Halloween in Japan, Japanese Ghost Stories, and Tales of Yokai

Happy Halloween everyone!

It’s October 31st here in the states, and all I can think about is what I was doing a year ago in Tokyo. Now, Halloween in Japan isn’t really a holiday- it doesn’t have any religious background like it does in the US, nor is it widely celebrated. In the past, it’s mostly been an excuse for foreigners to dress up in costumes and go out drinking, rather than allow children to trick-or-treat.

Japanese girls trick-or-treating in my hometown in Tokyo

Japanese girls trick-or-treating in my hometown in Tokyo

However, thanks to the influence of American popular culture, Halloween is starting to grow significantly in popularity. Today, many stores put up decorations, sell Halloween treats, and host themed parties. Although you still won’t see pumpkin carving or widespread trick-or-treating, it’s turning from an obscure western holiday into a fun day for youth.

My halloween costume, maid cafe girl! It'll be making a comeback this year, so keep an eye out!

My halloween costume, maid cafe girl! It’ll be making a comeback this year, so keep an eye out!

In honor of Halloween, I want to share some of Japan’s most obscure ghost stories and folklore. Most of Japan’s mythology focuses around supernatural monsters called yokai, which is made up of the kanji characters for “bewitching” and “apparition.” Yokai can be terrifying and malevolent or simply mischievous, and can appear human or have animal characteristics. Just make sure to read this post with the lights on, as I’m not sure you’ll be able to sleep tonight otherwise.

1.    Aka Manto

Watch out for this creepy dude next time you're in the bathroom.

Watch out for this creepy dude next time you’re in the bathroom.

Aka Manto is a malicious spirit that haunts public toilets. If you are sitting on the toilet, a mysterious voice will ask you if you want red or blue paper. If you answer red, he will slice you apart until your clothes are stained red. If you answer blue, he will strangle you until your face turns blue. Definitely don’t ask for yellow paper, as he will force your head into the toilet. If you try to trick him by asking for another color, Aka Manto will drag you into the underworld. The only smart way to respond is no paper.

2.    Gashadokuro

Are these terrifying or what?!

Are these terrifying or what?!

Gashadokuro are giant skeletons that roam around Japan, also known as “starving skeletons.” If they see any humans, they will attempt to bite off their heads. These creatures are formed from bones of people who have died of starvation, and the only way to detect them is hearing a bell-like ringing in your ears. Gashadokuro often target people when they are alone, and roam around after midnight.

3.    Kuchisake-onna

NOPE

NOPE

Kuchisake-onna, or the slit-mouthed woman, is a lady who was viciously mutilated and murdered by her jealous husband. She returned to this world as a malevolent spirit, and appears to children walking alone at night as a woman wearing a surgical mask. Kuchisake-onna will stop the children and ask, “Am I pretty?” If the child responds no, the woman will kill the child with a pair of scissors. If the child answers yes, the woman will take off the surgical mask to reveal that her mouth is slit from ear to ear. Kuchisake-onna will then ask, “How about now?” If the child answers no, they will be cut in half, and if they answer yes, the woman will slit their mouths like hers. It’s impossible to run away or escape from her, as she will just reappear in front of you

4.    Teke Teke

DOUBLE NOPE

DOUBLE NOPE

Teke Teke is the ghost of a young schoolgirl who fell onto a railway and was cut in half by a train. She too returned as a vengeful spirit, and haunts train stations, railways and schools. Teke Teke carries a scythe or saw and drags herself around using her hands or elbows. Her dragging torso creates a scratching sound, “teke teke,” which gives her her name. If Teke Teke encounters anyone at night, she will slice him or her in half at the torso.

5.    Akaname

Go home Japan, you're drunk.

Go home Japan, you’re drunk.

Akaname quite literally means “filth licker,” and is a yokai that personifies the fear of using a dark bathroom late at night. Akaname comes out late at night to lick up the filth and dirt in bathrooms that untidy owners leave behind.

 6.    Toire no Hanako-san

Another bathroom ghost. I'm beginning to see a trend here…Why are toilets such terrifying places?!

Another bathroom ghost. I’m beginning to see a trend here…Why are toilets such terrifying places?!

Toire no Hanako-san is similar to the western urban legend of Bloody Mary, and haunts Japanese school restrooms. If someone goes to the third stall in the girls’ bathroom on the third floor, knocks three times, and asks, “Are you there, Hanako-san?” a voice will answer “I’m here.” If you go into the stall, there will be a small girl in a red skirt. Hanako-san is typically benign and will usually just vanish, but if you’re unlucky enough, she might just pull you into the toilet and kill you. Calling her name is often used as a rite of courage or hazing ritual in schools.

