Are You Stuck In Japan?|Useful Links And Contacts

So, my plan was to take a somewhat extended three-week holiday from work and fly back to the UK for some much-needed R&R and a long-overdue Sunday roast. Unfortunately, the virus that shall not be named had other plans and my flight was cancelled. This ensured that my holiday consisted of eating ramen in my undies and watching Big Bang Theory and it occurred to me, I’m one of the lucky ones.


It could be worse, I could be here on holiday unable to get home. Stuck in one of the most expensive places to live on earth according to GQ and forced to pay for accommodation and food way outside my initial budget. So I thought I’d jot down some things that you should do if you find yourself in this situation.

First of all, you need to call your airline to find out what the situation is in regards to rescheduled flights and refunds. If you have booked through a travel agent you will need to call them first. However, prior to calling your travel agent, read up on the updated policies of the airline you are booked with. Lufthansa and several other airlines have added flexibility to their terms should your flight be affected by the pandemic. Make sure you know your rights when it comes to refunds, and don’t let the broker dick you about.


Because you are not sure how long you could be stuck here, it would be a good idea to jump on the phone to your creditors and sort out any recurring bills. Check if they will allow you to postpone or pause your bills for the time being. Many companies are more than happy to help you if you have fallen on financial hardship (unless the company in question is EE, in which case, be prepared to get in touch with a horrid woman named Tracy who will talk over you, disingenuously give you incorrect information, and tell you they are unprepared to do anything to help).

For the most up to date information about Japan that I can find, I use It is an extremely useful resource that gives you up to date information, the government’s guidelines, emergency contact info, and live foot-fall figures to let you know how busy your area is. If hanging out in crowds during a pandemic isn’t your thing (understandable) just jump on the website to find out how busy an area is and avoid it if it’s looking a bit “moshpitty”. Another great website for up to date info is The Mainichi. The Mainichi is sort of like The Telegraph in the UK. Every Friday on the Tokyo YouTube channel, Governor Koike of Tokyo addresses the prefecture with new information in English. It is worth paying attention to this as the situation is constantly changing.

If you are in Japan and suspect that you may have symptoms, need help finding a doctor, don’t understand Japanese, or have concerns about your wellbeing, you can contact this English speaking (and other languages) AMDA Medical hotline: 03-6233-9266.  Monday to Friday: 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. They are able to find medical institutions for you and provide vital “information on healthcare and welfare systems in Japan”.

mobile phone

Although it is recommended to contact your embassy, in my experience, the British embassy in Japan have not been particularly helpful. A quick look at the UK’s embassy website reveals that (at this point in time) all they will do is give you advice and maybe tell you that you should have bought insurance. Embassies are typically helpful if you find yourself a prisoner in a war-torn/undeveloped country. Japan, however, is a very developed country and typically if you find yourself incarcerated or in trouble with the law here, chances are it’s your own fault. This is true for the UK. If dealing with the Russian, German or American embassy though, be prepared to be Fulton extracted immediately if you run into any trouble. Apparently, these countries have been amazing in helping people with travel issues.

In terms of accommodation, I recommend Airbnb. Due to the current tourism fall in Japan, a lot of prices have been somewhat reduced. This means that smaller apartments equipped with kitchen facilities (not a share house environment) have become slightly more affordable. Although Japan has a wealth of incredible restaurants, during this time, it is safer (and cheaper) to buy the basics in a local supermarket and cook at home.

If your tourist Sim card has run out of data, I highly recommend Mobal. They are on the pricier side but they can deliver a new Sim card to your temporary residence. Some of the plans they offer include minutes and text messages meaning that you are able to call Japan-based hotlines should you need to.

A lot of these tips are not necessarily Corona specific and can be useful in many situations. There is always one piece of advice that I will always give and that is to get travel insurance before you embark! For me, traveling without some kind of insurance is like hitting the motorway on a Kawasaki Ninja ZX-14R without clothes on. It may sound expensive, but it can save your life in more ways than one. I have relied on it countless times from flight cancelations to lost luggage (thanks a lot Air France). If you think paying that extra £50 isn’t necessary, imagine two weeks without your suitcase and a broken leg in a country with no NHS. Seriously it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Japan’s State Of Emergency

Well, that’s it. Japan has finally declared a month-long state of emergency on the 7th of April 2020 (will probably be extended). However, it doesn’t really change anything.

Due to abuses of power by the Japanese government in the past, it was written into the constitution that the government of Japan cannot overstep their grounds in regards to telling people what they can, and cannot do. Turns out Japan is a super free country! That aside, we have had a few weekend lockdowns. Well ok, maybe lockdown is a bit of a strong phrase. Maybe more like a “somewhat strongly suggested weekend stay-in.” Social distancing is being encouraged, particularly by Governor Koike of Tokyo. The aim is to reduce social contact with others by 60-80% (although recently the emphasis has been drawn to 80%). This is incredibly difficult for those who still have to go to work as many businesses remain operational.

