Category Archives: Hot Springs

Skiing in Japan

A late Friday night, an international team of 9 participants set out from Tokyo in two rented cars. Since Japanese people, in general, have a tendency to work late, we departed at almost 00:00 to arrive around 05:00 in Nagano at our hotel. The group consisted of 4 men and 5 women, all with the determination to enjoy a nice skiing weekend. These kinds of activities are encouraged by Social Apartment, where you can live and enjoy socializing in an apartment style share house.

With only a few hours of sleep, we got up and rented ski gear for about 5000 yen and then bought a lift pass for about another 5000. Hakuba was the name of the ski resort we went to and it’s a village in the kitaazumi district of Nagano prefecture.  Nagano is mostly known for the 1998 winter Olympics, is also connected with Tokyo by the  Hokuriku shinkansen. After enjoying skiing for a few hours, we ate dinner at a quite decent Yakiniku restaurant named Miyama(深山). The night was finished with an onsen visit close to the hotel will some drinks at our rooms.

Skiing in Nagano was quite different from skiing in Sweden. The snow was equally great, but it was a bit warmer than expected. The ski lift worked flawlessly compared to Sweden and Hakuba was well staffed. The next ski trip will no doubt be in Hokkaido next year!




Cycling the shimanami kaido in Japan

Interested in cycling? A few weeks ago, two friends and I went on quite a long cycling trip from Onomichi in Honshu (the largest and most populous island of Japan) to Imabari in Shikoku (Japan’s smallest major island), famously known as Shimanami Kaido.

The trip took four days, and covered 160 kms by bicycle in total, and began with us setting off from Kyoto on a Monday around 12 pm and arriving in Onomichi at around 5 pm. We rented bicycles from the “Giant store in Onomichi” which we had reserved in advance, and rode them to our guesthouse “Anago-no-Nedoko”. Apart from being conveniently close to Onomichi Station, the Giant Store, and the start line of the cycle route, Anago has a special charm about the way it all fits so perfectly in to an eel-like alley. Early Tuesday morning, day 2, we set out after having breakfast at the guesthouse and boarded a ferry to the first small island, marking the start of the 80km route to the other side.

From thereon we cycled through six islands each with breath-taking scenery, crossing the ocean along six bridges, each an engineering marvel. Upon arriving at Imabari (Shikoku), we parked our bicycles overnight and then took the train to Matsuyama with the goal of going to “Dogo-onsen“, said to be the oldest bathhouse in Japan. We first checked in at Cinnamon guesthouse – also super cosy and convenient – and just as we were finally about to leave for Dogo-onsen to soothe our aching muscles, one guest told us that it was closed that day! It was later revealed that the famous bathhouse closes on just one day each year for cleaning and it just so happened to be the day we decide to go there. What are the odds?

On Wednesday, Day 3, we set out early from Matsuyama and took the train back to Imabari to collect our bicycles for the 80km return trip. On the way back we picked up speed to avoid the upcoming rain, but still managed to take a few breaks, including one at the kind Mari-san who gave us the sweetest mikan (Japanese mandarins) for free. We also made a quick pit stop at an island called Michikajima, which is officially the tiniest Island I’ve had the fortune of exploring. By 6pm that day we reached our end destination, feeling super chuffed at ourselves, and stayed for one more night at Anago guesthouse before making our way back to Kyoto on Thursday, Day 4, just in time for school.

This definitely goes down as one of my top 5 experiences in Japan! Shimanami Kaido is incredibly beautiful, even during winter, and I highly recommend you try it!



今治に着き、松山行きの列車に乗って、目的地の道後温泉へ行きました。(日本一の古い温泉)。シナモンゲストハウスにチェックインして、温泉へ向かおうとしたとき、ゲストハウスの他のお客様に「今日、道後温泉は閉まっているよ」と言われました。その有名な温泉は一年一日大掃除をするそうで、私たちはちょうどその日に着きました! なんてこった!



Mount Fuji

On an early Friday morning the 10th September, my friends Ashraf, Atreya, Daisy, Ryan, Tasneem and I set out to climb mount Fuji and visit the amusement park Fuji Q Highland the day after.

We set out from Doshisha University in Kyoto with a car from Times Car Rental. The deal was slightly better than expected because they upgraded us to a bigger car for free.

Arriving at Fuji-Yoshida (the north side), we started the climb about 8 p.m. It was wind-still and a quite comfortable temperature at the 5th station. While climbing up, we took a rest at all of the upcoming stations and decided on the spot to stay for two hours at the 8th station’s mountain hut. We went to sleep around 1 am and woke up at 3 am to climb the last bit up to the summit. It was freezing cold and the wind was very strong at the top, but we made it just in time to see the stunning sunrise.

After walking around the crater one lap, we started the descent around 6 a.m and it took about 3 hours to get down to the car again. It was very tough. In hindsight, climbing Fuji-san sleep deprived and jet lagged the day after coming back to  Japan from Sweden was not such a good idea. My body felt incredibly heavy and I definitely got mountain sick. However, we all did a good job on planning the trip and we had the right gear with us.

After resting, we went to an onsen facing fuji-san and stayed at a guesthouse for the night. The following day, we went up early to go to FujiQ Highland: an amusement park famous for having world-record roller coasters and one of the world´s scariest ghost house.

Take a look at my Gaijinpot post about FujiQ highland







Travelling west towards Onomichi, Hiroshima, Iwakuni and Miyajima

Once again I used the discount ticket (seishun 18 kippu) to travel deeper into western Japan. I began the journey from Kansai, and the first stop of the day was Onomochi, which is famous for having many temples despite its small size. I went on the “Temple walk“, starting with a 5 min cable car ride up the local mountain. The senkoji park provided a spectacular view of the town. On the way down, I saw many things: from small ojisozan statues to a wild cat fight. Later, I enjoyed a beautiful and delicious waffle and then walked around the town until I decided to stop for some excellent ramen. Having appeased my appetite, I continued onwards to Hiroshima.

