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Setouchi: Uwajima

This is the third day in Setouchi!

Read my previous post on Uchiko,  Matsuyama and introduction on Setouchi.

Highlight of the trip. HAHAHA. CHEESIE SAMURAI !!! (Omg don’t I sound like a burger??)

 

HomeAway Accommodation

I loooove the second listing! It was also a building from the Meiji Era, which means that it has been over 100 year old, but has been refurbished to mint condition.

This is our room in the attic, very very comfy!

Stair pose lol.

One of the great things about the suburbs of Japan, is getting back in touch with nature. And also surprise guests. Surprise guests are awesome. Or creepy. Depends. Especially when they show up quietly right at your backyard lol.

This little surprise guest called on us early in the morning, politely observing our make up routine. Would you… like some tea? Or orange juice?

I do. Haha.

I cannot emphasize enough how thoughtful our hosts (Onishi san and his wife) were. The first morning we had a traditional Japanese spread. And today it was Western delight on the table.

Warm toast with layered Uchiko ham, potato salad and greens, grilled Zucchini and absolutely juicy Japanese melon. Love.

Fully charged for a day out!!

 

Uwajima (宇和島)

The third day is rather relaxing. We were going to this small coastal city. A little info on Uwajima on Japan Guide:

Being a coastal city, Uwajima supports a couple of industries related to the sea, such as fishing and pearl cultivating. It is one of the top pearl producers in Japan. Local specialties include Taimeshi (a dish of rice and sea bream) and Jakoten (fish cake). The waterfront around the city offers great coastal scenery. Uwajima is also known for the bull fight events that it stages five times a year.

Ok so we did the pearl cultivating, ate Taimeshi, enjoyed the coastal views but what we did not know, until right this moment after I read up about Uwajima, that there was a Fertility Shrine with a giant penis right alongside the shrine. (no you didn’t read that wrong).

Shrine and… penis?

I didn’t think that I would ever use these two words in the same sentence. That’s totally nuts.

In case you are wondering, it’s real.

And wait, that’s not all.

Apparently, next to the shrine hall stands a museum that showcases the priest’s collection of international and domestic pornographic materials.

Wait what?

Priest? Porn?

Ok this blog post is getting too weird. My apology.

But it is totally real.

But yea. Please do visit this Japanese Penis Shrine that I regrettably did not go.

 

Tenshaen Garden (天赦園)

We met our guide from Uwajima city and they gave us a welcome gift: a transformation.

Samurai Chiji and Samurai Chanwon.

That thing was so heavy especially the headgear, it was giving us a headache after. We headed to a lovely Japanese garden for an impromptu photo session.

有没有很有威严? lolol

After that 摇身一变又变回姑娘 HAHAHA. Actually this was really how I was after taking off the amor. I felt like Mulan lolol. Hair bun still got volume, not bad ok!!

This is one of the famed scene of this garden. During spring in April, you will get to see “Nobori-Fuji”, the white wisteria blossoming on the arch.

Flower in season. Can you picture us posing like this, against such sweet background, in our Samurai outfit just now? LOL

Or this.

Or this. HAHAHA

 

Coastal

Uwajima, despite its Kanji “宇和島”, is not an island. It is though, facing the Bungo Channel that separates Kyushu from Shikoku.

On a day when weather is clear, you can actually see the Kyushu island from Uwajima’s coast.

Looking over Oita Prefecture. The little lines of floating box in the sea is actually seabream farming. Because Uwajima is famous for its Tai (seabream)!!

Yeap! That’s our “Taimeshi”, seabream rice! It’s really simple. You get slices of Tai sashimi, a bowl of warm rice, a raw egg and a small bowl of soy sauce.

You eat it just like TKG (Tamago Kake Gohan), but with fish topping. Yummy!

Uwajima has really beautiful waters.

Our guide brought us here. It was a cafe by the sea. But the cafe was closed. And there wasn’t anything around. But we just sat down here, enjoying the gentle sounds of the sea waves… It was super nice. I’d actually love more itinerary like this.

Uwajima Pearl

Another thing that Uwajima is famous for, is their pearls.

At the Doi Pearl Farm.

If you are interested, you can get a 見学 tour on how Uwajima’s pearls are harvested, and also get a DIY pearl accessory session!

These are our handmade pearl necklaces! ^^

You can visit Doi Pearl for more.

And also Uwajima’s Official Sightseeing Guide here for more travel info! ^^

 

Dinner at Kanda (神田)

We headed back to Uchiko for dinner at this traditional Japanese restaurant called Kanda. It’s pretty popular among the locals, and it was quite a surprise for us because we totally did not expect the food to look this pretty.

Like, really pretty!!

Tai sashimi with floral headband. That’s all the trend now right? Hahaha.

This chicken dish was so delicious!

Everything must be so colorful and festive.

 

Shopping

We went back to our HomeAway accommodation early, of course we could not just end our day like that.

When there’s chance for shopping, never miss any. Hahaha.

So we went to a mega drugstore and Chanwon bought her 6 month worth of tooth paste, toilet fragrance, cotton pad and mosquito coils.

