What you MUST know before having Kobe Beef
Tokyo locals are "tourists" in Kobe Image credit: Google Maps   My first time in Kobe I packed an extra portable charger with replaceable batteries so that I won't be lost in Kobe. Visiting a new place even in your own country could be a bit of an adventure. My husband was invited to a wedding in Kobe. This was the perfect opportunity (or excuse) to plan a trip to Universal Studios Japan, which is located right next to Kobe. But before we dive into our Universal Studios Japan tour, we (meaning my two boys and I) had to spend 5 hours in Kobe, while my husband attended the wedding. Since I'm not much of a planner, I made a very vague itinerary Eat lunch near Sannomiya Station Go to Kobe Oji Zoo Check in at our hotel   #1 - Eat lunch near Sannomiya Station With two boys, I walked around the city of Sannomiya to look for a good place for lunch. I have no idea why "Kobe Beef" wasn't one of the options I had in mind, but when I saw this, I felt, how dumb of me to miss the only chance to eat Kobe Beef in Kobe?     I am very skeptical about these tourist guide counters, but I had no where else to turn. A man with a big smile welcomed us to the counter. Regretting that I hadn't done my research, I asked Which restaurant would you recommend for small children? pointing my finger at my two boys chasing each other around my legs. The man selected a few, and I just pointed at one close by. As I walked following the man's instructions, there was another man with an even bigger smile, holding a huge menu saying KOBE BEEF LUNCH ¥1,500 And I immediately thought SCAM - Run away! But I was curious, so I asked without hesitation. What's the catch? How can Kobe Beef be ¥1,500? It's just impossible. And the man explained to me that this IS real Kobe Beef, and that the only catch is that the meat served is only 60 grams (2 oz.)  So I laughed, he laughed, and I told him that if he doesn't write that on the board it's a scam. But come to think of it, 60 grams is actually the perfect size for my boys whose attention span is 10 minutes max, and since we are going to the zoo (where I KNOW there's not going to be decent food), why not get my boys that ¥1,500 lunch, and I can go for a little treat for myself? So I decided to take my chances!   YAZAWA Sannomiya Please don't ask me what Spider Man is doing there. When we entered the restaurant, everybody was overly polite which was very uncomfortable (I want to say sketchy, but I gave them the benefit of the doubt). With a huge smile, the waiter explained the different Kobe Beef cuts and prices, ranging from ¥5,000 to over ¥80,000 ($800 USD!!!) I laughed gain, and told him that I talked to the man outside and we were just here fore the ¥1,500 lunch for my boys and I would have something double the size. He politely took the order, and we waited for our lunch.   The ¥1,500 Lunch (60 grams / 2 oz) This is what the ¥1,500 lunch looks like. It also comes with miso soup, rice, and a salad. This was the perfect size for my boys. Definitely not for hungry boys over the age of 6. I think this one was the 120 gram size (4.2 oz), ¥3,700. For this one, I ordered the salad, rice, and soup set separately for ¥800, so it would be ¥4,500 total. It was fulfilling, tasted amazing, and I have nothing to complain except for the very sketchy atmosphere.   My thoughts on my first Kobe Beef experience If you have an average appetite and don't do you research on the quality of authentic Kobe Beef, you WILL feel scammed. BUT, the quality of the beef here at YAZAWA is unquestionable. It is amazing quality. Everybody must keep in mind that the quality comes with a big check, and you can't cheat the system. Fortunately, my assumption was right about my boys. They LOVED the beef, but 60 grams was actually the perfect size for them since it comes with soup and rice. Mine was the perfect size as well (I have small appetite). I am only saying all these nice things because I knew what I was getting. If I didn't confront the man about the ¥1,500 lunch and expected a good Kobe Beef lunch for ¥1,500 and was presented with the choice of a 60 gram steak or a $800 steak, I would be pissed. VERY PISSED.   Lesson I learned   If you want to eat Kobe Beef, accept the Big Check Don't try to get the cheapest deal. It will always have a catch. Kobe Beef is like going for a Cadillac, where there are still amazing cars for a lot less. If you are NOT a meat lover, there are tons of great wagyu beef you can get for way less, and still experience a fulfilling meal. If you are a meat lover and you want to try Kobe Beef no matter what, GO ALL IN! Don't be stingy. Have the best Kobe Beef. Save up, use your savings, do what you have to do.   Do what I did. Ask. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. I know those of you who are reading this are probably not Japanese speakers. Most of these places will have English speakers. Ask if you have questions. Ask about the price. Ask about what comes with the deal. If you don't get it, forget it. The best way is to do research before hand. But if you are like me and like to plan things as you go, ask questions.   What I would do next time I am definitely a fan of Kobe Beef now. What I would do next time is to do more research. I want to find out where I can get a good course meal with my family and try different restaurants. This one in particular was not baby / toddler / child nor family friendly. The restaurant was more focused on making it a seem very high-end, catered to couples and special occasions. Hospitality was good, meaning nothing really bothered me, but I will not be going back there with my whole family.  .....
