Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Japan trip Autumn 2018 - 8 days in Tokyo, Osaka & Kyoto

Although my bf and I had both just visited in July, we were separate for those trips and wanted to experience Japan with just the two of us, especially since my bf's trip was located only in Hokkaido. He hadn't been in Tokyo since he was in elementary school, and I was happy to have the opportunity to share what I love so much about traveling to Japan with him. We initially booked the trip in April and had a lot of time to plan and find interesting things for our itinerary that catered to both of us.

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Day 0, November 8-9 - Arrival in Tokyo
We left Honolulu at around 18:00 HST on a Hawaiian Airlines flight and arrived in Tokyo about 8 hours later at 22:00 JST. We were somehow both able to get upgraded to Extra Comfort which was really nice. I always feel super drowsy in the last hour on the way over to Japan and the flight is more bearable with the additional space.

At the Haneda end, we deplaned and Customs and Immigration was pretty empty, but it seemed to take forever for our luggage to come at the carousel.

We left the airport on a 22:40 train and changed trains at Shinagawa to get to Shibuya.

The Airbnb we were staying in is in a location that was already familiar to me in Shibuya, so it wasn't so hard to find even late at night.

The apartment was extremely spacious by Japan standards for the price point and we were easily able to unpack, shower and sleep without much hassle.
Although the Airbnb came with a wifi unit, I don't really trust the reliability of them (since sometimes other guests use up all the data and you don't know until you get there) and we decided it was worth it to rent one from Pupuru because I knew their wifi is consistent and pretty fast. The Airbnb host agreed to receive the package the day before we arrived and had it waiting for us in the apartment when we checked in.

Day 1, November 10 - Tsukiji outer market, FC Tokyo soccer game, Yebisu Garden Place illumination
Although we didn't sleep until it was pretty late the night before, we were awake and ready to go before most shops were open in Shibuya. We had initially planned to do some shopping there but it didn't make sense to wait until everything opened.
Ditching that plan and wanting to take advantage of the morning, we jumped on the subway to make our way over to Tsukijishijo. Although the inner market at Tsukji has moved since my last trip, the outer market still remains and still has a ton of shops and restaurants with very fresh fish.

Bf tried two different egg omelettes from the first couple stands we saw along the way including the popular one at the corner with a long line.

We did a little looking around/shopping up and down a few of the streets looking for items for ourselves and for omiyage.

When we were hungry, we stopped it eat at one of the many different Sushi Zanmai locations in the market area.

As we continued to browse after breakfast, it got super crowded with tour groups which made it really hard to move around. We completed our look around the outer market soon after that, and we headed back and made a stop in Shinjuku to exchange our JR Rail Pass vouchers.
We set them to be valid for the next day and also to made shinkansen reservations at the same time.

Stopped for some snacks/refreshments at the south gate of JR Shinjuku station as well. I got a pretzel croissant from Dean & Deluca. Bf got an ice coffee from the same place as well as some kind of mochi mochi cheese bun and a plain flavored Flipper pudding from other vendors in the area.

We returned to Shibuya and stopped in Adidas and Uniqlo on the way back to the Airbnb.

Dropped off our purchases and then headed out to Tobitakyu via the Keio lines to get to Ajinomoto Stadium. Bf had done some research beforehand and found out there was a Japan League soccer game during our visit. He purchased tickets online through Stubhub, and we had to pick them up at the entrance area. If you plan to do this yourself - note that the Stubhub ticket claim tent is separate from the official ticket box office for the stadium. We had waited in that line (which was thankfully short) before we got redirected.
One interesting thing to note for me as an American was that you could bring entire meals into the stadium! I saw families with tons of snacks, even bags of food from McDonalds, etc. Most, if not all, stadiums and sports venues I've been to in the US prohibit outside foods because they want you to buy food from the stadium vendors. You could even bring in alcoholic drinks but had to empty them into a paper cup and could not bring in the bottle or can. There was no shortage of cups provided by the stadium and they even had staff to assist with it and it seems very common.

We met up with my bf's friend and his girfriend (who live in Tokyo) outside the stadium before entering since we had all the tickets and were a little bit late getting to our seats, but still got to watch most of the game. We were on the upper section of the stadium, but it wasn't a terrible vantage point and it was kinda nice not to feel super crowded.

We didn't have any specific plans for dinner, so I suggested we try to go to Seirinkan in Nakameguro since Bf had seen it featured on Ugly Delicious (Netflix). Bf's friend and his gf had plans so they couldn't join us though. We got there a little bit after they opened for dinner at 17:00, but they were already full. Instead of waiting, we made a reservation for the next night.

We left Nakameguro and stopped at the Yebisu Garden Place Illumination since it was kind of on the way back. I've visited this one before with my friend Christa back in Nov 2015, and it's essentially the same with the big feature being the large Baccarat chandelier at the bottom and a nice Christmas tree at the top.

We rode one stop back to Shibuya and ended up waiting in line at Ichiran for dinner instead. The wait was around 30 minutes and the line was almost at the top of the stairs.

Weather was quite hot this day, with the high being in the mid 70sF. It was especially hot in the sun and didn't feel like autumn at all. My hair was definitely wilting at the end and then a little rain at the end of the night didn't help either lol.

The soccer game was the big activity planned for the day and I think that went off without a hitch mostly for something I've never done in Japan before. Picking up the ticket was reasonably easy although we did make the mistake of going to the box office, but easily remedied and we had plenty of time because we had arrived about 1/2 hour early anyway. Only small regret is that I didn't bring food into the stadium, but I definitely know for next time! Overall, it was a eventful but low intensity warm day and a interesting start to the trip.

Day 2, November 11 - Ueno Park, Tokyo National Museum, Ameyoko, Seirinkan, Ikebukuro Sunshine City
We woke up reasonably early again and had a quick conbini breakfast before starting our Rail Pass use and getting to Ueno via the JR Yamanote line. Not the quickest way there, but an easy, pleasant ride.

Our first stop after finding our way to the Park Exit of Ueno station was the Tokyo National Museum.

Admission was 620yen and easily purchased from an automated machine.

There's a lot of different buildings that are part of the museum, but we started with Toyokan (Asian Gallery).

This gallery includes multiple floors (at least 4-5?) and tons of different kinds of art pieces, many of the ones on the first few floors focused on Buddhism in different Asian countries.

We continued to Honkan (Japanese Gallery) next, which, as the name implies, specifically focuses just on Japanese art/displays.

We went around the back of Honkan to check out the garden which is more expansive than I was expecting and includes several tea houses. You're not allowed into any of them but you can still walk up and see them up close from the outside.

There's also a nice pond right near the back of Honkan as well that seemed to be a popular photo spot!

Although there was a lot more to the museum, we decided to leave and head across the park towards the boat pond.

We passed just outside Bentendo Temple which had a line of food vendors just outside.

At the boat pond, we decided to rent a cycle boat! (Row boat was too much trouble and bf insisted we wouldn't see the swan on the swan boat since were inside the boat anyway lol.) For the cycle boat specifically, it's 600yen for 30 minutes and they attach a small ticket with the return time to your boat to remind you.
The whole rental process is very easy - you really just need to pay and they'll let you know which boat to get in. You start going right away and use the 30 minutes however you choose. It doesn't seem like a lot of time, but the pond isn't very big and we felt like it was just the right amount.
Unfortunately, I was too nervous to stick my phone too much out of the boat to try and get a better photo of us including the boat which I think would have been really cute.

We stopped at one of the food stalls on the way out for some chicken karaage.

We walked all the way out of the park and through Ueno station to get to Ameyoko at the Shinobazu exit side.

It was just the right time for lunch so we went straight to Gyukatsu Motomura. There was already a line formed on the stairs and after half an hour of waiting with no movement we almost gave up, but ended up getting in about 10 minutes later after several parties exited the restaurant pretty close together.

When we were finally seated, we knew what we wanted to order but none of the staff seemed interested in asking for it. I thought maybe they were just busy and didn't try super hard to get their attention, but suddenly two trays of food were placed in front of us. I told them that we hadn't yet ordered, and there was some confusion. Based on some of the signs they have outside, what may have happened is that two people were ahead of us in line, the staff had taken their order while they were waiting and then those people (whose order we ended up receiving) left without informing the staff that they wanted to cancel. As it turns out, it was way faster for us that way and although what we got wasn't what we were planning to order, we ended up keeping it. (It was actually 2x the #2 order and we had intended to order 1x #1 and 1x #3.)
This location (if not all) have a small burner that you can cook the beef on to your desired doneness. I tried one without cooking it at all but ended up deciding to cook most of them most of the way through. The meal also comes with several sauce options and my bf enjoyed it with rock salt the most.
Despite the wait, bf thought it was a very good meal and wasn't disappointed after waiting for so long. Although I'm familiar with the restaurant because my dad really likes it, I had not yet eaten there myself to that point so it was my first time trying it. I wouldn't personally want to wait 45 minutes again on a narrow staircase, but I would gladly go again with anyone who wants to go.

After our meal, we shopped a bit around Ameyoko, in particular at the larger candy/goods stores. We picked up a lot of items we intended to give as omiyage and decided to just go back to the Airbnb after instead of continuing to other areas as we had initially planned because the shopping bags were huge and heavy.

