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Monday, June 29, 2015

Chugoku (Sanyo + San-in) 2015 日本中国 (山阴+山阳) - Day 12 Shimonoseki 下関

Day 12: 27.04.2015
* Day 5 of 7 Days Sanyo & San'in Area Pass

Kamon Wharf

Breakfast: Gyokusenkaku 玉仙閣

Free shuttle service to Mine JR.

Mine JR 美祢駅 (0800 hrs) > Asa JR 厚狭駅
by local train, via Mine line.

Asa JR 厚狭駅 (0901 hrs) > Shimonoseki JR 下関駅 (0943 hrs)
by local train.

Shimonoseki JR Bus Stop 1, 2 > Karato
by bus. Fee = 220 yen.

Visited:
- Karato Market 唐戸市場 http://www.karatoichiba.com/
- Kamon Wharf カモンワーフ http://kamonwharf.com/
- Akama Shrine 赤間神宮 http://www.tiki.ne.jp/~akama-jingu/

Lunch: Ten @ Kamon Wharf

Karato > Shimonoseki JR
by bus. Fee = 220 yen.

Shimonoseki JR 下関駅 > Shin Shimonoseki JR 新下関駅
by local train.

Shin Shimonoseki JR新下関駅 (1333 hrs) > Hiroshima JR 広島駅(1444 hrs)
by Kodama こだま 744.

Collected luggage from Via Inn Hiroshima.

Hiroshima JR 広島駅 (1535 hrs) > Shin Osaka JR 新大阪駅 (1701 hrs)
by Nozomi 38.

Shin Osaka JR 新大阪駅 (1745 hrs) > Kansai Airport 関西空港 (1843 hrs)
by Haruka 35.

Dinner: Kineya @ Kansai Airport
http://www.kansai-airport.or.jp/en/index.asp

KIX (2135 hrs) > HND T2 (2245 hrs)
by NH100.

HND T2 (2355 hrs) > SIN T2 (0615 hrs)
by NH843.

- End of 12 days Chugoku Trip - 

Chugoku (Sanyo + San-in) 2015 日本中国 (山阴+山阳) - Day 11 Mine 美祢, Nagato Yumoto Onsen 長門湯本温泉

Day 11: 26.04.2015
* Day 4 of 7 Days Sanyo & San'in Area Pass

Akiyoshidou
Breakfast: Kokian

Hired 2 hours sightseeing taxi for 6,000 yen (2,000 yen/pax)
- Xavier Memorial Church サビエル記念聖堂
- Hanchomon 藩庁門
- Rurikoji & 5 Storied Pagoda 瑠璃光寺五重塔
- Sesshutei Garden 常栄寺雪舟庭
- St Xavier Memorial Monument サビエル公園 

Yuda Onsen Bus Stop 6 (1228 hrs) > Akiyoshidou 秋芳洞 (1310 hrs)
by JR Chugoku Bus. Fee = 1,140 yen.

Akiyoshidai
Visited Akiyoshidou 秋芳洞 & Akiyoshidai 秋吉台.
http://www.karusuto.com/

Akiyoshidou > Mine JR 美祢駅
by taxi. Fee = ~4,500 yen.

Mine JR 美祢駅 (1705 hrs) > Nagato Yumoto JR 長門湯本駅 (1733 hrs)
by local train, via Mine line.

Checked in: Gyokusenkaku 玉仙閣
http://www.gyokusenkaku.com/

Explored area around Otozure River 音信川.

Dinner: Gyokusenkaku 玉仙閣

- End of Day 11 - 

Chugoku (Sanyo + San-in) 2015 日本中国 (山阴+山阳) - Day 10 Tsuwano 津和野, Yuda Onsen 湯田温泉

Day 10: 25.04.2015
* Day 3 of 7 Days Sanyo & San'in Area Pass

SL Yamaguchi @ Shin Yamaguchi JR Station
Breakfast: Cafe Di Espresso, in front of Via Inn Hiroshima

Hiroshima JR 広島駅 (0920 hrs) > Shin Yamaguchi JR 新山口駅 (0952 hrs)
by Nozomi のぞみ 97.

Shin Yamaguchi JR 新山口駅 (1048 hrs) > Tsuwano JR 津和野駅 (1258 hrs)
by SL Yamaguchi.
http://www.c571.jp/

Tsuwano
Explored Tsuwano:
- Tonomachi dori 殿町道り
- Tsuwano Catholic Church カトリック教会
- Taikodani Inari Shrine 太皷谷稲成神社 

Tsuwano JR 津和野駅 (1545 hrs) > Yuda Onsen JR 湯田温泉駅 (1730 hrs)
by SL Yamaguchi.

Checked in: Kokian 古稀庵
http://www.kokian.info/

Explored Yuda Onsen:
http://yudaonsen.com/
- Footbaths
- Tourism Ryokan Center
- Inoue Park 井上公園

Dinner: Kokian

- End of Day 10 -

Chugoku (Sanyo + San-in) 2015 日本中国 (山阴+山阳) - Day 9 Miyajima 宮島, Kure 呉

Day 9: 24.04.2015
* Day 2 of 7 Days Sanyo & San'in Area Pass

Miyajima - The Great Torii

Breakfast: Hotel Flex ホテルフレック


Hiroshima JR 広島駅 > Miyajima guchi JR 宮島口駅
by local train.

