Culture and saké: Takayama (2 days) Kampai! Takayama is home to dozens of saké breweries, and is the place to sink down jugs and jugs of this rice-based beverage. If you don’t like the taste that much, try and start with some warm saké after a day of exploring — nice, right? To fill up the day before boozing hour, visit the morning markets, explore the old town on foot, and snap pics of the traditional wooden houses and old-school shops. Or maybe spend an afternoon hanging out in a cafe, sipping on tea and writing postcards while listening to jazz records. Oh, and make sure you hop on the train back to Tokyo during daylight hours: the ride is stunning.
Matsumoto is a lot more touristy when compared to Hakuba as it is the second largest city in the Nagano Prefecture. Home to one of the oldest castles in the country along with some excellent shrines and museums, it morphs into a cherry blossom heaven during the months of March and April. While it is more of a university town, the traditional edibles available in Matsumoto, especially the 'Soba noodles', are loved by locals and travellers in equal measures.
Nikko truly is a magical place, because the next tale is also from this land of eternal beauty. I was handed a chit with the name of a vegan café in Nikko written in English. I walk up and down the lane twice, but unable to spot any shop with that name. I then spot a local unloading a dispatch truck, I show him the chit, hoping he would know the place. Hard luck, he did not. Good luck, he is a Japanese. Unlike what most of us would do, he did not send me away with a simply sorry. He first searched for the place on google map, figured it’s a two minute walk on the same lane I was and then took the chit from me and wrote the English word in Japanese characters, so that I can match it and identify the shop’s name board. All this took a good five-seven minutes, but that man was more than happy to help. And did I add, he did not know English, I did not understand Japanese. All you need to help someone, is intention I guess. I walk the lane for two minutes, now matching the board names with the chit in my hand and in a matter of time, I found what I was looking for, and realized the place did not have an English board at all. Thanks to the truck guy or I would have never found this place.Arigato Japan
Time required: 1 Hour (8 PM-9PM)Line: Oedo line - Tochomae Station to Aoyama-itchome Station; Hanzoman Line- Aoyama-itchome Station to Shibuya stationEvery few minutes a wave of humanity flows across Shibuya Crossing. Join the masses or stand back and watch. An ideal vantage point is the bridge corridor linking Shibuya Station with the Shibuya Mark City complex.
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Tokyo would be incomplete without its temples. Dedicated to Emperor Meiji and his wife, this 19th century Shinto shrine is a perfect example of the Japanese austerity and modesty. It isn't grand like many other Asian temples, but has a quiet appeal of its own. As you enter through the 40 foot high gate into the 200 acre park, it feels like another dimension. In a way, it doesn't feel like you are in Tokyo anymore. You need to wash your hands and face at a communal tank before you offer prayers. There is a prayer wall where you can write your wishes on a piece of paper and stick it there. A touch of Japanese culture and if you are lucky you might just encounter a wedding procession here!
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
n the Shinjuku Government Building, we go to - I don’t know, this is maybe - around 75 floor. Here, we can see the view below us, and it’s so beautiful. Maybe it has the similar view as Tokyo Sky Tree and Tokyo Tower (because I didn’t go there, I only have a photostop there), but of course, they have higher view than this. But Shinjuku Government Building is free of entrance fee ! ;)
If the excitement of Harajuku leave you craving some zen, head to Yoyogi Park which is located just next to Harajuku station. It's particularly beautiful during cherry blossom season (at the end of March and the beginning of April) and during the Autumn (September to early November).
From NHK Studio Park, we go to Takeshita Dori in Harajuku to visit Daiso. Daiso in Harajuku is the biggest one, and it’s so complete, You can found earphone, headset, make up, tie, sandals, neck pillow, yes, everything! and it’s all for 108 Yen (8% tax included). From Daiso (Yeah, we only stop by just for a while, we’re not visiting other places in Harajuku for today), we eat lunch near Harajuku Spain Slope, and then we go to Asakusa Temple.
To Doraemon Museum : JR Yamanote Line ( Green line) to Shinagawa Station. From Shinagawa Station, Transfer to the Blue Line for Musahi Kosugi. From Musahi Kosugi, transfer to the Yellow Line to Noborito Station. From Noborito Station, go down to the shuttle bus service for Doraemon Museum. Note : the shuttle bus is not for free. Doraemon museum is really crowded, and our schedule to enter is at 12 p.m, we arrived just on time! Sorry, in some places like the museum, no photos allowed. Inside Doraemon museum, again, we meet some Indonesian that come from Bandung. Yeah, we realised that Indonesian people are all over Japan. Everytime we go to one place, there must be at least one Indonesian people, hahaha. You can found the memory bread, dorayaki, and all the cute doraemon stuffs inside! My personal opinion about Doraemon Museum, well, is not as cute as I am expected. In my imagination, I can touch and feel lots of Doraemon stuffs, but it’s not like that. Overall, it’s okay though, I still can know how Doraemon Museum looks like!
Tonkatsu Maisen Shibuya Hikarie
My fiance LOVES this place and he cannot stop talking about it. He made us wander through dark streets and feduddle our way through Google maps to find this place. Which ended up being totally worth it. It's not that hard to find actually, there are signs leading up to the place. Be prepared to queue no matter what time you go. The meat is juicy, the batter is crispy, and we ordered a roast pork (char siew) starter that came with a delicious soya sauce. We loved it! This place used to be a bathhouse.. maybe there was something in the water..
Even if shopping is not on your to-do list, a wander down the world famous Takeshita Street in Harajuku (just one stop on the metro from Shibuya) will have you fighting the urge to buy things that you'll never actually use but you just want because they're awesome. Make sure you get your picture taken with a Harajuku Girl or get involved in the action yourself by dressing up as one of your favorite Comicon or Anime characters.
Kyushu Jangara Ramen
Time to slurp in some Ramen. Everyone will tell you that the best Ramen is found in Komen Ramen. Personally, I liked Kyushu Jangara more. The staff is very friendly and the food is delicious and cheaper than most places around. It has an English Menu, which makes ordering much easier. Apart from the Ramen, the soups are to die for too.