Monday, January 30, 2017

Koyasan (高野山) - Shojosjin-in

12-June-2016 - First destination we headed was to Koyasan, a sacred mountain of Buddhism religion. I've booked a two night stay in a Buddhist temple there, and it was fully vegetarian, so I wanted to get that out of the way early in our trip. To get to Koyasan, we took the train from Wakayama via Nankai Koya rail line to Gokurakubashi station. It was about 1 hour ride, so we packed our lunch along the way and ate it in the train. At Gokurakubashi, we change to a ropeway to go up the mountain. You can actually see deers around the mountain. Above photo is actually inside the ropeway on our way down. Once we reached Koyasan station, we changed to a bus to get to our accommodation - Shojoshin-in Temple.  Along the way, we saw lots of beautiful temples, and basically the whole town was just 2 roads: one horizontal across town, and one to the train station. Do note they don't allow you to walk between Koyasan Station to the nearest temple, so you have to spend some money on bus to get to and from the station. 

The temple was easy to find, and it was very traditional. Toilets are shared, so is the bath. Our room has a balcony, and you can sit there drinking your tea while admiring the garden below. As this was a temple, there is no lock on the door. You put your faith that nobody comes in and murder you in your sleep! They do provide a safe for you to keep your valuables. But to be frank, I don't have much to steal from. All I need is my passport and my cash and I am good.

Temple rules apply when you stay here, that means 5:30pm dinner, 7am prayers, 7:30am breakfast. Bath time are also timed. They have a small wood bath below, and I was happy to hear that I can actually lock the door when I am inside, thus having a private bath without sharing with anyone. So on the first day I actually went down to the bath on the dot to be the first one in. I shouldn't have worried, nobody seems to be interested in the onsen. This could be due to most guest were non-asian, I dunno, but I had two relaxing bath there on both days.

The food, although vegetarian, was delicious. Believe it or not, it was the best meal I had in that trip! Everything taste subtle, with just a hint of flavour. They also provide us ample portion of rice, and I love Japanese rice, so i had 2 bowls of rice for breakfast, and 2 bowls of rice for dinner! I also ate everything laid out for me, and it was just the best meal! I wouldn't mind living in the temple if the food was a wonderful as it was here!

Just to share, the reason I pick this temple was merely due to price. It was one of the cheapest I could find (about SGD160 per person). It was also next to the graveyard, so maybe that kinda put people off. But not me! The graveyard, of Okuno-in 奥の院 was the highlight of the visit here! More on this on the next post! But here are so beautiful scenes from the temple for you to enjoy....

Japanese Slippers 

Corridors toward the dinning hall

Slippers leading to the garden

Water container

Inner garden

Okuno-in 奥の院

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Wakayama (和歌山) - June 2016

11-June-2016 - Let me first tell you how I ended up here. Everyone have heard of Kansai and Osaka, but not many people have heard of Wakayama. I was here last June 2016 because I attended a tourism talk in Marina Bay Sands one innocent weekend, and a representative of Wakayama was introducing his beautiful hometown to us all. And what caught my attention most was outdoor cave onsen. So Wakayama was where we ended up. And even before I complete my blog post of this place, I just want to say that this was by far the best Japan trip I ever took, with the most beautiful scenic view, and friendly people everywhere. 

This trip was planned way ahead, so we travel via Singapore Airlines to Kansai Airport (SGD800). It was a day flight, and we reached around night time. We caught the last airport limousine bus to Wakayama City and checked in to our Hotel - Hotel Granvia. I picked this hotel because it was easy to get to, and near the Wakayama train station, taking into consideration that we were arriving at night (almost 1030pm). Welcome drink was from a vending machine on the same floor of our room. Most shops were closed so that was our first day of our trip: Airport -> Hotel -> Sleep.

The next morning, this was the view we woke up to. If you zoom in, you can see Wakayama Castle in the photo on top of the small hill. After living in Singapore for so long, seeing any landscape is really refreshing. Sadly, that was all we saw of Wakayama, cause we spend most of our trips at the country side and outskirt. 

Connected to the hotel is actually a department shore, and there were a few connecting to each other as well. We visited the basement multiple times, to stock up on breakfast, and sometimes lunch, and lastly souvenirs. Very convenient. And the train station was also connected, so it was  a great place to transit. Kaisen Bento was awfully cheap here, around Y1000 with lots of fresh fish. Kansai area was also famous for picked fish sushi which I love. They sell at around Y700 for a pack, and if you buy them in Singapore, it cost 3 times more! 

This is the sign that greeted us at the train station. Isn't it cute? Initially I wanted to visit one of the small station in Wakayama which has a cat as it's station master. Although the original cat has already passed away, they actually got another cat to take over the job. Japan is a very cat country. And its nice they put it in their public transport sign as well. 

More post to come as I continue on telling you about our journey to the following places. Do note that Wakayama is not as tourist friendly as Osaka or Kyoto, but the people there are so friendly that it's ok to just go there with an open mind. I was in my 3rd year of Japanese Study, and managed to survive this trip wonderfully with my new found conversation skill. 
  • Koyasan
  • Yunomine Onsen
  • Kumano Kodo
  • Nachi Taki
  • Urashima

Kansai Airport Limousine Bus
Hotel Granvia Wakayama

Sunday, January 22, 2017

2017 初日の出

Let's start off with 2017. I spend it watching the first sunrise of the year at JR Tower Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan. It was indeed special to me, and to share it with so many people around me. Few years back, I've decided to give the annual new year count down a miss, and try to catch the sunrise instead which I find it to be much more meaningful.

I also had a lovely breakfast there, and wished that time could have just stopped there forever, cause the next day I was flying back to a job that I no longer look forward to. But this is meant to be an inspiring post for me, so I shall not go there!

Anyway, spending Christmas and New Year in Japan was wonderful. I think I really don't mind just living there. I love the food, the convenient, the solitary lifestyle, the tv programs, the nature.... so many things! I'll share more about the trip properly when I get my life in order soon.

Work was just work as usual, and I started working on 2-Jan and burn out by 20-Jan. Couldn't get out of bed for 48 hours, and felt really depress about 2017 in general. I had turned 40 a week back, and I needed some motivation to get my energy back. So I thought I will write this post instead. Whenever I needed inspiration, I always visit my blog and it kinda put my life in perspective on the things I love and things I have done. (although there are tonnes of backlog I have yet to upload here).

Noboribetsu Hiking Trails

So today's message is simple: I want to not fear living on my own terms. I want to learn to let it all go and just be me and live my life as I want to. Even if it means that I have no more money to travel for the time being, and no security. I owe it to myself to stop being miserable surely. Once I get my balance back, I can always start looking for a more balance job to earn some income to continue to support my hobbies.

2017 has started out quite badly. I don't intent to let it end badly without a fight. And ultimately my goal remains the same. I want to retire at 40! And I have until 31-Dec-2017 to make that happen!

Sapporo JR Tower