DSC_0465-2

The Osaka Aquarium is located on Osaka bay and is near Cosmo Square, the Tempozan Ferris wheel and a short ferry ride from Universal Studios so you could easily spend days in this area, or just one well planned one. Ok, maybe not all of them, we left off Cosmo square :p

Being a major attraction, getting there from just about anywhere is quite simple, take the Chuo line and let the signage guide you. We caught the Captain Line ferry (takes about 15min) from Universal Studios which is almost door to door, handy!

DSC_0463-1 DSC_0626-36 DSC_0609-33 DSC_0605-32

DSC_0591-30

DSC_0587-29

DSC_0580-26 DSC_0569-23 DSC_0566-22 DSC_0538-15

DSC_0524-12

DSC_0518-11 DSC_0517-10 DSC_0508-9 DSC_0474-3

DSC_0542-16

The aquarium costs about $25AU and is open till 8pm (times may vary) making it a good last stop if you have other things to do earlier in the day. In fact, later in the afternoon seemed to be rather quiet, no lining up for anything and only the odd shuffle around a couple slow moving tour groups.

DSC_0753-66

DSC_0740-64

DSC_0747-65 DSC_0736-63 DSC_0734-62 DSC_0717-59

DSC_0711-57 DSC_0708-56 DSC_0707-55 DSC_0689-54

DSC_0675-49

DSC_0685-52 DSC_0663-45 DSC_0656-44

DSC_0655-43

DSC_0649-42

DSC_0643-41 DSC_0642-40 DSC_0780-74

DSC_0778-73

DSC_0767-71 DSC_0761-68 DSC_0760-67

The theme of the venue is to encompass all of the different regions around the Pacific Rim (no, not with giant mecha) with many enclosures representing each area and some of the animals that inhabit them. The viewing actually begins at the top on the 8th floor where it spirals down through tanks and enclosures feature aquatic life, fish, manta rays, crabs and other weird looking bottom dwellers along with everyone’s favourites, penguins and seals.

Aquariums are always good for a visit, you get to see creatures big and small effortlessly glide through the water around you but a lot of the time the scale of the animals and their surroundings is lost when viewing through a small window, enter the 10m deep tank with a foot thick of Perspex all the way around! This centerpiece represents the Pacific Ocean and houses a city bus sized crowning jewel, the whale shark.

DSC_0808-78

DSC_0962-109 DSC_0957-108 DSC_0956-107 DSC_0955-106

DSC_0910-95

DSC_0952-105 DSC_0950-104 DSC_0949-103 DSC_0943-102

DSC_0903-93

DSC_0906-94

DSC_0914-99 DSC_0890-89 DSC_0888-88 DSC_0883-87

DSC_0896-91

DSC_0900-92

DSC_0861-84 DSC_0827-81 DSC_0818-80

DSC_0895-90

DSC_0830-82

Other smaller tanks cross between floors which give plenty of few spots from different perspectives and the idea of the different layers in an ocean environment.

Smaller rooms on the lower level house a large assortment of jelly fish for you to get lost in a lava lamp trance. On the way to the gift shop there’s a hands on section where you can get up close and very personal with a selection of fish and manta rays which vary from slippery soap to “cat’s tongue” in texture. Alot of fun and definitely something the kids would go nuts over. No need to worry about germs, there’s wash stations nearby. There’s also a partially closed off penguin enclosure for you to talk posh with your tuxedo wearing buddies 😀

DSC_0966-110

DSC_1042-131

DSC_1039-130 DSC_1038-129 DSC_1025-125 DSC_1015-123

DSC_1034-128

DSC_1029-127

DSC_1007-122 DSC_1004-120 DSC_0998-115

DSC_0991-1 DSC_0968-111

DSC_1000-117

DSC_0992-Edit-1

DSC_0971-112

Travel tip: speaking of kids, there are also a bunch of rubber ink stamps through out the venue which they can collect by stamping their books. Maybe get them a travel notepad so they don’t get any ideas with their passports should they be in possession theirs!

Photo tip: lighting is very dim throughout the venue, not just in the tanks so a fast mid range zoom is in order and don’t be afraid to push the iso to keep your shutter speed up, and as you can see by our bumper gallery there is HEAPS to photograph!

DSC_1047-132

DSC_1145-153

DSC_1147-154 DSC_1134-1 DSC_1122-147 DSC_1118-145

DSC_1121-146

DSC_1114-144 DSC_1102-2 DSC_1100-141

DSC_1105-143

DSC_1075-139

DSC_1080-140 DSC_1059-136

DSC_1051-135

DSC_1050-134

DSC_1132-149

DSC_1125-148


Tempozan Ferris Wheel

Behind the aquarium is a small shopping mall with a food court and several restaurants, only the larger stores/restaurants stay open later for dinner but in true Japanese courtesy, if you catch one as they’re closing they’ll still be more than happy to fire up the stove for you.

A short walk further is the Tempozan Wheel, it is quite sizeable as one of the largest in Japan giving decent views of the bay area and should be more than romantic enough to get you to first base 😉 (just watch out for the random pedo bear )-:} ). The coloured lights on the outside of the forecast the weather for the following day (orange – clear, green – cloudy, blue – rain) which is handy, although not entirely accurate with an orange reading when the following day was all drizzle!

DSC_1151-156 DSC_1162-158 DSC_1155-157

DSC_1179-160

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on our Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

DSC_1195-Edit-4

Two of Osaka’s most popular attractions happen to also be conveniently the two most central. The first being Osaka castle, only a few stops from Osaka station and a little bit of a walk.

