Things to NOT do in Tokyo [July 3 2012]

So you want to know what NOT to do in Tokyo?

There are a number of things that we can talk about her but for the sake of today’s post let’s talk about three things that I think are definite No-No’s when traveling to Tokyo. Without further delay let’s get right into it!

Do NOT try to imitate the fashions.

When traveling to Tokyo (or any part of Japan as far as I am concerned) it can be tempting to dress the way you see people dress in photos and on blogs. These elaborate and at times wacky outfits are fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but when traveling to Tokyo I would say that they are something to avoid. The reason for this? Well it’s simple. The odds are you are coming to Tokyo from another country, you spent a lot of money on this trip. Enjoy it. Fashion is great. I am a huge advocate of getting out there, expressing yourself and being who you are or even creating a you that you’ve always wanted. I just personally believe that comfort will ensure that you have a better time on a trip like this.

Do NOT go to Tokyo without a plan. 

There is so much going on in Tokyo that you might think it is incredible unnecessary to make a plan but the fact is there is a good chance that if you don’t make a plan you will find yourself missing out. You don’t necessarily have to follow the plan as if it were law but it will give you a direction to move and therefore give you the opportunity to see more. Also be sure to plan to eat. Find a few places where you might want to try in the area you are visiting and list them so when you want some food you know where they are and what they offer.  It is not uncommon for you to get so excited that you pass by a place to eat and realize that it was your only place to eat and now it is packed solid.

Do NOT rush through Tokyo. 

When I say this I am talking from the moment you get out of the plane to the moment you try and get on a train. Tokyo is much easier to get around for the English speaker than people might think BUT you have to be patient and take time to see what is around you. It is not uncommon to find English on signs at stations and airports but you may have to step back a moment and wait for them to change to your language. Also consider that there are sometimes English maps where you can check information but you will again need to take a second look for them (they are not hard to find) and then at times you may have to do a matching game with the kanji and English words so you can get on the right train. It’s not hard but it does require patience. Yes people around you will be rushing and traveling quickly, they live in Tokyo they know what they are doing, but just take a slow pace and enjoy yourself.

Do NOT just travel to say you have been places. 

I will be talking more specifically about travel in another post but it is important to make sure you are traveling to do things that actually interest you. If you are not interested on going up to the tallest tower in Tokyo don’t do it. If you don’t have any interest in seeing the buildings in Shibuya because you live in a city, don’t do it. See the things you want to see and do the things you want to do. Stay away from the travel guide books and just enjoy doing things you enjoy.

I hope that this post helps those of you who are interested in traveling to Tokyo. Please stay tuned for more information about Tokyo in the near future.

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Katventures Tokyo Issue 1: Chef Mickey’s Character Breakfast [July 20 2012]

There is no better way to start off your trip with a nice filling breakfast and we did just that at the Tokyo Disney Resort Ambassador Hotel’s restaurant “Chef Micky’s”. Like the Chef Mickey’s located at different Disney Resorts around the world this restaurant offers a nice dining location for families as well as adult groups/couples to enjoy a hearty breakfast no matter what you enjoy eating. From steamed Japanese veggies and dumplings to jelly beans trust me when I say there is something for everybody.

The breakfast was very affordable at 3300 yen per adult for an all you can eat buffet. There was no posted time limits on the buffet although I assume it would be the standard 90 minutes the they have at other all you can eat places in Japan. The selection was HUGE and in fact I didn’t even scrape the surface with what I ate. I also made the mistake of having two Micky pancakes which were very heavy and filling although they were amazingly delicious. There was fresh fruit, veggies, pastries, meats, pancakes, cereals, rice, curry, and so much more! The down side is that for two people it felt a little bit cramped. The table we were at was small and in a corner which made it hard to get in and out to see the characters without disturbing the two girls that were along side of us. Of course it’s Disney and everyone was very understanding of what was going on because that is the nature of the restaurant but still I think it is worth mentioning if you are planning on going with just yourself and one other person.

