Monday, 26 December 2016

Japan Holiday

Heading to Japan for holiday was triggered when there was an airline promotion on Singapore Airlines. Coupled with me having a friend whom was currently located there to work, I decided to visit Japan. The day had arrived that I needed to head for the airport. Companying me was my another friend (ex-colleague), Jen. Our flight arrived at Osaka in the late night around 21:40hrs. Time was very tight as we had to catch the last bus/train to Kyoto. Our friend was staying in Kyoto, and the last train to her place was at 00:00hrs, which I had estimated that we would miss it. Therefore, I had booked a night stay at Hotel New Hankyu Kyoto, which was about 5-10mins walk from Kyoto station. We bought a 2-way bus tickets from the ticketing machine, and managed to catch the 22:40hrs limousine bus from Kansai International Airport T1 to Kyoto station. It was raining the whole day and everywhere were wet. We reached Kyoto Station at 00:10hrs at last after 1.5hrs of bus ride. We were tired and worn out. Based on the route and information provide by my friend and my colleagues in Japan, using the Kyoto tower as my landmark, I managed to find the hotel easily. At last, we can have our rest for the night.

Our friend, Jes, came to meet us at our hotel lobby at around 11:00hrs. After depositing our luggage over the counter, we began our excursion. Jes brought us to the bus terminal and bought the city bus all-day pass. Transportation in Japan wasn't cheap. We headed to Kiyomizu-Dera Temple for our first stop. The route up the sloping path was exhausting because it was winter. Finally we arrived. The structures were beautiful. It was like a huge monument.

There were alot of people visiting this temple, mostly tourists. Its redish orange color of the temple was very outstanding, I reckon that most temples in Japan were of this color. Weather was in the midst of changing from autumn to winter, therefore the autumn leaves were shedding off soon. Luckily we could still see some beautiful autumn leaves on the trees. 

The path downhill was lined up with souvenir shops and eateries, but the prices were rocket high. I guessed it's the same everywhere especially in attraction areas. Japan is know for its cute and kawaii style, therefore you can find many of such shops along the street. Food were also colorful, booming with different varieties. Packaging is important in Japan as it portrays the product first impression.

We had our lunch in a small local eating house along the street. After lunch, we headed to another temple, the Heian-Jingu Shrine. The welcoming experience was truly magnificent because of its huge standing torii gate. I was very amazed with the beautiful signage of the shrine. That structure kept me snapping pictures non stop.

We walked into the compound and it was another wow experience. Vast sand ground leading to the far end of the temple really made my legs ache. 

Walking from east to west had made me gave up going inside due to its large enclosure. Morever, going into the temple vincity required an entry fee, so we decided not to enter, save it for shopping instead (^0^).

These two temples visit had worn us out because we had to walk very far. Our next destination would be visiting Sanjo, where the Nishiki market was. In other words, it meant shopping!! Shopping always makes us ladies extremely happy. Women are pretty amusing people, we need we buy, we do not need we also buy because who knows we may need it in the future, so just buy first. Heehee... 

We walked through the shopping alley, looking at stuffs and snapping pictures along the way. Most shops were all selling winter products, so it did not really trigger us to make any purchase. The Nishiki market was selling mostly wet stuffs, which I had no idea what those were. We had some small bites along the way as we walked on. 

Our best buy would be at the drug store, where it was selling cosmetics, skin care and all the medical necessities. We almost went nuts in there. We had contributed around 10,000 yen to the shop in exchange for all their stuffs. This amount was after tax deduction. So you could imagine how much was actually spent in that shop alone. Because our hands were full, we decided to head back. We took dinner at Kyoto Ramen street, located above Kyoto station. It was good. I realized that the local taste were mild and light, which meant healthier.

After dinner we headed back to our hotel to retrieve our luggages, and moved to another location, Jes's little apartment.

Its Day 2 of our vacation and we are heading to Fushimi-Inari Shrine. Jes would be working today and would not be joining us. Me and Jen headed out at 10am and it took us 1.5hrs to reach there. Train was pretty slow and we had wasted a whole lot of time waiting. The Shrine pathway was located just outside the station. Again, we saw the same Torii gate standing high in front of us.

We took a slow walk up through the gates and into the Shrine vicinity. The path leading up to Mt Inari was slopping all the way. We just walked as much as our legs could bring us. It was a beautiful sight, and lots of time were spent snapping photos. Walking up the stretch of thousands torii gates really awed us in amazement. 

We had reached the path that led us up to Mt Inari, but however we decided not to climb because we need to conserve our energy for the next few days. It's only Day 2 of our vacation and we did not want to overtire ourselves. 

We returned back downhill to the temple ground and walked into the food street. We were both feeling a little hungry so we were checking out if there were any food for us. Luckily earlier before arrival, we bought some food (cakes and waffles) at Kyoto station to munch. The food street at the Inari temple were pretty expensive and queues were long. We did not want to waste time, therefore we headed off. 

