Walking Japan: Kiyomizudera, Famous Temple in Kyoto

I went to Kiyomizuedera in mid-March, which isn’t the best time, because the trees are naked and cherry blossoms are not in season. However, the temple itself is beautiful, and there is a very robust shopping and eating district built below it.

Couples in traditional wear enjoying the temple early in the morning20170314_122139.jpg

A very popular tourist spot. Busy at all hours of the day.20170314_122302.jpg

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20170314_143733.jpg It’s 400 yen for the entrance ticket 

The ticket basically allows you to be on the other side of this photo. You can have a view of Kyoto from the mountain side.20170314_143759.jpg

Mountain-side view. It was foggy, and most of the trees were naked, so it was disappointing. But what can you do.20170314_144916.jpg20170314_145216.jpg

Aside from getting this view from the mountain, the entrance ticket doesn’t get you anything else. You can walk around all the other areas of the temple without a ticket. I did see some blog posts beforehand mentioning that the ticket is a waste of money, but I mean, it’s 400 yen, so might as well buy it and see the view for yourself.

Cemetery…did not walk inside.20170314_150257.jpg

You can walk around these areas without a ticket20170314_145741.jpg

The pagoda as seen from the shopping area20170314_134623.jpg

From an adorable shrine that all the girls were gushing over20170314_134028.jpg20170314_134051.jpg

Got to witness some ritual(?) action20170314_143235.jpg

The ritual also continued on in the shopping streets. The women in masks would use the long sticks to flick drops of water. 20170314_151003.jpg

The people maneuvering the dragon would turn the dragon’s head into a shop’s entrance. Then, around 4 men would give out a roar as they lunged the dragon head forward inside the shop, and then continue on their way back to the temple. I am assuming that this is to drive out any bad energy that there might be?20170314_151005.jpg

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A lot of charms are sold at the temple. There’s a charm for good health, for good driving safety, for passing exams, for romantic fortune, etc. I bought a general good luck fortune charm.

This good luck charm has a bell inside so it makes a noise every time I walk. I love the sound it makes, but I’m also self-conscious that it annoys other people…So I just keep it in my room 😦 20170314_144129.jpg

Below the temple is where all the consumer action is. Lots of eateries and shopping20170314_150834.jpg

Picked side dish shops20170314_125511.jpg

Souvenir dessert shops. There were two shops that provided free samples of everything they were selling, and also giving out cups of hot green tea to go with them. You’ll never find this kind of generous sampling opportunity anywhere else, so try it when you are here.20170314_125841.jpg

20170314_132334.jpg My lunch. Spicy ginger fried chicken stick. 500 yen. So filling. I thought it was going to be a snack, but I didn’t have stomach space for anything else after this… 😦

Handmade shoes!!!20170314_134443.jpg

Gonjac soap!! You can try out all the different kinds at these golden sinks. They’re like washing your hands with a gummy ball. They were about $10 USD each, and made with all natural ingredients and coloring.20170314_140605.jpg

Kiyomizu dera itself is a very beautiful temple and there are a few shrines and a decent walking area. Then, if you’re done with your soulful time, you can head on down to the shopping district to spend all your money to buy all the souvenirs and food to your heart’s content. I had a very memorable time here.

 

Walking Japan: Fushimi Inari Shrine – The #1 Tourist Spot in Japan

Fushimi Inari, the #1 tourist spot of Japan (as per TripAdvisor). But who cares what TripAdvisor says, am I right?20170315_110733.jpg

Fushimi Inari is one of those very iconic shrines that you see pictures of when you research what to do in Kyoto. You can’t miss the rows of orange toriis (those pillar things, no direct translation in English).

I didn’t even know it was the #1 most popular tourist site in Japan, until I saw the TripAdvisor flags saying so at one of the entrance/exit gates. It was a nice shrine, but I don’t know if I would say that this is the most amazing site in Japan. To each his own, right? However, it is definitely a very, very busy site, and I also saw a lot of locals enjoying it.

Got off the metro station and had to cross a railway crossing.20170315_100819.jpg

There are shops and food stands before you get to the shrine. Every famous shrine will have a commercialized area.

Lots of fox-related souvenirs. Foxes are supposed to be the messengers of this shrine. I’m not sure what that means.20170315_101543.jpg

After you pass by some souvenir shops, there is a path of these food tents. The orange ahead is the shrine.20170315_102255.jpg

Bought some warm mochi with soybean powder before starting off the shrine walk.20170315_102042.jpg

I went on a semi-rainy day. It was sunny, but it was cold and there were those annoying 2-minute spots of light rain that kept coming and going. Despite being a Wednesday, it was very crowded with locals and tourists alike, and the further I went up the mountains, the crowd thinned. Yes, this is a hike (I didn’t know that until I actually got there), and you will require proper shoes. The stone steps are pretty smooth, and can get slippery on a rainy day. I slipped a few times despite wearing my Nikes, and almost fell to my death.

The total hike (up and down) takes around an hour and a half, depending on how much circling and picture-taking you do.

