Archive for December, 2011

Dec 31 2011

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Japan Trip 2011 – Sapporo White Illumination Part III

Previous entry: Sapporo White Illumination Part II

Date: 7th December 2011

 

After some nagging from me (I was really really tired. Remember we did quite a lot of walking earlier in the day at Hakodate?), DH eventually agreed to leave the place.

It was still a long walk back to the hotel!

 

Even the roads were getting quieter then:-

 

This must have been DH’s last shot when he looked back:

 

Even on our way back, we were still admiring the street (Christmas) lights:

 

One of the private displays in an office lobby:

 

Well… keep on walking…

 

The site of Sapporo Railway Station was a relief:

 

Japanese are always good with huge displays:

 

We entered the station, and crossed it:

 

to eventually reach our hotel which is just 5 minutes away from the station :)

 

Next: White Otaru Part I

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Dec 28 2011

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Japan Trip 2011 – Sapporo White Illumination Part II

Previous entry: Sapporo White Illumination Part I

Date: 7th December 2011

 

I was tired, and thought it was very late until I saw the time on the tower:

It was just before 9pm!

We decided to climb up the “viewing bridge” and enjoy some “light show”:-

 

It was very well-animated, to immitate the waves:-

 

Note the change of illuminated parts:

 

This one had sparkled parts (obviously can’t be demonstrated by a still picture here):

 

It was mesmerizing!

 

If not because of the freezing temperature, I am sure I would spend much longer that this place:

 

See what I mean?

 

enjoy…

 

see?

 

We finally moved back to the other part:

 

Walking very slowly and carefully (the last thing I want is a nasty fall!):

 

The snow was really compressed (& slippery) that I do think that ice-skating would be better here:

 

Was this a Christmas tree?

-

 

The lights kept changing colors too:

 

Lovely:

 

Here’s a cafe cum souvenir shop:

I entered the place briefly to warm myself up a bit ;) .

 

This must be a photo-shoot corner:

 

I obliged, of course:

-

 

There was a Christmas fair/mart nearby:

 

But they stalls closed at 9pm :( . Visitors were however not deterred from enjoying the displays:

 

Before we knew it, we had spent half an hour at the park:

 

It was time to walk back to our hotel (which was a good distance away! :( )

Next: Sapporo White Illumination Part III

 

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Dec 28 2011

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Japan Trip 2011 – Sapporo White Illumination Part I

 

Previous entry: Hakodate-Sapporo

 

Date: 7th December 2011

 

After a qucik check-in at the hotel, we went looking for a restaurant, as advertised in a pamphlet.

 

When we were about to give, we finally found it. It’s interior was cosy:

 

The lady of the place gave me a blanket (but not to DH) to keep me warm ;) . It was a quiet corner, away from the smokers:

 

We ordered 2 different sets of seafood platter, which, we later found out were supposed to be charcoal-grilled ourselves! But the same lady (who gave me a blanket) helped us out:

 

It won’t be long for us to figure out how to go about with the rest ourselves:

 

After the dinner, we walked towards the city square/park; we came across this well-illuminated Keio Plaza Hotel:

 

And some on-going construction work:

 

We finally came to the snow-covered park:

 

It was (definitely) slippery, especially on the pressed frozen snow, so I tried my best to walk on fresher ones:

 

Very well-lit trees too:

 

Still some more walking to do:

 

Finally…

 

We came to the main part of the “Sapporo White Illumination”:

 

We got hooked on this particular display:

 

The dancing cranes!!

 

Next entry: Sapporo White Illumination Part II

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Dec 27 2011

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Japan Trip 2011 – Hakodate-Sapporo

Previous entry: The White Hakodate Part II

Date: 7th December 2011

On our way back to the hotel we saw an interesting tsunami warning:_

 

At the hotel I took a break while DH made a quick visit to the next-door Fish Market. He said the market was very very clean:

 

All sorts of shell fish too:

 

When he came back to the hotel, we walked together to Hakodate Station, to catch our train to Sapporo. Oh, we needed lunch first, hence we went back to the place we visited just the day before.

Quite a collection:

 

DH ordered this (I can never eat raw fish!):

 

While I stuck to the harmless tempura:

 

The train journey was to be quite long. Even though they have cafe in the train and mobile cart service, we could not order due to our limited Japanese. So I purchased the drinks from a vending machine at the station (I had some buns and biscuits handy):

 

We still had some time to spare, waiting for our train to arrive:

 

DH decided to have a quick walk out of the train station to snap some pix of the tram (which unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to ride :( . Here’s one of them:

 

Soon our “Hokuto” was ready to depart:

 

Nice, clean and comfy:

 

Soon we were on another train ride with wonderful view like this one:

 

We would be seeing more wonderful sceneries, if not that it was soon dark  :( .

