Monday, 31 October 2016

Chiba 2016 Trip - A Snapshot

We came back last Thursday from a 6-days' trip. The trip was so that I could run in Chiba Aqualine Marathon. It was great fun and while we visited familiar places, we also managed to do something different too.
We made our journey to Japan on Friday morning and flew with ANA on the 8am flight. 

For the first time since Feb 2002, it was just the two of us this time. 
We arrived Narita Airport at around 3pm but spent more time at the airport to sort out a glitch with our Japan SIM card.

It was almost 5pm when we took a local train to Chiba Station and after checking-in at our hotel, the first order of business was to search for dinner. Luckily, there were plenty of restaurants located near the train station.

Dinner and a night stroll with Hubby before we finally settled in our room.
Saturday was a busy day.

We went around the malls near Chiba Station before making our way to Tokyo Station. As always, whenever we are in Tokyo, a stop at the Central Post Office.

A great place to shop for souvenir and commemorative stamps.

We later met a few friends to run around the Imperial Palace jogging course and later a dinner gathering.
Sunday was race day!

I joined the half-marathon at the Chiba Aqualine Marathon held in Chiba. The run was interesting to me as it is only held once every two years.The run saw 12 thousand full marathoners and 5 thousand half marathoners running around Chiba.

Plus we get to run on the Aqualine Expressway up to the point where the bridge link goes through the undersea tunnel across Tokyo Bay. The bridge/tunnel connects Kawasaki in Kanagawa with Kisarazu in Chiba.
Monday was reserved for a hike. We started at Mount Takao and used the Inariyama Trail where it is less crowded with hikers/visitors.
We hiked 15 kilometres from Takaosanguchi Station to Mount Jinba. The hike down was using a shorter 4 kilometres route before taking a bus for another 10 kilometres trip to Takao Station.

From the start of the hike till we board the bus; we took about 8 leisurely hours to hike to the top of Mount Jinba (857m) and down again.

As a treat after the hike, we went to an onsen and later had a nice sashimi dinner.
Tuesday was cycling day.

We rented bicycles from Sheraton Grande Tokyo Bay Hotel and went around Tokyo Bay and the neighbouring area.

Our rental was for 24-hours so we took our time cycling and enjoying the sights.
Tuesday night was spent in Akihabara, trawling the shops that were still open after 8pm; looking for toys. ^^
Wednesday was spent in Ueno and we spent most of our time in Ameyokocho for some final shopping.

And all too soon, it was time for us to return to Malaysia.

Next year, we plan to spend more days for our yearly vacation!

Total spent excluding airfares (plus omiyages and snacks to bring home): about 85,000 yen (around 4,050) for two.
Airfares : RM1,298.00 return with ANA.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Memories of 2015 Trip : Last Day In Tokyo

From the Kii Peninsula in the Wakayama Prefecture we then traveled to Tokyo for our last day.

Flying ANA domestic, we flew from Kansai Airport to Haneda Airport and while we were in Tokyo, we met a few friends who were running in a race that weekend.
We arranged to meet and saw them off at the Keio Bus Station in Shinjuku before they boarded their bus to Kawaguhiko Station.

They joined the UTMF 2015 ultra race last  year.
The same spot where we boarded the bus to Kawaguchiko Station when we went there for me to run in the Fujisan Marathon 2014.
The order of business in Tokyo was shopping. Shopping. Shopping.

First - we went to Yodobashi and Bic Camera to buy Lego sets for Son.

We literally cleared off a shelf of Lego! It was a treat for the Boy and he had waited patiently for almost a year for this trip.
For Mommy, she just wanted to update her wardrobe. Tights.
Shoes.

But didn't find any good deal in Shinjuku.

But was happy to find a pair at a bargain at Sports Zyuen in Ueno.

We bought some (a LOT) of omiyage chocolates duty-free shop there too to bring back home.
Our final meal in Tokyo and in Japan was at Tenya. It's a tempura chain and quite popular even with foreigners.

The staff at Ueno branch were foreign students doing arubaito (part time) job there.
Son chose the soba set.
And the parents chose tendon. Ebi (prawn) and vege tempura on rice.

It's yummy and affordable too!
Our return flight was also on ANA.

ANA offers an expanded Halal menu for its in-flight meal and even the snacks served are Halal certified for flights to/from Muslim majority countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

Their Halal certified in-flight meal is provided by Brahim's.
The menu served in-flight is of course available to view on their website and we wanted and chose this...
After a week-long trip to Japan in September 2015, the trip had finally ended.

It was a great trip with the family and I am certainly happy to also bring home the Tango Ultramarathon medal back with me.

A run that I had finished to celebrate my 40th birthday.

Note: if you carry your medal in your carry-on, you may need to declare it when you put your stuff through the scanner before going in to check-in. Haha

Monday, 10 October 2016

Memories of 2015 Trip - Hiking The Kumano Trail (Visiting Nachi Waterfall) Part II

Continuing from Part I, where we reaced the foot of Daimonzaka on our way to Nachi Waterfall in the Kii Peninsula.
A family photo before continuing our hike.

The weather was pretty hot by the time we reached here but bearable. Remember, we visited Japan in the late Summer months last year.
And here's  the map of the route we're following.
 23.09.2015

A special date.

It was Hubby's birthday!

There is a tea house here and we were greeted by cheery staff (or proprietress) who were busy tending the weed on the stone steps.

One can rent the pilgrim's costume here for a fee, apart from enjoying tea.

We stopped  here to enjoy free wi-fi. Hah hah
Just up ahead we pass the Meoto-Sugi; the Husband and Wife 800 year-old cedar trees.



