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Japan Travel Guide

July 21, 2019

Hey guys

I’m just back from honestly one of the most amazing trips of my life in Japan with my friends. We spent 2 weeks in total, including our travel time. We travelled in July, which is rainy season in Japan, and luckily we only really had 2 bad days of rain – the rest were either really nice and sunny, or cloudy and hot (with the odd shower) so it was very manageable.

Before I start getting into the nitty gritty you can watch snippets from my trips in my two vlogs:

3 days in Tokyo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oAjf-8cvdgg

Japan Travel Guide: Kyoto, Osaka & Hiroshima:

First of all let me say some of my favourite things about the holiday. The people were so so nice, genuinely so friendly and helpful. The food was absolutely out of this world, whether it was a restaurant or a supermarket (7 11, Lawson and Family Mart are on every corner) the food was just so good, and so much better than I could have expected. OMG the chocolate is incredible too, try everything. Crunky & the milk chocolate biscuits were my two favourites! Another thing I loved was how easy it was to get around (public transport/ trains can be confusing at first but once you get the hang of it you’ll save so much money – Google maps will be your best friend), and the hostels were really good too – super clean (the Japanese are known for this) and comfy, and really affordable. The hostels to me looked the same (maybe not quite as modern but very similar) to the capsule hotels that Japan is famous for.

I had heard Japan was expensive but I really didn’t find it to be. Probably because we stayed in hostels, and ate from 7 11 for most breakfast and lunch (genuinely because the food was so good). I spent just over €1000 on flights – I flew from Dublin to Munich and then from Munich to Haneda Airport in Tokyo (I would recommend flying into this one if you can as its closer than the others) I flew with Lufthansa airlines and found them brilliant – food was lovely, it was comfy and both flights arrived on time, no delays. Then I spent approx €1200 in spending money – this included my accommodation, food, drinks, subways, etc. One cost I had before travelling was the Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass), you have to purchase this and have it delivered to you before you arrive in Japan. We got the 7 day pass which cost €238 and €8 delivery. If you plan on travelling around the country I’d definitely recommend this as you can do unlimited travel for the week with it. We got our bullet trains using this pass. Mind it with your life because one train can end up costing the same price as the week long ticket if you lose it (I learnt this the hard way). It is a bit of an old system with the JR pass, it’s a piece of cardboard and they can’t reissue it if you lose it, so it’s really important to keep it safe. Saying that, Japan is honestly such a safe country, a lot of the time they are handed back in – so check with the train station and local police, I found them so helpful despite there being a big language barrier. I ordered my pass from the website: japan-rail-pass.com

One important thing to note is that you will need cash in most places, they love their coins in Japan (there’s a lot of them) so it’s very different than Ireland, where we rely so much on our cards.

Here is a list of places I visited, recommended time in each and some recommended activities:

Tokyo

I would recommend 3 or 4 days in Tokyo to do it right

We stayed in Imano Hostel in Shinjuku and the Wise Owl Hostel in Shibuya. Both were fine – great locations but not as nice as the hostels we stayed in in other cities, Tokyo is more expensive of course. The hostels were similar to the famous Capsule hotels in style, perfect for a group of our size.

Things to do:

-Enjoy a drink with the skyline view of Tokyo from the top of the Park Hyatt hotel (New York Bar)

-Stroll around Yoyogi Park and visit the Meiji Jinju Shrine

-People watch and shop on the streets of Harajuku (Takeshita Dori is the main street)

-Visit a cat café (they have lots of animal cafes in Tokyo – hedgehog, dog, rabbits, cats, etc) I think the cat one seems the most fair as it would be their normal environment. It’s cool to see!

-Shop and see the amazing mirrored ceiling at the entrance of the Tokyu Plaza Shopping Centre

-Have lunch and watch a show at the Kaweii Monster Café

-Visit Asakusa Temple & have your fortune told from the wooden stalls they have

– Go to the TeamLab Borderless Museum and visit all the cool rooms! Instagram heaven. It’s approx. €25 for a ticket and I would recommend booking in advance and going early to avoid crowds (it’s a little outside the city)

-Grab a coffee in Starbucks at Shibuya Crossing and watch the busiest crossroads in the world (2500 people cross every time on average)

-Have dinner at the Pokemon Café (make sure to book in advance)

-Drive around the city in Mario Cart (make sure you book in advance and have an international driving licence, you can apply for one before you leave your home country)

-Enjoy drinks in the famous Golden Gai area in Shinjuku (it’s a street with lots of tiny bars that only fit 5-10 people each)

-Get a bus from the Shinjuku Bus Terminal to Lake Kawaguchiko to get an amazing view of Mount Fuji. Check the weather before you go to ensure it will be clear enough to see it, and book the bus in advance as when we went to go the buses were all booked up.

