Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Japan 2010

" If you love LIFE, LIFE will love you always "

" Age is a matter of feelings, not years "

" In LIFE, there is always, always & always something to be thankful for " 

" My 14 days free & easy visit with my wife & in-laws to Japan (Shizuoka, Osaka, Hiroshima, Hyogo, Yokohama & Tokyo) - My 2nd Spring experience in Japan, a great Sakura splendor plus cherry blossoms viewings & parties with Japanese & overseas Wish Club members (2 - 15/4/2010). Wonderful overseas friends, breathing fresh air during the Sakura season in Japan, home-stays, Disneyland -another wonderful outcome in my travel "

In March 2008, my Japanese Hospitality Club/Couch Surfing member, Mr Mochan (who also runs his own Wish Club in Japan) visited Kuala Lumpur and invited our overseas members for a 1o day bus trip to Shimizu in Shizouka (Mr Mochan's home town), Nara , Kyoto, Hiroshima & Tokyo. For this trip, three Malaysiam members responded and together we made our first wonderful trip to Japan. As for the background on this trip and my 14 days (26/4-9/5/2008) in Japan, I had posted a number of photos and did a write up in my travel blog : so please feel free to surf this website.

In Jan 2010, Mochan visited Kuala Lumpur again and while I was in the midst of planning my Europe trip, Mochan had related to me that his Wish Club is planning a 14 day Sakura bus trip to Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hyogo, Hiroshima & Gifu in early April 2010 - this sounded exciting as my wife had placed Japan as a top priority for a holiday trip so a quick decision had to be made as booking air tickets during the Sakura season could be a challenging one.

However, we were fortunate and managed to purchase 4 JAL promotion fare tickets (RM1,250) allowing a maximum travel of up to 14 days. My sister-in-law (a retiree teacher) and her husband accompanied us for this visit. After submitting our passports, travel itinerary, copies of fixed deposits etc, our visas were approved on the following afternoon.

Total expenses incurred in Japan (14 days) : RM4,500

Hostels (9 nights) - Y23,900 (RM884)
JAL air ticket - RM1,250 + Travel insurance - RM66 = RM1,316
Entrance fees :Disneyland - Y5,100 ( senior citizen) + Nijo Castle(Y1,000) + Sanjusangen-Do (Y400) + Golden Pavilion (Y400) + Miyajima (Y300) = Y7,200 (RM266)
Cost sharing on bus ride - 10 day x Y2,000 = Y20,000 (RM740)
Metro / train tickets - Y10,000 (RM370)
Food & groceries - Y12,000 (RM444)
Souvenirs/100Yen Shops - Y11,000 (RM370)
Exchange rate: Y100 = RM3.70

My travel days during the Sakura season in Japan (2-15/4/2010) :
It's spring time in Japan ! Sakura ( cherry blossom ) was in full bloom in Tokyo & Osaka ! Really awesome !

It's party time in Japan ! Cherry blossom parties in Osaka & Toyko with Wish Club members from local and overseas ! Happy, Cheerful and lively !

Travel Highlights

1) Osaka ( Osaka Castle )

2) Kyoto ( Fushiminari Temple, Kinkakuji or Golden Pavilion, Arashiyama, Nijo Castle )

3) Hyogo ( Amanohashidate, Kasamatsu Park; Kinosaki Town )

4) Himeiji City ( Himeiji Castle )

5) Hiroshima (Miyajima Island & Itsukushima Shrine )

6) Shizouka ( Lake Tenaki & Shiraito Falls )

7) Yokohama ( Port & China Town )

8) Tokyo

a) Tokyo Tower

b) Shinjuku - Kabukicho

c) Asakusa - Sensoji Temple

d) Imperial Palace East Garden

e) Shibuya

f) Meiji Jingu

g) Yoyogi Park

h) Ueno Park

i) Metropolitan Building ( Panoramic view of Tokyo from the 45th Floor )

j) Tsukiji Fish Market

k) Disneyland

l) Ginza

m) Odaiba & Tokyo Bay

The Secrets of Life - Food energizes the body but dreams energise the soul "

D1 Tokyo, Japan Friday (2/4/2010)

1) Ready to go ! Departing KLIA at night and arriving Narita in the morning !

