April 12, 2012

Photo of the day: Japanese Bakery in Tokyo

Filed under: Cuisine, Domestic, Food, Tokyo places, Trips — myyearinjapan @ 1:21 am

Kobeya Kitchen in a bakery chain store. They have shops around Tokyo and Osaka. When I lived in Tokyo, there was one near my house and half on hour before they closed everything was half off, but as soon as the sale starts, everything disappears within 5 minutes. We used to try to time it so we could arrive 5 minutes before the sale, scope out the best pastries and quickly grab them once the sale started.

Sale on at Kobeya Kitchen bakery.

March 14, 2012

Staying at a Capsule Hotel

Visiting Tokyo is not cheap. A cheap room barely larger than a closet in a business hotel might cost $6oUSD, depending on what part of town you stay in.

One option for visiting on the cheap is to stay at a capsule hotel. It’s a bit difficult to plan because few capsule hotels have English websites. Also, many capsule hotels do not allow women. The number of places that allow women is on the rise but still accounts for only a fraction of capsule hotels.

I stayed at a capsule hotel in the Asakusa neighborhood of Tokyo for a few nights in November. The hotel had a women only floor.It was not the most glamorous place to stay, but at 2,200 yen (~$28USD) a night, it was cheaper than most other accommodations.

Front desk of the hotel. I had to check in every night and check out every morning. They did not allow me to leave my luggage in the capsule, even though I was staying in the same place. Check-out was 9:30 am. An alarm went off at 9 am every morning and then someone would come onto the PA system to inform us that we must leave within the next 30 minutes.

Inside the capsule. Just enough room to crawl around and have my suitcase sit next to my futon while I sleep. They provide linens and a yukata (summer kimono).

See more pictures after the jump.


February 1, 2012


Nikko is a city in Tochigi prefecture, north of Tokyo, famous for several well-known shrines and temples. 2 shrines and 1 temple are collectively a UNESCO world heritage site.

At Tobu Nikko Station. In early December, there was still a surprising amount of fall foliage to be seen.

The first stop on my World Heritage tour was Rinnoji temple.

Outside Rinnoji temple.

Rinnoji temple is currently being restored, so there is a plastic shell with a picture of what the temple will look like covering the real temple. You can still go inside during restoration.

More pictures after the jump (more…)

January 22, 2012

Asakusa at Night

During my visit to Tokyo in late November/early December, I stayed in Asakusa. I had previously only been to Asakusa during the day, so it was interesting to see the area at night. The main tourist attraction in Asakusa is the Sensoji temple and the shopping street leading up to the temple, Nakamise street. During the day, the temple and shopping area are swamped with tourists.  But at night, the shops are shuttered and the people are gone. The temple is still lit-up and the area feels quite peaceful.

Sensoji temple at night. Not a soul to be found.

Nakamise Street with all the shops shuttered.

Multilingual sign for the women's toilet.

Kaminari gate at night

January 20, 2012

Tokyo Sky Tree Rising

The Tokyo Tower (which looks rather similar to the Eiffel tower, but is slightly taller at 333 m and a different color, red) has been a symbol of Tokyo for decades. But there is a new tower coming onto the scene. It’s called the Tokyo Sky Tree and it is currently under construction near Asakusa. When completed it will be 634m tall. 634 may seem like a random number, but it’s not. One way to pronounce the numbers 6, 3, and 4 is Musashi. Musashi (武蔵の国) is the name of the ancient province that included present day Tokyo. The Sky Tree will be used as a communications tower and have two observations decks. The tower is scheduled to open in February 2012. I took the following photographs in late November 2011.

The Tokyo Sky Tree in the distance behind one of the buildings of Asakusa's Sensoji temple.

The Sky Tree next to another Asakusa landmark, the Asahi Beer HQ

It took me about 40 minutes to leisurely stroll from Asakusa to the Sky Tree.

January 18, 2012


On a trip to Tokyo last month, I came across an interesting word that I had never heard before. The word is “smork” and I saw it twice.

The first time was at a small bakery/cafe and the word “smork” was written on a sign taped to the table that my friend and I were sitting at.

No Smorking allowed!

The second instance of “smork” was found at a clothing store inside Shinjuku Station. In fact, the store is called “Smork by Language.”

Smork by Language, a clothing store in Shinjuku, Tokyo.

