Date: 27th Sep - 4th Oct 2017
Destination: Kyoto - Osaka - Naruto - Takamatsu - Kobe - Osaka
I've been working in Japan for close to a year now; for a startup, Meguru, that aims to bring people closer to nature and to encourage circular thinking. I met my boss through wwoofing. You can read more about my Japan wwoofing experience here.
The purpose of this trip was to show my parents my work place, at Ayagawa, Takamatsu. My initial plan was to take them around shikoku island; but they haven't been to Kyoto and Osaka, and would really like to have a look, so i decided to show them around Kyoto and Osaka instead.
I must say that the trip was by far the best holiday we ever had together.
One of the best decision was renting a car. Renting a car makes it so convenient for us to go anywhere, at our own pace. We could easily change plan, head back to the hotel whenever we are tired. Although the highway toll and parking fee was quite pricey, i think it's worth it in-exchange for comfort and flexibility. Plus, i think we bonded quite a lot talking in the car. haha.
The only thing that i would change, is that i'll probably not drive the car all the way up to Takamatsu, but take a bus instead, and then rent another car at Takamatsu. That save the highway and petrol fee, and save me the hassle of driving them all the way back to Osaka.
The option of returning the car at another prefecture is available, but the price is pretty steep.
We rented the car from rentalcars.com and it cost us SGD846.37 for a 5 seater car, including English language GPS and full coverage insurance.
You can also rent the ETC card when you are collecting the car. It's a highway card and the rental cost is around 200yen. It makes it very convenient when you pass through the highway gantry (you dont have to stop and take cash out every single time). We rented it and paid the toll fee when we return the car. It cost us about SGD$300 for the highway fee.
I think we paid on average about SGD$50 per day for parking when we were at osaka and kyoto.
We arrived at Kansai Airport around 9.30am, picked up our car, and headed straight to Kyoto.
Our hotel check-in was at 3pm, but because we had the car, we could leave our luggage inside, and when around exploring Kyoto freely.
Our first destination was Kiyomizu-dera, a very nice Buddhist temple. I've been there previously, but i didn't go to the area with entrance fee. I'm so glad that we went in this time round, because it's huge and beautiful.
There are many street side stores outside the temple (like most of the touristy places) and that made mummy very excited. My mum is such a foodie and she loves to try everything.
As for my dad, the first thing that he caught sight of was BEER of course. ... haha
After Kiyomizu-dera, i brought them to Nishiki Market and they love that place so much! Thanks to all the super cheap and fresh sashimi available. My parents are a huge fan of sashimi. We even went back there again the next day because my dad was craving for the oyster that he ate previously.
After Nishiki market, we had ippudo ramen for lunch. It was nice, but not the best ramen we had during our trip. Read on to find out where is the best, in our opinion.
Initially, i wanted to bring them to Fushimi Inari Taisha too, which is pretty near to Kiyomizu-dera. But my boss, who is quite a spiritual person, advised me not to, due to the fox spirits at Fushimi Inari Taisha. Though i'm not a spiritual person, i decided to listen to his advice. I don't want anything bad to happen to my parents. haha. I've been to Fushimi Inari Taisha before, it's a great place for photography.
Here's a picture that i took previously:
After a very late lunch, we felt extremely tired; so we drove to our hotel, check-in and took a long nap.
Our hotel, XIV Kyoto Yase-Rikyu, is extremely pretty, with top great service. It's a membership based hotel. Thanks to Toyo's dad, who helped us reserved a room.
There's onsen in the hotel too, with super nice facilities. Thumbs up!
After our nap, we went out for dinner. We drove around Gion street, but it didn't seem to have much going on there then (though i highly recommend you to check out Gion street and try to spot Geisha. I had a very good time there when i was in Kyoto previously), so we went to Pontocho Area instead, which is a tiny street filled with bars and restaurant.
We had a very delicious bbq Kobe beef meal at Yaruki Yakiniku & Wine restaurant.
We went to Kinkaku-ji, it was my first time there and wow it's beautiful! I highly recommend this place!
Then we made our way to Arashiyama, where we took an old railway train from Saga-Arashiyama station to Hozu-gawa, and then took a 2 hours boat ride from Hozu-gawa to Arashiyama. I highly recommend this! Especially during sakura season (beg April) or autumn leave season (end October). Click here for more information about the boat ride.
Both the train and boat ride were scenic.
After the boat ride, we toured around Arashiyama. My dad almost gave up walking when he saw the amount of stairs he had to climb (it's really not that much), but i assured him that the bamboo forest was worth going to, so we made it in the end.
