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Micromanage my Life - Japan


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#31 Blondie

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Posted 09 August 2019 - 09:25 PM

Wow, thank you Chambo and Ori for covering all of the questions I would have asked 6 months from now :)

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#32 Orik

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Posted 09 August 2019 - 10:23 PM

By the way I read that airbnb is getting close to a deal with several central Tokyo wards to allow for shorter stays at least during peak periods and special events. Their target is for this to be done "before the Olympics", so don't hold your breath.


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#33 Chambolle

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 08:00 PM

At the four seasons seoul - would recommend you ask for a room that does not overlook Saejong-daero - its where govenment protestors congregate, and they can be quite loud.

 
For the Four Seasons Seoul, my Korean five-star concierge (she’s also one of my fabulous personal stylists (who texted me the Common Projects at the bottom of this post* and is fully in charge of my Korea program along with her brother and sister-in-law ... so I don't have to do diddly, thank goodness) sent the relevant pics (don't where she got them, but I'm loving it !) and told me to request upper floors with palace view and mountains in the background ... which is the north view … and Saejong-daero is an east view. I think we may be on the same page, Bonner.

* @Adrian - No, I didn't get those horrible things... two-tone ? You kidding, me ? Pffffft, that's not Chambo Style at all. But I did get a new pair of Dries sneaks last year ... oh baby, they be real nice, you'd love 'em ... white semi-thick sole with a tasteful geometric pattern on the nose wrapping a couple inches back on either side, a slightly-bright navy textured nylon with slightly darker navy leather trim details, navy laces and a tan leather interior where you see a subtle leather edge barely peaking out on the back upper part of the sneak that wraps around the ankle. They're not for re-sale, Adrain, so don't even ask ! I also recently snagged an off-white, almost beige, all-leather pair of C Ps ... got them a couple months ago but haven't gotten around to wearing them even once ... I think they'll go to Asia with me ... problem is that for summer that leather just isn't super duper breathable and hence my other, granted older, pair of grey perforated suede C Ps with grey laces and white soles which are SUPER comfortable and get to go on the summer circuit with Chambo. 
 

Was about to pull trigger on the all-important NYC to Tokyo flight yesterday … but still optimizing … will buy this weekend for sure

 
Held off ... held off ... held off ... saying Hail Mary's ... pounding the pavement of the Camino de Santiago while praying to the Almighty ... trying anything and everything ... putting my faith in the most unlikely of places, including self-proclaimed experts ... but at some point you just need to cut the bull and bite the bullet
 
Tokyo flight booked ... flying United EWR to Narita
 
Hotel booked ... very close to Tokyo Station so it's the JR Narita Express and then a less than 5 minute cab
 
Done, thank God ! Finalized at 2 in the morn ... geesh I am SO glad that's behind me !
 
There's still some shelter and logistics work to do ie the Tokyo - Kyoto - Osaka SIX NIGHT excursion... but I can multitask ... so food questions will shortly be coming to a theatre near you !
 
 

Tokyo - Kyoto - Osaka
 
I know close to nothing about these places and, quite frankly, have no time to learn now ... because I'm too damn busy helping Mongo survive in the Center of the Universe and admiring my own sneaks (they're really really nice, by the way !)
 
Hence, knowing nothing, I'm thinking the following ...
 
a. I'll get the 7-day JR rail pass ... no car at any point
b. 3 nights in Kyoto and 3 nights in Osaka
c. A day trip at some point to Nara
 
I'll like to stay at nice places but I'm not paying CRAZY $s for them ... top Tokyo hotels are silly expensive, geesh 
 
Questions for the Team...
 
1. Do we agree with 3nts in K and 3nts in O ?
2. Any hotels recs in either place ?
3. If not a specific hotel, any recs re in what part of each city the hotel should be located ?
4. Which town merits slightly less time and hence I'll do the Nara trip from there ?
5. Foods recs for places that foreigners can actually eat at around these parts ?
6. Anything else worth mentioning ? If so, I'm all ears ...


#34 Orik

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 09:44 PM

1. The JR rail pass isn't useful in Tokyo proper and I really don't know how much of a good thing it is for the rest of your trip, so check. As I think I mentioned, check if by chance it doesn't end up being faster / cheaper to fly to Osaka instead of taking the shinkansen. 