We still had about an hour before we needed to leave for our dinner reservation, so my bf stayed in the Airbnb to rest, but I needed to pick up shoe glue from Daiso and then I decided to quickly stop by Shibuya 109 on the way back. I didn't end up buying anything but did see a few things to keep in mind if I had more time later.

We made our way to Nakameguro again on the Tokyu Toyoko line and quickly found our way to the restaurant. We were a little early, but they still had availability to seat us. We ordered 1 margherita and 1 marinara pizza and were told that it would be a while before the pizzas came out because the kitchen was a little backed up. Since we were seated likely last among those who arrived for the opening time, it makes sense and we were obviously willing to wait.

When we were done with dinner, we got on a traint to get to Ikebukuro. We had initially planned on doing this immediately after visiting Ueno but because of our bags and the timing of the dinner reservation, we had to shift it until after dinner.

First was the Pokemon Center which had the earliest closing time. Bf shopped a bit in there.

We also took a quick peek at the Kiddyland which was next door.

Next we went to the Namja Town area which was on the same floor. It has a 500yen admission fee if you don't want to attend any of the extra attractions. Tbh I hadn't done much research on this, but the thing that my bf really wanted to go to was the "Gyoza Town" within it.

The Gyoza Town is just one section within the facility and has about 8 (or more?) gyoza stands. It's essentially styled like a food court and you can sit in a communal area or in front of the small stalls. It was almost entirely deserted when we got there at around 20:00, so we didn't have to wait in any lines, but that also made it feel a bit sad.

We explored as much of Namja Town as we could without paying for the extras.
Since we don't really understand the significance of what this facility is based on + didn't go to any of the attractions, I think we missed out on a lot of the magic of this place. It is a cool area to hang out in and does have some special features even if you don't know anything, but I'm sure someone who actually appreciates this theme would love it a lot. It stays open later than the other stores in the mall, so it doesn't seem like a bad idea to check it out after 20:00 if you have some free time and don't mind spending 500yen. We probably wouldn't go back again ourselves though.

When we had had our share of Namja Town, we went to check out J-World which is a similar type thing but more for Jump(?) animes on a different floor. This one has an 800yen fee and we didn't end up going in. Bf said that he's more familiar with the themes presented in this one but knowing a bit more about how facilities like this work after going to Namja Town, it just didn't seem worth it.
In the reviews I had briefly read online from parents irritated that their children wanted to go in, the feedback is pretty much the same, but if you really like these animes, I'm sure there's at least 800yen worth of photos you can take.

When we were ready to leave, pretty much nothing else was open in the mall, so we took our time walking back to the station to eventually get our way back to Shibuya.

Ueno Park was definitely the highlight for me this day. Although I've visited it before, I've never been inside the museum and I had never even considered getting into the pond on a cycle boat before lol. It's not as expensive or involved as I thought it would have been (literally just pay for a ticket out of a vending machine and get ushered quickly into a vehicle) and really nice.

Day 3, November 12 - Shinkansen to Osaka, Minoo Park, Kaiyukan (Osaka Aquarium)
On Monday, we woke up early and made our way to Shinagawa to catch the shinkansen to Shin-Osaka. We planned to stay just two nights in the Kansai area (mainly just Osaka and Kyoto) before returning to Tokyo.

We had reserved seats when we exchanged our rail pass vouchers, but it was the center and aisle seat of a three seat section, so we first looked through a few of the unreserved cars. Unfortunately they were all filled (or no better situation than our reserved seats) so we eventually made it to the proper car and settled in.

About 3 hours later, we arrive at Shin-Osaka and exit the station to get to our next Airbnb which is about a 10 minute walk from the east exit. I've stayed in Airbnbs in the area before, but never this one specifically. We were too early for check-in time, so we just dropped off our bags and were back on our way.

We caught the train one stop to JR Osaka/Umeda and after asking a few tourist information centers, finally got to purchase the Hankyu line version of the Kaiyu Pass on the same level as the Hankyu tracks (3rd floor of the Hankyu Umeda station). This would give us unlimited rides on Hankyu trains, Osaka subway and buses and also admission to the Osaka Aquarium (Kaiyukan) for the day.

We started using it right away by catching a Hankyu line train to Minoo so we could get to Minoo Park. There's one transfer and about 1/2 hour required but it's pretty straightforward and the trains weren't super crowded.

From the station, it's pretty self-explanatory but there's also a map nearby the exit. You head straight up the hill, following most other people who exited the station. Small shops/stalls will be on your left and right until you reach the base of the park/trail.

The koyo/fall leaves weren't in full effect when we were there. I think we were about 2-3 weeks too early for peak fall colors, but it was still nice to see the red leaves in contrast with the yellow and green ones as well.

Stopped for a taiyaki stand along the trail.

We turned around a little after the halfway mark. The trail was getting a little steep which isn't too hard in athletic shoes and actually not super bad in heels either, but it's the coming back down that's kind of a bummer and didn't really seem worth it since we had other things we wanted to do.
The walk down was nice as well and we had plenty of time to stop and take photos.

After exiting the park/trail area, we stopped to get momiji tempura from one of the stalls on the side of the road. We bought one to eat immediately and then two for omiyage.

We returned to Umeda via the Hankyu line (basically retracing our steps back)

and then decided to eat at the Eki Marche section of the JR station. It was a kaiten zushi restaurant that I was familiar with from past trips. Bf pulled a bunch of stuff off the belt and I ordered my usual 2 cucumber maki.

After eating our fill, we used the Osaka subway to get to Osakako which is the closest station to the aquarium.

We had planned to arrive a couple hours before sunset in order to see the illumination when we left, so I was super excited to see everything set up before entering. Since we had the Kaiyu Pass, we didn't have to worry about purchasing admission tickets and just scanned our pass for entry.

This is my 5th time to the Osaka Aquarium but I love it a lot, so I don't mind going so much (it's usually with different people). I don't have a lot to say about the individual exhibits, so enjoy scrolling through some fish pictures.

I had seen other people post pictures of this soft serve at the internal aquarium cafe and was pleasantly surprised to see they still had it available! I've never stopped at the cafe in the past, but this was a good enough reason to - whale shark themed soft serve! The dark blue flavor is ramune with round sprinkles and the while swirl is vanilla. They also have an all ramune option if you're keen. We were asked to eat it only in the cafe area.

We finished exploring the aquarium including a few new exhibits and then the gift shop.

When we finally exited at around 17:15, the illumination was in full display.

It started to drizzle so we didn't stay long and then made our way to Namba using the Osaka subway (with our Hankyu Kaiyu pass). We wanted to check out the area and find a place to eat dinner. It was pretty crowded as always but not unbearable.

My bf decided to try the "museum set" of a popular takoyaki place which included 4 pieces of the original takoyaki and 4 bacon & cheese balls. It seemed like there were two shops which had this exact same product but one had a crazy long and slow line and the other was more moderate.

Also got a dango stick!

We settled on this ramen place for dinner which had this really, really dark looking broth. I tried number 3 and bf tried number 4 (the darkest one). Payment/ordering was from a vending machine outside and we ended up sitting at the counter once we got in. The flavor was certainly very rich but I don't know that I would go out of my way to eat this particular one again.

Quick attempt at Glico pose but it was way to crowded and we didn't want to bother much more than this lol.

We returned to Shin-Osaka and actually got to check-in to/see the inside of our Airbnb for the night. It looked pretty similar to the photos, but it felt very different from our Shibuya apartment. This one is on the ground level, right along the street. From the toilet, you can hear people walking by right on the other side of the wall lol. It has a more traditional feel and you can tell that the fixutures/appliances are a little bit older as well. 
But we had no problems settling in for the night and figuring out how to use the space as effectively as we could for such a short visit.

I was very happy to revisit Minoo Park which I think is so nice in autumn. It's too bad that the timing for koyo wasn't perfect, but I think it was still pretty nice! The walk is great in the cool weather and one day I'll eventually make it to the top when I'm not wearing ridiculous shoes. I was also surprised to see that the aquarium had added/changed up a few of the exhibits which were new to me and I was especially excited to check out the illumination which I hadn't ever previously seen (in fact, I hadn't seen any illuminations in Osaka at all). Luckily I made it out without buying too many unnecessary whale shark products. I was happy to try something new in Dotonbori and even though we didn't do much shopping in Namba because of the crowds and how much time we already spent walking around that day, it was still nice to be back in a semi-familiar space.

Day 4, November 13 - Kimono rental, Fushimi Inari, Arashiyama / Bamboo Forest in Kyoto
Having done most of what we wanted to accomplish in Osaka the day before, we took advantage of being near Shin-Osaka station and got in an unreserved shinkansen car to Kyoto.

It was a short 15 minute ride and we didn't have any issues finding seats together.

Arrived at Kyoto station just 15 minutes later.

Our major plan for this day was kimono rental! I hadn't really considered doing this before because it felt a little contrived but I was always interested in the back of my mind without really wanting to admit it. Thankfully it just took a little push from my bf for me to do a little research and make a reservation. Based on a recommendation from a friend who had done it in April, I decided to go with Kyoto Kimono Rental wargo. They have many different locations throughout Kyoto, but since we were anticipating arriving at and leaving from Kyoto station, that's the one I picked. This shop is located on the 3rd floor of Kyoto Tower which is just across the street from Kyoto station and easy to find if you're looking around outside because of its height.

