12/02/2017

JT5: Introduction and Conclusion

2015 trip to Japan and Korea summary

Hello and welcome to the 'Trip to Japan' travel report blog!

My name is Eric and in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2015 Kate and I travelled to Japan (and Korea in 2015) from Australia. Each trip was filled with lots of fun activities, interesting experiences and amazing scenery..

In order to share these things with everyone I established this travel blog!

It's 2017 now which means it took me nearly two years to finish the 2015 trip report.

Yikes!

In 2016 we didn't go to Japan and instead travelled to the USA for four weeks and New Zealand for two weeks.

Kate and I also got married and I finished my Master of Information Technology and we started making preparations to move to Japan for a few years!

Hopefully in July of this year!



As far as this blog goes I still haven't written anything about our first 2011 trip, and we actually spent another week or so in Japan at the end of 2015 so there's a couple of places we went to around Kanto region that I'd like to share.

Finally, despite having been to Japan so many times we still haven't actually seen any cherry blossoms, so in April we have another short ten day trip planned!

Aside from cherry blossoms the themes of this trip will be mountain hiking, theme parks, ryokan, heavy industry, festivals, castles and sumo.

The rest of this entry is a quick description of each day of our 2015 Winter trip with links to the full posts!

You can find similar summaries for the 2012 Autumn, 2013 Spring and 2014 Summer trips as well.

Japan Trip 2015: Itinerary
An overview of our goals for this trip, our planning and itinerary, what hotels we booked and all the other preparation we did. 

JT5: Flight and Tokyo
Our journey from our home in Brisbane, Australia to our hotel in Tokyo, Japan. Filled with gripping moments such as when Jetstar left Kate's bag behind and we had to tell them our day by day itinerary. 

Tokyo - Ginza and Nippon Budokan
Today we got some new clothes for Kate at the Ginza Uniqlo and I went a Lisani concert to see LISA, KOTOKO, ZAQ, ClariS, Suzuko, Kalafina and fripSide!

Jimbocho (Tokyo) and Seoul (Korea)
A Japanese Bento Box cooking class in Tokyo in the morning before heading back out to Narita to catch a plane to Seoul, South Korea.

Seoul (Korea)
This entire day was spent exploring the city of Seoul. We saw some markets, Sungnyemun and Seoul tower. 

DMZ and North Korea
We technically went into North Korea today from the South Korean side. This was a brief few minutes as part of an extensive tour of the joint security area and demilitarised zone between North Korea and South Korea. We also visited one of the tunnels that the north dug into the south.

Seoul and Yumoto Onsen
Most of this day was spent travelling back to Japan from South Korea. We made our way all the way to a fantastic ryokan at Yumoto Onsen near Nikko. There we enjoyed a fantastic kaiseki dinner and a magical outdoor onsen in the snow. 

Nikko & Koriyama

Exploring the natural side of Nikko. As it is the middle of winter the whole place was completely blanketed in deep drifts of snow. We saw lots of frozen waterfalls! In the evening we made our way over to Koriyama City in Fukushima Prefecture.

Aizu-Wakamatsu & Sendai
Aizu-Wakamatsu is famous for samurai and sake. After a train trip from Koriyama we visited Oyakuen Garden, the castle and toured two different sake distilleries.

We were taught the history, the production process and were able to sample the brews. Our train back to Koriyama was cancelled due to blizzard but we managed to get a bus back and then a shinkansen up to our next stop Sendai.

Tashirojima (Cat Island) & Sendai
Cats! Off the Sanriku coast north of Sendai is a small island full of cats! We caught a ferry and spent a few hours visiting the kitties and wandering around the island.

Our ferry back from the island was cancelled due to rough seas, we only had to wait for the next one though which was a stronger vessel.

It was still a rough journey!

Nikka Whiskey Distillery & Hakodate
Sendai markets in the morning then a train out to the Nikka Whiskey Distillery for a free tour and sample. In the evening we caught Shinkansen and trains all the way up north the town of Hakodate, located on Japan's most northern island of Hokkaido.

Hakodate & Furano
Instead of visiting the Onuma Quasi National Park as planned we decided to spend the day indoors at the Round One sports entertainment centre instead. We had spent many days outside and this day was particularly snowy and bitterly cold.

