ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “railway

CHUBU (中部地方) 2018, Japan, 2018.05.25 – 06.03

In June 2017, we made a 5-day trip to Tokyo for a short getaway.  Last time, we spent most of the time in the bustling capital, with only a full day excursion to visit the World Heritage temples and Alpine scenery of Nikko.  A year had passed.  In late May 2018, we embarked on another Japanese journey to explore parts of Chubu Region (中部地方), the central region of Honshu (本州) between Kantō Region (関東地方) and Kansai Region (関西地方).  The journey took us to the Prefecture of Nagano (長野県), Gifu (岐阜県), Toyama (富山県), and Ishikawa (石川県).  We picked Kamikochi (上高地), a picturesque hiker’s hub in the Japanese Alps, and the charming city of Kanazawa (金沢) as main destinations, stopping by Matsumoto (松本), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉), Takayama (高山), Shirakawago (白川郷) and Gokayama (五箇山) along the way.  We planned for five days in the city and five in the countryside, aiming for a balance between cosmopolitan and nature fascinations.  It turned out to be a delightful and diverse experience with mouth-watering seafood, refreshing Alpine hiking, invigorating hot-springs, romantic Gassho-style villages, cozy morning markets, and a magical floating lantern festival.

Once again, our journey began in an early morning in Tokyo (東京), after our red-eye flight landed at Haneda International Airport (羽田空港) a little after 6am.  At the airport, we first went to pick up our railway tickets and seat reservations at the JR office.  It was convenient to make online reservations to ensure seat availability on trains of our desired schedule, but that didn’t save us from queuing for an hour before we reached the JR counter and finalized our purchases.  We then braved the rush hour taking the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsuchō (浜松町駅), and switched to the JR Yamanote Line (山手線) to Shinjuku to drop off our backpacks at the hotel.  After all the sweat of moving through the jammed platforms, cramped train cars and busy streets of Shinjuku (新宿) with our backpacks, time was perfect for a hearty breakfast to kick start our first day.  We decided to take the Marunouchi Metro Line to revisit Tsukiji Market (築地市場), the legendary fish market that was about to be relocated later this year.

map japan 2018 finalOur journey took us from Tokyo (東京) to parts of the Chubu Region (中部地方), staying overnight at Kamikochi (上高地), Shirahone Onsen (白骨温泉), Takayama (高山), Gokayama (五箇山), and Kanazawa (金沢), and passed by Matsumoto (松本) and Shirakawago (白川郷) along the way.

IMG_8054Our plane flew over the iconic Mount Fuji (富士山) before landing at Haneda International Airport of Tokyo.

DSC_5785We hopped on the Tokyo Monorail from Haneda Airport to Hamamatsuchō (浜松町駅).  The train was soon packed with morning commuters after a few stops.

IMG_8061We arrived at the packed Hamamatsuchō Station (浜松町駅) and switched to JR’s Yamanote Line (山手線) heading for Shinjuku (新宿).

DSC_5788It was such a relief after dropping off our backpacks at the hotel in Shinjuku (新宿) and ventured out to Tsukiji Market (築地市場) for a seafood breakfast.

 

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DAY 4 (6/6): RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.06

It was already past 7pm when our Kintetsu express train arrived at Kyoto Station from Nara.  We decided to check out the Kyoto Ramen Koji (Kyoto Ramen Street) on the 10th floor of the station for a quick dinner.  We took the escalators up to the famous Daikaidan (Grand Staircase).  The Daikaidan stretched from 4th floor all the way up to the sky garden on the 15th floor.  Architect Hiroshi Hara specifically provided a stage on the 4th floor, while the staircase would become an enormous amphitheater.  There was no performance when we were there.  Instead, the stage was occupied by a large Christmas Tree.  The lights changed colours according to the background music.

07The big Christmas Tree occupied the open space on the 4th floor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom the Christmas Tree we walked up the Daikaidan (Grand Staircase) to the 10th floor for our ramen dinner.

05There was a strip of LED lights at the nosing of each step.  The lights changed colours constantly.

04With the LED lights on each step, the entire staircase became a giant screen of festive animations.

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We entered the building on the 10th floor, and could immediately smell the pork ramen and feel the warmth of the atmosphere.  Here at Kyoto Ramen Koji (Kyoto Ramen Street), there were about ten different ramen restaurants, representing the ramen style from different parts of Japan.  We ended up picking Masutani (ますたに), a Kyoto based ramen restaurant established since 1948.

01We queued in front of the restaurant for about 20 minutes and then ordered our ramen from the machine by the entrance.

02Once inside, we handed the tickets to the staff and sat down by a wooden counter.