Lots of people with profesh-looking cameras. A lot of great photo ops at the shrine.20170315_102846.jpg

20170315_102925.jpg The path at the beginning.

Fox statues errwhere.20170315_103054.jpg

Torii gates that make up the path.20170315_103131.jpg

Fox-shaped wish plaques. You can draw the expression.20170315_103601.jpg

Maps will be along the path20170315_103928.jpg

See how the “torii”s can be different in height? I started to wonder what these gates are supposed to represent…20170315_104541.jpg

According to my quick Google search, these torii gates are built by the donations paid for by patrons when their wish comes true. So, let’s say I would frequent the shrine and pray for my new mochi shop to take off, because my grandma has a back that needs surgery, I got 4 mouths to feed, I sold my car and quit my salaried job because of my passion for mochi, and I really need this to work. When my mochi business finally takes off, I pay some money to the shrine that will put it towards building a torii, as a way of thanks to the higher power for my wish coming true. That’s how I understood it…

I was wondering how the donations vs. torii heights worked, then I saw this sign. The height of the torii gate you pay for depends on the yen range your donation falls on. To pay for the tallest gate, you would have to donate at least 1,302,000 yen (approx $12,000 USD).torii prices.jpg

So I’m guessing the donors get to decide what to put on the torii. Maybe it’s their names, dates, and the wish that came true. What the hell do I know what they say, I don’t read Japanese! Some torii gates were obviously very old, and some were brand new. 20170315_110741.jpg

View of Kyoto at a resting area during my hike up. There are vending machines along the way, and shops that sell tea and traditional snacks.20170315_105835.jpg

Reached the summit!!!!20170315_112115.jpg

Beasts of the forest have clawed away at the base of many torii gates. I saw workmen repairing another one of the really badly maimed ones. This is the worst I saw. I’m sure they’ll get to this one.20170315_113512.jpg

20170315_113913.jpg Kitsune (fox) fountain statue along the hike down.

View of Kyoto during my hike down, at the same resting area as before. Gloomy with all those rain clouds.20170315_114338.jpg

Back at the beginning of the route. Total hike took me 1.5 hours.20170315_120345 back to the bgnng. Hike took 1.5 h.jpg

NOW IT’S TIME TO EATTTTTTTTTTTTTT

Street okonomiyaki. 20170315_122436.jpg

500 yen street okonomiyaki. Raindrops on my jeans.20170315_122523 500yen.jpg

20170315_122832.jpg Gross close-up of my hot and tasty okonomiyaki.

20170315_124023 custard 150yen.jpg Custard taiyaki for 150 yen. Barely any custard inside. Blergh. Waste of money and stomach space.

Chicken thigh and leek yakitori stick, 500 yen. Should have said “no” to the overly salty sauce.20170315_125432.jpg

Beef yakitori. There were way too much fat chunks, but I saw a Japanese teenager raving about how delicious this was.20170315_125929.jpg

Fatty beef yakitori…500 yen. It was too much fat for one person, and got hard quickly on a cold day.20170315_130038.jpg

I highly recommend Fushimi Inari if you’re in Kyoto. A great 1.5 hour hike in the mountains of an iconic shrine. Bring proper, non-slippery shoes and go early in the morning to try and avoid the sea of people.

The food was meh…I am aware it’s street food, but the quality was pretty low for street food in Japan. I could have taken that money and sat at an actual restaurant and had a leisurely lunch.

 

 

Character Cafe Experience in Japan

On my 29th day in Japan, I decided to go to a character cafe…alone. People don’t usually go to character cafes alone, like, even in Japan, the land of eating alone, that’s not a thing, but when else am I going to be able to go to a character cafe?

So, um… I did it.20170322_110720.jpg

I’m a grown ass woman so I’m not really a fan of any character, so I just picked a cafe at random when I went back to Takeshita (Harajuku) for the second time.

As I was strolling, I saw sign about two character cafes upstairs, so I decided to eat lunch in one of them.

I took the elevator up (it had a security cam and you could see yourself; never seen that before). To my surprise, there was a line-up at 10:30am, for 11am opening time. 20170322_104554.jpg 20170322_110201.jpg

These were the two character cafes, competing right infront of each other. Literally no one went into the other one during the whole time I was at Pompompurin Cafe. Both are on the 3rd floor.20170322_110246.jpg

Menu de Chez Pompompurin20170322_110843.jpg

At 11am sharp, they started letting people in. They made sure to give some delay between the seating of each group so that the waiters could manage a flow of service, so it took a while for me to get in.

When I asked for a table for 1, the waiter had a pause, then nodded. I think he was surprised that someone came here alone. Nevertheless, I didn’t feel that anyone was judging me in a negative way. I think that in Japan, as long as you’re not harming anyone, no one gives you any trouble and no one makes you feel like a weirdo. Even if they have anything negative to say or think, they keep it to themselves and go on with their day.

Anyhoozzle, here are some pics I took once I got seated.

