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Tourism

Things to Do on a Fall Trip to Japan: Tokyo, Osaka, Nara, Kyoto in 7 Days

Note: Suuuuper late post as in years late. This trip was in 2018 or 2017 (??) lol. But the words are here and they are still informative I think! At the very least, this is a good travel diary. Enjoy ūüôā

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Sounds tiring? You’re not wrong. Will I do it again? Not Amazing Race-style like this, no. I’d take my time and stick to one part of the country next time. But if you’re a first-timer who wants a sampler tour and enjoys the rush of seeing so many firsts at once and also wants to experience riding a shinkansen, then this is for you.

I’ve been to Tokyo and Osaka in the summer and Tokyo in spring, but this was my first time coming in the fall. I wanted the pretty autumn leaves, Japan-style, but October was too early for most of them apparently. The weather was supposed to be kinder in October, however, which was the point of choosing this month instead of my usual November. But alas, Typhoon 21 was right on our tail, so what welcomed us was chilly winds and nonstop rain and a full-blown typhoon. And I thought I’d look silly if I brought a waterproof down jacket. Sigh.

This didn’t stop us much, though, nope. We were travel-happy, sight-hungry, sushi-starved, adrenaline-pumped machines!

Still with me? Good. Itinerary below:

Tokyo

Day 1. Manila to Narita, Dump bags in Shimokitazawa AirBnB apartment, Meiji Shrine, Harajuku Takeshita-dori, Cat Street

Day 2. Shimokitazawa, Ghibli Museum! Shibuya

Day 3. Tsukiji (SUSHI CAPS LOCK), Ginza (shopping and tea), Shimokitazawa

Kansai

Day 4. Shinkansen to Osaka, check in at Osaka business hotel, Nara, Dotombori

Day 5. Kyoto. Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, Fushimi Inari Shrine, Gion, Dotombori

Day 6. Check out hotel, Osaka Castle, check in ryokan (onsen!)

Day 7. Check out ryokan, Hep Five, Kansai to Manila

What to wear

The promised Japan temperature was in a mild below 20 C range, so we packed sweaters, jeans, long skirts and dresses, light jackets and thicker cardigans. I brought scarves and my trusty Uniqlo Heattech thermals just in case, which turned out to be great packing sense because early fall + surprise typhoon = strong winds + freezer chills. Temperature math, see? Sister and I ended up buying proper coats to stay warm (thank you Muji and Shimokita vintage stores), and also those very nice transparent umbrellas everyone was sporting. Available at your local 7-11 or Lawson for a few hundred yen (100-500Y).

Also, wear comfy shoes! The most comfortable you have, because unless you are game to spend yens and yens on taxis, you will be running around their amazingly huge train system and doing a lot of walking from the station to your actual destination. Sometimes you will walk instead of taking the train if it’s only a couple of stations’ ride because trains don’t go cheap and you like the adventure anyway. Also, stairs.

Pro tip: make sure you bring shoes that are easiest to take on and off. I know this but I still wore my high cut Onitsuka sneakers which hugged my feet like a mother so they were yes, comfy and warm but also hard to take off and even more challenging to put back on. You will take your shoes on and off multiple times, thus is now my ultimate reminder to my hard-headed self. At the threshold of your apartment and hotel room for one, in some restaurants and in all changing rooms. So yes, comfy, slip-on walking shoes.

Tl, dr.¬†For this fall in Japan trip, I layered as thus: Thermals + sweater + coat + scarf + jeans/long skirt (didn’t need thermal leggings) + socks + sneakers.

