[RD] Exploring Japan


In pork I trust
Aug 28, 2005
Stamford Bridge
Exploring Japan

In the fall of 2016 I flew to Narita International Airport, near Tokyo. I had a return ticket with me that would take me home about 22 days later. I also had a hotel room booked for 8 nights in a good central location. After that I I did not really know where I would end up.

With me I brought a 2 week long rail pass, which could be activated at any time. The pass gives you access to the majority of trains running between Japanese cities, as well as a decent amount of regional lines, and even some subway lines.

This thread will be an attempt to summarize everything of note that I saw and ate during those 22 days.

The Index

Day 1 Arrival in Tokyo and Pork Shogayaki
Day 2 Shinjuku | Tonkatsu Ochazuke | Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden | Greenhouse | Hanazono Jinja Shrine | Robot Restaurant | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | Ramen
Day 3 Tonkatsu | Tokyo National Museum | 2 | Ueno Park | Godzilla Road
Day 4 Yomiuri Giants Baseball | 2 | 3 | Dark Alley Sushi
Day 5 Sumo Wrestling | 2 | Video
Day 6 Sensō-ji Temple | Video | Tokyo Skytree | 2 | Videos | Kinshi Park | Akihabara Electric Town | Video | Yakitori | Omoide Yokocho Video
Day 7 Okonomiyaki | Tokyo Tower | 2 | Mario Kart | Zōjō-ji Temple | Shibuya Crossing
Day 8 Tsukiji Fish Market | 2 | Video | Sashimi | Imperial Palace | 2 | 3 | Time to leave Tokyo
Day 9 The Tōkaidō Shinkansen
Day 10 Fushimi Inari-taisha | 2 | 3 | 4 | Tōfuku-ji | 2 | 3 | Yasaka Shrine | 2 | Japanese hot pot
Day 11 Arashiyama Bamboo Forest | Video | Tenryū-ji Temple | Kameyama Park | Ninna-ji Pagoda | Ryōan-ji Temple | Kinkaku-ji Temple | Shūji | Yuba Ankake Soba | Old locks and new friends
Day 12 Kyoto Imperial Palace | Imperial Palace Garden | Shimogamo Shrine | Issen Yoshoku | Torikizoku
Day 13 Nara | Nara Park | The Deer of Nara | Nandaimon Gate | Tōdai-ji Temple | 2 | Nigatsu-dō | Kasuga-taisha | Time to leave Nara | Mochitsuki Video
Day 14 Train to Kobe | Kobe beef steak | Himeji Castle | 2 | 3 | Goodbye to Himeji
Day 15 Unagi Donburi | Itsukushima island | Itsukushima Shrine | Daiganji Temple | 2 | Tahōtō Pagoda | Daishō-in Temple | 2 | 3 | Pagoda | Okonomiyaki | A-Bomb Dome | 2 | Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum
Day 16 On to Beppu | First Impressions
Day 17 Blood Pond Hell | 2 | Tornado Hell | 2 | White Pond Hell | 2 | Devil's Mountain Hell | 2 | Cooking Pot Hell | 2 | Sea Hell | 2 | 3 | Shaven Monk's Head Hell | Dinner | Mud Bath Onsen
Day 18 Osaka and Curry Rice | First Impressions | Umeda Sky Building | 2 | Dōtonbori | 2
Day 19 Return to Tokyo | Return to Ueno Park | 2 | Gyoza Dumplings | Capsule Hotel
Day 20 Nikkō | Nikkō Tōshō-gū | 2 | 3 | Futarasan jinja | 2 | Taiyuin-byo | Rinnō-ji Treasure House | Omurice
Day 21 Fuji Five Lakes | American Restaurant
Day 22 Yoyogi Park | 2 | Meiji Shrine | Subway Sushi | Tempura
Day 23 Ghibli Museum | Inokashira Park | More Steak Please | Nakano Broadway | Gigi | Golden Gai | More Beef Please


The Pocket WiFi | Nikkō Map | Assorted Videos | Trip Cost Breakdown
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Day 1 - Arrival in Tokyo

The journey to my Tokyo hotel room involved a 2 hour bus ride, 17 hours of flying, 7 hours of sitting and waiting around at airports, an hour on a train, and several hours navigating the city. Along the way I stopped at the Narita airport post office, where I picked up my pocket wifi. This device would allow me to remain connected to the internet at all times during my trip.