We arrived in Sapporo at Almost 7pm. As usual, we had to look for the map of the area around the station, got our bearing and walked towards our hotel. It had snowed too in Sapporo, and the streets were slippery too…

 

Next: The Christmas Lights in Sapporo

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Dec 27 2011

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Japan Trip 2011 – The White Hakodate Part II

 

Previous entry: The White Hakodate Part I

 

Date: 7th December 2011

 

We spent quite some time at the top of the hill. It was just so beautiful. If it was not for the cold weather, we might have spent longer there!

Despite that, we were there for almost an hour. We saw the cable cars come and go.  The view of the harbour:

 

and the rest of the city:

was just fantastic!!

Here’s a zoomed in shot of the New Hakodate, by DH:

 

Just when we were about to leave, we saw this guy gettign a ride down OUTSIDE the cable car! :

 

Just earlier he was checking the cable car. And of course he had the harness on :) .

 

We finally left the hill, aand descended down:

 

When I thought we were going back to the hotel (to collect our baggage), DH told me that he wanted to check the 3 churches near the (Old) Hakodate area:

 

In front of the Russian Orthodox Church:

 

A nice magestic building:

and covered with snow;

 

I got tired of waiting for DH, and decided to go round the church compound too:

 

Suddenly it snowed!

 

Some information about the church:

 

It was a nice walk to the nearby Roman Catholic Church:

 

The main entrance of the church, I think:

 

And some comprehensible information:

 

There’s another church, but by the time we realised it, we’ve passed it too far to turn back. We walked on towards the old harbour, and came across this warning:

 

We finally arrived at the “First Place of Entering Hokkaido”:

 

Some history lesson:

 

We then walked back via the Old Brickhouses:

 

We had a final look at the Hakodate Christmas Tree:

with the cable car at the top of the hill in the background.

Yeah…. we walked all the way to the cable car station (took the cable car up the hill) and walked back! It was definitely a long distance in total, but it was worth it!

Next: Hakodate-Sapporo

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Dec 27 2011

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Japan Trip 2011 – The White Hakodate Part I

Previous entry: The Biggest Christmas Tree in Hakodate

 

Date: 7th December 2011

 

After checking out at the hotel, and left our luggage there, we went out for our walkabout for the day.

Destination was the Hakodate Cable Car Station, on the hill, as can be seen here:

 

It was quite a long walk, and the road was still very slippery:

 

Just before the cable car (base) station, I came across a lost Statue of Liberty:

 

and a ubiquitous Japanese vending machine  next to it :) .

 

Looking back at  (part of) the Hakodate city:

 

We arrived at the base station, and saw an informative map of the area:

 

We bought our tickets, and while waiting for our turn (the cable car leaves every 10 minutes), I looked around at the place:

 

Soon it was time to board the cable car:

 

Excited, definitely:

 

A nice view of the city:

 

Finally at the top of the hill:

 

The harbour:

 

And yes, we spotted the Big Christmas Tree too!

 

Next: The White Hakodate Part II

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Dec 11 2011

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Japan Trip 2011 – The Biggest Christmas Tree in Hakodate

Previous entry: Three Trains and a Lady

Date: 6th December 2011

 

It is also the most famous tree in Hakodate. Why? It is a gift from Hakodate’s sister city, Halifax (Canada).It is also a part of the annual  The Hakodate Christmas Fantasy which is now into its 14th year:

Between 1st December and 25th December, there would be the official lighting up of the Christmas tree followed by some fireworks, so says the travel site.

 

We decided to give it a go, so at 5.30pm we left our hotel, and walked towards the Brickhouse near the harbour, with only a couple of not-to-scale maps as our guide.

We came across a nicely lit block:

 

When we came across some santarinas we were sure we were in the right direction:

Only later did we find out that those people were part of the nightly procession prior to the lighting up of the Christmas tree!

 

The harbour is back there, we’d better be quick, I told DH:

 

Finally at the end of the brick house, we saw a bridge and a huge Christmas tree nearby:

By the way, you can also see the cable car house on the hill at the back :) .

Did I forget to mention that the tree was on a barge!

Soon crowd gathered, followed by a mini procession led by a sleigh (we couldn’t see from our point).

At 6pm, the tree were lit gradually from the top, followed by some fireworks:

 

Quite festive mood, despite the freezing temperature:

 

We walked down, and came near the sleigh that led the procession earlier:

 

There were so many activities, especially photography session at a few attrative places (the sleigh included).

We walked for a while, and looked back at the area:

 

We decided to go into one of the colourfully-lit  blocks (mainly to warm ourselves up :) ).

Saw this simple exhibition:

 

It was something about the sister city, Halifax, and some of their activities together.

 

We also came across a display of drawings by kids, apparently must be from some drawing conmpetition (about Christmas):

 

Shopping is not in our agenda (everything is simply too expensive!),  so soon we walked back to our hotel.

Looking back at the now well-lit tree:

 

Next: The White Hakodate Part I

 

 

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Dec 10 2011

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Japan Trip 2011 – Three Trains and A Lady

Previous post: Toshogu Shrine

Date: 6th December 2011

That day was the travelling day from Utsunomiya to Hakodate.  The straight line distance between the two places is 586km, as calculated by Globefeed.com here. Obviously the distance travelled by trains would be longer! In fact we had to take 3 trains to get to Hakodate from Unsunomiya :) , hence the title of my blogg entry here.

