Category Archives: Top Things

I like having lists and ticking them off when they’re done! Enjoy my lists!

Must Try Food in Kyushu

Fukuoka, considered heaven for food-loving people like me! I’ve made a list on the things I tried in Fukuoka, and Kyushu in general, so here is my count down starting off with my favorite!

Kyushu Food

  1. Motsu nabe. Delicious hot pot that has a soup like no other. Hands down one of the best things I ate in Japan. You only see the vegetable toppings here but underneath it is beef meat and innards. I nearly cried out of sheer bliss from eating. (budget: 1,500yen)motsu nabe
  2. Tonkotsu Ramen – Tonkotsu means pork bones, and Fukuoka is the birthplace of tonkotsu ramen. The soup of this ramen is no where near the the soup of other ramen like Nagi. I hear that Ippudo will be opening in Manila, but I always preferred Ichiran over all others that I’ve tried. (around 800 yen)

    Ichiran ramen
    Ichiran ramen
  3. Sushi – It’s number 3 because it’s my favorite Japanese food, and surprisingly, sushi in Fukuoka is extremely cheap but very high quality. (1200 yen)

    Sushi always makes for a great meal!
    Sushi always makes for a great meal!
  4. Food stalls. On weekends, the streets of Tenjin are full of these stalls, serving ramen, gyoza, yakitori, and other food that go well with drinking. (from 1000 yen)

    Food stalls being set up at around 6 pm. Nakasu in Fukuoka is famous for its food stalls.
    Food stalls being set up at around 6 pm. Nakasu in Fukuoka is famous for its food stalls.
  5. Toriten – A kind of fried food with a tangy sauce  (600 yen)

    Chicken cutlet in Ponzu sauce
    Chicken cutlet in Ponzu sauce
  6. Jigokumushi – Steamed in Hell. Interesting term for cooking food using onsen steam! Only in Beppu, Oita. (500 yen)

    Cooked sushi using onsen steam
    Cooked sushi using onsen steam
  7. Champon – What I think of as their chicken mami (1000yen)

    No. 1 Champon in Nagasaki is from Kataoka  just on the other side of Nagasaki station
    No. 1 Champon in Nagasaki is from Kataoka just on the other side of Nagasaki station
  8. Castella – Their version of a very classy Goldilocks bar! (1000 yen/box)
    Fukusaya Castella is the oldest castella maker in Nagasaki
    Fukusaya Castella is the oldest castella maker in Nagasaki

    If I had to choose only one out of all the above, I’d choose the motsu nabe! Yum!

Top 7 things to Do in Kyoto

Kyoto is a very beautiful place. You should never miss it when you go to Japan! Here’s a collection of my top 7 things to do when I’m in Kyoto!

  1. See the Golden Pavillion or Kinkakuji
  2. Walk around Gion and Pontocho, wearing a yukata

    Wearing a yukata while walking around Gion
    Wearing a yukata while walking around Gion

    Tip! You can buy your own yukata for around 5 thousand yen in shopping malls especially during summer. You can rent a better quality kimono for a higher price.

  3. See the best Cherry blossoms in Kyoto Gyoen

    Weeping cherry blossoms are very special to the Japanese. Late March is when they bloom like this, only to disappear in a week.
    Weeping cherry blossoms are very special to the Japanese. Late March is when they bloom like this, only to disappear in a week.

     

  4. Walk under the Fushimi Inari Toriis (red gates)
    Companies buy torii (red gate) for a huge sum of money as offerings of prayer for their good business.
    Companies buy torii (red gate) for a huge sum of money as offerings of prayer for their good business.
  5. Purify yourself at Kiyomizudera (and go shopping near the entrance after)
    The mizu in Kiyomizudera means water. And the water here is believed to have purifying qualities.
    The mizu in Kiyomizudera means water. And the water here is believed to have purifying qualities.
    Kiyomizudera is a huge temple complex and the shops along the entrance has the best assortment of souvenir goods. Sakura and autumn leaves in Kiyomizudera are beautiful.
    Kiyomizudera is a huge temple complex and the shops along the entrance has the best assortment of souvenir goods. Sakura and autumn leaves in Kiyomizudera are beautiful.
  6. See a real maiko, not some regular people dressed as one
    Maiko are usually unwilling to smile for photos since they are on business when they walk around. In Kyoto salons offer dress-up services to regular people to be maikos for a day.
    Maiko are usually unwilling to smile for photos since they are on business when they walk around. In Kyoto salons offer dress-up services to regular people to be maikos for a day. I realized this a year after I took this picture and I felt like a kid who got told that Santa wasn’t real.
    Maiko usually go to teahouses in the evening.  Stay around Pontocho or Gion and you'll likely spot one. This is probably a real Maiko.
    Maiko usually go to teahouses in the evening. Stay around Pontocho or Gion and you’ll likely spot one. This is probably a real Maiko.
  7. Experience some Japanese culture.
    Ladies playing shamisen at Nijo Castle
    Ladies playing shamisen at Nijo Castle

Top 5 things to Do in Hakone

This applies to all weathers! Been there summer and fall, and I think spring and winter would be great as well.

  1. Get in an onsen. And don’t stare.
  2. Stay at a ryokan and sleep on a tatami! It smells quite nice. 
    Garden at Yoshiike Ryokan
    Garden at Yoshiike Ryokan
  3. Get on a sightseeing cruise on Lake Ashi. 
    Lake Ashi Sightseeing Cruise Ship
    Lake Ashi Sightseeing Cruise Ship
    View of Lake Ashi and Mt. Fuji on a summer day
    View of Lake Ashi and Mt. Fuji on a summer day
  4. Get on the Tozan train car and marvel at the pretty autumn leaves in November.
  5. Get on the cable car and smell the onsen from Owakudani! (And/or eat the black onsen egg up there)
    Funny smelling sulphur from Owakudani
    Funny smelling sulphur from Owakudani

These 5 things were so memorable in my trips that I had to share! If you want to go to Hakone, check out my past itinerary for tips and budget!