Miyajima guchi 宮島口 > Miyajima Pier
by ferry (fee covered by Sanyo San'in Area Pass).

Explored Miyajima:
http://visit-miyajima-japan.com/en/
- Itsukushima Shrine 厳島神社
- Omotessando 表参道
- Treasure Hall 宝物館

Lunch: Kaki Ya 牡蠣屋

Tea break: 
- Miyajima Coffee 宮島珈琲
- Yamada Ya やまだや

Miyajima Pier > Miyajima guchi  宮島口
by ferry.

Miyajima guchi JR 宮島口駅 > Kitachi JR > Kure JR 呉駅
by local train.

Visited JMSDF Kure Museum.

Kure JR 呉駅 > Hiroshima JR 広島駅
by local train.

Hiroshima ekimae 広島駅前> Tokaichi machi 十日市町
by streetcar.

Dinner: Tsukemen Honbo Karabu つけ麺本舗辛部

- End of Day 9 -

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Chugoku (Sanyo + San-in) 2015 日本中国 (山阴+山阳) - Day 8 Iwakuni 岩国, Hiroshima 広島

Day 8: 23.04.2015
* Day 1 of 7 Days Sanyo & San'in Area Pass

Kintaikyo
Breakfast: Hotel Flex ホテルフレック

Hiroshima JR 広島駅 (0842 hrs) > Shin Iwakuni JR 新岩国駅 (0856 hrs)
by Kodama こだま 727.

Shin Iwakuni JR Bus Stop (0924 hrs) > Kintaikyo (0946 hrs)
by Iwakuni Bus 岩国バス. Fee = 290 yen.

Visited Kintaikyo 錦帯橋 and Iwakuni Castle 岩国城.

Lunch: Hirasei 平清

Kintaikyo (1306 hrs) > Shin Iwakuni JR Bus Stop (1320 hrs)
by Iwakuni Bus 岩国バス. Fee = 290 yen.

Shin Iwakuni JR 新岩国駅 (1334 hrs) > Hiroshima JR 広島駅 (1349 hrs)
by Kodama こだま 742.

Hiroshima JR Shinkansen Entrance (1400 hrs) > Hiroshima Castle (1408 hrs)
by Hiroshima Meripuru~pu Bus. Fee = 200 yen.

Hiroshima Castle
Visited Hiroshima Castle 広島城. Fee = 370 yen.

Walked to Hondori Shopping Street.

Tea break: Andersen (Main Shop)

Visited Uniqlo, G.U. and Daiso in Sun Mall, Tokyu Hands @ Aioi dori.

Dinner: Mitchan Okonomiyaki

- End of Day 8 -

Friday, June 26, 2015

Chugoku (Sanyo + San-in) 2015 日本中国 (山阴+山阳) - Day 7 Tottori 鳥取, Shimane 島根, Hiroshima 広島 

Day 7: 22.04.2015
* Day 7 of 7 Days Sanyo & San'in Area Pass


Tottori Hanakairo. Background: Mt Daisen.
Breakfast: Kai Izumo

Kai Izumo > Tamatsukuri Onsen JR
by taxi. Fee = 850 yen.

Tamatsukuri Onsen JR 玉造温泉駅 (0851 hrs) > Yonago JR 米子駅 (0921 hrs)
by Yakumo 10.

Yonago JR Bus Stop (0930 hrs) > Tottori Hanakairo 鳥取花回廊 (0955 hrs)
by free shuttle bus.

Visited Tottori Hanakairo 鳥取花回廊. Fee = 500 yen (discounted price for foreigners).
http://www.tottorihanakairou.or.jp/

Lunch: Tottori Hanakairo.

Tottori Hanakairo (1230 hrs) > Yonago JR Bus Stop (1255 hrs)
by free shuttle bus.

Yonago JR Bus Stop (1315 hrs) > Adachi Museum of Art 足立美術館 (1352 hrs)
by free shuttle bus. *16.04.2017 update: Free shuttle bus departing from Yonago JR Station to Adachi Museum of Art has ceased. Free shuttle bus departing from Yasugi JR Station is still in operation.

Adachi Museum of Art
Visited Adachi Museum of Art 足立美術館. Fee = 1,150 yen (discounted price for foreigners)
https://www.adachi-museum.or.jp/en/

Adachi Museum of Art (1550 hrs) > Yasugi JR Bus Stop (1610 hrs)
by free shuttle bus.

Yasugi JR 安来駅 (1618 hrs) > Okayama JR 岡山駅 (1838 hrs)
by Yakumo 24.

Collected luggage from Toyoko Inn Okayama Eki Nishiguchi Hiroba.

Okayama JR 岡山駅 (1912 hrs) > Hiroshima JR 広島駅 (1952 hrs)
by Sakura 571.

Dinner: Ekiben on board train.

