Japan Expenses

Screen Shot 2019-05-01 at 1.14.20 AM.png

Click to Enlarge

The whole trip cost $2205 CAD. Something to note, that I read before leaving, is that despite Japan being a super modern country you will find that most places don’t accept credit card, so bring cash! This is true, I went with about 60,000 yen (for two people) and came home with under 10,000 yen. That being said, everything in and around Osaka (Nara, Kyoto) was essentially cash only – Tokyo had a lot more places that accepted card but still a lot of places, the transport system for example, that was cash only, in addition to restaurants & markets.

The daily averages on this chart are pretty skewed because of sporadic shopping, and the transportation category average is also skewed. With my flight benefits, I was lucky to only have paid $85 CAD for the round trip flight. I do think it’s interesting though that metros within a city cost roughly $10 for a day (3-4 trips). As for the inter-city transport, I bought the JR Pass, which was pricy and probably came out to a little bit more than we would have spent if we paid each train individually, but the liberty of not having to choose if “another day-trip to Kyoto” was worth the added cost,  was worth it to me. This way we were able to remain based in Osaka and spend less time “homeless” in between check-out and check-in, in addition to having to pack and repack multiple times.

You can decide if the JR Pass is worth it for you here: https://www.japan-guide.com/railpass/

Lodging averaged out to $62 CAD a night per person, which considering our hotel in Tokyo was $200 a night ($194), that is pretty good! We booked our lodging a week before leaving, leaving us limited options. We got a super affordable and cute Airbnb a short distance from Dotonbori. In retrospect, I would have booked something closer to the JR Namba Station because this was our start and finish point on most days (when we used JR to go to other cities) and it was at least a 20 minute walk to and from JR Namba, hard after a long day! In Tokyo we had very few choices so we splurged and got something 4 minutes from Shibuya, and it was worth it! We were minutes from mostly everything we wanted to see in Shibuya, and only 15 minutes from Harajuku. On our last day we took the metro and commuted to the other “cities” within Tokyo, but as a base, I definitely recommend Shibuya.

As for food, we ate about 2 meals a day (pancakes, sushi, ramen, dumplings) and had coffee or bubble tea almost every day. Food and drink averaged out to $46 CAD a day. We didn’t cut back in this category, but there would definitely be cheaper ways to do it if you were on a budget.

Activities, we splurged on the Robot Restaurant, at $98 for a 90 minute show (no food or drinks included). If I were to be asked if I would still have gone (now having seen the show and having paid the price) yes I would. If I were to be asked if I think it is worth $98 CAD, no I don’t think it is, but people are willing to pay! I would price it more around $60 or maybe $70 because it’s popular. Regardless, I enjoyed it. Besides that, factored in are our tickets to teamLab Planets (a must see) as well as one temple visit, a tattoo and some cookies for the deer in Nara.

As for shopping, well, that is totally subjective BUT Japan has some REALLY COOL STUFF! Stationary, snacks, beauty products, clothes. So, to each their own I guess!

Note: JPY * 0.012 = CAD 

Day 8: Tokyo

They were announcing clear skies and sun for our last day in Japan, so we were finally going to make it to Fuji after all! We set our alarms for 5:20AM – yes 5:20 am! The plan was get up, get ready and catch the first bus out of the city at 6:38. We had a plan A, plan B and plan C all ready for execution. We grabbed breakfast at McDonalds because it was the only thing open, crossed Shibuya Crossing by 6:15 and there were only a handful of people there! A handful of people that hadn’t gone to bed yet and a few tourists only!

We made our way to the bus terminal and the ticket booth only opened at 6:30… once it opened, to our dismay, we were told that every bus was sold out until 1pm…. it’s ok, time for plan B! Off to the train station we went. All the tickets sold out too? It’s Golden Week in Japan which is a weeklong national holiday and I guess, on a beautiful day, everyone was headed to Fuji and had pre-purchased tickets. Plan C was to metro as far as we would get which would take us to the same connection bus station where we’d buy tickets and proceed from there. The issue is, we weren’t sure if the bus from the second terminal over an hour away would also be sold out, and even if it took us over 3 hours to get there, we were starting to worry about our chances of getting home. All this before 7:30am and unfortunately, to stay on the safe side and not waste time and money getting there (with no guarantee of actually making it, or worse not being able to get home) we called it and headed back to our hotel feeling defeated.