Osaka Castle

Its much of a muchness by train, regardless of what station you get off, however since we came from Osaka station we just had to stay on it till Osakajokoen station (check out the scale model of the grounds and castle in the foyer). From there its roughly a 1km walk past a lot of open concrete and numerous sporting facilities before you get to the park which has a lot of open spaces and waterways. The trees in the park are sakura (cherry bloosoms) which makes this a very common spot during the few weeks a year (usually late march/early april) when they bloom.

DSC_1181-1

IMAG1794-2 DSC_1203-8 DSC_1199-6 DSC_1192-3

The foliage thickens and becomes almost a little rainforesty once you cross the bridge over the moat. This is where you catch the first glimpse of signs of a “fully functional” castle with battlements and large stone walls surrounding the water. There are also plenty of shaded spots where you can stop for a breather if you’re travelling during the unforgiving warmer seasons.

DSC_1201-7

DSC_1221-11 DSC_1215-10 DSC_1214-9

The castle sits majestically high above everything in the surrounding area upon its base of rock and stone and is trimmed with typical Asian rooftop styling and gold finishings. A large courtyard area sits at its base with a selection of vendors in cute little vans selling food and souvenirs. For the history buffs, entry into the castle is about 600Y and about 200Y for the greenthumbs that want to check out the castles extended gardens. Costumed guards frequently roam the grounds for your hashtagging pleasure.

IMAG1795-3 IMAG1799-4 IMAG1802-5 IMAG1803-6

One thing you may not expect to see is a time capsule. Placed there in 1970 for the World Expo, it is built with two levels, the first to be opened every century and the second in the year 6970, probably by Cher.

DSC_1184-2


Umeda Sky building

Love going to “The Eye”’s around the world but hate the whole moving thing and still want a good view of the city, then this is the place for you!

DSC_1296-25

Only about a 10min stroll from Osaka station (longer if you’re anywhere south of the station since you have to walk either around or through it and if you’ve been in Japan more than a minute you’ll know that’s not always as simple as it sounds!) but about 15-20min coming from our hotel via a few back streets for some random street photos.

DSC_1230-12

DSC_1231-13


Travel tip:
The English version of the website has nice simple to follow maps and venue information.

Even from several blocks away (or from our hotel’s external elevator) the Sky building looks menacing in a 90s scifi where the bad guy is the only rich person in the world kinda way.

DSC_1236-16

Photo tip:
If you’re going later in the evening, get your “from the ground” photos first as they turn off the upper lights before closing time, and check out the art installs while you’re at it

DSC_1237-17

DSC_1306-29

IMAG1855-13 IMAG1838-7 IMAG1839-8

Like any building with an observation deck, there’s a bit of cueing and staring at elevator floor numbers clock over like it’s the pledged amount on a telethon but you’ll get to the deck in no time. The last section is up a see-through enclosed escalator before arriving at the closed-in viewing deck. This section would definitely be handy during the colder months or if you’re unlucky with the weather, it still offers decent views but if you don’t want the headache of taking photos from behind glass at night, head on outside.

DSC_1258-20

DSC_1290-23

First impression, you will be forgiven if you think you’ve accidentally stepped into a 90s UV rave. UV paint splatters cover the ground while your white clothes and teeth glow in typical freaky fashion but thankfully this doesn’t detract too much from the view and more so the ability to take some nice photos!

The deck offers almost 360 degree views of downtown Osaka and Osaka bay and even when busy, the crowd ebbs and flows enough that if you stand still you’ll eventually get any spot you choose.

Photo tip:
It’s not a cluttered skyline and the building sits high above anything near by so you may even consider a mid range zoom instead of a wide angle. Like most night shots, a tripod helps alot, even better if you can be bothered carrying something with some height to clear the barriers/railings. There will be plenty of others with the same idea as you so you may need to be patient with nabbing a good spot.

DSC_1267-22

DSC_1300-27

If you get bored or are waiting for a spot to free up, head to the “lumi deck” for a wall with lit up squares making different shapes, of course the very Sleepless in Seattle-esque heart shape is a clear winner for those thinking it could easily be the Empire State building. The fun continues inside with an interactive light room which… you guessed it, changes shapes and colours as you move like Elaine dancing.

DSC_1233-15 DSC_1298-26 DSC_1308-30

Finally, after (or perhaps before) you’ve returned to ground level, there are several restaurants on the basement level that is themed in an “olden days” fashion not too unlike the Ramen Museum but most close well before the observation deck so get in earlier if you’re after some grub.

IMAG1851-9 IMAG1852-10 IMAG1853-11 IMAG1854-12

DSC_1302-28

pano-1-1

Next stop, the Osaka Aquarium!

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

We stopped at Macca’s for brekky first and just had to try the maple syrup infused “waffle” bun McMuffin. Yep, every bit as sickly delicious as it sounds :p

IMAG1714-42

On the way back to Tokyo we finally caught a great view of Mt. Fuji through what seemed to be a large window at a station along the way…(couldnt believe my timing to catch a shinkansen in the shot as well! :p )

IMAG1659-1

Harajuku
Yoyoji Park

Not too happy about our other failed attempts at rummaging through a large flea market in Japan, this was our last chance. Weather was good, no forecast for rain, left Osaka early to try and beat the crowd… unfortunately the forecast said nothing about protesters! Not sure what they were on about but they were everywhere along with police and media. Foiled again. The park however was a nice consolation for a walk around and to take in some of the outrageously dressed people, dancers, artists and even a cardboard box town that looked like it was pieced together and built/painted on over many hours throughout the day.

IMAG1681-16 IMAG1682-17

IMAG1683-18

IMAG1685-19

The park in itself is huge so even though it gets rather busy there’s always a nice quiet spot away from all the action.

Disappointed once again, there was only one thing left to do…. SHOP!

