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Japan

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Japan offers many diverse experiences for a traveler even though it’s a small island. You can take your pick from sprawling modern cities, quaint villages, culturally rich destinations, snow-capped mountains, beaches and islands.
No matter what you are looking for, I’m sure you’ll find it here in my list of the best places to visit in Japan.

Best Places To Visit In Japan

1. Tokyo

Best Places to Visit in Japan: Tokyo
Best Places to Visit in Japan: Tokyo

Tokyo is one of the top cities in the world and a delight to visit. Despite the language barrier, living and traveling in the city feels very smooth and convenient thanks to the excellent transit facilities and courteous locals. Tokyo is known for delicious sea food, fashion and Anime/Manga culture. Popular things to do here is to visit Takeshita street in Harajuku, Electric Town in Akihabara, dazzling night life in Shinjuku, Ginza, Senso-ji Temple, Meji-Jingu and many more. For a more detailed list, see my post on the top things to do in Tokyo.

2. Kyoto

Best places to visit in Japan: Kyoto
Best places to visit in Japan: Kyoto

If you want to experience the cultural and historical aspect of Japan, then Kyoto is a must-visit. Kyoto is somewhat of a contrast to Tokyo. While Tokyo is modern, well-organised and futuristic, Kyoto is slightly chaotic in terms of traffic and geared towards traditional Japanese culture. Hence, instead of skyscrapers, it’s dominated by temples and shrines. You will frequently see people, including some tourists, dressed in Yukatas and Kimonos. This is also where you’ll see Geishas roam the streets and where you can actually interact with them at tea ceremonies and dance performances.

3. Nara

Best places to see in Japan: Nara
Best Places To Visit in Japan: Nara

Nara makes for an easy day trip from Kyoto as it’s just an hour and a half train ride away. Like Kyoto, Nara has many temples but it’s popular for something else – deer. In Nara, lots of deer roam freely in the streets without fear of humans. You can approach them, pet them and even feed them cookies which you can purchase from the street vendors. The deer of Nara are also known to bow their head imitating you when you bow yours. A word of caution when you are petting the deer – they are known to have ticks which carry Lyme disease. So, take appropriate precautions.

4. Kii-Katsuura

Best Places to visit in Japan: Kii Katsuura
Best Places to visit in Japan: Kii Katsuura

Kii-Katsuura in the Kii peninsula is part of the ancient pilgrimage route – the Kumano Kodo trails. Here you’ll find Kumano Nachi Taisha, Daimonzaka and the Senjudo Pagoda set against the backdrop of Nachi Falls as shown in the picture. If you are visting Kumano Kodo from Tokyo or Osaka, then see my post giving you complete directions on how to do that.

5. Kawaguchiko

Best places to visit in Japan: Lake Kawaguchi
Best places to visit in Japan: Lake Kawaguchi

Lake Kawaguchiko is one of the five lakes from where you can see Mt. Fuji. It’s the most popular and the second largest of the five Fuji Lakes. This place also serves as the base from where you can climb Mt. Fuji. Apart from Mt. Fuji viewpoints you can go boating on the lake and visit other minor attractions located around the lake.

6. Arashiyama

Best places to visit in Japan: Arashiyama
Best places to visit in Japan: Arashiyama

Arashiyama is located in the outskirts of Kyoto and is easily accessible by trains from Kyoto station. The most popular thing to do here is to visit the bamboo groove and Tenryu-ji Temple. You can also ride the Sagano scenic railway which is very beautiful during the cherry blossom season when the cherry trees lining the train tracks are in full bloom.

7. Osaka

Best places to visit in Japan : Osaka. Pic Credit: sharonang (Pixabay)
Best places to visit in Japan : Osaka. Pic Credit: sharonang (Pixabay)

Osaka is another major city in Japan next to Tokyo. The main downtown area is in Umeda where you can shop, dine and see many skyscrapers such as the Umeda Sky building. Minami, in the south of Osaka is another popular shopping spot in the city. Besides shopping, you can also visit the Osaka Castle, Universal Studios, Sumiyoshi Taisha, Osaka Aquarium and Shitennoji Temple.

8. Mount Aso and Komezuka

Best places to visit in Japan: Mount Aso and Komezuka. Pic credit : @DeltaWorks (Pixabay)
Best places to visit in Japan: Mount Aso and Komezuka. Pic credit : @DeltaWorks (Pixabay)

If you are feeling brave and adventorous, then go see an active volcano at Mount Aso. This mountain is located on Kyusu island in Kumamato Prefecture. Since it’s an active volcano, when the conditions get dangerous, visitors are prohibited from entering the area. So, please check the volcano’s condition here before you make arrangements to visit. Also, if you suffer from respiratory conditions, then its better to avoid this visit as the gases from the active volcano can have adverse effects on your health. You can get to the volcano through as bus from the JR Aso station or by car. The picture shown here is not of Mount Aso but Komezuka, which is a small inactive volcano and can be seen on the way to Mount Aso.

9. Itsukushima or Miyajima Island

Best places to visit in Japan: Miyajima
Best places to visit in Japan: Miyajima . Pic credit: @theerab (Pixabay)

Itsukushima Island, also known as Miyajima, is one of the most scenic islands in Japan. It is especially beautiful in the fall when the maple trees on the island change color to a brilliant crimson. It’s also known for the giant Torri gate as shown in the picture. This Torri gate gets partially submerged in water during high tide and you can walk right up to it during low tide. Just as in Nara, you can spot deer roaming freely along the beach and near many temples and shrines.

10. Mount Koya

Best Places to see in Japan: Mount Koya. Pic credit: @Silsilvia (Pixabay)
Best Places to visit in Japan: Mount Koya. Pic credit: @Silsilvia (Pixabay)

Mount Koya or Koyasan is a religious retreat for members of the Shingon sect of Buddhism. Tourists can experience the quiet life of the monks by living overnight in one of the temples. You can also take part in the day to day prayers, meditation and sutra copying rituals of the monks. Book a Shukobo, acommodation in one of the temples, in advance as they are limited and in much demand. Remember to take adequate cash on your visit, as credit cards are not accepted at these places.