A whole day in Japan ahead of us, and no idea what to do! First stop: Sensō-Ji temple in Taito City. We headed to the temple on a beautiful Sunday during Golden Week, us and everyone else. There is no shortage of people in Japan, I truly think it’s the busiest country I have ever been to. With that being said, it is still incredibly incredibly clean and orderly. Standing on an empty street corner at a red light, in the absence of cars, pedestrians will not jay-walk. There are also NO TRASH BINS ANYWHERE! It is considered rude to walk and eat or drink so people don’t really have garbage while they walk, and if they do they are expected to just bring it home or carry it until they find a bin, and they do! The streets are wildly clean because people just abide by these unwritten rules. Also, there are washrooms everywhere. No keeping passcodes under lock and key for filthy toilets in the back of a Starbucks or McDonalds distributed only to paying customers. Public washrooms in every park, every restaurant, every train and metro station, everywhere. That’s something you don’t see at home… AND they are ALL sparkling clean. Even the train stations, like the busy one in Osaka, has people lining up on their own outside trains and letting others get off before filing on. No pushing and shoving for seats. It’s really a lovely change. There is a noticeable lack of order however around most tourist locations where you have people stopping dead in their tracks to take photos, or staying glued to their phone as they walk and navigate. I won’t say we’re not guilty of that as well though!

From Sensō-Ji we walked to Ueno park, Rachel’s idea, and what a wonderful idea it was! On a beautiful Sunday there was an entire Sunday market in the park! Tents selling a wide array of tasty smelling food, beer, arts and crafts, and a performing stage. We made our way around and decided on grilled octopus and beer. We enjoyed our snacks and drinks by the fountain in the sun before switching to the shade to enjoy another beer.

From Ueno Park we took the metro and went to the Robot Restaurant in Shinjuku City. After much convincing on Rachel’s part, we had purchased tickets for the 3pm show after realizing we weren’t going to make it to Fuji. The tickets were ¥8000 yen which equates to $100 CAD… and honestly, maybe not worth $100, but I’m still glad I went. There’s a decked out waiting room before the show with live music (a man in a robot costume with a guitar) and then you head down 4 flights of stairs to the performance room which is in the basement. The whole building is adorned with lights, plastic gold, metal, I don’t even know. The entire experience was a SENSORY OVERLOAD. Insane, flashing lights, loud music, float after float would come out and make their way across the floor without colliding, dancers were going crazy, it was no Cirque du Soleil but I think the Robot Restaurant was exactly what it wanted to be. We enjoyed 2 beers and a popcorn here during the show.

From the Robot Restaurant we headed to a nearby green space on google maps with the idea of sitting in the park but, a 15 minute walk quickly turned in to 40 when we took a wrong turn, and when we got there we realized it was the national Garden and we had to pay to enter! So we hopped on a metro instead and headed to our next destination: teamLab Planets.

Remember I had mentioned earlier that I wanted to go to a digital arts museum, teamLab Borderless, but that it was sold out until May? Well, Rachel felt bad for me and kept checking back on the website to see if tickets freed up, which I knew wasn’t possible. Her dyslexia kicked in and, by fluke, a google search accidentally brought her to teamLab Borderless’ (lesser known apparently) sister venue, teamLab PLANETS, and they had a slew of availability! We bought our tickets right away.

Our “slot” to enter the venue was only at 8:30pm and it was just after 6 so we found a nice spot by the harbor off of the Tokyo bay to sit and watch the sunset while we waited. It was freezing! But lovely. This whole area was deserted which is funny to be because the area, modern with high rises and near the water, looked just like the Toronto Harbor or even some parts of Montreal’s Old Port. Both areas are always busy with people, locals and tourist, but a look-alike location in Tokyo was totally deserted. It was the quietest area we had found so far this trip.