Kyaaaaa~~~~20170322_112353.jpg

Look at this cute set-up!!!20170322_110949.jpg

Look at these cute foods!20170322_111111.jpg20170322_111540.jpg

Merchandise section for all your Pompompurin desires.20170322_111645.jpg

A very age-diverse group inside. There were two girl friends in their 20’s, grown-ups with their little and not-so-little daughters, highschool girls, etc. That lighted pillar is a photo zone where a lot of people take their commemorative picture.20170322_110953 부녀 모녀 찬구 오른들도 오는 blog.jpg

Gong to a cafe is always a great opportunity to people-watch. I observed a strict-looking father with his cute, quiet daughter. She ordered a chocolate parfait and he sipped his water as she enjoyed it. Later, he helped her finish it. He then told her she should go look at all the merchandise, which she happily did. He maintained one facial expression the entire time, but it was nice to see a middle-aged father and his little daughter come out to Harajuku for some character-cafe dessert time.

I also saw a mother with her daughter who seemed about 16. The mother was really adorable; she took pictures of everything and had a grin on her face the whole time. I mean, the daughter was having fun, but the mom was really having a blast. It was like the daughter took her mother to Pompompurin cafe, if you know what I mean.

OOOOOOHHH MY GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH20170322_114312.jpg

It took a while for my food to arrive. When I saw other people receive the same food I ordered, I saw the waiters giving the customers a small, white box. I got all excited, because I figured mine probably came with a take-home gift!!! And I was right!!! I got a copy of that Pompompurin shaped saucer in the photo.

Look at his lil tail beneath the egg-blanket!!! His hat is a mushroom and his face is drawn on with chocolate. Don’t forget the clover-leaf green pepper.20170322_114523.jpg

I’m so sorry, Pompompurin!!!!20170322_114653.jpg

They used glutinous rice so that the rice actually stick together in the mold and holds well once it’s taken out. I thought the yellow came from a curry powder, but I couldn’t smell any hint of curry…maybe they used the knock-off saffrons… The egg-blanket was fluffy and sweet. It tasted pretty good, overall. The cauliflower and broccoli at the back were cooked-from-frozen, so they tasted nasty.

Fluffy egg-blanket close-up, with some white cheese sauce that came in the Pompompurin shaped saucer.20170322_115042

Sigh… I had such a fun time. I mean, I’m definitely a grown-ass woman with grown-ass woman tendencies most of the time, but that all went out the door when I walked into this place. You try getting a plate of a bear with a mushroom hat, sleeping inside an egg blanket, and not gush over it.

I just googled what Pompompurin is, and it’s not a bear, it’s a golden retriever…I like my bear interpretation better.

 

 

Walking Japan: Harajuku (Omotesando and Takeshita Dori)

I thought Harajuku was the name of a market or something, but it turned out to be a whole district. There are two iconic shopping “dori”s (streets) in Harajuku, Takeshita and Omotesando. They’re only 10 minutes apart by walk.

Takeshita street is where all the youngsters go. This street is filled with pre-teens and teenagers getting their fashionable outfits and accessories for reasonable prices. You won’t find any fancy brand names here. You’ll also see a lot of desserts here; there are like, eight different crepe cafes, probably more, there’s the famous Zaku Zaku chou sticks, and cotton candy as big as your upper body. Also, student-budget cheap eats, like Lotteria, McDonald’s Yoshinoya, etc.

I saw this while I was walking from Takeshita to Omotesando on my second Harajuku visit. This kinda sums up what Takeshita is like. A lil kitsch, a lil lovable, and kawaii as fuck.20170322_134627.jpg

 

Omotesando street is where the adults go. Adults with money, anyway. You’ll find all the brand names and glitzy department stores. Similar to Ginza. A shopaholic’s dream come true. Also nicknamed the Champs-Élysées of Tokyo.

I found that with many famous streets in Japan, it’s not just that certain street that has good shopping. There are tons of interesting stores on the side streets that branch out of the main street.

I walked to Harakuju, but you can easily get here by metro. 20170227_112157.jpg

Welcome to Takeshita Dori! 20170227_113034.jpg

Cat Cafe in Takeshita dori20170227_113104.jpg

A cat & owl cafe, above a kawaii dress store, above a Korean-brand accessories store. Floors and floors of interesting stuff.20170322_104644.jpg

Crepe cafes all over the place20170227_113650.jpg

Crepes, crepes, crepes!20170227_114100.jpg20170227_114054.jpg20170227_114109.jpg20170227_120932.jpg

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Huge ass cotton candy flowers from Totti Candy Factory20170322_104348.jpg

I didn’t see the neon-green hair and straight-out-of-anime fashionistas like I had hoped to see, but these specialty stores exist, so they must be out there.20170227_113824.jpg20170227_113833.jpg

Kitschy stuff20170322_103501.jpg

Really cheap and cute earrings at this store, Paris Kids.20170227_124522 earrings.jpg

Cute shoes for cheap20170227_120113.jpg20170227_120300.jpg

Interesting looking stores20170227_121147.jpg

There is always a line up for Zaku Zaku’s croquant chou stick and their soft serve ice cream. The 2nd time I went to Takeshita, I lined up and got some. It was basically a good cream puff, but it was a stick instead of a puff, and there were crunchy bits on top. The milk custard cream inside was extra milky, and yes, it was “so fresh”. A bit disappointing though…20170322_124359.jpg20170322_125237.jpg 20170322_125902.jpg

Gets very busy on weekends20170322_103318.jpg

After Takeshita, I went to Omotesando. It was a completely different atmosphere.

