Kyushu, Day 3: Beppu Ryokan

MARCH 6, 2020

From Yufuin, we headed back to Beppu and checked-in a ryokan – Kappo Ryokan Kannawa Bettei.

We were given yuzu mochi and ocha as welcome snacks then toured around the ryokan.

After the tour and orientation, we quickly changed to yukata to use the private outdoor onsen while it was still free. It was nice because you can lock the door to make sure that other guests cannot go inside. Use of the outdoor onsen was max of 1 hour but we only stayed for 30 minutes because it was too hot for us.

I had a good sleep that night though because my back and shoulder pains went away. Our room had an indoor onsen but we decided to use it for the next day.

For dinner, we were served with a 10-course meal which was included already in the room price we paid.

What we had for dinner were:

  1. Umeshu
  2. Fried red bream with yuba, cherry leaf, sweet rice sake sauce, sakura, and wasabi
  3. Small bowl: vegetables and dotted gizzard shad; rest of the plate: squid with leafbud miso, duck meat, roe and seaweed, taro, and broad bean lily root
  4. Clear soup with red sea bream, turnip, glehnia root, carrot, and rapeseed blossom
  5. Sashimi: horse mackerel, flounder, squid
  6. Bamboo shoot, wakame seaweed, kuruma prawn, sea bream roe, green peas, and carrot
  7. Nabe – bungo beef (high quality beef from Oita), assorted vegetables, tofu; vinegar + soy sauce; green onion, red chili daikon, and yuzu green pepper
  8. Grilled Spanish mackerel marinated in soy sauce, mustard shiitake mushroom, and pickled ginger
  9. Rice, pickled vegetables, miso soup
  10. Assorted fruits

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We were so happy with Youko-san who assisted us ever since we arrived up until dinner finished. We even talked a bit during dinner because she was surprised we knew basic Japanese and had good diction.

After dinner was sleeping time already and we were excited to try the futon. It was so soft and comfortable! We did not feel the floor on our back so we had a good sleep.

Kyushu, Day 3: Yufuin Food Trip

There were a lot of food that I wanted to try in Yufuin so we did not opt for eating a heavy meal in one place. Our first food stop was Bakudanyaki Honpo.

MARCH 6, 2020

Near Floral Village was a Snoopy-themed shop selling food and merch.

There were a lot of food that I wanted to try in Yufuin so we did not opt for eating a heavy meal in one place. Our first food stop was BAKUDANYAKI HONPO. Bakudan yaki literally translates to “fried bomb” and this place is famous for selling a very huge piece of takoyaki – even bigger than my fist.

C and I ordered the original flavor (¥450). We did not want to share so we had one piece each. Haha! Inside the bakudan yaki was more than 10 ingredients including octopus, sausage, corn, meat, and cabbage. We also ordered a bottle of ramune which was a good pair with the takoyaki.

It was so good that we were able to finish it in less than 10 minutes. I asked C if she wanted to get another one but for sharing. She was game so I ordered the cheese flavor (¥500). It was also very delicious! Aside from the generous amount of cheese, there was a bit of spiciness as well.

We saw a lot of shops selling dairy-based products so we were wondering if Yufuin is famous for it…

Then I spotted a shop selling Cremia (¥500)!!! I told C that she also had to buy one for herself because this ice cream was legit heaven! She fell in love after her first bite and every time we saw a shop with Cremia during the trip, she would buy one.

Last food stop was MILCH, famous for its cheesecake cups.

We bought a piece of hot mini cheesecake cup (¥150) and it was a burst of textures – gooey and fluffy cheese topping with sponge cake in the middle and crispy graham-like crunch at the bottom. I read online that it was awarded the “Monde Selection” quality label for three consecutive years (2015-2017).

We also got Milch pudding (¥300). Its taste closely resembled crème brulee! Sweet but not overpowering.

All of the delicious food and desserts that we had are enough to convince me to go back here again!

Kyushu, Day 3: Yufuin Sights

In Beppu Station, we bought a 1-day bus pass (¥1,600) that we can use to go to Yufuin and return to Beppu. The bus ride was almost an hour and we decided to get off at the stop near Lake Kinrin.

MARCH 6, 2020

This day was the start of our trip around the Kyushu region! We grabbed ekiben (¥1,100) to eat during our shinkansen ride to Beppu.

In Beppu Station, we bought a 1-day bus pass (¥1,600) that we can use to go to Yufuin and return to Beppu. The bus ride was almost an hour and we decided to get off at the stop near Lake Kinrin.

LAKE KINRIN is famous for its morning fog and its name came from a Confucian scholar who saw a gold-scaled fish in this lake.

