Saturday, May 31, 2014

Itsukushima - Miyajima the Shrine Island

Itsukushima is an island located northwest of Hiroshima Bay. It is popularly known as Miyajima, which means "Shrine Island" in Japanese.

Since we are heading to Hiroshima, this little island is a 'must see' because it is one of the most scenic spot in Japan. The island is famous for it's giant torri gate and the sight is ranked as one of Japan's 3 best views!

We woke up really early this morning and took the Shinkansen from Tokyo all the way to Hiroshima. The train ride took around 5 hours including all the transfers and the walking to the different platforms. Arrived in Hiroshima before 12noon, went to the hotel to drop off our bags and off we go to Miyajima!

We took a tram back to JR Hiroshima Station, then a train to JR Miyajima-guchi Station which is 20mins away. Afterwards, we walked from the station to Miyajima-guchi pier which is only 5mins walk before taking the ferry to the island. The ferry ride takes 10mins. All these were covered under our JR passes.. which was awesome max lah! 

There are actually several ways you can reach the island from downtown Hiroshima. See here for more information. I just chose the route that allows us to use our JR passes so we don't have to pay for additional fares. Haha!

The JR pass is super worth it if you are travelling between the big cities cos it covers travel on buses, trains, even ferries! Not all though, so you gotta check the website. I did all my homework and printed out our schedules before we came to Japan so we will be able to catch the correct train at the correct time. A bit tedious, but saved us a lot of time & headache while we are here.

Hello from the ferry en-route to Miyajima!!

OOOH! Our first view of the world famous torri gate!!!
It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site! 

Welcome to Miyajima Island!!

Super cute illustrated map of the island with all the tourist attractions.

If you are afraid of deer, stay away from this island.. Because they are everywhere!! They are quite tame and generally ignore the humans. I read on Tripadvisor that the deer on the island are quite violent and crazy cos they will nibble at your bag or snatch food from you.. well, I guess either the people who wrote the review are dramama or they are damn unlucky because we didn't see that happen at all. Perhaps the weather was too hot and the deer were too lethargic to move? 

Case in point. My sister with a 'lepak' deer.

To get to the torri gate, we have to walk through the small town... which was really nice because there's shade from the sun and lots of cool little shops!

My favourite shop is of course the HELLO KITTY SHOP!

Hello, Hello Kitty!
(づ ̄ ³ ̄)づ


They sell limited edition Miyajima pancakes, just like many other places in Japan which sells limited edition items that can only be found in their town/city/province. Good marketing strategy!! Hahahaha! My sister bought a box for her good friend. Surprisingly, I did not buy anything... I don't really buy Hello Kitty stuff cos I like to look at them, not own them. As I've mentioned before, 90% of my Hello Kitty stuff were gifts from friends.. Heh heh!

Le hubby and the world's largest spatula!
I am not kidding. It really is the world's largest at over 5 metres long!

Found this little shop that sells the famous fried pancakes!

We bought 2 to share... OK only lah.. Not worth the hype.

Freshly baked japanese rice crackers! OOH I LOVE THEM!

Le hubby got the spicy one. I got the sugared one. 
Found this really cute miniature torri gate for Kitty-chan.

And this super awesome Japanese garden with the FATTEST KOIS I EVER SAW IN MY LIFE! Ohmygod the Kois are damn huge and they are sooooo yuan-yuan-de!!! I wonder how they managed to rear the kois so well! Amazing amazing!!

After a walk through the town we finally arrived at the torri gate! I googled the high tide/low tide timings and wanted to come during high tide to see the famous 'floating torri gate' view, but unfortunately it clashed with our schedule so we are here for the low tide view instead. Initially I was sort of disappointed cos it looks very meh from where I stood. Look at the picture above! It's not very awe-inspiring and super anti-climax. And the ground was muddy and squishy! I didn't want to walk up to the gate and wanted to wait in the shade for my sister & Le hubby, but they dragged persuaded me to go out since "we came all the way here".. So I did. And thank God I did because it looks so much awesome up close!

Close up!

It is so much bigger than it looks from the shore! 

Close up you can see the barnacles and weird stuff growing on the base of the wooden gate.. so I gave it a wide berth cos it was kinda gross. Le hubby was fascinated and he went super close to take pictures of it. He said there were coins stuck to the gate.. I wonder how it got stuck there..

There were also lots of coins on the floor! I guess people who came during high tide threw coins out at the gate and make a wish or something. I don't know.. seems kinda silly to me.. but there were literally thousands of coins everywhere we stepped! And no one was picking them up! I was telling my sister maybe I should pick some up.. 100Yen = SGD1.20 and if I pick 100pcs, that's SGD120!! She scolded me for being 'so aunty' and 'embarrassing' so I didn't. 


This is how it looks like when I was trying to navigate my way around the water puddles because I didn't want my feet wet. My sister took a candid picture of Le hubby helping me around. He's so ultra sweet. 

Group picture in front of the gate!

