December 15th, 2014/Travel/By /

Travel: Trip Report: Tokyo, Japan December 2014

tokyo at night

I just got back from my first trip to Japan!

This is going to be the first trip report on the blog. As most of you know, travel is a huge part of my life. I read the 4 Hour Work Week almost eight years ago. That book inspired me to find a career where I could work and travel at the same time. That search eventually lead me into affiliate marketing.

I’ve had many readers mention to me how my blog has inspired them to travel. I’m hoping that these trip reports can be a source of information, entertainment, and motivation.

I’ve been waiting to go to Japan my entire life, and always held the culture in high regards (besides the World War 2 stuff). My self-improvement mentality is based on Kaizen (daily, continuous improvement), and I’ve incorporated a lot of the lean principles found in Japanese companies into my own business.

I’ve been everywhere in Asia, but I guess I wanted to save Japan as a trip to look forward to. After turning 30 last week, I decided to finally visit Tokyo.

The Hotel

I stayed at the Park Hyatt Tokyo hotel in Shinjuku. It’s in the business center / shopping center of Tokyo and is a great area to stay in for a first-timer. The best part of staying in Shinjuku is you have easy access to the train station that can take you anywhere.

I watched Lost in Translation back when I was a freshmen in university. After I finished the movie, I told myself I would go to Tokyo one day and stay in the hotel it was filmed at.

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Watching the sunrise from my room

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I don’t care what part of the world I’m in…I have to check my stats!

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Amazing pool on the 47th floor

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the Sauna.

The service was world class.

I definitely recommend staying at this hotel. For other luxury properties in Tokyo, check out the Peninsula and the Andaz. Airbnb has some great options in Tokyo, and I’ll probably just rent an apartment next time.

Food

I’m getting depressed writing this section. Food in Japan is something else. Like, I can’t eat sushi in Atlanta anymore.

I’m a big foodie and if I were to rank the Asian countries in terms of food, it’d look like

  1. Japan
  2. Malaysia
  3. Hong Kong

What’s great about the food in Tokyo is you can walk into any restaurant and it’ll be amazing. We did not have a single bad meal here.

Here are some of the standout places I went to.

Teppanyaki Yamanami (Teppanaki like Benihana)

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I wanted to try out Kobe beef my first night here. I’ve had “Kobe” style beef in the USA before, but you gotta go to Japan to make sure it’s the real thing.

I chose to go to a Teppanaki. If you’re familiar with Benihana then you know what this is. The chef cooks the food in front of you. In most places it becomes a “show”. The chef will make jokes, spin their knives, and do different tricks like the onion volcano.

This place was the complete opposite. Zero jokes and the chef was completely focused on preparing the meal.

I would pass on this. It was delicious, but I was still hungry after a $250 meal.

Rokkasen (Matsusaka Beef, better than Kobe)

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This was one of the best meals of my life. MUST GO!

I’ve heard of Kobe my whole life, but there’s actually a type of meat better than Kobe called Matsusaka. Look at the fucking fat to meat ratio. USDA Prime what? America needs to step their game up. The meat melted like butter when I ate it. I’m getting depressed thinking about this meal and will visit this place anytime I’m in Tokyo.

Note: You need to make a reservation here. For any reservation in Japan, it’s easiest to ask your hotel concierge to call for you.

Numazukou (Conveyor Belt Sushi)

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Efficient sushi!

The chefs make different sushi dishes and you just grab whatever you want to eat. Each plate has a different color that represents the price.

Kizunasushi (Sushi Restaurant)

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The restaurant was highly rated and had great sushi.

Random Food

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some kind of a cheese cake tart.

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Tokyo Banana! You can’t get this outside of Japan because it’s only good for 1 week before it expires. Make sure you buy some if you’re ever at the Japanese airport.

Tourist Attractions

Tokyo Observatory Deck

One of the tallest buildings in Tokyo. We watched the sunset from here.

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Meiji Shrine

A shrine dedicated to Emperor Meiji, the man responsible for modernizing Japan.

There’s a HUGE forest in the middle of Tokyo, kind of like central park. As busy as the city is, it’s nice to know that there’s an area for people to be close to nature.

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entrance to the Meiji Shrine

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A wall of sake barrels. The sake barrels are donated each year by the Japanese sake association

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You have to wash your hands and mouth before entering the shrine.

Harajuku

This is the area for teenagers mainly. We went to Takeshita Dori, a small street full of boutique shops.

Apparently the best day to go is on a Sunday because you’ll see a lot of girls girls up in Cosplay. I thought it was a waste of time but then again, this place is designed for girls to shop.

TOUR: Mount Fuji / Lake Arashi / Owakudani

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We wanted to visit Mount Fuji. This is actually the first time ever I’ve been on a tour in a new country.

