Mt. Fuji

We spent our last week in Japan in the Mt. Fuji area. We had originally planned on staying in Hakone for 3 nights and Fujiyoshida 3 nights, but we ended up leaving Hakone after just one night because I don’t know what I was thinking when I booked a capsule hotel there. The first night we arrived at the hotel in Hakone they actually had a private room available so we went ahead and took that. The next 2 nights however all they had was the “capsule room” which we had booked..again I don’t know what I was thinking when I booked it, I guess I did because it had good reviews. Anyway we went and took a look at the room and said no way. It was literally a room with 8 raw plywood boxes the size of a queen size bed and about 4 feet high, stacked on top of each other. Well, 4 on the bottom and 4 on top. The boxes had no ventilation except a very small fan in the wall of each one, and the room smelled very strongly of wood (think home depot lumber section) since the wood was not painted or coated with anything. It was very weird and I would have felt very claustrophobic and stuffy in there. Not to mention we have to stay up very late working and I think everyone would hear us typing away on our computers so we passed on it.  Luckily the hotel staff gave us a refund for at least one of the nights. Capsule hotels are very common in Japan but I think this one is a bit unusual as far as capsule hotels go.


the “capsule hotel” in Hakone

The main reason I wanted to go to Hakone was to go to the hot spring resort there called Yunessun. So after we picked up a rental car and packed up our things from the hotel, we went to this hot spring place before heading up to Fujiyoshida.

I think I had first heard of the Yunessun hot spring water park when I saw this article about a year ago about how you can “bathe in ramen” in Japan. I immediately noted it down for our upcoming trip to Japan as a place definitely not to miss. And we didn’t! However, when we arrived, to my extreme disappointment we found that the ramen baths had been replaced by….pancake syrup baths!! Having been in Japan for over a month already, somehow we were not surprised by this bizarre twist of events. Japan never ceases to amaze with unexpected and strange things around every turn.


the pancake syrup bath, complete with giant pancakes hanging overhead

This spa themed water park (I don’t even really know what to call it) is a huge building which has several different rooms with different baths/pools of different food and drink things, and all of them are very hot. Aside from the pancake syrup one they had coffee (which they had a giant coffee brewer beside the pool where they brewed the coffee and dumped it in every so often), red wine,  Japanese sake (rice wine), and green tea. All of them were diluted of course and we took a swim (or a sit) in all of them, some were bigger than others. The coffee one was our favorite, it smelled really good. It was however a bit strange being in a pool of dark brown water. Haha

The pancake syrup bath I’m pretty sure was sponsored by and was kind of an interactive advertisement for the pancake mix and syrup company. They had some times written on the wall near it, so we decided to come back to that bath at one of the times to see what happened then. And it did not disappoint! Just about everyone in the spa showed up for it and all three of the syrup baths were full. Then a Japanese guy came out with several bottles of pancake syrup…and walked around to each tub squirting the syrup all over everyone and urging us to rub it all over our bodies, so we gladly participated in that, it was really hilarious. There was no English spoken, just a lot of laughing.


the hot coffee pool

They also had an outside area with more big pools of hot water, a waterfall, a fountain, a cave, and a waterslide! I thought a super hot water slide outside in cold weather (about 50 degrees Fahrenheit/10 Celsius) was really awesome! It was cool to sit outside in the rain while sitting in the steaming hot water too. We really enjoyed this place a lot. Especially since we went on a week day afternoon and there were no more than 30 people in the whole place. I think it would have been a lot less enjoyable if it were packed full of people. I have included the rest of the photos of this place in the slideshow at the end of the post.


one of the hot outdoor pools complete with a hot waterfall


We left the hot spring park in the late afternoon and headed up to Fujiyoshida in our tiny rental car, it took about 2 hours to get there. Hakone is southeast of Mt. Fuji and Fujiyoshida is north east of Fuji, and very close to the volcano itself. We arrived after dark and checked into a hostel run by a cheerful middle aged American guy. We had a windowless but good sized room with traditional Japanese beds (futon mats on the floor), and shared bathrooms with the rest of the hostel. It didn’t seem like many other people were staying there though so it was usually quiet and we had a pretty enjoyable and peaceful time there.