The government’s official stance is this…

If your place of business is over 100 square meters you are urged to close (but you don’t have to). If your place of business is under 100 square meters you are urged to close (but you don’t have to). Yes, you read that right. This is the official stance.

The amount of people on the street has decreased but it would appear that a lot of people still haven’t heeded the weak warnings that Abe has put out. This is judging by the number of people I have seen in my local park while on my way to a supermarket. However, judging by Apple’s mobility trends in Tokyo, all forms of transport took a significant hit.  


You can’t really blame the individuals who have jobs to get to, and people whining about those that are still packing the trains at 8 in the morning are either unemployed, working from home, or living in an already locked-down country. The responsibility has been shifted onto businesses to do the right thing. A state of emergency and self-isolation won’t work unless there is a strong lockdown on travel, jobs, gyms, and all non-essential shops. Which, won’t happen because like I said, even if Prime Minister Abe wanted to, he couldn’t legally issue a “lockdown”.

Two things worry me the most at the moment. One, Japan isn’t testing enough and whenever they do test, funny enough, they find more cases. It is fast becoming too late for testing to be an effective tool. And two, a lockdown or at the very least, severe social distancing measures are really the only way to stop the virus from spreading. If you don’t halt operations fast enough it will spread uncontrollably!

The unemployment rate in Japan as of 2019 is 2.41%. Telling people to stay in is a bit redundant because everyone works. I understand when it’s a weekend and Prime Minister Abe just wants people to stop having hanami parties on their day off, but, if there are people outside then why can’t I go outside? One more person on a train of a thousand other people isn’t going to make a difference, right? This will be the mentality of everyone unless there is a much stronger action than a polite suggestion.

Not acting fast enough and trying to look after the currency seems to be everyone’s Kryptonite. From ignoring it to outright denying its existence. It could be worse though, Japan could have taken the UK’s (“scientifically valid, given the current evidence”) *cheap* method, of letting everyone get it and to hell with you and your family.

How Japan Is Dealing With The Coronavirus|The Good And The Bad

I genuinely didn’t know what to expect when I arrived back in Japan (Tokyo specifically). We have all heard about the Diamond Princess. The ship that was quarantined at Yokohama Port. Seven people lost their lives as a result of catching the coronavirus. The news in the UK was that Japan had been hit hard! Apparently Hokkaido, the northernmost island was locked down, schools had been closed, and rumors of toilet paper being made in China sparked a toilet paper buying frenzy. It all gave the impression that Japan was burning, I mean, it is Asia after all. It wasn’t too hard to believe that Japan could be one of the hardest-hit countries. Was there going to be chaos? Were the streets going to be empty? Were the shops going to be barren? WAS THERE GOING TO BE TOILET PAPER?! Well, let’s just say I thought it was going to be worse than it is.


In fact, nothing had really changed. Streets were just as full as when I left. Bars, cafes, and coffee shops are still open with a small number of exceptions. The trains are still running, and the supermarket is full of food (although definitely lacking in the toilet paper department). Kids were back at school and the lockdown of Hokkaido was being lifted. There is one tell-tail sign that something’s not quite right, though . The sheer amount of people wearing face masks!

EVERYONE is wearing them, and if someone isn’t wearing one its probably because they can’t buy them as they have all sold out everywhere! Japanese people use face masks predominantly as an act of courtesy to not spread viruses when a person is sick and still has to go to work (because Japanese people don’t. Not. Work, EVER) Or to block allergens as many people in Japan suffer from allergies of some kind or another (sugi pollen is a severe hindrance to the Japanese). It even has a role in fashion and in some cases, people use them alongside headphones to not be bothered by over-friendly people that might want to talk to you. However, when an entire country wears them at the same time, it would appear that the public consensus is that they are seemingly effective at stopping the spread of the Coronavirus. Being ill on a train and coughing or sneezing without a mask is one of Japan’s biggest taboos. I invite anyone to come to Japan and sneeze on a train without a mask. You will be shot a look by a Japanese elder that can only be described as devastation. It can make even middle-aged, self-made, self-assured millionaires question their life choices. Recently, with the knowledge that there is a runaway virus on the loose, a man had the police called on him for coughing on the train without a mask on.

I have noticed that there is a bottle of hand sanitizer at the entrance of most shops, supermarkets, and restaurants. You are urged to use it, both entering and exiting the facility. It’s an amazing idea! I know that there is a big debate online about the effectiveness of hand sanitizer and that soap and water are and will always be better, (and I totally agree!) but hey, a country full of people using hand sanitizer every 20 mins couldn’t hurt the cause.

Hand sanitizer

I have lived in Japan for about a year and a half now and I will say this. It was very rare for me to see a man use the public bathroom, and then immediately sprint for the door without washing his hands like I have seen in the UK all too often. Now it seems that the men of Japan have gone into clean hands overdrive. The queue for the bathroom is no longer to use the stalls, it’s to use the sinks! Japan has also turned off all of the hand dryers because evidence suggests that it increases the risk of spreading the virus. In addition, enclosed spaces like most smoking booths have been closed as well.

