Autumn Japan 2016 – [Day 11] Miyajima

Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |


Sheraton Grand Hiroshima Hotel シェラトングランドホテル広島

We woke up early the next morning, and was treated to a really nice breakfast. We spent some time relaxing here and eating to our heart’s content, glad to finally have a time to rest after a long trip’s journey. After we had eaten to our heart’s and stomach’s content, we headed off.


Itsukushima / Miyajima 厳島

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DIRECTIONS:
Hiroshima Station to Miyajimaguchi Station > JR Sanyo Line  for IWAKUNI
Miyajimaguchi Station to Miyajima > JR Miyajima Ferry*
*Miyajima Ferry is covered by JR Pass

Miyajima is one of the places I was looking forward to the most. It is an island alongside Hiroshima, best known for Itsukushima Shrine – a Shrine floating along the sea.

We took the ferry across the Miyajima, the weather amazingly peaceful, especially considering that we were expecting rain today.

Upon arrival, we explored the various shops around. The atmosphere was really down to earth and very peaceful. There was no city essence even though there were really a lot of tourists around. Despite that, it was still a really amazing place to be.

I took a try at the curry bun, which turned out to be too oily for my fancy, but I really liked the anko momiji cake that Sue bought. It was a really nice start for a snack, as we headed on the rest of the exploration.


Itsukushima Shrine 厳島神社

Deers freely roaming, we soon arrived at Itsukushima Shrine. The tide had not yet come in, but the view was still amazing nonetheless. The atmosphere was really serene and comforting, and there was something soothing about it.

Later on, we returned when the tide had come up, to see a different view of Itsukushima Shrine that the world knew it was famous for. Although Sue and I didn’t venture inside the shrine due to the sheer number of people, we still enjoyed walking around just taking in the views. It had started to rain a little by then, but we ventured on.


Momojidani Hiking Course

We headed towards Momojidani Hiking course, and along the roads, we stopped by various different shops that sold not only souvenirs, but also little carnival shops where we could try interesting types of food. Here, I bought a scarf that I still love and use to today.

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We were about to arrive at the ropeway when Sue spotted this really funny sign that directed us. We laughed a lot about how it said that if we were to run, it would take only 7 minutes! We found the humor entertaining as we trudged on.

The view on the way to the ropeway was truly amazing. Miyajima was in full autumn, and everywhere blossomed the most beautiful autumn leaves.

Perhaps it was because it was raining, but there wasn’t many people here. We had a lot of time to ourselves and this really beautiful scenery, so of course we took the chance to take a lot of pictures!

We took the ropeway up, and were unfortunately not able to see the amazing view that Miyajima had to offer from the peak. Still, it was nice to sit in the breeze and just watch the sea.

Since we still had time, we took a quick look to visit the Miyajima Aquarium. This was not originally scheduled but we enjoyed ourselves playing with the various effects that the museum had to offer. It was really enjoyable and a good rain-plan!

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Before we left, we treated ourselves to a stick of beef! We had eyed this long before, but decided to only buy it on the way back. It was delicious and I wish we bought more than 1! Freshly grilled in front of your eyes upon order, Sue and I shared this enormous stick.

Afterwards, we headed back to hotel to rest.

We knew that we didn’t have much time left in Hiroshima as we were due to leave the next day, but due to the cold and rainy weather, we decided to get oden from the nearby conbini, as well as some fried food to share. In the end, we ended up with a conbini feast – one of Sue’s and my favourite! A warm shower and happy stomach later, we headed to bed, knowing that tomorrow we would be leaving Hiroshima for now.


Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |

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Autumn Japan 2016 – [Day 10] Okunoshima

Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |


Okunoshima

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Next morning, we woke up to a great morning breakfast. Sue and I scarfed down our meal as we contemplated the daunting task of cycling the rest of the Shimanami Kaido road. We decided that we could not get our asses to cycle the rest of the journey back, and we would u-turn instead of trying to go forward.

After breakfast, we headed back to the harbor to wait for our ship back to the “main island”. We decided that we would try to cycle as far as we could, and return our bicycles at the next possible location, and walk the rest of the way home.

