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!

France, Day 2: Panthéon

Last stop for this day was Panthéon, where prominent French figures were buried such as Marie & Pierre Curie, Louis Braille, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Voltaire. It was previously a church designed to honor St. Genevieve.

APRIL 29, 2019

Last stop for this day was PANTHÉON, where prominent French figures were buried such as Marie & Pierre Curie, Louis Braille, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Voltaire. It was previously a church designed to honor St. Genevieve.

After going around the crypt floor, we went upstairs where they had massive wall paintings and sculptures.

We had our dinner in IPPUDO afterwards and the taste was different than PH/Japan.

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 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. 😊

Japan, Day 6: Mount Gozaisho

At the Summit Park Station of Mount Gozaisho, a big map of the hiking trail and places to visit helped in guiding me where to locate the sightseeing lift.

When I got there, I got really scared of riding the lift. I already knew that there was no belt because I saw the picture in their official website but I was not prepared that it was a steep downhill ride, at least from my POV.

NOVEMBER 26, 2018

At the SUMMIT PARK STATION of Mount Gozaisho, a big map of the hiking trail and places to visit helped in guiding me where to locate the sightseeing lift.

When I got there, I got really scared of riding the lift. I already knew that there was no belt because I saw the picture in their official website but I was not prepared that it was a steep downhill ride, at least from my POV.

Then again, I was already there so why not ride it then see what will happen. I bought a roundtrip ticket for ¥600 then saw a group of obaasan and ojiisan (grandma & grandpa) in front of me, waiting for their turn to ride the lift. While waiting for my turn, one of the ojiisan turned around and told me “Kowai!!! Kowai!” while laughing. Thank you to all the anime I have watched because I understood what he said – it was scary. I laughed then replied to him in Japanese that I was also scared. When it was his turn to ride, I told him “Ganbatte!” (good luck) and he smiled at me.

Now, it was my turn and when the lift was about to follow the downhill trail, I held on tightly to the single bar at my left side and braced myself… only to feel nothing. There was no sinking feeling from my stomach! It was just slow and steady which made me understand why even kids are allowed to ride this.

It was a chill ride and I eventually found myself taking pictures without holding the bar.

At the first sightseeing lift stop, you can choose to go down there or just pass by. I was already set that I would just pass by here so I waved to the ojiisans staff and greeted them with “Ohayouuu!”

Upon reaching the last stop, I walked briskly to the summit marker (1,282 MASL) that I saw online. I asked a local hiker, who just finished smoking his cigarette, to take a picture of me.

Conquered another mountain but without much effort, lol

I was reviewing the pictures he took when he told me (in English) that there was another marker. He pointed to the trail near us and told me that that was where I should go to reach it. I said my thanks then he offered to accompany me. I accepted because I wanted to talk to locals, anyway.

While walking, he asked where I was from so I said PH then asked if it was my first time in Japan. I told him it was my 3rd visit but I have visited a lot of places already. I enumerated all the cities and towns I have been to, including the ones in this autumn trip. He said that he was amazed and called me a “Japan master”. LOL.

When we reached the place (Boukodai Lookout), he pointed to spots where it was best to take pictures of me. It was a bit of a challenge because there were parts where I had to use my hands to climb. I had to make sure that I wouldn’t slip since the cliff was just around the corner. Anyway – he took good pictures of me!!! T_T

He then pointed to a direction where he said that we could have seen Lake Biwa if it wasn’t for the cloudy weather. He pointed to a mountain range but I forgot the name he mentioned – all I could remember was he said that it was a well-known area.

When we were about to go back to the main area, he asked if it was okay to take a picture. I said okay and I asked if we could do the same using my phone. It felt weird though because we did not know each other’s names so I asked him.

His name is Sato and he told me that it was a common name in Japan. I told him that he has the same name as this Japanese actor that I liked: Sato Takeru. He was impressed that I know someone from the entertainment industry. I told him about the first J-drama where I saw Sato Takeru up to him being the main lead in Rurouni Kenshin live action films.

While we were walking, he showed me pictures from his phone – trees and other areas in Mount Gozaisho fully covered in snow. He told me that it was taken just a week ago when he hiked with his friends. I showed him the snow pictures I took earlier, and I told him that I thought it was just starting to form. It turned out to be remnants of the winter moment that happened recently.

Remnants of snow + Sightseeing lift without any belt

When we returned to the main area, we bowed to each other and said our goodbyes. He told me that going up the summit takes 2-3 hours, depending on your pace, and that was also the same amount of time needed to go down. I wished him luck for his hike going back to the base.