The glamorous Tokyo Plaza on Omotesando20170227_125439.jpg

Went off to a seemingly boring looking side street and stumped upon a B Side Label store! The staff were super passionate and friendly.20170227_131517.jpg20170227_131620.jpg20170227_132739.jpg20170227_133005 b side label omotesando harajuku.jpg

The famous Omotesando Hills shopping mall. All the luxury brands. I ventured in on my second Omotesando walk, and I felt like a peasant. 20170322_140129.jpg 20170322_141041.jpg

After spending a total of 3 weeks in Tokyo, I had run out of things to do. So I went back to Harajuku, and had a peaceful character cafe experience at Pompompurin Cafe20170322_110720.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

Walking Japan: Imperial Palace, Chiyoda and Jogging Park

In the heart of Tokyo city is a special ward called Chiyoda city. The heart of Chiyoda city is the Imperial Palace, where the Emperor of Japan lives, and this alone attracts tourists. However, the locals often go to Chiyoda for the scenic 5km jogging course.

20170225_105234.jpg On-grounds map, with the 5km jogging course highlighted in yellow

I walked the whole 5km jogging area, expecting to come across a few entrances to explore the inner grounds. And I saw at least 4 entrances. But they were all blocked off, and guards were stationed to ensure no one got in…The only area that was free-for-all is the very top-left rectangular portion, the Kokyogaien National Garden, and a bit of the East Garden. With the East Garden, you are only allowed to explore a little corner of the grounds, and not the whole “island”/section.

There is a FREE East Garden tour that happens on Saturdays at 1pm! I could have gone on it because I happened to visit on a Saturday, but I didn’t, because it was 2.5 hours long and I preferred to just walk in peace at my own pace. I never got a kick out of these kind of tours anyway. Maybe I would have been allowed into the more intimate parts of the grounds if I had gone on the tour…

This is the free tour website: http://www.tfwt.jp/Pages/default.aspx

Mind you, late February is definitely not the prime time to come here, or Japan in general. The cherry blossoms are not in bloom and some breeds of trees are naked and boney and sad-looking.

I still had a good time, enjoying the scenic 5km path.

20170225_104557.jpgThe jogging path by the waters. I went on a Saturday morning, and there were many locals running in jogging gear and tourists strolling and taking pictures.

20170225_105336.jpgCarefully trimmed bonsai trees (or at least, I think) in Kyokogaien.

20170225_110656.jpg Must take a lot of money to maintain.

20170225_110406.jpgSome important white house back there, no signage to indicate what it is. Entry is blocked.

After a nice walk around Kyokogaien, and I got back on the jogging course.

20170225_105532.jpgAs can be seen from the jogging course.

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20170225_105814.jpgBlocked off entrance #2

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20170225_111410.jpgFree admission to the East Garden. A short route, 10 minutes at most. Depends on how many pictures you take.

20170225_111658.jpgEarly sakura blooms in late Feb. There were a few trees that were ahead of the others.

20170225_113201.jpgNekked trees in East Garden (late February).

20170225_113259.jpg20170225_113321.jpgOld ladies sitting and painting watercolor on small canvases in the East Garden.

Got out of the East Garden, back on to my jogging route (that I walked, like the fatass I am).

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20170225_113935.jpg20170225_115243.jpgSenior gentlemen taking pics of the early-bloom sakura.

20170225_115311.jpgI waited until they were done and took pics too.

20170225_115456.jpgBlocked off entrance #3

20170225_120410.jpgThis was a designated photo spot. Would look beautiful when the leaves come in, instead of these bare branches.

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20170225_121146.jpgBlocked off entrance #4

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When I finished my 5km, I walked back to my hostel.

20170225_123234.jpgOn my way back to the hostel, I saw a fishing area.

20170225_123238.jpgBoat house for your rental needs in the fishing area.

20170225_123335.jpgFather and son spending quality time on a Saturday morning.

I would definitely go back to Chiyoda again when I return to Japan. Such a peaceful and scenic walk.

Fully Explained: (Weird) Vending Machines of Japan

Everywhere in Japan, you’ll see them. Sometimes they’re alone, sometimes they’re in a group, smoking thin cigs together and sniffing glue. They hang out in big streets, in malls, little side streets by the concrete parking lot. I’m talking about…street vending machines in Japan.

20170301_153532.jpgA vending machine that serves cold and warm drinks. The ones labeled red come out warm. You could buy the same ones in a konbini for a bit cheaper. This machine is very tea/coffee centric; the selection of drinks vary widely depending on the machine.

I would like to call vending machines the oasis of the streets, but really, there are so many konbinis around that I didn’t have to resort to going to a vending machine. I would buy from them just for the novelty of having done so. They are on almost every street in Japan, and it’s fun to see what each of them offer.

