Stayed in this historical hotel for few centuries in Miyajima during koyo season.
The room was a modern Japanese style with 2 twin beds. It was a surprise that our room also opened up to a balcony with spacious sitting area outdoor but also a view of the Torii gate !
Dinner was sumptuous with Kawahagi as sashimi, oysters grilled and in steamed rice etc.
Location – it sit on hillside right behind the Itsukushima Shrine. Thus, it was pretty central for sightseeing.
Although public onsen bath is available with small rotenburo, on its Japanese website it states that artificial onsen is used.
view from balcony
Stayed in this luxurious onsen resort in Kami-Amakusa. Tenku-no-fune literally means boat floating in the sky. Indeed, the resort was on a small mount overlooking estuaries with the Shimabara Peninsula in the distance.
After checkin procedures, we were led to our junior suite by a golf cart. The suite itself was of 47 sqm with spacious twin beds, a living area, and a wooden terrace of 38 sqm facing the bay. The rotenburo in our room was slightly inside the terrace and covered. Thus, we could soak in it even if it had rained. There was not any public onsen unlike in most onsen hotels/resorts.
Both meals were in Italian, prepared from fresh seafood and vege, whereas beef was from Kumamoto/Aso. It was a nice finale to our last trip in Japan in 2017.
Beautiful coastal line with isles facing the Shimabara Peninsula in the distance. The current Japanese Emperor and Queen once visited when they were Prince and Princess, as inscribed on a stone.
after checkout, drove back to Fukuoka but stopped by small canal town Yanagawa for famous Unagi-don. Along the main expressway between Kumamoto and Tosu, there were road maintenance here and there. In one section this had caused very slow traffic for more than 15 min as vehicles had to squeeze from 2 lanes to 1.
visited this western-style mansion with a large garden. From there, boat rides could be seen along the canals right outside of the premise.
decorations for Hina-matsuri
Returned car in Fukuoka. Live music performance was outside JR Hakata City with plenty of food stalls and bars. Many locals were enjoying there.
Visited Shimabara Castle and town where carps were swimming in small clear streams. After lunch, took ferry to Kumamoto in about 40min and continued south to Kami-Amakusa. This way we saved a big detour drive though the ferry ride with a car was not cheap either.
Though the Shimabara Castle was not original, it was worth a visit. There were plenty of artifacts and historical information of this town.
views from Shimabara castle
Carps swimming stream
Cars were parked and locked in positions
departing from Shimabara
On the way to Kami-Amakusa we bumped into a bunch of cute toddlers on the road, following their teachers orderly. They were holding on to a ring so they would not be running around.
We were looking for lunch before the ferry ride and luckily there was this old shop Kaneko opposite to the Shimabara ferry pier. A senior woman served us. Both the tempura-don and udon were in large portions but inexpensive.
Before arriving at Kami-Amakusa we took a brief rest and had a cake set in a small coffee house converted from warehouses in Meiji-era.
Shimabara – good way to lead toddlers on the road
Shimabara – local shop serving meals
almost reaching Amakusa
Visited Glover garden and took a brief tram ride. The Glover garden was the residence of a Scottish merchant in the late 19th century. Together with other foreigners’ residences it was worth a visit.
Nagasaki harbour viewed from Glover garden
Left Nagasaki and drove uphill to Unzen onsen. It was freezing cold up there with frost along the mountain road. Had a very nice stay in onsen ryokan. Both meals were sumptuous and great service. Again in cheap room rates.
Lounge area at night
Brekie with a tofu nambe
After checkout, drove up to Nita-toge for nice views of Shimabara Bay and Fugendake.
overlooking Kumamoto coastline in the distance
Kujukushima literally means 99 islands and that refers to many islands off the coasts of Sasebo in NW Nagasaki Prefecture. Visited a few observation points including Kouzakibana Koen (garden) which is the most western point in Japan mainland including Kyushu.
most western point in Japan mainland
local Catholic church but closed
local oysters for sale
Took the Pearl Sea cruise outside Sasebo after lunch in 50min. Though it was windy and drizzling, it was the most beautiful sea cruise we ever had including Matsushima Bay in Miyagi and Shimoda in Izu. Even on a cloudy day, some of smaller bays was in turquoise. There are over 200 isles in that area.
sea cruise pier
Pearl sea cruise
Ojikase – floating submarine
Views from two different observation points. The photos taken in Ishidake was in next morning on a sunny day. It was the place where shots of the movie The Last Samurai were taken.
views from Tenkaiho
views from Ishidake point
Visited Kyushu in 1 week in mid-Dec. This was our 5th visit to Kyushu though second time by car. Apart from the first and last day in Fukuoka, we visited by car with high level itin below.
