Japan, after 2 years


14-18 : Tokyo
Eat all the stuff
Buy all the stuff
Meet all the friends

18-20 : Narai-juku
Photos, hiking, hot baths

20-22 : Tsumago-juku & Magome-juku
More photos, hiking and hot baths

22-23 : Takayama and Shirakawago
Hida beef, morning market

23-25 : Kanazawa
Wet market and fresh seafood
Machiya stay

25-30 : Kyoto, day trip to Takeda Castle Ruins
Day trip to the IRL Laputa Castle in the Sky
All the touristy spots in Kyoto
Night walks and photos
Morning jogs along the river

30-1 : Osaka + USJ
Kuromon market
USJ and Harry Potter
Food, last min shopping

the Gassho Zukuri we stayed at in Ainokura


HOTELS                                                                                           COST

Tokyo – Tokyu Stay Shibuya                                                               SGD$551.10 (divided by 2)
Narai-juku – Minshuku Shimada                                                      JPY 126,000 (divided by 6)
Tsumago-juku – Fujioto Ryokan                                                       JPY 162,000 (divided by 6)
Takayama – Sumiyoshi Ryokan                                                        JPY 49,368 (divided by 6)
Kanzawa – “Kurohoro” Private Machiya Holiday House            JPY 114,000 + 10,356 + 3,000 (divided by 6)
Kyoto – Kyoto Granbell Hotel                                                           SGD$427.37 (divided by 2)
Osaka – Hotel THE FLAG Shinsaibashi                                          ?


Yoshida Kaban – Porter
Kayanoya dashi
Traveller’s Notebook
Lion cooling feet pasties
Eye warming mask
2nd hand and new camera lenses

Ninenzaka <3

[Travel] 29 April – 3 May 2015 : Bali – Seminyak, Ketewel

Bali has a ton of cafes springing up everywhere, and they all serve quality food for very affordable prices. Other than eating, there’s shopping, beach activities, spas and massages…
At night, there are pubs and bars to chill out at, with live bands to listen to, and new friends to make.
Travel and accommodation is really affordable too.
[Magic mushrooms have been banned after some incidents late last year, for the more adventurous ones, this should be a disappointment.]

All in all, Bali is becoming one of my new favourite beach destinations… And I think I’ll be planning more short trips there!


Sunrise from my Jetstar flight to Denpasar.

We took the 3am flight to Bali, and we landed around 7am. Managed to get this shot as we were descending, the rainbow effect is from my ND filter. No idea why it turned out this way, but it looks nice!
All flights to DPS now include the 180,000Rp terminal fee in the ticket charge, so you don’t need to keep your cash to pay at the airport upon departure. Yay!
I’m always short of cash at the end of a trip, so I was relieved to find out that it was already settled in the initial transaction when I purchased the ticket online.

We stayed at an airbnb apartment that cost under SGD30 a night. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/4664417
The room was a little sandy, and there wasn’t an in room dustbin. We didn’t swim in the pool, and in general didn’t spend much time there. The room lighting is a little too dim for night reading.
Wifi is good, there’s hot water and a large changing room/balcony/back area.
No frills place, that’s a good price for budget travellers. Spacious and walking distance to the local market where you can get your sim cards, local food and provisions.

First food stop of the day – Naughty Nuri’s.
You might like to know that it’s now called Hog Wild, apparently cos of franchising issues etc. Whatever. The food is still fantastic.
This trip, we had the ribs, pork chop, sup buntut and for dessert we had an egg custard.




The famous ribs


Pork chop


Sup buntut


Egg custard!

I was in my devourer of worlds mood where I eat and eat non stop.
So, we stopped by a satay joint and had 10 chicken satays. The peanut sauce is very thick and nutty, with hardly any chilli in it.
And further along, near the local market near our hotel, we decided to buy back a nasi goreng (fried rice) and a maggi goreng (fried instant noodles). Both of which were simply DELISH.