I think I saw like, two Japanese people use these during my 30 days here. Maybe when the weather gets warmer, more people will use them. I saw uniformed workers filling up these vending machines every morning, so people must buy from them, though.

They can get very strange on you.

20170224_140715.jpg This one has a whole dried fish in the bottle. This is not for leisurely drinking. You use the broth in these bottles to add to your soups when you’re cooking.

20170323_114019.jpg At Haneda Tokyo airport, they sell these wooden wish plaques for you write your wish and hang up on a wall, like you would at a temple.

20170224_071048.jpg“Psst…Want some crack?” How bad-ass does this vending machine look, right by the parking lot?

20170301_050259.jpg 20170301_050642.jpg This “yogurthie” was delicious. I tried to find this in konbinis but never succeeded. Are they limited vending machine editions, or something? They had little chewy jellies inside that were so satisfying to nibble on.

20170317_120658.jpg 20170317_120706.jpgYou’ll see these “1 coin” machines around. 1 coin= 100 yen coin. These are actually cheaper than buying at a konbini. I got a drink from my childhood, Pocari Sweat. It tastes like yuzu flavored sweat. I’d see this pop up in Slam Dunk and crave it.

20170301_151713.jpg 20170301_151923.jpgThis machine was in an indoor mall. Large malls will have these vending machines around, even though there are konbinis inside the mall. You’ll never be thirsty in Japan, basically. This apple juice was delicious.

Snacks and drinks from Konbinis – Part 5

20170323_170612.jpg 20170323_170744.jpgCronut with whipped cream inside. *Heavy breathing*

20170323_122900.jpg 20170323_123023.jpg Eclair filled to the max with heavenly custard cream

20170322_213022.jpg 20170322_213107.jpg Cream puff with whipped cream AND custard cream inside. DIABEETUS.

20170322_212208.jpgBeer with seaweed flavored shrimp chips. SEW GEWD.

20170321_190446 옜날 한국 스타일 도너츠.jpg Little deep fried donuts with anko (red bean) filling. Individually packaged.

20170321_190335.jpg Carbonated lemon soda. It claims to have the same amount of vitamin C as 50 lemons. This was so good, and actually tasted sour instead of that watered down lemonade crap.

20170321_190104 garlic soy sauce flavor kettle chi.jpg Roasted garlic flavored kettle chips.

20170320_211116 단짠은 좋은데 기름이랑 마차 비린내랑 안 어울려.jpg Green tea chocolate drizzled potato chips. This was kinda gross, because you could smell the green tea, and the white chocolate and the oil from the chip and together, they smell gross in your mouth.

20170320_203912.jpg Apple flavored hiroyoi and tuna mayo snack pack

20170320_203958.jpg 20170320_204151.jpg Snack packs are sealed on the sides and the filling is literally mayo, tuna and pepper. Wouldn’t get this snack pack again.

20170318_082201.jpg Hot chai tea latte. YUMMMM

20170317_134104 안에는 입에서 부서지는 쿠키.jpg These are expensive! 8 tiny cookies. Chocolate outside and puffed chocolate cookies on the inside. Really good.

20170316_202912.jpg Mitarashi dangos, with the dango balls pre-roasted so they look burnt. 3 for 108 yen. Tastes as good as expensive ones. I actually prefer them cold because they’re chewier, so this was perfect.

20170316_202226.jpg 20170316_202325.jpg I’ve never heard or seen this dessert brand before, but this chocolate dorayaki was da bomb. So fluffy with lil chocolate chips and the chocolate cream inside was *salivating*

20170316_135029.jpg 20170316_135108 밑에는 쌉싸릉한 마차 젤라틴으로 굳른 크림.jpg Lawson’s matcha jelly dessert cup. Bitter matcha jelly in the bottom, with red beans, strawberry, peach, mochi balls and konjac jelly. I didn’t enjoy the konjac jellies in here.

20170315_222956.jpg Inverted mitarashi dango from 7/11. All that sweet and salty syrup on the inside. To be honest, it was too much syrup.

20170315_205850.jpg 20170315_210155.jpg Hnnnnggh this was soo good. Sour and sweet on the outside, creamy and sweet on the inside. Real pieces of strawberry. Why can’t they have ice cream like this in Canada?

Fully Explained: Capsule Hotels in Japan

They like to refer to themselves as a “hotel”, but really, Capsule Hotels are hostels, where you share the bedroom and bathroom facilities with everyone else. However, you do have your own budget “room”, which is your bed space with walls and/or curtains that can conceal you from other lodgers.

There are no minimum size requirements to a capsule hotel “room”. I stayed at four different ones in Japan (two in Tokyo, one in Kyoto and Osaka), and they were all quite different in spaciousness and set up. If you get easily claustrophobic, you are better off at an actual hotel, or hostels with the classic bunk beds.

I was in Japan late Feb to March. A room at Centurion Cabin in Akasaka, Bay Hotel in Akihabara and Fuku Hostel in Osaka cost approx $50/night. Wind Villa in Kyoto cost half that price.

