Lake Shikotsu

As mentioned in the previous post, after liming in Sapporo for a night, we were ready for the real adventure – two nights at the Marukoma Onsen hotel at Lake Shikotsu, and a kayaking trip on the lake. The area that comprises the Shikotsu-Toya National Park is very volcanic, and the two lakes are calderas,…

Eat me!

One of the things that I made sure to bring with me from Japan was all of my super cute amazing tools for making bento – lunch boxes – because I knew it would not be available in Hong Kong. Thankfully in Japan they are a dime a dozen, and every dollar store sells them. So how…

Springtime in Sapporo

It is May in the city of Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido, Japan’s second largest island. Often referred to as ‘Japan’s Wild North’, the name is well deserved, because although it has a lot of space, Hokkaido remains largely underdeveloped. Just outside the city centre, bears and deer roam free, and within an hour’s drive…

Two days in Osaka – The pumped up KIX

For our sixth wedding anniversary, my husband gave me the best present ever — he buggered off and took The Child with him to visit his family in Tokyo, giving me four precious days of complete freedom to go on a trip to Osaka and Kyoto with my long time travel buddy and old time…

Date night in Tokyo

Tokyo is a city that has more Michelin stars than anywhere else on the planet, but when in Tokyo, the one place we must go to is a tiny, dodgy little hole in the wall called Daitoryo.

Once Upon a Time in Tokyo

Tokyo is not a particularly pretty place. It consists of miles and miles and miles of prefabricated houses, stretching as far as the eye can see, on a mostly flat area of land. But if you want to see what Tokyo looked like before it got burned to the ground during World War II, all you have to do is go to Kawagoe.

Three Things to do in Saitama, Japan

If Tokyo is the hot blooded, sexy, pulsating supermodel of Japan, Saitama is its buck-toothed, slightly chubby, less attractive sister. But that doesn’t mean there is anything to do. Here’s a list of fun things to do if you happen to have to spend some time in the kanji-less prefecture…

Spirited Away in Gunma

You get this spooky feeling sometimes in Japan once you get out of the big cities and into the countryside. The Japanese countryside, with its traditional style wooden farmhouses and picture perfect rice paddies, is incredibly beautiful and scenic, but it doesn’t take long to realise that something is missing from the picture — people.

A rare look inside Japan’s Imperial Palace

On my recent trip to Tokyo, I happened to be there for what is literally a once-in-a-lifetime event — the opening of the grounds of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo, where the Japanese Royal Family lives.

Tokyo Abloom

“The path and the road were covered with a layer of blossoms that were everywhere fluttering down, dying at the moment of their greatest beauty….”

Faster than a speeding bullet – Japan’s shinkansen

Would it sound bad if I said that my first trip on Japan’s famed bullet train was a bit…. meh? I’m not sure what I was expecting… Robots that zoom through the aisles to serve you ice cold beer or something?

Okinawa — the caribbean side of japan

When you think of Japan, do you think mega cities, crowded trains, teenage kids in freaky costumes, black-suited salarymen, serene temples, sushi restaurants, geishas in kimonos? For the most part, this is all true, this is the Japan that most people know around the world. But I was pleased to find that if you head…

The True Story of the Shit Slinger

I’m sitting here in a hotel in Narita, the town next to Tokyo’s international airport, and looking out the window below brings back memories of what has to be the craziest and most mental thing that has ever happened to me while traveling. And that story — a true story, let me assure you —…

Lost in translation (or just really weirdly written)

Japan is a country full of smokers and quite lax rules about smoking. For example, you can smoke in every restaurant — even fast food joints like KFC and McDonalds. There are smoking rooms in the stations on open platforms and smoking areas at waiting spots. You can buy cigarettes from vending machines pretty much…

Sleeping on the train in Japan

Sleeping on the train in Japan. Why is it such a popular/normal/acceptable thing to do? Everybody sleeps on trains in Japan. Old people, young people, business people, students. It seems to be something that is conditioned into them, that when you get a seat on the train, it’s sleepy time. Time to catch up on…

Moshi moshi? Is anyone there?

I have a confession to make — sometimes I don’t answer the phone. Not because I am afraid of stalkers, or because I am too busy making love or something, no it is because of a much simpler reason. My Japanese sucks! So I can speak a little bit of Japanese, and read a little…

Happy Feet

As you may have heard, Japanese people are very serious about cleanliness. In the movie ‘The Last Samurai’, when Tom Cruise gets captured and taken to the village, he makes a big faux pas by walking into the house wearing his dirty muddy boots, and quickly learns one of the most basic ground rules of…

10 Pictures of Tokyo

The old saying goes that a picture says a thousand words, so I’m going to save myself the hassle of actually writing a thousand words and just show you some pictures instead! 10 shots of this week in Tokyo… . .

