Travel Tips for Tokyo…

I have shared Japan travel tips in a previous post but let me add some more from our last trip to Tokyo in December. First stop was always the grocery since we need food supplies to fill up the refrigerator in the apartment we rented through Airbnb (www.airbnb.com). Remember, we are budget travelers and therefore cost efficiency is important. ๐Ÿ˜„

Tip: Prior to booking, make sure the place is near a grocery store. Some items are cheaper and choices are better than the convenience store.

Grocery store Comodi-IIda


Store entrance below street level

Mini Grocery in front of the apartment


Tip: Near closing time some of the meals are already discounted up to 50% off.  Grab some to eat at your rented place or hotel. 

Maki Sushi Plates at the Grocery Store


Different Kinds of Tea


You can find different kinds of Japanese green tea at the grocery store. I always buy a box or more to give away to relatives and friends. It’s always a gift that they appreciate. I personally liked the roasted green tea. 

Tip: Choose your location wisely. Always research before you book and ask the landlord about the area ๐Ÿ˜Š Is it quiet and safe? Near the train station?

We got an apartment in Bunkyo area which is a quiet part of Metropolitan Tokyo. The train station is 3 to 5 minutes away. There’s a shrine nearby and the Shin-edogawa Park is walking distance. Restaurants and food places are aplenty. The Catholic church is also a 10 minute walk away.

Winter time view while walking towards the park


The winter view at the park


Tip: Prior to finalizing your booking, check out the area for restaurants or food markets. What we did was to use google earth to view the area. Bunkyo had good restaurants near the train station street level exits.

Tempura Place

Ramen and Gyoza Place


The go to food place ๐Ÿ˜„ Yoshinoya!


Japanese Curry House


Korean Burger Joint Lotteria


Fast food are always a happy sight for when you’re weary and tired from walking around Metropolitan Tokyo. Especially if you’re with family with growing kids who seem to be always hungry! ๐Ÿ˜„

Tip: Drop by the convenience stores like Lawson, Family Mart, 7-11. They do have instant meals that they can heat for you. Kids love the chicken kaarage that can fill their little tummy plus it’s affordable. 

Chicken Kaarage at a convenience store


You will not get hungry anywhere in Japan. For as long as there’s a convenience store! You will not get thirsty either for there are numerous vendo machines! Plus some even offered chips and sandwiches. 

Japanese Custard Cake Stall


A must try Takoyaki in Akiba area


Don’t hesitate to try out the street food stalls selling snacks like Japanese Custard Cakes. It’s a favorite of my kids and filled their tummy while walking around. Aside from the Takoyaki, of course. ๐Ÿ˜„



xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

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Getting Around Japan…

It’s that time of the year again in this side of the world. It’s summer time and people are preparing to escape to somewhere cold or to the beach. My social media timeline is full of travels to one of my favorite destination — Japan! It’s spring time and always a good time to visit since it’s also the Sakura season. The bitter cold of winter is no more. The gardens will be so pretty and colorful. The shrines alive with the trees turning green again. Oh, how I miss the Land of the Rising Sun!๐Ÿ‡ฏ๐Ÿ‡ต๐Ÿ˜„

After numerous trips to Japan, we finally decided to use a card to easily use their train transportation when we visited last December. Since we find the JR Pass too expensive for a vacation in Tokyo area only, we opted to get the Pasmo Card. JR Pass is okay if you plan to go around Japan. Like traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto to Osaka. But in my opinion it’s not a good deal if you will just stay in one city. You can get a Pasmo or Suica card at the airport.

Pasmo Cards


We loaded ยฅ10,000 in the adult cards and half of that amount for the kids 12yo and below. The card of the child was linked to an adult card. It can be personalized with your child’s name. The reason we chose Pasmo instead of Suica was because we can refund everything. ๐Ÿ˜„ Of course, some of the family members opted to retain the card as souvenirs or to be used for when we visit again.

Train Station going to Narita using Keisei


We used Keisei Electric Railway from Narita to Tokyo and back. Not the Skyliner but the normal train with lots of stops! If you aren’t in a hurry, you can save money by using the regular train. It will be 30 minutes longer but you can catch some sleep on the way to the city. ๐Ÿ˜Š If you are in a rush to get to the city, choose the Skyliner. It is more expensive though.