Pretty creepy, right? If this isn’t scary enough for you and you need a little more terror in your life, check out this great article on the 10 most haunted spots in Japan. But in the meantime, happy Halloween, and be careful tonight! You never know what sort of monster you might run into.

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Mount Takao

Although Tokyo offers a dizzying array of activities for any weather or season, it’s also nice to get away from the concrete jungle and explore a little bit of nature. I often feel this way in Boston, where I currently live; although the city is amazing, the changing leaves remind me just how much I’m missing out on beyond the skyline.

Last November, I decided to leave the sprawling streets of Tokyo and check out some rural scenery at Mount Takao, a peak at the edge of the Kanto Mountains. Now, I know mountains. I spent most of my childhood hiking in the Adirondacks, a mountain range in upstate New York. The paths on those peaks are dirt and rock, and offer little besides nature and a view at the top. Although you’ll probably run into a few other hikers or families on the trail, Adirondack hikes are largely private. With this in mind, I thought I knew exactly what I was getting into.

Fun fact: Mount Takao is often called Takao-san, using the suffix “san” that is used to address people (for example, Mr. Smith would be Smith-san in Japanese). In Japan, all living things are believed to have a soul or spirit. By using ‘san,’ Takao becomes personified, as the mountain definitely has a spirit of its own.

Fun fact: Mount Takao is often called Takao-san, using the suffix “san” that is used to address people (for example, Mr. Smith would be Smith-san in Japanese). In Japan, all living things are believed to have a soul or spirit. By using ‘san,’ Takao becomes personified, as the mountain definitely has a spirit of its own.

Boy was I wrong.

Mount Takao is located about an hour away from central Tokyo by train, making it a popular destination for both families and tourists. On weekends, particularly in the fall, Takao-San is also extremely crowded, as the mountain offers one of Tokyo’s best autumn foliage sites. I went in the beginning of November, and saw just how popular this nature retreat was.

Heading with other hikers from the train station to the base of the mountain

Heading with other hikers from the train station to the base of the mountain

DSC_2967While I wasn’t able to get away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo, Mount Takao offers six different hiking trails, a cable car and chairlift for the athletically challenged, beautiful foliage, and stunning views of both Tokyo and Mount Fuji on a clear day. We decided to take the most popular trail, with a conveniently paved path up the mountain.

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A map of all the different trails Takao-san offers. I took the most popular one (light red) but other trails offer views of a suspension bridge, a waterfall, and a panoramic ridge.

A map of all the different trails Takao-san offers. I took the most popular one (light red) but other trails offer views of a suspension bridge, a waterfall, and a panoramic ridge.

After a short yet extremely steep hike to the halfway point (which can be avoided by taking a cable car ride), the ascent to the summit only takes 45 minutes. However, with so many attractions, you can spend hours exploring the mountain before reaching the peak.

A conveniently paved trail for the first half of our hike. I even saw girls walking this in flats and wedge sandals....not sure how they fared once the trail got really steep!

A conveniently paved trail for the first half of our hike. I even saw girls walking this in flats and wedge sandals….not sure how they fared once the trail got really steep!

DSC_3024DSC_3011Halfway up the mountain, visitors first encounter a rest stop near the cable car platform, complete with vendors selling traditional Japanese street food. Here, you can see some of the first views of Tokyo.

The halfway point. Here, people can get on and off the cable cars and chairlifts that will take you to the base of the mountain.

The halfway point. Here, people can get on and off the cable cars and chairlifts that will take you to the base of the mountain.

A vendor sells dango, a type of Japanese dumpling on a stick

A vendor sells dango, a type of Japanese dumpling on a stick

A view of the sprawling city of Tokyo. Can you believe how large it is?

A view of the sprawling city of Tokyo. Can you believe how large it is?

DSC_3034If you’re traveling with small children or just want a fun afternoon, Takao-san tourists can also visit a monkey park just beyond the rest area for only a few hundred yen (under $5 USD). Here, you can see dozens of different monkeys at play, get up close with trainers, and still enjoy stunning views of the countryside.

How cute is that?!

How cute is that?!

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DSC_3141There are also several nature trails in the park, with beautifully cultivated plants and a variety of wild flora and fauna.

