I went there to see what all the fuss was about. It turns out that this photo was taken from a slope in one of the bustling roads to Yasaka Pagoda coming from Kiyomizu dera. Once you are about to hit a slope downwards, Yasaka Pagoda unravels in such a magnificent way. It is also hard to miss as hordes of photographers set up shop here. If you are walking by and happen to not see anyone, better snag a photie while you can.
Indian food is amazing. Of all the places in the world, I never thought I’d find amazing Indian food here in Japan.
Karainya is one of the best Indian restaurants near my school. It is located on Imadegawa dori just before Horikawa dori. You cannot miss it as it is situated on a busy intersection. Going in, you will see a happy Indian chap who amazingly speaks 3 languages. I’ve heard him speak English, Japanese, and Chinese. I bet he knows Indian, too!
The menu is simple. There are curry sets (beef, chicken, lamb) and a Tantanmenwhich is kind of like Japan’s version of the Sichuan dish, Dan Dan noodles. The curry sets are priced from 750 yen to about 1100 yen for the full set (3 types of curry), if I remember things right. You can even add100 yen and get unlimited Naan bread which is awesome!
The chef makes everything by himself so it take about 15-20 minutes of waiting. Even the Naan! It is super worth the wait! I’m no food expert but at least I know a good curry when I smell it. It smells very strong and spicy (which I like). It’s served on a canteen-like metal plate with the biggest Naan bread I have ever seen. It’s bigger than your head. The accompanying salad and soup were okay. It’s the curry (I got beef and lamb) and Naan bread that makes the experience enjoyable.
Just look at that plate! Easily one of the best 750-yen meals I’ve had in Kyoto.
If you want to know where we stayed and how we got here, Part 1 will guide you through.
First off, buying a train pass comes highly recommended. There are a number of passes available to tourists and non-tourists. After reviewing all the bus passes, train passes, and bus and train passes, we decided to get the Common One-day Ticket for Tokyo Metro & Toei Subway. Since our hostel was near to a subway station, we didn’t really need access to buses or JR Lines for that matter (although there was a JR station about 15 mins away).
The tickets exactly look like the ones on the right side of the photo below (credits to the owner) and are available in almost all ticketing machines. Don’t forget to press ENGLISH first. It costs 1000 Yen (500 Yen for kids) and is valid only on the day of purchase. Since we started early on day 2, we were able to maximize the pass and probably used the subways more than 10x (considering the average fare was around 200 Yen).
Our first stop was the Asakusa area. We strolled down Kototoi Dori for about 15 minutes and found ourselves hearing screams. Yeap, screams. In the middle of the city. Turns out that one of the oldest amusement parks in Japan, Hanayashiki, was there. If you ever hear screams while walking, you are on the right track.
After this, we just walked straight and ended up on Nakamise Dori which is a popular tourist trap. The street is lined up with a lot of shops where you can buy native Tokyo eats and things.
Using the powerful subway ticket, we boarded the Ginza Line, got off at Shiodome and walked to our next destination: Hama Rikyu Gardens. Shiodome Station itself was a huge building and offered fantastic views of the whole Asakusa area. Just cross the bridge and you will see a big park across. The entrance fee is 300 Yen. What you can find inside will make you forget the entrance fee.
Fields of (Yellow) Gold! Literally. What a sight. I can only imagine what the whole park looks like during the climax of spring!
Plum blossoms were blooming!
Now after the walking we have done so far, we were hungry. Good news! The famous Tsukiji Fish Market was nearby (maybe a 10-min. walk). Most blogs and guides say that it is best to go during 6-9AM and line up for auction passes. But, seriously? We are just in it for the sushi!
Sushi joints in the “inner” loop of the market are generally more expensive and usually cost upwards of 5000 Yen for a set. The shops in the outskirts of the market are better value and are of the same quality (they come from the same market!). The premium comes from 3 things: name, chef, history. This was from Ryu Sushi, if I read the characters right.
This was how our set looked like and it cost around 2500 Yen. As with most of the food in Japan, we were left wanting. (tummy still grumbling).
After leaving still hungry, we retraced our steps back to Shiodome. We wanted to use the elevated train (Yurikamome Line) to our next destination: Odaiba. In doing so, we were unable to use our train pass and had to pay 440 Yen for the privilege. It was worth it: the train will give you breathtaking 360-degree views of Tokyo Bay.
Alight at any station after the bridge. The whole island is pretty much walk-able and will take a better part of your day.
Palette Town had a nice mall named Venus Fort (will keep the females occupied) and an amusement park to boot. Furthermore, Toyota’s Mega Web (will render males unconscious) theme park was here! In here, you can test drive (if you have an international permit) virtually anything from Toyota’s current vehicle roster, see a sea of Toyotas, buy limited edition racing stuff, and browse through a curated historical garage.
Due to the sheer amount of things to do in this island-city, we were unable to visit SEGA Tokyo Joypolis, Leisure Land, and a whoooole lot more. I highly recommend setting aside a full day (AM-PM) if you want to visit all of the spots.
It was a lof of fun, Odaiba!
That’s it for part 2 which pretty much covers the Asakusa and Odaiba areas.
In the past, I had always wished to visit Tokyo. I mean, hello, I live in Japan!
Anyway, I planned the trip for me and my sister who was visiting. The plan involved visiting 4 cities (Kyoto-Tokyo-Nara-Osaka) in 9 days using the least amount of cash possible.
Tokyo from Kyoto? How can that be cheap?
Bullet train? EEEEENK. At around 25,000 Yen for a roundtrip ticket, this was out of the window.