D2 – the Arita Porcelain Park in Saga Prefecture, stayed in Ureshino onsen
D3 – Kujukushima in Nagasaki Prefecture, stayed in onsen resort in Sasebo.
D4 – Nagasaki city and stayed in Unzen onsen.
D5 – Nita-Toge, Shimabara, took ferry to Kumamoto pier and drove to Kami-Amakusa for onsen resort.
D6 – Returned to Fukuoka, stopped by Yanagawa for few hours along the way.
Arita Porcelain Park
Arita has been producing porcelain for centuries. We visited this park for about 2 hours including lunch. The buildings looked aged. Loads of tourists from mainland China were constantly ferried in – for lunch and shopping.
Ureshino onsen town
Drove to Ureshino onsen town after lunch. The town was small and quiet. There was a public onsen facility but we did not soak in it. Relaxed in a local coffee house with small garden inside. It was cosy and comfortable.
public onsen facility
local coffee house
Ureshino onsen stay
Picked a ryokan with 3 premises in town, including one on the hillside. As we stayed overnight we are allowed to enjoy onsen for free in all its premises. We headed to the hillside rotenburo by car in about 15min. It was huge with mountain stream flowing below. Chatted with a local who flew from Tokyo to Kagoshima and drove all the way there. My original intention was to stay in this hillside ryokan but it was closed during weekdays, due to insufficient demand.
Overall, this onsen ryokan served nice meals, great onsen and service. Stayed in a spacious twin bed room with garden view. Room rate was so cheap that would be almost impossible in neither Hokkaido nor in Honshu.
Biwako from Otsu
Our 3rd stay in this onsen hotel in Otsu. Panoramic views of Biwako stretching from Hieizan in the west to the distant coastal towns in the east.
water display on the dykes
Hieizan in the distance
After checking out from Biwako hotel, we headed back to Kyoto for one last koyo spot, had lunch in Shijo, strolled the Nishiki market before heading to our hotel in Osaka/Tennoji.
Jonan-gu is in southern Kyoto. It was less crowded than other popular spots in Kyoto while its garden displayed some spectacular koyo.
This was the end of our koyo trip in Kansai after 1 week. We did not visit any koyo spots in Osaka, but to relax and did some shopping in Tennoji before departure.
Moved to Biwako hotel in Otsu for 2 nights. Picked up a car to visit koyo around Biwako for the first time. Very heavy traffic heading north on the western rim where there is no expressway. Arrived at a spot in Omi-Takashima where supposedly there should be a boulevard of fiery red Meta-sequoia trees, but it turned out to be in pale green/yellow and rain started to pour abruptly. Drove eastward to Keisokuji but decided to skip it after 10min as there was a long queue of cars heading towards it on a narrow road.
Finally, we arrived at Saimyoji in eastern Biwako in late afternoon. There were few visitors around and koyo was brilliant in the setting sun, which found its way through rain clouds. Visited in about 30min before closure but it was worthwhile.
On next morning drove uphill to Hieizan to visit World Heritage Enryakuji. We visited the Todo (Eastern Hall) area only. Though the Chuo-do (根本中堂) has been under major renovation, we visited it and it was worthwhile. Monks were conducting normal rituals inside and two head monks were speaking to visiting locals. Koyo was still gorgeous which was beyond our expectation in late November up on Hieizan.
Kondo (lecture hall)
Biwako as viewed from Hieizan
Drove eastward after lunch to visit Miho museum, which was nestled inside mountains. After parking our car, we had to walk through a long tunnel to reach the museum entrance – though free trolley was available, the queue was long.
The architecture was designed by I.M. Pei to create a modern version of Shangri-la. We were surprised by its huge private collection of artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, Roman Empire, China etc up to the modern era. We spent about 2 hours and had to return as traffic was heavy.
tunnel leading to museum
end of tunnel is a bridge leading to the museum entrance
large mosaic on floor
Okochi-sanso is a private villa with a large premise. Following its foot paths we wandered up and down the hill. Bumped into a semi-rainbow along the way. Finally, we arrived at its tea house where we took a brief rest and enjoyed its complimentary tea set. Koyo was also at peak.
Arashiyama on the other side
rainbow over Kyoto
tea set included
Before ending the day we arrived at Kodaiji in Higashiyama. The famous garden and pond were beautiful with peak koyo too. Had a coffee and caught sight of the silhouette of distant Hokanji in the setting sun.
the last cake set