Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kasukabe: 11th July 2015

Today was the day we would be leaving Japan back to Singapore. Time flies everytime when you are having a vacation and sooner or later, you would have to take the plane back home!!

For our last day, we decided to visit Kasukabe, the place where the creator of Crayon-shinchan lived, to visit a mini theme amusement park in a shopping centre (Lala Garden Shopping Centre).

The information below is really catered to fans of Crayon-shinchan, which include the both of us. I long wanted to visit here and take pictures with the statues of shinchan and his family 5 years ago during our first trip to Japan, but it was delayed and this time, we decided that we should not miss this!!

A train ride from Asakusa to Kasukabe brought us to this little city. About 10min walk from the station, you will reach the shopping centre and the amusement centre, that was fully decorated with Shinchan and his family and friends, is right there to welcome you!

 I must say this was really an awesome trip to Japan to explore the Yamanashi Prefecture, the beauty of Atami and Shizuoka, the majestic views of Fujisan at Kawaguchiko and also the lovely animals, great catchup with friends and Sensei and also encounters with new friends, not forgetting the great hospitality by the staff at Hoshino Resorts Risonare Atami and Kai Atami. If not for the opportunity that they have given me, I would not have thought to visit Atami and plan my trip around Fujisan this summer!

I hope you have enjoyed my journey thus far through these blogposts. Feel free to ask if there is anywhere or anything that you will like to find out more about the place I have visited, although I will be busy planning my next trip to Japan soon!

Mother Farm/Chiba: 10th July 2015

This was our last full day at Japan. Time really flew when you were enjoying fun fun fun! Today, we made an impromptu decision to rent a car from the nearby Shinjuku Minami Toyota Car Rental Office :) This time, I did not make reservation online. Instead, I tried to make a booking directly at the office haha, hoping that every thing will go fine. 
Our Toyota Ractis Car

One thing different from our car rental experience at Kofu was that we could rent the ETC card to manage the fees at the toll gate at Shinjuku area. maybe this was because we were in the city area where there are many toll gates? But, anyway it was really convenient to have one while zooming thru those tolls. One word of caution, make sure you drop down your speed when approaching these gates to avoid accidents! 

At the Toll Gate

Through the tunnel

To the winding road in the beautiful weather

We picked our car Toyota Ractis, checked that everything was okay, and off we went to Mother Farm!! It was about an hour and a half drive to Chiba where the farm was located. You may also opt to take train to Kimitsu station, then take their designated shuttle bus (free) to the farm. But, you might reach the farm at a later timing due to the fixed timing of the shuttle bus and there was more flexibility if we could drive. So we took the 2nd option! Driving was a pleasant one except the congestion while leaving Shinjuku. Otherwise, it was very smooth through numerous tunnels. Got to salute the Japanese for the well developed road network and the extremely powerful GPS in their car haha 

The weather was amazingly beautiful with wispy clouds and clear blue sky as compared to rainy days before. We entered the farm and what greeted us first were the Alpacas and the sheep. There were many shows planned round the clock, so you could check out the schedule to catch the different highlight! We booked the exclusive farm tour and while waiting for the time, we visited a show performance at the auditorium! 

The show was entertaining with the host introducing the various animals in the farm to the audience. What amazed me was the group of sheep which came into view at an orderly fashion! There were horses, pig, cow, alpacas, and even ostrich which came by to say Hi! 

After 20mins, we took the bus up a valley where the tractor tour began! It was an exciting ride as it moved through the valley that was accompanied by stunning scenery and of course more animals like the Alpacas and the Bisons. 

The tractor tour

Scenery in Mother Farm

The guide was also entertaining as she brought out a really fat but cute rabbit to greet everyone of us! This really excited the kids!

And there was feeding time for the sheep, cow, alpacas! 

After the tour, we went back to the entrance and started attending other shows. Mother Farm occupies really huge area! There are areas for dairy milk production, flower fields, vast land! You could take a leisure walk to explore around or take their shuttle bus that comes with some fees. 

One highlight that must be visited is the pig-race! On that day we visited, many school children also came and they were to participate in this pig race! There was still some time before the race, so we grabbed some yummy lunch at the cafeteria. We also saw these kids having picnic while waiting haha.. 

The race began! Teachers selected some kids for the race while the children raised their hands up, hoping they would be selected. 

You could see their expressions! And there went the little pigs. 

The champion is the one whose pig reaches the finishing line first and there was this boy who did so! Well done!! 

We went to explore an enclosure which had the capybaras. We saw capybara at Manriki Park Zoo too. This time, there was a pair! And as it was really hot, they decided to go for a dip in a nearby pool. We were so happy to catch all these precious moments of interaction! 

We also went to experience carrying hamsters and rabbits. They were quite plump I must say haha.. 

And last but not least, we managed to catch the flying duck show! It was an undescribable moment when we saw all the ducks running across the grass fields towards us! The host of course fed them well and gave instructions to them so that they could move as a whole

i felt this Mother Farm was understandably rated as a top attraction in Chiba Prefecture! There was so many experiences with animal encounters. We really enjoyed our time although we are you could imagine a kid will also have loads of fun coming here :D Definitely worth your time to plan a daytrip out of Tokyo in your next trip! 

We drove back after all the shows and returned the car safely. phew!! We then headed back to our hotel for a quick shower before meeting my Japanese sensei, whom I met while taking classes at Ikoma some time back. It has been 5 years since we last met! And I MUST say sensei did not change much when I last saw her haha.. She brought us to a very nice place for Izakaya near the Tokyo Metropolitan Building. 

