Osaka – on the right

To reach Osaka from Nagoya we had a deluxe ride on the Nozomi (fastest) Shinkansen in a ‘Green Car’ (first class). Sadly, it was also the shortest train journey (at around 45 minutes) we’re likely to have during our first visit to Japan. But having experienced both Green Car and Regular now, I have to say that although Green Car had more space, the difference between the two services did not seem great. Although it was beautifully quiet.

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Green Car example (looking very brown)

On arrival, our location (near subway stations Nishinagahori and Nishiohashi) turned out to be in a fab spot for local craft beer bars. Which of course in the name of research we checked out thoroughly. More about that later.

The cherry blossom around Osaka Castle was fabulous. We decided not to go into the castle itself, as the it’s-close-to-lunchtime lineup was astounding. So we decided to get some bento boxes to enjoy under the trees and then check out Dotombori, Shinsaibashi and Kurumon Market instead.

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Still working on the ‘castle tastefully framed by cherry blossoms’ shot, obviously.
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Don’t admire castles and text at the same time!
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Kuromon Market Fugu. The market would be a great place to have lunch – we had just bento-boxed.
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Kamen Joshi pop/heavy metal darlings, performing at Shinsaibashi
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Some of their adoring fans (who knew all the words and actions)

As for standing on the right – apparently it’s only in Osaka where you stand on the right on escalators. Osakans are different.

 

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Nagoya by bike

Nagoya is not only a good location for day trips to surrounding areas, but a cool town that has a lot to offer. We were able to hire bikes from a drugstore near Nagoya station (just ask at the wonderful info desk inside the railway terminal for details – around $6 for a day’s hire, no bond) which was a great way to see more of the city. By bike we checked out Nagoya Castle, Central Park, Tsurumai Koen Park, the amazing covered shopping streets of Osu, the park behind the Science Museum (Shirakawa) and then back to near Nagoya station to return the bikes and find somewhere for dinner.

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Food trucks at Nagoya Castle
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Sakura at Nagoya Castle
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Yes, Nagoya Castle. Burnt to the ground (almost) in an air raid in 1945, lovingly rebuilt
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Tsurama Park – picnic time
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Window shopping by bike in Osu
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Back of the Science Museum/ Shirakawa Park
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Drugstore to look for for bike rental
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Cycle friendly Nagoya

On a clear day in Tokyo – Tues pt1

Tuesday in Tokyo – the weather forecast was favourable, so we thought we’d take the opportunity afforded by clear skies and head to the Observation Decks in the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Buildings. We were early so went for a coffee (after realising that all the food places in the vicinity are tucked underground) and then joined the short queue for the north observation deck. We could see Mt Fuji!

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Underground walkway to Government Buildings

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Can you see Mt Fuji?
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We went Northside first. Hardly any queue at 9.30 and a much shorter queue than southside when we came down at around 11am

We had plenty of time so thought we’d check out the South viewing deck to compare. On the southside, when the weather is clear you can probably get a better Mt Fuji/mountain range view – but by the time we got there the horizon had become hazy. There is also a very cool gift shop southside which has specialties from each of the Japanese prefectures. Also, once you get back down to the ground floor there is a stationery/book shop next to the Southside lift which has some cool souvenir gifts and some Japan related English language books.

Tokyo time

Some pics from Sunday’s Shinjuku shoppping – it was wet but we still had a fab day.

Our last couple of days temperature-wise have been cold and wet. On Monday we spent the morning in catching up on some planning (aka staying warm and dry), and in the afternoon headed out to Shimokitazawa. It was six degrees and raining when we left – it didn’t warm up much after that, but at least the rain stopped. And the trains have good heating, as do the shops – and the toilet seats (love it!). This area is great for interesting vintage and new clothes/design shops. There was even a decent craft beer bar.

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New fav opshop – I got some 300 yen ($3.50AU) bargains!
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Street art in Shimokitazawa
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Bside design – very cool sticker shop
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staircase
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Ushitora Beer Bar
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We think a Queenslander owns this pub
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Amazing lamb chops for dinner at Es Restaurant, Shimokitazawa

So much to see in Tokyo

A week in Tokyo is going so fast! Over the last couple of days we’ve checked out Ueno Park and surrounds, Shinjuku shopping, and a few of the local craft brew bars.

Ueno Park was in full cherry blossom frenzy, even though there was not much blossom actually out yet. People were picnicking and taking photos and having a good time regardless. A wonderful atmosphere. We detoured to Benten Hall, and on the way there was a kind of flea market and various street food stalls which was interesting viewing. We also stopped in at the Toshogu Shrine and Daibatsu before picking up some street food lunch – on the way to the fabulous Tokyo Museum. So much to see at the park and Museum, but we gave it a good try and enjoyed everything we saw. On the way home, we tried out the Irish Pub ‘World End’ and it’s sister venue, Towa. Towa has Japanese craft beer and soba noodles. I liked both places. World End was a trip back in time – punk music playing and the venue smoky and dark. Towa was much more sophisticated – with the added Tokyo element of trains rumbling over head every 5 minutes or so. We finished off the evening with a walk around some of the Ueno sidestreets. Venturing into some pachinko and slot machine venues was an experience – the volume was incredibly loud with music and machine noise, and the venues were busy, with young/old/male/female playing.

 

Pinch me, I’m inTokyo

I am so excited that after many many years of wanting, I am finally here in Japan. We arrived at Narita Airport and easily caught the Shinjuku Limousine bus into Tokyo (an hour and a bit), then a taxi to our apartment. A quick exploration of the neighbourhood and dinner out at a local ohitzuen diner set us up well for our next day. We decided to take it relatively easy – so started with a late breakfast at a noodle joint (tix paid via machine), then checked out the Japanese Sword Museum. In the afternoon we ventured to Shinjuku Gyoen Park for a walk for our first experience of cherry blossom frenzy, finishing off the day with a craft beer or two at Watering Hole and then Japanese Italian at Buona Vita (established 2016) for dinner. A pretty good day 1.

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Choose your food before you buy your ticket at Fujisoba
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The Sword Museum was a wonderful insight into the importance of these artworks for Japanese culture
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A taste of cherry blossom madness at Shinjuku Gyoen Park
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The greenhouse at the park is well worth a visit
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Cherry blossom with bird
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Strike a cherry blossom pose
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Everything blooming and when