Yes I’m not kidding. We visited to a ryokan the day before in Ishidatami, and the ryokan smelled sooo good so I asked the host what kind of incense she was using. She blushed a little and replied, a little embarrassed, “it’s … katori senko(蚊取り線香).” Errr.

JAPAN. You want to do until like this or not.😮

Mosquito Coil also must smell good. That’s too much. Just too much.

Anyway. Another thing to add to your Japan shopping list. Mosquito coils. Yeap.

So apparently the drugstore sells also frozen pasta. Awesome.

And I’m still actively brainwashing all of you how ridiculously cheap Japan is. Pasta. Ok. ONE PROPER MEAL. 178 yen.

Salt. ONE KG. Ok. 1KG ah. 88 yen. And it is Seto Inland Sea Salt. Branded salt leh. From the sparkling sea!!!

This was what I bought from the combini. Meiji “THE Chocolate”. So apparently this is really THE chocolate. Soooo good. I recommend raspberry, gianduja  and dark cocoa (70%). Sooooo good. Oh and also Tomica for Junya! They sold Tomica in LAWSON omg!!

That’s all for now. Still got summore ok hahaha. You wait.

If you are planning your holiday soon, do check out HomeAway to book your vacation home.

Don’t forget to use the code “HOMEAWAYCHEESIE” for 8% off!!

www.homeaway.asia

The journey continues. Stay tuned!

 

 

 

Setouchi: Uchiko

This is the second day in Setouchi!

Read my previous post on Matsuyama and introduction on Setouchi.

Highlight of the trip.

 

We arrived at Uchiko from Matsuyama, the capital city of Ehime Prefecture. You may get to Uchiko from Matsuyama by express (25 minutes) or local train (1 hour), and it is covered by Japan Rail Pass if you have one. ^^

Uchiko is a traditional small town in Ehime Prefecture, which can be entirely covered on foot. It was once a prosperous center of wax and washi (Japanese paper) production.

HomeAway Accommodation

Good morning Uchiko!

Checking out of our first HomeAway accommodation!

Before that, we had a gorgeous breakfast just downstairs of our room! In my previous post I have mentioned that our accommodation is also a cafe. It was really like we were staying in a traditional ryokan! And the chef was… our host!!

Omg would you look at that!! Onishi San and his wife conjured up this amazing traditional Japaese breakfast at 7:30am so we could start the day early.

Did you see how many mini dishes are there??? There shirasu (whitebait) with myoga, tomato with sweetpea, pan fried Jyakoten fish cake (super super delicious!), Goma tofu, soybean and konbu, tamagoyaki, yamaimo, beansprout namul and yuba (beancurd skin) with sweet miso, served with steaming hot rice and miso soup.

I want to eat breakfast like this every single dayyyy 😭😭😭…

Love love love!

The cafe is connected to the accommodation’s courtyard, if you have some extra time you can also take your time to relax here.

 

 

And then we started our day with just a relaxing leisure stroll around the area.

Outside the cafe (accommodation).

Uchiko is quiet and pleasant with friendly folks greeting you as they walk pass. It is full of traditional shop houses preserved from a hundred years ago.

Of course, it is also a great place for pictures!

At Hachiman Shrine in town.

Just now I mentioned about Jykoten served at breakfast, I loved it so much that I hunted for it!! Jyakoten is an Ehime specialty, which has a long history dated back to the Edo period. If you have a chance please try it!!

Unfortunately it requires fridge storage so it is hard to bring back as souvenir. I however bought a box at Matsuyama airport and brought it back to Singapore (via Haneda) for the danna. You can request for ice packs for longer storage during the flight 🙂

Uchiko Fresh Park Karari

One of the charming spots in Uchiko is Fresh Park Karari, a road station (Michi-no-eki) that is super popular with tourists from other prefecture. Apparently it is also chosen as one of the top 6 most scenic road station in the country!

You will first past through a local farmer’s market where fresh local vegetables are sold.

SOOOOO CHEAP ok!!! I once bought a zucchini from Meidiya at Liang Court for $9. ONE ZUCCHINI.

And then you will arrive at a hanging bridge called the Karari Bridge, above the Oda River.

Wait till you see the scenery!!

It is super beautiful omg… 😭

The water is clear until… you can also see the water glistening as the fishes swim through.

Next to the bridge is a lovely restaurant called Kakari Restaurant that is brightly lit by natural sunlight and… surrounded by beautifully refreshing greeneries.

No wonder it is called the Fresh Park. I felt very, very refreshed indeed.

 

Ishidatami 

Ishidatami is one of the smallest hamlets that forms Uchiko. Ishidatami prides itself for the Weeping Sakura in spring time, so you may want to time your visit!

One of the most famous spots in Ishidatami is this scene.

With an old arched bridge spanning a large pond, leading to Yuge Shrine (弓削神社).

This shrine is soooooo beautiful especially with rays of sunshine giving it a magical aura. It’s a perfect place to regain your peace. There’s a Torii gate in front of the shrine and if you look carefully, there are lots of tiny stones on top of the gate!! It is said that if you make a wish and throw a stone, if the stone lands on the Torii gate and stays there, your wish will come true.