25 Top things to do in Tokyo
Tokyo has a myriad of activities to do for a first-time visitor. Plan your Tokyo itinerary with this list of top things to do in Tokyo.

25 Top Things to do in Tokyo on your first visit

1. Get a bird’s-eye view of Tokyo at Tokyo Tower

Things to do in Tokyo : Tokyo Tower
Things to do in Tokyo : Tokyo Tower

Tokyo tower is a must-do activity when you go to Tokyo. From the observation deck on the tower, you can see a 360 degree view of Tokyo. On exceptionally clear days, you can also see Mt. Fuji in the distance.

2. Buy Anime collectibles at Akihabara

Things to do in Tokyo :  Buy Manga/Anime collectibles at Electric Town
Things to do in Tokyo : Buy Manga/Anime collectibles at Electric Town

Tokyo is the land of Anime and Manga. If you are a fan, then Akihabara’s Electric Town is ground zero. There’s plenty of stores selling Manga collectibles and books. However if you are not a fan, then don’t worry there are other things to do such as exploring some of the giant Electronic stores BIC Camera, Yodabashi Akiba.

3. Shop Japanese street fashion at Takeshita Street

Things to do in Tokyo - Takeshita Street
Things to do in Tokyo – Takeshita Street

Takeshita street is known as the birth place for fashion trends like Lolita Fashion and others. Be ahead of the trend, and shop for some unique and cost-effective items on this street.

4. Eat the huge cotton candy at Totti Candy Factory

Things to do in Tokyo : Totti Candy Factory at Takeshita Street
Things to do in tokyo : Totti Candy Factory at Takeshita Street

Totti Candy Factory, the store that makes huge rainbow-colored cotton candy and other sweet treats, has gained fame because of Instagram. Take a friend along when you try this, you may not be able to finish it on your own. You will find the shop at Takeshita street in Harajuku.

5. See the Godzilla statue At Kabukicho

Things to do in Tokyo: Godzilla Statue at Shinjuku
Things to do in Tokyo: Godzilla Statue at Shinjuku

At Kabukicho, you’ll find the Godzilla statue towering over the Toho Building in Shinjuku. At night, you can even see Godzilla move his head and blow steam out of his mouth!

6. See the Sake barrel stack at Meji Jingu

Things to do in Tokyo: Sake barrels at Meji Jingu
Things to do in Tokyo: Sake barrels at Meji Jingu

Meji Jingu, in Harajuku, is a shrine dedicated to Emperor Meji who is held in high respect by the Japanese for his contributions to the growth of Japan. The gardens that surround the shrine are extensive, well-kept and very pleasant to walk in. At the entrance of Meji Jingu, you’ll see a stack of colorful Saki Barrels as shown in the picture. These Sake barrels are donated to the shrine by Sake companies every year in honour of Emperor Meji and his wife.

7. Celebrate Sakura hanami at Ueno Park

Things to do in Tokyo: Cherry Blossom Canopy at Ueno Park
Things to do in Tokyo: Cherry Blossom Canopy at Ueno Park

If you are visiting Japan in March/ April, then visit Ueno park where you’ll see the beauty of cherry blossom in full bloom. You can also take part in Sakura Hanami, a festival of celebrating the arrival of spring by having a picnic beneath the trees.

8. Get a souvenier Gashapon from a vending machine

Things to do in Tokyo: Get a souvenier Gashapon.
Things to do in Tokyo: Get a souvenier Gashapon.

Gashapon are tiny toy capsules containing toys based on mostly Manga/Anime characters. Electric Town in Akihabara has rows of vending machines and even entire shops dedictaed to these toy capsules. They are relatively inexpensive to buy and cost around 500 yen and above. For fans of Manga/Anime this can be a cool souvenier to get.

9. Ride on a swan boat at Shinobazu Pond

Things to do in Tokyo: Shinobazu Pond
Things to do in Tokyo: Boat ride in Shinobazu Pond

Shinobazu pond at Ueno park is especially lovely during the cherry blossom. There’s also plenty of Japanese street food stalls near the pond during the summer. See my post about the different street food you must try at Ueno park.

10. Cross the world’s busiest intersection at Shibuya

Things to do in Tokyo: Shibuya Crossing
Things to do in Tokyo: Shibuya Crossing

The 4 way crossing Shibuya is rumored to be the busiest intersection in the world. It’s also a popular photo/video spot in Tokyo where people come to capture the thousands of Japanese men and women crossing this intersection to get to work. Find out what the buzz is all about by joining in the crowd.

11. Visit the Imperial Palace Gardens

Things to do in Tokyo: Visit the Imperial Palace Gardens
Things to do in Tokyo: Visit the Imperial Palace Gardens

The Imperial Palace is the residence of the royal family of Japan. You can’t get into to the palace itself, however you can view of the palace from the Imperial Palace grounds if you book the walking tour in advance. If you fail to book the walking tour, you can still enjoy the East gardens of the Imperial palace which is open to public.

12. Enjoy the sea food stalls at Tsukiji market

Tsukiji market was famous for the fish market where huge Tuna were auctioned off in the inner market. The inner market has moved to a new location. However, the outer market still exists in Tsukiji and you can savour all the tasty seafood to your heart’s content.

13. Witness the huge Tuna auction at Toyosu market

Toyosu market is the new location of the tuna auction which was formerly held in Tsukiji market. This new venue has huge observation decks and windows through which tourists can watch the auction and later sample the seafood at the restaurants in the same building.

14. Checkout the artificial sky at Venus Fort

Venus Fort is one the most unusual malls that you’ll find in the world. The interior has been transformed to look like Rome, Italy complete with grand fountains and pillars. There’s also an artificial sky which is always blue with fluffy white clouds floating across giving the illusion of a pleasant day no matter what the real weather is on the outside. This coupled together with some great shops make it a mut-see when you visit Tokyo.

15. See the huge Gundam Statue at Odaiba

Things to do in Tokyo: Gundam Statue at Odaiba
Things to do in Tokyo: Gundam Statue at Odaiba

Gundam is a very popular science fiction series with a huge fan following. You can see a giant life-size statue of Gundam, the futuristic robot of the series, at Odaiba.

