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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Terzo Tempo Cafe テルツォ・テンポ

Visited 17.11.2014

Exterior of Terzo Tempo.
Atmosphere. Found out that Terzo Tempo means "3rd time" in Italian. Despite a Italian name, this humble cafe has no European flair. From the look of its exterior, I would never have figure out this isolated two storey wooden shop house is a cafe. No eye catching signboard nor attention seeking outdoor decor - some may even find it shabby from the outside. Upon entering the cafe, a sense of tranquility hits you immediately. No fanciful interior design but comfortable, natural colours to welcome its customers. Natural ventilation and lighting came from the entrance into its small dining area. Furnishing are mostly recycled - one big wooden table, a few side tables, benches, an old sewing machine stand used to display potted plants, nostalgic looking analogue wall clock - time seemed to have come to a still in this small space.



Food, drinks & music. Mr Sano is an advocate of art and music; he lends out space to promote works of local artists and sells tickets to indie musical concerts held in the local community. In Terzo Tempo, one can relax to the soothing music played in the background while enjoying a cup of coffee and let time passes slowly. This ambience is in line with the name of this cafe - doing something for a "third time" is a luxury. Ordered the only lunch dish found on their menu - it was chicken curry rice on the day of our visit. Do be patient since the food is only prepared upon order. I must say the wait was worthwhile as this simple plate of chicken curry rice was very delicious - gravy has the right amount of spiciness, accompanied with brown rice and fresh greens. Cafe serves other light snacks such as croque monsieur クロックムッシュ (ham and cheese sandwich) and English muffin. There is a good variety of drinks to choose from, such as coffee, tea, beer, juices, etc. Had the royal milk tea and it was as good as it can get.

Delicious curry chicken rice.
Remember. One other deep impression I had of this down to earth cafe was the warm hospitality extended by the owners. Since there was no English menu available, I struggled to decipher the Japanese characters. The lady at the counter was eager to help me out on the menu, using a mixture of Japanese and simple English. Later on, the lady went back to the kitchen to prepare the food, while a man appeared at the counter to make us our drinks. Found out from Milly's travelogue (四國,海島漫遊) that he is the owner of the cafe - Mr Sano. He migrated from Tokyo to Kochi to manage this cafe several years ago. Managed to strike a short conversation with him while he was working, with my broken Japanese & hand gestures, as I inquired about the places that I should visit in Kochi. Without further ado, he searched through a stack of brochures stuffed in the file folder and came back with a map of the nearby area. He patiently went through with me his recommendations - a list of restaurants, cafes, bakery, shops and an organic market (held every Saturday) that were worth visiting. Was touched by the friendly and sincere gesture from him and his wife - they are among many strangers whom we met and made this trip in Shikoku a very memorable one!     

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Terzo Tempo テルツォ・テンポ 
780-0821 高知県高知市桜井町2-5-30
Opening hrs: 1100 - 1900 hrs
Closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
http://terzotempo.jugem.jp/?pid=1
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kochi.terzotempo/

- About 10 mins walk from 7 Days Hotel.
- From Kochi JR Station, take Tosaden Electric Tram and alight at Hasuike-machi-dori (蓮池町通) stop. About 15 mins walk from this tram stop. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - 7 Days Hotel Plus セブンデイズホテルプラス

Stayed 17.11.2014
Reserved thru' Booking.com
- Twin Room = 11,400 yen
- Single Room = 6,300 yen

Left: Common area on the ground level.
Hotels are quite scattered in Kochi city. To my surprise, I did not managed to find many established hotel chains near the train station (only Super Hotel & Comfort Hotel and both about 5 mins walk away) and so far, Kochi is the only prefecture (out of 47 prefectures in Japan) that has no Toyoko Inn! Chose to stay in 7 Days Hotel Plus and 7 Days Hotel on two separate days in Kochi city. The surroundings of the hotel is pretty quaint, a distance away from the main road.


Minimalist and modern hotel. Similar to many other business hotels that I have stayed in, all the basic amenities here are well taken care of in 7 Days Hotel Plus. However, one other feature that I like a lot about this hotel is its minimalist design. Single room are of typical size of 12 m2, but simplicity in furnishing makes the room looked spacious and comfortable. Similar concept is extended to its lobby. Found this common area which is enclosed by walls of cement slabs, with paintings of bright, contrasting colours hung up and several aluminium round tables and chairs arranged, particularly stylish. Do keep a close look out for some of the beautifully design furniture, modern table wares and abstract paintings at various corners of the hotel. In conclusion, this is definitely one hotel that I will come back to stay if I get to visit Kochi again.

