Osaka in 4 days, a food extravaganza

Japan, Travel

We wanted to spend a while in Osaka, but when we planned there was no Covid-19 so everything was open.

Sadly when we got there unless it was a bad or restaurant it was all closed! So our experience of Osaka was a little tainted. Yes we had the best Okonominyaki at the station twice ( it was so good we went back the next day before we went to Kyoto! It was so good we considered hoping on a bullet train back to the station to eat it again.

We had booked the sumo wrestling which we were so excited about but it was cancelled to the public just as we arrived. We planned our journey around the Sumo and the Nara festival. But what we didn’t research enough was that Nara was closer to Osaka then Kyoto, lesson learned.

We were told that people in Osaka are very helpful and friendly and we were struck by it immediately. If we looked lost someone would ask us if we were okay.

The bullet trains made it easier to visit places but it was still a slight hiccup that experience ha taught us.

The bars and restaurant culture in Osaka was epic but it was also the busiest place. We visited the castle on the first day and paid £10 to have a drink on the roof. Bar charges are a a common occurrence in Japan so get used to it, the most we ever paid was £14 each but it was in Kyoto and the place was a ghost town so we were happy to support the bar. The roof top was empty and beautiful so I am glad we did it. It was so quite that we took photos on our phone on the timer. There was no one around it felt very safe.

We had a few gins ( Hiroshima gin is beautiful) and we drank it a lot. Just make sure you ask for Japanese gins otherwise you will get imported British gin.

We also Skyped my mum to check on her, Aunty and the dog. The castle contrasted with the backdrop of Osaka felt unreal.

Osaka castle
Kamukura best gyoza and super tasty ramen

Food Osaka style

Ummm I have already mentioned the Okonominyaki which was amazing we had it on our last night and then just before we left and we loved it. But that wasn’t the most exciting meal we had. I had seen the Netflix show about Izakaya Toyo whet he cooks with his hands and a blow torch.

It’s all very theatrical and wonderful and for the tourists. I have mentioned before that Japan doesn’t really do street food, it is not ingrained in their culture but they do put it on and you will find it in most places. But this is for us the tourist.

Thank god because it’s so good.

We had to queue for our food for about five minutes and the food was so good. It was busy and we loved the hustle and bustle but it was full of tourists. Toyo was warm and funny and ran up and down the street! He encouraged pictures and filming and the tuna was great! All the food was great.

I accidentally picked gav a can of whiskey highball but he drank it and we ordered more food and helped ourselves to more drink.

I loved it!

Octopus

I was looking forward to the famous octopus balls and we ate a lot of them. It’s important to remember that these are napalm hot and even if you leave them for 10 minutes they are still going to burn your mouth so wait, then wait some more.

I love octopus it’s my favourite meat of choice, tender tasty I love it. In the UK it’s not common on the restaurant scene so I generally order it when ever I am out.

We also ate out in restaurants but Osaka is a foodie hotspot we also had amazing Ramen at a cool cafe where you had to use a machine to order. We would definitely recommend Kamukura for a cheap and tasty eat, and order the gyoza I think it was the best we had the whole time.

Umeda

We stayed in a great location in Umeda but if I was going to go back to Osaka I would stay closer to Namba station because we ended up there most nights.

Osaka is a busy city.

There were crowds everywhere.

It was a Stark contrast to the quietness of Hiroshima it almost felt like corona virus wasn’t there. There was so many shops so if you love shopping then this is the place to go. The Pokemon museum, rides were closed so we just had food, temples and bars again and they where just as impressive here!

The wonderful thing about Shinto religion is that you worship small local gods and there are so many.

Bar life

We spent a lot of time walking around this huge city. Exploring shrines, discovering melon pan and drinking.

On our third evening we walked past the a building that had a sign for 8 bars. It was down a flight of steps and looked like a scary basement. It was a labyrinth of doors so we just picked on and went it. We found a tiny bar that could seat no more than 8 people sat relaxed and had a few gins! We planned to go back the next night and try another door but we ended up at another bar.

It’s really important to explore the city. Japan is pretty safe so we never felt like we could explore. The basement below did look highly uninviting but spent a great few hours down there.

It enough room to swing a cat!!

I am putting this blog post together and remembering so much!

We took it easy in Osaka as we had four days and lots of our plans had been cancelled. So we stayed out late, slept in ( till 9am bliss) and hunted for fluffy pancakes.

I am going to leave this blog here but with one lasting image and that is the amazing okonominyaki Kiji oh yes! This was a ten minute walk from our hotel and we ate there twice. The next day we were there at 11am when it opened and there were two people in front of us and we both had backpacks on!

We sat at the grill table where they make them and we both ordered what we had the night before with beer ( of course). It was a great way to start outlet trip to Kyoto. With full bellies and happy memories of food, drink and the kindness of Osaka.

So some of the highlights!

  • Kuramon market for lunch
  • Dotombori street for crazy city life we had some octopus balls and ramen near here you can shop till late in the night
  • Izakaya Toyo, the raw tuna was my favourite it was also great for the drama and fun of it, it was a cold drizzly day and we had great time
  • Sumo wrestling ( we didn’t go but we watched it on tv)
  • Osaka castle was beautiful and quiet when we were there but definitely aim for sunset when you visit as the views and contras were amazing
  • Shrines are every where but the moss ( near donburi street) and the lion ( near Namba station) were like no other shrines we shrines seen!
  • Don Quixote is a great shop for everything but there is one on the river that has a Ferris wheel which was scary but fun to do ( I hate heights)
  • We can’t comment on the museums and sky towers we wanted to visit because they were closed.

The Hungry traveller top 10 places to visit next!

Advice, Planning, Travel, Travel planning

Okay so with a lot of time on my hands I have been thinking about travel. Where I want to go to next and what food do I want to eat. When it comes to travel I am always led by my stomach. With unemployment dooming I know that I may have free time but I don’t have the money so these trips will contain careful planning of time and money.


But I will visit these places.


1 Korea


If Korea has taught us anything during the pandemic it is to show the rest of the world how to cope in a crisis. Just like I am still in love with Japan I feel the same sort of pull to Korea. There is something about the culture, the people and especially the food. We have been binge watching Korean dramas like Kingdom and Magic Pop up Bar, and don’t get me started on Train to Busan. Yes that is two Zombie references but Korean horror is equisite. I will need to do a lot more research but its my number one place to go to at the moment and I can’t wait.

  • Time of year: Spring
  • Flight time: 11+
  • Day allocation: 10-14

2 Japan


Okay I know its only been a few months since we have been back but I loved it. I still have a lot more blogs coming out about it (hope you don’t mind) but it was such an inspiring place and the food was amazing. It will be eye opening to see it when it is busy and buzzing. It will also be nice to see it with all the museums and galleries open. We missed Sumo wrestling, Team lab and the Ghibli museum to name but a few. I would like to visit in the autumn and do a tour of the gardens, we will revisit Yamagata and hopefully explore the more Northern districts.

  • Time of year: Spring
  • Flight time: 11+
  • Day allocation: 14

3 Vietnam & Cambodia


Are you sensing a trend?

Asia is so exciting to me.


When I lived in Australia my favourite thing was the food and they had excellent Vietnamese food. But there is so much more than food when it come to Vietnam and I cant wait to go. Hanoi looks insane but I really want to go into the country side and visit a few cities and towns, then finish on the beach for a few days. We may have our friends there with us.

I put Cambodia on here because if I visit Vietnam that it would be good to sneak a few days maybe even a week exploring.

These are both tropical countries so time of year is crucial.

  • Time of year: Spring
  • Flight time: 14+
  • Day allocation: 14

4 Canada Whistler


So, two of these holidays maybe birthday treats for me and my bestie. Yes they are long haul expensive trips but our partners get along and sometimes its nice to experience things in a group. Snowboarding is always best in a group. One of the nicest things about us as a foursome is that we don’t get offended if we want space from each other or want to explore different things. We just do it. No offence, no issues. We are both easy going and enjoy exploring. This will be a hiking and snowboarding activity trip. When everything was happening with Brexit and we ere considering leaving the UK Canada was one of our first thoughts. Its time to explore!!

  • Time of year: Winter
  • Flight time: 9+
  • Day allocation: 7-10

5 New York


This is Gavin’s Birthday present. We had it booked for September and it will be a Diehard 3, Ghost buster inspired trip. With a few restaurants and ‘Carrie’ moments thrown in for good measure. America is so expensive now but I have two places singled out. I think that New York is a magical place and although it would be amazing at Christmas I think I would prefer to see it in Autumn when the trees are changing colours and you have to wrap up warm and visit cosy cafes and bistros.

  • Time of year: Autumn
  • Flight time: 7+
  • Day allocation: 5-6


6 New Orleans


The Lafayette’s and Payet’s of this world a largely found in New Orleans. As my heritage is French/ African it will be amazing to see how the culture is so different from the Seychelles. In Seychelles they speak Creole and the food is creole in New Orleans cajun cooking is from here. They are very different cultures but it will be interesting to explore my heritage in a different part of the word. It will take a lot of planning to narrow down all the restaurants and bars I want to visit but it will be worth it. I have a vision of New Orleans is in my head I just hope it lives up to it. I also read a lot of Anne Rice when I was a kid and I loved all the big houses, witches and ghosts.

  • Time of year: spring
  • Flight time: 13+
  • Day allocation: 7-10

7 Iceland


This is solely about the northern lights and maybe a sleigh ride. This would be a short trip but it is definitely on my list of places I have always wanted to do. I will be wept away into his dark materials and trying to find Cities in the Sky, I just hope when we go we get to see them, the Northern lights that is. Iceland is a magical place I love the mythology. I am not sure my food obsession will be

  • Time of year: Winter New Year
  • Flight time: 3
  • Day allocation: 5

8 Montenegro


I have written a blog on Montenegro already, but there is something very exciting about this tiny country but it’s the food and the views that have me enraptured.
I think there is something truly amazing about this tiny country that needs exploring! I have a few books that I am reading about it. All the amazing seafood makes me drool.

  • Time of year: Spring
  • Flight time: 4-5
  • Day allocation: 6 days


9 Norway


Okay this may be due to my current obsession with Norse Gods and hiking. I really want to go on a Hiking Holiday preferably taking our little French bull dog with us. I don’t necessarily want to sleep in a tent or hostel but a nice bed and maybe a sauna. Is that too muc to ask. We will practice with the hiking holiday to Yorkshire and see how well the dog likes it. Maybe get a ferry across and and hike throughthe fjords. I need to do a lot more research but that would be a dream trip.


We are currently watching Ragnorok on Prime and loving it.

  • Time of year: Summer
  • Flight time: 3hrs
  • Day allocation: 5 minimun


10 Great Britain


Without getting to political I feel like in my lifetime we will lose Scotland. This will really break my heart as I love Scotland but they are right when they say that the Government ignores there needs, yes they have some privileges over England but being ignored and not heard is not okay. So I took Gavin to Edinburgh for his 3oth and he loved it, we have been back for a wedding, me for a hen do but it would be great to explore more of Scotland.

I am looking at the islands and north of Scotland, this my also coincide with my new love of whiskey and my first love Gin but I think staying closer to home and exploring the countries that you live in is really important.
I mentioned above a hiking trip to Yorkshire which we will take the little dog with us.

  • Time of year: All year time
  • Flight time: 1-2 hours
  • Day allocation: 3-4

Summary

We won’t be stepping on a plan this year, we just don’t think it’s safe right now so this will be a bucket list for the next ten years. I will continue to follow my stomach and plan my trips!

Have you got any trips planned?

My backpack love: buying a backpack a quick review

Advice, Planning, Travel

When we knew we were going to Japan I knew I wanted a back pack. It was an essential for travel and for just meandering around. I really wanted a cute bag but it had to be practical. We were travelling around Japan and had two single night trips planned. This meant all our bits in our back packs.

I also want to use it for work. To use every day.

What I wanted

  • Compartments
  • A water bottle holder
  • A strap for my luggage
  • A place for the passports
  • A charging port

So I did some research and my contenders where

Fjallraven, man , I want one

I love these bags, but there was a shop in London so I thought I would check them out but they felt cheap. Then I did a bit more research and discovered that there are a lot of fakes everywhere. So when you do your research on a bag it is important to see where the retailers actually sell.

When you want to invest in a brand I really wanted an actual bag. Not a fake knock off. This is brand that gets attacked all the time. You see instagram ads for 40% off….. yeah they aren’t real.

I love the colours and the brand but for practical reasons I didn’t want a top loading bag. I know they have other bags but it wasn’t in the style I wanted. It didn’t really have anything I was looking for.

The main reason I didn’t get this bag is that I didnt want a bag that was a fad! I wanted something I could use all the time. I think after all this time I will buy one. They are gorgeous bags and they last.

Fjallraven to research.

Instagram influenced by Nordace

I loved this bag. It seemed to have everything I wanted. But it’s a fairly new brand for me so I did some research. I even messaged someone who I saw on Instagram who was using one and asked her opinion and she loved it.

The main reason I liked this bag is the colour? Not very practical but it looks so nice.

The main reason I was attracted to this bag was the marketing all the Instagram images were packing videos. I love a packing blog. I watch and read them all the time. I loved how much you could fit into this bag. It’s great.

It’s pricey but great.

Again I couldn’t check the quality because they are not in shops also there was some concern on the zips mentioned in the comments. The main reason I didn’t get this bag was the fact it’s took 6 weeks to arrive and even though I had time, I didn’t want to invest in this if it wasn’t going to arrive.

Nordace to research.

What I actually bought , Matein

This was nothing like the style of what I wanted but it had everything right including the price. It did give me Nordace vibes but it wasn’t in any great colours however I love grey. So I thought I couldn’t go wrong. It was similar to the Nordace but without the elegance. I love this bag, I just wish it came in yellow or green!!

I was taking far too long to decide what I wanted and in the end this arrive two weeks before we flew to Japan. So I tried it out was happy with and it was very spacious without being bulky.

It has pretty much everything on the list! I am someone who where’s something until it falls apart and then I generally patch it and wear it for a bit longer.

I am not some one who has a lot of bags. I have a few but because I like tan leather I feel like one bag does everything. I do have some other colours and some dressy bags but I generally only have one everyday bag at a time and then I wear it all the time. Being practical a backpack is the best thing ever. It’s on your back so your hands are free and it has masses of storage!

I love this grey bag. It’s light and strong and lets me fill it to the top. Because the weather was ever changing my backpack generally held my Mac and Gavins hoodie. The rest was my charger, cables, etc. I will do a what’s in my bag in a later blog.

This bag was half the price but it did the job. I still want a fjallraven maybe Gavin will get me one for my birthday!!

Matien to research.

A surprise Hunter back pack

So Gavin bought me a backpack for our honeymoon without talking to me he surprised me with a gorgeous bag.

But it wasn’t practical at all. The side pocket zip broke on the way to the airport so Gavin contacted the brand and when we arrived at Japan the other side zip broke.

I was surprised because hunter is a good brand. We did use it but only when we went back pack only. When the crisis is over I may see if my local Tailor can fix the zip as I love the colour.

I think Gavin was disappointed that I wasn’t more enthusiastic about the bag but a top loading bag isn’t great for travel and this was proved time and time again! We organised for our luggage to be sent on ahead at every destination but it was my grey backpack that was crucial to travelling!

Hunter to research.

In summary

It’s really important to do your research when investing in a back pack. I didn’t go for my dream bag because it wasn’t quite right, but I did go for a sensible one. A someone who doesn’t believe in fast fashion but function over style I know I will have this for years. It is understated and brilliant.

I think when buying luggage you should write what you need it to do and how important access is! To me this bag had lots of pockets and compartments and is so practical. I only had to repack a few items but the majority stayed in my bag. I will write a what’s in my day to day in another blog!

Hope you enjoyed! What backpacks do you use and would recommend?

My love of Japanese wooden dolls and changing my spending habits

Honeymoon, Travel

So even though I love to travel and explore, I am not on the biggest wage so when it comes to spending money there are only a few things I like to invest in. Travel and experiences, I don’t mind, meals and nights out I think are memory makers, so if I blow my budget on a weekend then I don’t go out for the rest of the month and I am fine with that. I try not to live above my means but my credit card will definitely tell you a different story. I don’t have issues spending my money on food or skincare but that’s where it stops.


That is when I doubt myself and go no further.
I have had a look at my wardrobe in recent years and I am not really happy with it. Even though I didn’t spend hundreds I still indulged in fast fashion of Primark and although I actually have some nice pieces from there, I need to invest more in myself. I made a conscious effort to not be so frivolous and invest in better quality everything. Because I teach art I do get covered in paint and ink a lot so I do have a cheaper work wardrobe but I have started buying better jeans etc.


In Japan I bought a lot of skincare but that is a passion of mine. I also bough a fair few kimono jackets that I adore. They are all second hand and Gavin encouraged me as they are beautiful and I will have them forever. Because we were at the end of our holidays and because I hadn’t bought a souvenir Gavin (again) encouraged me to buy some wooden dolls.


These are frivolous, but I wont have the opportunity to buy them in Yamagata any time soon. So I took the plunge and bought three.
I love them.


In our vast and winding hotel in Yamagata we discovers Kokeshi dolls. They had cabinets full of them and I oved the display. These Wooden dolls that are hand painted with beautiful flowers and expressions. The original Kokeshi dolls were connected to the mountain gods and were said to bring fortune such as health recovery and good harvest to them. So what better reminder of my time on the mountain then 3 lovely wooden dolls.
I don’t mind if you don’t like them.


I spent ages selecting the ones I liked arranging them to see if they work together. I played around and selected my 3. The shop was empty so the man was delighted I was buying 3. I wanted more and if I had found them in Tokyo I would have bought more.


But I didn’t.


When I got home and put them in my red dining room Gavin produced a tiny doll. Then the next day he snuck another one in. I love them and I love him for being so thoughtful. They wont be to everyone’s taste but I think they are a wonderful reminder of our time in the slopes.


What strange item did you bring back from your holidays?


Or do you have any shopping regrets that you wished you bought?

Snow boarding japan Yamagata

Honeymoon, Travel


So firstly if you are just reading this post I should let you know that in March 2020 I honeymoone in Japan. This was at the start of Covid 19 when it was just called the Corona virus and the British government said it was safe to go! So off we flew with the air hostess wearing masks and gloves.

Which felt a bit alien to us…. not any more.

We felt pretty safe in Japan as everything was clean, 60% of people were wearing masks and Japan was quiet. We didn’t face many crowds and the whole world was just getting on with it. Italy had not yet shut down and all the horrific deaths had just been reporting China and the cruise ship off Japan.

It felt safe and quiet.


Really, really quite.


Restaurants where half empty, bars, shops it was really tough to see. Zao Onsen was half closed down due to the lack of tourism and they were suffering for it.


Some places were really busy and others were just not.


Snowboarding

We stepped off the bus into crisp cold air and the town was white with snow. We had 3 nights booked and we were excited for this part of our trip.

We went to Zao Onsen to do two days snowboarding up in the beautiful mountains. The trees look like they are made of glass it definitely felt like we were in Narnia . It was too warm to see the famous Zao Onsen snow monsters but we could see there out lines and it was still filled with magic.


We got to see a different side of Japan and in many ways we were really lucky. We definitely lucked out with Snowboarding.


I should tell you that because of all the onsens the whole town smelled like eggs, stinky eggs. You soon get used to it but it did permeate everywhere.


Hotel Matsukaneya Anex

Our hotel was pretty much empty, the owners were amazing and attentive. They picked us up from the station, advised us where to go for food and dropped us back at the station. We had two onsens to choose from and the food was pretty great two. I am going to do a review of all the hotels we stayed in. This on was defiantly brilliant, great budget hotel full of character and wonderful people.

The room was large and the heating was on so it was nice and cosy! We stayed in a traditional futon in the floor which was comfortable enough and we spent our evenings in the Onsen and watching movies on my Amazon Tablet ( the only time I used it!) plus I got to wear the robe to dinner which I loved!

Our hotel was a short walk to a main rope way (gondola) and we went straight to the top of the mountain. Like most of my trips I have no confidence on my first slope but we had no one with us. It was icy cold. My hair froze in its place and matted together. It was so cold but like all boarding trips, when its that cold you keep on moving.


When we went boarding in Le Deuce Alps, we had a lot of blizzards and wind. In japan we had less but still some moments when the slope whited out and you could see nothing. I had to hunker down in fear of being blown off the mountain (that was never going to happen).


The slopes were great wide and flat and unlike any mountain I have ever been on they were filled with trees from top to bottom! It was really stunning and I loved it. We celebrated our 11 years together on the mountain which was pretty special. Definitely an anniversary to remember.

Safety first


I would love to tell you that this was the first snowboarding trip without tears but that would be a big fat lie.


In Japan they have chairlifts that don’t have a safety. You just sit in them. As someone with a fear of heights I found this unbearable. I hate chairlifts generally, and will happily do my best to avoid them. We took a wrong turn down the most beautiful slope only for the fear to take hold of me. I was angry, blaming Gavin for taking me this way knowing there was a chairlift at the end. I cried the whole way and begged him not to move so much. He decided to take a photo of me in this moment. ( charming)


This would have been fine if we didn’t take anther wrong turn and end up at the same bloody chair lift again. I could not believe it. Gavin looked sheepishly at me and looked like he was prepared to walk back up the hill but I whizzed past him and got on the terrible thing again. I didn’t cry this time but I was scared.


It was horrible.


We rented our boards so we dropped them off at the rental place every night to save us from having to carry them. We soaked our tired bodies in the natural onsens. I really miss the Onsens! And had dinner at the ryokan.

Apres ski

There wasnt any apres ski at all. Everything was pretty much closed. So we went to a little cafe bar every day, I had hot sake and Gavin had local beers ( Japan beer is excellent) and we treated ourselves to a bowl of chips. The food was good here, very french and Gavin craved Ramen every day! But we weren’t here for long.

I am not sure whether Japan has good apres ski, when we come back it will be interesting to see! Renting our gear was easy but it was expensive but it was our honeymoon and we wanted to treat ourselves.

Summary

Like all of our trip so far Yamagata was beautiful and wonderful. We wish there had been more to do but with the current Covid crisis we were also great full for everything we got to experience.

The slopes were beautiful and empty, they felt very blue/ green on a french scale. Icy patchy and some blizzard weather but on the whole pretty great!

I would love to go snowboarding again but next time I am back I want to discover more or Japan, explore further up from Yamagata.

Have you been skiing/ snowboarding in Japan?

What did you think?

Hotel Matsukaneya Anex ホテル松金屋アネックス

Hotels we stayed in Japan

Advice, Honeymoon, Travel

If your planning a trip to Japan then you may be interested in hotels we stayed it. I won’t put the prices up as it will change when you get there.

Before we left I popped all our hotels in my Google maps so that I could find them quickly on my phone.

They were easy for us to find our way back to even if we had had one two many cocktails!

Ryokan Onsen Tokyo

5 Chome-3-18 Shinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0022, Japan

This was probably my second favourite hotel of the whole trip. Walking in from an 11 hour flight to find the most peaceful interior. Filled with soothing music, calming staff. The location was perfect. 10 minutes from the station and from all we needed. We loved it so much we chose to stay here when we were returning to Tokyo two weeks later.

Even though it was our honeymoon we decided to opt for twin beds rather than doubles. We had been warned that the beds in Japan were small so we wanted comfort. We moved the beds so they were next to each other but on the first night we were so tired we didn’t care.

The Hotels

Entrance to hotel

The Onsen was the best thing after a long flight and we took advantage of it when ever we were at the hotel even using it in the morning as you have to clean yourself before you get in! If you want to know more about Onsens I wrote about my experience here.

The room was small and functional we just slept and relaxed here. We never really suffered from jetlag so we were out from morning till evening then we would have an Onsen as it was open late and go to bed.

Considering how hectic Tokyo can seem this hotel was a breath of fresh air. We didn’t eat there but we loved staying there we only had one negative. On our last night there we organised for our luggage to go straight to the airport. The guy who was serving seemed like he couldn’t be bothered. He basically said we had to organise it all ourselves. When we first stayed we asked them to send our suitcases on to another hotel so we didn’t have to carry them. The women who helped us couldn’t do more, the guy couldn’t be bothered and kept making up excuses.

But that was a 20 minute experience from a 4 night stay so I would. Stay there again!

Overview

Location 4

  • Location 4
  • Price ££
  • Extras Onsen
  • Size of room Compact but perfect
  • 3 words modern peaceful compact

Shinaokoi annex Hakone

This place was wonderful. It was a traditional Ryokan where we wore robes to our meals and to the Onsen. It was surrounded by trees and was beautiful.

It was halfway between the town and the attractions so it was a good location however there was little to do there. We ate at the hotel so we didn’t have to go far and it was only one night I wish we had stayed for two minimum. The hotel was not modern but that is not what we wanted. We wanted a more traditional experience and although we didn’t have rice paper wall it still felt authentic.

The bathroom was just a toilet and sink as you were encouraged to use the Onsens and as we were only there for 1 night we didn’t miss it. Our floor table had a heater under it and kept us warm and we enjoyed having our tea and relaxing.

  • Location 3
  • Price ££
  • Extras Onsen the food was outstanding
  • Size of room Large and traditional
  • 3 words: traditional peaceful remote

Hiroshima Kokusai Hotel ひろしま国際ホテル

Hiroshima was a magical place and this hotel was pretty basic but it was fine. We didn’t spend long enough in Hiroshima it as most things were closed we didn’t mind too much.

The room was traditional with two futons on the floor it comfy clean and warm. The best thing this hotel had for it was it’s location. It was great. Right in the middle of things. It also had rice paper wall and lots of different spaces we didn’t really use because we were too busy exploring that we didn’t spend much time there.