Once 8pm rolled around we headed to the museum and, oh. my. god. Everyone who comes to Tokyo has to come here… I can’t speak as to which venue is better, borderless or planets, but I don’t know how anything can top this. Interactive and scented rooms, textured floors and walls, this place appealed to all of the senses and was so relaxing. I will let the pictures speak for themselves!

After the museum we headed back to our hotel – we come home tomorrow! Hopefully we can fit all of our purchases in to our suitcase!

Day 5, 6 & 7: Tokyo

Day 5:

Today we commuted from Osaka to Tokyo! We walked with our suitcases to JR Namba, then connected with the Osaka loop line and went to Osaka station. I had my heart set on Shake Shack (that I had seen a sign for at Osaka station during one of our stops here). I know burgers for breakfast isn’t everyone’s thang but Shake Shack is hard to come by and oh so good. We also split a Tsu-Ten frozen custard, a Japan exclusive menu item!

We took the bullet train, Shinkansen, from Shin-Osaka station to Shinagawa and transferred here to the Yamanote JR line (essentially the Tokyo loop line) to Shibuya Station!

Our hotel was only a 4 minute walk from Shibuya except navigating out of the station was no easy feat. Our new home is in an amazing location, only 4 minutes from the famous Shibuya Crossing and the Center Gai shopping district. We spent our evening shopping at Japanese clothing stores like Uniqlo and Muji, Rachel in particular was very successful!

We also had dinner at the second best restaurant (according to trip advisor) in all of Shibuya City, Han No Daidokoro, a yakiniku restaurant (similar to Korean barbecue). Rachel and I each had skirt steak, I also had 4 additional cuts of beef. Rachel had a spicy salad, I had 3 types of kimchi and we each had an Asahi beer and split a mascarpone flavored ice cream for dessert. It was a splurge but so worth it!!! The service was also incredible, everyone so friendly – and funny! It was like dinner and a show.

Ice cream.. good to the last drop

From here we stopped in at our favorite store, Don Quijote, for some more funky flavored Kit Kats before heading home for the night.

Day 6:

We were supposed to go to Mount Fuji today but when we woke up it was raining and there was a fog warning, meaning we’d go to Fuji and visibility would be so low that we wouldn’t be able to see it! Unfortunately, they are also announcing rain for the next 3 days so I’m not sure if we are going to see Fuji at all. Instead we started our day with breakfast (lunch) at the Muji cafeteria, almost like the Ikea cafeteria but Japanese style?

After breakfast we shopped some more in the Center Gai district, so much shopping! The western clothing stores here (H&M, Zara) are all 4-6 stories high! It seems like shopping is all there is to do…

We also spent some time crossing the Shibuya Intersection, said to be the busiest intersection in the world!

And visited the Hachikō memorial statue on the south side of the intersection.

From here we headed north towards Harajuku & Takeshita Street for, you guessed it, more shopping! But not before stopping for bubble tea

We didn’t actually buy anything so much as ogle all the interesting people and peer in to all the cute Japanese shops. We also treated ourselves to some street food…. a cheese pogo. Basically a giant mozzarella stick breaded in tator tot. It was as good as it sounds (assuming you think it sounds good).

We meandered our way down streets with higher end stores (can’t for the life of me find the name of the streets) before ending up back near our place in Center Gai. Rachel went back to the hotel at this point and I did a few more clothing stores that I didn’t want to drag Rachel to before calling it a night myself.

The city at night, particularly around Shibuya Crossing, is like Times Square on steroids. There are so many people you can hardly walk (even past 10pm) and everything is lit with flashing billboards, neon signs and giant LED televisions.

Day 7:

We set out alarms early again, despite a forecast of rain, to see if today would be the day we would make it to Fuji. Unfortunately an overcast grey sky meant we weren’t going to see Fuji today either.

We also made the mistake of not booking two attractions that we wanted to see in Tokyo ahead of time, the Robot Restaurant and the teamLab Borderless Digital Art museum, which are both booked from now until some time in May! We were both pretty disappointed about this.

