Category Archives: Japan

A last sushi & a night in a capsule

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Before my second trip to Japan came to an end I really wanted to experience a capsule hotel. So my last night after arriving back to Tokyo, after a wonderful week in Kyushu, I spent at Capsule In Kinshicho. The hotel was conveniently located close to a station with direct train to Narita International airport. Before I went there I had a great last sushi meal the station Kinshicho. In Japan there are many types of sushi restaurants. At the roller band kind there are always two peaces at each plate. At this particular place the plates had the same price tag. Most common is that they come on different colored plates and the color will indicate a certain price which makes it easy at the end to calculate your total price.

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The particular capsule hotel that I had chosen had several floors dedicated to men but just one for women. It is simply not so many women using those. On each floor everything was, as always in Japan, very organized. And at the bottom of the hotel you found the small reception. Since the hotel itself did not have any bathing facilities they had a deal with a sento next door. In Japan the bathing culture does not only occur in special onsen towns, which I have written about in my last two posts, it takes place in every corner. If the water is not of the better sort, it is called sento. Sentos will be found in every neighborhood and many people take their bath there instead of in their homes. Sentos are usual very small but the principles are the same. The one next door to Kinshicho was really good and I was so happy that I could enjoy this culture one last time. 😀

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So how did I sleep? Well, actually I was not claustrophobic as I had feared but the mattress inside was rather dodgy. Since I had read about a bed bugs experience from a fellow traveler I carefully checked my mattress. (If you have followed my blog for a while you know I have had bed bugs encounters twice and I never want to have it again!!!).

Since there are tv and radio in each capsule it is very noisy. I had bad luck that someone had the tv on the whole night which gave me a very bad sleep. But so I did not really mind to be exhausted for my long flight back to Sweden.

I have now finished documenting trip 2 to Japan. A country full of mysteries. I would love to go back again but as always, many other destinations are waiting to be explored. Tomorrow I am leaving to Italy 🙂 After I come back I will for sure have some focus on that for a few posts. Stay tuned…

A daytrip to Yufuin

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Just a short ride with train from Beppu lies the pretty little onsen town Yufuin. It is a pleasant daytrip from Beppu allowing for nice leisure strolls with a view of mount Yufu-dake always present in the background. I was first considering to stay a night in Yufuin but prices are very high, as in many onsen towns. I had my share of true onsen splurge in Kurokawa which I believe will be extremely hard to beat. Yufuin was one of few places in Japan where I did not find the atmosphere to be amazing. Maybe it is just too popular and too exploited. Nevertheless it is a very beautiful place. And I got to meet Totoro 😀

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Wonderful, mystical Beppu!!!

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Even if I was determined to pay a visit to Beppu, the onsen Mecca of Japan, I was also a bit reluctant due to some pre-reading insisting Beppu should be kind of a Japanese Las Vegas. But my days in Beppu turned out to be just one big explosion of impressions of the relaxing kind.

Enjoying the onsen world from Beppu is a very different experience than from Kurokawa, a green, picturesque place documented in my previous post. As many other cities in Japan, Beppu tend to feel a bit grayish surrounded by electrical wires and rather non charming architecture. But it is the feeling of what is going on between those grayish walls that makes it so captivating.

I based myself in the area Kannawa, mostly known for the kind of boiling hot onsen you should not bathe in. Those are referred to as the “The Hells”. It is geothermal activities in various colors that can be viewed against payment.  I saw a few but honestly but did not find it so impressing. However the gardens around them tend to be very pretty 🙂

What impressed me was that the budget accommodation I had booked through Hostelworld turned out to be a small apartment all to myself in in a cosy area where hot steam poured out of street valves from every corner 24/7. Happy Neko is not the place to stay if you want to socialize but for me, who appreciate lonely time now and then, it was prefect 🙂

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What impressed me even more is that Beppu has almost 3000 hot spring vents. There are public bath houses in every corner, for use against a minimal charge. And all over you will find free set-ups for relaxing your feet in thermal water. Many elderly were seen using those throughout the day, often accompanied by a friend to chat with, a book to read or some knitting. Just lovely to watch! Below also some pictures from “a hell” 😉

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What impressed me the most, apart from soaking in different hotsprings, was to just wander the small alleys around where my apartment was located. They gave me a very spooky feeling. Drawnd to the heat pouring up from the street vents, many cats seemed to enjoy those alleys as much as I.

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My days in Beppu were spent by just walking around and bathing. Apart from Kannawa I took the bus to the Myoban area further up the hill to try and interesting mud bath. One day I took a dip in the old classic Takegawara onsen in central Beppu. I also had an experience in a place in Kannawa where I had to lie on hey in an extremely hot, claustrophobic small wooden room. Once I almost fainted it was time to leave and soak in the hot waters. And one evening I had a more fancy experience at the onsen Tanayu at hotel Suginoi. It was spectacular, even so just about 10 Euro entrance. I can only say I fell in love with Beppu! It is a bit weird feeling about this place but still so intriguing and inviting.