When it comes to social distancing, (compared to the rest of the world) we cannot ignore the fact that this is something that is naturally ingrained within Japanese society. First of all, the Japanese people are not a “touchy-feely” kind of people. They do not shake hands, they do not kiss on the cheek once, twice or even three times (like some other heavily affected countries I could mention). The Japanese bow and they have been doing this since approximately 1603. Samurais would do it to one another as a sign of respect and that bled into popular culture. Social distancing has always been and is currently present. They are not space invaders. They typically don’t stand too close to one another and something I have seen plenty of times is when there is a perfectly good open seat on the train between two people, usually, most people would opt not to sit in that seat and stand instead (rush hour is a completely different story).

Japanese people have always practiced cleanliness. When you enter a house you take off your shoes (immediately)! The UK government had to issue a public service announcement reminding people to, and how to, wash their hands properly.

Japan is doing a great “passive” job at keeping the Coronavirus at bay. However, I am under no illusion that Japan is Corona-proof.

There is still a lot that has to prevent the spread further. Tokyo is a VERY crowded place. Shinjuku Station during rush hour, for example, is less like a commute and more like a polite, silent, sodomy party. No amount of hand sanitizer and face masks in the world is going to stop the spread on crowded trains. The trains aren’t sanitized with an industrial-sized, antibacterial shooting, two-handed, cannons at the end of the line either. Meaning that thousands of people that ride the train on one whole line have made it well and truly contaminated through holding the metal handrails/ handles, touching the windows, and everything else that one could do to spread a virus.

Hanami (the act of getting absolutely shitfaced and picnicking under blossoming cherry trees with all of your friends) is in full swing, and this year, so far, is no exception. Yoyogi Park this Sunday was packed to the proverbial rafters of pink tree and alcohol enthusiasts. Thing is, cancelling Hanami to the Japanese would be like canceling Christmas to a seven-year-old or a FOX news viewer. Everyone would remember where they were during the great Hanami cancelation of 2020. Two of the major Hanami areas have been “sort of” cancelled. They are the Meguro river & Ueno park. You can go take pictures, admire the blossoming cherry trees, and drink under them with friends and family for as long as you want, but there will be no Hanami themed food. So it’s like, 20% cancelled. It is a serious issue! Seriously it’s insane! The Coronavirus has an R0 score of 3 meaning that, provided no one has been vaccinated, previously had the virus, and has no way to control the spread of the virus, it can potentially spread on average to three other people. Meaning that it is incredibly infectious. Regular, good old 2009 Influenza by comparison, has an R0 of between 1.4 and 1.6. If I was a betting man I’d say at least a few hundred people walked away from that park with more than they came with. And I don’t mean a hangover.


I get the impression that the general public isn’t really that worried because they haven’t been given anything to worry about. Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan hasn’t really stressed the importance of what this virus is capable of. Especially what it can do to an aging population such as Japan. All he has done so far is given suggestions that people should take more precautions. I, as someone coming from Europe (England specifically), am fully aware of what happens to a community when the person in charge doesn’t take charge, and so far he hasn’t done that.

Testing is apparently still extremely restricted and I don’t think the Japanese authorities are giving the correct number of new cases or deaths. I feel like Shinzo Abe was desperately trying to make sure the Olympics will happen on time. I’m sure with the amount of money it cost, I would also want to make sure it happened for the tourism windfall that would re-enrich my dwindling coffers. However, at the end of the day, needs must. Shinzo Abe finally made the right decision. I predict now that the Olympics have been postponed until 2021, Japan will no longer has to save face in order to keep the Olympics on track. Shinzo Abe will start upping the threat level and announcing stricter testing and quarantining measures. Hopefully, he does it gradually and in a calm manner…

…Unlike the UK. Who couldn’t have caused more panic if Boris Johnson had announced that the purge is commencing, activated an air raid siren, and started firing a shotgun into the crowd.


My Take On Coronavirus & The UK|We Messed Up

I promised my self I wouldn’t write about the Coronavirus. There is already an abundance of news articles, advice and hysteria out there to last a lifetime without me adding to it, but I do have a few things to say.

So I have just returned to Japan after spending a little while in England to recharge, and while I was there I watched the “Coronavirus” go from an unnamed thing said in passing, “oh,” “did you hear about that new mysterious illness that they found in some nowhere village in China?” To being a real-life pandemic that I can’t go one hour without hearing about. Be it friends, family, TV, internet, and news updates on my phone. Sky News might as well rename itself to Corona News at this point.

It has been really interesting watching how different countries are handling the situation, and what said counties are willing to do to inhibit the spread.

In China, several disappearing people after denying it had a virus, created stadium-sized pop-up hospitals, commenced spraying the streets with disinfectant, and began working on the cure. After initially suggesting that the virus didn’t come from them at all, they still probably had the strongest and most immediate response. China has carried out human trials in the cities of Wuhan and Shenzen. The mentioned “cure” or better put “treatment”, is Avigan (also known as Favipiravir), an anti-influenza drug created in Japan by Fujifilm Toyama Chemical. The trials have shown to be successful, however, the information surrounding the production, distribution, and administration of the drug to those affected with COVID-19 seems unclear (although Japan stated that they will donate Avigan to Iran).

