Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan. Show all posts
 In the early afternoon of a weekday back in December 2016, we headed to Ikebukuro to check off one of my bucket list items - visit an Owl cafe in Tokyo. I researched a bit before our visit, and found one that was easily accessible by metro. We went to Ikebukuro Cafe, and put our names on the list to return at 4:30 pm. You don't need a reservation, but it is highly recommended. We went on a weekend and it was ¥1600 an hour and the price includes a drink of choice.

Upon entering, we were given a laminated sheet with the cafe's request and rules.

Request and Rules

Then we were escorted to the play area, where we were greeted with various owls of different shapes and sizes. Most of the smaller owls were pretty playful, and seemed OK with the constant light petting from guests. Unfortunately, each owl had one of their legs tied with a long string, but I read somewhere that they do get breaks to fly.

Although not pictured, I also got the opportunity to have one of the larger owls sit on my arm. I was a little hesitant, as I saw this very same owl flapped its large wings at a guest before me. That owl also ended up attacking me a little bit lol. Overall, it was still a fun and memorable experience. 

Address: Japan, 〒171-0022 Tokyo, Toshima, Minamiikebukuro, 1 Chome−17−1


If you are an animal lover, why not check out the Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama in Kyoto? Read my experience here.

[Tokyo] Ikefukurou Cafe

by on Friday, February 01, 2019
 In the early afternoon of a weekday back in December 2016, we headed to Ikebukuro to check off one of my bucket list items - visit an Owl ...
On our most recent trip to Japan (April 19 to May 9, 2018), we made a spontaneous trip to the Fuji Five Lakes region. It wasn't in our itinerary, but we dropped our initial plans to chill in Shibuya and Ginza to visit the Arakurayama-Sengen Park instead. Arakurayama-Sengen Park offers one of the best views of Mt. Fuji, and it was something that I wouldn't mind seeing. I highly recommend making this a full-day trip as the commute took about 3 hours one-way (about $60 round trip per person). Our JR Rail Pass wasn't valid on this day, but the commute would be a lot cheaper if you had a JR Pass. We left the InterContinental Tokyo Bay at 11 am and arrived at Shimo-Yoshida Station around 2 pm.

Getting there wasn't too difficult, but it wasn't easy either as you have to transfer onto different trains. The Chureito Pagoda is located in Arakurayama-Sengen Park, and is about a 10 minute walk from Shimo-Yoshida Station. However, in order to get up to the viewing point of the Chureito Pagoda, it's another 400 steps up the stairs. I am definitely glad that I opted for flats that day, or else my feet would have been in major pain.

How To Get to Chureito Pagoda

1. Get to Shinjuku Station
2. Get on the JR Chuo Line-Limited Express Kaiji 103 特急 Kofu
3. Arrive at Otsuki Station (1 hr 1 min, 4 stops)
4. Get on the Fujikyuko Line 各停 Kawaguchiko
5. Arrive at Shimoyoshida Station and walk 21 min to the Chureito Pagoda

Shinjuku --> Otsuki --> Kawaguchiko --> Shimo-yoshida 

The Chureito Pagoda is a five storied pagoda on the grounds of the Arakurayama-Sengen Park. If you walk a few more steps, there are stairs going up to the viewing point where it offers a wonderful view of Mt. Fuji, the five-storied pagoda, Fuji Yoshida city, and Sakura trees (during Cherry Blossom season only). I loved that free wi-fi was also available in the park, especially if you don't want to waste data posting Instagram Stories.

 Such an incredible view!

Hungry? There were about three food trucks on the ground area of Arakurayama-Sengen Park. We got an order of takoyaki (5 for 500 yen), but the lady was nice to give us an extra piece.

[Japan] Chureito Pagoda

by on Friday, June 29, 2018
On our most recent trip to Japan (April 19 to May 9, 2018), we made a spontaneous trip to the Fuji Five Lakes region. It wasn't in our ...
 Shukubo in Mt. Koya (Koyasan)

About one month prior to the big trip to Japan; I made a reservation to experience a temple lodging stay for one night. The reservation for two people was made online on the official website of the Koyasan Tourist Association and Shukubo. I am not used to the Japanese-style toilets so I opted for the modern Japanese style (bath/toilet common style) arrangement, which was ¥11,000 a night (per person). So our one night stay for two people was ¥22,000 ($232.00 CAD).

