The Travel Project : Japan Contiki

The Travel Project : Japan Contiki

 

 

Katie and I recently travelled to Japan on a two week Contiki. We were given 12 challenges to try and complete during our time there. Here’s how we did…

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Challenge: Visit the theme cafes and restaurants (e.g. the cat café, maid café, ninja restaurant and of course the robot restaurant)

Completed : Yes

Robot Restaurant : Possibly one of the most amazing, confusing and wonderful experiences I have had. I don’t even know how to describe it. I was not sure what I was watching but it was loud, bright, fun and bizarre. I would recommend have a few drinks and then just sit back and let them entertain you.

Maid Café : I thought this was going to be a little more on the naughty side and it really wasn’t. We ate curry, had a photo with a maid, played a game and then went shopping in the curious area that is Akihibara. Though we did find it interesting that cutesie / young is what is considered sexy in Japan.

Ninja Restaurant : Ok, so this is an absolute MUST. First of all it is quite hard to find, well played Ninja’s. Once you do you are lead in to a small room where you are met by a ninja who then takes you down a path, over a river, through a tunnel and then drops you off at your table in their underground lair. We ate a 12 course degustation meal with some of the most creative and delicious food I have eaten, all served by a ninja who also performed magic tricks for us. Katie and I just sat giggling at each other because of the insane amount of joy and disbelief we were in. 100% DO THIS!

 

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Challenge: Get amongst the locals at the Tsukiji fish market and witness a tuna auction. The early bird catches the worm here, with locals clocking in to the market at 5.30am to get the freshest catch

 

Completed : Kind Of

 

There is now some complications in getting inside the fish market at 5:30am for tourists so we were advised not to do this. We showed up at about 9am and there was still so much activity around the market. I have never seen so many amazing cuts of fish.. and so many free samples! The pride the Japanese take with their presentation is incomparable. When we first arrived in Japan the idea of raw fish at 9am seemed unappealing. A few days in and I can’t get enough of the stuff. It tasted so good too, probably because it was literately only caught a few hours prior.

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Challenge: Go monster hunting in Jindaiji

Completed : No

Unfortunately we opted to go back to Harajuku on our free afternoon

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Challenge: Spend a day on the trip without using your mobile phone or social media

Completed : No

I mean I would love to say we did do this but I would be lying. We were documenting almost everything we experienced. We couldn’t help it. All the settings and people were so diverse and fascinating.

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Challenge: Share some sake with an individual/group of total strangers

Completed : Yes

Funny enough I don’t usually drink at all. I am not any good at it. But we did go Sake tasting and got a few samples to take with us. Katie and I shared ours around. We also learnt that it is bad luck to pour your own Sake. The belief in Japan is that drinking is to be done with friends. Therefor if you are drinking alone and have to pour your own, you have no friends. Seems a bit harsh but that is the thought process. Drinking should be done in groups and enjoyed together.

 

 

Challenge: Get inquisitive in the Harajuku district and chat to those who embrace the culture

Completed : Katie and I met a pretty flamboyant lady in a store in Harajuku who made us follow her on instagram. She was bold, colorful and loud and we LOVED her. This area was one of my favorites in Tokyo. I think it is also the only place we actually decided to shop. We visited a Cat café, went to a rooftop beer garden and purchaced silly t-shirts … because it seemed like a great idea at the time. I would really dedicate a good ½ day to explore this area. There is so much to see and do.

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Challenge: Explore the vibrant and colourful districts of Akihibara, Shibuya (the heart of youth culture) and Shimokitazawa (Harajuku’s cooler cousin) and get amongst the fashionistas and cos-players

Completed : Yes

We went back to Shibuya a few times and really loved this area. The crosswalk here is probably familiar to a lot of you as it is used in a lot of movies and TV shows. The amazing thing here is how quiet it is. Actually that is a pretty good observation for most of Japan. Everyone is so polite. There is NO litter anywhere and everyone is respectful of peoples space. This particular crosswalk probably has about 1000 people crossing at any time.. and you could hear a pin drop. Adjacent to the crosswalk is a starbucks that is connected to a music sorte – a very popular place for youth to hang out. We came across a band called AKB48. It is a girl band with 48 members that rotate in and out depending on their popularity. One of their hit songs is called Labrador Retriever.

