Follow us, a Japanese couple from Hawaii, as we document our move to Tokyo! Hopefully, through this experience, we’ll learn about our family’s history and what being Japanese is really all about.
For once, I don’t have a TL;DR for this post. The title says it all! We’ve moved to Tokyo!
Wait, what! We’ve finally moved to Tokyo!
Since a lot of people have been asking questions, we created a post to help answer them.
Why are you moving to Tokyo?
We’re not going for family nor work nor <insert your favorite, logical reason here> – I guess one could say we’re moving for adventure. It’s been a dream of ours since we first met more than 8 years ago, and it’s been in the works since we lived in NYC / SF over 3 years ago. Hopefully, through this experience, we’ll both learn a bit about our family’s history and what being Japanese is really about.
What kind of Visa did you get?
I received a boring Spousal Visa. Lucky Me!
On the other hand, Sara received a Long Term Resident Visa via ancestry by proving she’s sansei (thanks grandma!). It was a long process that took a little over 6 months, and we had help from an immigration attorney to help submit our application. Sara’s planning to blog about what she needed to provide and do because there isn’t a ton of information online aside from a post or two in the Japan / Japan Life subreddits.
How long are you staying?
Sara says FOREVER!
(Just kidding, we’ll come back to visit.)
Seriously though, we don’t currently have any plans to return home, but life does come at you fast, so who knows?
What are you going to be doing?
Well, for one, we’re working.
Sara will be working remotely for Colliers International because it’s her first true love job – she’s been with them since she was a rebellious teenager – except for that one time she cheated on them with CBRE in New York. Hehe. For the past few years, I’ve been really interested in helping preserve the past – so to continue on with that journey, I’ll be working on a small storytelling app.
We’re also going to be exploring the city/country and learning a bit of Japanese in the process. My goal is to be able to give people tours of the city for the 2020 Olympics!
Where are you going to live?
For the next few weeks, we’re staying in an AirBnb in West Tokyo. Since neither of us have to go into Central Tokyo for work, we’re planning on finding a place near Tachikawa station to get a bit more space so people can stay with us. Tachikawa is ~30 minute ride to Shinjuku.
Can I stay with you?
Props out to you if you actually read this far, but then you’ll also know that we got a larger place so that people can stay with us. Just hit us up to see if the room is available.
That’s it for now! 🙂
If there’s anything else you’re curious about, let us know in the comments!
Apple picking is amazing. Maybe it’s because it was my first time, but I’d for sure do this again! If you have fall travel plans, make sure you schedule in some time to visit a farm 🙂
TL;DRApple picking is amazing. Maybe it’s because it was my first time, but I’d for sure do this again! If you have fall travel plans, make sure you schedule in some time to visit a farm 🙂
More Philly! Well, sort of.
I thought about doing an all-in-one post about some of the things we did on our Philly trip, but decided it’d be way too long. So breaking it up and focusing on some of the big things we checked out. This post actually takes us out of Philly to Media, PA. Since I have zero sense of direction, here’s a google map for you.
It’s about 30 minutes out, but definitely worth the drive! There’s more than just apple picking out here, and I’m sure if we didn’t have other adventures to conquer that day, we would’ve ended up staying there for most of the day.
This was our main goal, and something I had never experienced despite living in NYC where there were apple farms upstate. A few things to note about picking your own apples:
The season starts in September and ends in November.
You pay per person (and the number of people corresponds to the amount you can pick)
Means no paying per pound (which takes out some guesswork) but also means you can’t just go in and pick say, one each.
Since there were four of us, we paired up and paid for 2x 2 pickers. This is where the fun begins. When you walk in, you’re greeted by a worker that shows you a map of the orchard. #ProTip: Take a photo of the orchard map because you will 100% forget where everything is. From there, you pick apples!
It seems pretty chill, but we had fun walking around and trying to find the largest / different types (some I’d never even heard of). Walking around the orchards we could also see some of the other fruits and veggies (not ready for picking, though). As a note – they offer hay rides, but even though it was mid-October, the sun was blazing and we opted out. Instead, we checked out apple slinging.