16. Buy robots at Tsukomo Robots World

We have all been waiting for the fully automated robots that can cook our meals and do our chores for us. Unfortunately, this dream seems far away and only possible in science fiction. However, there are still semi-intelligent robots that you can buy today at Tsukomo Robots World in Electric Town. The advanced models are very expensive but you can still buy minitaure ones that are programmable and slightly more affordbale.

17. Visit Lady Liberty’s replica at Odaiba

Things to do in Tokyo: See the replica of Statue of Liberty
Things to do in Tokyo: Visit Lady Liberty’s replica at Odaiba

You don’t have to travel to Newyork to see the Statue of Liberty, you can see it right here in Tokyo. In Odaiba, there’s a replica of Lady Liberty set against the backdrop of the rainbow bridge which is worth a visit even if you have already seen the real deal.

18. Shop in the luxury stores of Omotesando

Things to do in Tokyo: Shopping in Omotesando
Things to do in Tokyo: Shopping in Omotesando

While the nearby Takeshita street and Jingumae are known for affordable Japanese street fashion, you can buy luxury branded items at the high-end shops of Omotesando. Tokyo Plaza, Omotesando Hills are some well-known shopping malls in this area.

19. Have Omurice and desserts at a cosplay themed cafe

Things to do in Tokyo: Have desserts in a cosplay cafe.
Things to do in Tokyo: Have desserts in a cosplay cafe.

There’s no escaping Anime/ Manga and cosplay when you are in Electric Town in Akihabara. Not only are the streets filled with shops catering to this craze, there is cosplay themed restaurants as well. The most notable ones are maid cafes and Gundam cafe.

20. Visit Senso-ji and Asakusa street market

The entrance to the Senso-ji temple is stunning and a very beautiful photo location in Tokyo. The huge red lantern that hangs at the entrance leads you to the bustling street market that line the street leading up to the main temple. You can sample various sea food and buy a lot of cheap souveniers in this market.

21. Visit the Jizo Statues at Zojo-ji Temple

Things to do in Tokyo: Jizo statues at Zojo-ji Temple
Things to do in Tokyo: Jizo statues at Zojo-ji Temple

Zojo-ji temple is very close to the Tokyo tower, so you can see both of these in one go. Near the temple, you’ll see rows of tiny stone statues dressed up with woolen hats and scarves. These statues are Jizo statues, a deity in Japan who is said to take care of unborn children and who guides them through the treacherous paths of the afterlife. The statues are decorated with clothes and toys by parents who have lost children and are trying to appease Jizo. Please keep this in mind when you visit the temple and take care to be respectful.

22. Have a shopping spree in Ginza

Ginza is a place to go if you want to buy expensive clothes and shoes. Departmental stores like Ginza Six, Matsuya, Mitsukoshi are popular places to shop. You will also find some exclusive clothes and shoes at luxury brand stores like Bulgari, Burberry, Onitsuka Tiger and others. The best time to visit Ginza for shopping is at 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM during the weekend when the main street is closed to traffic.

23. Get away from the crowds at Hanazono Shrine

Things to do in Tokyo: Get away frm the crowds at Hanazono Shrine
Things to do in Tokyo: Get away frm the crowds at Hanazono Shrine

Hanazono shrine is hidden away in a nook and is barely noticeable as people walk the streets of the highly popular Shinjuku area. However, if you want to get away from it all and want to find a moment of peace, then the pretty Hanazono shrine provides just that. The place is especially beautiful in cherry blossom season when the white blossom contrast beautifully against the bright red and orange of the shrine.

24. Get a Geisha makeover

You will probably not find a Geisha in Tokyo, you have to go to Kyoto for that. However, many parlours in Tokyo now offer a Geisha makeover which will be followed by a photo session. These makeovers are a bit expensive but definitely an experience thats unique to Japan.

25. Visit the other tower – Tokyo Skytree

Tokyo has not one but two towers. The other tower is known as Tokyo Skytree. See breathtaking views of the Tokyo metropolis from Sorakara Point, the highest point in the tower standing at 451.2m.

Kiyomizu-dera/Kiyomizudera is a Buddhist temple in Kyoto that is typically on every tourist’s must-see list. This is not surprising as it’s one of the most exquisite temples in Kyoto. Specially, during Spring and Autumn, the surrounding flowering trees and fall foliage along with the colorful pagoda make for postcard perfect photos.

Since it’s so popular, it also means that it’s very crowded right from the point where Matsubara Dori meets Higashi Oji Dori, where you begin the uphill journey to the temple. Here, I am suggesting an alternate route to Kiyomizu-dera which can give you some rerprieve from the crowd.

The Usual Route To Kiyomizudera

Before I explain the alternate route, first I will lay out the usual route that is taken by most tourists to Kiyomizudera.

  1. Take the 100 or 206 bus from Kyoto Station.
  2. Get down at Kiyomizu-michi on Higashi Oji Dori.
  3. Walk uphill on Matsubara Dori till you reach Kiyomizu-dera

An Alternate Route To Get To Kiyomizu-dera

The usual route is a very simple route. However, as I mentioned before there is an alternate route that is less crowded. This route may not be preferred by some due to reasons I’ll explain later. Nonetheless, this route is beautiful in its own way and quite peaceful being away from the crowd. The bonus is that you will see some more temples along the way as well.

So, here’s the route

  1. The first part of the route stays the same. That is, you take the bus 100 or 206 from Kyoto Station
  2. However, instead of getting down at Kiyomizu-michi, get down at Gojozaka which is one stop before Kiyomizu-michi.
  3. From the bus stop at Gojozaka, walk back towards the intersection where the big four lanes Gojo Dori and Higashi Oji Dori meet.
  4. Here, you will see a small bridge leading up to the entrance of a temple as shown in the picture below:
    Entrance To Otani Hombyo Temple - An alternate route to Kiyomizudera
    Entrance To Otani Hombyo Temple
  5. Otani Hombyo Temple

  6. This temple is another Buddhist temple known as Otani Hombyo temple. The temple is not as grand as Kiyomizudera but still impressive. Check out the pictures of the temple below.