A few beautiful flowers I found on the nature trails in the monkey park

A few beautiful flowers I found on the nature trails in the monkey park

DSC_3219DSC_3175While the monkey park is great for visitors with small children, the main attraction of Mount Takao is Yakuōin Yūkiji, a Buddhist temple located towards the peak. Takao-san has been a center of worship for over 1200 years, after Emperor Shomu ordered the temple to be built in 744 AD. Here, visitors can pray to both Buddhist and Shinto mountain gods for good fortune and prosperity.

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This was built in 744 AD...can you imagine carrying all that wood up by hand, with no paths?

This was built in 744 AD…can you imagine carrying all that wood up by hand, with no paths?

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Tengu, guardian spirits of the mountain and temple

Tengu, guardian spirits of the mountain and temple

Standing at 599 m, the peak of Mount Takao offers stunning views of Tokyo, the surrounding mountain countryside, and even Mount Fuji on a clear day. By the time I reached the peak, Fuji-san was hidden behind afternoon haze, but we still enjoyed the summit.

It's official, we reached the summit. Yahoo!

It’s official, we reached the summit. Yahoo!

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Feeling a bit peckish after your climb? Not to worry- Mount Takao is also famous for its soba noodles. We went to a small restaurant directly on the peak, and enjoyed a bowl of noodles and beer to commemorate our climb.

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A few noodle restaurants right before the peak

A few restaurants right before the peak

Refreshing sake that we purchased from a vendor on our way down. I wouldn't recommend drinking too many of these before hiking though.

Refreshing sake that we purchased from a vendor on our way down. I wouldn’t recommend drinking too many of these before hiking though.

If you’re looking to get away from the concrete jungle of Tokyo, enjoy beautiful views, or check out Japanese history and culture, Takao-san is great for all ages. Just don’t expect to get away from the crowds of the city on weekends, as many Japanese families and tourists have the same exact idea. Either way, it’s a great day trip and an amazing chance to smell fresh air, see the changing leaves, and enjoy a few treats along the way.

Celebratory ice cream, of course

Celebratory ice cream, of course

 Mount Takao is a little bit different from other hikes and mountains (such as those in the Adirondacks in New York). Do you think you’d enjoy this type of climb? Thanks for reading, and be sure to let me know!

You can just barely see it, but Mount Fuji is creeping in the haze!

You can just barely see it, but Mount Fuji is creeping in the haze!

Japanese Street Food

If you haven’t noticed already, food is everywhere in Japan. You can’t walk down the street without passing a ramen shop, konbini, or sushi-ya. However, one of my favorite parts of eating in Tokyo was the street food culture, found in festivals, public parks, and around major tourist destinations. Food vendors travel from place to place with traditional decorative stalls, and offer everything from chocolate covered bananas to squid on a stick.

Street food stalls near a temple in Kyoto

Street food stalls near a temple in Kyoto

Like American street fare (i.e. funnel cakes and deep fried Oreos), Japanese street food tends to be pretty unhealthy. But who’s worrying about calories?! Certainly not me. Here’s a few of the most popular and delicious foods I tried, from temples and shrines in Kamakura to festivals in Minato-ku.

1.    Takoyaki

DSC_1427Aka, the food of the gods. Takoyaki are little balls of pancake batter, filled with vegetables and chunks of octopus. Vendors make these delicious treats in a pan with half-dome indentations, and use metal chopsticks to form their round shape. They’re served drizzled with takoyaki sauce (like Worcestershire sauce), Japanese mayo (which is sweet and nothing like American mayo), dried seaweed, and katsuobushi (dried fish flakes).

takoyaki asakusa Japan Japanese food tradition culture

A takoyaki stall in Asakusa. Isn’t that octopus cute??

DSC_0436 Takoyaki are extremely popular at festivals, but they can be found at konbini and supermarkets too! Just don’t expect them to have the same delicious ooey gooeyness as the piping hot ones served in a takoyaki shop or in a fair.

okonomiyaki takoyaki Osaka dotonbori Japan food

Making takoyaki. This was at a restaurant in Osaka in the Dōtonbori, which is a street famous for its many takoyaki, ramen, and okonomiyaki restaurants.

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 2.    Yakisoba

Traditional yakisoba, from a festival in Minato-ku, Tokyo.

Traditional yakisoba, from a festival in Minato-ku, Tokyo.

Fried soba noodles with vegetables, usually served with dried seaweed and pickled ginger. It’s like a Japanese version of chow mein, and extremely satisfying.

Yakisoba can also come with a variety of different toppings. Here, I have a super delicious fried egg.

Yakisoba can also come with a variety of different toppings. Here, I have a super delicious fried egg.

