Moved my blog!

Posted: November 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

To anyone who is currently following or stumbles upon my blog.

I have moved my blog to if you would like to follow me on my adventures!

Thanks for reading!

– D 🙂


Whenever I go on a trip, I try to look up itineraries that other people have made for themselves to get an idea on how I would like to plan my trip. Some of them have been helpful (while others do not really coincide with the places I want to go to), so I thought to do the same and upload our trip’s itinerary for anyone that is curious or needs some help planning their time in Japan.

Map of our trip (sorry about how plain it is; trying to find a really good itinerary map app. Will update once found)

Map of our trip (sorry about how plain it is; trying to find a really good itinerary map app. Will update once found)

To be quite honest, I did no planning whatsoever regarding the destinations and timeline for our trip; my boyfriend previously did this trip with a friend the last time he was in Japan so we delegated the planning to him. This was his 7th or 8th trip to Japan, as he previously had family living in Nagano and Nagoya.

Before we left for our trip I nicknamed our trip “Operation Hello Kitty”, as I’m silly and like to label things as operations, and Hello Kitty seemed fitting.

Loose Itinerary for 17 days in Japan
Day 1: Travel to Tokyo
Day 2-6: Osaka with Day Trips to Kyoto, Himeji and Kobe.
Day 7-8: Miyajima with a Day Trip to Hiroshima.
Day 9-10: Beppu
Day 11-16: Tokyo
Day 17: Travel Back Home

One thing to note is that our total vacation may have been 17 days, due to travelling overseas from Canada to Japan (and back) our trip actually totals out to 16 days. Keep this in mind when you are planning and account for your travel time.

Breakdown of our Itinerary for Operation Hello Kitty
Day 1: Travel ->Land in NRT and spent the night in Tokyo

Day 2: Tokyo -> Osaka (travel time was just over 3 hours via Shinkansen)
Dotonbori & Orange Street (1-2 hours)

Day 3: Osaka
Osaka Aquarium (2-3 hours)
Tempozan Market Place & Tempozan Ferris Wheel (1-2 hours)
Universal Studios (2-3 hours)

Day 4: Osaka -> Day Trip to Kyoto (approximately 30 minutes via Shinkansen each way)
Kiyomizu (2-3 hours)
Shijo Street (2-3 hours)

Day 5: Osaka -> Day Trip to Himeji (just over 30 minutes via Shinkansen each way)
Himeji Castle (2-3 hours)
Nishioyashiki Garden (1-2 hours)

Day 6: Osaka -> Quick Trip to Kobe (about 30 minutes via Shinkansen each way)
Osaka Castle (1-2 hours)
Port of Kobe (30-60 minutes)
Dinner in Kobe (1 hour)

Day 7: Osaka -> Miyajima  (~1.5 hours to Hiroshima, 5 minute Ferry ride to Miyajima)
Shopping and Sightseeing in Miyajima (2 hours)

Day 8: Miyajima -> Day Trip to Hiroshima (5 minute ferry ride)
A-Bomb Dome and Peace Park (1-2 hours)
Peace Memorial Museum (1-2 hours)
Wandering Miyajima (1 hour)

Day 9: Miyajima -> Beppu (5 minute ferry ride to Hiroshima, ~2.5 hours via Shinkansen)
Hoyoland (1-2 hours)
Wandering Beppu (1 hour)

Day 10: Beppu
8 Hells of Beppu (2-3 hours)

Day 11: Beppu -> Tokyo (~5.5 hours via Shinkansen)
Wandering Ueno District (1-2 hours)

Day 12: Tokyo
Tokyo Disneyland (All Day)

Day 13: Tokyo
Tokyo DisneySea (~5 hours)

Day 15: Tokyo
Shinjuku (3-4 hours)
Lazy day in Tokyo

Day 16: Tokyo
Akihabara (All Day)

Day 17: Travel -> Home

Note: This detailed itinerary doesn’t include all meals, window shopping and wandering aimlessly.

Though it may not seem like we did a lot, our feet would tell you otherwise. There are a lot of things that we wished that we could have seen/done that we missed.

Osaka: SpaWorld, Shitennoji Temple, Koreatown, Mino Park
Kyoto: Rokuon-Ji (Temple of the Golden Pavillion), Byodo-In (Buddhist Temple), Nijo Castle, Nonomiya Shrine, Manga Museum
Beppu: More Onsens
Tokyo: Meiji Shrine, Shibuya Crossing, Ginza, Ikebukero, Harajuku, Mt.Fuji, Great Buddha in Kamakura

Thing to Note if Doing A Lot of Sightseeing in Japan
1. You will be walking around a lot, so bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes.
2. Plan ahead of time what you want to see/do, and also come up with a back up plan(s) in case your plans that day change. Don’t plan to see too many things in one day, as you’ll be exhausted. Prioritize what you want to see/do on your trip.
3. Each site will take anywhere from 1-3 hours, depending on how thorough you want to be. For shopping and visiting districts over tourist sites, I would plan to spend more time.
4. We went from the big cities of Tokyo to the quiet little cities like Miyajima. If you are wanting to have more of a “touristy” trip, I would suggest sticking to the bigger cities; however, Miyajima and Beppu are definite places to go if you like a quieter and more relaxing time.
5. If hopping from city to city, I urge people to purchase a JR Rail Pass prior to coming to Japan. It is a definite money saver (will have a blog post dedicated to the rail and transit system soon).  Also consider travel time from city to city, and plan your destinations wisely.

I hope this helps out some of you if you are planning a trip to Japan. Let me know if you have any questions and I will try to answer them to the best of my ability.

