Tokyo Skytree is a neo-futuristic style broadcasting and observation tower. It broadcasts TV and radio across numerous sectors of Tokyo and it is absolutely massive! In fact, it’s the second tallest tower in the world behind the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

I see this building everyday, I live in it’s shadow. I see it from my wall length window every morning and it lights up my room at night. However, at no point in my time here am I ever bored looking at it. It’s crazy how the tallest freestanding tower in the world just sits there in Sumida City. Some people don’t even look up at it while they are on their way to work or on their way home. The tower is a stark contrast to the typical buildings of the neighbourhood. Despite this, most people just walk by as if it’s a totally normal thing to be in such a place.

I had lived in this flat for four months and I had still not gone in. When I moved here, I was really busy for a while and then the state of emergency happened and they shut their doors for a month or so. When they re-opened their doors and announced that the Final Fantasy 7 Remake event was still going on, @mariannavlogs and I made it a point to visit.

First we went on a little tour inside the Skytree Gallery to learn more about the tower’s construction, how long it took to build, and how they made it earthquake proof. You could see the inside of the tower and the pillars that make up the foundations, find out how it lights up, why it lights up, and what all the different colours mean. However, it’s not just a pretty lit up tower. Adjacent to the tower is a huge shopping mall called Solamachi and for me, this place is like Disneyland for adults.

After the little tour of the tower’s foundations we went to get some lunch and stopped at a ramen restaurant on the First floor Called Soratoraya. It does really amazing vegan gyoza. I went with the spicy ramen which is absolutely delicious but very, very, very spicy… and peppery. In a Tokyo recovering from a corona induced state of emergency, I spent the entire meal desperately trying not to cough my heart out. Its was like every irresistible peppery bite kicked my lungs in the crotch.

Solamachi has several floors filled with shops and restaurants. The establishments range from clothes stores to patisseries and everything in between. There was so much to see and do!

Going up one floor I couldn’t help but indulge in a totally unnecessary, completely bad for me in every way, “why on earth did I drink that” chocolate milkshake from the Godiva cafe.

Of course, there is no way that I could talk about every store here because to visit them all would require a few days and a passion for shopping that I just do not have. There is one store, however, that I definitely wanted to visit.

Pokémon Go is played by… well, everyone in Japan. I hate to generalise but if someone’s looking at their phone in public in Tokyo, chances are they are playing it. At certain times of the week there will be a rare Pokémon up for grabs and everyone just stops in place and looks down at their phone for 20 minutes. People travelling to their destination with laser focus will notice that 60 people are standing around, looking down at their phones, will proceed to whip out their phone and join in. Before you know it, the streets are lined with people playing Pokémon Go, sometimes with two or even three phones. People dressed casually, people dressed in three piece suits, people juggling 2 kids and 12 bags of shopping. People from all walks of life powerless to resist the viral outbreak that is a location based rare Pokémon hunt. Then, like nothing happened, everyone gets back on with their day. So of course SkyTree Town would have a full sized Pokémon Center!

This is the first time I had ever seen a real life Pokémon Centre. It is full of Pokémon memorabilia, everything from T-shirts to toilet brushes. There are a few arcade style Pokémon games for “kids” and huge models of Pokémon characters all over the place.

From there, we went to the Kirby Café to see if we could grab a quick coffee. We didn’t have high hopes of getting in as we have heard that they are always extremely busy and we might need to book a table in advance. It would seem however, that coming out of the state of emergency they are enthusiastic to get business moving again. Despite being quite busy, the manager and workers were eager to pull us in and sit us down.

We only wanted a drink but we took one look at the menu and had to get something to eat! The amount of Kirby related sweets on the menu looked too good to turn down!

So, it’s now 1 o’clock. We have 6 hours to burn before we ascend the 350 floors of SkyTree to see the Final Fantasy VII Remake event. Luckily, we are in the perfect place for wasting time, and waste time we did. This was the first proper outing we had since the state of emergency. So to finally leave the house and have so much stuff to do was like going to Disneyland.

Ikea In Tokyo

“You buy furniture. You tell yourself this is the last sofa I will ever need in my life. Buy the sofa, then for a couple of years you’re satisfied that no matter what goes wrong, at least you’ve got your sofa issue handled. Then the right set of dishes, then the perfect bed. The drapes. The rug. Then, you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now own you.”

The Narrator, Fight club.

