Honeymoon- Japan and Vietnam Part I
I can't believe it's been a year since we last traveled this amazing trip. Again, I am NOT a writer, but I do think it's super helpful to share your experience when you can and to give credit to the amazing restaurants and hotels so others can hopefully enjoy them!
I'd do ANYthing to travel again. I swear I will never take getting on a plane and going on a vacation to anywhere for granted again! With that being said, let's take a little trip down memory lane to pretend like we can once again travel this beautiful world...
FIRST STOP: TOKYO, JAPAN
We did the traditional leave-immediately-the-day-after our wedding and embarked the 14 hour light to Tokyo, Japan, a place that had been on our bucket list. Well, actually, Mike had been before (finding a place he hasn't been to is near impossible) but only for a short amount of time and in the winter. We wanted to do a trip that had both a city-part (Japan) and then a relaxing beach-part (Vietnam) to satisfy our travel cravings. We were extremely lucky that due to Mikes old job he racked up a TON of travel points. We basically booked the whole trip off of those (flights AND hotels). With that, we were able to book our first stay in the fancy shmancy Ritz-Carlton Tokyo which was needless to say, a freakin dream.
Our room came equipped with a stunned view of the bright orange Tokyo Tower, that lit up at night like the Eiffel Tower, as well as some of the NICEST staff on the planet. **NOTE: if you tell people in Japan it is your honeymoon, you get treated like royalty. Free room service, gifts left at your door, cutting lines at the airport...you name it, they love it.** Example below:
By the time we settled in it was around dinner time so we set off to an Omakase restaurant called Sushi Kai Kai which was referred to by the hotel staff. I had JUST made Mike watch the documentary Jiro Dreams Of Sushi (highly recommended) so of course, we had to go to a restaurant like this. For those of you who don't know about Omakase, it's a type of Japanese restaurant where the chef prepares a multi-course meal for you with whatever he chooses. The word "Omakase" literally means "I'll leave it up to you". The highly skilled chef will present a series of plates, beginning with the lightest fare and proceeding to the heaviest dishes with different types of fish, rice, soups and anything else you can think of, all with the most intricate techniques that they have worked to perfect their whole lives. A super traditional Omakase restaurant usually has very limited seating, about 6-8 seats, all focused around the chef so he can cook and plate right in front of you. Our had about 6 seats and was filled with CHARACTERS like you wouldn't believe and the most delicious, fresh sushi I've ever had.
The next day we decided to wander around and see the city and some shrines. Our friend told us about the Meiji Shrine which is an absolutely beautiful walk through nature and old sake barrels that leads to a breath taking shrine that was once owned by the emperor. We were told if we were lucky we'd get to see a wedding AND WE DID! It was amazing. The bride was ridiculously stunning in her all white traditional ensemble and they marched around the courtyards while we watched in awe.
From there we continued to walk around and explore the million different parts of Tokyo. It honestly seemed like 10 cities in one, all with their own themes. Harajuku was an ABSOLUTE must for me as I've always dreamed to go there...photos below will explain why...
The day went into night and we continued through to find the ultimate gyoza's and ramen and explore until our toes felt like they were going to fall off. THE BEST RAMEN of all time was their Ichiran Ramen aka "Vending Machine Ramen" where you literally order from a vending machine and then sit in personal cubicles to enjoy with a little window that slides open when you want to order more beer. Best. Thing. Ever.
We then ended up at the Golden Gai that night which is like nothing you've ever experienced. Golden Gai is a small area in the city that's packed with LOADS of tiny, buzzing bars. It is composed of a network of six narrow alleys connected by even narrower passageways which are just about wide enough for a single person to pass through. In that tiny area there are over 200 tiny shanty-style bars, clubs and eateries all with different themes. For example, there was a French themed bar, cat theme (of course), Pink Floyd theme, beach theme, hospital theme, anything you can think of! Of course, the one we permanently landed in...Karaoke themed (video below..mute or unmute up to your discretion). You can hop from bar to bar each holding about max 6 customers each, grab a drink and a snack and onto the next. Some of them you even have to climb tiny steep narrow stairways to get to.
For the next few days we continued to explore Tokyo and almost all it has to offer. From the Tsujki Tokyo Fish Market to more temples, to seeing Geishas in Ginza, to shopping in Rappongi, to knife shopping in Asakusa (the wholesale kitchen supplies street), to playing virtual reality games in Akihabara (the electronic district) which was also the home of the Super Potato which had every video game console that ever existed. The streets never stopped buzzing and we had only scratched the surface of all that is Tokyo. I also want to add that we took the subway everywhere and never in my life have I seen anything like it. Everything was perfectly organized, exactly on-time, and so clean that the seats had fabric cushions on them. Oh...and wifi IN the moving trains.
