Travel: Japan Trip 2012 (Day 16 & 17 – Tokyo Sky Tree, Tokyo)

Travel: Japan Trip 2012 (Day 16 & 17 – Tokyo Sky Tree, Tokyo)

See: Japan Trip 2012 itinerary and summary

Day 16: December 11

This was our last official day in Japan. Our first stop would be Tokyo Sky Tree, which was completed in earlier in the year (2012), becoming the new tallest building in Tokyo (and Japan) and the new hot spot to visit. I knew it would be busy.


Tokyo Sky Tree is not as central as Tokyo Tower (which I didn’t visit the observatory level of this trip, but did go to the top for the previous trip. I’ll touch on a comparison later), but is built with a large shopping, dining and entertainment complex called Tokyo Solamachi. There’s also an aquarium. We were lucky that it was such a beautiful day. It’s really cool to walk up towards the tower and look up! To me it always feels like it’s in the middle of nowhere, as surrounding buildings are fairly short and residential compared to the dense skyscraper suburbs.

Because Japan loves new attractions, the waiting queue was monstrous! I think if we had gone a few months earlier it would have been impossible to visit. We lined for close to an hour before getting tickets. There are actually reservations tickets (from two months in advance) and fast-pass tickets for foreigners, so during very busy times, purchasing tickets on the day may not be available if everyone’s purchased ahead.

We purchased tickets for the first and second observatory. These tickets are some of the most expensive admission tickets I’ve purchased in Japan. I would recommend not going beyond the first observatory if it’s not an exceptionally clear day, as you will probably not see much more. They have signs on the first observatory level every day that will let you know which iconic attractions are visible on the day (importantly, Mt Fuji).

As you can see, Mt Fuji was visible on this day (this was taken from the first observatory level)!



On the first observatory level, you can get your photo taken in a specially decorated area. It’s a bit cliche, but the staff will also take one on your own camera as a free service. It’s pretty difficult to get a good photo with a person and the background yourself. The staff have a decent spot set up, and they will use flash. If you don’t give them your camera on the wrong setting (whoops my fat thumb), you’ll probably get a really decent photo for free. We liked the photo they took on their professional camera, so we purchased it as a memento. On the second observatory level, there’s a glass floor to stand on and look down. One other reason why I don’t think visiting the second observatory level appreciably better is that it is ridiculously hot. This was a warm winter day, and being that high up and surrounded by nothing but glass in a confined space with hundreds of people… it was really hot and stifling. I can’t imagine how bad it would be during autumn, spring or summer!

Having been up both Tokyo Sky Tree and Tokyo Tower, I think they are both unique experiences. Tokyo Sky Tree is less central and a lot taller, so you see more of the greater city of Tokyo, but less of the iconic details that you can see from the more central Tokyo Tower. If you’re not interested in ascending either, Tokyo Tower will always be the most iconic structure, and I think it’s absolutely worth wandering around in the nearby region to get those shots of the red tower against the city. Personally, Roppongi Hills Mori Tower (see day 13 post) is actually my favourite building for city views of Tokyo, because the rooftop offers views undisturbed by a glass window, and you’re really in the heart of central Tokyo with great views of Tokyo Tower itself.

Following that, we had a quick lunch at a simple restaurant in Tokyo Solamachi.


The rest of the day was for us to just wander around Tokyo some more. We walked around Omotesando and Shibuya. It really was such a nice day.



By dinner time, we were in central Shibuya and found an okonomiyaki restaurant in Center-gai. Despite it being such a busy location, it was actually really great.



Every table had it’s own grill plate, and the okonomiyaki was divine!!! There’s nothing like it here.

After dinner, we walked around a bit more, enjoying the (crazy) hustle and bustle and city lights.



We returned to our hotel for our last sleep in Japan.

Day 17: December 12

We had a morning flight from Narita to Hong Kong. We took the JR Narita Express (NEX) from Shinjuku station (purchased the tickets the previous day, just to be on the safe side so there would be less to worry about), which was really convenient and so comfortable. It is, however, quite expensive and still takes 90 minutes.

At the airport, we had a farewell meal of ramen!


