Tokyo Video: December 2019

A few weeks ago I compiled some of my video clips from our last trip to Japan (December 2019) into a 30 minute video. It’s a chronological mashup of many of the sights and sounds that we experienced on our trip, which took place mainly in Tokyo this time.

I hope that you will enjoy this video, which features dancing, singing, a Pokemon cafe, some cute dogs, amazing food, Sailor Scouts, robots, cram-packed stores, shrines and temples, kawaii monster girls, karaoke, mochi-pounding, snakes, and much more.

And even after my second trip to Japan, I am again dreaming of my return. Someday! ❤

If you’d like to see the videos from our last trip to Japan (2017) in which we traveled more broadly, check out this post.

Or, if you would like to read the detailed day-by-day blogs from our trips, they start here (2017) and here (2019).

Thanks for stopping by!

Tokyo Memories, Day 17: Last-chance Shopping in Akiba, and Sailor Moon Shining Dinner Theater! Plus Day 17.5 (departure day)

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or, start with day 1 here!)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 17, December 30th, 2019

Our last full day, and what a day! Early in the morning I set out for Akihabara which was PACKED with muggles people- maybe because there was a big Comiket this past weekend? Anyone who travelled to go to Comiket would surely want to visit Akiba, too, so it would make sense. I went to Radio Kaikan to check out the dolls and doll supplies on the 7th floor. I bought the parts to make a partner for the gothic doll I created from my last trip in 2017!

After braving the full-to-bursting Radio Kaikan, I got conveyor sushi at Aburi again and also checked out the Aki-Oka Artisan area, which was fancy and had a cool vibe.

Then, I headed to AzabuJuuban to meet up with Dustin and go to the Sailor Moon Shining Princess dinner theatre show! We walked around a bit until our reservation at 6:30. We got seats right in front! The resturaunt is very cute, with costumes on display and an upstairs room with ADORABLE merch (totally overpriced, but adorable…). The Sailor Moon jewelry is stunning, but $$$$$! We did get to keep our Sailor Moon dinner plates and drink coasters, though!

Anyhoo, we got our drinks (Dustin: Sailor Mercury blue alcopop. Me: luna latte) and our food (Dustin: Usagi’s Omelette. Me: Sailor Jupiter’s Pasta).

Our food and drinks were pretty good… however, like the Robot Resturaunt, nobody is really going for the food… it’s the show!

***Spoilers of the Dinner Show- Scroll to the video to skip!***

The show started with Luna on screen telling us that the Negaverse is up to no good >.< Each Sailor Scout got their own battle sequence, and lots of effects were used, like lazers, shadow screens, smoke, and so on.

At one point (During Rei’s fire sequence) I suddenly started crying!? I guess the Moon Prism Power of nostalgia washed over me. Today being our last day also probably had something to do with it… lots of pent up emotion.

The plot continued- the Sailor Scouts defeated the evil, except for Usagi, who slept through the entire thing! So, now that Tokyo is safe, the scouts show us the sights of Tokyo, and they basically visited all of the places we visited on this trip, so of course my tears kept flowing… for Harajuku there were jfashion dancers, and Asakusa was “festival time” so the Scouts got drums and other percussion instruments and played them on stage.

Then, Luna comes back and says “Oh no! A dark force is here and *gasp* it’s even stronger than before! Strong enough to destroy Tokyo– or even the entire WORLD! And so of course the Scouts come together to banish it.

One of the best parts was when Tuxedo Mask was overtaken by the baddies- they encapsulated him in a green lazer cage and he fell to the ground. When he rose he was under their spell and tried to attack Sailor Moon, slapping and choking her, slashing her down. She collapsed, and all of the other Scouts were down around her too, just like the end of the first arc of the series, she heard their voices and it inspired her to come back, and it was a happily ever after.

Then Luna announced a mini-show would start and that we could now take pictures and video- I got some great shots, and the entire theme song dance routine!

Then the Scouts and Tuxedo Mask walked around each table, waving and posing for pics.

I really enjoyed it, and Dustin said he liked it too! ❤

Day 17.5, December 31st, 2019

Today I write in black like my deep, dark soul! Oh, tormented with dismay at this tragic day.

Jk. We had a wonderful trip. ❤ Today we packed and checked out, and loaded our luggage onto the Airport Limo Bus. We are now crammed onto our first plane and wishing we could just conk out and wake up at home… or back in Tokyo! Seriously excited to see the doggos, and Dad.