03After several minutes, our hot and delicious ramen arrived, a perfect answer for the chilly night!

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After the tasty ramen, we didn’t want to go back to the hotel yet.  In front of Kyoto Station, we hopped on a night bus bounded westwards.  Our destination was the ROHM Illumination Festival 2016.  With 800,000 light bulbs lighting up 82 trees along Kasuga Dori, ROHM Illumination is the biggest annual Christmas lighting event in Kyoto since 1995.  ROHM, a Japanese semiconductor manufacturer based in Kyoto sponsored the event annually to light up the immediate area of its office in town.  The light show was smaller than similar events in other large cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, it did however transform a tranquil neighborhood into a romantic, glittering and festive promenade of lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe entrance of Kasuga Dori was guarded by the two Yamamomo Trees (Chinese bayberry) covered with dazzling lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Yamamomo Trees were round in shape, perfect for turning into spheres of lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKasuga Dori was lined both sides with 20 metasequoias, all dressed up with tiny light bulbs to create the luminous promenade.

11With the lighting, the yellow crowns of the metasequoias appeared as if on fire.

12Two types of light bulbs were used, small LED and twinkling incandescent lights.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lights transformed the small Nagura Park into a romantic public venue.

14Families and kids were having fun in Nagura Park.

15Under different music, the LED balls on the ground and the 13.5m (h) by 9m (w) LED screen made use the lawn next to the Nagura Park to put together the “Ensemble of Light”.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKids had a good time at the playground and the light show.

17Antique cars somehow blended in well with the ambience of the light festival.

18At 9:30pm, we turned back to the entrance of Kasuga Dori and had a final look at the two for the trip’s last day.

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 1 (1/6): ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan, 2016.12.03

Our departure schedule to Kansai International Airport (関西国際空港) was far from ideal.  It was a red-eye flight departing from Hong Kong at 1:50am and arrived in Japan at around 6:30am.  At the airport, we picked up our pre-ordered Haruka Express ticket from the JR ticket office and rushed to the platform for the Kyoto bound express train that was about to leave.  The train sped past towns and suburbs along Osaka Bay and reached Osaka in about 40 minutes.  From Osaka, the train took another half an hour to reach Kyoto.  Opened in 1997, the current Kyoto Railway Station is a futuristic building made of glass and steel trusses, with an enormous atrium and a huge stepped plaza reaching multiple storeys up to the sky garden 70m above ground.  We stepped out the station for a quick peek of Kyoto Tower, the city’s tallest structure opened in 1964 coinciding with the Tokyo Olympics.  Together with the modern railway station, the tower often comes as a surprise for tourists who come to Kyoto expecting to see an 1200-year-old ancient city.

We took the escalators down to the subway, topped up our Icoca cards that we kept from our previous Kansai trip, and managed to board the train with our suitcase and backpack.  Our designation was Higashiyama Station (東山駅) on the Tozai Line.  We reached Higashiyama Station at a peaceful residential neighborhood sandwiched between two of Kyoto’s popular tourist areas: Northern Higashiyama (Nanzenji, Ginkakuji, etc) and Southern Higashiyama (Gion, Kiyomizu-dera, etc).  At Higashiyama Station, we purchased a city bus pass for the day and picked up a handy bus map.  We crossed the street and walked into a quiet alleyway right beside the crystal clear Shirakawa River (白川).  We reached Eco and Tech, a 2-star budget hotel that we would call it home for the next five days.  After checking in, we immediately headed out to the bus stop near Sanjo Station (三条駅) and Kamo River (鴨川).  Before arriving in Japan, we had already decided to begin our Kyoto visit at the northwest part of the city where the cluster of three famous temples Ryoanji (龍安寺), Ninnaji (仁和寺) and Kinkakuji (金閣寺) are located.  According to online updates of the autumn foliage at Kyoto’s main attractions, Ryoanji (龍安寺) and Ninnaji Temple (仁和寺) were two possible places where we might still encounter peak autumn foliage.  Because of the recent cold weather, the autumn foliage of 2016 came earlier than usual.  By the time we arrived on Dec 3rd, the fall foliage at most places had already passed the peak.  The bus ride took over half an hour.  It was sunny and we took a brief rest on the bus under the late morning sun.

01Our plane landed at Kansai International Airport (関西国際空港) at about 6:30am.  Despite a sleepless night, we were very excited upon arriving.

02We left the airport and over to the railway station for JR’s Haruka Express train.

04Upon arriving at Kyoto, we were overwhelmed by the steel trusses and overhead catwalks at the huge atrium of the futuristic Kyoto Station.