 

First was the “Yamabiko 201″ line  from Utsunomiya to Sendai:

 

Typically nice spacious train:

 

We passed by the famous Fukushima station (though it is quite far from the actual tsunami area):

 

Then it was the “Hayate 15″ line  from Sendai to Shin-Aomori:

Inside the Hayate:

 

At Shin-Aomori, waiting for our final train:

Finally, from Shin-Aomori to Hakodate:

This “Super Hakucho” train goes under the sea bed to pass theTsugaru Straits, as shown by this information found at the back of each seat in the the train:

Nice interior too:

Just before we arrived at Hakodate, we were greeted with white villages like this:

We arrived at Hakodate at 2pm. We found some reasonable meals in a shop inside the station (as displayed):

 

What came (after we ordered) was almost exactly the same:

It had snowed earlier in Hakodate, so a lot of slipery roads (of frozen ice),

but we managed a quick walkabout.

Here’s a shot in front of the JR station:

 

Trying to take a break:

Next: The Huge X-Mas Tree in Hakodate

 

 

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Dec 08 2011

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Japan Trip 2011 – Toshogu Shrine (Nikko)

Date: 5th December 2011

Previous entry: Visiting Nikko

Nikko boasts a few famous shrines, onsens (hot springs) and great national park.

 

We didn’t have much time there, and DH read somewhere that if time is a constraint, the one place that we should not miss is the Toshogu Shrine.

 

Near the entrance:

 

On my left I could see this pagoda:

 

 

After paying for the tickets, I started to walk in:

 

This is the famous facade that can be found on most tourist brochures of Nikko:

 

As we entered, and turned to our left, we came across the monkey carvings:

 

The famous “hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil”:

 

Since there were so many tourists (there were at least 2 groups of guided tours) in the main compound, we decided to visit the tomb of a famous Shogun, Togugawa Ieyasu, which required us to climb some steep stairs:

 

I sure smiled in this photo, but there were a couple of brief stops, before we reached the top:

 

The shrine dedicated to the tomb:

 

Finally the tomb:

 

I soon climbed down to resume my visit to other parts of the Toshogu Shrine:

 

Shoes off for this part:

 

There were  also other places where not only the shoes have to be off, but also no photography was allowed.

 

One of them was this temple:

 

Soon it was almost closing time, and we had to walk out of the shrine complexc:

 

In a way, I was quite happy to be able to get back to the station:

 

We were looking for UNESCO World Heritage sign, but the closest we could get was this:

 

On our way back, we stopped briefly to look at the Shinkyō Bridge (God Bridge):

 

When we were almost back in the (old) town, I sat down here for a brief rest (note that we were 571m above the sea level)t:

 

We arrived at the Nikko Line train station just in time for the train ride back to Utsunomiya.

 

Walking back to our hotel, we came across the Lala Shopping centre (there’s a Daiso there!):

We were however too knackered to explore the shopping mall so we just went straight back to our hotel, which is just next door to it (the shopping mall).

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Dec 06 2011

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Japan Trip 2011 – Visiting Nikko

Date: 5th December 2011

You may want to read the entry prior to this.

We started the day with the simple breakfast provided by the hotel.

Our view while having our breakfast:

 

People always think that it is expensive to travel in Japan. That is not so true, if you know the way :) .

 

That “way” is to get yourself a JR (Japan Rail) pass. JR pass is only available to temporary visitors (tourists) and must be purchased before you arrive in Japan. The 7-day pass gives you almost unlimited rides on JR trains (only the fastest shinkansen lines are not allowed with this JR pass).

Here’s a sample of the pass (this one belongs to DH)

 

We collected our passes early in the morning, and soon we were ready to board our first shinkansen for the day:

Destination: Utsunomiya :)

 

It was a pleasant trip, arriving at our hotel in Utsunomiya well before the check-in time. We soon left our bags, and continued our journey, as planned, to Nikko!

What better way to go to Nikko (when you have the JR pass) than via the Nikko Line:

 

The train was rather empty, and  looked classic externally, which reminded me of the Flamsbana in Norway.

The train ride from Utsunomiya was only 40 minutes.

When we arrived in Nikko, it was sunny:

 

It was 1pm, and time for lunch. WE came across this outlet, manned by a Bangladeshi chap:

 

DH ordered Fish Tikka while I settled for nan bread and vegetarian dal curry:

 

With a happy (full) tummy, we continued our walk towards the UNESCO World Heritage site of Nikko:

 

It was a good 2.5km away from our train station. We came across the Rinno-ji Temple:

 

The temple is still under recovery work. We didn’t have enough time so (it was 2.30pm and the complexes close at 4.00pm!)  we gave it a skip and continued to walk towards the famous Toshogu Shrine:

Next: Toshogu Shrine

 

 

 

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