Monday, 29 July 2013

Japan Day 7: Kobe and a taste of the legendary Kobe beef ^^

This is the last full day that we have here in Japan and we decided to make a day trip to visit Kobe. Kobe is a smaller city which is around 30 minutes away from Osaka by train. Nara is also another option for a one day trip as it is also similarly located close to Osaka. However, as I wanted to try the Kobe beef, I decided on Kobe over Nara.

In the morning, we took the Hankyu line from the Umeda station all the way to the Sannomiya station in Kobe. Inclusive of the subway ride to the Umeda station from our hotel area, the tickets cost us 400 yen each per way.

We took a walk to our first destination, which are the Kobe Ijinkan or western style houses. For those who prefer to take a bus, you could also get a City Loop - Day Pass for 650 yen, which would allow you to hop on and off the City Loop bus for the whole day. We decided not to get it as we were not planning to use the bus that much today.

1. Super cute Starbucks shop     2. Steep stairway leading up to a shrine I think...
3. Street artist     4. One of the Kobe Ijinkan (Western Houses)

Kobe is famous for the western style houses or Ijnkan in the area, which came about when the Kobe port was opened for trade. You can get more details from the Japan Guide website. Most of the information I got in preparing for this trip was from this website, which is really very useful. Anyway, we took a walk around the area to look at these houses. Some of these houses are actually open to tourists, but we decided not to enter as the entrance fees are quite pricey.

It was nice just admiring the beautiful houses here even though we didn't go in any. It does require quite a bit of stamina walking around here though, as most of these houses are located on the hill, and we had to walk uphill most of the time.

There also seem to be a large number of bridal shops in Kobe. We even saw two separate wedding ceremonies being held in the gardens of some of these places. It was perfect weather as the sun was out but at the same time, wasn't too hot and humid, unlike Malaysia.

1. One of the bridal shops in Kobe..looks so sweet even from the outside     2. Cute doorway...hehe..
3. Volkswagen used as a kind of cafe ^^     4. Nicely decorated drain cover

Friday, 19 July 2013

Japan Day 6: Osaka Castle and Hamadera Koen

Now that we're back in Osaka, one of the schedules on our itinerary is a visit to the famous Osaka Castle. We bought some snacks and macarons ^^ from the departmental stores the day before, which we had for breakfast before our sightseeing.

We took the subway to the Tanimachi-4 Chome station (230 yen per person one way), and from there walked for about 10 to 15 minutes to get to the castle grounds. There are actually several subway stations surrounding the Osaka Castle area, which are also within walking distance, so you can choose which line is more convenient based on the station you are departing from.

There were lots of signage along the way pointing us along towards the Osaka Castle, so there wasn't much of a problem in getting there from the subway station. Saw a beautiful patch of pink flowers along the way as well ^^

Osaka Castle and the surrounding grounds

Compared to the other temples and shrines we visited previously, there is no charge to enter and see the gardens and grounds of the Osaka Castle. There is only a charge if we would like to enter the castle museum or head to the top for a nice aerial view of the surroundings. My mum and I are not very interested in museums, so decided to skip this and just spent our time exploring the grounds area.

We spent some time in the gardens as well, and even saw some people fishing from the side of the moat. Wonder what kind of fish there are in there? There were even some people with cameras doing some kind of recording or interview of the people fishing there.

1. Another view of the castle     2. Some building to the side of the main castle building. Love these brick buidings ^^     3.Garden with pool in the castle grounds     4. Nice big tree giving lots of shade to weary travellers =p

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Japan Day 5: Nishiki Market in Kyoto, Kani Doraku and shopping in Osaka

Early the next morning, we got up and got ready in the adjoining toilet. By the time we were ready, the futons had already been cleared by the staff and the table set up again in the middle of the room. Before our breakfast was served, we were each served with one plum together with a cup of tea. Not too sure what's the reason for serving a preserved plum in the morning, but it definitely worked to wake us up a little and give us an appetite =p

Unlike dinner, breakfast is served all at once instead of one dish at a time. Once again, we were amazed with the quantity of food that was served. Together with the dishes below, we each had a bowl of rice, with the staff continuing to urge us to add more rice as we were eating. I wonder how the Japanese manage to keep from getting fat if this is the amount of food that they consume on a daily basis. However, it's definitely healthy as there are a variety of ingredients served within the platter, including preserved vegetables, egg, fish, tofu...

Our traditional breakfast at Hiiragiya Bekkan

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Japan Day 4 Part 2: Hiiragiya Bekkan

Continuing from where we left off in the previous post, we headed back to Kawaramachi after our day trip to Arashiyama. On the way back to the Best Western Hotel to collect our luggage, we stopped by at Takashimaya to browse the "depachika", which refers to the basement of the department stores. In Japan, the basement floors of department stores is the place where foodstuff are sold, which is similar to our supermarkets here but with a much larger variety of items sold.

Really love just browsing here as there is just such a large variety of food on display, including salads, sashimi, sushi, bento sets, yakitori, desserts and lots more. Just thinking of it is making me drool. As we'll be having a traditional kaiseki dinner at the ryokan, we only got one octopus salad to try.

After collecting our luggage, we made our way to Hiiragiya Bekkan (, which is also within walking distance. Do note that Hiiragiya Bekkan is not the same as Hiiragiya Ryokan, as the Hiiragiya Ryokan is older and the cost per room is much higher.

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Japan Day 4 Part 1: Arashiyama, Tenryuji Temple and the Sagano scenic tram

Today, we're heading over to Arashiyama for the beautiful scenery ^.^ Before heading out, we had already packed our belongings and checked out from the hotel as we will be staying at a traditional ryokan for our last night here in Kyoto. We just left our luggage with the hotel staff to collect later in the afternoon once we finish our sightseeing.

From the station nearby our hotel, we took a train to the Hankyu Arashiyama station (220 yen each). Love the old style feel of the station and the station here was quite silent and peaceful, not many people around. Anyway, from here, it's a quite a short walk, about 5 to 10 minutes, to get to the Togetsukyo bridge. We were unsure of the way at first but luckily, we spotted some roadsigns showing us the way in English.

Hankyu Arashiyama station

For those who are unsure, you can basically walk straight on along the road from the entrance of the station as seen in the above right picture. Along the way, there are several roadsigns showing the direction of the bridge, which was really very convenient for us. The river over which the bridge is located is lined with lots of trees, which also includes cherry trees. This place is said to be very popular during the spring when the sakura trees blossom and is also known for the picturesque view in the autumn when the leaves start changing colour.

We spent some time just taking photos and saw some easels and brushes on one side of the riverbank. Seems like someone was busy painting the beautiful scenery. We continued on our journey and crossed the bridge to the town area (?) as I wanted to see the bamboo groves.

Togetsukyo Bridge