First Week in Japan! 🍯
Experiences, Food, Culture, Photos, Videos
Ariella and I went to Japan for our honey moon. We heard so many stories about Japan and wanted to experience the different culture firsthand. How did it go? This is a short summary of our first week — food, experiences, cultural differences and what we learned.
First stop: Tokyo 🧳
When we arrived at Tokyo, our luggage did not. This prepared us well for the rest of the trip — Japan has a luggage delivery service, so instead of having to carry your luggage when travelling between different cities, they will ship it for you to the next destination.
The only downside is that you usually have to send your luggage one day in advance, but given the tuna-can sized rooms in the larger city, this can also serve as an advantage. Well, enough with luggage — we went to tour Tokyo, and found one of the many “Taito Station” shops, which are big crane machine and video games playground.
Beating the Machine 🥇
Ariella quickly found out the only machine that was relatively easy to win, and after spending just 300¥ (roughly 3$), managed to figure out the algorithm for winning:
She got a cute Sumikko Gurashi cat (Neko) doll. We spent the rest of the evening wandering the streets of Asakusa, Tokyo’s oldest Geisha district, and looking for unusual things:
Eventually, we ended up eating some at some Conveyor belt sushi restaurant:
The next day, we went to Shinjuku ward to visit Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The garden itself was very calm and relaxing, and they had a greenhouse with some gorgeous flowers:
Gigantic Robots 🤖
Following a friend recommendation, we went to a place called “Robot Restaurant”, where we hoped to find some dinner served to us by robot. What we got instead was very surprising — a crazy show of human beings riding gigantic robots, dancing and fighting to loud music:
This was definitely a fun and weird thing to do. And despite the “restaurant” in the name, this place had no real food, just some snacks to munch while watching the crazy show.
The TeamLab Projection Experience 🌻
EPSON teamLab Borderless is a big Interactive Digital Installation —it is a large digital art museum, with rooms full of projects artwork, interactive LED-light exhibitions (such as a climb wall), and many many mirrors. As a Maker, I felt like this is a great opportunity to get some inspiration!
We stood in line for 45 minutes to get in, but the time in line went really fast as we found 3 local students and chatted with them for a while, and even took a selfie together:
The projection exhibition is indeed very nice and inspiring, though, we felt like the museum was too crowded to fully enjoy the experience.
After leaving the museum, we wanted to treat ourselves with Japanese fluffy pancakes. We got into a small coffee shop, and was surprised to learn from the waiter that every person must order something. Apparently, this is a very common thing in Japan, but you can easily get away with ordering some drink.
On our way back to the train station, we randomly found a really nice exhibition of vintage cars in Megaweb Toyota:
Green Gyoza in Shibuya 🍴
We spent our next day in Shibuya, though, it was too crowded and busy for me. We did find some very tasty Wasabi Gyoza in some hidden restaurant:
Overall, we learned so far the hidden restaurants are the best. We find them by looking for highly-rated spots nearby using Google Maps.
We concluded our visit in Tokyo by watching the Japanese classic “My Neighbor Totoro”.
Hiroshima City — 広島市
We arrived at Hiroshima’s main train station, and were trying to figure out how to get to the hotel. Some random Japanese man noticed that we looked a bit confused, so he spent a few minutes helping us to find our way. After he made sure we understood everything, he thanked us for letting him help us, and looked for something in his bag. Then he pulled this:
After checking-in at our hostel, we went straight to try a traditional dish called Okonomiyaki. The name means “what you like, fried”, and it is basically loads of shredded cabbage mixed with noodles, eggs and a variety of other ingredients, depending on the specific restaurant. We had ours topped with cheese:
It was tasty indeed! 😋
Face Masks 😷
When you first come to Japan, it is really hard to miss the fact everyone on the street is wearing a face mask. The reasons aren’t strictly health related — since they became popular, some wear them to keep their face warm, to avoid having to put on make-up and a lipstick before going out, or just as a barrier to reduce communication with other people.
By our first night at Hiroshima, Ariella has already adapted the local costume:
Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum 🕊
The next morning we went to the Peace Memorial museum, where they tell the story of the atomic bombing. The experience was intense and very educational. The museum leads you through the timeline of events, which reminded us the Yad Vashem museum.
The exhibition starts with the life in Hiroshima before the bombing, and the events that led to the development of the bomb. Then, you see the many disastrous effects of the bomb — both instantaneous and long-term, and the after-bomb life and recovery of the city. You can see many interesting artifacts that were affected by the bomb, including clothes and glass jars that were molten and joined together due to the extreme air temperatures.
We spent the afternoon in Hiroshima castle, changing the atmosphere to something more relaxing. Unfortunately, most museums and shops in Japan don’t let you take photos (seems like they are unaware of how people find attractions through Instagram and Google Maps nowadays), but there is one spot where you can put on traditional costume and take photos:
Surprise Eggs 🥚
The park inside the castle area was full of human-sized eggs that seemed very familiar:
We quickly learnt that teamLab has just opened a new exhibition in Hiroshima, so we decided to come back to the park in the evening to see what it looks like. It was so magical!
They also had another exhibitions where they projected animated historical figures on the wall of the one of the castles. They handed out papers with outlines of the figures, you could color them with crayons, scan them and they would suddenly come to life on the wall, with the texture you painted for them:
Unfortunately, we were a minute too late to find out about this wall, and they have just ceased to hand out the papers. So we didn’t get to add our own figure to the wall, but we really loved the concept anyway.
Miyajima, which means “Shrine Island”, is a small island to the southwest of Hiroshima. We took a speed boat from Hiroshima city center, which takes about 45 minutes and gives you a great view of the city:
Apart from shrines, the island is full of wild deer, which wander freely in the streets and the surrounding parks. They are not so friendly though — one of them stole our map and started chewing it!
The Torii Gate
We went on to visit the famous “floating” Torii Gate. When the tide is high, the gate appear as if it is floating on the water:
A few hours later, just before the sun set, the tide was low and we could walk nearly up to the gate, as most of the water was gone:
We concluded the day by hanging out in a VR bar called “VREX”. I have experienced VR before (and even gave a few talks about it), but this was my first time doing a group-VR. They had a room with HTC-Vive setup, were you could play various group games — we went for a pillow fight.
Before the game started, we took a virtual Segway ride. We stood on a small vibrating platform, and together with powerful fans we had a pretty realistic experience of riding in a virtual racing track. Then we moved on to the pillow fight game, which ended up being a fun experience and also a pretty good workout. We are definitely looking forward to play some more VR games when we get back to Tokyo!
Our first week in Japan was full of new experiences, we learned a lot about the Japanese culture — and even the merits of using Japanese toilets. 🚽
We still have 5 more weeks for our journey, and very much looking forward to experience more of Japan!
Part 2: Osaka, A Tech Meetup, 360 Camera, and Koyasan Buddhist Temple
Part 3: A Week in Kyoto