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  7. After visiting the temple, exit through the doors to the side of the temple on to a narrow lane going uphill as shown in the picture below.
    Narrow Lane From Otani Hombyo To Kiyomizudera
    Narrow Lane From Otani Hombyo To Kiyomizudera
  8. Other Sites On The Way To Kiyomizudera

  9. Along this lane, you will see blocks of stones mounted on top of each other with a rectangular stone at the top. The tall stones usually have some writing on them. It’s not hard to guess what they are. Yes, they are gravestones.
    As you climb higher, the entire graveyard comes into view as shown below. As I mentioned before, some people prefer to avoid this route for this reason.
    Huge graveyard on the way to Kiyomizudera.
    Huge graveyard on the way to Kiyomizudera.
  10. As you continue to climb up the hill, you will see other small temples. They are mostly deserted. Not many people visit them even on weekends.
  11. Small Temples On The Way   To Kiyomizu-dera
    Small Temples On The Way To Kiyomizu-dera
  12. At the the end of the lane you will spot the upper stories of the pagoda, peeping from top of the hill. To reach Kiyomizudera, you have to climb up the flight of stairs leading up to it.
  13. Glimpses of the Pagoda At The Top Of The Hill
    Glimpses of the Pagoda At The Top Of The Hill

Things to Do At Kiyomizu-dera

At the top, apart from the main temple off Kiyomizu-dera, there are other structures such as the elaborate gates, shinto shrines and other Buddhist halls and temples. All of them are worth a capture. Check out my collection:

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The sad part for me though, when I visited Kiyomizudera, was that the main temple was under construction. The roof restoration is scheduled to last till March 2020. So, if you are visiting during this time, you will also miss the view of Kiyomizudera in its entriety. However, you can still see part of the wooden stage which Kiyomizudera is famous for.

To get inside Kiyomizu-dera, you have to pay an entrance fee of 300 yen. You can buy the ticket from the ticket sales booth near by.

The Otowa Waterfall Of Kiyomizu-dera

Another attraction, apart from the Kiyomizu-dera, that draws people to this place is the Otowa Waterfall. After you visit the temple, you will notice a long line in front of a small temple like structure with three streams of water flowing down from pipes in the roof. Legend has it that the three streams of water from the Otawa Waterfall represent Long life/ good health, Love and Knowledge.

Otowa Waterfall Of Kiyomizu-dera:  Three streams of  Health, Love and Knowledge
Otowa Waterfall Of Kiyomizu-dera : Three streams of Health, Love and Knowledge

Whichever you need most in life, go for that stream. However, don’t drink from more than one stream. It’s considered bad form and a display of greedy behaviour. Also, if you do this, your blessings are apparently halved.

Koyasu Pagoda – Blessings For A Safe Childbirth

Your journey doesn’t end here. There is a path that continues on from Kiyomizu-dera to Koyasu Pagoda and Taisanji Temple. It’s not too far and I would recommend visiting it. If you are expecting a child soon, you can pray at Koyasu Pagoda for a safe childbirth.

Koyasu Pagoda - Blessings For Safe Childbirth
Koyasu Pagoda – Blessings For Safe Childbirth

You can venture further and visit the Taisanji Temple.

After visiting all the temples, you can head down Matsubara Dori and enjoy the shops and restaurants along the way. This way you will not miss out on Matsubara Dori, if you used the alternate route to go up hill.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post and found it useful. If so, please don’t forget to share it on social media.

Also, If you use this route to get to Kiyomizu-dera, please come back and comment. I would like to know if you enjoyed this route.

Pin the post for later!

Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto: A better route to get there. #Kyoto #Kiyomizudera #Kiyomizu-dera #Japan
Kiyomizu-dera, Kyoto

Cherry Blossom season is the best time to visit Ueno Park. Try the street food at Shinobazu Pond while you are there.
Cherry Blossoms At Ueno Park

Ueno Park is well-known for its rows of cherry blossom trees which turn the entire park into a canopy of white and pink petals during the Sakura season. I visited Ueno park in peak cherry blossom season and truly it’s one of the most beautiful scenes to behold despite the crowd.

Sakura-Hanami, a tradition of having a picnic under the cherry blossom tree, was in full swing. Rows and rows of blue colored tarp were spread under the cherry blossoms and people were having a merry time sipping Sake and consuming delicious food with their family. One look at all the food on display and my stomach rumbled. There are a few food stalls in the park, but the long lines discouraged me from joining them. I promised myself I would stand in line after the boat ride on the Shinobazu Pond at the other end of the park.

Street Food Stalls At Shinobazu Pond near Ueno Park

What I didn’t know was beside the pond, there was a street food heaven waiting for me. This was truly unexpected and a pleasant surprise to my hungry stomach. I wasted no time in exploring the delicious food in yellow colored stalls.

If you visit Ueno Park, here is some of the Japanese street food you should try:

Okonomiyaki


Okonomiyaki is a Japanese savory pancake/crêpe. The pancake flour is cooked on a griddle and topped with cabbage, veggies, pork belly, bacon or other toppings just like a pizza. The toppings differ across the different regions in Japan. Usually, the pancake is topped off by a sunny-side up egg. This is one of Japan’s famous street food.

Dango – Sticky Rice Cake/Balls


Dango is a sweet sticky rice dessert made from a special rice flour called mochiko. Here, three types of Dangos are being sold – the original (plain sweet dumplings with no additional flavor), a green-tea flavored rice ball (called Chadango ) and a cherry flavored Dango. Typically, 3 to 5 dumplings are loaded on a single-stick.

Deep Fried Seafood

Japanese Street Food - Deep Fried Squid and  Octopus At Ueno Park
Deep Fried Squid and Octopus

One thing you have to try in Japan is obviously the seafood. This was the first time I tried fried octopus. Initially, I felt weird eating the octopus. Especially, I didn’t like to see the suckers on the arms/legs up close before eating it. I was very reluctant to feel the texture of the suckers against my tongue. However, once I got over the texture issue, It was actually not that bad. It had a strong sea flavour which I am not a huge fan but the soy sauce on top it reduces that a bit.

