Since we’ve covered a few of these destinations previously, I’ll try not to waffle on too much (mmm waffles)…

We arrive into Narita exhausted after a grueling 12hours in transit (hooray cheap flights -__-‘ ), so instead of messing about with multiple trains into Tokyo and back out to Yokohama, we chose the limo bus service which is a direct run to Yokohama CAT (city air terminal). It also runs about every 15min so no sweat if you miss one.

Travel tip: tickets for the bus are available at the airport via the respective counter or vending machine, the kind staff will even draw you a map of how to get to the bus stop.

Travel tip: the airport is also a good place to get your Suica card (if you don’t already have one) and to break some big notes so you can begin hoarding coins for the inevitable vending machine purchases.

The ride takes about 90min which isn’t very scenic at night but you might be lucky enough to spy some boy racers channelling Fast and Furious/Need for Speed on the freeways.

We stayed at the Richmond Hotel in Otamachi which ticked our usual holiday accommodation boxes of price and location. Bashamichi station is a couple stops from Yokohama station and then it’s a short walk to the hotel.

Richmond Hotel full review here

The Richmond is one of the better value hotels in the central Yokohama area, we chose it because of its walkable proximity to the bay area attractions, Chinatown and transport. From Narita we took a limo bus directly to Yokohama Station, from there its only a couple stops to Bashamichi station on the Minato Mirai line. Take the south east exit (there’s a big map of the surrounding area on the upper level of the station), this will pop you out at a large intersection with “life saving” Lawsons diagonally behind you. Head straight down this small scenic street (full of restaurants and even a Gold’s gym), stay on the right side, after about 6 (small) streets you’ll see it on your right, cant miss it. If you see a Family mart across the road, stop! You’ve literally just walked past it 😉
The walk takes about 5-10min with suitcases and a toddler (:
If you walk in the other direction (north east) out of the station you will get to the World Porters shopping mall (hello Teddy’s Bigger Burgers!), Cosmo World fun park, Cup Noodles museum and the harbour itself. Its only about 1km from the bay to the hotel which is nice for an evening stroll.

The area around the hotel was reasonably quiet by our standards, yes there are restaurants and a couple bars that are open later but no hordes of rowdy people milling in the streets or loud music.

The hotel itself is great, ample room by Japanese standards but if you’re one of those people that go on holidays to stay in your room (why, I don’t know), spend (much) more and look elsewhere. Regular double room was big enough for our two suitcases and a pop up sleeper for our toddler with room to get around those things.
Service was equally good, standard Japanese efficiency and friendliness. Even when we opted for no turn down service they still left a bag with bottles of water and extra towels just in case.

The breakfast buffet is at the hotel’s shared restaurant which leans more towards Asian style than Western – which is limited to chipotles, dinner rolls and scramble eggs. If you don’t mind both, like trying new things or have it included in your room cost then its worth a try otherwise you’ll find better value at the many other options nearby eg. Pork buns from Family mart 😉

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Travel tip: If you’re looking for mobile data while in Japan, I couldn’t fault a 14 day vistor’s sim from B-mobile for about 2200Y. Usage limits to 1Gb per 3 days so no p2p or streaming but more than enough data for map reading and social media brags 😉 Though if you’re using AirBnB most will offer a free portable wifi hotspot which you can take out and about with you. Note: these will have usage limits and from our experience were a little patchy with service at times and would also occasionally drop the hotspot connection.
UPDATE: check the bmobile site, their plans have since changed

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Mitsui Outlet
This has been on our to do list for the last couple trips but since it was a little bit further out in the opposite direction of our other activities we’re only just getting to it now.



Getting there:

The website provides everything you need including travel options. For us it was a short walk south from the hotel to Kannai station, change at Shin Sugita and Torihama then a short walk, past the cutest bunch of little baseballers ever, to the mall. It is located on the bay so you get a lovely seaside vibe on a sunny Sunday morning.

The layout of the complex takes advantage of this and is mostly outdoors with covered verandas and boardwalks. The stores cover the usual big name brands including Adidas, Asics, Reebok, Beams, Timberland, Levis and XLarge/Xgirl, most offering a tax free option for tourists.

There is also a water play area and simple side show alley style games for kids in the central “town square” area. A large carousel and roaming churro vendors add to the carnival vibe.

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Chinatown
We stopped into Chinatown on the return journey, it was far bigger than we expected, covering more than just a couple streets and blocks. It is however what you would expect from any such place around the world, food and plenty of it with a side of bargain shopping and haggling. If you haven’t eaten that day, grab a pork bun the size of your head to tie you over till dinner 😉

Being on a tight schedule we only walked the main street but you could easily spend the better part of a day exploring all the side alleys here.

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Cup Noodle Museum
Another illusive attraction we missed previously, but not this time! Being an all ages (targeting mostly children) theme park it was the usual mix of kids everywhere and lines a plenty to queue at, that said, most lines moved quickly and kids are conveniently knee height (j/k :p ). The build your own noodle cup area was especially deafening with hoards of school excursion kids but it added to the whole feel of a busy production line, which roughly follows:

1. Sterilise your hands and take a cup
2. Cup custom area – you can go to town drawing your own designs on the cup
3. Pick and choose bar – staff fill the cup with noodles and your choice of flavourings before sealing and shrink wrapping.
4. Bagging station – you construct an ingeniously design balloon bag to safely transport your noodle cup home. (Aussie travellers – remember to declare this when coming through customs)

Venturing to other (much quieter) floors in the building sees a more traditional museum layout with noodle history, flavours and of course lots of cup noodles.

Travel tip:
Groups are let in at a scheduled time to avoid overcrowding, you can choose your preferred time when purchasing tickets. If you plan on making a day of it, register for a noodle making class as well!
Note: Commentary is in full Japanese and only some staff speak a little English.

We finally finished off the day with Teddy’s Bigger Burgers at World Porter’s then a nice evening stroll back to the hotel.

Travel tip: Best time to visit World Porter’s is in the late afternoon, crowds are very sparse and the food court is quite deserted.

Coming up next, we make our way to the Fuji 5 lakes area via our fave Gotemba outlet mall.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 🙂

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Yokohama Bay area

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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 (:

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

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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.

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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)

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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.

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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 😉

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

“I said I’ll get to you in a sec…”

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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