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I wish I had spent more time in Kyoto because two days were certainly not enough! I could easily stay for 5 or 6 or an entire week! We took the bullet train from Osaka to Kyoto and checked into Node Hotel. Let me just say... this hotel checks every box! The aesthetic is spot on and reminds me of The Line hotels with the gray concrete details. Node Hotel kindly hosted us for two days and gave us the most beautiful suite. It felt like a penthouse apartment and we enjoyed every second of it.

Arashiyama was our first stop. Upon arriving at the Arashiyama station (which by the way is the last stop of that line), we noticed how hustling and bustling it was! Lots of shops and tons of food, we couldn't resist so we grabbed some jumbo shumai and fishcake to snack on! Yum! We began our walk toward Arashiyama and stopped again for strawberry mochi. But wow, I've never seen anything like it! So many bamboos and such beautiful landscape, there were cats too! I love it! We went around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and it was completely packed so I highly going there first thing in the morning if you have the option to do so. Next, we squeezed in Tenryu-ji and explored its garden before it got dark. Going to Kyoto in the Fall was such a treat, bursts of red and orange and yellow everywhere and the Tenryu-ji Garden is no difference!

The next and final day, we woke up bright and early and headed up to Kiyomizu-dera Temple which is one of the most celebrated temples in Japan found in 780. The ground around the temple was lovely as well, garden, other shrines, pagoda, not to mention you can get a great view of Kyoto on a clear day! We headed down the hill and walked around Higashiyama District and stumbled upon Ryozen Kannon (a war memorial commemorating the War dead of the Pacific War with a giant statue of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara). We also checked out Kōdai-ji real quick before heading to AWOMB for lunch nearby (I wrote a separate blog post on AWOMB here). After lunch, we went to the infamous Fushimi Inari-Taisha and hiked all the way up to Mt. Inari Summit.

Here are a few things I learned from Fushimi Inari:

  1. When you first see all the torii gates, you're gonna want to try to take pics. DON'T! There will be a sea of people and everyone is trying to do the same. Keep moving, there are SO MANY MORE spots just like this, if not better, for you to take pics with no one around!
  2. Definitely do the full hike up Mt. Inari! The further you go, the less people you'll see. Set aside enough time for this though!
  3. If you love cats, you're in luck! There are so many cats there and they are all super friendly!⁣
  4. When you're done and heading back down the hill. Do stop at the cafe (sadly I forgot the name of it but you shall see it, it's the only one there) and get a hojicha latte. It's the best I've ever had!

Where to stay:
Node Hotel
New, modern, luxurious

04kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel05kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel
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Japan Day 6-7: Kyoto

March 29, 2020

01kyoto-higashiyama-japan-architecture-travel

I wish I had spent more time in Kyoto because two days were certainly not enough! I could easily stay for 5 or 6 or an entire week! We took the bullet train from Osaka to Kyoto and checked into Node Hotel. Let me just say... this hotel checks every box! The aesthetic is spot on and reminds me of The Line hotels with the gray concrete details. Node Hotel kindly hosted us for two days and gave us the most beautiful suite. It felt like a penthouse apartment and we enjoyed every second of it.

Arashiyama was our first stop. Upon arriving at the Arashiyama station (which by the way is the last stop of that line), we noticed how hustling and bustling it was! Lots of shops and tons of food, we couldn't resist so we grabbed some jumbo shumai and fishcake to snack on! Yum! We began our walk toward Arashiyama and stopped again for strawberry mochi. But wow, I've never seen anything like it! So many bamboos and such beautiful landscape, there were cats too! I love it! We went around 3 or 4 in the afternoon and it was completely packed so I highly going there first thing in the morning if you have the option to do so. Next, we squeezed in Tenryu-ji and explored its garden before it got dark. Going to Kyoto in the Fall was such a treat, bursts of red and orange and yellow everywhere and the Tenryu-ji Garden is no difference!

