Aoyama Flower Market Tokyo 青山フラワーマーケット A Japanese Feast For The Senses

Aoyama Flower Market Tokyo 青山フラワーマーケット Entrance
Aoyama Flower Market Tokyo 青山フラワーマーケット Entrance

I love a good picnic outside during the summer. The fresh air, the smell of fresh-cut grass, the flowers. The only real problem is bugs, wind, a sudden chill, rain, stabbings, and more rain. Unfortunately, living in the UK means you have a collective four weeks a year to eat outside.

Flowers
Flowers

Japan doesn’t have the same problems. In fact, the weather can get too nice! Rain is super accurately predicted, and Japanese people take gardening very seriously! Never have I ever walked past a Japanese garden, park, or even just an open space with grass in it and thought “ooh, that looks a bit crap”. Seriously I think gardening and herbalism are part of the curriculum here.

Pink Flowers
Flowers

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Aoyama Flower Market Tokyo is the agoraphobic’s picnic paradise. The floor, the walls, the tables. Everywhere you look are floral masterpieces, as if each grouping of flowers were handpicked and painstakingly curated. The flowers are rotated seasonally. Rotating the flowers seasonally is a treat for the senses of regular patrons and the cafe smells exactly as you would expect a room full of beautiful flowers to smell.

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The food is delicious! Honestly, I never expected a garden salad to be so flavorful! The restaurant isn’t vegetarian but most of the dishes can be made vegetarian, The team knows what vegan and vegetarian means and are more than happy to make alterations for you.

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The range of flowery drinks is astounding! Ginger Ale’s, Lemonade’s, Mojio’s, the list goes on. If it can be made with plants they’ve got it. I highly recommend the herbal teas, the list is extensive! Not only that, they continue adding more to the menu and some change seasonally.

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One downside for me though, they can run out of ingredients on busy days. So get there early to make sure you get what you came for. However, this did not bother me on the day of my visit as what I ended up with was spot on! In fact, I could have had another one straight after! It was delish!

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It was an amazing meal and an amazing experience. It’s definitely something I will be doing again no matter what the weather is like. So If it’s rainy, sunny, or snowy. If the parks are too busy, or you would simply just like to get punched in the face by a room of allergens, come down to Aoyama Flower Market Tokyo 青山フラワーマーケット. I promise you won’t regret it!…

Unless you have allergies.

Hotel Zen Tokyo – A Relaxing Capsule Hotel Experience

Hotel Zen Tokyo has a bit of a different approach to the usual (somewhat gimmicky) capsule Hotel norm. Nestled in the traditional district of Nihonbashi Ningyocho, just five minutes from the train station is a place that promises rest, relaxation and a cheaper place to sleep than a standard hotel. Capsule hotels were first properly used by salarymen in the 70s. Their main purpose was to put a roof over the heads of hard-working businessmen and office workers that had spent the night “unwinding” after a hard day’s work and missed the last train home. They provided a “room” long enough to lie down in and tall enough to sit up in, a wall socket, and if you were a bit of a diva you could pay a bit more for a pod with a TV.

Nowadays, capsule hotels can range from tiny portholes in the wall stacked three at a time to lavish nooks with projectors and electric beds like the Millennials. There are some that are themed like the international space station, book stores or even a Ninja’s dojo. There is even a floating capsule hotel rumored to be opened at the end of the year in Japan’s Huis Ten Bosch (a Dutch theme park in Sasebo), where you can literally drift off to sleep.

Hotel Zen Tokyo Beds
Hotel Zen Tokyo Beds

It uses the Japanese aesthetic Wabi-sabi, (the perfection of imperfection). Using Japanese tea houses as its inspiration and utilizing natural materials and minimal space, they have created a calming and relaxing atmosphere.

