Wednesday, February 8, 2017


Here are some photos of places around Koyasan which we also visited on our 2nd day there. The roads are dotted with temples and we didn't even bother to get the tickets to visit all the famous ones cause just wandering around was enjoyable enough for us. For example the photo above of torii gates leading into the woods are not even on our map of places to visit. I just saw them and decided to follow them into the woods. 
Some of the interesting temples include this one of the red Jizo. It's kinda like a child god inside, which is all red in colour. It's just a small shrine, and when you step in, you just felt like it is a child god cause it reminds you of toys and children stories.

There was also this great big pond filled with red bridges all around. It looked like a Chinese garden. And if you follow the bridges, it leads you to an island where a shrine can be found. Very pretty. Plus it makes a good photo shot

This temple above is one of my favourite because of the colours surrounding it. It felt very Buddhist and old, made mainly of wood. The mist hanging around it also gives it that mystical feel to it.

This above is one of the great gate found in Koyasan. And if you look to the left, you can see an orange dressed monk there. You see lots of lone monk and pilgrim people all over Koyasan. The monks especially makes a great photo take. There is also the famous Daimon which looks something like the gates above, but bigger and older. It was so big that I didn't have a good shot of it to share here. 
Above is a statue at the side of the road just at the bottom of Koyasan Train Station. It marks the first sight as you slowly enter into the mystical Mount Koya....
If you're wondering why all my pictures have so much mist in them, its because the temperature while we were there was around 16.7 degrees celsius. And it was slightly rainy. So there was a thick mist hanging around. 
There aren't many shops open while we were there. I saw these on my first day there, and thought they were very nice. But the price was super expensive, so I took a photo instead since the shop was closed. Maybe one day I'll make them at home :)

And for some reason, food taste extremely nice in Koyasan. We had lunch at one of the local shop. I had Oyako-Don, which is chicken and egg rice shown in the photo on top. My husband had udon, and even his udon looks lovely with clear broth and colourful food inside.
I also ordered pickled fish sushi. I really love these cause they reminded me of Acat Ikan which my mum used to make in Penang. These are famous sushi in Wakayama area as well and you can also buy them almost anywhere here. 
Lastly we also bough a bunch of what looks like cakes and sweets from a shop. I wonder if they are for prayers like some of the chinese candies are. But one of my Japanese colleague confirmed that they are sweets. They were pretty good. We sat outside the shop eating them.
Signing off now with a photo of me and my host Koyakun. 
It was a great trip! I hope to be back soon Wakayama!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Urashima (浦島)

17-June-2016 - Final destination, the island of Urashima. I had a hard time deciding whether to come here or Nakanoshima. Eventually I settled for Urashima cause it has around 6 onsen on the island, two which includes natural caves. It was by far our most expensive accommodation at SGD167 per person inclusive of buffet breakfast and buffet dinner. There were many other attractions on the island besides the onsen. So this is going to be quite a long post as I try to squeeze everything into this one post.
To get to Urashima, you have to take a special ferry in the shape of a turtle. There is one almost every 30mins or so from the pier at Kii Katsuura starting from 1pm. It's only a 5mins ride, and it is free. Check in is at 2pm, so we went early in order to have time to run around the island. Check in was a breeze. With a little Japanese, you can make the receptionist feel so much relief knowing they can share with you simple instructions in Japanese like where to go for your meals, and what time to go for them. 
Being a Japanese resort, we have a nice room with a balcony over looking the ferry port. There were snacks and tea in the room, and yukata for you to feel comfortable in. This whole place reminded me of Spirited Away. You know, a place that comes alive when the sun sets (starting 2pm) and dies down when the sun rises (check out at 10am). And people come to enjoy themselves and eat until they are full.
The place felt old. I would even say dated and erm, "unclean"? We spend the first hour exploring the place. There are outdoor pools available, but as it was the rainy season, the pool was closed. But you can still walk out and see the beautiful sea view with caves lining the coast. There are a total of 5 onsens on the island, 2 being in natural caves. They give you this paper and you can collect all 5 stamps at 5 onsen and redeem a gift at the reception. So that was what we did. We got bath salt as a gift.
The whole island is a huge complex full of amenities. On top shows a small Wakayama Ramen corner. The decoration was rather cute so I stopped to take a pix. I wonder who would spend money eating ramen here when they provide more than ample food at the buffet dining hall.
At the top of the island are a maze of path you can hike around. They even have their own shrine at the top with a fox spirit in it. Nobody attend to the shrine, but there are a few self services table available for you to buy things or for you to pay your respect. 

