“You deserve the best things in life, and at least for now I can provide it to you.”
As an American, turning 21 is seen as a pretty big deal. Finally (legally) ordering your first cocktail at a bar is a right of passage and a celebration of sorts. For my 21st birthday, my sister, Katherine, decided we should go on a trip – that trip was to Japan. Now that’s a big deal.
- Tsukiji Fish Market
Morning sushi always sounds like a good idea, right? Definitely. We ordered from a preset menu where the chef would serve what he thought was best.
L to R: squid, a white fish, salmon, steamed egg cake and ginger
tiff tip: go in the morning and and I know the lines look daunting, but it’s well worth the wait.
2. Kabuki Show
A Kabuki show is a Japanese version of Broadway. From the over-the-top makeup and costumes, the performers are entertaining and hilarious. The show we went to was a comedy. Unfortunately for us, neither of us speak or understand Japanese. Although there were English audio guides, we decided it would take away from the experience to listen in English. Boy were we wrong. After the first five minutes, we had no idea what was going on, and decided to make up our own dialogue. Even though we came out of the show unsure of practically everything, we thought it was worth the experience.
tiff tip: rent the English audio guide, or you’ll be making up your own script. If the tickets are less than 40usd/person, I think it’d be worth seeing!
3. Rabbit Cafe
Japan is a weird place – for around 10 USD, my sister and I were able to have tea with a few rabbits hoppin’ around the place. Included in the price are a few carrot and celery sticks to entice those rabbits your way.
Personally, rabbits are more up my alley than cats or birds, but remember: all of these animals use the cafe as their toilet. Try going at an off-time. The more crowded the cafe, the less time you’ll have to play with the bunnies!
When Gwen Stefani sings about them, I didn’t know what to expect. But this district is lively and so fun! We also did a little photo booth and it made all my dreams come true.
tiff tip: This place is something you can’t miss. Along with the Shibuya Crossing, Harajuku has its own little vibe that tourists must see – it’s what makes Tokyo so amazing. Also, go into the little tweenie shops and do a photobooth, my sister and I will remember that experience for years.
5. Meet ups with Emily
Emily, my friend from uni, just happened to be in Tokyo with her mom, and obviously we had to meet up.
Canyoning: traveling in canyons using a variety of techniques, like walking, scrambling, climbing, jumping, abseiling and swimming. When I describe canyoning to my friends, I’m always at a loss for words. Google provided that definition… (Thanks Google!)
tiff tip: Adventure level: 3/5, but the tour “I Love Outdoors” group catered to us personally and made the experience wonderful. Definitely recommend seeing Grassy and his crew!
7. Takaragawa Onsen (Hot Springs)
Japanese Hot Springs. Need I say more? This onsen was magical. With excellent scenery and a devoted servicing team, our experience here was one I’ll never forget. Locked away in a more remote part of Japan, Takaragwa was the ultimate relaxing destination. The springs had a range of temperatures and the food served was interesting at first, but definitely fresh and delicious.
8. Traditional Tea Ceremony
Matcha everything. That’s something I’ll always remember from Japan. Katherine and I decided to be a little more cultural and join in on a traditional tea ceremony.After a thirty minute ceremony we were able to taste the famous matcha. It’s an acquired taste. At first, I thought it was disgusting. After a while I’ve grown accustomed and actually enjoy drinking matcha tea and eating matcha flavored desserts.
tiff tip: skip this. It was an interesting experience, but I think Kat and I could have used our time more effectively…
9. Fushimi Inari
The Thousand Tori Gates were magical. It was amazing how we fended off the hoards of tourists for pictures, but it was worth waiting for the right moment. After biking around Kyoto, Kat and I knew this was one of the places we had to hit before we left Kyoto. And I must say, it’s beautiful.
tiff tip: MUST. Rent a bike and bike from downtown Kyoto here. It’s a few miles, but it’s worth it to take in the sights. Also, Kyoto is so bike friendly. Just do it!
After a difficult time with public transportation from our accommodations to Arashiyama, I’m so glad we made the time for this sight. It’s breathtaking. Also, Kat got a green tea cone that she swears was one of the best ice creams she’s ever had.
tiff tip: Must. It’s relaxing, beautiful and easy to get to through public transport (trains, trams and buses).
To be honest, the food was a blur. Everything we ate was delicious, from ramen to katsu to desserts of every kind. I didn’t manage to take a pic of everything we ate, but here are some highlights.
Some of the best memories are those you create with the ones you love. I love you, Katherine, for making my twenty first birthday amazing.