 

Uchiko Machinami Kimono Experience

This was not originally in our itinerary. We were talking a walk in Yokaichi (八日市), the historic district in Uchiko and we saw a pamphlet on Kimono rental service at one of the handicraft artisan shophouses.

Usually you have to make an appointment, but we were sooooo lucky to be able to get a slot by walking in!!

The Kimono rental & fitting is 3,300 yen, and you can wear it to take a stroll in the traditional district of Uchiko!!

You can make your reservation at Uchiko Town Visitor’s Center (reception from 9:00-16:00), or call 0893443790.

^^

The lovely hair accessories is made with washi by volunteers in old folks home, and it was only 200 yen each omg. You can purchase it as souvenir or to complement your kimono. ^^

 

Uchiko Town Visitor’s Center

If you need information or brochures in your language, you can make a visit to the Visitor’s Center.

Look!!! This is where we stayed in Uchiko with HomeAway the previous night!!

And this is where we will check in on this day haha.

If you are a fan of Ghibli, you will also be delighted to know that the center displays arts from Ghibli Studio staff!

Looks familiar? 😀 The covered bridge to Yuge Shrine!

This is painted by by the Ghibli crew when they were here for their stay. It looks super Ghibli doesn’t it?

Messages from the team.

 

Soba Restaurant -Shimohaga Tei

You have to have your lunch at this soba specialty shop.

I had my luxurious soba set that includes a bowl of Zaru soba, a mini mixed grain onigiri, prawn and vegetable tempura, simmered vegetables and ribs, a dish side dish, pickles and… super fluffy cheesecake served with a strawberry yougurt, all for…

1400 yen.

(SGD17)

It’s so ridiculous!!! This is why, you must come to the suburbs of Japan. Everything is extra affordable and of course delicious!

 

Uchiko-Za

Uchiko-Za is a fully operational kabuki theater in the center of town, built over 100 years ago, and is all Uchiko residents’ pride. We were there just in time for a drum performance by the local junior high school students.

Don’t we just blend into the beautiful traditional Kabuki theatre? 😀

Visitors can enter Uchiko-za and explore the many trap doors and hidden passageways around the stage. Kabuki stages are known for their elaborate design, allowing for sudden dissapearances, dramatic entrances and the like. I was very overwhelmed, it was like I have entered a scene of the past in the olden era of Japan…

I absolutely love how beautiful the wooden ceiling is.

Waiting for the show to begin.

Haha do we look like we came from 100 years ago? 😀

Even if you are not a traditional cultural performance enthusiast, I guarantee that you will enjoy the performance just like I did.

 

The teenagers has put up such a fabulous show that at that point of time, I briefly considered getting Sakura to join the Taiko club in the future, because the girls (and guys, of course) are sooooooo kakkoii. Super.

I loved it. I loved it so much.

The finale left a lot of audience in tears because the  graduating students gave their goodbye speech, and I, a visitor who had no relationship whatsoever with anyone there, were secretly wiping tears off my face omg.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable show, I was so glad and so lucky to be there.

 

Yokaichi Old Town 

Uchiko town has been blessed with an ancient history district which has been lovingly restored to its former glory, and most of the buildings now serve as museums, souvenir stalls, craft shops, accommodation houses and charming teahouses. It is a little like Kyoto, minus the crazy tourist crowds. Walking in Yokaichi gives you one of the most authentic experience of stepping into the past of Japan history.

There are many interesting shophouses for you to explore. Some of the stores are even unmanned, and you buy the souvenirs by dropping the coins into a designated box. Trust is what connect the people together in this little town.

Egg… vinegar?😲

Ok this, is weird. Haha.

Apparently it’s been featured on national TV as one of the best health drinks!!

This cheerful Ojisan found this Egg Vinegar company!

The picturesque Yokaichi town.

So quietly peaceful.

Back to the Hachiman Shrine in kimono!

So yes, I would definitely recommend making a trip to Uchiko, book your Kimono rental and fitting and take a stroll and blend into the old world of elegance.

I mean… the entire town is yours. No waiting forever for tourists to walk out of the camera frame, (or bo bian just capture them all into your photos lol). No getting hit by other people’s selfie sticks in your face…

It was awesome.

Meanwhile, other things that you can also in Uchiko is Uchiko’s traditional art and craft such as hand-made Washi (Japanese paper), an absolutely luxurious residence called Kamihaga Residence originally resided by Uchiko’s most influential family, the Honhaga.

 

Day 2 HomeAway Accommodation

That night, we checked into the second HomeAway listing in Uchiko.

If you are planning your holiday soon, do check out HomeAway to book your vacation home.

Don’t forget to use the code “HOMEAWAYCHEESIE” for 8% off!!

www.homeaway.asia

The journey continues. Stay tuned!

I Never Expire

June 28, 2017 in Commercial Break 6 Cheesed

I am 33 this year. Typing this alone gives me a little bit of a shock. Admittedly I have not really liked to mention about my age because I feel that doing this is putting a lot of limitation and attracting unnecessary stereotype on myself.

There was once, during an influencer selection for a campaign, I had to tick “NO” at the “are you under 30” column and then I was immediately rejected from the job HAHAHAHAHA. Ouch.