Apple Sling Shot
There are no words to describe how fun this is.
The simple pleasures of life. It should be noted that I didn’t do so well and Karen and Alani were the only ones that hit targets, but it was still pretty fun. We asked them if they pick up all the apples later, but nope. They just leave them. Once an apple hits the ground they’re not legally allowed to sell it for consumption, and there are a ton of apples that just fall from trees. This is how they make up for it, even if it’s just $5 for a bucket.
Other things to do
Here’s a full list of the things you can do while you’re at the orchards. Depending on the time of year, there are different festivals (They have strawberry and blueberry festivals!?) as well as animals, pony rides (we were too big for this LOL) and mazes. There’s also a market where you can buy not only their products and produce, but items from the surrounding area.
TL;DRPhilly’s food scene is legit. Check out the BYO places (BYO brunch, what?!) and epic happy hours (see Double Knot below) and make a reso at one of the fancier…
TL;DRPhilly’s food scene is legit. Check out the BYO places (BYO brunch, what?!) and epic happy hours (see Double Knot below) and make a reso at one of the fancier neighborhood places. Loosen your belt loop a notch and enjoy!
Before we dive in
A little background – it’s been FIFTEEN YEARS since we graduated high school! Man those years have flown. What started as a Facebook post about a new food hall in Brooklyn escalated pretty quickly into a trip to the East Coast.
Scattered across the country since graduation, the four of us have not been in the same place together since… senior year when Alani came to visit us (she left us a year early). We’ve all come a long way since those days sitting under the library during lunch. College. Marriage. More College. Kids. It’s wild to think how long I’ve known these girls. 🙂
Aside from Kristy, who lives in Philly and let us all crash at her place (thanks!!), we flew in. Alani from San Francisco, Karen from Minneapolis, and me from Hawaii. I expected epic jetlag the first few days, but my new strategy worked and we were all up and eating shake shack at 11pm because #vacay.
We crammed a LOT into those two days. Thanks once again to Kristy for being our tour guide and planning everything! She made sure we were able to see a ton for such a short trip.
Reading Terminal Market
Thanksgiving in sandwich form + Reuben
This apple dumpling is what they’re known for – Basically apple pie but better
While it’s a bit of a tourist trap, I’m still a sucker for a good food hall. We started off at Dutch Eating Place and Beiler’s Doughnuts in Reading Terminal Market. The turkey sandwich was delish, but the apple dumplings are what I’d go back for. Skip all the cake doughnuts at Beiler’s and go straight for the Fritters (blueberry or apple). The line can be long, but it moves fast and those fritters are legit. They were super fresh and reminded me of a combo between a malasada and a doughnut. This is also a cool spot to swing by for omiyage since there’s so many little Philly-only shops.
Chinatown and City Center Quick Eats
11pm Shake Shack 😀
Philly has a LOT to offer in terms of shopping and eating. In the City Center, you’ll find Shake Shack, Uniqlo as well as all the standard retailers (H&M, Sephora, etc). Chinatown Square is a new-ish food hall that opened up with HALAL GUYS (!) and the original rolled ice cream place from NYC (I-CE-NY). We walked through, but since we just ate didn’t pick anything up (plus, we would be in NYC in a few days). We did manage to fit in a trip to Shake Shack, even though it was at 11pm.
Aside from the quick service places, there’s a huge foodie scene and tons of restaurants that are BYO (bring your own alcohol and no corkage = amazing). On our first night, we had happy hour at Double Knot, where the happy hour menu plates and drinks were $4! The food was amazing and the four of us left super full and a bit tipsy with a tab under $50.
What’s Philly without a cheesesteak!? We went to Jim’s but were a bit disappointed. The line was long, and while that gave us time to google the right words to order, it also maybe added to the hype. We’ll have to try one of the other places next time. The meat was more like ground beef and a bit flavorless. Maybe we should’ve had it whiz wit afterall.