We passed by a lot of cute shops while walking along the shopping street – YUNOTSUBO KAIDO. We went inside the shops selling dog- and cat-related items. Hehe.

Along the street was a small street with an entrance leading to FLORAL VILLAGE.

The place was very nostalgic for us, especially when we saw Heidi! 90s kids can definitely relate to this. I even remember when I saw Heidi’s bed made of hay, I wanted to have the same. LOL.

Other shops in Floral Village were Kiki’s Bakery, Owl Café, and those selling Studio Ghibli and other anime goodies.

We also saw a mameshiba café but outside the village. Cuties!

Kyushu, Day 2: Hiroshima City

We walked going to Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Park after our late lunch. This park was established near the hypocenter of the atomic bomb dropped in 1945.

MARCH 5, 2020

When we got back to the city center of Hiroshima, we went to SENMON KING KEN. This shop is famous for its shiru nashi tantanmen (soupless tantanmen).

We ordered the smallest size of shiru nashi tantanmen (¥630) since we were still full from our brunch in Miyajima. The dish looked simple but it was packed with meaty and spicy flavors. The taste was not close to tantanmen but not a negative for me.

We walked going to HIROSHIMA’S PEACE MEMORIAL PARK after our late lunch. This park was established near the hypocenter of the atomic bomb dropped in 1945. Before the bombing, this area was the political and commercial heart of the city.

The Peace Memorial Museum was, unfortunately, closed due to COVID-19. Near the museum was the Cenotaph for A-Bomb Victims, an arch structure dedicated for those who died because of the bomb – either due to the initial blast or radiation exposure.

Walking a bit more and we saw the Flame of Peace, a symbol of the citizens’ desire for a world free from nuclear weapons. It is said that the flame will burn up until the day when all nuclear weapons have disappeared.

Some more memorials we encountered before reaching A-Bomb Dome…

Our last stop in the park was the Atomic Bomb Dome, the remains of the former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall. This is one of the few buildings that remained standing after the bombing. A-Bomb Dome is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it serves to be a tangible memory to the tragic event in Hiroshima.

We visited HIROSHIMA CASTLE afterwards but we can only see the outside as the operating hours were affected due to COVID-19 as well.

Before going back to Fukuoka, we had to eat the famous Hiroshima okonomiyaki at NAGATAYA. We ordered their bestseller (¥1,380) and had the egg cooked instead of raw (my sister doesn’t like it). Good thing we shared one order because the serving size was generous. Highly recommend this!

Kyushu, Day 2: Miyajima

Our first stop was Miyajima. The train from Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi and ferry going to Miyajima were free because we had the JR Pass.

MARCH 5, 2020

We bought a 7-day JR pass as we went around the Kyushu region for the next few days. So for our first use, we went to Hiroshima using this pass and boarding a shinkansen. Our first stop was Miyajima. The train from Hiroshima to Miyajimaguchi and ferry going to Miyajima were free because we had the JR Pass.

The weather was a bit gloomy as we experienced a bit of drizzle and there was fog in some parts. We visited ITSUKUSHIMA SHRINE (¥300) first and we were surprised to see a few deer around.

Prior to our flight to Japan, I already read that the famous otorii was under restoration so no surprise that we saw this…

Itsukushima Shrine is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and located in a small inlet. Upon entering, the path is linear so you will not get lost. The path in front of Takabutai (elevated stage) has the best view of the otorii! And most likely, the sunset as well. The shrine and otorii are illuminated everyday after sunset until 23:00.

Here was our view near the Takabutai…

Explored a bit more of the shrine…

After going out of the shrine, we went to Omotesando to eat brunch. I was dead set in eating at KAKIYA, famous for its plump Miyajima oysters. The place was a bit difficult to find because they had no English sign but Google Maps location was on point.

My sister and I got the Normal Kakiya Set (¥2,150) to share and I ordered a plate of raw oysters (¥900) for myself.

Kakiya did not disappoint! It was my first time to see such big and plump oysters. Getting to taste these oysters served in different styles was also a plus point for me. For the set that we ordered, we had barbecued oysters, simmered oysters on rice, fried oysters, oiled oysters, red miso oyster soup, and cabbage with their original oyster dressing. Sobrang sulit!

For dessert, we went back to the stall that we passed by (still in Omotesando) which was selling momiji croissant (¥200). It was crispy and not too sweet hence the perfect dessert for me! ❤

Before going back to the ferry station, we visited MOMIJIDANI KOEN – famous for its maple trees during autumn. We just took a quick look as we were pressed for time but there is a cable car near the park which can take you at the top of Mount Misen.