Checked in: Hotel Flex ホテルフレック
http://www.hotel-flex.co.jp/english/

Dessert: Cafe 43

- End of Day 7 -

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Chugoku (Sanyo + San-in) 2015 日本中国 (山阴+山阳) - Day 6 Izumo 出雲, Tamatsukuri Onsen 玉造温泉

Day 6: 21.04.2015
* Day 6 of 7 Days Sanyo & San'in Area Pass

Izumo Taisha
Breakfast: Super Hotel Izumo Ekimae

Izumo-shi 出雲市駅 (0803 hrs) > Izumo Taisha Mae 出雲大社前駅 (0824 hrs)
by Ichibata Railway 一畑電車, transferred at Kawato.
http://www.ichibata.co.jp/railway/

Visited Izumo Taisha 出雲大社.

Lunch: 
- Handmade soba @ Enishi えにし
- Redbean soup @ Goen Yokocho ご縁横町

Izumo Taisha Mae 出雲大社前駅 (1316 hrs) > Izumo-shi 出雲市駅 (1341 hrs)
by Ichibata Railway 一畑電車, transferred at Kawato.

Izumo-shi JR 出雲市駅 (1401 hrs) > Tamatsukuri Onsen JR 玉造温泉駅(1417 hrs)
by Super Matsukaze 10.

Checked in: Kai Izumo 界 出雲
http://kai-izumo.jp/

Tamatsukuri Onsen
Explored Tamatsukuri Onsen.
http://www.tama-onsen.jp/
- Footbaths (Himegami Hiroba 姫神広場)
- Yuyakushi Hiroba 湯薬師広場
- Tamatsukuri Yu Jinja 玉作湯神社
- Yu~Yu (Public bath & Farmers' Market) ゆ~ゆ

Dinner: Kai Izumo

- End of Day 6 -

Friday, June 19, 2015

Chugoku (Sanyo + San-in) 2015 日本中国 (山阴+山阳) - Day 5 Sakaiminato 境港

Day 5: 20.04.2015
* Day 5 of 7 Days Sanyo & San'in Area Pass 

Misasa Onsen in the day.
Breakfast: Mansuirou

Free hotel shuttle service to Kurayoshi JR.

Kurayoshi JR 倉吉駅 (0858 hrs) > Tottori JR鳥取駅 (0927 hrs) 
by Super Matsukaze 4 *Took the wrong train which was heading in the opposite direction.

Tottori JR 鳥取駅 (0944 hrs) > Yonago JR 米子駅 (1045 hrs)
by Super Oki 3

Yonago JR 米子駅 (1136 hrs) > Sakaiminato JR 境港駅 (1220 hrs)
by Kitaro Ressha 鬼太郎列車.

Mizuki Shigeru Museum
Explored Mizuki Shigeru Road 水木しげるロード.
http://www.sakaiminato.net/foreign/en/mizuki.html

Visited:
- Mizuki Shigeru Museum 水木しげる記念館 http://mizuki.sakaiminato.net/
- Gegege no Youkairakuen ゲゲゲの妖怪楽園 http://www.yokairakuen.jp

Sakaiminato JR 境港駅 (1554 hrs) > Yonago JR 米子駅 (1645 hrs)
by Kitaro Ressha 鬼太郎列車.

Yonago JR 米子駅 > Yasugi JR 安来駅
by local train.

Yasugi JR 安来駅 (1728 hrs) > Izumoshi JR 出雲市駅 (1813 hrs)
by Yakumo 17.

Checked in: Super Hotel Izumo Ekimae スーパーホテル出雲駅前
http://www.superhoteljapan.com/en/s-hotels/izumo/

Dinner: MOS Burger

- End of Day 5 -

Chugoku (Sanyo + San-in) 2015 日本中国 (山阴+山阳) - Day 4 Tottori 鳥取, Misasa Onsen 三朝温泉

Day 4: 19.04.2015
* Day 4 of 7 Days Sanyo & San'in Area Pass 

Tottori Sand Dunes
Breakfast: Toyoko Inn Okayama Eki Nishi Guchi Hiroba 東横イン岡山駅西口広場

Okayama JR 岡山駅 (0800 hrs) > Himeji JR 姫路駅 (0819 hrs)
by Nozomi のぞみ 116

Himeji JR 姫路駅 (0837 hrs) > Tottori JR 鳥取駅 (1012 hrs)
by Super Hakuto 1

Tottori Bus Terminal Bus Stop 0 (1045 hrs) > Sakyu Center Tenbodai 砂丘センター展望台 (1116 hrs)
by Kirin Shishi Bus 麒麟獅子バス. Fee = 300 yen.
http://www.torican.jp/bus

Visited:
- Sakyu Center Tenbodai 砂丘センター展望台
- Sand Museum 砂の美術館
http://www.sand-museum.jp/

Boarded chairlift to Tottori Sand Dunes. Fee = 200 yen (one way)

Visited Tottori Sand Dunes 鳥取砂丘.
http://sakyu.city.tottori.tottori.jp/

Lunch: Sakyu Kaikan 砂丘会館

Sakyu Kaikan (1420 hrs) > Tottori Bus Terminal (1505 hrs)
by Kirin Jishi Bus. Fee = 300 yen.