Takeshita Street and surrounds

We’ve covered Harajuku previously and you’d have to be researching the wrong country to have missed any mention of the place in reading up of Tokyo must-see’s so we’ll leave you with the knowledge that nothing much has changed… in the sense that everything changes all the time. They’ve spruced up the building fasades on Takeshita street and the major street that runs adjacent to it. Cat Street has also gotten a face lift and a few different shops have moved in. The best thing, most of our fave sneaker/streetwear stores have all moved together. Undefeated, Kicks Lab, Chapter, La Brea Avenue (and Supreme if you like extra hype with your purchases) are all within spitting distance of each other along with seizure inducing rainbow colour store 6% Dokidoki and Ninja Warrior champion sponsor – Rescue Squad. Also in the area, Nike Harajuku, the massive Harajuku Daiso and the irresistible Kiddyland.

IMAG1686-20

IMAG1691-24

IMAG1692-25 IMAG1690-23 IMAG1688-22

IMAG1695-27

IMAG1698-29

IMAG1704-35

IMAG1700-31 IMAG1699-30 IMAG1696-28 IMAG1694-26

IMAG1687-21 IMAG1710-39 IMAG1702-33 IMAG1701-32

IMAG1709-38

IMAG1707-37

IMAG1705-36


Shibuya

With Shibuya so close, its worth the walk to discover some new sights and places that you’d miss on the train, and that we did. We grabbed a bite to eat at Teddy’s Bigger Burger, a burger joint from our last destination, Hawaii with a guy serving that could only be classed as “quite the character”, which simply added to the great dining experience and tasty food :-‘9

IMAG1678-14

IMAG1676-13 IMAG1675-12

Continuing down Meiji Dori sees eye catching landmarks like the Audi Forum “crumpled glass” building, sneaker boutique, Atmos, familiar brands like DC, Burberry and local quirky tee store, Graphix. We also stumbled across a live graffiti art install outside a skate shop and swingin’ rockabilly greaser store, Temmye – Cream Soda on our way to our streetwear faves, KiksTYO and Santastic, then almost got caught in an interview with a lifestyle TV show at the Shibuya crossing.

IMAG1673-10

IMAG1660-2 IMAG1674-11 IMAG1670-9

IMAG1669-8 IMAG1667-7 IMAG1666-6

IMAG1665-5

IMAG1663-4

IMAG1661-3

IMAG1711-40

IMAG1713-41

While we struck out completely with the markets this time, we at least added a few new “I’ll be back” spots to the list for future visits.

Next up we hit two of the biggest sights in Osaka, Osaka castle and the Umeda Sky building.

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

02.25.2015

DSC_0353-3

If you’re looking for a day trip while staying in Osaka, Kyoto is an obvious choice being only about 30min away on a regular train or if you splurge for the shinkansen add-on for the JR pass it only takes 15min, in fact, you could easily spend a few days here but of course we were still whirlwinding and only had a day so we kept to a couple of the highlights.

Fushimi Inari-taisha

Getting there:
Directly across the road from Inari station which is about a 5min ride from Kyoto station. The giant torii is hard to miss!

DSC_0350-1

We chose to check out probably one of the most well known Kyoto landmarks first, the shrine at Fushimi Inari-taisha as it, like many “nature” based sights, opened before anything else. The large shrine is located at the base of the mountain which is dedicated to Inari, the god of rice and sake. Food and booze? Sounds like a top bloke 😉 From the shrine there is a few kilometers of walking track up the mountain through several thousand “torii” ie. the big orange arches. The path is mostly easy but with a modest 2 hour approximation to reach the top its best you budget the better part of the day, if however you have a crammed itinerary burning through your hidden waist pouch you can take a detour just before half way which leads to obstructed views of the city and paved paths through residential buildings and a couple little tucked away souvenir stores.

DSC_0373-12

DSC_0379-15

DSC_0390-20

Foxes, said to be messengers, feature heavily through out the main shrine and the smaller ones up the mountain path. What does the fox say? It says its time to get back to Kyoto station and catch a bus…

DSC_0387-18

DSC_0375-13 DSC_0377-14 DSC_0388-19 DSC_0392-21

Travel tip: being a mountain hike, make sure you wear suitable footwear unless you’re a fan of stubbed toes and rolled ankles! Exposed rocks and natural paths get very slick under the slightest bit of water so take it easy either way. A light weight spray jacket and some water wouldn’t go astray either.

DSC_0412-25 DSC_0351-2 DSC_0356-4

DSC_0357-5 DSC_0358-6 DSC_0361-8

DSC_0369-11

DSC_0405-24


The Golden Temple
Ok so on the way to the Golden Temple we may have gotten off the bus a little too early, mainly because everyone else got off so instead we saw…

…The Silver Temple
Second place isnt that bad right? Well unless it’s a temple then its not really the same, especially after seeing photos of the Golden Temple before hand :( That said, it was still a nice stop with some picturesque scenery, a short wilderness walk, sand garden and coy/wishing pond. However if you want the first place, stay on the bus! Don’t get out at the first major stop where everyone gets off.

DSC_0452-11

DSC_0442-7

DSC_0455-14 DSC_0436-6 DSC_0434-5 DSC_0431-4

DSC_0428-2

Getting there:
Take bus numbers 101 or 205 from Kyoto Station to the Kinkaku-ji Michi bus stop…easier said than done since its difficult to see the name of the stops so this is where our help ends and you adventure begins! 😀

DSC_0425-1


Shopping on Shijo-dori
Here you get the best of both worlds, higher end stores with brands like Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Lauren on Shijo while a block away the Teramachi and Shin Kyogoku Arcades run parallel to each other with stores along the lines of everyday items with a scattering of vintage clothing stores, “urban” stores and the odd store that sells only walking sticks! While not the shopping mecca for most tourists the unique items in some of the smaller boutiques is worthy enough for a “quick” (it goes on for awhile!) walk through.

