to yokohama and back

You know how every city has a certain feel to it? If I were to describe Yokohama, I would definitely say that it feels like Sydney in a lot of ways. For one, despite being just a thirty minute train ride from the heart of Tokyo, there were way less people than compared to the capital. It also had a lot less tall buildings and more greenery lining the streets, with even a huge port to rival my beloved Sydney Harbour. Anyway, since my friend lives in Yokohama, I was lucky enough to explore the place from a local's perspective for the day!





Our first stop of the day was Yokohama Chinatown, which is apparently the largest of its kind in Asia! While I've been to my fair share of Chinatowns, what stuck out to me was how bustling this one was. It definitely felt more tourist-orientated, with plenty of things to see and do wherever you look. There was also plenty to eat, with street stalls selling everything from bubble tea to pork buns the size of my face. I'm not sure how authentic it all was, but I really loved the atmosphere of the place!





Of course, I couldn't leave without taking a snap of Chinatown's famous gates! There are actually quite a few of these scattered around the area, and they all mark the various entrances to the district.





Afterwards we walked to the international passenger terminal, where you'll find a pretty good view of the harbour. I have to say though, walking on the dock was quite an experience in itself! It really felt like we were on a giant space ship, for lack of a better description.





Strolling around Red Brick Warehouse, which is a historical building that houses a lot of shops, food outlets as well as event venues. Unfortunately I didn't have time to do some proper shopping, but it was fun to poke around all the quirky stores inside!





My first time eating potato wedges in months at a little izakaya. Oh how I missed them... This particular place my friends and I visited specialised in seafood and wine, which I really enjoyed. To be honest, I never really drank much before coming to Japan. However, I really like the fact that good food is also a huge part of the drinking culture here, which could either be a good or bad thing!

Anyway, that was my day in Yokohama before hopping on the last bus home. My only regret is that I didn't get to see the harbour lit up at night, but I know I'll definitely be back to see it on my second visit. Until next time!
Posted by : Mani

booth net cafe & capsule

Like so many things here in Japan, capsule hotels were created for the sake of convenience. Despite the 'work hard play hard' mentality here, you might be surprised to learn that most trains actually only run until midnight! As you can imagine, this can leave you in quite the predicament if you end up stranded in the city. Thus the capsule hotel was born, where businessmen could crash after a night of drinking and be fresh for work again the next morning. But of course, today anyone from locals to tourists are able to use these unique hotels.



Anyway, I've been fascinated by capsule hotels for the longest time. I'm not exactly sure where the appeal lies in sleeping in what's essentially a little coffin, but it's always seemed so fun to me! The place I stayed at is called Booth in Shinjuku, and is actually both a manga cafe and capsule hotel in one. Reception's open 24 hours a day, so I was able to check in at midnight with no problems.

     



Ordinarily capsule hotels are specified as being for men only, but this one actually has a section strictly for females. The area requires an electronic pass to enter, so it's very secure. The capsule itself comes with a power outlet, alarm clock and a light with adjustable settings. While the door was just a mesh screen, I was pretty lucky that my neighbours were quiet and I managed to sleep like a baby!

     

Since I checked in pretty late, I didn't have much time to take advantage of the unlimited drinks and ice cream available. However, you can pay to use the amenities and computer booths for a certain period of time without staying the night. Definitely something you might want to consider if you have a few hours to kill in Tokyo!



The common area where you can use the PCs and read manga to your heart's content. The format is pretty much like any manga cafe you can find here in Japan, except with a way more pleasant atmosphere. If you've seen the fluorescent lighting and dankness of a regular manga cafe here, you'd definitely know what I mean.



Anyway, that's one more thing I can tick off the bucket list! The stay was a tad expensive (especially considering showers cost extra) but I'd totally do it again. The only catch is that it's best to stay for one night, since they require you to check out when they clean out the capsules each day. Also, booking in advance is a must! Kinda sucks considering the whole point of a capsule is to be a last minute accommodation, but I guess that can't be helped considering how popular they've gotten lately.
Posted by : Mani

a day in asakusa

One of my favourite things about Japan is how traditional and modern culture seem to coexist so easily. Even in the heart of Tokyo with all its flashing lights and crazy traffic, it's not unusual to stumble across the odd temple or traditional Japanese garden. In fact, one of the most popular areas for a taste of traditional Japan is Asakusa, home to Sensoji Temple and Nakamise Dori. Despite the fact that it was a Friday when I visited, the place was packed to the brim. I can't even imagine what the weekends must be like!





On this particular day I was visiting Tokyo to catch up with friends, some of whom I hadn't seen since they studied abroad back in Sydney! Anyway, we decided to find out our fortunes because why not? If you're unlucky, you're actually meant to tie it to one of the many posts around the temple. I got to keep my fortune since it was a good one though. Lucky me!



      

This water fountain outside the temple is actually intended for cleansing yourself before you enter. I'm pretty sure there's a proper method of doing it, but don't worry if you don't get it right. I'm pretty sure Japanese people themselves even get it wrong from time to time!





Taking a break in the shaded area, where there are actually pipes spraying out cool mist. If you ever visit Asakusa in the summertime, be prepared! The heat is killer, especially since there seems to be concrete everywhere you go.



      

From Asakusa we walked to Skytree, where there's a huge complex filled with shops and restaurants. Since we were in the mood for something sweet we decided to visit Gion Tsujiri, which is dedicated to matcha desserts! I got the soft serve in hojicha, otherwise known as roasted green tea. Compared to my friend's regular matcha it was a lot sweeter and subtler in flavour, which I really enjoyed.



We didn't actually go up to the top of Skytree, but this was the gorgeous view just outside the matcha shop. Anyway, after walking around Shibuya and catching up over drinks at an izakaya I actually crashed at a capsule hotel for the first time. The experience was super interesting to say the least, but that's a story I'll save for next time!
Posted by : Mani