Hotel Zen Tokyo
Hotel Zen Tokyo Steel Tea House & Breakfast Area

The building itself has 78 rooms in total with some floors being female only. There are five different types of rooms each varying in size but all come with their own unique painting created by local artists. Hotel Zen Tokyo also offers a work/ study lounge, shared rain showers, lockers, pay to use washing machines/dryers,  and a breakfast/lounge/bar that serves free pastries and coffee in the morning, and authentic Japanese whiskey, sake, and wine at night.

Hotel Zen Tokyo Entrance
Hotel Zen Tokyo Entrance

The entrance looks a lot like an old Japanese restaurant front. No giant neon “HOTEL” signs, no extravagant pictures of what the hotel looks like on the inside, no pretentious slogans or tag lines written all over the walls. Just a sign with the hotel’s name, a wall of bamboo, and a Noren hanging over the front door that says “Zen Tokyo” because that is all you really need to know. Just by looking at the hotel’s front you know you are here not to be distracted or stressed or sold to, but to meditate, relax, and be at peace.

Hotel Zen Tokyo keys
Hotel Zen Tokyo Keys
Hotel Zen Tokyo keys
Hotel Zen Tokyo Keys

Upon entering you’ll find yourself right in front of the reception desk. The people working at the reception speak perfect English and check-in takes a matter of seconds. You will be given a Zen Pod number and an electronic key to allow you on to your floor. After traveling to the floor by elevator and entering the corridor of Zen Pods the first thing I noticed was the temperature of the room. It was perfect! Usually, capsule hotels and manga cafes supply the room with one temperature and I have always found this “one size fits all” temperature to be way too damn hot to sleep! The fans that are sometimes in the pods sound like mini vacuum cleaners and do as much cooling as a piece of paper with the word “FAN” written on it. I never understood why a room can’t be a little bit cold. You could always put some clothes on, or just get under the covers and wait for two minutes to warm up. You can’t get more naked when you’re too hot! This is not a problem in Hotel Zen Tokyo.

Hotel Zen Tokyo, Zen Pods
Hotel Zen Tokyo, Zen Pods
Hotel Zen Tokyo, Zen Pods
Hotel Zen Tokyo, Zen Pods

The second thing I noticed was how peaceful and clean the room was. The Zen Pods stand above thousands of polished black sea stones (Zen Pebbles) and the natural wood and lights underneath each Zen Pod made me feel calm and a bit closer to nature, a far cry from the usual “corpse draws” associated with capsule hotels. It was also quiet enough to hear a pin drop! I already knew I was going to get some well deserved R&R here.

Hotel Zen Tokyo, Zen Pods
Hotel Zen Tokyo, Zen Pods

My pod was called the Fuji – Superior Pod. It was a very spacious small double bed (SD-120cm) and being 6’2, standing on the bed, with my arm stretched up still could not touch the ceiling! It’s so much easier to live in a capsule hotel when you can actually stand up and move around without getting out of your pod to sort out clothes and luggage. I had ample plugs to charge my phone, battery packs, and laptop. A little shelf to put my stuff on, a safe to put things in when I went out to get some dinner and the bed was by far the most comfortable bed in any of the capsule hotels I have stayed in so far.

Hotel Zen Tokyo, Zen Pods
Hotel Zen Tokyo, Zen Pods

My travel companion MariannaVlogs got the Sakura – Superior Pod with tatami. Because she’s extra. It’s basically the same as mine but with a little extra tatami floor space.

Hotel Zen Tokyo, Zen Pods MariannaVlogs
Hotel Zen Tokyo, Zen Pods Marianna Vlogs

I had an amazing night’s sleep! The combination of a comfortable bed, slightly colder than normal room temperature and complete silence was enough to knock me straight out. I got down to the breakfast hall at about 8am, stuffed myself with pastries and coffee, grabbed my complimentary wash kit containing a few towels and everything you would need to freshen up and headed to the showers.