The cast members were very helpful and most spoke either English or would alter the way they spoke Japanese to a more understandable vocabulary. If there was a misunderstanding then they would quickly either get someone to assist or they would find out how to ask the question in English before returning to the table. That made everything very helpful and less stressful especially for my mom who wasn’t sure how to communicate what she wanted. I should also mentioned that regardless the fact that I could have assisted my mom before I had the chance to even explain that Japanese was ok for me the cast member would have already rushed away to get a statement translated. . . it was that quick.

The main dish, as far as my mother was concerned that is, were jelly beans. There were 4 different containers of jelly beans of mixed flavors for you to enjoy. They were also Jelly Belly brand which was surprising to me because usually Chef Micky’s has candy for breakfast but not high quality beans like this. Everything was good and high quality though so I really can’t say anything bad. There were also only 4 characters which was fine with me but I understand how some people may not have been pleased with that. The characters came around much more quickly than they do at Chef Mickey’s in Walt Disney World but nonetheless it was still fine with me.

All of the characters were very “physical” in that they would shake your hand, give you a kiss or whatever else. For me I am tall so they pulled me down so I would be at their level. I had a great time taking photos with the characters and it was a good chance to get my photos in without having to wait in the lines that there at at the parks. If you want to really have a different variety of characters though, you can go to various character dining options that are around the resort. This is a great chance for you to see everyone but for those who you do not see you can check them out a the parks. They have a TON of characters (even the ones that you haven’t seen for years and years) for you to meet and greet. They also have them out for long periods of time so that almost everyone has the chance to see them if they want to.

The Bottom Line:

RATING: 7 out of 10

If you are staying at the Ambassador Hotel then this is a great way to start your Disney trip. The price is right at 3300 yen for an all you can eat buffet with character meet and greet. If you are not at the restaurant early you may find yourself having to use something called “priority seating” which means you can get a ticket to come back to the restaurant at a later designated time rather than having to wait. This is common at other Disney Resorts also and I find it extremely useful.

So why 7 out of 10? The table was just a bit too small in my opinion and just a bit too close to the one next to us especially for a restaurant where you are up and down taking photos with characters. I also would have liked to see maybe just 2 more characters and have them a bit more spread out because it felt just a bit rushed.

Other than those things everything else was GREAT! Definitely something I would recommend.

 

Ikspiari (Tokyo Disney Resort) Rainforest Cafe Review [July 20 2012}

One of the restaurants which is a must for my family and I every time that we visit a Disney Resort is always the Rainforest Cafe. Here in Tokyo it was no exception. I could not resist the chance to eat some familiar foods and enjoy some nachos and tacos the way that they were meant (as far as an american is concerned) to be eaten.

The service was great and the prices were typical so I really can’t say anything bad about that. They also had many of the favorites that you might find at any Rainforest Cafe with the addition of some Japanese style specialties to include a salad which included raw seafood. Before I continue any further it is important to note that if you are interested in going to the Rainforest Cafe and have not been here before you should know that it is loud and exciting. If you are looking for a quiet or romantic sit down restaurant this is most likely not for you. There are “animals” around the entire restaurant which “act up” from time to time as well as “thunder storms” which happen every so often. I would not imagine that this would be the place to bring children who may be fearful of these types of things. This wasn’t a problem for my mother or myself though.

Overall Review

The service was great and the food came quick. Once it arrived it was delicious too! The staff was friendly and although they did not speak English well they did do their best to take my mother’s order and there were no mistakes.

RATING: I give this restaurant a 10 our of 10. There was nothing that I could honestly say they needed to improve on that I was aware of.

If you are interested in going to the Rainforest Cafe in Ikspiari I would definitely recommend it.