Chocolate Covered Banana With Sprinkles

Fried Banana With Chocolate and Sprinkles
Fried Banana With Chocolate and Sprinkles

I have a sweet tooth. Naturally, I ran straight to a stall selling bananas covered in chocolate and sprinkles when I spotted it. I was so excited when I got it, that I balanced a coke can, which I had previously opened, on a slightly unsteady ledge on a bridge nearby. Lo and behold! I committed my worst faux pas in Japan… the coke can fell from the ledge, spilling juice on the ground. Yikes! Several people around me audibly gasped. I didn’t dare meet anyone’s eye. I quickly picked up the can and escaped with my chocolate covered banana.

Pork and Chicken Skewers


These pork and chicken skewers were delicious and very cheap at 200 Yen( approx. $2). I had one of each. On a side note, don’t you think this video is kind of hypnotizing? I could watch that man turn over the skewers for hours!

Noodles

Noodles at Ueno Park Tokyo
Noodles

One of my favorite food of all time is Noodles and I had a variety of it in Japan. I, especially, love the noodles fried on a griddle oozing with soy and oyster sauce. They are so yummy.

Crab Skewers

Street Food in Ueno Park Tokyo - Crab Skewers
Street Food in Ueno Park Tokyo – Crab Skewers

Can you believe how huge those crabs are! I think they may be artificial and not real crab shells. Stores in Japan usually use plastic food samples on their storefronts. May be this is one of those.

Corn On A Cob

Street Food in Ueno Park, Tokyo- Corn On A Cob
Corn On A Cob

Ueno Park Street Food - Hot Dog On A Stick
Hot Dog On A Stick

There are also standard American street food favorites such as hotdog on a stick and corn on the cob if you don’t feel like trying new Japanese street food. The corn on the cob is also an excellent vegetarian option.

Unknown yet delicious looking food

One thing that was difficult for me was that most stalls didn’t have the name of the food in English. So half the time I didn’t recognize some unfamiliar foods. I wish I knew how to read Japanese or it would have been nice to have a Japanese local to help me out. Also, the food stall owners knew limited English, so they were no help either.

Some stalls like chicken/pork stalls had picture of a chicken and pig beside the Japanese lettering so I knew immediately what they were. I am not at all saying that people in every country should use English. However, using pictures to show what the food was, was immensely helpful. If I visit Japan again, I am planning to learn some basic Japanese sentences like What food is this? , Is this Chicken or Pork? and names of the different foods. I suggest everyone visiting Japan do the same, especially if they have some diet restrictions.

Roast Potato or Dough Balls?
Roast Potato or Dough Balls?

These white balls heaped on the frying pan look like small fried potatoes with some seasoning. They may also have been dough balls but less likely.

Ueno Park Tokyo Street Food - Tofu Fry
Tofu Fry?

I assume that this is Tofu Fry. If it is, it’s a another option for vegetarians. I am not a big fan of Tofu so I skipped that.

What do you think of these Japanese street food? Which one would you try if you visited Ueno Park, Tokyo? Let me know in the comments.

I will leave you with one last video of Okonomiyaki to tempt you..

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Ueno Park - Japanese Street Food
Ueno Park – Japanese Street Food

Takeshita Street in Harajuku, Tokyo is lauded as the street where new Indie fashion trends originate and flourish, a place for teenagers to showcase their rebelious streak and a street of tasty delights. Is it really worth all the excitement? Read on and find out!

Where is Takeshita street and how to get there?

Takeshita Street or Takeshita Dori is directly opposite the Harajuku Station on the Yamanote line. From Harajuku Station, take the Takeshita Exit.

When is the best time to visit Takeshita street?


Takeshita Street was the first place I visited when I set out to explore Tokyo. Being the morning person that I am, my husband and I set out at 9.30 am on a Monday morning! We were there by 10 am and what do we see? The street was deserted and everything was closed except for the reliable McDonald’s. I later found out that Takeshita Street is not an exception and that most businesses in Japan open shop at 11 am. We waited out the hour munching our breakfast burgers in McDonald’s. After 11 am, all the shops opened and within an hour the street filled with people.

On subsequent visits to Takeshita Street, I found out that 11 am on a monday morning was indeed a good time to visit Takeshita Street. The worst time is obviously during weekends when the street and the closeby Harajuku station are so crowded that you will have very little space to move let alone explore the shops.

The best time to visit this street is during weekdays close to the opening time at 11:00 am. The worst time is obviously during weekends when the street is VERY crowded. Check out the video to see how crowded it gets on weeekends.

5 Fashion/Beauty Stores You Should Visit In Takeshita Dori

The fashion stores in Takeshita Street are mainly youth and teen oriented. This means that the items that you find here may not be of great quality. In fact, many of the stores I found on this street were selling clothes whose quality was similar to what you find in a flea market. However, the upside of this is that they are cost-effective and some of the pieces you find here are unique and trendy.

If you are looking for better quality/higher price tag and not teen/youth fashion, visit the stores in the neighboring Omotesando street. There were a few notable stores that caught my eye and were selling unique items which I considered buying from:

#1. Out Of The World

Picture shows me holding a sneaker which has platform heels in my hands
Platform Sneakers which I thought were quite unique and trendy

Among all the stores on Takeshita Dori, I was particularly attracted by this shoe store. Some of the shoes displayed in this store had a Punk/Rock vibe. Some of the shoes displayed were really out there and I would probably never wear them. However, the plain black ones and the black and gold shoes with the platform heels, with some resemblance to Stella McCartney’s platform shoes, drew my attention. Unfortunately, the women’s shoes in this store don’t come in all sizes.. I couldn’t find the shoe that I liked in size 8 (US)! Huge Disappointment :(.