We had dinner at Noord on the second night – Scandinavian fare. I had rabbit for the first time (and it was delish, sorry bunnies) and wow the bread here. I probably could’ve survived on just the bread, but the rest of the food was amazing as well. I’m usually not a huge raw fish person unless it’s poke, but the salmon was tasty! It was another BYO place and we brought 2 bottles of wine and took our time enjoying the food and the company. 🙂 The restaurant is small, but they do take reservations.
Who knew that BYO BRUNCH places exist? Philly, definitely doing it right! Brought some champagne and made mimosas, because #vacay. We got the toad in a hole, corned beef and eggs and the honey cristo. The honey cristo was my fave because the sweet and savory was perfect – and it was topped with a sunny egg. Perfection. Toad in a hole was also delish, but a little too much cheese for me to handle *pops lactaid*.
After brunch, we went to the La Colombe in Fishtown. It was huuuuuge and this neighborhood 100% reminded me of Williamsburg. The guy at the register was even wearing plaid and had a handlebar mustache. Haha. If you haven’t been to a La Colombe (in Philly or in NYC) you should definitely check it out. Their draft lattes and cold brew (you can get a black and tan which is half cold brew and half draft latte) are delish.
Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about donuts – but did you know that I actually do NOT like cake donuts? I mean, does anyone even like them? Hahaha. Moving on. Kristy said that we have to try this place, as she also doesn’t like cake donuts, but loves these! So we gave them a shot. We got a fancy (smores) as well as their standard hot and fresh (Cinnamon) – and okay, fine. I’m mayyyyybe sold – but only on the hot and fresh. 😉 The fancy was okay, but too sweet and too many things going on for me.
A half-open garden / half-inside restaurant, we came here for dinner on our last night in the City. This one, although not BYO, is a place I would definitely come back to. We sat and had a drink at the garden bar before we moved inside for dinner. We ordered the Ricotta Gnudi, Berkshire Pork Belly, Collard Greens, and Overnight Bone-In Short Rib. The pork belly was melt-in-your-mouth amazing. Seriously. Their menu changes often, so definitely check in with the servers on what’s popular for the type of food you’re craving.
Heh. Alani also sneakily told the server that it was my birthday. 🙂 It was our last dinner together, so it was kind of a perfect send-off.
Eating from toilets can be …fun? We checked out Modern Toilet in Taipei.
TL;DRModern Toilet is a theme restaurant that revolves around toilets, bathrooms, and everything poop. The food is decent (nothing to write home about), but the decor is #worthit. There are some novelties that are best experienced first hand!
I’m sure you’re extremely concerned for my health right now and trying to think if you’ve shared food/drinks with me since we’ve been back from our trip. Right? Lol.
So we’re sitting on the train and Ryan tells me that he really wants to check out this “poop restaurant”. Of course, I’m in. We decided we’d check it out as soon as we got into Taipei, but our plans were foiled by an 11am open time (note to self: check opening times!).
Since we were early, we meandered to the nearby Lungshan temple and when we were done decided to hop on the train for the quick one stop ride to Ximen station. From there it’s just five minutes, using Exit 6, walk 2 blocks North on Hanzhong Street then West until you see:
Look at that building! So epic. We knew that there were only good things to come. Walking in, we realized the restaurant is pretty big, with multiple floors and seating for small and larger parties.
Yep, even the bathrooms are extra special. You sit on toilet seat chairs, over a poop bowl table and walk into the building to a chorus of interesting noises. We are obviously not normal since after this we were still starving and ready to order.
The food comes in various forms of poop and other bathroom paraphernalia. We ordered the ham & cheese stuffed chicken meal, fries, poop bread and ice cream. They have a ton of different things to choose from – everything from hot pot and curries to spaghetti and au gratin.
Totally forgot to take photos of the menu, but found thesepics on the internets.
Overall, the food was good, but the experience was better. They had menus in English, but attracted a crowd of both locals and tourists alike. I would suggest coming early, since by the time we were leaving (closer to noon) it was starting to get crowded.
A quick peak into what we did while we were in Hong Kong. Day 2 of our trip was much more relaxed since we had to be at the cruise terminal by 2p.
