Japan was never somewhere I thought of visiting until everyone that had been there couldn't stop talking about how amazing it was. So, it eventually got higher and higher on my travel list until I inevitably couldn’t wait any longer and had to see what all the fuss was about. I roped my boyfriend into making the trip with me (although he didn't need much convincing) and a couple of months later we were in the land our food dreams were made of.
I’m proud to say that I am now one of those annoying people who won’t shut up about this country. You just can’t understand until you see it, feel it and taste it for yourself.
We flew from Melbourne directly to Tokyo, Narita and from the minute I stepped off that plane, I couldn’t stop smiling. The colours, the people - it was intoxicating.
To begin our two weeks in Japan, we stayed in Ueno.
Ueno is a neighbourhood in Northern Tokyo. In my mind, it was a little more traditional than other parts of Tokyo which is why we loved it so much.
We stayed in a traditional Ryokan for our first couple of nights. Think - tatami mats on the ground, walls made of paper, the whole thing!
After Ueno, we moved to Shinjuku to get a little bit of hustle and bustle as well as the Tokyo Nightlife. We stayed in an little Airbnb apartment (keep in mind all apartments are tiny) but it was the perfect way to stay central on a budget.
Sign up to airbnb for $55 AUD in travel credit
The Central Park of Tokyo. Shinjuku Gyoen is a must if you're visiting in Autumn or Spring (or anytime really). It's huge and beautiful! It's hard to believe it's right in the centre of the city.
And for dinner Yakiniku Dondon Shinjuku Kabukicho. We treated ourselves to yakiniku quite a few times while we were in Tokyo. It just so much fun being able to cook your own wagyu on a little grill. So delicious!
This area of Tokyo has the prettiest streets complete with pastel coloured walls and unlimited outdoor plants, definitely recommend walking whenever you can! You can visit Sensoji Temple and Nakamise (a big shopping street).
Yoyoiya Ramen is your stop for lunch. One of the first places we visited on our ramen tour of Tokyo.
Of course you'll be making a stop at the quintessential tourist stop of Tokyo. Rumoured to be the busiest intersection in the world!
While you're in Shibuya don't forget to make a trip to Ichiran! We visited two Ichiran locations when we were in Tokyo, one in Ueno and one in Shibuya. Get prepared for a long wait if you visit the Shibuya location. We only waited 5 minutes in Ueno and it was our very first meal off the plane from Melbourne. Probably my favourite Ramen we had in Tokyo, really strong flavour which I love!
If you're not in the Ramen mood, Genki Sushi is you're next best bet. It's a bustling sushi train in the middle of Shibuya and it's definitely got that high tech Tokyo feel. Like most places in Shibuya, be prepared to wait in a line or get there early!
A beautiful park situated in Ueno. Perfect for strolling around, looking at the autumn leaves. Our accomodation was right next to this park so we were lucky enough to get to walk though it a couple of times a day to get to the train stations. There's even a Starbucks in the park!
Ameya Yokocho is an amazing food market in Ueno complete with fresh sashimi and takoyaki. If you're after a cheap lunch, i'd definitely recommend.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
If you're looking for views of Tokyo from above without the hefty price of a Skytree ticket, look no further than Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It's completely free to visit the top level and take in the magical city views. Similar to most other places in Tokyo, there might be lines to enter although these move pretty quick (the Japanese love lines?).
If you're feeling peckish afterwards, make the journey to Tokyo Station to none other than Tokyo Ramen Street. There's about 8 Ramen restaurants lining the inside of the station. Take your pick! We chose Rokurinsha Tsukemen Ramen which is known for it's dipping Ramen. I think i'm definitely more of an Ichiran kind of girl but could appreciate the noodle perfection of this dish.
If you have one night to hit the town, go here. A block packed with over 100 tiny bars that will only fit around 4-8 people. You're guaranteed an intimate conversation with your bartender and you'll leave being best friends with the people who you shared a drink with. It really is something different. We frequented Bar Asyl, Albatross, Champion Bar (for karaoke) and Kenzo's to name a few. We kept coming back night after night for the duration we were in Shinjuku as it was just so much fun.
This is an amazing area to visit a bunch of arcades and lose lots of money trying to win plush toys in the claw games (as we did). If you're into old school arcade games then Super Potato is the place to be (we were the only tourists in there) although there are massive 4 level SEGA arcades all over Akihabara packed with every claw game you could imagine. Perfect way to kill a cold afternoon.
Tsukiji Fish Market
Breakfast at the fish market is a must! We got there at 7am and there were lines out the front of every restaurant. It's busy, happening and the seafood is so fresh and delicious. If you can muster getting up early on holiday, it's worth it.
We caught the train from Tokyo to Lake Kawaguchiko which sits at the bottom of Mount Fuji. We were blessed with a clear day so got excellent views of the mountain. The train ride there involved eating Japanese snacks bought at the convenience store with our heads glued to the window taking in all the magical views.
Once we arrived, we began our mammoth walk around the lake (which didn't do good things for our already aching legs). It was a relaxing day just taking in the views and being in nature. We stopped at a street market for lunch before heading back to the train.
I definitely recommend visiting Mount Fuji in Autumn! The colours are like nothing you've ever seen..
We stayed at Kokuya Ryokan when we visited Shibu Onsen in Yamanouchi. Shibu Onsen is a hot spring town in the mountains with 9 town baths that you gain access to with keys that you receive from your overnight accomodation.
Visiting the onsen town was an amazing way to relax after a hectic couple of days in Toyko. We even got to wander the streets in our yukata.
Included in your overnight stay is a traditional Japanese dinner and breakfast which was beyond amazing (10 + plates of Japanese deliciousness). We finished the night with our first taste of saké and a long bath in our private onsen, not bad at all.
After we checked out of Kokuya, we visited Jigokudani Monkey Park which is probably the funniest thing you'll ever experience. Hundreds of monkeys enjoying a natural onsen in the mountains. These are some very relaxed monkeys!
After an hour or two of being fixated on the monkeys, we made our way down the mountain and caught the train back to Tokyo.