– Visit the national botanical gardens

Kyoto

I would recommend 2/3 days in Kyoto to get everything done

We stayed in the R Star Hostel here – it was so clean and modern! I loved it!

Things to do:

-Visit the Gion District and keep an eye out for Geishas

– Watch a Geisha Show in Gion Corner

– Rent Kimonos and take part in a tea ceremony (En Tea Ceremonies in the Gion District is where we had booked, we just rented our kimonos in the shop beside it. There are lots of Kimono rental shops in Kyoto)

– Visit the beautiful red arches and temples at Fushimi Inari Taisha

– Visit the Arashiyama Bamboo Garden

– Grab lunch at Nishiki Market

– Stroll around the Kyoto Imperial Palace & take in the history

-Take a day trip to Nara (we were supposed to do this but it rained too much that day) and visit deer park. The deers bow back at you if you bow at them. Nara is supposed to be particularly beautiful during Cherry Blossom season.

Osaka

I would recommend 2 days in Osaka to get everything done.

We stayed in the Drop Inn Hostel in Osaka. It was lovely and the staff were incredible. They helped me so much when I lost my rail pass.

Things to do:

-Go up to the top of the Umeda Sky Building

-Visit Hep 5 shopping centre and go on the Ferris wheel

– Visit Amerikuna street and enjoy the street food

– Try the famous fluffy pancakes at Gram Café

– Take a trip to Osaka Castle

– Namba Yasaka Shrine

Hiroshima

One day in Heroshima is enough to see it, but if you want to do Miyajama island as well I’d make it two days.

We stayed in the Kawayte- Ya Hostel – it was fine. The dorms were bigger here but luckily we were off peak so it was quiet, not sure I’d like to stay here when the rooms are full as there was 24 beds in our dorm.

Things to do:

  • Visit the Atomic Bomb Dome
  • Walk through the Peace Memorial Park
  • Learn about the devastating history of Hiroshima in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum (one of the best museums I’ve ever been to!)
  • Try Okonomiyaki at Hazeya restaurant – it’s a special savoury Japanese Pancake & it’s so delicious
  • Get the ferry out to Miyajima Island (2000 Yen each way (€16) or you can use your JR pass for this too), walk around the shrine there, and hike to the top of the mountain. You can get a cable car down from there if you’d like. This island has loads of deers wandering around too, in case if you missed them in Nara like we did.
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Ten funny things I noticed about Japan:

  1. They have seriously high tech toilets – they give you different options for cleaning yourself (lol), flushing and even a privacy option where they play music/sounds as you go. I got the fright of my life when I first arrived I hadn’t a clue what was going on!
  2. They have whitening products in a lot of the skincare here. They want products that lighten/brighten their skin which explains their amazing complexion, but some of the products ingrediants are illegal in Ireland and can be dangerous so I avoided buying any and would recommend doing a lot of research into the skincare/ toiletries there before buying.
  3. There is a serious lack of bins in Japan, I’ve since learnt this is to do with a terrorist threat in the 90’s. But for a country with such little bins there is no rubbish! It’s actually so clean. The Japanese carry there rubbish with them, this is something I found hard to get used to haha. They don’t eat and drink on the go like we do. It’s actually considered rude to eat on the street.
  4. They use umbrellas in the sun, rain and even when it’s cloudy! They are very cautious of the damage the sun can do which means they end up carrying umbrellas around most days!
  5. They smoke inside. Coming from Ireland this was weird as no one smokes inside anymore. There were smoking rooms in most public places including the train. In some bars/ rstaurants you can literally just smoke wherever!
  6. It has the most vending machines in the world – there is one vending machine for every 23 people. You can buy everything from drinks to eggs to even underwear in some of them! There is literally one on nearly every street!
  7. Napping is encouraged. Even at work – in Japan this shows you are committed to your work as you will work more productively after your nap. We need to bring this rule to Ireland lol. We actually saw quite a few people napping in public places while we were in Japan, it’s not something you see all the time in Ireland so I did think it was funny.
  8. There is more pets than children! And they especially love dashcunds – which made me so happy as I am obviously quite obsessed with my dog Cooper.
  9. It is one of the safest countries in the world with one of the lowest crime rates in the world and you really feel this when you’re there. Not once did we feel unsafe in the whole two weeks we were there.
  10. They have bells/buzzers on the tables in a lot of restaurants for you to call your waitor/waitress when you’re ready to order! How handy!

Other things you have to do:

-Eat sushi, ramen, udon noodles, onigiri, tempura

-Try all the snacks – they are soo good. Chocolate, ice creams, crisps, biscuits (eel, honey & nuts)

-Buy the wifi box in the airport we got ours from Softbank/anyfone. It worked out at €90 for 2 weeks – between six of us it was only €15 each and we had unlimited wifi (as long as we could keep the box charged haha)

– Get something from the vending machines!