 

I haven't been to Naoshima, etc. but everyone seems to like it so you might consider an excursion there. 

 

Fuck Kyoto. (but still go because first time, etc.) 

 

3. While you're in fucking Kyoto, there are many good options at good prices, from the all-business Kyoto Station hotel to many nice Onsen and Ryokan options, mostly it's about how much you want to move around (the traditional Japanese places are sweet but oppressive), I'll dig up some notes.

 

5. I'll check. Keep in mind it's very short notice so it might not even be about foreigner or not at this point. 


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#35 Chambolle

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 10:32 PM

3. While you're in fucking Kyoto, there are many good options at good prices, from the all-business Kyoto Station hotel to many nice Onsen and Ryokan options, mostly it's about how much you want to move around (the traditional Japanese places are sweet but oppressive), I'll dig up some notes.

 

Gracias, senor !

I really don't think that I want to switch accommodations while in either city. 3 nights at a K place and 3 in O.

Unpack then pack to switch places in the same city for a 3 day stay is WAY WAY too much of a pain and time waste ... and in my mind I'm there to see the cities, and not to experience MORE than 1 hotel / accommodation in each place. Hence, the accommodation rec would ideally make sense for a 3 night stay

If I'm making a grave error, I'll listen ...
 

1. The JR rail pass isn't useful in Tokyo proper and I really don't know how much of a good thing it is for the rest of your trip, so check. As I think I mentioned, check if by chance it doesn't end up being faster / cheaper to fly to Osaka instead of taking the shinkansen.

 
Understood re rail pass not useful in Tokyo, but the concept for the 7-day rail pass is to use it starting on day that I travel from Tokyo to Kyoto and it will last for the entire 6-night excursion, hence good for day trip to Nara, K to O, and O to Tokyo and if another day trip were to make sense then train travel is paid for.
 
Recall your mentioning flying ... must admit that I hadn't seriously considered it ... because my Tokyo hotel will be 5 minutes away from Tokyo Station, then train, then arrive to the city center of "f&cking" K. That same rail pass should be good for all other inter-city travel. Did minimal research on this ... but that is my impression ... would love to be corrected if I'm wrong ...
 
Flying means getting to and fro airports, being there in time to check in how ever many minutes is required in advance, check bags (I'll need to bring all my stuff), retrieve bags at destination, cab to city center, etc, so from a time / cab / $ perspective didn't seem like there was any potential "big" win in flying and maybe additional room for hiccups ... am I confused or off base here ... I'm also factoring in that I think I have great flexibility with the JR rail pass (like I can book same day, just prior, etc and grab any train I want with no worries in September vs needing to pre-book flights, blah blah blah)
 
Roger that your not a big fan of "f" K ... but I think I may be a bigger sucker for strolling around and enjoying various temples and shrines ... still to be determined ...
 

5. I'll check. Keep in mind it's very short notice so it might not even be about foreigner or not at this point.

 
I'm a month out ... it is what it is ... looking for best options given the timeline. 
 
Off-topic - I'll note that I can pretty much get into ANY Paris 3* that i actually want to with 2 wks notice (maybe 3wks if VERY unlucky ... maybe on 0 or 1 or 2 days notice if lucky but not excessively lucky) and almost all Paris 1*s with a month notice (and 90% of them w 2wks notice and probably > 60% during the week if I call Mon or Tues). And yeah, Japan isn't Paris, I guess, hence why I said off-topic

 

eta - and I can get into Table in 2-secs with a WhatsApp msg ... frankly I could randomly show up and have ZERO concern about being seated NO MATTER WHAT (but of course I'd never do that) ... and that's the only place really worth eating in the city anyway ...

 

eta again - and you guys are off-base on your understanding of Table ingredients etc ... but that's a story for another day



#36 Anthony Bonner

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 11:00 PM

Maybe I'm weird but I think a shinkansen trip as a first time tourist has some romance to it.

I also think Kyoto is more exciting as tourist than I think Orik does. The temples are incredible and I think two days does them a disservice.

Maybe the math has changed, but it use to be that the 7day Jr pass was priced relatively close to parity for tokyo-kyoto roundtrip.

