This past April I got to cross a major item off of my bucket list and visit Japan! At a young age I became obsessed with the Japanese anime Sailor Moon which inspired me to learn more about Japan and I then became obsessed with the whole country. But, I never actually made the trip until this year and I can happily say it was the trip of a lifetime. A few general tips: bring a pouch for change, learn a few general words and phrases, download google translate, and while Tokyo is definitely the cleanest city I’ve ever been to, bring some hand sanitizer as you may come across a more old school bathroom that doesn’t have soap.
The photos above were taken in Yoyogi Park. It is beautiful just to walk through, try to spot some cherry blossoms (in the spring), or visit Meiji Jingu Shrine. Above on the left, another photo from Yoyogi park and on the right, Katie and I in Harajuku! We kept going back. So much shopping, food and endless cute streets to wander. Potstickers (gyoza) at Gyoza Lou, definitely lived up to the hype. Of the many interesting and special dining experiences we had in Japan, Tofu Ryori Sorano was one of the most memorable. The food was very good but the environment itself makes it worth the trip. We sat in our own little private booth with the sound of running water from the streams built into the floor providing a lovely soundtrack to our meal.
One note on food for prospective travelers, call ahead as many restaurants were closed during their posted business hours for seemingly no reason at all. Also, many restaurants require reservations so try to book some at the places you know you want to go before your trip or as soon as you arrive in Japan. The shopping in Japan is exceptional. The stores are beautiful and not only full of brands we cannot get in the United States or Europe but exclusive collaborations that cannot be found anywhere else as well. I highly recommend bring in at empty bag if you like to shop. Also, carry your passport with you if you would like to take advantage of the tax free option. One of my very favorite stores was Journal Standard (pictured above). I do not know the name of this beautiful store (pictured above and below), it is under District United Arrows and the store front says 6. BEAMS, another popular and cool store has a very cool street wear vibe upper level of menswear and this gorgeous level of womenswear below. Purikura are amazing Japanese photo booths with crazy themes and effects. Pop into this one on Takeshita Street if you’re going to experience the crazy Harajuku strip. Eating in Japan was sometimes challenging for me as I do not eat fish so I was super excited to visit Afuri Ramen as I’d heard they had a delicious vegan option. It did not disappoint. I dream about it regularly.
Pictured above next to the ramen is the ordering machine where you select which ramen you want, any extra toppings, and then put your money in. The machine dispenses a ticket you give to the waiter and they make your food. We also went to a few crepe stands with this ordering system, it’s pretty fun and makes things super easy. One of the museums on my ‘must see’ list was 21 21 Design Sight, created by Tadao Ando and Issey Miyake. The building itself is very cool and set on gorgeous expansive grounds in the middle of the city. New Plant Photo City by William Klein, a photo, film and graphic design exhibit currently on display at the museum was spectacular. Tokyo Tower is a fun touristy thing to do one afternoon and take in the city views. I suggest going for the full experience and getting the VIP tickets. Daikonyama was my favorite neighborhood in Tokyo. The most delicious breakfast from Garden House Crafts.Nanamica, another one of my favorite stores. UES, perfect denim and other classic American styles done with the exquisite taste and attention to detail of the Japanese. New friends! Mr.Pigu and Kaori of Ten Box in front of my fave coffee shop. Katie found an awesome day trip to Hadano, Kanagawa for us to do one day through Airbnb’s experience offerings. We hiked Mount Koboyama and did yoga at one of the summits. It was a great way to spend the day and see more of Japan. Katie and I on our block in Shibuya. The grand finale! A trip to the Robot Restaurant. You must see it for yourself. I highly recommend an evening at the Hotel Chinzanso. It was the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in and a perfect way to end our trip after jam packed days of walking and traveling. Stay tuned for photos from Kyoto and Osaka!
You can also check out my story highlights on my instagram @ginamariestylist for more Japan action.
PHOTOS Gina Marie Barbaro