The Pasmo Card is not only for transportation but can be used to buy food at the convenience store or even in restaurants that accept it for payment. Even vendo machines accept it. Very convenient to have especially if you have children who are constantly hungry and a trip to Family Mart or Lawson to buy food is something that they enjoyed doing. My child lost her Pasmo Card with about ยฅ3,500 remaining balance when we were in Akihabara. But it was linked to my card so we were able to retrieve the balance. We just reported it to the nearest train station and with a minimal fee we got a new card and the balance intact. The vacation wasn’t ruined!๐Ÿ˜…

However, if you plan to move around Japan then you have to get the JR Pass. You will also have easier mobility and it will help to cut down on transportation cost. Check out www.jrailpass.com for more information. 

Getting around Tokyo and understanding their train network is tough. But with the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the country is definitely preparing. With influx of tourists wanting to visit the country, most of the sites are tourist friendly. There are translations and menus in English. So different from the first time I visited Japan in 2008.

I know I should post more often. To be more active in my online journal. ๐Ÿ˜‚ I’m really sorry blog! You have been neglected but I hope I can find time to write some more… soon!๐Ÿ˜„

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

Kampai to the Year 2017…

First, let me greet everyone (virtual visitors and friends) a Happy New Year! May all your aspirations for 2017 come true and abundant blessings bestowed to you and your family.

It’s now two years in a row that I welcomed the New Year in Japan. Last year, we were in Osaka and now in Tokyo. It’s dreadfully cold but I don’t mind even if I had colds and my nose became dry. Moisturizer was a big help but still it’s painful when you wipe your nose!๐Ÿ˜‚ Celebrations in Japan to welcome the New Year is totally different from my home country. It’s quiet at midnight! ๐Ÿ˜„ 

To see a fireworks display we had to go to Odaiba area. The show started at 7 pm on Dec 31 (New Year’s Eve) and lasted for 10 mins. It was cool as there was even a Hello Kitty figure up in the sky. Too bad wasn’t able to capture it! 

Fireworks at Decks in Odaiba


The giant Gundam is still in Diver City until March 2017 but since we had a photo taken on our previous trip, we didn’t bother to pose again. Shops closed early and at 9 pm we were on our way home to our rented Airbnb apartment (www.airbnb.com)  in Bunkyo area. 

I know I should write more about the recent trip/s but I got so tired from the cardio exercise a.k.a. walking that I think I will have to bid adieu for now. See you again soon when I post my Macau & Tokyo escapades!

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

The Wanderer in Osaka…

The reason why I fell in love with Japan is maybe because of Osaka and Kyoto. I’m glad I first set foot here instead of Metropolitan Tokyo. Don’t get me wrong for all of you Tokyo lovers. I appreciate Tokyo but will not tire of going back to Osaka. ๐Ÿ™‚ Although, I am hoping to go to Hokkaido on my next trip sometime in the future. I would love to explore all of Japan hopefully before I get an arthritis. Ha!ha!

Anyway, I’d like to retrace some of the foot prints I’ve made in Osaka with this post. Hopefully it will help you or give you an idea of “touristy” places that might be interesting to visit or explore.

First is Osaka Castle. We took the JR Railway train to get to this place. Wear comfortable footwear as you will walk for about 15-20 minutes from the train station to the castle itself. Walking is good for our health and in this country I practiced walking for miles. I didn’t mind because it’s cold anyway during the times that I visited. I have no idea how it is during summer though!

Osakajokoen Station

Osakajokoen Station

View from the distance of Osaka Castle during Autumn

View from the distance of Osaka Castle during Autumn

View from the top floor of Osaka Castle

View from the top floor of Osaka Castle during Autumn

Osaka Castle from afar during Spring

Osaka Castle from afar during Spring

Osaka Castle during Spring

Osaka Castle during Spring

Autumn will bring you colorful leaves which I really like but Spring time will let you see the Cherry Blossoms which is abundant in this area. Usually it’s early April and will only be for a short time. There’s an entrance fee of about Y600 (adult) if you decide to go inside the castle and if I remember it correctly, kids go in for free.

Before the one in Singapore was built, there’s Universal Studios Japan which was the first one in Asia. I don’t know if they’ve updated it already to cater to English speaking tourist but when we went there before it was a lost in translation kind of day. But we loved it because it has the E.T. Adventure, Jaws, Jurassic Park and Back to the Future rides! The Hollywood Dream ride is also cool plus they also have the Waterworld show. It’s different from the one in America and something new to experience so if you are up to it, go and visit. Try to be an early bird though so you can experience all the rides! Check out their entrance ticket fee and new offerings at this site: http://www.usj.co.jp/e/

Even if you’ve been to other theme parks, you’ll still enjoy this one. We did because Spiderman speaks Japanese! ๐Ÿ™‚

People young and old appreciates Den-Den Town! I was so amazed at the volume of the toys being sold in this area. Tall buildings side by side selling toys. We didn’t go home empty handed and even the hubby bought a toy that until now he has yet to start building. Ha!ha! My kids were in heaven and couldn’t get enough. And as usual, I was there to police every purchase that can or cannot be bought. There’s always a budget in every trip and we should stick to it.

