This report is a summary of my solo trip to Japan in 2015, from Tokyo to Osaka and then to Hakata. I’ve actually been to Japan once 2 years ago for a business trip in Shinjuku, so I didn’t really get to experience as much fun as this solo trip.
(Off topic) I will be heading to Japan again sometime next week, prolly meeting some of my friends for a photoshoot event with AKB48 idols (well for me it’s HKT48). I’m having a photoshoot with 指原莉乃 (Sashihara Rino) and 兒玉遥 (Kodama Haruka).
Sashihara Rino (the girl you see in the youtube preview below) is the center for the famous 32nd single 恋するフォーチュンクッキー (Koisuru Fortune Cookie), below is the music video.
I’ve always wanted to visit Japan after passing my JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test), I took N2 but didn’t manage to score well, had an average pass anyway, in addition to that achieving 3rd place in Japanese Speech Contest gave me some confidence in Japanese conversation.
As I had planned to travel 3 different regions in Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, Hakata), I bought JR pass, apparently they changed the cover of the pass with photo of sakura because it was spring that time.
My first stop was in Tokyo, met up with my colleague for lunch (her treat! LOL) we went shopping, sightseeing, eating e.t.c. (from Shibuya-Harajuku-Akihabara)
We chanced upon this Nike store in Harajuku, where I remembered Oshima Yuko (former AKB48 member) used to shop, there was this section called NIKE iD, basically it allows us to customize Nike shoes from the range of existing sneakers they provided.
*Note: Please make sure you have a valid address in Japan for the shoes to be delivered to, because unfortunately, NIKE iD’s sneakers customization is exclusive in selected regions only.
So first we select the range of “customizable” sneakers they provided. I selected the Lebron James collection.
Next, like any other shoe stores, we basically have to try on the size of the sneakers. Then, we proceeded to make customization, now here’s the fun part.
The wide array of customization areas ranges from shoelaces colors, to lettering, to skinning e.t.c., so if you’re confused, please approach the staff, they will actually guide you through. There’re some templates where you can follow as well.
Once the customization is done, the processing (including delivery) will take about 3-6 weeks upon payment. I had set my address to my colleague’s place so I basically paid her once the goods have been delivered to my house in Singapore.
I bid farewell to my colleague in Tokyo and headed to Osaka via Shinkansen. Osaka gives a different vibe as compared to Tokyo, the one that I noticed after alighting the train was that people would line up on the right side of the escalator rather than the left like Tokyo. People were speaking Kansai dialect/Osaka-ben which I needed some time to get used to.
One of the few popular tourists’ attractions would be Osaka castle.
But my favorite spot was the Universal Studios Japan, Harry Potter (BUTTERBEER!), Cool Japan theme (only for a limited time, consists of Evangelion, Attack on Titan, Monster Hunter and Biohazard Resident Evil), as well as 4D experience ride e.t.c.
Attack on Titan
Universal Studios Japan (Osaka) has also been featured in one of my favourite idols variety programme, “Nogizakatte Doko?”.
So I was in Dotonbori for the night in Osaka, the streets were bustling with people in spite of the wet weather. Settled myself with okonomiyaki and takoyaki as well as the cheese cake from りくろーおじさん.
The trademark is old Uncle Rikuro wearing a chef’s hat. His fluffy soft cheesecake is very popular and well known to all and sundry in Osaka.
I also went to the Umeda Sky Building, a spectacular high rise building in Osaka. Upon ascending the 39th floor, the observatory deck offers a great view of Osaka.
Mini-scale Umeda Sky Building
My last stop. In comparison with Tokyo and Osaka, Hakata wasn’t filled with a lot of foreigners. It may be because the spots for tourism attraction are not as mainstream as those 2 cities mentioned earlier. When people mention about Hakata, the very first thing that rings a bell is probably Hakata Ramen. So I decided to give it a try if the rumours are true about the delicious Hakata Ramen.
The one thing that surprised me was the price, it was cheaper than the one I had in Singapore, but the taste was tremendously on a different level. It was definitely tasty, but the tonkotsu broth was just different, wasn’t too oily, wasn’t too bland. I tried out one in Ichiran Ramen and another in Ippudo. Taste is quite subjective so I’ll leave it up for you guys who are interested in going to Hakata, but one thing’s for sure, they’re all better than the ramen I had in Singapore.
There is also Yatai (屋台), open air food stalls that are situated next to Canal City in Fukuoka. The food there is really affordable. And if you’re lucky, you can bargain 40% discount on ramen.
Aside from that, I visited Hot Springs in Fukuoka, and took a bus to Hawks Town, where Koisuru Fortune Cookie music video is filmed, and HKT48 theatre is located. Following that, since Fukuoka tower was nearby, I decided to go there too.
Fukuoka Tower has three observation decks: one at 116 m, a café/lounge deck at 120 m, and the highest at 123 metres above the ground. During my visit, they made a theme specially for Valentines’ day, so the displays inside are decorated with flowers, love and relationship fortune telling. Directly looking from the observation deck, at the front face of Fukuoka Tower, jutting out into the ocean, is Marizon, a waterfront promenade.
Marizon, also known as Wedding Island Marizon, is a romantic place where couples hold their wedding ceremony on the beach and/or inside the restaurant.
On the last day before leaving for Singapore, I went on to try Mizutaki. Mizutaki is a kind of hot pot dish (called Nabemono or simply Nabe) in which fish or other kinds of meat and vegetables are cooked in unseasoned fish broth and dipped in tangy Ponzu sauce.
To be honest, there are other places of interest where I had been to as well, but are not being mentioned. Nonetheless, I’d love to visit Japan again.