Tottori JR 鳥取駅(1556 hrs) > Kurayoshi JR 倉吉駅(1623 hrs)
by Super Hakuto 7

Free hotel shuttle service to Misasa Onsen 三朝温泉.

Checked in: Mansuirou 万翆楼
http://www.mansuirou.co.jp/

Explored Misasa Onsen street.

Dinner: Mansuirou

Visited Misasa Onsen street for illumination displays.

- End of Day 4 -

Chugoku (Sanyo + San-in) 2015 日本中国 (山阴+山阳) - Day 3 Onomichi 尾道, Hiroshima 広島

Day 3: 18.04.2015
* Day 3 of 7 Days Sanyo & San'in Area Pass 

Onomichi City
Breakfast: Toyoko Inn Okayama Eki Nishi Guchi Hiroba 東横イン岡山駅西口広場

Okayama JR 岡山駅 (0825 hrs) > Fukuyama JR 福山駅 (0841 hrs)
by Hikari ひかり491

Fukuyuma JR 福山駅 (0849 hrs) > Onomichi JR 尾道駅 (0910 hrs)
by local train

Onomichi Eki Bus Stop 1 > Nagae guchi 長江口
by bus. Fee = 140 yen; 5 mins

One way Mt Senkouji Ropeway 千光寺山ロープウェイ. Fee = 280 yen.

Visited:
- Mt Senkouji Observation Platform
- Senkouji Temple 千光寺
http://www.senkouji.jp/

Lunch: Onomichi Ramen Ichibankan 尾道ラーメン壱番館

Walked along Onomichi Hondori Shopping Street 尾道本通り.

Onomich JR 尾道駅> Mihara JR 三原駅
by local train

Sentouchi Marine View Train
Mihara JR 三原駅 (1325 hrs) > Hiroshima JR 広島駅(1607 hrs)
by Sentouchi Marine View #2

Hiroshima Ekimae 広島駅前 > Genbaku Dome Mae 原爆ドーム前
by Hiroshima Streetcar. Fee = 160 yen.

Visited:
- Atomic Bomb Dome
- Peace Park, Cenotaph
- Hiroshima National Peace Museum Memorial Hall for A Bomb Victims

Dinner: Bought bread from Andersen (Main Shop).

Hondori 本通り > Hiroshima Ekimae 広島駅前
by Hiroshima Streetcar. Fee = 160 yen.

Hiroshima 広島駅 (1917 hrs) > Okayama JR 岡山駅 (1952 hrs)
by Nozomi のぞみ 60

- End of Day 3 -

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Chugoku (Sanyo + San-in) 2015 日本中国 (山阴+山阳) - Day 2 Himeji 姫路, Kurashiki 倉敷

Day 2: 17.04.2015
* Day 2 of 7 Days Sanyo & San'in Area Pass 


Himeji Castle
BreakfastToyoko Inn Okayama Eki Nishi Guchi Hiroba 東横イン岡山駅西口広場

Okayama JR 岡山駅 (0737 hrs) > Himeji JR 姫路駅 (0758 hrs)
by Nozomi のぞみ 114.

Visited Himeji Castle 姬路城.
http://www.city.himeji.lg.jp/guide/castle/

Himeji JR 姫路駅 (1155 hrs) > Okayama JR 岡山駅 (1215 hrs)
by Nozomi のぞみ 103.

Okayama JR 岡山駅 > Kurashiki JR 倉敷駅
by local train.

Lunch: Miyake Shouten 三宅商店
http://www.miyakeshouten.com/

Explored Kurashiki:
(1) Kurashiki River boat ride
(2) Momotaro no Karakuri Hakubatsukan Museum 桃太郎のからくり博物館
(3) Kurashiki Ivy Square
(4) Hayashi Genjuro 林源十郎商店
http://www.genjuro.jp/

Kurashiki JR 倉敷駅 > Okayama JR 岡山駅
by local train.

Dinner: Cafe Honmachi 喫茶ほんまち

- End of Day 2 -

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Chugoku (Sanyo + San-in) 2015 日本中国 (山阴+山阳) - Day 1 Okayama 岡山

Day 1: 16.04.2015
* Day 1 of 7 Days Sanyo & San'in Area Pass 

Okayama Castle

SIN T2 (2215 hrs) > HND Int (0630 hrs)
By NH844

HND T2 (0800 hrs) > Osaka ITM (0910 hrs)
By NH015

Osaka Int (1015 hrs) > Shin Osaka JR (1045 hrs)
By Airport Limousine Bus. Fee = 500 yen.

* Collected Sanyo & San'in Area Pass at Shin-Osaka JR Station.

Shin Osaka JR 新大阪駅 (1109 hrs) > Okayama JR 岡山駅 (1155 hrs)
By Shinkansen Nozomi 17

Checked in: Toyoko Inn Okayama Eki Nishi Guchi Hiroba 東横イン岡山駅西口広場
http://www.toyoko-inn.com/e_hotel/00167/index.html

Lunch: Ajitsukasa Nomura 味司 野村

Nishigawa Ryokudokoen 西川緑道公園 > Shiroshita 城下
by Okayama Electric Tram. Fee = 140 yen.

