Japan: Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture

The same with Sendai, we spent most of our time in Nagoya doing more shopping. Most of us have been to Nagoya before so we’ve done the touristy things, with my brother inlaw living there for the last 4 months. We did go to the Nagoya castle though as it has new sections recently opened.

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On one of the days, we had boys and girls day, with us girls spending the whole time shopping 😉 specifically, shopping at Uniqlo lol while the boys went to see some cars. So stereotypical really.

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My favourite building in Nagoya

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Random park where people sat eating their lunch

Nagoya was also the place where I got to meet a new side of my inlaws that I’ve yet to meet before. My bother inlaw has a friend who works at a very good restaurant, so he kindly organised a dinner there for us. The 6-course disgustation dinner came with a 2-hour unlimited drinks. Unlimited. To say that we made the most of the offer would be a severe understatement. The night didn’t finish until 2am for some of us, with recuperation time lasted a lot longer than expected. I have so many hilarious stories and photos that I’m sure will make me grin stupidly for a long time! It was so fun.

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The bar where we ended the night

Mr E also had one of his rare shopping urges during our Nagoya trip, so I made sure I took advantage of it. In one shop, he got almost a whole new wardrobe. I am so happy! We both love Japanese fashion, preferring the uniquely shaped/patterned items. Another example how compatible we are 🙂 I am blessed with someone who accepts my weird dress sense.

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That calligraphy brush holders on the top left corner were ¥120,000!

On one of the mornings we have in the city, we went to an antique market held on a temple grounds. I love antique markets, this one especially, since they have things that my grandma had at her home 🙂 I found a stack of mini photos that I was so tempted to buy to frame, but Mr E said that they’re of wartime entertainment. It didn’t seem right to buy them as some of my relatives suffered under the Japanese occupation of Indo. The smell at the antique market reminded me of my childhood; spending time with my grandma while she prayed at the temple, a mix of incense, rain and mosquito repellant 🙂 I enjoyed the market.

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We found a vending machine selling what we thought were bottles of tea. On close inspections, we saw a fish in each of the bottles…. this would have trumped all the gross drinks we’ve had so far!

Japan: Sendai and Matsushima, Miyagi Prefecture

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I LOVE Japan’s public transport system! Most places are easily accessible, even for non-Japanese speakers. We caught the Shinkansen from Hakodate to Sendai and apparently, for 20 minutes, we were way deep underwater. Too cool!

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There weren’t much to see in Sendai, for me at least. We spent most of the time shopping, which works for me. I am so good at emotional-shopping now! Japan has the best clothes for little boys, very unlike Australia. From my last count, I think we have about 50 items for Little E alone. Plus all the knick-knacks. We had to buy more luggage allowance…..

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Mr E and I finally got the chance to have a dinner date. It was so great, no time limit so we could go for as long as we want to. We went to a restaurant that specialises in beef tongue, which is a Sendai speciality. This trip has been good for us, I have been reminded frequently how good we are together. I am thankful ♡

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We took a day trip to Matsushima, which is apparently one of three most scenic spots in Japan. It lived up to its title! I loved it there 🙂

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We took a ferry ride to try take in all the vast number of little islands in Matsushima. Unfortunately, the ferry was packed to the brim, so we had to stand at the back of the ferry. The smell of the fume almost got too much for me. I still liked it though!

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My favourite of the trip: the Date Masamune museum, one of the most famous samurai in Japanese history. He was also the person who built up Matsushima to be a prosperous town. His childhood story was a little sad, being disregarded by his own mother, however, luckily his father saw his full potential and believed in him. I highly recommend this museum if you’re ever in Matsushima.

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More of the beautiful scenes of Matsushima: an iconic Japanese bridge leading to one of the many islands, a 700 year old tree and beautiful caves for meditation.

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Our stay in Sendai ended at a very high note: a slightly drunken night at a local Jazz bar. Ginger Highball is now officially my favourite drink! 🙂

Japan: Sapporo, Hokkaido

I totally forgot to post about Sapporo, so here’s the highlights of the trip:

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A nice walk through Odori Park, which had different types of roses on display. My favourite ones are the Honey Suckle roses from USA, they smelt so sweet and strong!