Italy has shut down completely! Being caught outside by police too far from home without a provable reason carries a 206 Euro fine or a three months prison sentence. These are passionate, close, touchy-feely kind of people and not being able to eat with, drink coffee with or even see friends and loved ones must be torture.

Brussels has a warning system if caught outside in groups. The first time you get caught is a warning, the second time you could be charged a four thousand euro fine or a 3-month prison sentence. People are encouraged to call the police if you see any large groups outside.

The Middle East is banning religious ceremonies! Something I thought would never happen! They strike me as the type of people who fear “God” more than they fear a real invisible virus.

And then there’s England… Early last month I made a prediction, I said that if the Coronavirus ever comes to England the world is doomed! Because we will spread it like wildfire.


1. We don’t seek medical attention. My mother had Legionnaires disease for 3 months from a recent trip to Florida and instead of going to the doctor she said: “It’s fine, its just a cough.” This is more or less the norm for all Brits over a certain age. Lump? Weird rash? Unexplainable crippling pain leaving you in agony? Foot rotting off? “Meh, probably nothing,” “It’ll go away eventually.” In fact, because of the state of our healthcare system, even if you did decide to seek medical attention, you have to pre-book it weeks (if not months) in advance. Another way is calling on the day precisely at 8AM to see if there are any cancellations from the previous day. Even then, you have to be first in the queue of a thousand other people ringing to get an appointment. As soon as you say, “I have a bit of fever” you will be told over the phone to drink fluids and get bed rest. If you need an ambulance call an Uber (because the ambulance may take so long to arrive, you might actually die waiting for it). Many give up and hope the ailment will simply go away. This is not an attack on nurses or doctors or anyone else working tirelessly to heal people. They do brilliant work and are overworked and underappreciated. The NHS is greatly under strain, and there isn’t enough money or resources.

2. The English have a sort of cavalier attitude to everything. From top to the bottom, the government to the people, especially if you are wealthy. We just don’t care. For example, two days before returning to Japan with the Coronavirus PANDEMIC (as declared by WHO) in full swing I went to Liverpool city center (a place where the public has already tested positive for the Coronavirus) to pick up supplies. Medication, sorting out my phone contract, essential stuff for my trip that I couldn’t do online. I expected it to be a ghost town. The town was PACKED! People shopping, eating in restaurants, drinking in coffee shops and pubs, coughing, sneezing and touching everything. I went to a very popular pharmacy and in front of me, was a person coughing and rubbing her face saying to the pharmacist “Yea, I have a cough”. The pharmacist shrugged and gave her cough medicine.

No explanation of how she should be self-quarantining, no information about the virus, oh! After she was given cough medicine, instead of being told to leave the store immediately because she is a public health risk, she walked around the store picking stuff up off the shelves and talking to her friend over products, handing her friend things, rubbing her face, using testers, taking things to the counter, giving those things to the checkout lady and literally spreading it in front of me! In a week’s time, that checkout lady is going to wonder how the hell did she and her family contract coronavirus. Pharmacists are trained professionals yet in this case nothing was done to prevent the spread.

But that’s not the worst thing I saw. It’s the 13th of March, two days after the Coronavirus was declared a pandemic. Sporting events are canceled, and the UK confirmed more than 200 new cases in a single day. Dead center of town we have a bank called Metro Bank. On this particular day, they were having some sort of grand opening event with music, freebies (handing out bags), and serving popcorn that the people were straight-up open fisting, eating and going back in for seconds. Also, face painting!!!! This is just one man’s opinion but I just couldn’t help but think “What an utterly irresponsible thing for a BANK of all institutions to do at a time like this!” “Why on earth would I trust them with my finances!?” They even bragged about it on social media!

Image: The telegraph



I was watching “This Morning” two weeks ago and our wise and fearless leader Borris Johnson was discussing the Coronavirus on the couch with Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby. He said something to the tune of, “You know, there is the approach of just letting everyone get the virus so that we develop an immunity, just in a controlled way so that it doesn’t put a strain on the National Health Service”. I immediately thought “uh oh”, he isn’t going to put any money into this. He’s planning on announcing that we are all going to get the virus and he isn’t going to take any action that hinders the spread. A day or so later he announced that we will be taking the “HERD IMMUNITY” approach to the Coronavirus. Our National Health Service was at breaking point a long time ago and an introduction of a novel virus will cripple it. There is no controlled way here. Luckily the NHS brokered a deal with private hospitals and health care workers for more staff and beds. I only wonder what the NHS has lost in this deal.