Rachel took to google however and found the fluffiest pancakes in all of Tokyo, Japan, maybe the world? They only serve up 60 dishes a day, 20 dishes per sitting and there are three sittings a day. We had to get there early and line up for tickets which are distributed on a first come first serve basis. The restaurant, Gram, was back north in Harajuku. We got there at 10:30 and were 6th on the list for an 11:30 “appointment”. We putzed around Harajuku once we got our tickets until breakfast. I’m not a big sweets person but these pancakes were pretty cool…

Here’s the before, during and after of Rachel in a very good mood

And here are the famed fluffy pancakes

From here we paid to go to a Mame Shiba Inu cafe in Harajuku where you can have a drink and play with small-bodied shibes for 30 minutes. They were all of course, super cute, super soft aaaand super disinterested in everyone except the employees and one dude who either smelled like other dogs or food.

I regret to say that the Mame Shibe café is also joint with an Owl café and so we went.. it was truly devastating. You walk through a set path past beautiful owls that you can pet, but that are all chained by a 2 inch rope to the branch they are perched on by their feet. Do not recommend. I wanted to leave the second I got in…

From here we went to the Starbucks at Shibuya Crossing. This Starbucks is rumored to be the busiest in the world, makes sense as it’s in the center of the busiest intersection in the world! Plus we had read a couple times online that the second floor at this Starbucks was the best vantage point to see the crossing from above and indeed it was. We were lucky to snag a seat by the window with our drinks relatively quickly so we stayed here for a while watching all the people scrambling across the crossing often long after the pedestrian light had already turned red…

I also just want to document that I had a LIME cold brew and it was actually good?

For dinner we went and had dim sum at a nearby restaurant. Rachel had a shrimp and noodle soup and I had shrimp and scallop chow mein, each with 4 Chinese pork dumplings on the side. Tasty!

Day 4: Kyoto

Today we had a little sleep in. We had initially discussed going to Universal Studios Osaka but rain was forecasted and Rachel was worried the line ups would be too crazy. When we woke up we debated what to do and figured, since our time in Kyoto the day prior had been cut a little short, that we would head there again today to see some of the things we had missed.

We stopped at Honolulu Coffee Co. for breakfast so Rachel could get some pancakes. We ate our meal sitting and looking out the back window at the Tombori River, which runs parallel to Dotonbori.

After breakfast we walked to Namba Station and took the JR to Kyoto, then switched to the San-in line to Emmachi Station. Our plan was to go to Kinkaku-ji, temple where the exteriors of the 2nd and 3rd floors are plated in gold foil (real gold). It was a 2.7km walk from Emmachi, with some incline, but we made it!

This temple had a fee just to get in to the temple grounds, the layout was very “botanical gardens” with a designated path that brought you around the temple and then through the garden.

In the gardens we lit a candle for the safety and well being of our family (I cracked the candle putting it on the spike though so good luck mom).

From here we walked back to Emmachi station and once we got there Rachel’s blister was hurting and the sky was threatening rain anyways, so instead of heading in to downtown Kyoto we headed back home to Osaka by train.

Taking multiple trains during rush hour in both Kyoto and Osaka is NO LAUGHING MATTER

Above is an overview of only a handful of the platforms after arriving in Osaka and if you look through the cracks you can see the number of people waiting for their trains… imagine the trains themselves…

It was a cool night tonight in Osaka and for once there was significantly less humidity than usual. This calls for soup! We looked up ramen on trip advisor and ended up at Ippudo Nanba. I got regular miso ramen with dumplings, and Rachel got level 4/5 spicy ramen with dumplings.

From here we walked through a part of the city reminiscent of Times Square or Piccadilly Circus as we meandered our way back north. We shopped along Shinsaibashi, which runs perpendicular to Dotonbori on the west side. Rachel got new shoes and then we ended up back at Don Quijote, this one was open 24h, had 6 stories and was completely overwhelming. We shopped here for a while before heading home to sleep.

Tomorrow we go to Tokyo! How will we fit everything in our suitcases?