Japan Day 16: Coming Home

Posted: October 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

After going to bed at 02:00h, we wake up at around 09:00h and start walking to Ueno train station. We grab a couple of eats from the bakery we’ve been visiting every morning in Tokyo, and make our way to Tokyo station to catch the Narita Express to the airport.

Our JR Rail Pass expired a couple days earlier, so we had to pay out of pocket for our train ticket to NRT. It was about $45 CAD for the 2 of us, though this puzzles me. We asked up be upgraded to first class but first class seats are over $40 per person. Even for regular reserved seating is about $30 per person. I’m not too sure if he gave us a discount because he knew that our JR Rail Passes expired, or if he just punched in the wrong tickets.

We get to the airport and we noticed that the Air Canada booths were not open. We got to the airport at 11:30h as the flight was scheduled for 14:00h.

… or so we thought.

I apparently mixed up the time and we were not meant to depart NRT until 16:00h. Jason was not very impressed but it gave us some time in the airport to eat lunch and to do some last minute shopping. We decided that our last meal in Japan would be katsu.

Ever so delicious katsu...

Ever so delicious katsu…

We go through security and start shopping in the Duty Free section. What’s upsetting is that with our transfer in Vancouver, we were unable to take advantage of buying duty free booze (due to the liquid restriction on flights). We picked up a couple of cartons of cigarettes, some smaller sake bottles that were less than 100ml each, and a couple trinkets and we walk over to our gate.

One of the many reasons why I love the Narita Airport is this…

Indoor smoking rooms.... I love you, NRT! <3

Indoor smoking rooms…. I love you, NRT! ❤

Ashtray and they even have lighters! Talk about courtesy!

Ashtray and they even have lighters! Talk about courtesy!

… if I wasn’t travelling with a non-smoker, I wouldn’t have left this room until I had to board.

Due to another typhoon, our flight from Japan was delayed by an hour. This made me panic, as I had it perfectly planned that once we landed at Edmonton that I would be able to sleep for a decent amount of time before going to work that evening. They rebooked our connecting flight from Vancouver, as we would have missed our connection, and instead of landing in Edmonton at 13:00h we were scheduled to land at 17:00h.

… thank goodness I asked for the first 4 hours off, so I started work at 23:00h instead of 19:00h.

After praying to every religious deity out there for no further delays, we boarded our plane and were on our way to Vancouver.

I had a lot of problems trying to sleep on the flight. I don’t sleep on flights usually, but I’m able to doze off for about 30 minutes every couple hours. This did not happen on this flight. Maybe it was due to me being worried that I might miss work if there were any further delays, maybe it was the turbulence on the flight, maybe it was the group of Japanese youth that was really irritating me on the flight. Either way, I didn’t sleep and couldn’t nap on the flight.

Air Canada announced prior to take off that they would be serving us 2 meals on the flight; one 2 hours into the flight and another 2 hours before we landed. Our last meal didn’t show up until 55 minutes before we landed and it looked like this.

Apparently what's in the middle is scrambled eggs... it didn't look or taste like scrambled eggs.

Apparently what’s in the middle is scrambled eggs… it didn’t look or taste like scrambled eggs. It was served with 5 tater tots, salsa, and a questionable and sad piece of broccoli.

Unimpressed, I begrudgingly ate it because I was so hungry (Jason just ate his tater tots and the side of fruit they provided). We land in Vancouver in one piece (but unfortunately with some damaged luggage) and make our way to customs and security to board our flight to Edmonton.

Looking at the schedule, we noticed that there were 2 flights that flew to Edmonton before ours. We asked a very nice Air Canada employee boarding at another gate named Linda Clarke to see if we could get on an earlier flight back. She checked for us but informed us both flights were completely booked. She did, however, give each of us a $15 meal voucher due to the extended layover.

… her helping us was the only quality service that we received from Air Canada. Thank you very much, Linda.

We go eat a proper breakfast (bacon, how I missed you) and then get one of those 20 minute airport massages. It was more than what I wanted to spend but it was very much needed.

Boarding the flight to Edmonton, we were stuck in the very back row so our seats could not recline. The entire trip back to Edmonton was the most painful and uncomfortable experience; partially due to the seats, and partially because of how long we’ve been awake for.

We finally land in Edmonton and Jason’s dad picks us up from the airport. I finally get home around 17:30h, go to sleep at 18:00h and wake up at 20:15 to get ready to be at work.

After 16 days of traveling, walking, taking trains, seeing the sites, more walking, eating delicious food, even more walking and experiencing Japan in 8 cities, it is kinda nice to be home again.

… now to start planning my trips for 2014 🙂

Things I Have Learned from This Day
1. I’m going to avoid taking Air Canada flights unless it’s super cheap or because I have to. Looking back, I don’t mind that the flight was delayed but I think next time I will pay the extra money and fly with JAL or Cathay Pacific. Maybe they will serve me edible food and not damage my luggage.

2. Depending on the next trip and the cost, I might splurge for Business Class/First Class tickets. After seeing the type of “accommodations” they had on the flights to/from Japan, it might just be worth it.

3. If I have to fly with Air Canada again, bring more snacks on the plane.

4. Either cut your vacation a day short or book another day off work; going to work that evening was killing me (and I was only scheduled to work 8 hours of my 12 hour shift).

5. Bacon in Canada taste better than bacon in Japan.

It’s our last full day in Tokyo and in Japan as a whole. Jason and I woke up a bit late and started our day a bit later than I anticipated. Though at the time it felt very much worth it, we really couldn’t afford to waste any time…

… today was our shopping day.

