Tag Archives: travel

Day 4 – Japan, Tateyama-Kurobe

There were 3 special timings where the bus would stop in front of the hotel lobby – 810, 850 & 930. We were told that the Snow Corridor only opened at 10 so we took the 930 bus and had a leisurely breakfast. It was pretty good offering a wide variety. 

Their version of soft boiled eggs 

            
We boarded the 930 bus and arrived at Murodo at 950. I was surprised to see people walking along the snow corridor and it seemed that it had opened at 930am instead of 10am instead!

We kept our bags in a coin locker (400yen for a super large locker) and walked down the famed snow corridor which was actually one lane on the road. It was May 10th so the highest point of the snow wall was 13m and it had been 19m in March.

   
      It was very cold and windy along the snow corridor. X cried when Mr H forgot to put gloves on for him. Z constantly complained of being cold when he was all bundled up. With the Phototaking and walking about in the snow maze, we took 1hr 45min. We caught the 1200h trolley bus to the other horizontal end of the mountain.

The trolley bus and tunnel

   
        We reached the station at 1210h and checked out the viewing point. At every station, there was a viewing point at the roof top. This station overlooked the dam so it was a very nice viewing point but it was also a 5 storey climb in a narrow staircase with a lot of tour groups. X was napping in the stroller so Mr H & X stayed below. We missed the 1220h boarding and took the 1240h.

Staircase (of 54 steps leading up to the viewing point)   

 

The view from the viewing point  

 
The rope way could hold up to 80pax and offered a beautiful view of the dam.   

    
Upon arrival, it was a transfer to the cable car. I dashed for the 1300h timing. There was a viewing point but it seemed crowded and less impressive. 

   
   
After 7min on the cable car, it was a long windy 10min walk across the dam. The dam only operated in Jun so we did not get to see how majestic the water dam could be but the sheer depth of the valley was sufficient to prove its point.   

 We walked so slowly across the dam that we had to run for the 1335h trolley bus. Thankfully trolley buses always moved in multiple units and offered sufficient space for the stroller! 

We arrived at Ogizawa station at 1351 and there were options to take bus to Shinano-Omachi JR station at 1300yen (30min ride) or to Nagano JR station at 2600yen (100min ride). We had planned for the latter because I did not fancy the train transfers and preferred the quick and direct way back via Shinakansen. That was also why we chose to forward our luggage to Tokyo else according to the brochure, the luggage had to be forwarded up the Alpine before 830am the day before and could only be forwarded down to the Shinano-Omachi station by 430pm.

We got the bus tickets for 1410-1550h and rested on the bus after such a hectic, sunny, cold morning. We caught the 1559h Kagayaki train and arrived at Tokyo’s Ueno station at 1730h. We transferred to Yamonote line to Ikebukuro’s Metropolitan Hotel which was very near to the JR station and checked in at 1800h.

We were happy to have our luggage delivered to us in our rooms.

We headed out to Ten Ryu at the nearby Tobu shopping centre on 11F for dinner. It boasted of super large gyozas. 

Part of our dinner  
     
Tobu closed at 8pm so we shopped at Bic Camera till 9pm. We were surprised to see the new E7 Shinakansen in Takara Tommy’s die cast series. It was only 630yen as opposed to the 1296yen for the die cast train model bought at Kanazawa!
This was an additional bed to make up part of our triple room for the next two nights and it cost us $345 per night. 


How I missed the times when they were so tiny that they could bunk in with us.

Day 3 – Japan, Tateyama 

This was probably the very reason why I broke our own sanction about traveling to Japan due to the radiation fears for the young kids. I had been most intrigued by the Snow Walls of Tateyama-Kurobe Alpine route which was only opened from April to October. However, you could only see the snow walls from Apr-Jun and the later you came by, the lower the snow walls become as they melted for summer. We came by on 9 May, approximately 3 weeks after the Alpine route had opened in Mid April. 

To be honest, it had been so warm in Kanazawa that I was wondering if there was any snow left. I also wondered if we over brought winter wear. The killer part about coming here was the planning because you had to buy the tickets from various stations and there were so many mode of transportations. It was so hard to remember all that despite reading a few blog entries from other travelers, I was still feeling quite bewildered. Thankfully, a colleague had visited in mid April and I gathered more on-the-ground information which was not found online. I took her suggestion to stay at Midahagara hotel instead of rushing through the route. I also tried to avoid the peak traveling timings as she shared the bottlenecks were actually caused by the cable cars. My concern was also arranging for lunch for the kids and my parents. You know, I always brought a cooker to cook porridge for the kids. The difference in voltage got the better of my plan. It took nearly 2 hours to cook porridge as opposed to the usual 30min.

