For once, we slept in and “we took it easy” (as Herbie would say). Started off our morning going to Kamehameha Bakery. They are famous for their – poi glazed donuts. I also got a poi haupia donut as well.
In this same plaza, if you really enjoy ube, Ubae is situated. I grabbed a ube crinkle cookie.
The plan for today was to explore the city and take a break from hiking and beaches and explore the city. I’m an avid fan of graffiti and have been following the whole Powwow movement that gathers artists in different cities to create giant art murals around cities. Similar to what Miami has with Wynwood. The place to go for this Powwow Hawaii movement is Lana Lane in Kaka’ako. The Lana Lane Studio is a good starting point which also houses some art exhibits as well. The murals are all different in terms of style and look but definitely brighten the areas and give it more flavour. The area is mainly industrial in terms of car distribution warehouses but it’s like a hidden gem. There are some really cute boutique shops nearby called SALT at Kaka’ako.
Kaka’ako is relatively near Ala Moana Mall. We decided to leave the mall to another day but stopped by Don Quijote. Don Quijote is a major chain in Japan that has a bit of everything and where you stock up on food and souvenirs and other little nicknacks. For lunch, I wanted to take my friends to a local spot called Rainbow Drive-in. Its the typical fast food that Hawaiians love – you can get mixed seafood plates, loco mocos, burgers etc. I got myself a mini loco moco bowl and a salad (because we weren’t really eating greens).
Our plans were very much in the air for the afternoon so we messaged Herbie to see what they were up to for the day and in Herbie style he told us he was “taking it easy”. They went to the zoo earlier in the day but also mentioned that a beach volleyball court is usually set up at Waikiki Beach. We slowly made our way to the beach (word to the wise, Kuhio St is a one way and you need to loop around again if you miss the parking. There is paid parking closest to the beach but there is a lot that is slightly further away which is closer to the zoo where locals park for free). It turns out the beach court is set up sporadically when they feel like it nearby the pier in the middle of the beach where people jump off to boogie board from. It turned out that that day they indeed did not set up a volleyball court. Luckily Herbie and Elvia showed up with Tristan and a volleyball to pepper with for a bit and we did “take it easy” with the Ku’s on Waikiki beach for the afternoon.
We stayed at Waikiki Beach and took in the free Hula show called Kuhio Beach Hula Show that occurs every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, weather-permitting from 6:30pm to 7:30pm (6:00pm to 7:00pm Nov-Dec-Jan), free to the public at the Kūhiō Beach Hula mound on Kalākaua Ave near Uluniu Avenue across from the Hyatt Regency Waikīkī. It was very fitting and ended with the sun setting.
To end the night off, we stopped by the Mall and had dinner in the The Street food Hall. I got the largest bowl of greens I have had in such a long time from Indie Girl. I ordered the Kailua Sunrise bowl – $15.99USD (Baby kale, Quinoa, sunflower butter, roasted purple sweet potato, pomegranate dressing). The best part of this meal was most definitely the salted roasted sweet potato. It took me such a long time to eat it that I was entirely stuffed and the girls finished it off.
Woke up at 6AM. The original plan was to wake up and do a day trip to Endoshima, Yokohama & Kawasaki area to visit the Endoshima sea candle, beach, Ramen museum, Japan’s largest Chinatown, the Cup Noodle Museum and Kawasaki Warehouse (giant arcade that is designed to look like the Forbidden City of Kowloon) however the prior day exceeded the groups energy threshold (we walked 29KM). Instead we decided to turn the day into a shopping – stay in Tokyo kind of day.
It was indeed a rainy day but luckily majority of the day was light rain. Now with John and Glenn with us, we all woke up rather early all starving. We walked over to Sushi Zanmai (Japan, 〒104-0045 Tōkyō-to, Chūō-ku, Tsukiji, 4 Chome−4−11−9) and ate our breakfast around 8AM (meal was more like lunch or dinner options) very early. I got the deluxe chirashi-don (1480y) and it was amazing and fresh. An assortment of 13 freshly selected types of seafood that covered a bed of rice.