I’m so thankful that I managed to get back to Japan in time! In the run-up to my flight, borders were closing, countries were getting locked down, flights were getting turned around mid-flight. I was starting to get a bit worried that I might get turned away at some point. The day of my flight arrived and I transferred to Germany and as soon as my flight from Germany took off for Japan, Germany banned all international flights and a few days after I landed in Japan, Shinzo Abe the prime minister of Japan asked that anyone from Europe arriving after Saturday to self-quarantine. My travel plans fall into the category of essential (in case you are wondering) as this would be an awful time to be taking a holiday.

What shocked and disgusted me the most, is that our prime minister, the leader of a developed country, a person that the UK public put in charge, said we’re going to let everyone catch the virus and that everyone should prepare for loved ones to die (seriously this happened-google it). He then shrugged his shoulders and stated that he was following the orders of the experts, thus absolving himself of any blame if and when this decision goes south. He let everyone know that he was essentially going to do nothing but tell us how to wash our hands properly.

How ironic is it, that the age range that is most at risk, are predominantly conservative voters and the leader of the conservative party has just told them that he will do nothing to help. Not test, not contain, in fact, they should prepare to not make it through this.

There is a town in Italy called Vo, that tested everyone and using the knowledge of who has the virus and why it’s being transmitted, managed to get its new cases of coronavirus down to zero. This is evidence that the only way to get through this is to test, test, test.

Here is a new prediction. The world is going to put the UK on a watch list. Our citizens will be most banned worldwide and we will be branded as a dangerous country to fly to for a long time. If Italy is anything to go by we have a lot of death ahead of us.

I feel like when all this blows over, Italians that want to travel will be recommended Syria as a holiday destination before the UK is.

Edit: as I am posting this Boris Johnson has finally issued a lockdown in an effort to contain the spread. Still, bars and clubs remained open for one more night (no killer virus is going to stop me from necking 8 pints and getting off with that complete stranger). Testing is still restricted, however. At some point, I think we will likely have an Italian style lockdown with military personnel upholding the rule.  I still can’t believe that the government hasn’t stepped in to sort out the stock issues in supermarkets yet! Come on Boris, put austerity on hold for a little bit and start helping your people ey?

How Japan is dealing with the Coronavirus

Gonpachi|Asakusa|Bad Foreigners in Japan

We’re on my way to Nikko! Which, for me, requires a stopover in Asakusa. Home of the Senso-ji Temple, the Tokyo Skytree and the giant gold poop (probably not its real name.)


We decided to get a quick bite to eat and happened upon a cool looking place. Gonpachi at its heart is an izakaya but for me its more of a restaurant. It’s certainly not a place that I would feel comfortable getting drunk and lairy with the guys like other izakayas. This izakaya is a touch classier.




The Edo period pictures on the wall, the open space, and the relaxing tone of the room creates a great ambiance. Upstairs overlooks the river and makes a great frame for the impressive array of buildings in the distance (and the golden poop). The food is great! The vegetarian and the meat dishes are delicious. We went with the set meal options that come with rice, miso, and soba, instead of ordering everything separately.


I got the “Yakatori-Don” which is three types of skewered chicken, rice bowl, soba noodles, and miso. The chicken was smoky succulent, and extremely delicious! The miso was very deep and full of umami flavor and the cold soba was refreshing.

The veggie dish, believe it or not, was better! The crisp, fresh, vegetable tempura was just as good, but lighter, and a nice accompaniment for the rest of the meal.


The staff speaks English and are exceptional. Why? Well, let me explain (bit of a rant coming). It’s in this restaurant that I encountered the worst people ever. Unfortunately, they were from England, in their 50s, and the most pretentious, arrogant, know-it-all couple that I have ever had the misfortune of dining next to. To start with, they both sounded like James William Bottomtooth from Family Guy, and nothing was good enough, if not completely wrong. The food was too small, the tea wasn’t strong enough, they were outraged that the Soba noodles that they were given (not ordered, it just comes with the meal) were, “stone cold!” and demanded that they take it back and heat it up. If you didn’t know, cold soba noodles are cold.

Look, I understand that some people are fussy, and some people don’t like certain foods. However, demanding you heat up cold Soba, kick-off about the sauce that comes with your teriyaki chicken, moan about how high and uncomfortable the bar stools are, and complain about the strength of your matcha tea, what are you actually doing in a Japanese restaurant? In fact, if they are like this for thirty minutes in a restaurant, what are they like for the rest of their time in Japan?!

Of course, the team apologized and accommodated them in every way. The thing is, Japanese restaurants don’t typically alter what’s on the menu but the customer is always right (no matter what) and any issues are handled amazingly. If it was me serving, I would’ve poured their cold soba noodles in their laps. A message to people that visit Japan and don’t like Japanese food, go eat at Mc Donald’s instead of complaining and moaning at people just doing their jobs.

All in all, the restaurant was good in every way and despite the company, I had a really good lunch and would definitely eat there again!




Champagne and gyoza|My Kind Of Fusion

Who would have thought it would work so well! This “French-anese,” bar-style restaurant is perfect for a quick snack, lunch or a full-on celebration. The playlist of 80s bangers is a great touch as well.


