5 Things I Hate About Japan

I love Japan, I am planning to spend a lot of days in Japan but there are some things I really dislike, somethings I just can’t get behind. So be aware, be prepared, these small insignificant things might just grind your gears too. To show how small these things are I will interpolate with photos of the wonderful country that I am complaining about.

PhoebeGill-180404-010.jpgBead Pillows

There is nothing like coming home from a long day of exploring, sight seeing, eating and general frivolity and diving into bed. You want your head to hit the pillow and fall fast asleep however, you nuzzle and hug your pillow only to find a load of beans on one side! Hard plastic, crunchy and uncomfortable these spherical devils are there for comfort but it’s anything but! I’m sorry Japan but I’m going to need my synthetic, fluffy, cloud like  pillows!

PhoebeGill-180403-298.jpgToilet Paper

Japan is a country where their toilets sing and dance for you. There are so many buttons it’s like a cockpit of a airplane and yet you have 1 ply toilet paper. Now I know why this is a thing but to have such a comfortable experience only to be faced with 1 ply is a rough time. Pun very much intended!

PhoebeGill161026137.jpgTiny Towels

Maybe this is just me but I like to wrap myself up in a big fluffy towel and watch a YouTube video or have a nap. It’s post shower chill time. However  Japan has tiny body towels! Tiny! You jump out of the shower and that cool air hits you, you just want to snuggle into a big fluffy towel and you are wrapping a thin short piece of fabric around yourself. Maybe it’s a tactic to get ready really fast after your morning shower and get to work!

PhoebeGill-180415-171.jpgYour suitcase will be a burden

Japan is a land of convenience, I have never seen such innovative and logical systems in place. However, if you are travelling with a suitcase…sometimes it is not convenient at all. I found that there is not a great amount of space for bags on Shinkansens and busses. On Dublin bus, for example, there is a space for wheelchair users and prams so you can stand with your bags. Not in Japan, you have to awkwardly stand and hope that you aren’t in the way, which you always are, so you have very grumpy old men hitting you as you are trying to figure out how to get to your hotel (I still think about this incident).

PhoebeGill-180414-002Plastic Packaging

Japan what will we do with you? I have never seen such over use of plastic packaging in my life! A sealed tin of biscuits catches your eye, you think, fabulous, you open the tin to find each biscuit individually wrapped, making this tin that you can reuse, completely pointless as there is so much plastic to contend with. You get free plastic bags wherever you go. It’s a free for all. So bring one of the thousand tote bags you have and refuse a plastic bag in shops. Makes you feel slightly less guilty!

Really it’s nothing to write home about and differences are wonderful but sometimes the things your used to, your creature comforts make a big difference when you travel. Don’t feel guilty if you don’t like something, it’s a privilege to travel but it’s also your right to whinge.

Happy Travels!

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In Tokyo: The Robot Restaurant

The madness that is The Robot Restaurant.

I had heard of this place and as a solo traveller I didn’t think I’d ever go but I’m starting to realise, never say never. I learned that one of my favourite people was going to be in Japan at the same time and she asked if I want to go to the Robot Restaurant. I said yeah, lets give it a go. I probably wont have the best time but I will be with my besto, all would be fine.PhoebeGill-180403-060When you get into the central area of Shinjuku, the Robot Restaurant is pretty easy to spot, you see it’s neon, it’s in your face and it’s mental. The tickets on the official website cost 8,000 Yen plus tax (Roughly €62 before tax). Please note that the first two rows of seats come at an extra cost or you are randomly allocated seats in the back two rows. If you have a look on Go Voyagin you can get a discount, usually for about 28% off and a drink.  When you are in Japan everything can seem like it costs a lot so any amount of saving is good!

When you arrive at the Robot Restaurant you will have to queue up in different lines, as I choose to pay before hand and I chose seats, we were directed to the middle section and got to check in first. After we got our tickets we went over to the main building and were directed to the bar.

PhoebeGill-180403-025.jpgNow this is where the fun begins. Imagine a long room with plush chairs and a bar, you are probably thinking about some grand, expensive lounge. Oh no! Destroy that idea because you get out of the lift and you are greeted by so many lights it’s as if you stepped into a Las Vegas casino on steroids. Neon bulbs of every colour are the back drop for the bar entertainment. While ordering the wonderfully strong rum and cokes, a Daft Punk type robot backing band and a delightfully energetic woman signing classic hits are on the stage. After a good sing song and a shoulder dance in our gilded chairs it was time to go down to the show. Now bear in mind I was still not sure if I was going to like this show but I was curious to see what was going to happen.