This year, I wanted to spend part of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day away from the city hence the temple lodging. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love Christmas and celebrate it every year. However, it was just nice to be able to do something different, and simple.

Tues, Dec 24, 2013 (Day #15)

A shukubo is an accommodation that allows you to stay in a Japanese temple or shrine for the night, and enables you to experience the culture. You are given your own personal room, and there are multiple washroom facilities throughout the temple. Additionally, many of the temples have Japanese hot springs (onsen) on their proprieties for their visitors to enjoy.

The Journey From Kobe, Japan

We had spent the first half of the day exploring Kobe and eating some really good AYCE BBQ in Kobe Harborland. We lost track of the time, and stayed in Kobe slightly longer than we had planned. So instead of leaving for Kobe Station before 1 pm; we ended up getting there around 2 pm. We quickly purchased our tickets to Shin-Imamiya Station from Kobe Station and off we went.

 The following is the JR train route that we took to get to Koya-san from Kobe; the entire duration of the trip was about 3 hours long.

 1) JR Kobe Station --> Osaka Station --> Namba Station (40 minute)
* Get on the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Line at Kobe Station and arrive @ Osaka Station. Once you're at Osaka Station, you need to get on the Osaka City Subway-Midosuji Line to Namba Station. 

2) Namba Station --> Hashimoto Station (Wakayama) (50 minute)
* At Namba/Nankai-Namba Station, get on the Nankai-Koya Line to Hashimoto Station (Wakayama).

3) Hashimoto Station (Wakayama) --> Gokurakubashi Station (45 min)
* At Hashimoto Station, get on the Nankai-Koya Line and get off at Gokurakubashi Station. 
4) Gokurakubashi Station (cable car) --> Koyasan Station (5 min)
* There will be a cable car waiting for you at Gokurakubashi Station. Get on the cable car and get off at Koyasan Station.

 * Koyasan Station will be the last station, where you will then get on the city bus which should take you straight to your temple lodging. 

Temple Lodging

So after a very long journey to get to our temple; we finally arrived at Shojoshin-in Temple. This is the name of the shukubo that we stayed in for the night of Christmas Eve.

Shojin-ryori (Buddhist cuisine)

Dinner was promptly served at 5:30 pm, and we were a little late. However, our monk in the head office was very kind, and quickly checked us into our room. He showed us around for a few minutes, and asked us to follow him downstairs. We followed behind, and were escorted into a room where our dinners were warmly waiting for us.

After dinner, we went back to our room to unpack and relax. It was extremely dark outside by 7 pm and there was very little lighting on the street so we didn't want to go outside. I think Koyasan is livelier in the summertime as I have seen pictures of visitors exploring after dark. However, the temperature was around 0 degrees that day so no one was outside.

There were a few things provided in our room such as a tea kettle, cookies, souvenir chopsticks, tv set, and best of all .... FREE WIFI!! I was able to contact my family to tell them that I was doing great as I didn't get a chance to speak to them earlier. I didn't spend the entire night surfing the internet; rather I read a book that provided insightful information on Koyasan, Buddhism, and about the other great sights in the city while sipping hot green tea.

The traditional architecture does not allow for any central heating throughout the temple. Therefore, a heater was provided in every room. Be sure to bring something warm to wear if you're here in December as the hallway was freezing cold.

Staying at Shojoshin-in Temple for the night was an absolutely wonderful experience, and it was just so serene. I highly recommend Shojoshin-in Temple as the monks and staff were extremely friendly and polite, and the room was rather spacious for its means.


Breakfast was served promptly at 7 am in the same room that we had dinner. Like the dinner that we had the previous night; the breakfast was all vegetarian and nicely presented. My personal favorites of the entire meal were the miso soup and beans; so tasty!

Exploring Shojoshin-in Temple

Shojoshin-in Temple is one of the oldest temples on Mount Koya (Koyasan). Its large structure looked absolutely magnificent, and there's a Japanese style garden in the backyard. 

