After a year of planning, I went back to Japan. Although we were so confident that we will see sakura full bloom in Tokyo and Kyoto this year, nature say the opposite. It bloomed way too early, so the trees in Tokyo and Kyoto had already turned green when we arrived. But still, Aurel, Felix and I had an amazing time eating late night yakitori, getting drunk by sake (that taste like "tape" aka Indonesian fermented cassava, by the way), dipping in traditional onsen house, and squealing "Kawaii!" to everything we see in Japan. And surprisingly, Kanazawa sakura blooms right when we arrived there. Here are some of my favourite photos from our memories. See the end of this post for some of my recommendations, and I hope you enjoy the photos.
(Based on my personal experiences and taste)
Tsutaya T-Site Daikanyama, Tokyo: My typical Sunday morning hanging out spots. Perfect place to people sighting, books, food and shopping. I used to buy so many design books here when I lived in Japan.
Shimokitazawa, Tokyo: Sadly, didn't have time to visit my fav neighbourhood in Tokyo this time, but make sure you come here for vintage shops and happy go lucky vibe next time you visit Tokyo.
21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa: We went because of Leandro Elrich's swimming pool installation but there are many other interesting artworks to see in the museum precinct. Defs a must go.
Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa: one of the most beautiful garden in Japan
Arashiyama, Kyoto: rent a boat, visit the bamboo forest, go to the temples. So much things to do, so little time..
Umeda Sky Building, Osaka: Probably has the coolest escalator on Earth.
Onsen: No it's not awkward unless you make it. We went to a small onsen town called Yamanaka. Felix chose to stay outside waiting in the free foot bath while we go to the ladies onsen house. Remember to bring your own towel and soap! It's an unforgettable and refreshing experience and I will definitely come back for more.
WEAR KIMONO: it's a really fun experience and I'm dying to wear it again.
Markets: This is where we are going first when we hop into new cities. We went to Ueno night market (Only during Sakura blooming period), Omicho Market in Kanazawa, and Nikishi Market in Kyoto. Found so many interesting food that you can only find in that particular city. In Kanazawa we found all food sprinkles with gold foil, while in Kyoto we found... spicy salmon roe mentaiko ice cream.
Japanese Thrift Stores: Japanese thrift stores are amazing. You can find them in many cities with hipster culture, such as Tokyo and Osaka. Don't compare it with your basic vintage shops, you will be surprised to find so many quirky designer pieces in these shops. Try Rag Tag and Kindal.
Dotonburi: 2 days were not enough to spend on Dotonburi. There's just so much things to see along the streets and the shops seem never ending. Best place for fashion hauls, imo. Uncle Rikuro's (Rikuro Ojisan no Mise) soft spongy cheesecake is here as well and strongly advise you to get it, no matter how long the queue it.
Head Porter: Bag shop. Felix and I fall in love with their practical and no frills design and we both get one for ourselves.
Yamasan Sushi (Kanazawa): This 60 years old restaurant served me the freshest seafood Kaisen-don I've ever eaten in my life. My only regret is that we share the one bowl and order another plate of mackerel sushi. The sushi is not bad at all but the kaisen bowl is the ultimate star.
Taiga Ramen (Kanazawa): Located next to our hotel, this ramen place is packed with the local coming back to work. The later it gets the more crowded it become. We had this for dinner 2 night in a row. We liked all their ramen flavours but the Squid Black Ink is the best.
Ameyoko Shopping Street in Ueno: Known best for its yakitori stalls and sneakers shop.
Beef Cutlet Takeru Nipponbashi (Osaka): for the more modern version of Gyukatsu Motomura.
Hidemi Sugino Pattiserie (Tokyo) : They say you don't know French pastries if you don't know Hidemi Sugino. Bought two cakes from here but eat it inside Uniqlo (lol) because to eat in the shop we need to buy expensive coffee on top of expensive cakes. But aside of that, the cake is amazing and full of flavour. Feels like I'm eating art not cake tbh.
T's Tan Tan Tokyo Station: The vegetarian ramen that is worth it enough to make you reroute to Tokyo Station. The soup base is so amazing I even forget that this is vegetarian. Don't miss the fried soymeat.
Any bakery in Japan.
Buy JR Rail Pass if you plan to go to many cities. Buy it when yen currency rate is low.
See food recommendations from Tabelog. It's written by locals and they are really selective. 3 and above in Tabelog means the food is really good.
We stayed in various Airbnb and small local hotel during the stay. If you are travelling this summer and wanting to book Airbnb, you can get discount for your first stay here.