Monday, 26 September 2016

Memories Of 2015: A Walkabout In The New World & The God of Things As They Ought to Be

The day after our trip to Kinosaki Onsen, we were back to Osaka. We were supposed to travel to Wakayama and spend a night there but ditched the plan and just did a day trip there after our stay in Osaka.

Our day spent in Osaka was a hot one and it was also a public holiday and the place we stayed at; around the Shinsekai area where Tsutenkaku Tower is located; was packed with locals and tourists alike.

It's a bewildering place to be at, and an assault to the senses to put it mildly.
Welcome to Shinsekai - the new world that is already 104 years old. ^^

From narrow culinary street to panchinko shops. retro cinemas, shops selling clothes to shops where ojisan are playing shogi...
 There's even a zoo nearby. Make that the third zoo opened in Japan, back in 1915!
Keep your wits with you at Shinsekai. I find the place strange, even for Japan standard. Haha
Notice anything familiar in this photo?

Hint: It's next to the Japan flag.
It's pretty normal to see queue like this, in the area.
They are lining up for kushikatsu, a popular deep-fried dish in Osaka.

Another fun thing to do (well, for us at least) here is spot the Biliken.

Biliken is known in Osaka as “The God of Things As They Ought To Be”. The god has a mischievous smile with pointed elf-like ears, an elongated head and looks quite like a Buddha. 

But here's the thing: Billiken is not even Japanese! Billiken was actually made by an art teacher from America and is a mascot for the Saint Louis University and Saint Louis University High School!
Not only that Biliken is almost at every store front, one can buy Biliken as souvenir too. There are lots of Biliken merchandises!
After all the crowd and tired from our walk, it was nice to enjoy our meal. And some fruits too. 

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Memories of 2015 : The Trip To Toyooka, Tango Ultra REPC And Race Day (Photos Galore)

The 2016 16th International Friendship Race in Historical Road Tango Ultramarathon had just concluded on Sep 18, 2016.

I joined the 15th edition last year and enjoyed it tremendously (race recap here)

Just adding some photos of the event last year in this post. The ultramarathon is a wonderful experience and highly recommended for those looking for a road ultramarathon in Japan.
From our hotel, First Cabin in Kyoto we had an early breakfast at Yayoi-ken before heading to JR Kyoto Station.
We needed to make our trip to Toyooka where we would be staying for the next two nights.

We had bought JR West Kansai WIDE Area Pass for the trip which could be used for 5 consecutive days but unlike the JR Pass where one could reserve seats before the journey; our pass was for unreserved seats hence the queuing. ^^
But OK lah for travel not on PEAK PEAK period. Just choose any seats that's available and enjoy the trip.
Our 130 minutes long journey was by the Limited Express Kinosaki and we arrived Toyooka station shortly before 10.00am.

After leaving our luggages at the hotel where we would be staying in, we went to Amino to collect my race kit for the next day's run.
A small nondescript local line station adjacent to the JR Toyooka station. Train trips are not frequent so it's best to check the train schedule beforehand.
We had to wait for more than an hour for the train so we decided to walk around the Toyooka town before boarding our train.

We used the Tantentsu rail from Toyooka Station, heading to first Amino then Amanohashidate.
1,800yen day pass on Tantetsu line which we bought at half price because we were tourists. The private line is not covered by any JR passes.
The trip took about 40 minutes from Toyooka to Amino and at the station, race crew were busy guiding participants to the shuttles buses waiting, to get to the REPC site at Amity Tango.

After getting my race kit all sorted out, assisted by the Race Director himself; we went around the REPC expo and watched the presentations that were available for runners at selected time.
The Race Director then ushered us towards the tea ceremony area when foreign participants were encouraged to enjoy.

Tea and wagashi (Japanese sweets) were served and we enjoyed it tremendously.
In front of the stage area.

We didn't stay long as we decided to visit Amanohashidate to fully utilise our day-pass.

Dinner that day was at a restaurant in a mall next to Toyooka Station.

Son had the soba set. Hubby had the tempura/udon set and I chose the tempura/udon and mushroom rice set. Our tummy was happy.
And finally it was time to rest in our room.