I continued my exploration but I kinda felt lost. All signs and arrows were in kanji so I already knew that I had to rely on my instinct when it comes to directions.

I picked a trail based on my gut feel and I eventually arrived at Suzuka National Park Monument. Near the marker, there was a small wooden bench for resting.

From afar, I could already see the Ontake Daigongen Shrine – the one which looks like a house – so I knew that my adventure was far from over. An ojiisan passed by and I was amazed how he could jog around the area, especially with the uneven trail and steps.

On the other hand, I was cautious with every step because if I stumble and roll down the steps, no one would save me and take care of my wounds. Haha! After following the next trail, I reached a rest area with a stone monument. It was inscribed with haiku but I only found out about it after the trip.

I walked some more and spotted a silver torii with a trail leading downhill. I followed it then saw a small pool of water so I knew that I was in Chouja Pond. There was no one else in the area so it was very quiet a bit eerie with all the trees.

The story related to Chouja Pond dates back to the Meiji Era when a man named Jintarou Yada became famous and rich for his touch which could completely cure any sick person.

I continued my adventure and there were a lot of uphill trails. Some of them looked straight from a fairy tale story, with a creepy forest in the plot.

Then after about 10 minutes of walking, I finally reached Ontake Daigongen Shrine (dedicated to the same deity as the one in Kiso-Ontake Shrine). I paid respect to the shrine then as I was about to leave, a family reached the place so finally, I was not alone. But only for a few seconds.

I was on a bit of tight schedule so when I saw that it was 10:40, I started to make my way back to the main area. The problem though was that I did not know how and I could already see fork roads ahead of me…

No choice but to trust my instincts which path to take for every fork road. I chose trails that seem to be nearer to the main area.

Cannot understand anything but this was the sign near the uphill trail going back to the main area

Gotta pat myself on the back because I was able to successfully reach my destination! Had I followed the paths I ignored, I would have taken the long trail going back to the Summit Park Station… which would take 30-45 minutes of walking. I took a last round of taking in the sights at the summit before heading back to the sightseeing lift station.

At the Summit Park Station, I went for a quick lunch before heading back to the base. I ordered curry udon as recommended in Restaurant Nature. The free ocha was the perfect pair for the curry udon’s rich flavor.

When I reached the cable car station, it was a surprise because the staff put 3 different groups in one cable car. I wish I could speak in somehow fluent Japanese so that I can converse with the obaasans and ojiisans in the cable car. ☹

Here are some more views from the cable car to wrap up this post:

Japan, Day 5: One Piece Store and Osu

Got off at Kintetsu-Nagoya Station after the Ise-Shima daytrip and before reaching the exit of the building, one of the elevators grabbed my attention. THERE IS A ONE PIECE MUGIWARA STORE IN NAGOYA!!!

I was greeted by a big space dedicated to Roronoa Zoro, my favorite character! Apparently, November was his birthday month so they had that special space for him.

NOVEMBER 25, 2018

Got off at Kintetsu-Nagoya Station after the Ise-Shima daytrip and before reaching the exit of the building, one of the elevators grabbed my attention. THERE IS A ONE PIECE MUGIWARA STORE IN NAGOYA!!!

Of course, I got on the elevator and went to the paradise of One Piece goodies. I was greeted by a big space dedicated to Roronoa Zoro, my favorite character! Apparently, November was his birthday month so they had that special space for him.

After getting my fix of One Piece goodies, I went for a quick visit to BIC Camera to buy the newly-released TESCOM 2-way Steam Hair Iron TPW 2826 (2-in-1 hair straightener and curler). It was a quick trip

I initially wanted to eat in a kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi) restaurant but was reminded of Gaburi Chicken restaurant so dinner was in Osu area.

Ordered their specialty karaage and a platter of yakitori to pair with drinks that resembled Chu-hi. I liked their food as it is but it was also good to dip in Japanese mayo.

That dinner was the perfect way to cap my fifth day in Japan. I still had a bit of regret not being able to eat sushi but that can be easily fixed with a good Japanese resto in MNL.

Japan, Day 5: Ama Hut Experience

I was so happy that I got to do the ama hut experience, especially with Ise ebi (Ise lobster) in season. The highlights of this experience were getting to eat seafood that were freshly caught by ama and conversing with ama divers, with the help of an interpreter.

I was undecided which tour company to pick between Osatsu-kamado and Hachiman. But the deciding factor was the free direct shuttle bus offered by Hachiman.

I found out about ama (海女, literally “woman of the sea”) in 2017 while looking for what to do in Ise-shima. I was unable to squeeze in a visit though because of the tight schedule of our 2017 trip but this time, I got the opportunity to meet them.