ย Grab some Takoyaki at Dotonbori area. One of the popular tourist spot in Osaka. It’s lively and there are aย  lot of stores and restaurants in this area. I enjoyed watching all the people, locals and fellow tourist in this very busy place.

That’s all for now. Hope the foot prints you’ll make in Osaka will be as enjoyable and memorable as mine. ๐Ÿ™‚

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

Shopping in Japan…

I don’t know why but a trip is never complete without purchasing something from the country you’ve visited. It can be shopping for souvenirs, trinkets, clothes, shoes or the local delicacies. Aside from sightseeing, it’s the most enjoyable part of every trip. Ha!ha!

First thing I look for is the nearest grocery store, supermarket or market whenever I go to a new place. They always say that Japan is an expensive place to go for a vacation or to shop. Yes, it is. No doubt about it. But, there are also places where you can get good deals or value for your money. These are my favorites:

1. OK Supermarket in Tokyo – there’s bound to be one around the neighborhood. Bought my grocery supply of Tonkatsu Sauce, Nissin Curry/Seafood Noodles, Japanese Curry Mix, Japanese Coffee & Green Tea, Kitkat Green Tea and other Japanese food stuff here. Back home, it’s too expensive so while in Japan grab the stuff that you want! I even bought Shiseido and Kose facial toners here because it’s cheaper than in Matsumoto Kiyoshi.

OK Grocery Store in Koto area

2. Don Quijote or simply called “Donki” – is a very popular store and a must-visit place for tourist if you can’t find a local grocery. I love this place. The stuff they sell is varied. Japanese goodies for everyone! You can even find designer items in one of their floors. In Osaka, you can find a big store in Dotonbori area. In Tokyo, we found one in Akihabara while there’s a newly opened one in Asakusa. My family went crazy and shopped like there’s no tomorrow. The kids loved the Kracie Pop & Cookin’ food products that they found in Donki.

To check out the nearest store from your location you can go to their website:

http://www.donki.com/index_en.php?&gn=en


Donki or Don Quijote in Dotonbori area

Don Quijote in Asakusa

Don Quijote in Asakusa

The kids went crazy over this Pop & Cookin' they found in Donki

The kids went crazy over this Pop & Cookin’ they found in Donki

3. Daiso – or the 99 Yen Store. So many cute stuff in this place. You can buy something to give out to friends, co-workers from this store. And some things for the home.

Daiso in Shinsaibashi area, Osaka

Daiso in Shinsaibashi area, Osaka

4. Uniqlo – one of my fave brands and the company also have the lower priced GU store. You can find a lot of stores in Osaka and Tokyo. There’s always reduced priced items somewhere in the store. That’s why I love this shop because even in my own country, you can find good deals. Plus, the quality is very good. Some items are cheaper in Japan so you might want to check it out.

To find a store near your location go to their website:

http://www.uniqlo.com/jp/

Uniqlo

5. Muji – some items are a bit pricey but I like the food stuff that they sell. Some of which we can’t find in the franchised store in our country. The kids also love to shop for their pens here coz that’s what they can afford from their budget. Ha!ha! I liked the shoes for my little one and I regret not buying more in different colors and a bigger size for when the feet gets bigger. We found one of the biggest Muji store in Namba, Osaka.

Muji and Takashimaya in the same area

Muji and Takashimaya in the same area

6. Yodobashi – I almost forgot to add this to the list. I’ve been to the stores in Umeda (Osaka), Kyoto and Akihabara (Tokyo) and I enjoyed all of my visits. ๐Ÿ™‚ The kids were amazed at the capsule stations or capsule vending machines. They couldn’t get enough and if you don’t remind them that there’s no more room in their luggage for other things, they won’t stop.

