Japan – This was a rather unexpected trip. I was in Japan about one year ago so I wasn’t planning on returning this soon. Upon seeing a huge sale for round trip flights to Tokyo, I couldn’t pass up on the opportunity. After all, Japan is one of my favorite countries in the world. Tokyo and Yokohama is on the list for this 2017 trip to the Land of the Rising Sun…
- As this was a shorter trip, I didn’t purchase a JR Pass this time for the rail system. Instead I just bought tickets as needed.
- Instead of flying into Narita this time, I flew into Haneda, which is located right in Tokyo (no need to take a train into the city).
- Always pack and empty duffel bag within your luggage. You make be packing light for your trip but more than likely you’ll end up buying souvenirs or lots of random stuff for yourself while in Japan.
- Coin purse! Yen can go anyone from 1 to 500 in coin form so you’ll be carry lots of these. To avoid losing coins, always bring a pouch of some sort.
- Good walking shoes! I learned that last few times that a good pair of shoes is very important. I found myself walking about 10 miles a day while exploring.
- For more travel tips for Japan, check out my article from my trip last year here: http://bjjbug.net/2016/10/12/travel-tokyo-japan/
Places to Visit as a Tourist
As I’ve covered details about places to visit already in my last Tokyo article, the suggestions below will be for Yokohama, a city that is just about a half hour train ride south of Tokyo.
- Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum (Cup of Noodles Museum) – Probably one of the largest attractions in Yokohama for tourists and locals alike. Here you can walk through a room to see the history of instant ramen. For 300 Yen, you can also create your own instant cup of noodles to take home as a souvenir. If you head upstairs, there is also an area where you can buy small portions of different type of noodle dishes from all over the world. A little bit pricey but everything was good!
- Cosmo Clock 21 – The famous Ferris wheel that is seen in almost all pictures when you search for Yokohama. Overlooking the harbor, if you’re able to make it out at sunset or at night, you can see it light up. Bring a jacket though because it will get cold!
- Yokohama Chinatown – Yup China in Japan! It’s what you’d expect if you’ve been to Chinatown before in any country. Tons of shops and places to eat.
- Yokohama Hakkejima Sea Paradise – An amusement park opened in the early 1990s that also includes an aquarium.
- Yokohama Landmark Tower – This building can be seen from the harbor as well. It includes a hotel, shopping, offices, and a 360-observation deck.
- International Stadium Yokohama – Larges stadium in Japan where you can catch a game.
- Tip for “Mat Surfing” is to always call or contact the school ahead of time to see if you are even allowed to take a drop-in class or come by for an open mat session.
As it’s been a year since I last trained in Japan, I messaged Carpe Diem Brazilian Jiu Jitsu at firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire about dropping in for a class like last time. I got a response from Professor Thomas Mietz who informed I was free to drop by for a class.
Note that there are several locations of Carpe Diem BJJ but I revisited the location I was familiar with which is located in Hiroo. Upon arrival, I spoke with the front desk to pay the drop in fee and proceeded to the changing room. Professor Thomas Mietz whom I spoke with over email was also there briefly so I was able to chat with him for a bit.
Class started with a warm-up as usual and then we continued with drilling the techniques of the day. I was partnered with Kiyotoshi Aoyama, who helped me with the techniques. Class of course was taught in Japanese but as each technique is demonstrated, it was easy to pick up even with my limited Japanese.
The class this time was taught by a purple belt, Daiki Yonekura. The emphasis for the day was passing and knee slicing. After practicing a few variations of the move, my favorite part of class began; the sparring.
One thing I always enjoy about traveling and training is being able to compare my skill set to people from a different environment. Usually, each gym has their own specialty or style from what I’ve noticed in my past two years of travel. Japan is one that I always enjoyed as everyone is technical and don’t rely on strength simply due to size.
I got a few rounds in and was able to train with my good friend Kaoru Ikehata also! Last time I saw her she was a white belt. Now as a blue belt she’s become much tougher! I also got to see another old friend, Tak Ishikawa. It’s funny because I remember training with him last time but we never really stayed in touch. We recognized each other briefly and had a much deeper conversation this time. Who knew he was also from the same city as me in the US?
Another friend I made that day after him kicking my butt was David Garmo. A black belt out of Detroit who was in Japan training and teaching. Definitely will be visiting him in Detroit to train when we’re both over there. In addition, he also owns a gi business that you’ve might have seen before. I’ll link it right here: http://www.modernflowbrand.com/category/kimonos
Overall, it was a great training session as always at Carpe Diem BJJ. It’s always nice to see old friends and make new ones. This school has become one of my stops every time I’m in Tokyo so I’d definitely recommend.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again here in this article. There’s just no bad food in Japan. As I arrived late and it was raining, I bought dinner from the nearest convenience store (FamilyMart) and just brought it back to my AirBnb to enjoy. Cheap, tasty, and convenient; this is what I enjoy about the food in Japan.
Places worth mentioning include:
- Tsukiji Fish Market – Tons of vendors and sushi restaurants that are priced fair and fresh.
- Ramen Street in Tokyo Station – Lots of choices for restaurants. Been here several times and still haven’t tried every spot.
- Gindako Takoyaki – This is a chain in Japan but I always make an effort to stop by one when I’m in the country.
- Blue Seal Okinawan Ice Cream – Usually in Okinawa but there is one location in Ikebukuro. Small scoop but amazing taste!
- Kurikoan’s Taiyaki – Custard dessert goodness. There are a few locations in both Tokyo and Yokohama. The convenient ones are in Akihabara somewhat close to the JR Station and at Asakusa near all the shops and Sensoji Temple.
- McDonald’s – Yes, I’m putting this one on the list. They have their own unique menu in Japan. It’s a weird choice for traveling half way across the world but it’s one of those things you need to do while you’re here.
Once again, Japan did not disappoint. The weather wasn’t as great as when I was traveling during Cherry Blossom season but I couldn’t complain. A little rain never hurt anyone. This definitely won’t be my last time in this amazing country. Who knows…I might end up here again in 2018…
Japan – November 2017
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