The trip back gave us more opportunities to see the beautiful views that Shimanami Kaido had to offer. It was truly a magnificant view, but by this time our butts were aching like never before.

Crossing the final bridge, we stood between the two islands for a final break before returning the bikes. It was definitely an amazing chance to be able to even cycle half of this route, but what made it more amazing was that Sue, who could barely cycle, made it with me – and to think i was about to give up on her LOL.

Upon returning our bicycles, we traversed the rest of the Shimanami Kaido on foot, and were treated to amazing seaside views as we went. It was nice, stretching our tired feet, wind and sun in our faces.

It took us almost a whole day, but it was worth it. Many steps and hours later, we finally arrived back at the main island. We then headed off to our next destination – Hiroshima.


Sheraton Grand Hiroshima Hotel シェラトングランドホテル広島

URL: http://www.sheraton-hiroshima.jp/
Check In & Out: 7th November 2016 to 9th November 2016
Rating: 39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline

This has got to be one of the best hotels that we had stayed in so far. We got a great promotion for Grand Prince Hiroshima, and we took it. The large space available was definitely something that we had long-since forgotten in Japanese hotels.

The large room also came with a giant ensuite area, with an open-concept toilet and a semi-transparent shower room, which gave Sue and me a lot of giggles wondering how we were going to shower without exposing too much (not that it mattered – exposure already went out of the window a looonggg time ago).

We decided to head out for some dinner, and there was a lot to choose from.

We were starving, so we splurged on a nice bento and some cakes! We also had bought some souvenirs for back home, but we spent the rest of the night very excitedly eating and relaxing in our hotel room.


Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |

Autumn Japan 2016 – [Day 9] Cycling Shimanami Kaido

Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |


Shimanami Kaidoしまなみ海道

DIRECTIONS:
Fukuyama Station to Onomichi Station > JR Sanyo Line  for ITOZAKI

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This was probably the most CHALLENGING task we set ourselves this year. Firstly because Sue is not the best at cycling (I nearly gave up on her, but more on that later). It is an official 70km cycling route that spans across 7 islands from Omomichi in Honshu, to Imabari in Shikoku. The route travels along both cycling-only allocated paths, as well as along the sides of main roads, so decent skills are definitely required.

It is thoroughly advised that you stop midway rather than to complete the entire course in one day, because there are a lot of things to see mid-way.

Before Starting Your Journey

Rent Your Bike Online: http://shimanami-cycle.or.jp/rental/english-reservation

In order to start your journey, it is advisable to plan your route beforehand. We also rented our bikes while still in Singapore, to ensure that we would definitely have bikes to ride. For us, we rented our bikes by sending an email, but there is now an online form that allows you the rent your bike online from Onomichi! (I have never used this before, just sharing this information – not sure how easy is this website to use!!)

Each bike costs a different price, and at cheapest, each bike costs Y1000 a day. Do note that these bikes typically do not provide ropes to tie your belongings to, so it may be better to prepare beforehand just in case! We got some extra string from the bike shop, but they did not have much to spare either.

Returning your bike is fairly easy – there are many shops along the way that you could drop off your bike should you give up, or feel that your butt is too sore LOL


Mukaishima 向島

First, we boarded a ferry to Mukaishima – there is no other way to cross other than the ferries. Each ferry costs Y110, and is collected when you dock your bikes on the boat. We had picked up our bikes early in the morning, and soon were on our way!

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Once you reached, you would notice a blue line that marked the side of the road – this is the beginner’s course to cycling the Shimanami Kaido. It was a brilliant way to tell where to cycle without constantly checking the map or our GPS. Sue had a bumpy start, because Japanese bikes were not the same (lighter than the ones back home), and she could not get a flat enough surface and kept wobbling. We were wasting a lot of time and I felt we had a decision to make – either she would have to turn back if she felt she was not going to figure it out soon, or we would risk missing the ferry to where our hotel was (the last ferry left around 4pm)! After much desperation, Sue finally managed to get a running start and she was off! She trooped along in front of me and we tried our best not to stop too often to reduce any effort that she would need to re-start.

