JAPAN 2017 | Naoshima: Benesse Art Site

Breakfast on a Shinkansen

Benesse Art Site is a collaborative project by Benesse Holdings, Inc and Fukutake Foundations, and aims to be a space where nature, art and architecture are able to interact, creating an unique experience depending on the time of the year you visit, and the time of day you see each art piece.

Today’s agenda is short and sweet – to spend a day on one of three islands that forms the Benesse Art Site – Naoshima.

You would definitely benefit from spending the night on the island, having a lot more time to explore, but unfortunately I couldn’t fit it into the trip this time round.

So knowing that it takes just under four hours to get to Naoshima, I got up nice and early, and got on the Shinkansen after making a short stop at 7/11, which ended up being where I picked up all of my meals on the day. The trip is outlined in detail on the website of Benesse Art Site, and although time consuming, it was all quite straight forward.

Once you arrive at Naoshima, there is a local bus that you can catch right next to the port. But it is much easier to rent a bike and ride around the island to get to the various art projects and museums. Unfortunately for me, someone who somehow never managed to learn that skill, I had to use the bus. And then next thing you know, I somehow got off at the wrong bus stop, and the next bus wasn’t going to come for an hour, so I decided to just walk around and see what I could find.

There are definitely worse places to get lost in than Naoshima though. Everywhere you turned, there was something worth stopping for, and I actually really enjoyed just taking my time and soaking up the serenity of the island.

A couple of hours later, I made my way to Chichu Art Museum, one of the most immersive museums I’ve visited to date. The architecture by Tadao Ando really compliments the limited number of art pieces that are in the museum, and the fact that the museum is built underground really lends itself to take on the changes in the weather throughout the season. It really is something that I think you have to experience to appreciate fully.

Yayoi Kasuma’s signature pumpkin was another one of my favourites on the island. Deceptively simple yet stunning in person, especially against nature as a backdrop.

I really enjoyed taking things slow and having a somewhat unplanned day in Naoshima. There was a lot to see and explore on the island, and I’m definitely going to plan an overnight stay next time! I managed to get back to Kyoto just after 12am, and was excited for my last day in Kyoto!

Spending Tracker

Ferry ticket: 540JPY ~ 6.7AUD
Breakfast from 7/11: 840JPY ~ 10.4AUD
Lunch and pens from 7/11: 1525JPY ~ 18.8AUD
Chichu Art Museum ticket: 2040JPY ~ 25.2AUD
Souvenirs from Chichu Art Museum: 1020JPY ~ 12.6AUD
Shinkansen bento box: 940JPY ~ 11.6AUD
Snack from 7/11: 400JPY ~ 4.9AUD
Total: 7305JPY ~ 90.2AUD

JAPAN 2017 | Kyoto: Kinkaku-ji; Kiyomizu-dera

After a quick meal at a tonkatsu restaurant near Shin-Fukushima Station, I caught a shinkansen to Kyoto!

Breakfast

Classic Tonkatsu Set

Although this was a chain restaurant, the tonkatsu were quite tender, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was also unlimited rice, which were delicious in itself, with each grain separated, just the way I like them. I may or may not have had three bowls of rice, which was actually great planning on my part, considering that I didn’t eat my next proper meal until around 9pm.

Kinkakuji

The Kyoto Shinkansen station was located in the middle of my hostel and Kinkakuji, so instead of heading to my hostel first to drop off my backpack, I decided to go straight to Kinkakuji to save some time.

Kinkakuji is probably one of the most iconic temples in Japan, known for its gold leaf covered exterior. The temple was definitely stunning in person, but it was also kind of hilarious as to how many people gathered by the lake to get some identical snaps, myself included.

Regardless, it was quite serene walking around the different areas in the temple. Located near the exit was where you could grab some omamori, which were basically little charms that are said to bring luck. I don’t necessarily believe in it having those powers, but they were very cute, and made for great gifts for family and friends back home, especially given their size. Some people went crazy over them though, buying up to 20!

Kiyomizu-dera

My hostel was located by Kamo River, and was only a short walk to Kiyomezu-dera, there was plenty to see on the walk too.

The architecture of the temple is stunning, with great amount of details throughout. I’m not an architecture buff by any means, but I was left in awe by various parts of the temple.

The hillside location meant that you could get a great view of the city of Kyoto. I was there during the golden hour, and the view left me speechless.

Another popular souvenir in Kyoto is the Melabranche matcha white chocolate biscuits. I wasn’t planning to go out of my way to buy them, but they were actually on the road that leads directly to Kiyomizu-dera, so I bit the bullet and bought a box on my walk back. And let me tell you, although pricey, they were so good! It was truly a struggle to save some to take home.

Dinner

A bowl of warm ramen was exactly what I needed after that walk, and I went into the first ramen restaurant that I spotted. Piled high with green onion, this went down a treat.

