Today we went to the Shibuya district of Tokyo. At Shibuya station is the famous statue of Hachiko. The faithful Akita who met his master every day at the train station and who continued to wait there over 9 years following his passing.

Shibuya is also where the famous scramble crossing is. A crosswalk that connects several points. All directions of traffic are stopped and pedestrians can process to cross in several directions. We crossed there today but pictures don’t do justice. There were millions of people there today, as per usual.

The area is very commercial with high end stores, department stores, arcades, coffee shops and hosts large video boards and lights.

Samurai Museum

Today we visited the Samurai Museum in Shinjuku. It’s about a 15min walk from Shinjuku station. There’s a fee of 1800 yen and they offer frequent tours in English. Our tour guide covered the samurai eras, the gear worn, the differences in gear hierarchy, swords, guns and the tour ended with a demonstration. Overall it was very educational. While the demo at the end showed techniques, it’s presentation was a tad corny. There’s a nice gift shop by the front desk. Here’s a sampling of today’s tour.


While at Remy we saw the subway platform at Gotanda station. Hundreds and hundreds of Japanese workers making their way home. A bit of a glare as I took the pic through the patterned glass of the elevator.


On Friday we explored Remy department store. I’m not usually fond of shopping but Japanese department stores are different and with different products, can be interesting. For starters, Japanese department stores are quite different from western department stores. Here in Japan they’re multi-level often around 8 floors. In a typical layout you will find restaurants on the top floor, housewares on another, women’s clothing on a couple floors, men’s clothing on another, furniture, souvenirs, kids stuff all on their own floors and food on the lower levels. Ground level you may find pre-packaged prepared foods. One floor down desserts and bottom floor will be a supermarket. At Remy the food floors are the Tokyu Store. This is yet another example of where working Japanese puck up their meals on the way home from work. It’s also another great option for picking up affordable food.

There’s also a stretch of bulk fried and grilled foods like yakitori (skewered meats), gyoza (dumplings), counters of various types of noodles, pasta and sandwiches. There’s also a pastry area as well as liquor, beer and non-alcoholic beverages. Prices are all quite cheap. Some areas were too crowded for me to take any pictures but was able to get the sushi area.

We made our way up and did a little souvenir shopping then made our way to the top floor. There are five restaurants to choose from. There were lineups at a couple so we chose another place called Yasaiya-Mei. I chose a seasonal tempura plate. Came with miso soup, salad, some little side dishes, rice cooked with ginger, mushroom, tako (octopus) and carrots. On the side was vegetable tempura with various vegetables cut like match sticks and fried together in a block. Quite delicious.

I know I have covered a lot of food. Reason is that Tokyo has a reputation of being expensive. It doesn’t have to be. I’ve been trying to show how to come to Tokyo and find cheap but good affordable food. Also where to find affordable merchandise. Likewise with items if you shop in touristy areas like Asakusa you will pay more for souvenirs than at local discount stores like Daiso and Miniso. You won’t necessarily find every souvenir you’re looking for but it’s a good place to start.

After lunch we made our way down through the floors to check out the stuff. One floor had the lifestyle store Muji. We have one back home at Square One in Mississauga. But the prices were much lower here. Everything has a price tag containing its cost around the world. It is much cheaper to buy here as the converted amount ended up being about 60% of the Canadian price. I picked up a light jacket as it is warmer here than I anticipated. Luckily I tend to fit into clothes a bit better here and incredibly I’m a L or XL here (S or M at home).

We are just winging it so not sure what our weekend plans are yet but I’ll be sharing whatever we do.

Another Budget Dinner

After enjoying the day at Mount Fuji we were pretty tired and looking for something a little different but still “pick up” style. On our way through Shinagawa train station there’s a big food court. But this food court is not like the kind we Westerners are used to in shopping malls. This type is commonly found here in the basements of department stores. They are vendors selling packaged foods and desserts for commuters to purchase and take home. After looking around we chose a place selling a salmon dinner with rice and vegetables. At 950 yen (approx $10 Cdn) this was great!

Places here, including convenience stores always supply you with any essential cutlery. In this case we each received a hashi (chopstick) and a wet nap. Here, the wet nap is to be used before eating to cleanse your hands prior to your meal. You can use it again afterwards if needed.

We also found a vendor selling some manju and dessert items. I selected a package of these little pancake like sandwiches with red bean paste inside (doriyaki). Also chose three different manju, one with chestnut, another with strawberry and one with dark beans. Manju is a delicious dessert where the outside is pounded rice (mochi) and fill the inside with various items. It’s also coated with corn starch to be able to handle it as it would be pretty sticky. These were nice and soft. The below and a package of about eight small little doriyaki was actually more expensive than our dinners, at 2058 yen (approx $21 Cdn).