I love Ikea. It’s full of stuff that I want for absolutely no reason, but It never used to be that way. I used to hate Ikea. With a passion. My mum would drag me there every so often to look at stuff for 5 hours… In a building with no windows, phone signal, or anything interesting to look at. For a 13-16 year old kid, I had to retreat to my happy place like a prisoner of war being tortured. I would probably feel the same way today if Ikea hadn’t added smart home stuff to their inventory because THAT is what drew me in. Then I noticed the death star looking lamp shade, the electric rising and lowering desk computer table, venus fly traps & cacti.

Some snack at the Ikea combini in Harajuku

Now I find myself getting excited about one-peace stainless steel knife sets, low to the ground television stands, extra storage options for bathroom essentials and an extended list of of other perfectly boring, mundane and otherwise “grownup” things.

“How’s the Küllen coming along? Ikea doesn’t assemble itself, you know.” “You’re telling me. I don’t mind the Küllen. It’s an improvement on the Hürdal.” “Please, anything’s an improvement over the Hürdal. I’d have taken a Hemnes or a Trysil over a Hürdal. “No, I didn’t get excited until I saw the Küllen.”

Blind AI & Wade Wilson, Deadpool
Ikea in Harajuku, Japan

Ikea has had a bit of a love hate relationship in Japan since it arrived here in 1974. Unfortunately, Japan just wasn’t ready for the “do it yourself” flatpack furniture. Not to mention, Ikea did not do its due diligence in regards to how Japanese people live with furniture. Because Japan had very limited resources to make furniture in the past, Japanese people have grown up appreciating particularly high quality furniture that lasts for generations. Ikea’s cheap throw away furniture that you have to put together yourself just couldn’t compete in that kind of sector. As a result, in 1986 Ikea threw in the towel and left. However, after 20 years (and a lot of learning) Ikea is back for round two.

“These Swedish furniture designers sure have some far-out ideas. I mean, a green table! I wouldn’t have thought of that in my wildest dreams!”

Marge Simpson, The Simpsons.
Freshly baked Swedish pastries at the Ikea combini in Harajuku

We attended the debut of Ikea’s newest Ikea store in Harajuku. Not only is it the first Ikea store to open in Japan that is in a central location, it’s also the world’s first Ikea combini (convenience store). In order to manage the horde of people eager to witness this world’s first, we had to take a number. Every so often, the security guard would flip his sign around to display a new number and everyone with that number would be allowed in. Just in case you are shopping and don’t see that it is your turn, you would also receive a text/email to let you know.

“No, Bob! We have to go forward. It’s like IKEA. We can’t turn back” “Watch out for Swedish meatballs”

Linda & Gene, Bobs burgers.
Ikea Harajuku, Japan

It’s literally across the road from Harajuku station and you cant miss it. It’s much smaller than the vast warehouse that usually springs to mind when you think of Ikea, but it’s still a hefty building. This Ikea has two floors. Entering from the ground floor and immediately to your right you will see the Swedish combini. It’s not a huge store, only a few fridges for drinks and a few frozen items. A couple of shelves for things like cookies, crisps, and pots of ramen made by Ikea. Like, a lot of ramen. A truly ridiculous amount of ramen. There were boxes and boxes of ramen stacked high and the shelves were full of it. There must have been a shipping error along the way and someone wrote 500 boxes instead of 500 cups of ramen. That or they thought Japanese people would literally start killing if they didn’t get their ramen fix. Or maybe they just hadn’t put it away yet… I don’t know. There’s also a really nice coffee shop and bakery, the cinnabuns looked amazing! The rest of the first floor is dedicated to beds, and storage solutions with a customer service section at the back. Floor two is, in my opinion, the star attraction.

Vegan plant based ramen is available at the Ikea combini in Japan

“You know, this place looks great!” “Thanks man, it’s all Ikea. Did the whole place for 47 dollars.”

John Bennet & Ted, Ted
Order food via touch screens at the Ikea combini in Harajuku. There are plant based, vegan options available.

On the second floor there are cooking utensils, kitchen stuff, bathroom items and a few other things like ornaments, plants and bags. But what self respecting Ikea store wouldn’t have a place to buy a hot dog and drown it in ketchup and mustard once you have finished your Ikea excursion. This Ikea have taken that place to the next level. They have a very futuristic looking ordering station where you use the touch screen to order your food, pay for it, take the receipt and wait until your number is called. Not to worry though, because while you wait feel free to watch the four 72″ TVs displaying the various cooking stages of Switzerland’s answer to flat bread, Tunnbröd.