If only the world operates without the label of age. Imagine that! You will no longer need to shop for age-appropriate clothing, answer to your relatives why you are not married at 28 during CNY reunion dinners, have awkward “how old do you think I look” guesses, and hesitate to buy all the Hello Kitty stuff lol.

If I am not bound by the label of age, what do I want to do?

Oh boy… lots and lots. .

FIRST I WANT TO WEAR A FURISODE AND DO A 成人式 PHOTOSHOOT. It was a chance I missed a dream that can never come true… 😢)

(Furisode is style of kimono worn by young unmarried women in Japan, particularly for the Coming Of Age ceremony – Seijinshiki (成人式) at the age of 20 for a girl. It usually has very bright colors like red and pink, with cute embellishment. I wore it for a tourism job last year and the kimono shop owner said that it is an exception only because I was doing it for PR purpose. It would be too weird for a married, let alone pregnant woman to be wearing Furisode lol. Usually married women in Japan can only wear very tone-down Kimono that’s simple and dull in color…😢)

(Age 32, pregnant. lolol)

And then, I want to tie twin tails and wear pastel gingham dresses, walk down Harajuku and queue up after all the teenagers for cotton candies. And then I’ll do a summer course in a Japanese high school. I’ll pick one with really cute seifuku (school uniform). And then go chase stars and fangirl over all the cute Japanese actors. And then I want to go dating with the danna in Disneyland wearing matching head gears like Bakkapuru (Baka Couple) lol.

All of these have become dreams of the distant past that is not gonna happen because I am aware of my own age. Of course I can pretend to be 22 (and I am quite confident that I can pass off if I try hard enough HAHAHHA), but… I guess this is how self-consciousness works haha.

People always have social expectations of what you can or cannot do at a certain age. How you should behave. What you should be wearing. What you should have achieved.

But why should they? They are not you. You are the only one in this world who should be in charged of who you want to be.

I just watched this video about how most Asian women are believed to have an “expiry date”, where she becomes less attractive and less desirable as she ages.

In Japan this is especially true, as unmarried women over 25 is referred to as “Christmas Cake” – nobody wants anymore after the 25th. Although the average age of Japanese women getting married is higher and higher nowadays so they changed the term to “Toshikoshi Soba” (年越しそば), a type of noodle that Japanese usually eat on the 31st of December. So now Japanese women’s expiry date is stretched up to 31 year old haha.

Watch:

Can you imagine if we actually get an expiry stamp just like the women in this video? It indeed reflects the sad truth that “getting older” is really seen quite negatively by women especially in Asia.

In SK-II’s survey, apparently 1 out of 3 women in Asia feel that there’s a pre-decided timeline for how to live your life and when to do things (marriage, career, education, kids etc) that they are expected to follow. I too, was one of them who felt the pressure. No one particularly rushed me to find a partner or to get married, but I felt that I had to rush, for no particular reasons.

I am so unbelievably lucky to have met the danna, got married at 28 and had the first child by 30 (thank you Hakone!!). But had I been less lucky, I could have met any regular a-hole and settled down just because I felt the need to, and have an unhappy marriage just to regret it years later.

The survey also shows that only 2 out of 10 women in Asia describe themselves as comfortable with the idea of getting older. Am I worried about getting older? Yes, sometimes I am. But then I will ask myself this: Am I happier now than 10 years ago?

The answer is a resounding yes. So I guess getting older does not matter so much to me in this case. Staying happy does. Doing what I love does.

The society needs to change. It is a wonderful world with soooooo many things to pursue, and marriage is only one of them. You own your freedom. Seeing the world, doing what you are passionate about, falling in love… it doesn’t need a sequence.

Thank you SK-II for the inspiration, always. I still remember the Dream Again video by SK-II that made me so teary, because I can so so so relate to it. Thank you for reminding us women that we can always dream, whoever we have become, whenever we want.

Find out more with the hashtags #INeverExpire #changedestiny #inpartnershipwithskii #skii @ski . 🙂

Setouchi: Matsuyama

This is Day 1 of our Setouchi X HomeAway trip. (Read previous post here .)

Highlight of the trip.^^

I am so thankful for HomeAway because it helped me unlock my 28th Prefecture: Ehime.

First time in Matsuyama Airport!

So Chanwon and I took a flight from Changi to Haneda via JAL, which landed at 5am in the morning ahead of time, and we were in luck because we had to rush over to the domestic departure after a loooong line clearing the immigration, for our connecting flight to Matsuyama. We got there just in time!

MATSUYAMA

Matsuyama is the capital city of Ehime Prefecture. And when you mention Ehime, the first thing that comes to mind is… mikan (蜜柑) – The Japanese orange/mandarin.

So basically you get mikan everything here in Ehime. Mikan Sake, Mikan Chocolate, Mikan Juice, Mikan Rice… I’m serious. The Japanese school canteen serves Japanese-orange mixed rice. Haha.

Guess what welcomes us right at the arrival hall of Matsuyama airport? That’s right! A Mikan Juice Tower!

Completed the most important mission at Ehime prefecture 5 minutes after landing, and that is… hunting for my Gotochi Kitty!!

Bought four of it (and a couple more on the following days).

Of course, Mikan kitty.

Mikan Juice Factory

So, what was first on our itinerary?