They also have a few viewing platform for you to take in the view around the island. From to very top you can see eagles/hawks flying around, you can see the town Kii Katsuura, and if you zoom in enough, you can even see Taiji with all its cove and all. Maybe on a good day, you can also spot whales out in the ocean. And lovely rocks formation all over.
To navigate around the island, there are colour coded path all over the floor. So depending on where you want to go, just follow the coloured pathway! Although sometimes, it is still kinda confusing. 

Sometimes you find just outside the onsen hall, a whole corridor full of vending machines! Selling things like instant noodles (why are they so afraid of people going hungry here???), to ice creams, to drinks and beers, and probably cigarets.
And lastly, the dining hall at the top of the resort was famous for live demonstration of tuna cutting. Every evening, one tuna is carved expertly by the chef and served to the guest. Freshest tuna in town! it was amazing to watch and awed at how big the tuna head is below!
I even have a video of it! Voila!

The food serve was buffet style. The variety was amazing! From sushi to pickles to even herbal vinegar tea. They even have teppanyaki in individual servings. Alcohol are on a order basis. 
I went to the onsen after dinner, and also early in the morning (cause you can't really see the sea view at night in the cave duh!). My favourite thing about Japan is onsen, and cold milk after that. They have a huge shop at the receptionist area where you can do your shopping, and I got bottle milked after my soak in the onsen. It was kinda crowded is mainland Chinese, and well, their behaviour was kinda embarrassing and really kills the joy of relaxation in the onsen. But the island is big enough, so I tried to avoid them as much as possible.
Lastly this is a picture of me in my yutaka. Isn't it cute? It even have turtles on it! And I think Japanese ryokan/resorts got relaxation right cause the moment you check-in, you can change into your yutaka and slippers and wonder all over the place. If you stay in a town, it is also perfectly acceptable to wonder around town in your yutaka. It is super relaxing, plus less laundry to do!

So it was here that we ended our adventure across Wakayama. We checked out the next day and took the ferry to Kii Katsuura, and took the train to Wakayama. From there we took the bus to the airport to catch our flight home. 

In all, Wakayama was the best place I've visited in Japan so far. And I have been to many parts of Japan! From Hiroshima, to Tokyo-Nara-Osaka-Hokkaido, to Tokyo-Kamakura-Niko-Hakone, to just Tokyo with friends, and even the most recent Hokkaido-Sapporo-Otaru-Noboribetsu-Jozankei trip. I would love to come back here to do a pilgrimage, or maybe do the 88 Temple Shikoku pilgrimage. Not forgetting I still need to go to Kyushu one of these days.... 


Monday, February 6, 2017

Nachi Falls(那智滝) and Nachi Taisha(那智大社)

16-June-2016 - The next morning, the rain stopped. I woke up super early so that we could catch the first bus out to Nachi Falls. I think the first bus was like 7am? I only have half a day after all as I needed to check into Urashima by 2pm. So off we went to Nachi Falls!

First stop was to Nachi Taisha, one of the three temples along the path of the pilgrimage. As usual, it was an uphill climb before reaching the holy ground. This place was a lot bigger than Hongu Taisha, and it is connected to the famous pagoda and a short hike down to Nachi Falls.