The next and final day, we woke up bright and early and headed up to Kiyomizu-dera Temple which is one of the most celebrated temples in Japan found in 780. The ground around the temple was lovely as well, garden, other shrines, pagoda, not to mention you can get a great view of Kyoto on a clear day! We headed down the hill and walked around Higashiyama District and stumbled upon Ryozen Kannon (a war memorial commemorating the War dead of the Pacific War with a giant statue of Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara). We also checked out Kōdai-ji real quick before heading to AWOMB for lunch nearby (I wrote a separate blog post on AWOMB here). After lunch, we went to the infamous Fushimi Inari-Taisha and hiked all the way up to Mt. Inari Summit.

Here are a few things I learned from Fushimi Inari:

  1. When you first see all the torii gates, you're gonna want to try to take pics. DON'T! There will be a sea of people and everyone is trying to do the same. Keep moving, there are SO MANY MORE spots just like this, if not better, for you to take pics with no one around!
  2. Definitely do the full hike up Mt. Inari! The further you go, the less people you'll see. Set aside enough time for this though!
  3. If you love cats, you're in luck! There are so many cats there and they are all super friendly!⁣
  4. When you're done and heading back down the hill. Do stop at the cafe (sadly I forgot the name of it but you shall see it, it's the only one there) and get a hojicha latte. It's the best I've ever had!

Where to stay:
Node Hotel
New, modern, luxurious

04kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel05kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel
06kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel07kyoto-nodehotel-luxuryhotel-japan-decor-travel
01AWOMB-kyoto-japanesefood-japan-food-travel

I've been thinking about AWOMB in Kyoto ever since I visited there back in November. It's a dining experience I've never had before! Most tourists are unaware of this place, hence we were the only foreigners and everyone else was local when we went. Part of me want to keep this a secret... but here I am, sharing with you this hidden gem. Let's see, I am not even sure how to explain what "teae sushi" is. I read all about it before going but I was still a bit lost when I got there even after looking at their cute little illustration/instruction. Basically for each of the little dishes, you mix it with different condiments and you can choose to mix it with matcha shredded eggs and/or rice as well. There's also a tea soup which you can drink alone or pour into the rice. This tea soup!!! I've been dreaming about it since, the broth is just so delicious, so light yet flavorful. Where can I get it? How do I make it? That's all I wanna know! You can tell that everything was thoughtful curated and everything tasted so fresh and incredible. I really enjoyed AWOMB for so many reasons. Obviously I loved the food. I also really appreciate the fact that this restaurant was basically in/structured as a house. We even sat traditionally on tatami. I loved it! I hope that when you go to Kyoto, you'll have a chance to eat at AWOMB. I went to the one in Gion district but I believe there are two other locations in Kyoto as well. Also, please note that it is reservation only.

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AWOMB, Kyoto, Japan

March 24, 2020

01AWOMB-kyoto-japanesefood-japan-food-travel

I've been thinking about AWOMB in Kyoto ever since I visited there back in November. It's a dining experience I've never had before! Most tourists are unaware of this place, hence we were the only foreigners and everyone else was local when we went. Part of me want to keep this a secret... but here I am, sharing with you this hidden gem. Let's see, I am not even sure how to explain what "teae sushi" is. I read all about it before going but I was still a bit lost when I got there even after looking at their cute little illustration/instruction. Basically for each of the little dishes, you mix it with different condiments and you can choose to mix it with matcha shredded eggs and/or rice as well. There's also a tea soup which you can drink alone or pour into the rice. This tea soup!!! I've been dreaming about it since, the broth is just so delicious, so light yet flavorful. Where can I get it? How do I make it? That's all I wanna know! You can tell that everything was thoughtful curated and everything tasted so fresh and incredible. I really enjoyed AWOMB for so many reasons. Obviously I loved the food. I also really appreciate the fact that this restaurant was basically in/structured as a house. We even sat traditionally on tatami. I loved it! I hope that when you go to Kyoto, you'll have a chance to eat at AWOMB. I went to the one in Gion district but I believe there are two other locations in Kyoto as well. Also, please note that it is reservation only.