 3.    Yakitori

Nom nom nom. This is beef, from a yakitori stall in Kyoto.

Nom nom nom. This is beef, from a yakitori stall in Kyoto.

Grilled meat (usually chicken) served on a stick. It’s easy to eat with one hand, and it’s a super popular drinking food. While there are entire bars and restaurants dedicated to serving yakitori, it’s a common staple in festivals as well.

 4.    Taiyaki

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Murasaki imo (purple sweet potato) filling

Murasaki imo (purple sweet potato) filling

A fish-shaped pancake with a sweet filling inside. Taiyaki are probably my favorite street food, as the possibilities for fillings are basically endless. I enjoyed taiyaki with chestnuts, chocolate crème, custard, red bean paste, purple sweet potato, and even ice cream. If you’re not into sweets, some taiyaki even come with a molten center of cheese.

This taiyaki from Kyoto had custard inside!

This taiyaki from Kyoto had custard inside!

 5.    Kakigori

Ichigo (strawberry) kakigori

Ichigo (strawberry) kakigori

Japanese snow cones, or shaved ice with syrup. This is a particular favorite at summer festivals.

 6.    Wataame

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Cotton candy! Unline the wataame I had, cotton candy usually comes prepackaged in brightly decorated bags. It’s the most popular with children, as the bags are decorated with characters from their favorite animes and TV shows.

 7.    Dango

DSC_2881A Japanese dumpling on a stick made from mochiko (rice flour). It’s similar to mochi, and is often served with a savory sweet and salty sauce. While dango are eaten year round, the type and variety of dango often depends on the seasons.

Dango stall in Kamakura

Dango stall in Kamakura

 8.    Jaga Bata

DSC_1670A grilled potato, served with butter. Sounds simple, but it’s incredibly delicious.

 9.    Dorayaki

DSC_3863Two sweet pancakes with a filling of azuki (red bean paste). They’re super delicious served warm, especially with a dollop of ice cream in the middle.

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 10.    Hotate Bata Yaki

DSC_1669Scallops grilled in their shell with butter. These are insanely delicious if you’re willing to splurge a little on street food.

And finally…

11. Ika Yaki.

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You thought I was lying about the squid on a stick, didn’t you? Here it is. A whole squid, skewered, grilled, and basted with a sweet barbeque-like sauce.

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Yes, it has a face. Yes, I ate the face.

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And yes, it was delicious and I would do it again.

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How do these foods compare to the cuisine you find at festivals in your country? Thanks for reading, and I hope I got you ready for lunch!

Ueno

Two weeks ago I took you to Asakusa, a traditional Japanese district in the northeast reaches of Tokyo. Today, I’m heading to Ueno, a nearby district that showcases some of Tokyo’s best points of interest.

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Ueno is home to a wide variety of activities and is a particularly appealing destination for tourists. This district is home to a huge park, ponds, a zoo, Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, a major concert hall, and many well-known museums, all within walking distance. Whether you’re looking for a nice nature walk or want to learn more about Japanese culture, Ueno definitely has something for everyone.

Walking in Ueno Park

Walking in Ueno Park

DSC_0550My favorite part about this district was Ueno Park, Japan’s first and most popular public park. Ueno Park surrounds Shinobazu Pond, a small body of water with extensive lotus beds and marshlands. As you walk along the shoreline, you can see many varieties of birds that have taken shelter in the marshlands, as well as carp, turtles, and other wildlife. Ueno Park is also home to a huge population of feral cats, who you can see slinking around under the trees.

Shinonazu Pond

Shinonazu Pond

Huge carp in the pond

Huge carp in the pond

One of the many feral cats that call Ueno home

One of the many feral cats that call Ueno home

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Check out how mossy these turtles are!

Check out how mossy these turtles are!

DSC_0579Although I didn’t get a chance to see them, Ueno also has over 800 sakura trees. From the end of March to early May, thousands of people flock to Ueno park for hanami (flower viewing) to see the beautiful cherry blossoms throughout the walking paths.

Thousands of people in Ueno for the flower viewing, or hanami

Thousands of people in Ueno for the flower viewing, or hanami

Vendors along the walking trails in Ueno offer a variety of street foods during hanami

Vendors along the walking trails in Ueno offer a variety of street foods during hanami

The park itself is also home to several Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, one of which sits on an island in the middle of the pond. At the temple, visitors cleanse themselves with water, purchase incense to burn, find out their fortunes, or even leave prayers behind in hope that they’ll be answered. I’ll cover some of these practices more in another post about religion, but until then, enjoy some of the pictures from that area.

