Hida Folk Village

One exciting thing when we were planning our Japan trip is breaking off our travel to explore a place unpopular to most Filipino travelers, Hida-Takayama. This is an intelligent guess since well, how many friends do you know have gone to Hida, Japan? I'm pretty sure most wouldn't know the place. It was a toss up between Hida and the Mt Fuji region for us, but the World Heritage Site won us over.

Hida Folk Village

This is an open village with 30 traditional houses that highlights the craftsmanship of the Japanese, specially the men and women from the Hida area. People here are known wood experts. Most temples found in Kyoto were made by Hida artists, that's how good they were. Some houses are the actual houses from the 1700s but some are not 100% from that century as some were damaged due to aging and the many seasons it weathered. Entrance to this village is Y700/pax.

It was a good day for us to walk around. We were worried that we may not be able to do so because since we arrived in Japan, we were often blessed with rainshowers, but that day was a good day.

This sight greets you when you enter the Folk Village.
Sitting atop is the Takumi Shrine which is only opened for viewing twice a year.
This day wasn't one of those two days. Sayang.

Taguchi's House

Parked bike. 

Wakayama's House
Interior at Wakayama's House

Michikami's House

So you know where to get your wheels on. Hehe.

We traveled to Hida-Takayama during the Japanese Summer season thus the surroundings are mainly unicolored - green. Photos of the village during the other seasons looked wonderful and it wouldn't hurt to experience that as well.

It is highly recommended to go during Spring and Autumn to coincide with the Takayama Spring and Takayama Autumn Festivals - just make sure to book flights/land travels and accommodations ahead since those are their peak periods with tourists coming from everywhere.


Tokyu Plaza Shibuya


Hachiko, my hero akita dog.  When you are nearby
Shibuya crossing, why don't you say hello, yes?
That was all I need to know about Shibuya, nothing else. I needed to pay tribute to this hero dog. I had to queue among travelers who wanted their photo to be taken with Hachiko's statue. I tried hard not to go all cheesy and just take a shot... but the force in Hachi was strong. I had to hug him and hold him. I tried hard not to cry. Every animal lover knows who this tough guy is. If you don't, I suggest you watch any films about him and cry your hearts out. 

So you see, I only had Hachi on my checklist in Shibuya and I can move along. He said otherwise. He wanted me to stay and see what were in store for me. 

The Food Show

Facing Hachi, you have the Tokyu Plaza Shibuya on your left and what lies beneath is a happy place for all you food lovers. The Food Show on Basement 1 was a gem of a place! I can tell you that we had one of our best meals there. What I can't tell you on the other hand is if it is an economical place or a pricey one because it differs from one food stall to another.

The first one we tried was a smaller sit-down resto, tucked in one corner of the Food Show basement (once again everything was in Japanese, sorry I can't share with you the name. Even the receipt is in Japanese. Hopefully the logo on the stuff below is a clue?). My sister ordered a rice topping meal set while I got a sushi platter. Our meals were fresh and smells of the sea. Haha. The good kind.

(Update: Found out the name of the place! Uoriki Kaisen Sushi, B1 Tokyu Department Store)

A tip an elderly Japanese lady we met there, shared with us this: during the summer season, if you can, don't try the sushi restaurants found on street level. The quality is less good. Unless of course you end up in a fine dine resto.

Seafood Rice Toppings for Y1000. This was fine with me but
not a fan of the baby fishies. 
My sushi platter for Y1100. My favorite is the white finfish (2nd on top).
The taste and texture was grade A. Win.

Japanese Cuisine Delica (Soup Bowl)

Rice Toppings + Soup for Y770.

Because one trip to Tokyu Plaza Shibuya's Food Show wasn't enough. We had to go back in and enjoy our time there. The Japanese Cuisine Delica has other branches in Japan (I know I've seen one in Tokyo or Kyoto). To be served, you use a vending machine to print your order and then you hand it over to the wait staff.

I had fish and shrimp toppings while my sister got the beef topping. Everything is served as a set meal composed of: a tofu dipped in soy sauce, boiled lotus root, pickles and your own tea pot of soup broth. For about Php400, this meal was beyond okay. The broth was clear and really tasty. I can just imagine it being boiled with crushed fish bones, those secret herbs and locked in with prayers! I don't know but it was really good.

On the floor

(Update: Also found out that in Japan this haven of mine is called DEPACHIKA)

Imagine one whole floor filled with assortment of food from cooked  to uncooked dishes, salads, appetizers, main meals, bento boxes, desserts of cakes and gelatos... man that floor was crazy.

Showcase at La Terre Saison.

Strawberry Sorbet from La Terre Saison for Y400. I tried asking the lady in the
counter what flavors they have but it was difficult for her to speak to me in English,
in the end, I selected via color preference. I hoped for this sorbet to be
raspberry flavored but it wasn't.
Clockwise from top: 1) Tako stall, 2) a stall that sells traditional Japanese snacks where 3) Kat bought her Japanese cakes, green tea flavor. The red bean filled, fish shaped cake is a taiyaki.

We didn't know at that time that Tokyo was training us to  be ice cream connoisseurs for our trip across Japan. Ice creams are a big deal in Japan apparently, lol. No really, they love their ice creams! And what can we do but try of course.

Luckily, without any research, we were able to try the best one among those sold in the Food Show. That is according to the same lady who shared us her info on where to eat summertime sushi, hehe.