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Mukaishima was a really peaceful island where there were hardly any cars once we left the first town. We cycled along comfortably, occasionally interrupted by working factories nearby. It was really a well laid back town.

We reached the first bridge, and the cycling UPHILL nearly killed us. Crossing the bridge next to the highway (there is a separate lane for cyclists) gave us a great view of the island from above. The downhill slope was also VERY EXHILIRATING. I enjoyed it immensely, but Sue was not so happy about it LOL.


Innoshima 因島

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After descending the bridge at the other end, immediately the smell of citrus hit us – this was the fame of Innoshima, known for its citrus fruits! We took a detour to a little hasaku daifuku shop called HASSAKUYA that was recommended (but not along the travel route).

HASSAKUYA

URL: https://tabelog.com/en/hiroshima/A3403/A340302/34003897/
Location: 246-1 Innoshima Ohamacho Onomichi Hiroshima (広島県 尾道市 因島大浜町 246-1)

We couldn’t decide what was the best to try, so we tried one of everything to share! The various types of daifukus were amazingly fresh, and I really wished I could have taken some home. There were many local tourists that stopped by solely to bring some daifuku back home. The different types of tanginess of the Hassaku complemented the sweet Daifuku paste really well. Sue and I completely enjoyed ourselves.

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We continued our cycling route through Innoshima. The island was one of my favorites. It had clear blue skies and half of the time we were riding alongside the sea. It was a pity that we didn’t have time to stop and really walk around more.

At some point, Sue followed the wrong blue lines (yes that can happen), and because I was taking photos while she continuously cycled, I had to chase her a long way before she realized I was calling her from behind. Fortunately there weren’t many cyclists around, but there were a few houses along the route that gave us curious looks as I spammed my bell trying to get Sue’s attention.


We turned up and cycled as far up as we could go. It finally reached a point where we couldn’t cycle any further, and we ended up pushing our bikes up to the 2nd bridge.

The 2nd bridge was also more beautiful – the fact that there were less cars and less bikes as we cycled further down made it even more perfect for both of us.

The view from above the 2nd bridge was also breathtaking – I couldn’t resist stopping to take a few pictures (while Sue continued cycling ahead LOL).


Ikuchijima 生口島

Our next stop was Ikuchijima – an island known for its many attractions. The ride here was even better because we could cycling on the sideroad rather than next to the cars – by this time our butts were starting to ache, so it was lucky that we reached our next destination – Setoda Dolce.

SETODA DOLCE

URL: http://www.setoda-dolce.com/

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Upon reading through a lot of blogs regarding Shimanami Kaido, one of the recommended spots in the area was Setoda Dolce – a Gelato and icecream shop. It was a little shop on the side of the road, but by the time we arrived (around noon), there were also a lot of other cyclists in the area. The air was chilly and cooling, perfect for cycling. I went in to purchase some gelato to try 😀 EXCITED!

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I came out with 2 flavors – 1 was a salt flavored icecream (because it sounded interesting), and the other was a type of hassaku. We both shared this portion. The flavors were plentiful and tasty, and we both enjoyed the freshness of the flavors melding together.

Ikuchijima was almost like a beach resort – with clean beaches and fresh air as we cycled alongside the road. By this time we were both quite exhausted, but we pressed on.

The sea views were amazing, and from a distance we could see the last bridge for the day – it was a bittersweet feeling, knowing that it was so close, yet so far.

My trusty bike, parked alongside the road, as we took a quick break (onigiri time!) and did some quick stretching, before continuing on our way again.

Here, we crossed the bridge towards Omishima, crossing the boarder between the two islands. The Omishima bridge was definitely one of my favourite amongst all. It was definitely one of the largest bridges we had crossed, but the views from the bridge was definitely the most amazing. Even Sue could not help but to stop and take pictures when we were there.


Omishima 大三島町

Omishima Island was the last of our islands for the day. With only about 1 hour before the ferry came, we forced our muscles and rode like the wind. Omishima was more of a farmer style island, with more forest greens. The smell of hassaku was gone, a smell we were already starting to miss.

Upon reaching the port, we bought our tickets to board the ferry that would bring both us and our bikes to Okunoshima, our last stop for the day, where our hotel was.