Hotel Zen Tokyo, Pastries, breakfast
Hotel Zen Tokyo, Pastries, Breakfast
Hotel Zen Tokyo, Pastries, breakfast
Hotel Zen Tokyo, Pastries, Breakfast
Hotel Zen Tokyo Steel Tea House
Hotel Zen Tokyo Steel Tea House
Hotel Zen Tokyo, Toiletries
Hotel Zen Tokyo, Toiletries
Hotel Zen Tokyo, Toiletries
Hotel Zen Tokyo Toiletries
Hotel Zen Tokyo, Showers
Hotel Zen Tokyo Shower
Hotel Zen Tokyo Rain Showers
Hotel Zen Tokyo Shower

Checkout was literally just a case of dropping your keys into the dropbox and that was it, all done! All in all, I would say that Hotel Zen Tokyo is by far a superior capsule hotel. Gone are the days where people primarily use capsule hotels because they need to, but more because they want to. This is because of places like Hotel Zen Tokyo that make sleeping in a capsule hotel a more relaxing and peaceful experience.

Or, you know,  just get trashed and miss the last train.

If you would like to visit Hotel Zen Tokyo or anywhere for that matter be sure to click the link and get £15 off your next trip with Booking.com!

Check out the Hotel Zen Tokyo’s website for more info! www.Hotelzentokyo.com

If this capsule is a bit too “Zen” for you maybe you would prefer The Millennials Shibuya

Traditional Japanese sweets you MUST TRY on your trip to Japan

So I have been in Japan for a while now and I have sampled a variety of traditional Japanese dishes. It seems like every region has its own type of food and its own special way of making it. This is especially true for Japanese sweets. Here are just a few of my favorites that I highly recommend you try on your trip to Japan.

Something to note: Red bean paste

Probably the most important ingredient in a lot of Japanese desserts. It is made by boiling and mashing Azuki beans with a little sugar. It kind of tastes a bit like sweet potato but a little earthier and sweeter.

Dango

Dango is small, slightly sweetened rice balls on a skewer and are eaten all year round. The flavor is usually seasonal but the most popular is a simple soy sauce topping (or occasionally a matcha glaze in areas like Kyoto). They can frequently be found around shrines, temples, and festivals, with street vendors selling these freshly flamed snacks on a skewer. Their rich and chewy nature means they are a satisfying snack and in my opinion, the epitome of a traditional Japanese dessert.

Dango at Meiji Shrine
Found this super fresh Dango while exploring Meiji Shrine.

Taiyaki

Taiyaki is made with waffle batter and shaped into a fish with all kinds of fillings. Cheese, custard, red bean paste, chocolate. You can find Taiyaki all over Japan but it’s best to eat it still hot and fresh from the grill from areas like Asakusa and Nihonbashiningyocho.

Shaved Ice – KAKIGORI

The first time I heard of shaved ice I initially thought “oh ice cream?” But no it isn’t. It’s actually a delicious seasonal shaved ice dessert, flavored with your choice of sauces, filling, toppings, etc. Despite the name which suggests a lack of intensity, it is actually bursting with flavor! Depending on where you try it in Japan, your experience will be different. Typically in Tokyo, you will find fluffy, thinly shaven ice topped with unique or traditional flavors like matcha, brown sugar, strawberry, and condensed milk, or a star ingredient like red bean. Elsewhere in Japan, you might be surprised to find all the flavor at the bottom! No matter where you go, however, it is the quintessential summer dessert guaranteed to keep you cool during the scorchingly hot Japanese summers.

 

 

Daifuku

Much like Dango, Daifuku is also made using glutinous rice. However, Daifuku is made using rice flour and is folded and beaten until sticky and then formed into palm-sized balls. These balls are then stuffed with your choice of filling and coated with flavoring and cornstarch to stop them from sticking to each other. They are usually filled with red bean paste but they come in many varieties.

Fun Fact! between 2006-2009 eighteen people died from eating Daifuku. some people find the sticky cake just too hard to swallow.

CUTE DAIFUKU
This Daifuku was found at a nearby conbini. This kawaii usagi (rabbit) design celebrated a Mid-Autumn festival.