That’s it for Miyajima. Next entry will be on Hiroshima City!

Kyushu, Day 1: Hakata Old Town

After lunch, we headed to an area called Hakata Old Town and our first stop was Tocho-ji. This temple was established in 806 by Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhist sect.

MARCH 4, 2020

After lunch, we headed to an area called HAKATA OLD TOWN and our first stop was TOCHO-JI. This temple was established in 806 by Kukai, the founder of Shingon Buddhist sect.

Inside the complex was the main hall, 5-story pagoda, garden, and cemetery of the Kuroda clan (lords of Fukuoka domain).

Before leaving, we checked out Fukuoka Daibutsu (Great Buddha of Fukuoka), the largest seated wooden statue of Buddha in Japan. Taking pictures was not allowed but it was amazing to see the 11-meter statue. A monk who saw us was kind enough to tell us that we can visit the area at the back of the statue but be cautious because there was a part there that is dark. She was not kidding because we could not see anything in the middle of our walk and had to rely on the railing as our guide out.

Our last stop was KUSHIDA SHRINE, constructed in 757. The god enshrined here is the main deity of Hakata residents and nationally renowned festivals are held here.

At the back area, we saw the Kazari Yamakasa used from the last festival. Dolls and ornaments in this float were designed by traditional Hakata puppet makers, making these look like characters from history and myths.

Before leaving, my sister and I tried our luck with omikuji. The first time I got an omikuji was in 2016, my first ever visit in Japan, and I got the best luck (Meiji Shrine). I was hesitant to get omikuji after that because I might get bad luck. Haha! So I decided to break it this year and whew, I got an omikuji with the best luck again.

For dinner, we went to CANAL CITY to visit Ramen Stadium. We wanted to get Kurume ramen but we could not find the store – apparently changed the name and it was just right beside the ramen place we chose. We went to Shinfukusaikan where we ate Kyoto-style ramen. It was good but towards the latter part of eating, I got a bit of cloyed with the broth.

Before going back to our hotel, I spotted Taito Station and asked my sister if we can look around. We were supposed to just look at the claw machines but we saw purikura machines and decided to try it.

Kyushu, Day 1: Nanzoin Temple

Our first stop in our first day was to visit Nanzoin Temple. We took a train from Hakata Station going to Kidonanzoin-mae. Then from there, it was just a short walk to the base of the stairs going to our destination.

MARCH 4, 2020

We arrived in Fukuoka Airport the previous night so there was no time to explore anymore… Saw trusty Yoshinoya near the exit of the airport so we decided to eat dinner there first.

Our first stop in our first day was to visit NANZOIN TEMPLE. We took a train from Hakata Station going to Kidonanzoin-mae.

From Kidonanzoin-mae, it was just a short walk to the base of the stairs going to our destination. It was nice because in the middle of our climb, there was a ramp instead of stairs so the climb was manageable.

Passed by different statues during the climb…

…and finally reached the top – THE RECLINING BUDDHA.

The Reclining Buddha is regarded as the world’s longest bronze statue of Buddha (41m). The multi-colored cords tied to the hand is believed to connect worshippers to Buddha – offer prayer and be able to “shake hands”.

At the rightmost side, there was an area where you can see the feet up close.

The design on the sole is said to be The Bussoku, which carries the teachings and merciful heart of Buddha.

After going around, we walked back towards the train station to return to Hakata.

We had lunch in SHIN SHIN located in Hakata station – ordered their bestselling Hakata ramen and gyoza. Shin Shin’s ramen tasted different from Ichiran but it was really delicious!

Japan, Day 7: Atsuta

This is the last part of my 2018 autumn trip in Japan. There was a bit of a mix up with the schedule so I ended up having free time from lunch onwards. Good thing I read a lot about Nagoya so I decided to have lunch at Atsuta Horaiken. The place is famous for serving hitsumabushi since 1873.

NOVEMBER 27, 2018

This is the last part of my 2018 autumn trip in Japan. There was a bit of a mix up with the schedule so I ended up having free time from lunch onwards. Good thing I read a lot about Nagoya so I decided to have lunch at ATSUTA HORAIKEN. The place is famous for serving hitsumabushi since 1873. From the train station, it was a about a 10-minute walk to reach the restaurant.

However, when I got there, the employee stationed outside the resto told me that the waiting time was 50 minutes. I told him it was okay so he asked me to return during that time. There was nothing to do around their area – not even a convenience store to check out. So I checked if the revered ATSUTA SHRINE was nearby… and it was! I walked for 15 minutes and reached one of the side entrances. I was trying to find my way to Hongu, the main shrine, but all signs were in kanji so it was up to my gut feel again.