The river looks even more serene at night time, and I had an early night, in preparation of a day trip to Naoshima the next day, exciting times ahead.

Spending Tracker

Tonkatsu: 630JPY ~ 7.8AUD
Juice: 110JPY ~ 1.3AUD
Public transport: 690JPY ~ 8.2AUD
Kinkaku-ji ticket: 400JPY ~ 4.9AUD
Omamori from Kinkaku-ji: 600JPY ~ 7.4AUD
Taiyaji: 150JPY ~ 1.9AUD
Kiyomizu-dera ticket: 400JPY ~ 4.9AUD
Omamori from Kiyomizu-dera x3: 1400JPY ~ 17.3AUD
Malabranche biscuits: 1390JPY ~ 16AUD
Sakura Kit Kat and matcha lollies: 513JPY ~ 6.3AUD
Postcard: 110JPY ~ 1.4AUD
Ramen: 800JPY ~ 9.9AUD

Total: 7193JPY ~ 87.3AUD

JAPAN 2017 | Osaka: Lucky Owl Cafe; Dotonburi

Excuse the long pause between the travel posts, they take a lot longer to write and law school’s already catching up with me! Anyway, let’s continue on my first day in Osaka. After spending a couple of hours at Kuromon Ichiba Market, I made my way to Lucky Owl Cafe!

Lucky Owl Cafe

All sorts of weird cafes can be found in Japan, maid, robot, alpaca, just to name a few, but I picked owl cafe to go to, because, well, owls!

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

It took me a while to find Lucky Owl Cafe, because it moved location sometime last year, but only the old location was shown on Google map. After finally finding it however, the owls made it all worth it.

You had to buy one drink, and there was a time limit of one hour. The waiter there was extremely helpful, and explained to me where each owl came from, how they look after them, and just some more random owl facts, which I’m all for.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
The full lineup!

The owls were mostly quite friendly, and you can pet them on the beak! The hour flew by and it was time for me to say goodbye to the owls.

Before heading into Lucky Owl Cafe, I was quite concerned about the way that the owls may be treated in these types of places, however I was very happy to learn that they are cared for by the people at the cafe, and enjoy their limited time with people everyday.

Dotonburi

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Lucky Owl Cafe was on a side street in the busy neighbourhood of Dotonburi, aka where all the iconic neon lights, bridges, alleyways filled with restaurants and shops are found. I took my time and walked around pretty much aimlessly. These are honestly some of my best memories in Osaka, absorbing the energy of the city and enjoying being part of the hustle and bustle.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

I spent ages in Loft, a lifestyle store with a focus on stationery, which I bought plenty of haha. It was in the same building as Muji, and the things at Muji were comparatively cheaper than back home, so I finally bit the bullet and bought the aroma diffuser, something that I’ve had my eyes on for a while! I went into another drugstore as well, hunting down some more things on my list.

Dinner

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset
Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset
Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

For dinner, I settled on a yakitori bar that I stumbled upon. It was very cozy and the food was decent. Although each skewer on its own doesn’t seem like much, it certainly did fill me up.

I got back to the hostel at around 11, and was knackered, but also so excited for the next  day because it was going to be Universal Studio time!

Spending Tracker

Drugstore: 5004JPY ~ 62.8AUD
Owl cafe: 1500JPY ~ 18AUD
Socks: 432JPY ~ 5.3AUD
Forever 21: 949JPY ~ 11.7AUD
Muji: 10047JPY ~ 125.1AUD
Loft: 2790JPY ~ 32.8AUD

Total: 20722JPY ~ 255.7AUD

JAPAN 2017 | Tokyo: Tsukiji Fish Market; Asakusa; Shinjuku

Tsukiji Fish Market

First things first, we decided to have a sushi breakfast (!!) at Sushisei, my friend said it had great reviews, and the line outside proved its popularity. The wait wasn’t all that long though, and we were seated at the sushi bar, definitely the best seat in the house imo.

I went for the Omasake set, and seriously, best sushi I have ever had. The freshness and the quality of the seafood was unbeatable, and one of the reason of why I love sushi so much is that although undeniably decadent, it’s still very light, leaving you feel satisfied, but never overly full after meal (unless you choose to have 10 plates at a sushi train restaurant of course, which I did later down in the trip).

The chef prepared the food with such precision, and was extremely friendly, he was telling us about Japanese alcohol, and after hearing that I have never tried plum wine, he even offered me some to try!