I believe the only explanation for this is that the owners of the bakery have some sort of dispute with the clothing store owners. Anyone have any other guesses? 😉

January 10, 2012

Anything Asian Restaurant?

Filed under: Cuisine, Domestic, Food, Tokyo places, Trips — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 12:55 am

Seen in Kameido in Tokyo. This is what happens when you can’t decide what country’s cuisine you’d like your restaurant to serve and rather than making a decision, you just toss everything in at once. This place seems quite a bit confused.

Asian food from all over Asia. The sign claims that the food is made by chefs hailing from Asia! How does the food look to you?

The countries/regions represented are Nepal, India, Tibet, Thailand, and Vietnam. It turns out that all these places have differnt cuisines. So... do they have chefs from each place on working at all times during open hours?

December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas from Tokyo

Filed under: Domestic, Tokyo places, Trips — Tags: , , , , , , , , — myyearinjapan @ 1:10 am

Merry Christmas from Tokyo.

Here are a few pictures of Christmas decorations I have seen around Tokyo this year.

Across from Shinjuku station, a Christmas tree made of origami cranes.

A close-up of the origami crane tree

Next to the above tree, there was an origami Santa with his origami reindeer.

See more Christmas decorations, after the jump. (more…)

January 26, 2011

Yamanote Line Project (Part 29) – Kanda Station

Filed under: Domestic, Tokyo places, Trips, Yamanote-Sen — Tags: , , — myyearinjapan @ 12:01 am

This is it folks. We are finally at the last stop of our tour of the Yamanote Line in Tokyo. It was a nice trip but it had to end sometime. While it has taken us…let’s say 29 days….to come to the end (in reality my posts were spread out over a much longer period…), in reality it would take only one hour to go around the entire Yamanote line. Trains come every 2 minutes and run every day of the year.

Today we find ourselves in Kanda. Kanda was once known for being the location of most of Tokyo’s book publishers. And you still see a lot of bookstores, especially second hand stores, when you walk around Kanda.


Kanda station sign


A shopping street next to Kanda station's West exit.


Why is this little girl looking at the cigarettes?? The randsel satchel on her back makes it obvious that she's still in elementary school! By the way, those bags can cost over $300! That's a lot of cash top put down for something you know your kid will only use for a few years!

hole in the wall

A little hole in the wall restaurant attached to the station.


Kanda intersection


Kanda newsstand. I would have gotten a paper, but the owner looked too busy reading.


Kanda bookstore, right near the station.

Well, the Yamanote tour is over. If you want to go back and relive the great memories, all the old posts are still up on the blog.

We started in Shinjuku, then went clockwise to Shinokubo, Takadanobaba, Mejiro, Ikebukuru, Otsuka, Sugamo, Kamagome, Tabata, Nishi-Nippori, Nippori, Uguisudani, Ueno, Okachimachi and Akihabara. Later, I finished the other half of the Yamanote line going counter clockwise from Shinjuku to Yoyogi, Harajuku, Shibuya, Ebisu, Meguro, Gotanda, Osaki, Shinagawa, Tamachi, Hamamatsucho, Shinbashi, Yurakucho, Tokyo, and finally ended up in Kanda. Pheww. I’m tired from all this travel. I’m going to go take a nap.

January 25, 2011

Yamanote Line Project (Part 28) – Tokyo Station

Filed under: Domestic, Tokyo places, Trips, Yamanote-Sen — Tags: , , — myyearinjapan @ 12:01 am

We are almost at the end of our tour of the Yamanote Line in Tokyo. The 28th and penultimate station on the Yamanote loop is Tokyo Station. Tokyo station sees the most trains per day of any station in Japan.


A man sets up his cardboard bed for the night under a sign for the Yaesu Central entrance of Tokyo Station. The recession has fueled a rise in homelessness in Japan, not just because people can no longer afford their homes, but also because many companies provide housing for their employees. So the loss of a job is also the loss of a home.


Busy street by the station.


Many highway buses come to Tokyo. You can take a direct bus to almost anywhere in Japan from Tokyo. The police man has a plastic bag on his hat so that it doesn't get wet.


This penguin is the mascot of Suica, a rechargeable fare card that can be used to pay for virtually all public transportation in the Tokyo area. (It used to be the card for JR trains, but is not interchangeable with the Pasmo card that was once only for the Tokyo Metro.) They make enough character goods to fill an entire store with Suica penguin goodness.

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