I easily made the reservation online a few weeks before we arrived for "Standard Kimono Rental for Couples (1 couple)" which meant 1 men's standard kimono and 1 women's standard kimono. I also decided to splurge a little bit and go for the "Premium hair set". I paid for everything in advance online which gave me a small discount.

We were about 18ish minutes early because when I made the online reservation, it requested that we be 10 minutes early so as not to back up other customers. Unfortunately, we were a little TOO early and the shop was crowded with people who had the earlier time slots. The staff asked us to wait and come back closer to our reservation time. We didn't have much to do, so we just wandered around a little on the other floors before returning again. 

Since I made the reservations in English, my paperwork was already prepared in English, but there wasn't as much one-on-one help as I thought there would be while actually in the shop. It's really unfortunate that I don't have photos for this portion, but as there were signs up specifically asking not to take photos with other customers in it and the place was pretty packed, I really didn't get a chance. I'm including this wall of text just so you know what to expect as an overview if you do a similar rental. 

The staff pointed us to which racks we would be able to pick from (standard ones only) and we took our time looking through the variety of prints and styles. There's way more variety for women than there are for men and it took me a while to find one I really liked that would match well with something that my bf found suitable for himself as well. Because there were many other people in the shop, they must have had a similar time slot as us. I hadn't anticipated this (it not being a more personalized/hands on experience with the staff helping with recommendations etc), so it may be something for you to keep in mind if you decide to book at a high volume shop location like the Kyoto station one. 

Once we finally picked the kimono we wanted, there was still the obi and a few other things that we needed to get straightened out before my bf and I headed into separate dressing rooms. In the women's one, there were many other customers who were getting dressed by staff members, and I was asked to wait on the side and start by undressing from my street clothes and to put on the underwear lining(?) for the kimono. You're given a fairly large reusable bag to put your belongings into including your purse and clothes and shoes which has a number on it that you have a matching tag for to claim when you return. 
Photo by bf took of the men's side which was empty
(Sorry I don't know all the different names for the inner garments and didn't get any photos of the process because it was a dressing room with a lot of mirrors so it would have been inappropriate, although really informative if I was there by myself!) The older ladies who were doing the dressing seemed like they didn't speak much English but they seemed okay that I didn't understand much Japanese either. It was mostly just asking me to lift my arms or stand a certain way and asking if they had tied something too tight. 

Once I was done getting dressed, I was escorted to the hair section which is more out in the open (but still behind racks of kimono) where a different staff member gave me a sheet with different hairstyles I could choose from based on paying for the premium hair set. There are about 12-15 to choose from if I remember correctly with options mostly for medium to long hair, some up dos and some half-up half down. The stylist went to work immediately once I chose. The girls around me seemed to have opted for the cheaper hair set option and most were in and out within about 5 minutes. Since mine was a little more involved, I think it took closer to 15-20 minutes total. I was also able to choose a hair ornament and went with something a little more traditional looking that matched with my kimono and obi. (This particular one was specific for premium hair sets and smaller, simpler ones were what were available for the standard hair set.)

When I was finally done, the stylist let me see it from several different angles and made sure I was happy with it (which I definitely was). 
I went out to the main waiting area to meet up with my bf who had already been waiting for about 20-25 minutes at that point and still had to pick out my slippers and a bag. Since I wanted something a little bigger than the pouches, I had to pay an additional 540yen (tax in) for the purse that I chose, but I think it was worth it.

We left the bags with our personal belongings in it with the staff and then we were free to go! Wargo allows you to rent the kimono all day, essentially until the shop closes. We were told to return by 18:00 or we'd have to pay additional fees. This is why most people will choose the earlier time slots because the earlier in the day you're dressed and ready the go, the more time you have in it!
Our appointment time was 10:00 but because we really took our time picking the kimono and then had to get dressed and have my hair done, we didn't leave the shop until 11:30!

We took some quick photos right outside Kyoto Tower before heading back towards the train station.

We caught a JR train to Inari and exited right by the entrance to Fushimi Inari.

We took lots of pictures during this time and basically just walked through the gates and tried to find less crowded areas. A lot of what we did this day was just walk around and take photos, so I'll just drop a few of them here!

When we had enough walking, we decided to turn around and go back to the base. There was a line of food stalls along the street that we hadn't walked up since we had come from the JR station, and since we were a bit hungry, took some time to try a few things like the giant dango and taiyaki.

Once we got back to JR Inari, we made our way over to Saga-Arashiyama station so we could check out Tenryu-ji Temple and the bamboo forest. We paid 500yen admission to get into the garden area which has a beautiful lake and landscaping!

We continued walking around and snapping photos until we exited to get to the bamboo grove. The beginning is always crazy crowded.

(Tried to get as many nice photos of the both of us together by asking other people to take our photo, but then this guy in the back picking his nose has to ruin it lol.)

We chose to route back to the station by going towards Togetsu-kyo bridge and basically just enjoyed the walk.

On the way back to the station, takoyaki again!

It's very hot though lol.

Had some time before the train arrived because it only comes every so often, so more snaps lol.

We arrived back at Kyoto station and Kyoto Tower at around 15:00 to return our kimono. The shop was almost empty at this time which makes sense because most people wanted to start their rental in the morning and are still taking advantage of it for as many hours as possible.
When you are returning your kimono, they exchange your number tags for the bags with your personal belongings and you are asked to go back to your respective dressing rooms. A staff member helped remove my hair ornament first and then it's much easier to take off the layers than put them on, so you can do most of it yourself (if not all). There were already a few small piles of the different types of the inner pieces that were laid out on the ground and you basically sort it yourself when you're done. A staff was present to take the actual kimono and rehang it.
The check-out process was pretty simple. Everything was paid for in advance and we didn't have any extra charges because we came back on time, so we were basically just able to leave once we were changed.

We hadn't yet eaten a real meal that day and tried to ask the tourist information desk near Wargo if they had any suggestions for Japanese curry, but the staff could only point us to the food court in the basement of Kyoto Tower. We had tried to look up a few restaurants on the train ride over but couldn't really decide on one so we went to check out the food court since it was right  there. It's a pretty big space with a number of different counter service restaurants that give you a buzzer for when your food is ready. My bf got food from two different places and I ordered from a tonkatsu restaurant. Definitely one advantage of food court style dining is that you have so many choices!

We relaxed a bit and took our time eating while we decided what our plans for the rest of the day would be. We felt pretty much done in Kyoto (having done the main things we came to do) and for the most part, Osaka as well. After doing some omiyage shopping at the station for yatsuhashi, we quickly caught the shinkansen back to Shin-Osaka in an unreserved car, got back to the Airbnb, packed up our stuff and headed right back to the station as soon as we were ready!

Even though we had booked/paid for an additional night in Shin-Osaka, we decided that we had enough time to make it back to Shibuya that night since we didn't have anything specific to do in the Kansai area anyway and wanted to put ourselves in a good position for going out the next day.
I had looked up the shinkansen time tables and knew that Shin-Osaka was the originating station for the train that we wanted to take back towards Tokyo, so if we were there at the tracks waiting for it, we shouldn't have any trouble getting two seats next to each other in an unreserved car for the 3 hour ride back.

Luckily that was the case (plus us being there super early before the train arrived anyway).

And just like that, 3 hours later we were back in Tokyo! We still had to transfer at Shinagawa to get back to Shibuya, but it felt good to be back in the more modern and comfortable Airbnb and know that we would have a full day the next day to enjoy what we had planned.

We were hungry again by then though, so after we dropped off our bags, we headed back out really quickly just down the street to go to Uobei which is open pretty late.

Bf's first time in Uobei but since most of the Genki Sushi locations in Hawaii are designed like this already, he just needed time to pick from all the cheap options!

And he also ended up playing the lottery game based on his dessert order and won wtf lol.

Actually an incredibly packed day where we somehow ended up riding on a shinkansen three times lol. I enjoyed the kimono rental way more than I expected to, but I think that's mostly because I was so happy with the hairset! I haven't ever actually paid to have my hair styled like that (like for prom or anything in the past), but for me it was definitely worth 1900yen and really helped tie everything together. The slippers with the kimono were actually quite comfortable for me as well and was a needed respite from my heels in the middle of the trip. I would recommend Wargo to tourists, but only with the understanding that it may be quite crowded when you go (depending on the shop and time slot)! And it's too bad that we didn't love our Shin-Osaka Airbnb more, but I really think it worked out for the best because going back the night before it meant more time enjoying Yokohama on Day 5!

Day 5, November 14 - Cup Noodle Museum, Chinatown, Ramen Museum in Yokohama
Since we returned to Tokyo the night before, we were able to sleep in a little and not worry about packing up our bags. We got ready in a familiar environment and then made our way over to Yokohama.

Luckily, it's very easily reached from Shibuya using JR. We made one transfer at Yokohama station to get to Sakuragicho.

Our first intended destination was the Yokohama Cup Noodle Museum. I've heard so much about it but have never been there before. For some reason Google Maps kept redirecting me to the one in Osaka which was like a 19 day walk (surprisingly short lol) and we got a little sidetracked on the way there while trying to follow the signs. We actually ended up walking to the Red Brick Warehouse area first instead which my bf really liked!

We looked through a few shops there and started looking at Yokohama omiyage. Bf decided to get a salt cider!