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Before entering the temple grounds, guests purify their hands and mouth using water provided in a small fountain

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Visitors can purchase sticks of incense to burn while they pray.

Visitors can purchase sticks of incense to burn while they pray.

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Japanese ema (Shinto prayer plaues). Visitors purchase an ema and write a prayer on it, then hang them up at the shrine where the gods can receive them

Japanese ema (Shinto prayer plaques). Visitors purchase an ema and write a prayer on it, then hang them up at the shrine where the gods can receive them

DSC_0525If you’re in the mood for more nature, Ueno is also home to Japan’s oldest zoo, which opened in 1882. For around $6 visitors can see over 2500 animals and 450 species, including giant pandas, giraffes, hippos, tigers, elephants, and more. Ueno Zoo is definitely a popular spot for families, but I think that no one is ever too old to enjoy a zoo. I know I did.

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This monkey was not pleased to be photographed.

This monkey was not pleased to be photographed.

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This guy…

Ueno also showcases a dozen different museums, including the Tokyo National Museum, the National Museum of Nature and Science, the National Museum of Western Art, the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, and the Shitamachi Museum. It’s a great place to visit to learn more about Japanese art, or even the history and culture of Tokyo.

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DSC_6571DSC_6164It’s easy to make a full day of travel out of Ueno’s attractions, but before you leave, make sure you try one of Ueno’s specialties: panda pan. It’s a great way to leave Ueno on a sweet note, especially after a full day of walking.

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What was your favorite part of Ueno? Thanks for reading, and let me know in the comments below!

Shugo Tokumaru- “Katachi”

I recently stumbled across a Japanese music video, and if you have a few moments to spare, I highly recommend checking it out.

Katachi, by Shugo Tokumaru, is a stop motion video that represents an abstract flow of both good and bad memories. Katachi, which means shape, uses over 2000 PVC silhouettes that were cut out using a computer-controlled cutter.

Even if you don’t understand Japanese, it’s a really neat video to watch and a super catchy song. I’ve posted a rough English translation of the lyrics below. And if you’re interested in learning how exactly this video was made, check out the producer’s blog.

I hope you enjoy it, and let me know what you think!

Katachi by Shugo Tokumaru

Before the source of voices which boil down gets past the throat
if you spit out what you have seen up until then

The source of different voices reaches the throat
before what you have seen up until then gets erased

Keeping the shape unchanged
waiting on that same path

Before the source of different voices gets past the throat
before you put some oil ’cause you can’t move from where you are
before even languid memories get erased

Keeping the shape unchanged
waiting on that same path

Yakiniku

Japan has a real love for going to restaurants and cooking food themselves. I’m not exactly sure why (isn’t the point of going out to eat so that you don’t have to cook?), but it’s certainly a lot of fun. With a group of friends, shared dishes, and the possibility of lighting your sleeves on fire, it’s really neat to try cooking delicious food yourself without the hassle of prep work.

Although you can rarely find these types of restaurants in America (I’m sure people are afraid of lawsuits), there are several types of cook-it-yourself dining experiences in Japan. Today, I want to show you Japanese yakiniku (grilled meat), and introduce you to one of my favorite meals while I lived in Tokyo.

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At yakiniku restaurants, guests sit at tables with a small charcoal grill built into the tabletop. It’s not hot when you when you sit down, so no one risks setting themselves on fire. Later on, your server will spray the grill with oil and light the flames so that it’s hot by the time your dishes come out of the kitchen.

A traditional yakiniku grill

A traditional yakiniku grill

DSC_0651Yakiniku menus offer a variety of meats and vegetables that are seasoned or marinated in many delicious sauces. If you want a little of everything, a lot of restaurants offer a set meal to share, often with steamed rice. If you’re more adventurous or know exactly what you want, you can also order items a la carte.

The menu of a yakiniku restaurant near my university

The menu of a yakiniku restaurant near my university

DSC_0658Some of the most popular meat choices include kalbi (boneless short rib), harami (tender beef from around the diaphragm), beef tongue, chicken, various seafood, and pork belly. Mushrooms, onions, kabocha squash, corn, and peppers are also commonly available for vegetables. If you want to get a little more daring, you can also find a lot of organ meat as well- including heart, liver, intestine, tail, tripe, and stomach.

