June 6 to 21 2015
The land of the rising sun (or rather the lowering yen nowadays).
My love affair with Japan started as a kid, thanks to my Mum. She was obsessed with Japanese food and would often extol the superiority of Japanese cuisine. She even asked to keep a menu from a sushi restaurant so that she could learn how to order. Over the years, she also firmly instilled in me the undeniable quality of Japanese products.
“See! Made in Japan. Confirm good,” was a frequent refrain as we walked through Isetan, Daimaru and Sogo. Mum was literally quivering with excitement when we landed in Fukuoka way back in 1989, wanting to eat, live and breathe the Japanese life.
Growing up, I became extremely taken with manga, in particular, Doremon and Slam Dunk and later in my University days, Death Note. I proudly informed anyone who’s interested that I managed to pass my Mandarin thanks to reading all those translated manga during my secondary school days. Acquisition of a language through manga. Sweet.
So what took me so long to get to the land of sushi, kimono, anime and cosplay girls?
Japan was an extremely expensive country to travel to and around in my younger days. I remembered distinctly how my mum placed an apple back on the shelf gingerly, as though it would break at the slightest touch when she realised that rosy apple cost about 15 Singapore dollars. This was way back in 1989. Her common refrain as we walked through the shopping streets of Fukuoka was “Wah! So expensive! Don’t buy!”
So other countries took precedence over Japan as I started my habit of travelling alone. But at the back of my mind lingers a subtle but strong desire to visit Japan. Every now and then I would read up on travel blogs and JTB brochures and wondered when I was going to eat all that sushi and spot a real geisha.
So at the ripe old age of 34, I decided to pack my bags and book an ANA flight to Osaka thanks to a strong Singapore dollar and lowering Japanese yen.
I didn’t really plan an itinerary as usual but had a rough idea of the places I wanted to see. Miyajima, Kanazawa and Matsumoto were not my list initially but I was happy to have visited these places.
Here’s an outline of my 2 weeks in Japan. I will be updating with more information, tips, photos and of course, stories about the people I’ve met.
15 Days in Japan
Day 1 and 2 Osaka
- ANA Flight from Singapore to Osaka
- U-En Guesthouse (JR Fukushima Station)
- Dontonbori – Takoyaki, Okanomiyaki, Ramen and Glico Man … need I say more?
- Amerikamura – place where the young, hip and cool (but sometimes weird) hang out.
- Shinsaibashi Suji – covered pedestrain shopping street
- Tachibana-touri (Orange St.) – cute cafes and hipster shopping with some traditional furniture shops.
- Miyajima – land of floating torii gates and free-spirited deer
- Hiroshima A-bomb Dome and Peace Memorial
Day 4 – Central Kyoto
- Oki’s Inn
- Nijo-jo Castle
- Nishiki Market
- Kyoto International Manga Museum
- Sentido Cafe
- Yasaka Shrine
- Pontocho and Gion
- Tsujiri Matcha House
Day 5 – Eastern Kyoto
- Kodaiji Temple
- Omen Udon restaurant
- Nanzenji Temple
- Philosopher’s Path
Day 6 – Southern Kyoto
- Fushimi Inari Shrine
- Vermillion Cafe
Day 7 Takayama
- J-Hoppers Takayama (single room)
- Cycle around Takayama town
Day 8 Takayama
- Kamikochi hike
Day 9 Kanazawa
- Shirakawago – UNESCO Heritage Grasso Village
- Kanazawa – Guesthouse Shiro
Day 9 Kanazawa
- Kanazawa Castle
- Kenrokuen Garden
Day 10 – Toyama
- Higashi Chaya District
- 21st Century Museum
- Omicho Market
- JR Train to Toyama
- APA Villa Hotel Toyama Ekimae
Day 11 Tateyama Alpine Route
- Tateyama cable car – Murodo – Daikanbo – Kurobe Dam – Shinano Omachi station -Matsumoto
- Matsumoto Backpackers
Day 12 Matsumoto
- Matsumoto Castle
- Time Museum
- Crazy KTV session with fellow backpackers
Day 13 Tokyo
- Space Hostel @ Asakusa
- Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building lookout (Free!)
Day 14 Tokyo
- Sensoji Temple
- Daikokuya Tempura
- Akihabara – Otaku haven
- Roppongi Hills – Mori Skydeck
Day 15 Tokyo
- Meiji Shrine
- Yoyogi Park
Day 16 Home Sweet Home