Japan Trip: Osaka & Tateyama Leg 24th April – 3rd May 2015

I’m back to blog about my trip to Japan several months ago. This second part will be on Osaka (food) and Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route (scenery). These two places are actually not near each other, so I was maximising my JR Pass to travel to farther places.

Osaka to Tateyama

The biggest deterrence for most people is the time taken and cost of the journey there, but I’ll go into details later.

This is my second time to Osaka, and the streets of Namba still impress me. If I were to stay here, I’ll be a chubby boy in a couple of months. There’s just so much food to eat, and the nightlife here is so much better than Singapore.

My hotel is a 5 minutes walk from the main Namba shopping area and it was super convenient! Osaka Floral Inn Namba was about $125 a night when I booked it during the golden week holidays. It’s a little run-down and the room is not nicely decorated/modern, but I guess I’m just paying for the location here.

http://www.agoda.com/en-sg/osaka-floral-inn-namba/hotel/osaka-jp.html

When you visit Singapore, you got to have Chilli Crab. Same rule applies when you’re in Osaka, you must have an Okonomiyaki! I had my serving from Chibo restaurant, just a bit further down from that famous “crab restaurant”.

http://chibo.com/

I was greedy as usual, so I ordered both the Okonomiyaki and the Yakisoba to try.

Okonomiyaki

Yakisoba

If you’re interested in seeing the chef in action, please watch below!

Verdict: I should have just stuck to the Okonomiyaki. It was too filling to have both. The Yakisoba was good, but not worth my limited stomach space.

One cannot simply walk across Dotonbori bridge without impersonating Glico Man.

Glico Man

As mentioned previously in my Osaka post 2 years ago, Pablo cheese tarts are worth the queue for. This time when I got there, Pablo introduced new flavours like Matcha (my favourite) Cheese Tart! It was so good because they combined 2 of my favourite ingredients together.

Matcha Pablo Cheese Tart

I decided to be a little touristy and scheduled a visit to the Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan (海遊館) to look at fishes and their famous whale shark.

http://www.kaiyukan.com/language/eng/index.html

Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan

Entrance to the aquarium costs 2,300 yen, and you get to see the star of Osaka’s aquarium – the majestic Whale Shark. The sheer size of the glass enclosure is enough to impress, not to mention this beast swimming inside.

Whale Shark

The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan is located on an island near the heart of Osaka, and is easily accessible by the Chuo Line (Osaka-Ko Station).

If you still have some time left in Osaka, do visit the vibrant Shinsekai (新世界) district and try the Kushikatsu (deep-fried skewers) from Daruma!

Daruma Kushikatsu

There are many bright 3D signboards that are sure to capture your attention, and they are also great for taking photos!

Shinsekai Osaka

By now if you haven’t already gone to an onsen during your Japan trip, it is recommended to drop by Spa World that is conveniently situated at the end of Shinsekai. It is a huge multi-storey onsen complex.

http://www.spaworld.co.jp/english/service.html

I went there 2 years ago, and I thoroughly enjoyed it with the various European and Asian themed onsen. No pictures here for obvious reasons haha. They alternate the onsen for males and females every month throughout the year, so you have to go at least twice to try out all of them.

After Osaka, I embarked on my journey to the Snow Corridor at Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route. Open to pedestrians for only a few weeks every year, you can traverse a path that has up to 20 metres of snow on your left and right.

Selfie

It is a long and expensive journey, but the experience there was well worth it. Here is an extract of the different modes of transport you have to take just to enjoy the view. The total cost for my two-way trip turned up to be more than $70 (non-JR) even though I travelled from Osaka Station to Toyama Station with my JR Rail Pass. Here’s a simplified route map.

Alpine Route

Don’t worry it is not the same cable car as Sentosa-Mt. Faber, instead it looks like this.

Tateyama cable car

The section with the snow corridor that you can walk and take pictures will be at Murodo, 2450m above sea level. You can either choose to continue on the journey all the way through, or make a turn back to Toyama. I chose the latter because it’s faster and cheaper to do so, and it was getting dark already.

Snow Corridor

Do note that because I travelled from Osaka, I took more than half a day to reach Murodo and barely had 30 mins to cam-whore and selfie till my heart’s content. It is advisable to factor in much more travelling time, especially since these local transport may run once every 30 mins or once every hour.

View at 2450m above sea level

A very good guide to do your research if you want to go to Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route will be at http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e7550.html

Hope you enjoyed this second part of my Japan Trip 2015!

Do read my the first part here – Click here!

and also watch out for the third and final part in the coming weeks~

 

Japan Trip: Fukuoka Leg 24th April – 3rd May 2015

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.

JR 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:

http://japan-wireless.com/

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.

Oita and Fukuoka Map

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.

http://www.hyotan-onsen.com/english/

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.

Hyotan Hot Spring

I tried the Hot Spring Egg! Disclaimer: It tasted really normal. 

Hyotan Hot Spring Egg

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.

Fukuoka Castle Ruins

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…

Canal City Hakata

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”.

http://www.yodobashi-hakata.com/restaurant/restaurant_gyut.html

Yakiniku Buffet

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!