Today before we left I did manage to visit a cool store called Stellaworth- somehow I hadn’t ever gone there before, but it was mentioned in the Otome Guide pamphlet I found at Sunshine City.

Japan, I love you. Rest assured, I will be back some day. Count on me. ❤

-Shauna

Tokyo Memories, Day 14: Yanaka Ginza, Ameyoko, and Kindness at Nippori Textile Street

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or start with day 1 here!)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 14, December 27th, 2019

Today we checked out Yanaka Ginza and enjoyed a bit of street food: yakitori and croquettes, mmm. I got a couple of personal hanko stamps made, too!

My hanko!

Then we went to Ameyoko, where I got blissfully lost in the giant Yamashiroya toy store. The Ameyoko walk was so crowded that we were pretty much swept up in the wave, but we did manage to dip into a restaurant for some hamburger omurice and melon soda floats.

I also visited Nippori Textile Street today (well, first I got lost and ended up in a quiet and beautiful cemetery).

Textile street has so much lovely fabric, lace, jewelry-making items, embroidered patches, etc., it’s overwhelming! I got a few bits and bobs, but it was getting late.

I was expecting warm weather, but with gale wind and the evening chill I was actually quite cold, and moreso just annoyed at all of the whispered well-meaning “Samuii! Gaijin samuii!!?? (isn’t that foreigner cold!?!) I was getting again, so when I spotted some shawl-sweaters on sale outside a shop I tried one on and promptly went to buy it.

Cute, and also on sale for a really good price! ❤

When the staff member went to bag it I said “Oh, no please, I’ll wear it out… it’s a little cold…” Suddenly, as if they had just wholly noticed my existence, she and the two other women in the shop (a customer and another staff) began fawning over me and tut-tutting, touching my open-lace sleeves and remarking things like “ehhhh! samuii!!!!” getting me to step into the sweater and rubbing it over my arms. One of the staff reached behind the counter and grabbed an instant-heat patch, exclaiming “Heat! Ok?!” I nodded and thanked her many times as she lifted my new shawl-sweater up with a “Hen, ne!? Gomen!” or something like that, meaning something along the lines of “sorry for being weird lifting up your shirt like this!” and she stuck the patch on my back. To be honest, I didn’t really feel much heat coming from it, but the gesture warmed my heart more than I can say.

They asked me where I was from and how I could stand the cold so much, and when I said Canada they “aaaahh”ed knowingly. They bowed to me as I left and saw me out the door. ❤

Lastly I swooped through Uniqlo on my way back to the hotel, finding a few quirky printed shirts, and got some laundry done again (no easy feat when everyone is waiting for a dryer >.<)

I waited in a big line for these amazing cheese tarts at Ikebukuro station as well ❤

Check out day 15, Karaoke With Strangers & Taemin in Yokohama, here!

Tokyo Memories, Day 12: Christmas Cruise To Odaiba

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or, start with day 1 here!)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 12, December 25th, 2019

Merry Christmas! Though, for our family and friends in Canada, it’s still Christmas Eve. We got up early this morning and took the trains to Asakusa. There, we arrived at the pier and got some frozen yogurt and drinks while we waited for our boat to arrive.

Our ride to Odaiba, the Hotaluna, was designed by Leiji Matsumoto, who we know most affectionately from Interstella 5555! Hotaluna has a very spaceship-like feel, and was a nice change of pace from the many trains.

We could see the ferris wheel, Fuji TV, Rainbow Bridge, and other landmarks from the boat. When we landed in Odaiba, we headed out right away for Teamlabs Borderless Digital Arts Museum. It’s a good thing we did, because later in the day we saw a MASSIVE lineup stretching down the street– we barely had to wait. 🙂

The lights museum was very cool, with various surfaces, rooms, and structures to explore. Some spots had interactive aspects, like creatures you could “squish” under your feet (illusions of light), and one room had people colouring in pages of Santa, reindeer, and cars, then scanning them and seeing their artworks come to life on the wall. LED lightstrips, lasers, beams, spotlights, mirrors, shadows- these and more were used for various effects. Lots of people trying to get the perfect selfie!