Tokyo Street Food Recommendations by a Local
Food Lover's Paradise Tokyo should be on your bucket list if you love to eat. Tokyo has been crowned as the city with the most Michelin-starred restaurants, but Michelin starred restaurants come with a pretty big check. Tokyo has much more to offer than top-rated restaurants. In this post I'd like to explore my city and introduce you to affordable and tasty street foods.   1. Kin no Torikara - Shibuya Crispy chicken fingers to munch on while exploring the city of Shibuya.   Recommendation Level - 5/5 Comments - This is a great snack to have when you just want to grab a quick bite in between meals. My wife and I always get the large size for two, and drench it with sweet chili sauce.   Pour your favorite sauce on the chicken. My recommendations are the original spice and sweet chili sauce.   2. World's second best freshly baked Melon-pan Icecream - Shibuya As crazy as it sounds, this is the official name of this store. By the way, Melon-pan is Cantaloupe-flavored bread. It is a common snack for the Japanese, but this store puts ice cream inside it, and on top of that, claims to be the World's second best. I don't even know where to start the discussion about their name.   Recommendation Level- 1/5 Comments - TBH, we didn't like it. It was just a regular cantaloupe bread with ice cream. We ate this on a hot summer day, so the ice cream kept dripping and it was hard to eat.   3. J.S. Curry - Shibuya J.S. Curry serves more than a regular curry. Another local's favorite snack is curry-bread, where curry paste is stuffed in crispy, fried bread. It looks like a flat, large, croquette, and it is delicious. You have to eat it when it is hot, so eat it immediately after you buy it. I personally don't recommend bringing it back to hour hotel / home.   Recommendation Level - 4/5 Comments - We loved it. It was the simple, orthodox, crispy curry bread. It makes you pretty full, so make sure you are hungry.   4. Gindaco - Shibuya Takoyaki, aka octopus balls are the perfect Japanese soul food / snack. Gindaco is one of the most famous takoyaki chain in Japan, and this one in particular is serving high-balls (whiskey soda) that goes perfectly with takoyaki.   Recommendation Level - 4/5 Comments - If you are visiting Japan, you should try takoyaki at least once. I just want to let remind you that Gindaco is a chain, and it is NOT the place to go if you want better, authentic takoyaki. I should also note that takoyaki originated in Osaka, so if you are planning a visit there, you should look for recommendations there.   5. American Dog - At any 7 Eleven The Japanese have a funky taste when it comes to naming things, but the quality of this American Dog aka hot dog on a stick, is amazing. Every convenience store in Japan has a hot snack corner at the register where they sell fried snacks, chicken skewers, and dumplings. I am not such a big fan of the hot snack corner, or even food sold in the convenience stores in general, but his one is something I can proudly recommend. Remember to get it at 7 Eleven. The other convenience stores have similar things, but not as good as this one!   Recommendation Level - 4/5 Comments - This is the best convenience store snack in Japan. Let us know in the comments if you have tried other snacks. 5. Rainbow Sweets - Harajuku  Everybody wants to take insta-worthy rainbow snacks right? First we went to Long! Longer!! Longest!!! (please don't get me started with the naming), but their cotton candy machine was broken, so we went to Rainbow Sweets.   Recommendation Level - 3/5 Comments - Obviously, this is only for taking great photos. It is huge, sticky, and very hard to eat especially with kids, but it will put a very big smile on their faces (so it's all worth it!).   You can also get it to go! The aftermath of the rainbow cotton candy.   6. Long! Longer!! Longest!!! - Harajuku This store is known for selling super long food and sweets. We first came here for the long, rainbow cotton candy, but the cotton candy machine broke down. We also found out that the super long ice cream was sold out as well. We ended up getting the long churros, which wasn't too surprising because churros are long to begin with.   