Staff Reports
Raina's Japan Travel Journal
by Raina, staff writer of japan-guide.com

previous post
list all posts
next post

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014

2014 was a year of learning for me; I learnt more about Japanese history, geography, local flora and social customs. Travel also made up a sizeable portion of 2014 with the sakura and autumn color seasons being the most travel intensive periods. Here are my top ten travel highlights for 2014.

Number 10: Izu Peninsula

I had the opportunity to explore the Izu Peninsula. The weather was great the whole time I was there, not too hot nor cold. It was also fun to drive around the peninsula checking out the different geological sites and going on short hikes. Some roads I drove on were so narrow that I was amazed the car didn't get scratched.

Bidding farewell to the Year of the Horse (2014) with this horse head rock formation
Taking the chair lift down Mount Omuro

Number 9: Cherry blossoms at the Osaka Mint

One of my last few cherry blossom reports in the Kansai Region this year was at the Osaka Mint. Having seen so many sakura flowers over the season, I was a little skeptical before going. I was blown away by what seemed like a never-ending path of cherry trees at full bloom and the sheer number of people there. Definitely on my recommended list if you are in the area when the Osaka Mint opens its gates to the public.

The crowd of people and flowers at the Osaka Mint Bureau

Number 8: Sake Tour in Itoigawa

Nihonshu, or japanese sake is easily one of my top three alcoholic beverages of choice. When the japan-guide team got invited to join a sake learning tour in Itoigawa, Niigata Prefecture, I was excited at what we could learn or drink during the tour. We visited sake rice fields, learnt about the process of making sake, toured a sake brewery and had a tasting session during dinner. It was all in all a very informative trip.

Sake rice plants

Number 7: Holding a katana and geisha performance

Earlier this year, the team went to Togura Kamiyamada Onsen in Nagano Prefecture. In one of the workshops we participated in, the owner allowed us to hold a real katana (a Japanese sword). It was heavier than I expected but I didn't drop it (phew). We were also treated to a geisha performance at dinner. It was my first time being in attendance of a geisha performance and I did not know what to expect. I was a little relieved that it turned out to be less serious than I thought it would be. We also went cork shooting after dinner which was pretty fun too. I woke up super early the next morning to attend a zazen meditation session at a nearby temple, it was my first time ever and it was quite an interesting experience.

Geisha performance
First person cork shooting game

Number 6: Autumn colors in Urabandai

One of my earlier autumn color reports was at Urabandai in Fukushima Prefecture. It was a new spot for me and with road names like "Bandai-Azuma Skyline", "Bandai-Azuma Lake Line" and "Bandaisan Gold Line", the views sounded amazing even before I arrived. It was cloudy and drizzling when I was there, but that didn't affect the autumn colors much.

All these colors from the one tree against the blue lake
The lake and town below covered in clouds

Number 5: Autumn colors at Lake Towada and Oirase Stream

Lake Towada and the Oirase Stream in Aomori Prefecture are the northernmost places on the main island of Honshu I have ever been. Temperatures were colder than in Tokyo, and I was glad to have brought my warmer clothes for that trip. Autumn colors were beautiful, and I enjoyed walking along the Oirase Stream.

Old men painting the scenery
Swan boats in a row

Number 4: Autumn colors in Oze National Park

The flatness of the marshland in Oze National Park and how far I could see was something I wasn't expecting. It was amazing to end up in such a vast flat space after hiking for about an hour. Sound travelled far across the grass and if all was quiet, I could hear people who were far away talking. Perhaps it was a combination of mist and low hanging clouds which gave the area an air of mystery, the kusamomiji colors at their peak, and being in the great outdoors that made it awesome.

Ozegahara with Mount Shibutsu in the background

Number 3: Kanazawa

I had the great fortune of going to Kanazawa, one of my favourite cities in Japan, three times this year. I've had great sushi and sweets, revisited the usual attractions like the chaya districts, Kanazawa Castle Park, Kenrokuen, the Ninja Temple, and the 21st Century Museum where I saw some great exhibitions on form and achitecture. On one of my trips, I visited the D.T. Suzuki Museum, which I really enjoyed and could see myself going again. I also got to see my first snowfall for this winter on my last trip and was glad it didn't affect my travel back home.

Raining in Higashi Chaya District
Delicious sushi can be found here
Interior of the D.T. Suzuki Museum

Number 2: Noodles and cherry blossoms in Morioka

Morioka in Iwate Prefecture was the furthest north on Honshu I had ever been, but that was before I went to Lake Towada and the Oirase Stream. As I only had a short time in Morioka, I had to fully maximize my time to try the noodles that Morioka is famous for. Yes, I did try all of them: wanko soba, reimen and jajamen, and had a little bit of space left for yakiniku. Asides from stuffing my face, I also visited a few cherry blossom spots in the city. My favorite by far was the area around Takamatsu Pond, about 15 minutes away by bus; there were cherry trees all around the pond, short walking paths around to the park nearby and great views of the nearby mountains.

