Now we are home and utterly miserable, I wanted to write about our Japan honeymoon in an attempt to cheer myself up and hopefully make for some interesting reading!
We had been planning this honeymoon before we had even considered where we were going to get married! Whilst sitting in the departure lounge in March 2015 we made the promise to com back again and see more of this wonderful country, deciding that our honeymoon would be the perfect oppertunity for a swift return!
We left Scotland on the 15th of March and landed in Narita Airport, Tokyo on the morning of the 16th, Japan is approximately 9 hours ahead of UK time so the flight over is hellish! I attempted to combat the jet lag by staying up the previous night so I could sleep during the flight. Now whilst that DID work, the jet lag still caught me and I suffered for a few days afterwards!
We began our stay in a hotel we are both very fond of – a small hostel called Sakura Hotel in Ikebukuro. This part of Tokyo is very dear to us, this send time around it felt so familiar and that was somewhat comforting! Its a quite place by day but in the evenings its comes alive with its bars, restaurants and entertainment establishments. We fell madly in love with this area on our first visit in 2015 that we knew we would again base ourselves there when we came back!
Ikebukuro also provides a great ‘central’ location for travelling in and around Tokyo – the mighty JR rail is the perfect way to get from different districts quickly. If you ever decide to go to Japan I recommend that you grab yourself a JR Railpass. Whilst you might think that is a lot for a rail pass for a few weeks, believe me, you will save yourself a small fortune! We used several Shinkansen (bullet train) to get from major cities and each time we would have paid around £70 each per ticket, so once you factor those in and multiple trains inner city, well it pays itself off! Not all places accept the pass and sometimes you need to get the subway, but its not painful on the wallet.
We would get up, have a small breakfast and head off for the day’s adventure, heading to Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, Asakusa and Nakano Broadway. We visited the Sensoji shrine, somewhere I have wanted to visit ever since I was a little girl. Admittedly, I got a little teary eyed once we got there, I had only seen this beautiful temple in pictures and here I was, finally standing outside of it!
We really wanted to check out the Tokyo Skytree so taking advantage of the beautiful sunny day, we headed on foot rather than take a train. I loved walking through the little residential streets, I love how well the Japanese people make best use of suck little space – I am now hopelessly in love with front door gardens!
Once in, we grabbed some tickets to take us up to the top of the tower, the elevators took us up 350m in just 50 seconds!! The view was incredible, though the humidity did hamper a bit of the skyline view we didn’t really mind! I did have a wobbly knee moment when I attempted to look onto the glass floor and was all NOPE and backed off! I turned around and there was a Japanese lady doing exactly the same! We looked at each other and laughed, language barriers mean nothing when it comes to fear! We even had some cheesy pictures taken, because its not a honeymoon without some cheesy pictures!
Another place we visited that made my inner little Carly happy was Sanrio Puroland aka – HELLO KITTY LAND!! If you know me, I am ever so slightly mental about Hello Kitty! The last time we visited I stupidly bailed out on going – we had been to Universal Studio Japan in Osaka a few days before and it was CRAZY busy with the school holidays and I couldn’t face it! And I regretted it ever since! So we made sure to go (they even gave us entry discount for being a couple, how cute is that?!) so there was no way I was missing out this time!
We headed to Tama Centre station where, once you get off the train, has Hello Kitty EVERYWHERE! I went from 36 to 6 years old in 30 seconds flat 😀 One thing the Japanese do exceptionally well, utilise branding!
Its a total money sink and I loved every second of it, all the well known characters were there as well as some of the lesser known ones (especially my favourite MarronCream) and there was merchandise galore, much to the horror of my bank balance 😛 the whole place was filled with happy kids and teenagers and a few (not so) grown ups too, all enjoying the experience. The parade happens every few hours and its great fun!
We grabbed some food from the in house restaurant and surprisingly it was very tasty! I grabbed the Hello Kitty curry and Johnny grabbed the BadzMaru black curry, the urge to TAKE ALL THE THINGS that had Hello Kitty on them was strong! I did however grab a Cinnamoroll vanilla dessert purely for the mini mug 😛
I am really glad I went this time, it made for a fantastic day out and I was grinning like a loony all the way back to the hotel!
We visited Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku and Nakano Broadway for lots and lots of shopping, so much so by the time we hit Kyoto a week later we had to post stuff back to ourselves so we had room in our cases! We knew this would be the case, so we had budgeted!
Johnny booked is back into the Capcom Bar, where he proposed 2 years ago, even managing to get the same seat! They have such a great set up and the staff are all great fun! They loved that Johnny could speak decent standard Japanese (he got praise for both that and his Street Fighter 5 skills, even having people queuing up to play him!) and the food was fantastic as always!