Our second day in Hong Kong was much less crazy than our first. Partly because we needed to be at the pier to board the cruise ship by around 2pm.
After the adventures of the previous day, we were pretty beat up and slept in a bit. One of Ry’s college classmates (and old coworker in NYC) is now living in Hong Kong, so we met up for breakfast.
He took us to a classic Hong Kong family style spot, Kai Kee Restaurant just a few blocks from where we were staying (mentioned it in the Eating in Hong Kong post). I kind of wanted to try the instant ramen dishes, mostly because noodles are my favorite thing, but we opted for sweets instead. Toast with sweetened condensed milk, egg tarts, a melon bun and coffee. Note: saying you just want coffee will give you coffee with milk already mixed in. Kai Kee Restaurant, Hong Kong
Everything was amazing, and while there’s a small part of me that wants to DIY that sweetened condensed milk toast business at home, I also feel like it’d be such a waste since I wouldn’t use up the whole can – and then what do you do with it? Hahaha.
From there we walked around and talked story until we ended up at a small grocery store near our place. We wanted to pick up some cruise ship necessities to carry on (a case of diet soda, 2 bottles of wine and random snacks – details in our cruise packing post).
We went back to our AirBnb and filled one of our empty bags with all our new goods then relaxed a bit before heading back out in search of (you guessed it) more food.
We had read online about a cute coffee shop down the street from us – that was supposedly tucked away in the back of a clothing store. When we got there, however, it was actually just a clothing store. Whoops! On our way to the next coffee shop, we walked by the Ya Kun Family Cafe and decided to check it out.
They specialized in Kaya toast, a snack from Singapore/Malaysia. It’s essentially a toasted sandwich that’s made with kaya (spread made from coconut milk, eggs, sugar and pandan) and butter. They sell a set with soft boiled eggs, so naturally we got that then proceeded to google how the heck you’re supposed to actually eat it. That’s where it got interesting.
Lots of seating
Apparently you mix up the eggs, add in some dark soy sauce and white pepper, then dip your sandwich into it. In all honesty, it sounded kind of disgusting. Sweet + butter + eggs + shoyu?! Can’t knock it till you try it though, so we gave it a go and it was actually pretty good. The sweet + salty + savory combo worked well! This place is actually a franchise and there are a ton of locations across Asia. Ya Kun Family Cafe / Website
After that long detour, we went to check out N1 Coffee, which based on the Internets is a popular and very instagram-ey coffee shop. The shop was cute, but a little crowded, so we swung in to take a few pics but didn’t order anything. N1 Coffee & Co.
Loved the decor so hipster. Haha
Fancy pour overs
When we were leaving, the signage for Owl’s Choux next door caught our eye. Mentions of Michelin street food guides and cross sections of the little custard puffs drew us in. Lunch? Who needs lunch?
These were DELISH. Crunchy and soft at the same time, with a light and fluffy filling. I kind of wish we tried the ice cream sandwich versions – but we decided to just try the two small choux and keep moving. After all, we only had a few more hours left! Owl’s Choux Gelato & Coffee
One of the last places that we had bookmarked to check out was Wah Kee Snack Food Shop. It was a little spot on a busy corner filled with all the street food you could ever want. We opted for some cheese sausage in spicy sauce, and ate it while we walked back to our AirBnb to pack up and head to the Cruise terminal. Wah Kee Snack Food Shop
Protip: if you don’t have pocket WiFi and you’ve been using your AirBnb or Hotel’s internet for everything, remember to order your Uber BEFORE you leave. We forgot this gem, and while T-Mobile does provide some service in Hong Kong, the signal wasn’t strong enough to get us an Uber.
Luckily we were just down the Street (we had gone down with our bags to get to a less busy corner so a car could pull over), so I trekked it back up and then sprinted back down when the car was on its way.
We got to the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal a bit early and had some time to kill before we needed to board, so we walked around the roof deck / garden. Having just opened in 2013, it still seems shiny and new. There were a handful of restaurants, but most weren’t open, so we decided to just board early.
