Young German woman who made several trips to Japan, did one year Working Holiday and started living in Japan again since Oct' 2016. Love music, cats, traveling and food.
Also take a look to my blog and my daily updated FB page → https://www.facebook.com/yokolostinjapan/
- Area of Residence
- Chuo-ku, Sagamihara-shi, Kanagawa
- Area of Interest
- Blog Title
- Yoko Lost in Japan ♥
- Blog URL
Frozen Fantasy at Tokyo Disneyland
As many things are seasonal changing in Japan, also Tokyo Disney Resort has changing events all over the year. At the moment the special event “Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Fantasy” is hold at Tokyo Disneyland. I visited there on February 11th and want to give you a small impression what is so special right now. According to the name “Anna and Elsa’s Frozen Fantasy” this event is themed to the famous Disney movie Frozen and you can find a unique parade, decorations, food and more of it. Notice, the event is only held from January 13 to March 17 this year. 1) Frozen Forever – the highlight of this year’s event. At nighttime a projection lights up Cinderella Castle with famous scenes out of the movie telling a story about Anna and Elsa. Music is played and snow will fall down while even fireworks are shown in the air. 2) Frozen Fantasy Parade – Disneyland is well known for its parades and certainly there is a special parade while this event. See Anna, Elsa and their friends driving through the park on big floats and enjoy the atmosphere. 3) Anna and Elsa’s Winter Greeting – a show for only children. The villagers of Arendelle will teach them a dance and later Anna, Elsa and Olaf join them to perform the famous song “Let it go” together. 4) Food and merchandise – Japan is famous for themed-food and for sure there have to be some themed food at this event. A special buffet is offered for ¥ 3,090 which is quite expensive. But don’t worry there are some other cheaper food sets and snack available inside the different restaurants all over Disneyland. And don’t forget to take a look into the merchandise shops – many new goods of Frozen characters have been released for this event. 5) Decoration – all over the park you can find decoration referring to Frozen. Find Olaf smelling on flowers or little snowmen playing around. Keep your eyes open! If you are a fan of Frozen you should definitely try to go there and be a child for one day (^_~) Ready for a photo spam? Here we go!
Japanese Food Experience: KIT KAT MANIA
When you are at the supermarket, have you ever noticed there are different sorts of KitKats? Did you even notice they change seasonally? Actually, Japanese people are really crazy for KitKat and there are not only a few different sorts, there are MANY different sorts. Let’s take a look at the KIT KAT MANIA. KitKat was introduced to Japan in 1973, but as we know the Japanese people, it didn’t stay with a normal milk chocolate taste. Japanese people are creative when it comes to food and sweets and so within the over 40 years of KitKat in Japan more than 300 versions have been released. But how could KitKat become so popular in Japan? At least one reason is its name itself. KitKat is often pronounced as “kitto katto” in Japanese which sounds like “you will surely win" (きっと勝つ kitto katsu). Because of this the chocolate snack is seen as a lucky charm. Many people use it to get cheered up for university entry exams. Even special versions of KitKat are sold for this season of the year when special words are printed on the chocolate. The regular versions of KitKat There are some versions of KitKat you can find all over the year in Japan. These are the regular milk-chocolate KitKat and a bitter chocolate version. For sure, it wouldn’t be Japan if there wasn't a Maccha KitKat version which looks pretty good in green and really tastes like green tea. Another version you can often find is strawberry KiKat. The new KitKat Luxury Every Day also seems to stay for a longer time. Mainly these packs with 12 chocolate bars inside are available at supermarkets and drugstores and cost around 200 to 400 Yen. The seasonal versions of KitKat Japan is famous for the time-limited products which are only sold within specific times a year. For sure, this also goes with KitKat. Every year they have new ideas and release new products changing with the seasons. But take care, mainly you can have them only once and soon after the seasonal change they disappear – and won’t come back. However, as example for an always-coming-back version you can see Pumpkin KitKat around two months before Halloween. There are some sorts of Yaki-KitKat which you can bake inside the oven, coming up regularly with different tastes. Some seasonal versions are: Rasberry, Vanilla Ice, Sweet Potato, Baked Cheese Cake, Ginger and even more... Fun fact: the Japan Post is releasing a special designed KitKat every year