Japan Travel Diary 2017

This trip to Japan crept up on me almost out of nowhere. Before I knew it, I was packing my bags and getting ready to take a 6am flight over to a country which I have visited many times. For me, Japan is both nostalgic and new. A lot of travel and a half year long exchange means that parts of the country are familiar, but every time I visit, I go to new and exciting places. Sometimes, even the familiar has already changed.

For this trip, I spent almost half of the time travelling from place to place, before finally settling into Tokyo for the last two weeks. I’ll be writing up my travels as more of a daily journal, but when it comes to Tokyo I’ll write posts about the more notable places I’ve been to and things I’ve done.

Let’s get into things!

Tokyo Day 0

After a brief stopover at Cairns airport we found ourselves in the new wing of Narita Airport. Terminal 3.

We stayed at Hotel Horidome Villa. This hotel was truly tiny, but the surrounding district was actually charming. Alley after alley of bars filled the streets. The roads were wide and there was almost no one around. In a way, it was refreshing to see this new side of Tokyo.

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I wasn’t up for much adventure on our first night, so dinner ended up being the very familiar Cocoichiba curry. Interestingly, for May their special was soup curry, which is one of my favourite dishes. The soup curry lacked the depth of flavour that a good Hokkaido soup curry will have, but it helped me get my vegetable, protein and carb hit all at once. This was also Ryan’s first time try Cocoichiba!

Although I slept for almost the entire plane ride over to Japan, I still managed to fall asleep like a rock as soon as the lights were turned off.

Tokyo – Kanazawa Day 1

Being the dedicated foodie that I am, I had some big plans for our very first morning in Tokyo.

Echire is a premium brand of French butter that also seems to have a big following in Japan. Half an hour before opening a sizeable line was already outside the tiny little store. Only 10 or so people were allowed in at a time. Every time the door opened the smell of baking and butter filled the air, making my mouth water. Thankfully the line moved rather quickly and within 20 minutes of opening I had a bag full of pastries in my hot little hands.

We bought the whole selection of pastries to share. The traditional croissant, croissant made with salted butter, croissant made with unsalted butter, apple pastry, pain au chocolate, raisin snail, madeline and financier. The 50% echire butter croissants were probably the best of the bunch. Incredibly flaky and very very buttery. It almost seemed like a waste to bake such good buttery into the croissants. However, the apple pastry was also nothing to scoff at either. For a rather pricey 780 Yen this was almost as good to eat as it was beautiful to look at.

My biggest qualm with these baked goods is that they would be significantly improved if served warm. It seemed a shame to see so many hot croissants coming out of the oven but not being able to eat them that way. This seems more like something that you buy to take home and heat up for a leisurely afternoon tea, or to enjoy with friends in the afternoon as opposed to eating it right there.

Straight after sampling these goodies I made sure that we headed straight to Hidemi Sugino to get first dibs on their mousse cakes. I loved these cakes so much they deserved their own blog post. 

Having eaten our fill of sweets it was time to get organised and leave for Kanazawa. Getting to Kanazawa from Tokyo is pretty straightforward with the new Shinkansen line straight to Kanazawa station.

Part of the charm of riding a Shinkansen is the ekiben. Tokyo station may be confusing to navigate but it also boasts a wide range of food options to choose from on your journey. It was impossible to go past the Ekibenya matsuri, located within the station gates on the 1st floor.  It sells specialities from all around Japan and Tokyo.

Ryan was easily convinced by the Shinkansen bento boxes irrespective of the food inside. I chose to go with the Tokyo station exclusive Tokyo bento. Interestingly enough my favourite component turned out to be the vegetables and various pickles. As always the bentos are a real work of art.

When we arrived at 5:30 the sun was starting to set. Kanazawa station is meant to be one of the most beautiful stations in Japan. To be able to see it in real life was really something!

We spent most of the night exploring tatemachi and katamachi. It seems with more new and revamped shopping malls in the area less people were wandering around the streets. Right next to the animate store in katamachi, I managed to find both an Angelic Pretty and Baby the stars shine bright store.

By chance we stumbled upon ABRI. Ramen shop by day and bar with ramen at night! I was attracted by the adorable cat logo, and in all honestly wasn’t expecting all that much from the food at such a random location. What we ended up having far exceeded my expectations.

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Shoyu chasu ramen was a simple dish, but done exceedingly well. The broth rich with umami flavour from a mix of seafood and meat, the noodles were thin, al dente and when combined with the chasu, served as the perfect re-introduction to Japanese ramen.

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The lobster soup ramen with cheese is without a doubt the most unique ramen that I have ever tried. This somehow tasted exactly like a baked lobster tail with cheese but in ramen form! Everything about this was like a strange French, Italian, Japanese fusion but somehow it all worked together. The lobster soup was also intensely flavoured, and I loved dishing it up with the accompanying rice and savouring every bite.

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As a bar ABRI also had a decent selection of craft beers, including beers from Kanazawa brewery on tap!

After dinner, the wind really started to pick up so we made the executive decision to go back to the hotel and get an early night’s sleep for an early start tomorrow.

I know it seems like I travel a lot from my blog posts, but the reality is, I spend far too long writing up travel posts! I’m hoping to rectify this situation by writing up more posts while in the country, like this one.

(PS. I’m currently back in Australia and let me tell you, that did not work out all too well!! Watch me write up many a blog post to make up for this backlog)

Tips
Pocket Wifi or sim card? Last time I went to Japan we decided on pocket wifi, but this time I picked up a sim card from the airport. As I’m staying for more days, the sim card seems more economical and allows more flexibility re: data use and duration. Although I picked up a card from the only provider in terminal 3, there’s many more options and deals in terminal 1. The main downside is that, I’m the only person with internet. If we need to check google maps or anything else, my phone has to be charged. Furthermore, only I have internet so we have to stick together a lot!

There’s multiple ways to get from Narita airport to inner city Tokyo. Although it is more expensive than the other options I’m a big fan of the keisei skyliner. It is speedy, the seats are all allocated and there’s ample room for luggage. As an added bonus, it is also possible to purchase a ticket that combines this with 24 hours of continuous subway use. We found this super useful since our hotel was closest to a subway line.

 

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