Osaka-To-Me

Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel

Bvlgari Tea House Osaka Japan

Osaka Aquarium via youmademelikeyou.com

Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel

meal on Japan Airlines JAL first class flight via youmademelikeyou.com

Japan Airlines JAL first class flight via youmademelikeyou.com

The final stop on our trip was Osaka and by this point, we were even more exhausted than I think we even realized.  We went by train from Kyoto, which was quick and easy, especially since we were staying at the Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel in the brand new building Abeno Harukas, that has a subway station in the adjacent Mio Shopping Center. The department store in the Abeno Harukas as well as the Mio Shopping center were brand new and modern so we were happy to have things to do/see and eat so close by. Osaka in general, however, was a lot more industrial than Tokyo (and certainly Kyoto) and felt more crowded. loud and less clean. In Tokyo, we were always able to find someone that spoke even just a tiny bit of English, but in Osaka, we were on our own (which, I have to admit, was fun most of the time because it happens so rarely, but when you’re tired an fed up… not so cute).

Anyway, most of the things on our To Do list revolved around food so we were eager to get going. We visited Dotonbori and ate Takoyaki (fried balls of octopus meat), Okonomiyaki (savory pancake), as well as the most amazing crab sushi I had ever tried. We watched as they made the Takoyaki, which was insane, and then tried really hard not to burn our mouthes while we ate them. I had conveyor belt sushi for the first time ever and it was just as glorious as I had imagined it would be (I’m also positive I tried a bunch of new things although I’m not really sure what they were).

There were TONS of good eats, however, two meals really stood out and the first was our visit to Matsusaka “M” to eat Matsusaka beef. So, just putting it out there – I don’t usually like red meat – but this was one of my favorite meals OF ALL TIME. The beef is a grade above Kobe and has some of the most insane marbling I have ever seen.  The cows are raised in a serene environment where they listen to classical music and receive regular massages. We cooked the various cuts ourselves, over a very hot little grill on our table and it was spectacular. The second stand-out meal was a sort of DIY feast we had in our hotel room. We were exhausted at the end of a long day (recurring theme) and decided to find some take-out to just chill.  Luckily, we were right next to one of the biggest department stores in the city and happened to be there at the right time, just before closing, when everything went 50-80% off.  It was a feeding frenzy and we were running around the three food floors, grabbing anything and everything that looked delicious. We ended up with five bags full and  a bottle of wine… even in my wildest dreams, there could have been no better way to end that day.

The way back was bittersweet. We were so tired and excited to be coming home but also couldn’t believe that our adventure had come to an end. After massages at the airport lounge, we boarded an amazing flight on Japan Airlines and definitely didn’t hold back, squeezing every last drop of vacation we could out of that ride. We ate caviar, salmon, lobster and chocolate treats while sipping champagne, cognac and Royal Blue Tea. Not a bad way to end an amazing trip… we even managed to not think about the epic jet lag that lay ahead.

 

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Kyoto Photo Diary (pt.2)

Arashiyama Bamboo forest Kyoto, Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Kyoto, Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Kyoto, Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

cherry tree Kyoto, Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

 

Kyoto, Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Kyoto, Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Like I said before, Kyoto was like stepping into a magical land where everything is beautiful, and also kind of in the past. After visiting so many insane temples and gardens, you just kind of start to go numb and stop outwardly freaking the way you did for the first few, especially when you’re so tired you can’t even see straight. Kyoto is seriously quaint, and there really aren’t many big, shiny hotels like in other cities, although there are more under construction that will open in the next few years. Without too much to choose from, we stayed at the Hyatt Regency, which turned out to be awesome. This was the second hotel (after the Park Hyatt Tokyo) where I was greeted with a bouquet of flowers from the front desk. We had an amazing corner suite,E but the hotel was so overbooked that they could only give us a room with two beds. After several apologies, they sent up some people to push the beds together, which I thought was hilarious because when we got upstairs, each bed was definitely bigger than a queen. After about a half-hour of work, the two guys were done “pushing the beds together” and we went back into the bedroom to find the most gigantic bed we had ever seen. It was basically two king-sized beds made into one and, in true Japanese form, they made the bed so perfectly that we couldn’t feel the crack between the two beds. I have no idea how they did it, but it was flawless.