The next morning we got up and drove to Churido Pagoda which is a famous spot to see and photograph Mt. Fuji framed by cherry blossoms and along side the beautiful red pagoda. You have to walk up quite a steep and high hill either by steps or a long and winding road to get to the top to the best viewing point. It was a very tiring hike up (we took the stairs up and the road back down) but the view once at the top was spectacular. We couldn’t have come at a better time of the year, we had both the cherry blossoms in full bloom and Fuji was still capped with snow.


one of my favorite shots of Fuji with the pagoda and cherry blossoms

This day, like most, it was pretty cloudy, but Fuji was at least still completely visible. Many days we heard that it’s completely covered in clouds. Since we were staying for 5 days in Fujiyoshida we figured we’d get at least one clear day, and a couple of days later it happened! So we went back to the pagoda for round two of photos. And they were even more beautiful than the first day!


the second time we went back to Churido Pagoda we had a beautiful blue sky!

For some reason, even on completely cloudless days, as you can see in the above photo, small clouds are constantly forming around the top of the volcano. It sometimes appears that it’s steam coming from the crater, but it’s just clouds. I read about it at the time but I forget what causes this phenomenon.

Fujiyoshida and the Churido Pagoda are in the “Fuji Five Lakes” area which is the area to the north of Mt. Fuji and is about 3000 feet/1000 meters above sea level elevation. We spent a couple of days driving around the lakes, and got some really nice views of Fuji from those spots as well.


me in front of one of the lakes on the north side of Fuji

One day we visited Oshino Hakkai village which is also in the Fuji Five Lakes region. Oshino Hakkai means “eight springs” and those eight springs are around this village. There is a small entrance fee to walk through the village which has a bunch of thatch roof farmhouses. Each one is like a mini museum with different things like farming tools, samurai armor and weapons, pottery and paintings, and there was a water wheel mill as well.  The village had really great views of Fuji too!


One of the thatch roof farmhouses at Oshino Hakkai village with Fuji in the background

Another interesting thing to do in the Fuji area is visiting Aokigahara, better known as the Suicide Forest. Japan has one of the highest suicide rates in the world and this forest is allegedly one of the top 3 suicide spots in the world (the other two are the Golden Gate Bridge, and some bridge in China). We read that around 200 people per year enter the forest and commit suicide usually by hanging or drug overdose.


This forest is naturally extremely creepy. It’s just at the base of Mt. Fuji, so the entire forest is growing on a lava bed. Due to this, most of the tree roots are above ground. The forest is very dense so it’s just a big tangle of trees and vines and roots. Its also very dark in some places due to the density of the trees. Very very creepy. We read online about the best(?) area to take a walk through the forest, if you wanted to maybe see…ya know…bodies. Apparently the government only does a sweep of the forest once a year to remove the bodies, so at any given time there are dozens of human remains scattered throughout the forest.

I REALLY did NOT want to see any dead bodies, it really would have freaked me out, but I really didn’t think we actually would, so we decided to go for a walk down the “no entry” trail, which is apparently the spot where people seeking to end their life enter the forest, since it’s off the beaten path and you are less likely to run into other people.


inside the suicide forest

We saw a lot of colored tape strung up while we were in the middle of the forest and later read that people who REALLY want to explore off-path in the forest will tie the tape to a tree on the path so that they can get back to the path. Otherwise you’d never find your way out. We also read that GPS doesn’t really work properly in the forest either due to the high iron content in the lava bed the forest is growing on.