IMAG1649-19

IMAG1648-18  IMAG1644-16 IMAG1642-15 IMAG1641-14

IMAG1635-10

IMAG1634-9

IMAG1632-7

IMAG1630-5

IMAG1629-4

IMAG1639-13  IMAG1633-8 IMAG1638-12 IMAG1636-11
IMAG1631-6  IMAG1626-3 IMAG1625-2 IMAG1624-1

There is also a smaller street section dedicated to food markets called Nishiki Market adjacent to these with fresh food, produce and meat along with a bunch of eateries. At around 7-8pm we noticed they were all closing up so remember to get there a bit earlier if you’re after some grub.

IMAG1645-17

Getting there:
We chose to catch the train to Karasuma station and walk towards Kawaramachi station. Note: your JR pass is not accepted on most of the local lines here as they are privately run. You’ll also find a lot of the stations and maps at the ticket machines have no English so get acquainted with tracking train routes by colour and matching Japanese characters of the stops of your origin and destination.

IMAG1651-20

DSC_0459-15

Next up, we make the most of our JR pass and catch an early shinkansen back to Tokyo in an attempt to attend at least one flea market, the mission, the large one at Yoyoji park in Harajuku.

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

DSCN0615-9

Some words that regularly get thrown around a lot for Osaka are “smaller” and “laid back” in comparison to Tokyo, which of course could easily be misconstrued as it being some kind of little beach town, not so. Its still a large city with plenty of hustle and bustle, to put things into perspective, Melbourne is Australia’s most densely populated city at 430/km2 while Osaka crams in over 12000/km2! So while it may only have a population of Brisbane its shoe horned into the space of the Cook Islands. That said, the only real difference between Tokyo is they stand to the opposite side of escalators. Tokyo = left, Osaka = right. Weird since they both drive on the same side of the road, either way, we’re just glad there’s -some- etiquette and commonsense! (Yes I’m looking at you Australia, get your act together! :p )

IMAG1546-6

Travel tip: In Osaka, we chose to stay at the Hearton Hotel (Nishi Umeda), a short walk from Osaka station with the majority being undercover thanks to a short mall which joins the station. The mall is pretty much all restaurants and cafes (bar the token electronics store) so its perfect to grab a bite at the start or end of the day. There is also delis, fresh fruit and bakeries/dumpling huts(with some of the biggest pork buns we have ever seen!) along with Auntie May’s Pretzels (not as good as Wetzel’s but a worthy substitute) and McDonald’s inside the train station.

IMAG1550-8

P1010828-1

Ah the wet season, always just enough rain that you need some kind of protection but its too hot and muggy to wear a hardshell so a brolly is the way to go. $5-10 from just about anywhere or just borrow one from the many that are left at entrances of the train stations, just remember to pay it forward 😉

IMAG1541-3

IMAG1527-1 IMAG1545-5 IMAG1552-10

Nipponbashi aka Den Den Town

Our original plan was to stop off at the Shitennoji Temple markets, one of the biggest in the area but with the rain unrelenting as we exited Tennoji station (closest to the temple) we made the executive decision to turn straight back around and head to back Nanba. This is where the JR pass pays for itself, no need to worry about paying again on a failed mission.

Walking out of Nanba station had a instantly strange small town feel, gone were the towering skyscrapers of shiny glass and metal and in its place, a “main drag” of a small town…comparatively. Not to the point of only a fish and chip shop and a pub but awning covered footpaths, a two way street that wasn’t as wide as it was long and far less signage and neon lights bearing down on you. Many buildings were still about 6 stories tall so there wasn’t a chance of seeing a horse and carriage. The best part, there’s no need for any kind of navigation, it basically just one long street centered on Sakaisuji Avenue.

Travel tip: Walk out of Nanba station East exit (follow the signs to Den Den Town) then turn right into Sakaisuji. One of the first shops is tourist info if you need a map or extra help getting around.

Den Den town is Osaka’s answer to Tokyo’s Akiba, it’s an electronic and toy haven… just on a smaller scale, but what it lacks in variety it makes up for in savings. Prices were all noticeably less here, a quick scan of the Bandai model kit section saw most kits $5-10AU cheaper than their big city counterpart.

Laox and its countless clone stores handled the electronics side of things but it was the toy shopping that tweak our interest with Super Kids Land leading the charge. Five floors of specialties from general collectibles to model kits to air guns and RC vehicles to trains and a whole floor dedicated to Tamiya. If you have any sort of passing interest in any of those things, you may want to budget a bit of time here 😉

IMAG1566-21

IMAG1560-15  IMAG1561-16  IMAG1563-18  IMAG1564-19

IMAG1565-20  IMAG1567-22   IMAG1570-23

Other stores of mention, Herogangu: very similar to Mandarake, a big variety of toys, collectibles and memorablia. Check out the “best Optimus Prime halloween costume everrrr”, and Astro Zombies (of rockin toyland), worthy of a look on name alone, but there’s much more to this store.  One of the more quirkier stores we’ve come across, it not only sports the usual fair but takes a hard left into pop culture and movie related items from resin casts and busts to masks and props. For those not able to make it to the states, there’s also a big selection of vintage Americana related toys.

IMAG1573-26

IMAG1571-24

IMAG1572-25  IMAG1575-27  IMAG1581-29

IMAG1583-31

IMAG1578-28

IMAG1582-30

Used camera stores are also plentiful but contrary to belief f1.2 lenses aren’t just thrown away, most of the good/usuable stuff has already been picked through or can be found cheaper online (and new!).

