Japan 2018: Tokyo (Video)

Tokyo Video Montage

We went to a lot of places that I didn’t talk about in my TRIP RECAP but I did catch some of it on video. My recording setup is the same, GoPro Hero 3 and a Feiyu Tech G4 gimbal. I might get a Hero 4 to experiment with 4K or I might just pick up a newer model like the 6. Unfortunately, my gimbal only fits the models up to the 4.

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Japan 2018: Tokyo

Japan 2018: Tokyo 2, Electric Boogaloo

We had so much fun in Manila and Boracay that we decided to take another trip together! We wanted to visit somewhere where it would be cold and we decided on Japan.  Like the Philippines, this was going to be another first for one of our friends and we made sure it was memorable. This was not our (wife and I) first trip to Tokyo, visiting for the first time in 2014. It was awesome then and we were sure it was going to be a lot better with our friends.

Cell Phones

Our AirBnB had portable WiFi units so we did not pick up SIM cards. SIM cards are available for purchase at the arrivals terminal however. Some of the options are a bit pricey which is why we just stuck with our portable WiFi. With our Osaka trip, we really didn’t need a SIM and the portable WiFi would have been sufficient. Also, our AirBnB came with two so our group was covered.

Transportation

Our AirBnb host recommended we take the Keisei Skyliner to Nippori station and use the subway from there. Previously we used the Narita Express but the next train was departing in an hour and the next Keisei train was departing in 15 minutes. The desks are not hard to find. English signs are visible in the arrivals area of the airport and the staff at the ticket counters speak English. We picked up a round trip ticket bundle that came with a 24 hour subway ticket.

At Nippori station we picked up PASMO IC card for subway and rail travel. PASMO and SUICA are the two popular smart cards for the subway and rail systems in Tokyo. It eliminates the need to purchase separate tickets and it’s easy to purchase. The PASMO terminal has an English option which makes it a lot easier to understand. The deposit for the card is ¥500 which you can recover when you return it for a deposit. I believe every subway station, not JR station will be able to refund your yen and the remaining balance when you turn it in. I haven’t done this since I kept mine as a souvenir. I would highly recommend getting either a PASMO or SUICA card. They make taking trains a lot easier. Also, you can purchase items from vending machines that accept it as a form of payment.

Accommodations

We were able to book an AirBnB for our stay. It was located on the west side of Shinjuku, one stop away from Shinjuku station. The listing was two apartments side by side but was not as big as I expected. The listing was accurate but I was thinking it would be bigger. The five of us were able to sleep comfortably and the location and price were worth it.

The Fun Stuff

I can’t mention everything we did in Tokyo but I will mention some of our favorite places.

Harajuku

Harajuku is the place for shopping. Clothing and food shops are everywhere. Global brands like Nike and Adidas can be found on the main street as well as popular coffee shops like Starbucks. Smaller brands can be found here too. Street wear is popular here with stores like Supreme, Bape and the Neighborhood. The food was great as well. Pastries, candy and crepes were delicious.

Meiji Shrine

The Meiji shrine is located next to Harajuku station. We have been here before and is a great place to walk around. The path to the shrine leads through a forest and large Torii gates. The walk is not too long and it’s very peaceful. We spent some time touring the grounds but did not see a traditional Japanese wedding like last time.

Robot Restaurant 

The ROBOT RESTAURANT is one of the main attractions in Shinjuku. I watched a Parts Unknown episode with Anthony Bourdain and he called it the “greatest show on earth”. After that review, we decided to check it out. The ticket is about $68 on VOYAGIN. A friend booked all our tick comes with two drinks you can get at the bar. The lounge is very bright and colorful and two lounge acts performed while we were waiting. The seating in the basement was very tight and cramped, getting in and out of the seats to use the restroom was a hassle. The show itself was great, a lot of lasers, flashing lights and “robots”. The story they showed didn’t make a lot of sense but it didn’t matter. You’re not at this show for the story. The final performance was a finale set to Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk. Overall, I enjoyed myself but probably wouldn’t watch it again unless they changed the acts.