Around the Area: Ikspiari Shopping Center [July 20 2012]

We started off the day with some coffee which I had packed for the trip. This turned out to be a very useful thing especially the “blendy sticks” that I had also taken along with me which gave the coffee that gourmet taste without the gourmet price. If you are into paying over $10.00 for your coffee there are a number of places in the local shopping center known as Ikspiari where you can find a variety of places that serve up almost anything you can think of but more about that later. The Ambassador Hotel did offer up a few different types of hot drinks such as instant stir and go coffee as well as tea but I am glad that I had brought along my drip coffee especially with the amount of coffee that we drank.

It was a long flight for my mom who was coming from Boston so we decided to start the day off at Chef Mickey’s and then spend some time in the area at Ikspiari seeing as it was very close to the hotel, in fact it was about a 5 minute walk from the elevator to Ikspiari itself. We had actually planned on going to various other places in Tokyo to explore, however, the sheer size of Ikspiari coupled with the amount of food, shopping and entertainment offered ended up keeping us entertained for most of the day.

To be completely honest although it would have been fun to go from place to place as I had originally planned I was actually blown away by the variety of what was offered at Ikspiari. If you are familiar with the Disney Resorts around the world, mainly Walt Disney World, I would compare Ikspiari to Down Town Disney. There is a movie theater, live shows, food and various shopping all with the high quality Disney customer service that you would expect from the company. There are, however, some main differences. Although there is a Disney Store there are very few Disney themed shops in Ikspiari which was nice. There were also a lot of places which were more practical rather than novelty. For example they don’t have places like the magnet store which only sells magnets but they do have various clothing stores, cosmetic stores as well as some familiar brands like Coach and Lush.

If you do not want to shop there are various other areas you can explore like the large court yard with a stage in the center where there are various acts for everyone to enjoy. Although we did not sit down to watch any of the shows in particular we did see a bit of one where a man was doing tricks on the stage with the help from the audience. It seemed silly to me but the crowd seemed to like it and were very involved. These shows seemed to happen every night although we did not see a schedule nor did we watch every night so we took it as more of something to see if you happened to be in the area. The rest of the area is just beautiful though, there are flowers which were just fantastic and the sights and sounds were very enjoyable.

I do, however, think that it is important to note that although it is a nice place to stroll this is still a high traffic area. Although it is not as high traffic as some areas in Tokyo might be it is still Tokyo and you will experience the hustle and bustle of the city so be aware of that. If you have children strollers will be just fine but I would think twice about having young ones walking freely because of the amount of people and the slightly confusing layout of the area.

So you want to save all of your money for Disney merchandise, I understand, but everyone’s got to eat! I was incredibly pleased with the food options which were available at Ikspiari. No matter what you are looking for or what type of food you enjoy you can find it here. . . somewhere. And you can even find those places that you otherwise would have searched all over Tokyo to find, right here, at your fingertips. Rainforest Cafe was no surprise but I was pleased to see that there was a Sweets Paradise which I had been searching all over for. Other restaurant options included Yakiniku, Italian, Sushi, Traditional Japanese, Tempaura and more. If you wanted to grab something for your room there are various places like a grocery store where you can pick up various international favorites. The prices were a little steep compared to what I am used to but according to Mom they weren’t that bad and were rather affordable in many cases. There were also other places where you could get fresh foods such as sushi, rice balls and various other favorites. This was in my opinion much more affordable and I wish I would have seen this sooner. There are also places where you can get hotdogs and sandwiches if you are not in the mood to try some different Japanese style foods although I should warn you that many of the American foods are a bit overpriced because they are a special treat.

Overall this is a fantastic area and certainly worth the trip if you are in the Tokyo Disney Resort Area. It’s also a little taste of Japan Shopping even if you are not out in the city and stay in the Tokyo Disney Resort.

Here are some more photos from Ikspiari including some of the foods that we got from the grocery store:

Katventures Issue 3: Tokyo Disneyland [July 20 2012]

For our first day at the parks we decided that we would go to Tokyo Disneyland because it was simply the most appropriate place to go on the first day of a Disney trip. The weather was not bad although I to be honest would have liked to see a bit more sun. We were completely cloud covered and it was incredibly windy up there but we managed to get by without much of a problem.