There was a lot of walking around, shopping, and getting lost that took up a lot of our time in the tirp.

What I Missed Out On

There are some places I was hoping to visit but didn’t get to go to. I’m hoping to hit all these spots on my trip next year.

Tsukiji Market Fish Market – The infamous market where they auction off the Fish used in all the sushi restaurants. Unfortunately, it was closed in December to visitors
Robot Restaurant – It’s an insane restaurant that features robots. Was closed on the day I decided to go
Hakone Onsen – Japan has natural hot springs. I didn’t realize it was two hours away and you should stay overnight at a resort.
Ninja Akasara – A unique restaurant. Waiters dressed as ninjas walk you through trapdoors to get to your table. The waiters sneak around to take your order, and they even perform magic tricks at the end.
Kyoto – The ancient capital of Japan

Random Pictures

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I’m a BIG wrestling fan so it’s great to see New Japan Pro Wrestling posters! <3 Nakamura and AJ Styles

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trees

Holy shit looks like a senior yearbook photo

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The statue of Hachiko. He was a dog that grew up in the 1920’s. Everyday he would walk to this spot to greet his owner after he got home from work. One day the owner died. Hachiko proceeded to visit the same spot everyday for 9 years…waiting on him. He is a symbol of loyalty.

Observations in Japan

The money is so new. Each bill I got look like it came fresh from the bank.

I’ve never seen so many elderly people in my life. I did a quick google search and over 25% of the Japanese population is over 65.

Getting around Tokyo was pretty easy. Everyone’s English level wasn’t as bad as I thought it’d be. There would be some initial confusion when talking to someone because they would assume I’m Japanese.

There are no fat people in Japan. I remember coming back to America for the first time after a year and having “reverse culture shock” when I realized how fat Americans are. If there’s 3 reasons why

  1. You walk EVERYWHERE in Asia
  2. The diet. Asian portions tend to be MUCH smaller. In America they give you portions designed for 2–3 people, and there’s pressure to “finish your meal.”
  3. Fat shaming. Oh man it is not acceptable to be fat in Asia and you’ll hear it non-stop from friends and family.

Obviously I’m Asian (Chinese and Vietnamese if you want more details). I was always curious how I’d be treated in Japan since they’re prideful people, and they’ve alway has issues with the Chinese. I was born in America so I wasn’t aware that there’s so much racial issues in Asia among the cultures (everyone has been fighting each other for thousands of years). I can say that I had absolutely zero issues and everyone treated me with respect, even though I’m foreigner.

Pride in Service

I was surprised at the level of customer service in Japan. Take the taxi drivers for instance. If you’ve ever taken a taxi in NYC, Bangkok, or Malaysia, then you’d know how shit taxi drivers can be.

In Tokyo the taxi drivers were classy. Everyone wore suits and gloves. The Taxis were clean and smelled nice. The drivers focused 100% on driving and did not talk on their phones. Not a single person tried screwing me over because I was a tourist.

I talked to a Japanese friend about this. Basically there is this pressure to perform your job to the best of your ability. There’s not as much “judging” based on your education or what your career is. In other countries like USA, so much of our identify is based off of “What do you do?”

I’ve been to Hong Kong and Singapore many times. Those countries make always me motivated to make more money because there’s so much flashy wealth displayed.

In Tokyo I felt a different sort of motivation. I felt this desire to be the absolute best I can be at my career.

The Cost of Japan

I’ve always heard that Japan is super expensive so I thought I’d share my experience.

First off, Japan’s not cheap. It’s comparable to NYC, Hong Kong, and London in terms of cost of living.

Right now’s a great time for Americans to visit because of the exchange rate. December 2014 the exchange rate is $1 USD = $1.2 JPY. In 2012, it was $1 USD = $.75 Yen.

The largest expense is obviously airfare.

I stayed at a pricey hotel by choice, but there are affordable options in Tokyo. Airbnb, hostels, and there are plenty of hotels under $100 a night.

Food wise most cheap, local places are around to be around $5 – $10 a meal. Street food’s not common here.

Getting around won’t cost you much if you take the public transportation and walk. Taxis are pricey here. Uber is available in Tokyo, but keep in mind it’s the pricer Black car version.

Tokyo can be affordable if you plan well. Just don’t expect to get the same value as say Thailand or Vietnam.

Resources

Japan-Guide – A great guide on the tourist attractions in different cities.
PicCrumb – I LOVE this website! It features restaurant recommendations and gives simple directions to get there (real pictures with arrows guiding you along).

One more tip. Getting a sim card here is a bitch. I suggest you rent a pocket wifi device before you get to Japan, and pick it up at the airport.

Conclusion

Japan definitely lived up to the hype!

There’s definitely a learning curve to the country and you won’t be able to do everything you want the first trip. Do your research and plan carefully.

Can’t wait to be back next year!