You would think with so many zen gardens and Buddhist temples that we would be relatively calm in Kyoto… that would be normal, but that was not the case. As usual, we had a lot to see in limited time and we both get insane cases of FoMo if we don’t get to see everything we’ve deemed to be important in a city. I was literally dragging my tired ass around, and I was definitely reflecting that, as well as the laid back vibe of the city in general, in the way I was dressing. I sort of gave up, and it felt so good. I stuck to the most basic and comfortable clothes I had with me, and covered it all up with a giant green tent of a windbreaker. Boom.

JEANS / AVIATORS / RAINCOAT / SCRUNCHIE / LONG SLEEVE TEE / YOGA PANTS 

 

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Kyoto Photo Diary (pt.1)

Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Fushimi Inari Shrine Kyoto Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Philosopher's Walk, Kyoto, Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Kyoto Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Ryokan in Hakone, Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Kyoto Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Kyoto Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Kyoto Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Green tea ice cream in Kyoto Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Kyoto Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Kyoto Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

This post was extremely difficult to put together because I had so many gorgeous images to choose from – I think I got my favorites, but who knows; there are hundreds. We always take a ton of photos on any trip, but, for some reason, Kyoto had us totally shutter-happy. Ok well, not really “for some reason”, Kyoto is amazing with pockets of breathtaking beauty around every corner, and inside every temple and shrine (that’s a lot!). The gardens are like nothing I had ever seen because every little detail was immaculate and well cared for (we saw a guy trimming a small plant with scissors), so every way you turn gives you a new view that you want to remember forever… by taking another photo.

Of course, by this point in our trip we were exhausted, and, as usual, trying to fit so many things into a limited time frame. When you’ve been going non-stop for weeks and are exhausted, things start to blend and you get overwhelmed very easily. We got to the point where we were basically dragging ourselves into new temples and Zen gardens, but would instantly get a second (or nineteenth) wind because the space we had just entered was spectacular. You don’t expect it – the gates are always so plain, and you have no idea what you’re in for from the outside.

It was surprising, however, going from Tokyo (where most things are pretty technologically advanced) to Kyoto, where it took us hours to find a working ATM. Kyoto is calm and traditional, which made for a lovely change of pace, but freaked out two impatient New Yorkers who needed cash to buy lunch. With a fifth failed attempt to withdraw money at a bank, I asked where the bathroom was, and the very helpful man who didn’t really speak English took me upstairs and waited as I went inside. While the ATMs wouldn’t read an American debit card, the toilet was ultra high-tech but also all in Japanese with NO symbols. I found a large, green button and figured that was surely the right one to push and while the toilet certainly didn’t flush, I could hear a faint alarm outside and people running down the hall. At that moment, there was a knock on the door and Dan just said, “ummm, that wasn’t the flush button”. Oops… I had set off an alarm through the whole bank and people were running over to help. I did, eventually, figure out how to flush the toilet before laughing hysterically all the way to the next ATM.

 

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Hakone Open Air Museum

Hakone Open Air Museum Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Hakone Open Air Museum Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Hakone Open Air Museum Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Hakone Open Air Museum Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Hakone Open Air Museum Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Hakone Open Air Museum Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Hakone Open Air Museum Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Hakone Open Air Museum Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Hakone Open Air Museum Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Hakone Open Air Museum Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Hakone Open Air Museum Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Hakone Open Air Museum Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Arriving in Hakone, I was cold, tired, cold, fed up and cold. We had taken the Shinkansen (high speed train) out of Tokyo with all our stuff, planning to leave it in a train station locker for a couple of days while we went into the mountains to our Ryokan. I expected “lockers” like you find in Europe where you are essentially checking your luggage into a giant locker with a person and a 24 hour guard…not the case… not the case. When all we could find were crappy, regular train station lockers, we went to the info center to ask for help. The guy helping us brought us over to the same lockers, and then got really confused when I didn’t want to leave my suitcase in one of them. I expressed that I was worried that someone was going to steal all our shit, and he just… started to laugh. He actually said to me: “there are no thieves here in Japan… if you left your phone right over there no one would touch it unless they were giving it back to you or if it was a police to keep it safe.” Of course I was skeptical and told him we were from New York… more laughter. I locked up my suitcase.