We choose Champagne and gyoza for the name. There were loads of restaurants along this particular street in Ebisu but none of them had such an eye-catching name. So imagine how happy I was to discover that they serve vegan gyozas as well!

champagne 1.jpg

Champagne And Gyoza is a relatively small place. Roughly twelve seated at the bar surrounding one (and only one) chef that caters to everyone. Talk about overworked! Surprisingly our hoast was able to cook, serve food, drinks and talk about the drinks like a fifty-year-old, French, grandmaster, wine expert to every single patron without breaking a sweat. Not to mention, he seemed like he was enjoying every minute of it. The bathroom is very bougie, bottles of champagne and little tubs of mouth wash all over the place.

champagne 2.jpg

The food was delicious and not too expensive either! There are two types of gyoza on the menu, meat, and vegan with garlic variations of both (not for the faint-hearted). You are given a plater of sauces which are soy, miso, tomato, and pesto. I never thought to eat gyoza with pesto, but I don’t think I will eat them without from now on. There is also salt, pepper, chili oil, and olive oil on the table. Side note, olive oil and salt on gyoza is an amazing combination! Side note-if you plan on ordering the garlic variant of your gyoza be prepared to be a social outcast for the rest of the night. It’s seriously strong!


I can’t really say anything bad about Champagne And Gyoza. One thing I will say is to go with friends. Dining out alone is totally normal in Japan, it’s actually cheaper than buying fresh and cooking at home believe it or not. However, nobody in the bar was unaccompanied and I can imagine why. Eating gyoza’s and drinking Champagne by your self might look a bit sad.


German Christmas Markets In Japan, But Which One Is The Best?

I was first introduced to the German Christmas market about ten years ago in Leeds and I can honestly say that it increased my love for the season.

I mean what’s not to love about oversized bratwursts, the oversized beer inside ridiculously oversized beer steins, baileys hot chocolate with cream, mulled wine, giant pretzels, the list goes on.

I was a regular of the German Christmas market. Every year, as soon as I would see the market being erected I would start planning my food and booze-filled festive night out.

Unfortunately, last year (having just moved to Japan) I was stressed, busy, had no idea where anything was, and after getting everything lined up with accommodation and whatnot, broke.

This year, however, was very different! Not only was I going to go to the Christmas market but I was also going to go to the three most talked about, and give my honest opinion about which one is best and maybe discover a new Christmas haunt for myself.

Yebisu Garden Place Christmas Market

Yebisu 2 stall

The Yebisu Garden’s Christmas market was a massive let down. Don’t get me wrong, Yebisu is a beautiful place especially at Christmas time because the whole area is lit up like, well, (forgive me for this) a Christmas tree. The giant shopping mall, the big red building with shops and restaurants, the europian style buildings and of course the gardens themselves add to the awe of the location.

yebosu lights 2.jpg

The Christmas Market however, was a few wooden sheds selling Christmas themed knickknacks and a big (very impressive) Christmas tree. Needless to say, it wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. Yebisu Garden Christmas Market is a place to go to take pictures. Quite frankly, I don’t actually think that it should be classed as a Christmas market. It’s more like a Christmas lights show.

yebisu lights 1.jpg


Roppongi Christmas Market


Now we’re talking! Inside the giant shopping mall is a huge room filled with Christmas stalls. Food, drinks, toys, snow globes, nutcrackers. It is everything a german Christmas market should be. A direct quote from the website itself boasts “a Christmas Market that will be bringing you a total of 11 stores offering over 2,000 original German Christmas goods, as well as Glühwein (mulled wine), sausages, and other authentic German dishes.”


Just one problem, the room regularly sees no less than seven million people per season which makes the whole Christmas market experience more like a moshpit, with sausages.


Needless to say, great experience, but I’ll take my pretzel’s in a place where I’m not being tackled by people fighting to sit down and having to dive out of the way of pissed off patrons trying to take a picture of whatever it is I’m standing in front of.

Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse


I love Yokohama, can’t say enough good things about it. You could argue that this whole website is propaganda for Yokohama.


The Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse is by far the best! Even better than my beloved Leeds Christmas Market. Before you even get to the market itself you are treated to the lights of Yokohama then to the Christmas lights that light the way to a huge ice rink.


If I could give you one piece of advice it would be this, bring your appetite! Not only do they have all the usual suspects such as nuts, churros, pretzels, and bratwursts, but they have them in abundance! Plates full of Bratwursts! Big bowls of fries, huge buttered pretzels! Also, remember that you are still in fact in Japan so crab, clam chowder, and other “Christmas seafood” aren’t amiss.


I have tried to be critical about Yokohama’s Red Brick Warehouse. However, of the three Christmas markets I have been to, Yokohama was head and shoulders above the rest! If you’re ever in Japan at Christmas time and fancy saying hello, this is where you’ll find me.





Izakaya Masaka A completely Vegan Izakaya In Shibuya!