Ryan likes fish
From the rooftop, the boat looked huge
The terminal was so fancy
Here we go!
…and away we go!
We checked in, got our “Seapass” cards (your form of identification / how you pay for everything on board the ship) and toasted to a fun couple of days in Hong Kong. Next up on the blog: Day 1 at sea!
A quick peak into what we did while we were in Hong Kong. Day 1 of our trip – eating, walking and exploring Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon and Central!
A picture is worth a thousand words
Since we already wrote about a lot of the bigger places that we stopped at while we were in Hong Kong, I figure it’d be a fun post to just write up what our full days looked like! It’s a pretty long post, so grab some coffee (or just scroll through to look for the ?).
We started the morning off at (don’t hate) Starbucks in iSquare, because coffee! Plus Ry’s mom collects the cups from all the cities they go to, so she wanted to pick one up. From there, we walked down the street to check out the Chungking Mansions.
Chungking Mansions Main Entrance
Interior of the ground floor
via PermanentWalkabout.com – Interior of ground floor
via PermanentWalkabout.com – Queue for the elevator to the guesthouses
Food for sale on the ground floor
Rows of shop space
It honestly felt like stepping into a completely different world once we walked through the doorway. Some reeeeeally aggressive people trying to sell you everything from cell phones to tailored suits. Probably worth the walk through, but better when all the shops are open later in the day. note: I didn’t take great photos of the interior, so I included a few from Bennett Cain of permanentwalkabout.com check out his site for more details / photos. Chungking Mansions, Hong Kong
From there, we walked toward the Avenue of Stars – but found out it was closed due to nearby construction. We headed to the “Garden of Stars” instead.
Walking to the Garden of Stars
Just about 10 minutes away from the Tsim Sha Tsui (“TST”) MTR station, the Garden of Stars is a small park with a bunch of statues along the water. We went early (around 830a) so it was empty, but as we were leaving the tour groups started coming in. Garden of Stars, TST East Waterway
We decided to walk along the water toward the clock tower on the other side of TST and check out the skyline on the other side of Victoria Harbor. It was a a pretty view, despite the cloudy skies. Former Kowloon-Canton Railway Clock Tower
We didn’t have anything for breakfast, so now we were getting hungry. In search of food, we walked back toward TST and stopped in the basement level of Silvercord, a small shopping mall that had not only a bunch of food stalls, but an arcade in the basement, where you know we had to spend a few minutes checking out the games. Silvercord – Shopping Mall
We didn’t see any food that we were interested in, so we continued on our way toward Kowloon Park, until we walked by this place:
It smelled amazing so of course we stopped in and tried the samples. We saw this pretty much in every city we stopped in for the rest of the trip, but since this was our first time having it (and it’s delish!) I’m including it here. They have different kinds of meat and we tried a bunch before deciding to go with the pork.
From there we walked around Kowloon Park, checking out the waterfalls, flamingos, and the hilarious Avenue of Comic Stars. The latter felt a bit out of place in such a serene location, but it’s also in the middle of a bustling city, which you’re reminded of as soon as you walk back out into the street. Kowloon Park
Right around the corner from the flamingoes and the aviary
Lots of seating areas to relax and enjoy the scenery
From greenery and aviaries to pandas and anime
It’s official, I’m starving. After the park we did a quick search for some dim sum and came across Crystal Jade. Highly reviewed and just five minutes from where we were in the park, it was a done deal. The only problem was that it was also inside a mall full of distractions in the form of Uniqlo, Laneige, Eyeko and every other skincare and makeup brand I have love/hate relationships with. Hahaha. Harbor City Shopping Mall
The entrance to one of my all time favorite shops
We made it, though. Crystal Jade had a computer instead of a host, and when you punched in the number of people in your party, it printed out a receipt with a number. We waited for just a few minutes before we were seated. **drools**
After lunch we actually went back to Chungking Mansions to see if it was a bit more lively during the day (it is!) and also to meet up with Ry’s sister and her husband who were staying with us at our AirBnb. They decided to head back to the room with our parents, and Ryan and I decided to make our way to Hong Kong Island.
