Kyoto Arima Onsen & Kobe Luminarie – Day 7 & 8

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.

Monkeys! Onsen! in Nagano – Day 3 & 4

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.