Thursday, May 12, 2016

Japan-Kansai Trip 2016 - Day 4

After Kyoto, we headed towards Rokko (六甲山) and Arima (有馬温泉). Like Shirahama, this is another destination which we never knew but added into this trip to expand our coverage of Kansai~

Rokko Station is just over an hour from Kyoto by Tokaido-Sanyo line. From there its a bus/taxi ride away to reach the Rokko Cable Car station. And from there we took the 10-minute ride to the top~

Carrying people up the mountain since 1932!

What's on top of Mt Rokko? Well...

Museums and parks and a SNOW PARK!

Okay, it was an alternative way to get to Arima Onsen, but it was more because J wanted some snow on this trip and I sort of forced this into the itinerary.  Given it was Kansai, the park could only get artificial snow this time of the year. J was disappointed but that also meant that 10 runs down the slope and he was happy to get out of the place. A quick lunch within the snow park and we hopped onto the Rokko Mountain-top Bus to get to Arima Onsen~

Ropeway from Mt Rokko Station to Arima Onsen Station
 It was a long way down the ropeway but it was all greenery around us. Around 10-15 minutes later we reached the bottom and we were in Arima~ We called the hotel and they had their vehicle pick us up from the ropeway terminal.

Resident bird in the hotel

For this night we chose a hotel which cost more but had better food and hotspring 有馬温泉 角の坊 . After checking in and taking a bath at the hotspring, we decided to venture out before dinner.

Nice croquette made with Kobe beef!

Felt a bit like Kusatsu... just a bit~
 Just as it was turning dark, we rushed to get back to the hotel as it was getting really windy and cold, and dinner was doing to be served in our room.

Distance covered in one day was more than enough... next up will be Osaka~

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Japan-Kansai Trip 2016 - Day 3

Next up - Kyoto

Kyoto is basically a short train-ride away from Nara. Having previously worked for a Kyoto-based company, I have had my fair share of travels into Kyoto. But it was only after I left that company did I manage to find time to visit the touristy areas of the beautiful city.

After checking out from our Nara hotel we hopped onto the city bus and headed to Kintetsu Nara Station for our ride to Kyoto.

Our ride into Kyoto!

The 40+ minutes ride basically flew by (compared to the 2-4 hour rides we had in previous days). I would highly recommend Nara and Kyoto as a pair whenever one visit this part of Japan. Both are highly traditional side of Japan yet presents them in a different way. Nara felt like a pilgrimage while Kyoto felt like time-travel to pre-war Japan. In any case these 2 destinations were miles away from Tokyo or Osaka.

Once we entered Kyoto Station, the 1st thing that we did was to find out hotel. For Kyoto I booked a room at the APA Kyoto-Ekimae. No particular reason apart from low price and distance to the station. Its practically 5 minutes' walk away from Kyoto station yet cost much less compared to other hotels near to the station. The negative point? It's cheap, it's relatively good, but the rooms were super small!

Hello Kyoto Tower~

Since we were there before noon, we couldn't check into our room so we left our luggage at the frontdesk and went for lunch at Kyoto Station. A hotdog (or 2) and a coffee later, we found ourselves at the tour bus counter. While it may be good for 1st-timers on a free-and-easy trip to Kyoto, we were put off by the schedule and price of the tours on offer and decided to just visit Kiyomizu-dera on our own. We found the queue for the bus at the terminal in front of Kyoto Station and hopped on!


I've always liked Kyoto, and even more once I've visited Kiyomizu-dera. From the stall lining the streets leading up to the top, to the magnificent view from the top, it never fails to give me the feeling that I have travelled to another time. This time we also managed to make our way to 二年坂(ninen-zaka) and 三年坂(sannen-zaka).

4-5 trips and more than 10 years since my 1st trip to Kyoto, it was actually the 1st time I walked the slopes of 二年坂 and 三年坂. The slopes gave it another feel to this side of Kyoto and I would have loved to spend another day just having traditional Japanese desserts and tea in one of the many beautiful houses lining the streets. Unfortunately we have already walked our dear boy's little feet ragged and he finally started whining "Can you let me rest my little feet?"

We hastened towards Gion, with the hope to find the fastest way to the subway stationand back to the hotel. Along the way I couldn't resist but make a detour to take the above picture of Gion.

A nap, a dinner with some ex-colleagues near Kyoto Station and a much deserved rest for the night. Next stop will be Arima Onsen, some say the best onsen region this part of Japan!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Japan-Kansai Trip 2016 - Day 2

Day 1 was about recovering. The overnight flight, the shock of not bringing the Intl License and the long journey to our hotel.

Day 2 was the real start of our trip~ this trip was one which I wanted to show J some of the wonderful sights in Japan and not many places better than Nara to do that!

We started off by taking the 2+ hour train ride back the opposite direction towards Osaka. 

From Tennoji station it was a change and another 40+ minutes to Nara... Gotten ourselves the bus-pass that gives us unlimited rides on the local bus system and off we went to find our hotel. After checking in and leaving our luggage we took off to visit Todaiji

Had lunch at a soba place near Todaiji.

Then off we went to play with the roaming deers ...

Then more food...

The grandeur of Todaiji never fail to awe me. This and Kiyomizuderu are probably the 2 things I wanted to show J the most during this trip.

After Todaiji we had a few hours before the illumination display so we roamed around Nara and found ourselves some sushi!

After filling our stomach we walked towards Nara Park where a really special light show was waiting for us~

After a cold and long walk we proceeded to the bus-stop and went back to our hotel.

I felt that the one day in Nara, though short, was really wonderful and really brought us to a world filled with history, nature and mystic~ 

Next stop Kyoto!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Japan-Kansai Trip 2016 - Day 1

Every year around CNY we will make use of the extended holidays to take a long holiday. So far for the past 2 years we have chosen Hokkaido, but this year the missus decided it's time to break away from that routine and go to Kansai instead.

An overnight flight to Haneda, transit to Kansai airport, just because direct flights were either full or exorbitantly expensive.

I had been sick the week prior to the trip. In fact I was still very sick prior to the flight but adrenaline somehow took over and I sort of revived once we landed in Japan.

Unfortunately my wife was left with the task of packing and preparing for all of us and left out the international driving license. That meant our initial plans to drive around Kansai had to be changed into one reliant on the rail network.

Upon recovering from the shock, first we cancelled our car booking, before checking the routes available to us. Nanki-Shirahama was so far South that it wasn't shown on the rail network map. Nothing a bit of Internet couldn't fix. 2 changes of the ride and we were on the Kuroshio rapid to Shirahama. 

The overnight flight, transit flight from Haneda and multiple train rides finally took its toil on J and he basically shut down his engine while on the 2-hour ride..

At the end of the 3-hour or so journey was a wonderful seaside town with a very different look and feel from Osaka, Nara or Kyoto.

We first made our way to the Toretore market to enjoy a good afternoon sashimi and outdoor BBQ seafood lunch. 

After lunch we took a taxi to our hotel, which overlooks the famous Shirahama beach.

We took a little walk on the beach as there was a bit of time before check-in. The wind was piercing cold but the sand was wonderful. I could imagine what the place would look like in summer.

After a 10-15 minutes walk we were both cold and tired so we tried our luck at the hotel even though it was only 2:30pm. Thank goodness for Japanese hospitality and we were lead to our room.

Our room was on the top floor, with a semi-outdoor bath which overlooked the beach. It was a welcome reward after all that traveling. 

Hotel: ホテル三楽荘
Room: Around 48,160yen for 1 night (39,360yen after utilizing our points) including b/f and dinner

Dinner was...

Cheers to the start of a good holiday~

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