We went straight to 10 Factory, the ultimate Mikan juice specialty store in Matsuyama.

Check this out!! This is the Mikan Family Tree (a sort-of accidental pun here?!), apparently! There are so many types!!

A whole rack of mikan juice, and there are many many different types of mikan juice which… you are gonna have a huge dilemma deciding which to get because… how do you even know they taste? XD

There’s a label stating the subtle nuances between each species, some sweeter and some more tangy…

We ordered our freshly squeezed juice from the bar. Blogger at work. 😛

Check out the colors! Different mikan species also produce a different shade. Mine is more citrusy and slightly more sour than Chanwon’s, I loved it!!

Haha there’s my shopping in the metal basket: Mikan Handy Jelly.

They have recently opened a branch in Ginza, Tokyo! So if you love your mandarins, you can now get it from Tokyo. 🙂

 

We headed for lunch after, at an udon place called Kotori. There’s only one item on the menu in the shop, which is… udon. Hahaha. Apparently this little restaurant has been around for decades and is very well-loved by the locals.

We had a bit of extra time after lunch, so we went shopping!!!

Omgggggg I was soooo happy because I totally did not expect to shop here in Ehime judging from how packed our schedule was and also… I kept thinking Ehime is not Tokyo and I probably won’t get a chance to buy fashion stuff but… in the end I bought SO MUCH STUFF, like, more than I ever bought in Tokyo because it was sooooo cheap (a top for 1990 yen?! A dress for 2990 yen… A bag for 3990 yen!!!)!

 

Matsuyama Castle

Matsuyama Castle is easily ranked in the Top 5 castles in Japan. (The first is of course the unrivalled Himeji Castle, Hyogo Prefecture, which I peeked from a far on my birthday this year.)

You will have to take a rather thrilling ropeway up the hill to reach the castle.

After a while, all the Japanese castles may look the same, but each has its own amazing stories to tell.

Matsuyama Castle is one of only 12 surviving castles built before the Edo period (1627), resting on a hill top high up so you get a breathtaking view of Matsuyama city.

And and and…

This is how it looks during sakura season. *sigh* So beautiful. T.T

I suspect every castle in Japan is surrounded by cherry blossom now. There must be an angle somewhere where you can capture a photo like this!

This is when you can’t find sakura so you settle for second choice HAHA.

This is when, you spotted sakura in disguise. HAHAH. I’m serious. This, is a Someiyoshino tree. When I saw the name tag I just went up and hugged the tree. Either I was a little crazy or I was missing the baby at home…😂

 

Dogo Onsen (道後温泉)

Dogo Onsen is said to be the oldest hot spring in Japan, and is visited by the most prestigious guests in Japan – The Imperial Family.

This is the Dogo Onsen Honkan, a public bath house from the Meiji period. Fans of Ghibli would have to make a pilgrimage here as it is said that this was an inspiration for “Spirited Away” by Miyazaki (along with Kusatsu in Gunma Prefecture and also Jiu Fen in Taiwan).

Spot something?

Yup that’s us.

You can take a tour (with a small fee) to visit the Yushinden, a special room reserved the visiting emperors. The room includes a bath and toilet for the emperor’s exclusive use. The toilet is basically a wooden box served as the toilet bowl, where the imperial doctor would then retrieve the emperor’s “Imperial Golds” for his health inspection lolol.

 

IYO CITY

Shimonada Station 下灘駅

If you have watched Jdramas before, you may have seen a scene that goes something like two lovers standing at a quiet train station overlooking the ocean, with silent goodbye and heartbreak in the air…

Shimonada Station in Iyo city, Ehime Prefecture, is voted one of the top 3 train stations with the most scenic view, looking right at the Seto Inland Sea. How romantic…

This station is about 50 mins from Matsuyama Station, and it is actually an unmanned train station (無人駅)but due to its popularity with tourist, a rare train will stop by just to let the passenger take some photos.

This station was a shooting location for many tv dramas movies, and have also been featured in various anime!

There’s a Love Love Bench for photo opportunity, Chanwon and I borrow each other as the lover haha.

Macam movie poster!!!!

Pass or not? Teenage Jdrama about hope, dreams and first love HAHAHA.

There’s a Shimonafa Coffee Truck right across the road from the train station. It’s so scenic that we started to fake a ViVi magazine shoot haha.

❤︎

 

UCHIKO

After that our host fromHomeAway came to pick us up at Shimonada station and drove us to Uchiko, where we checked into our 120 year old ryokan-style accommodation.

And then it was dinner time!!

The restaurant we went was called “Enoki”, it is just a few blocks a way from our accommodation.

I didn’t have photos of the food because I was concentrating on eating. The food was so good that Chanwon, who does not eat most vegetables, told me that this day was the day she ate the most vegetables in her life lol.

Sauteed Asparagus, soooo good!

 

Supermarket

Uchiko is a small town which I don’t expect a lot of shopping to be done other than the usual local specialty. But don’t worry. It is Japan. Every corner you go there’s shopping. If all else fails there’s still combinis. 😀

I did my research, and found out that there was a (in fact a few) supermarket and a mega drugstore just 15 mins walk away from our accommodation. We we walked there and had a mad shopping rush before the store closed.