Guess it's a blessing in disguise that it's low tide cos we could walk out and take pictures with the gate. If you ask me to choose between high/low tide to visit, I will say go during low tide so you can really go up close to view the gate. 

Well done Le hubby who managed to take a perfect selfie!

There's many other things to see on the island too. You can head to Senjokaku which means "1000 mat pavilion", Miyajima Public Aquarium (JPY1050 per person), and many other little temples and museums. 

There's also a cable car (ropeway) on the island which we did not go because the ropeway closes at 5pm and it's JPY1800 for roundtrip per person. Not really worth it given that we had so little time to enjoy the scenery up on Mt Misen.

We headed back to downtown Hiroshima and had dinner (OKONOMIYAKI!!!) before returning to the hotel. We didn't stay back to watch the lighting up of the torri gate because it will be very late when we head back to town.

Tomorrow we are heading to Okunoshima, the famous Bunny Island! It's the super highlight of our trip (and the reason why we are here in Hiroshima!). We already bought fresh vegetables from the supermarket nearby our hotel and we are all super excited!!! Can't wait for tomorrow! YIPPPEEE! Hope the weather is good and all the bunnies will be out to play! Wheee!!
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Friday, May 30, 2014

Day 1 of our Epic Awesome Japan trip


Hello from Japan!

Today is Day 1 of our Epic Awesome Japan trip! I decided to name it so cos it's epic-ally adventurous (we gonna visit 4 different cities, all by train) and it's gonna be awesome cos I am spending the next 9 days with my husband and sister! Woohoooo! They say 3's a crowd but I don't think so.. the two of them are my favourite people in the world and it will be so fun travelling around Japan together! 

My sister is joining us enroute back from Los Angeles to Singapore. She has finished her student exchange program in USC. Since her flight has a stopover in Tokyo, we decided to time our holiday so she can join us on our Japan trip! She can save on a ticket from Singapore-Tokyo since she's already transiting in Tokyo anyway. I believe she's now on her way to the hotel from the airport.. hope she doesn't get lost!

We couldn't meet her at the airport cos we can't get a similar flight timing to hers. Moreover she's landing in the evening and it's quite a pity to waste a day of sightseeing so we took the night flight yesterday from Singapore on Japan Airlines which arrives this morning into Haneda Airport.

We have 3 big luggage but 2 are empty! Wahahahaha! Prepared to shop shop shop!! Woohooo! Actually one of it is for my sister to put her stuff cos she said both her luggage is going to bao zha and I know she'll be buying stuff in Japan so she needs the storage space. We had 2 mini luggage in the 2 big luggage which we will be using to travel around Japan with. The big luggage will be kept in Hyatt Regency Tokyo where we will be staying for the 1st and last night of our trip. I planned it that way so we can store our luggage for free without lugging them around the cities! Heh heh heh!

 I did my nails specially for this Japan trip! It's been ages since I got a manicure.. well, since my wedding!!

We collected our Japan Rail passes from Haneda Airport this morning. We couldn't collect on my sister's behalf because they need to check the passport, so I bought the pass for her online and sent the collection slip to her apartment in Los Angeles for her to collect the pass when she arrives in Narita Airport.

It took me around 1 month to plan this trip.. I planned and booked everything by myself. I asked the both of them what they wanted to do & see, then planned the itinerary around. I had to factor in opening hours, peak days for theme parks, train routing, hotel locations, etc. Le hubby was in charge of all the techie stuff like the portable WIFI device, wires, chargers and what nots.

Tomorrow we will be heading down south to Hiroshima and slowly making our way back up again, visiting Kyoto, Osaka along the way. I wanted to squeeze in other cities but 9 days is too short! 
So.. in Tokyo I wanted to have a guided tour because I am lazy to read up on the history and be a guide. I am going to be their guide for the next 9 days so I deserve a little "break"! Haha! I went to this awesome website called Tokyo Free Guides to request for a guide. It's completely free and the guides are all local Japanese who are volunteer guides. I booked Takahisa-san for 2 days, today and also on the 2nd last day when we come back to Tokyo with my sister. 

He contacted me via email the next day after I sent in my request and we discussed the itinerary before deciding on what to do and where to go. For today, he brought us to the Tokyo Station and the Imperial Palace. Our last stop was Uniqlo at Ginza which is the largest Uniqlo in the entire world. That building is so huge!

We took the airport limousine bus from Haneda Airport which drops us off directly at our hotel's lobby! Yay! No need to walk.. mad happy! The journey took around 40mins. I even had time for a power nap. Heh heh! Our guide was waiting for us at the hotel's lobby and after we checked in our luggage and collected our keys, off we go!

First stop is Tokyo Station! 

It is one of the busiest terminal stations in Japan and it's hugeeee! It opened in 1914, which means it's 100 years old! Wow!! it is built in the European Renaissance style with 3 large domes. Unfortunately during the World War 2, it was badly damaged and only recently in October 2012 did they complete the renovations. If you noticed on the leftmost building, the bricks for the 3rd floor is newer than the first 2 floors because the top floor was bombed during the war. 

