Kyoto Shrines and Temples | Japan Travel Diary

kyoto shrines and templesKyoto Shrines and Temples | Japan Travel Diary

Before our trip to Japan we decided to purchase the JR Pass, so that we could travel around the country a little. Kyoto was definitely on our list of places to visit again, as on our first visit we hadn’t been able to appreciate the city as much as we would have liked to. Naturally I made a mental note of all the shrines and temples I wanted to visit, because when you’re in Kyoto that’s what you do…

What makes Kyoto Shrines and Temples special?

Kyoto’s shrines and temples are pretty special to me. There is a certain air of tranquility and calm surrounding Kyoto, and I think this even translates through to their tourist locations. There is so much beauty to take in around this region, and I don’t think I will ever bore of it.

Which Kyoto Shrines and Temples should you visit?

Check out some of my picks, several of which feature in the photos in this post:

  • Fushimi Inari – You may recognise this famous shrines red gates from movies such as Memoirs of a Geisha. Climb to the top of the mountain, and brag about it after.
  • Kiyomizu-dera – Featuring the famous ‘floating platform’ and a waterfall that supposedly grants wishes.
  • Kinkaku0ji/Rokuon-ji – The ‘Golden Pavilion’ is known worldwide for it’s beautiful golden exterior. Check out the amazing reflection in the nearby lake, and stroll through the garden.
  • Ryoan-ji – A must-see for any zen garden fans!
  • Saiho-ji – This is actually on my list of temples to visit. This natural beauty has a difficult entry procedure, but it sure looks like it’s worth it!

This is just a small list of temples and shrines to visit in Kyoto. However I would also recommend just wandering around Kyoto, because you will come across tons of smaller shrines/temples that are just as wonderful.

Check out the rest of my Japan Travel Diaries here.

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Floresta Doughnuts | Japan Travel Diary

floresta doughnutsFloresta Doughnuts | Stores across Japan | Website

You’ve probably seen them on social media. Cute, colourful doughnuts shaped like animals. This delightful doughnut store has been open since 2002. Ever since the first store opened in Nara, this company has stood out from other famous outlets. Say hello to Floresta Nature Doughnuts.

What makes Floresta Doughnuts so natural?

Floresta means forest in Portuguese. This natural theme flows through to their handmade (in-store) doughnuts, which are made with organic ingredients, and little to no additives. The store also tries to keep waste to a minimum, making sure their impact on the environment is as small as possible. In fact the company are so transparent about these things, that you can find the basic ingredients list for their doughnuts on their website. No preservatives are used, so every doughnut is made fresh, daily. The company – which was started by a husband and wife – strives to bring healthier, tasty options to people. A guilt-free doughnut, that you can feel comfortable giving to your children…or for yourself.

But how do they taste?

Very good indeed. You might think that being “natural” and aiming for a healthier doughnut would take away the indulgence. Nope! These are just as delicious as any other doughnut you’ll try, maybe even more so. Floresta still fry their doughnuts, but they don’t taste heavy or greasy. The doughnut itself is relatively light, and the glazes (I tried matcha, of course) make for a subtle sweet contrast.

Which doughnut should you go for?

I would suggest trying a couple – one of their classic ‘nature’ doughnuts, and one of their ‘animal doughnuts’. The nature doughnuts are plain, whereas the animal ones come with a glaze (and sometimes nuts). Prices start at 130円 (around £0.83). The doughnuts may be cheap, but the taste isn’t.

Floresta make their doughnuts fresh, on a daily basis. As they don’t use preservatives, they prefer to make small batches, so make sure you get to a store relatively early. You wouldn’t want to miss out! I would suggest stopping by one of their cafes and relaxing with a coffee. It’s the perfect spot to while away the time.

You can find out more about Floresta Doughnuts here (non-Japanese speakers can use the Google translate version).

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24 Hours in Tokyo | Japan Travel Diary

24 hours in tokyo24 Hours in Tokyo | Japan Travel Diary

Yes, the frequently asked question “What do I do with 24 hours in Tokyo?”. Ok let’s be realistic, unless you’re on a stopover, you’re unlikely to only have one day in this exciting city. However, it can be difficult to decide where to visit, what to eat etc. So when faced with the task I like to think of all the places I would visit if I only had a short period of time in a city.

24 Hours in Tokyo: Harajuku

As cliche as it is, it wouldn’t be worth stopping by Harajuku without a walk down Takeshita Dori (take the metro exit of the same name). Grab some cute stationary from Daiso, pick up some vintage designer goods in the back streets, try one of the famous crepes for breakfast, and just generally basque in the atmosphere. It’s fun and it’s fast.