Anyway it was a really interesting walk for a couple of hours and I’m glad we went but I’m glad we didn’t come across anything more than a dead umbrella!


the parking lot at Fuji Fifth Station with the summit hidden by clouds

The last thing we did in the Fuji area was to visit Mt. Fuji Fifth Station which is the highest point you can drive up Mt. Fuji. There are some shops and a restaurant and a lot of tourists. The elevation at this spot is 7562 feet/2305 meters.  Mt. Fuji itself is 12378 feet/3773 meters high. Many people who don’t want to hike Fuji from the bottom will start at this point. On a clear day you would have a very good view of the summit from here. However the day we went it was very cloudy by the time we got up there, so we couldn’t see much, but we got some great photos with the clouds in the trees!


me at Fuji Fifth Station in the cloudy trees

One more cool thing was that the lava rocks on fuji are all very colorful! Different shades of brown, gray, red, pink and purple! I wasn’t expecting that! I suppose its from a mixture of a lot of different minerals.


I think that about wraps up my stories of Mt. Fuji and actually all of Japan that I visited. I can’t wait to go back again and visit some other places there.

Next up I will be writing about Thailand, Nepal, and Bali – which are the three places we have been since we left Japan. I will try to catch up soon! For now, enjoy the slideshow of a bunch more photos related to this post.

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Hiroshima, Japan

After spending a month in Osaka, we took a several hours bus ride down to Hiroshima where we booked an Airbnb apartment for one week. It was a pretty small apartment, but bigger than the one in Tokyo, and was close to the city center. We had a tram stop right outside the front door so that was super helpful to get around.

Unlike most major Japanese cities, Hiroshima does not have a subway system. Instead it has an extensive system of streetcars (trams). Some are sleek and modern and some are fifty years old. Below is a photo of one of the older ones. It costs about $1.50 USD to ride them, and they come about every 10 minutes at each stop. It was a pretty efficient way to get around the city.


Our apartment was only a few stops away from Peace Memorial Park which is the main place most tourists want to see when visiting Hiroshima. It is where most of the memorials are related to the Atomic Bomb that was dropped on the City on August 6, 1945. It is a very big and beautiful park and the cherry blossoms were in full bloom when we were there so that was really nice.

The first thing you see when you get off the tram at the park is the skeletal remains of a building named the “Atomic Bomb Dome”. The bomb exploded almost directly over this building and the glass dome shattered and everyone inside was killed instantly. It’s a pretty eerie sight and a stark reminder of the past.


the Atomic Bomb Dome


Continuing on through the park there are many memorials. Another one is the flame of peace which rests in the center of a sculpture meant to look like two hands pressed together at the wrists with the palms pointing towards the sky. The flame was first lit in 1964 and has been burning ever since. The mission is to have it remain lit until all the nuclear bombs in the world are destroyed.


“The Flame of Peace” can be seen in in the center of this monument. The building in the background is the Peace Memorial Museum.


Another memorial in the park is the Childrens Peace Monument.  It was dedicated to all the children killed in the bombing as well as to a young girl named Sadako Sasaki who died of leukemia ten years after the atomic bombing. An ancient Japanese legend promises that anyone who folds a thousand origami cranes will be granted a wish by the gods. She did fold the one thousand paper cranes but she died at the age of 12 after an eight month struggle with the disease. Until this day people from all over the world send millions of paper cranes each year, many of which are displayed in the glass cases around the monument. The origami paper cranes are a symbol of peace.


The Children’s Peace Monument


The museum is the main point of interest in the park, as it contains a lot of information about the bombing. We rented audioguides which I would recommend if you visit, it will give you a lot more information about the artifacts you will see related to the bombing.


a nuclear shadow from a person who was sitting on these steps when the blast happened

There were a lot of extremely graphic and disturbing photos, and items which were melted during the blast, like bicycles and glass jars. One thing at the museum which I found particularly interesting was a “nuclear shadow” which they removed from a building outside to preserve behind glass. These nuclear shadows occurred because the radiation bleached anything it came into contact with, especially concrete. If there was a person or any solid object in the way, it created a “shadow” on the background of that person or object. This museum was definitely informative and interesting but of course also very shocking and depressing. Knowing that these kind of bombs still exist today in many countries and may one day be used again is incomprehensible after seeing the devastation and suffering they caused not only at the moment it happened but for many years after.