Tsukiji Fish Market

This was my first time here and I was a little disappointed. It was our fault since we didn’t check the times when it would be open. We didn’t get to walk through the seafood market but we did stop by a few stalls selling food. We ate some fresh scallops, calamari and fish. The mochi was also good. I wouldn’t mind stopping by to see the fish market when it’s open.

Harry Hedgehog Cafe

Japan is known for their animal cafes. We were not surprised when we walked by one for hedgehogs. None of us have seen a hedgehog before and we were excited to play with them. The wait for a seat can be long, 30 minutes – 1 hour, so you should plan for waiting. Reservations are accepted but you must pay for the 1 hour long visit. We visited the Harry Roppongi location but another one is also located in Harajuku.

Handling the hedgehogs is not difficult but you need to get over the fear of handling them. They will shake and curl up but it’s not hard to get them to wake up. They also sell hegehogs as pets and you can purchase a lot of supplies in the shop as well.

Tokyo Disney Sea

Tokyo Disney Sea was awesome. It’s not a typical Disneyland park but it does have a few Disney IPs. Little Mermaid, Aladdin and Finding Nemo. However, all the rides are in Japanese (like Universal Osaka). The Indiana Jones ride was not in service which was a bummer but the other rides were still fun even if we didn’t understand the story. We had a great time and tried a lot of great treats. If you’re a fan of Disney and want to see something other than Disneyland, you should stop here.

Trick Eye Museum

We love trick eye museums and we found one in Odaiba. They had a lot of scenes and it was fun going through one with friends.

Food

We ate a lot! We tried a lot of great sushi, ramen, meat and dessert places. It’s hard to list everyone so I’ll just put our favorites.

Sushi – Genki Sushi

Ramen – Ichiran Ramen

Meat – Yamano

Bar – BrewDog

Dessert – Pie Holic



Shopping

Like any big city, stores are everywhere, you just have to know where to look. Our primary neighborhood for shopping was the Harajuku. From shoe stores like Adidas and Nike, to “Hypebeast” clothing stores such as Bape and Supreme, you can find it in Harajuku. If you want to find a particular store, search it on Google maps.

Thoughts on Tokyo

This was my second time to this city and it was better than the first. Our friends made it a better experience since we got to share new adventures. We tried a lot of new food and went to a few new places. After visiting twice, their is still a few places I didn’t get to see but I’ll save it for the next trip. Visiting Japan is always a great time!

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Japan 2017: Osaka Video

 

Japan 2017: Osaka

I finished the video for Osaka a few months ago and forgot to post it on the blog! I’m using my trusted GoPro Hero 3 with a Feiyutech G4 Gimbal. This was my first video after our European Honeymoon. I tried to incorporate some transitions during filming which didn’t come out too bad. I did mess up the recording format for the video. I didn’t choose the correct recording format which is why it might look different from my other videos. Osaka was a great place to visit and I hope we go back in the future. Let me know what you think in the comments below or leave one in video comment section.

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YouTube Link

Japan 2017: Osaka

Japan 2017: Osaka

Visiting Japan during cherry blossom season was one of our vacation goals. We have traveled to Tokyo and wanted to visit another part of Japan with Osaka at the top of the list. Osaka is also close to other cities we wanted to visit, Kyoto and Nara. We stayed in Osaka for six days but we could have easily stayed another week.

Cell Phones

I purchased a SIM for my wife’s phone at the arrivals terminal of Kansai Airport. Look for a large sign that says SIM on it or ask the information desk. The SIM card was ¥5,000 for 2GB of data and unlimited local calls. It was a bit expensive but we needed a way to contact our AirBnb host in the event we needed something. Thankfully, our AirBnb booking came with a portable WiFi.

Transportation

We purchased two ICOCA and Haruka bundles from the JR office in the airport. The total cost was ¥8,400. The ICOCA cards come pre-loaded with ¥1500 with a ¥500 deposit. These are the tap and go cards for the subway and JR rail stations. The Haruka ticket was a round trip ticket to the city. You can stop at Tennoji station or Shin-Osaka station. If you have an ICOCA card, you can buy the Haruka pass into the city for ¥2,200. We only used the rail systems while in the city. 