Okunoshima 大久野島

DIRECTIONS:
Tadanoumi Port to Okunoshima Port > Sanyo Shosen
Ship Schedule: http://sanyo-shosen.jp/omishima/time.html
Cost: Y620 for Adult Round Trip, Y120 per bike 1 way

You can also ferry vehicles across, price differs, you can check out the same website above for more information.

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Sun had started to set by the time we reached Okunoshima. Okunoshima was one of the more famous islands – more commonly known as Rabbit Island.

While walking towards our hotel, we encountered many different types of rabbits freely exploring the area. The whole island does not have rabbit food, and if you would like to feed them, you would have to bring the food yourself.

We tried to bribe them with leaves that had fallen on the ground, which turned out that some of the rabbits were curious enough to entertain us. It was definitely a good place for families and children.

Okunoshima was also known to be an island where chemical tests were held many years ago. It was suggested that the rabbits there were a result of abandoned rabbits that were used as test subjects, left to flourish when the chemical plants were closed.

The views were definitely nonetheless amazing, and despite the somewhat sad history, we enjoyed ourselves in the moment, randomly parking our bikes at a corner and exploring the island on foot – a good relief for our butts! By this time, we had already cycled more than 30KM, and even sitting down was a pain in the ass – literally.


Okunoshima Kyukamura

URL: http://www.qkamura.or.jp/en/ohkuno/
Check In & Out: 6th November 2016 to 7th November 2016
Rating: 39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline

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We chose to stay at Kyukamura Okunoshima, the only hotel on the island. It was a beautiful hotel, and from the outside we could see many rabbit holes.

Our rooms were really large and comfortable, and we definitely enjoyed ourselves taking a break. In fact, I fell asleep promptly on the sleeping cushions.

Dinner was served at the dining hall, where we had upgraded ourselves to have grilled beef as well as the buffet course that was available.

We happily enjoyed ourselves and our hot meal, ate our heart’s content – remember that we did not really have much for lunch, and we had cycled so far to get here!

The buffet spread was also equally good, and we enjoyd the various fruits available – we had not had fruits in awhile by then! Finally, with our stomachs full and satisfied, we headed back to our room, before heading to the onsen for a quick soak.

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Picture taken by Kyukamura Okunoshima

The onsen was really comfortable and lovely, and it was super nice to sit there in the hot water and have a chance to relax our sore and painful muscles. We soaked for a really long time, before heading back to sleep.


Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |

Autumn Japan 2016 – [Day 8] Shizuoka

Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |


Hamamatsu Fruit Park

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DIRECTIONS:
Shizuoka Station to Kakegawa Station > SHINKANSEN KODAMA 633
Kakegawa Station to Fruit Park Station > Tenryu Hamanako Railroad  for SHINJOHARA
Cost: Y700

This was probably the day Sue was looking forward to the most. We arrived at the Fruit Park after about 2 hours of travel from Shizuoka Station. The good thing about Shizuoka was that the prefecture was mostly tropical, so the weather was pretty warm – perfect for fruits!

The front entrance was really colorful and filled with a lot of plants. Sue and I immediately got excited and started exploring the place using the map provided – we usually do not read the map!

The first thing we saw was an icecream stand. It was a hot day out, so we both opted for icecream! We bought 1 matcha and 1 raspberry swirl! The sun was really hot so the icecream was starting to melt, so we ate quickly while we continued to walk.

Our next stop was the tropical flowers exhibit. Despite being 2 girls who came from a tropical country, we spent a lot of time exploring the tropical dome, filled with plants we could even see from home.

Trust the Japanese to decorate even the simplest of things – the tropical dome was filled with green foilage and even a waterfall and a stream that ran under us.

Our next stop was the wine factory, where we tried out a few different types of wine, and Sue made fast friends – with a robot that was following her wherever she went, as though worried that she would break something LOL.

We stopped by the cafeteria, and shared a pizza while sitting in the cooling wind outside. After lunch, we decided to explore the other half of the fruit park – the part with actual fruits! This was the part we were both looking super forward to! And we weren’t even sure what fruits were available!