Visited:
- Okayama Castle 岡山城 http://www.okayama-kanko.net/ujo/index.html
- Kourakuen 後楽園 http://www.okayama-korakuen.jp/

Dessert: Cafe Antenna

Shiroshita 城下 > Okayama Ekimae 岡山駅前
by Okayama Electric Tram. Fee = 140 yen.

Okayama JR 岡山駅 > Kitanagase JR 北長瀬駅
By local train.

Dinner: Kabakuro (Kitanagase branch) かばくろ北長瀬店
Kitanagase JR 北長瀬駅 > Okayama JR 岡山駅
By local train

- End of Day 1 -

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Okada Coffee 岡田珈琲

Visited 20.03.2014


In actual fact, this is not my first time to Okada Coffee because I have been to its branch in Singapore, which has been around quite some time ago. Had their high tea set and signature Mont Blanc cake on several visits and I am quite pleased with the food so far. Told myself I have to pay this cafe a visit if I ever come to Kumamoto next time. Originated in 1945, Okada Coffee has been around in Kumamoto for 70 years and has established several branches within this prefecture as well.

Came to the main branch located in Kami Tori after dinner. A two storey shop house - first floor sells a variety of coffee beans, sweets and biscuits while the cafe is located on the second floor. Took the counter seats as the rest of the tables in the cafe were occupied. Despite the small space, wooden furnishings, dimmed lighting and usage of English style tableware, created a nostalgic and cosy atmosphere for diners.


Taste test. Ordered a slice of roll cake and Mont Blanc cake, accompanied with coffee and tea. Mont Blanc cake did not disappoint at all - crispy base topped with fragrant chestnut mousse and filling. In terms of taste, I find it quite similar to what they offered in Singapore. Roll cake was moist, wrapped with sweet and smooth chestnut cream - a perfect dessert to go with coffee/tea. Overall, this was on par with the Singapore's branch though I was actually expecting more from this visit. Nevertheless, still glad to know that the quality of food & beverages are not compromised in their overseas branches.

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Okada Coffee (Kami Tori Main Branch) 岡田珈琲 (上通本店)
860-0845 熊本市上通り1-20
Opening hrs: 1000 - 2100 hrs
http://www.okada-coffee.com/

How to get there?
Take Kumamoto Streetcar (Route A from Kumamoto JR Station towards Kengunmachi 健軍町) and alight at Torichosuji 通町筋. Look out for Kami Tori covered walkway and Okada Coffee is the second shop on the left.




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Okada Coffee Singapore Branch
100 Tras St, 100 AM building (Shopping complex connected to Amara Hotel), #03-23.
Opening hrs: 1030 - 2200 hrs

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Keika Ramen 桂花ラメん

Visited 20.03.2014


My impression of ramen was changed totally after eating Ichiran ramen in Hakata. Finally I've finally found one that suit my taste in Japan. In Kumamoto, a slightly different type of ramen is served. Similar to Hakata style, pork broth is used as the soup base. What is unique about Kumamoto ramen is fried garlic is infused into the milky pork broth to elevate its rich flavour. 

Decided to indulge in the local ramen on my first night in Kumamoto. Keika Ramen is a local brand that has been around for more than half a decade and has opened several branches in Kumamoto, Fukuoka and Tokyo. Got to know later that they have ventured overseas, with three shops established in Singapore too. On this night, we visited the main shop located in Hanabatacho 花畑町. 


A hearty bowl of Kumamoto ramen.
Ordered their original ramen and a plate of gyoza. The fragrance of fried garlic immediately hit me when my bowl of noodles was arrived. Thick noodles was used and was served together with a few slices of char siew, bamboo shoots, shallots and a half egg (not the usual soft boiled egg). Rich and milky white pork broth was mixed with fried garlic oil, turning the soup slightly golden brown in colour. The first sip of soup did hit the right spot as I am a fan of garlic. However, felt that the soup base was still on the saltier side for me. Nevertheless, this is still a good hearty bowl of ramen to satisfy a hungry stomach. Gyozas was wrapped with juicy meat fillings and so far (at least for me), this side dish has never failed to make the entire meal complete. 

I have also patronised Keika Ramen in Singapore (branch in Takashimaya) on a later date. Was hoping that the flavours could be replicated here (with the saltiness reduced to suit Singaporeans' tastebuds?), but I felt the fried garlic flavor was lacking in the soup and that was to me the most important element behind its delicious taste.   
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Keika Ramen (Kumamoto Main Branch) 桂花ラメん 熊本県本店
熊本市中央区花畑町11-9 K-1ビル
Opening hrs: 1100 - 2400 hrs (Mon - Thu); 1100 - 0145 hrs (Fri, Sat); 1100 - 2000 hrs (Sun)
http://keika-raumen.co.jp/

Friday, June 12, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Mitsui Green Hotel Kumamoto 三井ガーデ ンホテル熊本

Stayed 20.03.2014, 23.03.2014
Booked via Rakuten Travel


Kumamon craze. Japan is truly a land of mascots, each has its own distinct features which are associated with the place or thing it is promoting. Kumamon, a black plump bear with red cheeks, stood out valiantly from the rest. This mascot was first created to promote the extension of Kyushu Shinkansen to Kagoshima in 2011. Its popularity was unprecedented to the point it was even appointed the ambassador of Kumamoto, making domestic and overseas trips to promote Kyushu. Kumamon can be spotted everywhere within the city - on posters, banners, sign boards, etc. His contribution to revive tourism in Kyushu has "earned" him an office in the city too (Kumamon Square located in Tsuruya Departmental Store)!

