Japan Travels (2024)


While planning my exchange to Switzerland I found that there would be a month break between the Waterloo Fall 2023 term and the start of my exchange. With the massive pull I felt from anime and related content throughout most of my life, Japan has always been one of my top travel destinations.

It was probably my Dad’s encouragement that got the planning for this trip into motion. This was mostly convincing me that it would be ok to spend such a major chunk of my savings because such money comes and goes but the time to do these things will only become more scarce.

Although the idea for doing such a trip was created, I had almost none of the fine details until basically two months before. This was probably due to a combination of the length of the trip and the dates for certain events being announced only a couple of months in advance.


The Arrival (Jan 10 - 11)

This trip started at 2 am as I took a bus to YYZ to catch a 22 hour long flight itinerary.

I got almost no sleep before this so I spent almost the entire time attempting to sleep but kept getting interrupted by cabin service handing out drinks or meals.

Finally arriving in Tokyo at 5 pm I almost immediately withdrew some cash to book a Shinkansen ticket to Hiroshima to get to my first hotel.

Leaving the airport I felt fine even though I was jetlagged 12 hours ahead, however, it was while traveling on the train did I became extremely drowsy.


I understand that the Shinkansen is a marvel of infrastructure traveling at 300 km/h and being the spine that connects Japan. The overall trip was also quite smooth and buying a ticket was also much easier than I had expected.

It was a little less comfortable than I expected with the change in air pressure when entering and exiting tunnels making me somewhat nauseous but still much better than riding a car or bus with their constant stopping and shaking.

The biggest problem I have is the price was the price, it costs a little over 20,000 Yen to get from Tokyo to Hiroshima and around 25,000 Yen to get form Hiroshima to Osaka to Kyoto to Tokyo. After the price increase of JR Pass for 7 days to 50,000 Yen it was still cheaper to buy these tickets individually.

Hiroshima (Jan 11 - 14)

Hiroshima was probably the most relaxing city I visited in Japan, the city itself was not overly busy and my hotel’s location was incredibly around a 10 minute walk to the Atomic Dome.

For the days I spent here I didn’t need to take the train at all to reach places where I wanted to visit.

One downside was that the food was merely ok here, but that might have been me visiting the wrong places.

Hotel Kuretakeso Hiroshima Otemachi ($55 per night)

Averaging about $55 CAD per night this hotel was quite compact, though it did include everything I needed and was quite comfortable and clean.

Within the hotel, there was a small onsen, and being the first time I ever used one it was quite awkward but luckily it was empty when I entered. I did find that the temperature was almost uncomfortably hot (being significantly hotter than the onsens I would try later) but the feeling afterward of the heat having seeped into my body was brilliant.

Atomic Bomb Dome and Peace Park

Hiroshima is known for being the target of the first nuclear weapon to be used in warfare. Here are some facts I stole from Wikipedia:

While I’m not a big fan of history museums in general, I felt that with how much WWII and the resulting Cold War have shaped modern geopolitics it was an interesting place to visit. While there were incredibly dangerous chemical weapons before, there is something about the extreme range, speed, and power of modern nuclear arms that just makes such a weapon almost too dangerous to use.

When talking to my brother that I would be visiting Hiroshima he was surprised that the site was not quarantined like Chernobyl. From what I have seen online the most dangerous radiative products from an atomic bomb are generally more short-lived and the fallout is more spread out due to the hot air rising and pulling them away.

Time has moved on and modern bombs are multiple orders of magnitude more powerful, along with the introduction of MIRVs and the nuclear triad makes me shocked at the enormous powers that the world’s superpowers have stocked away. Visiting here has made me reflect on the ability of humans to build such destructive devices but also to rebuild and move on.

Osaka (Jan 14 - 18)

Just from the train station Osaka was significantly busier than Hiroshima. On the day I arrived, I wanted to see the Glico Running Man sign and ended up walking like 45 minutes down a shopping street. It was pretty fun to be walking down a bustling street of people hanging out, shopping, and eating but most of the stores here were for beauty products or cheap tat. The BOOKOFF was pretty cool though.