We could have bought stuff while we were in the other cities we visited, but we didn’t want to cart a bunch of stuff with us all over Japan in our already oversized and heavy luggage. We did, however, bring a third piece of luggage to Japan that we purposely brought with us for our shopping trip (though during our travels we just shoved my suitcase in it so we would only drag around 2 pieces).

After we shower and get dressed, we walk over to the Ueno train station and hop on the train to Akihabara.

Akihabara is a district in the Chiyoda ward in Tokyo. Known as Electric Town, this district has a variety of businesses ranging from electronics, anime and manga stores, to sex shops and cosplay/maid cafes.

The first thing we do is go to a Sega Arcade and walk around to play some games. The arcade is on 6 different floor with a variety of games and a smoking area. Now, this might not seem too interesting but there is a huge difference between the arcades in North American vs the arcades that are in Japan. Here’s a trailer for a documentary about the Japanese arcade experience:

After we spend about $15 and walk around the building, we leave to find some sex shops. One of the main reasons was due to this text message I received from a friend of mine before we left Edmonton.

It was an interesting requested that I wanted to fulfill. Also, ignore the fact that he's listed as "Switchblade Mike" in my contacts (it's a very long story).

It was an interesting requested that I wanted to fulfill. Also, ignore the fact that he’s listed as “Switchblade Mike” in my contacts (it’s a very long story).

I’ve been told that you haven’t seen a messed up sex shop until you go to Japan, and some of them are frightening and disgusting. Before we left for Japan, Jason tells me about this porn we should get Mike to regret his request (I will save the details of what this porn is, as it is literally terrifying) and I’m horrified but onboard. We were not entirely sure it would be legal to bring back (and it’s pretty obscure so we couldn’t find much information about it on the internet [well Jason couldn’t, I was too scared to look it up due to what it was]) but we decided to chance it and buy it for him anyway.

The first store that we hit up is called M’s, which call themselves a Pop Life Department store. It has 7 different floors and sells anything from blowup dolls, cosplay costumes, to a variety of sex toys.

We go to all 7 floors, but I noticed that there wasn’t really much there that was different than the sex stores back home (except for the blowup dolls that were kinda creepy, and a lot of Lolicon items). Jason tells me there is a particular store we need to go to in order to find Mike’s gift so we keep on shopping in Akihabara.

Noticing the time, we decided to stop for lunch. After walking around trying to decide on what we should eat, we decided to stop at McDonalds so I could try this.

"Ebi Filet-O" -- shrimp burger. It replaced the Filet O-Fish

“Ebi Filet-O” — shrimp burger. It replaced the Filet O-Fish that we have in North America.

It was… interesting, to say the least. Though I probably wouldn’t seek out eating another one in my lifetime, but if it was offered to me I necessarily wouldn’t deny it.

We started hitting up department stores to do our shopping. What I found kinda interesting (and somewhat annoying) is that a lot of the department stores broke everything down by brand; you go to this floor to buy Nike, this floor to buy Coach, that floor to buy Burberry. Though it was kinda nice, it was super annoying when you are just looking for a particular item by any company.

After going to a discount store to buy alcohol, beverages and snacks that we wanted to bring back to Edmonton, we return to our hotel to drop off the goods (4 bottles of sake, some plum wine, shochu, chu-hi, Royal Milk Tea, etc), quickly pick up some items in an Ueno department store, and take the train back to Akihabara to continue our shopping.

For the amount of time that we spent shopping, we sure didn’t buy too much. Shopping in Akihabara is a spectacle in itself and you can’t help to just window shop due to all the cool/cute/weird things you can find.

The last store that we go to is another sex shop. Jason tells me that this is the place we are buying Mike’s gift. Entering the store, it didn’t look any different than the other sex shops we went to. As you continue to go up the floors, the contents get more weird and disturbing.

There are 2 floors for DVDs; the first floor we were on was nothing out of the ordinary, so we walk up to the next floor to take a look around.

Contents on the second DVD floor were highly distressing for those who are faint of heart. I walked through the hardcore S&M section (hardcore to the sense it looked like it could have been associated to snuff), scat section, golden shower section, beastiality section and this DVD is nowhere to be found. Walking through another section, I look up and there it was…

… I immediately call Jason over to tell him that I found it while I’m walking out of the aisle, literally gagging ever so slightly in my mouth. I couldn’t handle looking at the DVD cover.

Jason asked if I still wanted to get it for Mike, but all I could think about is how I don’t want to be anywhere near that DVD and that I wanted to leave the store immediately. Yes, I realize that I knew what we were looking for before I found it, but there is a huge difference between knowing and being grossed out vs seeing it and being absolutely mortified. I tell Jason that I need to leave the store, and I wait outside while he buys Mike a gift that wasn’t the DVD.

The worst part of this shopping trip is that Jason tells me what I saw was the “tip of the iceberg” and that there were even more disturbing contents in that store that we purposely bypassed.

Thanks Akihabara porn shop, for ruining the very last of my innocence.

In complete shock, I silently ride the train back to Ueno with Jason so we can drop off our things at the hotel before we go out for dinner. We didn’t realize how late it was (~22:00h) so most of the restaurants were closing. We did find a place open til 03:00h that served ramen and gyozas. After eating a couple giant plates of $2 gyozas and eating a large bowl of ramen, we walk back to the hotel so we can rearrange our luggage and get ready for our trip back to Canada the next day.

Thing I Have Learned About Japan Thus Far
1. The sex stores here are weird and horrifying. If you remove my experience walking through that extreme fetish DVD section, it was actually kinda interesting to see the type of items that they sell and the cost difference (so much cheaper in Japan).