After that we headed back to Nishiki Market again, ate lots of food, walked around Shinkyogoku Shopping Street, and then head back to the hotel with lots of food, as dad was tired and wanted to rest.
We drove to Katsuou-ji Temple, which is near Osaka. It's an extremely beautiful temple on a mountain, and it's known for victory. You can purchase a daruma doll and make a wish, it's said that if your wish came true, you have to return the doll back to the temple. That's why you see daruma dolls everywhere. I highly recommend this temple if you would like to get out of the touristy places.
The main reason why i chose to go to this temple was because there's a waterfall nearby called Minoo Fall. I'm a super big fan of waterfalls, that's why. I'm really glad that we went, it's beautiful!
After the temple, we went to Dontonbori. I knew my parents would love that place! They love all the crowded places with lots of food stores. My mum went around trying all sort of food again, it was adorable. haha
We spent quite some time at Dontonbori, eating and shopping around. After which, we headed to Umeda Sky Building to see the awesome view. If only we arrive slightly earlier, we would have caught the awesome sunset view (i forgot that the sun sets earlier from autumn onward), but it was still super amazing.
We made our way to Ayagawa, Takamatsu; which is where i'm staying now. On our way there, we stopped by Naruto (2.5hrs drive from Kyoto), which is a very famous place for whirlpool.
There are a few options to see whirlpool, the most famous one is from the ferry, which i took previously. But i compared the ferry timing and the peak whirlpool timing, and it didnt match quite well, so we decided to see it from Uzu no Michi, an enclosed walkway that extends under the Onaruto Bridge. The walkway's observation room sits 45m above the whirlpools, which can be seen through glass panels. I think we made the right decision because i see the whirlpool so much clearer than my previous boat experience.
Before you walk to Uzu no Michi, there are some observation deck on the other side (right side), and the view there is amazing. Do also try the ramen from the only food store there, it's the best ramen we have ever had.
We drove another 1.5 hrs and arrived at my work place in the evening, We checked-in the guest house that i'm managing and then went to a nearby izakaya place for dinner.
We started the day with me showing my parents my work place, seeing all the animals, the cafe, my room etc. My mum was telling me how my grandma has been telling her that she wish she can go back to her young days where she has a place to grow her own vegetables. I was telling my mum to bring my grandma over. I'm glad that they could relate better to why i prefer to stay here instead of the city.
We didn't tour much that day besides going to Ritsurin Garden, Japan's largest Japanese garden. Because we met up with Toyo's parents for lunch and my dad drank so much with them. haha. It was nice seeing them having so much fun though.
Ritsurin Garden was amazing, my 2nd time there and it's still mesmerizing. My dad enjoyed it so much too. Even though he was semi drunk. he still walked the whole garden with us and kept asking me to take pictures of him. oh daddy..
It was raining so badly that day and the day after too. My original plan was to bring them to Aya valley and Kochi, but it's not a good idea when it's raining.
I brought them to eat a very delicious beef udon for breakfast. (〒761-2203 Kagawa-ken, Ayauta-gun, Ayagawa-chō, Yamadakami, 綾川町山田上甲1949-8 岡製麺所) It's located not too far away from my workplace. Kagawa is the birth place of udon by the way. My parents love it so much! The soup is very delicious.
After which, we headed to Takmatsu main street for a walk, and then to Yashima despite the bad weather. We checked out the Shikoku village museum, which features very old japanese house. It's not such a good idea to go there when it's raining, and it wasn't that impressive too. Every house looks the same after awhile.
We then drove up to Yashima to have a look at the view. There are better viewing point, but my parents were tired of climbing. haha
It was our last day at Takamatsu. I wanted to bring them to a very nice viewpoint at Mitoyo, but they wanted to take it slow and go for massage that day, so i only managed to bring them to Marugame Castle, which was nice too.
After that, we went to Aeon mall (the nearest mall from my workplace) for massage.
At night, i brought them to the restaurant where i'm helping out on some weekends, learning cooking from the chef. I swear the food there is amazingly delicious. It's the first time i ever asked a chef if he could teach me how to cook right after i've tasted his food. My parents love his food too. (〒761-2203 Kagawa-ken, Ayauta-gun, Ayagawa-chō, Yamadakami, 綾川町山田上甲1949-8 岡製麺所)
We bid farewell to Ayagwa, and made our way back to kansai airport. We stopped by Kobe because dad wanted to try kobe beef at kobe. haha. We went to Kobe's chinatown and ate at a random restaurant that we saw. It was delicious, but it makes me feel sick when i had too much. Beef used to be my favorite, but I've been trying to cut down on it due to environmental reason.
As we still had some time after Kobe, we went to Shinsekai for a walk and ate their famous Kushikatsu.