Day 3: Kyoto

This morning we got up, got ready and headed out north on foot to the Osaka castle. Every temple and pagoda we’ve seen thus far has been gorgeous but the Osaka castle takes the cake! Surrounded by not one, but two moats and elevated on an additional stone structure, the castle looms over you.

There were of course hordes of people and, just like in Nara, it felt as if every student in Osaka was on a field trip here.

(Rachel gets at least one ice cream cone a day and when she’s not eating ice cream she’s thinking about it so here’s Rachel posing with two ice cream cones)

After leaving the castle we took a “stretch golf cart” that they had on the premises for ¥200 to the nearest metro station (except it didn’t bring us near at all) so we could commute up to Osaka JR station and take the JR Kyoto line to Kyoto! At the JR station we grabbed some breakfast to go, Rachel had a muffin and a Belgian waffle to go, I had 2 waffles. We ate them on the train to the Inari stop, which is where the Fushimi Inari Taisha shrine is located (this shrine is the reason my interest in Japan was initially piqued).

Not devoid of tourists, we worked our way through an outdoor food festival at the base of the mountain that the shrine was on (stopping for quick dumplings)

Then we walked past the main shrine and shrine gates up to the Senbon Torii

After leaving the Inari shrine we took 2 train transfers up to Saga-Arashiyama to see the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove on the north west side of Kyoto.

Trying to get these shots without other tourists was …

Very difficult to say the least

When we got to the top of the grove we adventured a little farther and stumbled upon the road less traveled, which was a rare moment of serenity.

On google maps we could see there was a large pond nearby so we thought it might be a good idea to make our way there and sit by the water for a bit…

Would ya look at that! The whole thing was dried up!

We called it and headed back to the train to head in to downtown Kyoto, it was around 4:00 and we could feel our feet starting to get sore. Getting off at Nijo station we embarked on a 45 minute walk, through Sanjo-Dori, headed for Nishiki market. Limping our way through roads that were lined with traditional Japanese homes, we realized once we arrived at the market it would be closed, so we doubled back and took the metro to the Gion (Geisha) district instead of powering past the market to the district on foot (~30m walk).

While it was tricky enough to buy a subway ticket in Osaka, at least the machine had an English setting. In Kyoto, no such thing! The machines are complex with several different options, none of which make sense when they are all written in Japanese! With little help from the man working the gates, we successfully purchased two tickets. The thing about trains and subways in Japan is that we don’t understand them. There’s express lines, limited express lines, and multiple trains come up to the same platform. So when someone says we should go to platform 2 and take the train, and that the train is direct, what they really mean is make sure you take the right train because if not the tracks split and you will be taken in a different direction. They also mean to say, hey don’t forget to get off and transfer when you get to this station because this line continues in another direction or ends entirely. Also, when a train says Osaka it doesn’t necessarily mean Osaka, and when you are meant to take the red line, sometimes it really means the blue line. I’m sure there’s logic to it all but that’s knowledge we just haven’t acquired yet.

Anyways, we made it to Gion Shirakawa and collapsed along the river bank of the Kamo river, which separates the east and west side. Here there was artificial grass and tons of people sitting, chatting, drinking and watching the river go by. We each got a beer at a nearby liquor store in order to fit in and gave our feet a much needed break here until we got too cold.

On the west side of the river the streets are lined with western clothing stores, modern buildings and bright lights. We went to a food court and ate at a restaurant that had sushi on a conveyor belt! They charge you based on the number/color of the plates you consume (as each color is priced differently). It was delicious! We indulged in green tea cheese cake and black sesame ice cream for dessert too.

From here we went to the east side of the river bank, much less hustle bustle. Some of the side streets have no bright LED lighting at all but are instead lit with paper lanterns the whole way down. The buildings are low and have small windows and sliding doors. Some are private homes but others look to be cozy restaurants and tea houses.

We then made our way to Shimbashi Dori, a street that runs along the north of the White River (Shirakawa) and is believed to be the most beautiful street in all of Asia, especially when the lanterns are lit in the evening and the cherry blossoms are in full bloom.

