Sunday, December 18, 2016

Japan 2-7 Dec

DAY ONE: 3 DEC 2016

This trip is off to a good start because (i) I could squeeze into my old trusty Uniqlo travel / cold-weather black jeans post-partum. Sure, muffin-top aplenty, but the important thing was that I could still wear them!  (ii) watched 3 movies on the plane! Your Name (apt Japanese anime, showing the contrast between bustling Tokyo city and mountainous beautiful scenery of Gifu region (where we're headed), Ghostbusters 2016 (the all-women one - had to stifle to stop myself from literally LOL - loved it) & Suicide Squad (meh. But a recent movie which is a great accomplishment).

And we left Anna behind! So we're free to do a lot of things on this trip :) had to (and still am) balancing the guilt of leaving her behind, and with my in law's (feel bad for them). But I conclude that this break will give me the recharge to go further, and also this time apart will help me appreciate baby that much more :)

Lunch at Sushi Zanmai, just walking distance from Imperial Hotel.

Unagi Nigiri - where is the rice?? lol. The eel here is so different in taste (and size) than the ones back home!

So good, so much, great value. It was hard to pick a favourite!

Egg to rice proportions done right in Japan!

Total lunch for two: 4,838 yen

Bought some snacks from Daimaru at Tokyo station, before hopping onto Shinkansen (and then local Hida train) to Takayama: 27,860 yen for two.

Kaiseki - with famed Hida beef!

DAY TWO: 4 DEC 2016

Woke up to a sore throat in the morning :( on one hand it was rather sian to fall sick at the start of the holiday, but on the other hand, thankful for good health so far (i can't remember the last time i fell sick...was well all throughout my pregnancy until now) and I guess if there was a good time to fall sick, it would have been on this holiday - don't have to look after Anna + super chill / sleep a lot holiday! 

This grilling on a magnolia leaf seems to be a popular item here in Takayama.

Shin-hotaka Ropeway (basically cable car).

Atop the observation deck, overlooking Hida mountains. Takayama literally translated means 'gao shan' or tall mountains.

'The horizontal striped pattern visible on Mt. Kasa is proof that long ago this was a caldera volcano. The caldera, a huge depression in the land, was formed from volcanic activity roughly 65 million years ago. This was about the time that dinosaurs were becoming extinct. Inside the caldera, volcanic ash and lava accumulated in cycles, and alternating dense welded tuff (a volcanic rock) and softer volcanic materials built up in layers.'

'From about 2.5 million years to 800,000 years ago, a continuous uplifting of the land formed the Hida Mountain Range. Due to erosion during this uplifting, steep rock walls were formed from welded tuff. In other cases, gentler slopes were formed, where we can see the horizontal striped patterns. In all the world, this is a rare and precious spectacle: to behold 1600 vertical meters of cross-section of a volcanic caledera.' 



Hida beef curry

Came back to Takayama town - beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...!

Beef yakitori...yes, more beef.

Sanmachi (Old Town) with lovely old houses dating back to Edo period (1600-1868). It's a small town that I think can be covered in 2 days, but very quaint and beautiful. Love the laid-back atmosphere. It's just what we needed.

We were extremely fortunate weather-wise. We were told by many people (locals in Tokyo too) that where we were going was going to be freezing. We were prepared for bad weather, and just staying indoors if necessary. But the 2+ days that we were there was PERFECT. It wasn't that cold - perhaps in the 10 deg+ range? Quite similar to Tokyo city. And atop the mountains it was maybe 5 deg, but was nice and very enjoyable! It was extremely clear skies too, so we were particularly fortunate! It started to rain the day we left.

DAY THREE (5 Dec 2016)

Decided to skip the Shirakawa-go UNESCO World Heritage Site and just stay around town since I wasn't feeling well. Good call. 

One of the two morning markets

Eric and his dorayaki

We spotted a total of 15 Singaporean families in Takayama 😐

A 7-Eleven like no other...!!