After a couple more wrong turns,

we finally made it to the Cup Noodle Museum. The building doesn't stand out at all from the back (which we had mistakenly approached from), but we found the entrance easily enough.
We purchased our admission tickets and all the staff were really nice and able to help us in English. There's an admission fee for just the museum itself (500yen) and then an additional fee if you want to do some of the activities.

We also signed up for the "workshop" to make your own Cup Noodle. You have to select a time slot in advance but you don't pay for it until you get there.
We had a little bit of time to kill before our time slot, so we started exploring the museum. The first room is a great photo op and has all kinds of different cup noodle products organized chronologically.

There was also a movie playing in the room on the side and we were just in time for the beginning but ended up having to leave early to go to the workshop. The movie is only in Japanese so I didn't understand everything but I have the feeling I would have been able to get the jist of it if we stayed.

At the make your own Cup Noodle workshop, most people for our time slot were already there and in line. You first pay at a vending machine to get your own cup (300yen). It's extremely organized with staff to guide you with where to sit and where to go. The instructions are also very clear. You are only supposed to use the pens provided and only draw on a certain portion of the cup. They also give you a plastic cap to keep the inside sanitary until the noodles go in.

We took our time decorating our own cups and then made our way into the line to actually put the noodles in.

Once you turn the crank to put your noodles in, you can choose between 4 different broths and 12 different toppings. You must choose 4 toppings, so be prepared to double up on some if you only want 2 or 3. (For example, I only wanted the chicky kamaboko and garlic chips and had to do 2x each.) The staff is super friendly but also super efficient.

Once it's vacuum sealed, you're handed your creation and can pump up the air in the bag to keep it safe.

We continued around the museum and made our way over to the "Noodle Bazaar" food court-ish area. This is where you can purchase different types of noodle dishes from around the world made with instant noodles.

I was boring and just tried the "Italian" tomato pasta-type dish but my bf was a little more adventurous and went for the "Malaysian" laksa and "Indonesian" mie goreng.
You can get as many as you want and they use a vending machine type system. Fountain drinks are also available for purchase as well as a few desserts. We did have to wait a little bit to be seated but the staff are controlling the flow of people and it didn't take long. I decided to try the original mini chicken ramen at the last minute as well. They let you choose 2 toppings, but I just got two pieces of char siu lol.

We continued to go through more of the exhibits and learned more about the creator's life and philosophy. The information is laid out in a way that's very easy to understand even if you can't read Japanese and we were still able to get a lot out of it.

Once we were done looking through the exhibits, we made our way to the gift shop which had more items I was interested in buying than I anticipated!

We left with a pretty good size shopping bag that we had to carry around with us for the rest of the day aside from our little cup noodle puffs lol.

Instead of going back to the JR station (Sakuragicho), we decided to use the Minatomirai line to get us to Motomachi Chukagai because our next stop was Yokohama Chinatown!

There were two specific places that I knew I wanted to go/share with my bf, so we headed down the street straight towards them. First was the very popular xiaolongbao stand/store. My parents first tried it a couple years ago and now they always make it a point to try to get it. The line was pretty long as always but it didn't seem to take forever. My bf browsed a little bit in the area while I held our place.
I tried the xiaolongbao for the first time myself with my bf and realized that the difference is that the bottom of the xiaolongbao is fried and crunchy which is really nice! We got a 6 piece (3 pork and 3 shrimp). The only junk part is that they're so hot that it's hard to eat with all the liquid inside!

We continued further down and made it to the souvenir shop that I always get the (chinese) soup spoons from. We purchased a couple for gifts and also some Yokohama omiyage type items.
A restaurant with a sign for peking duck caught my bf's eye but when he went to order, he changed his mind and got the most popular (#1) item which is some kind of chicken wrap. It took a while for them to make it and it was a little pricey but he said it was super good, even rivaling the xiaolongbao and he would definitely get it again!

We then leisurely made our way to the nearest JR station to Chinatown which is Ishikawacho.

Since we still had a bit of time and weren't too tired of walking, we decided to cross the station and make our way over to Knot - the watch store where you can customize one yourself by picking the face and interchangeable bands. It was a really pleasant walk over there and we spend about 15 minutes in the store just trying out a few different combinations and contemplating giving some as gifts, but in the end left empty-handed.

We went from Ishikawacho over to Shin-Yokohama which required 1 or 2 transfers (all using JR though). I always dislike that the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum doesn't have the JR station exit information on its Access page, but managed to find our way to it without much trouble by just navigating using Google Maps and trying to head in the right direction.

After paying our 310yen admission fee at the vending machine out front, we quickly headed downstairs to see how crowded it was. Luckily there was almost no one there! Such a different environment than the last time I visited in the spring when it was crazy crowded and some shops had almost an hour long wait!

My bf's first choice of ramen shop happened to be closed (until 17:00 and we were there around 16:00), so we decided to try the Komurasaki tonkotsu ramen from Kumamoto first. Food tickets are purchased at the vending machine outside each shop. We each got a mini ramen. I accidentally picked a spicier version for my bf without really realizing what it was but luckily he's fine with spicy!

We took our time picking the next one we would try and went for the original mini ramen at Muku Zweite which is a tonkotsu shoyu ramen from Germany. This one was a bit unusual with a two layer broth and a different kind of thicker noodle than typical ramen. We liked this one a lot!

By then, I had had my fill but my bf still wanted to try at least one more. There was plenty of room to sit in front of the bar area while he deliberated on which to eat last.

After reading over the descriptions, he finally ended up getting a mini ramen at Rishiri Ramen Miraku which has Michelin Guide recognition. I didn't go in with him because I would have had to order my own bowl and was content to wait outside. He said it was really tasty though!

Having had our fill, we explored the upper floors of the museum a bit, contemplating eating a dessert,

and then going back to the main floor and reading through the timeline exhibit.

We also bought 3 of the Muku Zweite ramen sets to make at home/give as omiyage from the gift shop!

Our last stop in Yokohama was the Amano Freeze Dry Goods store. Again, this was another place I had stopped on my previous trip and had purchased a few things to try last time. My bf enjoyed some of the items enough to be interested to check it out himself. We made our way to Yokohama station and then through the Seibu and across to Yokohama Bay Quarters.
No one else was in the store, so we were able to take our time and figure out what we wanted to get. Unfortunately they didn't seem to have the popular katsu don set which is supposed to be quite good for what it is!

With a little rushing, we just made it on the next train back to Shibuya from Yokohama station, and dropped off our many shopping bags at the apartment. There was still a bit of time and I thought I would be able to do a little bit of shopping in Harajuku on Takeshita doori. Unfortunately, I forgot that most of the stores there close at 20:00 NOT 21:00. Oops! We got off the train just a couple minutes after 20:00 and many stores were already closed tight. (Note that the main Liz Lisa store in Harajuku now closes at 21:00 as of Dec 2018 though.)

We tried to make the most of it by just walking down Takeshita doori while it wasn't too crowded and my bf got a crepe at the shop at the end.

We also stopped at Daiso which was one of the only stores still open and bought a number of things. We didn't have to worry about carrying the heavy bags anywhere else since we were only just headed straight back to the Airbnb after and didn't want to make it a wasted trip over there.

Last stop for the night after getting back to Shibuya was quickly picking up gyudon to go from Matsuya on our way to the Airbnb. It's one of my favorite super quick and cheap meals and was the perfect thing at the end of the day to casually eat in the apartment.

Although there were a number of things that I revisited while in Yokohama, I was really happy to experience them for the first time with my boyfriend who happened to fall in love with Yokohama as a whole. The Cup Noodle Museum is definitely all its cracked up to be and I would definitely recommend it, especially for the price. The Ramen Museum was also great this time because there was so few other customers there. My first experience there really turned me off and I couldn't imagine it ever being that empty, but it was really great for us as patrons to not have to wait forever to just get seated somewhere. I made the small blunder with not realizing what time the Takeshita doori shops closed, but luckily it wasn't too big of a waste of time. Overall, I thought this was a really fun, enjoyable day trip to Yokohama and would recommend most of what we did, especially if you love to eat!

Day 6, November 15 - Tokyo DisneySea
This was a big day for me because I felt like we had kind of built up expectations for DisneySea and were both looking forward to it a lot! This would be my third time at the park, but my first time visiting a theme/amusement park with my bf, and he had never been to any Japanese theme park before.
[This will mostly be an overview of what we did on this trip rather than a DisneySea review. For my previous posts on Tokyo DisneySea, including a planning post and introduction, please check out Japan trip Autumn 2015 and Japan trip Spring 2016! I won't include too many details for park attractions/snacks in this post, because I think it will be a little repetitive if you've already read the other two.]
We woke up early and made sure we got on a 06:29 Yamanote line train to Tokyo station.

Once there, we transferred to the Keiyo/Musashino line. Hyperdia always gives you about 15 minutes to walk to that platform and it is far, but we easily made it in about 7-8 minutes and really didn't need to rush. I always forget about that. In any case, we easily made our 07:08 train bound for Maihama and got there at around 07:24.

We blended into the floods of people all headed towards the Disney Parks and used our Suica to board the Disney Monorail.

DisneySea is the last stop and we exited the monorail just after 07:32 and made our way over to one of the entrances. I ended up going to the side I wasn't familiar with, but it didn't matter that much it seemed. We got in line and patiently waited for about 20 minutes for the park to open since we had purchased and printed our e-tickets in advance.

