Thursday, July 5, 2018

Things I Learned in Japan and Why I Can't Wait to Go Back

Japan is a weird place. Tokyo, specifically. But it's also awesome. Things I learned there:

There are lots of rules. Make reservations in advance (like, months in advance). It's expensive, but still the cheapest of the developed countries AKA not so expensive. There are no trash cans anywhere. Yet, there is no trash. The Japanese carry reusable containers for water and food. SMART. Even if there aren't cars coming, people don't cross the street until the pedestrian light turns green. This is a thing in LA because jaywalking tickets are a thing in LA. In Japan, I think people are just a little more respectful of the law. Tokyo is also the safest city in the world. (Unrelated: Did you see Japanese soccer fans pick up after themselves at the end of World Cup games? That was pretty cool.)

The bullet train (Shinkansen) is your friend. Cash is king. So is a pocket translator.

Kyoto is even cooler than Tokyo. If Tokyo is the bougie brand name, Michelin-starred capital, Kyoto is its older, more traditional (but somehow cooler?) cousin. Bathhouses in Kyoto are magical and also have a lot of rules. No shoes, no clothes, no phones, no cameras, no tattoos. I followed the no clothes rule and disregarded the rest. All the places you love on Instagram, you will like in real life. But they will be packed with tourists at all hours (your best bet is to visit temples, shrines, the bamboo forest and any/all big sights at sunrise).

Places I went and would return to:


Fuunji for ramen and a Kirin
Bar Albatross in Shinjuku's Piss Alley - a tiny post WW2 bar that played Bob Dylan all night
Tajimaya Coffee (traditional red bean cakes and filter coffee, no photos allowed)
NOT the Imperial Palace
Aman Hotel near the Imperial Palace - you can see Mount Fuji from the bar on a clear day
Tsutaya Books in Ginza Six - a beautiful luxury mall that also has great food
Dover Street Market (fashion/art) - more Gucci and Comme des Garçon than my heart could handle
Trunk Hotel - have a drink or a snack, stay and listen to the DJ (English is spoken here)
At Kiln - a beautiful pottery store and cultural experience
The Roastery by Nozy Coffee


Fushimi Inari Shrine
Ikariya523 - you know, if you get tired of Japanese food, there's French food here (and wine!)
The Golden Pavilion House (yes, touristy but also lovely)
Kurama Onsen - the most magical, no frills bathhouse in the mountains
Gion Manzara - you can have a relish dinner here, no reservations necessary
In the Moon - cute rooftop bar with friendly bartenders and a view of the city
Nokishita 711 Gin  & Cocktail Labo - a gin bar with beautifully crafted botanical cocktails
Arashiyama Bamboo Grove
Kyoto Station


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