Everything here in Japan is packaged so nicely. Oishii desu (it’s delicious)!


Shinkansen is also known as “Bullet train”. It travels at a top speed of 300km/h. Shinkansen do not necessarily stop at every station. Here’s what it looks like when a Shinkansen passes through your train station. Hold on!!

Tour of Mount Fuji and Hakone

Today was a great day. I am typically not a big fan of tours mainly because I don’t like being on someone else’s timetable and agenda. But today’s excursion by Sunrise Tours was excellent! We made our way to the Keio Plaza Hotel where the tour began. Upon arriving we signed in and received our seat numbers and bus assignment. The bus ride from Tokyo to Mount Fuji was approximately two hours. Our tour guide was awesome. He had a good sense of humour and educated us on various topics. He kept us entertained.

Our first stop was at stage 5 level of Mount Fuji which happens to be 2305m above sea level and ten degrees Celsius colder than ground level. The view was spectacular. Here are a few examples.

After spending some time up at stage 5, we then travelled to ground level at Fujikyu Highland which is an amusement park. Our lunch was at a restaurant within the park. The provided lunch was a hot pot set. Was delicious and warmed us up after coming down from stage 5 level.

After lunch, it was the Hakone portion of the tour. It was approximately an hour ride to Hakone. Our bus driver surprised us by stopping in at a look out which would serve as the best view of Mount Fuji. Spectacular!!

We then made our way to the departure point of our 15min cruise on Lake Ashi. It was quite chilly but nice.

The next and last portion of our tour was a gondola ride up Mount Komagatake. It was very cold and windy up there. I believe this was 1300m above sea level. But coming back down we caught some nice views of Mount Fuji with the setting sun shining on it.

We boarded the bus and were issued our Shinkansen tickets back to Tokyo. This was a great day and I highly recommend this tour to anyone visiting or planning to visit the Tokyo area. Mount Fuji is spectacular and breathtaking. This tour took us to all the right places. A few years ago we tried doing this on our own but coming by train, bus, street car and cable car does not get you to these good vantage points.

I have also written an article on this tour for Japan Travel website. Click here for the article.

Visit with Cousin Day

We met up with my cousin and her family today. They live about an hour’s train ride north-west of the metro core of Tokyo. They’re in the boundaries of Tokyo though. Nice part of Tokyo called Nerima.

We enjoyed a nice light lunch at the mall at the train station and then headed back to her house for the afternoon. We then walked to a local sushi restaurant where you order your items using the screen at the table and then it gets delivered on a conveyor belt. Price was very affordable and the quality to be better than many good places back home.

It was a nice sunny day and felt quite warm at 17 degrees today. Just right.

Nerima is a quiet place with lots of greenery. They also have a very convenient 7-Eleven just a couple hundred meters from their home.

Our only problem is jet lag. Around 8pm we get so tired. But at midnight to 1am we wake up and can’t fall back asleep.

Tomorrow will be a good day….Mount Fuji tour day.

Small Spaces

The one thing to remember when traveling to Japan is dealing with smaller spaces. Hotels often get poor reviews here from Western visitors because the rooms are smaller. Yes, for equivalent pricing back home rooms here in Japan are smaller. Our room is ‘L’ shaped. When entering the room there is a space 4.5 feet by approx 8 feet long. In this spaces already is a desk, small table (approx 16″ in diameter) and one chair. So the available walking space to deal with luggage is an area that is 4.5 feet by 4.5 feet. The other part of the “L” shape of the room is taken up by a double bed. It fits exactly in the slot between inner wall and outer wall with window. Upon entering the room off to the left of the usable space is a door to the bathroom with tub shower. Deniz’ luggage is open on a stand and my luggage is on the floor right inside the front door. There’s very little space to move. Rooms here only get a bit larger than this but also increase in price.

After spending almost 13 hours cramped on a plane and then heading from Haneda airport to the hotel on jammed packed trains because it was end of day rush hour, this was a little difficult to accept. We headed back down to the concierge to see if there were any larger rooms available and at what cost. There was one slightly larger room but with two twin beds. This would cost us approximately an extra $800 Cdn over 11 nights. We decided to stick it out in this room and save that money for other things. We also looked at what would be available at our first choice hotel, Tokyu Stay. They had little availability and the cost per night was quite high. This is part of the reason how we ended up here at Mystays Gotanda Station. Last minute trip meant less choices and higher rates.

The elevator here is also small. It’s approximately 4 feet by 4 feet by 6.5 feet tall. This morning 8 of us jammed into the elevator as we all decided to head down at the same time.

The many little restaurants or street izakaya’s are all rather tight on space compared to western spaces. When coming to Japan, prepare yourself for this aspect. Don’t let it discourage you though. Accept it and enjoy the many things to see and experience in Japan. You do get used to it.