Goodbye peace & quiet; hello crazy!

We had our last breakfast at the ryokan this morning. Bittersweet, as I knew that meant we would soon be leaving the ryokan and the town. The level of service here was second to none, we had such an enjoyable stay.

99BF430C-DC7A-42D1-A3D7-EC2D50C160F2
Our last breakfast at Yudanaka Yumoto

We made the trek to Tokyo this morning, catching three trains to make it to our next abode: the Godzilla Hotel in Shinjuku! It’s actually called Hotel Gracery, but whatevs, Godzilla is here! 😂

One of the trains we caught had rather fancy schmancy toilets. They had THREE different types of toilets AND a multi-purpose room. And there was a powder room! The multi-purpose room was locked, so I don’t know what “multi-purpose” actually means. I couldn’t go into the men’s toilet, obviously, but the other two rooms were immaculate. And both had a baby chair and a nappy change area. The country is very good with this, the western world could learn a thing or two from Japan. Hahaha ever since JLP’s visit to SG a few weeks ago, I am now much more aware of baby facilities for parents! 😊

In comparison to where we were just staying, our room in this hotel is TINY. It is smaller than the living area in our room in the ryokan! I feel very cramped 😒 I guess the point is you’ll be out and about during the day, only to return to the hotel to sleep. But still!

We went to the samurai museum after checking in. That was actually pretty cool, and I learnt a thing or two about Japan’s history while we were there. They give multiple tours in English every 10-20 minutes, so the guides all speak pretty good English. I don’t know if you have to join the group or if you can just wander around the museum on your own, but I think it’s better if you join the tour anyway, because you learn more about the samurai history than what you will get just wandering around on your own. You can walk around afterwards anyway, if you want to stick around for longer and revisit some of the exhibits that you’re particularly interested in. The tour took about an hour, and then you can try on some traditional garb afterwards if you like.

B72F6464-D2CA-4F1E-92EA-6066089AEA50 The Robot Restaurant was the highlight of the day for me, though. The best way I can describe this is it’s a one- to one-and-a-half hours of sensory overload; a performance of dancing and singing, with a number of robots being part of the performance, and a lot of Japanese culture infused throughout the entire show. The whole experience was totally crazy, so surreal, and so bizarre that I don’t know whether I liked it or not! I would say yes, for those same reasons! 😂 This video gives you just a small snippet of the crazy insane experience. Only in Tokyo 😂

Advertisements

Last day in the peaceful, sleepy towns of Shibu Onsen and Yudanaka

We took our time to get ready this morning, requesting for a later breakfast time of 8:30am. And we got one plate of rice and one plate of bread, as I had requested! Yayyy! Even with my simple Japanese and no doubt crappy grammar, I still conveyed that correctly 👍

The spread was slightly different today, but still just as much food. I love the fish that they served today. I’ve had it once for lunch during this trip, and it has a few bones, but the deliciousness of its meat more than makes up for this inconvenience.

376E8BE6-E8BC-4B1F-9621-B9B55D8ADAB3
This morning’s breakfast spread, just as impressive (and delicious!) as yesterday’s 😋

N has a bit of a cold, so he wanted to use the hot baths again after breakfast, to help make him feel better. But apparently the bathrooms are closed for cleaning during the day. While we were coming to this realisation, the owner had quickly come over to apologise for the inconvenience – and quickly switched on the lights for the male bathroom, and said that we could use it together if we wanted to. So she was apologising to us, even though we were inconveniencing THEM! Talk about mega-politeness!

We walked over to the nearby town for a more thorough walk through. It turned out that there wasn’t much more to the town from what we saw yesterday: we finished walking through the town in about two hours, including taking photos and visiting the Otozan Onsen-ji temple. And the town that we’re staying at is pretty much the same size. So it’s the perfect place to go if you want to relax and get away from the crazy busy large cities.

