This guide is from our first trip back in 2012, you can better take a look at our always updated guide of Japan here:
The title in fact is a little redundant, as Japan is all in a whole the best thing ever. Yes, we are a little biased but, well, you’ve got the idea :)
Nevertheless, we thought as we have let ourselves go with so many posts about Japan (maybe too many?) it would be great to have one last post to highlight our favorite things and give our (humble) recommendations for good places to eat, shop and visit.
Our honeymoon trip was 15 day total, 13 real days in Japan as the first and last were mostly spent flying back and forward (Barcelona and Tokyo are, unfortunately, 20 something hours away). We divided the trip spending the first 5 days in Tokyo (visiting also Nikko), 2 days in Ainokura, 5 days in Kyoto (visiting from there Nara), and the last 3 in Tokyo again. Here you can find our posts of all the locations:
There are lot of useful things to know before going there:
- Buy your Japan Rail Pass ahead in a local office in your city. If you take a Shinkansen and an Express the Rail Pass is already paid off.
- You can plan all your routes in Japan using the Hyperdia website. Trains are extremely punctual, so you do not really need to know how to read any sign, just get off the train at that exact time :)
- Reservations for long distance trains are made in the JR offices in the most important stops. If you have not reserved beforehand, you can use the non-reserved seat wagons. We used both methods, and in autumn there were almost always free seats everywhere.
- Japanese find tips very rude, so do not put them on that position. Once a taxi cab driver mistakenly thought we were giving him a tip and it was a really awkward moment because he was so ashamed for us! (whoops!)
- Water and green tea is usually a compliment in your meals, and we did not see Japanese people drinking sodas during lunch or dinner.
- Food is quite cheap and incredible good; you will both save and have a happy belly during the whole trip :)
- Eating sushi in a convey belt was quite a surprise for us, here in Barcelona convey belts are “all you can eat” type of restaurants, and not the place we go to eat sushi. The quality in convey belts is so great, and we had the chance to eat several types of toro! :)
- We knew very little Japanese, and used mostly the following words all the time: ohayo (good morning), arigatou gozaimasu (thank you very much), ni (two), ichi (one), mizu (still water), oishii (delicious!), sumimasen (sorry), hai (yes), konnichiwa (hello!), kawaii (cute!) and okaike onegaishimasu (bill please?). All of them combined :P
- Bowing in front of people is usual everywhere, like in shops, restaurants and so on…, let yourself go with it!. We arrived here bowing all the time to people, which caused some strange looks in Barcelona :)
And now, quick go and see our highlights of the honeymoon on the left side! And tell us which one is your favorite! :)
Here are the highlights of our honeymoon! bittersweet as this would be the last Japan post for a while (fingers crossed we visit the country again soon)
We have selected only unpublished photos, you will find more (and maybe better :P) pictures of every place featured here in each one of the posts of the Japan series.
We love Ramen. Although it is certainly a comfort food, it must be one of our favorites treats of the Japanese cuisine. The first day at Tokyo, with 25 non-sleeping hours we left the bags in the hotel and had to find someplace to eat. In front of the hotel we saw a red lantern (Albert had told us that it normally was a sign that the restaurant could be a Ramen place) and a couple of office workers going down its stairs. We did not think it twice, went down with them and said “ni” :)
The restaurant was very nice, small and cozy. We saw how they drained the homemade noodles using a wood strainer directly onto the kitchen’s floor. We saw that the cooks were wearing yellow rain boots, which pop out! It was an amazing first impression :) We loved the ramen so much that we went twice. Sadly we can’t remember its name but we have found the entrance in google street view!
Harajuku restaurants and shops
HEIROKU SUSHI: There are lots of nice restaurants in the Harajuku area, but one of those that we loved most was this kaiten sushi in Omotesando-dori. We had this recommendation from Danny Choo’s blog and it did not disappoint at all, not a small bit. Fresh sushi, very affordable places and a nice place.
Dani loves unagi, its a hard contender in his heart for toro sushi.
This was Damaris favorite plate, two varieties of toro and a salmon piece. Oh! how we miss the Heiroku!
KIDDYLAND: We have already rambled a lot about kiddyland in the Harajuku post, but of course we had to include it in our highlights. An amazing 5-floor toy store where you can find everything about Rilakkuma, Hello Kitty, Snoopy, Miffy and lots of other amazing dolls. We read that you are not supposed to take any pictures inside the stores, so we just “stole” some images with our phones, which unfortunately do not show its amaziness.
