Japan

Fuji Five

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Fuji Five Lakes, as the name connotes, are the lakes surrounding the all famous Mt. Fuji, these are located at the northern base part. They also provide good vistas if one wants to capture a poster-material view of Fuji. But, more than being spots to take photos of this famous peak, I personally suggest a trip to the lakes and the surrounding areas. From Tokyo’s Shinjuku to Five lakes, one has to take an hour train ride. If one is not into hiking, there is a climbing bus to the 5th station of Mt. Fuji. Do note that there are ten stations to it to reach the amazing top.

I was already fascinated by the train ride on the way there. Well, I love train rides, I always get amazed by it.

At Otsuki, we had to transfer for the train on the Fujikyu line which would then take you to Kawaguchiko.

Since I only had a day to venture around, I decided to take the retro buses located right outside of Lake Kawaguchiko visitor center. And then there are also the ordinary passenger buses that you just pay a fare for.

The Retro Buses

Initially, I really thought that I can visit all the five lakes, but I didn’t know that it was way impossible to do that in a day as the prefecture distances are really so far from each other. Kawaguchiko is the famous and well trodden of all, so most tourists flock here. In addition, this area is the most developed amongst the five.

I went to Oshino Hakkai which is a set of eight ponds right in the small village of Oshino.

There are also a number of food shops that sell local delicacies, souvenirs and there are also restaurants.

The most exciting for me was the bus going around Lake Kawaguchiko. Other than the lake per se, the surrounding area is a calm tourist place, one that you can just go to if you want total r&r. And the scenery was just downright beautiful, add to the fact that the weather was one with the view, cool and crisp air.

Kawaguchiko Natural Living center is a must go as well. Lavender fields await you and this is the first time I see something like this. It is very fresh, calm and beautiful.

The Kawaguchiko Musical Forest is a small, musical box themed open air museum. Apparently, I reached there at almost closing time 😦 so I was not able to get inside. But I promised myself that I will come back here again next time. (So I just sat and rested myself there and used their wifi, lol)

During this trip, I never really captured much photos because I was enjoying the vistas a lot. It came to a point where I just placed my camera inside my bag and savoured the weather and the place. A day trip would not be enough as there are really a number of things that you could do and places that you can visit in Kawaguchiko. But then, there is always a next time, so definitely I will be back here again in the future. 🙂

And oh!!! Not to mention, I did not see the Fuji as it was hiding at that time, it was an overcast weather. And that gives me more reason to come back.

The starving me, at the end of the trip, ate at the visitor center itself and got myself a hot bowl of Udon. 🙂

Pardon my blurry shot, lol
Yours Truly 🙂

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Convenient Eats

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If there is one thing Japanese are known for, it would be their passion to make things efficient. They would innovate to make lives easier, thus Japan is very busy, everything is fast moving and people, well… the busiest. During our stint in Tokyo, I find that people are always rushing, you can even find fast food dining right on a subway station platform for people who wanted to eat in a breeze and rush to the train thereafter.

Japanese are also known to cook good food, talk about one of the most celebrated cuisine. Thus, it would not come as a surprise if the convenience stores offer not your typical microwavables but those bentos that you order out of a Japanese restaurant in a non-Japanese country.

Since we wanted to maximise our time and since the sib is not much of a foodie as I am, we relied on fast food chains that you can so easily find in Japan, for our meals from breakfast to even our midnight snack! haha.

There are a number of stores such as Lawson, good ‘ol 7-11 and Family Mart. All of which would not fail your famished self at the middle of your sauntering.

I find that they sell so much of these iced coffee drinks!

Midnight Snacking!

Another thing that I so love in Japan are what I call the “vending machine fast food” joints. These are commonly found in any streets of Japan and I find that they are most people’s go to place after work or for that midday work lunch. Once you enter the place, you have to order from the vending machine. A bit of a challenge though, everything is in Japanese, so rely only on the photos that which you find delicious, lol. Some even don’t include photos so I had to do sign language to the waiters and chefs and point to the next person sitting and eating and ask what they are having. =))

While I was walking by myself in Ueno, I happened to pass by many different food shops and right in time, the famished me spotted a cozy looking food place (and being a fan of some place less crowded and quiet), I went for it.

There was also this same place at Ikebukuro which sells more of pork and it was just so succulent and tender. It is of the same food shop type and people just order using the vendo, sit down and silently and quickly finish their meal. Gosh, thinking about it now, I want to teleport to Japan and eat this right away! =))

They may look so simple, but these sauces are just soooooo good!

What better thing to sip on a cold weather than a hot cup of coffee! I was amazed by those coffee that you can buy right out of the convenience store which would only cost you 200 yen or less (about 2 bucks). You can even choose what type of coffee… mocha, latte? Or even milk tea. 🙂

Reheating of food maybe something so ordinary, but I was fascinated by the guide that they place on the food boxes, the number is the equivalent of the option that you need to press in the microwaves that you find in these stores.