for New Year’s greeting. However, it’s just a special look for the regular milk chocolate KitKat. The regional versions of KitKat Here you can find another reason why KitKat is so popular in Japan. The tradition of Omiyage lets people buy regional-limited products on their trips – why not to choose a regional KitKat? But don’t worry, you don’t need to travel everywhere to try the regional versions. Sometimes you also can find them at duty free shops and Don Quijote stores. The regional versions mostly include some special products of the area, just like apples from Shinshu area, Maccha from Uji or Momiji from Hiroshima. Mainly it is a box of 12 KitKat Minis which costs 800 Yen (+ tax). Sometimes smaller packs with five chocolate bars are also available. Here you can see the recent regional versions which you also can find on the Nestle website. But don’t worry, there are even more versions. Tokyo – Rum Raisin Yokohama –Strawberry Cheese Cake Shizuoka & Kanto area – Tamauya Honten Wasabi Nagano – Shinshu Apple Tochigi – Tochi-Otome Strawberry Kanto Hokuriku area – Azuki Sandwich Kyoto – Itokyuemon Uji Maccha Kyoto – Itokyuemon Roasted Tea Kobe - Kobe Pudding Hiroshima – Momiji Manju Kyushu – Amaou Strawberry Kyushu & Okinawa – Purple Sweetpotato Kyushu & Okinawa – Green Tea of Kumamoto Also added to the local souvenirs are the Sake flavoured KitKat and Strawberry Cheese Cake KitKat which have a special box design. The last one looks like Japan’s famous Mount Fuji. You mainly can find these at the Kanto area. The airport versions of Kitkat Especially for foreign tourists, there are big boxes of KitKat which you only can get at the airport. These include ten smaller boxes each with three KitKats inside. That’s why it is perfect to take it home and present them to friends. Sure, sometimes you also can find them at other places. One example, which versions you mainly find at Haneda airport, you can see on the picture below. There they have Japanese Strawberry, Hokkaido Red Bean, Sakura Maccha and Uji Green Tea. Lately, they also added Hokkaido Melon with Mascarpone Cheese which is pretty delicious. So, take your chance to get these boxes at the airport. KitKat Chocolatory From 2014 the KitKat Mania went on with special shops which only sell exclusive KitKat versions. By now there are nine KitKat Chocolatory stores all over Japan, however four of the stores are located in Tokyo. The other you can find in Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Fukuoka and Sapporo. At these stores you can find KitKat Sublime versions, special fruit versions and gift boxes. They even have an online shop. Check out the website here. - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - How about you – are you going with the KitKat Mania in Japan? Have you tried different KitKat versions? Which do you like best?
TOP 10 Japanese dishes as a non-seafood-eater
I don’t like sea food. It is simply because I don’t like the taste and the consistency of the most things out of the water. Most of my friends know about this, but if I tell other people in my home-country that I’m living in Japan without eating fish and other seafood they are shocked. They don’t believe a life without seafood is possible in Japan. But it is – it is even pretty easy for me, because there are a lot of other dishes I love to eat. Therefore, in this article I present you my TOP 10 favorite Japanese dishes as a non-seafood-eater. # 01 Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) Okonomiyaki is often called the “Japanese pizza”. Actually, it is a pancake-like main dish with the main base made out of cabbage, flour and eggs. Literally the name means “grill what you like” so you are free to include any ingredients. I often mix the main base with carrots, corn, cheese, ham, mochi, … It’s your choice!! On top you put a special Okonomiyaki sauce and mayonnaise. If you order it at a restaurant, take care they are not putting Katsuobushi (bonito flakes) as topping if you don’t eat fish. Did you know there is even a Hiroshima version of Okonomiyaki? The way of grilling is a bit different and they even at soba noodles. Pretty delicious!! # 02 Tonkatsu (豚カツ) Tonkatsu is a Japanese dish originated in the 19th century. It consists of a deep-fried pork cutlet and is often served with shredded cabbage, rice and miso soup. Sometimes you also find it in sandwiches or combined with curry. I also like the Katsudon (カツ丼) version, when the Tonkatsu is mixed with egg laying on a bowl of rice. # 03 Yakisoba (焼きそば) Yakisoba is a pretty easy Japanese dish consisting out of fried soba noodles. Especially if you want to have a quick meal at home, Yakisoba is fine for it. Here you also can freely mix what you like. I often add pork, cabbage, green paprika, bean sprouts and carrots. All is grilled in a pan and flavored with yakisoba sauce. I rarely eat Yakisoba outside, only