 Kyoto is definitely one of Japan's most historical and cultural cities. They are very well-known for being the home of many famous shrines and temples. However, one of the popular attractions that I wanted to visit was the Arashiyama Monkey Park. I didn't have the time to check it out on our first trip, but made sure to visit it on our last trip in December 2016. The monkey park is located in the neighborhood of Arashiyama in the northwestern area of Kyoto. Transportation wasn't too bad, as the train ride from Kyoto Station was about 15 minutes to JR Saga-Arashiyama Station. You can also take the Hankyu line to Arashiyama station

Before going up to the monkey park, you would need to pay the entrance fee. It costs ¥550 per adult. Be sure to wear good walking shoes and bring water, as the hike up the mountain side took about 30 minutes. I wasn't expecting the hike, but it was a very welcoming surprise. Despite it being in mid-December, I was sweating on the steep hike up so it wasn't very cold when I finally arrived at the top.

The park consists of 120 snow monkeys and they are native to Japan. The monkeys themselves are still wild, so don't look them in their eyes or else they might attack you. There are plenty of signs displayed on this tidbit throughout the park.

There is also an enclosed feeding area located indoors, where you can feed the monkeys by hand. The apple bits weren't very expensive, and I believe it was about 150 yen for a bag. 

 Rules To Abide:

1) Don't stare into the monkeys' eyes. They consider it as a sign of a threat and some of them become aggressive.
2) Don't touch the monkeys. Like other wild animals, the monkeys hate being touched and feel stress.
3) Don't feed them outside the hut surrounded by a wire netting.

This photo was taken using the burst mode on my iPhone, so I didn't look at the monkey directly in the eye for long. The monkey turned its head towards my direction, so I looked away quickly.

Up on top, you also get a gorgeous view of Kyoto, as the top reaches 525 feet above sea level.  

Arashiyama Monkey Park Iwatayama

Hours: Open everyday. 9:00 am ~ 5:00 pm
Location: 8 Arashiyama Genrokuyama-cho, Nishikyo-ku, Kyoto 616-0007, Japan

 Tokyo is Japan's capital and one of my favorite cities in the world. There are plenty of things to do and see in the city, and I have always enjoyed my time here (I keep wanting to come back). Tokyo offers a large number of attractions from shopping, entertainment, temples, and restaurants. I believe that 4-5 days in Tokyo are more than enough to see the main attractions, and trying out some of the top eats.

I highly recommend staying in a centrally located hotel if you want to maximize your Tokyo experience. For both trips, we stayed at hotels within the Shibuya district, and it made getting around very easy. If you're on a budget, then it's much cheaper to stay outside of the main districts, but time is money as well. Personally, J and I have never stayed in an Airbnb while in Japan, but I have heard nothing but good thing from friends who did. So, that could be another option if hotels are expensive (especially during the high tourist season) like April to August, and December (Christmas season).


Meiji Shrine - Meiji Shrine is the Shinto shrine that is dedicated to the deified spirits of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shōken. This temple was very memorable for me, as I got extremely sick here on my first trip after eating a lot of sushi with sake. We barely walked past the sake barrels before my face turned completely red, and I started getting blurry visions. We ended up taking a taxi ride back (during rush hour, so $$$) to the hotel. I finally got the chance to finish the entire walk on our most recent trip in December of 2016, so mission accomplished.

Takeshita Street -  I love this street! It's an incredibly bustling street lined up with many trendy shops, fashion boutiques, crepe stands and fast food outlets geared towards the younger generation. I had a fun time shopping at Kiddy Land, Daiso, and We Go while I was there. We also tried two of the crepe stands, Angels Heart and Marion Crepes. Check out my review on Japanese Crepes in Japan here (coming soon). 

Omotesando - One of the best shopping streets in Tokyo filled with lots of mid-end and high-end clothing shops and department stores. The service level at the high-end stores was amazingly attentive!


