Living the Otaku Dream

Our first plan for a full day out of our base in Shibuya was to head to Akihabara (Akiba) and Harajuku for some shopping and site seeing. These districts are widely popular for their massive shopping centers, fashion and otaku culture bases. Since our JR rail pass was now expired, we had to pick up a Suica card which is a card you can preload money on and use for the JR East rails that run through Tokyo.

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Feeling like a true local.

So on the agenda for the day was shopping!! Time to get rid of that yen before our journey back.  We hopped on the Yamanote line that circles around all of Tokyo and stops at all the major hubs.  Our first stop for the day was Akiba since it was on the other side of the loop from Shibuya.  By the way, the Yamanote is a JR rail, which is covered by the JR pass and makes it super easy to get around Tokyo.

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Travel bunny
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Anime and geek paradise

Not only is Akiba the most known for Otaku merchandise, it is also an electronic gadget mecca.  Prior to us visiting Japan we had agreed a goal of ours was to purchase a nice camera, so we googled the area to filter the many electronic department stores to choose a place of purchase.  Our search lead us to Yodobashi Akiba, a 9 story Colosseum of electronics.  Each floor featured a different type of product, so we made our way to the 3rd floor for cameras.

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After a few hours getting lost in the department store for a few hours we finally made our purchase on a Canon g9x Mark II, then it was time to get some grub.

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Our big purchase, now to take even better pictures of our trip going forward!

 

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Lunch! Pork bone ramen.

After shopping and checking out the many maid cafe’s in Akiba it was time to head to our next destination the ever so fashionable Harajuku.

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This kawaii gashapon clock sums up Harajuku

Harajuku is the modern day fashion capital of Japan.  Lets just say, we felt very under dressed.  Loads of people and shopping, we loved it so much we actually walked from Shibuya to Harajuku the next day (they are only a stop away on the Yamanote line).

 

After two hours of shopping the main streets of Harajuku, we went to Yoyogi park for an evening stroll before heading back to the rails for Shibuya.  The park was absolutely stunning as the sun was setting.

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Once we arrived back in Shibuya it was time for a traditional Sukiyaki meal.  This was the most expensive meal of our trip and well worth it.  A little intimidating for our uncultured taste buds, but I must say the raw egg is very complimentary to the meat!

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Meat Mountain

Tummys full it was time for bed, Ghibili Museum to look forward to the next day…or so we thought.  Stay tuned and enjoy the photo dump below of anime and fashion related experiences while visiting these two hubs of Tokyo! Thanks for stopping by!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goodbye Osaka, HELLLOOO Shibuya!

After our wondrous week in Osaka and surrounding areas, it was time to move on to the last leg of our journey. For our last stay in Japan, we were going to be living out of an AirBnB in Shibuya, Tokyo. Time to jump on the Shinkansen bullet train again for another 3 hour trip back into Tokyo. We were sad to lay our JR Pass down to rest(we only had a 7 day pass), but it was time. We encourage all travelers to purchase the pass, it basically pays for it self after a few Shinkasen rides and there are extensive rails in Japan and Osaka that you can utilize the pass on.

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RIP JR Pass, you served us well!

Once we arrived in Shibuya station, we headed out of the station into a massive swirl of people. Shibuya is a heavily dense population center. It’s famous for its Shibuya crossing, which is one of the largest pedestrian crossings in the world. We found our way to our new Air BnB following the detailed map provided to us by our host. Our new apartment was smaller then our last one but it was cozy enough for the both of us and right in the center of the exciting Shibuya district of Tokyo! It was also on the 7th floor, so I’m glad elevators exist.

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The view from the front of our new Air BnB in Shibuya.. Glamorous, right?

We got settled in and decided to hit the town and see what local mischief we could get into, this setting was a lot more busy then our time in Osaka. Walking the streets we were surrounded by countless people, shops, and restaurants. We were ready to sit down and get some food, so we started looking for a place.

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Around the corner and down the street from our Air BnB

The first place we located was called goodbeer faucets, which had a fairly decent draft selection and food – so we took a seat! We tried some pizza, which… For all the good food in Japan, pizza doesn’t seem to be their thing. However the beer selections were great, and we tasted a few different local craft beers. After that, I looked up another place nearby which was known for their no nonsense bartender owner and his vast collection of vinyls. We collected our things and headed over!

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Had to avoid people driving around doing Mario Kart tours.. Yeah, that’s real.

