It all started here...

It all started here...

Monday, September 21, 2015


August 10, 2015 -- KIX and HND -- Land Tour Day 6

It's time to go home! After almost a month away, we were ready to go home. This had been an amazing trip, especially the cruise part on Diamond Princess. It is so different cruising around Japan than cruising other parts of the world. It was easy to get to places in all the ports with free shuttles or easy public transportation and the food was certainly to our liking! I would skip the land tour part and DIY next time which gives us more control of our itineraries. We did it this time because of the mobility issues of family members and it was OK but we felt that the arrangements might not be the best for regular travelers who can do things on their own.

From our hotel window looking out at the very industrial area of Neyagawa, a city in the northeast outskirt of Osaka. 

There is really nothing much around.

That was our hotel--Neyagawa Trend Hotel. We practically just spent the night there and left early the next morning.

After about an hour drive we arrived at the Osaka airport (KIX).

The airport was extremely busy with long check-in lines especially for the flights to Taiwan because of the typhoon there on previous days. There was also a worldwide scout conference and most scout members were leaving that morning. We sat at the International flights area (3rd floor) and waited  until our family members checked in for their flights to Taiwan.

We were to fly out to Haneda at 7:55PM to make the connection back to LAX at 12:05AM so we had a whole day here. We then went down to the Domestic area (2nd floor) to see if we could check-in early. The ANA staff were very helpful at this airport. They even got us an earlier flight (5:00PM) out to Haneda and checked our luggage all the way through to LAX.

Domestic ANA check-in counters

Osaka Airport is one huge impressive airport. We spent some time taking turns to explore the many shops and restaurants here and to figure out where we wanted to have lunch. We ended up eating at the food court which had many different choices. One suggestion is not to miss the meat buns, which was quite delicious.

My lunch--egg

and fried pork chop.

Entrance to the food court. That's the meat bun place on the left.

After a couple of hours we went through security and up to the gate area. Work stations with outlets are available there.

Kid's play area


Our plane

Finally boarded.

Arrived at Haneda airport.

Taking the long walk to the transit area in the Domestic terminal.

Then we went down to take the shuttle to the International terminal.

Waiting area for the shuttles

Only a few people that evening.

It was quite a long drive between the Domestic and International terminals.

Check-in counters at the International terminal. We already had our boarding passes so we did not have to go through the lines here.

Our second time here at Haneda airport. 

Nice bridge

The restaurants here are much more expensive than Osaka airport and with less choices. 
We ended up just having hamburgers for dinner at Mos Burgers.

After our light dinner we went into the gate area to wait for our flight.

Finally, on our way home.

First meal, a sandwich for this midnight flight.
Next time, I will try not to fly from Haneda and not taking a midnight flight. Seems like the planes flying in and out of Haneda are older and the service minimal.

Second meal before landing at LAX. This meal was a little better.

After the OK breakfast, we arrived LAX safely with thousands of fellow travelers. Long lines through immigration and customs but it was an easy process. Good to be home!
Next trip, China in November.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Kyoto and Osaka -- Land Tour Day 5

August 9, 2015 -- Chiryu, Kyoto, Osaka -- Land Tour Day 5

After a restful night at the Hotel Crown Palais in Chiryu, we went up to the top floor of the hotel for a good breakfast buffet. The view of the city was spectacular along the windows by the tables! Nice to have such beautiful views to accompanied our breakfast.

View of the not-so-big city.

Seemed like we were looking down at everything under our feet.

Basic breakfast fare with some interesting Japanese food like that dried fish.

I thought this platter was kind of cute. 9 slots to fill your own food choices.

My kind of eggs

Hotel Crown Palais in the morning.

Traffic jam again!


After a couple hours on the road with traffic jam, we arrived at the city of Kyoto. First place we stopped at was the parking lot of the Heianjingu Shrine (平安神宫) in Kyoto. Again, this is a site we have visited before on our previous tour to Japan. Except the last time here we walked from the front of the shrine and this time from the side.

A tea house across the street.

Main gate

Entrance to the shrine

I like the color of the building.

It was just too hot to walk across the gravel to the shrine so I stopped and waited at the entrance, taking pictures from there.

Yes, I was in the shade looking at both directions.

And above my head.

After a short visit at the shrine, we were taken to a Chinese restaurant for lunch. Another very simple lunch that we finished eating quickly. These meals are not for enjoyment but just to fill our empty stomach. Service was terrible here also.

A little better than the last Chinese lunch at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building but not a whole lot. I can easily cook this lunch for under $20 for the whole table.

