Our three-week Japan Honeymoon Guide! Everything to see, eat, do, stay, eat and eat (did I mention eat?)
Welcome to Japan! Can you spot Mt Fuji above? And can you believe this view below? Barely off the plane, and we headed over to Andaz Tokyo for happy hour and omakase dinner. What a welcome!
We were greeted with this honeymoon treat at their 52nd floor Rooftop Bar with incredible views to the Rainbow Bridge. We started with a few apps (amazing chicken karaage) and unique cocktails with ingredients like yuzu and earl gray incorporated.
Followed by rooftop omakase in the tiny 8-seater the SUSHI. The seasonal food and chef-experience were equally as wonderful. Chef Kobayashi shared (via Google translate) that he had been a chef for 24 years and his father was a sushi master. Nothing was just straightforward; everything was torched or brushed with yuzu or topped with freshly grated wasabi or a little salt or ginger. Chef Kobayashi explained everything he was making us with humor and fun facts. What a way to start our trip.Paired with the Andaz’s own brand of sake Andaz Original “52”. The perfect pairing!
This lightly torched salmon is my new favorite way to eat salmon (sorry homemade lox). We had such an amazing experience at Andaz Tokyo. We hope to stay at the hotel on a future visit! (And I’ll let you know now that we can’t wait to return to Japan.) The hotel is also beautifully decorated, with a modern Japanese vibe. We noted that their seasonal Christmas tree is an example of Kumiko art. A delicate technique of assembling wooden pieces without nails, originally used in fusuma and shoji designs. Stunning, right?
Why Japan for our honeymoon, you may ask? I’ve always wanted to visit Japan for the culture, food and friendly people. Andrew and I had planned a trip there when we first started dating, but we had to cancel. So when it came time to pick a honeymoon spot, Japan was the only choice. We didn’t pick a honeymoon location for relaxing-on-the-beach vibes (after all, we live in Puerto Rico!) but that doesn’t mean we didn’t want to enjoy ourselves. So even though we walked 8-10 miles a day and were very active, back at our hotel, we were in full relax mode.
One notable hotel we stayed at is the Executive House Zen, a luxury boutique hotel within the Hotel New Otani Tokyo. What an experience! From the 24-hour concierge to amazing turn-down service and amenities, we were spoiled from the second we arrived. Fancy bathroom of my dreams.
I honestly didn’t want to leave the hotel. You also have access to the Hotel New Otani Tokyo Golden Spa and gym and they provide everything for you so you don’t even have to bring your sneakers! Plus, check out this retractable bathroom shade so you can experience the view from the tub (or not). We had sweet ginger tea upon check-in and delicious cakes and more tea in our room.
We spent the afternoon exploring the grounds. They have a gorgeous 400-year-old 10-acre Japanese garden (with a waterfall! And a koi pond!) and rose garden right on site. You’re in the middle of Tokyo, and yet it’s so calm. The koi pond!
We were surprised and impressed to see some roses in the rose garden even in the middle of winter.
That night, we got turndown service with the option of Egyptian cotton pajamas or yukata (a casual kimono) in our size! Whaaaa. Everything was branded too from this box of chocolates to… This champagne from France!
And we enjoyed a nightcap in the Sky Bar and another amazing view! I was very into the popular whisky highballs this trip – whisky and sparkling water with a lime. And yes, even the stirrer was Hotel New Otani Tokyo branded.
Included in our stay was breakfast from a selection of restaurants or
breakfast in bed room service. You know what I chose! Their VIP lounge also has complimentary food six times a day in addition to 37 restaurants on-site so you’ll never go hungry. How gorgeous is this Japanese breakfast spread? I could eat this every day.
This was one of the best days of the whole trip. We started at Takeshita Street in Harajuku, a short subway ride from the Executive House Zen, and it was so beautiful I cried happy tears.
I mean was this place made for me or what?!
But I was surprised at the adorable neighborhoods surrounding Takeshita Street. They were so quaint and quiet! We found an avocado themed restaurant and had this avocado stuffed with tomatoes and mozzarella and tempura fried and Andrew’s face says it all. One fun side note- toilets! Really. Japanese toilets are magical. They are heated, massage, have bidets, and self-rising seats, why aren’t all toilets like this?! Back to cute Harajuku. The streets are so clean- we literally saw a woman sweeping dirt off of the street. Dirt! Cute.
