wanting to watch the Sumo tournament for many months now and I'm glad the moment finally arrived.
The Sumo tournament takes place at the Convention center.