Showing posts with label Japan Guides & Tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Japan Guides & Tips. Show all posts
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 ...
 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 ...

Komainu: They are a pair statue of lion-dogs that are found at the front of the shrines. They are located on each side of the entrance, and are used to ward off any nearby evil spirits. You will often see two komainu dogs erected directly across from one another; one has its mouth open while the other has its mouth closed.

Inari: Instead of komainu dogs; there are many shrines who chose to have Inari (fox-gods) guarding the place of worship instead.

Torii Gate: The large gate structure is used to mark the entrances and exits of the shrines in Japan. 

Chozuya: This is a water pavilion that can be found at the entrances of shrines. It's a ritual to wash one's hands and mouth to purify themselves before entering the main Shinto shrines.

1. Take the ladle to scoop up some water with your right hand, and wash your left. Then switch to wash your right hand.
2. You can take a small sip of water to rinse your mouth.
3. Return the ladle back to the water.

 Suzu: The bell is attached to a structure on the grounds of the shrines, and rang by worshipers.

Honden: This is the main sanctuary of a shrine in Japan.

Omikuji:  They are paper fortunes that you can get by shaking a box containing bamboo sticks. Each stick has different numbers written on them, and you'd go into the cupboard with the correct number (as on your chosen stick), and select a fortune. The fortune is then tied onto a branch that's on the ground of the shrine for good luck.

Tip: Some popular shrines are Meiji Shrine (Tokyo), Toshogu Shrine (Nikko), Itsukushima Shrine (Miyajima), Hakone Shrine (Hakone), Fushimi Inari Shrine (Kyoto).


Gate: The gate marks the entrance of the temple.

Main Hall (kon-dō): This is where the main service is conducted in the Buddhist temple.

Pagoda: A multi-tier structure that can be found on the grounds of a temple in Japan. Many of the ones that I saw in Japan were either three or five story high.

Tip: Some popular temples are Sensoji Temple (Tokyo), Tennoji Temple (Osaka), Kiyomizu Temple (Kyoto), Kinkakuji (Kyoto), Naritasan (Narita), Todaiji Temple (Nara)

Sources: Wikipedia and Japan Guide

Shinto Shrines & Temples in Japan

by on Friday, March 21, 2014
SHINTO SHRINES Komainu: They are a pair statue of lion -dogs that are found at the front of the shrines. They are located on each s...
If you're traveling to multiple cities throughout Japan then I'd highly recommend getting the JR Rail Pass. The pass is issued by the JR Railways Group, and it cannot be purchased inside of Japan. You have to buy an exchange order through an authorized sale agent in Canada. There are a few located in the GTA and I also know of one place in Markham. You have to purchase an exchange order in Canada, and then exchange the voucher for an actual pass in Japan. You must show your passport in order to get the actual pass and photocopies are not allowed.

We got two (14 days) (ordinary) pass for $966 CAD. In the long run, it was definitely worth the investment as we traveled a lot with it. The seats in the ordinary cars were quite spacious and many Hikari and Kodama trains don't have green cars, so there was no point in getting the green one. We spent our savings on Kobe beef =D

The prices are as followed:

07 days: ¥ 37,800 ($405) [green car]                      07 days: ¥ 28,300 ($303) [ordinary]
14 days: ¥ 61,200 ($656) [green car]                      14 days: ¥ 45,100 ($483) [ordinary]
21 days: ¥ 79,600 ($852) [green car]                      21 days: ¥ 57,700 ($618) [ordinary]

The prices might look expensive at first but it's really an economical and flexible way to travel in the long run. The pass allows you to have unlimited travel on all JR trains except for two which are the NOZOMI and MIZUHO Shinkansen (bullet trains). If you get on either of those two then you will have to buy the full price ticket. Other perks of buying the JR Rail Pass is that you can make free seat reservations on the trains.

What transportation services can I get on using the JR Rail Pass?