And then there was the beautiful pagoda view with Nachi Fall at the background. This was one of those famous shot almost every ad on Nachi tourism have.

As I've mentioned before, these were still in the pilgrimage path, so Kumano Kodo can be found connecting all the places. Above shows one of the path into the mountains. Needless to say, I was thrilled to be on any path of the ancient road! I really wish I could hike the whole trail one day. Sigh.

Anyway, we continued down the ancient path towards Nachi Falls. The road, the trees, the sunlight was so surreal that we took one shot together showing the beautiful path behind us. 
And below the path, is the entrance to the tallest waterfall in Japan - Nachi. There were some tourist to be seen here, mostly older crowd, and they had some hard time walking towards the falls as it was slippery and an uphill climb. And if you pay a little bit extra, you can get closure to the water fall. Highly recommended since you get less crowd, and you can really stand below the water fall with the water splashing slightly over you. 
In fact, if you pay a little more, you can drink the waters from the fall using this special plate! I don't recommend this as who knows how clean is the water? But my husband went ahead a tried it....

Anyway, I did managed a video of the falls, not a very good one, but still....

Nachi Taisha(那智大社)
Nachi Falls (那智滝)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Kii Katsuura (紀伊勝浦) - Oyado Hana

16-June-2016 - Left the beautiful Yunomine Onsen and took an early bus to Kii Katsuura. The bus dropped us at Shingu train station, and we took the train to Kii Katsuura after that, walking comfortably to our next lodging at Oyado Hana. 
2nd floor common area, pantry and library

Cosy toilet and sink area

Oyado Hana was the cheapest of all our accommodation at SGD 44 per person, no meals included. The whole place was run by a young lady, and it was rather cold in hospitality as compared to the little minshuku we stayed at Yunomine Onsen. But the place was rather beautifully decorated, and they have an onsen which you have to book 30mins slot for your bath time. 

It was rainy when we were reach Kii Katsuura, and since it was the rainy season, most of the shops were closed. We did stumble into a lovely cake shop where I had the most delicious strawberry shortcake ever. The owner was a rather stern looking lady, but who cares, the cake was delicious! We sat there sitting facing the window and looking out of the show on a rainy day. Oh yes, Mikan or Oranges were also very famous here, so I got three for like SGD2.50? Expensive and nothing really special about it. 

As our accommodation does not provide any breakfast, we bough some cakes back for breakfast next morning as well as maybe to bring along with us to Nachi Fall. Above the snacks we got, with milo which I usually bring on trips with me makes a nice light meal in the evening. We did have a lovely tuna set meal at one of the restaurant in town. A small shop where people were queuing outside so we decided to also queue. The meal was cheap and fresh, and nobody spoke English except the helper who was a Philippine lady. The customer were talking among themselves and I managed to understand what they were talking about. Apparently they were wondering if we were vietnams. I managed with my broken Japanese to explained where we were from, and the owner started telling us how he was in Singapore like 5 years or so back and even show us some photograph. It was a nice cosy place to hang out, just like your friendly neighbourhood bar. Love the experience.

The weather did clear up the next day were we had the chance to wonder around town and did some shopping. The pier side was beautiful with its blue skies and sea view. Behind the boat way back at the photo is Urashima, the island that we will be spending our last leg of the trip on. More about it on the future post!
Kii Katsuura is also a place that sells whale meat for consumption. You don't really find it selling so obviously, but we managed to wander into a supermarket slightly off town and found these. 

I initially wanted to visit the whale museum at Taiji which was in the next town, but at the same time having mixed feeling about it since I've watched the show The Cove before. But due to the bad weather and the infrequent train schedule, we skipped the place all together.

If you would like to watch the full movie, please refer the reference link below to lead you there. If you are curious about what it is about, here is the trailer to the movie. It is an eye opener to watch.

Lovely orange drink 

Kii Katsuura (紀伊勝浦)
Taiji (太地)
The Cove - Wiki