Last two days in Tokyo! Since we had some time to spare, the Cat Café Mocha is a must-go for cat lovers. It’s a place for you to touch all the majestic and beautiful coated cats ranging from species such as the Ragdoll (my favourite!), Scottish Fold, British Shorthair and many more… Each café layout is different and unique. I went to the Shinjuku – largest cat café in Japan and Ikebukuro West branch – which is smaller. One conclusion… it’s a 10/10! Though most cats tend to be sleeping, we could still stroke and talk to them but just not carry them if you do not want the shopkeepers to “come after” you. Cat treats can also be purchased at ¥500. It’s the happiness seeing the kitties coming to you to have a lick at the sugar treats as some would even stand on their two hind feet.
Odaiba City is the next place to go especially if you are a Gundam fan or you have time to indulge in more shopping! Odaiba City is becoming increasingly popular with tourists as it is originally built from reclaimed land. There are lots of shopping, a Ferris Wheel, Onsen, symbolic Fuji TV station, VR Indoor Arcade, Statue of Liberty, Rainbow Bridge and many more. You can expect to spend an entire day if not more, to be able to cover every landmark on the list. This one-day trip only allowed me to do shopping at Diver City and Venus Fort, view the Megaweb Toyota City cars on display.
The Unicorn Gundam outside the Diver City is a replication of the RX-0 Unicorn Gundam where there is a daily light show to see it transform to the Gundam in Destroy mode where the frame could expand with pink lights. Unfortunately, this attraction was slightly disappointing as I thought that there would be more movements and the entire show only lasted for a short 3 minutes. Nevertheless, I had a great time visiting the Gundam Base Shop where I looted bags of limited edition Gundam. Totally worth it!
Going free & easy in Japan is the best! Why? You get to take your time to experience and immerse yourself in the rich heritage and culture of Japan instead of having to rush to keep up with the tour group. I will also be posting travel guides on how to get to the touristy locations, so stay tuned for that!
Arima is famous for its onsens and in particular the two public bathhouse – Kin no Yu and Gin no Yu. Kin no Yu (Arima golden hot-spring public spa) is tagged as Japan’s first holy spirit spring and it is the oldest hot spring in Japan. Located outside Kin no Yu, Taiko no Ashiyu is a Foot bath and best part of all… It’s FREE! There were so many Japanese indulging in the hot spring for feet that is high in sodium chloride and maintained at 42.3 degree Celsius where people say that it could heal bruises and muscle ache. Pretty cool huh?!
We spent about the whole morning at Arima till around 3pm where we made our way to the famous Kobe Motomachi Shopping Street and Nankinmachi (Kobe’s Chinatown). The shopping street spans approximately 1.2km with around 300+ stores between Motomachi and Kobe Station. Best part of the trip was to be able to immerse in the beautiful lights at Kobe Luminarie – an annual winter light-up held in memory of the victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. Although we queued for at least 1 hour just to see the lights, it was all worth it! I must say that the Japanese are extremely patient as everyone queued up in an orderly fashion. Lastly, we concluded our Kobe exploration with the famous Kobe Beef! Though the portion is really small and it’s pretty expensive, the experience of tasting and seeing how the chef cook the meat in front of you is really amazing. No regrets.
After the rejuvenating trip to Nagano, we headed back to Ōsaka 大阪 – Japan’s second largest metropolitan area after Tokyo. Dōtonbori is definitely a must-go tourist spot to see the illuminated signboards, buzzling nightlife and entertainment area. Not forgetting the Instagrammable billboard for confectionery company Glico displaying the image of a runner crossing the finishing line. It is an icon of Osaka within Japan. We had our dinner there and headed back to rest and recharge for the next day’s adventure to take the Hozugawa River Cruise from Kameoka Station to Saga Arashiyama.