Milk tea like no other

Lunch at Ajikura Tengoku (as recommended on this blog).

It was melt-in-your-mouth delicious. So. Good. Buttery and fragrant. Our mistake was ordering another slab, which turned out to almost as big as our first two pieces combined! @_@ Because we didn't want to waste it, we ate it all and were completely beef-ed out. After that meal we avoided beef for the rest of the trip! :P 

Local beer (yay since I wasn't breastfeeding anymore :D)

Their local mascot it seems. Rather scary if you ask me. 

Takayama Jinya - former government house under the Shogun. We did the palace in Kyoto, so this is was much smaller and underwhelming but still interesting as it was a building for totally different purposes (govt office), and the restoration was well-done. Also interesting artefacts give insight to the Shogunate era. Entry tickets for two: 960 yen.

'Because of its valuable timber resources, the Hida Region around Takayama was put under direct control of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1692. The Takayama Jinya (高山陣屋) served as the local government office headed by the officials dispatched from Edo (present day Tokyo).'

Beautiful decorative piece at the entrance

Beautiful zen garden that important rooms (such as the government officer and his wife) have access to.

Japanese auspicious wave in sand...with Eric's footprint in it 😆  He stepped into by accident while taking a photo of me. Laughed the hardest on this trip lol.

Center4Burgers - came in for whiskey but they didn't seem to have much stock of the interesting ones!

Back to Sanmachi

Best ice-cream ever. It's like creamy vanilla with yoku-moku cone! 500 yen. I'm-sick-but-I-don't-care-treat.

Hachiman Matsuri at Sakurayama Hachiman Shrine - where they celebrate Autumn Takayama Festival. Ran into another Singaporean family on the way here.

We decided to take a walk to Kitayama Park, not realising it was an uphill walk...I guess this was our burn-off-the-beef walk.

We kept searching for the park, and didn't really see one. So we figured we were in the middle of a hilly park!...and they just built a road and houses in it. It was getting dark so we somewhat power-walked :P View from the atop the hill / park (?)

Back at our Ryokan Tanabe. 120,900 yen for 3 nights (we had a larger room with a private toilet and onsen bath - the upgrade was worth it though...didn't see myself sharing an onsen with strangers.)

An example of the wonderful kaiseki spread we had everyday - breakfast & dinner.

DAY FOUR (6 DEC 2016)

Human gantries at the Takayama station. #OnlyInJapan (where labour is inefficient). Train to Narita station for two pax: 30,960 yen.

Lovely scenic train ride back to Tokyo. I can't remember the last time Eric and I spent this much time together...and like quality time - because we were on the train so much, there wasn't much else to do, but talk! Talked about work/industry, baby, family, God, our marriage etc. Japan holds such a special place in my heart because of all the memories that we have created here together. 

Random train station - but I like this picture.

DAY FIVE (7 DEC 2016)

It was a rush through Narita, as we had decided the night before to fly home a day earlier. This day was supposed to be a shopping day for us at Narita, but Eric missed baby a lot (since he was away on a work trip a week earlier), and we decided if we could get earlier flights back, we would. I figured we could come back to Narita another time, it's really accessible and near the airport. Takayama not so much - probably won't go back there again. So through God's providence (REALLY), we got flights returning on 7 Dec instead of 8 Dec - we had to change our ticket to premium/economy which wasn't an issue. The plane was so new and the flight entertainment system was really really nice. And fortunately we did so - Anna got acute UTI/bacteria infection and afterward a skull fracture the first few days we got back. So really really God's providence and grace that we got home when we did! 

Breezing through Narita town in the morning. Mercure Hotel was 10,800 yen for one night (including the 20% forfeit for the 2nd night).

Popular unagi place where they kill and grill it in front of you.

Went back to get my milk tea at 7-Eleven. Just had to.

Home sweet home to our little darling Anna.