IMAG1584-32  IMAG1585-33  IMAG1587-35  IMAG1589-37

IMAG1586-34


Dotonbori

If like us, you walked down one side of Sakaisuji Av and up the other you’ll end up with the dilemma – do you keep walking to Dotonbori or walk back to Nanba station to catch a train to the next station and walk back from there? We figured since we were already walking to just keep going. It was only a km or two and we found a nice little spot for lunch along the way. The shops and scenery however dies off and it’s a rather uneventful walk till you get to Dotonbori which is hard to miss with all the giant sea creature signs on the front of shops! It’s a shopping and eating mecca and basically the go-to destination for all Osakian travellers. You could easily spend a day exploring both sides of the canal and the long covered shopping mall that runs perpendicular to it. Nike Osaka is also nearby if you’d like to try your luck for some regionally exclusive items.
On a clear day, jump aboard the mini ferris wheel to get a higher view of the area.

DSCN0600-1

DSCN0604-3

DSCN0601-2

DSCN0606-5  DSCN0607-6  DSCN0618-11

Photo tip: The Glico sign (makers of one of our fave snacks here and over there, Pocky) can be clearly seen from one of the major canal bridge crossings and is common tourist attraction.

IMAG1590-38

IMAG1598-41

Heading a little further north you’ll come across Amerikamura, known locally as Ame-mura is kind of like a little America-town, doesn’t quite have the same ring as Chinatown though and its relativity to America is pretty much only in the form of clothing shops with a hip hop angle (closest “wrong” American style food was probably the ice cream/cream filled hotdog bun. We passed, something just not quite right about it… tho if they threw some bacon on it… 😉 ) so again, if you’re missing out on travelling stateside then this could very well be the stop for you, if of course, your wallet agrees. With the some what implied exoticness of all things American, clothing prices reflect that. Basic Adidas tees were around 4-5000Y and just like Harajuku there are plenty of guys of African persuasion trying to jive talk you into their store to give you the hard sell.

Travel tip: If you’d rather not be bothered or would like to browse in peace, give them a blank stare to imply you don’t speak Japanese or English, they give up pretty quickly and move on to the next person 😉

IMAG1601-44

IMAG1599-42  IMAG1600-43  IMAG1602-45  IMAG1605-47

IMAG1606-48  IMAG1607-49  IMAG1608-50  IMAG1611-52

The stand out for the area however will please the sneakerheads out there, there are several sneaker stores sporting the higher end models, namely Jordans but also a selection of local releases. There are even stores which have larger sizes for those that normally don’t have much luck when travelling through Asia. Fine Crew Osaka was one of the stand outs and clear lovers of the Jumpman.

IMAG1603-46

IMAG1610-51

Caps and head gear is covered by New Era dealer, On Spot which is conveniently on the way to our must-stop sneaker spot, K Skit. Sadly though, many of their shelves were bare with remaining stock spread out, quite possibly waiting for their next shipment. It was definitely a stark contrast to their brimming Kichijoji store, none the less, its rather easy to find being above GStar Raw.  Just hope you don’t catch them on an off week!

IMAG1612-53

IMAG1613-54  IMAG1614-55  IMAG1615-56  IMAG1617-57

With the rain unrelenting we made our way back to the hotel for some much needed rest and crossed our fingers it would give us a break the following day when we head to Kyoto!

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

DSCN0614-8

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

DSCN0506-1

Nissan HQ

Having just parted with my faithful old 180sx, a close companion of nigh on 15 years, mere weeks before this trip it was a fitting tribute and just a little coincidental that Nissan’s Global headquarters was on the way to Yokohama bay, just a short walk from Yokohama station.

IMAG1504-1

Travel tip: The PDF on the Nissan site gives you all the info you need to get there.

Needless to say, the place is impressive as it is sprase, not to say its empty, just very spread out with a sizeable selection of current models from pocket sized kei cars to the ugly duckling Juke (regardless of how many Nismo parts you throw at it) and the business man terroriser, Godzilla aka the GTR. They even have a balls to the wall and extremely rare Lemans R390 GT.

DSCN0518-7

DSCN0516-6 DSCN0513-5 IMAG1505-2

DSCN0512-4

DSCN0510-3

The best thing is, even though it is a showroom/dealership, there are no pushy salesmen or any obligation at all, its actually quite the opposite. You are free to sit in, adjust and play the open and close game to your heart’s content. Assistants are only too happy to show off a feature like the Swiss army knife seats of the Cube, nod with a smile then leave you to “how many combinations can we do now?” 😉

Of course no attraction is complete without a gift shop and this one doesn’t disappoint with more branded merch than Hello Kitty. Ok, maybe not that much but there’s still more than enough knick knacks, memorabilia and clothing to deck out any fan and their house, car or work space.

DSCN0545-14 DSCN0544-13 DSCN0539-12

DSCN0538-11

DSCN0536-10

DSCN0534-9 DSCN0533-8 IMAG1505-2

Update: Reports since our visit sees the space expanded to include sections and information along the lines of a museum with accompanying vintage cars and artwork being swapped in and out regularly, all the more reason to check it out :)

DSCN0550-16

Yokohama Bay area

DSCN0576-22

As this was just a day trip for us, Queen’s Plaza was a logical choice for a centralised jump off point. The train stops at Minatomirai station below the mall which makes its easy to get around and a good spot to ditch accumulating shopping in one of the many available lockers.