This is how the inside of the dome looks like.. There are Zodiac animals around the roof but it doesn't tally with the Chinese 12 Zodiac animals. Maybe it's some Japanese Zodiac? ヾ(=゚・゚=)ノ

LUNCH TIME!!! (ノ≧∀≦)ノ

Our first meal in Tokyo was simply AWESOME! I don't like tempura cos it's oily, starchy and I don't even eat prawns.. But I decided to try because the guide highly recommends it.. I am not disappointed.. it's sooooo good! Yum yums! I forgot where it is.. it's in some atas shopping mall opposite the Tokyo Station. 

Afterwards we walked to the Imperial Palace which was around 20mins away by foot. Well, 30mins in our case since we were so stuffed from lunch and we can't walk as fast as the locals. Our guide is 60 years old but he walks faster than the both of us and he don't feel tired! I guess it must be some super power of the Japanese cos they seem to walk everywhere, and really quickly + tirelessly.

When we reached the place, there were barriers that block the access to the main gate. All we could see is the pond, the trees, the gate and a tiny blocked view of a building far far away which seems to be under renovation.

Can you see the building?

A bit anti-climax since we had to walk so far (for me lah).. But at least I can say I "visited" the Imperial Palace before! Hur hur!!

Time for a kitty shot! (=^・ェ・^=)

And a couple shot! 

It wasn't really crowded cos it was a weekday. It was quite warm too.. I thought it will be cold cos last week the temperatures were 18 degrees celcius! Unfortunately the weather forecast predicted a heat wave for the next 1 week.. why we so unlucky one! #summertimesadness Well, on the plus side.. at least no rain!

Takahisa-san & Le Hubby!

We bought him Bak Kwa from Singapore cos he refused to receive any money from us for his time. Hope he likes it! =)

Afterwards we went to the Tokyo Tower! I thought we'll be taking a train there... but no...... We walked!!! It took us around 35mins to get there but felt like eternity cos there were some hilly roads. Along the way we saw the police headquarters and some national government agency buildings.

Walking up the slope and finally we can see the Tokyo Tower!!

The Tokyo Tower is 333metres tall and is modeled after the most famous tower in the world.. Eiffel Tower! It's 13m taller than the Eiffel Tower.. perhaps to make up the happy number 333. There are 2 observatory decks. The main one is at 150m and the second one is at 250m. On good days, you can see Mt Fuji in the distance but we didn't manage to see it today.

Ok lah.. All the buildings look the same after a while.


You can stand on this and look down! So exciting!

A group of Japanese girls were daring each other to stand on it and they were screaming in terror, just pushing each other.. I just walked over and snapped a picture.. It's seriously not scary cos there's the wire grate across so it doesn't really look like you are floating or falling. If they remove the wire grate.. maybe I won't be so brave. Hahahahaha!

Real Tokyo Tower

 Mascot Tokyo Tower

There are cute mascots everywhere in Japan! Soooo cute!!!! 

Just beside the Tokyo Tower is the famous Zojoji Temple! Feeling happy it's just next door so we don't have to trek 30mins to the next location.. first day already walk so much..


This is the aerial view of Zojoji Temple from Tokyo Tower's observatory deck.

This is the best picture I can get of it because the sun is directly overhead and all the pictures turn out super dark. Actually quite chio with the sunshine shining down and all...

We came in from the side entrance cos we walked down the slope from the Tokyo Tower. If you come in by the main gate, you will walk pass this super huge & old tree.

Inside the temple.

This temple is the head temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism in the Kanto Region. It's build in 1393 and move to this location in 1598. It has survived many fires, wars and earthquakes.


We took a train (thank God no more walking!!!) to Ginza Station and we said goodbye to Takahisa-san outside Ginza. He was so sweet to walk us to the shop cos he was afraid we will get lost! We shopped for a while at Uniqlo and bought a dozen t-shirts before heading to the famous Ginza Mitsukoshi Department Store, straight down into the basement for their food street!!!

 French pastries made by Japanese bakers is a match made in Heaven.

These croissants are the best I've tasted in my life. No kidding. I died and went to croissant heaven! It's so good that we finished up the first bag we bought.. no.. we devoured it.. then we went back to buy another bag. At first I thought that one bag of 7 is too much.. but it's not enough!! Well, at least it's 7 mini ones, not the 7 full sized ones, cos we had to leave our stomachs empty for the other yummy stuff! The super friendly cashier was smiling at us non-stop because we were so enthusiastic about the bread. Hahahahahha!



Chicken wings!!

I didn't take much pictures cos we were so busy ogling at the food and eating. I tabao a box of crab & salmon roe bento for my sister (it's in the fridge now waiting for her).

Hope I'll have time to update along the trip. Can't wait to see my baby sister! It's been months since I saw her!! YAYYYY!!! (/^-^(^ ^*)/
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