Furthermore, by the time we packed our items to bring up the Alpine, it was so much that we had to “discard” some items from our packing list. We had to opt to forward these items to Tokyo to keep our traveling light.

We packed milk powder, water, snacks and use the vacuum bags to pack our thick coats and spare clothes which we brought as minimal as possible. Mr H & I didn’t even bring a change of clothes! However, X had 1.5 sets and Z had 1 set. 

I carried my Rebecca Minkoff backpack which held a bottle of milk tea, a bag of bread, X’s diapers, wet wipes, passports, camera, wallet, charging cable and iPhone.

Mr H’s huge Nike backpack held 6-7 bottles of water/coffee/Black tea/Oolong tea, a lot of snacks and many misc items. Our Harrods shoulder bag held basic wear and simple toiletries since I read that the hotel provided amenities such as toothbrushes, body wash and shampoo. They also provided Kose makeup remover wet wipes. The only things a picky female traveler like me would need were facial wash, hair conditioner and the usual skin care. We brought a XXL long champ bag which held the 4 winter coats. 

For this day, we slept in as much as we could but when X was up, it meant everyone had to be up. That was 9am. We had connecting rooms so my mom made us hot beverages and the kids had Choco Flakes for breakfast. We checked out at 1045am, had an early lunch at this restaurant that offered very good duck soba/udon at the station on level one.

We also bought sushi which could last till the next day to bring up to the Alpine (to be explained later). 

We caught the 1234h train and arrived in Toyama at 1300h. We had to exit the Shinkansen station at ground level, this should not be confused with the Tateyama line. After exiting the station, we had to make an U-turn to the left and the Dentetsu Toyama station was there.

To be honest, at this point, I was panicking if we had missed the last transport up the mountain and if I had read the time table wrongly since it was all in Japanese. My Japanese was less than half past six!

I worried tremendously when the person refused to sell me the Tateyama-Ogizawa one way ticket at this point. Well, they were not supposed to! I also worried because I had wanted to buy the tickets online but the last cable car timing offered was 1140am which seemed too early cos it would mean that I could reach the hotel as early as 1230 and I would have nothing to do. Check in time was 1400h and there were no activity up at Midahagara. Granted, we could have visited Bijohara forest but it was drizzling. We could not even stop to see the Shomo falls. 

Anyway, we were assigned the 1330h Tateyama-bound local train. This train ride was 1,200 yen. 

On the train   

         It took 65min and we arrived at 1435h. I ran up to the cable car counter and was relieved to not see anyone queuing for cable car.
I popped down to the cable car ticket counter to buy this one way Tateyama-Ogizawa train ticket which would be used over 5 days but once at each point. It was 8,920yen. We were given the 1500h cable car timing.

It was a very steep pulley cable car. Sitting in the front offered a better view. The climb was so steep that it was cool to watch.    

     
We arrived at the station at 1507h and had to join the queue for the 1520h bus. There were 2 lanes – 1 for those going to Midahagara hotel and 1 for those going right up to Murodo. All the signages were in Kanji & Hiragana aka I could roughly understood what it said. Anyway, if you stayed at Midahagara hotel, just join the stopover queue.
It was a windy but scenic bus ride up from 977m above sea level to 1930m (where the Midahagara hotel was) and further up to 2450m for those going to Murodo.   

At 1550h, we arrived at the door step of Midahagara hotel. It was drizzling so the bus actually stopped right at the door step! I heard the bus usually stopped at the official bus stop which was a 20m walk.

After checking in, we joined the walking trail organized by the hotel at 415h. Gum boots were provided for loan and sorted by S, M, L for women and men. The kids’ boots were offered in 2 sizes. The smallest was too big for X but he still could walk. The only challenge was when we carried him and the boots might slip off.

The trail was mostly in Japanese so we hanged out at the back and took so many photos that we lagged by a wide margin. The snow was more like ice but still fun for the kids to throw snow balls, slide down the slopes (unintended) and I built a snow bear for them! It was easier than a snow man and a tad more original. Haha..

  
            We played so long that it was almost 6pm. The kids bathed while I brought their wet jeans, gloves and socks down to the drying room. It was small but functional, imagine a room-sized dryer (and we later found out was restricted to staff only. Oops!).

