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MISS GLASS HOME TRAVEL GUIDE: JAPAN

March 17, 2017

I love nothing more than to travel and explore places I've never been to before. 

I'm always writing emails to family and friends with my travel tips - so why not share them with you too?!

I'll be adding my travel guides from time to time via this blog so I hope you enjoy.

Each guide will outline where to eat, where to stay and what to see.

 

So here's my travel tips for Tokyo, Kyoto & Naoshima in Japan. 

These locations take you around the Honshu Island in a nice and easy triangle that is easily navigated on the bullet train. 

 

I cannot wait to get back and explore more regions from the far north in ski season to the far southern islands. 


For now, enjoy my tips for the places I've been to so far...

TOKYO

 

My first impression at Narita Airport was that it was so clean I could eat off the floor! I knew that I would love Japan from then on. And so I did!

 

EAT

Kick off your night by having a cocktail in the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt. Lost in Translation eat your heart out! It has amazing views over the city and the atmosphere is second to none. Do it!

 

As for specific restaurants, I would say to just wander around Shibuya and find those little vendors on the street. You can sample a small range or food then move on to the next.

 

STAY

When I landed it was my birthday weekend, so I wanted to kick of Tour de Japan in style.

I read an article in (my favourite magazine) Monocle about Hotel Okura and how it will be shut down for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020. Read the article here.

Set in a leafy suburb of Toranomon where most embassies are based, Hotel Okura is an institution. A real throw back to the 50's, where you could imagine it as a back drop in Mad Men.

 

It's minimal yet grand and feels like you've stepped into a time machine.

I think part of the hotel is still there (there were 2 sites next to each other, now I think only 1 remains) but I recommend if you want a throw back into mid century Tokyo outside the hustle and bustle of downtown Tokyo.

It's also really close to the Tokyo Tower and there's a Nobu downstairs. Yum!

MINIMALIST: Hotel Okura foyer area.

Photo credit: Siobhan Glass

 

We stayed at Nui Hostel when we retuned to Tokyo from our tour of Kyoto & Naoshima (see below tips). It's a budget friendly hostel located in Kurame, along the Sumida river in Tokyo.

We stayed in a private room that overlooked the river. There is great coffee downstairs as well as happy hour each night that gets busy.

A great vibe where we met some fun people.

RELAXED: The downstairs bar and eatery at the Nui Hostel lobby, Tokyo.

Photo credit: Siobhan Glass

 

SEE

Cat Cafes are too cute! I highly recommend paying the extra money to purchase food so you are popular with the cats. Not somewhere to hang out if you're not a cat lover! ha!

There is also Owl Cafe's and Hedgehog Cafe's now too. Oh man, I would love to cuddle a cute little hedgehog and take one home with me!

CAT CAFE: For cat lovers only! This was a nice little one overlooking Shibuya.

Photo credit: Siobhan Glass

 

I tracked down the House Na by Sou Fujimoto Architects via the amazing ArchDaily website where they have a map of notable architecture all around the world. The address is not disclosed but the close location is, so you can work it out for yourself and get lost in the back streets.

It is such an amazing piece of architecture and the Citreon DS is just the cherry on top. 

ARCHITOUR: A self guided tour to find House Na thanks to ArchDaily.

Photo credit: Siobhan Glass

 

Tokyo Tower is a great vantage point to check out the city and get your bearings.

Tokyo is pretty flat, so you can see far in all directions. Entry is 900 YEN for 1 adult.

VIEWS FOR DAYS: Tokyo Tower has great views, giving you a great vantage point.

Photo credit: Siobhan Glass

KYOTO

 

We took the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto and pre-booked our rail pass via Flight Centre as you can't buy them after you land.  Rail passes aren't cheap but the bullet trains are an absolute pleasure to use.

Another thing to note is that you need to book your seat on the leg you are planning on each planned travel day.

 

Something I found out while in Japan was that you can buy Japan Airline (JAL) "Visit Japan Fares" that are tourist-only flights to combat the rail pass prices. They cost around AUD120 per sector and it can work out cheaper than a rail pass and take a lot less time depending on where you are planning to travel between.

You can thank me later for that tip!

 

EAT

I had the best Okonomiyaki and Edamame of my life in Kyoto!

For the life of me I don't know the restaurant name but thanks to Google Maps and Google Street View, I (virtually) walked through the streets again as I remember how I walked there from our hostel! Ha ha! Talk about being in the future!

