Adventures in Sushi-land: Days 6 and 7

I can’t be alone in feeling more and more bummed when a good holiday comes to an end. But Days 6 and 7 dawned upon us anyway, and we intended to make the most of our last days in Japan. By then, I was getting a little antsy. There were still souvenirs I needed to buy, on top of the bags of Japanese snacks I had already gotten. Good thing we managed to squeeze in some shopping time these last two days.

We still had Kyoto, Osaka, and Kobe to cover, and anyone would tell you two days is definitely not enough. Which explained why we set out at the crack of dawn:

Day 6: Kyoto and Osaka

View out the hotel room

Our first stop of the day: Kiyomizu Temple, another UNESCO World Heritage site located in eastern Kyoto.

You need tickets to enter the temple grounds. To be honest, I don’t know how I feel about this. Temples to me are supposed to be tranquil, serene places for reflection. But the Kiyomizu Temple has become so commercialised and over-run with tourists and visitors, and everything from amulets to love stones are being sold. It’s a lovely compound – I just wish it were more … private.

Kiyomizu Temple also attracts loads of young singles in search of their love fortunes. The Jishu Shrine, one of the many shrines in the temple, is dedicated to Ōkuninushi, the god of love and fortuitous matches.

Like a scene right out of ancient Japan.
And this is how a new temple wing is erected.
The market in front of the temple was so crowded we had to squeeze through the throngs of people. But I managed to grab some souvenirs home!
Dammit, I should have grabbed a few of these fans. But they come at at upwards of 10SGD each, if I remember correctly.

We hadn’t seen enough of Kyoto before having to rush to catch the train to Osaka, our next pit stop.

Osaka-bound!

We arrived at Shinsaibashi, the teeming shopping district of Osaka, around late afternoon. This 600m long stretch contains indie and international boutiques including H&M, Uniqlo, and ZARA, as well as department stores like Daimaru. But really, who wants to visit chain stores when you can go nuts over the local ones that sell one-of-a-kind designs that will always remind you of Japan?

All raring to start shopping!
The decor for a shopping mall. As they say, go big or go home.

Pleased with some of my loot … although this is hardly enough shopping!! Next time, I WILL bring a bigger luggage.
Neon lights and busy streets – everything you’d expect of Osaka at night.
Yes, this is how crowded it was.

Day 7: Kobe

Our last day in Japan! *insert sobbing emoticon* Can we not go back to reality yet?? But Day 7 proved to be the kicker in the entire trip with beautiful weather and scenery, starting with this:

Akashi Kaikyō, the world’s longest suspension bridge, links Kobe to Awaji Island.

Don’t be fooled by the glaring sun and jewel-blue waters. The sea breeze was nothing to sneeze at (pun intended)!

Harborland, a waterfront shopping district along Kobe’s port, is a slice of heaven on earth. My dad and I just stood at the end of the jetty and turned our faces to the sun, taking in the crisp salty air as the wind flayed us.

Perfect – PERFECT – day for hitting the boardwalk.
Some outdoor activity that involved bicycle stunts drew a sizeable crowd on a Sunday morning. And the best part is, the weather was heavenly, with fresh sea breeze and warm sun.

Yes, I took a sneaky shot of a baby again. But look at those cheeks!!

Stopping for some popcorn while sight-seeing
My dad turned into a fanboy and asked for this photo when he saw this semi-replica of Ultraman in one of the shops.

We grudgingly left Harborland to hit the shops at Sannomiya after lunch.

This is how Kobe’s streets are decorated.
Sannomiya shopping belt

Osaka was right in the mood for Halloween!

As the day got chillier, we headed up Mount Rokko to take in a scenic view of Kobe. TOTALLY worth the cold.

  

Our last stop for the trip, Rinku Premium Outlets, where my dad got excited at all the discounts offered by the likes of Banana Republic, GAP, Adidas, and more. I was more interested in standing out in the delicious cold (15-degree weather + wind = ) and checking out the Halloween decorations.

And with that, we were off to Kansai International Airport in time for our 11.30pm flight. Thanks for the lovely memories, Japan! Thank you for your graciousness and stunning visual treats, your beautiful weather and eye-opening culture. I will be back.

Advertisements

Adventures in Sushi-land: Days 4 and 5

Days 4 and 5 of this Japan trip took us out of the bustling cities and into the rustic outskirts, where a snow-capped mountain perched and flowers grew wild in the breeze.

Day 4: Mount Fuji and Matsumoto 

What’s a trip to Tokyo without visiting Mount Fuji? So on Day 4, we got up at the crack of dawn, threw on our coats, and paid her a visit. We were in luck that day, as the weather gods blessed us with clear royal-blue skies and crisp, cold winds. There were other visitors before us who had to contend with heavy fog or rain and didn’t manage to capture shots like these:

The sign in the Ladies. Mount Fuji does not need your trash, people.

#nofilter The colours are literally that vivid.