The next day, we visited a friend’s restaurant called “Biku”. http://bikubali.com/

It’s a yummy, affordable place, which serves local and fusion cuisine.
I especially liked the lamb, it was flavourful and cooked perfectly to bring out the flavour.
For dessert, I enjoyed the affogato which was served with a chocolate coated spoon. Yum.





Lamb with Wedges


Barramundi fillet


Goat cheese pie with salad


Sup buntut


Nasi Goreng

Random Picture :


Petrol sold by the roadside… in Absolut Vodka bottles

Over in Seminyak, there’s a place called The Library that has the most yummy food ever.
I’m really not kidding, I usually hate pastas with capsicums in them, but I ate up every last bit of this one. It doesn’t look very tasty, but trust me, the flavours will explode in your mouth.
The garlic prawns were so good too. Juicy and fragrant… every single bite is heaven…
Receipts and change are presented to you in a little shopping basket. So adorable.



Prawns with Butter Garlic


Aglio Olio


he’s actually really happy


The cheerful barristers and the bar

We happened to be in town during the famous Mayweather vs Pacquiao match too. All the bars were advertising it and offering special deals to patrons who reserved/walked to watch it.


The Bayu Gita Villa


View from the living room. The waves crash on the breakwater below, sending sprays 3-4m high, and rocking the villa with a sound like booming thunder. Apparently this is the low season, and in the high season, the waves (not just the spray) reach the swimming pool.


Beef Rendang cooked by the house chef!


Happy us in the pool. There are tons of floats left over by previous guests, but we brought our own as well, including the swan float that’s photo bombing. It’s an “infinity” pool, overlooking the wide, dark ocean. There are surfers too, but only experienced ones, since there’s lots of corals on this coast.


Sausages and bacon, with freshly squeezed orange juice for breakfast. Cooked by the house chef.


Early morning, standing on


after the foot shot, I decided to look up and shoot what I saw. And that is the living room, beyond the pool, in the early morning.


the sunrise! I’m more intrigued by the beautiful cloud formations than the sunrise itself.


welcome dance by the butler



adventuring out into the sea. The waves are strong, and there’s some debris in the water. So getting hit by the waves isn’t too fun. Cyn got hit by a floating durian shell and she ended up getting a cut on her ankle.


beautiful black sand…


another view of the villa, with all our floats!!


the afternoons were cloudy, I guess it’s the time of the year. but we still had fun in the pool!


My bedroom


The attached living room, complete with media player, TV sofa…


My personal dipping pool


the 10 seater movie theatre, with leg rests, cushions, and a wide selection of movies.

Back to Seminyak.
Asked a taxi driver to bring me to a nasi padang restaurant, and he brought me here.


I’m not really sure what I ordered, but I can tell you it was really good.
there was some dried beef with chilli, a hard boiled sambal egg, some fried prawn thing. It was really really nice and spicy. I’m dreaming of the prawn fritter daily…. It’s a must eat.




Most surfing schools will offer you free drinks in the package too.
If you don’t need an instructor, then you can get the board for about 10SGD an hour.
We decided on an instructor, and I think we paid about SGD40 total for an hour of instruction plus as long as we wanted to practise on the board. (which was roughly 1 more hour)
They provide a long sleeved top for you to use so you don’t get abrasions.


A terrible warung that we went to… this was one of the dishes. It was a tourist trap, so I don’t intend to tell you where it was. This is the garlic butter swimmer crab, and it was tiny, hardly any meat, overcooked so that the meat stuck to the shell… yeah… no. Not worth it at all.




A sunset on the beach at seminyak.


Potato Head.
It’s a slightly more expensive area, but the sunsets here are the best.
It’s always pretty crowded, there’s outdoor seating and inpool seating. lol.



Sisterfields. One of the nice cafes to go to. We didn’t manage to drop by, but our friends said the coffee was soso only.
A nice place to hang I guess!