The most famous cat in Asia

  If you’ve ever been inside a Chinese grocery, or a Chinatown, or any Asian country for that matter, you may have noticed a little cat statue with an upraised paw, beckoning you inside. Some are small, some are big, some have mechanical arms to make the arm move up and down. The basic premise…

Is Colonel Sanders Actually Santa In Disguise?

Last night for Christmas Eve I went with a friend for Korean food. Yes, Korean food on Christmas Eve in Tokyo, and no, it’s not some kind of weird tradition to eat bibimbap on Christmas Eve. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. We walked past a few KFCs last night en route to the restaurant…

Would You Eat A Pregnant Fish?

I WOULD!!!   So yes, I’ve eaten some ‘strange’ things in Japan, like raw horse, for example, but one of my favourite bar snacks which would be considered strange in the west is shishamo, which are smelt fish (?) that are only eaten when full of eggs. Yup, delicious pregnant fish. They can be grilled…

Touch My Junk

In the months of December and January, Setagaya City where we live holds what is called a Boro-Ichi  (世田谷ボロ市)which literally translated means Setagaya Junk Market. It’s a big two-day event that attracts a lot of people, as they turn the streets into a massive pedestrian zone of vendors selling everything from sake to second-hand kimonos….

What’s in a Tokyo home?

Did I mention that we live in a mansion in Tokyo? Now I know what you may be thinking — a mansion like Beverly Hills with big gardens and golden gates and swimming pools and marble floors? I wish! The short answer is NO. Such a thing does not exist in Japan! In Japan the…

Special delivery!

Special delivery! Coming soon to a home near you — babies in a buggy! A nearby daycare center actually drops these little suckers back home afterwards. Amazingly they put all the babies to stand up in the buggy, and push the buggy from house to house to deliver the babies. Amazingly all the kids just…

When All The World Smiles

Weather of 21’C in late November is almost unheard of in Tokyo, so when the temperature rose yesterday and the sky turned a brilliant blue, it seemed like all of Tokyo went outside to play (including me!). My first stop was the weekend Antique Market outside Yasukuni Shrine. If you dig weird old stuff, this…

Japan Road Trip – Part 1 – Above the High Ground

As I cruised up the Chuo Highway at 110 km per hour in my father-in-law’s BMW, on a perfectly clear morning in Tokyo, with a stunning view of Mt. Fuji in my rear view window and the Japanese Alps ahead of me, I thought to myself, “Dubai? What Dubai?”  Maybe having to leave abruptly was…

Japan Road Trip – Part 2 – The Tall Mountain

It was very hard to drive away from Kami-kochi after enjoying its natural beauty and lovely hiking, but we jumped back in the car and drove for two hours to Gifu prefecture. Our destination was the small town of Takayama, written in Japanese as 高山, meaning Tall Mountain. A quaint little place with a famous…

Japan Road Trip – Part 3 – The White River Village

The final destination on this trip was the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Shirakawa-go, written in Japanese as 白川郷, meaning White River Village. It gained UNESCO status in 1995 due to its unique and very distinctive triangular shaped farm houses with massive thatched roofs known as gassho zukuri that can last up to 70 years….

A secret look at Japanese onsen

Japanese onsen — hot springs — have a whole code of etiquette their own that is often hard for foreigners to understand. The Japanese approach onsen as an important ritual, and not just a daily wash-off of sweat and stink. A soak in a hot tub not only cleanses the body, but also the soul. If you…

Disaster in Japan

    It was just a regular day in Bangkok, and I had just finished talking to my husband on Skype. He arrived that morning in Tokyo and was visiting his parents who live in Saitama, which is just north of Tokyo. We said our goodbyes, and I went to buy some lunch. Came back…

Language barriers

There is no doubt that Japan is a wonderful, exciting and bewildering place where most of the time you have no idea what’s going on. This is mostly due to the very challenging language barrier. While this feeling of being disoriented can be great fun, it can also be infinitely frustrating…. During the year that…

Tokyo – My Second Home

I think it was the Discovery Travel and Living Channel that says, ‘sometimes the best plan is to have no plan at all’. And that was exactly how this trip to Tokyo was — I had no itinerary, other than to visit my old friends, because I felt that after living there for a year…

Adventures in Rural Japan

. One of my biggest regrets during my year in Tokyo was never taking the opportunity to travel to other regions of Japan and see what Japanese life was like outside of the biggest city in the world. Never made it to Hokkaido, never even went to Kyoto, and certainly never really went into the…

Back into the rising sun

It’s a beautiful Friday afternoon, I’m drinking an ice-cold Kirin, and I can’t begin to say how content I am to know that my holiday has officially begun. Tomorrow we head to Japan — the first time I’ll be back since I moved to Hong Kong. I’m excited about seeing a new place since we…