We had the advantage of special park passes which allowed us into a special area where we could get into the park 15 minutes early which was great. This was one of the advantages of staying on Disney property and we took advantage of this as often as we could. Fifteen minutes might not seem like a lot but it was enough to get yourself ahead of the rest of the people and get on some of the rides before others were allowed into the park.

Although I had done my research about the time when we were traveling I didn’t realize that this “off season” would be the way that it was. We did start enjoying the parks on Wednesday which was mid week but there seemed to be no one (at least compared to my last trip to the resort) here. We were able to get onto a number of rides that usually would have long waits all before lunch. To be truthful we really didn’t know what to do with ourselves. We had enjoyed a few things as far as shopping and really strolled around the shops and saw what they had to offer. We also took some time to really see what the park had to offer as far as food went although we didn’t eat everything we saw. I will be making a post in the future completely dedicated to food so when that time comes around I will make sure I go over absolutely everything that you might find at the park so you don’t feel like you will be eating rice and sushi the entire time if you choose to visit.

Over all the day at Tokyo Disneyland was great! We had the chance to see a lot and also just relax. There were some set backs like a little bit of rain and some of the shows were canceled because of the high winds but this was nothing that we couldn’t deal with. To be honest I am trying to think of actual draw backs from the day and I can’t think of any. The park was clean the staff were friendly everything went really well.

Katventures Issue 4: Tokyo Disney Sea [July 20 2012]

Our second day in the Tokyo Disney Resort was spent at Tokyo Disney Sea. If you have never been to Tokyo Disney Sea this is a park which is themed to the waterfronts of the world. The centerpiece is a large volcano which is the background for the “sea” which is the center of the park. There is the American Waterfront, Mysterious Island, Port Discovery, Mediterranean Harbor, Mermaid Lagoon and Arabian Coast. If you have ever been to EPCOT this is a similar concept. Each area has specialty rides, foods and music which are appropriate for the areas that you visit. You can get curry from the Arabian Coast, Italian food at Mediterranean Harbor and hotdogs at American Waterfront. In the other areas the food is also themed although I will say that Mermaid Lagoon serving seafood just seems wrong but for us humans I suppose that it is acceptable.

Each of these locations makes you feel as though you are really at the different parts of the world which is why I compare it to EPCOT although that is the first and last comparison to be completely honest. Everything else about the park is completely unique in different ways. One of the very interesting things that they have is a hotel, Miracosta, which is actually located in the park. In fact when sitting around waiting for Fantasmic you can see the people in their hotel windows. In my personal opinion this is a great way to add a special something to the park because although the building is beautifully painted and is inside the park the fact that there are naturally people walking around moving in the building behind the curtains, some open some shut lights on and off in a completely candid way. It’s a great thing in my opinion.

There are some places which are in the park which are completely based on the imaginary places created by novels such as Journey To The Center Of The Earth and 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. The theming of this area is absolutely amazing. This area is tucked behind the volcano and therefore you need to walk through a cave to get to this area. When you emerge you find yourself inside the novels themselves. When you are in this area you can find yourself unable to see anything else around the park which is fantastic. There are a few different things that are worth mentioning in this area. An important thing to note is that there are a lot of shady areas in this area to include Journey To The Center Of The Earth.

There are a lot of other fun things to do around the park and tons of great photo opportunities around the park although some of them may be . . . . . strange. Regardless it’s a fun place to be. You will hear me talk more about this park here in the near future. Overall this park is a great place especially for the adult guests. Stay tuned for more fun facts and information in the next week.

Kids Will Be Kids – Part 2: Places To Take Your Kids & Some To Avoid [August 14 2012]

In my last post I spoke about having kids here in Okinawa specifically regarding a question I received from a viewer. Because there is only so much that I can say in one video and in one blog post I thought that I would segment these posts and so here I go with part 2. In this post we’re going to be talking about some places you can take your kids and others that you might want to avoid. Of course this all depends on your child but I am going with some general information so I hope that you find it useful and beneficial in your travels around the island.