We look happy but at this point Rachel has been dragging her right foot for the past 5 hours and I’ve been doing breathing techniques to help relieve the pain in mine after 22km of walking. Thirty more minutes of walking, 3 metros and 2 trains later, we were finally home with our feet soaking in an ice bath.

Will we survive tomorrow? Stay tuned!

Day 2: Nara

This morning Rachel was in need of a “real breakfast” so we headed to Honolulu Coffee Co., which we had spotted the night before down on Dotonbori and we saw they had pancakes etc. We walked the whole way there but they were still closed, despite the online hours saying they opened at 8am. Something we learned here is that the online hours listed on google are wildly inaccurate. We ended up at another Hawaiian breakfast place, Eggs n Things and Rachel got herself some pineapple pancakes, for me a BLT and massive iced coffee!

We then headed off to JR Namba Station, our closest JR station and headed to Nara! There was a slight train mishap where we didn’t transfer where we were supposed to but we doubled back and we’re on the right track in the matter of a couple minutes with the help of some locals who volunteered to help our lost souls.

Upon arriving in Nara we walked down a street town and stopped first at Kofukuji Buddhist temple. Lucky for us there were even some sakura still in bloom!

From Kofukuji we walked to Nara park, known for their wild deer. Amazingly, although the deer are wild they have learned to bow for cookies, sold on site that you can buy to feed them. There were hundreds of deer, some sleeping, some tanning, some hanging around the cookie cart, others swarming tourists that had revealed how many cookies they had stashed for the giving.

Below is a very polite deer bowing for cookies

We both got nipped by one of the deer in this group!

The group above sensed we had a few cookies left

By the time we had touched about 100 deer we saw this sign

Besides getting our clothes nipped however we were without incident!

We walked all through the park up to Tōdai-ji temple and then veered to the left and stumbled upon Daibutsu-ike pond, a completed desolate body of water away from the crowds with deer, ducks, Koi fish, a heron and butterflies. We sat on some steps here and listened to music while we watched the animals until we head back towards the city for supper.

Rach was feeling a little heat-strokey so we stopped for a drink each along the way and ended up eating at LBK Craft, an Izakaya style restaurant (Japanese tapas/taster menu). We got 2 servings of pork Gyoza (dumplings), I got tofu steak and Rachel got eggplant curry with rice.

From here we found the only tattoo parlor in Nara, one that look particularly inviting…

And 3 hours of waiting and 5 minutes of tattooing later, I got a tattoo!

My favorite album is ‘An Awesome Wave’ by Alt-J. When typing on a computer, alt+J creates a delta symbol (or triangle), hence the bands logo. Alt-J then said the following about the words “An Awesome Wave”

It comes from the book American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis, where he talks about ‘the relief washing over him like an awesome wave.’ It’s the scene in which Patrick Bateman goes to a restaurant with his fellow colleagues, and he hasn’t booked a table but they think he has. So, he goes up to the maître d and he thinks he’s going to embarrass him in front of his friends, but to his surprise, there seems to be a table available. We took the idea of that feeling of relief washing over you like a wave.

… and I just love that. Alt-J also has 3 songs on their second album about Nara: Entering Nara / Nara / Leaving Nara, so I thought it was fitting that I get this tattoo here!

The extended and unexpected wait caused a small sister feud but we worked things out in the end #JustSisterThings!

Day 1: Osaka

Not only did the standby gods get us to Japan but they upgraded us to business class! The Boeing 787 is newly configured and absolutely incredible. The 13.5 hour flight from Montreal to Narita was a vacation in itself!

As Rachel said “why does anyone need all this?” And “I’m going to cry.”

We had a 5 course Japanese meal shortly after take off (I wish I was kidding).

These Japanese appetizers, followed by Miso soup and then a cod main meal. Then there was a wine and cheese service, followed by dessert. Rachel even indulged and had 3 alcoholic beverages by the time meal service was over! I was at 5.

I napped in between movies but Rachel stayed awake because she “didn’t want to miss a thing.”

We requested tea and dim sum about 9 hours in to the flight, had a plethora of snacks, and had a Japanese (fish/chicken) breakfast prior to landing.