We already had a little bit of plan in place and knew which rides were our first priority.
Upon entering the park just after 08:00, we went straight with the crowds to Tower of Tower to get fast passes (valid from 08:55 to 09:55)

and then made our way over to ride Journey of the Center of the Earth on standby (about 5 minute wait).

I would describe this ride as kind of like the Matternhorn at Disneyland except instead of a snow mountain theme, it's themed for the earth's core and it's a darker thrill ride.
It's not much if you're expecting a roller coaster, but the theme and details within the ride are unique and super cool to see. There were a lot of screaming girls behind us which was mildly annoying but at least they had a good time.

There was still a bit of time before we could ride Tower of Terror, so we also went over to the Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ride.

I didn't get a chance to look at the standby wait before we went in, but it must have been maybe 10-15 minutes, and we waited longer than I had anticipated based on what I was expecting from the crowd calendar.

My bf enjoyed that ride more than Journey, so we got another round of fast passes for Indy (valid from 09:35 to 10:35) as soon as we were eligible.

The Expedition Eats cart is right by the Indiana Jones ride and that caught my eye.
I had really enjoyed it three years ago in 2015 and my bf was interested in it as well, so we split one on the way back to the American Waterfront to ride Tower of Terror. The bread for the Yucatan Sausage Rolls is so nice and warm and soft. The sausage is not my favorite, but my bf really liked the different flavor it had and it was one of his favorite snacks at the park! It's really unassuming looking because it's so simple, but I think that's why it works.

We got into the fast pass line at Tower, but still seemingly waited a while.

Of course, there was a huge standby line that we bypassed, but it still felt like a long wait once passing through the introduction room.

This ride is similar to the one at California Adventure in terms of mechanics but an entirely unique and special theme. There's still an elevator with a drop though, so I would definitely recommend if you're into that kind of ride! I guess the thing about Tower of Terror compared to other rides on the tracks is that there's only so many elevators and it loads quite a few people at a time, so the line movement is a bit slow. I did enjoy looking at the theming throughout the queue more this time, but it does get a little monotonous after a while.

Once we finally finished at Tower, we went to see if there were any fast passes left at Toy Story, but by 09:30 there were already none left! (I guess that should have been a hint to me that the crowds this day were bigger than I was used to on previous visits.)

We went back to the Lost River Delta and quickly got fast passes for Raging Spirits (valid 10:35 - 11:35)

and then went to redeem our Indiana Jones fast passes for a second ride. The standby line had already built up quite a bit by that point, so it was good that we grabbed the fast passes when we did.

Having experienced most of the major rides (aside from Toy Story) at this point, it was a good opportunity for us to slow down a little bit and take a break. We returned to Mysterious Island to get gyoza sausage buns from Nautilius Galley (1 each).
The bun part was nice and warm with pork filling typically found in gyoza.  I had goofed a little bit before that and we had gotten in line to get fast passes for Journey again before realizing we weren't yet eligible.

Once we were done eating, we got in line for fast passes again knowing that they would probably be our last of the day (valid 14:45- 15:45). My bf wasn't the biggest fan of this ride but I convinced him to get these fast passes because Journey is a DisneySea exclusive attraction and I thought he might enjoy it better a second time.

Unfortunately 20,000 Leagues under the Sea was closed during our visit,

but we still took a little time to explore the Mysterious Island area a little more before getting in line for a potato churro.
This one is a little pricier than the other churros in the park and had a long line. It had a texture that seemed a little like mochi and an unexpected savory flavor.

We made our way back to the Lost River Delta for the third time that morning to use our Raging Spirits fast passes. This was the only roller coaster type ride in the whole park, so my bf definitely wanted to try it. We were able to bypass a pretty long standby line and was able to get in and out in about 10 minutes.

We continued exploring the park since we had a lot of free time before the next pass was valid, so we made our way towards Mermaid Lagoon, stopping along the way at Tropic Al's which sells Tipo Tortas which are kind of like churros. Bf chose the chocolate flavor but they also have a chili con carne one.

I also took the opportunity to stop for popcorn! This one just a salt flavor, but I love that kind of popcorn so it was great for me.

We passed quickly through just a portion of Mermaid Lagoon because I noticed that the Christmas parade/show was starting. They have a lottery for seats now, but there's still plenty of unreserved spots where you can stand. We tried to just find some shade and watch from afar but didn't stay for the whole thing.

We made our way over to Biglietteria in the Mediterranean Harbor area to try and get reserved seats for a Big Band Beat show that afternoon, but didn't win!
This meant that if we wanted to see the show, we'd have to wait in the standby line. I was pretty disappointed with that but not completely surprised considering how long we waited to try the lottery for that particular show which was the next showing at that time.

Having somehow avoided the Arabian Coast area up until that point, we made a beeline for it and stopped to soak in all the sights. (It was kinda sunny though.)

There was a particular snack that my bf wanted to try in this area, but I suggested going to see the ride that inspired first, so we went to Sindbad's Storybook Voyage with its trusty 5 minute standby wait. I'm always impressed with this ride which is like an upgraded It's a Small World with an entirely different theme and somehow even catchier music.

Sultan's Oasis was our next stop and I was expecting to see Chandu's Tail there, but it's been replaced by a similar snack which is simply called "Chicken Curry Bun" and is supposed to mimic Chandu's head instead. The chicken curry is in the orange part and the little red hat has gyoza type filling. Bf also got the Maple Cream Balls with Soft Serve.

We finished snaking our way through the Arabian Coast

and finally made our way into the Triton's Kingdom area of Mermaid Lagoon.

They didn't end up having the ekiwa bun that I remembered reading about before, so we ended up just looking around in the area.

This ended up being one my bf's favorite areas despite us not riding any of the rides there lol.

We really didn't have anything specific to do at that point, so I looked at my DisneySea ride app and noticed that Nemo & Friends Searider was one of the few remaining rides we hadn't yet ridden that still had fast passes available. I hadn't yet had a chance to try the ride on any past visit and for some reason thought it was mostly a children's ride, but we were interested enough and had nothing really to lose, so while my bf waited in the Breezeway Bites food stand line, I went to go collect our fast passes (valid 16:30 - 17:30).

The Breezeway Bites line was super long and I've always avoided it in the past for that reason. They have two kinds of "fried pizza turnovers" - chicken & mozzarella and seafood-cheese curry. Bf got one of each for us to try!

Since we were in the area, we ended up riding Aquatopia which had a sign for a 25 minute standby wait but with plenty of time, we weren't too discouraged. It's a reasonably low impact ride (babies and small children can ride on it with parents) but still pretty fun because you don't know where you're going to go next.

Our actual wait time was closer to 10-12 minutes I think because the line moves rather quickly as the carts are running on a very regulated route - they'll go with or without people in them lol. It was enjoyable enough for us to ride twice in a row just for fun (once in the right line and once in the left line).

There was still a bit of time before could use our Journey fast passes, but we didn't want to wander far from the area, so I suggested Fortress Explorations.

I had explained it to my bf as something kind of like the old Imaginarium at Disneyland but with more of an explorer-type theme. There's lots of different rooms and places to explore + a great view of the harbor from the towers.

Before we knew it, it was time to return to Journey to the Center of the Earth. We stopped for a turkey leg snack first.

It was definitely worth it to use the fast pass to avoid the standby line at Journey, but unfortunately my bf didn't like the ride much more the second time as compared to the first lol. I thought it was worth a second try because it's a staple at DisneySea, but I can see why it's not that exciting overall.

Another snack? Why not lol. Bf got a raspberry seashell wafer ice cream (I think the wrapper said Sea Salt Ice Cream Monaka) from one of the carts nearby (they have them all over the park selling ice cream) and I saw the line for the caramel flavored popcorn had finally reduced enough for me to be willing to stand in it.

Having not really explored the American Waterfront area too much by that point, we headed over there next.

There was a nice Christmas tree set up in the middle but a huge line to take a nice photo with it lol. (We settled for mediocre photos.)

Bf tried the holiday special barbecue pork-rice roll, but it ended up being the only snack purchased at the park that he didn't finish because it was so junk.

I really wanted to go out onto the deck of the SS Colombia, especially since it was getting close to sunset, but they had it closed off! I'm not sure if it's because they decorated for Christmas and no one is allowed on there during that time (probably not but ??) or if it was simply under maintenance.
The restaurants on the ship were still open and active, but you just couldn't enjoy the other features of the boat which is a real shame imo. I hadn't seen that as one of the listed things that was closed for reno on the website, so I was really looking forward to it!

After a few more photos, I guided us over to the New York Deli because that was where I had gotten the Little Green Men mochi ice creams years ago with Christa (even though they weren't really on the display or the menu),

but the staff told us that they were now being sold out of a cart near the SS Columbia, so we had to walk all the way back over there lol. It's a rather unassuming looking cart (not even really a full stand), so you'll really have to look for it!