Breakfast. In 7 Days Hotel Plus, you will get to choose between Western and Japanese style for breakfast. For Western style breakfast, help yourself to a variety of freshly baked bread, salad, banana, boiled eggs, coffee/tea and juices. On the other hand, the Japanese breakfast set comes with rice, salted salmon, half boiled egg and miso soup.

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7 Days Hotel Plus セブンデイズホテルプラス
高知県高知市はりまや町2-13-6 〒780-0822
http://www.7dayshotel.com/top.html

From Kochi JR Station, take Tosaden Electric Tram and alight at Hasuike-machi-dori (蓮池町通) stop. About 5 - 7 mins walk from this tram stop. 

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Kochi JR Station 高知駅, TosadenStreetcar どさでん電車, MY Yu Bus MY遊バス


Kochi JR Station (D45/K00) on the Dosan line.

This train station is the gateway to Kochi-shi (Kochi city), the capital city of Kochi Prefecture. However, the surrounding area of the train station is actually quieter than expected, with no connecting hotels and major departmental stores nearby. To experience the busiest and liveliest district of Kochi city, one will need to take the streetcar to Harimaya bashi, which is three stops away from the main train station.

Bottom left: A picture of Sakamoto Ryoma and his wife; Top left: A miniature replica of Harimaya bashi; Bottom right: Statues of three prominent figures, Sakamoto Ryoma, Takechi Hanpeita and Nakaoka Shintaro, who contributed greatly to modernization of Japan.
Some limited express trains that serve Kochi JR Station:
(1) Limited Express Shimanto, which commutes between Takamatsu and Kochi, Nakamura and Sukumo.
(2) Limited Express Nanpu, which commutes between Okayama, Kochi and Nakamura.
(3) Limited Express Ashizuri, which commutes between Kochi, Nakamura and Sukumo.

What's nearby?


(1) Kochira Tabi Hiroba (こちら旅広場), a tourist information center located on the right upon exit from the South exit of train station.
This is one of the first places I visited after arrival - to collect brochures of the attractions which I planned to visit in Kochi and to check on the timing of buses departing for Ryoma Kochi Airport which I would take on the last day of the trip. There are shops housed within the same facility selling locally produced goods and souvenirs.

Who is Sakamoto Ryoma? Here in Kochi, you will spot numerous monochrome pictures, statues, caricatures and even souvenirs depicting a Japanese legendary figure. He is Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬). Born in Kochi in 1836, he made great contributions to the rapid modernisation of Japan which marked the end of 700 years of feudal government. The best way to find out how he shaped the future of Japan is to check out several museums located in Kochi Prefecture. In 2010, NHK created a drama serial, titled Ryomaden (龍馬伝), which portrayed the life of Sakamoto Ryoma. This drama was well-received both locally and internationally, and its popularity has even led to an enclosure being set up (located beside Kochira Tabi Hiroba) to exhibit props and sets which appeared in the drama serial. 

Website: https://www.attaka.or.jp/tabihiroba/

My Yu Bus boarding area located behind Kochira Tabi Hiroba. 
(2) MY Yu Bus (MY遊バス), bus stop located behind Kochira Tabi Hiroba.
This is a very useful bus service covering attractions in secluded locations further from city center such as Makino Botanical Garden (牧野植物園), Chikuriji (竹林寺) and southwards to Katsurahama (桂浜).

My Yu Bus Godaisan 1 day pass.
A one day and two day pass, covering the entire route between Kochi JR Station and Katsurahama, cost 1,000 yen and 1,600 yen respectively. Purchased the Godaisan (五台山) 1 day pass, priced at 600 yen, as we only utilised the bus service between Kochi JR Station and Godaisan to visit Makino Botanical Garden and Chikuriji. For foreign visitors, a 50% discount is given when your passport is shown during the purchase of tickets. Tickets can be purchased at Kochira Tabi Hiroba, Kochi Bus Terminal or from the driver when you board the bus.

* Please note that the bus boarding bay is not at Kochi Bus Terminal (located at the North exit of train station), but just behind Kochira Tabi Hiroba.
Website: https://www.attaka.or.jp/kanko/kotsu_mybus.php

Bought an Anpanman bread from Willie Winkie bakery!
(3) Anpanman Terrace & Willie Winkie, located on the first level of train station.

- Anpanman Terrace (アンパンマンテラス) has a wide range of Anpanman related merchandises for patrons to choose from; such as storybooks, toys, stationery and exclusive Anpanman train models. Bought a small Anpanman drawstring bag from here.  

