Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Kyushu in a Week? Part 1: The Plan

Alright, time to get started on my graduation trip with my family, or I'll never get started (I probably won't be posting consecutively, because I've got some other stuff too(: ). Last March, my family came for my graduation, and since they were here, decided to tour Kyushu. And guess who was their guide? (no prizes for the correct answer).

It was a pretty packed trip, so I thought I'd break it into several posts. But if you're looking to travel to Kyushu without using a travel agent, here's my schedule for you to use as a reference (I'll add links as I post):

Day 1:

The flight to Fukuoka from Singapore is an overnight flight, so I didn't plan much. Just exploring the city - Canal City, Tenjin underground shopping arcade, etc. We also went to the Fukuoka castle ruins, but we were too early for the sakura.

Day 2:

We rented a car and drove to Dazaifu and Yanagawa. And in the evening, we managed to go to Fukuoka Tower as well. You don't really need a car (Nishitetsu does sell packages for these and the train is pretty adorable too) but it does help if you're planning to buy a lot of things or don't want to be at the mercy of the train schedule.

Day 3:

My graduation and hence absolutely no touristy things were done. You could probably substitute this with a day trip to Itoshima or any other of the places I listed in this post,  or you could head to Sasebo early and go to Kujukushima islands, giving you one full day at Huis ten Bosch.

We arrived in Sasebo at night.

Day 4:

We went to Kujukushima (for the cruise) in the morning and spent the afternoon and evening at Huis ten Bosch! It's workable if you're not planning to play much at Huis ten Bosch, but just to admire the view. If you want to enjoy everything that Huis ten Bosch has to offer, including its new virtual reality rides (post to come), then you might want to budget one or two days.

Day 5:

From Sasebo, we took the train to Nagasaki. We went to the Atomic Bomb Museum and the Museum for the Christian Martyrs before heading to Kumamoto. You have to change trains here, so do allocate more time. We did plan to go to Kumamoto castle in the evening, but the trains turned out to be a bit too tiring for my grandparents so we just had an early night.

Day 6:

We went to Kumamoto castle and realised that a large portion of it is still closed off! But there is still stuff to see from the outside. After the castle, we headed to Aso farmland and I found out that the train doesn't go to Akamizu station anymore! It is rather inconvenient and I kinda wished that we still had the rental car.

Day 7:

We went from Aso Farmland to Kagoshima and had enough time to take one loop around the city tour bus and go to the Shiroyama viewpoint and admire the city. If you have more energy than us, you can head to Tenmonkan at night too.

Day 8:

We went to Senganen in the morning and went on a lunchtime cruise around noon. After the cruise, we managed to go to Sakurajima and take the island view bus, which let us take a very quick tour of the place. And in the evening, we took the shinkansen back to Hakata.

Day 9:

My family left for Singapore.

As you can see, we had over a week and we still had a very packed schedule! If you're young and have tons of energy, you can probably fit in more things like Minamata bay (if you're into history and the environment) and a more comprehensive tour of Nagasaki and Kumamoto city. If you have a few more days, you can probably go to Mount Aso as well, or perhaps to Beppu, Mojiko, or even to Miyazaki prefecture.

I will be posting about the trip in-between updates on what's going on right now(:

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Sakura 2017: Here and There in Sasebo

Sakura season is long over and it turns out that I didn't manage to make it to any spots apart from Mifuneyama rakuen. But, I did manage to take a few photos here and there and thought I'd just share them with you. 

First, from near my place:


The second is from Sasebo city. I'm not sure if you remember this place from when I explored the city with my sister:

It turns out that this photo was the only one I saved...
Well, here's how it looks with real sakura.


It is definitely prettier in person because the camera can't capture everything. And here is what the path looks from a distance:


The last place would be the parking lot of the driving range that I go to.


I thought that it would be cool to park under the sakura trees, but then I realised there was a huge problem - the fallen petals make it hard to see where the lots are.


This is all I have for this year, but hopefully I'll have enough time to go to different places next sakura season! 

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

New Vlogger for MEXT (Osaka)

Hey everyone!! It feels like forever since I've posted about MEXT. Today, you have Mona to thank, because she's started a new vlog channel about her MEXT experience (and she's studying in Osaka University for her language year) and I just had to tell you guys about it. After all, the more information, the better, right?

Here's her first episode:


And here's her self-introduction:



Hey guys! I'm making a vlog about living and studying in the osaka campus through the mext scholarship :) I realised there wasn't much information and/or photos, so I hope my vlog could help! I'll try to update weekly and it's my first time vlogging so I hope that you would support me :) Would really appreciate it if you could subscribe and like my channel, thank you!
Definitely go watch her videos!

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Sakura 2017: Mifuneyama Rakuen

Sakura season was a little late this year, but it's finally here (and by the time I'm writing this, almost over). Luckily for me, I had friends visiting so on my off day, I was out bringing them around instead of staying in my apartment and trying to become comatose. We ended up visiting Mifuneyama Rakuen and I managed to get quite a lot of sakura pictures!

If you remember, I visited the place last year and missed the peak season (it was still really pretty though). This time, I was too early for those colourful bushes, but just in time for sakura which made me really happy. In other words, be prepared to be spammed with photos!