Unfortunately I chose to not activate this device until later and had to deal with Tokyo's subway system all on my own.

I ended up getting a bit disoriented at the mess that is Shinjuku station. It is the world's busiest train station and is connected to several subway lines. There is a vast underground complex to navigate through, and I had not yet activated my pocket wifi.. so I ended up getting a bit lost. It was also raining outside, and by that point it was dark out, so I tried to find an exit as close to my hotel as possible. In the end I bought an umbrella and walked out into the rain. It was a lot easier to orient myself this way, and 20 or so minutes later I was in my hotel room.. over 4 hours after my plane had touched down.

I got settled, activated the pocket wifi, and went out to look for something to eat. I remembered seeing many restaurants in the vast underground complex that was Shinjuku station.. I walked in that direction and took the first stairs leading underground that I saw. This was not yet Shinjuku station, but there were already restaurants down there, other stores, and tunnels leading in different directions. I walked around a bit and settled on a restaurant that was selling grilled pork on rice.

I believe the dish I ate was Pork Shogayaki, although that is usually a bit thinner, so consider that a guess. The menu you can see in the short video mentions Shogayaki on the cover and I remember getting something that was popular... so I'd say that's a good guess

Pork ShogaYaki is the 2nd most popular way to eat pork in Japan. The pork is grilled and braised in ginger, soy sauce, and mirin. I liked it so much I ended up ordering two bowls.

After this it was time to head back to my room and try to sleep off some of the jet lag
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Neato. I like your travelogue threads. This one's even better because I spent almost all of June (and a bit of July) 2018 in Japan, so I've probably been to a lot of the same places.

I agree Shinjuku Station was a confusing mess. It sparked a fight with my then-girlfriend (who I was traveling with) :thumbsdown:
I would recommend eating "Funazushi" its a local fish delicacy and important culinary experience must try
:yumyum: Please youtube video

Less climbing more eating !
I should have unpacked my pocket wifi on the train I was taking from Narita International Airport into Tokyo proper.. It was really easy to set up, just turn it on and connect to it using the password provided.. and that's it! It would have really helped me navigate the city better and I would have probably ended up at my hotel a little bit sooner. Instead I chose to research the route I would need to take and made a note of the subway line I needed to get on to get to Shinjuku station.. That part was pretty easy actually, but I did not anticipate Shinjuku station to be so insane. I figured I would just arrive at the subway station and the rest would be easy, but.. nope, that was actually the most complicated part

Shinjuku station has over 200 exits. There also don't appear to exist any full-scale maps of the station, since 4 different companies run different parts of the station (from what I've read). The best image I've been able to find that sort of shows you the craziness of the place is a handdrawn one, with all the writing in Japanese: Slightly oversized image

The station is a vast underground maze that is connected by tunnels to arcades, restaurants, other subway stations, and other underground complexes.. It doesn't really seem to end anywhere or start anywhere, once you're underground you can just walk in different directions. I don't think the above image really shows you all of that, only the train station part, and possibly some of the subways
I had fun in Shinjuku Station, but I wasn't trying to get anywhere in particular, I was just wandering. I wish somebody'd told me to try shogayaki. I was traveling alone, I don't speak Japanese, and I didn't know anything about Japanese cuisine past sushi, so I got through non-sushi meals by just pointing at something.
Day 2 - First Impressions of Shinjuku

Shinjuku is a major economic, administrative, and transit hub of Tokyo. It's a busy place with many options for shopping, eating, drinking, and late night shenanigans.

The Shinjuku ward actually has the status equivalent of a city, with its own mayor and local elections.

I spent the morning casually walking around and exploring the area. I was still pretty jetlagged, so on this first full day in the country I was content to take it a bit easy.