- Willie Winkie (ウィリーウィンキー) is a bakery owned by JR Shikoku and the branches are located within the train stations. What makes this bakery stands out is their adorable and delicious looking Anpanman characters bread. Spotted them while I was visiting the bakery and could not resist buying some to try. Five characters from this popular anime were transformed into real edible bread here: Anpanman, Creampanda, Omusubiman, Shokupanman and Currypanman.

Tosaden streetcar
(4) Tosaden / Tosa Electric Railway streetcar (どさでん電車)
One of the most convenient way to get around the city is by Tosaden streetcar. Kochi ekimae (高知駅前) is the terminus streetcar station located just in front of the South exit of train station. For foreign visitors holding on All Shikoku Rail Pass, be rest assured that you will not need to top up additional fares to ride the streetcar.

Harimaya bashi
Attractions accessible via streetcar:
- Harimaya bashi (はりまや橋): board any streetcar from Kochi ekimae and alight at Harimaya bashi はりまや橋
- Hirome Market (ひろめ市場): board the streetcar heading for Kagamigawa bashi 鏡川橋/Asakura 朝倉/Ino 伊野 and alight at Ohashi dori 大橋通
- Kochi Castle (高知城): board the streetcar heading for Kagamigawa bashi 鏡川橋/Asakura 朝倉/Ino 伊野 and alight at Kochi jo mae 高知城前
Map: http://www.tosaden.co.jp/train/rosenzu.php

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Commemorative stamp: 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Day 5 Kochi 高知 

Day 5: 17.11.2014
* Day 2 of 5 days All Shikoku Rail Pass 

Chikurinji
Breakfast: Agnes Hotel Tokushima アグネスホテル徳島

Tokushima JR 徳島駅 (0903 hrs) > Awa Ikeda JR 阿波池田駅 (1014 hrs)
by Ltd Express Tsurugisan 3.

Awa Ikeda JR 阿波池田駅 (1020 hrs) > Kochi JR 高知駅 (1130 hrs)
by Ltd Express Nanpu 3.

Kochi ekimae 高知駅前 > Hasuike machi dori 蓮池町通
by Tosaden streetcar, via Sanbashi line.

Check in: 7 Days Hotel Plus セブンデイズホテルプラス
http://www.7dayshotel.com/

Lunch: Terzo Tempo テルツォ テンポ

Visited Chikurinji 竹林寺.
Took taxi from Terzo Tempo to Chikurinji.

Visited Makino Botanical Garden 高知県立牧野植物園. [720 yen]
http://www.makino.or.jp/

Makino Botanical Garden 高知県立牧野植物園 (1631 hrs) > Harimaya bashi はりまや橋
by My Yu Bus MY遊バス [1 day Godaisan Pass = 600 yen]

Visited Harimaya bashi はりまや橋.

Dinner: Totoya ととや

- End of Day 5 - 

Friday, August 26, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Awa Odori Kaikan 阿波おどり会館

Visited 16.11.2014 (Sun)



Must visit! Awa Odori (阿波おどり) has a long history, dating all the way back to 400 years ago and has successfully evolved as a prominent trademark of Tokushima Prefecture. The dance is celebrated as a summer festival all over the entire prefecture in August and the largest scale event is held in Tokushima city from 12 to 15 August, attracting an amazing figure of 1.3 million visitors to this small city which has only a population of about 260,000! Unbelievable isn't it?
So what makes Awa Odori so appealing to so many people? The basic dance movements can be executed easily by most people regardless of age - move right leg and arm forward at the same time, followed by left leg and arm and repeat the movements. Such action is rather unorthodox (in mandarin, we refer this as "同手同脚"), may seemed hilarious to many but this is simply unique to Awa Odori and you would not be criticized for doing that! Be fascinated by how synchronised the movements of all performers are as they danced merrily down the street to the beat of melodious music, shouting out the cheers energetically. Apart from the spirit of celebration, what impressed me most is the shear amount of effort taken to make such event sustainable which has a greater cause to instill a sense of belonging: something that the locals can relate to or be proud of back at home. If you are unable to participate in the actual event in August, Awa Odori Kaikan is where this vibrant dance can be enjoyed all year round and definitely one attraction that should not be missed on any visit to Tokushima. 




Just dance! Covered Naruto whirlpools and Onaruto-bashi in the day and visited Awa Kaikan in the evening. Bought our tickets to the only night show held everyday at 8 pm. Donned in colourful traditional costumes, dance troupe is made up of people of different ages; from as young as elementary school students to seasoned performers in their forties. As I immersed myself into the jubilant atmosphere, I realised that the dance was not as easy as I thought. The professional version of Awa Odori actually requires performers to dance close to a half squat posture which can be quite strenuous to the knees. Audience will get to learn the dance with the help of live demonstration and even join in the fun in one of the dance segments. Overall, we enjoyed ourselves throughout the 50 minutes performance as it was very engaging from the start till the very end. The ecstatic mood experienced during Awa Odori continued on even after the performance as we attempted to do the dance on our walk back to the hotel from Awa Odori Kaikan (when no one was looking)!