Kyoto-Yodobashi

Yodobashi Umeda

Capsule Station

Capsule Station

There are more stores to go in for your shopping needs. Seiyu in Tokyo and Foodium in Osaka are supermarkets worth checking out too. It’s not so obvious I have a thing for grocery, eh? ๐Ÿ™‚ BIC Camera is also a place that you may want to visit too. The one in Tokyo even has Uniqlo and GU inside. ABC Mart sells discounted shoes and Haruta loafers is really cheap.ย  Bought outfits from H&M in Osaka & Tokyo because it was on sale! Daimaru has a lot of nice stuff too but I only bought food which I can afford. Ha!ha!.. For some high end shopping, check out Mitsukoshi in Ginza district, Tokyo. We went in there to check out the store and bought french macarons in Laduree which is located on the second floor. I like the Laduree Cafe in Mitsukoshi better than the one in Harrods. ๐Ÿ™‚

Lastly, when in Tokyo you have to try and buy Tokyo Banana! I bought from their store in Oshiage, Sumida which you can’t miss if you plan to go to Tokyo Sky Tree.

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

Where and What to eat in Japan…

Japan is a food haven for a lot of people. So many good places to eat and satisfy your cravings for ramen, sushi etc that I will no longer dare mention where is the best place to eat as I’m sure you’ll find out for yourself. Or, have read it in food blogs or other sites. Some are pricey, some are not.

What I want to share are some of our family’s favorite cheap finds in Japan.

  • Ohsho – founded in 1967 and known for its low-priced fare is a Japanese restaurant chain serving gyoza (fried dumplings) and other Chinese-style food. There are over 600 restaurants in Japan. It is everywhere in Osaka and Kyoto. Unfortunately in Tokyo, we had a hard time looking for one. The only restaurant we found there is located somewhere in Shibuya.
  • Pablo – cheese tart that we found in Shinsaibashi, Osaka and Shibuya, Tokyo. You will not miss this because the locals are lining up to buy this melt in your mouth creation. The family devoured this in seconds.
  • ย Shirokuma – Japanese curry house that we found in Osaka near our hotel in Shinsaibashi. Quite good and the staff was very friendly plus there’s free wi-fi. This is a “counter style” place as in most of the places to eat in Japan. People go in, eat and leave.
  • Yoshinoya – although it can be found in our home country (Philippines), this is one of our favorite go-to fast food restaurant in Japan. It’s a good place to fill the tummy especially for a family with picky eaters (kids) and it is reasonably priced too.
  • Sukiya – another fast food restaurant that is abundant in Tokyo. Cheap and will fill your hungry tummy after miles and miles of walking. Quite good but beware because the crew is very lean. Sometimes there’s only one person serving the whole restaurant. Japanese are efficient and there’s no question that they can do it but you’ll also get lost in translation because some of the crew don’t understand english. My daughter complained that she ordered curry but got served with beef bowl. ha!ha! Check out their menu at:ย http://www.sukiya.jp/
Sukiya

Sukiya

  • Hidakaya – a very good and affordable ramen place in Tokyo. Offers smaller size bowls at a cheaper price. They offer gyoza, chicken karaage and fried rice too which is great because my kids are not too keen on eating ramen. Look for this sign and you’re in the right place!ย Their website is:ย http://hidakaya.hiday.co.jp/

Hidakaya

  • Lotteria –ย started out in Japan in 1972 but is more popular in South Korea. The kids love this place and their order is always “the big boneless fried chicken”. It’s an alternative to McDonald’s. My personal favorite is the Shrimp Burger. I just don’t know if they offer it all year round. Again, this place is value for your money. Here’s their website:ย https://www.lotteria.jp/

Lotteria

Aside from these places, one should not miss going to the local market where you can find more places to eat sushi, sashimi and a lot more. In Osaka we went to Kuromon Market. Not only can you eat good food in the market but you can also shop for kimonos, food stuff to bring home etc.

The trip is not complete if we don’t step in at McDonald’s where they served Green Tea shake. It is the kids preference when they get tired eating Japanese food. They also love 7-Eleven, Lawson’s and Family Mart because of the many food choices in these convenience stores.

Another way to find good and cheap food are bento boxes sold in the grocery/supermarkets. When you visit a department store, try to check out the basement where the grocery is usually located. It is where you can find good stuff and where some of the locals buy their meal.

Of course, when you go and explore places you are bound to discover something that will interest your palate. Or there will be recommendations from other food blogs on what and where to eat. Just savor it. Enjoy every moment and don’t be afraid to try new things.

Lastly, when you are in Dotonbori area in Osaka, don’t forget to eat Takoyaki!

In Dotonbori

ย xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo