Japan in January

What I packed for Japan

In January my boyfriend and I set off for Japan. I was so excited to be going, it been a place I’ve wanted to visit for over a decade. To finally be able to go was a dream come true. So, after a terrible night at a Airbnb above a pub in Birmingham, we finally were at the airport waiting for our early morning flight.

Bunkyo ward in Japan with its cute homes
Bunkyo ward with its cute homes
A cute glass shop in Bunkyo ward
A cute glass shop in Bunkyo ward, Japan

Day 1 – Tokyo, Japan

We finally arrived in Tokyo. We mainly wandered around where our airbnb was, in Bunkyo ward, feeling the effects tiredness from our long journey. The neighbourhoods in Bunkyo were so cute with their homes and potted flowers outside pretty much every front door. We had a beautiful vegan lunch at Nezunoya, a full vegan cafe in Bunkyo and then wandered round Nezu shrine. In the evening I tried umeboshi onigiri for the first time and loved it. During my whole time in Japan I pretty much lived off convenience store onigiri, its the only thing I could be sure was vegan.

Cute potted flowers in Mikata, Tokyo
Cute potted flowers in Mikata, Tokyo, Japan
Totoro at Ghibli museum in Japan
Totoro at Ghibli museum

Day 2 – Tokyo, Japan

It’s Ghibli Museum day! I was so excited to go to Ghibli museum, especially since it was a tense process waking up at 2AM earlier that month to secure tickets. If you’re planning on going, make sure to book well in advance for Studio Ghibli. The tickets are released once a month and they can sell out quickly if you’re not careful.

You can’t take pictures inside but it’s so inspiring – especially all the hand painted cells for each individual frame of animation. The painted backgrounds were my favourite.

In the evening we went to Kichijoji district for dinner. Sadly I accidentally ate meat for my dinner, even after telling the waitress “I don’t drink meat” (rather than I don’t eat meat). I was very careful after that to only go to vegetarian/vegan restaurants, which luckily there are plenty of in Japan.

Day 3 – Tokyo, Japan

Day 3 in Tokyo was spent venturing into the busier parts of Tokyo, specifically Senso-ji, Akihabara, Shibuya and Harajuku. 
Most of the areas appeal was lost on me, although Senso-ji was very pretty. I did really like Harajuku’s vintage side, but it was a little overpriced for my tastes.

Our Ryokan, I really enjoyed my night here but my boyfriend not so much
Our Ryokan, I really enjoyed my night here but my boyfriend not so much

Day 4 – Tokyo to Hakone

We mainly spent the day travelling from Tokyo to Hakone. However whilst waiting for our train to Hakone we had some amazing vegan ramen at T’s TanTan which is based inside Tokyo Station.

There was a weird moment when we finally did arrive at our Ryokan in Hakone. After managing to find a side door in which to enter the Ryokan by we found the reception deserted. It was like a ghost hotel. We stood for a few minutes, unsure what to do. It was silent expect for some strange music playing on the speakers. I saw a bell at the desk and tried ringing it. Nothing. Finally we found a phone which went through to staff.

After a confusing phone call where I think I was being asked what room number I was, we finally got to talk to someone in person. Turns out we’d come to the back of the place! I honestly thought it the place was lovely, but my boyfriend thought it looked like the set for a Quentin Tarantino film.

After riding up the gondolas we arrived on volcano Owakudani
After riding up the gondolas we arrived on volcano Owakudani
One of Hakone's many trains
One of Hakone’s many trains
Cariad Bach riding on the gondola
Cariad Bach riding on the gondola
Amidaji Temple at Tonosawa station in Hakone, Japan
Amidaji Temple at Tonosawa station in Hakone, Japan

Day 5 – Hakone, Japan

Hakone is known for natural hot springs, volcano Owakudani and kuro tamago (black eggs). We got to see Fuji-san in the distance whilst riding up on gondolas. It might not look it, but it was ruddy cold. This was by far one of my favourite parts of our Japan trip, it was really relaxing travelling round Hakone using our Hakone Free Pass.