[TRAVEL] Japan in Winter (27 Jan – 6 Feb 2015) – Osaka, Kobe, Himeji, Nara, Kyoto


Day 1 – Arrival at Kansai (12pm)
Day 2 – Rinkku Premium Outlets
Day 3 – We split into 2 groups, one went to USJ and we went to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Day 4 – Spent it sick =(
Day 5 – Himeji & Kobe
Day 6 – Move to Kyoto
Day 7 – Kiyomizudera, Yasaka Shrine, Tofu kaiseki in Gion
Day 8 – Heian Jingu, Rozan-ji Temple, Imperial Palace grounds, Yoshida Shrine
Day 9 – Arashiyama, Togetsu Bridge, Tenryu-ji Temple, Bamboo forest
Day 10 – Nara, Todai-ji Temple, Kasuga Taisha, Kofuku-ji Temple
Day 11 – Kinkaku-ji Temple, Departure from Kansai (7pm)

*** Skip to the end of this portion if you don’t want to read about the logistics***

Air Tickets : Cathay  Pacific

Travel Time : 3hrs + 3hrs, and 2 hour layover in HKIA
Cost : Roughly SGD$650 round trip

Upon reaching Osaka, get your SIM cards or pocket wifi rentals picked up at the airport.
The ordering of the SIM card of pocket wifi usually has to be done 1 week before arrival. I didn’t use this company, but you might want to take a look : http://japanwifiservice.com/en/order-guide.html .
I previously used Veltra (http://www.veltra.com/en/asia/japan/ctg/160692:wi_fi_router_rental/) and it was good and cheap. No complaints about it.
I’m never ever going to order a SIM card again because
– the data was capped at 1GB (I ordered the 4G SIM card) and ran out on the last day
– I got it to put into my Huawei device, but discovered that my device was too new and the SIM Card wasn’t compatible, so I ended up putting it in a spare mobile phone and tethering.

Osaka 3 bedroom apartment, 6 days, SGD$1000+

CHEAP AND CHEERFUL! 3BR Namba!! in Osaka

Apartment in Osaka, Japan. A great little 3 bedroom in the heart of Nipponbashi’s Den Den town. Perfect for groups of friends, small families or couples who are travelling together, this is an awesome place for those who want to be near the action but are on a budget! ***… View all listings in Osaka

We stayed at an airbnb apartment about 10mins walk from Namba station. The location is pretty decent, lots of food and sights, and 5mins walk from Kuromon Market. It has an in-suite kitchenette and washing machine, as well as 3 bedrooms; which is good if you’re travelling in a group. It was comfortable, and decent sized by Japanese standards, and a pocket wifi device was provided, as were heat packs, bath amenities, towels etc

On to the cons : the heating consisted of 3 mobile heaters – 2 blowing out hot air and 1 used heating elements… something like how a toaster works. The 2 blowing out hot air also used gas, and I was in constant fear that the hose would detatch and kill us all at night. I guess it would be ok to stay there in summer or the warmer months.
The walls are really really really thin as well. I can hear the people in the next bedroom turn around in bed, cough, mumble… This wasn’t a problem for my other travelmates, but I’m a really really light sleeper, so it bothered me quite a bit.

Almont Hotel Kyoto http://www.hokke.co.jp/english/almont_kyoto.html


I’m going to go right ahead and recommend this hotel with 5 stars.
The rooms are soundproof, clean, comfortable… the service staff are helpful and polite. Getting there from Kyoto Station is easy because the road leading to the hotel is flat, and about 10mins walk – it was easy to push suitcases and carry stuff over.
What tipped the scales in favour of a 5/5 rating from me was the public bath. It’s open in 2 shifts a day, and there’s always a steady stream of people going in and out, a testimony of how popular it is. It took a while for me to wrap my head around the idea of soaking in a hot pool with other ladies, sky clad, but I’m glad I did. There’s something therapeutic about letting the heat from the water replace the winter chill in your bones, even if it’s just for 5 minutes a night.
There’s also a Lawson across the street, and lots of food in the Station.

