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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]

@Almallaks

Hello965 Friends: Tokyo طوكيو

Tokyo by @Almallaks

 

Why we chose this city: I think this one is self-explanatory really. It’s TOKYO! This city is HUGE. Seriously enormous. The best way to describe it is that it’s a city made up of a smaller cities. There’s so much to see and do in each area, it’s ridiculous.

 

Duration: We stayed 4 nights at the start of the trip plus another 4 nights at the end of the trip. Totally worth it and would say that’s a good time to stay in Tokyo.

 

Where we stayed VS. where we think you should stay:We ended up staying at the E Hotel Higashi Shinjuku in the area of “Shinjuku.” More details on the area later. The hotel wasn’t that bad, but it was very small. What was nice was that there was a café downstairs (International) where we could have breakfast and coffee before heading out for the day. It was a 15min walk to the main area of Shinjuku which wasn’t bad but you can get hotels much closer to the “action.”

We recommend that you stay in the area of “Shibuya” though. We just loved that area. It’s very nice and has many hotels, plus loads of shopping, activities and cafes. From what we saw, there were a few hotel options close to the main Japan Rail Station, including: Cerulean Tower Hotel, Shibuya Excel Hotel, and Shibuya Tokyu Inn.(PS. We used booking.com for all our hotel bookings).

Let’s start with the details of each area in TOKYO:

Shibuya

  • Things to do/see in Shibuya:
    • Shibuya Crossing: This is a 6-way traffic light crossing. Yes. 6 ways and it’s the busiest you’ll ever see. It. Is. Amazing.
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    • Tsutaya: This is a shopping complex across from the main Japan Rail Station. There is a Starbucks there. Grab a coffee and go to the first floor. You’ll get an amazing outsider view of the crossing. So crazy to watch from above.
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    • Hachiko Dog Statue:right in front of the Japan Rail Station; smaller than you’d imagine, but the story is very cute: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hachikō
    • If you like cats, there’s a cat café, yes seriously. We went. So quiet you get to play with the cats for 30 mins and they give you cookies and a cup of coffee. So if you like cats, it’s a nice place for a coffee break! http://wandertokyo.com/cat-cafe-hapineko/

       

    • Go check out the Pachinko slot area, crazy. We walked in and out. It was so loud and everyone was so into it. Like a casino.
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  • Shopping in Shibuya:
    • PARCO1: Japanese brands
    • Maraque 109: Japanese’s highstreet styles – top floor has a café with recommended bubble jasmine tea. If you like bubble tea, go try it.
    • Don Quixotos: There are lots of branches of this place around Tokyo, it’s kind of a cheap, fun gifts place. Girls, they sell black liquid eye liner there, so amazing. I got two of them with me and wish I got more.
    • Tokyu Hands: Best stationary and house stuff etc. It’s like the Japanese Ikea. There are branches in almost all areas, ask your hotel. You can and may want to spend a lot of time there.
  • Food in Shibuya:
    • Food was really a bit difficult for us in general while in Japan. We always tried to go to places with an English menu because we don’t eat a lot of seafood. Always ask your hotel for recommendations if you are the same. If you are more adventurous, then you have nothing to worry about!
    • For the adventurous: a place recommended to us(but we didn’t end up going) was a typical Japanese seafood place: http://www.uoshins.com/i/shibuya.html Ask for the chef mix.

Daikonyama

  • Things to see/do in Daikonyama:
    • This is a great residential area walking distance from Shibuya, it was one of our favorite places. So quiet and so so pretty.
    • Crossfitters: The only Crossfit box in Tokyo is in this area! We actually went for a few sessions there.

       

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  • Shopping in Daikonyama:
    • The area is filled with stores on every street and every corner. Really nice boutiques with cool stuff. Ladies will definitely enjoy.
  • Food in Daikonyama:
    • Hacienda: If you need a change from Japanese food, this is a great Mexican restaurant with a killer view.

Harajuku

  • Things to see/do in Harajuku:
    • This is the place where you’ll see the crazy anime dressed people. So fun. Don’t be shy to ask them for pictures, they don’t mind at all!
    • Meiji Jingu Shrine is a must.
    • Yoyogi Park: Beautiful park. We watched the cherry blossoms there. It was sublime. One of the best experiences of our lives. If you go around the same time and get lucky, this is where you should go to spend an afternoon. You get your food and drinks and there are plastics mats already set up on the floor. People go there and spend the day just hanging out.IMG_0615
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  • Shopping in Harajuku:
    • The area has many nice shops. The busiest street in Harajuku is called takeshita-doriand it is lined with cafes and stores and is VERY busy. There is a store that we liked called “Monki” and it is a Japanese version of Breshka/H&M.
    • They have a Nike store and a Hello Kitty store. Ask for directions.
    • Recommended to us (but we didn’t go): Condomania, Kiddieland, Laforet and the main walking street are all shopping musts.20140322_112011
  • Food in Harajuku:
    • Recommended to us: Uoshin.web for Okonomiyaki (savoury pancakes!) for the adventurous and the not so adventurous eaters because you can choose what your toppings are J We didn’t try this place in particular, but we tried these pancakes in Osaka. Really special and highly recommended!