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This is apparently one of a kind slide, made from marble (I think). There was a nice old man, who told us he goes on the slide every single day. We believe he is an employee of the city, responsible for showing people around the “artworks” as part of the Sapporo International Art Festival.

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A really nicely decorated arcade full of shops and restaurants. We spent a great deal amount of time here, mostly in a 24-hour shop called Don Quixote. I love that shop, you can get anything there!

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One of the best dinners of the trip. We chose it after going through a lot of restaurants as a compromise. With 5 people of different tastes and budgets, choosing a place to eat is one of many compromises we have to make. This restaurant was awesome! If you look carefully at the photo, there’s a man with a horse head. We’re still not sure what dish you have to order, but whatever it is, it’ll be served by a man with the horse head, plus a whole lot of singing and chanting. It was fun!

Mr E and his brothers shared 2 serves of Beef Hamburg that had strawberry fairy floss stirred through it. Different and delicious 🙂 On the way out of the restaurant, we peered through one of the windows at their fairy floss machine. Our waiter must’ve seen us because he offered us to make our own! And we did. Like I said, best dining experience yet.

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A trip to Sapporo will not be complete without going to the Sapporo beer museum. To celebrate one of the most famous Japanese beer brands, the museum is free and provided a nice tribute to the brand’s history. After a BBQ lamb lunch, called Genghis Khan BBQ throughout Hokkaido, we then spent the next few hours shopping in the converted old Sapporo beer factories.

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The next day, we went to a museum dedicated to the Ainu people, the Northern Japanese aboriginal people. I loved the museum and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. It is an interactive museum where you are allowed to touch and have a go at the exhibits, such as grain pounding and games.

This is a pair of boots made of salmon skin.

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This is apparently an example of girl’s underwear, made of bark fibre. It is amazing how humans can be so resourceful! Surprisingly, the fabric is not that rough. Amazing!

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A teething toy: I have seen babies around chewing almost the same thing. It’s quite different from the western teething rings from chewy plastic that Little E had 🙂

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A baby swing, I assume it is more like a bassinet? Ingeniously basic but functional.

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This is apparently the kind of house they used to have. It reminds me of the traditional houses some parts of Indo still have now. The inside of these houses look the same as the non-Ainu houses I’ve seen. I am interested to know who influenced who?

I guess you can’t go to Hokkaido without going to Sapporo, so I recommend at least spend a day in the city if you’re in the island. Everything here seemed to be at a smaller scale of things in Honshu, so you’d be able to cramp in more things here 🙂

Japan: Hakodate, Hokkaido

We got in late into Hakodate, the last city of our Hokkaido tour. After dropping off the hire car, we went to Lucky Perriot, apparently “the Number 1 local hamburger place in Japan”. How could you say no to that?

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It had to be the worst food I’ve had in Japan, in equal top position with the onigiri of random unidentifiable filling I bought on my first trip here. Sorry, Lucky Perriot!

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After a restful night, some of us went to the Morning Market for a fresh seafood breakfast. I had fresh crabs and sea urchin on rice, it was delicious. I noticed that the sellers in this market were a lot pushier than those in any other markets I’ve been to. Though being Japanese, they were still not as pushy as ones in SE Asia 🙂

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On the way back, we walked past this place….. I take comfort in the fact that it was the only shop with no one in it.

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The rest of the day was all about sightseeing. Hakodate was apparently the first ever port in Japan open for International trade. The city is heavily influenced by western styles, most noticeably, the star-shaped fort. It was apparently designed by a man who studied Dutch architecture.

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It was in the fort that I finally succumbed and Skype’d my inlaws and Little E. I had been holding off as I didn’t want to upset him (and myself). Little E looked so chubby! And happy. And content. I knew he would, but I am glad regardless to be able to see it. Afterwards, my mum inlaw emailed and said that Little E didn’t get upset at all. He was happilly pointing us out on the photos around the house and took comfort in grandma saying we will be back. I, on the other hand, was not fine. Sigh. Isn’t this so much of a #firstworldproblem? Longing for my son when on an overseas holiday? 😦

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Anyway, dinner was at a food alley, with most of the places only able to fit a maximum of 5 people! I loved the ambience of the place 🙂 This kind of outdoor, basic, fuss-free dining spots is what I love about Asia.