***          End of Logistics section           ***

Day 1 – Arrival (12pm)
Day 2 – Rinkku Premium Outlets
Day 3 – We split into 2 groups, one went to USJ and we went to Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan
Day 4 – Spent it sick =(

In Osaka, if its your first time, you might want to visit the Osaka Castle and gardens, buy a katana home and dress up as a samurai or something. We walked around dotonburi, denden town and stopped by kuromon market every day.
I planned to visit the owl cafe, but it didn’t work out because I was unwell and wasted a day.

If shopping is your thing, then the Premium Outlets is worth exploring. It’s not possible to finish all the shops in one day, so if you’re intent on combing through every single shop, you’ll probably need 2 or 3 days. I’m not a huge fan of shopping, so I could have given this a miss. It’s also only one stop from Kansai Airport, so you can plan to drop by right before you fly off.

The best part about Osaka is possibly the Kuromon Market. They sell Kobe Beef, Tuna Sashimi (ootoro, chutoro etc), soups and various other quality fresh produce, for much cheaper than restaurants.

DSC_8105 DSC_8107 DSC_8110 DSC_8113 DSC_8100

Osaka Aquarium was a nice trip. It’s not a very big exhibit, and their main tank isn’t impressive – the viewing wall is small and fragmented because the tank is a weird shape. However, they do have a resident whaleshark, which made it worthwhile. To me, at least.


A couple silhoutted against a tank of marine life.

Oh, and super cute whale shark plushies… =D


Day 5 – Himeji & Kobe

Himeji is a beautiful place. When you visit the castle (restoration works finish this month!) make sure you get the combined ticket to the Himeji kokoen too, its the castle gardens and there are something like 9 different themed gardens.

On the day this picture was taken, it was a clear day, with light snow flurries. The wind was killer, but totally worth braving for this view.


This is a little pavillion in one of the gardens, which you can sit in if you take your footwear off. Taking winter footwear off was too troublesome, and sitting around in winter jackets didn’t appeal to me, so we didn’t sit in it. There are huge ass fish in the ponds too.

It’s really quite amazing how much effort is put into landscaping and caring for the plants. Even in winter, they look beautiful, especially when a little sun highlights everything.


Unfortunately, for reasons, we didn’t get to spend much time in Kobe. We planned to reach Himeji around 11, have lunch there and explore, then move off to Kobe in the afternoon around 3, walk around and have a good  beef dinner.

We hit Kobe around 6pm and decided to try out A1. It’s not Kobe beef, but it’s still a tasty, nice steak nonetheless.

Day 6 – Move to Kyoto
Day 7 – Setsubun Festival at Kiyomizudera, Yasaka Shrine. Tofu kaiseki in Gion

One of the rare times you’ll see a Geisha/Maiko performance in public, for free!
I have to say though, that Kiyomizudera is much nicer to look at in spring. In winter, it just lacks the colours, and the snow is mostly too light to stick.


Bean throwing festival at Yasaka ShrineDSC_8296

Geisha/Maiko performanceDSC_8313 DSC_8343
Day 8 – Heian Jingu, Rozan-ji Temple, Imperial Palace grounds, Yoshida Shrine


The Largest Torii gate in Kyoto (Maybe in Japan too), Heian Jingu

I believe this is a Setsubun ritual where they take turns to drink something.


Heian Jingu




Yoshida Shrine Setsubun festival and outdoor food and games stallsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Tying the bad fortune on a tree so that it won’t follow you homeDSC_8534

Using ricepaper sieves to catch goldfishOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA DSC_8566
Day 9 – Arashiyama, Togetsu Bridge, Tenryu-ji Temple, Bamboo forest

I would love to wake up to this view every morning… Tenryu-ji Temple gardens.
We paid 600 yen to have access to the gardens as well as the temple itself. You have to take off your shoes, but it’s worth the trouble to be able to sit on the tatami mats with the warm sun in your face.