Tokyo Summer Fireworks Review and Tips

Finally, the rainy season is over and now we’re in the heat of summer. Although I’m not happy about the heat part, I’m totally excited about the fireworks display in Tokyo! It’s such a festive event here. And for the many years I’ve experienced Tokyo fireworks, let me give my personal opinion and some tips in general.

  1. Edogawa Fireworks

Access: Koiwa Station | Date: Aug. 2, 2014 7:15 p.m. to 8:30 p.m

This is probably the best fireworks I have ever seen in the 23 wards of Tokyo! It’s not only the number of fireworks but the kind of fireworks they set off. I’m not an expert on fireworks but there were so many beautiful crackers aside from the usual star mine. Plus, it was synchronized with music. And just look at how long this one is, more than an hour. Unlike other fireworks displays which only have dazzling finales but boring fireworks at the start, this one was totally off the charts! If you have to go to just one fireworks display, it has to be the Edogawa Fireworks Display.

TIPS: If you are not able to secure a place in advance, don’t settle for watching it near the food stalls. Go to the actual viewing area, there are plenty of standing audiences and you can squeeze in if you are just a small group. If you intend to go on a picnic, I really hope you prepare in advance. It’s crazy there. The lines for the few convenience stores aren’t encouraging either. There are tons of food stalls by the way. Don’t expect to be able to go home immediately. Hundreds of thousands of people watched this last year. Just imagine the crowd going back to the station. It was the most challenging commute I ever had in Japan.

  1. Yokohama Fireworks (Kanagawa Shimbun Fireworks)

Access: Minato-mirai Station | Date: August 5, 2014 19:00 onwards

I’ve been to the fireworks in Yokohama twice. First was near the bay area since I was with a small group of people so we could easily find a spot an hour before the event. Second time was in a parking lot with my Japanese friends, since we intended to go on a picnic (with mats and all) but arrived just an hour before, so we had no other options. The Yokohama fireworks display is really pretty if you’re near. If you’re far away, you might experience some boring moments but that’s not a problem if you’re on a picnic with friends. The atmosphere was “chill” and really perfect for a picnic.

TIPS: Best to be early if you want to watch near the bay area. Transportation is challenging before and after the event, but meet up is still possible. It’s not that crazy compared to Edogawa or Sumidagawa. Buying drinks along the way is not a problem thanks to the convenience stores scattered around.

  1. Sumidagawa Fireworks

Access: Asakusa, Asakusabashi, Oshiage (any of these) | Date: July 26, 2014 19:05/19:30

This is one of the most popular fireworks display in Tokyo probably because it is very accessible to many people. And it’s not really my favorite because it is too crowded and the viewing spots are too scattered and it’s so hard to meet up! It’s probably lots of fun if you have successfully taken a spot, and that means hours before the fireworks. But as for my group we didn’t get there early enough so we tried squeezing in Sumida Park to watch the fireworks. It was great although it was just full of the star mines that I’m totally used to by then. I think this is best enjoyed with a proper picnic mat, good food, and good company!

TIPS: Be early and get a spot if you want to enjoy this. Otherwise you’d be stuck with lots of things in the way of a good view (trees, buildings, light posts).

  1. Tokyo Bay Fireworks

Access: Kachidoki Station, Toyosu Station for the actual viewing spots (paid) or Odaibakaihin Station for a less crowded venue

Date: Aug 10, 2014

I watched the Tokyo Bay Fireworks along the shores of Odaiba Beach with some friends. Because people tend to go to the actual viewing spot on the other side of the bay, there were fortunately less people on Odaiba! Without much effort on my part since we planned out a day going around Odaiba anyway, we did not need to hurry or rush to get a spot. Although mind you, it is a very popular fireworks display. It’s similar to the Yokohama one where the fireworks are launched from the sea, but a different experience since you see the rainbow bridge and Tokyo Tower in the background. This one has music as well!

TIPS: If you are watching from Odaiba, there are 2 supermarkets to buy your snacks from. Maruetsu and Phoenix which are both near Odaibakaihinkoen station. There’s also Family Mart and Lawson near the beach. Daiba Station doesn’t have convenience stores nearby.

So there you have it! The popular Hanabi fests in Tokyo during summer that I personally experienced. Now here are my tips for all you hanabi-loving people.

  1. Wear cool clothes! If you want to try wearing the Yukata like everyone else does, be sure that you have a fan as well and some cool drinks on hand.
  2. Wear comfy shoes. I’ve seen women wearing 4-inch heels but don’t let their facial expressions fool you. They’re just pretending to be okay. Think twice about the geta (Japanese sandals) as well!!
  3. Try going to the toilet before the event, and not in the toilet nearest the venue. Lines would be long. Same goes for shops.
  4. When it comes to going home after the fireworks display, have a Plan B when it comes to transportation, or, be patient. Like walking to a farther station 30 minutes away and getting on that instead. You have higher chances of being able to enter the platform.
  5. Try to come early. Or if you have money, buy some seats (I have never done it though).
  6. If you want to try watching the fireworks on a cruise boat, or with a restaurant view, prepare to shell out at least 10,000 yen per person. A cruise boat would have a better view over an indoor restaurant.
  7. Remember, clean up after yourselves!

Enjoy the summer!!

If you’re ready to travel outside Tokyo for really cool fireworks display, try Nagaoka fireworks in Niigata, usually on the first week of August.

Learn more here! Nagaoka Fireworks 

Note: Image above taken from http://www.city.edogawa.tokyo.jp/hanabi/