And that concludes the two-week trip in Japan! I was pleased with how it turned out and what we were able to fit in. It was my first time really travelling through multiple cities and using the JR pass. I was so glad to check a lot of things off my Japan bucket list. It was well worth doing it all myself after many, many hours of research. Though I realise I’m at a distinct advantage as it’s my third trip and can speak Japanese. Soon I will get started on posting about my 3-week Japan 2016 trip!

But maybe Hong Kong first…

Travel: Japan Trip 2012 (Day 15 – Tokyo Disney Sea)

Travel: Japan Trip 2012 (Day 15 – Tokyo Disney Sea)

See: Japan Trip 2012 itinerary and summary

Day 15: December 10

The only other Disney theme park I’ve been to is Tokyo Disneyland back in 2006 during my first trip to Japan. This time I wanted to visit Tokyo Disney Sea, which is unique to Japan. I had heard amazing things about it. From Shinjuku, we took two trains to Tokyo Disney Resort (which is where both Disneyland and Disney Sea are located) near JR Maihama Station. From there, the Disney Resort Line, which circles the resort, will stop at both parks.

Even the special Disney Resort Line monorail is aptly in the Disney spirit.



We visited on a Tuesday in winter, so it would have been a fairly low crowd day. It wasn’t terrible but there were still lots of people. I definitely would not want to visit during holidays or weekends. It was a cold day, but also super sunny.

We were there all day, from just after opening to after the big show at night, Fantasmic. We didn’t go on any rides, as we weren’t interested in that kind of thing. The whole place was incredibly beautiful with unbelievable attention to detail. It was also so clean! It was honestly so much fun, just to wander around and experience everything. My mum really enjoyed the day too, so I definitely think it’s a great place for people of all ages. There’s just a lot of walking, standing and people.






I was really tempted by a lot of adorable souvenirs, like these hilarious hats. How cool are there? I talked myself out of one, but I did buy some really flashy Disney sunglasses which I wore all day, haha. In my defence it was really sunny so kind of useful (for one day). The great thing is almost everyone in Japan is a little dressed up in Disney attire or accessories when they’re at Disneyland or Disney Sea. There’s not much you can wear that will make you stand out.


Arabian Coast was one of my favourite themed ports. It was so well made and there were so many hilarious Genie details everywhere!









The main “finale” of the night (the time changes throughout the seasons, but around 6/6:30pm in winter I think) is held at the Mediterranean Harbor. To get a good viewing spot, it’s best to get there early.




Most people leave after the show, so the exits and transportation will be really crowded.


After we left, we headed back to Shinjuku, and went into an izakaya for dinner. The drinks and food were great, but we hadn’t anticipated all the smoking, which was a total downer. I often still forget to check the smoking status of restaurants in Japan.







Travel: Japan Trip 2012 (Day 14 – Yokohama, Tokyo)

Travel: Japan Trip 2012 (Day 14 – Yokohama, Tokyo)

See: Japan Trip 2012 itinerary and summary

Day 14: December 9

On this day we visited Yokohama (Minato Mirai area), mostly taking it easy before a long day at Tokyo Disney Sea the next day, so this should be a short post. Enroute to Yokohama from Shinjuku, we briefly went to Shibuya (because that was the recommended travel route). So of course we went to pay Hachiko a visit, and made the obligatory walk across the famous Shibuya crossing.



Yokohama is where I spent half of my Japan exchange trip in high school, so it’s a special place to me. Minato Mirai is the harbour area of Yokohama and has lots of shopping complexes, an observatory, amusement park and museums (including the Cup Ramen museum). I’ve visited the Sky Garden Observatory and been on the large ferris wheel previously and think they are both excellent! On this day though, we just walked around the harbour and the shops. For lunch, we had doria and ramen.






We returned back to Tokyo for dinner. Again we got lost in Shinjuku station and got so hungry trying to find our station exit that we chose to have dinner first in a restaurant we came across that specialised in hambaagu (Japanese hamburger steak).

With more energy, we resumed our journey of finding the right exit and thus the way to our hotel. We ended up walking passed a small event for Japan’s bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics, before retreating to our hotel ahead of our big day at Tokyo Disney Sea!