Friends, ogle on this:

PARIYA Gelato. I tasted as much as I could but the Tiramisu x Raspberry won me over. A scoop is about Y400...
filled to the tip! 
Yeah I know we do have fancy looking gelato in Manila but the exotic flavors we crave for are food items that are readily available and common to them. But don't hate on me because I would still rally for our Philippine Mangoes! Ours is definitely the best, no doubt. But for other fancy flavors, PARIYA wins.

To sum it up my dear friends, when in Shibuya, swing by Tokyu Plaza Shibuya and dive in.



Clockwise from left: Gojyuunotou, Senjoji, walking farther away from Asakusa you can walk towards Sumidagawa River and get a view of the Tokyo Skytree and the inner streets in Asakusa.

It was my first time in Japan yet I wasn't remotely excited to visit the Asakusa District. I know, I know. 

Shoot me now. 


From Tokyo Narita International Airport, it took us at least three hours  to get to our hotel in Hanzomon. We were tired from the air x land travel combo but we had to rush, as in immediately after check-in, to The National Museum of Western Art in Ueno before it closes. It is that time of the month that entrance is free. Yes, Tokyo Cheapo will be proud.  

Travelers take note: Admission is free to the Permanent Collection of the museum every 2nd and 4th Saturdays of the month, it opens 9.30am and closes 5pm from Tues - Sun (it closes 8pm on Fridays). 

(That's rice ball for you hommies)
( ...but they can be in triangle form, too)

Since arriving, we haven't eaten anything and I had nothing but dreams of having my first meal in Japan to be perfect. For weeks I had a vision of a perfectly prepared bowl of ramen by an authentic kitchen master. With us rushing however, this dream wasn't meant to be. For my first meal, we headed to the nearest convenience store and grabbed a single piece of onigiri and a bottle of ginger ale to share.

Surprise. It was heaven. Seriously. 

If you happen to pass by any of the Sunkus branches and you have about Y300 to spare, trust us, the tofu skin onigiri is the bomb with the ginger ale drink... and it deserves a photo on this post. See the photo below, it is that glorious, golden triangle in the middle. After trying that out, every time we popped inside convenience stores, we try out their onigiri but nothing compares to this bomb though :(

Tofu Skin Onigiri is love.  This particular one more importantly.

Unlike the convenience stores we have in Manila, in Japan they don't have an area for you to sit and eat inside. It is uncommon for locals to eat while walking, too. Since we were so hungry, we just went outside and stood close to the store and had our fare. Make sure to dispose your trash accordingly as they are labeled so.

I'm not including my story of the museum visit on this post. I'm sorry  if you are expecting any reviews. I could live inside the museum if you must know. So yes, I am still recommending anyone to swing by the museum especially if you have Ueno on your list. There are a lot of things to do there and places to eat, too - but this goes with almost everywhere we've been in Japan anyway.


No escape

From Ueno we took the train to get to Asakusa. There's no escape for me it seems. One reason perhaps as to why I am not excited about Asakusa is: because it is in fact a touristy place, it is the mother of all mother of tourist places in Tokyo. I may have wanted to do the off the beaten path, the outskirts, the unknown, the offbeat places kind of traveling. But the inner nerd in me was screaming, "It is the freakin center of old Japan, woman! Tanga ka ba?" Ok, you win Asakusa, you win.

Although it is summer time in Japan, we happen to arrive when there is a tropical storm brewing from Kanto down to Kyushu. Temperamental weather is nothing new to us anyways. I actually like strolling in cold weather anyway and luckily no thunderstorm that night in Asakusa. Yey!

This was just a few steps away from the Senjoji.
With one whole day of walking on empty stomachs, it is just right to eat.. at one point. With the help from the nice ladies from the Asakusa Culture Tourist Info Center (building below), we were lead to a locally known ramen house (insert choir of angels here)! Food!!!

The inspo for this architectural building are stacked machiya houses. Google machiya house now. 

The lady who assisted us gave us a map and recommended three places where we can grab dinner. Here's the map:

1. Maguro Bito. This one is quite popular among travelers it seemed. It came highly recommended as researched by my sister. I heard sushi here is good too. Unfortunately, we didn't have the time to try it because we had to choose which among the three we should go to before the shops close and call it a night.

2. That thing she wrote in Japanese. 

3. Yoroiya. The place that made me cry and fell in love with yuzu (Japanese citron). My first bowl of ramen is one for the books. An English menu is available so don't worry. You do have a chance to select which among the varieties you want to try. 

I had mine with the plums... and I wasn't prepared with how sour it was. But just like eating spicy food, you just can't stop eating it even if it burns your tongue. It was sour but it was so good. So I finished mine to the last drop.

We spent atleast Y1800 for two bowls of ramen and a serving of gyoza. I would spend another RT plane tickets to have this bowl of ramen again. That good. 

I wish I can tell you exactly what is the name of this ramen. I will share with you this photo instead. 

Yoroiya is between Nakamise Dori and Metoro Dori streets. When walking around the area, try to look up and you should see a larger than life statue sitting atop the resto. 


First day

Asakusa was nothing but nice to me. Thank you Asakusa for my amazing first day in Japan and your amazing ramen. 

Lesson learned? I take bad photos and I suck for pre-judging Asakusa. Asakusa wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, gloomy weather or not. If I had more time, I don't mind going for my seconds, at all.