Sunday, October 20, 2019

2019 Japan Trip Adventure Part 2

Recap:  Our trip itinerary is July 31 from San Jose, CA - Tokyo - 8/4 - KYOTO - 8/6 - SENDAI - 8/8 - SAPPORO - 8/10 - San Jose, CA. Weather in Japan?  Hot and Humid, but well worth the trip for the great fun Festival of TANABATA MATSURI in SENDAI, and lower temp than in hot July.  People were in summer vacation mood and friendlier.  The only unexpected were the Typhoon weather down south.  We could not make a tour of HIROSHIMA, KAGOSHIMA, TOTTORI that we wanted to squeeze in.

   8/4 -  Our next destination is KYOTO - ZIPLINE Adventure at BIWAKO Valley.  We deviated from visiting FUJI Q-Line Highland Amusement Park due to inclement storm weather down south of Tokyo.  Nevertheless, we had a great time at the Zipline Adventure.
Riding train to BIWAKO was very interesting.  Had to switch the train ones.  But the Green Window (SHINKANSEN/Bullet Train ticket holders) staff are very helpful in guiding you to the correct train terminal.
 From KYOTO, Change train at YAMASHINA to BIWAKO

 Interesting TOILET ETIQUETTE IS everywhere.
 From the train station, take local bus to arrive BIWAKO Valley Ski Resort.  They prefer that we had purchased the Zipline adventure ticket online ahead of the time, but since there were only two of us, they accepted on location purchase providing that there were space for us to join the group.
 Ready to go up!

After gear check and safety instruction - the Demo training

 It is getting higher and higher.
 The finale is the best!  we get to do SUPERMAN style zipline down over looking the beautiful BIWAKO lake.

 Next, visiting KYOTO's movie/TV studio park TOEI KYOTO STUDIO PARK. We took a bus right outside our hotel to head out.
 After a short walk from the bus station.  We arrived at the studio. 

 Shaved Ice!

 And it's time to eat - RAMEN....

 The wind chimes keep you feel cook in humid hot day.
Not many people use this style's anymore.  Very challenging to stand backup as there is no bars to help you up.

 Children's fun water park, too.
 NINJA and house of Horrors awaits...

  All the Heroes and Villains.
KYOTO was celebrating a mini TANABATA MATSURI as well.  The shopping center is bustling with shoppers.

 My favorite Food Display.  Time for Dinner!
 Wendy's too.

 Hanging wishes and prayers on the TANABATA bamboo tree.
 We settled for the OMELETTO RICE.

 After KYOTO, we head for SENDAI.  8/6 - SENDAI - From KYOTO to SENDAI, it is a long train ride.  After taking a look at the time of arrival to SENDAI and possibility in stopping by TAKAO-SAN (Mount TAKAO), we changed our bullet train ticket.  It's always the visiting the train station to change the ticket that eat up your time.  We made sure to change the train ticket a night before, so we can leave KYOTO early in the morning around 7 am.  (The GREEN WINDOW - MIDORI MADO does not open till 9 am.)   We had to make one train switch to the local train to reach TAKAO-SAN station.  We met numbers of hikers changing their clothing at the lockers located right outside next to the train station.   We did the same by storing away unnecessary backpack that was holding our extra change of clothes for SENDAI because we shipped our luggages from the hotel in KYOTO to the hotel in SENDAI.  We started the trail right outside the train station.  My legs were not very happy ever since I reach Japan.  Not realizing that they were suffering the inflammation from the long flight.  I felt the needles stabbing my feet.  Luckily, they had chair lift to go up to the top.  We enjoyed the view.  We especially noticed this very interesting phoenoma with with the trees in the forest.  Thus far, we noticed the trees in Japan grow very very straight and tall.  All the lower branches are clear as though they are manicured and exposing their long trunks.   We enjoyed the day there.  The view and of course, our goal of eating the biggest YAKI DANGO at the top of the mountain.  Then, we head down on time to catch the bullet train to SENDAI to catch the start of evening celebration of SENDAI's famous TANABATA MATSURI.
We were lucky to catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji on the way from KYOTO to  Mount TAKAO train route.