Accomodations

We stayed in Ashihara at this AirBnB. I was a bit disappointed with the location since it was outside of the “blue circle” on the neighborhood section of AirBnB. We wanted to stay closer to the subway or closer to Namba station. We didn’t want to cancel, so we made it work. We definitely got our steps in.

The Fun Stuff

I did not take a lot of pictures because I was using my GoPro. A lot of video was shot using the GoPro and will be compiled into a video at a later date. 

Osaka Aquarium

 
 

The Osaka aquarium was amazing. It houses many different animals ranging from dolphins, penguins, whale sharks, otters and other aquatic animals. The aquarium is laid out like a screw. An escalator takes you to the entrance, a few floors up and you walk down looking at exhibits. The outer walls have various exhibits from different parts of the world while the center exhibit houses the main tank. The main tank houses a few species of sharks including whale sharks, a few species of rays, and a few species of fish. This was the first time I’ve seen whale sharks in person and they were amazing to behold. Overall, this is one of the best aquariums I have visited.

Kemasakuranomiya Park

 

My wife suggested this park for our cherry blossom viewing. She read about it in a few blogs and heard about it from friends who have visited previously. The park was huge and we walked about 1.5 kilometers taking pictures and videos along the way. It was overcast but the trees looked beautiful.

Shrines 

 

Osaka has a lot of shrines and temples. It seems like every few blocks we would see one. We observed a few rituals, especially the flinging of water on Buddhist statues.

Food

 

Japanese cuisine, awesome. Japanese pancakes, awesome. Japanese versions of western food, awesome. I didn’t have a bad meal in Osaka.

Favorites

Ramen – Hanamaruken

Sushi – Harukoma

Breakfast – Eggs ‘n Things

CrossFit and Game Stores

 

We checked out CrossFit Hommachi A+ and CrossFit Minami while in Osaka. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures while inside A+ and CF Minami was closed for a private class. A+ has a few rules if you want to drop it. All tattoos must be covered or they will not let you workout. It’s a Japanese custom since tattoos are associated with the Yakuza (Japanese crime group/gang). Also, dropping weights are not allowed. The coach at CF Minami however said dropping weights is allowed in his gym. We didn’t get to drop in but we did purchase a few shirts.

 

Iconoclasm was on my list of stores to visit in Nipponbashi Denden Town, the anime/toy district. The front of the building has a small Warhammer 40k diorama which was a great eye catcher. The shop is not large but it is packed full of wargaming stuff. The main games featured were Warhammer 40k and Warmachine/Hordes.

Universal Studios Japan

My wife and I love visiting theme parks, especially American ones in foreign countries. We look for different foods in concession stands and if rides have changed. The main draw for us was the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. The lines were not too long and each ride was worth it. This was another great Japanese theme park experience.

Nishinomaru Garden

Nishinomaru Garden is located west of Osaka castle. Entrance into this garden is not free, we payed ¥350 per person. The garden has a large lawn, a large number of cherry blossom trees and great views of Osaka castle. We did not explore most of the north end of the garden but we did stay until evening. At night, the garden lights up with some spotlights on the cherry blossom trees and other lights lining the paths. If you’re willing to pay the entrance fee, this is a great spot to hang out and enjoy the cherry blossoms. 

Thoughts on Osaka

Japan is a great country to visit. The people are friendly and polite, the streets are clean and the food is delicious. Walking through the different alleys and busy streets, I noticed a difference between Osaka and Tokyo, the vibe. It’s not as fast paced and people are not rushing. Everyone is relaxed, laid back and enjoying life. I can see the appeal of visiting during cherry blossom season. Enjoying the outdoors and appreciating nature is not something most of us do, it’s refreshing.
 

We did a lot more stuff in Nara and Kyoto but that’s for a different post. I was not able to list everything we did but we had a great time. We met up with a few friends and enjoyed the city together. I’m not sure where we are going to next, maybe the Philippines or Korea. Look out for the video.

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