The JR Rail Pass is valid on all JR JR Group Railways-Shinkansen (bullet trains) except the NOZOMI and MIZUHO Shinkansen. The four Shinkansen (bullet trains) that you can take using the JR Rail Pass are Hikari, Sakura, Kodama, and Tsubame.

Other transportation methods that is valid with the pass are buses, Tokyo monorail, Miyajima ferry, limited express trains, express trains, and rapid or local trains

Can I reserve seats before arriving in Japan?

Unfortunately you can't reserve seats on the bullet trains until after your arrival in Japan. The reason is because you need to exchange your voucher for the real pass first, and that can only happen once you are in Japan.

How do I make seat reservations?

You can make seat reservations at no additional cost as it comes with having a JR Rail Pass. To make a reservation, you need to go to any reservation office at a JR station or travel service center. You need to show your pass, select the seat/time that you want, and get your reserve seat ticket. 

JR Rail Pass

by on Thursday, January 30, 2014
If you're traveling to multiple cities throughout Japan then I'd highly recommend getting the JR Rail Pass. The pass is issued by ...

Tokyo is an incredibly populous city with no shortage of food, shopping and entertainment. Originally we were only going to stay there for 4 days but I extended it to a full week as there are a lot of districts in Tokyo to explore. Below are some tips that I thought could be helpful before visiting Tokyo.

Affordable Eateries

Eating out in Tokyo doesn't have to always be expensive. There are several budget friendly restaurants all throughout the city. Places with affordable eats are sushi belt (kaiten-zushi), machine operated restaurants, ramen houses, convenience stores, and underground food market in department stores. You can have a filling meal for under $15 per person.

Amenities in Hotels

There are certain items that you don't need to pack in your suitcase as you can (a) buy them in Tokyo or (b) they're provided by the hotels. All of the Japanese hotels that we stayed in provided the following amenities: pajamas or yukata, toothbrush, toothpaste, comb, razor, soap, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, alarm clock, hair dryer, iron (on occasions), and slippers.


Aiport: Toronto Pearson International (YYZ) to Narita International Airport (NRT)
Ambulance/Fire 119
Country code: +81
Currency: Yen (¥)
Electricity voltage: 100V 
Language: Japanese
Police: 110
Time zone: +14 hours ahead of Toronto

Comfortable Shoes

I can't stress this enough as it's so important to wear comfortable shoes in Tokyo. There's a lot of walking involved as even some line transfers on the subways are 500-900 m away from one another. 

Credit Cards + Cash

Credit cards are widely accepted in many restaurants and all (large) department stores. However, there are some places that only accept cash so it's best to have some on hand. I've found that many of the souvenir shops nearby popular sites only take cash for smaller purchases.

Don't forget to inform your credit card companies that you will be overseas so that they won't flag the charges as fraudulent. 

Don't Eat and Walk

It is considered rude to eat while you walk in Tokyo (and all of Japan). It is also highly not recommended as there are hardly any garbage cans on the streets of Tokyo.


The (unspoken) rule of taking the escalators in Tokyo is the exact opposite as that in Toronto. In Tokyo, you keep to the left if you're standing on the escalators, and walk on the right.

photo credit: yahoo news
Free Wifi

About 85% of the hotels that we stayed at offered free wifi in the rooms. Wifi was available only in the lobby of the other 15%. I found that the wifi signals were pretty good for most of the trip. Starbucks also offered free wifi but we weren't able to connect to it as you have to be a member (site to join was all in Japanese). Lastly, Tokyo Metro offers free wifi at 30 subway stations so you can surf the internet while underground. You can only access the service five times per day and use it for only 15 minutes per connection.


Hotel check-in varies between 2 pm to 3 pm, and check-out varies between 10 am to 11 am in Tokyo.

Rush Hours

Try to avoid traveling during rush hour as it can be difficult to get on the trains. The peak rush hours are between 8 am to 9 am in the morning, and 5 pm to 6 pm in the afternoon.