In my never-ending pursuit to find all things vegetarian and vegan in the land of relentless meat and fish, I have come across, quite possibly, the first of its kind. A vegan izakaya in Shibuya!

Just in case you don’t know what an izakaya is. It’s a place for working guys and gals to go and have a few drinks after a hard day’s work. The difference between a pub and an izakaya, however, is that izakayas serve snacks. The “snacks” (aside from fries and cabbage) are meat.

Meat wrapped in meat, meat wrapped in cheese wrapped in more meat, tomatoes wrapped in meat, grilled meat, fried meat, boiled meat. Basically,  if you want food that isn’t bean sprouts, cabbage, and chips… you are out of luck. This is why a vegan izakaya is such a big deal!

First impressions were that Izakaya Masaka is a bit small. Business must be a bit slow. I know that there probably isn’t that much demand for a vegan izakaya in the land of meat. Of course, the target market for izakayas are predominantly for the tens of thousands of Japanese salarymen in their 40s, which is a stark contrast to the target market of a handfull of predominantly vegetarian/vegan travelers in there early 20s, but I predict that after 2020 the demand for more businesses like this will skyrocket.


Right now there are only two mock meat dishes. Gyoza (pan-fried dumplings), and karaage (deep-fried chicken) in your choice of sauces. The rest were regular vegetable and pasta dishes. I’m very eager to see what dishes Izakaya Masaka comes out with next to replicate traditional izakaya food. Maybe when business picks up in the not so distant future.


The “meat” that is served in Izakaya Masaka is imitation soy mix meat and honestly, if you snuck a piece onto a plate of real meat I wouldn’t be able to notice. Its thick, succulent, and has the same exact texture as the real thing. Of course, just like any other izakaya, beer, whiskey, and highballs are in full supply.



The food was delicious, the drinks were cold, and the atmosphere was chill. However, the most mind-blowing thing had to be the fact that the imitation meat was better than the real thing! In regular izakayas you get the sense that the food is made quickly and is all about quantity. Given that, at dinner time, small izakayas can easily serve up to a hundred people depending on the venue. Izakaya Masaka is definitely more about the quality.

Put it this way. While I was there two salarymen sat at the table next to me, and throughout their whole meal, they kept ushering the woman who was serving them over and checking, re-checking, and laughing about the fact that what they were eating wasn’t meat. So there it is! Judged by Japan’s harshest critics, the no-nonsense, “I know what I like” middle-aged, grumpy Japanese salarymen couldn’t believe it wasn’t real meat.



The Urayasu Brighton Hotel, Tokyo Bay

I have only ever stayed in one 5 star hotel before. It was in Sun City which is a resort/casino/man-made beach in South Africa. However, I was so young that I can’t really remember it.

I have always wanted to stay in a five-star hotel again but at £300-£400+ per night minimum, I just couldn’t justify it.  I understand private pools, sprawling suites, and décor that’s straight out of Marie Antoinette’s boudoir, but the thought of spending the equivalent of a “Playstation-Pro” per night on a room that I will enjoy for only a few hours is a bit god damn much!

So how about a four+ star hotel? The Urayasu Brighton Hotel Tokyo Bay (bit of a mouth full) is one of 21 “Tokyo Disney Resort” Ambassador Hotels. As a result, you can buy Disney park tickets at reception, shop at the in house Disney store in the main foyer, and enjoy the free shuttle bus that runs every twenty minutes or so to and from Disneyland and Disneysea.


The hotel has a few different styles of rooms including The Pool Bath Room, which features a three-meter long, one meter across bath situated in front of an amazing view of the city including Disneyland. The Lovers Suite, which includes a giant round bed, a bar area (including a coffee machine) and a massage chair. There are a few other rooms each with its own unique style. The room I stayed in, however, was The Danran Room.


The Danran Room was big! It can definitely be considered a suite. The design of the room was above and beyond any four-star hotel that I have ever stayed in. The mini ascending staircase that leads to the chill-out/ bed area is one of the coolest things that I have seen in a hotel room, I really love multi-level room design.


I also loved the size of the window and the window ledge. Sitting down to watch the comings and goings of the city below with a coffee, to the setting of a rainy November evening is just one of the reasons that I had the most relaxing night of the year so far. Another reason was the foot massager that comes with the room which, after a full day of pounding the Disney pavement, provided some much-needed relief.


The bathroom was on another level! A giant wet room with an extremely powerful shower and a huge bathtub with a party trick, not only were it huge, but it filled with water completely in two minutes flat! Something that I never thought I’d want in my “forever home” but now it’s an essential item! It also included all the amenities you could need including a muscle soak bath bomb.

It’s not just a good looking hotel though. I found the team to be extremely helpful, and the ability to buy Disney tickets at the reception was a load off. The last time I bought park tickets was to Universal Studios and it was a bit of a pain. First I had to find the best price, then I had to buy them through a third party website, then wait a sphincterlizing ten minutes to get an email with my tickets. A stark contrast to having a smiling, English speaking receptionist handing you your park tickets in person.