Hozugawa-kudari which stands for the Hozugawa River Boat ride was an eye-opening experience and the whole trip lasted for about 1.5 hours (be sure to empty your bladders before taking this ride!). The journey spans across 16km where a group of maximum 16 riders (winter boat) could go on board. The boatmen were amazing as we were all marveled by their strength and resilience as the group of 3 took turns to row the boat. They held on to bamboo poles to guide the boat away from rocks. You could also bring along snacks and drinks on board whilst enjoying the scenery. Great way to relax and soak yourself in the fresh winter air. Along the journey, the vast greenery and rocks with many interesting names like frog rock, book rock, headgear rock and many more were seen along the way. We sailed past rapids and mysterious deep pools.
Upon arrival to the end point at the Saga Arashiyama 嵐山, we could see the famous Togetsukyo Bridge (“Moon Crossing Bridge”) – well-known, central landmark. There are many small smalls and restaurants nearby leading up to the bamboo groves. The Bamboo Groves are walking paths that makes a nice place to stroll after lunch. However, there were too many tourists and it was difficult to take a photo with no one behind. Perhaps walking all the way into the groves might grant you access to take many beautiful photographs, but we decided to head over to the Fushimi Inari Taisha 伏見稲荷大社 instead.
It is famous for its thousands of vermilion torii gates which leads to the sacred Mt.Inari. Along the trail, there were many fox statues. Why? They are thought to be Inari’s messengers and Inari is the Shinto god of rice. The entire trail of torii gates were donated by individuals and companies. The donor’s name and date of donation are inscribed on the back of each gate. Admission is free and it is open 24/7 should you wish to take a stroll in the majestic sea of torii gates. Though I am assuming that it might get a little creepy when it’s dark and definitely not a destination for the faint-hearted. Other than that, I would give this whole Arashiyama experience an 8/10!
Rise and shine! First time visiting Nagano where we had to take a Shinkansen from Tokyo to Nagano early in the morning and take a train to Yudanaka station to check in to the Kambayashi Hotel Senjukaku. Upon arrival at the station, there was a car arranged by the hotel to pick us up from the station. It took around 10 minutes to reach our accommodation. Upon arrival, the service was great – staff greeted us and served us hot ocha to warm ourselves, mochi snack, explained to us how we could visit the snow monkeys and showed us to our tatami style room.
Hotspring Onsen Time!!! This hotel was pretty good as most of the occupants are the locals and there is an outdoor and indoor onsen. Despite the cold, we tried the outdoor one and surprisingly the water is way hotter than the one inside despite the chilly weather.
Rise and shine! It’s the snow monkey visiting day! After a luxurious breakfast, we hiked for around 1.7KM to reach the onsen that the monkeys were taking their bath. The longer I stood there to snap pictures of the monkeys in their natural habitat the colder I got. Some monkeys soak themselves in the hot water with their faces red as an tomato. Such enjoyment as they helped each other pick out tiny stuff —— LICE! They even ate them after finding one.
Finally after nine long years, I get to visit Japan again! To the land of ramen, culture and innovative inventions. This is my first time visiting in the cold winter and I certainly love the weather there. A real good respite from the hot weather we all face in the little red dot we call home. My family and I took the night flight via the Singapore Airlines and reach Nippon at 6 A.M, ready to start the day right! Staying at Shibuya Excel Tokyo gave us a good view of the iconic Shibuya Crossing together with the very spacious four-bedded room.
We started the day with a good coffee at the Excelsior Cafe while waiting for the shops to open at 10 A.M and so that we could check in to the hotel at 2 P.M. As character fan, the first place to visit is definitely the new Parco shopping center which had the Pokemon center, Nintendo shop, One Piece, Monster hunter and many more! Unfortunately, as it was a Saturday, the crowd was crazy and I did not manage to enter the Nintendo shop but nevertheless some pictures were taken below! Shibuya is really huge and one day is definitely not enough, there are large departmental stores, Mocha Cat Cafe, Shibuya 101, Tokyu Hands and many more…
With the intention of buying a Gen 2 Nintendo Switch, Yodobashi Camera @Akihabara was the go to place! Purchased a Nintendo Switch at 299K yen (around SGD$376) together with an additional set of Joycon with Mario Party. Great deals when there was also a 10% discount and 5% credit card discount when you pay by Visa.