Category Archives: Sightseeing

JP 2019 April Hakone

Hakone was a plan B in case of poor weather – unfortunately it had to be executed again as another low depression system was rolling into Kanto region overnight after our arrival in Fuji 5-lake.

Snow was falling again in the morning when I started driving, getting heavier when crossing the mountain roads into Hakone Jinja via Hakone Sengokuhara.



Hakone Jinja

By the time when we arrived at Hakone Jinja, snow had turned into rain. Also dropped by the Torri gate along the lake rim.


Torii gate at the lake rim of Ashino-ko



Pola Museum of Art

Had a nice lunch  inside its western restaurant for European cuisine, before visiting its nice collection of Impressionist paintings. Stayed for around 3 hours. During return drive, dropped by a fishing lake in Gotemba where Somei Yoshino sakura was in full bloom, though Mt Fuji was totally hidden behind clouds.




Chosen western dinner course for 2 nights in onsen hotel in Kawaguchi-ko


===>  Sakura in Arakurayama Sengen Park   ===>


JP 2018 Koyo Kinki

Rainbow and rolling clouds over Biwako

The rainbow lasted for an hour.  First spotted it outside Otsu station while waiting for hotel shuttle bus. It was still around after checking into room.



Winter Illuminations in Kyoto station



Higashi-Honganji  (東本願寺)

dropped by before heading to Biwako onsen hotel. Spotted a crane on roof, maybe it was the same crane I saw on its moat 2 years ago 💡 




Shirahama onsen hotel

  • 2nd stay (before returning to HK)
  • upgraded to modern suite
  • French dinner


******      THE  END    ******


JP 2018 Koyo Biwako (Part 2)

Hikone Castle (彥根城)

another original castle of almost 400 years.  Visited on a national holiday with more crowds though fine.  Day temps dropped to less than 10C and drizzling at times.

Inside the castle, climbs along the wooden stairs  were steep – as in Himeji Castle.



Genkyu-en  (玄宮園)

a beautiful landscape garden attached to Hikone Castle – not to be missed if visiting the castle.



Had late lunch in shopping street close to castle. A udon shop had a fairly long line despite being close to 2pm. We chose the Aka-Oni (red ghost) udon served with famous local Omi-gyu (beef) in sukiyaki style – we were told to pour the entire hot soup onto the udon.  This was the first time we had udon served with beef (commonly served with vege, tempura etc). Though we had waited for about 30 min, it was totally worthy  😀



===>   Kinki   ====>



JP 2018 Koyo Shikoku (Part 2)

Shiromine-ji (白峯寺)

Heading downhill we arrived at Shiromine-ji – #81 temple where koyo was at peak.  It was also the tomb of Sutoku Emperor (崇徳天皇白峰御陵).


Kotohira-gu (金刀比羅宮)

next we dropped by Kotohira-gu, which is the main shrine of Kompira shrines in Japan.

Climbed several hundred stairs to reach the main hall.  Nice views of Kotohira town and Sanuki-Fuji in the distance.


Lunch in a modern restaurant operated by Shiseido at the foothill.


Iya valley (祖谷溪)

After leaving Kotohira-gu in Kagawa prefecture, drove via a narrow and meandering mountain road for an hour into Iya valley in western Tokushima prefecture.

==>Stay in Iya onsen hotel


===>  Part  3  ===>


JP 2018 Koyo Shikoku (Part 1)

Visited Shikoku and Kinki – Kobe/Nara/Kyoto/Biwako for koyo (fall foliage) in mid to late November for 2 weeks.


Aerial views of Shikoku prior to landing in KIX

Shortly before landing, plane flew across Shikoku where it looked like to be the mountain ranges in Kochi and Tokushima Prefectures. A Wind farm is on top of the mountain ridge on the right photo.


In KIX, had sushi lunch in one of our fav sushi shops from Osaka/Namba.  Before checking in onsen hotel in Kobe/Minato, had a nice cake and coffee in Kobe/Sannomiya.


Dusk till dawn of Kobe harbour from balcony

Stayed overnight in onsen hotel for 3rd time to relax 🙂


On next morning, took Sanyo Shinkansen from Shin-Kobe and change at Okayama for JR express train heading to Shikoku for the first time via the Seto-Ohashi.  Arrived at Marugame around noon and pick up car.

Overall driving itin in Shikoku – Marugame > Zentsuji > Shiromine onsen (1N) > Goshiki-dai > Kotohira-gu > Iya valley > Iya onsen (1N) > Kazura-bashi > Oboke/Koboke boat ride > Okuboji > Ritsurin-koen > Takamatsu (2N), including day trip to Sodoshima by ferry.

It was our first visit in Shikoku (Kagawa and Tokushima Prefectures). In general, road traffic is less heavy than in the countryside of Honshu and Kyushu. Locals are nice, lodgings and dining are slightly less expensive.

Marugame Castle (丸龜城)

The Marugame Castle is one of the twelve original castles in Japan.  Climb was steep at some points though we were rewarded by nice views of Sanuki-Fuji in the distance. Also bumped into Jugatsu-zakura (October-sakura) and the 47th Marugame Chrysanthemum Festival.