The place where we lunched halfway down the mountain overlooked this beautiful lake.
Hotpot lunch for a chilly day!
The view out the window

After lunch, it was a long coach ride to Matsumoto to view the Matsumoto Castle.

Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan’s most historic castles, is also known as Crow Castle due to its black exterior.

Couldn’t resist taking a picture under the lush autumn foliage.
Traditional Japanese dinner at our onsen (hot spring) inn was an elaborate affair.
And we got to sleep on tatami mattresses that night!

Day 5: Takayama, Shirakawa-go, and Kanazawa

The view outside our onsen inn the next morning

With our lovely host, who made sure we had the best experience at her inn, from the food to the sleeping arrangements. Despite the language barrier, she made the effort to interact with every one of us, and was, as most Japanese are, unfailingly polite and gracious.
Who needs burgundies and dove-greys? The fall palette should be all about ochre and maple-red.
Any random snapshot out the window put stars in our eyes.

Like a scene right out of Lord of the Rings. Rivendell! 

After our morning hike, we hit the Miyagawa market, which is best known for its dried and pickled foods, as well as home-made rice crackers. You could smell the warm scent of soy sauce and rice brewing in the air as you strolled down the market along the river.

Next stop after lunch was the Ogimachi Gassho village, the largest village in Shirakawa-go. It was declared in 1995 to be a UNESCO world heritage site, with its well-preserved farmhouses that are as old as 250 years old and counting!

Our last stop of the day was the Kanazawa Castle, where the wildest number of crows came to roost in the evening (do crows roost??). Crows are considered sacred in Japanese culture as messenger from the gods, but while they have long been regarded as a symbol of power in Japanese mythology, these days they are also seen as a public nuisance.

Still, Kanazawa Castle is a beautiful place for an evening stroll in autumn.
Such a spread at our second onsen inn!

After the bustle of Tokyo and the excitement of Disneyland, Days 4 and 5 came as a welcome respite as we wound our way down narrow mountainous roads and took in the rustic beauty of the Japanese countryside.

Come Days 6 and 7, though, it’s back to the cities for this bunch of urban walkers. Next stop, Kyoto and Osaka!

Adventures in Sushi-land: Days 2 and 3

Japaaaaaaaaaaaan! I simply cannot get enough of it. Seven days is way too short to visit all of Tokyo, Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto. Already, I miss Japan’s weather (15-degree heaven), its cleanliness and tidiness, the graciousness of its people, its vintage architecture (because the land is mostly owned by the people so the government can’t do much upgrading works) juxtaposed with its bustling subway stations and streets.

Growing up, I was fed a regular diet of Japanese drama and music (J-pop was huge in the late 90s! And who can resist the likes of Takuya Kimura and Takeshi Kaneshiro?), and the allure of Japan had never quite faded.

And being there at last, I wasn’t disappointed in the least. Everywhere you go, everything is in order. It’s like an OCD’s safe haven. And every shot looks like something out of a postcard. Want proof?

Day 2: Yokohama and Tokyo

Right from touchdown at Haneda Airport
To Odaiba Park in Tokyo
The Rainbow Bridge
Where a mini statue of liberty stood

And then later at Asakusa Kannon Temple in Tokyo

Elementary school students all wear caps as part of their uniform, be it blue or yellow. Too adorable!

Citizens are staunchly law abiding. Japanese hate to be an inconvenience to others, which explains why they never litter and always clean up after themselves. You can hardly find a filthy washroom or litter on the streets. Everything is as neat and well-groomed as the people themselves, who always take the effort to dress up.
Yamashita Park in Yokohama
The Hikawa Maru ship
Back at our hotel, where our room had this cosy little area partitioned from the sleeping area.
Dinner in a random diner in a shopping mall.

Day 3: Tokyo Disneyland!

The hotel we stayed in, Art Hotels Omori, was all decked out and ready for Halloween.

Tickets to Disneyland!

Japanese babies are unbelievably adorable. I couldn’t resist snapping a few sneaky pics of them, especially this curious little tot who sat next to me on the Wild Safari ride.

Carousals! Majestic castles! Happy children with candy floss and hotdogs! I know it’s commercialised fun, but there’s just something about amusement parks that get me excited like a child on her first voyage to Neverland.
The lovely Belle and her adoring fans
This little girl didn’t want to let go of Belle! She hugged her for the longest time and had the happiest smile you’ve ever seen.
Yep, still holding on.

Peterrrrrrr! Those who know me also know of my strange obsession with Peter Pan. (I didn’t write a whole novel inspired by the character for nothing.) Alas, we didn’t manage to go on the Peter Pan ride because it was closed for renovation. I did, however, spot this cute little fan  roaming the park grounds.
This Donald had major swag going on.
Settling for a quick dinner before leaving Disneyland.
Our flight was a night flight so Day 1 was pretty much gone. But Days 2 and 3 definitely left a great impression.
Up next, Mount Fuji and Matsumoto Castle! :0)