PhoebeGill-180403-079.jpgLittle did I know that within the first 20 seconds I would change my tune. I loved every second. The room is small and it doesn’t look like this show will be very big. I can’t describe what actually happened in the show but’s what I will say it’s there an impressive amount of floor to ceiling robotics, lasers, pyrotechnics and never ending dancing. I think there’s a storyline to the show but to be honest I wasn’t following along, I was too enamoured with the lights and the glow sticks.

You have to go, it’s so much fun. Definitely an activity to do with friends. Have a few drinks and enjoy the madness.

Happy Travels!

In Tokyo: Where Did I Go?

Going from Kyoto to Tokyo was a bit of a shock to the system. I got into Shinjuku station at rush hour, trying to navigate to my hotel after a long day of travel I was ready to check into my hotel and relax. I only had three days to explore which I have just decided is never enough time in Japan, I don’t think a lifetime is enough. I still dream of CoCo Curry. There is so much left to see but it’s a start. Here is what i did in my three days in Tokyo!

Shinjuku

This is the area I stayed in, it’s a really busy, bright area, the Shinjuku station is huge and has so many exits so it’s a little hectic at first but once you get the hang of it you’ll be flying along. PhoebeGill1610272875-1.jpg

Kichijoji

I watch Simon and Martina, they have great taste in food so definitely check out their blog and YouTube because they will give you loads of inspiration on where to eat in Japan. Satou was somewhere I had to go. It is steak house restaurant but there will be a queue down the street for an amazing pork cutlet that is freshly made in front of you. So join the line, the wait will be worth it, you can pick up a whole bag of incredibly delicious crispy pork spheres! PhoebeGill1610272870.jpg

So it’s no secret that I love Studio Ghibli. There are some of my favourite films and in my top three companies in the world. As a teenager the Studio Ghibli Museum seemed like a far off dream but I am a goal oriented gal so I got there. It was a great experience check out my guide to the Ghibli Museum here. PhoebeGill1610272841.jpg

Harajuku

So you have to visit Takeshita Street when you go to Harajuku but to be honest, if you don’t want a crepe or clothes than this might not be the street for you. Now the area behind Takeshita is the main shopping area if you want the big brands. It’s a lot prettier and feels a lot more interesting than the one street. PhoebeGill161029039.jpg

Yogogi Park is a big park in the middle of Tokyo and I definitely wanted to have a walk through. I took the entrance just behind Harajuku station. It is really beautiful and has so many beautiful Torii and shrines. Most special of all is that I got to see some wedding moments. I saw the photographs of a bride and groom. I saw the procession that happens after the ceremony. It was absolutely beautiful and one of my favourite moments in Tokyo.PhoebeGill161029042.jpg

Shibuya

So I was going to explore Shibuya but I got anxiety and decided I would sit with a crappy coffee from Starbucks and watch people on the crossing. You have to see it. PhoebeGill161028026-1

Nakano

I wanted to find gatchapon in Nakano but nothing was open in the shopping arcade but I did get to explore all the shop fronts with lots of figures.

Tiato

So I had to do some shopping for my family. Japanese knives are some of the most beautiful kitchen utensils in the world. The process of it all is so interesting and intricate. Kamata Knife Shop was where I was asked to go. Tiato is the cooking district, if you want any sort of cooking/kitchen thing than go to this area and you will get everything you’ll ever need. PhoebeGill1610292966-1.jpg

Ikebukuro

Ikebukuro is big, tall, bright and has lots of streets. I got lost walking around and around until I found what I was looking for, Sunshine City. The Pokemon Centre is upstairs in the shopping mall and it took me far too long to find but I got there. My 7 year old self was extremely pleased with how much stuff you could buy. Of course I went a bit nuts but would love more original 150 merch.PhoebeGill1610282896.jpg

I don’t think I could talk about Tokyo without mentioning CoCo Curry. Oh my god it is delicious. I recommend the beef based sauce and beef cutlet. There are loads of extra toppings that you could add but as I have no Japanese I just went bog standard. It was amazing. I wish I had a CoCo Curry around me at all times. It’s not elegant or intricate but it is damn tasty! PhoebeGill1610242700.jpg

There are so many things I didn’t do this time around but fret not because I have a funny feeling I will be back soon enough. Till next time Tokyo!

Happy Travels!