Had late Sanuki-udon lunch in town. It was delicious and inexpensive. Since then, we have been craving for the same elsewhere 🙂



Zentsu-ji (善通寺)

The birthplace of Kobo Daishi, #75 temple in Shikoku 88-temple pilgrimage.

As it was raining, slowly getting dark and cold, we did not stay long and drove back to Shiromine onsen in Sakaide.


Goshiki-dai  (五色台)

literally five-coloured plateau. It has 5 peaks named in 5 different colours.  Drove uphill after checking out from onsen hotel, where the Shiromine-ji is closeby.

Nice views of the Seto Inland sea and the Seto-Ohashi in the distance from the observatory.


===>  Part 2  ===>


JP 2018 Sept Tateshina Kogen

Stayed in Tateshina Tokyu Hotel for 2 nights. Located at about 1300m in a forest with golf courses, tennis courts and other facilities for families to spend in summer and winter months.

Almost perfect reflections in the pond in front of the hotel.


Shirakoma-ike (白 駒 池)

Drove up to 2100m for this pond which is famous for koyo (fall foliage) in end September.  There was no koyo yet (as expected) though we trekked past a primitive forest in about 30min.


Mishaga-ike (御射鹿池)

A turquoise pond on the roadside with wonderful reflections on clear calm days.  It attracted big crowds who were ferried in by coaches.


Otome-no-taki (乙女の滝)

“Virgin” waterfall and Tateshina Kogen (highland) lookout.


Returned car in Chino on the next day and travelled back to Tokyo by JR Chuo express train. Stayed in Tokyo/Shibuya over the weekend before returning to Hong Kong.


JP 2018 Sept Nagano Romantic Road

After checking out from Karuizawa, drove uphill to the highlands in Nagano Prefecture.  It was a sunny day after typhoon #21 had passed.


Followed the Japan Romantic Road to Komoro to visit Kaikoen (懐古園) – a park famous for sakura.


Utsukushigahara Plateau Museum of Art (美ヶ原高原)

Followed the Venus Road and arrived at Utsukushigahra at 2000m where there is an open-air museum, akin to the one in Hakone Gora.


Before arriving at hotel in Tateshina Kogen, passed by Kurama-kogen @1600, Shirakaba-ko @1400m.


===>  Tateshina Kogen  ===>


JP 2018 Sept Kusatsu onsen

3rd visit to this onsen town though first time by car.  Drove about 1 hour+ uphill. 

Yubatake (湯畑)

Symbol of Kusatsu onsen with a flow of 5000 litres per minute.


Sainokawara Kōen (西の河原公園)

Went to the huge rotenburo in Sainokawara park for daytime onsen again.  It could easily accommodate 100+ people. We hardly visit daytime onsens as we usually stay in onsen hotels/ryokans in each trip but this is not to be missed.

Admission fee is JPY600 per adult.  We brought towels from hotel.


Yumomi performance

A traditional method to cool down Kusatsu onsen without diluting it by stirring it with large wooden paddles.  The performance includes folk songs and dancing by the ladies.  Visitors were invited to join the stirring before it ended in about 30 min.


On the way back to Karuizawa, dropped by two waterfalls – Asama and Uotome in Mt Asama.



JP 2018 Sept Karuizawa

Visited the countryside of Nagano Prefecture along parts of the Romantic Road for few days. Rented a car to visit Karuizawa, Kusatsu onsen, Komoro, the highland areas including Utsukushigahara-kogen, Kuramayama-kogen, Shirakaba-ko, Tateshina-kogen etc.

Returned car in Chino and took JR Chuo express train back to Tokyo.

Stayed in Karuizawa Prince Hotel East Wing with free access to onsen for few nights.

Before typhoon #21 hit Japan, we drove uphill to visit Kusatsu onsen town as a day trip.

On the next day, we drove around Karuizawa while it started to drizzle and turn into heavier rain during the day.

Kumoba-ike (雲 場 池)

about 5-10 min drive from town.


Harunire Terrace

strolled around shops and small stream


St Paul Catholic Church


Teppanyaki dinner by hotel main chef


===> Nagano Romantic Road  ===>


JP 2018 July Hokkaido (Part 5)

Blue Pond and Shirahige falls

After late lunch we dropped by the blue pond again.  As it was a calm and sunny day, reflections were almost perfect.  While it was as crowded as in a large open market, we returned to our onsen resort in Naka-Furano soon afterwards.



Hokuryu Himawari (sunflower) festival

On the next morning, after checking out from the Nakafurano onsen resort, we drove to Hokuryu for its sunflower festival.  On the way, we dropped by a small mount near Fukagawa where there was a Tottoro bus.

As the sunflowers were less than impressive (compared to our trip in Oct 2009 in Biei), we did not stay long and head back to Sapporo for lunch.



Back in Sapporo

While this kaiten-sushi shop in JR Tower Sapporo is often crowded with long line, its shop in southern Sapporo has free parking.  When we arrived it had plenty of vacant seats.

In the evening, we went for dinner in Mikuni – the French restaurant of JR Tower Hotel Nikko Sapporo.