The reason I call this hotel a four+ star, is because the internet can’t really decide what the Urayasu Brighton Hotel is. Some websites call it a four-star, some call it a five-star, some call it a four and a half star but I have yet to find the official rating. In true Japanese modesty, even the official hotel website doesn’t clarify.

I know there are a large amount of Disney authorized hotels in the area, but I can honestly say that The Urayasu Brighton Hotel, Tokyo Bay is well worth the money, I highly recommend it!

Check out the official Disney hotel site

If you would like money off your stay at The Urayasu Brighton Hotel Tokyo Bay, or any hotel for that matter, check out the link for £15 off your next stay.






Henn Na Hotel Asakusa|A Hotel In Japan Ran By Holograms

I’m sure that by now everyone has heard about the hotel in Japan that is run by robots. It was huge news a few years ago and it reminded the world that Japan hasn’t stopped being Japanese when it comes to all things tech, and forward-thinking.

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa
Henn Na Hotel Maihama

So in a country that is constantly innovating, where does a hotel run by robots go from here? Well, how about a unique hotel run by holograms!

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa Tokyo
Henn Na Hotel Asakusa

Asakusa is a historic town known for the Senso-ji, the oldest and most colorful temple in Tokyo. Asakusa is also one of the few places where you can truly experience the atmosphere and architecture of the Edo period. The historic streets are lined with food stalls, izakayas, and traditional craftsmanship. In stark contrast, the futuristic Henn Na Hotel Asakusa is unlike any other hotel that I have ever stayed in.


Upon entering you will be greeted by three distinct holographic characters. The anime-style butler that is happy to help but can’t cook to save his life, the Ninja who seems to get stabbed a lot, and of course, the friendly but quite scary raptor that the original Henn Na Hotel was famous for. Each one has his own personality, voice, and animation.

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa Holographic hosts
Henn Na Hotel Asakusa reception

Checking in is incredibly straightforward and efficient. Just use the tablet at the reception and through exciting animations and great voice acting, the hologram character of your choice will guide you through the process. Your room cards will come out of the machine under the counter and you are ready to go. After check-in is complete, your way will be guided by a projected red carpet that will appear on the floor. You will be directed to the elevators while puddles and leaves mimicking your steps trail behind you.

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa reception red carpet
Projected Red Carpet

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa Reception
Henn Na Hotel Asakusa Reception

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa reception
Henn Na Hotel Asakusa Suitcase storage

The reception area has a really relaxing zen style, it is exceptionally clean and quiet. There is a bag storage section, an area to sit, work, or eat, and also has a small sports bar called Bat’s Man for a few cheeky night time drinks before bed. Should the bag storage system be full, you can always call for assistance from a real human. They will be happy to store your luggage for you while you explore the best that Asakusa has to offer.

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa reception
Henn Na Hotel Asakusa reception

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa reception
Henn Na Hotel Asakusa Sports Bar

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa Sports Bar
Henn Na Hotel Asakusa Sports Bar

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa Sports Bar
Henn Na Hotel Asakusa Sports Bar

The beds were firm and comfortable. the dimmer switch for the warm ambient lighting is a really nice touch and considering the city is quite a busy place and the number of people staying at this hotel, the room was extremely quiet and relaxing. There were more than enough ports and plugs to charge all of my devices. They even provide a split cable with a USB-C, Lightning cable, and a micro USB end. Not to mention, the view of Asakusa’s cityscape from my room was amazing!

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa CityScape By Day
Henn Na Hotel Asakusa CityScape By Day

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa CityScape By Night
Henn Na Hotel Asakusa CityScape By Night

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa Room
Henn Na Asakusa Hotel Room

Rooms in Tokyo can be on the small side unless you are springing for the business or honeymoon suites so I was pleasantly surprised to see such a spacious room. The bathroom has a traditional Japanese shower room with a bath, a smart toilet, and all the general amenities that one would need to freshen up.

Henn Na Hotel Asakusa reception

The room itself has the usual TV, fridge, hairdryer, and kettle. However, there were two new devices that I had never seen in a hotel before. Tabii is a tablet that is your personal guide to tourist hot spots that also answeres any questions or queries you may have.

Henn Na Hotel Tabii
Hotel Room Tabii

There was also something that I thought was a giant fridge but turned out to be an LG Styler!

The LG Styler sanitizes, steams, presses and dries your clothes meaning fewer visits to your dry cleaners. I was simply blown away that a £1,500 device would be an option as I had never seen one before. Needless to say, I used it to death. All of my clothes are now steamed, sanitized, and wrinkle-free.

Check-out is just as easy as check-in. Selecting check-out on the tablet at the reception, you insert the cards for the room into the slot and that’s it, all done.


This hotel is more of an experience than your usual “place to stay”. It was clean and relaxing but most of all, totally hassle-free. Despite the fact that a lot of engineering and technology have gone into the building of this hotel, the process is extremely streamlined and makes me wonder why we need real reception staff at all.

Be sure to check out the link for £15 off your next stay!