03A large Christmas tree on the organic shaped platform looked small under the huge atrium roof.

05Across the street from Kyoto Station stood the tallest structure in the city, Kyoto Tower.

06Advertisements on the subway train reminded us that the special night visits to a number of temples were available during the autumn foliage season until 4th of December.  Arriving in Kyoto on the 3rd of December, we made just on time for the night visits.

14-kyoto-bus-mapMany Kyoto’s attractions can be accessed only by public bus.  We picked up a bus map from the ticket office at Higashiyama Subway Station, which proved really handy over the next few days.

07We managed to carry our suitcase up the stairs and finally reached the exit of Higashiyama Station.

11Following online instruction, we crossed a bridge at Shirakawa River (白川) on our way to our hotel.

08aA local couple dressed in traditional costumes were taking photos on a stone bridge at Shirakawa River (白川).

09Eco and Tech Hotel is located in a quiet residential neighborhood away from the tourist crowds.

10Eco and Tech Hotel.

15-websiteWe checked the website http://souda-kyoto.jp/travel/koyo/ for the autumn foliage at Kyoto’s main attractions almost daily for at least a week before departure.  We decided to head to Ryoanji Temple on our first day because of its peak colours.

13We walked to a bus stop near Kamo River (鴨川) and Sanjo Station (三条駅) for Bus 59 heading towards Ryoanji Temple (龍安寺).

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Our posts on 2016 Kyoto and Nara:
OUR FIRST KYOTO STORY, Japan
DAY 1: ARRIVAL AT HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: RYOANJI TEMPLE (龍安寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NINNAJI TEMPLE (仁和寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KINKAKUJI TEMPLE (金閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: KITANO TENMANGU SHRINE (北野天満宮), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 1: NIGHT AT KIYOMIZU-DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: MORNING STROLL IN SOUTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA (清水寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: KIYOMIZU DERA to KENNINJI, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: ○△□ and Chouontei Garden and Ceiling of Twin Dragons, KENNINJI TEMPLE (建仁寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: SFERA BUILDING (スフェラ・ビル), SHIRKAWA GION (祇園白川), KAMO RIVER (鴨川) & DOWNTOWN, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 2: YAKITORI HITOMI (炭焼創彩鳥家 人見), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: MORNING IN NORTHERN HIGASHIYAMA (北東山), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: NANZENJI (南禅寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: PHILOSOPHER’S PATH (哲学の道), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: HONENIN (法然院), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: GINKAKUJI (銀閣寺), Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 3: CRAB AND SAKE, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 4: HORYUJI (法隆寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: TODAIJI TEMPLE (東大寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KASUGA TAISHA (春日大社), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: KOFUKUJI (興福寺), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: NAKAGAWA MASASHICHI SHOTEN (中川政七商店 遊中川), Nara (奈良), Japan
DAY 4: RAMEN & CHRISTMAS LIGHTS, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 1, Kyoto (京都), Japan
DAY 5: FUSHIMI INARI SHRINE (伏見稲荷大社) Part 2, Kyoto, Japan
DAY 5: FAREWELL KYOTO, Kyoto, Japan


DAY 85 (1 OF 3) – ASCENSORES, VALPARAISO, CHILE

Since 1883, ascensores (funiculars) have been a crucial transportation in Valparaiso to connect the hills with El Plan, the flat lower section of the city right by the sea. In its heyday, 26 ascensores ran up and down the steep hills of Valparaiso. Over the years, many ascensores retired from service. No matter in service or not, many ascensores have been declared Historical Monuments by the National Monuments Council. Today, less than a dozen are still in operation to provide convenience for its citizens and tourists. Taking ascensores to go up or down the hills of Valparaiso (which takes only a few minutes) has become an experience unique to this World Heritage city.
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Read other posts on Santiago and Valparaiso in 2013 South America:

Day 83.1 – Mercado Central, Santiago
Day 83.2 – Museums & Cultural Centre, Santiago
Day 84.1 – Centro Cultural Palacio la Moneda, Santiago
Day 84.2 – Arrival, Cerro Artilleria, Valparaiso
Day 85.1 – Ascensores, Valparaiso
Day 85.2 – Paella Lunch, Valparaiso
Day 85.3 – Cerros Alegre and Concepcion, Valparaiso
Day 86.1 – Hill of Colours, Valparaiso
Day 86.2 – Trolleybuses, Valparaiso
Day 86.3 – Casa Museo la Sebastiana, Valparaiso
Day 86.4 – Seafood, Valparaiso
Day 87 – New Year’s Fireworks, Valparaiso

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought