Kyushu, Day 4: Tontoro Ramen (Kagoshima)

From Beppu, we rode a shinkansen going to Kagoshima. We arrived early evening so after checking in to our Airbnb, we decided to eat dinner. It was raining so it was easy for us to decide to have Kagoshima ramen.

MARCH 7, 2020

From Beppu, we rode a shinkansen going to Kagoshima. We arrived early evening so after checking in to our Airbnb, we decided to eat dinner. It was raining so it was easy for us to decide to have Kagoshima ramen.

We went to TONTORO and ordered a small bowl of Tontoro ramen (¥830) and a plate of kurobuta steamed dumplings (¥450).

The ramen was amazing!!! We regretted not ordering the regular size… tbf, we did not expect it to be that good. I read online that the broth is made from chicken and bonito which makes the taste unique. Kagoshima is also known for kurobuta (think wagyu but for pork!) and having that inside the dumpling we ordered was heaven in a bite! The vinegar and soy sauce poured over the dumplings made it even better.

If you are in Kagoshima, this is a must-eat!

Kyushu, Day 4: Hells of Beppu

We checked out early but left our bags with the staff so that we could explore the Hells of Beppu. There were a few spots near the ryokan and we decided to visit these. We chose 2 spots only because we had limited time before our train to Kagoshima.

MARCH 7, 2020

Our breakfast was also included in the room price and we had a lot to eat!

We checked out early but left our bags with the staff so that we could explore the HELLS OF BEPPU. There were a few spots near the ryokan and we decided to visit these. We chose 2 spots only because we had limited time before our train to Kagoshima.

We first went to UMI JIGOKU (¥400), literally translated to “sea hell”. Temperature is at 98oC and its pond is unique because of the cobalt blue color. It is said that this was created due to the explosion of Mount Tsurumi 300 years ago.

There was an indoor museum as well but most of the stuff were in Japanese.

A few of the trees in the area were already blooming flowers…

Last stop was ONIISHIBOZU JIGOKU (¥400). The name comes from the fact that the boiling mud looks similar to the shaved head of a bozu (Buddhist priest). There were different spots in the area to see boiling gray mud pools.

Interesting also to see an ashiyu (free foot bath) and a small “river” with rust color.

We went back to the ryokan afterwards then headed to Beppu Station. We still had more than an hour of waiting to do and it was nice to see a lounge for tourists in Beppu Station. Staying inside was free but we were a bit shy so C decided to avail the unli coffee inside.

That’s it for Beppu! Next stop is Kagoshima. 😊

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 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!

France, Day 8: Au Revoir Paris

I wanted to attend a Sunday English mass for our last day in Paris (and Europe) but M could not find a schedule that would fit our itinerary. We went to Sainte-Chapelle instead since it was nearer than Palais Garnier. Sainte-Chapellewas built by King Louis IX to house his collection of religious relics. It also has one of the most extensive collections of stained-glass windows in the world – estimated to be around 600 m2.

MAY 5, 2019

I wanted to attend a Sunday English mass for our last day in Paris (and Europe) but M could not find a schedule that would fit our itinerary. We went to Sainte-Chapelle instead since it was nearer than Palais Garnier. SAINTE-CHAPELLE was built by King Louis IX to house his collection of religious relics. It also has one of the most extensive collections of stained-glass windows in the world – estimated to be around 600 m2.

We visited first the Lower Chapel, which was previously used by palace employees. This chapel is dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

We went upstairs to reach the Upper Chapel, which was previously used by the royal family and their friends. It was also here where the king stored his religious relics.

They also had a TV in this area which showed the process of restoring and cleaning stained glass windows. The careful and meticulous work that was needed to do it was so impressive to see.

We met with M afterwards to have our lunch at MUSCOVADO, a small restaurant owned by a Filipina.

Breakfast burrito

We spent the rest of the afternoon in M’s place to rest while M played PS4. Haha!

And, that’s the end of our almost 1-month trip in EU. My sister and I were fortunate enough to have our leaves approved without any difficulty. Our wallets were drained but thinking about the experiences and memories made, definitely no regrets!

France, Day 7: Mont Saint-Michel

Second to the last day in Europe… and our mission for this day was to visit Mont Saint-Michel. This is located in Normandy, France. We heard from a tour guide that the place was built because of a dream, and it was dedicated to the archangel, Michael. It was also considered as one of the important pilgrimage site back in the Middle Ages.

MAY 4, 2019

Second to the last day in Europe… and our mission for this day was to visit MONT SAINT-MICHEL. This is located in Normandy, France. We heard from a tour guide that the place was built because of a dream, and it was dedicated to the archangel, Michael. It was also considered as one of the important pilgrimage site back in the Middle Ages. Another interesting point was that England was unable to seize this because of its location and fortification.

We took a train going to Villedieu-les-Poêles then from there, we rode a bus to Mont Saint-Michel. There was a free tour guide in the bus but all the facts she shared were in French so M was translating for us.

We reached the bus stop around lunch time so we dined in LA FERME SAINT MICHEL, which was just a few minutes away on foot.

Big, fresh oysters

After lunch, we went to a nearby bus stop which offers free ride going to the medieval-looking town of Mont Saint-Michel.

The wind in the area was very strong so we had to go inside as soon as we can where it was much calmer.

We did not have a tour guide but it was easy to follow the directions how to explore the key points in the area, including the abbey.

Before leaving, M told us that we should buy the famous biscuits from LA MÈRE POULARD. We also took a break at BRIOCHE DORÉE before heading back to the bus stop then train going back to Paris.

We were back in Paris at past 9PM and most of the restaurants were already closed. Thanks to M’s app, we were able find a dining place still open plus it was near Eiffel Tower.

We were supposed to wait for the lights show of the Eiffel Tower but it was freezing cold so we took a few pictures then headed back to M’s place.