It was an small, rather old family owned hotel but it was clean and the bed was comfy.
It came equipped with standard amenities and most important, internet connection! Haha

And it only cost us about RM300 per night for the stay.
My category was flagged off at Kumihama so we headed off to Kumihama for the start on race day morning. The Finish Line however was located at Amino, where the 100K category was flagged-off earlier
The route passed-by a beach, mountain areas, villages and small towns, farms and even a theme park!
 At around KM15, going forward.
 I couldn't resist to look back after after the climb at KM15 and here's what I saw.

Absolutely breath-taking.
I arrived this KM22.9 aid station with a nice buffer to chase the cut-off time.

Apart from the massage provided by Phiten, and of course drinks; we were served udon here.
It was later at around KM25 that I bumped into Hubby and Son. They had used the supporters shuttle bus and was walking around while waiting for me to pass the route.

It was a nice surprise and I was sure happy to see them.
The first checkpoint (CP) was located at KM34.50

Runners in the 60K category need to pass this CP by 2.30pm and not a minute later. Late arrivals will not be allowed to proceed with their run.

Despite all the unplanned stops for photo taking and enjoying what the aid stations had to offer, I arrived at 1.46pm.

I had put a drop bag here and planned to change my gear before continuing on.
After refreshing myself and changing out of the sweat-soaked gear and into a dry one, I went to forage for food at the aid station.

A number of runners were resting, dipping their feet in the kiddie pool provided and eating.
There were fruits (pears and grapes), onigiri and barazushi. Pickled plum (umeboshi) was served at all ad stations.

It was a feast.

I stayed for about 15 minutes as per my plan before continuing my run.
I arrived the second CP with an hour to spare.

Here I enjoyed some soup and ate some buns before continuing my run. I didn't stop as long as I did at CP 1.

 Villages that we passed through.
Drummers getting ready for runner.
About 200m from the Finish Line, I saw Hubby and Son waiting for me. I was walking at the time but I started to run as I saw them from afar.
Son ran with me for the final 200m and we later took out the Jalur Gemilang and ran with it at the last 100m.
While Mommy was running along the historical road of Kyotango, the boys went sightseeing.
After seeing me pass through the route that they had waited for me, they went and enjoyed a dip at a nearby onsen using the coupon that was included in my race kit.

Apart from my running bib, I was given a drink, a packet of local rice and some vouchers to use around the area.
And at the end of the day, we enjoyed a bowl of udon courtesy of Tango Ultramarathon.

But I got hungry shortly after so we headed off to a konbini near our hotel for a quick dinner, enjoyed in our hotel room.
My second dinner for the day. ^^

After resting then it was time to soak my tired legs in the bath tub and then sleep. Zzzzzzz

Saturday, 17 September 2016

Memories of 2015: The Sandbar Of Amanohashidate

Image from
Amanohashidate is a pine covered sandbar that spans the mouth of Miyazu Bay in the scenic, coastal region of northern Kyoto Prefecture. Viewed from the mountains at either end of the bay, the Amanohashidate Sandbar (or Bridge in Heaven) looks like a pathway between heaven and earth. The sandbar is ranked among Japan's three most scenic views. 

The other two most scenic view in Japan are:
 Miyajima with its floating torii and Itsukushima Shrine. (Our trip report here).
Matshushima that has pine clad islets dotting around it (our trip report here).

We visited Amanohashidate on a Saturday afternoon in September 2015, the day we collected my race kit for the Tango Ultramarathon which was held the next day, on Sunday.
From the race kit collection site in Amity Tango, we used our Tantetsu day pass (1,800yen for adult but 50% discount for foreign tourist so we only paid 900yen for it).

There is of course a direct train from Kyoto station to Amanohashidate and it takes about 1hour 40minutes for the journey.
The sandbar is about 3 kilometre long and I actually had to resist the urge to walk from one end to the other end of the sandbar (making a 6K trip) because I was running in a 60K race the next day.
But we did walk part of it and enjoyed the scenic view. ^^
Another interesting spot at Amanohashidate is the rotating bridge. Rather than raising like a traditional drawbridge, the middle section of this bridge rotates 90 degrees to allow boats to pass through. We walked past the bridge when it started to rotate and it was quite fun to see the process.
And of course we visited the shrines there and enjoyed the atmosphere and festivities around it.
Walking around the town area was nice, looking at souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants...
With a number of shops drying up squids and fish to be sold.
And as always, we had fun looking for the manhole covers. In Amanohashidate, the manhole features the sandbar, of course. ^^

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