Our dinner was scheduled for 7pm. The kid’s meal was sumptuous! No wonder we were charged 11,000 yen for Z. The adults had to pay 22,000 yen each. The adults’ meal was not bad too – many appetizers, sashimi, soup, mini soup, western style beef cubes and free flow dessert of apple tarts, mochi, cake, grapes and strawberries.

   
  

  

  When we left the dining hall, there was a slide show presentation about the hotel and Alpine. It featured some photos from March when the hotel was buried in snow and how the snow was cleared. It ended at 9pm.

We adjourned to our rooms to bathe and convene at my parents’ room to play card games. We could hardly tuck into our snacks because we were so full from dinner.

Featuring all the toiletries provided   

 

Day 2 – Japan, Kanazawa

We woke up fairly early this morning and checked out by 715am. We grabbed breakfast from Seven Eleven on level 3 of the Haneda International airport and I went down to queue to exchange our Japan rail orders for passes at 730am. The JR east office was directly next to the monorail station entrance on level 2. When the office opened at 745am, there was a sizable queue.

 The Japan rail orders purchased in Singapore at $338 each for a 7-day pass  
In no time, we were on the monorail which departed at 759am. Trains in Japan were so precise and I was hoping to catch the 836am Kagayaki Shinkansen to go Kanazawa.    

The monorail ride took exactly 20 minutes to Hamamatsucho but we had to transfer to the Yamanote line to get to the Tokyo station which was like the main station for all Shinakansen, except for the Kyushu based Shinkansen. The transfer was not as smooth as we thought because of the amount and size of luggage we had, and had to use lifts. There was a wait for the lifts and we had to use it over 2 turns.  

We had wanted to catch the 920am train but it was out of service and hence, ended up with a 935am train. Kagayaki was a very new train and was somewhat considered as express train. All seats must be reserved. While Z did not need to pay for his train tickets as he was below 6 years old (based on date of birth), he could not reserve a seat so you could imagine the rounds of musical chairs we had to play during the earlier part of the journey.

Z, getting all excited with the life-sized Shinkansen  
Here he was explaining to X on which train we would be taking. He had a better understanding of the leaflet than I did though it was all in Japanese.    

Coincidentally, we had gotten these children’s bento lunches for them earlier, all the more you could imagine their excitement when they saw the trains. These bentos cost 1,300yen each and the food, while cold, was quite nice.
      

X, all relaxed and slept for a good part of the train ride
  
We managed to check in early after arriving in Kanazawa at 1206h.I had booked ANA Crowne Plaza Hotel and it cost us 20,000yen per room per night. It was right next to JR Kanazawa and overlooked the famous JR East gate. I was pleasantly surprised with the twin bed room because the beds were super single beds which was comfortable for a family with 2 kids. Z did not need to bunk in with my parents for the night.

Z who was very pleased with the room and with the children’s toiletry kit that was presented at the front desk
 

After settling down, we took the local bus to the nearby Omichi Market. It cost 200yen per person for the short bus to the market. All the buses at Berth 8, 9 and 10 at Kanazawa Bus interchange would go past the market which was 3-4 stops away.

It was a Japanese fresh food market which sold many fresh produces from seafood caught at Ishikawa Prefecture to vegetables and fruits. We tried the local oysters which was pretty expensive from 550yen onwards. I tried the 750yen version and thought the ones at Binalong Bay, Australia were better deals.

We had lunch at one of the restaurants within the market. The kids and my dad shared a Tempura seafood rice set and Teriyaki Cod fish. The marinade for the fish was a tad too strong and even seemed alcoholic. The kids did not like it. My mom ordered a Uni-don at 2900yen, Mr H ordered a Maguro-don at 1000yen and my deluxe chirashi don was 1650yen.  

  

After lunch, we headed to Kanazawa Castle which was a 300m walk to the right from the end of the market.

The castle had impressive design and was built based on piecing many big wooden blocks together. We spent an hour or so before exiting via the south gate to Daiwa Department Store. We shopped along the shopping belt before taking a bus back to JR Kanazawa.

Inside the castle  

On very steep steps
The miniature model of the castle     
Learning how the wooden blocks stacked up   

Walking down from the castle    

X was so tired that he knocked out like this  

Z was still going strong 

To prepare for our next day’s itinerary, we went to the supermarket on level 2 of JR station (enter via the escalator in the middle of the station). We stocked up on snacks and drinks before heading to level 3 for ramen.