 Right at the foot of the TAKAO-SAN.
 The view from chair lift.
 Observing the interesting tree growth.
 Top view from TAKO-SAN

 Ah, HA! found the largest YAKI DANGO ever!! time to treat ourselves although we didn't hike up.
 They got our names on all of them.

 This is the delicious TENGUN YAKI pastry (Heavenly Canine (gods)) of TAKAO-SAN
 They are the same owners since I last stopped by in 2015.
 Here they are.
 I made sure I bought more than 3 this time. 
 Plants of TAKAO-SAN

 Lots of walking - every day.
 The stairway to TENGUN shrine.

 Here they are.

 Tree observation. 
The sunset - on our way from TAKAO-SAN to SENDAI prefecture.
 First thing first after arriving at SENDAI - they are famous for SOY BEAN SMOOTHIE.  Not sure why they are green - but I think because they are using fresh soy beans rather than dried soy bean that are beige in color; therefore, the fresh soy bean smoothie is green.  Very refreshing.
 We arrived just in time to view the setup of SENDAI's largest festival - TANABATA MATSURI.  Beautiful streamers are everywhere from the train station and all the way to the main celebration strip which we found out was just a block and a half away from our hotel - The Westin.  And where is our hotel?... walk again?  but it really wasn't that far from the train station.  But my legs were in pain.  Could have taken the taxi, but walking through the new places give you a very good idea of what the place is like during travel.  After all, everyone is walking.  Quite safe, too.
 Train commuters are every where - lined up along the above ground walk way - all staring at their smart phones.
My grandson managed to purchase YUKATA a day before departing KYOTO.  He is really excited about being able to wear it for the first time and to the TANABATA MATSURI like everyone else is doing.
 That's the hotel?
 Here they are at the main TANABATA MATSURI strip.  They use shopping mall strips for the celebration.   Hmmm... it was not quite like that when I was little.   But nevertheless, I am so happy to be here.
 Those bamboos are amazingly strong.  They held 3+ streamers each.  All the streamers are all hand made.

 This is my favorite.
 Time for late dinner.  Japanese style fast food restaurant - no chairs - just counter top.  You order at the menu machine and pay at the machine.  Take the ticket to the chef at the counter.  You pick up your order.  Enjoy the meal.  Bus your plates and bowls back to the counter.

There are still many people hanging out, but the businesses start to close on time around 8 pm. 

 The center piece - TSURU - Cranes - all hand folded cranes. Millions of them strung up together.

 The view from underneath.

 Can you identify the objects hanging?  and Do you know what they represent? 
 It's time for another adventure of crossing the busy street with hundreds of pedestrians

 We are hungry again!  we burn so much calories from walking!  Really?  or just love to try the BEEF tongue steak specialty?
 I am going to order the specials.  The ASAHI beer and GYOZA.

One of my favorites - GYOZA
 It's time to rest - The Westin Hotel... It's kind of an over kill compared to all other 10x11 size room hotels we have been staying in. It's like a suite.  I only said to the concierge I need two twin beds room, but has been given a tiny room at each hotel.  Maybe they took it as a complaint?

 The sky view from the hotel room.
The second day in SENDAI, we decided to do a tour to their ONSEN city.  But it didn't quite turn out the way we expected.
We finally located the SUICA machine!!! it's like a charge card.  You add cash value to it and use it like credit card.  Since we buy water from the vending machine or pay for the local train fee so much, it is easier to pay with the charge card than cash.

 We checked out the shopping centers at the train stations.  Every major train stations have a built in networks of shopping malls and restaurants connected to them.
 Very interesting - Found a French pastry shop with CANNELES.  Got to try one.
 Here it is - CANNELES de Bordeaux  - but just CANNELES.  Since it's made in Japan.  Let's see how it tastes.  This is Chocolate Canneles.
 Hmmm. .. Nope - Did not feel the crunchy shell effect.  Doughy center instead of creamy center.  Too bad.  Next! on our way to tour the SENDAI Onsen city.  We purchased "Loople Sendai" bus ticket to go around city at night.  Ticket sales office located at the street level outside the Sendai train Station where you will see gozillians of various tour buses are crossing.  You won't miss it. 
(Purchased different ticket for SENDAI AKIU ONSEN TOUR) Ah! made a mistake on DAY ONSEN IN AKIU, SENDAI Bus schedule though.  We wanted to reach AKIU NO SATO - ONSEN Village.  But there is no bus going from our destination forward to the top most  TENSHUKAKU NATURAL PARK  where we want to go.  so, we tour on foot the local area - a big mistake - hot, hot, and humid weather.  Luckily I carried a sun umbrella.  Nevertheless, we were soaked.  Then, I think it was a mistake on our part about the RAIRAIKYO GORGE.  I was thinking of an immense Gorge compared to Grand Canyon size.  It is a cute little little Gorge, right under the street bypass.  After a short visit, in despair we started walking and wandering.  The rice patty was beautiful though.
This is the smallest natural Canyon, right under the street bypass.