Rather than take the tram, we took a long walk around the compound. It was really sunny, and we were one of the only few people there. We enjoyed the long walk, before we reached the first fruits!

Here, we saw a lot of families exploring the area. There were different vendors who taught us how to pick the different fruits. Sue and I made calculations on how many we could eat, considering the variety of fruits that were available at that time. Our first stop was ORANGES!

We picked about 6 oranges, before making payment and moving to our next fruits!

The next fruits we saw were persimmons. Sue got quite excited by the persimmons, and we ended up picking around 5. They were really sweet and juicy, and considering the price we paid for fresh fruits, definitely worth the price!

We also took a chance at picking 1 pear – since Sue knew I didn’t really like pears. The family next to us had a little daughter who picked a pear that fell on her. She started crying but we both found it quite cute.

The land area of the Hamamatsu Fruits Park was large – and we spent the entire day walking through the landscape.

After a full day exploring the fruits park, we headed back to Shizuoka, got our luggage, and moved to our next prefecture! SHIZUOKA – DONE!

DIRECTIONS:
Shizuoka Station to Okayama Station > SHINKANSEN HIKARI
Okayama Station to Fukuyama Station > SHINKANSEN KODAMA

Our next stop was Fukuyama, where our next activity would take place tomorrow. Fukuyama was about slightly more than 200 minutes away from Shizuoka. By the time we had reached Fukuyama, it was almost midnight. We were tired, and glad that we could check in for the night.


Toyoko Inn Fukuyama-eki Shinkansen Minami-guchi

https://www.toyoko-inn.com/e_hotel/00259/index.html
Check In & Out: 5th November 2016 to 6th November 2016
Cost: Y8856 for 2 persons, Twin Room
Rating: 39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline

We stayed at Tokoyo Inn for the night, before our early start tomorrow morning.

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The rooms weren’t very large, but they were sufficient – the typical size of rooms that Japanese hotels had.

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It was clean enough, but it had a slight stuffy feel which made us both somewhat happy that we were only staying one night. The room definitely had all the necessary amenities for comfort, but we were definitely looking forward to our next hotel – as this hotel made us feel somewhat claustrophobic.


Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |

Autumn Japan 2016 – [Day 7] Shizuoka

Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |


Shizuoka

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Today was the first sporting activity that we had done on this trip – and that was to go white water rafting! We wanted to do something that we couldn’t do in Singapore, and stumbled upon this activity. Unfortunately, water rafting season had almost ended in Japan as summer was over, but fortunately for us we found NATURALACTION, who ran white water rafting activities all year round as long as the weather permitted.

We took a train to Shirakaba Station, where the staff of NATURALACTION was kind enough to pick us from. We were the only 2 due to ride today.


NaturalAction White Water Rafting

URL: http://www.naturalaction.co.jp/en/

The staff at Natural Action were really warm and nice. We were given wetsuits to put on, which Sue and I did, with a lot of laughing, commenting on how it would help us lose weight since it was so tight. With a lot of grunts and pulls, we finally managed to get our wetsuits on!

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They quickly explained to us the safety requirements, what to do if we were to be washed away (in which case they would throw a rope to us, how to catch it, which way to face when they are pulling us back in). The staff spoke good english, so it was pretty straightforward and easy to understand, and pretty soon we were off!

The sun was pretty hot, and the water was freezing cold. It was a good idea we both decided to wear old shoes (that we were not bringing back), because almost instantly our feet were soaked!

We started out sharing a raft, with our 2 guides on another raft guiding us (more like pushing us away from rocks when we got too close). Afterwards, we were each given a raft to maneuver on our own. I felt I did a lot better – at least Sue and I stopped clashing with each other LOL.

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The staff were also very fun loving, and more often than not we ended up splashing each other with water. While rowing, we also had very interesting conversations about food and sake – the fish, not the drink.

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One of the highlights was also jumping into the water. The guides showed us up the rocks where we climbed slippery rocks to the top. The guide wanted us to go higher, but Sue was adamant that she was not going any higher. Instead, we jumped off the middle ledge. It was quite frightening because we didn’t know how deep the water was – and we knew exactly how cold it was. After jumping in, we had to SWIM back to our boat, and pull ourselves back up on it.

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Pulling ourselves up took some training. One of the instructors kept making us “rescue” the other. I had to single-handedly pull Sue back up into the boat, before we rowed our way back to the starting point.

We quickly took a shower, before one of the instructors told us the train was due to depart in about 5minutes. The next train would not leave for an hour. Like mad, he drove us to the train station. I remember a conversation we had while going back – he knew Singapore had something called the merlion, he asked us what it was, and whether it was edible, or if it was some kind of god we worshiped. For lack of better explanation, I told him it was similar to the Tokyo tower, in the sense that it was a monument of some sort.


Nanaya Ice Cream

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By the time we woke up it was fairly late, so we decided to do some shopping, and chanced upon this unique ice cream shop. They sold different flavors, but their specialty was in matcha icecream, where they had different intensities to select from. Being in the prefecture famous for matcha, we decided to stop and get a taste.

Sue (obviously) went for the “darkest” purest matcha, whereas I chose matcha yuzu – you know I can’t ignore anything yuzu.

The icecream was really intense and really suitable for us who loved matcha – it was flavorful and strong just like how we enjoyed it. It was definitely a good place to stumble across and I wish we could have more of it. While there, we also bought some tea products to bring home.

After that, we shopped and laughed the rest of the night – talking about how Sue’s mom had lost her daughter once, who had wandered off (no prizes where she gets that from). We also ended up buying some winter wear for our future trips, which included thick winter leggings and some gloves for Sue’s daughter.

With our baggage full, we decided to buy a quick dinner and headed back to the hotel to rest, feeling fulfilled and tired from our adventurous day out.

All images of rafting were taken by the Natural Action staff, who kindly shared it with us.


Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |

Autumn Japan 2016 – [Day 6] Matsumoto

Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |


Hirayu Onsen 平湯温泉

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ext morning, we woke up to another full course breakfast. I just love how Japanese ryokans have such service – a well balanced full meal to satisfy almost anyone. Of course, the downside is that you can never choose what you want to eat, but the end result is always amazing.

 

Morning ryokan is never complete without soup and some sort of fish, of course with rice and some staple sides.

 

It also came with some desserts and a hotpot, which unfortunately I didn’t manage to take a picture of. While eating breakfast, we realized it was raining, which meant that it was not the ideal weather to head to Kamikochi as originally planned as it would be wet and uncomfortable for us.

So instead, we decided that we would head back to Matsumoto and leave Kamikochi for another time! It was sort of disappointing though…


Daio Wasabi Farm, Matsumoto 大王わさび農場 松本

DIRECTIONS:
Matsumoto Station to Hotaka Station > JR Oito Line
Between Mid-April to October, there is a loop bus that costs Y500 per ride or Y800 per day

 

From Matsumoto, we headed off to Daio Wasabi Farm. The normal way to access this place was by cycling, but somehow Sue and I decided to walk – with only the signs in Japanese to guide us. Turned out it was an over 30minute walk, but we got to see some really breathtaking views that made it worth the time (plus, we really did love walking!)

 

The roads were empty, the sky was clear, and as we walked through the rural residential areas, I wished that I would be able to wake up to these kinds of views every day – the stars would also be amazing at night. Sue did point out that this place seemed like a very ideal place for elderly to retire in – it was quiet, and yet self-sustaining.

 

30 minutes later we finally reached Daiso Wasabi Farm, enjoying the cool weather, and rare sun and wind that November had to offer in Japan.

 

The moment we entered, the smell of freshly grated wasabi lingered in the air – filled with strange flies that we had never seen in Japan.

 

The large area allocated to grow wasabi was astounding, and Sue and I spent almost an hour just walking the grounds and taking in the different stages of wasabi growth.

 

We also took a short trip to visit the other attractions there – including Daio Shrine where we met with many praying Japanese as well as a really attractive bridge that allowed you to see a close up of the wasabi few feet below.

 

Of course, we couldn’t leave without trying some of the snacks. Sue was brave enough to try a wasabi crouquette, whereas I went instead for the safer option that was chocolate covered dango (no wasabi involved, thankfully). But were pretty delicious!