For those who prefer something more chilled, Meiji Jingu is just behind the Omotesando Exit of Harajuku station. It’s one of the most famous shrines in Japan, and is well worth a visit. Located in a small woodland, it’s hard to tell whether you’re still in bustling Tokyo or not. If you hang around for a while, you may even see a traditional Japanese wedding taking place.

From Harajuku you can walk/hop on a train to…

24 Hours in Tokyo: Shibuya

Famous for it’s giant crossing, you really should try and get to high ground just to witness it. Even if that means stopping by Starbucks for one of their limited edition Japanese drinks. Afterwards, head to 109 for some retail therapy before checking out “Basketball St” and one of the various arcades. You must do purikura (Japanese photo booth)!

Stop by Nabe-zo for lunch, and all-you-can-eat Shabu Shabu (hotpot with thinly sliced meat). I’d suggest the sukiyaki and collagen soups. The staff here are helpful, and the meat is in abundance, so don’t be shy about asking for more. They’ll even replace your soups…if you can manage to finish them that is.

24 Hours in Tokyo: Asakusa

Asakusa is a haven for traditional Japan. Head through the large red gates of Senso-ji, and walk amongst the market stalls. Buy some Amazake (a sweet alcoholic drink made from rice), a side of Senbei (traditional rice crackers), and maybe a mask of your favourite childhood character. The souvenirs here are great for taking home to family. The shrine itself is beautiful, and the grounds ditto. Take your time here and find your inner Buddhist.

If you’re a stationary fan, make time to visit Kakimori for handmade, Japanese stationary. Afterwards, take a walk down Kappabashi-dori, a street famous for kitchenware and plastic food models. Pick up a bacon bookmark, or a pancake keychain etc.

Finally, go for dinner at Sometaro. This Okonomiyaki (savoury pancake) restaurant has been around since the 1930s, and it hasn’t changed much since. The friendly staff speak English, and can offer an English menu also. They’ll even show you how to prepare this must-try dish yourself. Truth be told all of the fillings here are delicious, but pork and seafood are great go-tos.

Of course there’s plenty more to do in Tokyo! Keep an eye out for more Japan Travel Diaries soon.
I’d also suggest checking out Alice’s Tokyo Travel Guides and Park and Cube’s 3 Days in Tokyo.

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Coffee Valley | Tokyo Travel Diary

Coffee ValleyCoffee Valley | 2-26-3 Minami-Ikebukuro, Tokyo, 03-6907-1173 | Website | Nearest Station: Ikebukuro

This is a bittersweet post to write, as I sit here sipping coffee in my London apartment. Only a couple of weeks ago I was walking around the backstreets of sunny Ikebukuro, searching for this elusive spot. I actually discovered Coffee Valley whilst reading an old issue of Vikka magazine. The feature was pretty tiny, but the emphasis on good coffee and natural food caught my eye. It may sound silly but this little cafe was on my list of must-visit spots whilst we were in Tokyo.

How is the coffee and food?

We arrived late afternoon to find a queue of around 10 people. As a Londoner, this is nothing for me. People seemed curious about us. Maybe because this well-loved spot isn’t exactly on the tourist map. I don’t know. Either way we happily waited with everyone; which consisted of mainly dates and friends. After around 15 minutes we were directed into the cafe. We were spoken to in fluid Japanese, and told to find a table (spread out over 2 floors) before ordering at the counter on the ground floor. The menu here is small, just a coffee list and the daily sandwich, French toast and cake. Don’t worry though if you don’t speak Japanese. It’s all pretty straight forward, the food is displayed on the counter – so you can easily point – and the staff are very friendly.

We ordered two of “today’s sandwich” whilst I had a flat white, and Ben a drip coffee.  Our egg sandwiches were seasoned well with pepper and small bits of vegetables, which created a nice blend of textures. The sandwiches also came with a side of various pickled vegetables to continue the theme – my favourite! The bread was fresh and soft, and the filling was very tasty. I really appreciated the use of natural, wholesome ingredients. The best way to describe the food here is: simple flavours, done well.

As for the coffee, well it was great! Just as good as my favourites in London. They used freshly roasted beans, with a couple of options of origin. I tried some of Ben’s drip coffee, which was smooth and full-flavoured. If I hadn’t been after a slightly milkier alternative, I would have easily chosen the drip.

Final thoughts on Coffee Valley…

For me, Japanese cafes are in a league of their own. Coffee Valley is no different here. Not only is their branding on-point, but their ideology is too. For me food and coffee should be simple at heart, and transparent. By that I mean the use of fresh ingredients which you can trace back to their source. Again, this is something independent cafes in Japan do well. I hope I’m not coming across as pretentious, but at the end of the day Coffee Valley offers up great food, and even better coffee. So if you find yourself in Tokyo, looking for a chilled cafe, make sure you pop by.

