For us, besides seeing places, trying the different foods of each country that we visit plays an important role during our journey. We love to immerse ourselves in the culinary world and experiences new flavors that our taste buds can enjoy. Japan is a country where gourmets will find an endless number of culinary pleasures, that’s why we listed some of our favorite foods that we think you should not miss while being in Japan.

  • Udon
    Udon are Japanese noodles made from wheat flour, water and salt. The noodles are the thickest in Japanese cuisine. They are prepared in many different dishes. Some of the best-known Udon dishes are:
    Kake-Udon: are doused with broth based on soy sauce.
    Bukkak-Udon: are mixed with various ingredients and then doused with hot water.
    Kitsune-Udon: are cooked in hot broth and with deep fried tofu (Alex’s favorite Udon).
    Kamatama Udon: are served with some broth and raw egg (my favorite Udon).
  • Okonomiyaki
    Okonomyaki is my favorite dish in Japan, although I did not know it before. “Okonomi” means taste and “yaki” means grilled or fried. The base consists of water, cabbage, flour and egg. Depending on your preference, different ingredients such as cheese, fish, meat etc. can be added. Each one of these ingredients is typical for a different region. The dish is prepared on an iron plate and in some restaurants you can fry the Okonomiyaki yourself. Depending on the type, first the base is being formed. It can be associated with a crepe, being filled and turned after a short roast.



  • Sushi
    Not rare I heard from people: “Sushi? That’s not for me, that’s nothing proper to eat “or” Sushi is just something for snobs! ”
    No idea why people think so, because there are many sushi types in different flavors, there should actually be something for everyone. As many things in Japan, sushi might seem an expensive thing to try, but there are cheap alternatives, like running sushi. Even in Tokyo, we could find good sushi at a reasonable price.  (Click here for our best Sushi experience). Small Sushi vocabulary: Shari (斜里) = Expression for sushi rice in the sushi bar

Namida (涙) = Tears:
Wasabi, which is located between the rice and the stuffing or toppings. It reflects the tears that come to you when you eat it. (Japanese basically do not eat very spicy) And yes, in Japan wasabi is not served separately like in Europe.

Gari (ガリ) = Crunch:
This is the ginger that is served with the sushi. The word refers to the crunchy sound when you eat or cut it.

Murasaki (紫) = Purple:
This is the soy sauce, so-called because of its purple shimmering color. Important: It is taboo to waste soy sauce or “drown” the sushi in the sauce.

By the way, it’s okay to eat sushi with your hands. It used to be finger food, but we did not see anybody doing it. There is nothing wrong with the sushi you find in the supermarket. Mostly sushi is offered in Izakaya restaurants (small Japanese bars) or sushi from the line (Jap: Kaiten-zushi or Mawari-zushi).



  • Onigiri
    Our little lifesavers in Japan were the Onigiri. These rice snacks can be found in supermarkets and also in Convenient stores (Seven Eleven or Lawson for example) and have different fillings. Perfect for a snack in between.



  • Ramen
    Isn’t Ramen a Chinese noodle soup? Yes and no! Undoubtedly, the roots of Ramen come from Chinese cuisine and like many other foods it was implemented in Japan after 1859, when the ports were opened.

The father of ramen is the Chinese noodle soup, but the mother is the Japanese food culture. – Quote from the Yokohama Ramen Museum 

The difference between normal Chinese noodles soup and Ramen are the ingredients. While for the Chinese noodle’s soup is always the same, the different types of Ramen are based on different types of soups. The five elements of the Ramen are broth, toppings, oil, spices, noodles. Ingredients are matched depending on the region.


  • Mochi
    Mochi is a Japanese sweet made out of sticky rice (Mochiko). Some Mochi species are filled with Anko (red bean cream) or wrapped in a cherry leaf for example. However, this is a “dangerous” food because the sticky texture can keep the mochis stuck in the throat. Every year there are incidents caused by Mochi.
  • Dango
    Dango means round dumpling and often it is served with green tea. They are very similar to the mochi and are served on skewers.
  • Taiyaki
    Taiyaki means sea bream. It is not a fish dish, but a delicious Japanese sweet. It is a waffle whose dough is baked in a fish form and filled with vanilla cream, Anko (red bean cream) or many others.