We went back to the ryokan to drop off some stuff, before going out for lunch. The ryokan owner said to have the sweets in our room, and I said we’ll have them later when we return. We thought he was talking about the chocolates that were on the table in the room when we first checked in that we haven’t yet eaten, but when we came back, we discovered that they had BOUGHT us two slices of cake! OMG! They are just the nicest, most generous people! I’m disappointed that I can’t express my appreciation eloquently enough in Japanese to let them know how much I have appreciated their level of service these past few days. In a way, I’m a little sad that we’re checking out tomorrow, because we’ve really enjoyed our stay here. Until today, I think we’ve been the only guests in the hotel the entire time!

 

After having our final dinner in Yudanaka, we went and had our final bath in the onsen, and packed for tomorrow. I’m a bit sad that we will be leaving so soon 😔 I really want my Japanese to have improved next time we come to Japan, so I can express myself better with the ryokan owners!

On a side note, I wonder how much Chinese I can remember when we return to Singapore… I have been in full-on Japanese mode these past few weeks that whenever I see a familiar Chinese  character now, the Japanese pronunciation comes to mind. Is it possible to learn both concurrently?? Has anyone done this or in fact doing this right now, I wonder. Maybe I’ll do a Google search… 😊

Jigokudani Snow Monkey Park and other adventures

We managed to get to breakfast just a few minutes past 7:30am. I seriously thought it would be a total struggle to get there on time, but it was actually ok. I guess it helps when you get to bed early the previous evening! 😊 We had this whole room to ourselves, and the breakfast spread was huge! It took us maybe 45 minutes, but we actually managed to get through most of it, amazingly.

B7736B1C-1D8E-4B0F-A8BD-6EFDCBCCF904.jpeg
I think there was a bit of miscommunication about the rice and the bread… We meant either is fine, not to be served both – oooops! I asked (in Japanese) for just one of each for tomorrow’s breakfast. Let’s see how effective my Japanese was… lol

N was putting on his furoshiki shoes and the ryokan owner seemed to disapprove, and started looking for shoes that he deemed more appropriate for trekking up to the snow monkey park. The ryokan owners seemed to think that his furoshiki shoes would get wet and dirty in the snow-covered trails up at the snow monkey park. So they lent him some sneakers, which was really nice of them. They seem to have a whole cupboard full of boots and shoes for such situations, which I thought was a really nice service that they provide to their guests.

He then drove us up to the snow monkey park, right up to as far as cars are allowed to go. There were patches of snow still on the ground as we we drove up, so I was fearing the cold weather up there. He dropped us off and just before he left, he told us to be careful as the ground may be slippery. So nice! We walked the remainder of the way, another half hour or so of relatively easy walking. The trail leading up to the park is 1.6km, and no toilet facilities along the way. There were a few stairs at the start and at the end of the trail, and the last few leading up to the park itself were quite steep, but overall, a much easier walk than I expected it to be. Maybe coz it wasn’t covered in snow! ❄️ You do start feeling the drop in temperature, as you get closer to the park, as you walk higher and higher up into the mountains. But again, you don’t really feel this as you’re walking up, as the trail is relatively flat.

4F2E073B-F09B-433C-8B39-4775CB5ADD26.jpeg
Part of the 1.6km trail leading up to the snow monkey park
62463C4C-5485-48F2-BC8F-CF0DC50937F4.jpeg
Such a beautiful area

But once you get to the park, you may be in total freezation land, but the monkeys are just so cuuuute! While we were up there, for maybe 2 hours from roughly 9-11am, the temperature stayed at around 1°C. And I chose to leave my gloves at the ryokan inn. omg hahaha That was another stupid decision of mine this trip. Ah well. You live and learn.

Entry is ¥800 per adult, and you get to wander around the small park and take as many photos and videos as you like of the monkeys. You can walk around the entire park in maybe 5 minutes, but you can spend the entire morning or afternoon watching the monkeys play, eat, and just sit in their little onsen, oblivious to all the humans around them. We could have stayed longer if we weren’t slowly freezing to death outside hahahahaha

FEFBDF76-1CF3-401F-AD32-A7DB0934C92F
This is the bath where the snow monkeys like to soak to stay warm, and where all those professional photos of them are taken

There is a small room at the entrance that has a small souvenir shop, toilets, and some information on the snow monkeys. But more importantly for us this morning, it was HEATED inside! Hahaha So we probably spent half an hour in that little room, just thawing out, and mentally preparing ourselves to head back out of the park and down back the 1.6km trail 😂

You can’t eat along the trail nor in the park, as the monkeys apparently start pestering you for your food. There are a few places that offered food in the area, but there is also Enza Cafe just at the start of the trail, where you can grab a bite to eat or just a drink just before or after your visit to the snow monkey park.

We decided to walk back to our ryokan inn afterwards, and walked through the nearby town, Shibu Onsen. It was a bit of a walk back, but it was scenic, and we discovered a Buddhist temple along the way. On a separate note, look how beautiful the sky was today! 😲

E9D33E46-1C43-414A-846E-C31759FC6FF1
This bronze statue at Daihiden temple is dedicated to world peace

Dinner was another adventure, looking for some place in town that’s actually open. More people were out wandering around today compared to yesterday, so maybe we were just a tad early for dinner yesterday. But the town in general is quiet. I wonder if there is ever a busy period. Maybe during winter when there is snow?

We decided to have a later bath tonight, after the bathrooms have been switched, which happens after 9pm. I wanted to try the outdoor bath, which N told me about yesterday. Men had the outdoor bath earlier, and it switches over for women to use after 9pm. This other bathroom had the hot and ridiculous hot baths as well, but in addition, it also has the outdoor bath. I went into the hot bath first, before going outside for the outdoor one. I figured by being warm already from the indoor bath, I wouldn’t really feel the cold when I stepped outdoors. Good move 👍 The outdoor bath is niiiice. It’s so relaxing sitting in this heated bath, with the cool air hitting your face and arms, surrounded by trees, and the moon lit up in the sky. I could’ve sat there for longer, if the bath wasn’t so hot 😆 I didn’t try going from the hot to the ridiculous hot bath, though, as I suggested yesterday. Tomorrow, perhaps? 😊

 

 

On trains all day!

* Update: photos now uploaded, yayyy!

* Note: I will upload photos another time when my phone decides to cooperate with me. I think I’ve dropped it one too many times, and the touchscreen only works intermittently now 😔

We caught the shinkansen from Shin-Osaka to Nagano today, with a change at Nagoya. Their train system is truly amazing, with the intricate subway systems in the large cities and the Shinkansen system connecting the whole country, all happily co-existing together. It’s a whole labyrinth, yet so well signed in multiple languages, and with a bit of map and signage reading and asking station attendants for some assistance now and then, you eventually figure it out. The station attendants are all very helpful, although they speak very limited English and aren’t the most happy of people (probably coz they’re sick of hearing the same questions over and over again from lost tourists 😂).

Once we were on the train from Nagoya, I had a feeling that we would be going into an area of Japan where English would be even more limited compared to the larger cities. Full-on focus needed again for the next few days! 🤓

After about six hours on various trains, we finally made it to Yudanaka, one of the towns close to the snow monkeys! When we got off the train, we were pleasantly surprised to see that someone from the traditional ryokan inn that we staying at was there to pick up guests from the station! Does he head over to the train station EVERY time a train comes? Or he just waits there until all their expected guests arrive?? Omg, such dedication! And we were just discussing whether we were happy to walk the odd 500m from the station to the ryokan, when the ryokan owner (I’m guessing he’s the owner) just answered that question for us!

The ryokan was so pretty! As I expected, they spoke very limited English, so I had to pull out as much Japanese as I could. And I had my longest conversation in Japanese today, omg. I was so impressed with myself. We were just sorting out breakfast time, where breakfast was served, and what time the ryokan owner would drive us to the snow monkey park tomorrow (again, such service!) and how to get back to the ryokan afterwards by bus. So just general stuff, but it was almost all in Japanese!! Omg totally insane. Makes me want to start learning Japanese formally again 🤓

After settling in to our room, we decided to wander around the small town. It was already dark by the time we left, and it was freezing. It looked like everything was either closed or not yet open, coz we were walking around probably around 5-5:30pm on a Monday night. So I was getting a bit concerned that we may be eating convenience food from the local 7-Eleven tonight hahaha But we eventually came across this quaint little place, and unintentionally ordered a TON of food. We ordered a few side dishes, but their side dishes were huge! But we still somehow managed to eat it all 😋

C2C8DED3-0317-4953-A64F-A34E668BB4D3.jpeg

And when we went to go pay, they gave us a little memento of our visit. So sweeeeet!

