WARNING! This post contains much more kawaii photos than these cute bunny shoes that I bought on Takeshita St in Harajuku before I went for my Lolita experience. If you can’t handle this, stop reading now.
The last time I went to Japan was way back in 2007 – not long after Gwen Stefani’s ‘Rich Girl’ came out and Harajuku Girls became a HUGE thing. Did anyone else have one of the Harajuku Lovers perfumes? Go around singing “if I was a rich girl – na na na na na na na na na na na na na na naaaaa” (if you are in your late twenties/early thirties and didn’t just sing that in your head I know you’re lying). If you need a little refreshing of your memory, you can listen to the song again over here. The point is, the whole crazy costuming that was popular with young Japanese people had just broken onto the world stage in a huge way. I remember going to the bridge in front of the Meiji Shrine in Harajuku where they were all supposed to hang out for photos and being so disappointed that there were only a hand full of people there. Boo.
Let me start this post by saying that I’ve always been a huge fan of Japanese food. One of the most exciting aspects of planning this leg of our trip has been the anticipation of juicy gyoza, fresh sashimi and diabetes-inducing crepes. As money was tight, we tended to eat one meal out each day then forage for other sustenance from the incredibly well stocked convenience stores. This is one wonderful difference between Japan and Australia. In Australia, if you’re going to rely on convenience stores, be prepared to navigate the super unhealthy shelves of donuts, microwave meals, chips and slurpies. Not so in Tokyo! I know how this makes me sound, but I had so much fun looking at the huge array of ready or almost ready made meals that decked the shelves of stores such as Lawsons and Family Mart.
Also, I feel the need to confess that we basically lived on peach iced tea. These one litre cartons from Lipton were everywhere and came in smaller sizes too. They were so nice because they didn’t seem to have that weird taste that the Australian ones get from replacing sugar with stevia. I’m still not on board the ‘cut all sugar out of your diet because it is the latest way we want to look healthy’ train. We downed cartons of this stuff like it was water. Which might have contributed to the fact that i’m writing this post in my pyjamas because they are the only comfortable stretchy items in my suitcase and everything else is too tight. Hmm.
If you’re itching to get out of Tokyo central and want something fun and quirky to do, you could always take a day trip out to Yokohama and visit the Cup Noodles Museum! Costing only 500 yen for entry, it definitely won’t break the budget, even if you splurge an extra 300 yen for a custom cup noodle experience!
I think someone was watching a little too much Wizard of Oz when they thought up this statue of Mr Momofuku.
Scratch that. How can you watch TOO MUCH Wizard of Oz?
We passed through Yokohama on the way back from Kamakura and it was a pretty quick and fuss-free trip. The exit from Yokohama station was a bit confusing but we pieced together some maps and found our way out to the street where we could see signs pointing the way to the cup noodle museum. It’s really only a 5-10 minute walk from the station but you might get distracted by the amusement park that is situated halfway between the station and the museum. Go with the flow!
The museum building is an interesting one. Inside the foyer, it feels almost as if you are inside a giant white plastic noodle cup. We came at the end of the day and it was empty with no lines to wait on. We bought our ticket and arranged the time for our custom noodle making. You can wander through the museum until the appointed time or pick an earlier time and do the museum later.
Yes, hubs rolled his eyes when I asked him to take this photo.
I didn’t know much about the cup noodle phenomenon, having been brought up on fantastic noodles and the ubiquitous maggi noodles, but it’s a pretty big concern over in Japan. There were huge displays explaining how Mr Momofuku had pioneered particular ways of packaging the noodles and reconstituting weird ingredients. There was even a tribute to the first packets brought up into space! The displays are part art/part normal museum and it was fun to wander through, but I wouldn’t spend hours and hours there.
When it came time to make our noodles, we went up to the special noodle making floor where we washed our hands (very important) and selected our cups. The staff showed us to a little circular desk with a pot of coloured pens in it and left us to decorate our cups.
I went for a ‘Japanese meme’ theme in the style of doge.
Once we were done, we were ushered over to the ingredients bar where we could choose three ingredients to go into our noodles, as well as a specific flavour. This was a bit bamboozling but I went for dehydrated shrimp, green beans and corn. Why not?
The cups were then sealed and passed through a weird conveyer belt then given to us to place in a plastic bag that we pumped with air to cushion the cup. The only thing to remember if you’re not eating them right away is that noodles can be flown internationally but you need to take them out of the air cushioned bag as the changes in air pressure on the plane can crush your cup!
We packed our cup noodles into our suitcases without the extra packaging and they survived a long haul flight. When we ate them a week or so later, they looked like this:
They tasted pretty much the same as normal cup noodles but it was a lot of fun for not a lot of cashola and I would actually do this again! Did you eat cup noodles as a kid? As a poor uni student? As a still-poor adult who has blown all their cash on smashed avo?
Two of my favourite things in life are wandering in my own little world, and finding a bargain. If you’re like me, a trip to the Tokyo Flea Market at Katsushima will be heaven in a carpark.
We took the train from Shinjuku Station to Katsushima and then a short walk to the carpark where the flea market is held. Make sure that you plot your walk on a map first or use your gps as it can be a bit disorientating and the market is only signposted when you are nearby.
This is about as far away from a Paddy’s Market as you can get!
You will be faced with stall upon stall of proper flea market traders, often with their goods laid out on plastic sheets on the ground. Everything is second hand and most stalls just have a huge pile of stuff that you are free to dig through. If you are prepared to search, you can make some great finds. Here are a few things I picked up:
this sweet pair of leather boots for 100 yen
A few pins for 100 yen each with a free “chokosnacko” thrown in by the grinning stallholder
I wanted to take home these pretty plates but, as Tokyo was at the start of our trip, I knew I would never be able to fit them into my luggage. Boo. There is some Royal Albert and Royal Doulton in that mix.
There were also a bunch of stalls selling beautiful pre-loved yukatas and kimonos that you could pick up for relatively cheap. Those beauties were VERY difficult to leave behind. Still, I had a grand old time digging through piles and piles of clothes and bric a brac, and hubs scored himself a couple of second hand cameras that were apparently the bees knees (clearly the quality of my photos shows I have zero interest in cameras). So, are you a fan of the old car boot sale/flea market? What has been your best find?