Other facilities. Tourist information corner and Arudeyo Tokushima, an area dedicated to sale of local products and souvenirs, are located on the ground floor. The hall where performances are held is on the second floor. A mini museum introducing the history and features of Awa Odori is accessible on the third floor. Ropeway to the summit of Bizan is located on the fifth floor. Did contemplate to visit Bizan which promises a good overview of Tokushima city, but was not able to squeeze out time to accomplish this in the end. Ropeway round trip cost 1,020 yen.


Awa Odori Kaikan with Bizan in the background.
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Awa Odori Kaikan 阿波おどり会館
Day performance ticket price = 600 yen
- Weekdays: 3 performances/day (1400, 1500 and 1600 hrs)
- Weekends and public holidays = 4 performances/day (1100, 1400, 1500 and 1600 hrs)
Night performance ticket price = 800 yen
- Everyday, commences at 2000 hrs
http://www.awaodori-kaikan.jp/
Awa Odori (in Japanese): http://www.awanavi.jp/awaodori/

How to get there?
(1) By foot. Approx 10 minutes walk from Tokushima JR Station.



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Video #1: Scroll to 1:57 for Go Go Japan's feature on Awa Odori Kaikan.



Video #2: Scroll to 10:20 for 爱玩客's feature on Awa Odori Kaikan.


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Commemorative stamps:


Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Domannaka どまん中

Visited 16.11.2014 (Sun)


I want to eat Awaodori! Ramen comes to the mind of most people when Tokushima Prefecture is mentioned. Deep brown coloured tonkotsu shoyu soup, topped up with a raw egg are some of the unique features of Tokushima style ramen. Personally, I am not a fan of ramen therefore I decided to give this local specialty a miss. What caught my attention instead was Awaodori (otherwise known as Awa chicken 阿波尾鶏), a local breed of chicken well known for its firm texture, sweet taste and is less fat compared to an average chicken. Awa was actually the previous name for Tokushima (i.e. Sanuki for Kagawa, Iyo for Ehime and Tosa for Kochi). Had really good grilled chicken thigh on our first day in Takamatsu (in Yoridori Midori), therefore was looking forward to try this other version in Tokushima. Did a quick search and found one restaurant, Izakaya Tokusan 居酒屋とくさん, specialising in local cuisine located near Agnes Hotel Tokushima. Unfortunately, I later realised that it was closed on Sundays. Kept a lookout for other restaurant along the same street and noticed this isolated, new and modern looking shophouse, located a few blocks away. And yes, once I spotted the Kanji "阿波尾鶏" on the menu, I entered the restaurant without further ado. [Note: though it is stated that the restaurant is closed on Sundays, it happened to be opened for business on the particular day of our visit.]

Top left: Shiitake and Eryngii mushrooms grilled with soy sauce; Bottom left: Awaodori negima kushi; Top right: Egglant in robata style; Bottom right: Awaodori tebasaki kushi.
Blown away! Domannaka is a modern Japanese style restaurant owned by Grand Palace Hotel, the creator behind Agnes Hotel Tokushima as well. Warm lighting and large amount of wooden furnishing created this comfortable dining environment in the restaurant. Were seated at the counter which faced the open concept kitchen, allowing us to observe chefs' display of culinary skills. There is a decent selection of food available on the menu to choose from - skewers, robata, nabe, sashimi, tempura, etc. As Awaodori was the main focus of this dinner, I ordered a mixture of skewers and robata, and a nabe (hot pot) to share. Overall, the dining experience was extremely satisfying and would have been longer if not for the back-end constraint (because we were rushing off to watch the last Awa Odori performance at 8 pm). Cheers to Awaodori!

