A Happy Pancake · Tako No Tetsu Tsunoda · Dotonbori · USJ
Fushi Inari Taisha Shrine · Tenryu-ji Zen Temple · Bamboo Forest
Aaliya Café · 5 eating & shopping districts · DisneySea
A Happy Pancake
1-11-9 Nishihommachi, Nishi-ku | 1F Okamoto Kosan Bldg, Osaka 550-0005, Osaka Prefecture (Across the road from Starbucks, down the basement)
- ‘Happy Pancake‘ (w/ Manuka honey and whipped butter) – 1,100¥
- ‘Black Tea Milk Pancake‘ (w/ tea milk sauce and granola) – 1,350¥
Soft, fluffy and simply delectable. You really don’t need a knife to eat this! I suspect a lot of eggs were used to create this moist, fluffy texture on the inside of the pancakes, but I’m not complaining. While I only tried 2 of their pancakes, their ‘Black Tea Milk Pancake’ is definitely to-die-for! I highly recommend it if you are looking for a bit more adventure, fragrance and crunch.
Delicious, but pricey.
Just a heads up: One plate might be too much for you to finish, so you might consider sharing it with someone. To give you some perspective, the three of us shared 2 plates. There is also another outlet in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo. You can visit their website for more information.
Tako No Tetsu Tsunoda
1-10 Kakudacho, Kita-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture (Umeda station, near ‘HEP FIVE’ Shopping Mall)
There are many Takoyaki Houses that you can dine at in Osaka, but if you want a more fun, DIY experience, try this. Here’s how it went:
- Order. (An English menu is available at the store)
- Grease the Takoyaki maker. (The oil and oil brush are provided on your table)
- The batter, filling and garnish will be laid out and the heat, turned up for you.
- Wait for slightly over 10 min, using the picks provided every now and then to get those Takoyaki balls into shape. (It’s not as easy as it seems!)
For us, we ordered beef and squid Takoyaki (12pc each) and a Japanese pancake w/ shrimp (also known as Okonomiyaki). The pancake was cooked to the left of the stove. The whole meal costs about 1,300¥.
It was more of the experience than the food that I liked about this place.
Tip: It is easier to shape the Takoyaki balls with 2 picks, but only 1 is given per person. Also, I personally feel that squid Takoyaki is a ‘must-have’ as long as you are having Takoyaki. Traditional Takoyaki is filled with octopus, so anything similar to that would taste just as amazing!
Dotonbori: Gyoza · Genrokuzushi · Ichiran Ramen
(Also spelled, ‘Dotombori.) A 5-min walk from Namba Station.
We tried our first gyoza for 400-500¥ in Japan, which tasted like something you could get at a Japanese restaurant in Singapore. A few days later, we tried cheese gyoza in Tokyo and it was amazing! So you might want to try it whenever you get the chance.
This is Genrokuzushi Dotonbori (above). It is quite hard to miss. Just keep an eye out for its massive sushi icon! I strongly encourage you to drop by for some sushi as a snack, if not a meal. Their sushi is reasonably priced and more importantly, extremely fresh. My favourites would have to be the 3 lined above. From left to right,
- Tuna: Soft and sweet, the meat easily came apart with one bite.
- Squid (Ika): Chewy, but extremely viscous and creamy underneath.
- Beef: Tender, though I have to admit that the sweet Terriyaki sauce played a major role tastewise.
Funny thing is, I was never a huge fan of raw tuna, and even less so for squid. However, I was very pleasantly surprised by the natural sweetness of fresh raw tuna and the unbelievably velvety texture underneath the squid.
Mouth-watering, though sushi tends to be such as long as it is fresh.
Note: There are usually 2 options for tuna – fatty or lean, but Genrokuzushi seems only to offer the lean one.
〒542-0084, 7-18 Souemoncho Chuo-ku Osaka-shi Osaka-fu (By the river opposite ‘GIRAFFE Club’)
This is Ichiran Ramen (above), a joint renown for having the best ramen… such that its menu only has a single type of ramen (~1,000¥). That’s right, folks. Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you! The unique part about Ichiran is that you get to customise your ramen according to the level of seasoning, spiciness and broth consistency that you want. (There is more that I did not mention.)
It’s good, but the fact that I was able to customise it to my preference might have been part of the reason…
Universal Studios Japan (USJ)
Transfer from Nishikujo Station to Universal City (Yumesaki Line).
Thrilling, exciting and creative. The first ride that we took was the Flying Dinosaur, which literally positions you facedown so that you get to fly like a dinosaur. It’s amazing!
Next, we went for the JAWS boat ride, which recently reopened (Mar 2018). Most of it centred around our boat captain who tells us the story of JAWS, only to discover that we are in the midst of it. Not that I understood a word that she spoke, but the way she immersed herself entirely into her role had the 3 of us enraptured.
Subsequently, we hopped over to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey (4-D ride) after queuing in the rain and cold for more than 2 hours. And we were completely swept off our feet (pun intended)! It captured some of the most iconic scenes in Deathly Hallows, which I shall not mention so as to not spoil the ride for you. But yes, it was amazing and is definitely a must-see.
Last but not least, we went for Hollywood Dream, which had stopped operating for most of the day due to the horrible rain. That is, until USJ was about to close! So of course we ran, and queued, and decided we wanted the backward roller coaster. This ride goes both forward (Hollywood Dream – The Ride) and backwards (Hollywood Dream – The Ride, Backdrop). We loved it!
For more family-friendly rides, check out ‘DisneySea’ under the TOKYO section below.
Before we jump into the highlights of my time in Kyoto, I highly recommend having a 2-night stay at ‘Riverside Arashiyama‘, because
- Most shops (including restaurants) close at 6pm, so one day may not allow enough time for you to see everything, especially when check-in is late in the afternoon.