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Squid ink and potato butter corn gyozas! The potato butter gyozas came with salted raw squid. I didn’t like the dip 😉

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To finish off the night, we went on the Hakodate ropeway to see the night view of the city. We were lucky that we got to see it as the cloud went over really quickly and soon we were in it. Funnily enough, there were still people taking photos of the “view” with flash. You wouldn’t be able to see anything! Ha.

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Our night cap for the day. Our hotel provided these shaved ice machines for free. It was such a treat for both the young and old guests! 🙂 Mr E and his brother went nuts on the condensed milk!

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And so, that ended our trip to Hokkaido. I’ve always wanted to go, I’m sorry that it was not winter as the island would be way prettier then. However, I did enjoy the trip. Hokkaido is so much different from Honshu (main island of Japan), offering mostly nature and its picturesque landscapes. It is beautiful!

Japan: Biei and Furano, Hokkaido

After such a lavish buffet breakfast where I almost overdosed on fried salmon and pickled seaweed, we set off for Noboribetsu, making brief stops along the way.

The first stop was Biei, to see this tree. Apparently, the “Ken and Mary” tree is a special tree, making a cameo in a 1970s TV commercial for a Nissan Skyline. Would you believe that there were people lining up to take photos of this tree? Ha.

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The view on the drive, so picturesque! ♡

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Our second stop was Furano, where I had melons and more melons. I had a melon crepe and Mr E had a melon jam bread roll. We also shared the best melon smoothie! It was such a welcomed relief on the hot humid day.

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Then, we came to the lavender farm, where everything was, yep, lavender and more lavender. I’m not a fan of lavenders, the smell nausea-inducing. This place, though, was okay, as long as I don’t spend much time in the many shops scattered around the place. The farm itself was beautifully maintained.

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I sampled some of the lavender cheesecake and it was actually alright. It didn’t have a strong lavender taste at all 🙂

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As our last stop, we went to the Anpanman shop, previously run by the creator! I was hoping to meet him and have him sign a book, but apparently he died last October 😦 I had a great time picking up a few things for my precious, but it made me miss him so much that I had to stop myself bursting into tears a few times.

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I enjoyed the trip, though Japanese speed limits are sooo frustrating! 50km/hr on a highway??? Far out.

Japan: Noboribetsu, Hokkaido

My experience in Noboribetsu can be summed up in three words: beautiful, surreal and liberating.

Imagine this..

You’re on your own, in a large outdoor hot spring bath. The rhythmic drops of rain on the tiles around you make a calming background music. Out on the distance, a fox and its young sniffed around for food. Birds flying past, minding their own business.

The view is of the ocean, gentle small waves lapping. With the heat, you feel your muscles relaxing. The smell of rain and slight sulphur intermingle.

All the while, you are stark naked. With a small face cloth to give you a false sense of modesty in case someone decide to join you.

Liberating 😉

Noboribetsu, thank you for the experience.

Japan: Daisetsuzan National Park, Sounkyo, Hokkaido

We had such a weird experience in Daisetsuzan National Park. Arriving at around 2.30pm, our hotel was empty and looking almost abandoned. Walking around the main town strip, the atmosphere felt just as empty, with only a few other people there. It was almost like being in a ghost town….

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Some wild animals apparently present in the Park. See the bears…..?

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After an equally weird lunch, served by someone who sighed and acted like he didn’t want to be there, we set off for the “Husband and Wife” waterfalls.

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I have been craving salad, so these weeds looked so much like rocket to me. I had to fight the urge to start munching on these…

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We saw some wild deers!!!! So lucky! This guy happily ate his lunch while we took numerous photos of him.

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My brother inlaw bought this bell to scare off wild bears. Apparently that’s how you do it here 😉 One of the shops nearby also blasted off some old songs in an attempt to keep the bears away.

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An old rusted bear warning sign we saw while we were hiking… I took comfort listening to the chime from the bell my brother inlaw bought. We think we saw a bear paw print during our walk…. so scary!

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We hiked for around 1hr, through muddy narrow trails. A step sideways meant you’d be on your way down the cliff……

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However, at the end of that path, you’re rewarded by this view. So beautiful and calming. In fact, during this walk, I had another epiphany, but I’ll write more on that in another post.

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When we got back to the hotel, around 6pm or so, we saw a lot more people. It was almost like the movie Spirited Away, at night, when the sun sets, the ghost of the past came back to life………….