Here’s another view of the Tenryu-ji Temple, this time from the garden, directly opposite where I took the photo above.


Exiting from the Tenryu-ji Temple, you can head directly to the Bamboo forest.

Its so calm and pretty, and silent.
This is easily my new favourite location. There’s something transcendant about walking through the bamboo forest, listening to the leaves swish against each other… Except when there are drunk Korean tourists yelling at each other. After they passed through, though, it was very enjoyable.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There was a couple having a DIY wedding shoot there too. I managed to sneak some pics of the bride as she was posing. It’s a really nice location to do a shoot!


There are lots of rickshaw pullers around too. They will try to sell you their services. The people I saw taking the rides seemed to really enjoy themselves. Kiyomizudera has plenty of rickshaw pullers around too, and it might be more exciting to take a ride there because it’s on a hill. Arashiyama is pretty flat.DSC_8781

Stopped by a little kushiyaki place for dinner.

This is my ultimate favourite… a meat patty with a raw egg yolk and teriyaki sauce. mmmmmm…!

Chicken skewers, with ume and wasabi topping.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This dessert was so good that I had 2 servings. Toasted bread with vanilla ice cream and maple syrup…

To die for.

Day 10 – Nara, Todai-ji Temple, Kasuga Taisha, Kofuku-ji Temple

Nara is the place to go for animal lovers. I had my funniest experience there this trip, and it didnt just involve deer.
At Nara, you can buy deer biscuits, it’s much much cheaper if you buy in bulk, I can’t remember the exact price though. So, once you buy the biscuits, the deer will throng you, so be prepared. They can get really aggressive, especially the males. We weren’t prepared and we got butted and bitten and one pile of biscuits dropped onto the floor and all the deer were munching it up happily. They even bit our unopened cookies and plastic bags out of our hand. So, just BE READY, once the biscuits reach your hand, you’re a target.


Stay away from the males if you’re worried. A couple of them were fighting each other and their heads were bloody from repeatedly butting each other.

Males can be identified by these bottle cap looking things on their heads. There’s an annual ceremony in Nara where they remove the horns of the males.

Speaking of ceremonies and festivals, there’s a hillside burning festival every year in January, and we missed it by one weekend. It’s the 3rd or 4th weekend of every January, and it seems it’s quite a spectable.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Todai-ji Temple.

It has a pair of little golden horns on top, and plenty of deer milling around.DSC_8852

In the inner temple grounds, there are no deer, and you have to pay to enter.

This temple houses the largest buddah statue, and it’s really quite huge.DSC_8865

On the way to the next temple, Kasuga Taisha, I decided it was safe because there were few deer around, and I opened up a dumpling to eat. As I took my second bite, a huge crow flew over from behind and plucked the dumpling right out of my hand. I was kind of dismayed, cos I was quite hungry, but pretty amused at the same time.

So, just beware of other animals, other than deer!


Managed to trot over to Kofuku-ji Temple as the last few rays of the setting sun shone on it, making it look peachy.


Some school girls getting harrassed by deer at Todai-jiOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And a well earned dinner at the market near the Nara train Station.
The beef sukiyaki was delicious, and the homemade tofu too. I’m still dreaming of the yummy flavours…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Day 11 – Kinkaku-ji Temple, Departure (7pm)

On the last trip, I visited the Silver Pavillion Temple (Ginkaku-ji), but unfortunately, it wasn’t a sunny day and the temple didn’t look that great. I discovered the difference even a little bit of sunlight makes to these temples at Kinkaku-ji this year. The exterior practically glows and comes alight, as though it has some kind of power source within it. It’s gorgeous.