Hungry, we then wandered Venus Fort, a huge mall with an artificial sky, for lunch–we decided on yakiniku at a place called Toraji, which had wagyu beef on the menu. MAN, we had a great lunch. Bit on the expensive side o.o

Dustin then went to the Aquacity Cinema to see the new Star Wars movie, but I had heard of some old-fashioned candy stores and a retro arcade in DECKS, so I went off on my own in search of those. I saw some cool things in Aquacity and Decks: an entire store dedicated to the Nissin Chick, a large Godzilla statue, lots of couples fawning over eachother, and some unusual gatcha machines. One of them stole my 500 yen T-T I just wanted a giant pill bug! I found 3 different retro candy stores, and definitely got a bunch of new candies and snacks to try.

We used the free bus service to get around Odaiba, and when we were done we went back to the trains and stopped at 7&I on the way back to the hotel. I picked out some more snacks, sweets, and hot foods to try. The corn dogs, buns, and croquettes are so good!

Turn on the sound to hear Dustin waxing poetic about Star Wars, and me shocking myself when the condiment packet suddenly flings out of my hand XD

Check out day 13, Traditional and Whimsical Shopping in Tokyo, here!

Tokyo Memories Day 9: Harajuku Fashion Walk, Shopping, Snakes, and Rainy Ramen

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or start with day 1 here)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 9, December 22nd, 2019

This morning Dustin and I went up to the 3rd floor breakfast area and indulged in some very yummy omurice together. Then we went back to Harajuku and walked the gorgeous path to Meiji shrine. ❤ I got some delicious mitarashi dango on my way out.

I participated in the Harajuku Fashion Walk, which was a cool experience! I met a lot of other people done up in different styles, everything from colourful decora, frilly lolita, Christmas inspired, to intense gothic.

I wore my own designs which I had printed onto fabric: a skull lino print on my tights, cute 90’s illustration toy dress, and a silky scarf covered in a digital illustration of my own lips and tongue. I ended up buying a sweater later from an artist at Design Festa to complete my look (and it was rainy so I was starting to get chilly!) The girl who I bought the sweater from gave me an Umaibo stick and wished me a Merry Christmas ❤

FASHION. F-F-F-F-F-F-FASHION.

The fashion walk stopped at several locations to get group pictures. We got a lot of stares! We made a very eclectic bunch for sure. We also saw some people on motorcycles dressed in Christmas & Santa costumes.

After the walk I booted it to Tokyu Plaza since it was raining hard and I needed an umbrella. I settled on a black parasol-type umbrella from Lips & Hips.

Then I checked out Laforet, where I got a couple of cute things at the Sailor Moon store, and also visited a couple of REALLY cool fashion shops with street-fashion, lolita, mod, and more. I got a really awesome hoodie with a pissed-off looking teddy-bear on it who’s about to eat a cupcake(?) and it says YUMMY. The man who sold it to me had a very cool Jrock style. The store was called WRouge.

I finally had a chance to visit the famously strange and colourful 6% DokiDoki store, with its huge decorated bear at the entrance; I just got a sticker and a couple of pins, and snapped a few pics!

Next, I found my way to the Snake Center, where I enjoyed a delicious Kuromitsu (?) latte and held 4 different snakes, including a huge ball python named Jagger! Such good, cute snakes T-T I love them.

The last thing I did before trudging back to the hotel in my wet socks and shoes was to wait in a 30min lineup in the pouring rain for Ichiren Ramen. It was worth it though! You get your own tiny booth and stool, and order with a ticket: perfect for introverts or those who are feeling overstimulated! I drank every last drop of the delicious umami broth, which warmed me up and gave me the strength to get home in the windy chill.

Tomorrow is my tebori (handpoke) tattoo with Horimitsu! Excited!

Check out day 10, Tebori Handpoke Tattoo With Horimitsu, here!

Tokyo Memories Day 8: Seeing Friends, Matcha Cafe, Anpan, and Vampire Rose

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or, start with day 1 here)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 8, December 21st, 2019

Another busy day! My morning got off to a rough start, as I was going to explore Ikebukuro a bit more but I suddenly developed severe heartburn while browsing doujinshi at Mandarake. I guess eating pudding and Christmas Cake for breakfast wasn’t the best idea?…

So, I booked it to a pharmacy, feeling worse by the minute, and managed to ask for heartburn medication. After taking it back to the hotel and using it, I curled up in a pathetic, sweaty heap on my bed.

It worked though! After healing up for a couple of hours, I headed out to Kagurazaka to meet up with Maika and Marie at Saryo Matcha Cafe. I got a bit lost (when don’t I?) but eventually found them, and after waiting outside for about 30 minutes (popular spot!) we got in.

