Hello965friends: Yamanouchi, Japan

By @Almallaks

Why we chose this city: This city in particular would be great in the winter (even though it was cold when we went). We wanted to see the hot springs and also, the monkeys! Yessssss.


Duration: One night.


Where we stayed:We stayed at the Shibu Hotel. Although we liked the hotel, we actually wanted to get a very Japanese experience with sleeping on the floor in a traditional Japanese way. The hotel wasn’t like that, but it was still a nice cozy place.

  • Things to do/see in Yamanouchi:
    • You can walk around the small mountain town in traditional Japanese robes (yes walk around outside in it!) with its small shops and of course the main attraction: bath-houses. We really couldn’t muster up the courage to go to the public baths, but we did try the outdoor foot-baths, which are filled by the flowing hot spring water! Very cool experience.


    • Monkey Park. It is exactly as it sounds. The hotel was nice enough to arrange for transportation to the location meeting point. But then we had to walk for around 20 minutes to get to the park. It was a gorgeous setting for a walk so we really didn’t mind. And you get to see the monkeys in their natural habitat and even taking baths in the hot spring water! So cute.20140401_104812(0)
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  • Food in Yamanouchi:
    • The best thing about our hotel was that it gave us the chance to experience traditional Japanese meals, which were prepared for us in a private room where we sat on the floor!20140401_081145
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After all this, we went back to Tokyo for a few nights before heading back home to Kuwait. Do you see why we took as little luggage as we did?


Some random information:

  • The Japanese do not accept tips. Don’t know why, it’s a thing.
  • If you’re having your morning coffee and walking around. It could be very hard to find a trash-can. They are mainly next to the vending machines and convenient stores.
  • If you ever take a bus, which in Tokyo you probably won’t, you pay as you leave the bus not when you get on. We had to take one in Kanazawa.
  • If you ever take a cab, the doors open and close automatically!
  • Whenever you go to a store, at the cashier, they will always have a small tray. So when they tell you the total, don’t hand them the money, put it on the tray and they will take it.
  • We recommend for sightseeing tips and highlights.

You know, I think we’ve been very specific with our cities and what we want to get out of each one, which was really great to have on such a trip. We got to experience different cities each with its own flavor. This is what we recommend you do to plan your own trip. Research all the cities and what their known for and see what interests you, then plan your route!


This was really a trip of a lifetime for us. It was completely different than anything we’ve ever done and it hands down one of the most amazing trips we’ve ever taken. Unforgettable.


We highly recommend visiting this beautiful country. But do advise to keep an open mind. It can get frustrating at times especially when you’re lost and trying to communicate or get directions, but it really is all part of the experience. Also, don’t worry about the food so much. There are plenty of non-Japanese options. You will not starve.


Happy planning!


Hello965 friends: Matsumoto, Japan

Why we chose this city: Two words: Wasabi Farm.

Duration: One night.



Where we stayed:We stayed at the Matsumoto Tokyu Inn. It was OK. But again, we didn’t really care about accommodation so much since we were always out. It’s a 5-minute walk from the train station, which was fantastic.

  • Things to do/see in Matsumoto:
    • Daio Wasabi Farm: You need a good day for this because you’ll need to take the train to get to the farm and then a lot of walking. If you’re lucky the weather will be good. It was pouring rain when we went so we couldn’t rent bicycles. But it was fun, you get to walk around the Wasabi Farm grounds and then you can go to the café area and try different kinds of Wasabi products. Make sure you try the one that’s fried. We can’t recall what it was exactly, but it was so delicious.


    • Matsumoto Castle: It’s glorious. We had to go really quick on our last day so we didn’t get a chance to do the tour, but if you have the time, it could be fun.


  • Food in Matsumoto:
    • There is a Vie De France at the train station. We suggest going there for breakfast. They have the famous melon bread along with a huge selection of Japanese inspired breads and pastries. Just try it all. You’ll never get the chance again. Also, their Black Sesame Banana Smoothie is amazing. We tried to recreate it – check our Instagram (@almallaks) for the recipe!

