I always look forward to the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday break as it means that I can go for my favourite trip to Japan again.
This time round, I have decided to cover Osaka, Kyoto and Hiroshima.
The red-eyed flight from Singapore to Kansai Airport was great as usual on Singapore Airlines.
The first thing I headed out to after dropping off my luggages in Hotel MyStays Sakaisuji-Honmatchi was Doutor Cafe which happens to be right near where my hotel is.
This is a must visit cafe for breakfast or afternoon tea break whenever I am in Japan. Simply love their coffee latte, german hot dog sandwich and ham & egg sandwich. They have other food & drinks menu too which are equally good. Coincidentally, in Marina Bay Financial Centre Tower 3, there is also one Doutor Cafe outlet though it is much more pricey. Somehow, I find the taste differs from the real stuff I have in Japan.
Well, maybe you can have a go at it and let me know what you think. 😉
Next, I went to visit the Osaka castle which is a good 30 mins walk from the hotel where I stayed. The walking is made possible as the weather was cooling and nice being in the winter season.
Interestingly, there is this stall that sells matcha ice cream, matcha 包 and matcha mochi. Something unique I must admit. Guess what, it doesn’t comes cheap….$4.50 for a matcha 包 😳 but I would say worth a try since you are there. The 包 is indeed good and tasty. As the saying goes, do what the Romans do (入乡随俗吧).
Simple sushi dinner at one of the restaurant mall in JR Osaka Station.
After dinner, I headed to the Umeda Sky Building Observatory which is one of the main attraction in Osaka. The night view was simply magnificent and stunning.
On Day 2, I visited the Momofuku Instant Ramen Museum for an educational visit. It was fun to see the making of Nissin noodles and needless to say I picked up a couple of momentos from the souvenir store before leaving the museum.
Grab a quick and simple lunch at a small eatery shop near JR Ikeda Station before catching a train back to Osaka Station after the museum visit.
This Doguyasuji street is a big wholesale centre selling all kinds of items for restaurant needs like kitchen utensils, pots & pans, chopsticks, plates, food moulds, etc..you name it, you have it type.
Osaka is known for their takoyaki balls, I tried one with the tako balls sandwiched between 2 crackers. Something unusual which is good enough to settle the immediate cravings. Oishi!
Another specialty food in Osaka is known as Kushikatsu. It is deep fried food on skewers and you dip the skewer onto the sauce provided on the aluminum container. One thing to note while eating Kushikatsu is that you cannot double dip the skewer onto the sauce container as it is a communal sauce. There is another container with cabbage provided and you can use it to scoop the sauce and pour it over your skewer should you need to dip it again.
This is a must try if you are in Osaka.👍👍👍
On Day 3, I departed Osaka for Kyoto. I stayed at the Hotel Ibis which is right across JR Kyoto Station. After leaving my luggages at the hotel, I made my visit to the Kiyomizudera Temple. While strolling the street leading to the temple, I couldn’t help but snack along as I walked along. The croquette is simply heavenly and crabstick is inviting. How can I bear to skip them when they are staring hard at you as you walked past them.
Kiyomizudera temple is one of the world cultural heritage site which is a must visit too while in Kyoto. Well this is one of those been there done that kind of activity/checklist item. Anyway, there are far too many temples/shrines in Japan that you cannot afford visiting all. You just have to decide and take your pick. Afterall, they all look the same to me…
After temple visit, cannot resist but step in to this cozy restaurant on my way back and have a bowl of tempura udon and katsu don. This restaurant only specializes in udon and don. I must say it is one of those champion food that I had. Yum yummy yummiest.
Next, I went over to visit the Fushimi Inari Taisha (about 3 mins walk from JR Inari Station) which is a temple made up of hundreds of Torii gates. It is so scenic, colourful and beautiful. Definitely worth a visit.
After a long day, it is always rewarding to know that a good dinner awaits for you at the end of the day. Ordered and savoured a Katsudon with hot soba bento set and a Beef steak with ebi tempura bento set.
Started Day 4 by visiting Arashiyama Bamboo Forest. This is the place where the movie “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (卧虎藏龙) starring 章子怡 was shot. The scenery was simply captivating.
From Arashiyama, I stopped by Toei Kyoto Studio Park which is just one station (JR Uzumasa Station) up towards JR Kyoto Station. This studio park is where they film the Ninja shows and other characters show like Power Ranges and the likes. Quite an experience though. If you are travelling with kids, this is one attraction that you can consider going to.