Yeap. BUY ALL THE CALBEE FURUGURA!!!!

My shopping is quite crazy because I basically buy EVERYTHING. From salt, miso, canned tuna, potato chips to cotton buds, toilet fragrance and sanitary pads. Everything. If I can buy the whole store I will. Hahaha.

And that’s all for day one.

There are still many posts to come! Meanwhile, if you are planning your holiday soon, do check out HomeAway to book your vacation home.

Don’t forget to use the code “HOMEAWAYCHEESIE” for 8% off!!

www.homeaway.asia

How to survive Japan on $10 a day

When I was 14, I had a dream. My dream was to visit Japan.

However that dream was held on for 10 years. One whole decade. I was 24 when I first visited Japan. And the reason why it look me so long was that Japan was way too expensive for a regular Malaysian fresh grad like me.

Yearssssssss later, I still get people telling that they are putting Japan on hold as their travel destination because it is too expensive to travel to.

So today I would like to change a little of that misconception, because nowadays, honestly, I sometimes think that certain things in Japan are so insanely cheap that I feel worried for them. Gyudon chains are rivaling to bring the price down down down down, supermarkets are all fighting to offer the lowest price. Want more customers? MAKE IT CHEAPER!!

I was like  オイ、日本!大丈夫かよ?!(Oi  JAPAN!! Are you really okay?!)

 

So, let’s say you have gotten your flights and accommodation sorted out (which budget hugely relies on how wise you are, since it could vary greatly depending on season and level of luxury) and have splurged all your glorious yen on shopping. Now you are left with a budget of S$10 (¥800) a day for the rest of your trip.

Here’s how you do it (in short):

1. Go window shopping.

2. Go for sightseeing nearby by foot

3. Spend ¥200 each for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

4. You are still left with ¥200 to buy yourself a nice dessert from 7-11 for supper, or to spin a Gatcha Gatcha machine.

5. Go H2o. Tap water is safe for consumption in Japan.

 

The big question is now, HOW IS IT POSSIBLE TO SPEND ¥200 ($2.5) FOR A PROPER MEAL?

It is. I tried.

So here are some of the things you need to know:

1. Combini

I always had an impression that combini are relatively pricier because of the premium you pay in exchange for convenience. But it isn’t always.

You can get an onigiri for ¥100+ but obviously that doesn’t really qualify as a proper meal. Most bentos go for about ¥300-500.

However I discovered something awesome, and it is hidden in the frozen section, where most tourists will just skip through.

If you stay in a vacation apartment with a microwave, here are some of your options:

Cha-han (fried rice): ¥108.

$1.40!!! RM4!!!

I bet you can’t get fried rice that tastes so awesome even in Singapore/Malaysia for that price.

I felt like being a little luxurious, so I added mentaiko on top (¥200+ per pack, I used only 1/5 of it).

So that was my less than ¥200 meal. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Other options:

Rich Cheese Carbonara Pasta and Sea Urchin Cream Pasta. Waaaaaaa sounds like a fancy deluxe meal!! It’s ¥238 for Carbonara and ¥399 for that Sea Urchin cream pasta.

I had the Sea Urchin cream pasta twice because it was too yummy.

Where to find USD2 Carbonara (that doesn’t taste like rubbish) anywhere else in the world? It is of a very good size too, I shared with with Junya.

 

2. Don Quijote

(called “Donki” in short by the Japanese.)

By now you should already know about this legendary Japanese discount store. It is most famed for its cosmetic/snacks/lifestyle goods, but did you also know that it has a fresh grocery section?

Check out some of the grocery prices and you will have to find your eyeballs from the floor.

Let me show you how to shop for under ¥100.

¥28 bean sprout. $0.36.

¥28 tofu. This is getting too ridiculous. Seriously like… WEI, NEED TO DO UNTIL LIDDIS OR NOT?

Well, wait for it.

¥39 Natto. And it’s for a pack of 3 boxes. That’s ¥13 per box. I don’t even. (anyway the catch is each person is limited to buying only maximum of 2 packs. The third pack onwards will cost ¥48 lolol as if it makes a difference.)

Honestly I don’t even remember the last time I paid anything equivalent to ¥13. Probably for usage of public toilet in Malaysia.

One of my favorite soy milk, usually selling ¥100+ in combini, but only ¥78 in Donki.

If you have a fridge in your hotel/apartment, buy the value box of 1000ml for 45% cheaper.

1000ml 100% grape juice at ¥98.

Matcha drink for ¥50.

At this point I wanted to beg Japan to stop being so cheap because my heart is aching. Like… STOP BEING SO RIDICULOUS. JUST TAKE MY MONEY.

Fancy some alcohol? All sort of fruity cocktails at ¥108.

Feeling peckish? Calbee Ebisen at ¥78 each.

Think you have to give up on ichigo because Japanese fruits are just insanely priced? Here’s a more budget one. Tochiotome at ¥398. This is not the cheapest one I’ve seen though.

 

4. Depachika/Supermarket

Depachika (デパ地下), the basement food market in Japan (if you stay in the city center) or supermarkets (if you stay a little further out).