We had to stop by the Kawaii Monster Cafe and it was everything I hoped for and more!Rainbow spaghetti was actually delicious! Like a buttery tasty pasta of your childhood but more colorful and with different sauce options.
Arigato mi amor! She loved my rainbow Target dress and my life was made! Banana. Another room in the Kawaii Monster Cafe. CUTE! After we went to a Pig Cafe and I have never seen Andrew happier. Animal cafes are super popular in Japan- we saw cats, owsl, shibu inus, bunnies, hedgehogs and more! Happy place with rainbow cotton candy from Totti Factory.
To continue the best day ever, we went to another edomae style sushi omakase that night at Sushi Tomoki. Here are 8 of the 25 courses we had. We started and ended with eel prepared two different ways, and everything from the fatty tuna to cod testicles (really) was unreal. A lovely thing is when you leave a restaurant or bar in Japan everyone says bye and often the walk you out. A perfect and memorable experience from start to finish.
Views and flowers from Park Hyatt Tokyo. The next day, more food! I had heard from many people to stop by a 7-Eleven and try the egg salad sandwich. It wasn’t hard since 7-Elevens are everywhere and the food selection is legit. The Japanese egg salad sandwich was definitely worth trying.
We walked to the Tsukiji Market and it was very busy but we managed to snag some snacks and then jetlag caught up with us and we went back and slept for 14 hours. Oops.
Our next hotel was the stunning Okura and we had this bathtub view in our room and everything was perfect. Let’s talk about the vending machines. They are everywhere. For less than a dollar, you can get hot, cold or room temperature coffee, unique drinks like strawberry milk, even red bean soup! There is at least one on every corner. Everywhere! We explored Shibuya next. This isn’t the famous Shibuya crossing but we were there so early so the hectic interesction wasn’t that crazy yet! But I loved the colorful energy of the streets. For lunch we had our first of many rocket sushi meals. You can tap the screen to order what you like and it comes on a conveyor belt directly to your seat! We also ate at some where the sushi rotates around the bar and you pick what you like and you pay based on how many plates you’ve piled up. Some give you prizes based on your ordering too! Fun and delicious. Then we stopped in an arcade and Andrew won me a unicorn keychain! My hero. And the next stop was a Maid Cafe because when in
We aren’t the kind of tourists who go to every museum or shrine. We like to meet locals, find hole in the wall restaurants and explore funky neighborhoods. But we could not not go to the tourist attraction known as Robot Restaurant on this not so quaint street in Shinjuku. Excited! It was a wild mix of robots and colors and dancers and lights and definitely worth seeing. The next day we were on the Shinkansen (bullet train) bound for Nagano! Just look at this train station lunch. Unreal! Also, the trains are super clean and the seats turn to face the direction the train is going in, everything is exactly on time and you’ll feel like you’re on a train of the future. We bought our JR train pass before leaving for our trip (they ship the train voucher pass to your home). Then we booked all our trains as soon as we got to Narita airport at the JR ticket office. Some trains sell out so I would suggest doing this if you know your itinerary. A train and a bus and a short hike later…
We were at our home for the night! We stayed at Korakukan Jingokudani, a ryokan (traditional Japanese inn) in the monkey park, and the only place to stay if you want to hot springs with the monkeys. And we did! Husband + monkey. Dreams coming true! Meals are provided at the ryokan, filled with delicious seasonal treats. A king and his feast! New favorite breakfast. Rice, egg, mushrooms and radish. It snowed overnight which was breathtaking! Ready to seize the day. And see ALL THE MONKEYS in the park.
OMG Hi baby! This guy! Also, if you are going to the monkey park for the day, they have warm clothes you can rent at the bottom of the trail. Smart! After monkey time, we walked a mile or so to stay in another ryokan in nearby Shibu Onsen. How cute is this town! This was the chill relaxing portion of the trip.