What we ordered:

  • Awaodori negima kushi 阿波尾鶏ねぎま串 (skewer of Awaodori and leek): both lean and fatty portion of the meat was skewed together with leek. During the process of grilling over the flames, the cracking sound created when oil dripped out from the meat into the heat source was so appealing and intriguing to my senses. Meat was cooked to perfection; slight crispiness on the relatively fattier portion of meat and meat juices were fully retained. Crunchy leek complemented well with the meat and helped to remove some of the oiliness from the meat. [210 yen]
  • Awaodori tebasaki kushi 阿波尾鶏手羽先串 (skewer of Awaodori wing): I am always wary of eating grilled/BBQ chicken wings because it is hard to make sure the meat is fully cooked to the bone. Lightly salted skin was grilled skilfully till crispy golden brown and sweetness of the meat can be felt as soon as the teeth pierced into it. When chicken wings are cooked well, it is hard to resist and many times I ended up eating more than I should. [320 yen]  
  • Eggplant in robata style 茄子炉端焼き: Shikoku is where I had the most number of eggplants during any trip to Japan. Not sure why but eggplant tasted extremely delicious and juicy (like a fruit) here in Shikoku and I could not resist ordering one when I spotted it on the menu. A whole eggplant was roasted over the grill till the skin became slightly charred to impart a smoky flavour to the flesh. Chef peeled off the skin and cut the eggplant into manageable pieces before serving it together with bonito flakes. The taste did not disappoint again! [530 yen]
  • Stewed dumplings in Awaodori soup 阿波尾鶏スープの炊き餃子: Soup was very delectable and flavourful, providing an alternative way to savour this locally breed chicken. [1,050 yen]
  • Soy sauce grilled Tokushima produced shiitake and eryngii 徳島産椎茸とエリンギの醤油焼き [530 yen]
  • Awaodori momo kushi 阿波尾鶏もも串 (skewer of Awaodori leg) [210 yen]
  • Awaodori liver kushi 阿波尾鶏レバー串 [160 yen]

Top left: Awaodori momo kushi; Bottom left: Stewed dumplings in Awaodori soup.
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Domannaka どまん中
〒770-0831 徳島市寺島本町西 1-47
Contact No: 088-623-3293
Operating hours: 1130 - 1400 hrs (Mon - Thu); 1700 - 2200 hrs; closed on Sundays.
http://wa-domannaka.jp/

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Naruto JR Station 鳴門駅


Naruto JR Station (N10), is the terminus station on Naruto line.

Local trains leave Naruto for Tokushima at approx hourly intervals. Naruto JR Station is a relatively small train station, with no shops or tourist information center found within the same 1 storey building. After visiting Naruto Koen, I took the bus heading for Tokushima and alighted at the bus stop in front of Naruto JR Station. Transferred to the local train here to return to Tokushima.

What's nearby?

Naruto Koen bus stop
(1) Bus stop
Take the bus in front of Naruto JR Station and alight at the last stop Naruto Koen. Bus journey takes about 20 mins. 
At Naruto Koen, most of the attractions are within walking distance:
- Uzunomichi (渦の道): located beneath the road on Onaruto bridge, witness the famous whirlpools just beneath your foot. 
- Eddy Musuem (エデイ): Exhibition featured how Onaruto bridge was constructed and the mechanics of whirlpools in the strait of Naruto. Onaruto bridge can be seen on its rooftop observation deck. However, its elevation is not high enough to capture a aerial/complete view of Onaruto bridge.  
- Eska Hill (エスカヒル): Take a 68 m long escalator to the observatory deck. The view of Onaruto bridge here is much more magnificent as compared to Eddy Museum.

Bus schedule: http://www.tokubus.co.jp/?page_id=4805

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Commemorative stamp:


Sunday, August 21, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Eska Hill エスカヒル

Visited 16.11.2014 (Sun)

Panoramic view of Onaruto Bridge.
Facts and figures. Onaruto bashi (Onaruto Bridge 大鳴門橋) is a suspension bridge which connects Awaji island of Hyogo Prefecture to Naruto city of Tokushima Prefecture. Construction of this 876 m long bridge started in 1976 and it was eventually opened to public in 1985. There are a few ways to admire this architectural masterpiece; from the roof top at Eddy, the Onaruto Bridge crossing memorial hall or at the viewing platform located at summit of Eska Hill. I have been to both and personally, I prefer the latter because of its higher elevation.

A three storey building at the top of Eska Hill; the glass enclosure leading to the building is the 68 m long escalator.
Magnificent view. One of the feature of Eska Hill is its 68 m long escalator which brings visitors from the base to the summit where the observatory is located. Standing on the roof top, a 360 degree panoramic view of the surroundings awaits, especially on a good clear weather day - Naruto Koen, Awaji island on the other end of Onaruto bashi, even a glimpse of Shodoshima on the left and Wakayama on the right. Was fully engrossed by the magnificent view of Onaruto bashi, the sea and island for quite a fair bit of time. Though there is a restaurant located in the same building, do note that it is only opened for business if there are reservations (but I guess it is mainly catered for tour group). A souvenir shop is located at the base of the hill. Despite being the better viewing spot out of the two, it appeared to be less well received (I felt that there were more tourists at Eddy in comparison). During my visit, I also felt that place needed some form of renewal as it showed some signs of lackluster and lack of maintenance. Hopefully things have changed by now... 