I fell in love (still not recovered yet) of every clothes store in Harajuku. Do not miss WONDER ROCKET, the underground floors of LAFORET galleries with its Lolita galore and in Omotesando street just in front of LaForet, a vintage store called CHICAGO, where Dani got his own students’ jacket (the buttons have the school badge, so rad, right?).
Shimokitazawa restaurants & shops
You know how we loved Shimokitazawa neighborhood in Tokyo.
There are lots of cool second-hand stores in Shimokita, I bought a golden brass bow in one of them, and also a couple of cat tea cups. One of the most crazy stores in Shimokita is VILLAGE VANGUARD, a bookstore where you can buy almost everything that you can imagine :) We bought there Doraemon bath salts as a souvenir for a certain favorite couple of ours :)
We had the best of lucks finding the Tan Tan restaurant in Shimokita. It is owned by the most beautiful couple which were very excited to have tourists for the first time, they couldn’t be sweetest. We ate a curry rice menu (I do not think I will ever eat a finest one) and a grilled meat menu. It is difficult to find English information about the restaurant. But you can try to translate this one, and we have located たんたん in google maps!
One of the best things of Shimokita are its second hand and homeware stores, do not forget to visit SOU, with its scrapping material and homeware goodness.
snacks & street stalls
Our snacks video can be a little hint of how we became obsessed with Japanese snacks, so of course they are featured as one of the highlights of our honeymoon in that mesmerizing country.
Around the temples there are usually some food stalls, which are a must. It does not matter if you are hungry or not, you must try it, because sometimes you will not find that specific one anywhere else. This one was in Asakusa. Remember to eat all the street food in the designated areas and not while walking!
Destiny prepared Ainokura for us :) Our first intention was to visit Shirakawago but we ended booking a room in one of Ainokura’s minshukus. If you have also the same idea, please consider Ainokura, we promise it worths the change!
Wandering the town all by ourselves was priceless.
My “has stopped raining” celebration dance :)
Mume Hotel at Kyoto
We have already shared our love for the Mume hotel, but we can’t restrain ourselves to share another breakfast image, hahaha
Kyoto is the most beautiful at night, since the first evening we fell in love with the city
Izakaya restaurants are a must when you visit Kyoto. Manzara and Yorozu Enraku, were beyond amazing.
A part from an extensive menu they also have seasonal dishes written in a blackboard. Several ingredients or even cold dishes are displayed on the counter where the cooks take them for their preparations.
Tori no karaage with ponzu sauce
At night it was easier to identify which where Geishas’ tea houses. We came back one morning to take a picture of this one where we saw from that window a Geisha playing a shamisen for her customers.
HIRO: If you go to Japan, and even more if you are around the Kobe area, and love meat (vegetarians and vegans will maybe have a hard time choosing what to eat here) there is a must: a yakiniku restaurant. Before the meat combined special plate that we already showed, they brought us some veggies to grill with a delicious anchovy sauce.
This is a so very general highlight, but it is hard to choose a favorite temple; the serene beauty of the buddhist ones or the colorful orange Shintoist? :)
Maybe NIKKO is the most special?, its forest surroundings are amazing.
And what about the GOLDEN PAVILLION with its reflection in the water? You can’t visit it inside, but that does not diminish its beauty.
He is even a beauty in b&w, right?
Or maybe the peaceful FUSHIMI INARI is the one more close to our hearts? It truly is one of a kind with the thousands of toriis guiding you along the mountain.
Views from the Conrad hotel
After 10 days of visiting and travelling the country we relaxed ourselves for a couple of days in the CONRAD TOKYO HOTEL, more honeymoon-ish? :) The views from our room left us speechless.
This is the last picture we took on the day we were leaving to Barcelona, and it will be also the last one closing the series of posts about our honeymoon in Japan. You can tell from our faces that we were already missing the country.
We would like to thank everyone following our adventures in Japan, it has been amazing to read all your comments! We hope you like our highlights and please leave yours in the comments sections to add new places and experiences to our wishlist, we will not miss them in our next visit to Japan (a girl can dream, right? well, and a boy, hahaha)
p.s: Next stop of our travelling posts, US West Coast, yippee!! :)