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24 hours of Japanese perfection

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Finally it is time to cover one of my big passions in life. And one of the big reasons why Japan will always remain one of my favorite travel destinations. I am talking about the Japanese hot springs! So called onsens. Because of the volcanic activity going on all over the country, relaxing in hot springs is an old and very natural part of Japanese life. There are over 3000 hot springs to be found all over the country with different kind of waters, some with therapeutic effects. Many villages have developed around those areas and are known as onsen towns. To visit a classic onsen town the nicest way, and often the only way, is to check in to a traditional Japanese guest house, called ryokan. In onsen towns almost all ryokans have their own baths but a common way to experience an onsen town is to go “onsen hopping”. In some villages you can do this free of charge if you stay at one of the ryokans in town, or against a very affordable amount. To actually stay in a ryokan is rather pricy but it is really worth it. You will be treated as a queen and the ambiance is made for unwinding. The food that will be served is the so called Kaiseki style which is Japanese haute cuisine. Honestly, in my taste not so exiting flavors. But a pleasure for the eye that needs to be experienced at least once.

I have been in Japan twice and have a lot to share about this topic. First out is Kurokawa onsen town. One of the top rated Japanese onsen towns, found in the forest in the region Kyushu. I visited this place in October 2012 and I absolutely loved it. I stayed in the amazing Ryokan Sanga. Apart from enjoying the onsens belonging to Sanga (both inside and Rotenburos which are the once located outside in natural settings) I also bought a onsen hopping pass that allowed me to visit three other onsens in Kurokawa. The first picture above is a self portrait made in a private bath which I could use for one hour. It was a magic experience. Looking at my pictures brings back a feeling of peace in me and an urge to go back!

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After my evening onsen experience around the facility I sat down and enjoyed my Kaiseki meal. This is according to tradition done in your robe, a traditional Yukata. The Yukata is worn around the whole facility and also in town if you go onsen hopping. Kaiseki consists of a lot of small dishes, prepared to perfection. Some of the dishes are boiled or fried at the table by yourself. After dinner my bed was made up on the floor in my room and the next day a Kaiseki breakfast was waiting followed by more bathing 😀

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New discoveries in Fukuoka

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Fukuoka! I just love the name of this laid back city where I spent one evening and one full day exploring. It is a charming and easy to navigate city with amazingly friendly people. Since Fukuoka is very close to South Korea I was desperately looking for a Korean place to eat the first night. It was not that easy as I would have thought. But finally I ended up in a funky K-pop eatery where I enjoyed some spicy dishes. After that I walked along the river to explore the famous night food stalls Yatai before walking all the way back to my cosy but far away hidden hostel. Many hostels in Japan looks like on below picture. Tatami floor and just a thin mattress, called Futon, to roll out as it time to go to sleep. Even if I like hard beds this is quite something to get used to. But very cosy!

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I started the next day by visiting the Ohori park. The sky was blue and the temperature perfect for strolling around. Trying to get back into the main center of Fukuoka I quite quick got lost which I am very thankful for since it made me find a nice lookout point and cosy small back streets. And just by accident I also ran into what I long wanted to discover in Japan – a cat café (neko=cat). I am not even fond of cats (I am a dog person) but I wanted to experience this phenomenon. So happily I payed for one hour cat encounter (and cat lover encounter) before moving on to try out yet another for me new thing. The Perikura photo machines. Wow, that was tricky. I choose one machine and managed to get some pictures taken but to edit them afterwards with just instructions in Japanese made me a bit stressed. But boy I had fun 😉

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Before heading back to the hostel for another hard but good nights sleep I needed to try the dish that Fukuoka is most famous for – the Ramen soup. I found a food court in a shopping mall where one place clearly seemed to be specialized in very spicy Ramen soup. Since I am a chili addict this was my choice. In Japan you will come across many ways of purchasing you food, for example through a machine like the one on below pictures. Every day in Japan is a mind blowing experience. Just how I love it!