About 3 minutes escalator ride; the longest I have taken in my life.
Looking back at Naruto city; cylindrical building on the left is Eddy Museum.

Can you see the windmills on Awaji island?
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Eska Hill エスカヒル
 鳴門市鳴門町土佐泊浦福池65
Operating hours: 0830 - 1700 hrs
Admission fee = 400 yen
http://www.narutokanko.co.jp/eskahill/index.html

How to get there?

(1) By bus.
- At Tokushima Ekimae Bus Terminal Bus Stop #1, board Naruto line (鳴門線) bus heading for Naruto Koen 鳴門公園. Bus journey takes approx 1 hr 15 mins; fee = 710 yen.
- At Naruto JR Station, board Naruto line (鳴門線) bus heading for Naruto Koen 鳴門公園. Bus journey takes approx. 30 mins; fee = 310 yen.
Approx 5 minutes walk from bus stop. There are clear signage at the bus stop and in the vicinity providing clear directions to the main attractions in Naruto Koen: Uzunomichi, Eddy and Eska Hill.
Bus schedule (in Japanese): http://tokubus.co.jp/wptbc/routebus/#tbc



Video: Scroll to 1:00 for Go Go Japan's feature of Eska Hill.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Agnes Hotel Tokushima アグネスホテル徳島

Stayed 16.11.2014 (Sun)
Booked thru' Jalan.net
- Single room = 6,000 yen
- Twin room = 13,000 yen

Left: Agnes Hotel; Right:Agnes Hotel Plus
Chose Agnes Hotel as it was recommended in Shikoku co-Trip guide. Was expecting this hotel to exceed my budget solely based on first impression (from the pictures I see from the hotel website) but prices were quite affordable and competitive. Agnes Hotel actually takes on a similar concept to other business budget hotel chains such as Toyoko Inn. This modern hotel has a cafe and pastry boutique, located on the first level. Simple buffet style breakfast was served in the cafe, such as freshly made bread by their in house bakery, fruits and Washouku (rice, miso soup and side dishes). Room wise - clean, relatively spacious room (15 m2) with all basic amenities well taken care of. 



Later found out that Agnes Hotel, together with several other hotels in Tokushima are managed by the same company. Agnes Hotel Plus, which is located just opposite Agnes Hotel, is equipped with a communal bathhouse. Was given a voucher to try out the bathhouse during check in but did not get to utilize it. Spotted Four Season Hotel just around the corner, which is also managed by the same group, and was attracted to their petite sized, cosy looking coffee house. Overall, I am very satisfied with my stay and will recommend Agnes Hotel for sightseeing purposes in Tokushima city. 

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What's nearby?

(1) Tokushima JR Station and Bus Terminal, about 5 mins walk away.
Directions: Turn right upon exit from the train station. Turn left on the first corner, continue to walk straight until you see a slip road on the right. Turn into the road and walk straight down - you will first see Four Season Hotel, followed by Domannaka restaurant and Agnes Hotel last. 


(2) Domannaka どまん中, a Wafu dining restaurant owned by Agnes Hotel group, located about 1 min walk away. Had a good dinner here, savoring Awa Odori chicken reared in Tokushima Prefecture, which is well known for its firm texture, sweet taste and has less fat than average chicken.



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Agnes Hotel Tokushima アグネスホテル徳島
770-0831 徳島県徳島市寺島本町西1-28

Friday, August 12, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Tokushima JR Station 徳島駅

Hotel Clement and Clement Plaza in Tokushima JR Station. 
Tokushima JR Station (M00, T00) is an interchange train station for Kotoku, Mugi and Tokushima lines.

Some limited express, themed and local trains that serve Tokushima JR Station: 
(1) Yu Yu Anpanman train
- departs from Takamatsu for Tokushima, once a day.
- makes two round trips between Tokushima and Awa Ikeda, along Tokushima line.
Anpanman train: http://www.jr-eki.com/aptrain/index.html
Train is operated on specific dates, typically on weekends and public holidays.
(2) Limted Express Uzushio (うずしお), commutes between Takamatsu and Tokushima, along Kotoku line. 
(3) Limited Express Tsurugisan (剣山), commutes between Tokushima and Awa Ikeda, along Tokushima line.
(4) Limited Express Muroto (むろと), commutes between Awa Ikeda, Tokushima and Mugi, along Mugi line.
(5) Local train to Naruto, via Naruto line.

Bottom: Limited Express Tsurugisan departing from Tokushima for Awa Ikeda.
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What's nearby?