We decided to returned back to Jes's apartment to take a break as we would be having a dinner appointment with my company colleagues from Japan later. Train waiting time was endlessly long. We had no idea why. I understood that Japan trains were pretty on time, but for today, lots of time were wasted waiting. We reached home, washed up a little, and we went to the nearby supermarket for shopping. Supermarket had always been the best shopping place for local produced to bring home. OMG, too much food for us to bring home. Food displayed in the supermarket were overwhelming, and we were so tempted to eat, just that our tummy is too small to fit in all of it. 

The cooked food section were making us salivate. I could not resist, therefore I bought sashimi back. It would be a waste if I didn't try the sashimi. Jen bought some rice wraps because it looked so beautiful. After these snaking, we had dinner with my colleagues from Japan. It was a wonderful get together.

Day 3 of our plan was to head out to Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. It was a breezy day with some head wind. We took JR to Arashiyama Station and it was very windy the moment we got off the train.We quickly headed into Sagano Torokko Station.

We took the Sagano Scenic Railway ride and the view was beautiful. We saw the beautiful Hozugawa Ravine, with beautiful flowing blue waters. But sadly, the trees along the railroad had all withered, therefore no autumn leaves to watch.

It was an amazing eye opener ride. Such beautiful mother nature hidden within the mountains really impressed me. We had returned back to the station and took a walk to nearby temples. Our first temple stop was the Tenryu-ji Zen Temple, an UNESCO site.

It was a huge temple and we had to take a long walk in. I came to realize that for all temples in Japan, the main entrance to the temple entrance was pretty far and it had drastically drained my leg energy. We were snapping pictures on our way in.

After looking through my photos, I realized that I did not shoot the Tenryu-ji Zen temple main building by itself, therefore I had to put in a picture of myself with the temple.

After this, we quickly headed to the Bamboo Groves because the sky was getting dark. We were worried that it might rain. Finally we had arrived that the most famous Arashiyama Bamboo Groves. It was fantastically beautiful. The tall, straight, and strong magnificent nature were swaying above me as the breezy wind passed by. 

There were a few little shrines within the area therefore we randomly pick on one to visit. We visited the Nonomiya Shrine, which I heard that it was well-known for marriages, easy delivery and learning. This is the only temple which I saw that the Torii gate was black. 

We walked on to explore the area until our legs gave up. We saw several Shrines along the way but I couldn't remember its name. We ended the day with shopping at Avanti near Kyoto station. Both of us were tired but happy. And finally, dinner!! Time to replenish energy.

Day 4 of our itinerary was to visit the Winter-Illumination in Nabana no Sato in Nagashima Resort, but Jes's friend, whom was supposed to drive us there, was sick. Therefore we had a change of plans, to visit Kobe instead. Great idea, so I could try out Kobe beef. Yummy!! Jes brought us to Kobe Chinatown to have a feel of our Chinese culture there.

Food dominated both sides of the street. They were selling food such as xiao long bao, siew mai, chinese dumplings, pork buns (pau), Peking duck, and of course Kobe beef which I am looking for.

Here comes my favourite dish - Kobe beef. I am a huge fan of beef and I had tried Australian beef, New Zealand beef, Wagyu beef, and now Kobe beef. All beef tasted great to me. Deliciously satisfying and fulfilling.

We walked on until our stomachs were well-fed, then we headed into the shopping streets, finding our way to either the Old Foreign Settlement or Kobe Port, whichever comes first. Well, Kobe port came to us first so we headed there. The stunning Port of Kobe tower stands elegantly in front of us. It was a superb view and photos snapping were non stop.

We spend some time exploring around the vicinity before heading off for dinner and back home.

Day 5 of our itinerary was to head to Osaka. We took the JR to Osaka and visited Osaka castle. When we reached there, the queue into the castle was terribly long. As we do not want to waste too much time here, we spent some time hanging around the area before proceeding to Dotonburi, a must visit place in Osaka.

There were some food stalls around the Osaka castle vincity, so due to the glaring sun shinning on us, we tried the Japanese ice-cream. It was extremely soft!! Thumbs up!!

Our next destination, Dotonburi - was a one-stop food and shopping paradise. Looks like we gonna spend the rest of the day there. When we arrived at Namba Station, the smell of food was lingering in the air. We knew that we were hungry and it was time to feast. We walked out and saw the super long stretch of shopping street, and shops were located on both side of the street. Our first thought was food, so we walked to hunt. At last and finally, the famous crab shop. We were salivating while in the queue. After trying out the crab bisque, the other must try item was the taki balls.

Everything were so yummy. The only bad thing was that my tummy is too small to cater for the large variety of food. We spent the whole afternoon, eating and walking till our legs could bring us no more.

The crowd at Dotonburi was increasing as the day got darker. It is a very happening place in Osaka.
The food stalls started to have long queues and it was somehow getting abit irritating as the people would just walked past you, brushing or hitting onto you without bothering.

We took our dinner at a local restaurant and quickly set off for home as we were worried that trains would be very packed.

Day 6 is the day that we had to return home. We were a little sad that we got to leave this wonderful place. We went shopping and eating in nearby malls as we do not want to tire ourselves too much. A long journey home awaits us in the evening. That's the end of my trip, and I WILL BE BACK.