2. If they are selling gyoza for $2 and they are delicious, don’t second guess getting another plate; just get it, eat it, and get yet another plate. Repeat until absolutely full. It’s worth it.

3. Due to that mentality with food, I have gained weight traveling in Japan. Initially lost 5lbs in Osaka but somehow gained that back with an additional 5lbs in Tokyo. I blame the crazy awesome Japanese bakeries, the surprisingly good fried chicken at convenience stores, and just the overall awesome food in Japan.

4. I do really prefer Osaka to Tokyo. Maybe I haven’t spent enough time wandering Tokyo to fall in love with the place, but I feel there are way too many people there for my liking. That, and if I decide “Hey, I want Kobe Beef in Kobe”, it’s less than 30 minutes via Shinkansen from Osaka and about 3 hours via Shinkansen from Tokyo.

5. You don’t see any drunk Japanese business men, or homeless people until after 21:00h.

6. The homeless people here are very interesting; they don’t beg for food or money, and if they want to steal a cigarette butt from an ashtray they wait until there is no one smoking in the designated smoking area. They will also stop looting the ashtray when someone gets to the designated smoking area and wait until they leave to proceed.

7. Pick and choose what you are going to shop for in Japan. Most designer and named brand items are more expensive in Japan (re: clothing, accessories); however, we were able to pick up a camera tripod and new lens for our DSLR at a lesser rate.

8. I’m too fat to buy clothes in Japan; which is okay by me because I think anyone who’s not from Japan is too fat to buy clothes in Japan.

Next Blog Post: Coming Home

We woke up early in Beppu and started to get ready to make our way back to Tokyo. We were both not looking forward to the trip, having to wade through the chaos that is Tokyo station. We make our way to the dining hall of the New Matsumi Hotel (where we are staying) to eat breakfast that was included with our stay. Due to sleeping in the day before, we missed breakfast our first morning in Beppu but we made sure not to miss out again.

.. and we are glad that we didn’t, as this is what we were served.

Rice, fish, soup, eggs, soft tofu and then some. Both the green and white pots are for one person.

Rice, fish, soup, eggs, soft tofu and then some. Both the green and white pots are for one person.

After an amazing and exquisite breakfast, we grab our bags and take a cab to Beppu Station. Though the hotel was within a pretty decent walking distance from the train station, the handle of one of our suitcases finally bit the dust. We temporarily fixed it with some duct tape but didn’t want to test its limit before we made it to the Tokyo train station.

We reserved our tickets back to Tokyo the day before, as we didn’t want another incident like our trip to Hiroshima. The trip itself was about 5.5 hours with 2 transfers from Kokura Station and Shin-Osaka Station. We hop on the first train and we are on our way.

The last half of the trip was a bit uncomfortable, as we were upgraded to first class seats to Kokura and Shin-Osaka but we made it to Tokyo unscathed and somewhat rested. After wading through the crowds, we make it to the Ueno train platform to head to our hotel. It was approximately 19:15h and the train was packed! I didn’t remember the trains being this busy when we first landed in Japan, and worried that we wouldn’t be able to get on the train with our luggage. We cram our way on the train and we are off to Ueno. Reading the information that is updated on the train, it turns out that a handful of train lines were shut down due to the typhoon and flooding (watching the news that night, people were stranded over 8 hours at some of the train stations). We seriously dodged a bullet with our arrival to Tokyo.

After we arrive at the Touganeya Hotel, we quickly drop off our things and head back to the sushi place Jason first took me to our first night in Japan. Due to the weather, I was developing a headache and didn’t eat much at dinner. Afterwards, we head to a British Pub for a drink and for some fish and chips. If you told me a year ago that I would be eating bite sized fish and chips with chopstick in a Japanese British Pub I would have told you to fuck off, but it was done. Once that surreal moment passed, we went back to the Pachinko Hall to attempt another round and then wandered back to our hotel to go to bed.

We wake up the next day and catch the train to Tokyo Disneyland. We purchase the “2-Day Passport” so we are able to go to Disney Sea the following day. Upon our arrival, we discover that is the 30th Anniversary of Tokyo Disney and noticed that the park has been decorated for Halloween.

The first time I went to a Disney park was in 1990; I was 6 years old and my family decided that we were going to pack ourselves in a 1988 Ford Taurus and drive to California. Though my memory of the trip is hazy (my mom informed us that we protested going to Knott’s Berry Farm because we thought it was a literal berry farm) but it’s a vacation that I feel quite a bit of nostalgia for. In 2009, my boyfriend at the time and I went to Disneyworld to celebrate his 26th birthday and our “6 year anniversary”. To be quite honest, I had just as much fun at Disney as a 25-year-old woman and I did as a 6-year-old child.

… and I had just as much fun this time around, too.

Yup... I'm just a child stuck in an adult's body

Yup… I’m just a child stuck in an adult’s body

It was quite amazing to see how Japanese people love Disney. And I mean, they LOVE Disney. Everyone in the park was decked out in Disney hoodies, t-shirts, silly hats, (like the one I’m wearing in the photo above), mouse ears, and walked out of the park with bags upon bags of souvenirs.

Since Jason and I “don’t do rides” (him due to extreme motion sickness, and me due to a traumatizing experience on Space Mountain at the age of 6 [and on the Tower of Terror at the age of 25]), we mostly walked around the park and stuck to rides like “Pirates of the Caribbean”, and “Pooh’s Hunny Hunt” (which was absolutely amazing!). What I found very interesting was that the “Haunted Mansion” in Tokyo Disneyland is “The Nightmare Before Christmas” themed, which is different than Disneyland and Disneyworld in the States.