Travel: Japan Trip 2012 (Day 13 – Tokyo, Roppongi, Odaiba)

Travel: Japan Trip 2012 (Day 13 – Tokyo, Roppongi, Odaiba)

See: Japan Trip 2012 itinerary and summary

Day 13: December 8

Tokyo was the home stretch of our trip! For our first morning, we travelled from Shinjuku station to Iidabashi station. From there we walked to Koishikawa Korakuen, which is apparently known as one of the oldest and best Japanese gardens in Tokyo. It is located right next to Tokyo Dome. In true Japanese fashion, it is an incredibly serene and beautiful Japanese garden, but if you look up all you can see are big city buildings. I was once again in autumn foliage heaven!

japan-trip-2012-tokyo-koishikawa-korakuen-01
japan-trip-2012-tokyo-koishikawa-korakuen-02
japan-trip-2012-tokyo-koishikawa-korakuen-03
japan-trip-2012-tokyo-koishikawa-korakuen-04
japan-trip-2012-tokyo-koishikawa-korakuen-05
japan-trip-2012-tokyo-koishikawa-korakuen-06
japan-trip-2012-tokyo-koishikawa-korakuen-07
japan-trip-2012-tokyo-koishikawa-korakuen-08

We then travelled to Roppongi Hills. We visited Mori Tower, which features what might be my favourite observation deck in Tokyo. Tokyo Tower and Tokyo Sky Tree might be the obvious and more popular tourit destinations, I personally enjoy Mori Toiwer more because if you visit the open-air sky deck on the roof, there is no glass obstructing your view, plus you can get beautiful views of Tokyo city with the iconic Tokyo Tower! I highly recommend paying the extra to visit the sky deck if the weather is good. My mum was actually too scared so I went up to the roof alone.

japan-trip-2012-tokyo-roppongi-01
japan-trip-2012-tokyo-roppongi-02
japan-trip-2012-tokyo-roppongi-03

It was getting late so we went to a Chinese restaurant for lunch (of all the things to eat in Japan, haha!).

japan-trip-2012-tokyo-roppongi-04-food

Then we wandered around Roppongi Hills some more. Apart from the shops and restaurants, there’s also the TV Asahi HQ building and Mori Garden. I always find Roppongi Hills quite confusing to navigate, for some reason.

japan-trip-2012-tokyo-roppongi-05
japan-trip-2012-tokyo-roppongi-06
japan-trip-2012-tokyo-roppongi-07

After that, we travelled from Roppongi station to Shimbashi station via two Metro lines, and then took the Yurikamome to Daiba station. I love taking the Yurikamome to Odaiba because of the views you get travelling alongside Rainbow Bridge. Odaiba is a man-made island in Tokyo Bay, and while I am less interested in the shopping and dining attractions, it offers wonderful views of Tokyo Bay and Rainbow Bridge, plus there’s the iconic replica Statue of Liberty. I’ve visited Odaiba every single time I’ve been to Japan, and I mainly go for the views, typically arriving in the late afternoon and leaving when dark so as to enjoy day time and night time views.

japan-trip-2012-tokyo-odaiba-01
japan-trip-2012-tokyo-odaiba-02

There are a lot of malls for shopping, dining and leisure. There’s also the iconic Fuji TV HQ building.

japan-trip-2012-tokyo-odaiba-03

For dinner, we chose a simple and very busy Omurice restaurant in one of the malls.

japan-trip-2012-tokyo-odaiba-04-food
japan-trip-2012-tokyo-odaiba-05-food

Following dinner, it was now dark outside. We went back outside to enjoy views of Rainbow Bridge lit up. There were so many people it was difficult to get a good spot to take photos!

japan-trip-2012-tokyo-odaiba-06-rainbow-bridge

Travel: Japan Trip 2016 Souvenir Haul

I visited Japan again at the start of the year, so this is… quite a delay. I brought back a ridiculous amount of things. T and I went with one check-in suitcase between us. We came back with that suitcase full of souvenirs and our clothes and personal items downgraded into two carry on bags. Don’t worry, half of it was presents for other people! Here’s most (but not all) of the stuff I brought back for myself.