Obligatory entrance shop

By the way, I drove here this time and it's definitely a lot more convenient than taking the train + bus. Parking was no problem, although I'm guessing that it's because this wasn't peak season?

And I remembered to bring my camera so I managed to get some close up shots of the flowers!





It wasn't exactly full bloom, as you can see from these photos, but there were enough to make us happy.




By the way, I totally succumbed to this blueberry black sugar thing and bought a box. I was told that I could just eat this like a sweet, but I was wondering if there are any recipes out there? Does anyone know anything? Please point me in the right direction!


If only sakura season and the flowers were at the same time. But I guess this means that the park gets a steady stream of visitors instead of everyone thronging one place.


I realise these shots are the same but with a different orientation but I couldn't choose which to use.


I also really like seeing the sakura flowers in the different stages of bloom!



When I see a pretty path of flowers, I have to take a picture. And since I was with friends, I decided to try and take their pictures! (Don't worry, I got permission to post this - thanks so much for visiting, Van!!)

We also found this little shrine, which gave me Ghibli vibes for some reason. It was quite different from the cheery sakura but also beautiful.


Photos from the viewing point, high above the sakura trees.



This photo is why you have to be there in person. I tried to take a panorama but obviously did not succeed.


We ended our visit with a cup of green tea and some dango! They had mitarashi dango and kinako dango and both were really delicious! This and all the snacks around meant that we were basically eating for the whole trip :p 


Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Sasebo Observatories

While my sister was still here, we decided to drive around Sasebo for a day and visit the different observatories! The Sasebo99 site has a few recommended observatories (link to the English site) and we basically based our trip on that. By the way, anyone know how to embed a google map saved locations thing? I have a list of the observatories but I can't find a way to share it here...

Spot 1: 船越展望所 (Funakoshi Observatory)

To be honest this was only the first spot because I missed the turn to the second spot and this was along the path (we did plan to go there, so there's that).



It's pretty near the zoo (but not as close as spot two) so depending on when you go, you might get caught in a jam.

This was the most unimpressive of the three observatories. It's the smallest and basically just a viewing point. The car park is really close though, so that's a plus.

Took this while we were in the jam to the second observatory:


The roads here (up mountain roads, which my poor little car somehow managed to climb) basically only have one lane each. We thought we'd be stuck here for one hour plus but when the traffic attendants heard that we weren't going to the zoo, they closed off the other side of the road and let us pass!

Spot 2: 石岳展望台 (Ishidake Observatory)



This one had a tiny hike. It wouldn't be too bad if not for the fact that the ground is really uneven. Sports shoes recommended!

I am loving the sunlight in the trees. But it was a little cooler in the shade.
 The view was amazing and totally worth the little hike.



Which is good because I was telling my sister that if this isn't better than spot one, then I'd cry or something because we had to spend time in the jam + more uphill winding roads.


Took a pic of my sis!

There are actually two spots: one from where I took this picture and the viewing platform.



We both got serious Jurong Hilltop vibes and started to miss the Teppanyaki restaurant there.

According to travel website, the opening scenes for "The Last Samurai" was filmed here. I haven't seen the movie, so I have no no idea but fans may be interested in checking this out. Here's a bunch of photos from the top:


The map gives you the names of the different islands. 



and my sis helped me take this photo. 
After this was the last spot, which was a bit further away! But Google maps was quite zhun for this and even though the road is winding, you don't have to make a lot of turns at traffic stops which was a huge help for me (all the pro drivers can just ignore my ramblings)

Spot 3: 展海峰展望台 (Tenkaiho Observatory)

The last place was the nicest. For one, they had this field:


And when you've got a field, it's time to take photos:


My sister is actually standing on a path, but I think it looks quite like she's in the middle of the field.

this was the path

hi!
We even managed to get a shot that looked like the one on the website:


We also found this song!


And I suppose this is the conductor.


More photos. This spot is supposed to have really good views of the sunset, but we were there too early and didn't feel like hanging around.




There was also an uncle selling tulip ice-cream! It's basically just kakigoori but since the weather was quite warm (felt like 19/20 degrees which was fantastic) we each got a cone.




Also, this place has the cheapest oysters that I've ever seen! It's 500 yen for 1kg. Makes the oyster huts in Itoshima seem overpriced.




My sister doesn't really eat oysters (she tried one and was not impressed) so I ate like 5 and we gave the rest to the family next to us. They gave us onigiri in exchange and we agreed that it was a good trade because my sis and I like onigiri.

Sakura update:

I went back to Tenkaiho Observatory last week when my friends were over. The oyster place seems to have closed, but we did spot a large sakura tree!


It faces the field, not the 99 islands but it's still beautiful! We also spotted these flowers next to the sakura tree (not sure if they're a variant or not)


You'll need a car to get to all of these, but if you're in the mood for a leisurely drive and you happen to like looking at islands (and the views really are beautiful), you should consider doing a day trip to these three places. You can probably add in Yumihari Observatory (which we didn't visit because it involved a detour) and still have plenty of time, since we finished going to all three places in about four or five hours.