Local train? EEEEEENK. Waaaay too confusing and waaay too long.
Bus? TING NING NING! But not just any ordinary bus. An OVERNIGHT BUS!
Welcome to Willer Express. At around 4,500 Yen (one-way) for a no-frills overnight bus ride to Tokyo from Kyoto, this was in the money. We intended to visit only metropolitan Tokyo this time around and set aside 2 FULL DAYS for it. They also offer premium coaches with sleeping pods and other creature comforts for around 7,000 Yen (one-way) which is still cheaper than the Shinkansen. We were so happy with the experience that I am now blogging about it. If you are penny-pinching, not pressed for time, or both, then we highly recommend taking this route.
The Willer Express (not the one we took) looks like this:
Inside, it looks like this (WHY ARE WE BROKE!!) and it is pretty awesome
The good thing is they subcontract other buses for the cheapest trips and their buses look something like this (this is not the actual one)
Inside it is still pretty comfortable and clean.
Catch overnight bus at midnight at the bus stop near Kyoto Station (Hachijo side). The stop is very easy to locate and the directions and pictures from the website are very accurate. Our only comment was the stop was not enclosed so we were freezing all the time we were waiting.
As with all things in Japan, the bus arrived and left on time. The bus was clean and the seats were comfy, even though we opted for the dirt cheap ones. Curtains enclosed the bus so in a matter of minutes, we were ZZZZZ…
Around 7AM, we arrived in Shinjuku (you have the option of choosing either this or Ikebukuro) where we took the subway going to our hostel, SPACE (which was freakin’ awesome as well!)
The trip back is pretty straightforward. Just go from #3 to #1 and voila, you’re back in Kyoto.
You can plan and reserve seats online. Their website takes some getting used to but i user-friendly enough for locals and tourists alike.
After sifting through various hostels prior to our trip, we ended up staying at SPACE Hostel. The hostel was nicely sandwiched in between the Ueno and Asakusa areas and is a 5-minute walk from Subway Iriya station (Hibiya Line). It had a Lawson 100 Yen store nearby that will solve all your personal needs. The location was perfect.
Stefan, the one operating the concierge at that time, was very accommodating and understanding. He fixed a system issue because apparently the system did not recognize the booking revision I made. Otsukaresamadesu!
There was a common area with a dining table. Coffee and tea were complementary and there was a fridge to store some of your food. They can even keep your luggage on checkout day for free until 7PM!
Shower rooms and bathrooms were conveniently located on the 2nd floor. No need to bring shampoo and soap. You do need to bring your own towels and other personal effects such as (toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.). The dormitories were very nice and the temperature was kept at the perfect temperature (it was around 3-4 degs celsius outside). As advertised, the beds were nicely crafted and were complete with covers and a duvet to keep you warm. Everything was really, really clean as well.
Overall, we highly recommend this hostel to anyone visiting Tokyo!
Please drop a line if you have any comments or questions!
Now, on to the sights and sounds!
**disclaimer: full credits go to the owners of the photos used in this post with the exception of the cover image which is mine
Every week I make it a point to go hiking here in Kyoto, well, because I can! The city is surrounded by mountains and one of them is fairly accessibly by bike.
Daimonjiyama is just a 20-minute bike ride from Kyoto station or you can take a bus that will take you to Ginkakuji temple. Once you get to the front of Ginkakuji, make a left and then turn right on the first street. Follow your way up a steep hill and make a right on the first road you see. This will lead you to the trail.
It will take you about 30 minutes to get to the top, depending on your conditioning. Better strap on some hiking boots and pack some water.
Getting to the top just gives you an awesome view of the entire city! It’s all free by the way!
I redid my video today! Hope this can guide you on how to get to the top!
For the last part of oshogatsu (winter break), me and my friends decided to head on to nearby Nara. Nara is most popularly known in Japan for its free-roaming deer but the city also has a rich past. It is the first imperial capital of Japan and was established around 710. You can easily compare and contrast the shrines and structures here with those in other parts of Japan.
The city is small and easy to navigate for a day trip. From Kyoto, you can take the JR Nara line for 710 yen one way. The train ride is about 55 minutes long via the rapid train and about 1.2 hours via the local train. Getting around is best done on foot. For those who are in a rush, you can take the “Gurutto” bus (color red) which goes around the major tourist attractions for 100 yen per trip.
Before coming to Japan, I knew that it was a country comprised of a number of islands (though not as archipelagic as the Philippines). Most of the anime I watched as a kid were mostly set in either the big cities or mountainous countrysides. All of these changed when I got to visit Miyajima (Itsukushima) for a day trip.
A tourist can definitely go hopping around fantastic islands in Japan!
Getting here is fairly easy and just takes a brief train and ferry ride from Hiroshima. If time is not an issue, I highly suggest spending a night here especially if you want to experience the Japanese kind of island life and nature. I would say it’s a very unique kind of island because there’s only a small amount of shoreline (at least in the parts I visited) and cold bodies of water. If time is an issue, then an early day trip (8AM) should enable you to fully explore this beautiful island.
Words cannot really capture the natural beauty of this island. It reveals a different side of the Japan that you might have known of. I will definitely return here in the future.
Hiroshima is literally a city that has risen from ashes. History may have not been on this city’s side during WWII but that totally changed. Now, it is a city that is thriving and blossoming. I was amazed at how the people of Hiroshima were able to rebuild the city while retaining its core heritage. The bridges were paved mightily and road trains were still the best way to go around. Peace truly has a unique way of making things happen.