one of the many artifacts of the bombing on display at the museum


A really nice day trip that we took from Hiroshima was to the island of Miyajima. I previously wrote about the deer at Miyajima in my post about all the animal experiences in Japan. Other than the deer, it’s a really beautiful island with an iconic torii gate in the water. The day we went unfortunately the tide was out so there were hundreds of people walking around the gate. I would have rather the tide been high to get a photo of the gate “floating” in the water, but oh well, next time! It was cool to walk around in the sand around the gate anyway I guess. We stayed at Miyajima Island all afternoon walking around feeding the deer and exploring smaller temples and taking photos. It was a very enjoyable day and very easy to get to as the tram took us directly from outside our house to the ferry terminal, I think it took a little over an hour and then the ferry ride was not very long.


The torii gate of Miyajima at sunset after most of the people had dispersed

Another day trip that can be easily done from Hiroshima is to “bunny island” which I previously wrote about here in my post about animal experiences in Japan.

Overall Hiroshima is a great place to visit. Many people just go there on a day trip from Osaka or Kyoto as you can get there in a couple hours on the bullet train, see everything in the park, and then leave. I’m glad we had a leisurely week there though and had time to see the park and do two big day trips and hang out in arcades and eat lots of good food.

I will try to make my last Japan post in the next few days about our final week in Japan in the beautiful Mt. Fuji area.


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Random interesting and weird Japanese things

Japan is full of weird and wacky things that I have been accumulating notes about so I figured I’d write about all of them in one big post!

Food Stuff!

Everyone knows that Japan has a lot of great food like sushi, ramen and kobe steak, but they also have a lot of very strange snack foods and candy! One well known candy that Japan is known for having a lot of unusual flavors of are KitKats. You can find a lot of crazy flavors such as Purple Sweet Potato flavor, Red Bean Sandwich flavor, Flan flavored, Green Tea flavored (which I tried in Thailand last year, super gross), and even Japanese Sake flavored (fermented rice wine). We bought a bag of the flan and sake flavored ones and they are ALRIGHT but definitely strange tasting and I probably would not buy agin. The only one that I would buy again is one that has nuts and berries pressed into the tops of the KitKat bars. Those ones are actually really tasty. I have included photos of all the weird flavors in the slideshow at the end of the post.


Red Bean Sandwich Flavored KitKats

Sweet Potato Ice Cream is a thing here as well that I see quite often.  I can’t even begin to imagine what sweet potato would taste like as an ice cream flavor and I’m not sure I want to find out. Green tea ice cream is also quite common in Japan. While I enjoy drinking green tea, I have never had any green tea flavored food that I thought tasted good.


Vending Machines!

Japan has over 5 and a half million vending machines, and it’s not hard to believe once you’ve had a walk around any city. They are on almost every corner, and sometimes there will be a row of like, 10 of them. Our airbnb in Tokyo had about 12 vending machines within 50 feet of the front door of our building, which was awesome. There are some with snacks and ice cream, etc, but the most common vending machine are just drinks, both hot and cold. Most have a variety of different kinds of teas, juices, and a lot of coffee, not a lot of soda or carbonated drinks. Most are around 100-150 Yen (so around $1 USD more or less). One of my favorites is hot lemon tea which comes in a bottle. Really yummy and doubles as a hand warmer when walking around outside when it’s really cold! There is also an iced apple tea by Lipton which is delicious.


contents of a drink vending machine. the first two rows have a blue label underneath noting that they are cold, and the bottom row is red, noting that they are hot drinks.


corn drink in a vending machine

                                                                                                                                                                  Another thing I see quite often in vending machines that is super weird are things like a can of hot corn…juice..stuff? As well as a hot red bean drink, and I even saw one that was some kind of hot onion drink. I’m thinking they are some kind of a soup more than a beverage, but they are definitely in a beverage type drinking can. Maybe I’ll try one some day and find out.