(1) JR Clement Hotel Tokushima, Clement Plaza, Tourist Information Center
JR Clement Hotel is connected seamlessly to the train station, in fact it is literally just above it. Clement Plaza, is the connecting mall comprises of a wide range of shops and restaurants. Tourist information center is located on the 6th floor of Clement Plaza. This was my first destination I headed for because I needed help to reserve seats for Oboke Iya Sightseeing Tour two days later. Both English and Mandarin speaking staff were stationed here and they were patient and helpful in attending to my requests.
- Clement Plaza: http://www.clementplaza.com/
- Tokushima Tourism Website: http://www.awanavi.jp/

Left: Bus terminal for buses to Naruto and Tokushima Awa Odori Airport.
(2) Bus Terminal バスターミナル
- Bus Stop #1 for Bus 27 to Naruto Koen 鳴門公園 to witness Naruto whirlpools at Uzunomichi.
Bus journey takes approx 1 hr 15 mins; Fee = 710 yen.
The other way to get to Naruto Koen is via a combination of train and bus. Take the local train from Tokushima JR Station and transfer to a bus in front of Naruto JR Station. Though the duration of train journey is shorter, there is a long transit time during the changeover from train to bus (can be as long as an hour). For my trip, I took the bus directly from the bus terminal to Naruto Koen and used a combination of bus and train on my return trip because I wanted to visit Naruto JR Station.
Bus schedule: http://www.tokubus.co.jp/?page_id=4805

- Bus Stop #2 for Airport Limousine Bus to Tokushima Awa Odori Airport.
Bus journey takes approx 28 mins; Fee = 440 yen.
Bus schedule: http://www.tokubus.co.jp/?page_id=49

Right: SOGO to meet your shopping needs.
(3) SOGO
Conveniently located about 3 mins walk from the train station. Apart from SOGO being the anchor tenant, familiar brands such as Kinokuniya, Uniqlo, MUJI and Loft are also found in the same building. Do note that shops close pretty early at 1930 hrs and restaurants on the 9th storey close at 2100 hrs.

Awa Odori Kaikan & Mt Bizan in the background.
(4) Awa Odori Kaikan 阿波踊り会館 & Mt Bizan 眉山
Located about 10 - 15 mins walk away from the train station. Awa Odori is an important cultural dance in Tokushima city and has a rich history of over 400 years. The annual dance festival is held between 12 - 15 August and attracts more than a million of visitors to this small city which only has a population of 260,000! If you visit Tokushima city outside of the festival period, Awa Odori Kaikan is definitely a place to head down to experience a snippet of the dynamic and joyous dance performance. Attended the night session (held at 2000 hrs) and I enjoyed myself throughout the 50 minutes duration performance!
From the 5th storey of Awa Odori Kaikan, one can also take the ropeway to get to the summit of Mt Bizan. Stands at 290 m tall, a good aerial view of Tokushima city can be seen from the observatory on a clear day. Unfortunately, I did not get to visit Mt Bizan due to insufficient time.
- Awa Odori Kaikan 阿波踊り会館: http://www.awaodori-kaikan.jp/
- Mt Bizan 眉山: http://www.awaodori-kaikan.jp/bizan-ropeway/


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Commemorative stamp:


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Shikoku Autumn 2014 四国秋季之旅 - Yu Yu Anpanman Car ゆうゆうアンパンマ ンカー

Travelled on 16.11.2014 (Sun)


Anpanman (アンパンマ ン) is almost analogous to Shikoku. This is because Takashi Yanase (柳瀬 嵩), the artist who created this popular bread hero anime, spent his childhood in Kami (香美郡), a district in Kochi Prefecture. In Shikoku, you can find Anpanman very easily - numerous merchandises featuring this adorable character and his friends; bakeries selling Anpanman bread; in Kami district, you can take an Anpanman themed bus to visit Anpanman Museum; even Anpanman themed trains operate on this island! Goes to show how well loved he is by locals - both adults and children! 

It is always a challenge to slot in special themed train rides into any itinerary especially when these trains only operate on specific dates. Fortunately, I was able to coincide the train journey from Takamatsu to Tokushima with Yu Yu Anpanman car timing on a Sunday, as this train normally operates on weekends and public holidays. In fact, Yu Yu Anpanman car is not a train by itself. Instead it is a single train carriage connected to two other limited express trains: 
- Limited Express Uzushio, which commutes from Takamatsu to Tokushima via Takamatsu line.
- Limited Express Tsurugisan, which commutes between Tokushima and Awa Ikeda via Tokushima line.
For my trip, I boarded Limited Express Uzushio at Takamatsu Station at 1011 hrs and alighted at Tokushima Station at 1125 hrs. Fares are covered by All Shikoku Pass without additional fare top up. Do visit JR Shikoku website to confirm the train operating schedule.