Japan’s world of taste is diverse, in addition to the above-mentioned dishes, there are of course many more. You can find even international foods with a typical Japanese flavor. For example, we tried different KitKat versions (Matcha, Wasabi etc.).

What you should know before you start your trip to Japan, are some rules when eating with chopsticks:

  • Never point with the chopsticks at a person or object
  • Do not stick the chopsticks vertically into the rice.
  • Do not play with the chopsticks, like using them as drum sticks.

We hope you’ll enjoy Japan from a culinary point of view. Here you can find more pictures from Japan.

The train system in Japan is enormous. In 2015, the route network connected over 27,311 km. That means you can reach almost every place in the country by train. Japanese trains are almost never late, unless there is a serious problem. For example, when we experienced a fire on the tracks it took only 10 minutes for the problem to be solved. Japanese stations are totally organized, even at rush hour, when thousands of people go to work or back home. At these times, there is additional staff who coordinate the crowds and show to lost tourists (like we were sometimes :) ) the direction.



As soon as you arrive at the track, you join the row marked on the ground. At some stations the arrival of the train is announced by a bird sound. First, passengers get off and then you can get on the train. If you have not managed to get on the train then do not worry, the next one will be coming in a few minutes. We have never waited more than 5 minutes. Most stations and subway stations have a free wifi connection and Google Maps makes finding the connections super easy. There are also the apps MetroMan and Visit Tokyo, which can be used as an offline alternative in Tokyo and other big cities.

In addition to the regular trains and JR Lines, there are subways in some cities and, of course, the Shinkansen express trains that connect the major cities within a few hours.


How do I know which train is going in which direction?

On the tracks there are signs showing in which direction the trains go. In the train itself, the announcements are usually made in Japanese and English and the number of the station is called, so you can not miss the exit. In addition, the stations are marked with lights showing the exits of the train. If you board the wrong train, just get out and take the next one back. As mentioned above, the trains are coming regularly.



Where can I buy tickets?

As a foreign visitor, you can buy a Japan Rail Pass via the Internet before arriving in Japan. The pass is available for 7, 14 or 21 days. The website offers all the necessary information regarding this subject. You should first calculate whether it is worth it for you or not. In our case it would have been more expensive.



Tickets can be bought at the station at the ticket machines, at the ticket windows (Midori No Madoguchi) or on the internet. The handling of the machines is self-explained and available in English. When buying tickets to stations in the immediate vicinity, just look at the board with the route network to see the price (price is always at the respective station for adults and children). Te board always hangs directly over the machine. The Payment is done in cash and the machines also give back notes, if you just just don’t have change at hand.

If you are in the area for a longer time or go regularly with the trains, a Suica Card or Pasmo card is a better option to consider. These prepaid cards are particularly convenient and save time when buying tickets. Instead of inserting the ticket at the light barrier, you put the card on the reader and it deducts the necessary amount automatically.
Tickets can be booked on the same day, but Shinkansen trains are often fully booked, so it is recommended to book long trips in advance.


How are the tickets checked?

The tickets are checked both when entering and exiting the tracks. The exit is marked with a light barrier which indicates if you have bought the right ticket. During our 4 week journey, we were only once checked for our ticket on the train, but it happened when we accidentally entered the first-class carriage. The controller was very nice and showed us the way to the right compartment.

Conclusion: train travel in Japan is super light and comfortable, although not always cheap. It is also very entertaining. In the trains or stations, there is a lot to discover. The train system is just another thing that made us understand that Japan is simply a different world.

Would you like to see some pictures of Japan? Click here. 

Japan, land of the rising sun. In this incredible country, we spent 1 month and sometimes we were really surprised how the world runs over there. We have summarized a few interesting facts. Some things are probably new for you too.

Fact #1

The first thing we noticed at the airport was the Japanese toilets. In Japan, the hygiene aspect is very high, therefore you can always find clean toilets.


The toilets are not only clean, but they also make you “clean”. Most toilet seats have a bidet with various functions and integrated seat heating, which can be controlled via an operating system. Often you will also find a sink above the water cistern.

These systems are Eco-friendly and the water used to wash your hands will be used in the next rinse. These toilets are “Western-style” toilets. There are also the “Japanese style” WCs, which have only a hole in the floor, but they are still clean and always with the instruction to throw the toilet paper in the toilet and not in the bin.