Anmitsu

Anmitsu is a bowl of agar jelly cubes, red bean paste, Gyūhi (which is a softer kind of mochi) and a varying combination of fruits that results in an interesting mix of textures and flavors unique to Japan. Anmitsu is a seasonal dish and is usually enjoyed during warm weather. However, you can usually find it in most Japanese restaurants all year round.

ANMITSU
This Anmitsu was found at Hatsune – a Japanese dessert restaurant that was featured on the first episode of Kantaro the Sweet Tooth Salaryman. It took us to Sweets Heaven!

KitKat

So yes KitKats are not specifically Japanese sweets. However, KitKat is arguably the most popular chocolate bar in Japan by far! It was first made in the UK in the 1930s and I had only ever had two different flavors in my entire life: milk chocolate, and dark chocolate. That is of course until my taste buds got a sudden awakening in the land of the rising sun!

In Japan, there is a new flavor every month! Lemon and sea salt, strawberry, matcha, wasabi, rum and raisin, mixed berry, ginger ale, soy sauce, sake, the list goes on, and on, and on! In fact, since the year 2000, there have been over 300 flavors and counting. It’s seen as a good luck gift typically given to kids for when exam season comes around and it’s an especially popular omiyage (souvenir) to take back to your home country.

 

 

Universal Studios Japan: Tips For Visitors!

So in my most recent post. (Universal Studios, Japan) I talked about visiting Universal Studios and what an amazing day out it was. However, there are a few things I would have done differently so I thought I’d make a small list of things to help future Universal go’ers make the most out of their visit!

Book Your Tickets Online!

If you rock up to Universal without printed/E-tickets, you will have to queue twice. once to get the tickets and the other one to get into the park. Of course, if you are traveling with friends and family you can have them queue in the line to get in, and you can join the line to get the tickets. However, the line for the tickets is slower than the line to get in, which means that your friend might get all the way to the park gates with no ticket and will have to wait all over again.

The queues aren’t really well-indicated ether. There were many people queuing up to get tickets but were actually standing in the (already got tickets) lines. They would wait for twenty minutes realize that the Tickets queue was not their queue after getting close enough to see the ticket stand and have to jump into the correct line.

Buy through Klook.com. I am in no way associated with Klook.com however, I ordered my tickets through them and I got my tickets in an email 10 seconds later so… It works. They tend to have offers and its really easy to find vouchers for the website online, £10 off for example. Also, it’s cheaper booking in advance from your home country.

Get a 3 ride fast pass!

When I go to Legoland or Alton Towers or Thorp park they always sell fast passes. They are expensive and it seems like everyone has one because even though the fast pass lines are shorter, you still have to wait a while to get on the ride. Don’t get me wrong, It is faster to get on the rides than regular lines but the expense just isn’t worth waiting that extra twenty minutes. Universal Studios is different! I would be standing in a queue for what seems like a lifetime and then just as I’m about to get on, someone emerges from some bushes or a secret alley, flashes a ticket and is immediately let on in front of me. *Dick!*

The fast passes come in different types but it basically boils down to three different ones. 3,5,7. it means you can use it on 3 rides, 5 rides, or 7 rides. I recommend getting the 3 pass. Get to the park early, quickly get the rides that aren’t so popular out of the way. I.e Backdraft and Jaws and use the fast passes on the popular stuff later on. The 5 ride is expensive and the 7 pass is an absolutely ridiculous price just to avoid waiting a few hours across the day.

Get there early!

Yea, yea obviously. Get to a park early, everyone knows that. Well, get there earlier! We arrived at 8:00 and it looked like people were already queuing for an hour. If you’re staying in a hotel that provides breakfast leave your room to eat and leave for the park immediately!

Eat outside of the park/ bring packed lunch 

As you can imagine food in the park is extortionate! Also, It seems like the park has a monopoly on restaurants in the area so it’s a good idea to grab a packed lunch from the Family mart just down the street. Just remember to only buy water as opaque drinks/bottles are not allowed! If you want the budgeting to continue to dinner there is a Saizeriya on the strip of restaurants just outside of the park. Saizeriya is a super cheap Italian restaurant and its really good!