at summer festivals like fireworks. If you buy it there, also take care of Aonori and Katsuobushi. # 04 Oyakodon (親子丼) Coming from the name “parent and child bowl” here you mix chicken meat and egg with some other ingredients. All is cooked and then served on top of a large bowl of rice. Oyakodon was invited in a Tokyo restaurant in 1891. # 05 Ramen (ラーメン) Many people say Ramen are actually coming from China. Some other says it is invited in Japan. But who cares – most important is that this soup with noodles and other ingredients such as pork, green onions and boiled egg is delicious. In Japan you can find a lof of different sorts of ramen especially regional versions. As a non-seafood-eater you have to take care with this dish. Some restaurants make the broth out of fish. For me this is still ok, because it doesn’t really taste like fish when it is mixed with soy sauce or miso. But if you already have a problem with this, ask the restaurant stuff first. They also often put Nori and Wakame as topping, so tell them you don’t like it. # 06 Udon (うどん)Udon are thick wheat flour noodles which are often served as noodle soup. However, there are many ways of serving this dish. You can have them cold or hot with different toppings. I like to eat them as Kitsune Udon with deep-fried tofu or as cold Zaru Udon. Also eating Udon with curry is a great combination. # 07 Curry (カレー) So, here we are with the Japanese curry which is one of the most popular dishes in Japan. Here you can find many different ingredients, too, starting with the meat where pork, beef and chicken are common. Also potatoes, onions and carrots are often added. Normally you eat curry with rice, but there are even some other versions nowadays with Udon or bread. If you want to eat Curry at a restaurant, I totally can recommend CoCoIchi, a super famous curry chain restaurant. # 08 Omurice (オムライス) Omurice is a great combination of Western and Japanese cuisine. On the one side you have a Western omelette which is filled with Japanese fried rice. The taste of the rice can differ, but often it is flavored with ketchup. Also as topping ketchup is common, but also other sauces can be used. # 09 Gyoza (餃子) This time there is no question that Gyoza originally come from China, however, taste and consistence are slightly different to the Chinese original. Gyoza are dumplings often filled with meat and vegetables. In Japan you can pan-fried, steamed, boiled or deep fried versions. # 10 Soba (そば) One of the main dishes in Japan are Soba, buckwheat noodles. You can find them in a variety of settings: as inexpensive fast food at train stations, but also as expensive specialty in restaurants. They are served in wide variety of hot and cold dishes coming close to the Udon versions. This was the list of my TOP 10 Japanese dishes as a non-seafood-eater. I hope you enjoyed it. For sure there are even more such dishes in Japan – Yakiniku, Yakitori, Karaage, Kyudon, Pizza, Burger, … - but the list is already long enough. Are there dishes or ingredients you don’t like or can’t eat? What are your favorite Japanese dishes?
Super Ukiyo-e Exhibition in Tokyo
Have you ever heard about Ukiyo-e (浮世絵)? It is a famous art genre of Japan between the 17th through 19th centuries and you probably already have seen some of the wooden print pictures. Last Friday, on 28th January, a new exhibition opened in Tokyo which is called スーパー浮世絵 江戸の秘密 Super Ukiyo-e: The Edo Code. Here you don’t find an ordinary exhibition with framed picture on the wall. For this exhibition around 20,000 Ukiyo-e prints have been digitized and animated. They are presented in videos on big screens in single rooms and give you an impression of the old Edo area. You can see busy people at Nihonbashi, the different fashion of Edo residents through the year and how it looks like at a Kabuki theater. Even ghosts and monsters will appear. Fuji will be covered behind big waves and Geisha and Oiran will walk through the streets next to you. The exhibition is stretched over 3 floors and you can spend some time watching the animated art while sitting on small stools. Even photography is permitted so you can take memories of the exhibition with you back home. The location is just a few minutes from Kayabacho station. Day tickets costs 1600 yen, but you can save a few yen if you buy tickets at Lawson. A restaurant is opened together with the exhibition, too, but it is a bit pricy. How about English? At the website you find some English translations and also at the beginning of the exhibition the opening words and introduction are written down in both languages. Later this changes: audio and picture descriptions are only available in Japanese. You have the chance to visit this exciting exhibition until 21st May 2017.Take a look to the official website for more information. Here are some more impressions of the exhibition.