IMG_0694

These snacks were all for me (although some extra quantities were given to others)… I know I can get some of these in Melbourne, but I just couldn’t help myself! I adore Japanese fruit liqueurs, and especially pineapple, so I couldn’t not bring back the Okinawa Pineapple Liqueur, since I only am able to get one brand in Melbourne. I tried those Tohato spicy potato chips. They were numbingly spicy (for me) and so crispy! They were so addictive even though they made my nose run like a tap, haha. The Tohato spicy potato rings available in Melbourne are no where near as good. I’ve loved the Green Tea Melty Kiss chocolates so much but hadn’t seen them for a few months in Melbourne prior to Japan, so wanted to bring one for myself. Of course, as soon I returned to Melbourne, the Asian grocers all stocked it again. Typical. The yuzu-mitsu (yuzu stick honey) was an unexpected purchase. We were in a quiet little store and the lady gave us some of this to drink. I don’t like honey, but the combination with yuzu was so fragrant and soothing. I thought it was something quite different and of course, I love yuzu! I’m obsessed with trying every single flavour of Hi-Chew and we ate a lot of Hi-Chew in Japan. These regional limited edition ones must’ve been new because I had not seen them before (but again, they became stocked in Melbourne on arriving back). I also love tasting all the different Pocky and Pretz. Unlike Hi-Chew, I don’t buy them all though because sometimes the flavours sound too weird for me. I couldn’t NOT get giant rainbow Pocky though! To be honest the giant series is a bit overwhelming and I prefer the smaller packs. I am more of a Pretz girl, because Pretz is usually savoury. I tried a few new ones while in Japan, but this Hiroshima “Strong Passion of Chicken” (haha) Pretz was so damn good, I picked up one to bring back the next time I saw it. I can’t believe I’m saying this but it might be my favourite flavour of all time! Lastly, another category of snack collecting/tasting-them-all is Japanese Kit Kats. It’s a hobby that T drives and it’s become a tradition that he surprises me with new ones every few months. I’m proud to say we’ve got (or eaten) almost all the Kit Kats in recent years. Strawberry Cheesecake is not a new flavour, but they redid the packaging and I convinced him we had to get it because of the new packaging!

IMG_0697

I’ve mentioned how obsessed I am with momiji (Japanese maple trees). Enough said.

IMG_0698

I’ve almost stopped buying toy-type and keyring sourvenirs. This tako (octopus) and takoyaki locked *by magnet) in a kiss is the most adorable thing ever! I’m not separating them because I want them forever smooching each other, thank you.

IMG_0701

I already have a set of solar-powered dancing maiko from a previous trip. But I’ve never seen a maneki-neko that sways side to side AND waves its arm. I was so enamoured (and bought three – two as gifts)!

IMG_0696

There’s quite a long story behind this. I had known I wanted to start my own Goshuin-chou a long time ago. I always expected I would just remember, but actually I completely forgot before the trip and well into the trip. By some chance, I happened to spot one from far away at Kinkaku-ji, and it all came crashing to me. To be honest, I was so overcome to receive my first goshuin that I had a few tears. Goshuin-chou (literally stamp seal book) is a book where you have priests or other temple/shrine officials write and stamp a goshuin seal stamp for you. This includes the temple/shrine name and date you visited. Each temple/shrine has its own unique stamp. The book folds out and each page is double sided. I think one book fits 48 goshuin in total (I need to double check this when I’m home) and I managed to almost finish my first book. I plan on writing about goshuin in the future since I’m so passionate about it. I’m disappointed I had not remembered in my first week, as there were many temples and shrines I missed out on!

IMG_0712

I realise I collect too many Japanese goods and spend way too much on them. I also collect Starbucks tumblers around Japan. I added quite substantially to my collection this trip. I never liked the Tokyo one, but it hasn’t changed since 2012 (when I passed on it) so I guess they don’t really change that frequently. I missed two from places we visited and I’m pretty gutted.

IMG_0713

This is probably the most ridiculous collection. Since my first trip, I have been buying these specific type of Hello Kitty towels from different places – picking the design that I feel best reflects the place. This time I realised that these towels must no longer be produced, and another style has taken its place. It’s only got Hello Kitty faces and the place name, which is so boring compared to these! So, anywhere I saw some, I would nab them. I probably only missed out in one city, which isn’t too bad. I’m glad I got the last in a few shops. I’m so sad that this means I probably won’t be able to continue this collection anymore. But my wallet is happy. A few of these are from previous trips and got mixed in, but I don’t remember which since I’ve visited numerous cities a few times.

IMG_0714
IMG_0715
IMG_0716
IMG_0717

I don’t really like/drink sake and shochu. These were small regional variety sets from Hida and Kagoshima for my parents, which we recently started drinking together. I much prefer Japanese fruit sake/liqueurs.