Inside the studio park, chanced across a eatery shop, went in, take a look and end up taking a light lunch by ordering a bowl of Miso Ramen and a plate of Karaage (Fried Chicken) before going on to my next destination.
From Toei Kyoto Studio Park, I decided to take a Shinkansen to travel to Okayama to take a look at the night view of the Okayama castle by making full use with my 5 days JR West unlimited pass that I have. It took me about 70 mins to reach there via Shinkansen.
When I arrived there, it was late evening about 5.30pm and I made my way there via bus from the Okayama Station. The bus journey took about 20 mins and finally I arrived at the destination. From the bus stop where I alighted, I had to walk for another 600m to reach the skybridge. It was definitely worth the effort and trouble once I see the magnificient view of the Okayama castle right across from the skybridge. The view and scene was stunningly beautiful and you can even get to see a reflection of the castle on the lake.
I must admit that this is a bold move for me as this trip to Okayama was totally out of my travelling plan. 😱
Immediately after, I had to walk another 500m to the nearest tram station to go back to JR Okayama Station. I decided to have my dinner at one of the restaurant inside Okayama Station. I pampered myself with a Chirashi don bento set and an all Ika (Octopus) meal bento set before heading back to Kyoto again.
Finally, ended my night at Kyoto Tower before heading back to hotel for a good night rest after an eventful day.
Day 5, departed Kyoto for Hiroshima. I stayed at the Sheraton Hiroshima which is just right next to JR Hiroshima Station. As usual, after leaving my luggages at the hotel concierge, I headed out to the station to check out all the eateries shop to satisfy my food craving.
I was told that Hiroshima is known for eating Oysters and Okonomiyaki (their local comfort food something similar to our fried noodles). Without further ado, I headed to one of the eatery shop specializes only on Okonomiyaki and executed my cravings straightaway. The portion is big and I would suggest sharing a plate with a partner, if possible so that you can have additional stomach capacity for some other unplanned food which you may attempt to have a go at it.
Time for some history lessons. I visited the Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Dome, Hiroshima Atomic Bomb Museum and the Hiroshima Memorial Park for a personal closure on the chapter of World War II as I have visited the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and the Nagasaki Memorial Peace Park when I was in Nagasaki for my Chinese Lunar New Year holiday break last Feb 2016. Looking back to the past and comparing where we are now, we are definitely much more fortunate and we should be thankful of what we have now, count our blessings and life live to its fullest.
Thereafter, I went for another castle visit, the Hiroshima Castle. Looks like this trip’s castle visit can last me this lifetime. They are all so unique in their own ways and their structures tell their own stories.
The day ended with a good Yakitori dinner in a small mall near my hotel. After dinner, I took a leisure stroll to a nearby supermarket, Youme Town before heading back to the hotel to rest for the night.
Day 6, started my morning with my all time favourite Doutor Cafe (conveniently located inside JR Hiroshima Station) for a good breakfast. The matcha latte and the parma ham sandwich were simply speechless.
After breakfast, I headed off to Miyajima Island 宫岛 to take a look at the iconic Torii gate. From JR Miyajimaguchi Station, you need to take a 10 min ferry to the island. If you have the JR West pass, it can cover you for the ferry fares on JR West Ferry ride.
Saw this shop selling oyster curry bread along the street of Miyajima Island. Couldn’t help but stop to take a grab. You will like it if you are an oyster lover else, you can give it a miss.
This is the all awaited iconic Torii gate for this trip of mine. You will see this iconic Torii gate appearing in all the Japan travel brochure/literature. When it is high tide, you will see that it is like a floating Torii gate and when the tide subsides, you can literally walk towards the Torii gate to touch and feel the structure. Unfortunately for me, that day when I was there, it happens to be having high tide and I have no choice but to give the touch and feel a miss. Nevertheless, I bought a miniature Torii gate from a nearby souvenir store for memento. I can then look at it as & when I want to do so.
Took a quick lunch at a small eatery shop near JR Miyajimaguchi Station before proceeding to wander and explore the rest of the Hiroshima city.
Went to the Marina Hop, with the intent for a outlet shopping but to my disappointment, this so called outlet shopping is not the usual premium outlet shopping that we are looking forward to.
Other than this disappointment, the journey there was scenic and that helps to cushion the impact. Well, life is not always full of bed of roses, there are ups and downs in life and we just have to take it positively as it comes along. Fret not as we are still enjoying our holiday.
Day 7, make my way in the morning to the Mazda corporate office for the Mazda factory plant tour which I made prior online reservation using the below link;
You need to book for the tour in advance and please remember to book for the tour to be conducted in English. 😊
At Mazda Museum, seeing their evolution of their various Mazda series car.