After lunch, I went outside and noticed that there were some stores next door. I went to look at that store with clothes hanging outside and found the best buy that I had on this whole trip. A Japanese type jacket for man was hanging outside with a price tag of 950Y. I couldn't believe my eyes because it was such a well-tailored piece with fine embroidery on the back. I quickly went inside and found the little woman who was in the store. She confirmed that it was the correct price so I quickly paid her before she changes her mind. She was really sweet and we chatted a bit with her using some broken English as she wrapped the jacket carefully. Within five minutes I have made an amazing purchase which nobody believe when I got back on the bus. Being the men in the house who would benefit from this purchase, both MOR and ChC thought that it was an excellent buy. They were just wondering where I went and how I got this so quickly. Up to this day I still cannot understand why this was so cheap. I guess I was just at the right place at the right time. I was happy!

My less than USD$10 find.

with fine embroidery on the back

and on the front

crossing one of the bridges near the shrine

Now we are at Jingu-Michi near the gate.

Our next stop was the Gionmichi (Geisha) 袛園藝伎街 area and we walked past this huge gate of the Chion-in Buddhist Temple. We did not go in there though.

Entrance to the Gionmichi.

A statue right outside of the entrance.

Some random shots of the area.

A restaurant for/of sumo wrestlers?

I wonder what this means?

After a short walk our tour guide told us that there's really not much to see here. So he lead us out of the park for our next destination--Kinkaku-Ji (Gold Colored Temple) 金閣寺.

It's certainly gold!

We have not been here before so it was a nice treat.

That was basically all we did in Kyoto for this half day. I was happy to be at Kinkaku-Ji for the first time but disappointed that Kiyomizu-dera was not included in our itinerary which is one major site in Kyoto out of all the hundreds of shrines and temples here. Well, I suppose we have visited too many shrines and temples already.


Our last stop for the trip was the city of Osaka. Our driver was very smart to let us off before we got to the parking lot of the Osaka Castle because the line to the parking lot was miles long. Instead of wasting time sitting on the bus, we walked the distance while he was inching forward. The problem for most of our group members was there is a hike up to the castle and many of them just would rather not take the strenuous walk. ChC and I were determined to get some pictures of the castle so we quickly walked our way up and left the group behind.

The moat at the south end.

We walked about 15 minutes to get here and we only had 30 minutes total to get back on the bus.

Almost there!

Here! What a pretty sight! We also found the takoyaki vendor where we got some delicious takoyaki the last time we were here but it was just too hot to be eating that kind of stuff. After a few quick photos we hurriedly walked back to meet the group.

Look at the buses lining up to get into the parking lot!

For the rest of the afternoon we would be in the central area of Osaka--Doutonbori and Shinsaibashi area for shopping and dinner. We would meet after our on-our-own dinner before going to the hotel for the night.

Doutonbori River

The crowds at Shinsaibashi.

Indoor mall at Shinsaibashi
We were not in the mood of shopping fighting the crowds except buying a few things from the huge Daiso store. The walk became too much for FIL so we decided to look for dinner. We remembered that we had dinner at a revolving sushi restaurant at the Shinsaibashi last time we were here but we couldn't find it this time.

Fortunately, we found this on Doutonbori. A revolving sushi restaurant that we think maybe it's the same one that we had dinner at. Maybe they moved to a new location because this is much more spacious than the last one but the operation seemed the same.

These photos are for those who do not know how a revolving sushi restaurant works. You basically sit at a bar-like counter with the conveyer belt with plates of various sushi moving in front of you. You just pick up whichever plates you like and dig in. Do not ever put the plate back after you picked it up. Once you've touched it, it's yours. One advantage of this kind of restaurant is that you don't need language to communicate. After you finish eating, they'll count up the plates and you pay the bill. Easy peasy!

Watch for the color of the plates for prices.

If you want something on the menu but it's not coming through on the belt, you can place your order with the waiter or the chef. At this particular restaurant the chefs are inside the kitchen so you would order through the waiter.

In front of you you will find green tea power...

and cups...

get hot water for your tea here by pushing the knob with your cup
(Notice our plates stacking up on the right.)



soy sauce all right there

If you need help, push this button.

This is a good way to eat, you decide what you want and how much you want to spend while you are eating.

We had a wonderful sushi dinner here on our last day in Japan.

After dinner we walked a round a little before meeting back up with our group.

It should be fun riding on the sightseeing boats.

Entrance to Doutonbori Street

We sat here by the river watching the scenery as we waited for the rest of our group.


Our last night in Japan was spent at a hotel about an hour drive away from the city center.
Originally they promised that there would be two trips provided going to the airport the next day. One at 8AM and the other one at 12 noon, written on the contract. Then we were told that there would only be one trip going in the morning and we were suppose to get up early and leave the hotel at 7AM so the bus driver could go home after dropping everyone off. But our flight out of Osaka doesn't happen until 7PM! After arguing back and forth with the guide, we finally agreed on the 8AM departure. Which means we have to spend our whole day at the airport the next day. With the hotel being so far away from the airport there was no way for us to even hire a taxi on our own. What terrible arrangements! On the last tour we took, they were smart enough to put us at the airport hotel on the last night so people could just walk over to the airport whenever they were ready to check in for their flights. Oh well, budget tours...