The entrance to Kinkaku-jiDSC_9026

Some shots of the temple, from different angles



Along the main road, there’s a little restaurant serving what looks like fusion cuisine. This meal summed up everything I was craving for the whole trip – Japanese Curry, Raw Egg and coffee.
The curry and egg baked rice was awesome, and I think it was my favourite meal there.

The coffee was soso, a nicer coffee would have made the meal even more enjoyable.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


Places and things I missed doing this trip, which I would like to do next time!

– A good Japanese kaiseki meal
– A stay at a traditional ryokan
– An outdoor onsen
– Fushimi Inari Temple
– Owl Cafe
– A longer time in Kobe, and a proper Kobe beef meal
– Visit the snow monkeys at Arashiyama
– Rent a bicycle



[Click inage to check out the official dota2 blog post!]

TI5 is going to be upon us soon, and it’s never too soon to start planning a trip, because… cheaper air tickets!
I’ve been to all the TIs since 2012, and I’ve had quite a few people asking me about how much it would be and what to expect etc, so I thought I’d do up a post for people to refer to. I travel from Singapore to Seattle, and I prefer going by the Pacific Ocean route.

If you have any questions, or anything more that you’d like me to elaborate on, just comment and I’ll either reply, or add on in this post!

Expenses (At least SGD3,000, excluding food and expenses)
Air Tickets : SGD1,800 – 2,400
Accommodation : SGD800 for slightly more than a week
Local transport : Airport transfer – roughly USD 60 each way
Food : 20USD per meal
Admission : Estimate 200USD
Secret Shop stuff : up to you
Visa : SGD20

Air Tickets
I’ve travelled by Emirates, Delta and JAL. All of them have pros and cons.
I will personally try Asiana or Eva air next. I’m not keen on travelling in from Europe again though because that’s one big round.
I’d suggest that you get an international flight straight into (and out of) Seattle, rather than a flight into another USA airport followed by a domestic flight to Seattle, simply because I’ve had really bad experiences taking domestic flights. I had to wait 7 hours because my connecting domestic flight was cancelled, and on another trip, I had to wait overnight at another airport for my connecting flight after I was 10mins late for physical check in (I checked in online already ffs…)
I usually check out prices on skyscanner.com

I do recommend that you book really early, especially if you’re planning on getting a good location, or a popular hotel. August is the best part of summer in Seattle, and lots of people travel in during that period. If 2015 is going to be similar, the players stay at Bellevue for the group stages, and shift over to Seattle for the finals. If you’re only planning to go for the final event, then get a place in Seattle because travelling from Bellevue to Seattle is about 40mins each way. Bellevue is a really nice town though.
For TI4, I bunked in with 3 other people at an Airbnb apartment, and it cost us roughly 800 per person for more than a week.

Local Transport
Walking gets you almost everywhere in Seattle. I have walked from Key arena all the way to Pike Place, and back. In general, walking is friendly, the town is quite flat, weather is usually good during that period, save for some drizzles. The only transport you will have to budget for would be taxi to and from the airport.

Food in Seattle is GOOD. Oysters are great and I like eating their French cuisine. There’s a great variety for you to choose from, but do make sure to keep some of your budget and appetite for the famous Pike’s Place Chowder.
If you’re on a budget, there’s always the supermarket where you can get instant noodles or if your apartment has a kitchennette, you can do some basic cooking.

I’d suggest that you put aside a little more budget for admission, because ticket sales go really fast, and if you miss the release timeslot, you might have to pay a little more to get them off the black market. There might be different tiers of tickets as well, but I think a ticket on the black market was going for around 250 last year.

Secret Shop Stuff
I have never spent a cent on purchasing physical Secret Shop items, but I do know of people who spent thousands and thousands buying stuff for resale and such. You CAN survive the trip without spending a single cent there, and without queueing a single minute. But, WILL YOU?