In addition, there is often a “rinse-sound” button, which should provide more privacy. When leaving public toilets, space remains environmental friendly: there is always only cold water for washing your hands, sometimes soap, but never dry towels, from time to time you will find a hand dryer.

Fact #2

Japan, land of technology and progress ?! Not, when it comes to payments. In Japan, mostly everything is paid in cash,  often there is not even the option to pay by credit card. So while in Japan, make sure you always have enough cash and change with you, as in some buses, for example, drivers can not change. But finding an ATM is not difficult. Most convenience stores (Seven Eleven or Lawson) have an ATM. Moreover, Japan is very safe, so with a lot of cash in your purse, it is not very dangerous. But please do not lose the purse.

Fact #3

The third fact remains technical. The train system in Japan is enormous. You can reach everything by train and Japanese trains are hardly late. Japan has the fastest and most modern trains, so-called Bullettrains, but these are not cheap. As a foreign visitor, you can buy a Rail Pass,  which you can use to get cheap train rides. But you should first calculate whether it is worth doing so. In our case it would have been more expensive. We often took buses that took a long time but were a lot cheaper. Bus connections can be found, for example, at,,, (under the last page we always found our connections).



Within the cities, we have always been traveling with Metro or JR Line. The train system deserves its own article and we have summarized everything for you. You can find the link here.

Fact #4

Japanese are incredibly polite people. So many times people asked to assist or to help us when we were in need. Many Japanese speak English, but even if they do not, they have done everything they could to help or to guide us. Right on our first evening we were invited by strangers to eat with them (here you can find the article about it) and we only have met nice people. We also learned that hardly any critic is expressed in Japan.

Japanese also know how to line up. Very often you can see long queues in front of restaurants or cafes. This does not necessarily mean there is something special going on, it can be that the restaurant is just full. But the Japanese line up without complaining and they will wait patiently for their call.


Fact #5

“Everything is cute in Japan”. No matter where you look, you will be bombarded by bears, kitties or other “cute” creatures. Advertising, clothing, handbags, mobile phone cases, warnings, food, packaging and much more can be found in bright colors or with some imprints. We even saw a Hello Kitty fire extinguisher.

Fact #6

A special feature in Japanese houses is the tatami. It is a mat made of rice straw, usually used in the sleeping area or in the dining room. These traditional rooms are called Washitsu. I personally like this style very much. It is important to never walk with shoes on a tatami floor because it is very sensitive. Generally, it is very inappropriate to enter a house with shoes and this also applies to some restaurants. When you sleep on these tatami floors, a kind of mattress is rolled out, the so-called futons (the Japanese word for blanket) to provide a comfortable bed. At first we were skeptical, but we slept very well in the hostels with tatami beds and also at our host’s place during our Workaway project where we found the same setup.


Fact #7

This curiosity is about a very serious topic. Japan is hit by more than 400 earthquakes every year. You can find many escape routes leading to a safe zone. Just in the month when we were in Japan, there were 35 earthquakes. We did have the feeling that the earth would shake, but we were never really sure.


Fakt #8

In some areas, especially in the countryside, you can find bottles of water in the corners of many houses, garden entrances or around plants. At first, we thought that maybe the water was being delivered here or is provided for dogs, but after some research we realized we were wrong. These bottles serve as a deterrent to animals. Especially against cats or dogs, the light reflection of the water shall fear them away in order to not urinate on the plants or house walls.

Fact #9

The last fact is probably the oddest thing. Our host Rio told us during our Workaway project that Christmas is usually celebrated with the girlfriend or boyfriend. There is no big party and gifts are rarely being given, not even to kids. The food served for Christmas comes from KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken). Yes, you read it right, it’s so typical that you even have to make reservations at the fast-food chain to get your fried chicken on Christmas Eve.

Do you want to see some pictures from our journey in Japan? Click here.

The final destination of our stunning trip to Japan was Hiroshima. The city is home to more than 1 million people and is worldwide known for the terrible tragedy that has occurred in 1945.
We reached the city in the afternoon. The bus stop was close to our beautiful hostel. On our first day we did not do much, except buying groceries at the supermarket and cooking.