- It has wonderful facilities, relatively cheap rates and is located just a walk away from Tenryu-ji Temple, Bamboo Grove and the like! I really regret not having stayed there longer. You can find them on Airbnb here.
Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
68 Yabunouchi-cho, Fukakusa, Fushimi-ku (Right outside Inari station)
The Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine is the main Inari shrine among 30,000 others that were built for the Shinto god, Inari* (god of rice). For believers of Inari, it holds central importance. Otherwise, it is a particularly popular tourist destination due to its eye-catching and endless number of Torii gates.
You will find that the shrine is adorned with many statues of the foxes/Kitsune (top left image) as they are believed to be the guardians/messengers of the Shinto deities.
*To find out more about its history, you may visit the following links:
To the left of the entrance of the shrine, a glimpse down its food street:
- Rice Cakes (plain and matcha flavoured) – 500¥ per stick
- Soft tofu – 400¥
- ‘Kitsune Udon’ (Udon w/ sweet beancurd) – 700¥
Tenryu-ji Zen Temple
〒616-8385 Kyoto Prefecture, Kyoto, Ukyō-ku, 嵯峨天龍寺芒ノ馬場町６８(A 10-min walk from Hankyu Arashiyama station/JR Saga Arashiyama station)
For almost seven decades since it was established, Tenryu-ji Temple has had to brave many fires and undergo several reconstructions to maintain the beautiful landscape which we see today.
While the temple is open to the public, you will have to pay two separate entrance fees to view all that the images (above and below) show.
- The Hojo (living quarters) + Sogen Pond Garden – 800¥
- Sogen Pond Garden – 500¥
If you want to know more about the temple’s history or get a feel of how the past emperors had lived in it, that additional 300¥ will be worth spending! Otherwise, the Sogen Pond Garden would be enough to leave you in awe, as it did with me.
Accessible via Tenryu-ji Temple.
While the forest was what everyone was initially after, this adorable Shiba Inu stole the spotlight (or many people’s hearts) during its morning stroll there. People (like myself) actually ended up stopping to pat and take pictures of this little fellow, with the permission of its owner of course.
But then again, there isn’t much to talk about bamboo, except maybe the ‘instagrammable pictures’ you can take should you pay to ride in these rickshaws (1,000+¥)!
〒160-0022 Tokyo, Shinjuku, 3 Chome−1−17, 山本ビル (Beside ‘VENUS CAFE’, down the basement)
Just when I thought Happy Pancakes was as soft and luscious as anything can be, Café Aaliya proved me wrong, and they are well aware of that. They didn’t even bother providing any knives, but a fork and jam spreader! As you can tell from the pictures above, the toast was literally oozing with goodness – at least for my first few bites. The thick, doughy composition of the toast will satiate your hunger very quickly, and is most likely the reason why each serving only contains 2 relatively small pieces of toast.
Melts in your mouth and has a large range of toppings, but becomes overwhelming by the second piece of toast.
Eat & Shop at 5 Stations in Tokyo
Shibuya, Shinjuku, Shimokitazawa
- Sukiyaki Buffet at ‘Nabezo‘ (link)
- Shop at Shibuya’s 3-storey ‘Disney Store’ (link)
- Shop at international brands (e.g. LUSH, American Eagle)
- Shop for shoes at internationally lower prices at factory outlets (e.g. ABC Mart)
- Try Tokyo’s iconic crepes (link)
- Collect toys and knickknacks
The above image does not belong to me.
- Visit the ‘Animate Flagship Store’ for anime merchandise (link)
- Visit the largest ‘Pokémon Centre’ in Tokyo at Sunshine City (link)
Transfer form Maihama station to the Disney Railway.
The first thing you will realise upon entering Disneyland/DisneySea is that everyone – literally everyone, has something Duffy-related. See the balloon, plushie, bag, headwear or food of a bear? (Phew, that was a mouth full.) Yup, that’s Duffy, if not, his best friend, Shellie May! You can purchase them for 2,500¥ at the main store. They are quite exclusively sold, so it might be hard to find them outside Japan.
Anyway, I should warn you that waiting for 3 hours in line for a short 2-min ride is the norm, so be mentally prepared! However, ‘fast passes‘ are available for certain rides. You can queue for them if you would like.
Another thing is that DisneySea is focused more on their aesthetic, rather than their rides. What I mean is: Don’t expect any crazy drops in their rides (though they are likely to run at high speeds). And it’s okay to miss some rides, but don’t miss the parades. It was 8pm when I saw the ‘Fantasmic!‘ parade. Lights, music, fireworks – they had it all. I was blown away by the effortless execution of the parade, despite it being on water.
Some final tips before you go:
- ‘Sumimasen‘ – Excuse me.
- ‘Arigato gozaimasu’ – Thank you (formal).
- ‘Gomenasai’ – Sorry.
- ‘Osusume wa nandesuka’ – What would you recommend?
- Keep right on the escalator in Osaka, left in Tokyo.
- Speak softly or not at all in the trains, subways and any enclosed spaces.
- Avoid eating outside a food joint, unless you are travelling on long train rides like the Shinkansen Bullet Train. The Japanese prefer eating where designated.
- Experience the convenience stores! It became standard protocol for us to visit them after a long day of activities. Some stores include: ‘Life’, ‘OK Mart’ and ‘7-Eleven’.
- Japan’s arcades are huge and very impressive! Visit one such arcade, ‘Round One‘, in Osaka.
- Make sure you plan where to go, how to go and what to do!
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I just want to say a big THANK YOU if you made it this far! 🙂