Do note I am a tropical girl and the cold does bother me. Adjust the settings as necessary ūüôā

Tourism

Things to Do on a Spring Trip to Tokyo: Sumida Park, Nakamise Street, Tokyo Skytree,

Day 4 was our last day in Tokyo. But since we had a late flight, there was still time to go around after hotel check out. We wandered back to Nakamise Street, Sensoji Temple, then back to¬†Sumida Park, enjoying our last full view of the sakura. There was an aptly called Sakura Plaza, an elevated area where you can sit and enjoy the view of the trees and the blooms, the river, and the people around you–grandpas in their bikes, mothers and daughters out for a Sunday morning stroll, friends picnicking under the spring sun. Continue Reading

Tourism

Things to Do on a Spring Trip to Tokyo: Tsukiji Market, Yoyogi Park, Takeshita-dori, Ueno

Day 3. I cannot not go back to Tsukiji Market. I know Tokyo had awesome sushi everywhere, but after last year’s market experience, I just had to have it again. So I led the way back to Tsukiji for a late second breakfast, finding¬†Iwasa Sushi, the same restaurant where Hazel and I ate last year. I like that place because the line was forgiving unlike the more popular shops. We waited for only 20 minutes. Their sushi was heaven, even their free refillable green tea and miso soup were so good. Also the staff there are very nice. The okasan¬†staff for one so kindly gave me a small sealed jar that was apparently a seaweed paste that you mix with steaming rice (thank you Ryn for explaining haha). Continue Reading

Tourism

Things to Do on a Spring Trip to Tokyo: Harajuku, Shibuya, Sumida River, Sensoji

Day 2 of my first ever spring in Tokyo had us running around Harujuku and Shibuya in search for sneakers, because the day before’s rainy trek destroyed my friend’s¬†old pair. We found the Onitsuka Tiger flagship store and the Nike flagship store, both in Harajuku near Takeshita-dori. Then we got on the train to Shibuya and found¬†Hachiko. He was corded off–I think there was an event–so I only got to wave at him.

We participated in the Shibuya crossing, and spent the afternoon going up and down the streets, whiling hours away inside¬†Muji, Tokyu Hands and Tower Records. Tower Records was something I really had to see. It’s been so long since I saw so many CDs in the Philippines. And even then, record stores didn’t go as high as 6-7 floors. Japanese CDs are expensive though. I bought the¬†Arctic Monkeys¬†AM¬†album and tried to check for gold slivers inside. I¬†found none. But it’s okay, because Alex Turner <3

Said hi to Tower Records Hachiko instead. Shibuya, Japan.

Said hi to Tower Records Hachiko instead, because the original one at the Shibuya Station was corded off. Shibuya, Japan.

It's hard to explain why the sight of so many CDs excited me. But if you're a music lover from the Philippines too, you'll know what I mean. Tower Records, Shibuya, Japan.

It’s hard to explain why the sight of so many CDs excited me. But if you’re a music lover from the Philippines too, you’ll know what I mean. Tower Records, Shibuya, Japan.

"No indie, no life?" "Yuhuh." Tower Records, Shibuya.

“No indie, no life?”
“Yuhuh.” Tower Records, Shibuya.

The Arashi wall. It wasn't very hard to find. Hehe. Tower Records, Shibuya.

The Arashi wall. It wasn’t very hard to find. Hehe. Tower Records, Shibuya.

 

Before the sun set, we headed back to the hotel for some rest for our tita bones. Then we walked a good 20 minutes to the nearest hanami venue, Sumida Park. On the way, we passed Sensoji Temple, lured towards it by the bright red lights. It was deserted, as was Nakamise Street, so it was a good time to go around and take pictures of the shrine, the temple, and the famed bells of the Kaminari Gate.

Noodle vendo machine. You choose your meal, slip in your yen note, press a button and voila! Food comes out! Kidding, hehe. An order slip comes out then you go in and wait to be called. Asakusa, Japan.

Noodle vendo machine. You choose your meal, slip in your yen note, press a button and voila! Food comes out! Kidding, hehe. An order slip comes out then you go in and wait to be called. Asakusa, Japan.

My vendo meal. Noodles with a hot, spicy dipping sauce. Perfect for the cold. We asked for house tea but the kind shop man told us it's better to slurp the sauce and drink water instead. Asakusa, Tokyo.

My vendo meal. Noodles with a hot, spicy dipping sauce. Perfect for the cold. We asked for house tea but the kind shop man told us it’s better to slurp the sauce and drink water instead. Asakusa, Tokyo.

Sakura on the Sumida Bridge. Crossing it to get to Sumida Park. Asakusa, Tokyo.