First we had a look around the Hakodate market, then enjoyed a few hours planning arcade games and sports like ping pong, baseball batting, tennis and mini-bowling at Spocha In the evening we journeyed further into the centre of Hokkaido to the town of Furano.

Furano Skiing
Our first day skiing ever! We had a lesson for absolute beginners in the morning where we were told how to put the skiis on and how to go down the practice bunny slope. In the afternoon we managed to make our way down the beginner slope.

Furano Skiing
In the morning we had a beginner group skiing lesson, though it was just Kate and I. We learnt how to ride the ski lift and how to make our way down with the snow plough and skiing in straight lines.

In the afternoon we practised going down the beginner slopes some more. Once back at our lodging we had some Furano wine and cheese.

Furano Skiing
There were no lesson spaces available today, so we had the whole day to ourselves. We skied some more, and caught the gondola to the top of the mountain.

For lunch we rode a taxi to the Furano Cheese Factory where we had an amazing cheese pizza. The afternoon was more skiing and I managed to go down every beginner slope on offer on the Kitanomine side.

Asahikawa and Kitami
Today we left Furano on our way to the top of Hokkaido. Along the way we stopped in at Asahikawa which is the coldest city in Japan. There we visited the Asahiyama zoo and then paid a visit to the Asahikawa snow festival. In evening we continued north to Kitami, which was the closest city to Abashiri with non-smoking rooms.

Abashiri and Kushiro
Abashiri is located on the northern coast of Japan and we travelled out here to see the frozen sea ice! The drift ice floats down from the north and we went on boat tour which smashed through the ice sheets.

In Japan Abashiri is known for its infamous prison, it's the Alcatraz or Azkaban of Japan. In the afternoon we visited the old prison buildings and grounds and also paid a brief visit to the northern people museum. In the evening we continued on around the coast of Hokkaido to Kushiro city.

Kushiro Marshland & Sapporo
The Kushiro Marshlands are the last place in Japan where Red-Crowned Cranes can be seen in the wild after they were saved from extinction. Winter is the best time to see them as due to habitat loss feeding places are needed outside of the warmer seasons to sustain their population.

We joined a bus tour to a few of the best spots, and then returned back to Kushiro on a C-11 steam locomotive train! In the evening we caught a delayed train back around Hokkaido to Sapporo.

Sapporo snow festival
After visiting the Sapporo Factory shopping centre in the morning we went out to enjoy the Sapporo Snow Festival. There were lots of giant snow sculptures, clear crystalline ice sculptures, food, stalls and a ski jump slope.

Sapporo & Otaru Snow Light Path Festival
We had another go at Spocha in the morning today before travelling out to Otaru for our final winter festival.

The Otaru Snow Light Path Festival is exactly what it says on the tin with lots of candles lighting up small  sculptures and holes along a deep path within the snow and along the canal. It was very pretty! For dinner we had delicious yakiniku.

Aomori
Leaving Hokkaido today on our way back down to Tokyo. We stopped in at Aomori for a visit to the Furukawa Fish Markets, some Karaoke and to rest for the night. 

Zao Onsen
After a cool breakfast overlooking Aomori city we made our way down to Zao Onsen to see some snow monsters and super acidic onsen water!

The snow monsters are formed from huge amounts of snow and ice freezing onto trees at the top of the mountain.

It was extremely cold and windy up there, -20 degrees Celsius. We stayed at a ryokan and the water in the most acidic bath had a pH approaching 1 and actually stung a little to sit in.

Zao Onsen & Tokyo
After breakfast at our ryokan we made our way all the way back down to Tokyo and did some headphone shopping and more Karaoke in Akihabara!

Chiba and Tokyo
Our penultimate day was spent enjoying some indoor go-karting in the neighbouring prefecture of Chiba before returning back to Tokyo to gorge ourselves on sweets and look around the shops in Shibuya.

Sumida Aquarium (Tokyo) 
Our last day before flying out! We visited the Sumida Aquarium and Solamachi shopping town located at the base of the Tokyo Sky Tree.

In our last couple of hours we beat out some beats on the Taiko no Tatsujin drumming machines in Akihabara.
  
And that's our trip!

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to leave a comment with any questions or comments!