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What to buy in Japan (+ Tokyo shopping)

By Posted on 5 min read 4735 views
Tokyo's famous Shibuya crossing

Tokyo is a huge city with endless shopping options and it can be a bit overwhelming if you don’t know where to go or what you’re looking for. Planning ahead is key to getting the best gifts and coolest souvenirs possible, so I’ve prepared this short guide to inspire you!

(You might want to upgrade the baggage allowance for your flight home right now)

Beautiful japanese ceramics

Shopping for ceramics and pottery is actually one of the things I am most excited about doing on our next trip to Tokyo. I suppose it’s a sign of age because I had never really thought about ceramics much before recently!

Japan has a tradition of making beautiful ceramics, which you will have the pleasure to appreciate in many of the country’s restaurants. It’s common to have a meal served to you in many different tiny plates and bowls of different shapes, colours and sizes. These are traditionally made by hand, although you can find some more affordable yet still beautiful factory-made ceramics nowadays.

If you fancy buying some kitchen supplies like knives and beautiful bowls in Tokyo, head to Kappabashi Kitchen Town. You’ll also find some very realistic-looking plastic food there but I’d say the ceramics will be more useful when you get home!

Where to find ceramics in Tokyo: Kappabashi Street has plenty of shops. I’ve heard that Dengama and Niimi are good ones to go to.

Japanese make up
Beauty products

Before my first trip to Japan, I did a bunch of research to figure out which skincare and make up products I should bring back. South Korea is famous for its forward-thinking beauty industry but I’ve noticed that J-Beauty is being talked about more and more by various Beauty Editors in the UK and the US.

Some of the more famous Japanese brands you should look out for include SK-II, DHC and Shiseido. I’m no beauty editor though, so I’ll send you to read articles from Glamour and Marie Claire if you want to know more! I’d recommend printing out a page with images of the products you want to buy so you know what to look out for on the shop shelves.

Where to buy beauty products: you will see many drugstores around the country, for example the chain called Kokumin. You can also get products from Loft (department store chain, also has cute bath products) or Don Quijote (discount store).

If you’re after some Korean make up, you should also visit Etude House and the very pink Style Nanda.

Japanese stationery and stickers

The Japanese LOVE their stationery. If you are a fan of a beautiful notebook, washi tape, and cute stickers, you are going to love shopping in Tokyo. I’m not usually drawn to cutesy cat stickers but this all changes when I’m in Japan! One of my favourite souvenirs is a travel diary where I wrote down everything we did each day for two weeks and used stickers and washi tape to stick lots of tickets, receipts,and pretty business cards.

Where to buy stationery in Tokyo: Itoya should be your first stop – it’s the most famous and most beautiful stationery shop in Japan. Loft department stores also have great stationery sections.

Japanese Kitkat flavours

You’re never going to be able to bring back the best food from your trip, but having a taste of Japan to munch on when you get home will definitely help with the post-holiday blues.

Foods you can bring back include mochi, instant ramen, sweets, weird Kitkat flavours, dry noodles, and rice biscuits. Supermarkets are always one of my favourite places to visit when I’m in a new country!

Where to buy: any supermarket or 7-Eleven, or try the Don Quijote chain of discount stores for wide range of foods you can take home with you.

Eating cherry blossom ice cream
Vintage clothing

Tokyo has some great vintage shops. You’ll find a mix of American vintage streetwear but also beautiful old kimonos which make a lovely souvenir. I bought a pink silk jacket that is usually worn over a kimono and wore it around Kyoto with black jeans. Locals seemed to love a foreigner adopting part of their traditional dress!

Something else I’d love to get is a vintage bomber jacket or sukajan – American soldiers stationed in Japan after WWII brought these jackets over and personalised them with Japanese-style embroidery as a souvenir. This sparked a bit of a trend with local teenagers in the sixties so there are still a lot of these cool jackets around.

Where to shop for vintage in Tokyo: I like Chicago and Kinji in Harajuku, although people say Koenji is the best neighbourhood for vintage if you’re willing to go a bit further out.

Tokyo is also great for second-hand designer handbags. You’ll see a few shops dotted around Shinjuku, like Komehyo and Brandfirst. After almost 3 years I still wish I’d bought that Louis Vuitton backpack I spotted in one of the shops in that area – it was such a bargain!

I really can’t wait to go shopping in Tokyo again this October – I’ll definitely be making the most of my 30kg baggage allowance! I love how you can find so many cool items there that you just can’t get anywhere else, and the best thing is most of these souvenirs don’t have to be expensive.