From there, it was another 30minute walk back to Hokata Station, where we grabbed our luggage, and headed to our next stop – Shizuoka.


Shizuoka 静岡

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It was almost dusk by the time we reached Shizuoka, so without further delay we quickly left our luggage in the hotel. This was by far one of my most favorite hotels of the trip.


Kuretake Inn Ekimae

http://www.kuretake-inn.com/szok/
Check In & Out: 3rd November 2016 to 5th November 2016
Cost: Y20000 for 2 persons, Twin Room with Breakfast
Rating: 39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline

We stayed at Kuretake Inn Ekimae, Shizuoka for a total of 2 nights – the first 2 nighter that we’d have on this trip since it began LOL. Our first luggage which we had shipped on Day 1, was already waiting for us here 🙂

 

The room was really spacious compared to most – at least twice the size of most hotels that we have ever stayed at while in Japan. It had its own kitchenette and even a sitting area which was good for us to put both our luggage on the floor without having to jump over each other each time we headed to the toilet.

It was definitely a good place to stay and unwind, and a great rest for us to not have to repack our luggage for the night.


Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |

 

Autumn Japan 2016 – [Day 5] Hirayu and Shin Hotaka

Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |


Matsumoto 松本

The next morning we woke up to a quiet Matsumoto. Not sure if we had just gotten up too early, or that it was a sleepy day for Matsumoto, but we were virtually one of the only few people around (we didn’t leave the hotel extremely early either, maybe around 7:30am?)

We walked over to the Matsumoto Bus Terminal and booked our tickets for the first bus leaving to Hirayu Onsen. Waited in the warm of the not-yet-opened shopping mall for about 20 minutes before heading out to the bus station to queue for our bus. Lucky too, the station was not indoors and we were quite cold waiting for the bus to arrive! The bus was quite comfortable, and we fell asleep for most of the ride. When we awoke, we had a pleasant surprise! The autumn leaves were in full bloom as the bus twisted and turned around the many mountain bends before finally arriving at our stop – Hirayu Onsen.


Hirayu Onsen 平湯温泉

7:50am to 9:15am | Matsumoto Bus Terminal to Hirayu Onsen Bus Terminal via Nouhi Bus, Y4220 Round Trip
URL: https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/highwaybus/matsumoto.pdf

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Hirayu Onsen, one of the oldest and largest of Oku Hida’s onsen towns, sports many ryokans and is said to have been discovered in the 1560s. The temperate here dropped almost 5 degrees from where we had started, and it wasn’t surprising to find ourselves relatively cold.

We walked a few minutes to our hotel, where we left our belongings at. Our hotel was REALLY NICE by the way. After leaving our belongings at the hotel with the promise that we would be back before 5pm, we then headed back to the station and took another bus up to Shin-Hotaka Onsen area.

The bus was not due to arrive for an hour, but we easily busied ourselves shopping around the one and only shop near Hirayu Onsen – looking (and tasting, for most part) all the interesting snacks and items near the bus terminal. We also bought a skewer of Hida Beef to share, which turned out to be really nice and tender!


Shin Hotaka 新穂高

DIRECTIONS:
10:40am to 11:16am | Hirayu Onsen to Shin Hotaka via Nouhi Bus
URL: https://www.nouhibus.co.jp/english/routebus/hirayu_shinhotaka_line.pdf

From the base of the beautiful Shin Hotaka, we took the ropeway up towards the peak. The views on the way up, and the many stops along the way were mesmerizing.

The area along Shirakaba Station was particularly beautiful. Autumn seemed to have been perfect here – the trees were the best shade of fiery and gold you could possibly imagine, and although it was cold, it was not freezing. Just the right type of temperature to explore!

Contemplating on using the footbath but deciding against the suggestion as we were both wearing leggings (under shorts, no less) which would make it horribly impossible to soak in, we went on – taking the cablecar further up.

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Shin Hotaka Ropeway is known for it’s unique double floored cablecar! Yes – there are actually 2 floors though essentially they do not really make much difference in terms of the view, but it was quite an interesting sight nonetheless. The cost that it took for the round way trip was Y2900, but I feel it was worth every penny for the views.