One thing we were told to do, but I honestly am conflicted if I would recommend, is go to a Maid Cafe. Let me try to explain. We found one while walking around (there are signs everywhere for random ones) and took a small elevator to the floor it was located on. As soon as the door opened, there was a girl in a full blown maids outfit, giggling and telling us to come in. No cameras were allowed otherwise I would have plenty to show. The entire room was pink and bubbly and bursting with weird. We were told to take a seat on this bench table area which faced the front of the room where 5 or 6 of these girls hopped around from guest to guest, giggling and flirting and sometimes singing. We were told we had to order something off the menu to stay so we ordered two beers and a green matcha pancake which basically looked like a layered cake covered in green goo. We sat there in awe as they came around and gave Mike a pair of bear ears and me bunny ears to put on while we drink out beer and basically, just, watch them. We looked to our left and there was a grown man in a suit just staring at the girls while chugging beers and eating chips. To our right was another grown man, but dressed in casual clothes with pins all over him and his bag of the girls faces and an AUTOGRAPH book for them to sign. It felt like some weird fantasy room that we did not understand nor were meant to be in. Needless to say, Mike and I chugged our beers and got the hell out of there as fast as we could.
We ended our last day in the spa at the hotel to get massages and enjoy the steam rooms and pool before leaving onto our next adventure in Japan. Not before leaving with a little homemade departing gift from the spa staff of course.
SECOND STOP: OKINAWA, JAPAN
Mike had planned prettttty much all of our honeymoon (in my defense, I was busy planning a wedding, but let's be real he could be a freakin travel agent he's so good at planning...excel spreadsheets and all). He looked on the map and saw on the way from Tokyo to Vietnam there are all these tiny islands off of Japan that are tropical paradises. They're the complete opposite of touristy so much so that anyone from Japan that we told we were going there looked SO surprised, as it's mostly Japanese who vacation in these places. We were most definitely in local territory and we loved every minute of it. We arrived at the Renaissance Okinawa Resort and were in complete aw of the view from our room
This place had everything. Beach, pool, dolphins, sting rays, a freakin PETTING zoo filled with wallabies, turtles, seals, you name it. We came to find very quickly though that the reason this place had all these amazing amenities was because it was one of the very few family resorts on the island, meaning, kids EVERYwhere. To the point where we went to all you can eat sushi in the hotel the very first night and were accompanied by a 7 year old throwing up next to our table. Needless to say, less than ideal, but hilarious to look back on.
One of the reasons we love Japan so much was for their food. They have SO many sub cuisines to choose from it's amazing. There's not only sushi, but ramen/soba, teppanyaki (Benihana style), shabu shabu (hot pots), tonkatzu (tempora), which are all so different and incredibly tasty. We were on a mission to find a legit teppanyaki place and found one nearby called Okinawa Wagyu Teppanyaki Ryu and holy crap was it amazing. Not only we were THE ONLY people in there, the entire time (so we had the whole staff spoiling us) but were served the most tender pieces of meat and the most interesting dishes cooked right in front of us. The best part was afterwards when they found out it was our honeymoon and immediately made us follow them across the gardens and koi ponds and into our own private room for dessert where they brought out cake, fruit, tea, cookies and told us to call them on the telephone in there when we were done.
As far activities went, there were two things we knew we wanted to do (besides relax at the beach) and that was to see the famous Heart Rock and to go to Minna Island. The Heart Rock we were able to get to no problem.
One more for good measure...
Minna Island on the other hand was quite the adventure. Minna, also known as Crescent island (because of its crescent shape) is an island off the coast of Okinawa that we heard was absolutely breath-taking. We drove about 20 minutes to get to the ferry only to find out that they don't take credit cards. Not thinking too much of it we drove to the nearest ATM and tried to take out money only to find out that the ATM's don't accept American debit cards and all the banks were closed because it was a Sunday. We were so desperate to make it to that island that we drove to a grocery store and tried to bribe customers by saying we would pay for their groceries using our credit cards if they gave us cash hahaha I still can't believe we did this. I even pulled out Google Translate on my phone and tried to speak it to people and they not only had no idea what was going on but were terrifying of us. Defeated and sad we went out to lunch at a beautiful tonkatsu restaurant instead and decided to try our luck the next day. We woke up, went straight to a bank, and oddly enough, they had NO IDEA what we were talking about and still couldn't help us. Wasn't kidding when I said this was not a touristy island. After driving to everywhere on the map that said US ATM (military bases, mini malls, you name it) a store clerk who said she had an American husband told us that the only ATM's that would work are the ones in a post office because they deal with international mail?! Not sure why the bank couldn't tell us that but we FINALLY got money out and drove straight to the ferry. Let's just say Minna Island was worth it.
This first pic is the view from when the ferry pulled up...
We walked around the whole island until we found a spot far away from the tourists and happened to come across the most perfect white sand beach with crystal blue waters and a view of a volcano across the ocean...all the ourselves.
The rest of Okinawa was a dream. From boating excursions to blue lagoons, saunas at the hotel, and of course plenty of sushi trains.
(...yes I refused to pay for the photo below and just saved the stock sample)
Rested, relaxed, and with full bellies we hopped on our Hello Kitty themed flight (not joking) and were off the Vietnam!
to be continued....