Shinjuku

  • Things to see/do in Shinjuku:
    • You’ll really enjoy this place at night. It’s kind of like Times Square with the lights and action on the streets.

       

    • Kareoke! They have many karaoke places, ask your hotel for a good one and book a session. They take it very seriously over there.
  • Shopping in Shinjuku:
    • There are random stores as well as department stores. Walk around and explore. Especially the area in and around the Japan Rail Station. (Yes the JR Station has shopping too! More than one floor even.)
  • Food in Shinjuku:
    • Robot Restaurant: ask your hotel to make a reservation. SO MUCH FUN. This is a must! DO NOT GOOGLE THIS. Just book, go and be surprised!
    • Rokassen: All you can eat for 90 minutes! You grill your own food, very fun and delicious. http://www.rokkasen.co.jp/map.html tel: 0120-666-528 Building name: O-Gard building. Ask for directions.
       

       

    • Check out the stuff they have at their 7-Elevens. Very interesting. We liked the Sakura flavored Hagen Daz ice cream and Kit Kat. Their Green Tea Kit Kat is famous as well!
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 Asakusa

  • Things to see/do in Shinjuku:
    • This is just for a quick trip so you can see the Asakusa Shrine.
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  • Shopping in Asakusa:
    • Make sure to ask your hotel if the market around the shrine is open. And only go when the market is open. It is super! BUY ALL YOUR SOUVENIRS AND GIFTS THERE!
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Next stop: OSAKA. [JR Train:  (Tokyo to Osaka) – 3h 14m – 1 transfer]

Coming up, stay tuned 😉

@Almallaks

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Japan 101

by @Almallaks

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@Almallaks

We started planning our trip way in advance because we wanted to get the most out of it. We decided to go for 3 weeks and cover as many cities as possible. How did we decide on the cities? After loads and loads, and LOADS of research. There are so many beautiful places in Japan and so many things to see and experience. It is impossible to cover it all, unfortunately. So, it all comes down to preference and what you want to see and do.

Our route:

Tokyo -> Osaka -> Nara -> Kyoto -> Kanazawa -> Matsumoto ->Yamanouchi ->Tokyo

Japan Route

When to go: You can choose to go in any time of year, there are cities for every season: beaches and mountain climbing for summer, ski resorts for winter, and the spring for none other than the beautiful cherry blossoms. That was our choice – the cherry blossoms. So, we chose to go Mid-March to beginning April. But even with meticulous planning, the cherry blossoms bloom according to the weather that year, so it’s risky.  We kept our fingers crossed.

What to do before you go:

  1. If you’re planning on being in Japan for a while and traveling to different cities, the easiest and most economical way to travel is by train. Taking a cab everywhere will get very expensive, very quickly.
  2. We recommend purchasing the Japan Rail Pass, which gives you unlimited access to the Japan Rail (JR) Lines. We took the train everywhere even within the cities whenever we could. You can purchase one of their packages on their website: jrpass.com Here’s the thing, you can only purchase this pass BEFORE you go to Japan and once you land at the airport you activate it.

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Another thing you should look into is getting a MIFI: mobile wireless internet. That way, you can use your phone while you’re there without actually having to get a Japanese line. Cheap and easy. They actually can have it delivered to your hotel and then before you leave Japan, just place it in the cardboard envelope they provide and drop into any mailbox close by and  you’re done.  We got ours from japan-wireless.com

  1. ASK– anyone and everyone that you know who has been to Japan. Everyone has a different experience when they go– the more things you know, the more choices you’ll have on what to do when you get there. And even then, you’ll end up doing only a fraction of that stuff and find your own activities that you happened to come across. It’s just that kind of place.

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Packing:

If you’re planning on doing what we did (3 weeks, multiple cities via train), we highly recommend taking MINIMAL luggage. You will need to be mobile. Their trains run like clockwork, by the minute, literally. There will be a train at 5:17 pm and it will leave exactly at 5:17 pm – no joke. And there will be lots of walking (and getting lost) and stairs.  So, we only took a total of 4 pieces: two carry-ons (small, compact, 4 wheels for easy maneuvering) and two backpacks. And that’s it.

No, we are not kidding. You have to pack extremely well. Things you can layer, things you can re-wear and match with ease. Do not take anything you don’t really “need.”

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OK, Although it’s been a while since we went, we will try to be as thorough as possible. We want to give this beautiful place justice. Stay tuned and read the details of our experience in future posts on hello965.com!!

@Almallaks

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