After a long hiatus, I’m back with a series of blog posts about my most adventurous and impromptu trip thus far. I booked a return ticket (whilst it was on promotion of course) and flew off to the land of the rising sun. This was all done within a course of 2 months during my work’s peak period, and it gave me something to look forward to at the end of the April.
This journey required the use of a JR Pass, so I had the advantage because of the weakening yen. I paid $341 from the JTB at Ion Orchard, and I’m able to take almost all the Shinkansen in Japan with reserved seating! A travel tip to everyone is to plan early before you arrive (I use Hyperdia http://www.hyperdia.com/en/ ), and then reserve ALL your seats the moment you arrive in Japan at the JR ticketing booth. That means you must plan on a detailed level, down to the exact timing and exact Shinkansen that you’re going to take for the rest of your stay in Japan. If unfortunately you miss your Shinkansen timing and you must forfeit your reserved ticket, it is actually at no extra cost for you to book another later timing, just that you run the risk of the Shinkansen being fully booked.
Note: You cannot take the Nozomi & Mizuho lines, but you are able to take the next fastest Hikari & Sakura lines. Honestly, it doesn’t matter unless your schedule is so tight that 15 minutes more for a 3 hour journey makes a difference to you.
This is the all powerful and mighty JR Pass. You just flash this to the ticketing officer at the gantry and you shall pass.
Another thing to get before departing for Japan is your portable wi-fi device. In this digital age, not many of us can survive without portable wi-fi when we’re overseas, so I got mine from:
It’s actually one of the more affordable ones (I compared prices against those at the airport itself, and it’s cheaper to get online in advance). The best part is that they deliver straight to your hotel/accommodation/airport before you arrive! I got the Y!mobile 3G 7.2-21Mbps unlimited data usage plan and it works out to be $7 per day. To fully maximise this unlimited usage, you can share it with up to 5 devices and the daily cost is really minimal.
Ok enough about the boring planning part, the rest of this post shall be dedicated to my short tour of Kyushu.
Due to time constraints, I visited only 2 locations in Kyushu. They are Oita Prefecture (大分県) and Fukuoka (福岡). As seen from the map, they are on the northern part of the Kyushu islands.
A short ride away from Oita city is the famous hot spring town of Beppu. It is also home to the 8 Hells (地獄 Jigoku) of Beppu. I skipped the sight-seeing and went straight to the real thing itself, the onsen. The one I went to was relatively secluded, and is actually near the “geyser hell”. It’s called Hyotan Hot Springs.
The place is definitely English friendly, so it wouldn’t be a problem even if you don’t speak Japanese. The sand bath that you have to pay an additional 300yen for is a bit over-rated in my opinion. I had to dig a hole and bury myself with sand that was barely lukewarm. The hot spring itself was better, especially with the special waterfall feature that helps to massage my neck and back.
I tried the Hot Spring Egg! Disclaimer: It tasted really normal.
After a short 1 night stay at Oita, I departed for Fukuoka, the gateway to Kyushu. I chose to do something touristy, and visited the Fukuoka Castle Ruins because it was one of the top destinations on TripAdvisor. And then I remembered why I shouldn’t trust these review websites. There was barely any ruins left to see, and the “Castle” was not recognisable at all. I guess it was good for a morning stroll if it was the Sakura season, as all I saw were wilted pink petals on the grass.
There’s also a grand mall called Canal City Hakata (キャナルシティ博多), known for its quirky architecture. If you like shopping, I guess you could check it out. The Ramen lover in me just went there for the Ramen Street on the top floor, but sadly to say it disappointed me…
However, there was something else that caught my attention. I kept seeing these two words “放題” around, and when I found out that it actually means “eat-all-you-can buffet”. I knew I had to go for it. Especially when it also comes with “飲み放題”, which means free-flow alcohol as well!
This. was. awesome.
The place is at Yodobashi-Hakata (ヨドバシ博多) 4th Floor called “焼肉の牛太”.
I know meat and highballs don’t pair well, but I couldn’t care less.
I honestly didn’t explore much of Fukuoka, and it was a shame that I had to rush off to Osaka after just 1 night here.
There’ll be more interesting food and places in the next post, including my trip to the famous Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route!