In Tokyo: Studio Ghibli Museum

I don’t care for Disneyland. Now I love a Disney movie like the rest of the world but I can’t deal with people in costume and the ‘magic’ of it all. I went to Paris on a school trip and had maybe three hours in the park and although the Tower of Terror was the first and last roller coaster I have been on, I don’t really care if I go on one again, what I do care about is it cost so much to get in, so much to eat and if you wanted to buy anything your wallet cried. As I say, not a big fan. However, there is one company that I adore and will fully endorse with my money. Studio Ghibli has been something I have loved since I was 14 and getting to go to the Ghibli Museum seemed like something I’d never get to see. PhoebeGill161027212I should have had more faith in myself that I’d get there! I had it all planned, I had three days in Tokyo and one of the days was going to be filled with Ghibli. I was so excited. The only snag is that to get tickets you have to be up late at night, agile, have great internet and a steely determination. Ok that sounds a bit severe but at least be prepared to get tickets. As I am from Ireland I only had one option to get my tickets. The Lawson ticket site is a really easy to navigate website. The tickets go on sale the 10th day at 10am (Japan time) for the next month. So on the 10th of April, May tickets go on sale. There are 4 entry times, the person who booked the tickets must be in the group and you need to bring your passport. I know sounds a bit much but it weeds out the reselling of tickets which is great.

Now the website will crash as there are so many people using this site to get tickets but if you refresh like a pro you’ll be fine. Best of all, the tickets only cost ‎¥‎1000, roughly €10. So cheap!! PhoebeGill161027242So this is a wonderful experience so I don’t want to spoil anything for you. You aren’t allowed to take pictures inside the building but outside is fair game. So after entering, there are multiple levels and rooms to explore, two gift shops, a sit down restaurant and a kiosk with quick bites to eat. I went the quick and easy option which tasted great. They are not big portions so if you aren’t planning to go to the sit down cafe, you might want to bring a snack (There is a konbini across from the museum)PhoebeGill161027254I definitely recommend this museum, it was such a lovely experience and I will definitely be back. There is such amazing attention to detail, the outside is as thought of and decorative as the inside. Hayao Miyazaki has to be one of my favourite humans, for the stunning art he creates, his female protagonists and his incredible ideas. Now that is something to celebrate. Arigatou gozaimasu Miyazaki san. PhoebeGill1610272853To get to the Museum, I took the train to Kichijoji and walked, it’s a really pretty walk and will take about 20 minutes.

Happy Travels!

In Kyoto: The Bamboo Forest

The bamboo forest in Kyoto was a place I had wanted to go for so many years. A short distance into the Arashiyama area, take a turn up a small unassuming road and there it is, the bamboo forest. A beautiful area, cool in climate with tall shoots. With my slight detour I arrived a little too late to avoid the crowds so getting shots was a little tricky. PhoebeGill161026037What I was surprised by is that it’s one single path with a dead end. I had visions of a walk though a forest and you’d come out on the other side of the area, kind of thing but it’s not. It’s just a walkway and then you turn around and go back. Now by all means it’s still beautiful.PhoebeGill161026047I think it should definitely be on the list but the Inari Shrine site was even better than I had expected and I though the bamboo forest was going to be a similar experience but maybe there is a difference if you are first on site. So my number one tip is get up early! PhoebeGill161026050Although it wasn’t what I expected, I will definitely be back again, it’s really a must see.

Happy Travels!

In Kyoto: Arashiyama

You get out of the pretty Arashiyama train station and start walking. This Ghibli like area is beautiful, small roads and neighbourhoods that reflects the serene nature I was about to come upon. The sun was shining, it was warm and I was here to see the bamboo forest.

I didn’t want to take the path everyone was going because when you join a heard you can miss things. I decided to go down a small path and it’s as if this path had it’s own micro climate. It was humid and smelt like a rainforest, it was so peaceful and calm. The Katsura river is still except the boats and ducks that are cutting through the water. Along the bank of the river people are making food to sell, I stood and watched the way they use what’s around them, a small stream of water from the top of the mountain is filtered down to their fish tanks, keeping their fish alive and water in their sinks. It was wonderful.  PhoebeGill161026004I sat here and ate my breakfast and watched the boats go buy. It’s times like these that it’s great to get lost and go the wrong way because what you can find is wonderful.

I then realised that if I was to ever make the Bamboo forest I needed to go the right way. This means going back along the pretty river and over the Togetsukyō Bridge. This beautiful structure gets you across the river, has the most stunning views and was nicknamed the Moon Crossing Bridge. It’s all very romantic and totally deserved. PhoebeGill161026080When you get to the main area of Arasiyama it becomes a lot more busy. There are lots of tourist nicknacks, restaurants and other wonderful finds that you just have to explore for yourself. There are lots of signs alerting you on where to go but what I have found is that if you follow where most of the people are going, they will bring you to the main tourist spot. PhoebeGill161026010After I went to the bamboo forest, it was the middle of the day and the sun was getting hot, I walked over the bridge to find people painting by the water. I stopped and watched this older gentleman watercolour the scene. Arashiyama is a place where I felt like I fit, it felt easy and familiar but at the same time so new and exciting.

Happy Travels!