Universal Studios Japan on Christmas Eve
As I mentioned in my Christmas theme post before, we went to Osaka as a short trip for Christmas. On our second day there we visited the Universal Studios Japan (USJ). For sure many other people had the same plan, so the theme park was pretty crowded this day. But how is it like to be at USJ at Christmas time? Our first way brought us to the Harry Potter area. To enter, you need to get a timed entry ticket first for which we had to line up. Luckily, we could already enter the area around half an hour later. The magical village Hogsmeade was decorated with Christmas ornaments and it looked very beautiful with the fake snow on the roof tops. However, this was the only “Christmas special” at Harry Potter area we could see. We lined up for an hour to ride the Hogwarts rollercoaster, bought a souvenir, took some photos and went back to the main area. Around the park Christmas music was played around you all the time what really brought you into Christmas mood. The buildings had Christmas ornaments on their walls, too, and for sure, a huge colorful Christmas tree was set up in the park. Some unique Christmas dishes were offered at the different restaurants (however, we went to the Minions restaurant). Four special Christmas shows were held all around the day. We first watched “Santa’s Magical Surprise" which was held at the big stage close to the Christmas tree. The USJ characters like Elmo, Hello Kitty and Snoppy were preparing everything for Santa together with their friends. The show includes a lot of music and watchers were animated to dance. The around 25 minutes show was really fun. In the evening the shows “The Voice of an Angel” and “Joy of Lights” were held. Indeed, people were already waiting and reserving places for theses shows up to three hours before. That’s pretty crazy. We have been to a restaurant before the start of the first show, because it was cold and we were exhausted. When we came out to watch the show, the waiting crowd was so huge, we hardly could see anything. I have a good video camera, with this we could at least guess what is happening at the stage. At the end, the Christmas tree was lightening up with a firework – this was very touching moment. But we decided there is no meaning in watching the next show from such a distance. It was a great and memoriable day we spent at USJ on Christmas Eve, however, if you have a chance you should go there on another day. We just rode one rollercoaster (at Harry Potter area), because most others had waiting times of over two hours. But we could enjoy the some shows and Minions stuff. The Christmas event is held for several weeks before Christmas and even some time after. So it’s enough time to visit it on non-holiday-days.____________________________________________________________________________ If you want to see more of out day at USJ - I uploaded a video on my Youtube channel. English subtitle is available.
FURUSATO MATSURI - Experience Traditions of all over Japan
Every year in the beginning middle of January a special festival is held in Tokyo. The FURUSATO MATSURI (ふるさと祭り) is a festival about traditional perfomances and food from all over Japan. I visited it last year and want to give you some information. Because the festival is located at Tokyo Dome where is a lot of space for presentation. Inside you will find several stalls selling you a variety of food and drinks from the different Japanese prefectures. You have the chance to try Yakimanju from Takasaki and Oyakodon from Akita at one place – isn’t this great? Japanese people love to travel around and eat regional food, that’s why food is very important within this event. Another big point are the festivals (matsuri) held in the different areas of Japan. Some of these are present every year and the schedule is changing nearly every day while the event (the reason I visited the festival for two days). You can see a part of famous festivals like the Nebuta Matsuri (ねぶた祭り) in which a colorful lighted float is carried through the stage area including music and dancers. However, also other festivals are presented often connected to dance performances. If you don’t have the chance to watch a certain festival at the origin area, maybe you at least can get a feeling of it in Tokyo. My personal highlights are the prefecture mascots meeting up at the festival. Often you need to travel to all these areas to have a chance to meet the mascots - but now you have them all at one place. Be sure they appear only on a few days while the festival. With some of them you even have the chance to take a memorial photo. So, if you come to be in Tokyo around the festival time, I totally recommend going there. The ticket prices around ¥ 1,600 on weekend and ¥ 1,300 on weekdays. There is also an evening ticket for ¥ 1,100 which allows you to enter after 4 p.m., but be sure you gonna miss a part of the program with this. Better visit the Furusato Matsuri on a weekday, because it is a little bit less crowded. The festival is held from 7th to 15th January this year. I made a video about my visit to Furusato Matsuri. You can watch it with English subtitles on YouTube. The video of the second day I visited the festival will follow soon on my YouTube account. For more information you can visit the Official Website (Japanese) or the English Website of the festival. Have you ever been to such events?