Singaporeans are exempt from this, but you will still need to apply for an ESTA, which is a travel authorisation. I normally do so at this link https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ and it remains valid for 2 years.
Some other sites charge more, I’m not sure why. So I just stick to this one. Approval is more or less instant, and you don’t need it to buy your air tickets. So, you can delay application until the day before you fly or so. (If you’re worried, then just apply earlier. After experiencing the process once, you’ll be clearer the next time.)

Places to Visit
– Pike’s Place, especially on a weekend. Eat the food (the chowder!), check out the first ever Starbucks.
– Aquarium and seaside walk. If you have some extra time to kill.
– Macy’s, Nordstrom etcetc. Lots of US brands downtown.
– The nearest LAN shop is very far away, and it’s called Game Clucks that’s over at 3333 184th St SW, Suite D, Lynnwood, Washington 98037. Here’s their facebook page, in case you REALLY need to play. https://www.facebook.com/GameClucksLynnwood I’d suggest just bringing your own laptop and using a wifi connection somewhere.
– the Space Needle, which was made more famous by InFamous.

Climate, Clothes etc
I’m chilled easily, but Seattle in the summer has really nice weather. TI4 was in July, and it wasn’t at it’s peak yet, but since it will be in August this year, you probably won’t see anything but blue skies and hot sun everyday. You should pack some extra warmer stuff in case though!
On a good, sunny day, I can go out in shorts and a long sleeved shirt, and a light jacket/cardigan.
On a moderately cold day (cloudy, no rain, but not much sun either), I’d be in jeans, a camisole with a long sleeved shirt over, and I’ll carry a hoodie for good measure. If it’s raining and cold, I’ll add a pair of tights/leggings under my jeans, and take a thicker jacket with a scarf.

TI 2012


TI 2013


TI 2014

The stage booths are, if I’m not wrong, the same ones that they used in TI2 and TI3. So, no banana, but you can use the booths for scale!

[TRAVEL] Planned Itinerary : Japan in Winter (27 Jan – 6 Feb 2015) – Osaka, Kobe, Himeji, Nara, Kyoto

Mitaka-shi, Tokyo


Yasaka Shrine, Kyoto

The Philisopher’s Walk, Kyoto

Tsukiji Market Omakase Chirashi Don


Although I just went to Japan last year, it felt like I had only scratched the surface of what this amazing country had to offer. I have heard that Japan looks different in every season, and until I have seen it myself, I won’t be satisfied. So I’m really happy to be able to go back so soon, and in Winter, this time. I’m hoping for a little snow too. =D

I didn’t write about my 2014 Spring trip to Japan, so I’ll give a rough outline before I talk about my planning for this year’s Winter trip.

*** Skip this portion if you’re only interested in my planning for Osaka/Kyoto!***

Last year, this was my rough itinerary (29 March to 13 April 16D15N) and you can check out some facebook photos here or you can take a look at my Flickr album here :
Tokyo – Hakone – Tokyo – Shin Osaka – Kyoto – Tokyo.

For the first sector – Tokyo Hakone Tokyo, we kept a room at Hotel Mystays Kamata open from 29 March to 4th April and took a 2D1N trip to Hakone (Hotel Daihakone) and Odawara (2-3 April), leaving most of our luggage there. I highly recommend Mystays Kamata. The location is good, the rooms are beautiful and sound proof and the bed is so comfortable.
Hotel Daihakone was, in my opinion, a little too pricey. It was roughly 210USD (2pax) for 1 night, including dinner and breakfast. The room was huge though, and faced a golf course. It wasn’t very sound proof, and our neighbours were up at 6am watching TV, which wasn’t too pleasant for me because I’m a very light sleeper. The onsen was quite enjoyable though, partly because I fortunately went when there was no one else using it. I might have felt a little too self conscious if there were other people using it too.
If you have time, there are many attractions to check out around Hakone too, including the Little Prince Museum, and the ropeway (cable car).
We took the Hakone Tozan Railway line up, and it was quite an experience.
On our way back to Tokyo, we stopped off at Odawara to have lunch and check out the castle. Do check it out and take a walk around the town, it’s worth spending a couple of hours there.