Takeshita street in Harajuku

Oh, one last thing: don’t forget to make the most of tax-free shopping! If you spend 5,000 JPY (around £35 or 45 USD at the time of writing) in one day in the same store you can claim the 8% tax back or avoid paying it altogether. Look out for the “Japan. Tax Free Shop” stickers in shops and make sure you have your passport with you.

What are you most excited to bring back from Japan?

I’d love to hear what you end up bringing home!

Planning your trip to Japan? Check out my other blog posts:


Visiting a Hedgehog Cafe in Tokyo

By Posted on 2 min read 2192 views

hedgehog cafe


I’ve already shared my experience of staying at a capsule hotel in Tokyo. Another item I’ve ticked off my Japan bucket list is a hedgehog cafe. I first heard about the cafe when it opened in 2016 – right after my first trip to Japan!

Last month was my second time visiting Japan, and I managed to drag Chris over to Harry in Harajuku on our second day in Tokyo. No hedgehogs were harmed in the making of this post!

hedgehog cafe in Tokyo
What you need to know:
  • Harry is open from 12am to 8pm, with the last admissions at 7pm.
  • It costs 1,400 yen (around £9 or $12.60 USD) per person for 30 minutes, or 1,630 yen (£10.60 or $14.70 USD) including a hedgehog snack. This also includes a free drink from the vending machine – that means lovely Green Tea!
  • The hedgehogs are well taken care of. Staff at Harry’s will constantly keep an eye out and check how the hedgehogs are doing. Hedgehogs are given breaks, so they’re not constantly being handled.
  • The staff all speak great English and will teach you how to handle the hedgehogs.
  • Harry is located very near Harajuku station. There is another one near Roppongi station.

When Chris and I arrived, the first thing we saw was a tiny vending machine. We purchased one ticket including hedgehog snacks and one normal ticket. A member of staff asked us to clean our hands with disinfectant before showing us to our seats.

We had the pleasure of hanging out with 4 hedgehogs, all with different attitudes and energy levels. A member of staff showed us how to properly scoop up and hold the hedgehogs and then left us to enjoy our 30 minutes. Chris went for the gloves after one of the hedgehogs had a nibble on his finger during the demonstration.

The hedgehogs loved the snacks we got them so I would recommend paying the extra money for that. You’re basically given a tiny bucket filled with a few dried worms and some tweezers to handle them with. If you have the snacks, they’re guaranteed to be interested in you!

feeding hedgehogs

To be honest, I think our hedgehogs would have preferred to sleep rather than play with us and we quickly learned which ones out of our 4 were the most willing to be scooped up. A couple of times we scooped them up so gently that they didn’t even wake up, which was really sweet to see! The Japanese girls next to us thought our sleeping hedgehogs looked very kawaii!

tokyo hedgehog

Check out the video below to see how you’re meant to scoop up and feed the hedgehogs:

I really enjoyed the experience and would love to do it again! Hedgehogs are much better animals for this sort of thing than owls. Even Chris enjoyed the experience!

Have you ever been to an animal cafe? What do you think of this one?

hedgehog cafe Tokyo

Staying at a Capsule Hotel in Tokyo as a Couple

By Posted on 4 min read 4976 views
capsule hotel in tokyo

nine hours Capsule Hotel Review

I just got back from my second trip to Japan and there is so much that I’m excited to share with you! I’m starting with the very last thing we did in Tokyo.

Every traveller will have some sort of Japan bucket list, with things like a karaoke night, a sushi breakfast, eating live octopus or driving a go-kart around Tokyo. Sleeping in a capsule hotel was one of the many things on my list! Although this is definitely a budget-friendly option, it has become very popular for tourists as an experience in its own right.

When planning our trip to Japan I knew I wanted to experience a capsule (or pod) hotel for one night, so I researched all I could find on and found nine hours. It looked really cool and modern and its Shinjuku location seemed perfect for our last night in Tokyo.

nine hours shinjuku view
nine hours shinjuku desks
nine hours capsule bed

What you need to know if you’re staying at a capsule hotel

This is all specific to nine hours but a lot will apply to most other capsule hotels as well.

Gender separation

Many capsule hotels will be male only, but nine hours is a mixed-gender hotel. One thing that my boyfriend and I were aware of before going is that they have separate floors (and lifts) for men and women. For one night, at the end of our trip, it wasn’t a big deal though. There is a common area on the 8th floor behind reception where you can hang out together, but it’s not the most lively of spaces. If you’re travelling as a couple and really want to stay together, Kiba Hotel offers double capsules – it just isn’t quite as nice and modern as nine hours.