By 8pm, we were all back in the room to sort out our luggage for the next day. With kids, it was a mammoth task to decide what items to bring up for our overnight stay at the Alpine and to pack our suitcases for forwarding to Tokyo the next morning. We got our hotel to arrange for Takkyubin to send 3 large suitcases (29″-32″) at 3912yen.

Day 1 – Japan

This marked Z’s 15th holiday and X’s 8th holiday to date. As it was an afternoon flight, I even found the time to pop down for the Metro Closed Door sale. 

It was a 1355-2200H flight from Singapore to Haneda. I had picked such an odd timing after evaluating the various traveling options, pricing of air tickets and accommodations. It would have cost us $800++ for the air ticket per person and we would arrive in Narita, incurring higher transportation costs as well as longer traveling time to Tokyo.

This peculiar timing cost us $563.40 per person. It was more than enough to cover the cost of the lodging. Plus, the kids would get ample rest.

Free Popsicle at Metro Sale   

Traveling with my parents too  

Spotted an Ironman at T3 too  

Window seat for Z, which sadly didn’t last    

I actually booked 2 window seats so that both boys could have a window seat each but they insisted on sitting next to each other. X was so unreasonable so he got the window seat. Ironically, he fell asleep during the took off.

The boys napped, played and watched Krisworld throughout. When we landed at 2130, it was ahead of schedule. As per any internet crazed Singaporeans, the first thing we did was to look for a data SIM card. We read so much online about this So-net SIM card which cost 3000yen for 1GB and 4000yeb for 2.2GB. In the end, it was 4500yen for 1GB! The salesperson told us price had increased. 

We ended up getting a 100mb a day card at 1900yen from Seven Eleven. 

We also grabbed a late dinner at this Italian restaurant. The Bismark pizza and an Elio Don pizza were fabulous. After a late dinner, we shopped for snacks at Seven Eleven and checked into Royal Park Hotel Haneda. 

At the lobby 
It was 14,100yen per room for a queen sized bed per night. The perk of traveling with my parents was that Z could room with them. We finally called it a night after another round of snacking on chocolates, hot drinks and instant  ramen.

Prudence in excitement

Days leading up to the trip, Z said he was not so excited. Puzzled and slightly offended, I said we should not have arranged for the holiday.

Z explained that he was excited but he reminded himself not to be too excited. He did not want to ask us too many questions because he did not want to annoy us! He was keeping tab on the countdown by himself.

Well, well, well… Mr H and I were truly impressed.

Then Z asked,” Are we flying off on Thursday?”

The irony.

Recap of travel photobooks

Since Z was born and the popularisation of photobooks, I made a photobook to mark every holiday with the kids.

Before X
2010 Jun – Sendai, Tokyo (Japan) with Z
2010 Dec – Hongkong with Z
2011 Jul – Edinburgh, York, Manchester, Oxford, Bath, London (England) with Z
2011 Dec – Seoul (Korea) with Z
2012 Jan – Paris, Brussels (France, Belgium) with Z
2012 Sep – Hongkong with Z
2012 Oct – Bangkok (Thailand) with Z

After X
2013 Apr – London, Paris (England, France) with Z & X
2014 Feb – Bali (Indonesia) with Z & X
2014 May – Sokcho, Hwaseong, Seoul (Korea) with Z & X
2014 Sep – Legoland (Malaysia) with Z & X
2014 Oct – Melbourne, Tasmania (Australia) with Z & X
2015 Jan – Penang, Cruise (Malaysia) with Z & X
2015 Feb – Bali (Indonesia) with Z & X
2015 May – Kanazawa, Tateyama, Tokyo (Japan) with Z & X TBC

It sure looked like I only had 2015 photobooks to follow up at this point and I planned to combine the cruise & Bali trip into one.

Painfully OCD

Is when I would persistently layout a photobook for every holiday ever taken with the kids.

Is when I would classify and sort every photo on the external hard disk in folders named YYYYMMDD_EventName.

Is when I would backup my precious files into another external hard disk once in two months.

Is when my holiday itineraries are nailed down to the minutes and cents.

Is when every possible reservation that could be made would be made.

Is when every expression of my children are captured and morphed into a collage of expressions, simple because I felt the need to document every muscle movement.

And more. 

That being said, it was extremely satisfying to have finished the photobooks on Aussie, Balinese and Korean holidays from 2014.

I was left with the Legoland trip and this year’s Bali trip and cruise holiday.

Z had clocked a count of 15 holidays while X measured up with 8 holidays. Not too bad for both who just passed their 5th and 2nd year old birthdays 3-4 months ago.