We did eat here but to food wasn’t great. It was breakfast so we wouldn’t recommend the food but the hotel was fine. There were a few nice bars close by.

  • Location 4
  • Price ££
  • Size of room Large and traditional
  • 3 words: traditional clean and tidy

Hotel Wing International-Select Osaka Umeda ホテルウィングインターナショナルセレクト大阪梅田

Time for a bit of a change we headed to Osaka. To modern hectic Osaka.

This was a super modern, clean tidy hotel. It had a strange Art Deco theme but beds were heavenly with thick mattresses. The bathroom was small but had a bath and missing the Onsens we took full advantage.

We had a bit of a mishap with the language barrier and ended up getting our clothes dry cleaned rather than laundered and although it cost us £100 for tee shirts we put it down to a foolish mistake! A costly one but a mistake.

The location was great just a ten minute walk from the station but if I could go back I would stay closer to Namba as we ended up going out there a lot.

  • Location 4
  • Price ££
  • Size of room Small and compact
  • 3 words: modern, fresh, comfy

In summary

Even though I have about 4 hotels left I am going to leave it there for now. I will pop the information up in a blog later on.

I hope that wasn’t too boring we never stayed in a bad hotel and I do feel bad for any negative feedback as we were looked after pretty well. Any mistakes were generally ours. We had decent nights sleep every night, all in comfortable beds. It didn’t matter if we were in the heart of a city or out in the country the rooms were all peaceful and tidy.

A few days in Hiroshima

Travel

Originally when I was first planning our trip I almost dismissed Hiroshima and thought we could do it all in a day. This was foolish. What I have learned the most from travelling is that you should spend 2 days somewhere as a minimum. Try to make them two whole days not two half ones!!

So we were looking forward to the Peace Museum. I had been reading up on Hiroshima, shaking my head and not understanding what had happened. I still don’t quite understand it, nor the lack of hatred towards America( I don’t hate America but I was shocked that there was little ill will)Japan is such an amazing place they seem very forgiving. I know there are two sides to every story. It’s something I have to learn more about.

Hiroshima is filled with stories.

It is a fascinating place.

Fascinating hi.

The devastation was incredible but I feel like the story of Hiroshima is one of getting on with things, moving on not being victims.

Not dwelling on the past but looking to the future.

Again we were visiting when corona virus was there but not the killer it is at this moment. So it was quitet and we got to see the sites, although everything indoors was closed. So out door spaces only.

The peace museum was closed so we just wandered around the park taking it all in. It was so empty we were lucky to see it like that, but what we learned more and more about travelling is it is the people that make a place not buildings.

We visited this shrine and these three beautiful girls sat there in perfect harmony. Everything about this was elegant and peaceful. I am determined to paint this photo so I will let you know how I get in with it.

Food glorious food

I was told before I arrived that the food in Hiroshima was amazing and if I had known how good the oysters were I would have had them everyday.

We visited the small island of Miyajima 宮島 we caught a tram and then a train to the port. Our JR Pass meant it was free to get to. It is most famous for its giant torii gate, which at high tide seems to float on the water. The sight is ranked as one of Japan’s three best views except when we arrived the gate was wrapped up for repairs. I was so excited to see it. I had made sure we got the right tides and we had time to explore the shrine before watching the sunset through the torii gate.

It would have been perfect just not on the day we went.

The food was so good that I wish we had stayed longer. The island was so incredible that I would have been great to experience it more. Just one night on the island eating all the amazing oysters and yummy plum wine. I know it is fairly expensive but it would have been lovely to wake up to a view of the shore.

So we went to the shrines! Our barman has told us at about the most incredible shrine and how it was pure magic. It was right at the top of the hill.

The island has a lot of shrines but if you want to see the ones at the top I would recommend walking to the left of the stairs. Here you will find thousands of Buddhas all with knitted hats on. It feels like a magical walk. You will accross shrines on the way but it never got boring it was incredible. It was also quiet so we took our time and even took some photos together!

There were so many shrines and each one was completely different. It was interesting and interactive. We learned a lot and took lots of photos. I couldn’t recommend this island enough.

Taking about our food we had to try okonominyaki, we had it twice. The first night I was so tired I was disappointed. When I am tired I should just sleep not try new things I should just sleep.

The next day we went to the station and had okonominyaki again and it was so good!! So it turned out I love it I just have to be more than semi awake to enjoy it.

Hiroshima we will return

When we go back to Japan we will definitely stay a wee bit longer in Hiroshima and maybe plan a night in the island and two days on the mainland perhaps every venturing further south to the islands.

I will need to do a lot more research!

The bars around Hiroshima where amazing, it’s where we discovered secret bars with tiny doors and cool speak easy vibes.

Hakone, I wish I stayed a wee bit longer

Honeymoon, Personal Experience, Travel

So lots of Japanese people head to Hakone for the Onsens. Being tourists we wanted to see Mount Fuji, take a trip in the pirate ship, eat volcano cooked eggs and take the ropeways. Which is fine but we didn’t really get out to the restaurant and walk anywhere but the touristy areas. And there really isn’t anything wrong with that but if we had had more time we would have loved to explore more.