After (yet another) insanely delicious train station lunch, we took a second Shinkansen, then a subway-type train, then a cute little scenic train through the mountains, and THEN a cablecar. I was chilled to the bone because the rain was on and off and the fog was like nothing I had ever seen – you couldn’t make someone out standing three feet in front of you. I was about to lose it when we got off the cablecar and set foot into the most jenky little station (very un-Japan-like), and then had to run through a sideways rain downpour towards a building we hoped was our Ryokan. Luckily, we were right and it was nothing short of MAGICAL. They met us with umbrellas and took our shoes and coats, then we were escorted into the lovely (and sparkling clean!) living room where we were given delicious red bean and green tea. Just with that, they basically made all my dreams come true and from that moment on, Hakone was better than anything I could have imagined.

The open air museum was something I had read about in passing and didn’t have very high expectations for. We didn’t know if we were going to make it over there at all because, sideways rain downpours, but when the sun came out the next afternoon, we ran over to check it out. We were lucky that the weather was nice just long enough for us to have a few perfect hours at what turned out to be one of the most insane museums I’ve ever seen (and I’ve seen some museums). It’s definitely a trek to get there, but I would recommend taking a day trip from Tokyo just for this… like actually, it’s that good. Mind. Blown.

 

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Hello Tokyo! (pt 2)

Tokyo Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Tokyo Imperial Palace, Japan  via youmadmelikeyou.com

Honey Toast in Akihabara Tokyo, Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Shibuya Tokyo Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Tokyo, Japan supermarket via youmademelikeyou.com

Tokyo, Japan supermarket via youmademelikeyou.com

Park Hyatt Hotel Tokyo Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

New York Grill at the Park Hyatt Hotel Tokyo Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

Park Hyatt Hotel Tokyo Japan via youmademelikeyou.com

A couple of nights after we arrived at the Park Hyatt, we finally sat down to watch Lost in Translation because I had to see this movie everyone kept mentioning to me. Aside from it being a very entertaining couple of hours, it was uncanny to watch Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson stroll around in the same spots we had been standing in minutes ago – no wonder the hotel became so famous. Of course, it made us want to go up to  the New York Grill, so we chilled out, listened to jazz, and had cocktails that were all very interesting takes on classic western drinks. Also, every hotel we stayed in had an amazing pool and fitness center and while we had the BEST of intentions, we were always so pooped from walking around for at least 12 hours every day that we definitely never made it to any of them.

We did, however, manage to eat.. a lot. I knew I was going to learn to appreciate all different kinds of foods that I had likely never even heard of but I didn’t expect to love everything so much. Beyond just the taste of the food, it was the presentation that fascinated me – every detail was done with so much care that I often felt bad digging in (ok, not THAT bad, but I definitely took a lot of pictures of food). Even the food in the grocery store blew my mind with all the beautiful and tasty looking prepared dishes and stand-out produce (yes, produce). Small fruits like strawberries are INDIVIDUALLY WRAPPED as are certain greens and best of all, the tomatoes are all perfectly round and shiny, not to mention separated by color and size.

So once we had run around (most of) Tokyo, seen the sights and hung out with family and friends it was time to move on. We were headed into the mountains for an unforgettable experience at a Ryokan and the art museum that blew my mind.

More city essentials (click the links below to shop)

Madewell High Riser Skinny Jeans / Gorjana Disc Cuff / Madewell Oversized Button Front Shirt / James Perse Jersey T-shirt / Alexander Wang Gabi Leather Ankle Boot / Nars Velvet Matte Lip Pencil 

 

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