Check out my Kyoto food recommendation here and see it on maps and street view - who needs a name anyway?

 

SEE

The bamboo forrest in Kyoto is magic! Just try avoiding the crowds by entering the park either early in the morning or an hour before close as it can get crowded.

It's a peaceful, tranquil park that doesn't take too long to get around.

DUSK: We managed to avoid the crowds at the Bamboo Forrest by arriving late and enjoying the sunset.

Photo credit: Siobhan Glass

 

We hired bikes directly with our hostel (see below) which was a great way to get around Kyoto. It's a flat city so very easy to ride around. There are great bike paths along the Kamo River and some gorgeous canals that have beautiful little stores dotted around the city.

Kamo River: A relaxing way to get around downtown Kyoto.

Photo credit: Siobhan Glass

 

The Fushimi Inari Shrine can get very busy but the bike ride from downtown Kyoto to half the fun. 

It is a super picturesque area with pretty gardens and great paths to walk around and enjoy.

PICTURESQUE: The red gates of the Fushimi Inari Shrine.

Photo credit: Siobhan Glass

 

STAY

The small but super clean Piece Hostel in Kyoto, is a short walk from the Kyoto train station.

This place was so clean that the grout in the shared bathrooms was sparkling white! ha ha! Well that's Japan for you - clean as a whistle!

 

SMALL BUT CLEAN: Sparkling white grout - say no more!

Photo credit: Piece Hostel, Kyoto.

NAOSHIMA

 

A tranquil get-away on a little island off the South-East Coast. It's packed to the brim with Tadao Ando architecture, museums and art. A great alternative to seeing another city and taking it slow for a few days.

 

EAT

Recommending an American Diner on a Japanese Island - who would have thought?!

We went to Shioya Diner, located at: Japan, 〒761-3110 Kagawa Prefecture, Kagawa District, 直島町2227.

The staff were friendly and fun and it had a very cute vibe to it. Located right next to the I Love Yu onsen.

 

Another great little local curry restaurant was Raumen Tsumu, located at: Japan, 〒761-3110 Kagawa-ken, Kagawa-gun, Naoshima-chō, (Sonota), 香川県香川郡直島町4780−7

It had cheap beer and you sat on tatami mats to eat your meal with the locals. And the curry was delish!

 

SEE

The local train has spectacular views between Okayama and Uno. Getting between the last bullet train stop and onto the island itself is a pleasure as long as you're not lugging loads of luggage.

LOCAL TRAIN: The Uno Line JR train gets you from the bullet train at Okayama to the Uno Port where you board the Naoshima ferry.

Photo credit: Siobhan Glass

 

We hired electric bikes from the bike shop you see immediately once you disembark from the ferry. Trust me - you need an electric bike! Naoshima is very hilly and it makes getting between the museums and the public artworks scattered across the island enjoyable without being sweaty or having to rely on the bus or taxis.

ART: The most spectacular artwork: Yayoi Kasuma's "Yellow Pumpkin"

Photo credit: Siobhan Glass

 

My top picks for Museums on the Island are: Chichu Art Museum, Benesse House and the Ando Museum.

ANDO: Chichu Art Museum entrance by one of my favourite architects Tadao Ando. A concreter's dream.

Photo credit: Siobhan Glass

 

STAY 

There are some great options of places to stay on Noashima. From luxury to camping - all options are covered.

The Tsutsuji-so Yurts were recommended through a friend. Yurt #9 is the best one if you can book it. It's closest to the water and has uninterrupted views over the ocean.

I'm no fan of camping but this was more like a nice caravan park. The yurts are not brand new but they are lovely and spacious. We booked out a whole yurt for ourselves, but note there are 4 x single beds in a yurt. 

They are super spacious and the timber structures are intricately detailed which was pretty.

YURT: The Tsutsujiso Yurts overlooking the Seto Inland Sea

Photo Credit: Siobhan Glass

 

If you have a little extra cash to splash - get in early and book a room at Benesse House. There are 2 sites, one in the museum itself and one on the water.

If I go back, that's where I'll stay next.

 BEACHFRONT: The Benesse Art Site is a luxury getaway filled with beautiful gardens and art.

Photo credit: Benesse House website

 

So there you have it - my tips for Japan! Phew - that took a while!

Let me know if you took up any of my recommendations. 

Stay tuned for more Miss Glass Home travel guides coming your way!

 

 

 

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