We arrived at Narita yesterday evening around 4pm local time. Upon deplaning we went and activated our JR (Japan Rail) pass that we had ordered prior to leaving and picked up our portable WiFi box, then we booked a seat on our train to Osaka.

We took a relatively slow train from Narita to Tokyo, then we switched to the Shinkansen (bullet) train at Shinawaga station and rode that the rest of the way to Osaka. It was about another 5h of traveling overall.

When we arrived after 10pm we were so tired that we took a taxi from the train station to our tiny little Airbnb before immediately falling asleep (when I say tiny I mean 240 sq feet).

This morning we got up and we each showered. Rachel first. We then quickly learned that the hot water tank is incredibly small so I took an ice cold, brain-freeze inducing shower. That’s one way to wake up!

Once ready we headed out in search of food to Dotonbori street. Oh. My. God. Us and the rest of Osaka apparently! We finally settled for a ramen place that had a relatively long line up (quality assurance check).

Yum!!!! Good thing I know how to eat with chopsticks, because there was not a fork in sight! I don’t know how to eat with chopsticks without staining my shirt however. 30 mins in, one shirt down. This is why I only wear black…

All of the shops along Dotonbori were bustling with people and brimming with Japanese goodies, trinkets and sweets. When we reached the end of Dotonbori we headed south towards Shinsekai, another market area. This one was notably less busy, but still very busy! Along the way we passed through a casino district that felt a lot like old Las Vegas!

We both got bubble tea and Rachel enjoyed a matcha ice cream that she was still talking about 4 hours later (because it was delicious).

Hitachi tower!

Rachel in one of the many arcades

When we left the Shinkesai district we were definitely feeling the heat as we walked along a hot boulevard in the beating sun. We stumbled along Ten-Shiba, a city park lined with coffee shops near the Osaka Zoo and Museum and found a shady spot to sit, cool off and people watch for a while before heading to Shitennoji Buddhist temple.

By the time we got to the temple it was nearing 5pm and the market surrounding the temple was shutting down, but some kiosks were still open and we could tell this one was different in that it was filled mostly with Japanese antiques (dishes and such).

We made it in to the temple area in the nick of time and snagged some cool pics.

From here we made the journey back north to our Airbnb because Rach was suffering from jet lag and both of our feet were aching from the walking.

Sakura season is over but we were lucky enough to see a handful of them still in bloom during our walk!

Back at ours we each took a power nap and charged up our devices before heading back to Dotonbori to see it at night!

Rachel was worried some of the shops would be closed and because it was a Sunday night it wouldn’t be busy – quite the opposite… it was like Times Square, especially by the famous Glico man sign. Tens. Of thousands. Of people. Everyone walking to the beat of their own damn drum.

Earlier today we had seen everyone eating doughy octopus balls covered in sauce, so we decided to have some for dinner (Rachel took some convincing). Bad idea. They were undercooked squishy wet messes…. at least we can say we tried them, regrettably so.

We then went shopping at Don Quijote, a 4 story shop with ALL THINGS JAPANESE! Cosmetics, stationary, snacks, household items, you name it! We spent a fair amount of time and money here buying gifts for ourselves and those back home and then made our way back to our Airbnb to turn in for the night.

Hawai’i Expenses

Screen Shot 2019-03-03 at 10.00.42 PM.png

Click to enlarge

8 days in Hawaii cost $1195 CAD. This amount would be significantly higher but we were lucky enough to stay with family on Oahu so we didn’t pay anything for lodging. An Airbnb in Oahu decent lodging (if you book in advance) is $50-100 CAD a night so, add that to any calculations you may have for lodging. For example, my actual total was $1747 because I spent $552 shopping. I removed that from the objective total because, realistically, no one else in their right minds would travel on a budget and also spend $552 shopping. However, the $1747 may be a better reflection of what the trip would cost to someone who has to pay lodging in Oahu and doesn’t shop like a maniac.

Due to flying standby our flight was also significantly cheaper. Because of this, we paid considerably higher for car rental and lodging in a Maui hostel because we booked last minute rather than what the prices would be if we had booked in advance.