NOVEMBER 25, 2018

Some of the things I learned about ama during the visit:

  • Most ama are women and it is said that this is because males can hardly endure the cold water during diving.
  • Ama freedive for about 10m in the Pacific Ocean, with earplugs to protect their ears from water pressure.
  • They are mostly known for pearl cultivation but they also get seafood – octopus is their biggest enemy so they usually “fish” them; but they also get awabi (abalone), Ise ebi (Ise lobster), and sea cucumber among others.
  • There are about 120 ama divers in the area of Toba I visited, with the eldest being 85 y/o and the youngest being 24 y/o.
  • Ama usually work for about 2-4 hours and then take a rest in their huts…

I was so happy that I got to do the ama hut experience, especially with Ise ebi (Ise lobster) in season. The highlights of this experience were getting to eat seafood that were freshly caught by ama and conversing with ama divers, with the help of an interpreter.

I was undecided which tour company to pick between Osatsu-kamado and Hachiman. But the deciding factor was the free direct shuttle bus offered by Hachiman.

I found HACHIMAN KAMADO’s website to be outdated so I was hesitant to book but I read positive reviews online so I booked a reservation. I got an email within 24 hours that the 12:30 schedule I wanted was already fully booked so I asked if I could still avail the lunch set even if the schedule would be at 13:00. I got a reply that this was okay so I sent a new reservation form.

I got the Deluxe Seafood Set (¥7,560) which includes grilled shellfishes, sashimi, seaweed, soup, rice, pickles, and an option to choose either awabi or Ise ebi. I was excited for the lobster so the obvious choice for me was Ise ebi, and besides, I was able to try awabi last year.

From Ujiyamada Station (after Ise Jingu visit), we took a train going to Toba.

The shuttle was scheduled to leave at 13:00 and apparently there was no other visitor for the 13:00 schedule who availed this. When we reached the Ama Hut Hachiman area, there were 2 or 3 other groups in the room but they all had private cars for transportation.

Junko-san, the interpreter, greeted us and she pointed to the basket with the deluxe seafood set.

Look at those Ise ebi — still alive!

Junko showed each group to the assigned then one of the ama served us this kai (sea bream) sashimi. It was so fresh that I liked it even without dipping in the shoyu.

While busy with the appetizer, some of the ama started grilling the different kinds of shellfish.

Everything was so good, except for the weird kind that tasted as salty as the sea. The rice was served afterwards and that helped in neutralizing the saltiness. Ise ebi, the highlight of the lunch, was cooked lastly.

(I was so excited when I saw the ama with cooked Ise ebi approaching our table but then she just left after placing it on the table. I was confused how to remove the shell but another ama saw me – she wore her gloves then methodically removed the shell. Yay!

(

Ise ebi is not as big as the usual lobster but it is way bigger than shrimps. One bite and I could jump from joy because it tasted really good. There was a hint of sweetness and I savoured every bite of it!

One of the ama saw the sea bream we finished and she asked if we wanted it grilled so we said yes. It was so yummy but a bit difficult to get fish meat since there was only a little left.

After that heavy lunch, one of the ama went to the center of the room and started speaking in Japanese. Junko interpreted the ama’s story on their work, how they get seafood, and other interesting facts on the remarkable work they do.

Next, a few of the ama showed one of their traditional dances while music was being played on the background.

Before our visit was officially ended, Junko introduced us to Reiko-san, the oldest ama in the area. She is 80+ years old and considered the leader in the group but has retired from diving duties a few years ago.

We still had around 30 minutes before the bus leaves for Toba Station (15:10) so I took the opportunity to go near the water and walk along the shore. It was a bright day and I thought to myself that the view there would be even better during sunset.

When we returned to the ama huts, the ama were busy cleaning up. There were no visitors left and I could hear them chatting lively. Near the entrance, there were two ama talking to Junko. They saw us approaching and they asked us where we were from. When we said Philippines, they brought out PH flags so I asked the shuttle driver to take a photo of us.

They went back to talking afterwards and I was so bummed out that I forgot to buy dried mangoes for them because I wanted to give them a little token from PH. I remembered though that I had a small pack of peanuts so I shared it with them. When it was near 15:00, I said goodbye to them then Junko gave me a piece of chocolate. The ama also told me and Junko that I was “kawaii”. So sweet!

Retro style bus at Toba Station

What a way to end my Ise-Shima adventure. Some may find this tour to be too expensive but the interaction with the ama was priceless for me. I wouldn’t mind doing this again when I get to revisit Toba in the future.