Checking in & out

Check in begins at 1pm and you have to check out at 10am every day. Even if you have planned to stay several days you will have to check out, check in, pay, and change pod every day. When checking in you receive a bag with a towel, toothbrush, toothpaste, pyjamas, and slippers.

nine hours lockers

You don’t get much space in your pod so you have to keep all of your things in a locker. I had a big suitcase and it (just about) fit in the locker I was provided at nine hours. I hadn’t prepared for the night so I had to open the suitcase to get what I needed – don’t do that! Definitely pack a small overnight bag or at least make it easy to find everything you’re going to need.

capsule hotel bed
The Capsule or Pod

I found the bed to be comfortable and there was enough space to sit up. There’s a light and a plug to charge your phone and that’s about it! You can’t lock it so don’t leave any valuables unattended. The only thing that really bothered us is the sound of snoring, people coming back late at night, and alarms ringing multiple times early in the morning. I recommend ear plugs! The pod areas are for sleep only and are otherwise silent, so if you’re travelling with friends or want to use your phone, I suggest that you hang out in the common area or a local bar until you are ready to sleep.

nine hours bathroom

Toilets are on the same floor as the capsules but the showers are on a different floor. I found the showers to be very clean, stocked with soap, shampoo and conditioner, and there were enough of them that nobody had to wait. There were plenty of sinks and mirrors for the girls to use, and hairdryers were available.

Food and drink

There are no food or drink facilities at nine hours so you’ll have to bring your own water. We made the mistake of assuming there would be some kind of vending machine there! Eating or drinking in the pods is not allowed. In the washing areas you tend to hear strange slurping sounds as people get a last drop of water from the tap before bed… I’d recommend keeping a bottle in your locker.

Shinjuku Omoide Yokochō

The Shinjuku-North location was great for us. The area around the hotel seems to be a kind of Korea town filled with K-pop shops and Korean barbecue restaurants. It’s a very short walk to Shin-Ōkubo station aand about a 15 minute walk to the famous Shinjuku neighbourhood with its bright lights, games arcades and buzzing nightlife. I recommend going to Omoide Yokochō alley for a yakitori dinner before having a drink in the Golden Gai area.

capsule hotel review

It was a fun experience and it’s really convenient for solo budget travellers. However if you’re looking for a more social experience with an on-site bar or an opportunity to make friends, then I think a hostel would be better. Capsule hotels are far more functional and really just provide a place to sleep – one of my Japanese friends regularly uses First Cabin after a late night at the office.

As a single traveller it’s cheaper than a budget hotel, but as a couple we didn’t save any money. The fact that you have to check-in and check-out each day also makes it less attractive to me. Capsules are really aimed at no-thrills one night stop overs and for this they’re great! The nine hours at Narita Airport is perfect if you have to catch a very early flight.

Would I stay at a capsule hotel again? No.

Would I recommend staying at one? Yes! – if only for the experience and photos.

Would you stay at a capsule hotel?


Unusual Things to See and Do in Crazy Tokyo

By Posted on 6 min read 3423 views
tokyo akihabara

Weird & Wonderful Tokyo

Tokyo is one of my favourite places in the world. I love big cities, getting to know a different culture, and finding the unexpected at every corner, so it’s the perfect place for me! While I fell in love with Kyoto’s temples and gardens, Tokyo was the Japan I’d been dying to see since I was little. Tokyo takes you out of your comfort zone without being scary, it takes cute (kawaii) to another level, and it is full of all of my favourite foods (and some stranger foods too!).

It’s fun, it’s big, and it’s lively. If you’re not used to big cities it might overwhelm you a bit, and if you’re used to visiting places like London, New York or Paris it will make you realise how small those cities really are! It’s a city-loving explorer’s dream, a paradise for those with a sweet tooth, and really has something for everyone – from parks and temples to robots and maid cafés.

These are just some of the more unusual things you can do in Tokyo!

owl cafe tokyo

Go to an Animal Café

Dogs, cats, rabbits, owls, hedgehogs… take your pick! Last year I went to the owl cafe in Akihabara and had a great time, although after going I felt guilty and wondered how often the birds get to fly. I’ve also been to a dog cafe in South Korea and that was really fun for a dog lover like me – I had dogs sleeping on my lap, walking on my table, and hiding behind my back.