Don’t buy souvenirs until the end 

There is a huge shop just before you leave the park that has all the souvenirs from all of the attractions. Harry Potter stuff, Attack on titan stuff, seriously everything you have seen in the park is there.

These are just a few things you should know before you go. Hopefully, it helps you out.

Earthquakes in Japan and what I feel experiencing them as a foreigner

The first earthquake I have ever experienced wasn’t in Tokyo or in Japan at all. It was actually in the UK. It was roughly eleven years ago and to be honest it just kind of shook my room a little bit. If you had said to me that a really big truck had just driven past I would have believed you. It wasn’t until a few friends texted me asking “did I feel it”, that I actually believed it was a real earthquake.

Fast forward to living in Japan. It was about the fourth or fifth day still suffering from jet-lag that can only be described as terminal. I was lying in bed just waking up at about 3pm and felt the bed suddenly moving beneath me! The fridge knocked against the wall, the door to the room kept banging and a few of my things fell off my desk. I thought, “Wow, that was a real earthquake!” Still, nothing I couldn’t handle. I’ll get used to it.

I felt several more over the next few months and, sounds weird to say, but I loved it! It’s so strange having the earth shake underneath you and feeling powerless to your surroundings. I have always been fascinated by extreme weather and natural disasters, and being part of a natural occurrence that could very easily become a natural disaster is really scary but really interesting at the same time. I used to snowboard and rock climb and would love to base jump or parachute one day but I never really considered myself an “adrenaline junkie”. I thought “If I lived in Dallas or Oklahoma I would probably be a tornado chaser”. That was until…

I was in a bar called Amber9. It’s a cool, moody kind of bar/grill. It’s located at the top of a narrow building on the 9th floor in Shinjuku. I was telling a story to a group of Japanese colleagues when suddenly the lady sat to my right grabbed my leg with a slap and squeezed. Hard.

Totally taken aback with what’s just happened I stopped what I was talking about and turned to her, and just before I could say “what?” I felt it. The biggest earthquake I had felt so far and it was only just getting started! At its maximum bottles were clanging together, plates were falling on the floor and smashing, it really did feel like the building was going to come down! I noticed a giant air conditioning unit above one of the crew and it looked like it was going to fall I immediately pulled her seat from underneath the giant industrial-sized unit. The fight or flight part of my brain was working overtime! Under a table? Under a door frame? Who do I save first!? Then after a few seconds, it subsided.

Things just went on as normal. Waiters continued serving drinks, restaurant staff handed food out, (food that they were holding throughout the quake). Everyone just looked at each other and shrugged and then looked at me as if to say, “Sorry about that, what were you saying?” I was still clutching the table! Heart going 100mph! Apparently, my Japanese friends could tell that the inexperienced foreigner in me was a little bit unnerved. Probably the look of horror on my face. “Don’t worry that was just a little one.”

“A LITTLE ONE!?” The thing is, Japanese people experience it all the time and everyone remembers “the big one.”

They all took turns to explain to me what they were doing on the 11th of March 2011. Some were at work and had to walk home for hours because trains and taxis weren’t running for the rest of the day. Some were driving when the roads opened up in front of them, leaving them to abandon their cars. They told me that with no way to get home they had to either rent or buy a bike and apparently there were no bikes left to buy for weeks after. My favorite story, however, was that (at the time) one of my colleagues was only 13 years old and he was having lunch in school. When the earthquake hit, he grabbed his freshly made bowl of ramen and ran outside protecting it at all costs! When the earthquake subsided he returned to the chaos of the cafeteria and just sat there quietly eating.

Needless to say, since this ordeal, I have spent the majority of my time in Japan on the ground floor or close to. Maybe I’ll put my Tornado Chasing career on hold for a little while longer!

Are you earthquake ready? Here’s the definitive guide to earthquake preparation.