Needless to say, the food in Tokyo was incredible! We had tonkatsu, gyudon, okonomiyaki and more kombini food than I would like to admit to! The food is convenient and delicious! We also discovered Japanese ‘fast food’ – gyudon beef bowls from various chains though we mainly use Yoshinoya and Sukiya. Very cheap and VERY cheerful!
My favourite city in the whole world! We promised to stay here for a bit longer this time and it did not let us down, its much calmer than Tokyo and flawlessly blends traditional with modern Japan together. The friendly people and relaxed night life make a great combination for winding down after a hectic week in Tokyo.
The plum blossoms were starting to bloom, a few days before the cherry blossoms began too. We took the Philosopher’s Path, which was sadly prior to the full bloom time period but was nevertheless a beautiful and enjoyable walk.
The walking was great exercise but you know when you just want to chill out, relax and take in your surroundings for 5 mins? Well I am convinced I found what I think is my internal happy place, externally! We came across a small street cafe, who made us feel welcomed and comfy that I don’t think I will ever forget it! They gave us the best seats, next to a roaring fire (the rain that had been threatening us all day had finally started and we were a little wet), brought us tea and cake. Nothing out of the ordinary but something about the place just made my heart sing! I vowed to come back next time we return!
We ventured to the Manga Museum of Kyoto for a lazy day, reading and watching some of the onsite cosplay shoots take pace. After lunch we wandered back in, when we had our couple portrait made for us! I wish I had got the artist’s name, she was incredible! She captured us in an anime style, I still cannot believe this only took her 20 mins! It will be getting framed ASAP!
We visited Nijo Castle, though our timing was terrible as it was only open for half an hour by the time we sauntered along! So there was a very rushed shuffle around the lower floors of the grounds! But what a beautiful place, I wish we had arrived sooner and on a quieter day as it was swamped with tourists (says the tourist)!
The food in Kyoto was great, we found the place where we first had real (non chain brand) tonkotsu restaurant Tonkotsu Buta Gorilla, from our first visit and it did not disappoint, our memories served us well as to just how great the food it was in there!
And a few doors up was the shooting bar Johnny regretting not going to the first time, just like me and Puroland! Well, I wasn’t about to disappoint him so I agreed to come along and shoot a few rounds with him, something which I have NEVER done before and I must admit, rather enjoyed! Its only BB rounds, otherwise I wouldn’t have done it!
Hit up an old favourite of ours, good old MOS Burger! Their fast food is always so tasty and doesn’t make you feel guilty for eating it! There was a branch not far from our hotel so we made sure to visit it before we left the city.
Again we felt we didn’t get enough time in Kyoto, I didn’t get a change to explore Gion as I had hoped. So next time we are going to base ourselves in Kyoto and stay for longer!
This had to be the most favourite and comfortable journeys ever, a little over 2 hours of beautiful Japanese countryside, which distracted me from my book several times! Also if you are ever going on a train journey that is a fair distance, treat yourself to eki bento – station lunch. Its basically a packed lunch for your trip! The food in the station is delicious, I had a gyudon beef box, you pulled a red string and it inflated, triggering a heat pad under the box! 11 minutes later and I had a piping hot meal!
Its a small coastal town, that thrives o its access to natural spa fountains, allowing for public bath houses to be built! Sadly due to my tattoos I could not experience a public bath but the ryokan (traditional inn) we stayed in had several built into the house so I was fine to use those. And my God, they were heavenly! We stayed at the Morizuya and the service was outstanding. Very friendly and helpful, with beautiful rooms and facilitates.
On arrival, the owner’s son took me to the yukata room, where I could select my outfit for after my bath. They encourage you to join in with the relaxed nature of the town, so a fresh yukata after a bath feels divine! And you really do fit in, all you can hear is the clip-clop of geta sandals walking along! We took our selected yukata to our room and prepared for a bath.
Its a traditional Japanese bath – you clean outside of the bath in the cleaning area with buckets or showers, then once you are clean you can enter the bath. Its purpose is for relaxation and rejuvenation, not cleaning! The baths in the hotel are beautiful, one is built into a small cave and the other is built on the side of the hill. so you are bathing outside! No one can see you as it is all enclosed off, so your privacy is protected. And it is so very relaxing!
I am utterly rotten at dressing myself in yukata, but the wonderful staff were more than happy to help! They come and bring you breakfast, make and store your bed and prepare the room for you. The breakfasts were out of this world, I have to be careful when it comes to Japanese food as I have a nasty allergy to shellfish so anything that has been cooked alongside or mixed into shellfish causes me real problems. But the hotel staff were so understanding of this and adapted my food to make sure I was safe. And I have never had a traditional Japanese breakfast before, so I was very excited! And it was really filling, so much so that I wound up having a nap afterwards!
That evening we took a walk around the town, dressed in our yukata and feeling very relaxed indeed, Kinosaki had worked its magic on us! We tottered along, blending in with the sea of relaxed visitors in yukata, enjoying the warm evening and trying out the local restaurants – beef and apple beer was beyond amazing!