We had so much to talk about- it was so nice to see them again. We got on really well (though Maikasan was terrified of my new spider tattoo!) and I got a delicious matcha latte, as well as my first ever anmitsu (AMAZING!). Maika gave me some chopstick rests that she made herself with leftover pottery clay ❤ so nice!

Marie and I, in awe of the lovely anmitsu ❤

Maika had to go, so Marie and I left for Ginza to meet up with Ritsu at the Vampire Cafe (Dustin didn’t feel up to dealing with vampires tonight…). Marie told me that she and Ritsu got married! I had no idea! AND they are expecting a baby! Wow! ❤

We had some time before our late reservation (8:30) so we went to Kimuraya and got anpan buns- I just ate mine now and HOLY! THEY ARE SO GOOD!

We met up with Ritsu at the Vampire Cafe, where we had various dishes to share, like roast beef, pizza, potato fries, and salad, but of course each of them had creepy names like “slave feed”, “sacrificial meat”, etc. It’s the Vampire cafe, after all!

Cutting Rose’s Love Letter Pizza.

I finally gave Rose-Sama the folder full of artwork I made for him. I was so nervous and stammered and looked down, but Marie said that he smiled and complimented my art, and proposed we take a picture together again. This time we took our picture in the hallway with the red blood cells on the floor casting an eerie glow up at us.

Earl Rose has me in his spell…

Such a fun night. It can be lonely as a foreigner in Japan, so it was very nice to meet up with some friends ❤

I came back to the hotel so late that I was locked out of the Sunshine City building and had to ask a security guard how I could get into my hotel (I had to walk all the way around the complex to access a separate hotel entrance o.o)

Check out day 9, Harajuku Fashion Walk, Shopping, Snakes, and Rainy Ramen, here!

Tokyo Memories Day 5: Pigs and Kawaii Monster Girls!

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or, start with day 1 here)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 5, December 18th, 2019

Today I remember Jonghyun, with love.

Today we got up extra early because I had made us an ultra-important reservation: the MiPig cafe in Harajuku!

We got to Harajuku early and first bought some eye wash and drops- my eye has been red and irritated the last couple days 😦 Then we sat at the tiny cafe at the entrance to Meiji Jingu (beautiful) and I got a tasty ice cream.

The MiPig cafe was even better than I’d hoped for. We booked an enclosed space, and the staff brought us 2 little pigs for our 1hr visit. Both of them almost immediately climbed into my lap and snuggled right into me! They were so sweet, gentle, and snuggly. Their names were Stella and Maple. We got a couple of tiny cakes and cafe au lait, but the pigs were truly the star of the show, dozing off in my lap. Amazing.

After MiPig, we high-tailed it to the Kawaii Monster Cafe, where we enjoyed wonka-esque colourful decor, fanciful foods, and a Kawaii Monster Girl performance. I got a picture with the girls afterward and they complimented my gel nails! ❤

I finished my Christmas shopping for Mom and Chy in Sunshine City, and then visited my old haunt the BL Gakuen Cafe where I met a kind British girl named Jasmine. We chatted for quite a while!

Edit: Day 6, Asaka Hagoita Festival and… Visiting a Host Club!? here!

Tokyo Memories- Day 4: Akiba Fun and Meeting Pikachu!

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or, start with day 1, here)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 4, December 17th, 2019

Today Dusty and I wandered Akihabara together, stopping at Maach Ecute (fancy o.o), Mandarake, Animate, & Kotobukiya. I had some really tasty taiyaki (bacon & egg, and premium cream) from Kurikoan, and later on we went to Akiba Ichi’s UDX Resturaunt area where we had delicious conveyor- belt sushi at Aburi.

I had a reservation for the two of us for the Pokemon Cafe near Tokyo Station, but Dustin was walked-out, so I went on a solo journey to Pokemon Center DX.

Farewell Dustin my love!
We could see eachother across the station platform XD

I bought some xmas gifts for Dustin and also the softest, fluffiest Pikachu stuffie! The cashier told me “please take care of Pikachu” in English.

Pika pika!

At 6, I entered the cafe, which is ADORABLE- cute Pokemon displays everywhere, themed food, and best of all a BIG PIKACHU WHO WALKS AROUND AND POSES AND DANCES AND SHAKES HANDS omg it was so cute when his ears wiggled!