Universal Studios Japan


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The next stop on my little (leave Tokyo for once) trip was Universal Studios Japan. I haven’t been to Universal Studios for a long time!  That was when I went to Florida, I was about Sixteen.

Universal Studios

Arriving at Universal Station the night before, we decided to walk the little strip of restaurants and cafes at foot of the park entrance and it is lit up like the las vegas strip! Its actually like being transported back to Florida.

Universal Studios Japan

A quick bite to eat (and a Pinkberry later) and I was back at the hotel. I stayed at the Singulary Hotel in Universal Station. It was the last stop on the strip leading to the park so the location was perfect. The hotel was nothing crazy just a standard bed, TV, and bathroom. I may do a review on it at a later date.

9:00 In the morning I was at the park gates wishing I was there at 7:30! The park was packed already, and It was on a quiet day! I had purchased my tickets online the night before to avoid any unnecessary waiting but still ended up waiting in line for ticket checks and bag searches.

Universal Studios Japan

Finally inside the park and we immediately ran for the Harry Potter section! I had read online that it is the busiest area and to get it out of the way as soon as you get in, and it’s true! we got there literally five minutes after getting inside and still waited in an hour-long queue! amazing ride though! It’s like a 3D experience ride but without the 3D glasses. Like one of them vertual reality rides that swept the country in the late 90s, early 2000s, every big arcade had one! The ones that you sit inside and it plays a roller coaster on the screen while the car that you’re sitting in rocks about, only on a much bigger scale!

Hogsmeade at Universal Studios in Japan

The second biggest attraction is the minion’s ride! We waited for a good two hours to get on! it’s kind of the same thing as the Harry Potter ride but with Minions. Pro Tip! sit at the front of the car as close to the middle as you can! It’s an eight-person car, four at the front, and four at the back. I was sat at the far right at the back so my view of the screen was kind of uncentered and two peoples heads were obscuring my view, otherwise, it was a really good ride.

The Minions ride in Universal Studios Japan

It was a total nostalgia trip! I couldn’t get over what a perfect carbon copy Universal Studios Japan was to Universal Studios Florida circa 2005. Spiderman, Jaws, Backdraft,  Everything was in the same place with a few Anime extras, and maybe a bit smaller. Oh! No Back To The Future or Terminator, also Jaws was shutdown that day 😦

Jaws at Universal Studios Japan

All in all, a great day out! If I was to do it all again I would do things slightly different though, I will write a top tips list for visiting Universal studios on my next post.

Check out Booking.com for £15 off!

 

Traditional Okonomiyaki in the heart of Tokyo: Okonomiyaki Zen 善

When you ask someone about Japanese food they always talk about the same three things: Sushi, Ramen, and Miso. Usually, when people from the west are asked about Okonomiyaki the response is “what the hell is that?” That was my response. I had no idea what it was so I thought I’d check it out.

Okonomiyaki is a kind of pancake made from batter, cabbage, cheese, meat, fish, pretty much anything you want hence the name “Okonomi” (Your preference). For the first few months of my visit to Japan I was a bit of a militant vegetarian, and finding an Okonomiyaki restaurant that would cater to vegetarians was damn near impossible. Although Okonomiyaki is predominantly veg, avoiding Dashi (fish stock), Bonito (dried fish flakes), or any other meat derivative is like trying to avoid liquid in soup.

After a little research and some help from Marianna who is far more competent than I at searching for things, we found Okonomiyaki Zen. Okonomiyaki Zen is located in Shinjuku and has made it very clear that they cater to vegetarians and vegans. They even come around to your table with a checklist of things you can and can’t eat and make sure there is no cross-contamination with other dishes.

They have semi-English speaking staff, English menus, even the condiments on the table have English labels. The veggie options are ginger, and cheese and yes, both dishes are absolutely delicious! While you’re there ask what Sake the waiter would recommend as it goes hand in hand with Okonomiyaki!

