31/12/2014

Day 6: Doai Station & Minakami

Friday, 11 July 2014


We awoke to a pretty rainy day this morning as the Typhoon had finally started to affect us.

Breakfast was another buffet affair with lots of delicious choices on offer!

After breakfast we walked to Minakami Station and caught a train to Doai Station. The train squeaked and squawked a fair bit, which Kate did not like at all!

Doai is the number one station for Mole people in Japan as it's located 70 metres underground!

Tokyo's deepest subway station is Roppongi (42 meters), New York and London both have approximately 50 metre deep stations and Ukraine's Arsenalna station is currently the world's deepest at 105 metres. So Doai is definitely high low on the list of deepest stations!

After a few minutes we arrived and were the only passengers to get off!

However there was another man on the platform who worked there and must have to come down to check everyone got off safely, help the train leave and so forth.

As soon as the train left we watched him walk over to the stairs and begin his long journey to the top.

These stairs are the only connection between the north bound underground platform and the ordinary ground level (southbound) platform.

Before following him up to the surface we stayed behind to check out the station a bit more.

It was very cold down here, wet and pretty dark as well- which made it a bit creepy.

I walked the length of the platform and tried to take some photos as I found it pretty interesting. Kate got a bit sick of this as she was feeling the cold, though she did find the breeze was quite subdued over near the stairs.

When I finally went over to her I noticed that the station master was still slowly climbing up.

It must be really annoying for him to have to do that multiple times a day!

Rather than take twenty minutes to slowly walk up, Kate and I decided to race to the top!

At first we took off at great speed and continued for the first few flights however it was a really brutal climb and we were soon at a walking, struggling, pace.

There were 462 stairs to overcome and each one was numbered- counting up.

Right at the end there was another burst of speed, initiated by Kate, however I managed to persevere just long enough and win!

If she had done that any earlier I think she would have had me beat.

Doai Station Tunnel
At the top of the tunnel continued above ground, over a road to the station. Kate continued right along to the end, though I had to rest for a few minutes first as I was completely knackered.

There was no ticket machine, or manned barrier or anything at the exit. Just a box to drop your ticket into. You couldn't buy a ticket here either, though there was a machine dispensing stubs which I suppose you're supposed to use to buy a ticket at your destination.
















Our plan from Doai was to walk to the nearby ropeway station that would take us on a gondola to the top of Mount Tanigawa. We were a bit worried it would be closed because of the wind (there was a Typhoon about), but I checked their website and they said they'd be tentatively open, but might close depending on the weather.

Unfortunately there was no footpath up to the ropeway from Doai, so we just had to walk up along the road. It was rainy so we used our umbrellas, but still got a little wet. Walking along the road was scary, especially in the tunnels.

Doai Station - Ground Level
When we arrived the ropeway looked to be still running as the wheels and rope were still turning.

The inside of the building was open, and we spent some time first having a look around. It looked like it was busy in the snow season- lots of lockers and equipment. It was pretty quiet today on a rainy summer's day though.

When we decided to buy our tickets from the people at the counter we found another reason for the few people- it was closed!

This was pretty disappointing and meant we instead just had to wait for the next bus back to Minakami. Quite an expensive bus trip it was too.

Arriving at the station, we then went for a long walk along the river, past some old bridges, and into the main town.

It was interesting how dilapidated the Onsen hotels looked from the river.

Along the way we passed by a post office and bought some stamps.

We had a bit of trouble there as they had run out of international stamps, and wanted to put the right amount of other stamps on our postcard for us, so I had to explain we didn't yet have a post card.


Somewhere else along our walk we came to a manjū shop. They had some samples we tried and we felt obliged to buy one after trying them, which we didn't mind.

A nearby supermarket then supplied lunch and Kit Kats.

From there we continued walking and eventually found ourselves down at the Minakami Bungy Jump, which I guess was our destination.

I was thinking about having a go, but when we arrived it was completely devoid of any life which kind of sapped my enthusiasm. 

The Bungy Platform
It did however look safe, new, and well run. Just not a busy day.

The bungy shop at the other end of the bridge was open, and someone came out asking if I wanted to jump but I declined.

I did have a big think about it after and Kate even offered to pay for my jump, but in the end I chickened out. Maybe if others were doing it I'd feel more excited perhaps.