Our fast passes for Nemo & Friends were finally valid by then, so we walked all the way to Port Discovery and got in line. The standby wait was supposedly 45 minutes, and I know the fast passes helped a lot, but since this is another attraction that lets people in en masse and you need to wait for the entirety of the length of the ride to go in with the next group, it felt like we waited a long time because we were the first people cut off lol. If we were just two people ahead, it would have seemed more worth it lol. But I think it's just standing in a non-moving line for 5+ minutes straight that makes me feel really impatient. If you're slowly inching forward continuously, at least it feels like progress!
There's no photos allowed inside, but Searider is basically like the underwater, nemo-themed version of Stormrider which I had really liked back in 2015 and was since converted. It's similar to the Star Wars ride that Disney in CA used to have, but way better imo. It's not for people prone to motion sickness, but otherwise I think they did a really good job with it and I see why kids and adults both like it. You don't need to know the Finding Nemo movie in order to enjoy it either.

The Big Band Beat show that we had missed the reserved lottery seating was starting just around the time that we got out of Searider, so we went back to the Mediterranean Harbor, but with only 10 minutes before the show was to start, it wasn't surprising that they didn't have any standby seating left. Timing was good for being in the harbor area for checking out Fantasmic which was set to start in 5 minutes though. We waited on a curb on the side and then ended up moving a little closer in the standing area when the show started. Unfortunately, there were some "technical issues" and only 10 minutes into the show it was abruptly stopped/cancelled!

I was hungry for something more like a meal at that point and wanted the opportunity to sit down, so we went to the Zambini Brothers restaurant immediately when the show stopped to try to avoid the crowds. I got a spaghetti bolognaise and a margherita pizza for us to share. It was just the right amount of food and nice and warm.

We headed back to the Toyville area because we still had so much time and not much else to do that we were considering just waiting in the 120 minute standby wait at Toy Story Mania. However, when we got there, the cast members were taking out the sign for the line and seemed to be turning people away! I didn't try to get an explanation in English, so I'm not exactly sure what happened and if its routine or not, but we had no choice but to find something else to do.

We tried to get into Big Band Beat again but the standby line for the last show of the night was all full (even half an hour out), so we ended up starting our shopping. We slowly made our way through many of the stores in the Mediterranean Harbor area, taking our time and looking for things for ourselves and for omiyage.

We took a pause near the globe at the entrance/exit to regroup and then made an attempt at getting in the standby line for Tower of Terror which had its own 100-110 minute standby wait at that point.
My feet had pretty much had it by that time and since the Tower line really doesn't have consistent movement (guests load into the elevators in big groups and there's such a limited amount of elevators) that it really felt like I wasn't going to be able to continue to stand after only just 20 minutes and going 10 feet forward only once.

We ended up abandoning the line and leaving the park after all at around 20:40.

We used the Disney Monorail and returned to Maihama and did our morning train ride in reverse (Maihama --> Tokyo --> Shibuya) and arrived back close to an hour later.

Attractions itinerary overview:
Get Fast Pass for Tower of Terror (08:55 - 09:55)
Ride Journey to the Center of the Earth on standby [3/5]
Ride Indiana Jones on standby [4/5]
Get Fast Pass for Indiana Jones (09:35 - 10:35)
Ride Tower of Terror using FP [4/5]
Get Fast Pass for Raging Spirits (10:35 - 11:35)
Ride Indiana Jones using FP
Get Fast Pass for Journey to the Center of the Earth (14:45 - 15:45)
Ride Raging Spirits using FP [1/5]
Ride Sindbad's Storybook Voyage on standby [2/5]
Get Fast Pass for Nemo & Friends Searider (16:30 - 17:30)
Ride Aquatopia on standby [3/5]
Ride Aquatopia on standby
Explore Fortress Explorations [4/5]
Ride Journey to the Center of the Earth using FP
Ride Nemo & Friends Searider using FP [4/5]
Ratings provided by my bf based on ride experience in comparison to other theme park rides (outside of DisneySea). 5/5 indicates an attraction that he enjoyed, would ride again on a future visit and definitely recommend to others.

Snacks/Food (listed in the order we got them):
Yucatan Sausage Roll from Expedition Eats (Lost River Delta), 500yen [5/5]
Gyoza Sausage Dog/Bun from Nautilus Galley (Mysterious Island), 500yen [2/5]
Churro (Potato) from  Refreshment Station (Mysterious Island), 380yen [5/5]
Tipo Torta (Chocolate) from Tropic Al's (Lost River Delta), 360yen [3/5]
Popcorn (Salt) regular box from Popcorn cart (Mermaid Lagoon), 310yen [3/5]
Chicken Curry Bun from Sultan's Oasis (Arabian Coast), 500yen [3/5]
Maple Cream Balls & Soft Serve from Sultan's Oasis (Arabian Coast), 460yen [5/5]
Fried Pizza Turnover (chicken & mozzarella) from Breeway Bites (Port Discovery), 500yen [5/5]
Fried Pizza Turnover (seafood-cheese curry) from Breeway Bites (Port Discovery), 500yen [3/5]
Smoked Turkey Leg from Refrescos (Meditteranean Harbor), 750yen [4/5]
Sea Salt Ice Cream Monaka from Ice Cream cart (Mysterious Island), 310yen [4/5]
Popcorn (Caramel) regular box from Popcorn cart (Mediterranean Harbor), 310yen [4/5]
Barbecue Pork Rice Roll from Liberty Landing Diner (American Waterfront), 500yen [0/5]
Little Green Men from Refreshments cart (American Waterfront), 360yen [3/5]
Tomato Mozzarella pizza from Zambini Brother's Ristorante (Mediterranean Harbor), 670yen [3/5]
Spaghetti Bolognese from Zambini Brother's Ristorante (Mediterranean Harbor), 700yen [3/5]
Ratings provided by my bf based primarily on taste but not "experience".  5/5 indicates a food item that tasted good, that he would order again on a future visit and definitely recommend to others.

Bf's thoughts about the park & his first visit - Theming excellent. Crowds overbearing. Language barrier not a problem. Food is great and unique. Rides are underwhelming. Recommend having a plan for fast passes. Favorite ride - Tower of Terror. Favorite snack/food - Yucatan sausage roll and Little Green Men. Would go again during a different holiday/theme for the park (not Christmas), would want to try Big Band Beat, would want to see the entire Fantasmic, would give the parade another try if not Christmas themed.

My overall thoughts about the visit -
It was a really long day, but we really got most of what we wanted to do and still had tons of time leftover. I ate way more snacks during this visit than I had ever before and it was really interesting to "explore" the food part of the park experience more. If we go again, I want to try at least one of the fancier sit down restaurants! Other to dos for a potential next time that didn't happen this time - Big Band Beat (I'm not giving up until we see it once lol), check out the deck of the SS Colombia, ride 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and Toy Story Mania (with FP only), ride Tower of Terror more than once! My favorite ride is probably still Indiana Jones although I really like JTTCOE, Searider and Sindbad as well. My favorite snacks from this visit were the Yucatan Sausage Roll and Fried Pizza Turnover (chicken & mozz), but most things I tried tasted good!

Day 7, November 16 - Harajuku Takeshita doori, Yesibu Beer Museum, Seirinkan
After our busy day prior, we slept in and had a simple conbini breakfast from Lawson.

First order of the day was to go to Harajuku because there were a few specific things I was looking for.

I had started putting some of our purchases into the suitcases the night before to check how we were doing in terms of weight, and I noticed that the bags were getting close to the maximum allowable before having to pay extra fees. While we were in Harajuku, I intended to look for a large duffle bag that was sturdy but not to expensive and something we'd be willing to use again in the future. But also Liz Lisa lol.

First stop was the Harajuku Alta store, but it was a quick in and out since it didn't seem like there was anything that I wouldn't potentially see in the main one.
We then went to the 2nd floor outlet section of the stand alone Takeshita doori street Liz Lisa store because I wanted to look for some of last season's shoes. I ended up walking out with two Liz Lisa totes (from past fukubukuro) and a sample sale top but that's it lol.
Looked around a little more on the first floor and again wasn't super thrilled with anything which was somewhat expected.

Having actually more or less accomplished the only specific thing we went to Harajuku for, we looked around a bit and ended up at La Foret. Bf was looking for a present for his sister and the Sailor Moon store on one of the basement floors had a few perfect things.

After looking through a few more stores, we also stopped for some fries from And the Friet which lets you choose the type of cut and a dip. We went with the Japanese friet style and the avacado cream dip. It was fresh and hot but I don't know that this particular type was super unique.

Just across the street from La Foret is the Tokyu Plaza building and I just wanted to quickly go up to the third floor and snap a picture in the mirrors and peek at Jill Stuart lol.

On our way back to Takeshita doori, we also stopped at the LINE store!

And the moshimoshi box which Ebony has pointed out to be in the past and is a good resource for tourists, but they were closed lol. So just a photo outside.

At the end of Takeshita doori, there's now an Eiswelt Gelato. We had first seen it when I mistakenly dragged us to Harajuku on Day 5 but it was already closed at that time. Now that it was open, bf chose to get the Piggy & Piglet ice cream.

Even though the photo had the strawberry scoop as the larger pig, his was reversed :| but luckily it wasn't a big deal to him, just something you might want to clarify with the staff if you want a certain flavor as the main scoop.

We decided on heading over to Omotesando for lunch and instead of catching the train, opted to walk. From the top of Takeshita doori, we intended to walk on one of the outer streets to get there and passed the Soccer Shop Kamo Harajuku store. I also see it from the station while I'm waiting for the train but had never gone in before. Unfortunately most of the items my bf was interested in were already sold out (in his size), but it was still really cool to see what they had in there.