His popularity has brought along numerous business opportunities - an extensive line up of merchandise are continuously being churned out and local hotels are offering Kumamon themed rooms to boost occupancy rates. So far from what I have seen, The New Otani has the most elaborate Kumamon themed room and is also the most pricey (15,000 yen/person) among all.
The New Otani website: http://www.newotani-kumamoto.co.jp/event/pickupkumamon/

Was hoping to stay in a themed room but did not want to splurge too much on it. Fortunately, I discovered a cheaper option to get close to this black bear. Mitsui Green Hotel, which is located closer to the busier hub of Kumamoto city, offers similar themed room with simpler design at a much affordable rate. 

Highlights:

- Booked a Kumamon themed twin room (inclusive breakfast) for 11,600 yen, and a normal twin room for 11,000 yen. Stayed in this hotel on two separate nights (Day 6 and 9). Similar business hotel model, all rooms are equipped with basic amenities, sufficient for a pleasant night stay.  


- Kumamon themed room. A conventional twin room was decorated with numerous Kumamon goods. The first object that caught my attention upon entering the room was this huge Kumamon plushie which sat at the work station/dressing table. Kumamon cushions are placed on the beds and rest chairs. Beds were also decorated with runners will various expressions of Kumamon. Moved on to the bathroom and saw a shower curtain imprinted with Kumamon! In addition, mugs, complimentary mineral water bottles and clear files, pictures hung in the room, were all embedded with this lovable mascot. Though decoration was not very detailed, the ambience can still bring out that sense of excitement from guests (regardless of age) occupying the room for the night.


- Breakfast was buffet style and a mix of Western and Japanese dishes were served. Lotus root stuffed with spicy mustard and miso and fried in yellow batter (also known as Karashi Renkon), created from a traditional recipe which is said to have originated more than 300 years ago, was also spotted on the breakfast table. Overall, dinning experience was satisfactory.

Karashi Renkon
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Mitsui Green Hotel Kumamoto 三井ガーデンホテル熊本
860-0012 熊本市中央区紺屋今町1-20
http://www.gardenhotels.co.jp/kumamoto/

How to get there?
(1) City Tram (Line A) - board at Kumamato JR Station and alight at Karashimacho (辛島町). A 5 min walk from the tram station.
(2) Taxi - takes about 5 mins from Kumamoto JR Station.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Kumamoto JR Station 熊本駅, Kumamoto City Tram 熊本市電


Kumamoto JR Station, serves both the local trains and Kyushu Shinkansen.

Main lines include:
(1) Kagoshima main line - travel northwards to Hakata and southwards to Kagoshima.

(2) Misumi line - connecting Kumamoto to Misumi.

(3) Hohi main line - connecting Kumamoto to Oita.

(4) Kyushu Shinkansen line - connecting Kumamoto to Hakata and Kagoshima.


Special sightseeing & limited express trains departing from/passing by Kumamoto JR Station include:
(1) 'A' train - commutes between Kumamoto and Misumi, along Misumi line.

(2) Aso Boy train - commutes between Kumamoto and Miyaji, along Hohi main line.

(3) SL Hitoyoshi - commutes between Kumamoto and Hitoyoshi, along Kagoshima main line and Hisatsu line.

(4) Kyushu Odan Tokkyu - commutes between Beppu and Hitoyoshi, passing by Kumamoto.

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What's nearby?

Kumamoto ekimae tram station
(1) Kumamoto City Tram 熊本市電
- Take the tram from the train station to the busier district of Kumamoto city at Torichosuji (通町筋) and Suidoucho (水道町).
- To visit Kumamoto Castle, alight at Kumamoto Castle/City Hall stop (熊本城.市役所前).
- Each trip cost 150 yen, regardless of the number of stops travelled.
- One day unlimited tram ride pass cost 400 yen. Can be purchased from Tourist Information Counter in Kumamoto JR Station.


- Kumamoto City Tram has two lines and both meet at Karashimacho (辛島町):
A line (Red) - tram commutes between Tasakibashi (田崎橋) and Kengunmachi (健軍町), passes by Kumamoto JR Station.
B line (Blue) - tram commutes between  Kami Kumamoto Ekimae (上熊本駅前) and Kengunmachi (健軍町).