Sushisei
4-13-9 Tsukiji, Chuo 104-0045, Tokyo Prefecture
+81 3 3541-7720

Processed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Omakase

Processed with VSCO with hb1 preset

Chirashi

After the best breakfast I’ve had in a long time, we strolled around the market, there was plenty of fresh sashimi if you are still feeling peckish, and a large range of fresh produce for locals to purchase. Dried food also seemed quite popular, there were black beans, kelp, teeny tiny crabs (!) amongst other things. Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb2 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb1 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

Asakusa

We headed off to Asakusa next, and if you want a good bird’s eyes view of the area, including Tokyo Skytree, then definitely head up to the top floor of the information centre!Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with g3 preset

Processed with VSCO with a5 preset

The street that leads towards Senso-ji was filled with shops that sells snacks, drinks, crackers, and other bits and bobs, and I had a great time browsing/eating my way through it. One thing to take note is that in Japan, even street food is eaten in an orderly manner, and by that I mean once you’ve bought something, you have to eat it within the proximity of the stall, and throw away whatever rubbish you have in the bins provided.
Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset

Senso-ji sat at the end of the main street, and it was packed full of people! My friend and I decided to try out the omikujis, and both of us got the great curse, which meant we had to tie them up to leave the bad luck behind!

We took a side street to walk back to the station, and I spotted a melonpan shop, and oh my goodness they were AMAZING!!! It’s kind of like a turned up version of a pineapple bun, where the exterior is super crispy, and the inside was soft and chewy, it may not sound that great on paper but trust me, it was amazing. I got it with cream inside but I’d advise against it, the cream kind of overpowered the subtle sweetness of the bun itself.

Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb2 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with a6 preset

Shinjuku

Just to get some shopping out of the way, we headed off to Shinjuku, and of course, we went to Zara aka my happy place. I feel like Zara in Asia is so much cheaper in comparison to Australia, and I really had to put my self-control into test in order to only pick up a few things.

After some more shopping and browsing around, we had dinner at Marumo, a restaurant that was in the food court level of the shopping centre we were in. I got the hamburger on rice, what I imagine to be Maruko’s favourite meal (man I miss that cartoon), and yup, ended the day in food coma.Processed with VSCO with a6 presetProcessed with VSCO with hb2 preset

Spending Tracker

Sushisei: 2500JPY ~ 31AUD
Sweet black beans: 700JPY ~ 8.6AUD
Daifuku w/ strawberry: 300JPY ~ 3.7AUD
Omasake: 110JPY ~ 1.4AUD
Agemanju: 140JPY ~ 1.7AUD
Melonpan: 350JPY ~ 4.3AUD
Grilled scallops: 600JPY ~ 7.4AUD
Crackers: 1800JPY ~ 22AUD
Zara: 4870JPY ~ 60AUD
Uniqlo: 2145JPY ~ 26AUD
Marumo: 1480JPY ~ 18AUD

Total: 14995JPY ~ 184.1AUD

JAPAN 2017 | 9D9N itinerary

At the beginning of January, I went on a three weeks trip to Japan and Korea, having been to neither countries before, I was extremely excited!

Over the course of the three weeks, I took an obscene number of photos (naturally), and I thought long and hard about how I should document my experience, and I’ve finally decided to first, start off with a brief overview of my entire itinerary, and then go into details about each day in separate posts. Unlike my previous travel posts where I separated things that I did and food that I ate, they’ll be mashed up into daily posts this time round, just because, well, I think it makes more sense that way. I will also include a spending tracker after each post, and I’ll be working out a more detailed log, basically summarising what I spent my money on, and how much I think is reasonable when travelling in Japan and Korea.

A few things to note before I start, I went during the middle of Winter, I was on my own most of the time, and I wasn’t really on a budget, but I didn’t splurge either. There will be some additional posts that address tips when travelling around these two countries, best way to get around Japan, and things like that and how much money I actually spent (yes I was super OCD and recorded everything down).

Okay enough rambling, here’s my itinerary for the nine days I spent in Japan!

Day 1: arrive in Tokyo; having dinner with a friend in Tofuro, Ginza

Day 2: Tokyo: Tsukiji Market; Asakusa; Shinjuku

Day 3: Tokyo: University of Tokyo; catch the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Yokohama;
Yohohama: Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum; catch the Shinkansen from Yokohama to Osaka

Day 4 part 1: Osaka: Osaka Castle; Kuromon Ichiba Market

Day 4 part 2: Osaka: Owl Cafe; Dotonbori

Day 5: Osaka: Universal Studios Japan

Day 6: Catch the Shinkansen from Osaka to Kyoto;
Kyoto: Kinkakuji; Kiyomizu-dera

Day 7: Get from Kyoto to Naoshima (took a few trains and ferries, hence ‘get’ instead of catch the Shinkansen, if only);
Naoshima: Benesse Art Site Naoshima

Day 8: Kyoto: Fushimi Inari Taisha; Arashiyama; Nishiki Market; Kichi Kichi Omurice; catch the Shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo

Day 9: Tokyo: Shibuya; Shinjuku; Harajuku; spend the night in Narita Airport (yay)