[JR Train: (Matsumoto to Nagano) – 51m – 0 transfer]

[JR Train: (Nagano to Yammanouchi) – 70m to Yudanaka Station]

by @Almallaks

Hello965 friends: KANAZAWA, Japan

KANAZAWA by @Almallaks


Why we chose this city: Simple city, but cool things to see: one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan, an authentic samurai house/museum and a modern art museum. Oh yeah, and a ninja temple. So you can guess what we did there.


Duration: We only stayed one night, which was enough. But, we made sure to leave Kyoto early to make use of our first day in Kanazawa and took the last train the next day to Matsumoto.


Where we stayed: We stayed at the Kanazawa Excel Hotel Tokyu. It is a good hotel and the location was perfect. Walking distance to almost all our attractions. But, you will need to take the bus from the train station to the hotel. Just ask the information desk at the station and you’ll be good to go. Note: all directions below are made based on this hotel.

  • Things to do/see in Kanazawa:
    • One of the most beautiful gardens in Japan: Kenrokuen Garden


    • While walking from the hotel to the garden, you will pass the modern art museum on your right hand side. It will be hard to miss. Stunning building.20140329_113719


    • The samurai district is on the opposite side of the hotel. Ask for directions. But, it is a pleasant walk and the tour of the house does not take long. Very interesting to see.20140329_121350
    • What’s even better than the samurai house, is the ninja temple called Ninjadera. This needs to be booked in advance so make sure to ask your hotel to arrange it for you!
  • Shopping in Kanazawa:
    • We weren’t there long so we didn’t get around to shopping. BUT, there is a HUGE department store literally across the street from the hotel should you feel the need to spend some Yen.
  • Food in Kanazawa:
    • On your way to the garden, on your right hand side, you will pass by a small shop. They sell Melon bread with ice cream. MAKE SURE YOU TRY THIS. And don’t worry, you can’t miss it, the heavenly smell will get you.
    • If you take a left after you exit the hotel and then a right, you will be in a small street. On your right hand side, there will be a small restaurant called The Cottage. It’s a husband and wife run place. You will love it. And the menu consists of whatever Tony feels like making that day. If you go, please tell Tony and Momo that Saad and Noor from Kuwait say hi! And make sure to try Tony’s tiramisu if it’s available… to die for!

      The Cottage

      The Cottage


[JR Train: (Kanazawa to Matsumoto) – 5h 15m – 1 transfer]


by @Almallaks

Hello965 Friends: KYOTO, JAPAN

By @Almallaks

Why we chose this city: Kyoto is the old capital of Japan and if you like history and sightseeing, this is really a city you have to visit. It is filled with beautiful shrines and monuments. There is really a lot to see. It also known to the place where geishas reside.


Duration: Essentially we stayed 2 nights. BUT, we recommend that you stay at least 2 additional nights (total of 4) depending on how much you want to see. There is A LOT to explore in this city and it may take a while to get from one place to the other (especially by train or on foot), so it really depends on you and how much you want to see.


Where we stayed: We stayed at the Best Western Hotel Kyoto. It is a nice hotel and the location was great too in between the markets and main shopping streets.

  • Things to do/see in Kyoto:
    • Monuments and shrines are endless – you must research in advance -but because we didn’t have a lot of time, we picked the top ones we wanted to see. They are:
      • Fushimi Inari Shrine (featured in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha). This will easily take you 2-3 hours to finish if you plan to walk through the whole shrine.


      • Kinkakuji (Golden Temple) – so, so gorgeous.


      • Arashiyama Bamboo Groves: this was like nothing we’ve ever seen before. Very cool.


    • Make sure to walk around in the Gion district of Kyoto, and ask your hotel for recommendations in this area. It has restaurants, cafes, stores, art, you name it. This is the best place to see geishas – especially in the evening.