Overall, this trip was such a fantastic one. I can't expect it to be any better. We are planning to go Hokkaido next year! It will be so awesome!
That's about it for now. Thank you for reading and feel free to ask me anything! ;)
Date: 23rd May - 30th May
I went to Shanghai and Hangzhou in May because I had to get out of Japan (visa run), and the air-tickets to Shanghai was so cheap! About $100 for round-trip! No wonder so many Chinese guests are coming to stay at our guest house.
As my trip was half work half travel, most of my expenditure was covered by company, for example transport, food and accommodation; i only exchanged $200 for personal stuff, like shopping, gifts etc.
When i first arrived in Shanghai airport, on my way to the hostel, i was shocked to find out that google map doesnt work in China. I only knew facebook was not allowed but i didn't know that google too, and i stupidly marked all the places that i was interested to visit on my google map. I panicked for awhile, as i didn't buy a phone card too (which is another whole complicated procedure, having to record all you passport details etc, i heard..).
But then i managed to get things sorted out. I asked around and found out that 高德地图 (gao de di tu) and 百度地图 (bai du di tu), is the most common online map that people in china use. MetrolMan is also a good app that shows the train timing in shanghai. Then later i found out about GreenVPN from a guy that i met in the hostel who was kind enough to share with me his password. With that, i could access everything like facebook, google etc. Super awesome.
Anyway, the most important app that has conquered china is wechat. I knew wechat was commonly used but i didnt know the extend of it and i was so amazed when i see how the app has replaced menu, namecards, and even wallets in china. People in china now go out with just their phone and they can make purchases through wechat, exchange contact through wechat, and even view menu etc through wechat QR code. It's amazing. I believe in no time wechat is going to conquer the world. haha.
I book a mixed dorm at Shanghai Blue Mountain LUWAN Youth Hostel which cost about $20 per night. The room is clean, beds are comfortable, and the best thing is it's just right opposite the subway station (luban) which makes it super convenient. The only problem is that there is only wifi in the common area. But i heard that it's the same for the other hostels in Shanghai.
From the airport i simply took the subway to Luban station which cost me just about $2. I was stunned at how cheap it is because transport is way too expensive in Japan.
Places of interest:
I spent 2 days touring Shanghai. 1 day going to all the sightseeing places, and another day with my boss checking out some green initiatives in Shanghai.
I started my tour by foot from my hostel to 田子坊, which was a street with old shop houses. Pretty nice place for pictures and there are lots of interesting souvenir shops there too.
Then i walked towards the french concession area near Fuxing Rd (复兴路) to check out the architecture. I had a great time strolling around.
Next i popped by 复兴公园 , i really enjoy people watching at the gardens in china so much. Watching them dance, sing, play chess, doing taichi, chilling; simply having a great time. :)
I was taking a video of a little boy and his mum walking, and the mum caught sight of me and started smiling and dancing with her boy. She then said this to me "someone asked me what's the most precious moment in my life, and I said it's when my boy hug me and say mama i love you". Aww. How random and sweet.
I then took a train to 人民广场. I wanted to visit the park, but i got a little too tired from walking and i was super hungry, so i went to the nearby mall to grab some food.
南东乐路 is kinda like Singapore's orchard road. Lot's of shopping mall and business building. I checked it out for awhile before heading to 外灘 to see the awesome view of Shanghai.
I guess this is the must go place in Shanghai. It reminds me so much about Singapore though. It's a nice place but packed with tourist. Interesting place to people watch too.
Here are some nice restaurants that my friend who work in Shanghai recommended me. I didn't manage to go to all of them. But i'm pretty sure that the food is good.
Add: 39 Anfu Rd, Xuhui Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
I was researching about some green initiatives in Shanghai before i went, and i managed to find some nice organic restaurants like Hunters Gatherer, Green & Safe, The Urban Harvest. There was even a eco village, a shopping mall that sells upcycled stuff, that i read about in an article.
However, when i was there, most of the green restaurants stopped operating. What a pity! We only managed to visit The Urban Harvest, which was quite interesting. They grow sprouts and mushroom in their restaurant, and you are allowed to harvest them for your meal. Their food is delicious! It's nice that we at least managed to visit one. Come on Shanghai, keep the green spirit up!
Hangzhou is so beautiful! I'm really glad that we decided to spent most of our time in Hangzhou instead of shanghai. I'm just not a city person, nature is where i like to be.
We took a bus from Shanghai airport to Hangzhou which cost us about 110rmb per person. It's cheaper to take from the city, or in fact, train is the best choice. We took train back to Shanghai which only cost us 78rmb per person.