Pikachu… what have I done? I’m so sorry T-T
When I shook Pikachu’s hand. Omg starstruck XD

As I was leaving the Pokemon cafe and waiting in line to pay, I noticed a cute little boy playing with my bag strap. He was looking at me and smiling. When I got back to the hotel I realized he had put his collectable Pokemon Cafe coaster in my bag! 😮

Each day I think my feet couldn’t hurt more, but then I crawl back to the hotel and night and prove myself wrong. Owwww… so much walking >.<

And so, I must now rest.

Check out day 5, Pigs and Kawaii Monster Girls, here!

Tokyo Memories- Day 3: Two Tattoos, MewTwo, And Nintendo, Too

A month ago Dustin and I began our trip in Tokyo! So, as with our last trip, I’ve decided to copy out each day of my travel journal into my blog. Each day for the next 18 days I will share a post of what we did in Tokyo a month prior.

So, let’s get into it! (Or, start with day 1 here)

From Shauna’s Journal

Day 3, December 16th, 2019

I’m freaking exhausted but I need to get this incredible day down on paper before I go to bed! Today was tattoo day at Studio Muscat, so I headed out to the train station early to find the place (amidst some major construction in Shibuya). The train ride from Ikebukuro to Shibuya (around 7:50-8:20ish?) was INTENSE. I now know what it’s like to be squeezed into the train. I had never experienced it before, not even during our entire trip in 2017, but this was legit cram-packed. I had strangers intimately squished against me from every angle, and we moved and swayed as one big wave of humans. Something about it was sort of beautiful- everyone just stayed still and quiet and carried on with their routine despite having their nose pressed against a stranger’s armpit. The pressure against me from all angles reminded me of how a mother swaddles her baby- I was swaddled with and by humanity today.

So finally I made it to Studio Muscat and had wonderful sessions with Haruka (my tattoo of a cat resting on a traditional ball bell toy w. ribbon) and Eiji (my tattoo of a nephilia clavata spider). Both were very kind and professional, and thanked me for the cards I wrote them and the maple candies I brought them from Canada. I also chatted with some American tourists who came in to inquire about tattoos. 🙂

Catching Pokemon inside the studio as I wait for my appointment…

At some points I was cursing myself WHO’S IDEA WAS IT TO GET TWO TATTOOS IN THE SAME DAY?! (mine) as it was painful at times getting all stages of both tattoos done in one day with no numbing (the highlights of Haruka’s tattoo hurt like a BIIITCH) but I’m glad I got them done!

After my tattoos I visited the next-door cafe “Reism Stand” because I had the tattoo-shakes and needed to eat something. I got a hot cafe latte and some amazing, thick French Toast with apple and cinnamon.

Next, I headed to Shibuya to meet up with Dustin. I briefly perused Village Vanguard (a claustrophobic cavern of novelties and trinkets) and then checked out the Punyus in Shibuya 109 where I could actually find clothes that fit me!

Dusty and I headed to the brand new Parco building and had a lot of fun exploring the new Pokemon store– huge glass tank with MewTwo suspended inside! Poke-nostalgia! The store also features a new graffiti art theme.

The Capcom and Shonen Jump stores were pretty cool, too.

We waited in line for about 30 minutes (a line that extended down a winding stairwell!) so that we could browse the extremely popular new Nintendo Store! I went to the one in New York years ago (2007?ish?) on my choir trip for High School, but this one is apparently the first one in Japan! I spent a significant amount of money there o.o

Lastly, we explored the basement level which is full of unique and quirky resturaunts and cafes. We stopped at Tyffonium Cafe, a whimsical spot with a sort of steampunk-circus vibe. The cafe uses AR cards for augmented reality that can be displayed on your table using a tablet. Each parfait you order comes with a different AR card (which you get to keep!) that gives you a different visual show, each seeming to be based on/tie-ins to particular video games. I chose the “Tarot” parfait, and it was so strange and wonderful! It had a gummy ball, clear and round on top, and an umbrella of gelatin which draped over the parfait. I love textures, so it was FUN to eat!

My Tarot parfait
Dustin’s parfait

Check out day 4, Akiba Fun and Meeting Pikachu, here!

Why Japan? Motivations of a Traveler

From the time I began saving up my pennies and planning my first trip to Japan (Oct 2017), I’ve gotten 3 particular types of responses from my friends and family:

  1. OMG JAPAN!? FJKEANJACMJNDKFNJAKENLK TAKE ME WITH YOU
  2. Japan? Wow that’s gonna be an amazing trip for you!
  3. Why Japan?