#2. Liz Lisa and Body Line

Picture Shows The Mannequins Outside the BodyLine Store Front In Takeshita Dori
The Mannequins Outside the BodyLine Store Front In Takeshita Dori

You will find many young girls in this street and else where in Tokyo wearing dollish/Victorian style clothing and makeup. Some of the clothes are not just costume or cosplay as many might think but a fashion trend in Japan known as Lolita Style . There are stores in Takeshita Street like Liz Lisa and Body Line that cater specifically to this fashion trend. Body Line has some cosplay costumes as shown by the mannequins outside the store whereas, the clothes in Liz Lisa mainly adhere to the Sweet Lolita trend. If you don’t want to be dressed completely in the Lolita look, you can still choose some cute accessories and shoes that look great even with your regular wardrobe.

#3. Boutique TakeNoko

Picture shows the storefront of Boutique Takenoko. The shop specialises in cosplay/punk Lolita style Fashion
Cosplay/ Punk Lolita Fashion store in Takeshita Dori

You can’t miss the colorful display of Boutique Takenoko as you walk down Takeshita Dori. This cosplay shop became famous in the 1970’s and 80’s when the dance group Takenoko-zoku shopped at Boutique Takenoko for their dance numbers.
Though, it’s not a place where you could shop for your everyday wardrobe, it’s still a fun place to visit.

#4. Etude House

Picture shows the storefront of Etude House - A brand that sells Korean Beauty products.
Etude House – A Brand That Sells Korean Beauty Products.

Due to the emergence of K-Drama and K-Pop, South Korean beauty products have seen a huge boost in popularity. Being a regular user of these products myself, I was glad to find Etude House, which specialises in Korean beauty products. This store has a pink toy house-like rooftop and can be found just below the Totti Candy Factory store. You will also see this store in the video I have posted above. I loved the pretty pink interiors of Etude House. I found it inviting and very girly. They had loads of products samples which you can try before you buy.

#5. Paris Kid’s


Paris Kid’s is an accessory store that sells typical accessories like hair bands, bangles, ear rings, charms and other cute knick knacks(Lots of bow shaped items). The advantage of shopping at this store is obviously the price. You can find loads of earrings at $4 dollars or less. Sometimes they give away pre-packaged surprise grab bags called Fukubukuro that have loads of stuff in it for around 300 Yen(approx. $4). However, you don’t get to choose the items in the grab bags as they are a surprise. It’s definitely worth getting the grab bag as you normally pay around 300 Yen for a single item in the store.

5 Foods you must try at Takeshita Dori

If you are tired of non stop shopping in Takeshita Street, there are plenty of tasty food stops along the street where you can refuel your energy. Sometimes, the overwhelming sweet smell from the Cotton Candy stores can be nauseauting and unappetizing. For a person with a sweet tooth though, this is Heaven!

#1. Ginormous Cotton Candy at Totti Candy Factory


Totti Candy Factory is famous for their huge multicolored cotton candy. Many of you would have already seen photos of this Cotton candy splashed on your Instagram feed. I was very concerned when I bought the cotton candy, first because of its size and also due to the sweetness of Cotton Candy. I didn’t think that I would be able to finish it and would probably end up throwing some of it in the bin. Surprisingly, the candy was very light and not as sweet as I expected. So, I was able to finish the whole thing in minutes.

#2. Crepes with your choice of filling

Picture shows the storefront of Santa Monica Crepes
Santa Monica Crepes in Takeshita Street

There are a number of Crepe Shops such as Marion Crepes, Santa Monica Crepes, Angel’s Heart along Takeshita Street. The crepes are rolled up in a cone with your choice of filling in the centre. You can pick your choice of filling from the delicious looking fake-food display on the side of these shops. On busy days, the lines in front of the store can get long but the service is quick.

#3. The crunchy and creamy Croquant Chou Zaku Zaku


Another popular treat to try when you visit Takeshita street is the cream puffs from Croquant Chou Zaku Zaku. These crispy cream puffs are freshly made on the premises and remain fresh only for one day. So, its advisable to consume them immediately or within the same day. They have a crispy sweet coating on the outside made of almonds, egg white, sugar and flour filled with custard cream on the inside. Read a detailed review of these crispy cream puffs here: Appetite For Japan

#4. Chocolate French Fries at Calbee Plus


If you have had enough of the sweet treats and are craving some savory snacks instead, head to Calbee Plus. This store is famous for their freshly prepared potato fries and chips. There’s a selection of toppings to choose from such as salt and butter, chocolate, cheese or even ice cream! There are some seasonal flavors available as well such as vegetable fries.

#5. Omurice at Pompompurin Cafe

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Pompompurin is a lovable cartoon dog and everything in this café is dedicated to this Sanrio character.
The interior of the café is very adorable and most people visit the café to experience the café itself rather than taste the food. Everything from Entrees to desserts is decorated to look like Pompompurin or his friends. The cute food is definitely Insta-worthy but the taste is nothing extraordinary.

What do you think of Takeshita Street? Are you ready to go shop and eat?

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Takeshita street is a must-visit when you go to Japan. Check out the 5 food/fashion shops you must visit in Takeshita Dori.
Takeshita Street – An exploration of food and fashion

Akihabara’s Electric Town is well known for three things – big electronics stores, Anime and Manga themed shops and Maid Cafes. In fact, one of the top touristy things to do when you visit Akihabara in Tokyo, is to visit a Maid Cafe.

What is a Maid Cafe?

A Maid cafe is a cosplay themed cafe, popular in Japan, where the waitstaff are usually young women who are dressed up in a maid costume. The cafes serve ice cream, coffee or entrees. What makes these cafe unique is not just the costume but also the rituals that are part of the service. Anywhere else in the world, the Maid Cafe could seem a bit creepy but they fit right in, in Akihabara’s Electric Town which is all about Otaku and cosplay culture.

Popular Maid Cafes in Akihabara Tokyo

Most Maid Cafe in Tokyo are concentrated in the Electric Town of Akihabara. There are a few in Shibuya and Shinjuku.

What NOT to do in a Maid Cafe?