Booked a super nice airbnb place that is located really close to West Lake. The room is very comfortable, the owner is friendly and helpful, and the neighborhood has great vibes with lots of food store around. I highly recommend this place.
Places of interest:
We spent 3 full days in Hangzhou, and we almost extended another day there. It's such a nice and chill place with it's own unique vibe. The main thing in Hangzhou it's of course the West Lake, and that's basically what we did the whole time.
We rented a bike and ride around the west lake, which was super awesome experience.
We spent another day walking around the lake as bicycles are not allowed at some parts along the lake. It was really nice to take our time strolling, taking pictures, watching the sunset. But it gets a little tiring towards the end though. I think it took us about 5 hours slow walk.
We watched The Impression West Lake, a love story performed with impressive special effects on the lake, directed by the internationally-acclaimed Zhang Yimou. There are 2 show timings every night and it's super spectacular. I highly recommend you guys to not missed it!
One of the best thing we did at Hangzhou was hanging around in the parks, watching people singing and dancing. Toyo was even dragged in to perform. It was fun and entertaining!
We also walked around the bamboo forest and botanical garden. It's just so nice to be close to nature.
On our last day, we went around for some "work" stuff. I took lots of videos of him performing and combined them. It was fun! Here's the short clip!
All the food that we had in Hangzhou was so good! The restaurant weren't even pricey at all.
Here are the ones we went:
Overall, it was such a great break to shanghai and hangzhou. It feels like i'm back home for awhile, eating delicious chinese food. I think there's so much more to explore, especially Hangzhou. I definitely would love to go back again next time. :)
I hope you guys will have as much fun as i did.
Date: 14th February to 20th February
Total Expenditure: $340
I was there on a work trip, so some things like food and accommodation was covered. Here's just to give you a rough estimation of some of the expenses:
Air tickets: $196 for both ways (Singapore to Bali)
Bike Rental: $8 per day
Car Rental: $30 per day
Taxi from airport to Kuta: $7
Accommodation: Guest House Approx $18 per night
Some of you might already know that i'm currently in Japan, working for my Kagawa Wwoofing Host.
He started a new company called Meguru which aims to reconnect human with nature and community while leading the way towards a circular society. I'll be managing his Organic Farm, Eco Guest House, Zero Waste Cafe, as well as Music and Events. Our trip to Bali is mainly for research and to form a connection with the various like-minded organisations.
Did you know that Bali is gonna banned plastic bags by 2018? Watch this:
But the main reason we chose to go Bali was because of Green School Bali. Green school is a school built with bamboos, that focuses on sustainability education; hoping to inspire and empower students to be the future green leaders. We all know how important education is, that's why we were super interested to check out this amazing school.
While I was planning for our Bali trip, i came across so many more awesome Green Initiatives in Bali. Which got me really excited! Unfortunately we didnt manage to visit them all, obviously right? There's just too many. If you are interested to find out more about the various Green Initiatives, do check out the videos made by Make a Change World.
Green School, Bamboo Factory, Green Village Tour
We signed up for a morning tour with 3 destinations (Green School, Bamboo Factory, Green Village), which cost USD$40. The tour starts from 9am till 1.15pm.
First stop was Green School! There're so many things I like about the school, here are some:
Besides the well-known information that the school is made from mainly bamboos, i love seeing all the up-cycled furniture and equipment as we toured around. Above picture is some chairs made from waste tyres. They also used unwanted car window as white board by painting them white.
I love their sink! Located beside their dining area.
They have a recycling centre where waste are sorted into 20 different categories. Besides teaching their students about the importance of recycling, they are also trying to spread the idea of recycling centre to other schools in Indonesia.
What i like most is that they have an after-school programme specially for the locals, to teach them english as while as sustainability studies. There's no monetary transaction involved, the locals just have to bring 5kg of waste every month to the recycling centre. This is to encourage as well as educate them about recycling. They have about 327 students in this programme now.
I love their open concept classroom. The tour-guide explained that the whole idea about open concept classroom is to allow nature (or you can call it distraction) to enter. "Distraction is part of your life, accept it." It makes so much sense to me. Distraction is everywhere, we need to cope and adapt to it so that we can stay focus despite the distraction around.
I love that they have a class on Eco phobia. They make the students jump into the mud pit and teach them about things like identifying poisonous snakes, learning how to handle them etc. They even have their own snake catching team! Yes, they use real life snakes to teach the students! I think i need to attend classes like this. It's so true that if you understand how nature works, the role and benefits of each organism, and how to handle them, you wont be afraid of them.