The next day we started early in the morning with a full breakfast and then we set off for a walk to the city center. Origami Hostel was a bit outside the center area, but after a 30-minute walk we already reached Hiroshima Castle. The original castle witnessed the terrible event on August 6th, 1945. It is not like we have not seen enough temples and Japanese castles and palaces yet, but this particular area caught our attention because of the Japanese style boats that float near the castle and the beautiful cherry blossom in this area.

The cherry blossom is especially important in Japan. Sakura, as it is called in Japan, stands for beauty, departure and transience in Japanese culture and heralds spring.



Our walk took us further to the center, to the remains of the sad event that happened in the city. The Peace Memorial was declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. The remains of the atomic bomb dome, as it is known today, are only about 140 meters from ground zero in August 1945.


But what exactly happened on August 6th, 1945?

The first atomic bomb was dropped by the Americans over Hiroshima and claimed a hundred of thousands of lives. The bomb exploded at 08:16 am at an altitude of about 600 m and triggered a gigantic pressure wave. Around the monument, there is a lot of information from survivors describing the events of that day. Right next to the Peace Memorial are the Peace Park, with the monument for the children that died during the explosion, the Peace Museum and the Cenotaph, whose arch overlooks the Peace fire and the dome. The Peace Park is not only intended to commemorate this national tragedy, but also to look to a peaceful future.


Those who have more time in Hiroshima can take the ferry to Miyajima, leaving from near the park. The island is not far from the city center. It is known for its beauty and the particular Torii in the water.
We didn’t find the time to visit the Shukkei-en Garden, which we think is also very special in Hiroshima, because we spent the afternoon preparing for the flight on the following day, that would be the start of our next adventure in Hong Kong.

More pictures of Hiroshima you can find here.

During our time in Osaka, we dedicated one day to visit the beautiful Nara.
With the train we left Osaka and led the city behind us, and approached the hills in this landscape. After about an hour by train from Osaka, we reached Nara.

Nara is a beautiful quiet place, with temples and Shinto shrines from the 8th century, dating back to the time when the city was the capital of Japan during the Nara period, then called Heijo-Kyo.


The signs at the station led us into the Nara Park. We left the station and were directly “attacked” by a deer. Yes, that’s right, a deer approached me and before I understood, what was going on it devoured my city map. I tried to stop it but without any success. In Nara there are about 1200 wild deer that roam freely and they are used to see visitors around. To be precise, they are sika deer that characterize the cityscape of Nara.


Why are there so many Sika deer there?

According to the legend, the noble family Fujiwara built the shrine Kasuga Taisha in order to be offered divine protection. The Kasuga shrine, as it is known today, is protected by the deities of Kashima shrine who is said that were riding on white deer. Since that time, the animal has been protected and excluded from the hunt. Over time, animals and humans got used to each other.

On Sundays and holidays in October, the male animals are captured so that their antlers can be cut by a Schinto priest. This happens because in autumn the deer’s antlers are getting hard for the mating season and become a danger to visitors. This is one of the most important festivities in Nara. It is also forbidden to feed the animals. The Shika Senbei (deer cookies) are an exception, which are baked especially for the animals and can be purchased at various points in Nara Park. The animals are said to bow when they want a cookie. We did not feed the deer, but in fact we recognized this behavior.

Nara Park

Nara Park has much more to offer than just the wildlife. Our walk took us along the Kohfukuji and Gangoji temples to the Himuro Jinja shrine, where we once again admired the blossom. On our map (we often use the app “Visit a city”… which proved to be very helpful after our map from the tourist office was eaten) we realized that there are two Japanese gardens in Nara that next to each other. The Isuien Garden is larger, but it costs 900 yen (about 7 euros) entrance fee. The Yoshikien Garden is free for foreign tourists. We only had to answer a few questions about our origin in order to enter. Everything there is beautifully maintained and reflects three different gardens: the flower garden, moss garden and the pond garden.



The highlight of the day

After a short break we came to our highlight of the day. The Todai-Ji Temple, like most of the temples in Nara was built also in the Nara period. The main object of worship in this imposing temple is the Vaiocana Buddha (“Buddha shining through the world, like the sun”). The Todai-Ji Temple was founded by Bishop Roben and is still the main temple of the Kegon sect in Buddisum. In the years 1180 and 1567 the temple burned down and was rebuilt during the Edo period. Nowadays it is 33% smaller than it was originally but still ranks among the largest wooden buildings in the world.

