Continuing on from my last post about WHERE to STAY with the stunning Mount Fuji view, now I want to share with you my TOP 5 RECOMMENDED PLACES to visit near the Fuji 5 Lakes area.
Maple Leaves Tunnel (紅葉トンネル/もみじ回廊)
The Maple Leaves Tunnel is located near Lake Kawaguchi of Yamanashi Prefecture. Each year from late October until mid November, there will be a Maple Leave festival that’s held here, with many food stalls, and other small counters that sell local produce and hand made artifacts. One of the main attraction for this place is the Maple Leaves Tunnel – a long corridor filled with maple trees, with a small creek that runs in the middle.
Just imagine yourself sitting in an open air hot bathtub, having a glass of hot sake, and right in front of your eyes is the Mount Fuji sunset view surrounded by maple leaves?
It’s the maple leaves season in Japan again, and one of the best place to see the leaves is at the Fuji Five Lake, which is about 2 hours drive from Tokyo. The five lakes are Kawaguchiko, Saiko, Yamanakaka, Shojiko, and Motosuko. It is one of the best places to view Mount Fuji from a close distance, and a great base for climbing the mountains.
There are many hotels around the areas of the Fuji Five Lakes, especially near Kawaguchiko, which is the biggest and the most touristic one. However, if you prefer something quieter, this hotel I’m going to talk about may just be the one for you!
This hotel is right in-front of Shojiko, which is the smallest lake out of the five. Comfortable rooms with Japanese traditional bedding, view of Mount Fuji in your room, private open air hot spring, and amazingly delicious meals all in one place. Better yet, you can get all these for under USD$100/persons! This is one you sure can’t miss.
“Every single strike brings me closer to the next home run!!”
I’ve never played baseball in my life, but believe it or not, one of my must-do when I’m in Tokyo Japan is actually to go hit some ball! Even though I know nothing about baseball, but it’s actually a very fun activity just swinging your bat and hit the ball (or miss most of the time like me).
Now, you may ask, where on Earth am I gonna find someone who’s gonna pitch, or where are you gonna find the bats? Don’t you worry, we are in Tokyo!! Nothing is impossible here! In Japan, they have something called the “batting cage”. It’s like a golf driving range, except it’s with baseball. All you need to bring is money, and yourself, then you are good to go!
My favourite one to go to is the “Shinjuku Batting Cage” right in the center of Kabuki-cho of Shinjuku. The place is hidden in the little alley behind the Toho cinema at Kabuki-cho, so you may not have seen it around.
“A seafood diet is the best diet ever – whenever you see food, eat it!”
For many of the visitors going to Japan, one of the “must do” would be to visit the Tsukiji fish market, and to see the biggest tuna auction in the world! In order to do that, you will need to get up super early to line up for one of the 120 spots available each day. I’ve tried once arriving there at 5:00am, only to realized all the spots were already taken. (It starts at 6:00am, and I guess I was too naive to think that 5:00am would guarantee myself a spot)
Without the Tuna Auction, Tsukiji market is still a great place to experience the local Japanese market, and most importantly, to taste the freshest seafood in Tokyo!
One of my all time favourite is this family run restaurant called the “Sushikuni (鮨国)”! It is a small restaurant with simple decoration, nothing fancy, and it’s only got 4 tables plus a few counter seats in front of the sushi bar. But don’t let the simplicity fool you! This little restaurant is one of the most popular restaurant in the whole of Tsukiji, and you are expecting to line up for hours if you come here at lunch time!
Sushikuni is famous for their “over flowing sea urchin rice bowl” – the sea urchin is literally over flowing from the bowl! What makes this rice bowl so special is, not only the sea urchin is super fresh, the bowl actually contains two types of sea urchin, so you can double your sanctification! Other than the sea urchin rice bowl, they also have many different style of fresh seafood rice bowls, and a-la-carte available.
Okay, back to the main topic – “Over flowing sea urchin rice bowl” – The last time I went there, the sea urchins were both from Hokkaido, one wast the “Bafun uni”, and the other one was the “murasaki uni (purple sea urchin)”. I personally like the “murasaki uni” better as it tastes sweeter, but overall, they were both heavenly delicious!
Udon, a long loved traditional dish of the Japanese culture. For those who don’t know what is udon, it is thick noodle made out of wheat flour, and could be eaten hot or cold, dried or with soup. The udon itself doesn’t really have much flavour, it often depends on the condiments and/or soup it is served with.
Just like spaghetti, fresh udon tastes so much better than those readily made one. The texture of the fresh udon are much more chewy, and doesn’t become soggy even after soaked in the soup for a long time.
There are quite a lot of restaurants that serve freshly made udon in Tokyo, but at Shodai (初代), it’s the soup that makes it so special! They are most famous for their “white creamy mashed potato curry soup udon”. Yes, Japanse drinks curry soup!! Curry soup is a more watery version of our conventional curry, and usually it is less salty.
Although there’s no chunk of meat in the udon, but because the curry is cooked with vegetables and meat, the flavour is very rich. Together with the extremely creamy mashed potato foam on the top, this bowl makes it to one of the must try in Tokyo!
One of my absolute must do thing when I visit a country/city is to taste the local delicacy of that place. I believe the joy of food brings people closer to each other, and it lets you bond with the locals, to learn and submerge in their lifestyle and culture.
“Food is more than survival!”
Due to my job nature, I have been going to Japan on a monthly basis, and most of the time, you travel alone during a business trip, which sometimes makes it hard to eat different type of food. I find myself ended up eating sushi, ramen or ended up in cafes most of the time when I’m in Japan. Last month when I was in Tokyo, I was lucky that an old friend of mine were also in the city at that time, so we’ve decided we are going to pig it out!
Yakiniku – literally means grilled meat in Japanese, is a very popular food choice for Japanese people. It is not an “everyday” type of meal, but usually when you have some sort of celebration, or when you want to have a relaxed time with friends over a meal with a beer, then Yakiniku would be the pick.
“Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a live”
I didn’t really had a life in the last 2 weeks since I had been really tied up with work… Two back to back business trips and tight deadlines for various projects, stressed!! So yesterday I told myself, I must take a break before I collapse, and since I’m in Tokyo this week, I shall use this chance to explore the quieter side of this metropolitan city.
A short 15 minutes walk from the busy Shibuya area, I’ve arrived the Omotesando area. For those who don’t know Omotesando area well, it is one of the trendiest and hippest place in Tokyo, with all the high end luxury boutiques in the area. It is also well known for hidden cafes and restaurants.
While I was wandering around the Omotesando area, I came across this florist + cafe place, which is very nice and cool! It’s called the NOMU cafe, which is part of this famous florist Nicolai Bergmann in Tokyo. Just imagine enjoying a cup of nice coffee surrounded by the lovely aroma of flowers… hmm.. that’s exactly how this place is.