Our ryokan inn has the traditional bathroom, where you have to shower first before soaking in the bath. I don’t know if I followed the seemingly complex process correctly, but I did the best I could, based on their written instructions 😊 They had two baths in the women’s room when I was there: one bath was warm, which they call “low temperature”, which was really nice in this cold weather. And the other one was ridiculously hot! Hahahha It had no label, but that’s what I’d put at the front of that bath, sheesh. I went in that one first and couldn’t handle the heat, so I just soaked in the “low temperature”one. Maybe I needed to work up to it. I’ll try tomorrow, maybe 😊

So during that stressful Japanese conversation earlier, we agreed that we’d have breakfast at 7:30am tomorrow. Omg. Wish me luck with that!🤣

Osaka week – Sunday

I was mega tired this morning again. Maybe the excitement and craziness over the past week finally caught up with me. I headed over to the karate comp around 11:45am – only to encounter the Osaka marathon runners running near the stadium where the karate comp was being held. So I ended up having to walk around the long way to get to the stadium. I bought my lunch while I was making this detour, and just ate it in the stands in the stadium 😊

Kata was on when I first arrived, then weapons followed straight after. I just so happened to be right in front of the mat where the experts were competing. Well that’s what I’m calling them, coz the next mat over, in comparison to them, had the rabble 😆 Relatively speaking, of course, because I think the competitors across the two mats were all black belts. I don’t know much about karate, but even I could tell how amazing this guy was:

Kumite was in the afternoon, and the kids were first up. They were soooo cute! These guys were so young that they didn’t even have to wear the head gear, probably because they won’t really do any damage to their fellow competitors. Hahaha cuuute!

After the comp, I made my way to Umeda and visited the Umedakita Garden. It was already dark by the time I arrived, so I couldn’t really appreciate the place. There was a ¥1,000 entry fee, which was a bit of a waste. Definitely would have preferred to go during the day, because it did look like it would look quite impressive during the day.

Umedakita Garden in the evening

I then headed over to the observatory deck at the Umeda Sky Building. I was expecting it to be total freezation up there, since the rooftop area was all open, and also that it would be packed as. But despite the long queue for the lifts to get up there, the observation deck itself wasn’t too bad. Nor was it too cold either! I was pleasantly surprised.

View from Kuchu Teien Observatory #1
View from Kuchu Teien Observatory #2
Christmas wish trees down in the area below the observation deck

I paid ¥100 to get my fortune before I went back down 😊 There was a German theme festival happening down at the bottom of the building, and had a quick bite to eat there before I went back to the apartment to pack. We’re leaving Osaka tomorrow morning, how sad. We’re halfway through our holiday already 😔

Osaka week – Saturday

After the crazy early morning start for me yesterday, I was pretty dead this morning, and only managed to get up sometime after 9am hahaha 😴

I ended up having a pretty relaxing day in the end, just walking around Shinsaibashi-suji street.

I stopped by the cat cafe MoCHA for an hour. They didn’t speak any English, but they had these flash cards to give you the rundown on what you need to know while you’re in the cafe. The place was really well designed, both for people and for the cats. And there were so many cats! And they were very friendly 🐈

I was lucky enough to be there when they had a feed, so I got a photo of a whole heap of them when they were gathered all in the one spot.

Look at them all, scrambling for food hahaha

After that, I walked around a few of the department stores. Takashimaya here is sooo much bigger than the one in Singapore! 😲 Feels like we barely have a fraction of the size of the one here in Osaka. Crazy huge.

And just before I was going to meet up with N and a few of the other guys from karate, I found this awesome cafe place just off Shinsaibashi-suji.

Entrance to Graffiti at street level. Even I had to crouch a little to get through this door!