The entrance to Daibutsuden (Big Buddha Hall) costs 600 yen (about 4.50 Euro) and for 1000 Yen you can visit the museum as well. The huge 14.98 m high Buddha is located at the entrance of the hall. The bronze statue is covered in gold and is accompanied by smaller statues. After our visit here we continued our walk to the big bell behind the temple and went up some steps to the Nigatsu-do hall. Here you get a great view over the city of Nara and the park. Nigatsu-do means hall of the second month and is an important part of the Todai-ji temple.



On this day we were once again lucky with the weather, except for a short shower, and returned to Osaka with many beautiful impressions.

Would you like to see more pictures about Nara? Click here.

We were already thinking that we won’t return soon to Tokyo, after spending 18 days away from it and planning to continue our trip in the south part of Japan. But suddenly we found ourselves forced to return to one of its main stations if we wanted to benefit from the cheapest transportation option available.

We opted for a seven hours long bus ride from Shinjuku station in Tokyo, that would bring us to Osaka, via Kyoto. We paid 50 euro per person on (the sooner you book the better since the cheaper options are sold out very fast), which was considerably cheaper than booking a train ticket. We didn’t organize train tickets in advance because we wanted to be flexible on our dates and found it more convenient to choose our departure dates spontaneously. The idea of being 7 hours on the road (plus the one hour and a half from Hadano to Tokyo at an impossible early time in the morning) did not feel like a good one to be considered, but after finding ourselves in a spacious bus with free Wi-Fi and considerably space to stretch our legs we were actually happy with our decision.

We arrived late in Osaka and headed directly to our accommodation to receive our key. Our place for the night was a private room at the Tsubaki Guest House, a cute place that probably looked much better in the past before the owners stopped carrying so much about dusty surfaces and reconditioning some of the areas in the buildings. But we were happy for all the facilities they offered and for being upgraded the next morning to a much bigger room that felt fresher.



Exploring Osaka

We woke up the first day with clouds over the city and experienced light rain showers throughout the day, but the weather still allowed us to take long walks and get the most out of our time there. Osaka is the second-largest city in Japan but less touristic than other smaller cities. We used this to our advantage, being able to find here cheap accommodation and took day trips to Kyoto and Nara in the following days without having to deal with crowds of people.



But being less touristic doesn’t make Osaka less interesting than other places. The city is very animated and offers beautiful city landscapes. The highlight of our stay in the capital of the Osaka prefecture was the area around the Namba station, known as Dotonbori, a large area for shopping lovers and seekers of delightful food. Colorful lights, expressive images and an incredible atmosphere will make you want to spend there as much time as possible. And after getting lost in the crowd it feels nice to stop and treat yourself with a delicious meal in Japanese style.



We tried in 3 days all the food that we knew it’s going to be missed after leaving the country, although we knew that very soon our taste buds will feel the compensation of the delicious Chinese cuisine. We headed to an Udon restaurant the first evening and came back the next days for portions of Okonomiyaki, fried meat, tasty rice snacks and Ramen. And everything at more affordable prices than at our previous destinations.


From Osaka to Kyoto

After visiting Nara in one of the following days, we dedicated a full day time to Kyoto, the former capital of Japan. You will not find here so many skyscrapers around like in Tokyo, but you will discover a city full of history, traditions and beautiful streets to walk on.



Kyoto is well connected by buses and for 600 yen you can buy a day ticket, which is very convenient considering the normal bus ticket fare. Ask for it at any of the main bus stations or directly to the bus driver.

We started early in the morning by taking the train to Kyoto from the station next to our hostel. From the central station of Kyoto we hopped on the bus to the Bamboo grove of Shoden-Ji Temple. It is a small place to visit but a good spot to take pictures without being bothered by tourists, as most people go to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, which is bigger and more spectacular. The second one was on our list of places to visit, but at the end of the day we decided to leave it out, as we experienced something much better.