All in all, a great shopping experience. It seems that with a store like this, Ikea is really appealing to customers that just want small items for storage, bedding, a quick bite to eat, and a cup or 10 of Ikea ramen. There wasn’t really any focus on giant shelving or whole kitchens like the warehouses do. I have a feeling that this kind of Ikea will be popping up in many more locations around Japan.

“I don’t know how to tell you this, but there is a Chinese family in our bathroom.”

Tom & Summer, 100 Days Of Summer.

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!




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.





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.

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!


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

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

Odawara Castle

The 15th-Century was a very turbulent time in Japans history. Kyoto was destroyed during the Onin War, The Kaga Rebellion overthrew Samurai rule, forcing Ishikawa into a theocratic state, and Edo castle, the beginning of modern-day Tokyo was built. But before all of that, An ancient Game of Thrones like struggle between opposing Samurai clans was going on.

Odawara Castle
Odawara Castle

The Omori clan had seized control of Odawara from the Kobayakawa clan (descendants of the 50th Emperor of Japan). Who were in turn, swiftly defeated by Ise Moritoki of Izu, a samurai from a very well to do family of shogunate officials who went on to be the founder of the Odawara Hōjō clan. It was under this clan that the Odawara Castle became a sort of ancient fort Knox. It was constantly expanded and fortified and with traps, moats, sheer drops, improved defenses, and deadly cliffs. It was a force to be reckoned with.

Odawara Castle
Odawara Castle

The Odawara Hōjō clan held their position for almost a century. When finally in 1587 they made one final push to increase all defenses in anticipation for what they thought would be the greatest battle of the castle’s history, A battle with Toyotomi Hideyoshi. Toyotomi Hideyoshi was many things. A General, a samurai warrior, but first and foremost he was a politician and was able to defeat this, by now, behemoth of a castle quite easily. For three months, he starved out the soldiers and pretended to be an even larger army than they actually were. This resulted in a win for Toyotomi with very little bloodshed.

Unfortunately for the next few centuries, the castle would come under heavy earthquake bombardment until finally all former feudal fortifications were ordered to be destroyed by the Meiji Government. The stone foundation of the castle became the foundation for the Shinto shrine that sits there still to this day.

Odawara Castle
Odawara Castle Gardens

Odawara Castle was rebuilt on a much smaller scale in the early 1900s and the grounds where the once gigantic structure sat has since been turned in to a child’s fairground, beautiful gardens, a Shinto shrine, a museum, and a really nice restaurant.

Odawara Castle
Odawara Castle Monkeys

Odawara is a really nice picturesque day out, and an extremely interesting history to read up on. There is however, one downside to Odawara Castle though and that is monkeys in cages. I have been told that there used to be a zoo at Odawara Castle but has been decommissioned and the only residents left are the monkeys. As these monkeys have been raised in captivity they can’t just be released but They should be re-homed very soon.




Exploring Jiyugaoka

Getting up bright and early we headed to Jiyugaoka Station arriving just in time for lunch. Of course, we had to hit up the best place to eat vegan, T’s! If you have read my previous post about eating vegan you will be familiar with T’s Tan Tans. T’s is like the Mother restaurant.

Ts Restaurant in Jiyugaoka
Ts Restaurant in Jiyugaoka

 Apparently, we had just missed Pewdiepie! He is vacationing in Japan at the moment. Hopefully, I’ll get another chance to meet him. Honestly, if you get the chance to eat at T’s while you are in Japan, even if you’re not vegan do it! You won’t regret it.

little venice  in Jiyugaoka Tokyo Japan
little venice in Jiyugaoka Tokyo Japan

After the meal, we explored a bit and came across little Venice. It’s a super cute miniature version of a Venetian street. Complete with a clock tower, a flower shop, a little cafe, a leather apparel place, and a dog house in the middle of the canal. I would really like to know the story behind that one.

It’s so random to come across. especially comparing it to the buildings on the rest of the street which I would consider very Japanese.

Kosoan tea house, Jiyugaoka
Kosoan tea house, Jiyugaoka

Next up, the Marie Claire Promenade, or River Greenway, or Green Street. Actually, at this point, I’m not sure anyone knows what it’s called. Somewhere along the lines, someone thought it would be cool to call it Marie Claire Promenade because it looks like a trendy European street with boutiques and cake shops and fashionable clothes stores and that threw everybody off. Anyway, if you want to find it, type in Green Street into Google maps. It’s a really nice place to look around, but, and this may be a really unpopular opinion, the icing on the cake for me was the Starbucks Reserve.