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Discovering Hiroshima historically & gastronomically

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Finally I can start blogging about Japan again 🙂 Since I have limited time spending on this blog and since new trips takes up most of my attention, it is hard for me to catch up with the past. I still have so many trips to cover! In my last post about Japan I wrote about my amazing day trip to Miyajima, an island close to Hiroshima. After I came back in the evening I strolled around Hiroshima and had their famous Okonomiyaki. A great dish that you can see more about on below pictures. That evening I also saw the A-bomb Dome for the first time, lit up in the dark. This former Hall was just 160 meters from the hypo center of the bomb. Somehow it did not collapse and today it is on the world heritage list as a world peace monument. It was a very emotional moment to see this building. In fact when choosing the pictures for this post I had to cry. Japan is such a beautiful place filled with amazing people and it is hard to accept what the atomic bombing of Hiroshima led to. But before we go over to more sad history I have to say that Hiroshima surprised me. It was a very pleasant city with wonderful people. And the Okonomiyaki – wow!!! I cannot really describe this dish, I think the pictures below will better show both the dish and the nice way you watch it being prepared and eat it 😛

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After seeing the A-bomb dome at night the first time it was nice to come back and see it in daylight. The Peace Park in Hiroshima is a beautiful place to stroll around with lots of memorial monuments to watch and educational reading to go with it. The most famous is the Children´s Peace monument. Further down in one of my pictures there is some more background reading about this monument and the thousands of origami cranes surrounding the actual monument. At the end of the Peace Park lies the Peace Memorial Museum. It was a touching moment to walk around in the museum and learn about the tragedy the atomic bomb led too. The survivors of the so called A-bomb are called “Perifpheral Hibakusha” and there are today about 66000 of them still living in Hiroshima. With this I let you view some of the pictures from the park and the museum….

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A perfect day in Miyajima

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“Don´t miss Miyajima if you go to Hiroshima” said a friend of mine and I am very glad I did not.

Miyajima is an island close to Hiroshima, perfect for a day trip. This island is mostly known for the “floating” Torii (seen on the picture above), which is ranked one of the nicest views of Japan. In the morning it is surrounded by water but as the day passes by the water get lower and lower until the low tide allows to walk out all the way to the torii. High and low tide are beautiful in different ways. I stayed full day on this enchanting island and experienced both views. Exept for nice views I also experiences lots of school kids, deers (they walk around freely on the whole island and are very cute and intrusive) and the best food ever eaten in Japan (speciality on the islands are oysters and conger eel). As you understand, this was a perfect day…

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All around the island temples lies scattered, surrounded by lovely greenery. Try to imagine if it would have been one month later…then the trees would have been coloured in the most amazing autumn colors one can experience. I was lucky to witness this on a trip to Japan three years ago…you will see in coming posts 😀

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It was a rather hot day in Miyajima. Japanese people must be the best role models when it comes to protection against the sun. Totally opposite to the sometimes (sorry countrymen) very naive Swedes that still have not realize the danger of the sun.

As I walked around a group of sweet kids approached me. All at the same time they asked me where I was from, my name, my city etc. I was asked to put my sticker on Sweden in a map they had brought along and sign the same book. Those school kids had as a task to approach foreigners this day to practise their English. And I was ofcourse happy to help 🙂

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Oysters! They are absolutely amazing in Miyajima. There is even an oyster festival held every year in February in honor to this delicacy. I managed to try them both grilled and fresh. Yum!

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The tame deers in Miyajima are around 500 in numbers and I have read somewhere that they are believed to have lived on this island for thousand of years. They are very cute but can be a bit pushy if they sense something eatable in your bag.

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I think I must have picked one of the better places to eat because the oysters and eel meal I had was absolutely amazing. The restaurant was called Yakigaki-No-Hayashi, don´t miss if you ever go here! After my nice meal I bought a sweetpotato icecream from one of the street vendors. In Japan ice creams have flavours which many people from west might find odd but in fact tastes like sweetpotato or green tea in ice cream is much better than it sounds 😉 After this terrific meal which had left nothing but a big smile and a happy belly it was nice to sit down and have my feets “done” by Mr Fish.

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As the tide got lower, seaweed became visible around the shores. People and deers made their way down to play. And the a whole bunch of people arrived that started to collect the seaweed. I am still not sure whether this is for eating or just to clean up but it was sure an interesting sight.

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Miyajima is one of those places you just don´t want to leave. I had no time to walk around the whole island and I really wish I would have had more time. But all nice things have an end and so did this day. Walking towards the ferry I spotted this funny deer that had occupied the entrance to a restaurnat. People where lined up to have their pictures taken with him, not difficult to understand. He was very elegant and confident.

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Enjoying the couchsurfing network in Tokyo

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Couchsurfing is a fantastic network of people that wants to make new friends all over the world. The main idea is that one can “surf” other peoples couches for free although there are many more ways to utilize this network. Personally I host guests about 3-4 times a year. On top of that I might meet up with people visiting my city a few times a year if any interesting proposals turns up. For me it is all about quality, some people use CS differently. I have also tried to be hosted a few times. Being a guest in someones private home is a way of getting closer to a culture and getting to know things about a place that you never would have discovered on your own. But it naturally requests adaptation to your hosts schedule and rules. Since I like to come and go and plan my own day I don´t use this so often.