Update: I went to a hedgehog cafe on my most recent trip to Japan and it was so much fun! Read all about it here.

robot restaurant

Visit the robot restaurant

The Robot Restaurant is a hilarious show in Shinjuku. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen – a sensory overload with loud music, smoke, giant robots and flashing lights. I don’t think it could exist anywhere else in the world! At 8,000 yen it’s definitely not cheap but it’s something you’ll never forget. Book online for a discount.

Please, just don’t eat there! Although it’s called a restaurant the food is terrible – don’t waste one of your meals in Japan there. Instread try some yakitori from Omoide Yokocho (‘piss alley’!) before or after the show.


Grab lunch from a sushi train

Go to Uobei in Shibuya for the coolest sushi experience ever. Sit down, order from a tablet and wait a few minutes for your order to come zooming down on the sushi train and stop right in front of you. I’m telling you now, it’s not the best sushi but it’s worth visiting for the fun experience and it’s very quick and cheap.

capsule hotel in tokyo

Sleep at a caspule hotel

Not for the claustrophobic, capsule hotels are a very Japanese way of providing budget accommodation! Some actually seem quite nice, clean, and modern, with your own personal TV, plug socket, hangers and a safe. You’re often provided with pyjamas, towels, shampoo, toothbrush and toothpaste – better than any hostels I’ve been to! Male and female dorms are often very separate which is great for solo ladies but can be annoying if travelling as a couple. There’s always a lounge for you to hang out in and meet fellow travelers. If you’re intrigued, read my full review of staying at a capsule hotel as a couple.

Book and Bed is another really interesting hostel concept that is perfect for book lovers!

Tokyo totti candy factory

Enjoy some multicoloured candy floss…

These are HUGE and every colour is a different flavour. You can even select exactly which colours you want and watch as the sugar gets spinned before your eyes. There’s even the option to get the pink colour in the middle shaped like a heart! So kawaii. Head to Totti Candy Factory in Harajuku to give them a try.

or a crème brulée crepe!

I’m definitely going to have to try this at Comcrepe when I go back to Harajuku.

purikura harajuku tokyo

Get transformed by Purikura

This is the thing to do if you’re a Japanese teenager in Harajuku. Even if you’re an adult and a tourist, I’d definitely recommend giving purikura a try! It was the highlight of my day exploring Harajuku and Omotesando with my Japanese friend Haruka. We went to Eggnam at the top of Takeshita Street, rented out some cute costumes, and walked into a photobooth where we copied the hilarious poses that came up on the screen. It’s all over very quickly and when the photos are done you go to the computer outside the booth and edit the photos, adding cute messages and even extra makeup to them. I found it so funny how airbrushed it made my skin and how huge it made my eyes!

arcade games tokyo

Play arcade games

I already mentioned this in my little guide to Akihabara, but Taito game station is such a fascinating place! It’s full of grown men and women playing all sorts of arcade games, often with impressive skills. There are several locations all over Tokyo so definitely go there even if you don’t fancy playing any games.

Another amazing place for gamers is the huge Joypolis in Odaiba. It’s an arcade with all sorts of games and it even features a rollercoaster!

Visit a maid cafe

I’m a little bit reluctant about mentioning this one after watching a Stacey Dooley documentary about very young girls being sexualised in Japan. I’m sure there are some harmless maid cafes though – @Home in Akihabara is recommended by Lonely Planet and looks really cute. I think it’s a fun thing to see once in your life, despite the overpriced menu! I’m definitely having the matcha latte with a cute face on it…


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Eat in a themed cafe

There is no shortage of themed cafes in Tokyo. From Moomins to vampires, there’s a cafe for everyone! Some of the cutest ones are Pompompurin, Peter Rabbit, and Peanuts. Hello Kitty fans should go to Café de Miki. For an overload of colours and a decor like you’ve never seen before, head to Kawaii Monster Cafe and try the rainbow pasta.

hitokara tokyo solo karaoke
Image from GajinPot

Give solo karaoke (hitokara) a try

This might sound a bit sad, but individual karaoke booths are pretty popular in Tokyo. These are ideal for solo travelers and I’d imagine going to one would be a pretty fun experience! Head to one of 1kara’s (wankara) 10 “ships” to find out.


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Go on a Mario Kart tour of the city!

I just know my boyfriend is going to love this one, and even though I HATE go-karting I am still super tempted to try this tour with Maricar. Basically you get dressed in hilarious Super Mario costumes and drive around the city for two to three hours, passing by Tokyo Tower and driving through the famous Shibuya Crossing. It has 5/5 stars on TripAdvisor so it must be good!