Shopping in Tokyo

Shinjuku is a great place to buy clothes, books/magazines, souvenirs, beauty, stationary, crafts, and electronics. Some popular places to shop in this district are Isetan, Takashimaya, Odakyu, Yodobashi Camera, Bic Camera and Tokyu Hands.

The district to shop for the latest Japanese fashion trends has to be Shibuya. There are several department stores in the area, along with specialty stores catering to both the locals and tourists. Some popular places to shop in this district are Shibuya 109, Tokyu Hands, Don Quijote, Shibuya Mark City, Seibu, Parco, Marui, and Loft.

There is a street called Takeshita Dori in Harajuku where you can find trendy fashion shops, and boutiques (catering to the younger generations). 100 yen stores are also very popular in Tokyo, and the popular Daiso has a large branch here.

Located nearby Harajuku is an upscale shopping area called Omotesando. Here you will find tons of luxury brand goods such as Burberry, Chanel, Dior, Emporio Armani, Gucci, and Louis Vuitton. For the kids and those who are kids at heart; there is a multi-floor toy store called Kiddy Land with a lot of amazing products.

Akihabara is well-known for their large selection of electronics, and toys. It is also a central area for otaku culture, so you will find a lot of anime and manga related items here.

Ginza is an affluent district in the city of Tokyo, and is known for its high-end shopping worldwide. There are countless numbers of luxury stores, and large department stores offering high end fashion and products. 

Smoking Indoors

Smoking in Tokyo is permitted indoors. Therefore, many restaurants have both smoking and non-smoking areas in their establishments. However, there are rarely any barriers to block the smoke from entering the non-smoking areas.


 The subway system in Tokyo is both a convenient and inexpensive approach to traveling around the huge city.

Taxis in Tokyo

We took the taxis in a couple of the cities that we visited for many reasons (constant hard rain, got lost, getting to the JR station was faster than taking the transit, etc ...). We found that taking the taxi in Tokyo was the most expensive of them all. The meter started at ¥710 (nearly $8 CAD). I was feeling slightly sick one day, and needed to return to our hotel.

Our 16 minute ride from Meiji Shrine to our hotel cost about $25. To compare the cost; our 10 min taxi ride from our hotel in Hiroshima, Japan, to JR Hiroshima Station was under $10.

Our friendly taxi driver in Tokyo.
Tea Bags are Provided in Hotels

All of the hotels that we stayed at provided us with an in-room kettle, packets of instant coffee and green tea bags. These were refilled daily when the maids clean up your room.


Tipping isn't practiced nor expected by the wait staff in Tokyo (actually all of Japan).


Many public facilitates in Tokyo don't have any paper towels or hand dryers in their washrooms. So it's highly recommended that you bring yourself a hand towel or tissue papers when you go to the bathroom. Don't go wasting money on buying tissues; as you will see plenty of people handing out free packet of tissues on the street (used as a form of advertising).

Tokyo Metro (Subway)

The subway systems in Tokyo may look super complicated at first, but it's so efficient. Many of the main sights are very close by to the main stations, so traveling to each tourist destination is easy.

If you plan on traveling a lot in one day using the subway then I'd recommend getting the Special 1-Day Open Ticket. The ticket gives you one day of unlimited subway travel in Tokyo. However, this is only valid on the Tokyo Metro lines and not the Oedo lines. For visitors from abroad, you can buy the tickets for ¥600 each but this price is only available at either Narita Airport and Haneda Airport. 

If you didn't buy enough passes for your travels at the airport; it is also available at every ticket machines located in all subway stations. However, you will have to pay the full price as the locals do at ¥710 per pass.

Vending Machines

There are an abundance of vending machines everywhere in Tokyo that dispenses cold or hot drinks, snacks and food. I was taken surprised when my canned Tulley's Coffee (130 yen) came out of the machine pipping hot!

Bon Voyage :)

Travel Tips - Tokyo, Japan

by on Tuesday, January 28, 2014
Tokyo is an incredibly populous city with no shortage of food, shopping and entertainment. Originally we were only going to stay...