Arashiyama shrine in Kyoto
Arashiyama shrine in Kyoto
Dango, one of the many sweets I could enjoy as a vegan in Japan
Dango, one of the many sweets I could enjoy as a vegan

Day 6 – Kyoto, Japan

We’ve arrived in Kyoto. We spent our time wandering round Arashiyama and Fushimi Inari shrine. It was pretty busy being a Sunday. I managed to stuff myself with vegan friendly Japanese sweets like dango, black sesame bun and mochi.

We’ve begun a hunt for a yakimo, a sweet potato in Japan that is usually roasted on coals. You can eat the whole thing including the skin and it’s meant to be really delicious and sweet!

Higashiyama ward in Kyoto is definitely worth a visit
Higashiyama ward in Kyoto is definitely worth a visit
Higashiyama ward in Kyoto
Higashiyama ward in Kyoto
Yayoi Kusumas pumpkin outside the Forever museum in Kyoto
Yayoi Kusumas pumpkin outside the Forever museum in Kyoto

Day 7 – Kyoto, Japan

We’re still in Kyoto. We spent the day wandering around Higashiyama district, Kiyomizu-dera and Nishiki market. 

Higashiyama ward is definitely worth a visit, this is what I imagined all of Kyoto to be like before we arrived. Which is stupid really as Kyoto is a big city. It was very touristy with all its shops, but still there was a certain charm to it. 

Kiyomizu-dera temple is about a 20 minute walk from Higashiyama. There are a lot of temples in Kyoto, which sometimes can make them merge together. But Kiyomizu-dera stood out for having this huge graveyard stretching over the side of a hill, it looked sort of like a city itself. 

The Yayoi Kusumas exhibition at the Forever Museum of Contemporary Art was top of my must sees for Japan and it didn’t disappoint. Given its traditional style inside you had to take your shoes off at the entrance to see exhibit, it was so peaceful after the bustle of tourists. 

At Nishiki Market I finally found yakimo (sweet potato). It totally lived up to my expectations. Soft and creamy yellow potato inside, not too sweet but sweet enough. Really warming for a cold winters day.

Kenroku-en Gardens in Kanazawa
Kenroku-en Gardens in Kanazawa
Really feeling the cold in Kanazawa

Day 8 – Kanazawa, Japan

We’re in Kanazawa to visit the stunning gardens of Kenroku-en. It was super cold and there was snow on the ground. But we warmed up afterwards in a lovely vegan cafe called Los Angeles . I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to use a public bathroom as much as I have at Los Angeles, with its bum defrosting heated seat.

A Nara deer in Nara
Cute Nara neighbourhoods
Isuien Garden in Nara
Isuien Garden in Nara

Day 10 – Nara, Japan

Welcome to Nara, officially Japan’s deerland. The deer are surprisingly friendly here and will bow to you if you bow at them. I thought I would feel bad about the deer, but they seemed content with their life being hand fed biscuits.

It’s much warmer than the last few as the sun has decided to show up. We walked round Nara for a bit and then visited beautiful Isuien Garden. I really liked the charm of Nara.

Our photo taken by Organic Table by Lapaz

Day 12 – Back in Tokyo, Japan

We travelled all of the following day to arrive back in Tokyo. We spent the morning writing Japanese calligraphy with two ladies from @airbnbshodo, it was a lovely experience. Then another visit to Harajuku, finishing with a meal at vegan restaurant Organic Table by Lapaz (which we liked so much we went back the following evening to).

A bookshop in Koenji neighbourhood in Tokyo
Flowers in Koenji neighbourhood in Tokyo
Kiosco in Koenji neighbourhood in Tokyo
Koenji neighbourhood in Tokyo
Koenji neighbourhood in Tokyo
Me awkwardly looking through records in Koenji
Koenji neighbourhood in Tokyo

Our final day in Japan. We were both pretty sad to leave. We had planned to get up early today to climb Mt. Takao but after a failed alarm clock so we opted instead to explore the Koenji neighbourhood in Tokyo. As you can tell I really liked the neighbourhood. It was a mix of cool record shops, second hand shops cafes, bars, live music and a surprising lot of hairdressers.

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