48 Hours in Tokyo

With less than 48 hours in Tokyo, the largest city in the world, we were pressed for time with a foot long list of items on our bucket list. But instead of trying to rush to get everything done and checked off, we decided to take it slow and enjoy Tokyo with Jeremy’s family before they headed back to the States the next day.

While we were there we:

+Meiji Shrine. Located in the Harajuku neighborhood of Tokyo, this was one of my favorite shrines that we saw in Japan, not to mention huge. You could seriously spend a few hours wandering around the grounds and just sit and people watch. My favorite. While we were there we were also able to see a traditional Shinto wedding which may have been the highlight of our trip for me. I love seeing weddings from different cultures and different religions. It’s really eye opening and humbling to how even though we come from different backgrounds, different cultures and different ways of living; love truly is universal.

meiji shrine, tokyosaki barrelsMeiji Shrine, Tokyo temple wedding japan+Shibuya Station. This is the busiest intersection in.the.world! We headed up to the upstairs of a nearby Starbucks to watch the commotion and even though seats were nearly impossible (guess we weren’t the only ones with that idea!) it’s quite the sight to see! You can check out of video of the chaos here
shibuya intersection Also home to the Hachi Statue. The dog that was so loyal that it walked it’s owner to this train station every morning. Until one morning the owner died of a heart attack at work and never returned. The dog returned to the same site day after day waiting for him to return until one day, the dog too died. It is now used as a tale to encourage loyalty in small children.hachi statue tokyo+ Mount Fuji/Bullet Train. On our way from Kyoto to Tokyo we decided to take the Shinkansen to save time (but definitely not money!) and along the way were lucky enough to catch a glimpse (literally, just a glimpse) of Mt. Fuji. And I just had to add a photo of one of the train station workers. Confused on what rail to take? Simply press the call button and a friendly assistant will literally pop right out of the wall to help you. Come on America, there are lessons to be learned from this! shinkansen mt. fujirailway station+Sushi Train. You just had to know that my favorite part was the food. Sure, Korea has their own version of sushi, gimbap, but it often includes ham, radish and a little bit of seafood. Not quite the same Korea, actually…not the same at all. And while sushi in Japan isn’t exactly cheap, you can still find dirt cheap options for it, and not the shady ‘half off’ end of the day special sushi rolls either. I’m talking fresh, right from the kitchen and directly to your table sushi rolls. We ate until we couldn’t fit another roll in us and we fed four people for under $20! Not too shabby.
conveyor belt sushiconveyor belt sushi IMG_2052 conveyor belt sushi conveyor belt sushi conveyor belt sushi

Fushimi Inari Shrine-Kyoto, Japan

If I were to pick my top three sites we’ve seen in our travels, the Fushimi Inari Shrine in Kyoto Japan would definitely make the list  So much so, we decided to visit a second time! 

fushimi inari shrine, kyoto japanQuick history lesson: It is a shinto shrine put in place in order to worship the God Inari, the God of Rice. Foxes are said to be its messengers which is why several fox statues can be seen along the trail. The large orange gateways are called toriis and there are thousands of them along the two hour trail. All of them are donations from individuals and businesses. Prices for the smaller ones start at around 5,000 us dollars while the larger ones start at around 13,000 us dollars.
map at fushimi inari shrine, kyoto japan

Lucky for us, it was much better weather this time around and we enjoyed hiking up into the mountain through the endless maze of toriis. We left extra early in the morning (we were there around 8am) to beat the crowds that are found so often here. But as you go deeper into the woods, the crowds thin out and you can truly appreciate the serenity of this place. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

fushimi inari shrine, kyoto japantunnel of toriis at fushimi inari shrine, kyoto japanfushimi inari shrine, kyoto japanexploring fushimi inari shrine, kyoto japanhike into the woods at fushimi inari shrine, kyoto japan