04AWOMB-kyoto-restaurant-architecture-japan-food-travel
02AWOMB-kyoto-restaurant-architecture-japan-food-travel03AWOMB-kyoto-japanesefood-japan-food-travel
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01osaka-castle-japan-fallfoliage-autumn-travel

To tell you the truth, Osaka isn't my favorite. It's not as cool as Tokyo and not as unique as Kyoto. If you're making a side trip out of Tokyo and you don't have too much time, don't even bother going to Osaka but Kyoto is a must and I highly recommended Hakone as well. Now don't get me wrong, Osaka is a lovely city but it just doesn't have much going on. You've got the Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, Shinsekai, Kuromon Ichiba Market, Umeda Sky Building, the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, and that's pretty much it. We were only there for a day and so I didn't even bother going to some of these places.

Let's talk about the castle... Not gonna lie, I enjoyed Osaka Castle Park and the grounds around it way more than the castle itself. The castle was beautiful on the outside but the inside was underwhelming. It was more like a museum and you don't get to see what it actually looked like back in the days. I wish they had at least preserved a section of it to show. Anyways, the ground of the castle was stunning. We went in the fall and all the trees were all sorts of red and yellow. The moats were cool, the rocks were cool, and we actually explored both during the day and night. I highly recommend heading over at night, no one was around, it was slightly eerie but mostly magical.

Other than that, it was fun walking around Dotonbori at night. This is the area where there are bridges and waterways with lots of shops and restaurants, as well as the infamous Glico "running man" sign. We tried some takoyaki (did you know takoyaki originated from Osaka?) and melonpan and just enjoyed all the lights from buildings and billboards reflecting on the water.

As for accommodation, we stayed at Hotel Noum which is a fairly new hotel right on the river. Upon checking in, I knew I would love this hotel. They have a cute little cafe next to the lobby (the breakfast there was so tasty and fresh), a rooftop patio, and even bikes for you to rent out! The room is minimal yet modern and I love the giant floor to ceiling window and view! Thank you Hotel Noum for hosting us!

Where to go:

Where to stay:

Japan Day 5: Osaka

March 22, 2020

01osaka-castle-japan-fallfoliage-autumn-travel

To tell you the truth, Osaka isn't my favorite. It's not as cool as Tokyo and not as unique as Kyoto. If you're making a side trip out of Tokyo and you don't have too much time, don't even bother going to Osaka but Kyoto is a must and I highly recommended Hakone as well. Now don't get me wrong, Osaka is a lovely city but it just doesn't have much going on. You've got the Osaka Castle, Dotonbori, Shinsekai, Kuromon Ichiba Market, Umeda Sky Building, the Tempozan Ferris Wheel, and that's pretty much it. We were only there for a day and so I didn't even bother going to some of these places.

Let's talk about the castle... Not gonna lie, I enjoyed Osaka Castle Park and the grounds around it way more than the castle itself. The castle was beautiful on the outside but the inside was underwhelming. It was more like a museum and you don't get to see what it actually looked like back in the days. I wish they had at least preserved a section of it to show. Anyways, the ground of the castle was stunning. We went in the fall and all the trees were all sorts of red and yellow. The moats were cool, the rocks were cool, and we actually explored both during the day and night. I highly recommend heading over at night, no one was around, it was slightly eerie but mostly magical.

Other than that, it was fun walking around Dotonbori at night. This is the area where there are bridges and waterways with lots of shops and restaurants, as well as the infamous Glico "running man" sign. We tried some takoyaki (did you know takoyaki originated from Osaka?) and melonpan and just enjoyed all the lights from buildings and billboards reflecting on the water.

As for accommodation, we stayed at Hotel Noum which is a fairly new hotel right on the river. Upon checking in, I knew I would love this hotel. They have a cute little cafe next to the lobby (the breakfast there was so tasty and fresh), a rooftop patio, and even bikes for you to rent out! The room is minimal yet modern and I love the giant floor to ceiling window and view! Thank you Hotel Noum for hosting us!