On the second day, I didn’t use the seishun ticket, but instead spent the day roaming around Hiroshima. Hiroshima is a comfortable town with wide streets and friendly people. I had lunch by the riverside and helped translate  “The possibilities are endless” to “可能性は無限大” for an old Japanese man who had a cap with that saying in English。

At the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, I was approached by many high school students to help them with their school project and folded many paper cranes, which are a symbol for peace. I felt a little melancholy the rest of the day after seeing the seeing the horrors of the atomic bomb and its effect on the people of Hiroshima at the museum. Before the sun set, I went to Shukkeien Garden, and enjoyed the sight of bonsai trees and many turtles and carps in the pond. As it was getting late, I continued to “okonomimura“, which is a portmanteau of the words for Japanese pizza (okonomiyaki) and village (mura). There, I enjoyed the pleasant of Hiroshima-style onomoiyaki made from noodles and a lot of vegetables.

On the third day, I woke up early and took the train towards Iwakuni. The lunch of the day was skewered meat, squid and a beer, which I enjoyed while sitting down by the river close to the beautiful Kintai bridge. After that, I took the ferry over to miyajima and went straight to my japanese style inn (ryokan) to drop off my luggage. One of the many goals for trip was to hike Mount Misen, so I took the cable car up to the peak and gazed upon a spectacular view.  On the way down, I descended thousands of stone steps and stopped by many small shrines and temples, including the amazing buddhist temple, Daisho-in.

I ate a full course dinner at a restaurant called Mametanuki and I finished the night by taking night shots of Itsukushima-jinja. Finally, I took a dip in the ofuro (japanese style bath) and went back to my room and slept like a log.

At 10:05 AM on the next day, the lady in charge of the inn woke me up and kindly reminded me about the checkout time at 10:00. Leaving the hotel, I went back to Itsukushima jinja and bought a book called “shuinchou“, which is a special book used to collect stamps and hand-drawn calligraphy from the temples and shrines in Japan.

Once back at mainland Japan, I took a 7-hour journey back home to Kansai using local trains.



二日目、私は青春18切符を使用せず、その代わりに広島市内をうろうろしました。広島は通りが広く、また親切な人が多い快適な町です。川岸のお店に寄って昼ごはんを食べたとき、英語で”The possibilities are endless”と書いてある帽子を被っているおじいさんがいました。その人に、この意味は何かと尋ねられたので「可能性は無限大」と訳してあげました。

広島平和記念公園では、高校生たちの学校のプロジェクトの一貫として平和のシンボルである折り鶴を一緒に折るように声を掛けられました。平和記念公園にいる間たくさん高校生に出会ったので、その都度一緒に鶴を折りました。原爆資料館で被爆した方々の影響や原爆の恐ろしさを見たあとは一日中もの悲しい気持ちでした。資料館をあとにして、陽が沈む前に縮景園に行って盆栽の木や池にいた亀や鯉の姿を見て楽しみました。だんだん辺りが暗くなってきたときに、日本のピザ(お好み焼き)のお店が集まる村、”お好み村” へ、足を延ばしました。そこで麺とたくさんの野菜で作られた広島風のお好み焼きを食べました。





Shikoku – a four day trip

Shikoku, one of Japan’s four main islands, is known for: Japan’s oldest hot spring; the 88 temple pilgrimage; and arguably the best udon you will ever taste.

During this trip, I used the Seishun 18 Kippu. This discount ticket can be used all over Japan on local and rapid JR trains. It’s valid for 5 days and only costs ¥ 11,800, but it can only be used during 3 periods in a year.

I started my journey from Kobe, and used local train lines and transferred multiple times until I made it to Takamatsu in Shikoku. I had a few hours to explore the city, so I took the train to Shikoku Mura, an outdoor architecture museum with old buildings that are falling into disrepair or about to be demolished. The buildings were moved here from all around Shikoku, and were built during different time periods.

After that, I explored downtown Takamatsu and took the local train to my final destination, Sanuki Saita, which is a small village in the middle of Shikoku. I met my friend’s friend, Toshiaki-san (the owner of guest house ‘Nishougongo‘), and he and his friends welcomed me with a small nabe food party!

On the second day, I woke up early and continued my trip using the local train and headed down towards Tokushima prefecture. Upon reaching Ooboke Station, I took the local bus (me being the only passenger) up the mountains via slippery and snowy roads . I reached my destination of Kazurabashi about an hour later, and I was amazed by an old, but beautiful, vine bridge. Later on, I walked about a kilometer to my second goal: an outdoor hot spring with a spectacular view of the surrounding mountains. I rode a ropeway car up from the hotel to the onsen, and (once again) I was the only one there! I finished this nice day by going to Akaoni (the red ogre), a local izakaya, back in Sanuki Saita with my new friends, Toshiaki-san and Zushi-san.

On the third day,Toshiaki-san and I went around the local village and had Sanuki udon for lunch. We said goodbye, and I continued towards Kouchi, which is the southern-most town in Shikoku. There, I met my friend Ayumi. We toured the town a bit and had ‘katsuo no tataki’ for dinner.

On the final day, I went to Kouchi castle, one of the best castles that I’ve visited in Japan yet. We later went to Katsurahama and went to see the Sakamoto Ryoma statue and museum.

Afterwards, it was finally time to go back to Kansai after a wonderful four days in Shikoku!