There are groups in the CS network that you can belong to. When I went to Tokyo I became a member of the Tokyo group where people (as well Tokyo residents as tourists) are posting events which one can sign up for. This is an excellent way to get to know people and the city. I signed up for three things however the last activity I ended up doing on my own, (I will get back to that). The first activity was an evening out with food and Karaoke. At a busy station in central Tokyo about 10 people of different nationality, ages and backgrounds gathered. The local people choose a restaurant (Izakaya style described at the end of my last post), where we ended up having a splendid evening. Couchsurfers are open minded individuals just looking for new acquaintances and fun. Unfortunately I had to catch my last metro back to the area where I had my hostel. So once more I missed out on singing Karaoke in Tokyo…(I did not manage on my first trip to Tokyo either… )

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A Japanese girl had added an activity which appealed to me. She was going herself to a disaster preparation center in Tokyo. I have learnt that there are a few of those, held by the Tokyo Fire Department. It is recomended that Japanese people visit those to learn how to prepare for disaster. To this particular event three other people except for me and the organizer signed up. Another Japanese guy, a guy from India and a girl from Sri Lanka. The event included a movie about the disaster that hit Japan March 2011. This was followed by an earthquake experience on Richter 7 and information (in Japanese) about allways being prepared and how to act in case of earthquake. We then got information about fire (in Japanese) and the possibility to practice using a firehose. Then, fully dressed in rain protection, we could try heavy rain and wind. Finally there was a fire exercise (which I skipped due to my claustrophobia) where one should find the way in a smoke filled dark labyrint…

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The same day yet another nice activity was organized. A walk over the rainbow bridge with a group of people. I didn´t manage to get to the meeting point in time so I simply did the walk on my own which was a great experience too. After this walk, still pretty jetlagged from my arrival the day before, I took a nap on a park bench on the other side 😉 Great start of my Japan adventures!

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Strolling the streets of Tokyo…

I usually get a lot of attention when stopping in the middle of a Tokyo street to try to capture the magic feeling that I have when I stroll around the streets of Tokyo. I asked a Japanese woman how come that Japanese people seem to find it so interesting seeing a western woman taking pictures of a street. She answered “Japanese people are curious to know what it is you find interesting”.

A bit more than a year ago I was in the middle of Turkey in a place called Cappadocia where few Swedish people find their way to. I was amazed of the large number of Japanese tourists there. Later I learnt  that many Japanese people choose their holiday destination from the UNESCO world heritage list. Connecting this to a presentation a Japanese colleague recently held about the importance of collectivism in the Japanese society when it comes to making a purchase decision, and adding the fact that what one find exotic varies a lot between people, makes me understand why I received so many curious glances 😉

Tokyo is a huge city  where every metro and train station has its own athmosphere and attractions. Electrical wires is a common sight everywhere but in the evening the greyish buildings and wires are unnoticed as neon lights take over the night. As you have understood from above little story my biggest interest in Tokyo is simply just to wander around the streets. Usually a big amount of time is spent on metros since I tend to want to cover too much at one time.

I enjoy the bigger and more famous stations Shibuya and Shinjuku a lot where your head is getting dizzy from trying to avoid being overrun by people and your mind is overloaded of teenage fashion and unusual, sometimes, crazy sights. But what I like the most in Tokyo is to discover the smaller stations. There you usually find a maze of narrow streets packed with shops and eateries. The feeling is more relaxed and local.

One thing to get used to in Tokyo is that most restaurants and bars, especially around the bigger stations, are concentrated to high buildings. On ground floor is is common with a food show behind glass. You look what the restaurants on the different floors have to offer and then take the elevator to the place of your choice. Eateries and bars on groundfloor is more common around smaller stations.

Once you reach your chosen restaurant and the elevator door opens up, be prepared to enter a totally different world. Japan offers many unique styles of dining. One of my favourites if you are with a group is the so called Izakaya where every company get a unique room or compartment, depending on the size of group. Shoes are taken off and usually stored in a designated small  cabinet. Staff are running back and forward to serve you all kinds of small dishes, Japanese tapas you could say. There are Izakayas in different price levels and different atmospheres. Drinks (beer or sake) are as important as the food in Izakayas. It sure is a unique dining experience. Cooking your own food at the table is also popular in Japan as is having your very own chef cooking infront of you.

Tokyo fashion and electronics in Akihabara

Arigato gozaimasu! It is time to introduce a bit of Japan into this blog. I have been to Japan two times. First time was three years ago and the second time was this year in October. Japan intrigues me, inspires me and makes me full of joy 😀 I have covered both bigger cities, villages and countryside on my trips and I really look forward to share and inspire you with photos from one of my favourite countries ever visited.

A broken camera on my latest trip to Japan brought me to famous Akihabara in Tokyo, known for electronics and Manga. Luckily I managed to get my camera to function just a little longer, enough to capture some Akihabara street life…

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