Map: http://www.kotsu-kumamoto.jp/common/UploadFileDsp.aspx?c_id=9&id=2&set_doc=1


(2) Ekimachi 1-chome えきまえ1丁目
Make up of restaurants, fast food outlets and souvenir shops, all housed within the train station. Here you can drop by Keika Ramen to taste Kumamoto style ramen and visit familiar fast food outlets such as MOS Burger and Yoshinoya. A huge collection of merchandise featuring Kumamon, the adorable mascot of Kyushu, is made available in a handful of souvenir shops here.
Website: http://ekimachi1-kumamoto.com/

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Commemorative stamp:


Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Attic アティック, Dejima Wharf 出島ワーフ-

Visited 20.03.2014

Left: Turkish rice
Turkish rice? As much as possible I will search for unique and famous gourmet originated from that particular area I am visiting. In Nagasaki Precfecture, the top three food on my list were Sasebo's burger, Champon noodles (or Chinese cuisine) and Castella cake. There is one more food which has an intriguing name, called Turkish rice. This dish totally aroused my curiosity because I could not relate Turkey to Nagasaki at all. 

Fusion yet separate entities. Made up of three components: fired pork cutlet (and fried ebi sometimes), Neapolitan spaghetti and saffron rice topped with curry. Despite the name, this dish did not originate from Turkey. I have read various stories explaining the origin of this name. When this dish was first introduced, it only has saffron rice, which is a Turish style of cooking. The side dishes (pork cutlet and spaghetti) were included on one fine day after patrons demanded more variety to be added to this dish. This expanded combination was well-received by locals and later became one of Nagasaki's signature gourmet. 


Enjoy the scenic view from Dejima Wharf; Background: Mt Inasa
Dropped by Dejima Wharf, our last stop in Nagasaki. Opened in 2000, Dejima Wharf is made up of a row of two storey shop houses with about 20 restaurants and shops. So happened to spot this restaurant, Attic, which served this local specialty. Decided to give it a try since it was time for lunch too. Serving was big making it quite worth the bucks, but the taste were not very impressive. It looks like food that will appear on my buffet plate (mixture of noodles and rice). Saffron rice, Neapolitan sauce and curry sauce, all have strong flavours and did not blend well together on a single plate. Not quite sure what is the rave behind this dish but I'm pretty sure this place did not serve the best Turkish rice in Nagasaki. Can only hope to taste this dish again from a different restaurant if I ever visit this city again. 

Anyone has a better recommendation?

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Attic アティック   
長崎県長崎市出島町1-1 長崎出島ワーフ1F美術館側
Opening hrs: 1100 - 2300 hrs (Fri & Sat - open till 2330 hrs)
http://attic-coffee.com/

Dejima Wharf 出島ワーフ-
長崎市出島1-1-109
http://dejimawharf.com/

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How to get there?
(1) By Streetcar - Take line 1 and alight at Dejima. Less than 2 mins walk from streetcar stop.


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Video: Dejima Wharf and Attic were featured in 遇约九州, a Taiwan produced travel program promoting Kyushu. Scroll to 27:12 on their recommendation.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Megane bashi 眼镜桥

Visited 20.03.2014


Megane bashi means "spectacle bridge" (megane = spectacles). This name was derived because when the two arches of the bridge and the reflection in the waters are seen together, it looks like a pair of spectacles. Megane bashi, which runs across Nakashima River, is the oldest stone bridge in Japan and is voted as the top three bridges in Japan, alongside Tokyo's Nihonbashi and Iwakuni's Kintaikyo. This bridge was built in 1634, and the construction was initiated by Mokusunyojo, who is second generation monk of Koufukuji Temple (興福寺). However, the original bridge was destroyed by a flood in 1982. The current standing bridge was reconstructed later on.

Heart shaped rock supposed to bless you in relationships if you can spot it!
Heart shaped stone. Pry your eyes open to search hard for this unique heart shaped stone embedded in the stone wall of the river bank. This has become a "must do" activity for visitors when they come to this attraction. Managed to spot this after some time and the location of the stone is not too far from Megane bashi. If this is not enough, there are other similar stones hidden within the footpaths in Glover Garden, another well-known attraction in Nagasaki city.

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How to get there? 
(1) By Streetcar - Take line 4 or 5 and alight at Nigiwai Bashi (賑橋) or Koukaido Mae (公会堂前). Less than 5 mins walk from either streetcar stop,

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Hypocenter Park 原爆中心地公園, PeacePark 平和公園

Visited 20.03.2014

History. Nagasaki has a rich history and part of it emerged as a result of WWII. After the first atomic bomb landed in Hiroshima on 6 Aug 1945, the second atomic bomb fell in Nagasaki shortly on 9 Aug 1945. This devastating nuclear weapon inflicted catastrophic impact to Japan, a hefty and painful price to pay for the greed for power. Both Hypocenter and Peace Park are founded to remind mankind on the lessons learnt from WWII. Various memorials and signboards were put up in different corners of both parks, served as painful reminders on the cruelty of war and never to take peace for granted. Strolled the park with a heavy heart as I pictured the scenes on the day when the atomic bomb fell onto Nagasaki in the mind while reading the articles. Overall, it was an enriching history lesson to me and I will definitely recommend paying this place a visit.