If you're wondering why there's all these short videos.. It's because 99% of the media I brought back with me was recorded using my phone. And for a while I had that "live" mode turned on by accident, which records 3 seconds of sound and video to go along with the picture. So I figured I might as well mix it up and post some of that as well
Day 2 - Tonkatsu Ochazuke

For my first lunch in Japan I decided to eat some Tonkatsu Ochazuke. To explain this dish.. all you need to know is that tonkatsu is a breaded deep-fried pork cutlet, and ochazuke is green tea poured over rice.

My first problem was that I could not find the restaurant where google maps told me the address should be. I looked around and nothing... until I eventually saw a small elevator.. Inside I was greeted with my options

The presented options did not help me in the slightest, but nevertheless soon enough I was in the restaurant ordering my very first lunch in Japan!

I read this page so many times before actually doing any of that...

I was sitting right by a window from which I had a great view of this part of Shinjuku. Across the street were TVs showing some sort of anime.

Unfortunately I can't tell you much about the unique flavours of this dish.. but I remember all breaded pork in Japan tasting incredible. So you can assume that part to be true
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^ small tip for ordering food from ticket machines, if your not sure what the Japanese words are. instead of hitting random buttons the top left is the most popular restaurant dish and any within the top row will mean delicious food. Too late for Egon
Stop wasting time at Shinjuku and head to Akihabara :p

Also the rice in Japan is really good.
Yeah, I only spent a bit of time in Shinjuku. This was my first full day in the country (back in 2016) so I decided to not take the subway anywhere and just explore within walking distance of my hotel as a way to take it easy and to help with getting over the jetlag

I did end up in Akihabara later on in my trip
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Day 2 - Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden

When you look at a map of the area around Shinjuku station, the first thing you notice is a large green space just to the south-east. This is the Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. This land was given to a Daimyō (a Japanese feudal lord) in 1772, who built a residence and a garden here. Over the years it went through several changes: it was turned into an agricultural centre, then into a botanical garden, it was destroyed in WW2, then rebuilt, and it is now an imperial garden (gyoen) and a national park.

The garden blends French Formal, English Landscape, and traditional Japanese styles. Every single part of the park is beautifully maintained to a very high standard

It was a treat to walk through this little green wonderland. You can almost forget that you're right in the middle of the world's most populated urban area.

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This was supposed to end up in the above post, but got lost in the mix.

As you can tell my phone is not always the best equipment for such photography.. but if the scene is cool enough, I will share the photo anyway

By the way, I figured out what the above picture is of. What you are looking at are the knees of a tree. I'm not kidding! You can read more about it here.
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Pleasant photos, Warpus!
Did you try the squid on a stick - apparently there's a quail egg inside the head! :yeah:

Spoiler :

(It's as treif as can be, but I suppose I can experience it vicariously.)
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Hanazono Jinja Shrine

On my walk to an event I had booked the previous night I came across a Shinto shrine

The shrine is dedicated to Inari, the androgynous god of fertility and worldly success. It is popular with businessmen, although I don't think I saw anyone in a suit
Day 2 - Robot Restaurant

It's not easy to describe exactly what Robot Restaurant is, so I won't even try.. It's not really a restaurant, although you can order stuff to eat and drink

A friendly robot plays some tunes before the show begins

I was in the front row, although there weren't that many rows

At first I wasn't sure if this thing was a good idea.. it's sort of tacky and touristy.. but as the show began I realized that it was basically exactly what I needed at the time. I was my first full day in the country, I was jetlagged, and I just needed to sit back and enjoy some sort of a show. And this one had robots
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Robot Restaurant (Continued)

It was time for a short break! A crew came out to install something required for the next part of the show

You might be tempted to think that this was just done for theatrics.. But a lot of people who go there hold up their cameras and phones.. and at times there are large constructs in the arena swinging around and doing other stuff. The fence is there so that everybody knows how far it's safe to put out your arms. They design their creations to not go beyond the fence
I spent a half a year in Tokyo in 2014 and their gyosa is the only thing worth subilmation
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