We left Tokyo at about 11 and got on the bullet train to Hakone. We packed a bento lunch and watched Japan whiz by. It was easy. We had booked our seats E and D so that we could see Mount Fuji the whole way. Japanese travel efficiently is something all countries should aim to achieve.

When we arrived we booked a Hakone 1-2 day pass and it was worth it. There had been a landslide so the little train was out of action so instead we hopped on the bus for 40 minutes. Dropped off our rucksacks and headed straight for the rope way.

Mount Fuji

This area of Japan is so serene with all the trees, rivers streams trickling down the mountain. Clouds often cover the peak of Mount Fuji so rather than relaxing in our hotel we wanted to get straight up and see it, in case it was Hidden The next day. With clear skies above us we checked into our hotel and went straight our again.

If you follow me on Instagram you will know that gondolas are my absolute favourite thing even though I am scared of heights I don’t mind being in one. And because tourist levels were super low we got a gondola to ourselves. We rode it to the top and entered what can only be described as the dragons den.



The Dragons Den

Now it says that if you have asthma then you shouldn’t go up here. Gavin said he was fine and wanted to go so we went up anyway and he didn’t suffer at all. I am not saying people should go up if they do have asthma but you guys know your levels. The conditions on the day we went up were lovely so I think that helped.

This place was magical they said that a few years ago an earthquake opened up small fissures adding to this dramatic sulphuric smoke. I took so many photos I was completely in love with nature’s drama. There was still a lot of trees plants and birds around which felt slightly out of place. I want to do a bit more research on this place.

We walked around for a bit then headed to the gift shop. The museum was closed but everything else was open. So in Hakone they have magical eggs that are cooked in the volcanic water boiled for 60minutes and they turn black. Now legend has it that for every egg you eat you live an extra 7 years.

They come in bags of 5 so I ate two and Gav ate 3. We also had a curry pan and a beer so we were pretty full. They are just normal boiled eggs they don’t smell or taste any different. But 7 extra years guys! I had to try.

So we went all the way over then back again, which felt right as this is definitely Hobbit country and Smaug is definitely hiding beneath this mountain.

Prince Eric’s boat

We wanted to catch the last pirate ship of the night. Accross the lake, I thought it would be amazing to watch the sunset whilst we were on the ship however I forgot that the mountains would block out the light so it was really pretty but no sky drama. It looked like the boat at the start of the Little Mermaid. This boat is purely for tourists and it’s all for show. The journey was cold and pretty and we stayed outside drinking instant coffee and had a good old laugh.

At the end of this we hopped on a bus back to our hotel where are rooms where ready and dinner was served in just 15minutes so we ran upstairs to change into our traditional robes yukata.

Even though we had only spent a few hours travelling we were both tired so even though the food was great I didn’t have much of an appetite. I will pop the hotel food in its own blog just because it was exceptional.

Dinner and Onsen

The restaurant was full and we were the only tourists there which makes a nice change. We ate our amazing meal and then jumped in the Onsen. ( we didn’t jump in we had to do all the bits first!) I had the whole place to myself so we could really enjoy it.

It was nice to have an early night. We had breakfast which was a epic feast that I am still dreaming about another Onsen at it was our last one for a while and then thought we would do a bit more sight seeing.

We visited the Hakone open air museum which was lovely but modern art isn’t really my favourite. We did enjoy all the Henry Moore’s as well as the actual grounds were impressive. The Picasso wasn’t my favourite but we were lucky because it was fairly empty and we got to wander around at our own pace.

Outrage favourite bit was actually the foot Onsen which was beautiful and we were the only ones in it so we took our time and just took in the park. There we a few your cherry trees blossoming but not incredible pictures yet!

We divided to visit Hakone town have a wonder round the shops eat amazing cheesecake and mocha from ancient store holders. We wish we could have stayed a bit longer but Hiroshima was calling us.

We then took two bullet trains to Hiroshima.

Even though we spent the night there we really didn’t get the chance to explore this wonderful place. So when we return we already know that we will book two nights minimum here and spend some actual time visiting bits of the Hakone deserves a bit more time and effort.

First day in Tokyo… an early start

Personal Experience, Travel

When we arrived at Tokyo it was 6am and we were understandably tired. Our hotel would not let us check in Till 3, so we had some time to kill. Our hotel was in Shinjuku and we decided to head there and just have a walk around and take in the sights. Our luggage was forwarded to our hotel so we didn’t have to lug them around.

We decided to get off at Harujuku. We knew full well that not much would be open at they time but it would be nice to see bit. I was in my snowboarding coat and it was 17 degrees so we searched a few shops for something I could change into. In the end gGav gave me his shirt and I wore it like a dress.

We found a little coffee shop and ordered an egg sandwich. The shop had a hatch so we ordered from there and the door to the right looked into it. The cutest Dalmatian puppy stood at the door and we were invited in. The cafe was also a dog groomers. So we had puppies running round our feet. It was wonderful.

Sandwich was delicious too

If you want an excellent cup of coffee I would definitely recommend this place. Whyte Sandwiches. It was a tiny place but was super clean and they were all about sustainability and looking after the planet. We chilled here playing with the dogs and setting up our WiFi which was super easy.

Then after a bit of hunting for a dress I never bought, Harujuku started to get busier. We had seen the amazing candle floss here and even though it was early we thought that as we may not be back to Harujuku it was now or never. A little girl stood in the door way holding a candy floss that was half the size of her. The look of elation was exactly how I was about to feel when I got mine.