Hypocenter memorial monolith
Hypocenter Park. Hypocenter is the spot where the atomic bomb fell and exploded. A memorial monolith was built on the hypocenter of the atomic bomb. A portion of the broken wall remnant of Urakami Cathedral, located about 500 m northeast of the hypocenter, stood near the monolith. There are about 500 cherry blossom trees planted in the park, therefore making this a popular spot during spring. Was fortunate enough to see some early bloomers scattered at different part of the park.

Left: Plaque reflecting the day & time when the atomic bomb exploded in Nagasaki; Right: Remnant of Urakami Cathedral
Matsuyama Bridge
Peace Park. Along the way from the Hypocenter Park to Peace Park, we crossed the Matsuyama Bridge (the former one miraculously survived the explosion despite being 120 m away from the hypocenter) and spotted several former air raid shelters. 





A peace memorial ceremony is held in front of the Peace Statue on 9 August yearly, in memory of the victims of WWII and to spread the prayer for everlasting world peace. A poem is carved into a memorial plate in front of the fountain of peace, This poem was written by a child who suffered from thirst in the immediate aftermath of the bombing. A moment of silence is naturally observed by all in front of the Peace Statue. A sculpture that symbolises peace: The elevated right hand points to the threat of nuclear weapons, while the outstretched left hand symbolises tranquility and world peace. Divine omnipotence and love are embodied in the sturdy physique and gentle countenance of the statue, and a prayer for the repose of the souls of all war victims is expressed in the closed eyes. The folded right leg symbolises quiet meditation, while the left leg is poised for action in assisting humanity.



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Other places of interest:
(1) Atomic Bomb Museum 長崎原爆資料館 
Missed out this museum this time round. This one of the long list of attractions I have yet to visit in Nagasaki city. This museum showcases the events leading to the fateful day, the destruction inflicted and the long and painful road to recovery.
Website: http://nagasakipeace.jp/index_e.html

(2) Urakami Cathedral 浦上天主堂
The construction of this church started in 1895 and took 30 years to complete. The church was not spared from the atomic bomb blast on 9 August 1945. Reconstruction of the church was completed in 1959 to its present state. Precious remains/ruins of the old church are kept as monuments on the second floor of its congregation hall.
Website: http://www1.odn.ne.jp/uracathe/

Beautiful cherry blossom flowers spotted in the park.
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How to get there?

(1) By Nagasaki City Streetcar
From Nagasaki JR Station, take line 1 or 3 heading towards Akasako (赤坂). Alight at either Hamaguchi machi (浜口町) or Matsuyama machi (松山町).
- From Hanamguchi machi, approx 5 mins walk to Hypocenter Park
- From Matsuyama machi, approx 5 mins walk to Peace Park

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Hypocenter Park 原爆中心地公園
852-8118 長崎県長崎市松山町
http://visit-nagasaki.com/spots/detail/548



Peace Park 平和公園
長崎県長崎市松山町 平和公園内
http://travel.at-nagasaki.jp/en/what-to-see/33/

Monday, June 1, 2015

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Day 6 Itinerary: Nagasaki 長崎, Kumamoto 熊本

Day 6: 20.03.2014
* Day 4 of 5 Day JR Kyushu Rail Pass (Northern Area)

Kumamoto Castle
Breakfast: Dormy Inn Nagasaki 出島の湯 ドーミーイン長崎

Bought 1 day Streetcar Pass from Washington Hotel Nagasaki.
Fee = 500 yen.

Tsuki machi 築町 > Nigiwai bashi 賑橋
by Nagasaki Streetcar, via line 5.

Visited Megane bashi 眼鏡橋.

Kokaidomae 公会堂前 > Hamaguchi machi 浜口町
by Nagasaki Streetcar, via line 3.

Visited
(1) Hypocenter Park 原爆中心地公園
(2) Peace Park 平和公園

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Matsuyama machi 松山町 > Dejima 出島
by Nagasaki Streetcar, via line 1.

Lunch: Delicious Restaurant Attic アティック

Dejima 出島 > Tsuki machi 築町
by Nagasaki Streetcar, via line 1.

Dormy Inn Nagasaki > Nagasaki JR Station
by taxi. Fee = ~900 yen.

Tea break: Bunmeido Castella

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Nagasaki JR Station 長崎駅 (1320 hrs) > Shintosu JR Station 新鳥栖駅 (1447 hrs)
by Kamone かもね 24

On board Tsubame: from Shintosu to Kumamoto.
Shintosu JR Station 新鳥栖駅 (1500 hrs) > Kumamoto JR Station 熊本駅 (1534 hrs)
by Tsubame つばめ 329

Kumamoto ekimae 熊本駅前 > Karashi machi 辛島町
by Kumamoto City Tram, via line A. Fee = 150 yen.

Check in: Mitsui Green Hotel Kumamoto 三井ガーデ ンホテル熊本

Visited Kumamoto Castle 熊本城. Fee = 500 yen.

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Dinner: Keika Ramen 桂花ラーメン, main branch @ Hanabatacho.

Shopping @ Parco

Desserts: Okada Coffee 岡田珈琲, main branch @ Kami Tori.

- End of Day 6 -