What kind of reaction do you have when thinking of yourself or someone else traveling to Japan? This blog post is aimed more toward questions of the latter sort: those who don’t understand the origins of the intense enthusiasm that many non-Japanese travelers have for Japan, especially Tokyo.

As I am returning to Japan soon with my hubby (Christmas in Tokyo!) I’m getting more of these reactions from people again, including a new question:

4. Why Japan again? Didn’t you just go there? Why not go somewhere else?

and so I’ve been thinking that sharing my thoughts about vacationing in Japan would be an awesome blog post.

Streets of Ikebukuro during daytime.

A quick note: this post reflects my personal experiences and feelings as a foreign tourist in Japan based mainly upon one previous visit. I have not traveled around the entirety of the country, and I know that from region to region cultures, dialects, cuisines and customs vary widely among Japanese people. While I am very interested in Japan and enjoy reading Japanese literature, news, and so on, I am certainly not an expert on Japanese culture. Also, as a visitor on holiday in Japan I explore the country in a privileged way that is surely very different than how Japanese citizens experience living there day to day in a variety of ways.


It’s complex for me to explain on the spot why I love visiting Japan so much because there are so many factors at play- it’s certainly not just about anime and manga! Although, since that’s what comes to mind for many people, I guess I’ll start there…

Why Japan?

Anime & Manga Culture

The explosion of translated manga and anime into North America has found a very enthusiastic audience, resulting in a lot of new foreign tourists flocking to Japan to be closer to the source of their interests. Manga, which is the Japanese word for “comic”, is a format that presents stories of any genre and style, but which also often has uniquely Japanese humour, references, and settings throughout. Anime, similarly, is Japanese animation, often based on manga series. Both anime and manga are formats that are used to tell stories for every age and interest, so anime and manga fans are similarly diverse.

Rumiko Takahashi’s InuYasha is one of my favorite manga and anime series.

Anime and manga culture extends from comics and animated shows into video games, visual art, music, and many other aspects of life. Specialized museums in Japan focus on the history and impact of manga and anime, and I greatly enjoyed visiting the whimsical Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.

Some popular manga and anime series even become scripted theatre/musical shows, or will have fan events with voice actors, pop-up cafes with themed food and drink, and so on.

A couple of pages from my Japan journal, featuring a few anime characters!

These niche interests are catered to avidly in the big cities of Japan, and pretty much not catered to at all in Canada aside from a sprinkling of yearly conventions, so it means that I am very excited about immersing myself in otaku hotspots like Akihabara and Ikebukuro!

Amazing Food And Desserts

I love sushi– sashimi, nigiri, maki, give it all to me! But Japan has a lot more than sushi to offer. Wherever you go you will surely find delicious meals of all kinds.

If you aren’t a picky eater, you will face tough decisions – not what to eat, but what not to eat, because you will want to try so many things! The distinct and savoury taste of umami was discovered by a Japanese scientist, and there are ample opportunities to experience this “fifth taste” while in Japan.

Japan is big on local and seasonal food, so every prefecture will surely have something special and delicious to offer any time of the year. Street food is also something to look for, and there are many different kinds to stumble across during festivals or in certain areas such as the walking paths toward some shrines and temples.

You’ll also want to leave room for dessert, though, because Japan serves up some seriously impressive treats: from traditional wagashi sweets to overloaded parfaits, gourmet chocolate, shaved ice confections, matcha ice cream, and taiyaki. You can’t go wrong.

Even the convenience stores in Japan are leaps ahead of the ones you’ll find in Canada, stocked with really tasty foods made daily.

These sandwiches are soft, delicious, and addictive.

Each Prefecture Is Beautiful In Its Own Unique Way

For this upcoming trip, we will be staying in Tokyo pretty much the entire time. However, on our last visit we did some bullet-train trips to other prefectures, and I found myself in the most gorgeous places I’ve ever been. These are the sorts of places that make you want to soak every scene into your mind forever because you honestly can’t believe the beauty of what surrounds you. Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka, Gunma, Hyougo: each offers its own distinct charms.

Thinking back on my trip always gives me so many lovely memories of winding roads, crowded streets, temples, shrines, parks, quiet pathways, and scenic bridges. We didn’t even make it off the main island of Honshu, but from north-most Hokkaido to Okinawa in the south, Japan offers everything from snowy skiing to sandy beaches. Japan changes a lot with the turning of the seasons, so I know I will always have reasons to return!