You can see the mountain range better on a clearer day at Takamatsu Pond
I ate that many bowls of soba and all I got for it was that token

Number 1: Autumn colors along the Alpine Route

My second visit to the Alpine Route was during the autumn color season. It was cloudy, cold, and there was lots of snow at Murodo the last time I went to see the snow corridor, so I didn't know what to expect this time. The weather was amazing on this trip, and even though it was meant to be a little cold, it warmed up very quickly with the clear blue skies and sun out in force. There was no snow on the ground, the nanakamado bushes were at their peak. We hiked around Murodo, taking in the beautiful views of the surrounding areas. The valley beneath the Tateyama Ropeway was also colorful, and I'm sure the other tourists who were on the ropeway with me would agree. All in all, the wonderful weather and great views made this trip a memorable one.

View from the main trail towards Ichinokoshi, with the Sea of Japan at the back
Tateyama ropeway with Kurobe Dam in the background

previous post
list all posts
next post

List of Posts:
2019/03/20 - Moominvalley Park opens near Tokyo
2018/12/31 - 2018 Travel Highlights
2018/10/25 - Business as usual at Tsukiji Outer Market
2018/08/19 - Hello Kitty Shinkansen
2018/05/16 - Cruising Tokyo's waterways
2018/04/17 - Wisteria blossoms in Ashikaga Flower Park
2018/01/18 - Shinanomachi, the Backcountry of Nagano

2017/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2017
2017/10/25 - The 45th Tokyo Motor Show
2017/10/11 - Dipping into the three onsen towns of Yamanaka, Yamashiro and Katayamazu
2017/07/24 - Remote Riches in Toyama
2017/07/03 - Spiritual Chichibu
2017/05/02 - Fuji Shibazakura Festival
2017/04/14 - Sneak Peek from Ginza Six
2017/03/21 - A bit of everything in Fukui
2017/03/13 - Nikko Toshogu Uncovered
2017/02/15 - Subculture in Ikebukuro
2017/02/07 - Travel to the Goto Islands
2017/02/06 - Nagasaki Lantern Festival

2016/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2016
2016/12/19 - Winter Illuminations in Tokyo
2016/10/24 - The way of old on the Kunisaki Peninsula
2016/10/11 - Following the Tadami Line in Oku Aizu
2016/08/27 - Fool's Dance at Koenji Awa Odori
2016/08/16 - The three sacred mountains of Dewa Sanzan
2016/06/20 - Train travel into the Ise-Shima region
2016/04/03 - Setouchi Triennale 2016
2016/03/08 - The hunt for Namahage on the Oga Peninsula
2016/03/02 - Sake Sangria
2016/02/20 - Tokyo Plum Blossom Report
2016/01/26 - Tour de Reinan: Obama, Oi and Takahama
2016/01/25 - Tour de Reinan: Tsuruga, Mihama and Wakasa

2015/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2015
2015/12/10 - 48 hours in Tokushima
2015/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Kankakei
2015/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Korankei
2015/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/10 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2015/11/09 - Autumn Color Report: Koyasan
2015/11/08 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2015/11/07 - Autumn Color Report: Dazaifu
2015/10/28 - The 44th Tokyo Motor Show
2015/10/21 - Hirado, where East meets West
2015/10/20 - Kujukushima Islands and Winter Illumination at Huis Ten Bosch
2015/10/19 - Navigating the Christian sites in Nagasaki
2015/10/18 - Cosplay at Haco Stadium Tokyo
2015/10/15 - Autumn Color Report: Nikko
2015/10/05 - Autumn Color Report: Route 292
2015/09/28 - Autumn Color Report: Oze
2015/09/24 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2015/09/16 - Nakanojo Biennale 2015
2015/08/19 - Traditional culture and hot springs of the Aizu Region
2015/08/17 - Nature and Hot Springs at Naruko Onsen
2015/08/04 - Echigo Tsumari Art Triennale 2015
2015/04/30 - Sapporo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/29 - Hakodate Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/23 - Kakunodate Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/22 - Hirosaki Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/21 - Kitakami Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/16 - Sendai Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/09 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/08 - Fukushima Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/06 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/03 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/02 - Nara Cherry Blossom Report
2015/04/01 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/31 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/27 - Fukuoka Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/26 - Kumamoto Cherry Blossom Report
2015/03/25 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report

2014/12/31 - Travel Highlights 2014
2014/12/15 - Seasonal Illumination: Sendai
2014/12/09 - Seasonal Illumination: Tokyo
2014/12/04 - Autumn Color Report: Kanazawa
2014/12/03 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/21 - Autumn Color Report: Osaka
2014/11/20 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/19 - Autumn Color Report: Korankei
2014/11/18 - Autumn Color Report: Miyajima
2014/11/17 - Autumn Color Report: Kyoto
2014/11/13 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji
2014/11/04 - Autumn Color Report: Fuji
2014/10/31 - Autumn Color Report: Karuizawa
2014/10/21 - Autumn Color Report: Bandai
2014/10/20 - Autumn Color Report: Towada
2014/10/01 - Autumn Color Report: Oze National Park
2014/09/29 - Autumn Color Report: Alpine Route
2014/06/19 - Toranomon Hills opens in Tokyo
2014/04/24 - Kitakami Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/23 - Morioka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/22 - Aizu-Wakamatsu Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/16 - Matsumoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/15 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/14 - Yoshino Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/13 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/12 - Kanazawa Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/10 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/06 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/05 - Hiroshima Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/04 - Osaka Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/03 - Kyoto Cherry Blossom Report
2014/04/02 - Nagoya Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/31 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/26 - Tokyo Cherry Blossom Report
2014/03/04 - Early Tokyo Blossom Report