We were thinking of looking for a nearby glass shop, but upon finding a sign saying it was ten kilometres away we instead headed back to our hotel. This area might be better explored with a car.

Our Ryokan Hotel Juraku in the background
Rather than walking all the way back we instead stopped and waited at a bus stop along the way, and then even caught the shuttle bus from the train station to our hotel.

Prior to the shuttle bus though we stopped in at station to buy our tickets for tomorrow. 

Although there was a reasonably extensive English language portion of the ticket machine, I could only find the route we wanted using the Japanese menus- which included much more extensive search options. 

Once again we just got unreserved seats.

Some shops near Minakami Station
Upon arriving back at our hotels we went to relax in the onsen baths. At the bathing area there were a heap of different soaps and creams and I found this really amazing exfoliating stuff! It really worked!

Gunk came out of my pores that had been there for years! Amazing!

Along with the Bungy jump, Minakami is also known for its other outdoor activities, such as white water rafting, which we could see in the river from our room after coming back from the baths.

As we'd had a bit of a lazy day today we decided to order the 90 minute all you can drink alcohol with tonight's buffet ("Viking") dinner. This was really good value, especially as it included delicious sake. Also on the menu was whisky highballs, whisky, mixed drinks (sours), wine and beer. 

We each had a pass which we used to get drinks from a small bar.

We drank a lot of sake (Nihonshu), but Kate also got some wine, we tried some mixed drinks and I had a whisky highball. The sake was the best.

White water rafters we could see from our room
We ended up drinking a fair bit, which was a bit troublesome as the staff were really friendly and wanted to talk to us. 

One of them delivered me a list of all the foods with the safe ones (no onions) listed (I had mentioned this by email prior to booking though didn't realise it was a buffet). 

Another one of the ladies also asked about our trip and where we were going next, and I answered Kanazawa and she replied that she really liked Kanazawa, especially the crabs, which are better than the ones we had!

Kate really liked the crabs here however- she spend most of the time shelling them and ate a whole plate!

Also the chocolate fondue was lot of fun and the pineapples really delicious!!!

Unfortunately we drank enough that we fell asleep upon reaching our room and once again managed to miss out on the mochi pounding!

And that was the end of today! 

Tomorrow we'll be off to Kanazawa!

9 comments:

  1. Hi Eric, thank you for this great blog; I actually only discovered it this morning and was disappointed when there were only 5 entries for your latest trip. I was pleasantly surprised when I came back tonight to read your older trips and saw there was a 6th entry.

    I am currently planning my first trip to Japan for spring of 2016 with my fiancée for our honeymoon. We are from the U.S. and this will be the first international trip for both of us (I am of Japanese decent and this has been a lifelong dream).

    We are planning to go for 2 weeks and thus far our rough itinerary is almost exactly like your first trip in 2011 (same cities, different order), which appears to be a lot of the obvious/must see spots to hit on a first trip. I've been using two travel books (lonely planet and fodors) that are all marked up, and have just started looking for blogs for more unique takes on what to do. I still have a lot of time for planning and am now looking at other areas that may not be as obvious (tonight I was reading a lot about Matsue on the northwestern border of Honshu).

    I know you're very busy with school and haven't finished your 2014 blog but do you think you'll ever be able to do a summary of your first trip with some tips of must see (or even hyped spots that maybe are worth a pass)? I look forward to reading your previous trips and the rest of this one, thanks again for this great blog.

    Ryan

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  2. Hi Ryan!

    Thank you very much for taking the time to leave a comment containing kind words :-)

    Unfortunately, I've had pretty much zero time lately, which is a great shame and I'm worried that as more time goes on the more I will forget!

    Since it's the new year/Christmas/summer holiday period I've had a bit of time off so have been able to write a few more entries- currently working on Day 7 now!


    Spring is a wonderful time to travel- our favourite trip so far was definitely our spring trip in May 2013, so I'm sure you'll have a fantastic time!

    Are you planning to see the cherry blossoms? I've been to Japan five times so far (soon to be six!) at different times through the year, but have still yet to see the Cherry Blossoms, though I really want to.