Next, the Shin-Osaka/Kyoto part of the trip.
On the 4th, we checked out and took the Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka Hotel Washington which I wouldn’t highly recommend – the bed wasn’t very comfortable and the walls were really thin and not sound proof. It was very affordable though, and if you’re not too picky, it serves it’s purpose.
Staying at Shin-Osaka was a recommendation made by a friend because hotels there are cheaper than in Osaka and Kyoto, and both are accessible by Shinkansen or train which are about 15minutes away. If price of accommodation is a big factor for you, you can do this too. We had the JR pass which we used to travel to Kyoto daily.
The first day, after travelling there and checking in there wasn’t much time left, so we decided to explore Osaka. We had dinner in Namba, and walked around window shopping, and shopping. On the 5th and 6th, we spent most of our time in Kyoto.
We are pretty relaxed travellers, so we don’t rush around to see one attraction after another. We prefer to savour the sights, sounds and flavours and walk around getting lost in the culture. So in Kyoto, we only went to Kiyomizudera, Ginkaku-ji, The Philosopher’s Walk, the Imperial Palace, Yasaka Shrine and Gion (in particular, Hanamikoji Dori).

On the 7th, we checked out and went back to Tokyo where we rented an apartment from Airbnb from the 8-12 April. Our host was extremely helpful and even gave us a pocket wifi to use while we were there. Here’s the listing if you’re interested! The apartment is located in Sangenjaya in a quiet, pleasant estate with lots of hipster cafes and restaurants. It’s not very near to the nearest train station, so expect to drag your suitcase for a distance! Also, there is no lift, and if I’m not wrong, the apartment is on the 3rd floor. It was a very pleasant apartment though, and I would definitely stay there again if I had the chance to.

My most memorable Tokyo attractions that we visited are – Ghibli Museum, Kabukicho, Tsukiji Fish Market, Ueno Park and Odaiba. Other areas I explored – Meji Jinggu, Shibuya, Omotesando, Harajuku, Roppongi…
(I might do a more indepth post about my Spring 2014 trip in future. If I do, I’ll link it here.)


Winter 2015 Itinerary

So, well, as you can see, I spent a lot of time in Tokyo on my previous trip, and I realised that I really wished I had had more time in Kyoto/Osaka. As vibrant and interesting as Tokyo is, my most memorable meal was in Osaka, and I simply loved everything about Kyoto.

So, this time round, we will be going to explore Osaka and Kyoto a little more.

The first thing you should do when visiting Japan, is to check out the dates of festivals or special occassions. I discovered that 24 Jan is the date when they set the Nara hillsides on fire, and if the weather is bad, they’ll shift it to the 31st. 2-4th Feb is Setsubun, which is the welcoming of Spring festival where they chase misfortune away.

With these dates in mind, it was easy to plan the trip.

27th – fly into KIX (Kansai Airport, Osaka) 12.15pm, Owl Cafe, Abeno Harukas
28th – Day trip to Kobe/Himeji
29th & 30th – Premium Outlet, Universal Studios Japan, Osaka Aquarium
31st – Nara
1st – Check out, last visits in Osaka, move to Kyoto.
2nd to 4th – Experience Setsubun at the different temples in Kyoto (using this as a guide) – Yasaka Shrine [MUST GO! Will have performing Maiko], Rozanji Temple, Yoshida Shrine, Suga Shrine, Heian Shrine, Fushimi Inari Taisha
5th – Kyoto Hirogawara (skiing)
6th – return to Singapore (710pm flight from KIX)

Other places in Kyoto to visit :
Arashiyama, Kurama & Kibune, Kyoto Tower, Kinkaku-ji
Eigamura, Kabuki Show, Nishiki Market