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#37 Chambolle

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 11:23 PM

And for me, UNLESS there is a BIG win somewhere, a slightly longer uninterrupted train ride is perfectly fine as I'm not in a major hurry and it can be productive time if I'm not staring out the window ... I can get real stuff done (reading, researching, organizing, posting MF nonsense etc) ... as compared to a faster flight but the extra time / steps of cabbing and dropping off and picking up bags and more security ... 

 

From Paris, I'll train it pretty everywhere (that I desire to go) within France and to London, Belgium, Amsterdam. Other than that, I fly ... Italy, Spain, Scandinavia is always a flight for me even if trains exist because the flight IS a big win.

 

In the US, a train is perfectly fine for me between NYC and either Boston or DC for the same reasons ... to and fro the airports is a pain



#38 Orik

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Posted 19 August 2019 - 11:40 PM

Maybe the math has changed, but it use to be that the 7day Jr pass was priced relatively close to parity for tokyo-kyoto roundtrip.

 

Possibly, but then you don't get to do the fastest shinkansen, only the second fastest one, right? (at least I vaguely remember something like that from 2003)

 

In any event I agree about the romantic aspect. The practical aspect is hotel->HND->KIX->Osaka Station easily wins for time and price. (and also I was trying to highlight the idea of super cheap domestic flights in case Chambo decided to hop to one of the other Islands). 

 

@chambo - two and three stars are much smaller, Japanese people book them a year ahead, and they're not that interested into you, but if you employ the right approach (that you don't particularly care which ones you manage to get into, and that you're a tabelog maven who knows how to find up and coming places), you can still get into nice ones.


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#39 Chambolle

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 12:27 AM

Possibly, but then 1. you don't get to do the fastest shinkansen, only the second fastest one, right? (at least I vaguely remember something like that from 2003)
 
In any event I agree about the romantic aspect. 2. The practical aspect is hotel->HND->KIX->Osaka Station easily wins for time and price. (and also 3. I was trying to highlight the idea of super cheap domestic flights in case Chambo decided to hop to one of the other Islands). 
 
@chambo - two and three stars are much smaller, Japanese people book them a year ahead, and 4. they're not that interested into you, but if you employ the right approach (5. that you don't particularly care which ones you manage to get into, and that 6. you're a tabelog maven who knows how to find up and coming places), you can still get into nice ones.


1. Yes, that's correct. 3hrs vs 2.5hrs to Osaka

 

re trains, I did do the quick read a while ago and made some notes.

 

The pricing and train schedules were such that I thought that it made little sense to waste my precious time to attempt to save a tiny bit of $ or time
 
2. Hence, I remain unconvinced on this point ... I'm willing to have you convince me otherwise ... but it's not clear it's worth anybody's time to do so
 

Standard 7/14/21 day pass for 238e/378e/484e or 317e/513e/667e for Green pass (1st class)

Green pass – large luggage space, no waiting
JR West Hikari Rail Star train has no Green Car seats … ( but maybe it does ??? check this ...)
https://www.jrailpas...nkansen-jr-pass

Prices
https://www.jrailpas...r-pass-in-japan

Tokaido Shinkansen services Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka.
Hikari trains included in the JR Pass. About 3hrs for Tokyo – Shin-Osaka station
Nozomi train (fastest ie less stops) to Osaka in 2h30 is NOT in JR Pass
“Use of Nozomi trains will incur an additional fee”


3. Idea definitely noted ... and thank you ... not clear it will be employed this trip ... but what are the 2 or 3 cheapo domestic airlines whose names I want to know ?

 

4. Yeah, I know ... their mistake

 

5. That's definitely my mindset ... I don't know any of these places at this point so if they are a "high-performer" or better yet a "very high-performer" within their category then I'm very flexible with which ones I go to. Further, I do NOT want to go to the top top performers immediately ... because I am probably not calibrated to appreciate that they are indeed top performers. I'm NOT thinking this is my one and only trip to Japan / Tokyo so I need to "do it all". I'm thinking top performers would start after I return to my apartment in Tokyo (no jet lag then so I will surely be able to fully appreciate the experience) and hence some of those dates are still 2 months out ...