We caught the MTR from Tsim Sha Tsui to Central on Hong Kong Island with the intention of finding Oddies Foodies. It was a bit of a trek, around 15 minutes through various side streets, but we found it in all it’s ice cream and eggette glory. I may or may not have also stopped in Fresco Cafe, a random Hong Kong style bakery we walked by, for a custard bun. I have a serious weakness for them.
Fresco Cafe – Custard Bun
Oddies Foodies – Night Wolf
Next stop – work off all the calories from the ice cream! The way up was a breeze since we got to ride every single escalator (the escalators switch directions from down to up during morning and evening rush hours – we made it in time for the afternoon switch to ride all of them up).
From one of the upper platforms – looking back toward the rest of the escalators
Lots of people on the escalators
It was a pretty surreal experience, you continue to go up and along the way there are shops, restaurants, and winding roads. When we finally got to the top we decided to hyperlapse the entire way down. 10 minutes on Hyperlapse == WAY TOO MANY STAIRS. I was dying. Haha.
The escalators end at Tower One of the International Finance Center (“IFC”) so we walked in to cool off and since we were there, decided to check out the observation deck on the 55th floor of Tower Two. It’s a little tricky to find coming in from the escalators (you’re at the other end of the mall and when you get to Two IFC, all you’ll see is the front desk. You can ask them for directions (they spoke English) and they’ll point you around the corner down an escalator to a different check in desk – you’ll need to present ID to get to the info centre.Hong Kong Monetary Authority Information Centre – 55th floor of Two IFC tower
Mosaic of Hong Kong Skyline
Mosaic of Hong Kong Skyline – Close up
Mosaic of Hong Kong Skyline – Close up
Not much visibility today
If you look down, though…
For the history buffs
As if we didn’t have enough to eat yet, we read that there was a Tim Ho Wan in the IFC Mall, so we picked up some dim sum (it’s a little tough to find, so check out my earlier post for directions) and made our way to our next stop. IFC Mall
We caught the MTR from Hong Kong Station to Lok Fu Station (~30 minutes) and made our way to the Kowloon Walled City Park, about 15 minutes from the station. We ate our dim sum and walked around the park before deciding to head back toward our AirBnb. While we were at the Lok Fu Station, we noticed a poster for “Namco Playground” and if you know Ryan, then you’ll know that that’s where we were headed next. Kowloon Walled City Park
Made a new friend while we were walking around
We caught the MTR to Mong Kok station, which was just a couple stops and on the way home. If you take Exit E1 and walk away from Nathan Road, you’ll be right in front of the Langham Place Shopping Mall, where Namco Playground is. This was a pretty huge mall, with hundreds of stores, restaurants and entertainment.
The escalator of doom!
Not for the faint at heart – the view from the top
Don’t look down!
We took the huge escalator up to the top and made our way down all the floors, stopping in the Line Store and Namco Playground (turns out it was pretty tiny and we didn’t stay long) as well as a few other shops. Like most of the malls in Hong Kong, this places takes advantage of their vertical space and had “express” escalators that skipped floors and went up a LONG way. If you’re afraid of heights, don’t turn around when you’re on these – I definitely felt my stomach drop into my feet as we made our way to the top. Langham Place Shopping Mall
Finally back in our AirBnb, and my phone was telling me we clocked 18 miles today. We were going to call it a night, but in typical vacay mode we got hungry. So back out we went! We probably should’ve looked up a place and gone directly there, but instead we decided to walk around until we found a place that looked good.
We stopped by the Charlie Brown Cafe, but it seemed more geared toward coffee and cakes. Finally stopped at a small Japanese-style cafe on the fifth floor of a building filled with restaurants. Their omu rice hit the spot and was the perfect end to a super long day.
Walking around near our AirBnb
I spy the Charlie Brown Cafe
Charlie Brown Cafe
Cute little cakes
Omu rice from Ufufu Cafe
We got home around 930p – and immediately passed out. Hahaha. Since day 2 is less aggressive, I’ll include some pics of our AirBnb and details about that.