Halloween decorations outside of the Haunted Mansion

Halloween decorations outside of the Haunted Mansion

We leave Tokyo Disneyland right before it starts to shut down, and head straight to our hotel to go to bed so we can wake up early the next day for Tokyo DisneySea.

DisneySea opened in 2001 and (as you can guess) has a overall nautical theme for the entire park. They have areas that re-create Venice, Portofino, and the American Northeastern Seaboard from the early 20th century. This park was made more for adults and has some of the more “mature” rides, such as Indiana Jones and the Tower of Terror.

When I first saw this at DisneySea, it gave me terrible flashbacks and immediately made me curse my ex's name.

When I first saw this at DisneySea, it gave me terrible flashbacks and immediately made me curse my ex’s name.

Even though we didn’t ride many of the attractions at DisneySea, we still had fun and made a day of it.

Being silly outside of Toy Story Mania

Being silly outside of Toy Story Mania

Being silly at Triton's Kingdom (it's not a ride, but I just really wanted my picture on this prop).

Being silly at Triton’s Kingdom (it’s not a ride, but I just really wanted my picture on this prop).

DisneySea ended up closing about 4 hours earlier than usual and they gave us an option to return to Disneyland for an extra 2000 yen per person, but after all the walking around we did that day and the day before we just wanted to go back to our hotel and NOT do any more walking.

On our way back to the hotel, we were trying to figure out our dinner plans and decided that we would go for sukiyaki. After a bit of research, I found a sukiyaki place in the district we were staying at. We hop on the train and make our way over to Imahan in Ueno.

We get to the restaurant and immediately realize that we are extremely underdressed for the place. The prices on the website were a bit pricey but we didn’t really think anything of as we knew they were serving some quality Wagyu beef. I don’t think the staff knew what to do with us either; Jason dressed in shorts, an athletic shirt, wearing crocs and a baseball cap while I was dressed in Under Armour t-shirt and yoga-style pants, a hoodie, sneakers with my hair a mess and my nail polish half chipped off my nails.

Though we looked like a train wreck compared to the rest of the patrons, they didn’t seat is where we weren’t visible to the rest of the public (which we joked that they might do) and the service they provided us wasn’t hindered at all.

We ordered the “OGI Sukiyaki Set”, which was a 5-course sukiyaki meal and we upgraded to the “top quality beef”. Dinner was well over $120 per person but after planning to splurge over $300 per person at Sukiyabashi Jiro (which is a 3-michelin star sushi restaurant) but not being able to secure a reservation prior to us arriving to Japan (they book a month in advance and reservations were booked for the entire month of October on September 2nd), we decided we could spoil ourselves with some sukiyaki.

… worth… every… penny.

After an extraordinary dinner, we hop on the train and head back to our hotel to sleep.

Today was a very uneventful day. After about 12 hours of sleep, we slowly get ready for the day and then realize that we had no set plans. We talked about going to see the Buddha at Kamakura, or going to the Ueno Zoo but after all the walking that we’ve done over the last 2 days.. no, lemme take that back… after all the walking we’ve done this entire trip, we took the train to Shinjuku to eat lunch and did some window shopping til dinner time.

One crazy spectacle was the craft store in Shinjuku; a friend of mine from work asked me if I could bring her back a specific craft tool from Japan. I couldn’t find any stores that may have carried in the other cities we visited, so I looked on Google and found a couple places in Shinjuku. Once we found an arts and crafts store that carried this tool, we started looking.

… I have never seen so many people in an arts and crafts store in my life. Even Jason was pretty amazed to see the volume of people and the size of the store.

We couldn’t find this tool for the life of us. We searched, asked some guy working at the store (but he had no idea what we were talking about) and looked some more. After about 40 minutes we were about to give up when we finally found another employee to help us. Once Jason shows her the translation in Japanese and a photo, she walks us 2 feet from where we were standing and pointed it out.

I don’t know if we were pissed that after walking around the store 5 times we missed it or if we were relieved that the search was finally over, but I’ve never been so happy to leave an arts and craft store before.

We hop on the train back to Ueno, hit up a yakiniku place for dinner and then head back to the hotel. Jason is now sleeping after watching “Monty Python and the Meaning of Life” and here I am writing this blog and looking up random things on the internet.

Things I Have Learned During My Trip Thus Far
1. Japanese bakeries are going to be the death of me.

2. I really love Disney. Hell, I think everyone who grew up with Disney loves Disney.

3. I wondered while buying items in Tokyo Disneyland if I was buying them because it’s a “collector’s item”, or that was my excuse for being a big kid buying shit that I have outgrown years ago?

4. I don’t like Tokyo as much as I liked Osaka. Maybe it’s because Tokyo is so big but Osaka seems like a city that I would go back to over Tokyo.

5. It still amazes me the sheer level of love for Disney that Japanese people have.

Next Blog Post: Last day in Tokyo and Japan

Japan Day 9 & 10: Beppu

Posted: October 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

We wake up in the morning and have breakfast scheduled for 09:00h and check out at 10:00h. After another phenomenal breakfast, we finish packing our bags and head onto the ferry to head over to Beppu.

Once again, we forgot to book our tickets in advance but didn’t have to go to the non-reserved cars again. We hop on the Shinkansen to Kokura and then transfer to head over to Beppu.

Beppu is located on Kyushu Island, and contains 8 major geothermal hot spots. They have dubbed these hot spots as “The 8 Hells of Beppu”, and also have various natural onsens (hot springs) located in the city

We arrive to Beppu station and walk to our hotel, which was only a 10-15 minute walk from the train station. It was another ryoken style hotel, and the view from our room was fantastic. This facility included an indoor and outdoor public bath that is tapped from a natural hot spring.

We start get settled in our room and notice that there is a massage chair. Jason and I desperately needed a massage but were quite skeptical about how good this massage chair would actually be. The massage chair ran in 15 minute sessions, and had 4 different massage features that we were unable to read. Desperate for a massage, I pop myself on the chair, select an option (we dubbed it as “square three, square three” and turned it on.

This was seriously the best massage chair that I’ve ever used. We spent our first 1.5 hours in Beppu taking turns using the massage chair.

Once we were able to peel ourselves away from the chair, we get dressed and ask the hotel to call us a cab so we can head to the onsens.  We get in and Jason asks the driver to take us to Hoyoland, which is an outdoor mud bath hot springs. We stay there for about 45 minutes and then start walking back to our hotel. We find a sushi restaurant along the way and stop there for dinner.

I was going to upload a video of how our dinner was served to us, but Word Press wants me to pay to upgrade to have video embedding feature. Since I’m now quite poor from this trip, it will have to wait.

From there we call a cab to take us back to our hotel (as we realize that we are about an hour away walking), bask in the outdoor public bath and then go to bed.

We wake up late the next morning and walk over to Beppu Station to catch a bus towards the 8 Hells of Beppu. 6 of the 8 hells are located in the Kannawa District, while the remaining 2 are located in the Shibaseki District. The 8 hells consist of the following:

1. Umi Jigoku (Jigoku = hell): Known as the “Sea Hell” due to it’s cobalt-blue color.

Steam coming off the Umi Jigoku

Steam coming off the Umi Jigoku

2. Oniishibozu Jigoku: The “Shaven Monk’s Head Hell”, as the bubbles from the mud look like the shaven heads of monks.

Oniishibozu Jigoku

Oniishibozu Jigoku

3. Shiaike Jigoku: “White Pond Hell”

Shiaike Jigoku

Shiaike Jigoku

4. Kamado Jigoku: “Cooking Pot Hell”, as the steam was used to cook foods in the past.

Kamado Jigoku

Kamado Jigoku

5. Oniyama Jigoku: “Monster Mountain Hell”. Not exactly sure why the named it that, but they now use it to breed and keep crocodiles.

... I hope this is self explanatory. If not, we never took pictures at the Hell.

… I hope this is self explanatory. If not, we never took pictures at the Hell.

6. Yama Jigoku: “Mountain Hell”. This was the saddest one we went to, as it was turned into a zoo and was very depressing and sad.

Yama Jigoku -- we got to feed at Hippo some carrots (as we felt really bad for the poor thing).

At Yama Jigoku — we got to feed at Hippo some carrots (as we felt really bad for the poor thing).

7. Chinoike Jigoku: “Blood Pond Hell” was named due to the red clay in the area. This is the oldest natural jigoku in Japan.

Chinoike Jigoku

Chinoike Jigoku

8. Tatsumaki Jigoku: “Spout Hell” is a geyser that erupts every 30-40 minutes from anywhere between 5- 20 minutes at a time.

Yup... First World Problems.

Yup… First World Problems.

Touring around took us approximately 2-3 hours, and the cost of admission to view all 8 Hells of Beppu was about 2,000 yen. You can visit just a couple at single admission but we planned on seeing all 8 (and you get it at a reduced rate if you see them all).

We were planning on hitting up an onsen but I was fighting a headache all day that just kept getting worse and worse. We take a bus back to Beppu station and try to find a place for dinner. I noticed on the back of the Beppu Bus Map that there was a restaurant called “Shinzushi” and we decided to check it out.

Warning: if you ever visit Beppu, do not go to this restaurant. Extremely overpriced food for very little. We noticed the outrageous prices right away and said that we would just order a couple items and leave to find a different restaurant. $15 for tempura that was low quality (and came with less than 9 pieces) and the sushi was being sold at over 500 yen for 2 pieces. We did, however, order something that we should have paid more attention to. We noticed that they were serving Toro (Fatty Tuna Belly) sushi and ordered some, thinking that it was 200 yen for the 2 pieces. We receive the Toro and I notice right away that it looked higher quality in comparison from other times that I’ve ate it and it tasted phenomenal.

It turns out, it was 2,000 yen for those 2 pieces. That’s just over $21 CAD for 2 pieces of sushi. When I glanced at the menu, I didn’t see the extra zero and Jason just assumed we were paying the outrageous price of 500 yen for 2 pieces of sushi.

… oh, how we wished it was only 500.

Though it was probably the best Toro sushi I’ve had, it wasn’t worth the $10 a piece.

We walk down the block and find another restaurant to eat at, where we were able to order more food for less than what we paid for at Shinzushi.

With my head still killing me and the weather starting to get a bit windy, we ended up catching a cab back to our hotel. As we were getting ready for bed, Jason turns on the TV and there was a news report about Japan getting hit by a typhoon (and it’s the biggest typhoon within the last 10 years).

… this explains why I’ve had a headache all day.

We watch on the news how it was hitting Tokyo and we were hoping and praying that it would be gone by the following day, as this was our last night in Beppu before we head back to Tokyo to finish our trip. Jason hits up the indoor public bath while I take a bath in our room and then we go to bed.

Things I Have Learned in Japan Thus Far
1. Hand dryers/paper towel in public bathrooms are not common. Sometimes soap isn’t either. I find myself in a lot of places where I wash my hands and there is no hand dryer or paper towels for me to dry my hands. I assume that people use clothes/handkerchiefs that they carry, as many do to wipe the humidity off their faces/body.