– Robot cafes are supposed to be so cool to see – you can go to these in Tokyo

– Nikko north of Tokyo looks beautiful! It is a bit of a journey so we didn’t make it on this trip but I’ve heard it’s really worth the trip if you have time

-Visit the consignment and vintage stores – they are really good in Japan

– If you’re into cars you have to check out some of the garages/ museums. Toyota is a Japanese car brand and we stumbled across the museum on the way out from the Team Lab museum!

– If you have time go to Nagasaki after Hiroshima. It’s another town that was hit with an atomic bomb during WWII. It is another few hours on a bullet train and our JR pass were expired so we decided not to go – but I’ve heard it is worthwhile.

– You HAVE to do KARAOKE – it’s so much fun! You’ll find good karaoke bars all over Japan, we did it twice in Tokyo while we were there and we loved it.

Japan really is an incredible country – it was so much better than I expected it to be in so many ways,

I know a lot of people are travelling for the world cup in Sept/ Oct of this year and I already know I’ll be so jealous,

I think I have covered everything in this blog post – if I’ve left anything out just drop me a message and check out my highlights on Instagram too, they might be helpful

Chat to you all soon

Lou xx

Lifestyle, Travel

A Weekend in Mallorca with Toyota

February 25, 2019

Hi guys

I’m just back from a great weekend in Mallorca with my best friend Dearbhla and Toyota. They invited us over to test drive the new Corolla Hatchback Hybrid car and to explore the island in it!

I have to say, before the trip I would have thought a Corolla was an older persons car and not the most stylish/ sleek car out there – but I have to hold my hands up and say with the new design, Toyota have definitely proved me wrong.

We arrived on Friday and picked up our car from the airport – I was instantly impressed by the gorgeous style, shape and colour of the car. This for me would be a huge factor in choosing a car. I also love a car that is a good size for getting around a city. I’m in and out of Dublin City Centre nearly every day for different meetings and events, so I need a car that’s an appropriate size & is easy to park (but I also look for a car with 5 doors, as 3 doors can just be a pain!) and I have to say the Corolla Hatchback really did tick all of these boxes. I’ve been looking at cars for a while on websites like allcarleasing.co.uk to try and find the perfect model for me, but I was really impressed by the appearance of the Toyota before I had even driven it!

I was the designated driver for the weekend which I was very excited about as it was my first time driving a hybrid car and my first time driving on the right hand side of the road.

From Palma airport, we took the scenic route to our hotel – the Park Hyatt Mallorca which was located on the other side of the island. It’s a beautiful island and You can easily buy a villa in Alcudia which we drove through. I’m pretty tempted to get a villa out here after our visit since I loved it so much. It gave me a chance to get familiar with the car and how it felt to drive. It also gave me a chance to get used to driving on the right hand side of the road and to get used to all of the roundabouts haha (there was a lot of them!) The Corolla Hybrid Hatchback is automatic so very easy to drive (I definitely would have conked a few times if it wasn’t) – it has a heads up display with a great GPS system. This was my lifeline for the weekend. If you wanted to get one, considering a PCP agreement might be a good idea. If you want to learn more about it check out Money Expert. They have some great information that’ll help you make the right decision for you.

On Saturday we head for some paddle boarding lessons in Port de Pollenca – I had been here once before 15 years ago on my first ever family holiday to Spain! It was so cool to be back. We got a gorgeous tapas style lunch in Tolo’s and then visited the old castle town of Bellver a successful day of exploring and a lot of time spent in the car.

I learnt it has lots of amazing features, some of my personal favourites are:

  • the rear view reserving camera
  • The USB for Charging your phone
  • Bluetooth

One other important thing to mention is as it’s a hybrid car it’s very quiet and smooth to drive – it has a petrol engine but an electric motor that self charges each time you slow down / stop the car which means you never have to plug it in – so handy! As it’s half electric it also means you’re not always burning petrol, like you are in regular cars, so it’s much more fuel Effecient (aka you don’t have to fill up your tank as often… aka you save money!)

Sunday we just hung out at our hotel, which I have to say was probably the nicest hotel I’ve ever stayed at, before heading back for the airport for our flight home.

I can’t thank Toyota enough for having me on this trip, it was amazing to get some winter sun with my best friend and also to get the opportunity to test drive the Corolla in Mallorca (at a quiet time of year, which made for a v relaxing driving experience. The roads are actually surprisingly good in Mallorca too for such a small island!)

I’m excited to see more of the Toyota hybrids on Irish roads over the coming months, they are very reasonably priced starting at €207 a month & you can learn more about ordering one here.