The food was much better here and my system of walking around until I found an open restaurant (with decent Google reviews) worked much better than in Hiroshima. However, not all was great as I was quite let down by the conveyor belt sushi experience as the quality of the sushi was not great and I had to manually order anyway because the main conveyor belt was almost barren.

Tokyu Stay Osaka Honmachi ($80 per night)

This hotel was significantly bigger than the one in Hiroshima one still a little small.

I don’t have much to say about this hotel because I was out and about for almost the entire time.

TeamLab Botanical Garden

I’m not sure where my quite high expectations for this exhibit came from but I felt pretty let down when seeing the exhibit. Being set at night many of the exhibits used lighting or projectors but none of them stood out.

But don’t get me wrong, I would say it is worth visiting as it was still quite fun. I think it was just my overinflated expectations of wanting this place to be amazing but it only delivered a good experience.

Haruhi Suzumiya (Hyogo)

Big thanks to this guide

Haruhi Suzumiya does stand out to me as a novel concept and interesting show but with somewhat flawed execution (endless eight and confusing non-chronological airing). Regardless, it was quite a treat to visit a place that I had previously categorized as only existing in fiction as it was only pretty recently that I found out that many locations in some anime are almost one-to-one copies of places in Japan.

The first location I had to go to was Cafe Dream which had moved location a while ago and no longer has the same layout. It has been an incredibly long time since I saw the show so I kind of just thought of it as a Haruhi themed cafe.

I did manage to visit Nishinomiya Kita High School. From the news, it appears that due to depopulation it is to be merged with another school starting in 2025.

While it was pretty cool to visit the school, its location on top of quite a large hill was just as interesting. While it doesn’t appear to be a super convenient place to live there is something about the architecture and view overlooking the city that are just irresistible to me.

Kyoto (Jan 18)

My original plan was to visit Kyoto as a kind of day trip while residing in Osaka, however, I got too caught up in Osaka stuff and decided to just make the trip on the day I was supposed to be traveling to Tokyo.

While train stations in Japan (are supposed to) have suitcase lockers, I found that my suitcase was a little too large to fit in one. Luckily as Kyoto station was a major station they had a luggage storage service where I could just pay a little more and get some person to take care of it.

The day I arrived was rainy and I didn’t have much time so the only place I got to see was the Thousand Torii Gates. The umbrellas also somehow really added to the atmosphere and I only wish I had more time to walk further up into the mountain.

Shibuya (Jan 18 - 20)

I don’t drink and even if I did I wouldn’t be comfortable drinking without someone I could trust so I was pretty unsure of what to even do in Shibuya. The only thing I had heard of was the Shibuya crossing which was a little more fun than I had expected for just being a busy intersection. It was also quite fun to take some timelapses and watch back the busy people and train station come and go.

From what I have heard Shibuya is also known for shopping but most of the shops were for fashion and I only visited two shops.

BookTeaBed Shibuya ($60 per night)

When I booked this place I wanted to make sure I was within walking distance of interesting places as my plan for stumbling across interesting places is to just randomly walk around. The only issue is that Shibuya is pretty expensive so I decided this would be the right place to try out a capsule hotel.

The place was clean and more roomy than I had expected. The only issue was that the luggage area was communal and I was unwilling to rely on some reputation of safety for my entire luggage bag. Luckily, due to its sheer size, the staff offered to keep it in the staff room (hotels also have free luggage storage on the day of departure or arrival).

Akihabara (Jan 20 - 25)

With how Akihabara is portrayed in popular culture I was somewhat let down by its smaller size and being less unique than I had been expecting. I would say it is more of a concentration of the arcades and shops I had seen and visited before into a smaller area with some unique places sprinkled in. Just due to its density (and certain events), it is worth visiting but if you’ve been in Japan for a bit you will likely have naturally already come across most of the stores here.

I do have some stores I would recommend visiting:

I would also recommend checking out any limited time events or just whatever catches the eye. I did find that many of the bigger stores (MelonBooks, Animate, Gamers, etc) simply had the same stuff as their other stores but it was still fun to look around.

One thing that surprised me was that most of the large stores close at 8 pm so afterward Akihabara sort of feels like a ghost city with only crane games, arcades, and maid cafes still operating.