    Ah the U.S., we’ve been wanting to go visit there for quite some time but somehow feel overwhelmed, this year will be the year though- we’re set on a November trip to the USA- so excited about that!

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    1. Yep, those places are definitely the Golden Route for first time trips to Japan, and rightly so as they are the easiest places to get to and around and have the highest concentration of great attractions. I’d suggest not trying to pack too much in, as our first trip was around two-three weeks and we spent a lot of time rushing around. Fun, but sometimes hectic!

      I think it would definitely be worth visiting Himeji Castle, which is something we haven’t done yet as it’s been undergoing renovation works for the last years or so and will only be completed this year. I probably wouldn’t worry about any other castles apart from this one (unless you’re an enthusiast), it’s on the way to Hiroshima to, so convenient.

      Make sure you don’t get “templed out” in Kyoto, sometimes there can be a temptation to see as many temples/shrines as possible but they can get a bit repetitive if you do too many at once. Although a bit of a touristy trap I enjoyed the golden pavilion- it’s coated in gold! Fushimi Inari shrine was good for some mountain/nature and lots of torii gates. Also the Arashiyama area was interesting, I found the scenic train fun and would really like to have a go on the boats- plus the monkeys were great!

      There’s a nice garden in Hiroshima (Shukkeien Garden) and the gardens in Nikko were great too. The peace park and museum are sobering. I’ve heard the Mazda factory tour is also definitely worth a visit. I’m not interested in cars, but I like to see how things are made. There’s actually bunny Island near Hiroshima- but it’s a bit hard to get too (I couldn’t fit it into the last trip).

      Takayama was one of our, slightly off the main (shinkansen) path locations. We didn’t actually do too much there though, the open air museum was interesting . Staying in one of these farm houses in nearby Shirakawago seems to be the way to do it. Kanazawa was a last minute decision- it rained a lot but the garden there is fantastic- and the 21century museum fun.

      Actually it rained a fair bit during our first trip.

      Miyajima is definitely worth a visit (more so than anything else in nearby Hiroshima). We made Momiji Manju (Maple leaf cake things) at the top of the ropeway station, which was lots of fun!

      Our Ryokan stay was in Hakone- definitely make sure to stay somewhere in a Ryokan. Hakone, Miyajima are good choices for this. Kyoto is perhaps a bit expensive and I think a Ryokan in a smaller mountain setting is nice. The Hakone Open Air Museum is a must see I think, and a must eat would be the black eggs you can get up near the ropeway- a must ride.

      Feeding the near in Nara is a fun/harrowing experience :D.

      Kinugawa Onsen was another one of our off the main track diversions- we had fun in Tobu World Square and actually got quite lost in the Grand Maze Palladium. We got through 75% of it with no worries, oh we thought we were too good, it was boring. But then… we were going around in circles and quite lost!

      Hopefully I’ll actually be able to write about our first trip, one of the reasons I haven’t put much focus on it as I figure there’s 100’s of blogs covering those places, but I think perhaps there’s also a lot more interest in these places.

      Oh another tip would be to make sure your JR pass is cost effective. E.g. Depending on your itinerary you might be better off with a 7-day pass.

      The Japan Travel thread: http://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum-replies.cfm?t=2332509&p=58
      is a fantastic resource for having your itinerary checked, a user on there “A777” is a Japanese travel encyclopaedia and very friendly and helpful! He’s given us lots of tips!

      Hopefully this post doesn’t have too many errors in it as I just quickly typed it out and have no time to check (bedtime now!). Forgive me if so and thank you very much once again for your comment!










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    2. Thanks Eric, this is great! And happy New Year!

      We are planning to go the second and third weeks in May, 2016; our wedding is this coming August and we have a family trip to Hawaii in Jan 2016 so we are spreading out the expenses and vacation time to minimize stress (and have more things to look forward to).

      I would love to be there for the peak of the Cherry Blossoms but my fiancée Jess will be finishing her Master’s program at the end of April 2016 so we have to go after that and we want to avoid Golden Week so that is why we are targeting the week after.

      I will definitely be borrowing your idea with the Japan Book (I’ve been taking notes for what we want to include) and am excited to start putting that together. We have a large map of Japan on our family room wall that we will be pinning areas of interest and then using string to mark the train path for each destination; we did the same thing for a road trip across the eastern U.S. a couple years ago and it worked out great for prioritizing the must-see stops while possibly finding new areas we hadn’t originally thought about to see if we can add them.