I like how much freedom the students are given to propose projects they would like to take up. They learned about sustainability compass model which states the 4 metrics to define sustainability - Nature, well-being, economics, and social; and are open to initiate any projects that fits this model. Teachers are more like a facilitator. The students also work closely with social enterprises to assist them in various project. One very successful project is called Bio-bus, a school bus that is fueled by used cooking oil around the island. The project is run fully by students in collaboration with hotels and food vendors for the collection of oil, and another NPO that helps to transform the cooking oil into diesel. "What you can do now, do it now," is what the school emphasize.
The school doesnt emphasize on grades, but more of value added projects. Through projects, students will naturally be able to the learn about science, mathematics etc. All the students graduate with not just grades but also resume. The teachers there are also very helpful in writing recommendation.
Green School believe in the importance of engaging parents. They have a co-working space just for parents to hang around in the school and tons of projects that parents can be involved in. Parents can collaborate with teachers to conduct workshops such as photography, cooking etc.
They have a compost station where students learn how to make compost. They process food waste and even human waste and turn them into fertilizers. Students will then use the fertilizer to grow their own crops. Once their crops are ready for harvest, they can even bring them to the kitchen to cook meals for the other students and teachers
Students are taught about Aquaponics at the Aquaponic Station. They even get to make their own little aquaponic tank and bring it back home. It's such a great way to educate about circulation.
That's all i have for Green School. It was such a great trip! I love what they are doing and i hope that there will be more schools like this, especially government schools, where it's more affordable to a wide number of people.
Bamboo Factory Tour was pretty useful and interesting for us because there are so many bamboos in our area (Ayagawa) and we are thinking about how we can best make use of them. The tour guide shared with us the whole process of making bamboo into building materials. I wont be writing about it (it's too much and too technical), i'll just share some interesting facts that i've learned about Bamboos:
Welcome to the part on Green Village, but i'm sorry, i didn't like Green Village at all. Okay, i do think that they have managed to showcase the potential of bamboos very well, but the whole idea of building this resort-like accommodation that cost roughly USD$400 per night, having locals around to serve you, and the fact that i don't see anything like recycling centre etc, just make me wonder about the whole purpose of building a place like this and calling it Green Village. I was thinking more of a village where environmentally conscious locals and foreigners live together, maybe have a community garden together, recycle stuff, or even share their stuff with one another of sorts. Maybe i was expecting too much. Well, it's a beautiful place though, here's some pictures:
ROLE Foundation's Zero Waste to Ocean
I found out about Zero Waste to Ocean through Make a Change world's facebook page. You know, i'm i'm such a fan of Zero Waste efforts so I wrote to the founder, Mike O'Leary, and he replied almost immediately, welcoming us to visit his place. How nice! He's really a man full of passion, doing his best for the people in Bali. The video below will provide you with a good understanding about what they strive to achieve.
Zero Waste to Ocean is an Environmental Education and Research Center which Mike's organisation Role Foundation is currently building. The center will use machinery and systems to recycle or use 98% of all waste. Organic, non-recyclables, and recyclables will be separated and converted into materials beneficial for everyday life. The site will also promote sustainable business such as production of natural dyes, organic cotton weaving, and soap recycling.
ROLE Foundation collects soap from hotels and villa around Bali, sanitize and reprocess them into new soap. The soap will than be distributed to orphanages, disadvantaged and poor communities who lack access to basic hygiene products. Their program offers skills training and employment for disadvantaged local women.
We had a whole list of green cafes to visit, there's just so many nice cafes in Bali, especially Ubud. Here are some nice ones that we visited:
I found out about them through Make A Change World once again. We are starting a Zero Waste Cafe in Ayagawa, so it's important for us to visit other Zero Waste Cafes around the world.
Warung Gouthe was started by a couple who met whilst training in a 3 star michelin restaurant. The cafe is based on the concept of family where they serve simple but delicious "grandma recipes" meal. They cook daily in small amount to minimize food loss, use mainly glass jars to avoid plastics, and buy fruits and vegetables everyday from local market to ensure that it's package free.
The cafe is pretty cozy and their food is delicious! We manage to have a short conversation with the owners, who were extremly warm and kind. They shared with us about the challenges they faced trying to get packaging free stuff, and how they are trying their best everyday. Kudos to the both of them and their lovely team!
The Elephant is a quite a huge organic restaurant that has a variety of vegan and glutton-free food. The restaurant is very clean and comfortable, with a great nature view.
We were there just for tea, but i must say that their coffee and smoothie tasted really good! I love that they use bamboo straws.
This restaurant serve really tasty and healthy organic food. What i like most is their permaculture garden. They used coconut husk around their bedding, making the garden look organised and tidy.