Hope you enjoyed this blog post & that you found it helpful if you are on the look out for a new car,

Lou xx

A big thank you to Toyota for inviting me on this trip & for partnering with me on this post 🙂

Lifestyle, Travel

My Go-To Tan: Iconic Bronze

October 1, 2018

Hi guys,

If you were following my social media you’ll know I spent the last few days in Tenerife with my friend Ciara. I was invited over to the launch event of the Hotel Vulcano rooftop Up Terrace (where I took these pics – the views are amazing!) We had such a fun few days and an interesting journey with Veuling (never flying with them again haha) – you can watch my vlog of the trip here.

Anyway one of the questions I got asked a lot on the trip was what tan I was wearing. If you follow my social media you’ll know I’m an Iconic Bronze ambassador. I absolutely love their tan, and have been using it for almost a year now. It’s October now so it’s safe to say my summer tan has well and truly faded. I love being nice and dark so my go-to tan is the Iconic Bronze dark mousse – which I applied the night before travelling, I slept with it on and washed it off that morning. I find it applies really smoothly with the Iconic Bronze mitt (no streaks) and lasts really well (doesn’t go blotchy). You can see more about the tan and how I apply it here. It’s approx €13.99 (depending on where you buy it) and I’d usually get a month or two out of a bottle if I was applying regularly. You can buy in Penneys/Primark or in pharmacies nationwide as well.  Continue Reading…

Travel

Maldives Round-Up

July 31, 2018

Hi guys,

As you may have seen from my social media spamming, I’m just back from an amazing trip to the Maldives. We were there for 6 days in total and it honestly felt like a dream the whole time we were there, and now that were back too. It’s literally heaven on earth – the bluest waters I’ve ever seen, the most relaxing resorts I’ve ever been to and the nicest people/food/ hotels I’ve ever come across.

We were lucky to be there during the first ever Baa Atoll Summer Festival this year which added to it even more. The first resort we stayed in, Finolhu, as well as the second resort, Amilla Fushi, were both involved in it as well as fellow Baa Atoll resorts Soneva Fushi, Four Seasons, Dusit Thani and Vakkarau Maldives. It is essentially a food festival that runs across a number of the resorts in that region from 20 July – 3 August. Transportation can be organised by the participating resorts for those wishing to repeat their experience in a specific resort – which would allow you to see even more of the beautiful Maldives.

We got to try out the menu at Kanusan in Finolhu and at Feeling Koi in Amilla Fushi and it meant we got a real taste for Maldivian food. They do a set menu with little tasters from the menu for a set price (but you actually get a lot more food than you would normally get for that price) so it’s brilliant! For more info check out the festival website here – I imagine it will be even bigger and better next year.

I thought I would do this blog post to round up my outfits on the trip and also to compile the different blogs and vlogs I did so you have all the info in one place if you need it.  Continue Reading…

Travel

The Maldives – Part Two

July 31, 2018

Hi there,

 I’m literally just landed home from the Maldives and I have to say it was genuinely the most incredible place I’ve ever been. Paradise is the only word for it.

As you saw from mylast blog we visited two different islands and resorts in the 6 days we spent there. 3 days at Finolhu and 3 days at Amilla Fushi.

Finolhu was amazing, it was fun, cool and young, and Amilla was equally amazing but it was more calm, relaxed and private. Together I think they were the perfect combination – we got to have our fun in Finolhu and then were ready to unwind and chill out by the time we got to Amilla.

Where we stayed:

As soon as we arrived on Amilla Fushi I knew we were going to love it. I had heard so many good things about it before travelling, and the photos I had screenshotted online were just stunning. Instagram heaven haha!

In our over-water villa at Amilla we had a pool, which was so exciting. We are like two big kids, and sun worshippers the two of us. So we were both very excited to just laze by the pool, relax and take it all in. The rooms were so spacious, like literally the most spacious and well decorated rooms I’ve ever stayed in. I could have lived there for a month, if not longer. Continue Reading…

Travel

The Maldives – First Impressions

July 25, 2018

Hi guys,

I hope you’re all having a good week. As you probably know if you follow me on social media, I started mine in the Maldives which was just amazing (I still can’t believe I’m here). We are here for 6 days in total, so today marks the half way point for us and I have to say it is one of the most incredible places I’ve ever been. It’s hard to believe my eyes sometimes and to take in all the beauty!

About the Maldives:

The Maldives is located in the Indian Ocean, and is comprised of about 1,200 seperate islands (most of the resorts have an island to themselves). There is a 4 hour time difference to the mainland of Malé and then each island can vary based on daylight hours. Where we stayed (Finolhu) was two hours ahead of the mainland – so 6 hours ahead of Ireland. The Maldives is a muslim country – so if you are staying in the mainland Muslim rules may apply however in the resorts it is the same as pretty much any resort (you can dress how you like and act how you like – within reason of course haha). Also, an important one to note is that you are not allowed bring alcohol into the country, not even duty free.  Continue Reading…