Japan Budget

Another trip, another budget…my favorite. And surprisingly, that last sentence doesn’t have a hint of sarcasm in it. This time I will be going trough our Japan budget. Unfortunately, with Japan we about had a heart attack when we went over the final numbers. This isn’t because it’s astronomically expensive there, it just feels that way compared to what we spent for longer stays in SE Asia. I would say that Japan is by far the most expensive country we have visited and the most difficult to budget for. But don’t let that stop you from going! It is one of our favorite countries to visit for both it’s beauty and rich history.
This budget is for 4 days and 4 nights, 3 cities and reflects the cost of both my husband and myself.
Japan Budget
Tips to keep it cheap in Japan
Take the slower train or even over night bus.
There are several different options in Japan for traveling such a planes, trains (fast and slow speed) and buses. Slower trains and buses will take much longer but if scheduled at night it will be essentially where you stay that night and save you in the cost of a hotel room.
Find alternative meal options.
Eating at shopping centers, grocery stores and train stations are a great way to find food for cheap. Trust me when I say that you can get great food in these places for a fraction of the cost. We did this on our first trip to Japan and were able to save money so we could eat somewhere nicer later on. Also, this time we tried a sushi train restaurant and were shocked at how cheap it was! We fed four people for just $17 and we were all stuffed at the end. Other places to try are street vendors and small restaurants on the street which offer a wide selection such as ramen, dumplings Japanese curry and udon noodles. Japanese food can be expensive but there are definitely ways to still enjoy it on a budget.
Take advantage of the free attractions.
Sure, everything else is more expensive in Japan but its the least amount of money we’ve spent on entertainment since majority of historical sites such as shrines and tempes are either free or just a few dollars to get in.

Be flexible with travel times.

Just like anywhere else you can save a lot of money depending on the time of year that you go and your flight options. Multi city airlines tickets and during peak season are going to be the most expensive and unfortunately what we did this time around. Just going a few days earlier or later, or choosing to arrive and depart from the same city, tickets were half the price.

 

Staying in a Capsule Hotel-Osaka, Japan

Sometimes when traveling, you will have experiences because it’s something you have always wanted to see or do. And other times you will choose to experience something for the sheer bizarreness of it all. Sleeping in a capsule hotel-Osaka was definitely the latter. In our one night in Osaka, we booked four ‘capsules’ at Eco Cube in the Shinsaibashi neighborhood.

eco cube capsule hotel
We had originally decided to stay in a capsule hotel because Jeremy’s brother and sister were going to stay with us and we wanted them to experience plenty of weird and out of the ordinary experiences. Plus, we just really like to watch their faces when we propose these plans. But after staying here for a night, I would definitely go back, even if it were just Jeremy and I.
eco cube capsule hotel

The hotel is just as it sounds, column upon column of capsule like beds, large enough for just one person to fit inside. It reminds me of a beehive but my sister in law felt it looked more like a morgue. It probably didn’t help that before we went I told her that the beds slide out and there was a plastic door that slid down to close you inside. Sorry Aimee. I couldn’t resist.

The place we stayed was just recently renovated and while it looked a lot like the photo above, when you see it in person, it doesn’t have the same creep factor. Although the cubes themselves haven’t been renovated and are a pale green with an awesomely 70’s screen that rolls down to close off your capsule to give you some privacy; the rest of the place received a very modern redo recently. Plenty nice enough to forget about the 70’s touches and the spaceship like control panel inside of the capsule itself.

capsule hotel in japan
inside capsule hotel in japan

So how was it? Surprisingly quiet and comfortable! Each capsule has it’s own air con, radio and TV up above. I only woke up once during the night and fell right back to sleep. It was very clean, well maintained and they even had individual lockers, makeup station and extra security door and camera on the women’s floor for protection.
staying in a capsule hotel in japan

Looking for Geishas in Gion, Kyoto

geishas in kyoto, japan

When we returned to Kyoto for the second time we knew that we also had to return to the neighborhood of Gion, which is said to be one of the last areas of Japan where geishas are still at work in teahouses. Unfortunately, the last time we were there, we were unable to see any geishas for ourselves but nonetheless, the streets are a gorgeous mix of old and new that we loved to wander around.

After wandering around the streets for awhile, we started to wonder if geishas were real at all or if we were on the hunt for an imagined animal. At least we weren’t alone. I’m pretty sure all the other foreigners walking anxiously down the street that night with cameras ready in hand were looking for the same thing.

teahouses in gion, kyoto
Luckily for us, the second time around we were more than lucky. It seemed like we had arrived to the area at just the right time because we saw three geishas in a row scurrying off to different tea houses (one walking alone and two others with escorts on either side). As silly as I felt for making such a big deal out of it, my jaw literally dropped when I saw them. I can’t imagine how annoying it would be if I were her, all these tourists out and about just wanting to grab a picture of her. I don’t blame her for walking as fast as she did into the safety of the teahouse! Thankfully right after I snatched a picture of her back. I’ll be honest, all I know about geishas has come from Wikipedia and the book, Memoirs of a Geisha (which I highly recommend). But I always get so giddy when there is something that I have read or learned about and I get to actually see it in person. 
gion kyoto teahouses

If you want to feel like you’ve stepped back in time, grab a cup of coffee and stroll through the side streets of Gion. There’s a peace about this area as the streets are illuminated by lanterns sitting on the ground outside the teahouses, lit up, just waiting for customers. Even if you don’t spot a geisha, it’s still a beautiful area to wander.