Making of the Mazda CX-5 from concept to actual car followed by the actual plant tour of the Mazda assembly line. It was indeed an eye-opener when I see their assembly line. The automation process and how lean manufacturing is like. You will be surprised to see that they have their own Mazda city for their own use and they even have their private port for shipment of the cars.
I am sure in my next trip to Tokyo, I would want to visit the Toyota factory plant tour in Nagoya.
I would strongly urge you to visit the Mazda factory plant tour if you are in Hiroshima. Very educational and eye-opener for those not in the manufacturing sector.
After the tour, headed back to Hiroshima Station and grab a quick lunch at the station before taking the rail back to Osaka. Being a SPG gold member surely helps as I was given a late checkout up to 4pm. In case you are not aware, in Japan hotel, their standard hotel checkout time is at 10am.
Arrived Osaka in Hotel Alten which is about less than 10 mins walk from Nipponbashi subway station. This hotel is 200m away from the famous Doutonbori Street. Some will say, you have not been to Osaka if you have not been to Doutonbori Street.
I spend the rest of the night exploring the street and snacking as I shop along. By the way, some of the eateries in Doutonbori Street opens 24 hours…..meaning you don’t have to worry about going hungry in the wee hours of the night.
Day 8, started the morning with a good ramen breakfast at 金龙拉面。This is a chain outlet in Japan. You will need to buy a ticket from the vending machine and then proceed to the food counter for your ramen collection when called.
Another great sushi chain for a value for money meal would be none other than Sushi Zanmai. Their sushi and sashimi are so good that you can’t get over with as it will always have that lingering taste for more. This is also one of my must eat list in Japan.
Having said that, any ramen or sushi stall, be it well known or not in Japan will still be better off than in Singapore. Trust me on that. 😉
After a good lunch, I continue exploring the rest of Doutonbori Street and looking out for other interesting food/snack to munch as I chanced upon.
This stall sells all kinds of Calbee stuff. For those who love Calbee prawn crackers, you are bound to love this stall and their snacks. I couldn’t resist but bought a cup of Calbee Potato Sticks and I must say, it’s heavenly. 😋
By the way, the items are not cheap but since you are there, you should not hold back since you don’t get to have this everyday. Remember, life is about experiences. Live it to the fullest!
The Luke’s lobster roll here is superb and nice. This is something similar to Pince & Pints in Duxton Road for those who have been there. The lobster roll in Pince & Pints cost about $68++ whereas Luke’s lobster roll cost less than $15. World of difference in price but taste equally fantastic.
Thinking of leaving Osaka the next day for home, I decided to have another round of Kushikatsu for the road. I simply love the fried food skewers (beef, squid, asparagus, potato, chicken ball, mochi, chicken wing, quail egg, mushroom, etc..) with the sourish sauce as it really goes well with it.
Well, that wraps up Day 8. Each day is so exciting and time really flies when you are having good and fun times. As the saying goes, 天下没有不散的宴席。All good things will come to its end.
It was a wet morning on Day 9 before I leave Osaka for the airport home. I had a good ramen breakfast at Ichiran Ramen in one of the many lanes inside Doutonbori Street. I make my way to the airport in the late morning after checking out of Hotel Alten. As my flight was late at night at 23:30 hrs, I went over to the airport to place my luggages in the locker room before scooting off to the Rinku Town Premium Outlet Mall for my last minute shopping. Rinku Town is just one station away from Kansai Airport.
Here I am, able to soak myself here for the next 8 hours before taking my red-eyed flight back home. The outlet mall is just beside the seaside and possess great scenery views. How I wish I could wake up to such views each day.
While shopping in the outlet, I saw this restaurant proclaiming having the best burger from Hawaii. I struggled very hard on this as I walked past it. Somehow, there seems to be a strong magnetic force attracting me to check out this restaurant as I really couldn’t take it as I find it very 嚣张 to proclaim what it stated. Too bad I was too full to gobble down a burger because of its sheer size being American burgers (you know what I mean 😀).
I can only accommodate a bowl of minestrone soup and a portion of deep fried shrimps. Mind you, they are really good and I am sure their proclaimed burger will be a real champion too. It’s a pity I do not have the additional capacity to experience it.
8 hours just flew past before I knew it. While on the way back to the Rinku Town Station, I stopped over this row of restaurant for a quick dinner before heading back to the airport for my flight home. I must say this is the best of the Japanese fried rice that I have had so far.
Finally it is time to be back home after a good break for the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday. Till we meet again for my next short Japan trip in May 2017.