Beer and sake vending machines are also a thing, as well as dry ice vending machines – there’s one at our local supermarket.

Oh – one other thing – many restaurants, especially fast food type restaurants, work in a strange way. They have a vending machine out front with a lot of different selections. You put your money in and make your selection, and it spits out a ticket with your order on it, which you take inside and hand to someone who brings you your food. Pretty good idea I think.

Capsule Toy Machines

“Capsule toy” machines are very common and plentiful. These are similar to quarter machines in the US where you get a small toy in a plastic bubble but these cost on average 200-300 Yen each ($2-ish dollars). The toys in the machines are mostly small plastic figurines, one common one I see are figures of a lady in different positions, which is for hanging on the side of a drink cup. I don’t get it. But I got one. Haha.


These capsule toy machines aren’t ever just in a group of 4 or so like you’d see in other countries, ohh no, here there are at least 50 or more of them in each place. I think the best/most funny capsule toy machines I’ve seen yet had hats for small dogs, and another one had miniature toilet paper fixtures (photos of those in slideshow).


capsule toy vending machines

Arcades and Pachinko

Arcades are everywhere here too. The Japanese love their arcades. Some are even open 24 hours. Most arcades have a lot of the normal video games, and they also have dozens of claw machines, which contain of course a lot of stuffed animals – some have a single, huge stuffed animal which is hanging by just the tag which is wedged between two parallel bars, and all you have to do is use the claw to unhook the tag and the whole thing falls down. It looks easy but we have never seen anyone actually get one. Many claw machines also contain all kinds of food items.


claw machines

There is an EXTREMELY popular game here called Pachinko. This game is for adults and usually in a casino type place. These places are also VERY smoky because everyone is just sitting playing this game like zombies while chain smoking. We went and played one day thinking it must be pretty exciting because pachinko parlors are always packed full. But disappointingly it turned out to be a really lame and boring game. Basically all you do is turn a knob on the right side of the machine which controls the speed at which small metal balls are launched from the bottom to the top of the machine thru a channel on the left side, at which point they fall down through a series of metal pins. The objective is to get them to go into a single hole in the bottom center of the machine. The thing is, there is no way that the velocity at which the balls are launched at all affects whether or not they are going to fall into the hole at the bottom, once they make it there. So it is a completely skill-less game. But I guess the same could be said about slot machines. I suppose people play pachinko to possibly win money, but with any casino game most people are probably just losing it.


Ran playing pachinko in Tokyo for the first and last time

Our favorite arcade game here so far is what we call the “coin pusher” game. I don’t know what it’s actually called. But it DOES involve some level of skill. One day we got sucked into playing this game for over an hour and put about $20 into it, which we eventually lost but we still had an exciting time. Most of you have probably seen or played this game before. You have to put coins into a slot which roll down the arms onto the upper platform, and there is a vertical wall thing that goes back and forth pushing the coins forward. The idea is to strategically place the coins so that a lot more coins get pushed over the edge in the front and fall out to you. Pretty fun game.


the “coin pusher” game that I love


Most people know that Japan has some pretty high tech toilets. And if you don’t, you are about to learn about them! One thing I was pleasantly surprised to find out about many Japanese toilets is that they have HEATED SEATS! Which as you can imagine is a wonderful thing to sit down onto in the winter. Even most public toilets have heated seats. Most toilets in Japan also have a control panel which is either on the side of the seat, or on the wall beside the toilet. The control panel has many functions including various water sprayers, water pressure, water temperature, a button to make a flushing sound without actually flushing, all kinds of fun stuff. I’ve heard that some even talk to you, but I’ve not used one of those yet. All I know is I’m definitely going to miss the hot toilet seats when I leave here! Not sure why the heated toilet seat hasn’t caught on in the rest of the world, especially the Arctic!


example of a Japanese toilet control panel 

Well I think that about sums it up for this post. I still have a lot more to write about so I will continue later this week! For now you can enjoy the slideshow of randomness.