Recommendation Level - 2/5 Comments - We were a bit disappointed that the ice cream was sold out and the cotton candy machine was broken. But, we found the same store (Rainbow Sweets) so we were able to have the cotton candy.     7. Seiya - Harajuku Seiya is a small ramen bar, NOT known amongst tourists. It is a local small chain, that offers ramen with pork bone broth and soy sauce based soup. You can customize your ramen by choosing hosomen (thin noodles) / futomen (thicker noodles), amount of oil, sodium level, and also choose how hard / soft you want the noodles to be cooked. The best thing about it is, that the ramen only costs ¥540 tax included, while most ramen stores in Tokyo cost ¥900 - ¥1200 per bowl.   Recommendation Level - 4/5 Comments - I must admit that the pork bone broth smell will be not tolerable for some people. My wife hates the smell, but once you get past the first 10 minutes, you will get used to it and the ramen itself smells very delicious. This is my wife's absolute favorite ramen store, but she wishes for the store to get cleaner and have a better ventilation system.   Choose from Chinese hot pepper paste, ginger paste, and garlic paste, or put them all in!   8. Asakusa Menchi - Asakusa What's a Menchi? It is a croquette of pork meat patty mixed with caramelized onions. Who wouldn't love that? It is a VERY popular, extremely filling snack amongst the locals.   Recommendation Level - 4/5 Comments - We all loved it, especially our son. The caramelized onions were sweet, pork was juicy, and the crust was crispy. 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Bring your Baby, Leave the Gear! We rent and deliver baby supplies!
 Are you coming to Japan with your child? You've come to the right place!!! Traveling with a baby / toddler might be more stressful than fun, for some parents (not for those parents posting pics with all THREE childen AND themselves smiling. Have you seen ours? You can BARELY see our faces!). But the best advice I got from a parent of 4 grown kids, was to take every trip you can with your kids. Kids grow up so fast. So fast that they start living their own lives before you know it. With school and work, there is only limited time to spend as a "family". So if you are thinking of coming to Japan with your little ones. I encourage you to come. My wife and I have started Lileo to help families just like yours.   What exactly does Lileo do? Lileo sends all daily baby necessities from diapers to baby bottles AND rental strollers sent to your Hotel in Japan. You can also choose to pick up at any Post Office in Japan if you are staying at an airbnb (we have a Post Office search in our checkout procedure so you don't have to search for it yourself!). We are the first company to focus on making the vacation less stressful and enjoyable for "Parents". Who runs Lileo? Lileo was founded by local parents of two boys. Erika and Hiro. It is a family-owned business, and we are NOTHING close to a corporation. We started Lileo because as parents of boys 2 years apart, we desperately needed a helping hand when transporting two boys and luggage for 4 people across the globe. We started Lileo because parents deserve to have great time too. We want parents like us, to have the most enjoyable time. We parents, are the ones always taking care and entertaining the kids 24/7. We want parents to have as much fun on their trip as their children, and that means taking a few tasks off your hands, like pre-vacation shopping and packing. Wanna know more about us? Go to our About Us page!   What can I get from Lileo? 