Shortly after that, we got to our location the Jazz Blues Soul Bar – this guy has thousands of vinyl lining all his walls in his bar. He’s the only employee, picks the records himself, and serves you one kind of beer – mix drinks too, with everything at a seemingly flat rate of 500 yen. He plays some of the most awesome music some of which I had never heard, in addition to taking requests – if you’re nice. The place is tiny, so if it’s too full – don’t be surprised if he asks you to leave. It was fantastic and we loved the atmosphere.

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Behold! …And this is just one wall of his vinyl collection in the bar

After that, we decided to head home and wind down for the coming adventures on the next day of our journey. Plenty more pictures below, check it out!

Osaka Aquarium KAIYUKAN!

Next up on our trip was Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, which was a hop skip and a jump away from Shin-Osaka station which was our base. The aquarium is one of the largest public aquariums in the world and is one of the stops marked on our journey here.

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An extremely large Ferris wheel greeted us near the entrance of Aquarium Kaiyukan

On our way to the Aquarium we ran into a One Piece themed shop, which I definitely made plans to check out on our way home. But first, it was time to see some underwater stuff.

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I will buy things from you.

Once we got to the Aquarium, we ran into a street performer doing some juggling magic with quite a large crowd. We maneuvered to the entrance of the Aquarium, purchased our tickets and were thrust into an 8 floor under water exploration. We even went the dorky tourist route and opted for the audio guide headsets.

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A view from the entrance of the aquarium

We then began maneuvering through the extensive Aquarium, with each of the floors separated into different parts of the Ocean from varying locations of the world. Once we got near the end of the Aquarium, they had a snack café where we tried some special “whale shark” Ramune flavored ice cream, it was actually really good! They sure do love their sweets here.

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Yum!

After the Aquarium we then did some shopping in a local mall – picking up some various items and having some good eats. Kyndra even picked up a very kawaii “cooking set” where she performed chemistry when we got home and made us some…. Dinner…. It was questionable, to say the least.

Not much to say but to let the pictures speak for themselves. Check out a couple videos and a photo dump below!

 

Go Go Kyoto

Kyoto was up next on our list of places to visit and we booked a small group walking tour for a few hours to get a glimpse of as much of the city as we could in one day. The only downside was that it basically rained the entire day, only stopping for brief intervals. However, we made the best of it and plowed through it and it didn’t seem to bother our tour guide Yuta much either!

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Kyoto Tower and our first view of the city

Our guide had a few set destinations for us to visit, including various Shinto shrines, Buddhist temples, and some local spots famous to Kyoto. The first thing we did was visit a Shinto shrine and I did a small prayer.

From there we then headed to the Buddhist temple Tōfukuji… One thing that has impressed me is the amount of meticulous dedication to the landscape, architecture, and everything about this area. Every single blade of grass to even the toilet are arranged and placed in the utmost particular way to ensure everything has the appropriate placing to just look good.

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At the first temple, our guide paid the fee to get us in and we had to remove our shoes and we got our first close-up view of the intricacy that the Buddhist monks will put into decorating their landscapes with very specific ideas in mind.

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You spin me right round, baby

From there, we then headed to the Shinto shrine Fushimi Inari Taisha which is famous for its red gates. There were many people vacationing there, and many of the locals and those on vacation liked to dress up in more casual geisha wear.

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The first of many red gates

After exploring the red gates in detail, and viewing many of the ceremonies you can partake in there – we headed to Gion Koubu, one of the geisha districts in Kyoto and one of the most exclusive and popular districts. Unfortunately since it was raining so much, we didn’t get to see any geisha. Our guide did take us to a location where maiko or geisha in training get their hair done, but it was closed at the time we stopped by. For shame.

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Rain, rain, rain.

After that our guide pointed us to the direction of a local bus and we took the bus back to Kyoto station where we could catch a train home. That’s about it for Kyoto! Plenty more pictures below and next is our trip to Nara!

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Our guide was pleased to show us one of the oldest toilets in Japan. Nice.

 

Rails and Castles and People, Oh My!!

Yesterday we had our first foray on the Japanese rails and it ended up being a grand adventure, even if filled with a few stints of getting lost or taking the wrong train.  Not growing up in a city (Phoenix, AZ) with any metro lines/rails, taking them all around Osaka was an experience in of itself.  The Shinkasen from Tokyo Station to Osaka was the easiest part and super efficient.

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Time to play on the metro

We found our way to Osaka Castle easily enough. Thanks to this handy app called Japan Official Travel app. It actually allows you to coordinate any sort of route including our handy JR passes or not, even including bus routes, walking distances and even boat trips. It’s super effective, and we found it to be even more accurate and useful then Google maps, which is saying something.