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Highlights


Was delighted to see this blue train carriage, beautifully wrapped with pictures of Anpanman and his friends, waiting for the arrival of its passengers at Takamatsu JR Station. Yu Yu Anpanman car is divided into two sections; 20 reserved seats in one section and the other one is a children playground. 

Bottom left: Hand drawn Anpanman on the wall by Takashi Yanase; Bottom right: Parents can secure their strollers here. 
Family oriented train. Most passengers on board this train were families with small kids. Apart from the playground, there were other features catered to their needs such as designating a baby room and allocating a small area at the back of the car for strollers to be placed and secured. The playground is a heaven for kids and this was the first place most families headed for as soon as they boarded the train. A very child friendly design: the floor of the play area were laid with cushion mats such that it is more gentle to touch or any slips and falls and there are some dividers within the play area with small tunnels for kids to crawl through. After kids have played enough to return to their seats, parents can also retrieved books placed on a stand at the back of the cabin to read to their kids. 

Right: Kids' heaven!
He is eveywhere! All the seats in this car have comfortable green colored cushions with the lovable Anpanman, striking different poses, on them. You can spot the characters almost every corner of the train carriage - Anpanman flying above your head on the ceiling, checked floor carpet with their adorable faces and Anpanman and his friends to surprise you as you pull down the table in front of your seat. There is even a picture of Anpanman, Baikinman and Dokin-chan hand drawn on the wall at the back of the cabin by Takashi Yanase in Oct 2002, when this themed car was first introduced. Throughout this joyful train ride, the atmosphere here is brightened up by both the infectious laughter of kids and the contented smiles on the faces of all parents.  

Ekiben. Bought two Anpanman bento meals from Takamatsu JR Station to complete the full Anpanman experience on board this themed train. These bento boxes or "ekiben" are specially designed for kids, therefore the servings are much lesser than the conventional ones. Based on what I read from JR Shikoku website, these Anpanman ekiben are only on sale at ekiben sale counters located in Takamatsu and Kochi stations.


- Anpanman bento (アンパンマン弁当), priced at 1,140 yen.
Comes with a small plastic Anpanman bottle (but not filled with any drinks), tomato sauce rice shaped and decorated to Anpanman's face, yakisoba, chicken kaarage, pork sausage, edamame and jelly.


- Genki 100 bai! (げんき100ばい!), priced at 1,240 yen.
Translates as "full of energy", the lid of the round container is Anpanman's face with his signature red cheeks and nose. This is slightly more expensive than Anpanman bento because it uses a greater variety of ingredients. The center, round compartment was stuffed with chicken rice and decorated with black bean (eyes), carrot (nose), sausage (cheeks) and sauces (eyebrows and mouth) to depict Anpanman's face. The circumferential compartments were filled with chicken nugget, steamed pumpkin and sweet potato slices, plain omelette, siew mai, mini beef patty. mini tomato and jelly. A too-cute-to-be-eaten ekiben which will make any kid sit down quietly to enjoy his/her exclusive meal.

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Other Anpanman themed trains:

Took Limited Express Nanpu from Awa Ikeda to Kochi. Bottom left: Stone figurine of Anpanman at Gomen Station.
(1) Anpanman trains on Dosan line. Operate everyday.
- Limted Express Nanpu, which commutes between Okayama, Kochi and Nakamura.
- Limited Express Ashizuri, which commute between Kochi, Nakamura and Sukumo. 
Managed to hop onto an Anpanman train while we were travelling from Awa Ikeda to Kochi. Only a portion of the seats in the 1st cabin has red Anpanman seat covers and the walls and curtains are decorated with Anpanman. Normal seats in the rest of the train carriages with Anpanamn and his friends appearing only on the ceilings.

Spotted Baikinman train at Matsuyama Station.
(2) Trains featuring other characters such as Dokin-chan (ドキンちゃん), Baikinman (ばいきんまん), Creampanda (クリームパンダ) and Melonpanna (メロンパンナ). Operate everyday.
- Limited Express Shiokaze, which commutes between Okayama. Matsuyama and Uwajima.
- Limited Express Ishizuchi, which commutes between Takamatsu, Matsuyama and Uwajima.
- Limited Express Uwakai, which commutes between Matsuyama and Uwajima. 

(3) Anpanman Torokko train, usually in operation on weekends and public holidays.
- Route 1: commutes between Okayama and Kotohira
- Route 2: commutes between Okayama and Takamatsu

Website: http://www.jr-eki.com/aptrain/