Landmark Plaza and Queen’s Plaza (and now MARK IS mall) are all within a short walk of each other sporting a higher end feel, with accompanying stores, from your regular Westfields. Kids (and our 😉 ) faves, Hello Kitty, Studio Ghibli and Pokemon stores are abound but the stand outs were Snoopy Town, Lego store, The Disney store and… Mister Donut 😉 Early evening, about an hour before closing they start clearing stock so donuts and other desserts can be had for some great prices, of course we had to try some (:

IMAG1522-12

IMAG1519-11 IMAG1524-14 IMAG1517-10

IMAG1515-8 IMAG1512-7 IMAG1516-9
IMAG1511-6
IMAG1510-5 IMAG1507-3

IMAG1508-4

It was well into the evening by the time we made it outside to the waterways around the bay unfortunately being the wet season it rained more days than it didn’t and this day was no different. But all was not lost, the view and lights around the bay still looked beautiful and it wasn’t heavy enough to make the walk to the World Porters mall unpleasant.

Along the way you’ll come across the Cosmo World amusement park, however also due to the less than ideal weather it had closed up early. The Cosmo Clock 21/ferris wheel however was still lit up and looked very cool against the night skyline.

DSCN0593-27

DSCN0560-18

DSCN0553-17

The Cup Noodle Museum is also down this end of the bay but we missed that by a good hour (!) so that left the Red brick Warehouse and World Porters malls. Maybe it was just the wind down to a rather long day but both malls were rather uneventful, on the plus side however, they’re open late so you can pretty much have the place to yourself if you venture out after dinner.

DSCN0587-24 DSCN0585-23 DSCN0572-21 DSCN0566-19

DSCN0569-20

IMAG1523-13

Travel Tip: There are a few pedicabs around the area if you want someone else’s legs to get you back to the train station.

Next up, we’re back on the shinkansen and heading to Osaka!

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

DSC_0333-4

Ramen museum? Thoughts instantly conjure up 1000 year old petrified noodles and perhaps a fossilised bowl fashioned from half a coconut. While there certainly are elements of a history lesson involved here, there’s also so much more to enjoy… and we’re not just talking about the ramen!

Getting there:
It’s only a few blocks from the station but it takes a little longer due to having to take the spaghetti of overpasses to cross the large intersections. It’s a rather uneventful walk but nothing too strenuous.

Outside its rather unassuming, pretty much a corporate looking building tucked away in a business district, the giveaway however is ticket box office. Inside, its kind of what you’d expect, a reasonably spacious art gallery style layout of items and history relating to the past, present and future of the delicious noodle and broth combo. Accompanying plaques are all in Japanese but there is still plenty of visual stimuli and a gift shop section selling a wide variety of ramen related souvenirs and cooking utensils if you’re so inclined.

DSCN0504-15 DSCN0497-10 DSCN0501-13

DSCN0500-12 DSCN0502-14 DSCN0498-11

What you wouldn’t expect is a mini coin op games arcade, a sizable slot car race track and a shop selling a huge range of scale model kits (mostly cars, vehicles). But that was quite alright with us! Ok, so maybe you were expecting some side entertainment Japanese style but take a trip downstairs for the real wow factor and to get your slurp on.

DSCN0482-1
Travel Tip:
This shop and the race track operate under shortened hours, best to check with the venue if you want to add it to your day.

What we discovered was some kind of time warp! Teleporting us back to 1958, the year instant noodles hit the shelves and paved the way of the future. Views from the mezzanine level show a perfectly recreated Tokyo street scene complete with authentic hustle and bustle of busy chefs and hungry customers to grimey walls and signs and even props like old coke machines and stores. Some of the stores are actually functioning businesses selling vintage items like old film cameras.

DSCN0483-2

DSCN0491-5

DSCN0492-6 DSCN0493-7 DSCN0490-4

DSCN0494-8

DSCN0495-9

The ambient sunrise to dusk mood lighting across the painted ceiling seals the deal and sets the mood for eating regardless of the weather or time of day outside.

DSC_0332-3

DSC_0330-2

To the stores, there are about a dozen famous ramen restaurants from all over Japan and to help with your choices, most sell a snack sized version of their meals so you can try a few rather than filling up at one place. If you’re travelling in a group that wants to try a bit of everything, there’s a central common courtyard area so you don’t need to all buy and eat at one place. The space also plays host to entertainers and musicians, during our visit a magician had the crowd in stitches. I’m sure it would’ve been even funnier if we knew what he was saying!

After a brief assessment of the selection on offer we locked in our choice at Ikemen Hollywood, not just for its American 50’s diner decor but for its infamous “Dip Ramen”. That’s right, the noodles and ingredients are separate, have as much or as little of the broth as you like! Verdict? An ear deafening slurp, will eat again! …except you cant. As of June this year they have closed that store! No idea why but perhaps it was drawing in too many greasers and Elvis impersonators who disrupted other guests? :p

IMAG1499-1

Travel Tip: Placing your order – all orders are placed via vending machines at the front of each shop. Simply punch in the code or press the button associated with your meal, insert cash and take your receipt. Don’t worry if you get confused, the friendly staff/host(ess) will be more than happy to help you.

Next up, we stop in at Nissan HQ and do a quick run through Yokohama’s bay area.

dsc_0342-343 pano-1

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

DSC_0217-20

Zoorasia is one of Japan’s newest and biggest zoos… so when in Yokohama…

We chose to head to the zoo first thing in the morning to avoid some of the crowds and with the hope of maximising our time in Yokohama since it opened earlier than the other sights/shops we wanted to see.

DSC_0194-11

DSC_0236-28

DSC_0233-27

DSC_0230-26 DSC_0238-29 DSC_0246-31 DSC_0248-32

DSC_0170-5

DSC_0166-4

DSC_0228-24

DSC_0219-21

DSC_0216-19 DSC_0214-18 DSC_0212-17 DSC_0222-23

Getting there:
Coming from Tokyo its just a matter of catching the shinkansen (which run very regularly from Tokyo Station) to Shin-Yokohama. Make your way to the bus stop at the front and wait. There’s a sign listing services for Zoorasia but we found that wasn’t necessary as the bus was clearly marked on the front and with a small sign and logo on the side. While you wait there’s a nice little bakery and a KFC across the road if you’re after a bite to eat.