For example, the number beside the blue icon is 5. So you need to press 5 in the microwave which would give you the right amount of reheat time that the food needs. 🙂

If there is one thing that describes these food, I would say quality. In other places, if you buy something quick, more so a convenience shop, don’t expect a very filling, mouth-watering and appetising meals. But in Japan, you get both convenience and quality nicely packed in these food boxes, and oh, not to mention, they are affordable. 🙂

My food blog in Japan never stops here, do stay tune for more posts. Hai!

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Tokyo

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Ever since I had set foot in Japan, I fell in love not just with the place but with the culture, food and friendliness of its people. So subsequent trips are already a no brainer and a must do for me. I started with Kyoto and Osaka so I thought this year would be Tokyo. I really did not plan for this trip, not the way I used to do before, because I thought to just make it a laid back one and go where I feel like going, plus the sib was there too, so most of the time he was my navigator! lol

Subway Life
We stayed near Ikebukuro station, booked the place via AirBnb. It was a nice, cozy Japanese house and the neighbourhood simple, tranquil and friendly. There were also malls right in Ikebukuro station where I pass time lazing by having coffee. lol. Only as I was writing this blog post that I realized I did not take any photo of the place, lol.

We went to Senso-ji Temple, Meiji Shrine and Imperial Palace as they are must go spots for tourists. Apparently, for the Imperial Palace, there was a private function on going so it was closed for public, thus we can only walk through the gardens – the surrounding vicinity.

Tourists crowding the entrance to Senso-Ji

There is a strip of stores before you reach Senso-Ji temple, selling various items.

As well as a strip of food places offering Ramen, Tonkatsu, basically everything Japanese food. I quite like the wooden, traditional built of the food shops, it still somehow resembles the Edo period.

Recently put up is the statue of Hachiko reunited with his master, Dr. Ueno, right at University of Tokyo (the one in Shibuya is only Hachiko). Do note that this one entails a very long walk from the nearest train station and we had to ask around and say “Hachiko” several times for us to locate it. It was pleasing when we found it, a sweet statue of them both where Hachiko happily sees his master.

There were also the usual stops to some alleyways and malls while navigating our way through famous destinations. Of course, we also stopped by several subway stations – ate on some, bought souvenirs on some, had coffee… One has to explore the side streets and alleys as you would be amazed by some good food places siting silently in there.

Farther to the city itself, we also went to Odaiba and I went to Fuji Five Lakes too, both of which I will have a separate blog posts for.

Palette Town in Odaiba

Statue of Liberty Replica right on Odaiba harbour
We visited Meiji shrine as well. I find that it was very pleasing and relaxing to walk through the path towards Meiji Shrine. Although drizzling, it was a nice cool weather. We also noticed that some people wearing office attires walk through this path, some ladies even wearing high heels. So we thought that they must be there just to visit the place and pray. Talk about devotion.

The Tokyo Station is also a place for tourist to visit and take photos at, also this is their CBD area where high rise buildings stand and personally, it looks like a western area for me than Japan, I find it nice to walk around there.

Tokyo station would be your stop if you want to reach the Imperial palace. However, we were unfortunate that some of the best spots in that shrine were closed for some events so we just visited the surrounding area such as gardens.

We visited Yodobashi in Akihabara to check out some camera prices and we were amazed by how big those shops are and how wide the selections are and the items that they sell there. I was also amazed when we reached Akihabara because of the festive and young vibe, buildings are adorned with vibrant posters and ads, advertising gadgets, maid cafes, animes and so many more. We went to dine in at Maid Dreamin cafe which I will probably post in a separate blog. 🙂

We stopped by Harajuku and Shinjuku as well, both of which are places where you can find strips of stores you can buy several items at, well, shopping. lol

Shibuya! Home of the busiest pedestrian – we secured some seats at Starbucks to take photos and for me, do a time lapse from. There is about five pedestrians and the number of people crossing there at the same time, every few minutes was just astonishing. Shibuya is also a place for shopping, feast your eyes on many shops there especially cosmetics which I find cheaper, but all the others such as shoes and clothes are so exy!

I went gaga over the cheaper prices of cosmetics, brands such as Shiseido, Can Make, K Palette, Hada Labo and so many more are so affordable and I just wanted to hoard. lol.

We visited the Tokyo tower as well, and there were just so many local and Korean tourists queuing up to get to the top. We decided not to queue and just visit the ground area that has restaurants and souvenir shops.