From there onwards, it was the stone steps that we tackled.
There were benches at a few spots for weary hikers/pilgrims to rest on before continuing their hike.
And a few dead tree stumps.

That way to Kumano Nachi Taisha and Nachisan Seiganto-ji. And that way we went. ^^
From the top of the hill we descended and made our way to Nachi Waterfall, our destination for the hike.

And there's Hiro Jinja here too, which is part of Nachi Grand Shrine.
Finally, walking down the stairs!
Behind me - Nachi Waterfall. The tallest waterfall in Japan with a single uninterrupted drop.

133m drop.
13m crest.
10m basin depth.
We later walked up to the rest station up the hill which is located about 500m to the Grand Shrine and saw a couple of pilgrims on their way to continue their journey.

From the stop on top of the hill down the road leading to Nachi Waterfall lined rows of souvenir shops and eateries.
For us, we just enjoyed soft served ice cream with the intention of having a big late lunch (or early dinner) when we reached Kiikatsuura later.

For our return trip, we took the bus instead of walking and it was a nice 30 minutes journey.

We arrived Kiikatsuura station and immediately headed to the nearby shotengai (shopping street) to look for an affordable restaurant but alas, most shops were already closed. The ones that were open were souvenir shops.

With nothing else to do, we just walked around the port area to pass time before our train arrived.
Of course the market had already closed too!

Boats were docked and there were even whale-watching boats here.
We found a foot bath and decided to take a rest there.
And enjoy the sea view.
We later boarded the train, but instead of heading back to Osaka; we made a last minute plan to travel farther - to Shingu.
We arrived Shingu Station and not exactly sure what we were going to do there! Hahaha

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Memories of 2015 Trip : Hiking The Kumano Trail (Visiting Nachi Waterfall) Part I

Our initial plan was to spend 2 days and 1 night hiking around the Kumano Kodo trail and stayed a night in a minshuku after my run in Tango Ultramarathon last year.

We ditched that plan in favour of spending a longer time at Kinosaki Onsen and made our way to Wakayama from Osaka instead of from Toyooka.
We boarded the Ocean Arrow limited express train at Tennoji Station using our 5-days JR Kansai WIDE Area pass which was on its final day use and the trip took about 3.5hours.
Using the JR Kansai WIDE Area pass, we took our seats in the unreserved car but we later walked around the train and spent some time seated in the sightseeing car with wide windows. It was nice to sit in the sightseeing car and watch the scenery as we traveled to Kiikatsuura for the start of our hike to Nachi no Taki (Nachi Waterfall).
Kiikatsuura station.
With a pretty unique interior.
From the station, we headed to the bus terminal (if one can call it that) to wait for the bus to Nachi Station.

The bus we boarded actually traveled all the way to Nachi Waterfall but we alighted at Nachi Station so that we could hike part of the Kumano Kodo trail.

Our short bus trip took less than 10 minutes.

The bus trip from Kiikatsuura to Nachi Waterfall will take about 25-30 minutes.
In front of Nachi Station.

We spent some time at the station as there is a wealth of information about the pilgrimage route available there.
Our destination - Nachi Waterfall.

For foreigners wanting to embark on the Kumano Kodo trail, don't worry. There are maps available and the trails are properly and clearly marked.

We of course, only did a very small part of the historic pilgrimage route and we plan to someday do the whole route when we have more time to do it (make it a week).

The Kumano Kodo pilgrimage route stretched across the mountains of Kii Peninsula and since ancient times, pilgrims from all level of society (including retired emperors and aristocrats) made the journey as they undertook religious rites of worship and purification.

Kumano Kodo route had, in 2004; been registered as UNESCO World Heritage as part of Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Peninsula.
Our hike can be sectioned into 3 parts: 
1. Main road
2. Trail
3. The stone steps of Daimonzaka
One thing about the route we chose - we couldn't find a single shop! 

Luckily we brought along enough drinks and snacks to eat along the way. I brought along a few bars of Moolabar to snack on and  I sure was glad I brought them!
But we bought some Japanese cucumbers from an unmanned stall that was set-up by the road-side. Only 100yen for 3 cucumbers and we just leave the money in the yellow coin box.
We later walked into a housing area before entering the trail section.
The fun part starts!
Green moss.
Bamboo forests.
Clearly marked path.
Stumbled upon a small shrine.


Gave way to a couple of hikers whom we later met again at Daimonzaka.
Apart from the two hikers, we got the trail all to ourselves so it was nice to just spend time walking and enjoying the scenery quietly.

Of course the Boy couldn't help to play and goof around.
We later exited the trail part and came out to a cemetery located on top of the hill.
From this hill, we descended and walked past this village en route to Daimonzaka Hill.
No shops in sight (or we didn't notice one) but as anywhere in Japan, there are vending machines to buy drinks from. 

Bought a bottle of mineral water and continued our walk.
Past houses, fruit trees, flower fields and shrines.
We later found another unmanned stall selling candies and bought a packet.

The same bag of candies, with a shop logo sold at souvenir shop nearby Kiikatsura Station was sold at a much higher price!
There was some huge construction done around the area and at one junction, there was a construction worker manning it.

Beside him was a big carboard map of the trail and also some encouragement written for pilgrims and hikers.

He saw us and gave a thumbs-up and told us Daimonzaka was just up ahead. Wasn't that nice?
From this point onwards, it's ancient stone steps up and up all the way to Kumano Nachi Grand Shrine and Nachi-san Seiganto Temple.

That in my next post.

Stay tuned!

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