Even though some of the following events I either attended outside the timeframe of this section or are located outside Akihabara I’m just going to put them in this section.

Keikyu EX Inn Akihabara ($80 per night)

Pretty standard clean hotel located within walking of the heart of Akihabara. One annoyance is that they perform room service quite early in the morning so I needed to put up the do not disturb the night before.

I don’t have any interesting pictures (just search up) so here is one of Akihabara station.

Shimeji Simulation

As an avid fan of the manga Girls' Last Tour, I picked up Shimeji Simulation because it was written by the same author. I did find the story to be a little hard to parse but there were kernels of brilliance in the story.

On Dec. 19, 2023, they announced there would be an event from Jan. 19 to Feb. 4, 2024 (one month notice) so I was very lucky my planning allowed me to attend the first day.

The first impression was somewhat disappointing but I had some decent fun and got some merch that was sold out by the second day. I also got a staff member to take a picture of me in front of the cardboard (which I will not be sharing).

TeamLab Planets

After the sorta letdown from TeamLab Botanical Garden, I came here with much lower expectations and was pleasantly surprised. Due to being indoors the exhibits could be much more immersive and it matched much better with what I had expected out of such an exhibition.

I did take some videos but they look pretty crap. I’ll probably upload them to YouTube sometime and update this article later.

I arrived half an hour late to my reservation of 9 am (Monday, Jan. 22, 2024) but they let me in anyway after around a 10 minute line. By the time I exited at 10:30 am, the lineup had grown quite long so I would recommend getting the first timeslot and going early.

After waiting around a bit I got to be first in line to buy a vegan ramen and some vegan ice cream. They were quite pricy but the food was not bad so I would say it was worth a try. Do note that this was probably one of the few places in Japan that ONLY accepts credit cards.

Studio Ghibli Museum

Getting a Ticket for this Museum was kind of a pain as reservations needed to be made at 10 am Japan time on the 10th of the month before your visit and are sold out quite quickly.

The only Studio Ghibli movie I had ever seen was Spirited Away on the plane coming into Japan but I still had a great time. If you have any interest in animation the museum was great and had a bunch of interesting zoetropes and featured tons of animation sketches.

The museum does not allow taking pictures but I had to take one to remember the visit (done near closing with the people and guards thinning out).

In the theater, we got to view a short film Boro the Caterpillar which I felt was quite experimental. Its animation was gorgeous but the soundtrack of mouth noises was quite distracting for me.

I wish that I had gotten an earlier ticket as my entry was at 4 pm (they close at 6 pm) so I didn’t get to see everything or even visit any of the cafes.

Tokyo Tower

It was cool to visit Tokyo Tower at night just from the way it glows bright orange. Visiting the Eiffel Tower later on my trip was quite disappointing and its brown color just made it look like a worse Tokyo Tower. I know the Tokyo Tower was inspired by the Eiffel Tower but I’m just saying that the Tokyo Tower did a way better job.

The only issue was that it was quite difficult to photograph due to its height and contrast with the night sky. So I’ll update this article later once I get around to editing the RAW photos to get an acceptable photo.

Gundam Factory

The main purpose for my visit to Yokohama was actually to pick up a package from Japan Rabbit (proxy for Japanese goods) which I found out operated almost entirely out of some warehouse.

It was kind of weird walking into the warehouse and just standing around waiting for someone to ask what you were doing there but I got my stuff so it was pretty worth it.

Afterwards, since I was already there I thought that the Gundam Factory might be worth a visit.

They had a whole show with the robot moving around but it was all in Japanese so I didn’t understand anything.

From what I am seeing on the news the last day to visit was Mar. 31, 2024.

Taito City (Jan 25 - 27)

Around a 20 minute walk away was my next hotel located in Taito City which I had chosen due to its proximity to some interesting museums and parks.

Ueno Urban Hotel ($85 per night)

This hotel was supposed to be one of the more expensive ones as I had paid a little extra to get a room on the top floor with a view overlooking the Tokyo Skytree.

I didn’t stay in this hotel very much so I don’t have any good pictures.


