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When travels go wrong in Japan

When travels go wrong in Japan

Odori Park in Sapporo looking at the TV tower
Odori Park in Sapporo looking at the TV tower

I thought I'd do one more blog post (maybe two) about Japan even though that was a few months back now. I was thinking about travel and how amazing the experience of travelling can be, but I'm definitely "guilty" of just focussing on the positive and skimming over the negative stuff. We had a couple of hiccups in Japan and so I wanted to share them as you might find it useful. If not useful, maybe just interesting.

When your Airbnb is a total dive We mostly use Airbnb now when travelling, and I'm glad to say we've always had positive experiences from the 10 times we've used Airbnb. That was, until we arrived at our Airbnb in Sapporo.

Now, I had researched this place pretty well and had seen that the location wasn't super central, but there wasn't a tonne of properties available in Sapporo so we booked it. The price was pretty much the same as the Airbnbs we'd stayed in while in Tokyo and Kyoto and they were both perfect – compact but comfortable studio apartments.  The place in Sapporo was about 15-20 minutes on the train out of town, and our host met us at the station to show us in which was nice of her. The area didn't seem great – more industrial than residential and the apartment was right on the train line. She showed us inside and then left us to relax for our 4 night stay.

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But I couldn't relax. The apartment didn't really look like the photos. The bed was really small – compact double beds in Japan are common but this one seemed even smaller than that. I laid on the bed to try to relax and I could smell a really strong perfume scent, like maybe the bedding hadn't been washed. The apartment was cold but the host had told us not to touch the heating switches. The space was really small – smaller than anywhere we'd stayed before, and yet it was bursting with stuff. The final straw was the bathroom – the walls were plasterboard, not tiles, and they were covered in mould/mildew. I knew that if I had a shower there, I'd feel less clean than before I washed. Graeme has asthma, and the place had a really damp feeling to it which isn't a good combination!

I was pretty exhausted from our travels and didn't want to be difficult, so asked Graeme what he thought. We'd probably been there for 30 minutes and he suggested we leave and go to a hotel. Now Graeme is a great barometer because I know that sometimes I can be unreasonable about things but the fact that he was the one suggesting to leave made me feel better. We quickly hopped online and found a hotel which was central, and cost the same amount as the Airbnb.

The hotel was actually pretty much perfect. A massive room, two compact double beds (so we couldn't sleep together but we both had amazing  sleep!) and right on Odori Park. We were so happy and couldn't stop talking about the fact we knew we'd made the right decision moving from the Airbnb.

Sapporo Beer Museum
Sapporo Beer Museum

I knew I couldn't just leave it at that without saying anything, so I emailed Airbnb the next morning to let them know I didn't feel the photos represented the listing properly, and that the mould was so bad we didn't feel like we could stay there. I also emailed the host to let her know which I felt awkward about but she replied really quickly to apologise and offer our money back for the remaining 3 nights. Airbnb also got in touch separately that afternoon to offer us compensation of $100USD which was really appreciated and meant we weren't out of pocket at all. I think Airbnb would have preferred to find us another apartment rather than us flit to the hotel but that resolution worked for us.

I'm glad it all worked out, and while the dive-y Airbnb was a disappointment, we didn't want our holiday to get spoiled so quickly made other arrangements. I've only had to contact Airbnb once before but find their customer service really good (if not a little slow due to time differences), and I was pleased with the outcome.

When you're jetlagged and emotional I can't remember why this popped into my mind the other day, but it was the reason I wanted to write this blog post. When we arrived into Tokyo, it was 7am and we had to pass the time til we could get into our Airbnb at 3pm. Unfortunately, due to security issues in Tokyo (thanks G7 summit), we couldn't leave our luggage anywhere so had to just chill out at Ueno station for a few hours. We made the best of it by going for a delicious fresh sushi lunch and then sitting in a dodgy Irish bar with a pint.

Fresh sushi in Ueno Station, Tokyo
Fresh sushi in Ueno Station, Tokyo

We settled in and took a nap which ended up taking us to 8pm. I was really tired and yet I was so excited to be back in Japan, and wanted to go out for dinner. But where we were staying didn't have a tonne of restaurants, and I had that FOMO feeling of not wanting to eat somewhere and just have an OK meal when maybe there was something amazing in the area. I worked myself into a right state and couldn't decide what to do.

In the end, we settled on having some dinner from the 7-11 which sounds like a horrendous option, but if you've been to Japan you'll know the food at 7-11 can actually be really delicious. We had dinner, went back to sleep and woke up fresh for a day of exploring which worked out way better than pushing ourselves to go out even though we were totally broken.

Onigiri
Onigiri

When you're confused and have no idea what to do Mainly this involved trains for us! We had a few occasions of wanting to travel somewhere and getting confused between the different train companies and lines and how to get there. I found that using apps was the best way to work out where to go – Google Maps was useful, as well as Citymapper which shows you the different companies/lines.

If that doesn't work – just ask someone. At the stations, I found that most staff spoke some English and could help you if you could show them what station/area you were aiming for. We always made sure we arrived with plenty of time for our train so that we could find the platform – some stations in Japan are absolutely huge and it could take a while to find where you need to go.

So there we go – I hope you found these ramblings interesting if not helpful!

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