The prefectures of Japan also celebrate different festivals, and specialize in unique types of impressive handicrafts, so there is so much to see and do wherever you might go.

Dancers in Ikebukuro
Autumn festival in Kinosaki.

Kawaii Everything

Anybody who knows me knows I am a sucker for cute things– especially animals and stuffed toys. Japan offers 100% more cuteness than Canada: informational signage, manhole coverings, kitchen tools, stationary, anything is a candidate for being kawaiified. The arcades in Tokyo have claw machines with quality items you ACTUALLY wanna win! Dollar stores and grocery stores offer items with adorable packaging and products, and many traditional handicrafts are also quite cute.

Prefectures and cities have their own mascots, most of which are super cute. I fell in love with Gunma-chan!

Gunma-chan.

Of course not everything is cute in Japan, but it’s certainly a lot easier to find cute versions of everyday things like stationary, dishes, and decorations– at least that’s what I’ve found in shopping destinations in the big cities particularly.

Hospitality

Aside from sleeping over at my grandparents’ or aunts’ house, I’ve never felt more taken care of than when staying at a ryokan (traditional inn).

We stayed in 3 ryokan on our last trip: Takaragawa Osenkaku in Minakami Gunma, Mikunia in Kinosaki Hyougo, and Sawanoya in Ueno Tokyo. Each was a lovely, relaxing experience.

The gleaming floors of Takaragawa Osenkaku.

Ryokan offer rooms and facilities with traditional touches, and provide yukata robes for visitors to wear during their stay. They are often located in scenic areas that are a joy to peruse.

Locations near hotsprings are often peppered with ryokan, as a special feature of many ryokan is their indoor and/or outdoor onsen bathing facilities fed with geothermally heated springs. Visitors always thoroughly wash and rinse their body from head to toe first, then enter the water and soak for as long as they wish. Traditionally onsen are communal, but some ryokan also offer private onsen that can be reserved. When a ryokan doesn’t have hotspring access, you can still soak in a deep ofuro bathtub.

Imagine tucking in to an elaborate kaiseki meal with hot green tea in a dining hall or brought straight to your room, then soaking in the ofuro or onsen and returning to your room to find cozy futon bedding spread out on the tatami mats for you.

Tokyo: Big City Life Done Right

Here are a few ways that I think Tokyo does city living right:

  • Public transportation is easy, cheap, and hella reliable
  • The streets generally feel very safe, even at night (this is due to a variety of reasons, but gun control is also very strict in Japan)
Streets of Ikebukuro at night
  • Shopping in Tokyo is amazing, whether you’re interested in quirky knickknacks, fashion, name brands, anything really. Certain areas cater to particular interests:

    – Jimbocho is the “book district” where you can find many shops selling used and rare books
    – Shimokitazawa is a great place to explore stores selling gently-used vintage clothes
    -Shin Okubo is Tokyo’s Koreatown where you can find Korean resturaunts, kpop merch, and some excellent skincare stores
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    – Ginza is a luxury district where name brands and expensive high-end shops are clustered
    – Akihabara is known as the centre of all things geeky, and Ikebukuro features similar sorts of shops, but with more focus on targeting geeky women’s interests
    – Shinjuku Ni Chome is known as Tokyo’s Gay district, with many LGBTQ+ friendly businesses, bars, and dance clubs

    These are just a few examples- there’s much more to explore!
  • Even in huge cityscapes like Tokyo, you will find peaceful sanctuaries and green spaces like parks, temple grounds, and so on.
  • While Japan has room for improvement with regards to equitable access and opportunities for people with disabilities, it is great to see yellow tactile ground surface indicators throughout big cities which help to direct visually impaired people situate themselves while out and about.
Yellow tactile ground surface indicators
  • Theme cafes can be found all over Tokyo, and they are really fun! I enjoy that even as an adult I can immerse myself in a playful fantasy for a while. Maid Cafes are the most famous, but there are also cafes based on game and anime series, Sanrio and San-x characters, and special themes such as the Vampire Resturaunt in Ginza.
With Vampire Rose in Ginza.

And so…

I could continue to wax poetic about Japan endlessly, but I will close here by simply saying that if you’re thinking about Japan as a potential travel destination I highly recommend it!