1. Diapers When our sons were 4 and 2, we went to Hawaii. We packed large, night-time diapers for the 4 year old, medium daily ones for the 2 year old. 40% of our suitcase was filled with only diapers. Order your diapers here, and we can just send them to your hotel. If you don't need a whole pack, that's ok too. We sell in sets of 5 pieces. Get the right amount for your stay, and just bring a few extra just in case.   2. Disposable Baby Bottles Your time in Japan is precious. Go out there and see what Japan has to offer. Don't worry about washing your baby bottles, because these ones are disposable. As much as my wife and I care about the environment, we also believe in exceptions. We try to reduce reuse and recycle every day. But when we are out on our trip, we make use of disposable items to make the best of our trip.   3. Organic Hand Sanitizers Have you read about the harmful substances in hand sanitizers? I thought sanitizers were supposed to keep you healthy! Never ever buy sanitizers from random drug stores in Japan. Especially if you are going to touch your baby. (NEVER use sanitizer on your baby's hands either). To be safe, you should use organic hand sanitizers during your trip in Japan, and you can NOT get these in a common drug store here in Japan. 4. Odorless Waste Bags Did you know that THERE ARE NO TRASH CANS in the streets of TOKYO? Do you know why Tokyo is still one of the cleanest cities in the world? We take our trash, HOME... Sometimes if we're lucky, we find one outside of a convenience store. But most times, garbage goes into our pockets. And for you ladies reading this, your purses. My wife HATES it when her designer bag turns into a garbage bag, so she carries these small garbage bags in her purse all the time. This is great for diapers too, because the smell doesn't come out of the bag once you tie it. Try it, because it REALLY WORKS!! 5. Rental Strollers Strollers get damaged and lost on the plane. Strollers aren't cheap. Leave your strollers safe at home. We can lend you ours. We have premium strollers for hire at a great price.   We're not amazon, but if you don't see something you want, you can always email us at help@lileo.jp and we'll do our best to get what you need.   What's the rental process like? Make the order. Pick up your rental item(s) at your Hotel / Nearest Post Office. Use it (You CAN take it to different prefectures! Pick it up in Tokyo, take it to Osaka, Kyoto, etc) Return your item(s) at your last hotel (where ever it is in Japan, please do not take it outside the country) or a post office. No money or difficult transaction required.     You won't be lost in translation We are proud of our full English support. Many Japanese corporations writing "Engrish", not "English" (If you don't get the joke, you'll get it when you land). We will try our best to answer any questions you have. We are parents just like you. Talk to us, and we'll be more than happy to help. If you haven't already, check out posts like The REAL guide to Manners in Japan, for a unique perspective of  our local perspective with a tint of foreign view (my wife had western education her whole life, but in Japan). We are a very unique family in Japan, with a fluent native English speaker, two children getting western education, and me, with the eyes of very Japanese perspectives.      
What to pack for a 2 night trip to Kyoto with kids
  I wish I could pack 8 pairs of shoes for a 3 day trip like I used to, but I'm not single anymore...   In this post, I am going to share everything I am bringing to Kyoto for our 2N3D trip in October Our Destination - Kyoto From Where to Where?  Tokyo To Kyoto How Many People?  2 Adults 2 Kids (6 and 4 both BOYS) When?  October 13th to 15th Temperature?  Average of 3 days : High 22°C / 71°F Low 15°C / 60°F - 30~40% of rain on the weekends.   So, what to do first? Make A LIST I hate sounding like your mom, but I am a mom, and I got over it. Being organized is the key to packing. Make a list for all your family members, and just WRITE or TYPE everything you need.   Weather is EVERYTHING I hate traveling in the rain. There was a time when I believed in super positive vibes, and I thought I could work my way through any circumstances with a "positive attitude", but I gave up. I am clearly not the person who can keep my smile long enough when I have to deal with two boys in an unfamiliar place on top of RAIN. So, check the weather and temperature, and decide what to wear. It seems like there is a slight chance of rain on the weekends, but I'm going to take my chances.   