After breakfast, our group split up with different intentions of what to do for the day. Stores don’t open until roughly 11AM so we wandered around. We passed by one temple where people were setting up their own booths for what looked like a flea market. I ended up browsing through one tent where this elderly couple had trays of old Japanese wooden toys where the heads bobbled. I restrained myself and only bought 3 for 1500y. We continued walking and made our way to Don Quijote where we spent a large amount of time purchasing items. Don Quijote is what you would say the Wal-mart of Japan would be because it has anything and everything you need whether its electronics, makeup, candy, food to laundry detergent. If you spend over a certain amount, you can present your passport (2nd floor cashier) and receive tax-free savings HOWEVER, if your purchase contained consumables (food) they will seal your purchase and you are not allowed to consume any of it or open the packaging until you have left Japan or potentially face a consumption fee at the customs.
We continued on after our rather large purchase (ok large for me). Stopped by a 100y store, BICQLO (5-7 floors of Uniqlo and Bic Camera), Comme Ca, Muji and a smaller more local Daiso. Cassie met up with us in Shinjuku for lunch and we went to a restaurant in a basement – Sutameshi DonDon – Tama Merchant building B1, B2, 3-34-14 Shinjuku Ku, Shinjuku – opened 24HR – Shinjuku where you order by a machine (luckily there was english and photos). I ordered the Sutameshi with cheese (780y) and you get an egg on the side to mix in. I had a runaway egg as I cracked it directly onto the my bowl where a bed of melted cheese acted as a ramp to throw it out of the bowl. Apparently, I did it all wrong. They give you a separate little bowl to crack the egg in and then stir it before you try to combine it with your meal. After lunch, we continued walking in the spritz rain to Awake which serves dango – delicious mochi desserts.
With the amount of shopping we did, our baggage was getting heavy so we returned back to you share loft and unpacked and repacked it into our luggages while we waited for our remaining 2 friends to join us. At this point of day, John and Glenn were enroute to Nara/Osaka and Cassie was exploring on her own and meeting up with Atene in Roppongi. We ended up waiting back at the share loft for Karen and Chi’s arrival. Their flight got delayed by an hour and we ended up napping a little too long waiting their arrival.
First thing on the list for the night – Chidori-ga-fuchi park – The park was illuminated to showcase the cherry blossoms but of course that brought out the crowds. It was a big walk around the park where it led to a dead end which you would then need to walk back from. It was a lovely view but I still wish I was able to see it during a nice sunny day.
Since Karen and Chi just landed, they really wanted to see Piss Alley and Golden Gai. We kept getting turned around at Shinjuku Station and went in a circle a few times before re-orienting ourselves in the correct direction to where we were the first day in Tokyo. We ended up eating at Tori-en Izakaya (Japan, 〒160-0023 Tokyo, 新宿区Nishishinjuku, 1 Chome−２−４) in Piss Alley where we sat on the second floor and ate a bit of everything.
We got back to the share loft and all of us started to repack our bags as we needed to create a overnight bag and go store our luggages at train stations since we were planning on staying overnight at the onsen.
Final night in Waikiki. Melissa & family went to High tea and had to run errands and since they still had mopeds they took advantage of it. A group of us did a early morning beach session before we headed over to Ala Moana mall once again to shop.
We ventured around Ala Moana for a bit checking out some stores and of course stopping by Foodland for more poke. We went to Kicks HI again and finally hit up Don Quijote (801 Kaheka St). It’s a little different from the Don Quijote I’ve been to in Japan but it’s very similar. Don Quijote is a one stop shop for everything from souvenirs, fresh food to electronics and and even facial products. To make it even better – It’s 24 hours! For food products that you can find in the ABC stores, Walmart & Don Quijote as the places to go to purchase them for cheaper. They also had tons of green tea related candies and chocolates.
We ended up grabbing poke again at Foodland before heading back and stopping by Food Pantry – Hi Steaks for steak plates. We brought it all back and ate by the poolside. Afterwards, the girls went up to help Melissa with wedding preparations. What the made the night even better, the boys came back from a night moped ride with treats from Leonard’s Bakery – Malasadas!
I slept very well that night but awoke to the sound of a Canon DSLR shutter taking photos.
Our hotel being in Shinsaibashi area, the Glico man sign in Dotonbori district isn’t too far away and we found ourselves at Don Quijote again for last minute buys with the little money that we held. We decided we wanted cheap but decent food so we went back to Yoshinoya for food. This time I got curry with a softboiled egg for only 540¥. We made our way to Marinomiya station to visit Osaka Castle and meet up with Georgie’s cousin Alvin who we had previously met last week in Hong Kong at their family dinner. Alvin decided last minute he wanted to visit Japan and also see his girlfriend who is living there for a year. We had no way of contacting him since we didn’t have wifi at the Capsule hotel so we just waited for half an hour outside the main gate of the castle before we decided to head in. He told Georgie if we can’t find him, to go on without him as he was planning on walking there.