      Speaking of, where do you plan to go on your U.S. visit? Unfortunately we do not have a nation-wide bullet train to get around but both the East and West coasts are great with plenty of amazing sites and can be quite varied even after only a couple hours’ of travel.

      Our biggest issue right now is trying to find that balance between making sure we get to all our “must see” places while also ensuring we are not feeling too rushed to actually enjoy the moments. On our east coast trip we booked two days in Philadelphia but wound up completing all our plans in less than a day. The good part was it gave us more time to explore but on the other hand that was an extra day we could have used to go somewhere else we hadn’t been.

      We have Google Docs for each city to compile the possible sites/activities we want to do. The hope is that we can map out where we want to be for each day but then can be more flexible about what we do when we’re there to maintain some of the spontaneity and go with the flow.

      Thank you for your tips on the Golden Path, you are right that there is a lot of information on most of these places (and this is part of what I am enjoying about your trips that are a bit more off the beaten path) but I feel like a lot of the sites/books I am reading do not give the best context for time utilization or even touch on “this is popular but we were underwhelmed.”

      Temple-fatigue was something Jess and I have been concerned about and your comment about Kyoto is exactly the kind of information I was hoping for (while being aware that everyone is different in what they are interested in). I am excited to see the temples and shrines but am concerned that if we overdo them we will lose the appreciation. One thing in our timelines we are building is trying to make sure we balance our days between culture/sightseeing (Kyoto/Nikko) and the days with more modern/activities (Tokyo/Osaka) so that we don’t do four straight days of temples.

      Thank you for the Japan Travel link and for all your advice here, it’s really great that people are so willing to help with this and makes the planning part that much more fun. I’m looking forward to starting our blog for the trip. Thanks again and good luck with your studies (and travels)!

      Ryan

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    3. A large map to plot things out sounds like a cool idea. We don't have any large maps of Japan, though I did try this with google earth for our third trip. I'd like to just have a big map so we can mark all of the places we've been as well. It's very usual to see things visually.

      Currently we have nothing planned for our U.S visit, mainly because we've been busy planning our next Japan Trip (3 weeks away now!). I would really like to visit the grand canyon (I studied geology in undergrad), New York and the Capital (Washington DC). Things like the hoover damn interest me too, but we'll have to investigate what we can fit in considering how spread out everything is. I'd like to visit the sites related to space travel. Seeing a rocket launch would be amazing, though Florida seems to be a long diversion. I'm sure we'll discover more places when it's time to plan.

      I'm sure transportation options in the US are at least more convenient than Australia. Lots of places here don't even have roads, or do have roads but only for half the year. However, snow is something that is not really seen here except in a few of our tallest mountains (which are not tall). So I have no experience driving in or dealing with snow, so we'll have to be mindful of that if we plan to hire a car- also driving on the wrong side of the road in a concern. Though I get the feeling that the US has intercity buses which may be useful.

      I've also heard it's hard to get food not covered in butter/mayonnaise. We have no idea how tipping works either- so we'll have to read up more on that.

      I guess we'll find out a lot more when it comes time to plan that trip!

      What you're planning to do with your Japan trip sounds good, I would recommend perhaps having some sort of backup in case it's really raining. No doubt it will rain at least one of the days you're there and sometimes it's alright to do something less good indoors than suffering outside.

      Hmm, something I was underwhelmed with in Tokyo was the imperial palace. You can't see anything except for the outside walls, so I would not worry about going there :).

      The shrines in Nikko are really nice, but there's not too many there about half a day's worth which is not too excessive.

      Some of the more modern, but fun things to do in Japan are a bit harder to find information about. Some examples that we're done or are planning are: Karaoke, Cat Cafe, Sports-Cha at Round One, Indoor Go-Karts, Concerts.

      We'd like to see the Sumo too- I think there's a tournament in Tokyo in May?

      Thanks for leaving a comment once again! When you do make a blog let me know as it's always fun reading about other peoples experiences!

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    4. You're going again?! I'm so jealous.