Image result for centurion cabin and spa akasakaPhoto provided by Centurion Cabin and Spa in Akasaka, the first place I stayed at in Tokyo. If you got the cheapest room, you’ll have to crawl into your lower-bunk “room”. If you paid for TV in your room, you will get the top bunk. Centurion is a big chain of hotels and hostels in Japan. I remember this place had an unreliable supply of hot water. I’d have to turn the tap on and wait 15 seconds before the warm water would come back on.

The “room” is pretty much the space of your bed, but with walls on all sides. There is an opening in the wall for you to get in and out. The opening can be covered with sliding curtains. People can still see your body parts through the cracks of the curtains though, depending on the type of curtain provided by the place. Don’t be butt nekked in your room, just in case. The mattress is always a thin futon. The futon is fit perfectly to the size of the room, so there is usually no extra floor space. You’re not allowed to eat or drink (other than water) in your bed.

Some capsule hotels are Women Only (or as they like to express it, “Caters to Women”), or Men Only, as clarified in the name of the hostel in the booking sites. If no indication, it’s unisex. Centurion in Akasaka and Akihabara Bay Hotel were Women Only. These places always provide women-friendly toiletries (facial toner, make up remover, etc.), which the the unisex places don’t.

Unisex hostels may not be Women Only, but all of them have a Women Only floor or section. Japan is pretty big on Women Only. There are buses or subway trains that are only for women, after a certain time of night. In a city with very low crime rate, I wonder if this is really necessary…

A typical capsule room has a light, a face mirror (if it’s Women Only, it has a mirror for sure), plugs and sometimes, a rotating dial to control the intensity of your light. There is a narrow shelf at the back or side of your room for your to put your stuff on. The ceiling is always low, so you can’t stand up properly. This is the typical setting of a capsule room. Although I must say, Centurion was the most chicken-coop-y out of all 4 that I stayed at.

20170223_192602.jpg  I took this picture from the very back of my Centurion “room”, and this is all of the front that I could fit into my camera. Don’t get this room if you have claustrophobic tendencies. I had jet lag, so I would go to sleep at daytime and the curtain they gave me left a crack, so I had hallway light leaking into my room. The hallway light is turned off around 11pm.

 

20170228_160912.jpg 20170228_161136.jpgThis was my Akihabara Bay Hotel room (picture taken from doorway). Looks like a baking oven or something. The bed was a lot more spacious than Centurion. A lot brighter, and the curtain actually shut all the way so I didn’t have light leaking into my room if I wanted to go to sleep early.

Akihabara Bay Hotel cleans your room every single day. Other places only clean your room after you check out, but not Bay Hotel. This place doesn’t let you into your room from 10am to 4pm; 6 whole hours, you’re not allowed to be there, because they’re cleaning. Would be a lot better if they had shut-off hours per floor, instead of kicking everyone out for 6 hours of a day.

20170228_163316.jpgThis is the common washroom and makeup area at Bay Hotel. Reliable supply of warm water, which was not the case in Centurion. Super clean, and even provided hair straightener/curlers. Paper cups for your dental needs, and good quality facial cleanser, makeup remover, toner and lotion. I didn’t even have to use any of the stuff I had brought. They also provide q-tips, bath scrub towels, cotton pads for free, which wasn’t the case in Centurion.

At all the hostels I stayed at, there were sinks and mirrors on every floor. HOWEVER, most sinks had the hot water turned off. Only the sinks on the same floor as the shower stalls had hot water. I’d have to go to those specific sinks on that floor, if I wanted to wash my face properly with warm water. The hot water was never scorching hot either. It was pretty surprising that such a rich and advanced country like Japan limited hot water supply. I guess hot water is a lot more expensive here?

20170228_163338.jpgA full corridor of private shower stalls in Akihabara Bay Capsule Hotel.

20170228_163325.jpgReally nice, private shower stalls in Akihabara Bay Hotel. Centurion had a common shower and bathtub, which was a nice experience as well. Lots of nekked ladies just doing their thang.

20170228_164010.jpgAkihabara Bay Hotel was pretty big on security. They had these fob key entrances at the main door and at every floor.

There is always a common area which is a communal eating and relaxing space. Generally, there are tables, self-serve beverages, vending machines, hot water machines for your cup ramen, and Japanese TV being played. Out of the 4 hostels, Akihabara Bay Hotel is the only one that did not provide a shared refrigerator. The one in Centurion broke down while I was there, so the smell of rotting food hit me in the face full-on when I opened it.

20170228_163619.jpg The common area at Akihabara Bay Hotel. 

20170228_163613.jpg 20170228_163616.jpgAll hostels will have a common area with a microwave and hot water to cook your convenience store foods and ramen. Also some vending machines for your drink needs. Some places like Centurion and Wind Villa provide free self-serve beverages, but Bay Hotel and Fuku Hostel did not.

The one I stayed at in Kyoto, Guesthouse Wind Villa, was an actual room.

20170310_155758.jpgI was pleasantly surprised by my room in Wind Villa that was HALF THE PRICE of the rooms I had in Tokyo, and Osaka.