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I'm getting hungry just thinking about how delicious this was

I’m getting hungry just thinking about how delicious this was

The meats and vegetables come to your table raw and cut into bite-sized pieces. The server will tell you how long each meat needs to cook, and then it’s time to start grilling. Using tongs, you put the raw meat onto the grill and cook to your heart’s content. There are usually several different dipping sauces to choose from on the side, including ponzu (citrus soy sauce) and spicy chili oil.

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DSC_0661Most restaurants will also offer steamed rice or other side dishes to help fill you up. I enjoyed marinated bean sprouts and seaweed with one meal, while another yakiniku restaurant with a Korean influence had a vegetable omelet, kimchi, and salad.

Several types of bean sprouts and seaweed

Several types of bean sprouts and seaweed

Japanese yakiniku is a ton of fun if you don’t mind a little work, and extremely delicious. All the meat is super tender and marinated in amazing sauces, from miso to barbeque.

Yakiniku at a Korean barbecue restaurant

Yakiniku at a Korean barbecue restaurant

And you know what’s awesome? You don’t need to go to Japan anymore to enjoy this awesome experience! Gyu Kaku, a Japanese yakiniku chain I actually ate at in Tokyo, has restaurants all across the US! There’s one right down the street from where I live in Boston, and it’s just as delicious as the yakiniku in Japan. Plus, they offer s’mores as dessert…it’s seriously too hard to resist.

I hope I made you hungry today! Would you try yakiniku, or are you afraid of cooking your own food?

Shibuya

Welcome to Shibuya, home of the famous Hachiko statue, Shibuya Crossing, amazing restaurants, shopping, and some of the best nightlife in Tokyo. There’s seriously something for everyone here, whether you’re looking to shop for the latest fashions or enjoy a night of drinking and karaoke with your friends.

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Shibuya is always alive with neon lights and bustling streets, no matter what time it is. It’s a huge fashion center and particularly popular with young people, which is probably why I found it so fascinating. I like to call Shibuya the New York City of Japan, and if you ever visit there on a Friday night, you’ll see why.

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 When I first got off at Shibuya Station, one of the busiest stations in Tokyo, I was immediately greeted with the mind-boggling sight of Shibuya Crossing. You’ve probably seen it in popular films and TV shows, including Lost in Translation.

Welcome to the madness that is Shibuya Crossing!

Welcome to the madness that is Shibuya Crossing!

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Shibuya Crossing is one of the busiest crosswalks in the world. Cars stop in all directions, allowing hundreds of people to scramble across the intersection. The entire area is surrounded by large TV screens, advertisements, flashing lights, and modern architecture, adding another layer to the experience. It’s absolutely stunning at night and completely overwhelming, and yet Shibuya Crossing made me feel like I was really in Japan for the first time.

If you don’t believe me about Shibuya Crossing, check out the massive crowds in the video above!

If you manage to make it through the crossing alive, Shibuya offers a huge variety of shopping, restaurants, bars, clubs, and nightlife. There are several well-known Japanese department stores in the area, including Shibuya 109, Parco, and Loft, which offer everything from high-end clothing to bento supplies.

Even in the rain, Shibuya is always alive

Even in the rain, Shibuya is always alive

Step in any street in Shibuya, and you'll find dozens of quirky shops and amazing restaurants

Step in any street in Shibuya, and you’ll find dozens of quirky shops and amazing restaurants

And if you’re feeling hungry, don’t worry! You can find everything from ramen shops and kaiten sushi to restaurants specializing in whale meat, Alice in Wonderland cafes, and even…Krispy Kreme. I can’t even get Krispy Kreme in America anymore, but it was delicious in Japan!

Behold the wonder that is Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Behold the wonder that is Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

Shibuya is also a huge center for nightlife in Tokyo. As the sun goes down, thousands of people flock to the multitude of bars, karaoke centers, clubs, and even “love hotels” that this district offers. Because the last trains in Japan stop running around 12:30 am and don’t start again until 4:30 am, many young people dance or drink straight until dawn. I certainly had plenty of days where I came home during the sunrise, and I enjoyed every second of it.

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After all, no one ever remembers the nights they got plenty of sleep.

This salaryman certainly knows how to party. I found him sleeping at 3 am on the streets of Shibuya.

This salaryman certainly knows how to party. I found him sleeping at 3 am on the streets of Shibuya.

If you ever visit Tokyo, make sure you visit Shibuya at least during the day. Even if you aren’t under 30 (and I saw plenty of older salarymen out at night!), it’s still an amazing experience to see the crowds and check out what the youth of Japan are up to. Head over to the Starbucks across from the station, grab a table near the window, and watch Shibuya come to life.

(Featured photo via Gaijin Camera)