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The Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani

The Snow Monkeys of Jigokudani were a big highlight of our time in Japan so far. It’s a place I have been wanting to go for years since monkeys are one of my favorite animals, and it did not disappoint. It was quite a trek to get there from Tokyo and so we decided to spend a night there instead of doing a really long rushed exhausting day trip.

bullet train

the bullet train has an interesting design

We set out from Tokyo in the early afternoon on our way to Nagano which is about 200 miles northwest of Tokyo, takes about an hour and a half on the bullet train, and costs 8200 Yen, or about $70 USD. When we arrived at Nagano station we actually met up with a really nice Japanese couple – Mariko and Taichi – who are friends of my friend Dustin and just happen to now live in Nagano. He put me in touch with them since they are super nice and big world travelers themselves and they were happy to spend the afternoon with us since it was Sunday. They drove us to a nearby village called Obuse which was super cute and famous for ‘marron’ which are sweet chestnuts. There were lots of shops selling lots of different sweets and things made from the chestnuts, which were really delicious! It was a really cool little side trip and we had a really nice time with them.


Mariko, Taichi, Ran, and me

After our stroll around Obuse we said goodbye to our new friends and took a local train for about 30 minutes to the town of Yamanouchi which is famous for its several hot springs bath houses.  It’s very close to the Snow Monkey park and also to some ski resorts so there are many hotels there, but not much else except beautiful scenery – lots of huge snow covered mountains. We stayed in a hotel with traditional tatami style rooms – the kind with the straw floor mats and paper walls where you sit and sleep on the floor. These types of rooms can be extremely expensive and luxurious but since we were not going to be spending much time there we opted for a less expensive one that was a bit dated, but it was still cool. We arrived in the evening and pretty much just fell asleep when we got there due to our jetlag and screwy sleep schedule so we didn’t go in the hot springs unfortunately.


our tatami room in Yamanouchi town

The next morning, we woke up early and went to the snow monkey park to get there when it opened because that’s when you are more likely to see more monkeys sitting in the onsen (the hot spring). Cars can’t go very far so you get dropped off at a certain point and then have to walk for 30-40 minutes to get to where the monkeys are. It’s a nice walk on a path through a forest with lots of snow but the walkway was covered in ice most of the way which made things a bit tricky.


the long icy path through the forest to the snow monkeys

When we arrived to the hot spring area, there were monkeys everywhere! There were only a couple of them actually sitting in the hot spring, most of them (there were at least 100), were foraging around in the snow for food. The monkeys are fed daily by the park rangers. The feeding has the purpose of prolonging observation by making the monkeys come to Jigokudani for the food. If there was no feeding, the monkeys would just go to random places in the forest and that would make it difficult to keep track of them. It also keeps the monkeys away up to a certain extent from the farmlands, thus it also keeps the monkeys a bit safer from angry farmers. To give extra incentive to coming to Jigokudani, the food given to the monkeys is just a little bit nicer than the food they generally find in the forest, but not nice enough to pull them away from nature completely. They are fed soy beans, barley, or apples depending on the weather and season. (source)


the snow monkeys having their breakfast

Tourists are not allowed to feed the monkeys but the monkeys are very sneaky and if they catch a glimpse of any food in someone’s bag, they will definitely grab it. We saw a guy open his backpack which was sitting on the ground, and one of the monkeys spotted a banana in a plastic bag and quickly grabbed it. The guy was quick and also grabbed it and they had a tug of war for a moment before he let the monkey have it probably in fear of being bitten, and the monkey ran up a hill and enjoyed the banana. It was pretty funny.


the banana thief!

We hung out for about 3 hours and I took over 600 photos of the monkeys! They were so cute sitting in the water, and sitting on the side of the pool grooming each other, hugging, just hanging out relaxing and not caring that dozens of people had cameras pointed at them. They were completely indifferent to all the people around, it was really cool. I only wish I was there  earlier in the season when there are dozens of monkeys all sitting in the hot spring together. On this day there were only 2 or 3 in the water at any given time. It was still a pretty amazing day and we were so glad we went, it was definitely worth the long trip to get there. I will leave you with a slideshow of some of my favorite photos of the monkeys!