20170318_103352.jpgWind Villa in Kyoto has got to be the best experience. It had extra floor space for me to put all my stuff, and it HAD A WINDOW. It also had hooks in the room for me to hang my jackets. Also a real door that I could slide to close my room completely, instead of curtains. There is also a hook thing on the door to lock your room. 

20170317_101538.jpgMy room in Kyoto had a window! And it had this sliding mosquito screen. How cool is that.

20170311_102837.jpgWind Villa at Kyoto was easily my favorite hostel in Japan. It wasn’t at an as central of a location, but it was designed for travelers to feel at home. Here’s me looking out of their window in the morning.

All four places did not allow outdoor shoes to be worn inside. I thought this was smart; you couldn’t bring in all that cat poo and trodded-on yakisoba noodles at the bottom of your shoes, onto their floor. They provide indoor sandals at no charge.

Also, all four places had coin laundry facility. It cost me 400 yen everytime (200 to wash, 200 to dry for an hour), so it’s pretty expensive. Wind Villa in Kyoto had a powerful wash/dry machine that only charged me 100 yen in total!

20170228_163851.jpg 200 yen to wash your clothes, and 200 yen to dry your clothes (100 yen for 30 minutes of drying; 30 minutes was never enough). There are instructions in English. I like that the washing machine has an option where you can wash the washing machine (yes, wash the washing machine) before you put your clothes in.

The two hostels in Tokyo provided me with a set of shirts and pants as pajamas, free of charge.

Some places charge you a 100 yen to rent you a towel. Some provide a new one everyday at no extra charge, and some provide you one for free when you check in, and then charge you when you want a new towel.

Some have 24 hr check in and front desk, but most do not, and their closing time is indicated on booking sites. If you will be checking in past their closing time, you must notify them beforehand and they can make an exception for you. If the hostel doesn’t have 24 hour front desk, it provides you a security code that you must enter at the building door after a certain time in the night. Take a picture of this code so that you’re not locked out if you forget it.

Out of 4 “rooms” I stayed at, 3 did not have any locks on the doors, so do not leave anything valuable in your room. Keep it in your locker, which is provided free of charge. Most lockers can fit a carry-on luggage, and more. Some places have really small lockers (I’ve had as small as 20cm x 15cm, at Fuku), so it’d be just big enough to fit your small electronics and pricey valuables.

Some places have really charming common area, and I spent a lot of time in them.

 

20170314_104942.jpgEnjoying a cup of tea and a traditional Japanese snack as I stare out the common room window in Kyoto. 

20170224_020802.jpg Me enjoying a foot bath in my complimentary pajamas provided by the hostel. It wasn’t a real bath with water, but you cover your feet with plastic and dunk it into this box with warmed beads. Takes away some of the fatigue from all that walking. They also provided Japanese fashion magazines and recipe books for me to read as I relax. Some hostels have these surprising perks that are available for free.

All in all, capsule hotels differ widely in policies and size, and what they do or do not provide. My favorite was Guesthouse Wind Villa in Kyoto, and my least favorite was Fuku Hostel in Nanba, Osaka. I don’t have any pictures of Fuku hostel, because it was a really underwhelming place that only provided the bare necessities, and you had to make your own bedding when you use the bed for the first time, etc.

 

Snacks and drinks from Konbinis – Part 4

20170318_121139.jpg I bought this from a konbini Kyoto station. 400 yen. Fucking serious. Ate it on my 13,910 yen shinkansen (bullet train) ride back to Tokyo.

20170318_160702 좀 큰 니미스탑.그래도 그렇지 콘비니에 샐러드 바가....jpgThis especially large Mini Stop in Tokyo had a freakin’ legit salad bar. For real.

20170307_085807.jpgWow, Korean girls must really love this mochi roll from Lawson. Not all Lawson stores have signs like this, but this particular Lawson did. This is really good, as noted in Part 3.

20170307_085916.jpgMitarashi dango for cheap. Usually one stick is at least a 100 yen, so 3 for 108 yen is budget. Tastes pretty good. Mitarashi dango is dango covered in thick, sweet and salty soy-based sauce.

20170314_204818.jpg 20170314_204932.jpgIce cream waffle sandwich with a thin sheet of milk chocolate in the middle. It was autumn weather outside but I wasn’t about to leave Japan before trying some of their ice cream.  YAAAAAAAAAAASSSSSSSSSS.

20170307_090028.jpg Sold in the hot section at a Lawson. It was chilly, so the warm drink was more of a heat pouch. Tasted really watery and gross. No recommend.

20170307_202417.jpg Bought this from a Daiso, not knowing what it was. This is liquified milk candy. If you haven’t had milk candy, this is it, liquified. Try it.

20170310_210128 한국에 그 핑크 하얀 오징어칩.jpg Late night Suntory beer in my capsule hotel with shrimp flavored checkered puffs from Family Mart.

20170311_094428.jpg One of the most popular snacks to take back home, matcha Kit Kat. Actually has big flakes of real green tea, green because they used white chocolate as a base so that the matcha green shows up, and has a nice, fragrant aftertaste.

