9 Days in Japan

I’m interrupting the posts on China to also blog a bit on a recent trip to Japan. My backlog stretches so far back it’s not even funny anymore. Just this year alone so far I’ve gone to Melbourne and the beautifully genteel Mornington Peninsula to cover the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. Then I’ve just returned from an 8-day trip to Korea. Lots to talk about there too since it was my first trip to the Korean peninsula. I surprised myself by liking it a great deal. And now there’s Japan again. So close to my heart. So I’ve decided to just bite the bullet and blog about places, not in chronological order of the trip or even the destination. So China will intersperse with Japan for now. And then I may throw in something on Melbourne or Seoul or Taipei too. Heck of a mess. But the kind of mess I so love – keep moving, keep travelling and I hope I never run out of places to write about. 

To be honest, I had not planned on going to Japan. This was not an assignment I was given. Instead, it was a spur-of-the-moment decision fueled by a pair of cheap tickets I managed to bag on Singapore Airlines. People like me should avoid auctions. Because I am competitive by nature and I can be very anal about winning. Which explains why three months ago, I was sitting in front of my computer with two windows open on my screen, at 9am sharp, feverishly keying in dates and codes to get two of a limited number of cheap promotion fares on SQ. At SGD$498 each, it was a steal. Only 200 tickets and it was a case of fastest fingers wins. It happened so fast that I snapped the tickets first before calling the husband to tell him to book his vacation time.

Since it was a fait accompli, we had no choice but to go ahead to book accommodation and plan the trip. But in fact, I didn’t have a clue where I wanted to go. In fact I dithered about a firm itinerary until a week before we had to leave and then made the rest of the reservations in a hurry.

We decided to focus on central Honshu this time. I wanted time at Japan’s largest outdoor konnyoku rotemburo – Takaragawa Osenkaku. The man wanted time on the river and since it was spring and the waters were high, this was ideal. We put Minakami Onsen as our first stop.

We would also cover the Kurobe Gorge, the Kurobe Alpine Route, revisit Nagano, check out Bessho Onsen, one of the oldest onsen towns in Japan, visit Kamakura and spend some time actually in Tokyo, which I had not really done before despite at least 5 or 6 prior visits.


Along the way, we would wander one of Tokyo’s neighbourhoods, do the full Monty in front of strangers of both sexes, white water raft on class 4 rapids in Minakami, say konnichiwa to school children, meet an Italian-speaking train conductor, revisit Kanazawa, get on a trail of kami in Nagano, meet a couple of fat cats on an island, traverse across a mountain in winter and emerge in the early days of summer on the plains and maybe even have met a ghost. My first ghost in Japan! Woohoo!

We bought 7-day JR Passes for the trip. In terms of accommodation, I always have to have a couple of onsen ryokan stays preferably in gorgeous settings and this trip was no different. What I thought was going to be the highlight of the ryokans turned out to be a bit of a disappointment and what I thought was going to be just a place to rest for the night turned out to give quite the thrill. So you really never know.

It was quite a ride. So I hope you’ll stick with me even though my posts may take a while!

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