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I’ve decided to start travel blogging again and what better place to begin than Japan! We are currently on the Shinkansen – more commonly known as the bullet train, which travels at speeds of up to 200MPH – heading north from Tokyo to Nagano prefecture to see the famous snow monkeys, which is something I’ve been wanting to do for years. You’ve probably seen photos of them sitting in the hot springs with snow on their heads. So you’ll have to wait until my next post to get a report on that!

We arrived to Tokyo a couple of days ago after a long and exhausting journey crossing 15 time zones in a week which involved me sleeping in a different place every night for 8 nights including 2 overnight flights, a hotel in London and a hotel – more like a tiny room – in the Moscow airport. Needless to say we are still completely dazed from that and have been sleeping 3 to 5 hours at a time at completely random times. Last night we woke up and went out at 3am for sushi and arcade games because we couldn’t sleep. Good thing Tokyo has lots of things open at all hours! We even tried to go bowling at 330am but all 16 lanes were full.


Shinjuku at night – so bright!

The city of Tokyo is pretty amazing and we are really loving it. You could never get bored here because there is just so much to see and do. It’s so big and shiny and bright and even the people are interesting looking and have a type of fashion not really seen anywhere else. The only downside of Tokyo is that it is extremely expensive (for example this train we are on right now which is only a 1 hour and a half journey, cost 8,200 Yen, or $71 USD). It is also extremely crowded, being a city of 13 million. You can see just how crowded it is here from this photo I took yesterday after walking down this street in the neighborhood of Harajuku.


Takeshita Street in Harajuku, Tokyo


20170305_134006-01Another interesting thing about Tokyo is that smoking is NOT allowed OUTSIDE. Which is great right? This means no one throwing cigarette butts on the street – in fact, it is SO incredibly clean here that I’ve never seen as much as a single piece of trash on the street in Tokyo, which is pretty amazing for such a huge and crowded city. What happens though when you can’t smoke outside?  That’s right – everyone smokes INSIDE. Even in restaurants. Which is of course really, really gross. This is the one thing that I seriously dislike about this city, but, what can you do. Everywhere has its positives and negatives.


dsc01524The Japanese also love animals! Since most people can not have pets of their own due to tiny living spaces, there are a LOT of cat cafes! I think we have seen about 5 in just the two days we have been here so far. We have not yet been into one yet – but we are planning on it! Aside from cat cafes there are also dog cafes, and believe it or not – even hedgehog cafes, OWL cafes, snake cafes, bunny cafes, and more. You pay a fixed amount for a fixed amount of time and there are usually drinks available as well. I’m not sure how I feel about these exotic animal cafes though, I kinda 17017113_10158171657915062_1435465356067753644_ofeel bad for the animals being handled constantly and I don’t think owls of all things should be kept in a damn cafe so I don’t really want to go there. We did go to the hedgehog cafe though, which was 1630 Yen per person (about $14) for 30 minutes including a little container of live worms to feed to the hedgehogs. They sit you  down at stools with a big sawed in half barrel with 4 hedgehogs in it. You get a pair of gloves to wear so you can pick them up without being poked – you are allowed to pick them up without the gloves if you want, but you risk being poked or bitten. They really loved the live worms and it was funny to watch them eat them. I felt bad picking them up because I am sure they are tired of  so we didn’t pick them up too much. Other than that stuff there are many other animal experiences in Japan such as the snow monkeys that I mentioned that we will be seeing tomorrow, there is a place called Fox Village up north near Fukushima that looks really cute that I’d love to visit, as well as bunny island, and a few capybara petting zoos. I will eventually get around to all of those places!

I am really looking forward to the next month here and all the wacky things we are going to do like sit in a bowl of ramen – yes, really! Haha