I find that Tokyo is a very busy and vibrant city. It seems like there is always something going on and it cannot stay calm because that is just how it is. Despite being commercialized and heavily urbanized, you would still smell culture and tradition in it. I cannot compare it to Osaka or Kyoto because personally, they are on a different scale. I really enjoyed my stay and I will definitely come back here. Do stay tune for more blog posts about this trip. 🙂

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Kyoto Cheap & Fast Food

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One of the things that I enjoyed in Japan are the side street cheap and fast food joints. Those that you can just go in, press your order and eat in a breeze and that which would costs only a couple of SG dollars, say 3-4 per meal. On one night in Kyoto, while walking with a growling tummy, we happened to pass by a seemingly interesting fast food place and so we decided to go in and try. As with some shops, you have to decode the puzzling Japanese ordering machine (I would say puzzling as there is of course, no English translation, lol).

After ordering and paying from the machine, you have to hand the dispensed coupon to the waiter and sit yourself on one of the stools surrounding a central area where they do some of the preparations.

And so the orders… gosh… cheap and real GOOD!!!!

Also, nothing beats downing a chilled beer on a very cold weather… Asahi!!!

Ok, I’m getting all hungry talking about this…and  I am badly missing that experience of walking through a chilly night and finding yourself a food place offering a cheap but definitely good meal! 🙂 Will come back soon!!!!!!!!!!

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Izakaya Tripping

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Here is another post about a food place in Japan where I didn’t have the chance to get to know how I could spell the name of it, not with its Japanese characters. Maybe soon, I will just have to show these blog posts to a Japanese so he or she could spell it out for me and I would then update this post with a name that I could write and pronounce. :))

It was almost evening and itinerary for the day was already completed. Before heading back to the hotel, we noticed this place which looks like a bar and has a big menu colorfully displayed outside showing mouth watering Japanese finger foods/snacks, if that’s a better way to call it. We had to go up a narrow staircase before we could see the reception to the izakaya. We noticed that they have private sections to quietly spend time with your friends or family and it is very cozy and dimly lit and private.

So we went inside one of those clusters where I thought you have kneel down like those that you usually see on movies when actually the table and sofa are just lowered down from the floor level and your feet would still have to go as usual, like how would you typically sit down on restos, except that you’re lowered down, lol.

And so the tiny bites!!! Do note that this was already post dinner snacking haha.

And some beers to go with all these! It is a place where people can head down post work hours to grab some drinks and chat with friends. I enjoyed the time here and all of the food are delish, I’m not sure though if it might be because anything Jap cuisine is something that I love. :)) I can’t wait to go back here! 🙂

Floresta Nature Doughnuts

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As we were temple hopping in Osaka and while the winds were blowing cold and brushing heavily on our face, we decided to take a break for a while and find a cozy place to sit down and sip a coffee. Luckily, on the way, we found a small doughnut place which looks like a typical bakery from the outside and it is called Floresta Nature Doughnuts. As to why there is “nature” in the shop name, I don’t get it and didn’t bother asking, lol.

Inside is a quaint looking shop and oh my god, the smell of doughnuts while being baked from the oven!

Sitting down, one would notice that the place is really more of a neighborhood doughnut shop where students or local workers would just drop by and take away a piece or two of doughnut. When weather is cold, I tend to double up my daily intake of coffee, from the usual 3-4 cups.. hmm.. ok, I know, it’s too much caffeine intake, lol. Their brewed coffee is quite nice, not too acidic nor bitter.

As usual, I love how they arrange your meal in such a way that you would want to orderly eat it because it is arranged too pretty for you to mess it up. The dough nut is not too sweet which I really like as I hate those that makes your teeth ache even in just one bite. Would definitely come back again for some coffee should I be travelling back in Osaka. 🙂

Oh, I just noticed how cute their door handles are when we started walking outside:

Higashiyama District Dinner

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Lost in translation… everything is in Japanese so pardon that I don’t know the English name of this food place, well if there is actually one that exists, so I just opted to take a photo of the place. Of course, even the menu is in Japanese – so it was an ordeal of choosing which one looks nice and pointing it out to the order taker. 🙂

After we hiked up to Kiyomizu-dera temple in Higashiyama where shops and food place are lining up the strip and as it was dinner time, we opted to find a place where we could heat up ourselves as it was really cold and even drizzling. We wanted a quiet place sans the hustle and bustle and lucky that we stumbled upon this resto which looks like a plain house from the outside.

The inside looks homey and it was tranquil….

We sat all the way at the back

They are serving homestyle Japanese cuisine and the first thing that popped in my head was…… noodles!!!

And of course, meal wouldn’t be complete without a cup of coffee especially in that cold weather.

One of my observations during this food trip in Japan is that their food would not taste of MSG, compared to when you buy ramen or any noodles from restos outside of Japan. I don’t know if it’s just me but I find their food natural and not too salty. Also, I always always love how the Japanese prepare their meal in a way that it was orderly, a bento everytime and I am fascinated by that serving style. I would not mind going back to this resto once I decided to plan a trip back to Kyoto – which I am hoping to be soon. 🙂