Food averaged at $58.33 a day which factored in some snacks, some groceries and some dining out. Also the fact that the exchange rate is x 1.36.

Day 7: Waikiki

This morning we spent some time with Jen, Neil and Olivia, telling stories and drinking festive drinks until about noon.

Around noon the rain in Kaneohe Bay still hadn’t let up but we checked and the weather on the other side of the island, in Honolulu, looked good so we said “let’s do it!” We were finally going to tackle the Diamond Head Crater hike. Of course I didn’t bring running shoes so I had the choice of doing it in Birkenstocks or water-shoes, both horrible options, the Birks won though.

Hiking is fun! Especially when you have a 9-year old running laps around you saying “chop-chop” and reminding you just how truly out of shape you are. Olivia kept us humble, that’s for sure! But she also stopped us from taking, well, any breaks at all. Thanks to Liv we actually probably got a workout out of the hike instead of just a leisurely uphill walk at our own pace. She also made sure we made it to the top! Had she not I may have quit by the time we hit the slight incline in the parking lot.

Diamond Head Crater is the remnants of volcanic activity.

Here’s an aerial view:

Here’s a *very* rough estimate of our hike, from our parking spot near the arrow to the lookout at the highest point:

Above is Olivia around the 3/4 mark looking over the interior of the crater.

Here’s the view from the top looking south and then south west towards Waikiki and Honolulu. I would include a picture of us at the peak but we were in no condition for photos.

Above we are looking much happier once we reached the bottom again!

From here we went straight to Waikiki beach where we swam as the sun set and where Katie severely cut her foot on some sharp coral in the water. I also developed a severe migraine that was making me nauseous so we decided that was enough outdoors for one day and decided to have breakfast for dinner at Denny’s before we headed home.

Day 6: North Shore, Oahu

Today we got a later start to the day and headed out to Waimea Bay with the intention of snorkeling and getting some sun. When we got there the sun was high in the sky but the water was way too rough for snorkeling! Katie had another case of sand in her pants after a wave knocked her in half while she wasn’t looking… fortunately she survived. I wasn’t without incident either, my foot got stung by a bee! I have never been stung by a bee before and wow, does that hurt! Fortunately, I also survived and did not have an unknown bee allergy.

As we were laying and enjoying the sun a few clouds of rain passed overhead, as they often do here in Hawaii, but we were able to shield ourselves with a towel and let it pass. About 2 hours in when it happened again we attempted to do the same, except this time the cloud didn’t pass over and the rain got heavier and heavier until we found ourselves sprinting for cover. We ended up at the car, soaked with rain, covered in sand.

We continued along the highway to the famous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck where we each ordered a plate of their famous lemon garlic shrimp. I have often joked about the fact that there is no such thing as too much garlic…. but this… this was something else. I think I will be sweating garlic until next Friday, Katie and I almost couldn’t even finish our dishes.

This is me before realizing our fate

This is me staring at my last two shrimps in distain… LOOK AT ALL THE GARLIC! Too much, we left Giovanni’s with sticky fingers and a sore tummy.

We need something to cleanse our palate so we headed to the Dole Plantation. Have you ever wanted anything and everything in the shape of a pineapple or with a pineapple on it? Do you want to look at SO MUCH YELLOW that you feel sick to your stomach? Go to the Dole Plantation! Dole Whips are pretty popular here and we had been seeing them since Maui but decided to save ourselves and indulge only at the source. We each got a $9 Dole Whip (dairy-free pineapple flavored ice cream) and… lemme tell you… it was pineappley. Very. Pineappley.

At this point my fingers smelled like a lovely blend of garlic and pineapple. Still too early to call it a day, but the rain hadn’t let up so the wind blew us towards the Waikele premium outlets. “Don’t let me buy anything, Katie” I said, “even if I say I really want it, even if it’s a great deal and super cute… don’t let me spend money, ok?” One Kate Spade purse and a wallet later we finally called it a day.

We stopped for some snacks at Safeway, headed home and watched Pearl Harbor before bed.