We had a great time catching up, showing my photos to her and enjoying the good food! After dinner, we went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building for some night view of the city. This was a free attraction and it was very worthwhile to come by and visit! I remembered coming here in my last trip but in the day. This time was at night haha! Thank you sensei for planning this for us! Hope to see her again in my future trips :)

Adventure at Nikko : 9th July 2015

This was the day that we would meet Nakano-san, my friend whom I met at Sapporo during the one-day trip. Nakano-san was very kind to offer and bring us around in a rental car to explore Nikko. I have always wanted to visit some waterfalls at Nikko and am deeply enthralled by their spectacular scenery. I was so happy when Nakano-san suggested to bring us around :)

So we met him bright and early at Asakusa station, to take the Tobu Spacia Train to Tobu-Nikko station. It was about an hour's ride. And this ride was special as we purchased this special compartment ticket to have a private room in the train! Our first time in fact haha..the ride was very comfortable except that we saw the weather was turning really cloudy at Nikko.. most of the attractions that we would visit were outdoors, so we were pretty worried about this!

We reached the station and went to the nearby Toyota Car Rental Office to pick the car. This time, Nakano drove and he chose a really comfortable MPV car to drive us around.. So we drove the beautiful greenery to reach the first waterfall: Yunotaki
Reached the station!

Our car for the day!

Driving through the greenery

When we reached Yunotaki, there was big group of school children with their teachers. Since this is their summer vacation, they have come by to Nikko to visit waterfalls! I envy these students to explore the nature of Japan which has so much to offer

Us with Nakano-san

The Magnificient Downpour

After Yunotaki, Nakano-san brought us to this Senjoghara Wetlands. It was a marsh in fact and during good weather conditions, one get to enjoy the view of Mount Nantai.

Weather was not getting any good, but we kept our spirits high after seeing the first waterfall. For the next waterfall, Nakano-san mentioned he wanna bring us to Ryuzu-Falls. I got to know about this waterfall from Channel Newsasia, Japan Hour and I was stunned by its beauty, hoping to see it live during this trip. 

And there it was! Stunning. I bet it would be more beautiful during the autumn season. Nikko is also a great place to visit during autumn too!

Very happy with this view.

After absorbing the negative ions from the atmosphere and enjoying the view at this fall, we decided to head to Kegon Falls before going for lunch. Kegon falls is the most popular waterfall in Nikko. But, the weather was really really bad. Alas, we could not get to see it at all except to hear the sound of the falls... well maybe next time during autumn I hope!

This was closed on that day as it was way too cloudy

Nothing but the fog :(

Something to make us worth coming by although we did not see Kegon falls haha..but we tasted yummy local delicacy :)

So after this visit, Nakano-san brought us to 明治の館, a restaurant which I came across from Japan Hour again haha I love that show! It is a Western-style restaurant hidden somewhere near to Toshogu shrine, which is a UNESCO world heritage site to visit in Nikko. All of us decided to try the recommended Omu Rice at this restaurant and I must say everyone was greatly surprised by the taste of it! 

Omu Rice

After our lunch, we took a short walk outside the restaurant and Dear spotted deer right at one corner of the trees! I was so happy as I wanna take photos of deer in their most native environment. And there it was, munching happily at the leaves and staring curiously back at me while I was photographing it :) Hello Deer from Nikko!

After this beautiful encounter, we proceeded to Toshogu Shrine (東照宮). This is the place where the famous three monkeys carvings can be spotted, together with the sleepy cat. Since this is a world heritage site, the number of visitors was enormous despite the rain.

 Hear no Evil, Speak no Evil, See no Evil (philosophy of life)

The Sleeping Cat

Facets of Toshogu Shrine

We spent a considerable amount of time here although it was raining heavily. I must say the visit was quite fruitful. There are a lot of interesting carvings at the various shrine pillars, roofs etc which you could admire and take pictures. The place was also very big. And with the tall mighty trees, you could experience a zen feeling! (minus the crowd)

We left for our last destination, and that was Jizo Bake. I got to know about this place while reading about Nikko and thought this must be an interesting place to explore. There is a series of Jizos. Via counting from one direction will give you a different number as compared to counting them from the opposite direction. Not sure what the reason was and I decided not to count but to capture the beauty of this place on my camera. There wasnt many people there so one can enjoy the beauty of the rapids next to them. Some people did mention that it was an eerie place but we did not feel so!

An early autumn for this tree?

With that peace in mind, we left to see the Shinkyo Bridge before leaving Nikko. It is said to be a sacred bridge for the entrance to the temples and shrines in Nikko, that arches the Daiya river.
Alone standing, in its own beauty. 

And this concluded our trip in Nikko. What a fruitful day despite the rain! We saw so many things although we did not see the Kegon waterfall haha..which beckons another trip in the future I hope haha in autumn.. Really thank Nakano-san who offered to bring us around for this Nikko trip. If not for him and his safe driving skill, I think we could not really manage well as transport in Nikko to various attractions is limited by the bus services that are not so frequent.

Nakano-san drove us to Utsunomiya station to return the car and enjoy the famous gyozas over there. To our surprise, it was the best gyozas we ever had and the price was affordable.

This was the place where we had gyozas, just right across Utsunomiya station if you are thinking to visit! After gyozas, we took the train back to Tokyo station which was about 1h plus. It was a fulfilling trip and once again, great thanks to Nakano-san. Although we had some problem of communication, I know a bit of Japanese, he knows a bit of English, we could still communicate, share travel stories, working experiences and family with each other, sometimes requiring the help of Google Translate haha..nonetheless, we enjoyed our trip with him and hope to visit him again in Tokyo soon!

1. Yunotaki
3. Ryuzu-Falls
4. Kegon falls