Japanese Sake in Okonomiyaki Zen Tokyo Japan

If you plan on paying Okonomiyaki Zen a visit I highly recommend you drop them an email with your desired date, time and dietary requirements first. Although they are more than happy to accommodate, I get the feeling that the work they have to put in last minute to clean and sanitize workstations to cook your specific dietary requirement might be a bit of a pain. They have always seemed extremely grateful that I have booked a table via email.

It might be because I’m a bit of a greedy fat boy, but I would highly recommend getting a side dish or two, maybe even getting two Okonomiyaki, just because one Okonomiyaki never really hits the spot for me.

Okonomiyaki in Okonomiyaki Zen in Tokyo Japan
Happy Birthday Okonomiyaki

If you would like to book a table or get more info please follow these links:    Okonomiyaki Zen  Trip Adviser Happy Cow

Nagi Kyoto Sanjo Hotel Review

When working for a Japanese company in Japan it’s really easy to slip into a routine of work, work, work, sleep, work, work, work, sleep. It’s so easy to see why middle age salarymen walk around with a glazed over “kill me now” look on their faces. You see them every day. Crisp, clean, freshly shaven in the morning sleeping on the train, shirt slightly untucked in the afternoon, and pretty much passed out on the floor in a train station or hunched over their dinner in a Yoshinoya at night. All with a miserable look on their faces.

Feeling like I was falling into the same sort of regime, I decided that it was time to take a break. That’s when Marianna (from Marianna Vlogs on YouTube) told me that she had found a very new hotel in Kyoto. It didn’t have many reviews but the location was good and meant that traveling around Kyoto and visiting the shrines and temples that I wanted to see would be relatively easy.

Anyway, six trains and a shinkansen later, I finally arrived at the hotel and oh my god! I was not expecting this kind of hotel!

The hotel itself is down one of the copy and paste streets in this particular part of Kyoto. To me, all of the streets look exactly the same and they weren’t exactly in what I would call a touristy location, more like off the beaten path, a place not built for tourists but more for the people who live there.

Nagi Kyoto Sanjo Hotel

The entrance is new and up to date. The hallway to the front door is covered in flowers (a traditional way to signify a new establishment in Japan). Inside the main foyer there is a huge water feature takes up the whole of the opposite wall giving off an atmospheric, tranquil vibe.

Nagi Kyoto Sanjo Hotel reception area

I have never met friendlier staff at a hotel. The receptionist, and what I can only assume was the hotel manager were nothing but smiles and they spoke fantastic English. Upon checking if, we were asked if we would like breakfast at the hotel. We said no because we wanted flexibility and also with Marianna being a vegetarian, we were eager to experience traditional plant based dishes that Kyoto had to offer.

After a swift and easy check in process we were shown to our room. A few minutes later, there was a knock on the door. The manager and the polite lady who checked us in appeared outside our room with printouts of restaurants specialising in traditional Japanese breakfasts. They also told us that they have called ahead to make sure that they definitely had vegetarian dishes available, the prices and there availability. Talk about excellent customer service!

Nagi Kyoto Sanjo Bedroom

The room was amazingly spacious! With a big flat screen TV! And a Nespresso machine! Needless to say my needs were more than met, but my favorite part was the bathroom with ensuite wetroom (and a completely separate toilet).

Nagi Kyoto Sanjo Hotel bathroom

Nagi Kyoto Sanjo Hotel bathroom

Overall, the beds were comfortable, the hotel was quiet, and the people working there were fantastic! If you ever find yourself in Kyoto I would highly recommend checking out Nagi Kyoto Sanjo!

Use this link to get £15 off your next visit! www.booking.com

Trying Karate in Tokyo: Karate Dojo waKu

I recently had the opportunity to visit a real-life Karate Dojo in Tokyo and there was no way I was going to miss out!

My earliest memories growing up was going to kickboxing on Saturdays and then going to stay over my best friends house to binge watch martial arts movies. No Retreat No Surrender, Enter the Dragon, Iron Monkey, and just about every Jackie Chan movie ever made. This fascination with martial arts continued up until my late teens where I would practice Kuk Sool Won and Muay Thai throughout the week, and watch the new generation of martial arts movies featuring Tony Jaa, Jet Lee, and Scott Adkins.