Shoes FIRST I have tons of outfits with high heels boots and pumps pinned on my pinterest board, but honestly, heels are no longer an option when you only have room for 1 or 2 shoes on a short trip. So, instead of feeling sorry for myself, I started building my outfit around my shoes. I chose my Stella McCartney Elyse shoes to wear, and packed my Nike Sneakers.   Outfit I cannot stand the cold, so I wear a lot of layers and thick material. On a "How much I can't stand the cold" scale of 1 to 10, I am definitely a 20 (not a typo). As I am writing this, the weather in Tokyo is 26°C / 79°F. I went outside in an Autumn trench coat, over a sweatshirt, over a T shirt. You get the picture. If you are like me, go ahead and see what I packed. If you are not a 10, which most of you are, just bring one hoodie or sweater just in case it gets cold at night. And obviously, I use Pinterest religiously for my fashion inspiration.   The Boys 2 Baseball Caps 1 Beanie 2 Backpacks 2 Sunglasses 2 Bomber Jackets 1 Sweater 3 Shirts (If we dine "somewhere nice") 4 T Shirts 4 Pairs of Pants (Casual and Semi Formal) 7 Underpants 4 Pairs of Socks 2 Paris of PJs 2 Swimming wear This time, I am going to trust the boys with one pair of shoes, so I didn't pack any.   Erika and Hiro   Erika 1 Trench Coat to wear on the way 1 Oversized Hoodie I used this pin for inspiration 1 Black Distressed Jeans (same pin as above) 1 T Shirt 1 Pair of Sneakers 1 Crop Top 1 Foldable Backpack Lingerie Beauty and Care Goods Bikini Hiro 4 T Shirts 2 Pairs of Pants 1 Dress Shirt 1 Denim Jacket 1 Pair of Sneakers Swim Gear 1 Pair of Sweatpants 2 Underwear Blogging Equipment etc Go Pro Selfie Stick Camera Chargers and Extra Batteries Portable Steamer Phone Charger   From Our Store! Did you know we run a Baby Supply Delivery and Rental Company called Lileo? You can pre-order supplies you need for your family (child, mainly), and we send them to your hotel upon arrival. When we travel, I always pack some things from my store.   Sippy Cup My boys are a little too old for this, but I carry one because it is SO light. I don't want to carry a large, chunky thermos in my bag, so I still use these just when I'm traveling.     ODORLESS Waste Bag If you have read our REAL guide to manners in Japan post, you'll see that there are NO trash cans on the streets of Tokyo. I don't know about Kyoto, but I will find out soon. This Waste Bag is AMAZING. It prevents odor, bacteria, germs, you name it from getting out of the bag once you seal it. I used it everyday when my children were in diapers, but I still keep a few in my bag.     To Wrap Up I am NOT a minimalist. I like to pack the exact amount of clothes plus a few extras, because if I run out of options, I don't like to rush to find clothes while I could be enjoying my trip. I don't believe in overpacking either, but who knows. I just don't like being forced to buy things I don't even really want. I wish to do more of these posts, because I love how my country has 4 distinct seasons, and we can play around with our outfits to match the seasons. However, it could be very hard to pack for your trip if you are a first-timer to Japan, especially if you are coming from somewhere that doesn't have 4 seasons like Japan. Hope this post was helpful. Let me know if you liked it, or if you have tips on how to make it better :)   Additional comments written AFTER the trip I am writing this AFTER I got back from Kyoto! To be very honest, I wish I had brought a few more options for myself! The weather was super nice, and but the mornings / nights were a bit chilly. I also used the swimming pool in the SPA every day, so after getting back from the pool I wanted to change into something warmer. If I could improve my packing list, I would bring a casual long sleeve dress and a sweater to add to my list. On the other hand, the kids didn't need the sweater, beanie, and two jackets, because the weather was warmer than we thought, and we didn't walk around at night. I would add one pair of shoes to each boys and 4 more pairs of socks, as socks were thrown around in the hotel and one of my boys managed to step into the Kamogawa River in front of our hotel and get his shoes soaked. Here are the actual outfits worn during the trip.  If you want to read more.....