Japanese New Year – between traditions, events and shopping
The beginning of the New Year is celebrated everywhere in the world. And every country has its own traditions. For sure Japan has its special ways to celebrate the beginning of a New Year, too. It’s one of the most important times in the year, where a lot of Japanese workers have days off and can spend their time with family. Get to know some of Japan’s traditions in my article today. Traditional food around New Year in Japan Do you have special food you always eat around New Year? In my home country Germany lately people come up with making food on raclette grill for New Year’s Eve and eating carp on New Year’s Day. In Japan you also have some food which belongs to the New Year’s time. Starting with Toshikoshi Soba (年越しそば) or also called year-crossing noodle. These buckwheat noodles are likely to be eaten on New Year’s Eve and should bring long life as well as health and energy for the upcoming year. The costume and name with this is a bit different from area to area.Also very important food in Japanese New Year is Osechi Ryōri (御節料理) which normally is served in bento-like wooden boxes. The dishes inside the Osechi each have a special meaning. For example: Kuromame (黒豆), simmered black soybeans, are standing for health and sake steamed shrimps go for a long life. Earlier house wives made Osechi Ryori by themselves, however, now it’s also common to buy a prepared box at special shops or departments. Countdown Events at New Year’s Eve What would be New Year’s Eve without an amazing firework? But wait – stop! In Japan – the country famous for their colorful and beautiful fireworks in summer – is exactly like this. When all other countries around the world start the New Year with wonderful artworks in the sky, Japan traditionally starts it in silence. If you want to see a firework on 31st December, it might get hard to find one, but probably you are lucky around Odaiba, the American base in Yokosuka or Tokyo Disneyland. However, for people who don’t want to sit at home with their families and watch the famous music program Kōhaku Uta Gassen ( 紅白歌合戦) on TV, there are also some countdown events around the big towns. In Shibuya the famous scramble crossing was closed for cars this time, so people could celebrate around there. Some musicians hold New Year’s Eve concerts, just noticing Ayumi Hamasaki who’s Countdown Live concerts are sold out every time since more than 10 years. For sure, you also can celebrate into the New Year in theme parks like Tokyo Disneyland or Universal Studios Japan which are opening their doors over night for this special date. Just prepare to get your tickets for this as soon as possible. Another alternative is the Chinatown in Yokohama. You can hear firecrackers blow up the silence, around Kanteibyo Temple lion dancers make their performances and locals sell food and drinks on the street. The first shrine visit of the New Year At Buddhist temples the New Yyear starts with 108 bell rings which are symbol for the 108 human sins in Buddhist belief. With the bell ringing it is believed to get rid of the 108 worldly desires regarding sense and feeling. This process is called Joyanokane (除夜の鐘). The reason you can find big crowds of people at shrines and temples around midnight. Many connect this event with the first shrine visit of the year, which is called Hatsumode (初詣). Normally, you should make your prayers for the New Year within the first two days of January, but still after this time at least famous shrines like the Meiji Jingu are still crowded. It is a good time to get new Omikuji (御神籤), fortune telling papers, which will tell you how the New Year will be going for you. And don’t forget to get new Omamori (御守), Japanese amulets which will protect you. Let’s go shopping! Hatsuuri and Fukubukuro So, enough traditional things now. Certainly also department stores want to make money around this time. Some shops are still closed on 1st January (for sure, not all), but latest on 2nd January the famous Hatsuuri (初売り) starts. At the so called “first sale” of the year many shops give pretty big discounts. Some other sell Fukubukuro (福袋) which are lucky bags, filled with unknown items but mostly worth twice or three times the money you have spent for them. Many people line up at department stores early in the morning to get started into the New Year with the best bargain. And even more… For sure there are even more Japanese traditions about New Year, but it will get too much to write everything down here. Just saying words like Otoshidama (お年玉), Nengajo (年賀状), mochi making and Kadomatsu (門松). Probably topics for next year. With this, I wish you all a happy New Year! あけましておめでとうございます！Have you ever spend New Year’s time in Japan? What are you experiences?
My tough moment of 2016 – the Japanese Immigration Office
Looking back on 2016, this year was a pretty great one for me. I started it in Japan, celebrating the New Year’s Eve at a big concert hall with around 10.000 other people together with my favorite musician Ayumi Hamasaki. Back then, I was on my New Year’s trip to Japan which lasted three weeks. I got two more weeks to travel around, meet friends and experience the country. This trip ended with a proposal and much bureaucratic stuff to do for preparing our wedding. Luckily we could handle everything without any bigger trouble and so we got married in July in Germany. A great day with wonderful memories. Finished with this point, next was the process to get my visa for moving to Japan. The plan was to leave Germany in October, so less than three months after our wedding. For a German native like me, now the normal process would be going to the Japanese Embassy in Berlin, giving them all the required documents and getting a spouse visa for Japan. Actually, that was also the way I wanted to do it. However, I phoned the Embassy