You had to walk through the tiny little doorway to get to the lift lobby, and you take the lift up to the third floor. Once there, you’re in this cafe that sorta has a bit of a jazz bar feel to it.

Entrance to the cafe
img_3700
They were showing a James Bond film!

I think their smoking area is in a totally different room, which is a godsend for non smokers like me. This is one of the things that I cannot get used to. After having lived in Australia and now Singapore where smoking has been banned indoors for virtually all my life, this one aspect of Japanese society is just totally strange for me. So this complete separation was fantastic to see in this place 👍

I think this was the room for smokers – completely separate from the non-smokers! Yippee!

The walls are all covered with album covers from decades ago, and they have an in-house DJ. You can put in requests to have certain songs played from their extensive collection, with songs in both English and Japanese (I didn’t look out for other languages that may be in their collection too). It is so cool!

The list of songs in their collection. All of which is in that little iPad in the middle of the table. Sign of the times.

Again, no English menu nor do the staff that I spoke to know much (if any) English, so I had to rely on my very basic Japanese speaking and reading skills 😲 But you’ve gotta use the language to learn it, right? Even if I’m making a bajillion mistakes, at least I’m trying and somewhat successfully getting my message across!

I think tomorrow will be pretty chillaxed too. There is a karate competition on tomorrow, and I may just drop by and watch a few rounds, and see how it’s really done 😆

I can’t believe it’s our last day in Osaka tomorrow. The week has gone by very quickly, as holidays always tend to go!

Osaka week – Friday

I decided to go to Osaka Aquarium today. As with all popular tourist attractions, people always say to go very early or very late to avoid the crowds. So even though I’m not a morning person, I decided to do the former 😲 And surprisingly, I did it! Hahaha The Aquarium opens at 10am and I got there just a few minutes past 10!! Yes, I surprised myself too 🤣 I even went to the Information Centre to buy my ticket, and I still made it to the Aquarium pretty much by 10am. Impressive start to the day.

There was already a massive queue at 10am, but because I bought the Osaka Aquarium day pass, which gives me unlimited access to the subway trains and city buses for the rest of the day, I could just walk straight in. Woohoo! Awesome start to the day 👍

So many things in Japan are so cuuuute! Even this ticket!

The aquarium was actually quite good. The layout of the place is pretty cool: you basically start on the 8th floor, and as you walk through the aquarium, you’re basically spiralling down towards the lowest level without you even feeling it. You only know because the largest tank in the aquarium cuts across multiple levels, and your view of it just gets lower and lower. You never actually feel it. It’s pretty cool.

Pacific Ocean Tank at Osaka Aquarium

Afterwards, I wandered around Tempozan Marketplace right next door. And I stumbled across a Sanrio shop! Omg the cutest place ever!! I wanted everything in the shop! 🤣

Cuteness overload omg

I saw the Tempozan Ferris wheel this morning when I first got to the area. It was so impressive that I decided that I was going to go on it today 😃 it was quite fun, even if I had to wait in the queue for longer than the ride itself hehehe Although I did decide to join the queue for a “see-through” cabin, where the queue was 10x as long as for the standard cabin with maybe 1/5 the number of cabins 😊

Tempozan Ferris wheel during the day

I then went back to Tempozan Marketplace and stumbled across this small petting zoo of sorts inside! So of course I had to go in 😊 So cuuuuute!

An alpaca!
These guys have got the right idea 😂
img_3447
Look at its grumpy face!
img_3439-1
Not sure why this one needed to wear a nappy… Hope it’s ok…

I then went and had a quick linner in the foodcourt, then dessert at this cute Japanese green tea place. I had no idea how to eat this crepe, so I just ate it like an ice cream haha🍦

Mixed fruits and cream wrapped in a green tea crepe

And can you believe it: by the time I got out of the Marketplace, the sun was setting and the lights for the displays out in the open area were already switched on! So I basically got the daytime view and the nighttime view. I totally did not expect to be staying in this same area for a whole day! But it made for pretty photos 😊

Lit

 

img_3612
Tempozan Ferris wheel day vs night

So another eventful, but tiring, day 😊