Also along the way, we passed Garrett's Popcorn which I had only passed once on a trip prior and remembered it having a super crazy line out the store. This time, there was only two customers already in there and I had missed and opportunity the month prior to get Garrett's in the O'Hare airport, so I wanted to stop. We got one medium bag of the Chicago mix and one medium bag of just caramel.
(The customers in front of me both had huge orders so I did end up having to wait awhile in there and the line really built up behind us!)

The Nike store was also along the way.

Finally we made it to Maisen in Omotesando!

There was a little bit of a wait when we got inside and we had to stack up on the stairs, but we were determined to eat there.

The line actually moved quite fast for a restaurant in my opinion and we were seated in about 10-15 minutes. We were in a table in what seemed a bit like an annex room upstairs. The cool thing about this location is that the building used to be an old bath house, but you would never know that by the room we were in lol. The tables and chairs all looked a bit old and ...temporary? for lack of a better word. I think we could have requested to wait for a regular table in one of the more traditional restaruant sections, but the food is the most important part and we didn't want to wait any longer for that. Bf ordered the lunch portion of the tonkatsu curry and I got the lunch portion fillet tonkatsu.
Lunch prices made the total for both of us come out to be way less than one dinner set!

When we were done, we returned to Shibuya from Omotesando which is just one stop away using Tokyo Metro.

On the way back to the Airbnb, we stopped at Ito-Ya since it's in the Tokyu building attached to the station. There were some brush lettering pens I really wanted to look for as well as other stationary items I wanted to buy to give as presents.

Quick stop at the apartment to drop off our purchases and eat some of the Garrett's popcorn while it was still really fresh.

Then made our way back out towards Ebisu. Even though the sun hadn't set yet, the Yebisu Garden Place area was still nicely decorated for the illumination and it was a great chance to take some pictures with the tree while it wasn't so crowded!

The Museum of Yebisu Beer is just about a block further than the illumnation area. The entrance is on a basement level, so look for the sign for where to turn down! It's really clear that you're in the right place when you arrive though.

There was a super friendly staff member who greeted us when we entered and asked what language we wanted a pamphelt in. She also volunteered to take our photo!

The interior of the museum was way more impressive than I thought it was going to be. I was expecting something more like a factory or a brewery but everything is really posh feeling.

If you just want to take a look around, admission to the museum is free, but we signed up for the tour of the museum based on reading some reviews which was 500yen. They warn you that the tour is about 45 minutes long in total and only in Japanese but provide you a handout that has some English translations in it. At this time, you also need to inform the staff member who will be drinking beer as part of the tour and acknowledge that if you drink, you cannot drive a vehicle. I opted out since I don't drink and instead chose apple juice.

Tours only start at certain intervals, and we must have been part of the second to last one of the day at 17:40. There's a specific waiting area for tour members and it was nice to have a set place to gather that included seating. Just before the start time, the guide came to introduce herself to each member of the tour group (our group was around 12-14 people) and clarified a few things. She seemed to only speak Japanese, but acknowledged that we didn't know much lol.

The tour began with the guide giving a verbal explanation to a lot of the timeline exhibits that were set up in the gallery area. This also included a movie that was projected onto the wall that the guide narrated which was pretty cool. She also walked us through each display (this is where the English translation pamphlet came in handy) and was very enthusiastic and animated. I'm sure this is the part that just isn't as fascinating if you can't hear the extra tidbits that the guide is providing, but it was still interesting.

The gallery part takes about 20 minutes and then you are escorted to a tasting salon area just for the tour with tables and chairs where they serve the samples of Yebisu.

Those partaking in the beer sampling are first served the original Yebisu malt beer from the tap.
The guide continues to give more information about it as it is sampled.

Then a can of the Kohaku Yebisu is provided in a can.
There's a bit of a demonstration with this one where the guide pours it with the foam extending beyond the rim of the glass but without overflowing and spilling and asks the tour members to do the same. Any beer that isn't consumed during the tour cannot be taken with you, so be sure to drink what you can!

While everyone else was trying the beer, I had been served Pokka Sapporo brand apple juice in a bottle but also had the opportunity to pour it into an Yebisu glass!

Once our tour period was up, we were asked to move from the bar area because they needed time to clean and set up for the next one and the tour was over. It did actually end up taking 45 minutes but it really didn't feel like it.

There is also an open seating section in the museum that isn't part of the tour where you can purchase Yebisu beer and other snacks.

There's a vending machine system that exchanges yen for coins (seems like so the staff doesn't have to deal with handling cash/giving change)

and you simply order just like at a counter service restaurant and seat yourself.

Bf decided to go for the Yebisu tasting set which cost 800yen or 2 Yebisu coins. It comes with a mini version of the original malt, kohaku and premium black and some small "snack" items to accompany the beer (pickled cucumber, cheese and tako?). I love the little glasses and tray!

Quick snaps at Yebisu Garden Place illumation after the sun set on the way back to Ebisu station.

We planned to meet up with bf's friend who we had seen on the first day at the soccer game for dinner, so we caught the subway to Naka-Meguro because we had another reservation at Seirinkan! Even though we were about half and hour early for the meeting time, somehow his friend and his gf were early as well, and we all met up at the station and headed to the restaurant together.

Bf and I ordered 1 margherita and 1 marinara pizza again. Bf's friend and gf ordered 1 margherita and shrimp scampi.

After dinner, we hung out and chatted in the area for a little bit before heading back to Shibuya. We made a quick stop at one of the high rise buildings which has a great view of the city and is connected to the station. I can't remember the name right now but there was also a sparkly Lawson there. (Maybe Shibuya Hikarie?)

We then headed to a venue that had a bowling alley and then also an arcade on another floor. It was pretty busy when we arrived (Friday night, so not surprising) and there was a bit of a wait. We killed some time on the arcade floor before just sitting in the waiting area downstairs and chatting.

When we finally got called to bowl, we went to the bowling floor and the lane was already assigned with our names on the scoreboard. There was a really cool system for the rented bowling shoes where you basically press a button for your size and the shoes come out. Idk if this is normal at other bowling alleys but I've never seen it before in Hawaii! We bowled one round and then called it a night.

Bf and I ended up picking up gyudon at Matsuya again on the way back to the Airbnb for a small warm snack!

A very chill day with hardly any specific plans made ahead of time. A lot of it was just going with the flow and stopping wherever we felt like it along the way. The Museum of Yebisu Beer was a much nicer experience than I anticipated it being and highly recommend the tour to anyone who is interested in beer even if you can't understand Japanese that well! Although the first part is a little dry, it's really worth it for 500yen to get the samples they provide in the second part and overall it was a very pleasant experience for such a low price. It was also great to spend time with my bf's friend and his gf again because we were able to do really casual activities and pretty much forgot we were traveling!

Day 8, November 18 - Shopping in Shibuya, MORI Building Digital Art Museum EPSON teamLab Borderless
Last day of the trip!
I had spent most of the previous night once back at the apartment packing and repacking everything we had already purchased, so we would know exactly how much more we could buy. We were in much better shape than I had anticipated once I actually allocated the weight between the two check bags properly and didn't even really need the Liz Lisa tote bag we had purchased the day before if we didn't buy too much more.

That being said, I still had a lot of omiyage shopping I wanted to do, so we decided to spend the morning in the area of Shibuya just around our Airbnb. This was mostly boring whatever kine shopping, but we went to Loft, Muji, Daiso, Can Do and Don Quixote before stopping back at the Airbnb to drop off our purchases.

Not really wanting to go too far for lunch, we went to Uobei again for something fast and simple.
Bf got another lottery coin how lol.

By that time it was the early afternoon and we decided to make our way over to Obaiba.

There's a train you can get on at the JR station that will take you directly to Tokyo Teleport without transfer, but you'll just have to pay for the non-JR leg when you exit when you get off. I think it was 310yen for the non-JR part (since we used our JR Rail Pass for the other portion). You simply have to show your pass and give the amount to the station staff at the window.

I've never been in Tokyo Teleport before because I've always arrived in another part of Odaiba but it seemed like a pretty large station.

We followed the signs to Palette Town

and then got in the long ass line for the Mori digital art museum (long official name "MORI Building Digital Art Museum EPSON teamLab Borderless")!
We had purchased tickets right when they went on sale back in early October and thought this would be a good last day activity because it's relatively low stress and not too far out + we likely wouldn't be inclined to buy too much while there. The downside is that the last trip day was a Saturday which really didn't help with the crowds! Although the ticket warned that it sometimes takes an hour to get in, I really didn't think it would be that bad. Despite how far the line stretched back (and it went all the way out to the street and then some), we did end up getting into the venue after only about 1/2 hour with the line slowly shuffling forward every 5 minutes or so which I have to say wasn't too bad.

There are lockers in case you want to leave your bag near the entrance, but we wanted to get in as soon as possible, so I kept my purse and scarf with me. It's a good option if you had come with some shopping bags though!

There's a short introduction by the staff in Japanese which we didn't understand too much of, but there's also a lot of warnings in English as well. They seem to only let a certain amount of people in per interval, so even inside the building before the exhibits, there was still a bit of waiting to do.