      I did create my first blog post just to get it going and put down some ideas (http://japlanning.blogspot.com/). You can see it here if you'd like; it contains an image of what we did for our East Coast U.S. trip.

      We just put up our map of Japan on the wall and have started mapping out places, using different post-its for where we definitely want to go and places that are maybes so we can research more. We are also going to get more detailed maps of some of the major cities so we can start to see where everything is that we want to do.

      Grand Canyon, NYC, and Washington DC are all great sites (I haven't been to Hoover Dam yet; my only trip to Las Vegas consisted purely of casino time but I'd like to see it next time I go). Your interests are pretty spread out (New York City to Grand Canyon is almost a 40 hour drive) but you're right in that you are able to drive across the entire country without issues.

      One of my good friends did a road trip around the entire country a few years ago and hit almost every state (I believe he went for a month, maybe 2).

      You'll avoid snow as long as you go any time between May and September. I'm in Minnesota, our most northern/cold continental state and while today the high is -5F/-21C, we can hit +100F/+38C (and average about +80F/+26C) in the summer. Both of those are on the extreme end and the rest of the country is much more mild throughout most of the year.

      Thanks for the tip about rain, I'll have to look into some backup plans, and umbrellas...although it sounds like those are commonly snatched while dining :)

      Thanks again for your response and I look forward to hearing about the rest of this trip and your upcoming one!

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    5. Haha, yes... We've caught the bug!

      We more or less live for our holidays and generally live frugally the rest of the year. The money saving habits of our university student days hasn't worn off yet...

      Japan is also quite accessible for us too, it costs about the same to fly to Japan (on a special) and back as it does to fly to the other end of Australia... And they're basically the same timezone as us too (so no jetlag!). We're going to venture out to Korea this time though.

      Using maps like that is a very cool idea. Oh I left you a comment on your blog! It looks good! I enjoyed reading your entry

      Really makes mine look lazy actually as I'm still using the default background colours and such... I like your background.

      As well as the Japan book we also tried something different this time:
      http://i.imgur.com/quduLwF.png

      I think this will be our most highly planned trip! Though there's always room for flexibility.

      I don't think we have any gambling restrictions here in Australia, so casino's are not too interesting to us, though of course I've heard the las vegas casinos are an event event even if you don't gamble.

      Yes I think we'd plan to fly long distances and maybe hire a car to say drive out to the grand canyon. I'll have to check flight costs though, and remember that petrol costs almost nothing in the USA (heh).

      Well... Due to university we'll have to go in our summer (your winter), and probably November. So maybe snow will be an issue after all. Hmm.

      For umbrellas, if you buy in Japan, and you might as well, I would recommend splurging and getting a 1000yen ($10) brolly from a convenience store that will shrink down. The 200 yen see through plastic ones are tempting- but flimsy, and hard to hold when it's not raining! Invest in a practical brolly is my advice.

      Hopefully I'll be able to most the next entry soon! I've written it, so I just need to proof-read and add photos!

      I really want to spend less time writing less but I just can't seem to help it!

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    6. I've heard Korea is great; my little brother lived there for a year when he was in university and loved every minute. He graduated last May and is now living in China and teaches English. He has traveled all over Asia during his two trips and I would not be surprised if he ends up abroad for the next several years.

      Thanks for reading my blog! Work has been extremely busy lately so we haven't been able to put much time in for planning (also have our wedding to finish planning and I keep getting reminded that that takes priority, as well as a trip to Hawaii a year from now (almost to the week from today) so we will switch focuses for a bit.

      That detailed itinerary is amazing! I love that you guys find the lesser known activities/sites to try like the paper making and noodle making classes in Minakami from your last trip.

      Las Vegas has plenty to do outside of gambling; it is a pretty one of a kind place, for good and for bad. There are a lot of great restaurants there and a lot of great shows to see. The weather in (our) winter is also pretty mild so that's a plus.

      November weather can be pretty unpredictable, it can either be fairly mild or you can get snowstorms. If you're going during then I would recommend starting in the northern states (NYC, DC) if possible for the best chance of avoiding the cold/snow. Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, California, etc should still have mild weather even if you're traveling later in the year.

      If you can go a bit earlier (late October) you would be hitting peak fall foliage in the east coast with the mountains changing color.

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