They are the best place to score for a nice dinner at a cheap price. Food stuff at the food market is relatively expensive, but not when you go at the right time. In Japan there’s the “Depachika War” during 7-8pm, where housewives start to gather around the food corner for the shop staff to place the red and yellow sticker on their ready-to-eat packaged food.

(image from Google)

Yes! We are all waiting for this sticker! Most of the food stuff will get a discount sticker when the supermarket is about to close, from 50 yen off to half price!!

The good thing is that unlike the combini, you get a wider variety of food from Chinese dishes and onigiri to roast meat, yakitori, steak and more!!

You can buy them for your dinner or even for next day’s breakfast/lunch!

 

5. Lawson 100

Lawson 100 is like DAISO, except that it sells food, including fresh produce.

(image from Google)

Most of the things are 100 yen. One whole Daikon, 100 yen. One pack of mixed vegetables, 100 yen. Even their eggs are 100 yen!!!! I saw a pack of 10 fresh eggs, 100 yen. Each egg is ¥10.

Just..😯

Sometimes as a housewife, I think I will save SO MUCH money if we lived in Japan.

 

So, you get the idea.

Basically you can conjure up a damn awesome meal for the whole family for… something like 500 yen? And judging from the prices you have just seen, it is damn well possible to spend 200 yen or even less per meal if you cook at home. I always love TKG (tamago kake gohan), so all you need is a bowl of rice (less than 100 yen for sure), break an egg (10 yen), a choice of natto topping (13 yen). That’s 123 yen, feel free to grab that 50 yen Ocha from Donki.

True, if you live in Japan, you gotta pay a lot of things… this tax that tax, salary is so-so… they all add up. However as a traveler to Japan, the choice is all yours. It is entirely possible to spend your days very very very luxurious, or super, super, super budget. In fact I’d say you could spend less than if you visit KL or Singapore. Of course that’s IF you can resist the urge to buy allllllllll the limited edition Japanese snacks hahaha. I know I can’t. 😛

I hope that people who used to have an image of Japan being an expensive to travel to, can see it in a different light after reading this blog post.

Well, if all options failed, Sukiya’s breakfast sets start from 220 yen.

Now you only need the discounted air tickets.

Do share if you know any other hacks to survive on $10 a day in Japan!

Get HomeAway in Setouchi

You know, sometimes I wish that I can live 100 lives, so that I can spend each life living a different existence in different places in Japan. As a farmer, as a fisherman, as a sushi master, as a popular comedian, as a ninja, as a Shiba Inu lolol. That is how amazing Japan is. Allow me to borrow their tourism tagline: Endless Discovery. Because one life is not enough.

#GetHomeAwayinSetouchi is the hashtag for my most recent trip to Japan together with my co-traveler, Chanwon.

What is HomeAway? What is Setouchi? You have been following my Instagram feed for the past week but you still have no idea what where how why. Hahahah. Relax. In this post I am going to explain it all, the beginner way. Because this blog’s mission is to spread the love for Japan to the world. And today I am going show you how traveling to Japan does not only stop at Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and Hokkaido, and also how to experience the most authentic local ways of life and get a peek into the historical wonders in the lesser travelled parts of Japan.

What is Setouchi?

I myself, was confused when I was told to go on a trip to “Setouchi” (瀬戸内). I was like YAY I WANT!!! YESSSS!!! And then like, wait… where is it? (Anyway, don’t care. The less I know about the place the better! A whole new world for me to explore!)

I know that every time I see 瀬戸内, I see lemons lolol. I saw Limited Edition Setouchi Lemon Pretz sticks and also Setouchi Lemon mixed juice by Kagome before. I also know that 瀬戸内 is related to the sea.

 

Alright, let’s get back to basic. Let’s take a look of the map of Japan. Most people know where Tokyo, Osaka and Hokkaido are. So here’s a map of Japan with their major cities (in blue) and regions (in red) marked:

 

Do you see the island marked “Shikoku“? Japan is made of four main islands (excluding Okinawa). Most people know Hokkaido, Honshu (where most major cities like Tokyo and Osaka are in), and Kyushu. Shikoku is often quite a forgotten island.

There wasn’t any cities labeled in the map for Shikoku, probably because they aren’t famous enough haha. Just like its Kanji, 四国, Shikoku is made of 4 prefectures, namely Ehime, Kagawa, Tokushima and Kochi. (Just to boast a bit, I memorized this by heart because I spent a whole day studying the map of Japan, and I know where exactly all 47 prefectures are lol.)

 

So, where exactly is Setouchi?

Let’s have another look again.

Actually, Setouchi is not a place or a prefecture. If you take a look at area of Hiroshima and Shikoku, you will see an inland sea in between, and the sea is called “Setonaikai” (瀬戸内海), and in English, the Seto Inland Sea.

The areas surrounding the Seto Inland Sea, is called Setouchi. So, just like the recently made popular region, Tohoku, Setouchi is also a region. Tohoku’s tourism campaign is very successful, so I think that different regional/prefectural offices in Japan are rivalling to promote their very own local cities. Which is a good thing!! Yes! More tourists to the suburbs of Japan! 😀

And just like Tohoku, Setouchi is made up 7 different prefectures.

