***This is part 1 of my “Fat and Furious” trip report detailing a recent trip to Japan which included stops in Tokyo, Kyoto, and Matsuyama***
2. Star Alliance First Class Lounge at LAX
3. Singapore Airlines Suites Class Los Angeles to Tokyo
4. Conrad Tokyo
5. Eating Tokyo Part 1 – Department Store Hopping in Ginza
6. Funaya Ryokan In Matsuyama
7. Living The Onsen Life In Matsuyama
8. The Ritz-Carlton Kyoto
9. Eating Kyoto – The Search for Matcha and Geisha
10. Kaiseki Dinner at 3-Michelin Star Kikunoi Honten
11. The Peninsula Tokyo
12. Eating Tokyo Part 2 – Maids, Robots, and Cosplay
13. Eating Tokyo Part 3 – Cherry Blossoms and THE BEST STEAK EVER
14. ANA Business Class Lounge at NRT
15. ANA Business Class Tokyo to San Jose
It’s been 2 weeks since I returned from my trip to Japan, and now that I’ve finally had time to digest all the sights, sounds, and food that was consumed, I can say with certainty that Japan is my new favorite country in the world.
And how do you honor the best country in the world? By naming your trip report after the best movie franchise of all time, which of course is “Fast and Furious”. I’m sorry, but there’s simply no other acceptable answer. I mean, what other movie script features deep and thoughtful dialogue, like this gem:
“I live my life a quarter mile at a time. Nothing else matters: not the mortgage, not the store, not my team and all their bullshit. For those ten seconds or less, I’m free.”
Well, my motto is that “I live my life a quarter-pounder at a time”. I absolutely love to eat, and in no other place in the world have I enjoyed doing that more than Japan. Our culinary adventure spanned 10 gluttonous days where we consumed all the sushi, noodles, and sweets that we could get our hands on.
But let’s back up a second – the highlights started from the beginning of the trip, where I finally had the chance to try the uber-hyped Singapore Airlines Suites. Singapore’s Suites Class features the famous double-bed, which for such an in-demand product was surprisingly easy to book. I’ll have a detailed review in a later post, but in short, while the flight was really, really good, I just don’t see what the hype is all about.
Our trip started in mid-March and carried through until the end of the month which coincided with the start of cherry blossom season. While we were a little early to the party and missed the full bloom, we still got a great glimpse into this magical time of year in Japan. I initially laughed at the idea of “hanami” where people would sit for hours on end and just stare at the cherry blossoms. But after walking through the parks in Tokyo which allowed you to feel completely immersed in cherry blossoms, even my restless legs had to sit down for a few minutes to soak it in.
Back to the food – of all the amazing and delicious things we ate during our trip, by far the best was the famous Japanese Wagyu steak. In particular, ours came in the form of a ridiculously marbled Omi Wagyu Sirloin from Hokkaido, that was expertly cooked in a special 800 degree grill at DONS de la Nature in Tokyo. Up to that point, I thought that I had had some amazing steaks, but this one simply put them all to shame. I’d fly back to Tokyo in a heartbeat just to eat there again.
And lastly, before we get into the full trip report, I leave you with two tips for those considering a trip to Japan:
1. Of all the recommendations we received, and there were many good ones, the best was to rent a pocket wifi device. We got ours from Telecom Square for roughly $10 per day, and it was a life saver in terms of looking up restaurants, and more importantly, providing walking and public transport directions. The main benefit over a prepaid SIM card was that you could easily connect up to 5 different devices at once.
The device is about the half the size of a pack of cards (not sure why I took this picture comparing it to an orange, must have been the only thing around) and the battery lasts about 7-8 hours. But with some judicious power management by turning it off when not needed, you can easily stretch it to 12-14 hours which should last the entire day.
2. The biggest worry we have while traveling is getting scammed into eating at tourist traps. You know, those overpriced places that are typically located in the middle of [insert name of popular European landmark] in [insert name of popular European city].
Well, I’m happy to say that you can let your guard down in Japan. There’s just no need to obsessively check Yelp or TripAdvisor reviews to see if a place is good. Of course, some places are marginally better than others, but literally everywhere we ate was what at least good. There just weren’t any bad or overpriced places.
And as an added bonus, if you see a line just jump in it and have faith that there will be good food at the end of the wait – this was a strategy that didn’t fail us once.