Because the list will be significantly shorter let’s start with places you might want to avoid with your little ones:

Historical Sites 

Okinawa is covered with historical sites which for history and culture buffs like myself can be fun and exciting to visit but for little kids is can be less so. More importantly these places can be dangerous. Castle ruins for example look relatively harmless with wide-open spaces covered in grass but with most of these castle ruins they are constructed from coral stone which can be slick, sharp and hard. They are also built on high ground meaning that there can be steep stairs, caverns near wells and cliffs. Even for some adults these places can be dangerous so my recommendation is that children taken to these areas are very well disciplined which will ensure that they don’t find themselves in an area which could cause them any harm.

It is also important to keep in mind that some of these places are used as worship sites for local people and therefore it’s important to consider this when visiting (even if you are an adult). Being considerate of those who are visiting to worship ancestors or what have you should be high priority for those visiting these sites.

The Strip

I have always known the strip as streets and areas where there are various storefronts one right after the other. They are usually full of tourists and open air shopping usually right on a main road here in Okinawa. Two of the most popular are Kokasai Street and American Village. I think it’s important to note again that it all depends on your child but it is important to note that these places can be dangerous for mostly children who are, as I described in my last post, runners. The others they are great loud places so someone who might be rambunctious might not have a problem here although as I said for the runner it’s not very far between the sidewalks and where cars are driving.

See, I told you the list wasn’t that long. Of course it’s up to you to determine what you and your children are capable of, however, I am offering my suggestions based on my past experiences. With that said let’s go into the fun and exciting places that are perfect for your little kiddles to have some fun . . . . and you too hopefully!

Playgrounds

The one great thing Okinawa has going for the young ones in your family is that there is a place for them to play in almost every neighborhood. Not only this but they are usually clean, safe and have covered areas for parents to stay in the shade while your little ones burn all that energy before their midday nap. If you are living in one of Okinawa’s cities there is bound to be some sort of part within walking distance. For me there are about 2 or 3 within about a 20 minutes walking distance max. Usual characteristics of these parks are slides, swings and large open areas. The slide are awesome! They are not like what you would see in in the US but sometimes they are shaped like large animals or have fun paintings on them. In some cases they have these things which I call rollie slides. They are huge slides with rollers on them which are online I have seen anywhere else. There is not much to say about swings, they are pretty standard but the slides are the things to get excited about (and who’s to say that a grown up can’t have a little fun too?). I can also honestly say that I have tested some of these slides and I give them my star of approval! 100% fun!

Shopping Center Play Areas 

If you are wanting to avoid the sun there are places where you can take your littles ones at local shopping centers. Some of the centers have play areas which are there regularly like the one in Naval Kadena and the San A in Naha. For a small fee you can take your little ones to play in their play area and you can sit in the AC while you supervise them. There are others that go from shopping center to shopping center throughout the year. You can usually find the schedule at your favorite shopping center. They sometimes have trampolines, bounce castles and ball pits that you can have your child use for a small fee while others supervise and you enjoy the AC.

Museums

Although they are meant to be quiet places there are exhibits from time to time when child friendly exhibits are in town. There are areas where kids can have hands on exploration of fun and exciting things. Two that I remember were a dinosaur exhibit and a robot exhibit. Both were targeted towards kids as well as adults and although I did not do to the dinosaur exhibit but the robot one had a lot of fun hands on experiences for younger ones.

Parks

Although not all parks are 100% designated for children there are usually places where your little ones can run around safely and play in the grass. If there is a good place to kick around a ball parks will be the place. Now unfortunately they are not always as common as playgrounds that i mentioned above but they are usually within driving distance ad have parking areas so it’s perfect for an afternoon out.

 

I hope that you find these suggestions useful. If you have any suggestions of particular places to visit please leave them in the comments below for those other readers. As always thanks for reading!