Although my hotel was located in Taito City I spent most of my time here because I had booked tickets to see The Pillows and heard it was an interesting place to visit. I found an interesting indoor shopping district and spent a lot of my time in the afternoon shopping and playing around.

There was also an animal cafe (strangely named Animeal) where I got to interact with a hedgehog, ferret, and owl (along with a bunch of cats and dogs). I’ve got to say that these animals were not super friendly but were always glad to take the treats you were given.

The Pillows

I had originally discovered The Pillows from their album Please Mr. Lostman and have been enjoying their music since. Hearing they would be on tour while I would be in Japan I was able to get a ticket to their LOSTMAN GO TO CITY 2023-24 stop at Zepp Diver City.

I’ve never been to a concert before so was not entirely sure what to expect but I think that the Japanese concert experience was pretty good though I have heard it is a little unorthodox.

I accidentally entered the merch line instead of the concert line so was a little late to the start of the performance. It was after they were done did I found out there were railings installed in the venue to prevent too much movement of the crowd (probably to avoid crowd crushes).

Overall the concert was quite a novel experience but I do feel like I missed out on a decent chunk since everything was in Japanese.

Shinjuku (Jan 27 - 30)

Nishishinjuku (above) was quite a nice town while Shinjuku (below) itself was probably the sketchy place I’ve seen this entire trip.

APA Hotel & Resort Nishishinjuku ($110 per night)

Quite pricy for a hotel but in exchange I got a full queen sized bed and access to a large indoor and outdoor onsen. I was a little disappointed at the onsen for not being hot enough but I was quite cool to be bathing outdoors and somewhat awkward to be bathing with strangers.

On Jan 28 there was an magnitude 4.8 earthquake at around 9 am. I was asleep when it occurred and only half-awoke to my bed being rocked in circle-like patterns for 10-15 seconds. The rocking was pretty rhythmic and nonviolent so in my drowsy state, I thought it was some kind of built-in alarm and it wasn’t until after lunch did I realize it could have been an earthquake.

Book & Bed Tokyo Shinjuku ($70 per night)

I was looking forward to this hotel as although most of it is for capsules they had some special rooms with 180 degree windows overlooking the city. I was able to relax while watching the train station and sunset then head out and explore Shinjuku at night.

Bocchi the Rock (Shimokitazawa)

Big thanks to this guide

For easy navigation open this waypoint set in the Google Maps app

It was quite fun to just walk around randomly before checking the map if I was near anything of interest.

I did think about going to a concert at SHELTER but was unable to get a ticket for the only show on that day. From the news it appears that a lot of construction is going on so I hope that when I do some back things won’t have changed too much.

Bocchi the Rock stood out for just being an incredible show and got me to start learning guitar (I still suck tho). With how the show blended the characters with its environment it was quite easy to pick out locations that were used in the show.

Departure (Jan 30 - 31)

I feel that through my trip I steadily moved towards more and more dense and sketchy places with Hiroshima being one of the nicest places and Shinjuku being one of the most seedy. My last hotel being on the fringes of Kawasaki felt like a real reset as it was kind of in the middle of nowhere.

Kawasaki King Skyfront Tokyu Rei Hotel ($70 per night)

While the hotel itself was great with a large bed and a pretty nice onsen (with a moderate temperature this time) its location was quite poor with really not much to eat or do. I did expect this as I had booked the hotel just to relax before flying out.

Tetrapods and Goodbye

I’m not sure why but for my last day I wanted to photograph some tetrapods (yes, the wave-dissipating concrete blocks), after using the Google Maps satellite view I found a place that should have had them.

When I arrived after an hour’s bus ride I found they were not accessible without crossing into private property. So I took a two hour bus to the next place but somehow got on the wrong bus (same number but different name) that ended up dropping me about 3-4 km to the harbor. With extremely sparse bus service as I was in the industrial district I could only walk/run to the harbor.

This was somewhat scary as the sidewalks were not that well maintained and the only traffic was massive trucks but I eventually made it before total sunset.

Getting back to the hotel was also a pain as there was only a single bus every hour and the one that arrived was almost packed full but I was able to squeeze on.

Goodbye Japan! I’ll be back in a while.

Tips (TODO)

Food (TODO)