The peak of Shin Hotaka allowed us to see all the mountains clearly in a row – which was lucky considering the forecast was not that good for the day. Nevertheless, we bundled ourselves tightly and dashed out to take some photographs, before retreating back in the warmth – it was subzero temperatures by the time we were at the peak. After which, we started shopping for both souvenirs, as well as clothes – I got myself a pair of gloves (which now that I think about it, not sure where it is LOL)


Okada Ryokan Warakutei

http://www.okadaryokan.com/eng/warakutei.html
Check In & Out: 2st October 2016 to 1st November 2016
Cost: Y23328 for 2 persons, Twin Room with Half Board
Rating: 39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline39159_large_light_blue_glitter_star_with_silver_outline

Upon descent back to our hotel, we quickly checked in. Our room was pretty spacious and overlooked the carpark. It was a traditional ryokan, my favourite type of place to stay when at an onsen town. The room was just as I loved it – tranquil, quiet and superbly clean.

It also, unlike most ryokans Sue and I have stayed in, had an ensuite bathroom – which we both were appreciative of but never got to use – who would use a bath when there are onsens downstairs! And EVERYWHERE!

We headed out to a nearby onsen to get our onsen-fix, and headed to Hirayu no Mori (Y500). It boasted almost 8 female baths, and we enjoyed ourselves trying each one – though admittedly not much different from each other with the exception of the number of people per pool. But we still had quite a nice time walking from 1 pool to the next to see if any of them were the perfect temperature for us. After about 1 hour of soaking, we finally hauled butts out of the pools, and headed off – not before buying some snacks in the nearby Hirayu no Mori shopping in case we were hungry later. We knew from past experience that nothing was going to be open after dinner!

Headed back to our room, which thankfully was only a 5 cold minutes walk away – looking ridiculous. Hair wrapped in towels, wearing boots (because it was cold), shorts and wrapping a huge jacket to block ourselves from the wind and cold temperature steadily dropping, we hurried back. It was so cold that by the time we returned, we could see our breath in the air as we spoke.

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Dinner was prepared at the dining room, with a separate compartment for each of us. Our (my, actually) name was written on a nice plaque in English, where most of the others were written in Japanese. The full spread was not even laid out before us before we had begun to tuck in – kaiseki dinner was DEFINITELY my favourite part of onsen towns and something NEVER to be missed in any part of a trip!

Of course, there were many variations of kaiseki, because each ryokan used the area specialties, making no 2 dinners ever the same. Normally you could also explain any allergies or preferences earlier for them to cater, but I would really suggest that unless you have severe allergies, to try everything served. It’s really worth the try!

Of course, this was only snippets of what we had – there were also hot components and rice. We even could overhear the next room’s conversation about how she had not been expected to be served without question – she wasn’t able to eat fish. The Japanese manager (who was actually the one serving us), had to go over and help clear up the issue. Personally I totally understood where she was coming from, but I couldn’t help but feel bad for the Japanese manager who probably would not have known to expect to have to validate food requirements especially if the customer had booked from a third party site. Nevertheless, we continued our food happily and then returned to our room.

Back in our room, we headed back out to our hotel’s onsen! There, we met a lady who was actually born in the same country as we were. She was a little concerned as to how to go about using the onsen, and was glad to find 2 english speaking ladies to guide her. She hurried out for a moment to explain to her husband what had to be done, before returning.

We spent another good 30 minutes soaking in both the indoor and 2 outdoor baths. The outdoor baths were especially nice because it was so warm while the weather was cold – and the lights the barely illuminated the onsen pools made it all the more comforting to take a soak in.

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We returned back to our rooms, futons already laid out in front of us. We ended up opening our snacks to eat! YES! Onsen does make you hungry LOL. Our favourite was definitely this mochi that we had found at Hirayu no Mori – which was pretty similar to what we had initially bought in Hakone and were dying to eat again. We ended up buying extra packs for home! hahaha

As we rolled into our nicely arranged futons, we both fell asleep like lambs – by a miraculous time of 9pm! Guess that’s what happens when there is no WIFI in your room! LOL


Trip Posts: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 and 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 |