Must Visit Beach in Okinawa with the Clearest Water
  Sesoko Island Is a special island surrounded by super transparent, crystal clear water. It's special because it is an island that is accessible by car from the main land. This was in my list of things to do in Okinawa, and it was amazing! (except for the part where I almost drowned) - will explain later.   Transparency - 300%   The transparency of the water is crazy. Here's a photo of our feet in the water.     Save the Ocean In the photo below, do you see that the people are swimming ONLY within the buoy rope area? This is to limit the contact of environment destroyers (us, the human race) to the corals and fish in the sea. I know its tempting to swim freely outside of this area, but if we all start doing that, our kids won't be able to see this beautiful beach when they grow up.     Another Safety Tip This is me smiling minutes before I almost drowned. If the environment doesn't concern you to stay inside the buoy, hear me out. I was playing with my kids near the shore, when I heard an announcement (in Japanese) warning to get prepared for the high-tide. Nobody really got out of the water, but I took the kids to my mother, lounging on the beach, and my husband asked me if I wanted to go snorkeling with him (Rentals available. Details later). I swam to about the middle of the shore and the buoy, and realized that the amount of water has almost tripled, or maybe even more. The water used to be up to my waist, but came up over my head. I am not a bad swimmer, so I started snorkeling. BUT (Dramatic Music) I thought I was safe because I was inside the ropes, but the high-tide and the wind put together pushed me further and further away, and when I tried to swim back to the shore, the waves kept pushing me sideways, and I couldn't swim straight. Eventually, my feet got super tired from swimming, my snorkels were foggy, and the wind kept pushing me, and not to be overly dramatic, I thought I was going to drown. Seriously. If you are here with your family and you do not speak Japanese, at least get your children out of the water when you hear an announcement in Japanese, and ask somebody what's going on. I mean it!     Rentals at Sesoko Beach You can rent parasols with low quality beach beds (¥3,000) , swimming shoes (¥500), and snorkels (¥1,000). I don't know if "swimming shoes" is the right term, but you DEFINITELY need them. There are lots of rocks and corals, and it is not fun to get inside the water with bare feet.     Food at Sesoko Beach There is one beach shack, aka "umi no ie" at Sesoko Beach. They serve snacks and light meals such as • Japanese Curry • "Yakisoba" - Japanese style fried noodles (my favorite!) • Fried Chicken etc... Hiro having Curry   I had fried noodles. This was actually pretty good.   Ryoma had fried chicken (and most of my fried noodles)   Tour of the Island When you get tired of swimming, you can explore the shores of Sesoko Island. The distance around the whole island is only 7.3 kilometers (4.5 miles). Hiro, Yamato, and I went on a 10 minute adventure (it was so hot that day, one of us could have gotten a heatstroke)     A Cave!   That was pretty much everything We were too exhausted to go further, but if you have the chance, explore the island and let us know!   Make sure you take lots of pictures :)   Comments Sesoko Beach was purely amazing. There's nothing fancy about this place, no comfy padded beach beds (the beach beds were really bad), showers that aren't free (it's pretty common in Japan), and no pampering from the staff working at the beach. But it was the best beach I have ever been to in Japan. EVER. I actually loved the laid back, down-to-earth vibe. Sesoko Beach clearly is a tourist attraction, but I felt like I was in a beach for "locals". If you are like me, and want to explore the "local" side of Okinawa, you would love it here. You can rent pretty much anything, but it is better to bring your own towels, floats, and swimming shoes (this is a must-have). It is an awesome idea to bring your own snorkels or rent them, because there are hundreds of tropical fish, and you can see them as if you're in an aquarium. There are lockers for ¥200, hot showers for ¥500, and cold showers for ¥300. 1 child may accompany 1 adult for free. BEWARE OF THE HIGH-TIDE As I said before, please please please listen to the announcements (even if you don't understand Japanese, follow the locals!) , and check the time of the high-tide in advance if you are going with small children. If you don't mind the extra luggage, bringing a small cooler for water (and booze) might be a great idea. To wrap it up, I absolutely loved this beach. I loved how it wasn't packed with people (because you need to take that extra mile to two to get there), and there was nothing "touristy" about the place. General Information Name: Sesoko Beach Address: 5583-1, Sesoko, Kunigamigun Motobuchou, Okinawa 905-0227 Phone #:  03-6457-3337 Website: No Official Website in English Public Transportation:  • 40 minute bus ride from Nago Bus Terminal Hours : April - June : 9:00 AM - 5:30 PM July - September : 9:00 AM - 6:00 PM Closed on : October - March General Fees : Free Rentals: Parasol and Beach Bed set - ¥3,000 Snorkels - ¥1,000 Swim Shoes - ¥500 Towels - ¥200 Other Fees: Parking - ¥1,000 / Day Shower - Hot - ¥500 / Cold - ¥300 (1 child may accompany 1 adult for free) Locker - ¥200 Budget (How much we spent) : ¥14,000 (4 Adults, 2 Children) inc. lunch, rentals and parking Diaper Changing Space : None Nursing Room : None Stroller Friendly?: 0/5 Baby Friendly?: 0/5 Toddler Friendly?: 1/5 Child Friendly?: 3/5 Family Friendly?: 3/5 Foreign Language Assistance?: None   *This post was NOT sponsored by Sesoko Beach *Please leave a comment if you have questions, comments, or updates.
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