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Step into Virtual Reality

Head to VR Zone in Shinjuku to experience a selection of games using virtual reality. You’ll be immersed in a different world!
This is something we just HAD to do while we were in Tokyo. You just don’t get to do this stuff in London yet! We went for a zombie hospital game which was pretty terrifying (I wish we had gone for something else!).

tokyo akihabara

Planning your trip? Have a look at my other posts for more tips:

What’s at the top of your Tokyo bucket list?

Let me know if you can think of something I should add to the list!

Osaka: One Day Itinerary

By Posted on 3 min read 3285 views


Osaka may not be quite as pretty as Kyoto or quite as exciting as Tokyo, but it’s still very much worth visiting! Not only does it have one of the most famous castles in Japan, it’s also known as the nation’s kitchen. Expect a lot of delicious food. What’s great about Osaka is that you can see most of its highlights in one day with a good itinerary – perfect if you’ve only got a limited amount of time to spend in Japan.

Try some French pastry, Japanese style
painduce osaka bakery

Start your day with breakfast at one of the many Japanese bakeries in Osaka. I loved trying new things every day while I was in Japan, like green matcha croissants and cherry blossom brioches. In Osaka I can recommend Painduce bakery, but there are plenty of other bakeries you could try around town, often near train stations.

Have a matcha ice cream by Osaka Castle
osaka castle matcha
Osaka Castle itinerary

It’s never too early for matcha ice cream! It’s just like having tea and milk if you think about it, right? If you happen to be visiting during the cherry blossom season, sit yourself down under a pink tree and admire the castle from afar. If you have the time, brave the queue to get into the castle (it was too long when I was there) and learn more about the history of the place.

Osaka travel guide - castle
Take in the view from Umeda Sky Building
Umeda sky building, Osaka

This building looks like it belongs in a sci-fi film, and although its design is probably not everyone’s cup of tea, it has the best view in town. Head to the Floating Garden Observatory (the platform connecting the two towers) for 360 degree views of Osaka. I’ve heard that it’s amazing for watching the sunset too! Also check out the basement for some of the best food in the city, and a “street” that is designed to look like a 1920s Japanese village. Try Okonomiyaki Kiji, which many people say is the best place for okonomiyaki (a local specialty) in Osaka.

Shop like a teenager in Amerika-mura
amerikamura osaka

Photo credit: Laura Tomàs Avellana

Amerika-mura (AKA the American village) is Osaka’s answer to Tokyo’s Harajuku. This is the place to spot Osaka’s latest street fashion, shop in cool little boutiques and thrift shops and get your dose of hipster artisan coffee. While you’re there you could eat an ‘ice dog’ and try to spot the small-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty.

Eat like a local in Namba
Osaka Guide: Dotombori

Head to Dotombori street in the Namba neighbourhood for a huge selection of street food and restaurants with the boldest signage you will ever see. Look out for the giant octopus, blowfish and crab.

Osaka dotombori namba street

With Osaka being Japan’s capital of food, you’ll want to try a few of the local specialties. Takoyaki and okonomiyaki are the top two must-try foods. Head over to Creo-ru if you want to try some of the best that the city has to offer and avoid the queues.

Okonomiyaki Osaka Guide
Takoyaki Osaka Food Guide

After dinner, take in the neon lights from Ebisu-bashi bridge and spot the famous Glico man sign.

Wander through Shinsaibashi Suji, a long, lively shopping arcade full of all sorts of interesting little shops. If you would rather see the older side of Osaka, head to Hozenji Yokocho Alleyway, behind Hozenji Temple.

glico sign osaka

Osaka is a fantastic city to visit for a day or two, and it’s also an easy train ride away from Kyoto and Nara so it’s the perfect base. It’s a must for any foodies out there!

Other fun activities in Osaka include: Osaka Aquarium, Universal Studios Japan, Spa World, Shitennoji Temple, and Tempozan Ferris Wheel. For shopping, go to Rinku Town!

Where to stay: on my second trip to Osaka I stayed at Candeo Hotels Osaka Namba. The location is super convenient for walking around the centre of town and it also has an onsen spa on the roof which is a plus!

Planning your trip to Japan? Check out my other blog posts:

Here's a quick guide to spending 24 hours in Osaka. From finding delicious local food to seeing the best city views, this guide has got you covered!