Emas Hitam Permaculture Farm
Emas Hitam Indonesia (EHI) is a registered Indonesian NGO, working in sustainable development with a focus on agriculture. They provide comprehensive permaculture training to farmers in Bali as well as other parts of indonesia.
We randomly found out about them through our ubud's guest house owner. We visited their farm and volunteered for awhile to help them on preparation work for a ubud food festival, where they sold their freshly grown vegetables as well as home-made sauces and jams, while spreading the word about permaculture. The team is made up of very passionate bunch of people, doing their very best to improve agriculture in Indonesia. I love their positive vibe! It was really nice to know them.
We didn't have a lot of time to tour around, but i'm so glad that we made time to go to Amed for diving! We rented a car, because it takes 3hrs to get there from Ubud and we were pretty tired of riding.
We booked a morning dive to Liberty dive-site from Euro Dive Bali, which cost about $45. The dive was at 8am, so yes we departed from ubud at 5am in the morning. The facilities and equipment at Euro Dive were pretty well maintained and organised, and their staffs are very nice and friendly. I wrote to them so many times asking so many questions about the dive, and the staff patiently answered to all of my questions.
Liberty dive-site is so beauty! Filled with marine life. I think it's one of the best dive site i've been to. We were lucky too, that the weather was nice, sea was calm, visibility was clear, We had such an amazing time. Totally worth the long drive.
Other fun activities we had, which is kinda work-related (because my boss is also a musician), was hanging out with the local Djembefola, playing music together.
It was really nice watching them jam at Kuta beach, seeing people around dancing. I love how music brings people together.
Before i end, I have to talk a little about Food right? Food is such a big part to traveling. Well i only have one thing to recommend (sorry!), Warung Babi Guling, is a must try in Bali! Fried pork with rice, it's delicious! We went to the store near south kuta, called Warung Bai Guling Pak Dobiel Nusa Dua. You can find them on google maps.
Oh one last thing that i have to recommend is our ubud airbnb host. They are so awesome! Extremely nice and friendly! We spent so much time interacting with them, they are simply so nice to talk to. They provided us with so much information about the things that we were interested in, and always serve us tea and sweet snacks. The room is very nice and clean, surrounded by a pretty garden. I love the place so much! Do check them out!
Overall, our Bali trip was extremely fulfilling! It's really nice to check out the various green initiatives around the world. We hope that we can do more of such trip in future. Till then! :)
It was about a year ago when i first saw a video about Kamikatsu. I remember how impressed i was that there is an official zero waste town in Asia. Kamikatsu was the main reason why i chose to travel Japan, but to actually be given a chance to volunteer there, was way beyond my expectation and I can't be more happy and proud about it.
Here's a short video clip that i have done about Kamikatsu. I didn't intend to do a clip at first, knowing that there are already many more professional videos done about the town. I didn't see the need to duplicate efforts; but then i realised that there ain't any in mandarin. There are so many Taiwanese and Hong Kong tourists in Japan, so i thought it will be good to do a video with mandarin subtitles to reach out to them. So here is my very simple video about Kamikatsu and the awesome things that they are doing:
Date: 21st November 2016 - 15th December 2016
I volunteered at Kamikatsu for about 1 month. It's kinda different from wwoofing as food and accommodation wasn't included, but i think they are going to start a wwoofing account soon, it will be so awesome!
Here's a summary of the amount i spent there:
Total Expenditure: SGD$345
Transport: $56 (including bus from osaka to tokushima)
Food (MSIG): $83 (i only buy the cheapest ingredients, and thankfully, i got a lot of free treats and received many free fresh vegetables from the farmers there :) )
Shopping: $41 (i needed to buy some clothes because it was getting cold)
Accommodation: $165 (it's 500 yen per day for accommodation fee, 300 yen per day for utilities, and 30 yen per day for common service expenses)
How to get there?
My Volunteering Experiences
When i first decided to volunteer here, i had the impression that i'll be merely doing hand-on things like helping to sort the waste at the recycling centre and serving and cleaning at the zero waste cafe. I didn't expect to be able to work so closely with the team on projects to reduce food waste and food packaging, and even had an event specially organised for me to share about my experiences at The Food Bank Singapore. It was such a rewarding journey for me and i'm so thankful for it.
I spent a day at the Gomi Station helping the residents sort their waste into the different categories. I'm pretty sure that most of you are curious about what exactly are the 45 categories and what can it be converted into, so here you go!
The first time i met Terumi, the owner of Cafe Polestar, was 2 months before i started volunteering at Kamikatsu. My Kagawa wwoofing host brought me to Kamikatsu (because i kept bugging him to bring me there) to attend a tour conducted by Terumi. Back then i told her that my dream is to start a Zero Waste Cafe in Singapore, and she told me that she owns a Zero Waste Cafe in Kamikatsu! That was how it all started, with me deciding to volunteer at Kamikatsu to not only learn about their waste management, but also about cafe management.