2. Pay more attention to prices of food before you order them.

3. Japan makes a mean fried chicken; both in restaurants and at the convenience stores.

4. Foot baths are amazing! There were quite a few foot/leg baths when we were touring the hells, and there is a hand bath outside of the Beppu Train Station.

Leg Bath at the first of the 8 Hells of Beppu.

Leg Bath at the first of the 8 Hells of Beppu.

5. Those foot/leg baths are also very hot!

At the Kamado Hell; Jason had his legs in for less than 3 minutes.

At the Kamado Hell; Jason had his legs in for less than 3 minutes.

6. People at Hoyoland didn’t seem to mind that I had a tattoo, though I did freak out a couple girls with it. I’m not too sure if they didn’t report me to get me kicked out because it was so late in the evening, or if they are starting to get more lenient on tattoos?

Well, it’s 01:00h Tokyo time and I have to be up in less than 7 hours to get ready for my day.

Next Blog Post: Returning to Tokyo

This entire time, I thought that we would be staying in Hiroshima and making trips out to Miyajima but I found out on our way that it is actually the other way around. After the 2 nights we spent in Miyajima, I’m glad that we did.

We wake up and I’m already dreading the day; we are packing up our stuff and dragging it through the train stations to make our way to Hiroshima. I think Jason was also dreading it too, as I was able to twist his rubber arm for us to take a cab from our hotel to the Shin-Osaka Station. Though the price difference was about 2000 yen, I would have paid almost anything to not have to drag our luggage to Shinsaibashi, wade through the crowds to catch the subway to Shin-Osaka, and then continue to drag our luggage around until we reached our gate.

We failed to pre-book our tickets the day earlier but found that we didn’t have problems when making our trips out to Kyoto, Himeji and Kobe (we were even upgraded to first class for a couple of those trips) so we didn’t think that booking tickets in advance was really too necessary.

… we were sadly mistaken.

We get to the ticket counter for the Shinkansen to find out that all the tickets for reserved seating to Hiroshima are sold out for the next train (and for a couple trains afterwards). He tells us that we can just go to the non-reserved seat car on the next train, or we could book reserved seats on the next available train which was in 4 hours. We didn’t want to wait the 4 hours with all of our stuff and we wanted to spend that time in Miyajima so we opted for the non-reserved seat car. I was disappointed once again that we didn’t receive a train ticket for this trip but happy that we didn’t have to wait the 4 hours for the next train. Things were looking good…

… until we got to the platform.

Usually, we start lining up within 20 minutes of the train arriving so we can have first pick of luggage space (and to ensure that we have luggage space). When we arrived to the platform, there was already huge lines for all the cars that had non-reserved seating. We find a spot in what we thought was the shortest line and start plotting; the plan was for Jason to go on the car first, blocks the line to put our bags away while I circle around him and try to find us a seat as quickly as possible.

…. apparently, we were not the only ones who thought of this plan.

Jason was able to find space in our car to store our luggage while I frantically tried to find us a seat. I forgot that there are 2 entrances to a car, and the seats filled up quite quickly. I was able to secure seats for us and we were on our way. We were absolutely amazed to see how many people were in the train car; when we ride in reserved seating the car is never full but in non-reserved we had people sitting on other people, and standing in the aisle with little room to move around.

After an extremely stressful boarding, we kick back until we arrive to Hiroshima Station. We take a quick jaunt down the street and catch the train to the ferry station to make our way to Miyajima.

Itsukushima is an island located northwest of Hiroshima Bay, and is known as Miyajima. The island used to be the town of Miyajima until it was merged with Hatsukaichi in 2005.

I assume that these deer are like the Japanese version of "Lady and the Tramp" but instead of eating spaghetti, they wanted a rickshaw ride.

I assume that these deer are like the Japanese version of “Lady and the Tramp” but instead of eating spaghetti, they wanted a rickshaw ride.

The ferry ride is about 5 minutes and when we get off the ferry, we are greeted by deers just wandering the grounds in Miyajima. After a stressful morning, we drag our luggage through Miyajima enjoying the sight of the Otori Gate and head over to our hotel.

Jason booked us 2 nights at Mizuha-so, which is a ryokan (for your reference: There is no bed and we slept on futon mats on the floor. Breakfast and dinner are both served at the Mizuha-so. Though there was no public bath per sae, there was a single and shared bathing room for the guests.

After we drop off our luggage, we start to wander around Miyajima and eating street food from the multiple food vendors. We walk around the Otori Gate and enter the Itsukushima Shrine and head back to the hotel for dinner.

Otori Gate

Otori Gate

View of the Hirabutai

View of the Hirabutai

View of the Otori Gate from Honden (Main Sanctuary of Itsukushima Shrine)

View of the Otori Gate from Honden (Main Sanctuary of Itsukushima Shrine)

Dinner was absolutely amazing. I wasn’t too sure what to expect, but what we ended up getting was an 8 course meal which included a taster of plum wine. We order a bottle of sake and I order plum wine on the rocks and we both enjoy our dinner while being a little tipsy. We head back to our room and go to bed, as the relaxing part of our vacation has begun.

The next day we wake up and eat a fantastic breakfast at Mizuha-so. From there, we take the ferry and train back to Hiroshima to visit the A-Bomb Dome and exhibits.

After several name changes, the A-Bomb Dome was last known as the Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. It was designed by Jan Letzel who was a Czech architect and construction was completed in 1915. At 8:15 a.m. on August 6, 1945, “Little Boy” was dropped on Hiroshima. In 1966 it was decided that they would preserve the ruins and renamed it the A-Bomb Dome.