Lo and behold, I was right again because I easily found my way to the main shrine.

It is said that the sacred sword Kusanagi-no-tsurugi, one of the Imperial symbols, is enshrined here. Atsuta Shrine is also revered throughout Japan, ranking second only to Ise Shrine. This probably explains why the building in the main shrine looks like the one in Ise Jingu.

Atsuta Shrine is dedicated to Atsuta-no-Ookami who blessed mankind with love.

When it was 15 minutes before my scheduled lunch at Atsuta Horaiken, I left the shrine and made my way back to the restaurant.

The employee I met earlier gave me the thumbs up to go inside and wow, I was just blown away when I saw the garden and main door because it felt like I was entering an old but well-taken care of traditional Japanese house.

Inside the resto, I waited for a bit before I was accompanied by one of their staff to the 2nd floor where a table was assigned to me. I ordered the hitsumabushi which was priced at (¥3,900). My meal arrived after about 20 minutes – big bowl with rice and unagi, small bowl of soup, pickles, small jar with ocha, and a container with nori, wasabi, and green onions.

Hitsumabushi consists of a big bowl of rice, topped with unagi, and there are three ways to enjoy this.

1) As it is – take a spoonful of rice and a slice of unagi then place them in the empty bowl

2) With the condiments – do #1 then add nori/wasabi/green onions

3) With broth made from tea and dashi – do #1 then add the broth

After trying all three, you may now enjoy the rest of the food with whichever method works best for you.

I used the small empty bowl the resto provided so that I can decide later on how I want to eat the remaining portion. But, I couldn’t choose only one so I did all of them repeatedly, without any particular order.

I didn’t get to finish the rice because the serving size was like good for two. ☹ I went back to the hotel afterwards to do a final check on my luggage then went to the nearby airport limo bus stop. The bus ride to Chubu Centrair was about an hour and I did a last-minute souvenir shopping – bought two sets of uiro from the famous Aoyagi Uiro.

Had ebi fry for dinner before my flight back to Manila…

Can’t believe one week in Japan just went by. During my first day, my thoughts were about having lots of days to explore Japan. By the last day, I was already thinking when my next trip to Japan will be. Still undecided where to go next but I am sure it will be another awesome adventure. ❤

Japan, Day 7: Totoro House

On my last day for 2018 autumn trip in Japan, I went to Morikoro Park which houses a replica of Mei and Satsuki’s House (My Neighborhood Totoro, 1988).

On my last day for 2018 autumn trip in Japan, I went to Morikoro Park which houses a replica of Mei and Satsuki’s House (My Neighborhood Totoro, 1988).

NOVEMBER 27, 2018

It was about an hour train ride from Nagoya to Ai Chikyu-Haku Kinen Koen Station. As soon as I exited the station, I already felt lost. All the other locals took the other exit so there was no one to ask which way I should go. I followed my gut feel then found an elevator going down. I rode it then saw a souvenir shop a few hundred meters away from me, which was already part of MORIKORO PARK. Yay! I asked for directions going to the bus stop – turned out it was on the other side from the GF elevator so I ran because I might miss it and it only visited the stop once every hour.

When I reached the bus stop, the bus was not yet there but it arrived shortly after 5 minutes. Aside from me, there was only a Japanese couple who were passengers. The obaasan tour guide and ojiisan driver greeted me with a big smile so I smiled back at them and greeted them “Ohayou!”. Obaasan tour guide was talking during most of the ride but I could not understand anything because it was in Japanese. 😦 I still looked at the spots she pointed at to let her know that I was her audience.

When we reached the stop for Satsuki and Mei’s house, I got off and followed the Japanese couple walking in front of me.

I successfully reached the ticket area then I showed the pass I bought at Lawson’s LOPPI and in exchange, I was given an ID and 2-page English instructions.

Fifteen minutes before the scheduled tour, our guide was orienting us with do’s and don’ts but I couldn’t understand most of it because it was in Japanese. I didn’t even know if A would explore the outside first while B would be inside the house or vice-versa. Haha! I just followed the locals with the same ID letter as mine so that I wouldn’t get lost.

A short walk from the orientation area, we could already see the famous house of Mei and Satsuki. Once we arrived, the guide said a few reminders then gave us the go signal to explore.

I went inside the house first and explored every part of the house. I opened all drawers and all cabinets I could find inside, which were filled with random items that seemed to belong to the Kusakabe family. Picture taking was not allowed inside the house but from the outside, you can take pictures of the interiors of the house.

Half of our group was kids lol
Totoro fangirl is happy!