You can find out more about Coffee Valley here (non-Japanese speakers can this Google translate version).

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I’m in Japan! | Japan Travel Diary

japan travelI’m in Japan! | Japan Travel Diary

Yes, by the time this post goes live, I will be in Japan.

I have some posts lined up for you whilst I’m away, however I won’t be live blogging from Japan. I will however be keeping you all up to date on what I’m doing via my social media accounts. I’ll be posting photos, videos and sneak peeks! I’m even been asking people what kind of things they’d like to see during my travels, so hop on over to my Twitter and let me know yourself.

So if you fancy an insight into Japan, come follow me around Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka and more…

Follow my Japan travel diaries on:

Don’t worry, I will be doing plenty of Japan travel posts when I’m back. In the meantime keep an eye out for new blog posts, and come say hi on social media!

Photos in this post are my own, from previous trips to Japan.
Check out my old post from living and travelling in Japan.

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5 Japanese Fashion Instagram Accounts You Should Be Following

You may remember my ‘5 Japanese Fashion Instagram Accounts You Should Be Following‘ post from 2013. Well it just so happens to be my number one post on the blog, so I thought it was about time to do a new updated version. Here I have picked out 5 new Japanese fashion Instagram accounts, each of which I personally follow and take inspiration from.

japanese fashion instagram

Who? @wakatsukichinatsu (Designer)
Why? I had to start this post with a legend. Chinatsu Wakatsuki is a former gravure idol, who went on to produce the popular brand WC, and become a gyaru icon. After leaving the brand (and some annoying legal troubles), she brought back WC’s lovable oddball Kumatan. She continues to post updates on the brand and her life, alongside personal style photos.

japanese fashion instagram

Who? @_mitake_ (Model)
Why? Mitake’s photos are colourful, eccentric and sometimes risqué (i.e NSFW). This may not be surprising to some, as Mitake is actually a former AV (adult video) actress. It would seem that she is now pursuing a career in modelling, but she certainly hasn’t lost her cheeky side. If you’re after a slightly alternative view of Tokyo, Mitake is your woman.

japanese fashion instagram

Who? @izu_stagram (Model)
Why? I first started following Izu (aka Izuoka Misaki) when she won Popteen’s (a sweet gyaru magazine) model grand prix. I loved her youthfulness. She later went on to model for JELLY magazine and released several pop singles. Her personal style has funnily enough evolved with my own tastes, and she now has a more minimal approach to fashion. I love her chic, clean photos, which offer an insight into her career as a model.

japanese fashion instagram

Who? @rina__sakurai (Model)
Why? I remember avidly reading Rina Sakurai’s – better known as Sakurina – blogs around 5 years ago, and it’s safe to say that she hasn’t changed one bit. She still models for Ageha (which is now back after a short hiatus), which she often refers to in her photos. Her Instagram is an explosion of pink, diamonds and everything agejo.

japanese fashion instagram

Who? @seee_official (Editor/Model)
Why? Former Seventeen model Emi Suzuki is surely known by all fans of Japanese fashion. She has since gone on to become Editor in Chief of S’eee magazine, as well as a devoted mother. Her daughter often features on her Instagram, alongside minimalist prints and outfit posts.

Do you have some favourite Instagram users?
Let me know in the comments!

Source: Please see the individual Instagram accounts listed above.

Kawaii at Hyper Japan 2014

The kawaii life is a tough life. You constantly find yourself clasping your cheeks and screeching at the top of your lungs, all because something features a loveable mascot, or is fluffier than usual (etc etc). Yes, kawaii really is a lifestyle choice in Japan, and it’s everywhere. Whereas the term doesn’t really have a literal translation, the closest we can come to understanding it in English is: cute or adorable. The concept has become so big that recently Western cultures have picked up on the phenomenon – you’ll even find it in the Oxford dictionary. So I was pretty impressed when I saw just how well Hyper Japan embraced the idea this year. 
‘Hyper Kawaii’ was a special section of the exhibition that probably took up half of the venue. It featured a variety of British and Japanese fashion, beauty and lifestyle brands, as well as live performances and activities. The rise of kawaii in London was showcased by brands such as: Tofu Cute (snacks and lifestyle goods), Dreamy Bows (clothes, plushies and accessories), Doki (Japanese tableware), Glitterbomb (jewellery)Artbox (stationary and goods), Cutesykink (clothing) and so much more. 
Fashion and beauty are big parts of the kawaii lifestyle, but I plan to feature those separately in upcoming posts as I just couldn’t fit all of the photos and content into one post. ちょっと待って下さい!