  1. Don’t take pictures without permission. If you want to take pictures with the maids, there’s a standard cost on the menu. The picture session is towards the end of your visit
  2. Don’t touch the maids. Be respectful in your behaviour towards the staff.
  3. Don’t overstay your visit. To restrict the customers from staying too long, there’s a charge for every hour that you spend at the cafe.
  4. Don’t ask the cosplay actors private questions or contact details
  5. If you are drunk, you may not be permitted in the cafe

My Maid Cafe Experience at Maidreamin

As I strolled down the vibrant streets of Electric Town, I noticed many young women dressed up in a maid costumes handing out flyers and beckoning people to visit their cafe. When planning my visit to Japan, I came across these cafes and was very curious to find out what the experience would be like.

I chose Maidreamin, a cafe which serves light meals and desserts. I was ushered into the cafe by a “maid” who informed us that we could only take photos only during photo time. Even though I didn’t immediately understand what she meant by photo time, I nodded and signalled agreement.

Seating Charge – Pay Per Hour

Once inside the maid cafe, the waitress dressed in a maid costume approached us with the menu. She immediately informed us that there is a seating charge. A seating charge is a fixed amount per hour that is added to your bill on top of the charge for the food. In Japan, seating charges are common in many restaurants that are located in tourist locations.

Maid Cafe Menu

Picture shows two icecreams each made to look like a cute animal
Maid Cafe Dessert Menu – Parfaits

There were mainly two options on the menu: a meal set and the dessert set. For the meal set you have the choice of either Omelette Rice (also called Omurice) or Kuma Chan Curry. For the dessert set, you can order a Parfait(strawberry, vanilla, chocolate or matcha) or Cake. Each option comes with a drink of your choice.

You can either order just the food or go for the tourist experience, where you get a free gift and a photo with the maid.

Maid shows

If you like, you can also order a maid show – a performance by the maids with light sabers. If you are interested in dressing up as a maid yourself, there’s that option too.

Maid Cafe Free Gifts and Rituals

Picture shows me wearing my free gift - Bunny Ears
My Free Gift – “Bunny Ears”

The free gifts that came with the Tourist Experience were animal ears that we had to wear in the cafe. My husband reluctantly chose the one with the smallest and the least embarrasing ears. I, of course, went for the opposite – huge bunny ears!

After we wore the animal ears, the maid cafe ritual began. The waitress asked us to repeat a song after her. It went something like “Delicious … Delicious…” followed by some japanese words. We hestitanly mumbled the lyrics back to her. As if singing a song not embarrasing enough, you had to repeat all the weird hand gestures and claps that accompanied the song too.

The icecreams and drinks took some time to arrive. However, when they did arrive, I was delighted. The parfaits had been decorated with animal faces and just like everything in the cafe, they were very cute. My icecream was a duck with a marsh mallow head and my husband’s icecream was a bunny with two cookie ears.

Once again, the waitress began her maid cafe ritual again. We followed suit now a bit used to the absurd ritual. The ice creams tasted as good as they looked. We finished them off with fizzy green melon sodas.

Photos at Maid Cafe

Maid cafe in akihabara Tokyo are one of the must do things in tokyo.
Photo with a maid cosplay actor at a maid cafe in Akihabara Tokyo

Once we had paid our bill, It was finally photo time! we were led to a small stage area at the back of the cafe. The two maids who had served us took turns taking a photo with me. Of course! I had to pose with ridiculous hand gestures again else it wouldn’t be a maid cafe experience, would it?

At the end of my visit to the Maid Cafe, I left feeling a little silly but with a huge smile on my face, not to mention bunny ears on my head.

What do you think of this maid cafe experience? Will you try it if you visit Japan? Would love to hear your thoughts. Let me know in the comments.

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Maid Cafe are very popular in Japan and is a must-do fun experience when you visit Tokyo. Check out my personal experience inside a maid cafe.
Photo Time In A Maid Cafe In Japan

Lolita Fashion - A look into  Japan's Kawaii trend.
Lolita Fashion – A look into Japan’s Kawaii trend. Picture Credit: (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by achouchen1980

The word “Lolita” for most people conjures up images of the infamous book Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and the movie based on it. In Japan however, the term Lolita Fashion has nothing to do with this novel. It is rather a fashion trend where the clothes resemble the outfits used for dolls in the Victorian Era. So, what is this fashion trend all about? Read on and find out.

What is Lolita Fashion?

Lolita Style emerged as fashion genre in the 1980’s as a form of rebellion against the strict and repressive role of women in Japanese society. It was brought into mainstream by Visual Kei musicians such as Mana, who popularised the Gothic Lolita trend, and authors like Novala Takemoto, who wrote Kamikaze Girls.

How to dress up in Lolita Style?

A typical Lolita ensemble is supposed to showcase elegance and cuteness. The Lolita style usually features a blouse paired up with a frilly skirt, poofed up with the help of panniers and petticoats. Accessories include bows, decorative headbands, bow-shaped neckties, knee-high socks, round platform shoes, parasols and handbags.

It is important to understand this fashion trend completely before attempting to wear it or you may be called an Ito Lolita. An Ito Lolita is someone who has misunderstood or badly interpreted the Lolita style. This may be due to cheap lacy dresses bought from a Halloween store or due to mistmatched accesories that don’t go along with a particular style.

To understand the different types of Lolita and avoid being an Ito Lolita, read the guide below.

Types of Lolitas

The Lolita Fashion genre has many substyle and genres in it. The most well-known of these are Sweet Lolitas, Gothic Lolitas and Classic Lolitas.

Sweet Lolita


As the name suggests, Sweet Lolitas have a preference for an aesthetic that is sweet and feminine. This means that they are more drawn to lighter colors and pastels. Pink usually features prominently in their makeup and clothes accompanied often by pearls and bows. They are certainly the most girly among Lolita.

Sweet Lolita Brands

Angelic Pretty, Amavel, Baby The Stars Shine Bright, Metamorphose.

Gothic Lolita


The Gothic Lolita Style is an amalgam of Goth and Lolita Styles. This translates into darker colored dresses especially black. The Lolita element is reflected by the poofy bell shaped skirt, ruffles and over the top accessories. Black Stockings and Garter are also part of this look. However, unlike the Goth style of the west, Gothic Lolitas don’t wear dark makeup like black lipstick and don’t powder their faces to make it look overly pale.