My favorite part of the house was the working room of Tatsuo-san – messy but filled with lots of books and papers. That rocking chair was tempting to sit on but we were not allowed to enter this room.

Outside the house, I found a replica of the bus stop. There was no Totoro though. T_T I wish they placed a cardboard of Totoro holding a big leaf as an umbrella…

At the backyard near the kitchen area, I saw these kids having fun pumping the water. The little girl even held the pail in the exact same way Mei held it and peeked through the hole.

Some say that 30 minutes is too short for the tour but for me, that was enough time already. Maybe because I was a solo traveller as well so there was less time consumed talking to someone else. The tour guide was nice enough to take pictures of me in different spots of the place.

When the time was up, we were called by the guide and we went back to the orientation area. From there, I retraced my steps going back to the bus stop and waited for the bus that would take me back near the train station.

Quick fun fact before ending this post: the Studio Ghibli theme park will be built here in Morikoro Park and is expected to open in 2022.

Japan, Day 6: Nabana no Sato

From Nagashima Spa Land, a flower park called Nabana no Sato can be visited – bus ride only takes 15 minutes. But more than the flowers, the main reason why I wanted to visit this place was to see the winter illumination in the evening. Just looking at the pictures online, I was already fascinated with the thousands of lights of varying colors.

From Nagashima Spa Land, a flower park called NABANA NO SATO can be visited – bus ride only takes 15 minutes. But more than the flowers, the main reason why I wanted to visit this place was to see the winter illumination in the evening. Just looking at the pictures online, I was already fascinated with the thousands of lights of varying colors.

NOVEMBER 26, 2018

After a short walk in the first garden area, I saw the ticket booth then bought an entrance ticket (¥2,100), which included a 1000-yen coupon that I can use in the park’s shops. There was still a bit of sunlight when I entered so the autumn colors of the trees were still visible.

I was not sure if there was any order on how to explore the place but I saw this sign going to the Corridor of Light, which is a 200-meter long pathway surrounded by flower petal-shaped light bulbs. When you search for winter illumination in Nabana no Sato, most of the images that you will see show this pathway.

It was a few minutes before 5PM and apparently, the Corridor of Light would be open by 5PM. There were a lot of locals already waiting outside and one of the staff was entertaining them – games, hosting, etc. A minute before 5PM, he told us to participate in the countdown and rehearsed counting from 10 to 0 (in Japanese). When the staff allowed the people to enter, there was clapping and sounds of awe all around.

Even I was amazed with the amount of lights and the beautiful pathway it created. I could not help but ask for a picture here even if there was a big crowd everywhere.

Upon exiting the Corridor of Light and following the locals, there was a lights show with Mount Fuji as the main highlight. I am not sure what the story was about but it showed changing seasons and changing landscapes. This lasted for a few minutes and while I was not able to sit down, it was a sight worth the ngawit.

The next attraction I visited was the Lavender Road, which is similar to the Corridor of Light – pathway was a bit shorter and it was surrounded by leaf-shaped light bulbs instead. The colors of the light bulbs changed every few seconds.

I was back to the large garden area with pond, but this time, it showed The Great River of Light. It is said that the long lines of lights over the pond resemble shooting stars.

A little bit of walking again and I found myself in this place with trees reflected on the pond’s surface. The pond was so still that it gave a mirror-like effect.

Ironically, even if it was a flower park, I didn’t get to see much flowers because: 1) it was already in the evening and; 2) I was so focused on looking at the illuminated lights.

My last stop was the Sea of Light Clouds, which was the only place where I noticed a lot of flowers. It must be a popular place among couples because I saw a lot of them taking pictures under the arches.

After going around, I went back to bus stop outside Nabana no Sato. Going back to Nagoya was easy because the bus stopping there took me directly to Kintetsu-Nagoya. From Nagoya Station, I went to SEKAI NO YAMACHAN (SAKAE). Quick funny story: I only found out that there was a branch a few hundred meters near our hotel while walking back after this dinner. LOL. 

Back to the food – the place is well-known for serving tebasaki (deep-fried chicken wings), one of Nagoya’s famous dishes. Ordered a plate of this and karaage with tartar sauce. No visit to an izakaya will be complete without me ordering Chu-hi. I was surprised though that their Chu-hi was at 9% so my allergy attacked later on.

Karaage tasted good but damn, the tebasaki took the crown for this dinner. It was peppery, salty, and highly addictive. It was no wonder why other tables had a lot of chicken bones already in their bucket. Ordered another plate because it was just that good!

This was the best way to end my last night in Japan before going back home to PH. Cannot wait to eat tebasaki again since I read that Sekai no Yamachan has branches in other Japan regions. 😊