As with any smaller local services your JR pass may not be accepted so keep some coins handy. The ride is less than Y200 so its not going to break the bank.

The trip takes about 20-30min on the eco-bus (eerily quiet when it shuts down when stopped at lights!) which takes you through smaller suburbs and a little bit of country side. Stay on it till the end, it’ll drop you off right at the door.

Travel tip: More details of how to get there can be found on their site, specifically this PDF (requires PDF reader or a supported browser/add on)

DSC_0209-16

DSC_0206-15

DSC_0204-14 DSC_0202-13 DSC_0198-12 DSC_0154-2

Getting there early definitely paid off, not a person in sight at the entrance, no line up for tickets and freedom of choice for lockers to lighten our load.

With free reign of the grounds bar a few other tourists it was easy to get the photos we wanted and move at a steady pace without getting frustrated with feet draggers and tour/school groups!

The animals are roughly divided into regions of origin, Asian Tropical, Subartic, Oceanic Grassland etc. Most of the “wow” animals are on the west half of the compound so head to the left after entering. Their enclosures are all very large, natural and well kept, a far cry from what we saw in Beijing previously. Viewing windows above and below the water in enclosures for animals like the penguins are an added bonus to watch their transistion in and out of the water.

DSC_0290-41

DSC_0284-39 DSC_0272-37 DSC_0270-36 DSC_0257-34

DSC_0266-35

DSC_0295-44

DSC_0294-43

DSC_0291-42 DSC_0287-40

DSC_0255-33

DSC_0244-30

Getting about does take a bit of time due to the expansive size so if you go at busy times be prepared to add a lot more time to your schedule.

Travel tip: There are eateries through out the grounds to take a rest, Aussie Hill restaurant provides a psuedo taste of home, just don’t expect billy tea and damper 😉

DSC_0186-10

DSC_0183-9 DSC_0174-7 DSC_0172-6 DSC_0157-3

"I said I'll get to you in a sec..."

“I said I’ll get to you in a sec…”

DSC_0316-51 DSC_0152-1 DSC_0325-54 DSC_0320-53

DSC_0309-47 DSC_0306-46 DSC_0301-45

ORLY?

ORLY?

YA RLY.

YA RLY.

Like any zoo, the time you take is purely up to how thorough/interested you are (or how many kids you have) so it can take anywhere from a couple hours to the whole day. The place was filling up by the time we left (around lunch) as the school excursions started arriving.

Did someone say lunch? Time for a ramen break! Up next, The Ramen Museum!

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

Tamiya HQ
If you can’t make it out to a model kit factory (if you do, just make sure they still have tours! many don’t anymore) then popping into Tamiya HQ in Shimbashi is -almost- the next best thing. Its essentially a store but don’t let that discourage you, their range is extensive covering thousands of their latest model kits, paints and building materials on the ground floor; an RC haven in the basement and a social build event space upstairs. The street level also has a solid selection of built kits on display and a generous helping of branded merchandise including clothing, stickers and nicknacks. The longer night hours (10pm) during the week (and 6pm on weekends) are useful for planning your days when you lose track of time!

IMAG1467-4  IMAG1468-5  IMAG1469-6

IMAG1471-8

IMAG1470-7  IMAG1472-9  IMAG1474-11

IMAG1473-10

IMAG1476-12

IMAG1480-14

IMAG1481-15  IMAG1479-13  IMAG1482-16

IMAG1483-17

IMAG1466-3

Diver City Plaza

DSC_0011-9

Diver what? Located in Tokyo bay, Koto, its not exactly a place that comes up in the Tokyo “must see’s ” list and if youre only going for the shopping you may even miss the best (and biggest) attraction, a 1:1 scale Gundam robot! Those that aren’t interested in all things anime/manga are probably already rolling their eyes but trust me when we tell you its as awe inspiring as the Eiffel Tower (and almost as big!…almost :p). The real treat is making your way there after dark when it puts on a light and sound show complete with accompanying movie, CO2 bursts and a bit of movement! Yes movement, sadly not in the walk around, baritone voice, making girls swoon Optimus Prime kinda way but we’d like to think that if Japan did come under attack Pacific Rim style they’d already have a substitute Jaeger secretly ready to lay it down 😉

IMAG1485-18

Best thing is, the full length show runs hourly and there are teaser previews on the half hour. Times are displayed on a sign. There is also a merch demountable office at its feet with a modest selection of Gundam related items and Gunpla kits. Most however are available at countless other stores (and at better prices depending where you look) so you can give your carrying arms a break and just enjoy the show. Here, you can also buy tickets to the small “Gundam Front” exhibit which houses some scaled real life props from the series and other points of interest.

DSC_0001-7

DSC_0088-31

DSC_0124-40

DSC_0117-37  DSC_0072-28  DSC_0031-18

DSC_0094-32

DSC_0078-30

DSC_0065-27

DSC_0053-24  DSC_0029-16  DSC_0040-22

DSC_9993-5

Photo Tip:  As you can see from the photos, this guy is huge, so an ultra wide angle (around 12mm on crop, 20mm on fx) is a must.  A mid zoom will help get some close up details.  A tripod is handy but not a must unless you decide to shoot some night city scapes, not much on this side of the bay however.