I usually help out at the cafe on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday, mainly assisting in cleaning, serving, food preparation, and some translating. Lunch is provided to all staffs included me! Their food is so delicious! I specially love their pastries!
I had such an enjoyable time volunteering there! Terumi, her husband Takuya, and master chef are so nice and kind. I learnt a lot about coffee making and food presentation too!
Be sure to check them out:
カフェ・ポールスター (Cafe Polestar, Kamikatsu)
Address: Japan, 〒771-4501 徳島県勝浦郡上勝町大字福原字平間32−1
I usually volunteer at Zero Waste Academy on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. Because i used to work for The Food Bank Singapore, my main tasks was to help them to look into food waste and food packaging reduction. I was amazed by how receptive they were about my suggestions and how efficient they are in putting things into action.
I had the chance to join them for their Zero Waste Kamikatsu sharing sessions in various schools.
I had the chance to sit in a meeting with their corporate partner to discuss about manufacturing a durable paper bag to replace their current plastic bags.
I even had an event specially organised for me to share about The Food Bank Singapore with the residents of Kamikatsu and some ideas that i had to improve Kamikatsu as a Zero Waste Town.
All these were unexpected, and i can't be more glad about it. It felt really good that besides learning from them, i get to also contribute a little to this wonderful town.
Besides zero waste, there's another thing extremely interesting about this town.
You know how Japanese are very particular about food presentation? We often see plastic leaf decorations on the Japanese dishes right? There's a company called Irodori that works with the elderly at Kamikatsu to harvest leafs and sell them to high class restaurants all over Japan!
Kamikatsu climate is extremely suitable for growing beautiful leafs. They have a wide variety of pretty leafs all year round.
What i like most is that the company does not hire the elderly, instead, they partner with them. That means all the profits from the sale of the leafs go directly to the elderly, just a cut of it goes to Irodori as commission. So the elderly there are actually extremely rich and happy. haha.
How it works is that the company created a online system where they share information about what types of leafs are on demand, quantity, and destination. The elderly will then bid for the leafs that they would like to supply and state the quantity that they are able to supply, pack them, and then send to the logistic company for delivery.
I had the opportunity to volunteer a day with an elderly to see how things were done. It was such an eye-opener. Kudos to the boss of Irodori and his team for this very worthy business idea.
Other Interesting Experience
Zero Waste Academy has a craft shop where they sell goods that are made from unwanted materials. I had the chance to learn how to make the above bag in a most old school method! It was so fun!
All in all, It was such a rewarding journey for me to be able to volunteer at Kamakatsu. I'm so in love with the town! The people that I've worked with there are so capable and inspiring. I'm pretty sure that i'll be back again.
I hope you guys will also get the chance to experience what I've experience! Feel free to ask me anything :)
Date: 2nd August 2016 - 30th October 2016
Total Expenditure: SGD$1985.30
Transport: $789.10 (including one-way air-ticket from Spore to Osaka at $252 by Scoot)
Insurance (MSIG): $320 (I bought a 1 year insurance because that's how long i planned to travel for)
Necessities (phone card, laundry services, shampoo and other groceries): $128
Shopping: $151 (i needed to buy some clothes because it was getting cold)
Miscellaneous (gifts & donation): $155
WWOOF (World Wide Opportunity on Organic Farms) was first set up in England and now has connections with farms worldwide in 61 countries. It gives travelers a chance to learn about farming or related activities like organic cafes, art workshop, and hostel; and gives farm owners access to free labour. Ideally workers should work no more than 6 hours a day and have at least one day off a week. 1 year membership fee cost about SGD$76 for Wwoof Japan (that's right, it's by country and not international, unlike helpx or workaway). After you have registered, you will be able to access to the host listing, see description, pictures, and reviews about the place.
Places I've wwoofed:
Places I've visited:
Other Unqiue Experience:
TOP SAVING TIPS
The beautiful town is filled with so much history, culture, and scenic places. I’m so mesmerized by it.
I love the mixture of modern and tradition in this town.
I’m such a fan of waterfalls. There is much more about this city that is worth exploring.
Most Memorable Experiences
It’s always the people that make a trip so amazing. It’s so hard to meet people that you can connect so well with, and I met a bunch of them when I was there.
Simply said, it’s a life changing experience for me, life changing.
The main reason why i chose to travel Japan when i actually prefer to travel to less-developed countries was because i found out about Kamikatsu, a zero waste town. I had the impression that Japanese pay a lot of attention to environmental issues and recycling, and i was interested to learn more about it.