about my issue, because I first wanted to know which documents they need and how long it will take to get the visa. You know, I live over 250 kilometers away from the embassy, so I wanted to have everything with me when doing a one-day-trip there. My phone call ended up with the following information: “As German native it is ok to enter Japan on a tourist visa, which you will get for 90 days at the airport in Japan. With this you can go to the immigration office in Japan and change it into the spouse visa.” Ok, that seemed nice. I asked some other people on Facebook and some told me they went the same they. And because Japanese natives have the same rights in Germany, I didn’t see any problem. Everything should work out fine, I thought. I went to Japan on 9th October, already got the first small problems at the airport in Frankfurt. My booked flight back was nine month after my flight there and I didn’t have a visa. I told the staff of ANA airlines my situation and they accepted it. Actually, I read a blog entry of another person with same situation a while ago and ANA didn’t let him fly and he had to book another expensive flight. I was relieved they accepted my situation as it is and believed me I will get a visa inside Japan. Only their PC didn’t want to accept it. Around 10 minutes and two other ANA staff later they finally found out how to get my visa statues into their program, I got my flight ticket and everything was good. Shortly after arriving in Japan, my husband took a day off and we went to the Immigration Office in Yokohama, because we were living in Kanagawa prefecture. The way there was long and somehow I didn’t feel well that day. Probably my body already knew something will happen. With all our documents we went to the officer. He checked them and told us, it’s impossible to get a visa in Japan. 「これは無理です。」 I should go back to Germany as soon as possible and get my visa there from the Japanese Embassy. I was shocked. I told them what the Japanese Embassy told me. Another officer came to us, saying the same. I tried to discuss with them, however, this was not really possible, because of my poor Japanese knowledge. Furthermore the officers seemed to ignore what I was saying. For them it was clear: no visa, go back home and apply from there! I ended up crying, shocked, didn’t know what to do. That was tough… But we didn’t give up. I talked to some people on Facebook again, getting clear of the situation and getting told again that nobody had problems with this way of visa issuing before. We made the decision to first try everything else before I go back to Germany – because this would only cost useless money and time… Yokohama Immigration Office kept our documents to give us the Certificate of Eligibility (CoE). I got it around one month later by mail, getting told again in an information flyer that I should go back to my home country with this to apply for a visa. I didn’t. I went to the Immigration Office in Shinagawa, hoping they will tell me something else. I was so nervous on this day, I felt horrible. Luckily everything went well there. Nobody wanted me to return to Germany. It didn’t take an hour and we could leave the office again – me having my residence card as spouse of a Japanese national. Yokohama Immigration Office gave me a pretty tough moment this year and even Shinagawa staff was lightly confused when we told them what happened there. Even I live in Kanagawa prefecture now, I decided to not go to this office again – there is another one around here at Tachikawa which I want to try for renewal next time.
Strolling around the Yokohama Christmas Market
Last weekend my husband and I went to Yokohama – first for getting some Shinkansen tickets, second for doing some Christmas shopping and third: to visit the Christmas market in Yokohama. As you may know there are some Christmas markets held around Japan right now. One is situated at Yokohama's Red Brick Warehouse, the so called Akarenga (赤レンガ倉庫). This year is already the 6th year in a row the event taking place there. It's held from 26th November to 25th December 2016. For me as German native I'm used to visit Christmas markets in my home country more than once every year. So also the tradition of Christmas markets original comes from Europe. In Yokohama you can find German-styled Christmas market with pretty nice looking huts having Christmas figures like Santa Claus and snow men on their roof. Even some snow was brought there this year and someone built a quickly melting snowman close to the entrance. For sure you also could find a big Christmas tree there which was shining in bright lights. People were lining up for taking a memorial picture in front of it. At the stalls they were selling food and drinks – some typical and not so typical stuff for a German-styled Christmas market. You even could buy some (super expensive) Christmas ornaments if you want. They had sausages, schnitzel, Christmas cake (Stollen) and more. For sure you could drink hot wine (Glühwein) in different tastes like the traditional red hot wine, but also white wine version or apple one. I decided for the apple version within a super small papercup. Indeed, be prepared you might need to wait in long lines if you want to buy something. That’s why we ended up without eating something there…There is no entrance fee, however, the prices of food and drinks alone are expensive enough in my opinion. If you want to go there: the Christmas market is opened from 11 am to 11 pm every day until 25th December, light up starts from 4 pm. Find more information (in Japanese) on the official website. If you finished looking around the stalls you can go ice skating at Art Rink. It’s directly next to the Christmas market and will stay there until 19th February 2017. As adult you need to pay 500 yen for entering the ice rink and additional 500 yen for rental skates.