  • Shopping in Kyoto:
    • Shijō Kawaramachi – this is the main shopping street in the area and it intersects with many others. So just pick a day and walk around to explore the area. There is really a lot to see.
    • If you take a right after exiting the hotel, there is a whole area of shopping in the back. Really nice stores. There was even one store where you can get new prescription glasses made in 15 minutes. No, we’re not lying, because we actually did it. Japan will blow your mind.
  • Food in Kyoto:
    • Kiyamachi Street. Lovely place. Lots of restaurants.
    • Chaochao: We loved this dumplings place on Kiyamachi Street. Ask your hotel for directions. Simple and delicious food. They even have a dessert dumpling (chocolate on the inside, ice cream on the side, YUMMY!)


    • British Baaba: We had breakfast at this European pancakes place. I know I know, we’re in Japan – but hey, it’s breakfast! Amazing little restaurant with the coziest interior and the most decadent pancakes you’ll ever see. 1 minute walk from the Best Western Hotel Kyoto.


[JR Train: (Kyoto to Kanazawa) – 2h 7m – 0 transfer]


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Hello965 friends: NARA, Japan

by @Almallaks

Why we chose this city: We chose this city for three reasons. #1, it has the largest Buddha statue in Japan. #2, it has wild deer that you can interact with and feed. #3, it has wild deer that you can interact with and feed – and they BOW to you as a thank you after feeding them. Need we say more?

Almallaks in JAPAN

Duration: We didn’t stay long in Nara, just a few hours to see the Buddha and deer. It was a stop on our way from Osaka to Kyoto; a very fun day trip.

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  • Things to do/see in Nara:
    • Largest Buddha in Japan. They close around 4 or 5pm so make sure you get there on time to see it.
    • Deer! On your walk to get to the Buddha, there will be deer everywhere. There are small stands where you can buy food for them. Watch what happens when you feed them and make sure to get some good shots and videos. Really special memories.Almallaks in JAPAN


[JR Train: (Nara to Kyoto) – 47m – 0 transfer]


Almallaks is all about family health and fitness. Saad and Noor – fitness enthusiasts at heart – with their little girl, Faye, post about their daily life, workouts, food and parenthood in hopes that they can grow as a family, stay active, have fun, and inspire others to do the same.
Instagram: @almallaks – Snapchat: almallaks

Hello965 Friends: Osaka, Japan اوساكا

by @Almallaks

Why we chose this city:We chose this city because of one thing really: sumo! This was one thing we were really interested in experiencing while we were in Japan. We got lucky that there was a tournament happening around the same time, so we jumped at the opportunity. We booked the tickets online in advance and collected them upon arrival. It also happens that Osaka is one of the biggest cities in Japan and is known for the food.


Duration: We stayed in Osaka for 2 nights and we think it’s plenty.


Where we stayed:Hotel Monterey Grasmere Osaka. Really nice hotel actually with a great location: connected to the train station and walking distance to the city center – Namba.

  • Things to do/see in Osaka:
    • We went to a Sumo match. It was one of the most interesting things we’ve ever done. Highly recommend it.


    • Osaka Castle. So beautiful and the area surrounding it is really nice to walk around in.


    • Namba –city center. Restaurants cafes and lights galore. Really nice and has little restaurants in the alleyways.


  • Shopping in Osaka:
    • We actually didn’t really shop anywhere except in Tokyo, but you will find a lot of stores in the city center (Namba).
  • Food in Osaka:
    • Make sure to try the fried octopus, they have many stands in Namba where you can try it. It’s their specialty!
    • Sanpei Restaurant: This is where we tried the Okonomiyaki (savory pancakes@), they were oh-so-good. You get to choose which toppings you want so you can be as safe or as adventurous as you want.
    • Lord Stowe’s: Tiny bakery in Namba (just for pick up). Not Japanese, BUT they had delicious egg tarts in different flavors. We loved the original; perfect for breakfast with coffee.
    • Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku: great restaurant in the town center. Top quality meat you get to grill yourself in a traditional Japanese setting. When you go, ask for Kuniyoshi!
    • Osaka is known for their food so ask your hotel for recommendations as well.


NEXT: [JR Train: (Osaka to Nara) – 51m – 0 transfer]