Afterwards head inside for some food and shopping. If, like us, you got a bit carried away and watched the full show twice before you realise the shops close at 9, you don’t need to worry, just head up to the top level. Thanks to Round 1 – very similar to Timezone in Australia with arcade games, claw machines (skill (aka patience) testers), bowling and karaoke – shops stay open a bit later on this level with a selection of international fast food and local restaurants. We were looking at a menu only to realise the place had closed, but of course, in true Japanese hospitality, the owner came out and asked if we wanted a table and that it was no problem to cook us something. How could we say no? The bento set was delish btw 😉 We also now find it very difficult to go back to fried items sitting on the plate instead of on a mini rack to stay crispy!

IMAG1486-19

Travel Tip: There are a few ways to Diver City from Tokyo station but there is no direct route so you will need to change trains and do a bit of walking between stations.  Allow about 30min all up and remember to keep some change on you for the local trains that don’t accept the JR passes.  Full list in english on the Diver City webpage.

Next up we hit the shinkansen early for a day trip to Yokohama, you know, the place where all those tyres come from :p

If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

IMAG1458-17

Aki’ba, THE geek mecca (and mecha!) of the world. We covered a few spots on our last visit but its one of those places that you can continually go back to and not only find something new every time but you’ll never cover all of it! It’s a bit hard to reference each store, especially when a lot of them don’t even seem to have any obvious naming (having rubbish Japanese reading skills doesn’t help!) but know that if you work your way north from the station keeping within a block or two of the main drag you cant go too wrong. The best part is uncovering hidden treasures in stores that, at first glance, don’t look like they’d have what youre looking for.

A couple of our fave stops include:
The Gundam Café – exactly what it says on the box. A café celebrating all that’s Gundam with Gundam referenced food and drinks and nifty décor. Also a good place to grab a couple café related souvenirs – mugs, biscuits etc. as well as a small selection of Gunpla. Next door is AKB48, the girl band, the theatre, the hourly shows. Sick of waiting years to see your fave act or missing them because they didn’t come to your city? AKB48 has you covered where you can go to them and see them play any day of the year and even in different parts of the country on the same day! How is this possible? Well having 48 members (now into the hundreds!) helps. Though if you’re not a tweenage girl or business man it may not be your cup of Miso.

DSCN0475-3

DSCN0476-4

IMAG1460-18

IMAG1461-19

Mandarake – Big black building. Toys. Cosplay. Old, new. Lots. If you’ve read any of our posts about Japan previously, you’ll know how much we champion this place, go there.

IMAG1444-13

Gashapon store – A whole shop just for gashapon! While the thrill of the hunt is always fun, I’m finding I’m more inclined to just pay a slight premium to get the “discovered” pieces and either cherry pick or buy the whole collection that someone else has taken the time to collate. If this sounds like you as well, the rear of the store and upstairs has display cases and shelves full of the ones you’ve been chasing, didn’t know existed or have been out of production for years.

IMAG1454-16

Sega – There are plenty of multi storey gaming buildings but none stand out quite like Seee-gahh (cue sparkly shine). Many hours and thousands of Yen can be spent without blinking an eye. But of course if you cant master the “giant metal nail punching holes in the paper” or “push the pig through the bars” technique, there’s always the cop out of simply finding a store that stocks the prize you’re after and buying it 😉

IMAG1431-3

IMAG1430-2

Super Potato – Wall to wall retro console gaming, even if you’re not after a cartridge or console there’s plenty of items that would make great wall/desktop display pieces.

IMAG1434-4

IMAG1435-5

IMAG1437-6

IMAG1438-7

Robot Robot – Thankfully this was one of those times judging a shop by its name paid off! With no street frontage and only a sign to go by, it was always going to be a gamble but the trip up the elevator was worth it not just for Robot squared with its extensive range of Hot Toys style high end collector products with leanings towards horror movies and gore in general …and vagina-like monsters (why are they always vagina-like??)  but for the smaller accompanying stores on the same floor with a great selection of new and used toys and collectibles. Want to see a fair chunk of Coca Cola’s history as a yoyo? Yep, you see that here too!

IMAG1442-11

IMAG1443-12

IMAG1439-8

IMAG1440-9

IMAG1441-10

Of course there’s also the plethora of electronics stores like LAOX which really need no description, if it’s a new gadget, they’ll more than likely have it. Pricing is however average or slightly better with greater bargains to be had online but finding a JDM only model or colour can be worth it.

IMAG1429-1

We stumbled across a “Rollertarg” a bit further down so lunch was an easy choice :) continue walking and you will end up in Ueno. However, unlike last time the market gods were not kind to us and a lot of stores that we previously come across had moved on, though its always a good place to walk through, you’ll never know what you’ll find and the nearby park is more than worth the trip.

IMAG1464-20

IMAG1465-21


If you have any questions on our travels, where to buy, what to do, hit us up on the Soulbridge media facebook page.

Japan 2013 part #1 – Arrival
Japan 2013 part #2 – Tokyo International Toy Expo
Japan 2013 part #3 – Gotemba – Premium Outlets mall
Japan 2013 part #4 – Tokyo – Studio Ghibli Museum
Japan 2013 part #5 – Tokyo – Kichijoji and Nakano
Japan 2013 part #6 – Tokyo – Akihabara
Japan 2013 part #7 – Tokyo – Tamiya HQ, Diver City
Japan 2013 part #8 – Yokohama – Zoorasia
Japan 2013 part #9 – Yokohama – Ramen Museum
Japan 2013 part #10 – Nissan HQ and Yokohama
Japan 2013 part #11 – Osaka – Nanba Shopping
Japan 2013 part #12 – Kyoto
Japan 2013 part #13 – Tokyo – Harajuku, Shibuya
Japan 2013 part #14 – Osaka castle, Umeda Sky building
Japan 2013 part #15 – Osaka Aquarium and Tempozan wheel
Japan 2013 part #16 – Osaka Universal Studios

Next Page »