Of course, the discovery of games, new friends, and nights out have put a stop to all of that, but I have always wanted to get back into it. Don’t get me wrong I still love a good martial arts film but it just doesn’t inspire me like it used to.

Fast forward eleven years, MariannaVlogs asks me if I would like to go to a karate dojo in Tokyo and learn from an authentic black belt, taught by a real Japanese Sensei from Japan where Karate originated, in a real Japanese temple, and I could almost hear ten-year-old John hitting the floor from fainting. Not to mention, this is an opportunity not granted to even the most hardcore martial arts fanboys.

We arrived at Ojikamiya station and met up with Yusuke. Yusuke is black belt master of The Japanese Karate Federation and is the most super chill guy I have ever met.

Karate Dojo waKu Tokyo Japan

 

He went through a series of warm-ups stretches, punches, kicks, forms, and Katas. By the end of the session, we were all pretty worn out but we had one last thing to do. We had to use what we had learned and break the 9mm thick boards with ether our kicks or punches.

Needless to say, the boards didn’t stand a chance against our newly acquired “particular set of skills”.

Karate Dojo waKu Tokyo Japan

I highly recommend everyone who visits Japan to pay Yusuke a visit, it really is a once in a lifetime experience! From people that aren’t really interested in martial arts to people that are already involved in a form of fighting or self-defense. How many people can actually say they were taught karate in Japan?!

Check out Karate Dojo waKu’s website and book a private session. Whether you are an absolute beginner or an expert, they have different lessons to suit everyone. They also have an Instagram, where the Karate_in_tokyo team break down all the moves in different Katas, warm-ups, stretches, so that you can follow, learn, and improve.

Also, check out Marianna’s Amanda’s and Gretchen’s videos. Youtube/Gretchen Youtube/MariannaVlogs  Youtube/T0keeyo

 

 

 

 

 

Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine

Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine was built in 1856 and was dedicated to a man named Ninomiya Sontoku.

Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine Odawara Japan

Ninomiya Sontoku was born into a very poor family. When his parents died he was placed into his uncle’s care. While he worked on his uncle’s estate he taught himself philosophy, maths, and economics. He was a prolific studier and has statues erected outside of schools depicting him reading a book and carrying sticks. Supposedly saying that no matter what he was doing, resting, working, playing, he would always be studying. Possibly the main reason Japan has such a reputation for its diehard study and work ethic.

In his teens, he took over a plot of abandoned and decrepit land and turned it into an agricultural masterpiece. He made a lot of money in his twenties as a landlord and was eventually asked to help a district on the brink of collapse due to financial difficulty. Hotoku turned the place around by using his skills as an agriculturalist and completely revived the local economy.

Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine Odawara Japan

After hearing of Ninomiya Sontoku’s successes he was asked by the lords of the area to watch over Odawara and the Sagami Province.

Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine Odawara Japan

I think I have become a little bit spoiled living in Japan and being able to see a shrine whenever I want. Seeing beautiful shrines over and over again can get a bit repetitive. Yes, it’s a beautiful shrine, just like all the others, no big deal. Well, the Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine has given me a fresh appreciation of all things shrine related.

Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine Odawara Japan
Fishies!!!

The Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine is built on the grounds of where the great Odawara Castle once stood. Now, the shrine sits next to a smaller version of Odawara Castle, gardens, a few Cafes, and a small children’s amusement park.

Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine Odawara Japan

Maybe it was the weather, maybe it was the fact that it was a particularly quiet day, maybe I was just in a really, really good mood. But, Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine is the most beautiful shrine I have seen so far. Now, before all of you shrine enthusiasts DM me a torrent of hate mail, let me clarify. This is the first shrine outside of Tokyo I have seen. I may have to re-write this after I explore a little more.

Hotoku Ninomiya Shrine Odawara Japan