Every colour was a different flavour !

We wondered around a lot, the streets started filling up but it never got swamped. Then we headed back to our hotel. It was 13.30 and we just wanted to see if our room was ready. It was, thank god, because we were both exhausted. We decided not to fight our jetlag and set our alarms for 4 hours. We both passed out pretty fast.

Our room was small but immaculate and the view over Japan was insane.

When we woke up still feeling tired but more ourselves, we headed to the roof for an Onsen. Onsens are hot baths, shallow so you can’t swim but deep enough for your privacy. You can’t wear clothes and you have to wash before you go in. I will write a little blog on them when I get home.

I was so nervous about being naked infront of other women I ran to the shower cubicles and then ran to the Onsen. About 5 minutes later I realised there was an outside Onsen. It was cold and the water was hot.

This is the view from the other side

Din dins

We knew we wouldn’t have too much energy so we got ready and headed out. It was about 8pm by the time we left our hotel. We headed for memory lane or Piss Alley. We did get a wee bit lost and went down the wrong lane but we easily found the right one. We stopped at the first yakatori place on the left and had a grisly meatball and some tasty chicken all downed with Japanese beer.

Which is so good.

Then we went to another yakitori place had more beer with more meat. I read somewhere that if in doubt head to the Albatross bar so we went there for a few cocktails. A nice old fashioned followed by a spicy gin. It was really cool in there and we will probably is it again.

Then it was about half ten! Where does the time go we started heading home and Gav saw a sign for gyoza so we went to the second floor of a building and had last ordered with two sides of gyoza. You had to order through an iPad and it was all Japanese so we ordered 3 beers by mistake!

We drank them and ate up and by the time we arrived at our hotel it was almost 12.

So we hit the hay.

It was a lot to do on our first day but the Onsen really helped us relax as well as the 4 hour nap. When we woke the next day we were a little tired but we haven’t suffered from jetlag.

My advice to you is sleep if you need it just not for too long and if you can get to an Onsen then have one. Book a private Onsen if you don’t like to share.

That was our first day in Japan and we loved it. Good food. Good drinks! A perfect way to start our honeymoon.

Minimal skincare packing for Japan

Beauty, Planning, skincare, Travel

I think you are going to be shocked by how little I am taking to Japan. It’s minimal. But not because I have changed my ways. I love skincare and I am still learning what my skin needs.

I just don’t need to take everything.

I am looking forward to buying and trying some Japanese skincare. I have watched a lot of YouTube. @gothamista strikes again and I have taken notes of all the skincare and a few makeup bits I should get. It will all go in my Japan travel journal which I am in the process of making.

Anyway back to skincare.

I am taking 5 products in total.

Cleanser

Toner

Moisturiser

SPF

Lip balm / everything cream

That’s it! It has to be I want to have room for all the bits I plan to buy and try when I am out there. I already know I can get most of them over here but it’s Japan and exciting, so I am allowed to go crazy.

Cleanser

So normally I would take my Elemis but I have been a bit blue this January and I haven’t eaten well nor have I exercised so my skin has suffered. To me I feel like Elemis is my luxury cleanser, yes I use it every night but I feel like it’s a treat for me where as my Omaravisca is still luxurious it just feels a bit lighter perfect for holiday. Easy to decanter.

Toner

I am actually going to decant this into my little atomiser. It’s the Elemis apricot toner and it’s nice and gentle on my skin. I have enough toners ( I think, so I don’t think I will be buying any more but we will see) we haven’t hit the shops yet!

Moisturiser

It’s back to Elemis again! I am taking a small amount of my day cream and I will use it for day and night. I will be buying moisturiser in Japan there are a few brands I would like to try DHC and Sheseido are at the top of my lists! Sometimes my skin likes rich creams sometimes it just likes an everyday moisturiser. Elemis doesn’t let me down but it’s nice to try new things.

SPF don’t leave the house without it

My La Roche Posay is coming with me everywhere, I will buy a body SPF if it calls for it. But I am going snowboarding and if it’s sunny or overcast my pale skin will need protection. This is a factor 30 which will be fine for my skin I will carry it with me and top up when needed.

Lip balm

Okay I am cheating here. It’s two products not one. This one is from my Lydia Elise Millen Cult Beauty Box. It’s the Lano everything cream. So I can use it for my eyes, moisturiser, hand cream. It’s only 85mls so I don’t even have to decant it! I will also have with me my lanolips lip balm which is the best lip balm ever. Again there is a few lip balms in Japan I would like to try, they have a lot of honey flavoured ones that will be finding there way into my handbag!

Minimalist skincare for me

So that’s it!

6 skincare products. I bought these little plastic containers from Primark for £1,50. Now I know plastic is bad for the environment but these will get reused again and a again. It’s all well and good skincare companies using glass bottles and jars but they are impossible to travel with. They way too much and you always worry they will smash! Foiled tubes are definitely the way forward as they can be recycled, don’t smash and are easy to transport.

I am being greener with my bamboo cotton buds which my husband bought! And my reusable cotton pads that I won in a competition I just need to buy some more!

I am going to write another post on what I plan to pick up in Japan and I can’t wait. Not long to go now.

Are you a minimal skincare packer?