After seeing the A-Bomb Dome, you can’t even fathom the level of devastation that they must have endured when the bomb dropped down. It was a very depressing yet humbling experience seeing the dome intact but not restored since that day. Though feeling very sad, I was doing quite well until we reached the Memorial Tower to the Mobilized Students.

"During WWII, more than three million students over twelve years of age were mobilized for labor services throughout the country. As a result, more than 10,000 students were killed, including some 6,000 killed by the atomic bomb. They gave up their youth and studies for the nation. This tower was erected by concerned families and friends to console the souls of these victims who sacrificed themselves for their homeland, and who would have had a promising future had there been no war. This ferro-concrete tower is twelve meters high and gradually widens as it rises. The exterior surface of the five tiers are finished with Arita-yaki ceramic tiles. The sculpture depicts the Goddess of Peace accompanied by eight doves perched around the tower. On the centre pole are lights offered to God in memory of the lives that were extinguished" -- description of the monument

“During WWII, more than three million students over twelve years of age were mobilized for labor services throughout the country. As a result, more than 10,000 students were killed, including some 6,000 killed by the atomic bomb. They gave up their youth and studies for the nation. This tower was erected by concerned families and friends to console the souls of these victims who sacrificed themselves for their homeland, and who would have had a promising future had there been no war. This ferro-concrete tower is twelve meters high and gradually widens as it rises. The exterior surface of the five tiers are finished with Arita-yaki ceramic tiles. The sculpture depicts the Goddess of Peace accompanied by eight doves perched around the tower. On the centre pole are lights offered to God in memory of the lives that were extinguished” — description of the monument

… I started crying here.

After seeing a couple more monuments (and choking back tears) we head to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. The admission fee is a extremely modest 50 yen (less than a dollar Canadian) and to tour around the facility was about 2 hours. You start the first half with a history lesson of what happened during the build up of WWII in Japan, and information regarding the Manhattan Project and how they picked their targets for the atomic bomb. The second half is of artifacts from the rubble and remains, with some history of the people who perished from the bomb. The saddest artifact was the remains of a tricycle that belonged to a 3-year-old child; the excerpt written about it made me almost lose my composure (and I’m actually tearing up thinking back to it). My heart was very heavy from this experience.

Tricycle from the Peace Memorial Museum

Tricycle from the Peace Memorial Museum

"I fought with myself for 30 minutes before I could take the first picture. After taking the first, I grew strangely calm and wanted to get closer. I took about ten steps forward and tried to snap another, but the scenes I saw were so gruesome my viewfinder clouded with tears" -- Yoshito Matsushige

“I fought with myself for 30 minutes before I could take the first picture. After taking the first, I grew strangely calm and wanted to get closer. I took about ten steps forward and tried to snap another, but the scenes I saw were so gruesome my viewfinder clouded with tears” — Yoshito Matsushige

We leave the museum and continue walking around the Peace Park, looking at more monuments and all the paper cranes. The paper cranes initially started by a 12-year-old girl named Sadako Sasaki. She was a victim of the A-Bomb and ended up developing cancer. In hopes of finding a cure, she started to fold 1000 paper cranes but met her demise prior to completion. People all over the world now fold 1000 paper cranes and donate them to the HIroshima Peace Park, where they are displayed.

Each row contains 100 paper cranes.

Each row contains 100 paper cranes.

Hiroshima is very passionate about getting rid of nuclear weapons and have written over 600 letters in protest of nuclear testing and development to various countries.

This place will definitely humble you. People have made jokes on how “Hiroshima is the bomb”, or think that the Japanese “got what they deserved for WWII”, but I can guarantee that you will quickly change your tune within the first 10 minutes of being at the A-Dome/Peace Park/Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. No one ever deserves to suffer that fate.

After a very depressing afternoon, we walk around Hiroshima and go to eat lunch. I now think that I’m an emotional eater, as we gorged on a variety of food and I felt not unhappy after we ate. Jason introduced me to horse meat during lunch. I wouldn’t say that it is my favourite thing to eat, but wouldn’t necessarily oppose eating it again either. We ate, felt better, and head back on the train to catch the ferry to Miyajima.

We have another relaxing night in Miyajima and the Mizuha-so served us yet another 8-course dinner, this time complemented with plum brandy. After dinner, we went back to our room to relax and prepare for our trip the following day.

Things I Have Learned in Japan Thus Far
1. Always.. always…. ALWAYS pre-book your tickets on the Shinkansen if you have luggage and never… ever… EVER go to the non-reserved car.

2. Convenience store fried chicken is fucking delicious. Jason and I saw an episode of (what I think was) No Reservations, and Anthony Bourdain was interviewing one of the top chefs in Japan. During his interview, the chef admitted that he always eats food from convenience stores because they are great. Thinking about the quality of food that we get at our local 7-Eleven, I was quite skeptical. One of the nurses I work with recommended that I have to try the fried chicken at Lawsons (which is a Japanese convenience store). Jason and I finally stumble upon one and give in to the fried chicken.

… seriously the best fried chicken that I’ve ever had.

3. People here are very serious about recycling; again, you will find a million recycling bins before you find a garbage can but when people are throwing out a bag of garbage they’ve collected while riding the train, they will stand in front of the recycle/garbage can and take the time to separate everything.

4. They serve alcohol from vending machines and you can drink anywhere in public. What I find very interesting is that they have vending machines for cigarettes but you need to have an RFID identification card to scan on the machine if you’re buying smokes (and it won’t let you buy unless you scan). However, the same is not for alcohol; you literally put in money, make your selection and that’s it.

5. I’m not a huge fan of wine or brandy, but man… that plum wine tasted like candy and the plum brandy was unreal!

Next Blog Post: Beppu