Once we walked in we noticed a stage with group of people dancing so we decided to take a closer look. I went to the front row for a better view and looked over to my left and found Alvin also watching these performances. Apparently he had arrived 3 hours earlier and anticipated that we would find him in that area which we did. The performances were really good but my favourite performance was the large group of 6-7 year olds in their little black and yellow outfits doing backflips with such ease and energy.
After the performances, we went into Osaka Castle – I personally don’t recommend it. 600¥ to get in, 6 floors but the inside has been renovated and does not look like a castle at all however the perks of this building is the view from the top floor, otherwise not worth it. When we left the castle, we somehow found ourselves inside a gym. It was a samurai/sword training dojo and there was a contest or exam going on so we decided to watch for a bit. We wandered along the rest of Osaka Castle park and since it was only 430-5PM, we walked back to our area in Shinsaibashi. We decided that we had time for a sit down dinner at an izakaya close by with 100¥ a piece menu. It wasn’t that great and I guess we weren’t keeping track of time too well that Alvin looked at his watch and it read 730PM and he abruptly said “you guys should leave now.” We had lost track of time.
Our flight was for 910PM with Peach Aviation and we needed to arrive 30 minutes ahead to check-in. We took the JR line to Kansai airport but didn’t realize how long it would take especially with all the stops. It was our most expensive train/bus ticket at 1030¥. We made it to the Peach check-in counter at 910PM. Needless to say, we missed our flight.
The info counter had told us the next flight back to to HKG was with Cathay Pacific for roughly 2000-2500CAD for a one way last minute. We were all frantic and looking for options.
Our options were:
1 – Buy the $2000+CAD 1 way ticket to HKG to connect to our existing flight home to Toronto
2 – Delay our home-bound flight a day and book Peach again for $385CAD the following night
3 – Fly home from Osaka and pay the equivalent of our roundtrip ticket on a one way.
Luckily we held off a few hours until we got a hold of the travel agent back home we booked our main flight with. Good thing HKG had good wifi connection and Georgina had her tablet and Skype. We got in contact with Josephine our travel agent and she altered our flight from HKG and got it pushed to 24 hours for an addition fee of $100. We then tried to book our flight with peach but at one point we couldn’t enter information in and we panicked. We found a fellow overnight guest who had a laptop and used it to book our flight. We took over a section of the seating area at the airport and stayed overnight since we decided not to leave the airport and spend more money. Good thing we had wifi and found a plug to charge everything. I felt so drowsy but couldn’t sleep so I would walk around. The best thing about waking up or being up at this time is catching the sunrise. Collectively we had 2022¥ left to spend on food for all of us for the day (trying not to spend any more money besides what whatever yen we had on us). We ended up sticking with Lawsons and grabbing cheap food – onigiri.
Since we missed our flight, I let Kayo know and she messaged back that she was on her way. Before she arrived, there was this African American man in monks clothing (jap style) with a baby strapped to his chest that approach and asked me if I spoke english as I pulled out my earbuds. I was thoroughly baffled but it turns out this man knows Georgina but hadn’t seen her since she was 5 or 10 years old. Jean louis with his 10 month old name Genevieve came to visit us at the Airport after Kayo called him. Jean Louis was Georgina’s neighbour back home. He has been living in Japan for 15 years. He went into the monastery and became a monk but then met his current partner and broke that monk seal however he is planning on going back thus he wears the attire to keep him focused. At this moment, he is a stay-at-home dad but is going to pursue his masters for Economics and continue practicing his samurai sword techniques.
Kayo arrived shortly after coming from her parents house about an hour and half away just to see us off again. She brought these scrumptuous waffles for us as well.
We spent 24 hours at Kansai airport and it finally ended with a somewhat quick flight to Hong Kong airport. We had 12 hours to wait at HKG airport before we could check in to connect to our flight back home to Toronto. We had tons of HKD money leftover so we felt like queens living in the airport and eating without worrying about money. We finally were able to check in at noon and we went for our final meal of the trip pre-14-15 hour flight. Wonton noodles from the food court (not the best broth but good wontons) to end the trip.