My little Christmas in Japan
Every year you come up with the same problem: what shall we do for Christmas? For me, coming from Germany, it was never a big deal because in Germany you normally have 3 days off for Christmas and mostly spend all the time with your family. But in Japan, Christmas is not a family festival – this will be one week later at New Year. In Japan Christmas is more a special day for couples and for little children. You don’t even have the Christmas days off. 24th and 25th December are normal working days, so if you are unlucky you gonna spend the day at work. At least the day before Christmas is a public holiday, even if it’s not for Christmas – it’s the Emperor’s birthday. But who cares if you can have a day off? My little Christmas in Japan so far Actually, it’s only the second time for me to spend Christmas in Japan this year. I often made trips to Japan for New Year’s Holidays and arrived here a few days after Christmas. But I’ve been here for Christmas in 2013 while my Working Holiday, already three years ago. Let’s have a little flash back! In 2013 Christmas Eve was on a Tuesday, my boyfriend and I had to work. We ended up with nothing special, just having the traditional food of the Japanese Christmas Eve: fried chicken and a Christmas cake. Japanese people often get the fried chicken from KFC, you also can make preorders for it several weeks before Christmas. We just got normal fried chicken from the supermarket nearby. The cake was a tiny delicious strawberry shortcake which I enjoyed very much. So no special activities – we had to work again the next day anyway. Back to the topic: What will we do for Christmas this year? My (now) husband and I had a talk about Christmas around two weeks ago. Thanks to the calendar we gonna have three days off this Christmas, so we both decided we should do something special and not just sit around at home. But what? We had a few ideas which we could choose from: 1) Romantic Christmas dinner 2) Go out to see illuminations or Christmas markets 3) Make a trip somewhere 4) Go to Disneyland or another amusement park Let’s take a closer look to all the choices. What would be your favorite? 1) Romantic Christmas dinner Going out together with my husband for a little more expensive dinner was a pretty nice idea. We didn’t really visit a fancy restaurant so far – only kind of this at a French-styled hotel in Nikko over one year ago which had around 5 courses for dinner. However, I’m a little bit difficult with food and on Christmas Eve, for sure, all restaurants are even more expensive just because it’s Christmas. Maybe we should do this some other time a year, maybe for wedding anniversary. 2) Go out to see illuminations or Christmas markets Winter time is illumination time in Japan. Everywhere you can find tons of lights and it’s simply beautiful. Having a walk around with your loved one is really romantic – maybe also good for a date on Christmas. But luckily the most light ups will stay until February, so let us keep this up for another time. Another option is visiting one of the Christmas markets which are held at some places around Japan. For me as German Christmas market really belongs to Christmas: having hot wine, some delicious food, decorated sheds around you and even some snow. Ok, at least the first three you can get easily around Tokyo. I really like the Christmas market at Akarenga, Yokohama. Even so I have to handle with the high prices at Christmas markets in Japan when I know the prices of everything is in my home country – and I already think it’s expensive in Germany! However, we gonna go there before Christmas and not on Christmas Eve itself. 3) Make a trip somewhereI really love onsen and my husband found out about a cat ryokan at the onsen prefecture Oita. We thought about making a short trip where, but when taking a look to some flight websites, we were shocked about the high prices around Christmas and New Year. Also the ryokan was booked out for our preferred date. If you want to make a trip somewhere you should probably prepare some months before. So, no trip with an airplane somewhere for us. 4) Go to Disneyland or another amusement park My husband knows how much I like amusement parks. And we haven’t been to Disney Resort for two years. So how about celebrating Christmas with Mickey and Minnie? However, there are a lot more amusement parks around Tokyo and all over Japan. It’s also great to visit Yomiuri Land or Sagamiko Resort with their own illumination paradises, which are really romantic. However, with this we are back to point 2. For this year, we ended up with a mix of all the points. We gonna make a 2-days-trip to Osaka from 23th to 24th December. On the first day we want to go to Rilakkuma Café in Osaka and watch some illumination around the city. The other day we will visit the Universal Studios Japan and go back to Yokohama in the night, to have Christmas Cake at home on 25th. I’m looking forward to these three days. Hope you all gonna spend a lovely Christmas time! ☆彡
Machida Squirrel Park
Around 20 minutes by bus from Machida station you need to go to the Machida Squirrel Park or Machida Risuen (まちだリス園). It’s a bit far, but if you like the cute little animals, you should really take a look there. The park already opened in December 1988 and includes around 200 squirrels. Inside the park you can see and feed them. You can buy some corns for the squirrels inside the park for 100 yen each. You also will get a glove so the little rodents don’t bite your fingers. They have cute little houses where the squirrels can hide, but don’t worry, they come out if you show them food. Before entering the squirrel park, you first have to walk through a small petting zoo. There they have rabbits, turtles, hamsters and a few parrots. For sure you can feed these animals, too, and there is a special petting area for rabbits. However, this costs extra money. For me, the area for the hamsters was too small for all the animals and pretty dirty… The entry fee is ¥ 400 for adults. Elementary school children need to pay ¥ 200, children up to two years are free of charge. The park is opened from 10am to 4pm, from April to September it is prolonged until 5pm. Closing days are every Tuesday (if it is a public Holiday the next day will be closed), Tuesday until Friday at the first week of June, September and December plus 27th December to 2nd January. Official website: http://www.machida-risuen.com/
Hiroshima Okonomiyaki at Machida
This restaurant is one of the favorites of me and my husband and we try to visit it regulary. At the Hiroshima Tetchan (ひろしま鉄ちゃん) they serve Hiroshima styled Okonomiyaki, which is different to the Osaka styled one you find all over Japan. One of the differences is that Hiroshima Okonomiyaki includes soba noodles. The restaurant is only a few minutes away from Machida station at the underground floor of Hontama Building. It’s a small, familial restaurant with around 30 seats. You can watch the chef preparing the dishes in front of you. Also the interior welcomes you to Hiroshima with many pictures on the wall. You even can take a look through Hiroshima travel books while waiting for your order. They have a varity of Okonomiyaki on their menu, prices are between ¥ 750 and ¥ 1220. For an additional payment you can get more toppings. I especially love the cheese mochi Okonomiyaki. May husband always orders double-soba. Also some other dishes are available. Unfortunately, the menu is only available in Japanese. The restaunrant is opened from Wednesday to Monday from 11:00 to 22:30. It's closed on Tuesdays. You can find more information on the HotPepper page: https://www.hotpepper.jp/strJ000249727/If you come up being around Machida, take a look there. You don’t have many chances to get a great Hiroshima Okonomiyaki outside of Hiroshima.