Namely Yamaguchi, Hiroshima, Okayama and Hyogo from the north of the sea, as well as Ehime, Kagawa and Tokushima from down south.

And now, officially introducing HomeAway’s latest destination: Setouchi, Japan’s Sparkling Inland Sea.

You now know where it is!! 😀

Just to recap, here are the 7 prefectures in Setouchi:

And this time, we were going to Ehime Prefecture (only).

(I know right??? Only ONE prefecture and we already felt that we did not have enough time to explore allllll the beautiful spots in Ehime alone! This 47-prefecture bucket list is indeed a life-long mission!)

Sorry for the very long introduction. Let’s get to the real topic!

So the mission of this trip, was to explore the wondrous destinations in Ehime prefecture, while experiencing the most local ways of lodging, dining and shopping.

HomeAway is a vacation rental platforms that provides a whole home experience for families who loves to enjoy more space and privacy. I have stayed in two listings with HomeAway in Osaka and Tokyo before.

That time, it was simply an alternative to hotels for our family (as hotels were mostly fully booked or ridiculously expensive during sakura season). But this time, it was more than that.

It was for us to discover new places, for me to conquer yet another prefecture and check it off my list, and also, to witness the amazing works of historical wonders and immerse myself in the most authentic and traditional Japanese lifestyle.

How often do you get to stay in a 120-year-old historic home built during the Meiji Era? I did. (In fact I was told that we were the first to stay in this listing on HomeAway!!!)

Private vacation lodgings and even farm stays are getting more and more popular in Japan. I’m so happy that HomeAway and Setouchi is collaborating to make the adventure one step easier for foreign travelers! There are many of amazing private lodgings and ryokan in the suburb Japan, but usually their websites are either in Japanese, or they do not have a comprehensive online booking system (I tried calling TWELVE ryokan in Shirakawago to book two nights for my friends who were very last minute and were desperate for my help cuz I was their only friend who speak Japanese lol). So HomeAway is bridging this gap so that more of us can discover the hidden beauty of the suburbs of Japan.

 

We stayed in 3 different listings during our 4D3N trip in Setouchi.

Machiya COCORO 

We spent 3 nights in Uchiko, a rustic little town with a historic preserved district. We met our host in the afternoon and checked into their cafe.

Wait what? Cafe?

This was our first accommodation. The original building was built in Taisho era (about 100 years ago) as Machiya (townhouse). It is now renovated to accommodate visitors, and apparently we are the first guests from HomeAway!! 😀

The first floor is a cafe open to public for dining (although it is quiet almost all the time), and the entire second floor was our accommodation. After 6pm, the cafe closes and we would have the privacy of the entire building!

The living room is soooooo spacious until!

Don’t know what we are trying to do here lol. To show how comfy it is hahahha. If you have more guests, they can sleep on the futon in this spacious living room!

The bedroom houses two semi-double bed perfect for travelers like us.

You can never guess that this building is 100 year old because it certainly doesn’t look like one!

Bed is freshly made and the room is clean with brand new amenity provided.

Love love love!

And the view from our bed room…

It directly overlooks the courtyard of this building. The only thing is that the bathroom (with a wooden bath tub) is on the first floor, so you will have to go downstairs and walk over the courtyard for your bath. If you only need to use the toilet, there’s one next to the bedroom on second floor!

 

COCOROKURA 1

The second accommodation was just a short walk from the first. This building is even older (built in the Meiji era), but has undergone intensive refurbishment 6 years ago to look sparkly new!

Already in love the moment I stepped into the entrance.

Haha look at this Chanwon who planned her outfit to blend perfectly into the picture!

This place is so Japanese yet… infused with the Western elements? The spacious double beds in the attic and the wooden setting reminded me of quaint cottages in Europe. But upon stepping into the house I was charmed by the scent of Hinoki (Japanese Cypress wood), which makes the home the quintessentially Japan.

There are a few things I really love about the house:

1.The courtyard

Ample sunlight gives the house a very cozy feel, and the little garden makes it feel like a holiday villa!

 

2. Efficient storage space

This may not be useful for our one-night sojourn, but I was so fascinated with the way everything is optimized for aesthetics, utility and efficiency! 😀

 

3. Ofuro (bath tub)

Oh. Nothing beats a good bath tub especially in the cold climate.

Hotel bathtubs are good, but the cypress wooden tub gives it a whole “onsen” feel!

 

COCOROKURA 2

This is the final accommodation we stayed on our last night in Uchiko. Actually it is in the same building as the above, just next door! ^^

The interior is pretty much the same, just slightly different layout 🙂

It has the same star-case storage! ^^

This is Onishi san, our very gentle and charming host for all three nights. He not only helped us with all the lodging matters and showed us around the area, he also cooked our breakfast daily and it was sooooo delicious😱. Chanwon was like omg… so multi-talented haha. (By the way his daughter’s name is also Sakura!!😍)

Anyway I will be slowly posting our journey in Setouchi in the coming posts. Meanwhile, if you are planning your holiday soon (not limited to only Japan!), do check out HomeAway to book your vacation home!

Don’t forget to use the code “HOMEAWAYCHEESIE” for 8% off!!

www.homeaway.asia

Happy vacationing! ^^