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Challenge: Try some of the weird food

Completed : Yes

 

Honestly we tried so many things I don’t even know what we were eating. We spent a few nights in a Buddhist temple and ate an entire vegetarian meal of curious creations. It all tasted great but included tofu based products and desserts. Plant based dumplings, and other colourful balls that we really had no idea what they were. I went to Japan with the mentality of saying yes to everything. I did, and although some things swirled around my mouth for a while, I was for the most part really pleasantly surprised.

When we first arrived our guide explained how the Japanese do not compromise on quality. That everything they put out is the very best of the best and if a product or food is not a best seller, it will be gone within a month. With this information, I felt confidant that I wouldn’t get sick and kind of just went for it in terms of where we ate and what we ate. I am happy to report that I didn’t get sick at all and neither did anyone else. We ate a lot of our meals on the go from the 7/11 (sort of a convenient store) they had an amazing selection of sushi, treats, crazy flavours of chips and pastries. Chocolate bread seemed to be my staple snack most days.

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Challenge: Spend an hour in silence at a Japanese garden

Completed : Kind of

We spent an hour in a Japanese garden but it was 100% not silent. Firstly we were with our contiki group and it was only day 2 so we were all excitedly getting to know each other. Also we were in awe of how lush and manicured the gardens were. It reminded me of how One Tree Hill in Auckland, NZ is in the middle of a busy area. Just on the outskirts of the busy CBD here lies this amazing garden with ponds, fish, birds and tiny bridges. It was stunning. We were told early on that the Japanse do what ever it is they are doing, fully. If they are working, they are 100% focused on working, if they are partying, they are 100% focused on partying and if they are relaxing, they are most definitely relaxing. I love that mentality and can see why places like these gardens exist. We should have taken advantage of the peace and tranquility … maybe next time!

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Challenge: Ask for the local speciality or dish of the day without knowing what it is – food roulette!

Completed : Yes

 

We actually took it a step further and just told the waiter to bring us “anything”. We spent one of our evenings in Takayama looking for a popular local spot to eat and stumbled across a busy restaurant down a narrow stairway. They spoke no English at all and the menu didn’t have photos like many of the places in Tokyo so we managed to order a coke and then using the thumbs up thumbs down hand gestures and some act outs, we ended up with Ramen, fish, tofu, fried chicken and some kind of a seaweed dish. It was delicious.

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Challenge: Try a black sulphuric egg

Completed : NO – and I am not super mad about it. We didn’t make it to the spot where these are popular. What a shame…

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Challenge: Wander the streets of a new destination without knowing where you are going and seek to get lost, relying only on locals to give you directions

Completed : Yes

 

This was actually easier than we thought it would be because Japan has a wonderful public transport system that is color coded and the streets are predominantly a grid so getting lost is harder than you would think. Both Katie and I felt very proud of ourselves for navigating the trains on day one.

Our biggest challenge was indeed finding the Ninja Restaurant, (cheeky Ninjas). We asked a few people who unfortunately put us wrong, or were they hired by the ninjas? We will never know. We ended up going in to a hotel near by and the man kindly walked us right to the restaurant. The Japanese are so helpful and kind. I was always so amazed by their generosity.

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Katie and I absolutely loved our trip to Japan and are already planning on heading to India with Contiki in 2017!

Here is the link to the trip we did – https://www.contiki.com/destinations/asia/tours/2056-japan-unrivalled

#thetravelproject #japanunrivalled #noregrets

 

 

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Kimberley Crossman

Kimberley Crossman

Kimberley Crossman is a kiwi actress, author, and presenter. Oh and you are currently on her website reading a blog she has written.

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