More walking and we passed by the rice field right next to our path.  Right up the hill we couldn't resist any longer but to walk up the hill further to take refuge  in RANTEI Resort Onsen.  Outdoor Onsen.  It's crazy to soak in hot 44'C hot bath after a good wash of the body first, but the cool outdoor air breeze really felt good, especially my legs.

We end up at the RANTEI ONSEN Resort about 1 mile up the hill. Refreshed after Outdoor ONSEN at RANTEI Resort.  
Back at the SENDAI Train station mall - time to eat! ... their famous Beef Tongue Steak.
It's time for the night tour with Loople Bus -  we returned to SENDAI station and took the Loople  visited ZUUIHODEN, MAUSOLEUM OF "DATE" MASAMUNE - the first Lord of SENDAI Domain.
We did not pay to go see the Mausoleum.  There is a back path right next to the separation wall that would allow the visitors to go around to upper hills.  As you pass by, you can take the beautiful picture of the Mausoleum.


The burned down castle.  Only the remain of pillar rocks are found here and there.
Back in SENDAI downtown near our hotel.
SENDAI TANABATA MATSURI in full swing at night.

Wow! OKONOMIYAKI on the stick!  awesome!
Time to taste it out with a cup of cold beer.
Time to leave SENDAI for SAPPORO, HOKKAIDO - the northern island on 8/8.
 Cute plane design.
 SAPPORO Train Station.
 A Rainy first night. 
We signed up for Sapporo Night View Dinner Tour to Mt. Moiwa & Mt. Okura Sapporo Night View Tour - it included Ropeway Gondola riding evening tour nightview course.  Visited Mt. Moiwa observatory to check out one of the three most beautiful night views of Japan. Unfortunately we were greeted by heavy shower.  Nevertheless, we pushed on for the ultimate tour to Mt. Okura Ski Jump Stadium to dine at All-You-Can eat Genghis Khan Lamb BBQ overlooking Mt. Okura Ski Jump Stadium.
 I highly recommend this wonderful ALL-YOU-CAN eat "lamb" BBQ. 
 You can ask even for 1 slice more to end your meal, and they will give you 1 slice as requested.
 Back at the Train station's shopping malls.
 Taking another trip - the 2nd day in SAPPORO to NOBORIBETSU - southeast of the island to check out AINU village in Shiraoi - five stations east of Noboribetsu by local train.  The local train almost felt like a street car compared to SHINKANSEN.  It was a "single" car train.
 the train ride view.
 What! Shiraoi Ainu Museum (Porotokotan) is closed for renovation until April, 2020! 
 Change in plan to visit the next station - NOBORIBETSU to visit  NOBORIBETSU DATE JIDAIMURA - another EDO era's attraction with SAMURAI and NINJA.
 Right outside NOBORIBETSU train station.  Awaiting bus to take us.

Fun audience participation on stage.
 Outdoor NINJA and Samurai fight.
 Beautiful gardens.

House of Horror - Japanese OBAKE' - Ghost story.
 Time to go back.
 Back at the train station.  Shall we go for CRAB feast at the Crab house?  - naaa... a single crab leg for $45?  paaaasss!
 Hot Cakes?
Naaa, let's stick with the real thing - RAMEN.
  It's time for dinner - RAMEN shops found at 10th floor of the SAPPORO Train Station shopping center.  There are 10 famous/popular RAMEN shop to choose from.
 This is what we need to add to our coin game amusement center.
Time to buy some goodies and get ready to go home.
 8/10 - Crossing Pacific Ocean.

 There it is.  California.

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