It's quite dark inside throughout and there's tons of people moving around so I didn't get as many pictures to blog as I would have liked to help me recall some of the details, but it may be best to just let the photos speak for themselves.  There's no map or set route to follow with many of the installations constantly changing, so each person who visits could have a slightly different experience, especially dependent on how long you end up spending in each exhibit.
The first area we were in had a butterfly and flower theme.

There were also numerous moving animations projected on the walls as well between rooms, and we almost never saw the same ones. I think these things are likely better captured on video, but I didn't take any and mostly enjoyed seeing them in person.

Crystal World is the name of the installation with the hanging LED lights and a mirrored floor. This one had an interactive element with the Team Lab app that allowed you to change the settings of the lights.

Any installation with a mirrored floor had a staff member at the entrance to offer you a long skirt covering for women who wanted them! I opted out because I was wearing inner shorts anyway, but yeah from the just the wrong angle, you can definitely see up lol.

We continued exploring the different rooms and spaces

until it seemed like the next logical place to go was some kind of exhibit with a really long line. We had been avoiding it up to that point, but having done most of the other things, figured we might as well try to wait. I sent my bf out to check exactly what the line was for and also to scout what other rooms we might have missed while I held our place in line. By the time he reported back, he said I was already halfway to the front of line for the hanging lights exhibit, so we decided to stick it out. Little did we know there was an ADDITIONAL line once you got to the front which was up the stairs. You could actually see the exhibit from the outside in the second line and staff was letting a set amount of people in for a specific amount of time before asking them to move on which is why the line moves so consistently.
We ended up waiting another half an hour (so 1 hour total) to get into this one for essentially just 2 minutes of being in there, so I'm not sure it's worth it. However, I do think we were lucky because we were able to see the colors change from red to orange to blue and green and yellow while we were there and get reasonably good pictures of it whether we were outside or inside the exhibit.

We went to quickly check out the two rooms we had missed that my bf scouted earlier

and then headed to the Athletic Forest section. For this one, it's not recommended to wear heels and there's a shoe changing room where you can borrow elastic slip on slippers and get a bag to throw your sandals in to carry with you. The ground is pretty uneven in the main part, and I think it's worth it to borrow the slippers.

The room that my bf enjoyed the most of the whole museum had these large props of houses and other blocks and shapes that you could move/rearrange. Based on where the props were placed, the projection would change. For example, between two houses, it would create a road but if a water feature was placed in between, it would create a bridge. This one is highly interactive and especially good for kids!

Because getting into and going through the museum ended up taking way longer than we had anticipated, we kind of sped through most of the rest of the Athletic Forest area including one section where it seemed like you could climb on poles? one with these giant balloons

And the one where you can color in a fish and have your creation scanned and added to an ocean projection.

I would certainly recommendation for the digital art museum but be sure to get your tickets ahead of time and anticipate crowds. Also plan to spent at least two to three hours just inside if you want to enjoy all the different exhibits and take your time. We got in at about 15:00 and left at 17:30 without even having done everything.
Also note that while there are many museum staff throughout, they will not take your photo for you!

When we finally left the museum the sun had already set and it was dark! Because of how long it would take us to get to Shibuya, we didn't end up doing anything else in Odaiba and instead got on a train to Shimbashi because I thought it might be nice to check out the Caretta Shiodome Illumination.
I led us around to get there in kind of a roundabout way, but it was crazy crowded when we finally arrived. The show that accompanies the illumination was just about to start so our timing was good for that, but that meant that it was a good time for everyone else to be there as well. We ended up just snapping a few photos and leaving.

We arrived back in Shibuya and made a quick stop at McDonalds for take out.

We didn't get back to the Airbnb until close to 19:00 but still had to eat and finish packing up and tidy a bit. Luckily, that was enough time although I was moving around the apartment like a whirlwind in order to ensure that we left by 19:45. The airport shuttle stop is just a handful of blocks away at Shibuya Mark City but it's a little tough to navigate on the sidewalks with so many other people along the route. Luckily we made it with no issue and I was able to purchase the tickets inside while my bf waited at the curb since it didn't seem worth it to try and settle in inside the waiting area.

The shuttle arrived 5 minutes before the expected departure of 20:10 and we were on our way at the scheduled time.

Once arriving, we dropped off our Pupuru pocket wifi at the Air Lawson and then headed to the Hawaiian Airlines counter to check in. We were pretty early so there wasn't much of a line.

Instead of going through security and heading to the gate like I usually do, we went to the 4th floor to check out some of the restaurants and shops instead. There wasn't a place that we really wanted to eat but I had never been up there before, and I can see why people don't mind spending some extra hours at this airport since there's a lot to do and buy! We bought a few more pieces of omiyage, explored a little more and then went through security.

We passed through security and immigration, we stopped for a bite to eat. Bf ordered udon from one place and I decided to get tsukemen from another but I felt like the portions were unusually large! We both couldn't finish our meals.

We continued on our way to the gate and easily found a place to settle in with available outlets. Our flight was scheduled for 23:55 but there's still plenty open at the airport so I wasn't surprised no one else was eager to wait at the gate for too long.

One short 7 hour plane ride across the Pacific Ocean and we were back in Honolulu on the same day but actually 12 hours earlier!


Accommodations -
We booked 1 Airbnb in Shibuya for the entirety of our stay in Japan plus an extra day (from Nov 9 -Nov 18).
Since our flight was almost at midnight, we didn't want to deal with the hassle of checking out in the middle of the last day and having to store our luggage until 20:00 somewhere + wanted the option to shower and repack bags somewhere not so public.
We also booked an Airbnb in Shin-Osaka for 2 nights (Nov 13-Nov 15) for our short trip to the Kansai area but only ended up staying 1 of those nights.
Although the Shin-Osaka one was traditionally themed and very interesting and we don't regret booking it, our personal style is more suited to the bigger, more modern Shibuya apartment which we would happily book again.
We chose Airbnb versus hotel for this trip mainly based on cost. The Airbnb units also included amentities like pocket wifi units (which we didn't end up using but were good to have as an option). We had the whole apartment for the units we stayed in so it was similar to a hotel in many ways without the front desk, cleaning and guest services. The tradeoff was definitely worth it; even double booking the days in the Osaka and having the extra day in Tokyo, we still came out ahead in terms of cost for the hotels that we were considering staying in based on comparable locations.

Transportation -
Since we were planning to go back and forth between Tokyo and Osaka via shinkansen, I knew I wanted to get the 7-day JR Rail Pass. I've used it on most of my trips in the past and find it extremely easy to use once you get exchanging the voucher out of the way. And it's also a good deal monetarily because it pays for itself with just the shinkansen round trip. We also took advantage of it to get to Kyoto with less hassle and in general didn't want to worry about the cost when using JR lines.
We also used SUICA cards for the non-JR lines and the day when the rail pass wasn't valid. We already had them on hand and didn't have to purchase them once arriving. I think we each loaded approx 3000yen onto our cards and started with just enough to get us from the Airport to Shibuya on the first night. Although I'm still new to using it, I realize that I should have been taking advantage of SUICA earlier because it's super convenient.

Purchases -
I didn't buy much in terms of clothes/things for just myself that's blog worthy. From Liz Lisa, I got two fukubukuro totes (bag only) but that was mainly just because I thought we weren't going to have enough suitcase space and considered the bags a good alternative that I'd still want to use again. The only other thing I grabbed was a sample sale version of the early autumn release color scheme ribbon collar blouse which had bordeaux trim instead of a solid color bordeaux collar. Most of our purchases were gifts/omiyage and I'm happy with that. I didn't even really take a good picture because it almost doesn't even make sense to post this because it's so inconsequential lol.

Outfits -
Our trip was 8 days long and this time I actually brought 8 outfits with me from home because I had anticipated not buying as many clothing items as I usually do (which typically allows me to wear the new items I buy and save suitcase space). I clearly had a bordeaux theme in mind and had specifically stocked up on items in that color in the months prior. In the week before I left, it had been hard for me to choose the outfits I planned to bring because I had so many good pieces to pick from! (Unfortunately I didn't get a full length picture with my Day 4 non-kimono outfit but for an off brand outfit, I really liked it!) The weather was mild enough that my cardigans were enough to keep me warm so I didn't use the scarves very much, and this was another good opportunity to wear my OTK boots which are getting pretty old and on their last leg. I'm also really happy with my bordeaux Samantha Vega purse which I feel really completed some of the coordinates and also held all of my travel essentials. I purchased it specifically for the outfits for the trip, and it was definitely a worthwhile purchase.

Autumn is one of my favorite seasons, and I really enjoy being in Japan for it despite not having much to shop for. The weather is cool but not too cold which makes it really enjoyable to walk around and be outdoors. It felt like a really long trip while we were there, but we packed as much as we could into most of the days and were going and going non-stop. Even though it was neither of our first times in Japan, it was our first trip together with so much to do, so we had to make a few adjustments on the go. This was certainly an experience unlike my previous trips to Japan because of who I traveled with, and I'm grateful for it. I was introduced to so many new things and tried more than I would have otherwise because I'm so used to sticking in my comfort zone.

 Japan trip Summer 2018
 Japan trip Summer 2017 posts
✦ Japan trip Spring 2017 posts
 Japan trip Winter 2017 posts
✦ Japan trip Spring 2016 posts
✦ Japan trip Autumn 2015 posts
✦ Japan trip Summer 2015 posts
✦ Japan trip Spring 2015 posts
✦ Japan trip Summer 2014 posts