2) Three first timers in Japan ! Welcome to Narita and guess who were the two darkies in the picture ? A hard but steady landing at the Narita Airport due to strong wind & gloomy weather ! But all of us look forward to see the best of Japan in the days ahead

3) Our wholesome meal (a supper) served on the Japan Airline flight - my worms birthday today !

4) Next, an unexpected and long arduous train ride from Narita to my Japanese friend's hometown in Shimizu ! Bad weather and strong wind causing train delays & suspensions so we were travelling forward and backward to and fro from Tokyo - worrying that we might not reach Shimizu in time for our first overnight trip to Osaka ! But thanks to a Samarian on the train , a Japanese backpacker I befriended, who just returned from a visit to Malaysia - he was so helpful and with his little English and local experience, we scraped through the train ordeal and were back on the right track after switching to another train to continue our train ride to Shimizu. I always enjoyed talking to backpackers and seeking their advice - a friend in need is a friend indeed when you get stuck in a sticky situation when travelling outside of your home country !

What a great start ! See my wife and sister-in-law's expression ! An hair raising experience as they had no way to hide from the strong wind blowing towards their bodies . This was the spot where we had to switch train as it was motionless for an hour !

5) Half way between Tokyo and Shizuoka , lady luck was with us and from the train windows, we had a quick glimpse of the magnificent Mt Fuji - its top covered with thick snow

6) At around 17.00, our train arrived in Shimizu train station and Mochan drove his bus and picked us up from the train station to his double storey house - a 3 hour delay but we enjoyed the rough train ride. 

We had 3-4 hours rest and a home cooked meal at Mochan's home on our first night. At around 22.00, together with 3 CS members from overseas, we started our overnight bus trip to Osaka.

" The Secret of Life : No matter what happens, do not shrink back but move forward. Life is a constant challenge "

D2 Osaka, Japan Saturday (3/4/2010)

Mochan of the Wish Club is the organizer of the 14 day Sakura bus trip for his local & overseas CS & HC members. He had abundant energy, a skillful driver, a team player, an excellent English speaker and throughout the rest of the journey, he was also our unofficial tour leader ! Each of us contributed Y2,000 (RM74) per day to share the cost of fuel and toll fees incurred on this trip.

After 6-7 hours of bus ride, we arrived in Osaka. In between, we had several stops and it was quite a chill in the air in the early morning - In one occasion. I was shivering the moment I stepped out of the bus walking towards a toilet nearby. It was a long night as we all slept in the bus and also after a long overnight flight - everybody showed signs of tiredness but the cold weather kept us fresh and awake by the time our bus arrived in Osaka.

I did not realize that Osaka was bombed flat during the 2nd World War. It was also briefly the first capital of Japan before shifted to Nara in the late 16th century. It has been a major port & trading center in the good old days.

Our group did not put up a night in Osaka, instead we stayed in Kyoto for 2 nights.

1) Our first visit to Osaka ! Cherry blossoms in Osaka Park !!

2) Plenty of cherry trees in the park. Picking a cherry tree to pose for a picture is quite a fun ! Always nice to take a picture standing besides a cherry tree - left, center and right !

3) Osaka-Jo (castle) - a UNESCO site, built in 1583 but was destroyed in 1615. The present structure is a 1931 reconstruction of the original

4) Cherry blossom parties in Osaka Park - socializing, exchanging hand-shakes, Japanese sake and plum wine, Japanese snacks; we were all guests of Mochan - our wonderful host and founder of Wish Club - long live Mochan !!! All smiling faces as though as we had known each others for quite some time

5) Osaka city & shopping center - time for lunch, window shopping and an orientation walk around the tourist areas

" The Secret of Life : Old friends pass away, new friends appear. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful, have meaningful friends and meaningful days in your life "