Punk Rock/ Gothic Lolita Brands

Moi-même-Moitié, Kera Shop, OzzCroce, Alice and the Pirates, Artherapie

Classic Lolita


The Classic Lolita represents a more sophisticated and mature version of Lolita style. These lolitas with their elegant hats and dresses appear to have walked straight out of a Victorian era but with much shorter skirts! Like the Sweet Lolitas, these Lolitas prefer pastel colors specially cream colored dresses. The skirt in this look is A-line rather than bell-shaped. Overall this style is a subdued form of Lolita which gives more importance to elegance rather than the cute factor.

Classic Lolita Brands

Ateilier Pierrot, Innocent World, Catherine Cottage

Aristrocrat Lolita

Aristrocrat Lolita is a more subdued expression of Lolita style favoring elegance and sophistication. The dresses in this style are generally darker in color and generally don’t feature the extravagant frills and laces instead sticking to straighter cuts and simpler silhouttes.

Punk Lolita

Punk Lolita is inspired by the Vivienne Westwood’s punk designs. The look usually features punk elements such as leather belts with chains, clothes with the ripped effect, safety pins, studs and tartan blended with the feminine and sweet look of Lolita.

Kuro and Shiro Lolita

These are two Lolita styles are monochromatic styles. In that, Kuro Lolita style means that the dress and the accessories are all black and Shiro Lolita is the same but the color in this case is white.

Wa and Qi Lolita

The Wa and Qi Lolitas incorporate the traditional dress elements of the Japanese and Chinese cultures respectively while still adhering to the Lolita aeshtetic.

Cosplay Lolita

Some Lolita styles lend themselves easily to cosplay because of the style elements that are part of the look. The Lolita styles that are usually used in cosplay rather than everyday wear are listed here:

Pirate Lolita

As the name suggests, the Pirate Lolita Style is based on clothes and accessories of a typical pirate as depicted in the movies. So the accessories that go along with this look are eye patches, swords, feathers in the cap and pirate hats.

Steampunk Lolita

The Steampunk Lolita is inspired by the steampunk trend of the west. So, these looks often include metallic and leather accessories paired with shorter, puffier skirts.

Guro Lolita

The Guro Lolita is a gory and grotesque style. This look which is most suitable for Halloween features blood splatters on a sweet lolita dress, blood soaked teddy bears as acessories and other elements that represent a sense of horror.

Lolita Fashion Brands and Lolita styles they offer

Baby The Stars Shine Bright

Baby the Stars Shine Bright or BTSSB is also a Sweet Lolita Fashion brand. BTSBBS has also featured in the several movies, Manga and Anime such as Kamikaze Girls, Boys Over Flowers, Death Note, Moyashimon. This brand also has stores in Paris and Sanfransico.

Angelic Pretty

As the name might suggest, Angelic Pretty caters to the Sweet Lolita Fashion trend. They offer clothes that have a lot of frills and lace and generally very girly and cute. Angelic Pretty also has an international presence with a shop in Sanfransico, Paris and Shanghai. Details of these locations are given in the where to buy section below. They also have an online store for USA.

Ateilier Pierrot

Ateiler Pierrot caters to the Gothic Lolitas. Their dresses typically feature tight corsets and bell shaped frilly skirt and Paniers in darker shades.

Moi-meme-Moitie

Moi-meme-Moitie is a brand that was started by Malice Mizer’s Mana. He brought the element of sophistication and elegance of an aristrocrat into the Gothic Lolita realm giving rise to the name “Elegant Gothic Aristrocrat” or EGA. You can find Moi-meme-Moitie at Kera Shop in the Marui Annex in Shinjuku.

Milk

Milk is actually an Otome fashion brand. The Otome style is very similar to the Lolita style in that they both focus on the girly look. The clothes by Milk can easily transcend into the Lolita domain and are usually indistinguishable from the Lolita look. They offer clothes that are simple, modest and cute. They also sell a lot of accessories that can be incorporated into everyday wardrobe even if you are not completely into the Lolita trend.

Where to buy Lolita Fashion?

Tokyo

In Tokyo, You will find a lot of Lolita Fashion shops in the famous Harajuku area of Tokyo especially on Takeshita street. Some of the notable stores are:

  1. La Foret Harajuku also near Meji-Jingumae station has clothes from brands such as Alice and the Pirates, Jane Marple and Angelic Pretty. View the map here.
  2. At Shinjuku Marui Annex, two floors (6th and the 7th Floor) have been dedicated to Lolita fashion shops. You can find almost any style and any brand related Lolita fashion here. Shops include brands such as Ateilier Pierrot, Amavel, Angelic Pretty, Emily Temple Cute, Ozz croce, Baby the Stars Shine Bright, and many others. View directions to Shinjuku Marui Annex here.
  3. Milk near Meji-Jingumae station. View map to Milk here.

International Locations

  1. Angelic Pretty has locations in Sanfransico, Paris and Shangai. You can also shop online. Check out the USA online shop below.
  2. Baby The Stars Shine Bright has stores in Paris and Sanfransico. They also have an online store that ships to USA and Canada.

Order Lolita Fashion Online Internationally

  1. Angelic Pretty USA
  2. Amavel
  3. Ateilier-Pierrot
  4. Baby The Stars Shine Bright

Where to spot Lolitas in Tokyo?

If you want to spot some Lolitas, your best bet would be at Takeshita Dori in Harajuku, Tokyo. Especially many Lolitas along with other fashionistas of Harajuku meet at Takeshita Street for an event called the “Harajuku Fashion Walk” to flaunt their fashion chops. To keep up, check the Twitter Feed @harajuku_fw where they advertise the event dates.

What do you think about the Lolita Style? Would you be willing to try it? Let me know in the comments.

Lolita style is a fashion genre which is  popular in Japan. Find out more about this genre and where you can buy Lolita clothes in Tokyo.
Picture Credit: (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by achouchen1980