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Osaka Castle says, “Sup?”

Osaka Castle was a beautiful break in the otherwise extremely urban area, you’re wandering through a major city of Japan and suddenly you find a wonderfully large park filled with beautiful trees and lush green, plus this old style castle sitting right in the middle surrounded by water. It serves a historical museum, not to mention there’s plenty of food vendors and street performers gallivanting around the court-side that sits in the shadow of the castle.

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Panoramic shot from the top of the castle

After Osaka Castle, we then decided to head to Dotonbori which is a major city district in Osaka. It’s filled with shops, lights, food, everything you can imagine… Oh and people, lots and lots of people. We had to trip our way through at least a few transfers heading from the castle but we finally made it.

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This was a bit of a red flag to alert us that we made it.

Dotonbori was crazy, for lack of any fancy descriptive text. It was way more then we expected, from girls doing repeat dances in windows with sales boards to every single type of shop you could possibly imagine, heck even shops you couldn’t conceive. We ended up hitting up a Daiso which is like a Japanese dollar store where everything is 100 yen.

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Now that’s dedication to a job…. Yeesh!

We also got to see the famous Glico man, which has been standing since 1935! Impressive!

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Glico Man!

We’re about to head out to Kyoto, so check the drop below for plenty of more images from our trip!!! Peace.

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Panoramic of Kyndra viewing a river as we walked through downtown Osaka heading to the metro

 

The Path to Osaka

After an eventful and vibrant few days in Shinjuku, Tokyo – it was time to move on to our next destination. While we stayed at a business class hotel in Shinjuku(albeit it was TINY, but cozy) this time we were trying something different and using an AirBnB. AirBnB was technically a gray area and not fully legal in Japan until last year, although many were still operating “unofficially”.

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Goodbye City Hotel Lonestar, it’s been fun!

Accommodations aside, we had to get there first. Osaka isn’t exactly close to Shinjuku(about 300 miles away, in fact) but luckily Japan is equipped with its own very advanced bullet train system called the Shinkansen and we purchased a “JR Pass” in advanced. The JR pass basically lets you, as a foreign tourist, travel easily over many of the rail systems in Japan. We were a little intimidated at first, but it turned out to be pretty easy and actually went incredibly smoothly! Some of the Shinkansen ride below….

We arrived rather smoothly to be honest, the Shinkansen was amazing. We need these things in the States! Once we finally arrived to our AirBnB in Osaka(which our host gave us a detailed PDF with screenshots and red circles directing us and everything) we were dumbfounded and impressed. The setup was fantastic! It seems so authentic, even with us needing to remove our shoes and put on slippers they provided for us in the accommodations.

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Sitting comfy

We made it safely, and began to prepare for our next week in Japan with our homebase in Osaka. We’re loving our new location, and we can’t wait to tell you about the upcoming days!

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The only toy we won at arcades in Shinjuki, that Kyndra won completely randomly.

See below for some shots of our Air BnB!

Day Four – Kabukichō

Greetings, this is Kyndra from the Shinkasen on our way to our AirBnb in Osaka. While we have nearly a 3 hour train ride I figured it was a good opportunity to share yesterday’s unique experience in Kabukicho.

Kabukicho located in the heart of Shinjuku is most famously known as Japan’s largest entertainment and red-light district.  I think Taki described it perfectly as being the “Manhattan Times Square” of Japan.

The only plan we had set for the day was the Robot Restaurant, so we headed out early to explore the area.

The first thing we did was find our favorite Japanese pop-culture icon.

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GOJIRA!!

From there we had lunch at our first authentic ramen shop.  Most restaurants in Japan you place your order and pay at a kiosk before sitting down where the chef will gladly take your receipt and make your meal.

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After lunch we went to the SEGA store that was filled with claw games that were on a whole different level of difficulty, but out of pure luck I was able to get a hello kitty. ^_^

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Soon after gambling on claw machines it was time to go to the robot show, I think it is best if we just drop some photos and videos below to best describe the sensory overload.

During the show Acea made a friend, his name was Ben who was from Perth, Australia.  We went out for a drink to talk about the show and our experience so far in Japan.  After a few more drinks we decided it was time to brave the ultimate Japanese Karaoke experience and found a nice place called Big Echo.  The English song choice was limited (they didn’t even have Bohemian Rhapsody!) but thank goodness they had Smashmouth….

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Anyhow, sorry for dragging on…yesterday was a great day to break us out of our shells. Tomorrow we plan to explore Osaka, until then thanks for reading!