Visiting Japan was never at the top of our travel list. The main reason for our visit was that the cruise we booked had 2 stops in Japan. (Read more on flying vs cruising in our previous post here.)
Our first stop in Japan was Hakodate which is one of the main cities in Hokkaido. Being a port city, it’s known for it’s fresh squid. Although they had an abundance of fresh seafood, we were on the search for ramen. (Yes, call us what you will, but sashimi isn’t a big favorite for us.)
Our quest was a success since, in our opinions, we found a bowl of ramen that just blew our minds; it was THAT good. And it was from a foodcourt! There’s a foodcourt before going into the market. Unfortunately, the names were all in Japanese so we can’t really tell you the name of the place. But all they sold were ramen and a few side dishes (like the squid pictured below) and it was located at the corner (on your left) when walking in from the main entrance.
The ramen was unlike any ramen we’ve ever had. We ordered the famous Japanese miso ramen. What stood out to us was the broth; it was much lighter than other miso broths we’ve had, yet so full of flavor. Also, miso has a creamy texture, however this broth was clearer than most others. We did notice a difference between this miso ramen and the miso ramen we tried in Tokyo (which was more similar to what we’ve tasted back home in Toronto).
After the ramen we proceeded to walk around while keeping an eye out for other foods to try. We ended up at a 7 Eleven (a “Conbini” or convenience store), which we heard is a staple in Japan (along with Lawson and Family Mart) and where one can find some tasty Japanese foods. In North America, we would only visit 7 Eleven to buy a drink and/or chips.
We decided to try some onigiri (also known as “omusubi”), a sesame bun (bao), and an iced latte. All were quite good; the bao and latte was nothing different than what we’ve had. However, the onigiri is a must try if you’re in Japan.
First bite of the onigiri and we knew we’d step foot into other 7 Elevens in Tokyo. There was a wide variety of different onigiris, however we decided on the most quintessential of onigiri fillings, salmon. For something so simple (plain rice, seaweed and grilled salmon), it was savory and flavorful. We can understand why, one of the simplest foods, is most enjoyed by everyone (locals and tourists) in Japan.
Our Thoughts on Hakodate, Japan
We enjoyed our stop in Hakodate. It’s more of a quiet, laid back city. There were not a lot of people out and about and not a lot of the restaurants were opened when we were there (I think the night life may be more lively, but unfortunately we went back onto the ship – even though the ship would not be leaving until 10pm that day).
This was what we were most looking forward to. Although the quest to get to Tokyo from Yokohama (where the ship docked) was a trek, on it’s own. It’s about 27 miles from Yokohama to Tokyo or a 45 minutes drive (which we were told would cost around $200-300 USD via taxi) or 1 hr 15 mins by train and costing under $10 per person. Have you seen Tokyo’s rail system??
Yes, it’s as confusing as it looks and there are many lines which are owned by different companies. Therefore, if your trip requires you to switch lines you will have to pay separately with each switch. And to make things even more complicated, most of the maps where you purchase your tickets are in Japanese only!
Here’s a big tip, if you’re coming off a cruise ship, ask the person outside the cruise terminal building wearing a shirt that says “Information”. They will give you exact instructions (printed on paper – in most cases) regarding which rail line and platform to take in order to get to your destination.
After successfully arriving at our Airbnb in the Oshiage area, we proceeded to venture out in the same area for the day. We were in awe with Japan! We (I especially) loved how orderly everything and everyone was; the kindness of the people; the food (a given); and the cleanliness of the whole city!
Our Thoughts on Tokyo, Japan
Japan is definitely a place where we could see ourselves living. I felt like I’ve finally found a place and people that thinks like me and gets me. 🙂 We actually didn’t find it expensive although we were under the impression that it would be costly. Food was actually cheaper than in Canada and we found that the cost to rent a one bedroom apartment was also cheaper than what you’d find in Toronto.
The total population of Tokyo Metropolis exceeds 13.8 million and it’s considered the world’s largest urban agglomeration economy. There are a total of 39 million residents, 50% more people than any other urban area (NYC doesn’t even compare!). With this said, it did not feel chaotic and this is because of all the processes, efficiencies and rules that they have in place.
In summary, Japan was never a place we were eager to visit. However, it surprisingly stole our hearts.
We will definitely see you again, Japan!
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