20170311_210143.jpg Late night Lawson run

20170311_213728.jpg Classic roll cake slice from Lawson dessert brand, Uchi Cafe. Yum.

20170311_214449.jpg These puffy corn sticks covered in chocolate come individually packaged so that you don’t have to eat like, all 8 sticks after you open the bag. 100 yen.

20170312_002909.jpgHaven’t watched anime in years, but watched it while eating these pick-ups from a nearby Family Mart. One Cup Ozeki is a one-person portion sake sold in a glass bottle. Ah, an alcoholic’s dream.

20170312_003042.jpg 20170312_004623.jpg Tuna mayo onigiri. Can’t go wrong with this.

20170312_003056.jpg 20170312_003114.jpgHot and super crispy and fried chicken from Family Mart. I opened the top like a barbarian and took a bite. Shortly realized that there were directions on the back on how to open this bag.

20170312_003445.jpg  20170312_003508.jpg Ah, there are pre-cuts in the middle of the bag, so you tear it open in the middle and voila, you can eat your huge ass crispy chicken nugget without touching it with your probably-dirty hands.

20170312_160235.jpg Chinese style pork bun from Lawson. Served warm because it’s kept in a steamer. Tasted really artificial and cheap. Do not recommend.

20170312_211742.jpg Konbinis often have events where you can collect something or buy certain things and then get these limited-edition character goods.

20170312_220250.jpgLate-night party with friends I met in Kyoto. The two pretty tall cans of Suntory is with limited-time cherry blossom packaging, but otherwise, the beer tastes the same as regular Suntory beer.

20170312_220431.jpg Not sure what this was, I think it was sake…

20170312_220638.jpg 20170312_221500.jpg   Lawson brand bag of seafood chips. So tasty and a great variety.

20170312_220756.jpg 20170312_220841.jpg  Hard-as-rock rice crackers coated with very strong, concentrated and smoky soy sauce. So salty, that it was bitter. Did not enjoy. It was more expensive than the other ones, so I thought I might give it a try.

20170312_223348.jpg More Lawson brand snacks. There is a strip of cheese sandwiched in between two strips of cod sheets to make one strip of heaven. Perfect with alcohol.

20170312_231945.jpg Beer goggles.

20170312_231940.jpg Super soft and runny milk pudding. Yum. Pudding-fied milk candy.

 

20170315_205339.jpg 7-11 brand. Crunchy corn snack filled with cream-cheese-y filling. Salty.

 

 

Snacks and drinks from Konbinis – Part 3

20170301_112108.jpg Strawberry milk. Not as highlighter-pink in flavor and color as the ones found in North America. Yum.

20170302_154619 family mart oden.jpgSelf-serve oden from Family Mart. Broken ball of hanpen, sausage, knot of konjac wire. Check out the cute built-in mustard saucer on the left side of the container.

20170302_214616.jpg Peach-flavored Calpis yogurt pop. This left a weird after-taste, like expired milk powder. Do not recommend.

20170303_204249.jpg  20170303_204917.jpg 7-11 branded chocolate chou puffs. I was so surprised at the quality of this. Great puffs loaded with thick, dark chocolate.

20170304_191739.jpg  20170304_194748.jpgAh, the famous mochi roll from Lawson. The bread part of the roll is a perfect texture combination of soft cake and mochi. The whipped cream is amazing, light, and just sweet enough. How do they do it?! Lawson houses a dessert brand called Uchi Cafe, and all Uchi Cafe stuff is really good.

20170305_202112.jpg 20170305_202231.jpg This onigiri from 7-11 had strips of heavily seasoned strips of konbu. Concentrated dark flavor of soy sauceon the strips. Not my favorite, but not bad either. The more you chew, the more the rice mixed with the seasoned konbu and finds balance.

20170305_201001.jpg 20170305_201209.jpgMore 7-11 onigiri. This is with flavored bonito. Unlike other onigiris, the rice is seasoned.

20170305_203912.jpg 20170305_203859.jpgCustard pudding. Had a torched top, and brunt sugar syrup at the bottom. Such quality. Wow.

20170228_072947 seven ereven.jpg Morning run to 7-11 for bread. I had no clue what these were, just listened to my heart and grabbed two that looked interesting.

20170228_073018.jpg 20170228_073145 how does this taste good.jpgBread 1 of 2; Surprise! This is curry bread. Curry is cooked with tons of veg and blitzed into an indiscernible paste. How the hell does this manage to taste so good? I saw a specialty stall in touristy areas, selling just this curry bread. If there is a fad in Japan, konbinis will find a way to replicate it and sell it.

20170228_073600.jpg 20170228_074028.jpg Pretty sure that green sticker says something important, but not sure what. Ah, well, it’s funner that way. Took a bite and it was strawberry jam and a sheet of soft, non-salted butter in a super-soft hotdog bun. This also used to be a sensational fad.

20170306_075302.jpgPremium instant ramen. Konbini brands collaborate with famous ramen shops to replicate their flavors into a preserved, packaged form. These usually cost around $3. The weird pink floating thing is a slice of char siu meat that came dehydrated.