 

6. Is the tablelog ENGLISH version fully functional and able to fully get the job done ? Would I expect it to be good for Kyoto and Osaka in addition to Tokyo ? Have you made a Youtube video yet called "You too can be a TABLELOG maven and find up and coming places by following these FIVE steps !" ?

 

https://tabelog.com/en/tokyo/



#40 prasantrin

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 12:52 AM

If you don't want to haul your luggage around, have it sent from hotel to hotel by takkyubin (delivery service). If you're going Tokyo - Kyoto - Osaka, for example, you may be able to send your bags to Osaka, and bring minimal clothing to Kyoto. Just clear it with the destination hotel so they know to expect it. Then you can ship it back to Tokyo after.

I love Kyoto, but I lived there for a couple of years, so my affection for it is, in part, sentimental.

There's a tempura restaurant downtown called Ten-you, and not to far from it is a (Japanese) tea shop called Yukei Salon du The. I'm not necessarily recommending them for their food (they're both good, but not outstanding - Ten-you has one Michelin star), but because they are both very Kyoto in atmosphere. They're both owned by the folks who own Tawaraya Ryokan. Re: the tea shop, I always get warabi-mochi and matcha, but warabi-mochi is an acquired taste/texture for most non-Japanese.

#41 prasantrin

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 01:43 AM

And consider downloading a train schedule app. I always used HyperDia in its pre-app days. I assume now that there's an app, it's even easier to use.

If you might do a day trip to Hiroshima from Osaka or Kyoto, I can see how a JR pass might be worthwhile. But if you're only going from Tokyo to Kansai, then you're better off buying your train tickets in Japan. You can even buy them at discount ticket booths for a very small discount. Once you're in the Kansai area, traveling around is more convenient (and slightly cheaper) using private train lines than JR.

From Osaka, consider Mount Koya for a day trip. It's even better if you can stay overnight, but a day trip would suffice.

#42 Evelyn

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 01:58 AM

i’d suggest a pasmo card for sure. You can use it for trains, buses and taxis.

https://www.japan-ra...AiAAEgJ5J_D_BwE

#43 Evelyn

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 02:07 AM

May I also suggest not booking any dinner reservation for your first night. Most places that take reservations require a nonrefundable cc deposit for foreigners for ‘known’ (not even the best) spots. I have had flight delays that cost me a good deal. Not to mention I would rather have just had something very light (rather than an omakase or kaiseki dinner) after availing myself to Singapore Air’s very good food and wine.

#44 Nathan

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 04:40 AM

7 day JR Rail Pass costs virtually the same as Tokyo to Osaka roundtrip and the second fastest Shinkansen is only 15 minutes slower than the fastest.  Big whoop.  And you go past Mt. Fuji.  Pass will pay for itself bopping around.  

 

For train apps, Apple Maps and Google Maps cover the Japanese train schedules in detail.  The HyperDia app is fine as a backup but shouldn't be necessary.

 

https://www.insidekyoto.com will help you immensely from getting around to food.  It's by far the best resource I've found for the English speaker.  You may find Tokyocheapo.com useful for event schedules and the like in Tokyo but it's not very useful on restaurants.  The Eater 38 for Osaka is not useless either.

 

I'm heading back to Japan for the third time in November.


Blatantly Obvious Disclaimer:

My opinions are obviously my personal opinions. Not yours. Not universal.


#45 Orik

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Posted 20 August 2019 - 04:07 PM

Some places in Tokyo you should try and get into. As a general piece of advice, be sure to provide your concierge with the precise details (name, address, phone number) of the restaurant as many restaurants in Japan are named after the owner or a place name and there can easily be confusion. Also note that even if you specify that you don't have any allergies, etc. the concierge may get back to you for every place reserved asking you to confirm this as well as cancellation policies. This isn't them being annoying, but part of the Japanese contract process. I'm listing in tabelog ranking order but filtered based on personal experience - if a place is missing either I haven't been or I don't like it (which means you're missing entire genres like Yakitori, Tonkatsu, and Tempura. I've also skipped places that are not in season such as Ajiman for dangerously wild fugu or Lature for their game menu. Finally I've left out some places where the food can be spectacular but where you may have a bad time due to cultural issues (e.g. Yukimura). Finally I've excluded French and Italian places as well as places that only take reservations from larger groups. 