Hachiko at Shibuya Crossing - Hachiko was the most loyal dog in the world. He would show up to the train station every evening to meet his owner after work and continued to do so even after the owner’s death. The train station employees fed him, gave him water and took good care of him. They even erected this statue for Hachiko after his own death. Say hello to Hachiko on your way to the Shibuya Crossing.

Shibuya Crossing
Shop @ Shibuya 109


Ginza Crossing
Sony Building
Marronnier Gate


Tokyo Metropolitan Building - Going up Tokyo Skytree for a view of Tokyo's skyline is pretty expensive at ¥2,060 ($23) a person. A cheaper alternative (aka FREE) is from the two observation decks (North and South) on the 45th floor of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. The building is open pretty late as well, so you can also get a night view of Tokyo.


Akihabara is a popular district known for their electronics, otaku goods, and anime shops. Some of the main attractions are Sofmap, Yodobashi Camera, Maid Cafes, Don Quijote and Mandarake. If you're into anime, then this is the place to have a nerdgasm.

Gundam Cafe - The Gundam Cafe is a themed cafe after the popular Mobile Suit Gundam anime series. The cafe serves a variety of different dishes and drinks themed after the characters of the show. You can more about it here.

Don Quijote - Don Quijote is a discount chain store that carries a wide range of products from basic groceries to electronics to clothing. It's my go-to shop for souvenirs and local treats/goodies to bring back home. 


Tokyo Skytree - The Tokyo Skytree is a television broadcasting tower and landmark of Tokyo. For ¥2,060, you can go up to the main observation deck on Floor350 to get a top view of Tokyo's skyline. I didn't think it was worth the money, so we opted out of going. However, at the base of the tower is a large shopping complex and aquarium, which we did check out. 

Sumida Aquarium - The Sumida Aquarium is one of the main attractions of the Tokyo Skytree Town complex. Entrance ticket was ¥2,050 yen ($23) and houses over 10,000 sea creatures on the 5th and 6th floors of Tokyo Solamachi. The aquarium was smaller than the one in Osaka, but I still found it enjoyable. Plus, I loved the penguins pen.

Tokyo Skytree Solamachi


Sensō-ji (Kannon) Temple - Asakusa is the center of Tokyo, and its main attraction is Sensoji, a popular Buddhist temple. It's one of the oldest temples in Japan, and has quite a significant heritage behind it. It was pretty busy around noon time bustling with both locals and tourists.

Nakamise Dori - The temple is approached via a shopping street called Nakamise. The street is filled with several small shops offering a variety of traditional goods, souvenirs and local snacks.

 Akasaka is more of a business district, and there weren't too many things to do here. However, we were here for afternoon tea on the 45th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Tokyo (you can more about it here). It was during the Christmas season, so the price was rather high at about $154 CAD for the two of us (including 13% gratuity and tax).


Ikefukurou Cafe (Owl Cafe) - If you get the chance to venture to Ikefukurou, be sure to check out this cute Owl Cafe on the 6th floor. It's best to make a reservation, as they do have limited space for each hour. One hour was ¥1600 yen ($18 CAD) a person (one drink included).

Pokemon Center - Are you a Pokemon fan? If yes, then this store is definitely for you!!  


Gundam Statue - The (original) Gundam statue in Odaiba has been taken down since early 2017, and been replaced with the new Unicorn Gundam. We're going back to Japan in a couple of months, but Odaiba isn't on our itinerary cause we saw most of it already on our two previous trips.


Ueno Park - Ueno Park is a large public park steps away from Ueno Station.


Studio Ghibli - If you're a fan of Studio Ghibli, then you'll love this museum. It will definitely transport you to the land of Ghibli, as there are several official art works by Hayao Miyazaki, exhibitions, and even a large-sized Cat Bus. All admissions to the museum is by advance reservation only. Foreigners may purchase their tickets by the JTB Group in your city, or online tickets from Lawson Ticket. Make note that they have a very strict policy on "no photography" inside of the museum. The museum was really cool!

[Travel] Tokyo Travel Guide (Japan)

by on Wednesday, January 24, 2018
 Tokyo is Japan's capital and one of my favorite cities in the world. There are plenty of things to do and see in the city, and I have ...