Our next stop was Gion, Kyoto’s most famous geisha district, a lovely area filled with shops, restaurants and teahouses (ochaya). Part of its charm comes from the traditional wooden machiya merchant houses with their narrow facades. It is also the place where for decades guests have been entertained by geiko (Kyoto dialect for geisha) and maiko (geiko apprentices). The entertainment consists of being engaged in light conversation with the geisha that also serves drinks and performs traditional music and dance. The service is usually very expensive and exclusive, requiring as per tradition an invitation from an existing customer. But nowadays the rules can easily be changed for guests with a sufficient budget.



From Gion, we walked to the Kiyomizu-Dera temple, an old wooden structure, one of the biggest in the world. After our visit, we stopped for lunch and coffee in the garden surrounding the temple.



The Yasaka Shrine was the next one to enchant us with its bright colors, followed by Fushimi Inari-Taisha Shrine, which was also the highlight of our visit to Kyoto. It is mostly famous for its thousands of red torii gates (called Senbon Torii) that lead the way into the wooded forest of the sacred Mount Inari, which stands at 233 meters altitude. The inscriptions on the torii gates are the names of the donators and the dates when they have been offered to the temple.


After getting lost in the density of torii gates and admiring the views over the city from a different viewpoint along the trail, we found ourselves on a narrower and unmarked trail that brought us into a gigantic and extremely beautiful bamboo forest. We got lost several times during our travels, but this time it seemed like the most beautiful way to be lost somewhere. And we could enjoy it far from the crowd that we encountered at the entrance in the shrine.



By the way, discovering this forest was the reason why we decided not to go to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove anymore, as we felt that visiting the groove will feel less entertaining than we previously expected.

We enjoyed the sunset from the window of the train that brought us back to Osaka, where we spent a peaceful last day, before taking the next bus to our last destination in Japan, Hiroshima.

Seven days later after our arrival in Japan, we took the train from Yokohama to Hadano, in the Kanagawa Prefecture, the place where we were planning to start our first, two weeks long Workaway experience.

But before telling you about our experience let us specify a few details that describe what Workaway is. It is a platform for travelers that are willing to offer their contribution to a project in return for accommodation or food (or both). The projects are posted by hosts around the world, offering to travelers also a closer approach to local lifestyle and language practice. You can sign up for an account on and choose between a single or a couple account. After you can search for thousands of projects and find the one that suits you best. Probably the best part of it is that you are not committed to a certain period of time unless previously agreed to with your host. We think it is one of the best ways to travel when trying to combine touristic activities with the local life experience.


“Go straight on the road till the Coca Cola vending machine and on the left-hand side you will find the house” were the instructions from our host that led us to an old Japanese style house, which became our home and workplace for two weeks.

We found two friendly people there, Rio and Carrie, our hosts and our guides to the Japanese lifestyle and delicious cuisine. We believe that beautiful places are made even more beautiful by the people that you find there. And Rio and Carrie were the people that made our experience at their house truly unforgettable. Sleeping on tatami beds, waking up with fresh ground coffee and enjoyable small talk over dinner were just some of the highlights of our stay.


We were given different tasks that continued the work of other “workawayers” from the past. We sanded walls, painted, cut wood and helped with the cleaning and the cooking in the house. At the end of each day we had some time for ourselves and enjoyed hot tea and some internet connection under the kotatsu (a low, wooden table frame covered by a blanket, upon which a tabletop sits and with a heat source underneath… it’ easier to describe it with pictures, as it isn’t common to see such a setup in a regular house :)


In our free days, we went to discover the beautiful places surrounding Mount Fuji, like Hakone and Lake Ashi, we went hiking in the mountains near Hadano and spent lazy afternoons while planning our upcoming trip to the south of Japan. Rio proved to be a good guide and showed us around Hadano and in some of the evenings him and Carrie took us out for dinner, so we could get familiarized with the Japanese food that we haven’t tried yet.


What is worth mentioning about Workaway projects is that you will usually be asked to work 4 to 5 hours a day, so there’s always time for all the other things you want to do: sleep, read, go out etc. What we enjoyed most about our experience was taking a long break after the long travel days in the Russian Federation and after our arrival in Japan but also having the occasion to meet new people and make friends.

Two weeks later we said goodbye to Diversity Hadano and took the bus towards Kyoto and Osaka, famous historical destinations and a paradise for food lovers.