Sakura on the Sumida Bridge. Crossing it to get to Sumida Park. Asakusa, Tokyo.

"Try to get a shot of the entire temple." "Okay but you'll look like an ant." "Cool." Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo.

“Try to get a shot of the entire temple.”
“Okay but you’ll look like an ant.”
“Cool.” Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo.

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Sensoji Temple, Asakusa, Tokyo, Japan. We were lured by its striking red color and the bright yellow lights on our way to Sumida park.

Nakamise Street, quiet and deserted for the night.

Nakamise Street, quiet and deserted for the night. Went back here in the morning of our last day and it was mad chaos.

Spring blossoms and lights at Sumida Park, lining the banks of the river. Asakusa, Tokyo.

Spring blossoms and lights at Sumida Park, lining the banks of the river. Asakusa, Tokyo.

Salarymen and women toasting the end of another work week along the Sumida River. Kanpai!

Salarymen and women toasting the end of another work week along the Sumida River. Kanpai!

When we finally reached Sumida, we found cherry blossoms lit up with garlands of fairy lights. Under the trees, in full view of the water buses floating along the river, the locals celebrated the end of the week. There were couples on dates eating from disposable wares, side by side the salarymen who were guzzling their beers with chips and yakitori. TGIF indeed. Kanpai!

All photos belong to me. 

Tourism

Things to Do on a Spring Trip to Tokyo: Toyoko Inn, Tokyo Stock Exchange, Ginza

It started when my old Economics professor said, “I’m taking my EcoDev class to Tokyo this spring. Do you want to tag along?” The answer to an invitation like that is always “yes.” But when the date started crawling closer, I was trying to squirm out of the trip, moved to do so by¬†a long list of excuses. My professor was the type who marked words though, so my “yes” remained. The plane ticket was booked, hotel reservations were made, the visa was approved (barely made it!), and sooner than I could pack, it was time to meet and greet those famed cherry blossoms.

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It was raining all day, but it was a polite kind of rain. Walking on our way to Tokyo Stock Exchange.

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Second train from the airport was good as empty, maybe because we took a red eye flight.

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Bikes dot the Asakusa streets.

They say spring is the best season to travel to a place like Japan. Surely my summer trip there was hardly ideal thanks to the stifling heat and humidity. Spring weather had sunny mornings that transitioned to¬†cold afternoons and evenings. But the day could turn frigid when it rains. I still like autumn the most, though. I like that it’s dependably cold all hours of the day. You’re sure you’ll need that heavy coat and that you’re never going to sweat under your thermals.

But spring wins with its aesthetic;¬†there is nothing quite like it.¬†Bright, colorful flowers, towering, green trees, and of course, the white-pink sakura blooms–all these line the streets and fill the parks. Life and nature everywhere you turn. It’s a breathtaking sight, not at all anything I could get over with.

Day 1 had our little party of four struggling to get to our hotels. It was raining, as the very accurate weather predictions have warned us. Also I’ve forgotten that when the Japanese (and Koreans too, for that matter) say that the hotel is a 12 minute-walk away, the Filipino pacing for that is actually 20 minutes minimum. After a long trudge in the rain, we finally found¬†Toyoko Inn Asakusa Senzobu Tsukuba Express. I reserved direct from their website and paid cash upon check in. Check in was late (4 pm!) but it’s an affordable chain inn and it’s easily my most favorite one of all. Super clean, and though small¬†it’s a manageable space, specially since I booked a single room. Also they serve free breakfast (Onigiri! Soup, natto, coffee and bread!) and¬†they lend you free jammies (!!!). Once we’ve deposited our luggage, it was time for our Tokyo Stock Exchange field trip, then after a couple of hours of legitimate learning, it was off to Ginza to reunite with all the pretty cafes and shops (hello again 12 floors of Uniqlo).

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With our guide, explaining the history of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.

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First meal, at a Lotteria just outside of Ueno Station. Steaming soup and piping hot coffee were perfect on a cold rainy spring day.

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Pandas and lions and turtles at Lotteria, Ueno Station. Too cute to eat.

All photos belong to me.