Sweets Paradies - Heaven for Cake-lovers
Do you love cake? Do you love to eat a lot of cake? Great! Let’s go to Sweets Paradies! Sweets Paradies is a chain restaurant with the common all you can eat system. The normal fee is 1530 Yen for an adult which includes a wide range of delicious cakes and sweets and even a free drink bar. Some cakes are seasonal changing, so if you visit more often you can always find something new. And all are these cakes are really delicious! You can’t really stop eating and would like to try all of them. If you need a break of sweets, you also can choose salad, different pasta versions, soup and curry. For a little more extra money you can widen up your menu. We payed an additional 200 Yen and were allowed to eat as lot as Häagen Dazs ice as we wanted. And they had 20 different ice sorts there! The time limits for buffet varies between the shops, mostly it is between 70 minutes to 90 minutes. At the Harajuku shop we had 90 minutes time to fill our stomach. But take care not to overeat. So, if you are starving for sugar, why don’t you try going to Sweets Paradies? There are several shops around Japan. Just check their website for it → http://www.sweets-paradise.jp/PS: If you add the shop as LINE friend, you can get a small gift such as calender or clearfile for free.
Shabu Shabu All You Can Eat at Yuzuan
Shabu Shabu is one of the famous Japanese dishes I really like. But mostly, it’s a bit expensive and so I haven’t visited a Shabu Shabu restaurant in Japan for around 5 years. Now it was time again and we decided for the All You Can Eat restaurant Yuzuan at Tamasakai, because it’s close to our home and not too expensive. It was Sunday around lunch time and people were lining up. Acutally, that’s a good sign, isn’t it. So we waited over 30 minutes until we could enter. Yuzuan has different Tabehodai (All You Can Eat) menus. We decided for lunch menu, which was just 1,980 yen for each person, plus an all you can drink for 390 yen. With this we had the choice between 50 dishes, including different meat for Shabu Shabu, vegetables and different noodles but also nigiri sushi and side dishes like fried potatoes, karaage and edamame. You even could order unlimited ice cream for dessert. Everything was pretty delicious and staff was very quickly bringing your order after deciding on the touch screen. For the soup, you can choose two different styles which will be boiled in a parted pot on your table. We had a clear soup and a sukiyaki-like soup. A good combination I think. The time for our Tabehoudai menu was 100 minutes and we were rolling out of the restaurant then because we ate too much. Great for this price and a lot of fun. Will definitely go there again!! Yuzuan has a few more restaurants around the country. Check out their website: http://www.shabu-yuzuan.jp/
Sand dunes of Tottori
Did you know that Japan has a small desert? You can find it at Tottori prefecture. Actually, the Tottori Sakyu (鳥取砂丘) are the biggest sand dunes in Japan and even the biggest attraction of this area. From North to South the sand dunes have a length of 16 kilometers along the coast, from East to West it is 2 kilometers. In the middle you can find an around 50 meter high hill build of sand from where you have a great view to the Sea of Japan. The sand dunes formed already over thousand years ago. It’s said that sand was transported through the river Sendai-gawa to the shore and the form is continually changing. In 1995 the Tottori Sakyu were designated Natural Monument of Japan. For tourists there is a special entry to the dunes, where you also can find restaurants and souvenir shops. However, you don’t need to pay any entry fee to enjoy a walk around the sand. For sure, it’s also possible to take memorial photos riding on camels for which you have to pay. Paragliding and sand boarding is offered by local companies, too. From the center of Tottori City it takes around 20 minutes by bus to go to Tottori Sakyu. The bus normally leaves every hour from the bus center in front of Tottori station. On weekends, public holidays and while summer holidays the Kirin Jishi Loop Bus is driving there, too.