 

I'll follow up with similar lists for Kyoto and Osaka but those will be based on careful readings of Tabelog with just a handful of personal experiences. I'll also add some speculative places that I would try based on initial tabelog reviews, and a few casual spots.

 

Tokyo

 

 

Matsukawa - while it is generally always fully booked and generally doesn't accept reservations without a reference, they will occasionally admit people, especially for lunch, if there are cancellations as they are seriously committed to not throwing ingredients away. Your concierge should try and call shortly before the date.

 

Shinohara - I've never seen another foreigner here and they only took my booking because they thought I just had a really weird Japanese last name, but maybe policy has been relaxed a bit.

 

Sushi Namba Hibiya - The likelihood here is somewhat improved if you have a script that goes to the Omakase site every few minutes and checks for availability - most seats are booked by regulars but they do release a few from time to time. It is easier to get into the original shop at Asagaya although it's a bit of a trek and more variable (but still very, very, very good)

 

Hatsune - Somewhat hesitant here - I haven't been to the new location and it is now one of the most expensive restaurants in Japan, and with more staff and rent I think the food cost is probably no longer 70%, but worth consideration for the excess 

 

Iyuki  - I feel like this is kind of hopeless, but maybe you'll get lucky.

 

Sushi Arai  - The ideal rice for me. Arai-san's assistant, Mai-chan, spent a year in France, mostly in Paris so you'll have a lot to talk about in Japanese French.

 

Miyasaka - In the early days he told me he didn't work with concierge services as he wanted to speak with every diner himself, so they might try to get you to go to their second shop to which I haven't been and can't offer an opinion on

 

Sazenka  - Chinese? you ask - but this is as refined as you could imagine, in fact I would eat some kaiseki first just to get your palate into that very narrow range. If you go, ask for the awabi and uni dish. also their beverage pairings are stellar.

 

Seizan - Only take a seat at the bar if available, not at a table. 

 

Sushi Sho - There are many shops started by the group. The one I like best is Takumi Shingo (Takumi and Sho are the same word, just Shingo-san thought Shoshingo sounded funny) but you wouldn't be doing too badly in the original shop linked to here either. People also like the more anglo enabled and extravagant Sho Masa

 

Goryukubo - can be solemn, but very good classic food.

 

Akasaka Eigetsu - broom closet Kaiseki. Lovely but can be a lot of food. 

 

Ishikawa - we've been well over 40 times. I guess that's something of an approval. There are secret wine bottles. Not cheap ones, but they come from a very deep cellar. 

 

Koho - at first glance, a casual chinese bar, but then you see the modern leaning wines, the modernist cooking equipment... and the food is excellent to boot. 

 

Yamasaki - Shiro Yamazaki is a friend, and a terrific chef, who finally has the right partners (his previous restaurant, Shiro, closed abruptly as he was unknowingly subleasing the space from some "anti-social" group and the landlord just cut their power off one day). I haven't been to the new shop but I would blindly recommend it.

 

Tagetsu - The food is very good, if on the fatty side for me. The original location is not the nicest (a basement with really bad noise from the HVAC system) but he is moving any day now to a nice new shop so might be there by the time you're in town.

 

 

Kirakutei - One of our go to places as it's relatively easy to book due to prejudice about the location - serves as an a la carte izakaya but also an omakase kasieki-ish menu. They've been talking about moving to a central location but I think that might not happen very soon. Important figures in the Japanese sake revival movement, fun to drink with, great hand. (this is an example of where there may be confusion as there are at least three unrelated Kirakutei in Tokyo although with different kanji, and your concierge would find the others more likely)

 

Ebisu Yoroniku - not a big fan of yakiniku, but here they might let you book for one person, and their meat is good. The Sato people (originally of Sato Brian fame) have been opening a variety of places so maybe one of those will accommodate a solo diner. 

 

Kurosaki - very nice sushi. If you can't get into other places you won't be disappointed with it

 

Yuji - yet another Yakiniku place with offal tendencies. You will be pastrami but it's good. Make sure they know you are $$$erious ahead of time.


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