Our room. The ryokan was shoe-free, we changed into slippers upon arrival and put out shoes in a cubby. And they washed our muddy shoes from the hike for us! These tricky to walk in geta were available for your hot springs needs. Light sushi lunch. Purchase an honor-system egg cooked in hot springs water. You could walk around the town in a yukata and try out their nine hot springs. You go in sans clothes, so there are different sides for men and women. Cute, right? Even though this is a small town, all of Japan was similarly clean and well-maintained. It was really remarkable! Most people had flowers in front of their homes, chic nameplate signs and artistic touches. Everything is so well-designed and aesthetically pleasing. Even banks have cute logos and characters. We had a delicious meal that night with our first wagyu beef of the trip. Breakfast the next day- eggs, lots of pickled things, fish and tofu.
We left Shibu Onsen (with some candy from our ryokan hosts!) and headed to our next city. I tried to alternate between getting normal and mystery drinks from the vending machines. You can get hot or cold or even room temperature drinks out of the same machine. This was a warm corn soup- yum!
Next up – Kyoto! We visited Kennin-ji, the oldest zen temple in Kyoto.
I mentioned earlier how I like to talk with locals when traveling to feel like I’m really living in a city. So when we arrived in Kyoto I went to got my hair blown out (I’m becoming my mother). It was such a lovely experience! I had tea and even though the worker didn’t speak English we communicated through my 8 words of Japanese, Google Translate and photos from our trip so far. A lot of pointing and “kawaii!” Back to Kyoto! Kyoto is known for being Geisha headquarters, and it was really lovely to walk around and see people dressed up in these gorgeous outfits visiting various shrines and walking around Gion. We stumbled (thanks to Google maps) upon this izakaya named Taka in Kyoto that was a tiny standing room only spot. Just the chef on his grill and a counter. Something that amazed me about bars and restaurants in Japan is that so many are hidden. This place was down a narrow alleyway with just a small sign labeling it. Other places we went to were in basements and up elevators on third floors. We always felt like we were discovering new places! Anyway, the chef lived in Italy before coming back to Kyoto and a lot of his dishes were Italian-Japanese fusion. This uni topped garlic spinach was a stand-out. Maybe the nicest in-room coffee I’ve ever seen! The hotels in Japan have so many in-room beautifully arranged amenities as well, just in case you need a loofah or toothbrush or hairbrush. This Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine was incredible! Much larger than I realized. We only walked a small portion of the 10,000 gates! The whole thing would take 2-3 hours to walk.
That night we had another amazing kaiseki dinner at Gion Namba.And the next morning Andrew suggested we go to a bagel place and who was I to argue?! Land Bakery had an amazing homemade bagel. With the perfect crunchy outside and chewy inside, with schmear and quality lox. Arashiyama Bamboo Forest with my boo.Andrew found Bar Calvador for us that night, a calvados bar (marked only with an apple, up an elevator to the second floor) run by one of only 16 calvados ambassadors in the world. Very unique. Engine Ramen before leaving Kyoto. I was so excited to order this on a ticket machine that I forgot to add a runny egg! Next stop – Osaka! Chicken butt is my new favorite chicken part. Osaka is known as the food city and we had already eaten the best food ever up to this point and could not imagine it getting even better! We had a local food tour with City Unscripted and started with this Cheese Dog (fun fact, no hot dog included, just a mozzarella stick topped with potatoes and fried. Yum. Another popular unpictured Osaka snack is takiyaki which are these doughy octopus balls made in a special molded pan.
Our guide took this cute pic of us! And speaking of cute, I learned a few words of Japanese to help me around and it’s a great tip to learn a bit of the language in any city to get by and get to know locals too. Do you know any Japanese?
- Arigato – thank you
- Sugoi – wow! Or amazing!
- Sumimasen – sorry or excuse me
- Oishi – delicious
- Hai – yes or I agree
- Kawaii – cute
- Kampai – cheers Okansimaiyaki is a savory cabbage pancake. This one was topped with some gorgeous sauces. A montage of kushiage. At night we went to Bar Freedom and for this winner’s flight of whisky and felt like real winners. You can’t go to Japan and not have some Japanese whisky! Unless you don’t drink. Then, stick to sushi. Next day, more food! Kuromon Market is a must. This fatty tuna was insane. So fatty my lips were moisturized. Every corner in this market is perfection.
You can pick out seafood and they will cook or prepare it for you on the spot. An all uni restaurant. The next day, which was New Year’s Eve, we took a short train to Nara famous for the deer park.
BFFS. There are hundreds of deer in the park, and they will bow to you especially if you purchase deer crackers to feed them. Kasuga-Taisha, a Shinto shrine which was very busy for NYE. We got to witness some Shinto New Year prayers and traditions which were very special to see. Back in Osaka we went OUT and I got this glittery cocktail and counted down to 2020 in style. <3 We stumbled upon this bar called Rincon Latino Salsa Club and being that Rincon is a town in Puerto Rico we had to stop by! The gentleman below spoke Spanish and Japanese so we spoke with him in Spanish and he translated in Japanese for the other workers, and they played Despacito for us and it was a delightful way to ring in 2020 and now we are all besties. One thing to note is that if you travel around the New Year, some restaurants, museums, etc will be closed for the full week. We tried to go to a few restaurants that ended up closed but luckily we always found something else equally as delicious! Speaking of delicious, if you are taking the Shinkansen train through Tokyo, this Hello Kitty meal can be yours! I kept the case and now use it as a jewelry box. Pro-tip- you can ship your luggage between cities overnight (it’s called takuhaibin) for less than $20 per luggage! It was amazing to just take a few items on the train and then your luggage magically shows up in your room the next day. Worth it! Back in Tokyo and we went to… Sanrio Puroland!! Have I mentioned I have the best husband ever?! Dreams coming true at Hello Kitty’s house. It is Hello Kitty’s 45th anniversary and they gave us special honeymoon stickers it was amazing! Best. Photo. Ever. Miss you already!Back in Tokyo I had cheese tea- delicious! Cold tea topped with a slightly sour-sweet cream cheese foam. That night we went to Golden Gai which is a group of streets with 200 tiny bars- most hold just 6-10 people. Not Suspicious Bar, covered in post-it notes, was our favorite! As a side note, pretty much the only thing I didn’t like about Japan is that it’s legal to smoke in bars and restaurants and people definitely smoke. In some smaller spaces especially, this is not ideal. But no one smokes on the streets so the air outside is lovely.
Food-loving friends, you must go to Kappabashi Street! This neighborhood is the place to shop for all the kitchen things, chopsticks, knives and…Plastic food! Restaurants often have plastic food displays to show what’s on the menu and now you can have your own. I got a magnet for Bubbe. I can’t even begin to tell you about the beauty of the department store basements in Japan. Huh? It’s true. These hidden gems have tons of counters with the most stunning sweet gifts you’ve ever seen, plus the most perfect meat, fish and produce you’ve ever seen. Seriously, I tried a tomato sample and it was out of this world. The stores in each region have their own specialized treats too like apple everything in Nagano and matcha everything in Kyoto. $60 perfect strawberries. $200 perfect melon. NBD. This store in the luxury area of Ginza was our favorite one. One of the prettiest displays of food ever.Michelin worthy dim sum at Tim Ho Wan. This baked bun was topped with a bit of coarse sugar and was inspired.
With our trip winding to an end, we went back to Harajuku.<3
Sinto New Year decor.
This shawarma was epic. EPIC.
I really wanted this bagel from Moosh Squishy (obviously, have you seen anything more me?!) but you could only win it in a lottery! A fun way to shop where you buy a ticket for a set price and then get a mystery item. Mystery bags are also big for the New Year. Purchase a mystery bag, and you’ll receive mystery goodies worth more than you spent.Pre-dinner drinks at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Old Imperial Bar at the Imperial Hotel. Followed by one of our favorite meals! In full-circle fashion, our new friend at Sushi Toboki from the beginning of the trip suggested we go to Ushigoro yikunuku for A5 wagyu beef and it was unreal. The most amazing meat cooked right at our table and topped with truffles, egg yolks or wasabi. Last day! It was raining so we hit up teamLab Borderless. A fun interactive experience full of lights and colors and illusions. Obviously this was my favorite room!
It’s by the colorful Ferris wheel at Palette Town.
We thought our (not pictured) sushi at Sushi No Madori was our last of the trip (great sushi for a great price with an amazing fish to rice ratio), but then we had epic airport sushi at Kyotatsu! Even the airport food in Japan is unreal. We can’t wait to return!
We received some complimentary experiences but all opinions are my own!