Green Street Jiyugaoka Tokyo Japan
Green Street Jiyugaoka Tokyo Japan

There is so much more to see and do (and eat), and by all means, call me an uncultured swine. Deep down I know I am one, but I had never been to a Starbucks Reserve or a Starbucks Roastery so I thought I’d try it now and I was not disappointed! I never had a Coldbrew Float before and drinking it on the bench outside, marveling at the Sakura trees felt like it was just meant to be.

Green Street Jiyugaoka Tokyo Japan
Jiyugaoka Tokyo Japan

Hanami! Yoyogi Park vs Meguro River

If you were to google “best time to visit Japan” Google will tell you it is between March and May. The temperature is nice, very little rainfall, and oh yea the blooming of the cherry blossoms. If there is one thing that the Japanese take very seriously, it’s Hanami. They even have a forecast of when the flowers will blossom and of course, being Japan, it is extremely accurate.


Hanami is a flower viewing festival and it is sort of an official/unofficial spring celebration. Usually, you can do one of two things. You can get to a park bright and early and throw your picnic blanket down in the best spot you can find. Like trying to beat the Germans to the pool in Lanzarote, and get shitfaced. Or you can go to a street festival… And get shitfaced.

John Michael Milton

Now there is a massive debate about this, and that debate has raged for literally decades. Where to Hanami. Again, if you google it you will be inundated with wild numbers of places that you need to go to. “22 best places to Hanami”  “top 50 places to Hanami”  “26 Tokyo Sakura Spots: Cherry Blossom MEGA GUIDE!!!!!!” Seriously Google it. It’s as if every major Japanese blogging site desperately needs to have a Hanami guide with a ridiculous name and more and more spots to view flowers than competitors. Apparently, it all boils down to two places.

Yoyogi Park. Or the Meguro River.

So I went to both!

Meguro River

The Meguro River is a river that flows through Tokyo. it is just under five miles long and runs through Setagaya, Meguro, and Shinagawa wards and it flows into the Tokyo Bay near the Tennozi Isle Station.

Straight away the place was packed! I mean its a street festival a half a mile long, on two very narrow streets, with a river running down the middle of it, during Sakura blossom season. If there was a time for it to be packed, now would be it! The streets are full of shops and vendors on each side of the river selling street food. Japanese food, Korean food, beer, champagne, candyfloss, and of course the views!

It is my honest opinion that if you ever plan to visit Japan for a holiday check the forecast for cherry blossoms and book in advance. Make sure you visit the Meguro river! Like the title suggests it is ONE of the best places in Tokyo to visit and view the cherry blossoms.

Yoyogi Park

Yoyogi is a completely different animal. It’s more of a party in the park B.Y.O.B, bring lots of friends, listen to music and watch the cherry blossoms kind of deal. First a little history.

Hanami Yoyogi Park

In 1909 it was a training ground for Japanese troops. Then it was the location of the first successful powered flight in Japan. Then it housed the American military during the allied occupation of Japan. Then it became the main area for the Olympic village in 1967. Today Yoyogi park is a place for people to chill. It’s a place for people to walk their dogs and have a nice leisurely stroll in the afternoon.


Sundays are when the park really comes alive. Joggers, dog walkers, cosplayers, martial art schools, you name it. Everyone is out in force. It’s definitely a place to visit if you’re a tourist looking to observe what a Japanese Sunday looks like.

If there is one thing that Yoyogi park is known for it’s Hanami. Grab your drink of choice, or twelve, get there early to chuck your blanket down, wack on some tunes and observe the cherry blossoms. Honestly, there isn’t much more to it than that.

I can definitely see what’s so appealing. If reading a book under a tree with a flask of coffee (or booze) and enjoying the gentle breeze and fresh air, or having an outdoor laugh with mates and knocking back a couple of cold ones is your idea of a good time then Yoyogi park is for you.


For me however, it’s all about the lights, the sounds, the smells, and the action of Meguro river. There are only three images of Japan that are universally recognized as Japan. I mean if you were to show these images to anyone on planet earth, even if they had no internet they could tell you not only have they seen that image before but that it is Japan. Those images are.

five-story pagoda and Mount Fuji in Arakurayama Sengen Park in Fujiyoshida

The Sagano Bamboo Forest in Kyoto

The other one is the Meguro River during cherry blossom season. Honestly, if you are in Tokyo for the Hanami season there is no better place to be.