Where to go:

Where to stay:
01hakone-japan-fuji-travel

Hakone is a crazy beautiful mountainous town in the Fuji area that reminds me of something out of a Miyazaki film. It was raining for the majority of the time we were there but the fog only made it extra mystical. The only regret I have from this part of the trip was that we only stayed for one night and I wish we had stayed for at least two, perhaps three.

Where to stay:

Where to go:

Where to eat:
Since Hakone is very mountainous and transportation is limited. There aren't many restaurants around and most places to eat are at hotels. But do get some black onsen eggs at the gift shop in Owakudani!

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Japan Day 4: Hakone

March 16, 2020

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Hakone is a crazy beautiful mountainous town in the Fuji area that reminds me of something out of a Miyazaki film. It was raining for the majority of the time we were there but the fog only made it extra mystical. The only regret I have from this part of the trip was that we only stayed for one night and I wish we had stayed for at least two, perhaps three.

Where to stay:

Where to go:

Where to eat:
Since Hakone is very mountainous and transportation is limited. There aren't many restaurants around and most places to eat are at hotels. But do get some black onsen eggs at the gift shop in Owakudani!

02hakone-japan-lakeashi-travel

01japan-tokyo-princegallery-kioicho-luxuryhotel-travel

I have put off working on these blog posts on Japan for SO long because of a few reasons. First of all, I did a crazy amount of things during this trip that I feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start. Second of all, I've been contemplating about the format, whether I should group things by days or by categories. And lastly, I want these posts and guides to be helpful to you and therefore I want them to be perfect. Truth is, they won't be perfect and I have to understand that it's ok. So here we are, let's dive in!

Japan has always been a familiar yet strange place to me. I grew up in Hong Kong so traveling to Japan is just a little over 3 hours and I've gone countless times during my childhood (especially when my dad was living in Tokyo). This trip last year was truly the first time I went there as an adult. I've been to Tokyo and Osaka before but not Hakone and Kyoto which is why we only spent 3 days in Tokyo so that we can explore other places...

Where to stay:
Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho
Luxury, sky view, cool bar, lovely room
Candeo Hotels Tokyo Roppongi
Convenient location, close to (some rooms have view of) Tokyo Tower, nice spa.

04japan-tokyo-princegallery-kioicho-luxuryhotel-travel06japan-tokyo-princegallery-kioicho-luxuryhotel-couple-kimono-tea-travel
02japan-tokyo-princegallery-kioicho-luxuryhotel-travel03japan-tokyo-princegallery-kioicho-luxuryhotel-travel05japan-tokyo-princegallery-kioicho-luxuryhotel-bar-travel07japan-tokyo-princegallery-kioicho-luxuryhotel-travel

Japan Day 1-3: Tokyo

March 13, 2020

01japan-tokyo-princegallery-kioicho-luxuryhotel-travel

I have put off working on these blog posts on Japan for SO long because of a few reasons. First of all, I did a crazy amount of things during this trip that I feel overwhelmed and don't know where to start. Second of all, I've been contemplating about the format, whether I should group things by days or by categories. And lastly, I want these posts and guides to be helpful to you and therefore I want them to be perfect. Truth is, they won't be perfect and I have to understand that it's ok. So here we are, let's dive in!

Japan has always been a familiar yet strange place to me. I grew up in Hong Kong so traveling to Japan is just a little over 3 hours and I've gone countless times during my childhood (especially when my dad was living in Tokyo). This trip last year was truly the first time I went there as an adult. I've been to Tokyo and Osaka before but not Hakone and Kyoto which is why we only spent 3 days in Tokyo so that we can explore other places...

Where to stay:
Prince Gallery Tokyo Kioicho
Luxury, sky view, cool bar, lovely room
Candeo Hotels Tokyo Roppongi
Convenient location, close to (some rooms have view of) Tokyo Tower, nice spa.

04japan-tokyo-princegallery-kioicho-luxuryhotel-travel06japan-tokyo-princegallery-kioicho-luxuryhotel-couple-kimono-tea-travel
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