We weren’t the only non-Asian people there but there were not many, especially so when it came to wearing yukata. The hotel staff fell in love with Johnny, referring to him as a Samurai! And he overheard some guys saying ‘gaijin, kakkoii!’ (foreigner cool – literally translated we looked good in our yukata!) so we felt pretty happy!
The following day we were about to head out to the Kinosaki Ropeway when the lady of the house, wearing a traditional kimono, called us over. She ushered us over to her own little house beside the big hotel and invited us in, neither of us knowing what was going on. She took us into the main room, all tatami mats and in the middle, a tea pot on a small inbuilt stove. She asked if he liked macha tea, which we did, and she asked us to sit.
She started performing a traditional tea ceremony and offered us a small piece of mochi to accompany the tea as she chatted to us about our holiday. I could have honestly have burst into tears, I have always wanted to attend one of these but never had the opportunity or knew how to go about it! I think she could tell I was happy, I left with my cheeks hurting from smiling so much! It was such a kind gesture, especially taking time out of her day and inviting us to her own house. I will never forget how sweet she was!
We headed to the rope way, its a gentle climb with a stop in the middle to view the temple there and a bathhouse to visit, and then you can move on to the very top. And the view was outstanding! We went straight to the top and then climbed half way down and waited for the carriage back.
Leaving Kinosaki was hard, we fell in love with the small town and we promised we will return there. It did exactly what it set out to do – relax us. A very welcoming and friendly town that will make you feel amazing!
This was our first time staying in Osaka, we had previously stopped over on a day trip and promised this time we would see the city for real.
Osaka likes to do things BIG! The hotel room was HUGE (and utterly gorgeous), the food was big, the drinks big and the city’s heart was massive ❤ Food was some of the best we have had, their take on okonomiyaki was delicious! We did some shopping, walked through the beautiful and busy Osaka Castle Park and on to the castle itself, which housed a museum inside. Sadly we could not take a lot of photos to protect the items inside but its an amazing collection of old Osaka.
After the castle, we encountered some Japanese primary school children out with their teacher, talking to people to help them improve their English. They asked us our names and where we were from and if we were enjoying Japan. I then asked them in English and Japanese their names! We had photos taken with them and they gave us some origami samurai hats as a thank you for helping them! It was so cute!
We hit up central Osaka and grabbed food and some more shopping, food portions in Osaka as colossal! We found a very small ‘Tekkken Museum’ and the otaku road
We planned to visit some of the JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure bars in Osaka but sadly the weather was against us, we found JoJo’s Bar but when we searched for Bar Iggy we got caught in a rainstorm and abandoned it – next time for sure!
Osaka was over before it began and we had to head back to Tokyo for the final leg of the journey. We vowed to come back though, there is so much of Osaka we didn’t get a chance to see!
Back to Tokyo
We returned to Tokyo for the final leg of the honeymoon, and this is where we made or biggest mistake of the trip. We had originally planned to return to the Sakura Hotel, but when we made the booking, their Ikebukuro branch was full so we opted for the Hatagaya ranch. NEVER EVER DO THIS. The staff are nice enough but the rooms were terrible, it had a horrible unclean feeling to it that left me feeling itchy no matter what. The room smelled damp and was way too small – putting a double bed into a single bed room does NOT make it a double!
Really we should have complained and asked to have been moved but we were so miserable at the thought of going home I didn’t bother. So we made a point of being out of the room as much as possible.
Hatagaya is a nice residential area which was quiet but we didn’t really take to, I think this was mostly down to the hotel being a but of a disaster! There wasn’t much to do there so we made a point of being out in other areas, especially Yoyogi park and the shopping districts. We met up a few times with our friend Andrew who was over for business and Johnny met his language exchange partner for an evening, though I left them to it and stayed in Hatagaya and went for an evening walk before raiding the 7eleven for my dinner!
Coming home was so hard. Not even an exaggeration! Knowing the adventure was over and that we were returning to our normal lives was a body blow, but we had made so many memories and treated ourselves to some amazing goodies that it was hard to stay down for long. Though I did once again burst into tears at the airport, Johnny handed me a Meowth plush I had been eyeing up in Shinkuju so I had something to cheer me up! Plus we had our cats, friends and family – we stopped over in Amsterdam and popped in to see my sister and the kids – so we had that all to look forward to.
It was a wonderful honeymoon that has left me 100% certain that I will continue to visit Japan as often as my bank balance will let me. We were welcomed everywhere we went and left smiling every time. I dearly miss our little kombini jaunts, my amazing ichiban kuji luck and the general happy buzz we felt all the time.
Japan has always treated us so well, its no wonder we keep coming back!
I took a whole load more photos which you are welcome to view over at my Instagram page and I am happy to answer any questions my post may have raised!
I miss you so much, Japan. I will be back soon!