Tokyo, Osaka, & Kyoto | Japan, Part 1 of 3

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A special kind of magic happened as I sat down and first started going through these photos. Indeed, it was as if I had acquired a tiny new superpower. Just by looking at the pictures, I could taste each of the foods that I had photographed. I mean, it’s one thing to generally remember things from the photos, but quite another to be granted perfect gustatory recall. Bite by bite, I journeyed through everything I had eaten in Japan. Of course, I’m sure it didn’t hurt that the Japanese are very good at parceling food into perfect little bites, each with a distinct taste and perfectly suited container. And oh, the containers… the little dishes, the bowls, the tiny plates, the unique chopstick rests, the mismatched patterns and colors that all still go together wonderfully… yes, I fell a bit in love. And that was just the food.

This whole trip was spurred by Akane & Gimpei’s beautiful wedding in Osaka, but I also traveled around Japan for ten days total, and my friends Ho Chie and Jesse came along too. It was a fantastic experience, and this post is just part one of three. It’s not all food. There are some beautful sights too. But consider yourselves warned– this photographic journey is not to be undertaken on an empty stomach.

Truth be told, this first day was a bit of a haze. We landed in Tokyo at 5am and went through a lot of confusion and being lost before a man completely went out of his way to guide us to this ramen shop, Rokurinsha, in Tokyo Station. The breakfast tsukemen was a welcome way to finally start the day (at 7am).

After much more being lost and wandering, we walked through the Ginza district. Finding the Apple store was such an enormous relief. Internet! We spent the entirety of the trip without working cell phones and without proper language skills. I actually took Japanese throughout high school, so I should have been proficient, but alas, I was not.

For lunch, we explored a Mitsukoshi department stores. The food court is stocked with beautiful food stands at very reasonable prices.

And just like that, we went back to Tokyo Station to catch our shinkansen down to Osaka.

Akane and Gimpei were kind enough to put me up in the Rihga Royal Hotel, and I had a wonderfully indulgent stay there with breakfast every day and this beautiful view out my window.

Ho Chie and Jesse did an airbnb homestay, but they came over and we had afternoon tea in Rihga Royal’s lounge.

Indoor-outdoor blending.

The setting, next to some beautiful waterfalls.

Me, Jesse, and Ho Chie after my shoot with Akane & Gimpei in Kyoto.

We went to try okonomiyaki, a local food of Osaka’s, at a tiny shop called Kiji based on Gimpei’s recommendation.

I’d say okonomiyaki is like a cross between omelette and pancake and all things good and savory. The chefs made us three okonomiyaki with different combinations of noodles, mushrooms, potatoes…

Saturday, the day of Akane & Gimpei’s wedding, I kicked off the day with breakfast tea in Rihga’s lounge.

Ho Chie and I made a brief visit to Osaka Castle (this too involved much being lost and a lot of time spent trying to find each other).

And then we skip to the next day, Sunday, when we checked out from our Osaka stays and made the trip over to Kyoto for my Pointe of View ballerina shoot with Kaori.

Kyoto is a beautifully historic city. If I had to choose, I’d probably say it was my favorite of the cities we visited in Japan.

This was easily one of the most memorable meals of the trip. My high school friend Yumi took the train down from Tokyo (three hours each way) just to meet with me for dinner. I hadn’t seen her since she graduated eleven years ago. We made a reservation at this traditional kaiseki restaurant called Hachidaime in the Gion district of Kyoto. It was course after course of amazing food, beautifully presented.

And finally, we walked a bit around Gion before heading back for the night.

The recap of days one through four, just for me: Thursday: Haneda 5am, Tokyo Station, passport debacle, JR passes, Ramen Street and the man who is going to work, Rokurinsha breakfast tsukemen, deserted Akihabara, Ginza Apple store, Mitsukoshi, Canon store, teeny tiny bar, shinkansen to Osaka, airbnb, BBQ dinner, Rihga Royal Hotel and the amazing door to door service including air conditioning demo. Friday: Breakfast kaiseki, afternoon tea, Kyoto with Akane & Gimpei at Kiyomizu-dera, amazake, okonomiyaki at Kiji. Saturday: breakfast tea in the lounge, Starbucks & McDonald’s searching for Ho Chie, Osaka Castle, Ritz-Carlton Osaka wedding. Sunday: Breakfast buffet, Arashiyama, Kyoto for ballerina shoot, happening upon awesome restaurant in random neighborhood, Nijo Castle briefly, Brighton Hotel, kaiseki dinner at Hachidaime with Yumi, walking through Gion.

Click below for part two, when I find a new pet deer and we get an illicit behind-the-scenes tour of the famed Tsukiji fish market!

Anna Wu is an international wedding photographer who loves food almost as much as she loves travel. Follow her adventures on facebook.

Japan Roundup:

  1. Part 1: Tokyo, Osaka, & Kyoto
  2. Part 2: Nara & Tokyo
  3. Part 3: Hakone & Tokyo
  4. Kyoto Engagement session
  5. Osaka Wedding
  6. Kyoto Pointe of View ballerina shoot