Another reason was because i heard so much good things about wwoofing in Japan from my America friend. Ever since i started working at The Food Bank Singapore, i learned so much about how serious food waste situation is in Singapore. I think a lot of education needs to be done, and that people, especially the younger generation, need to get their hands dirty to truly understand the efforts it takes to have that bowl of rice on their table. Since that's what i believe, i wanted to be a role model, to act on it, to start experiencing farming, and wwoofing was the best way to do it.
My 3 months wwoofing experience in Japan was amazing. I think it's the most value-adding trip that i had. I've gained a new perspective of the kind of life i want to lead and the things that i want to pursue. The thing is, once you realise the simplicity of life that brings true happiness, you will never go back to the lifestyle that you lead before. I believe that's a good thing.
So I decided to extend my stay here in Japan instead of going to New Zealand for working holiday. As much as i would love to explore the land of gorgeous nature, i feel that i'll be able to learn so much more by staying in Japan.
I'm currently volunteering at Kamikatsu, the zero-waste town, and i will be heading back to my previous wwoofing place at Ayagawa for work soon. It's hard to find a job that revolves around my interests, and more importantly, a boss that has very similar mindset as me about how we should lead our life. I'm very excited about what's coming up next and i'm very glad to share with you guys more about my adventure.
I'll be writing about Kamikatsu soon. It's a very interesting town, i'm pretty sure you will be keen to find out more. Stay tuned. :)
I arrived at Kansai airport and immediately bought a phone card from the vending machine. It cost me SGD$72 for a 3GB 60days usgage, which was pretty expensive for me. But since i'll be there for a long time, i thought that it will be more convenient. However, it was only my third week when i finished up the data (because my first wwoofing accommodation didnt have wifi), and i found out that it will cost me another SGD$50 over just for a 1GB data for 1 month , so i decided against it.
My friend connected me with her Osaka friend who was able to host me and my friend Watson, who happened to be in Japan, for a week. We were so grateful for her! She not only provided us a place to stay, but also prepared breakfast and dinner for us! So much kindness and generosity! Her house is at Nozaki, which was about half hour away from Osaka Station.
From Kansai Airport, you can easily take the JR to Osaka. It cost me SGD$18 to Nozaki, so to Osaka should be a little less, maybe about SGD$15. Try googling it! Google is so amazing.
Oh and you would want to purchase an IC card (which is their train card) from the train ticketing machine, for convenience sake. The deposit is 500 yen which you will be able to get it back at the end when you return the card to the counter (I have not done that yet, but i was told so).
Due to the very efficient transport system in japan, you can easily explore kansai area in less than a week (depending on how much you want to explore). My itinerary was:
Day 1 - Nara
Day 2 - Osaka
Day 3 - Hyogo & Kobe
Day 4 - Kyoto
I think staying at 1 location and do day trips was a right choice, because it's really tiring to keep packing and moving. I would love to spend another day in Kyoto but the transportation cost is way over my budget.
It took us about 1hr 20mins from Osaka to Kintetsu-Nara Station, costing about 740yen. We explored Nara by foot. We went to Todai-ji Temple (SGD$6.50 entance fee), Yoshiki-en Garden, Nara Park and Kasuga Taisha. Pictures in sequence:
We had a good time walking around, though it was freaking hot in Japan in August.
I didnt really explore much of Osaka as i should have, but i think i have my fair-share of fun, given my tight budget. The main places we went to were Osaka Castle, Shitennoji Temple, Shinsekai and Dotonbori, and we did all this by foot. haha. Transportation fee is really expensive in Japan, so i try to walk as much as i can.
We took a train to Ebisucho Station, walked around Shinsekai and then we checked out Shitennoji Temple.
We continued our way to Dotonbori which is a famous food street and had Yakiniku for lunch.
We then headed on to Osaka Castle. It was nice just walking around the castle, we didnt pay to enter because we wanted to save money.
Afer which, we walked all the way to Tenjinbashi area to have dinner at a very small but homely Okonomiyaki (Osaka's famous fried cabbage cake) store that Watson discovered previously. We had a good time chatting with the shop owner. I can't remember the name of the store, but it's on the same street of a Japanese curry restaurant that i found on google map (530-0041 Osaka-fu, osaka-shi, kita-ku, tenjinbashi, 6 chome-5-3.)
The picture above is a nice river that we passed by while walking from Osaka castle to Tenjinbashi. I love going on foot because there's always things to explore and see.
Hyogo & Kobe
The only reason why i went to Hyogo was for Himeiji Castle (entrance fee 1000yen), probably the most famous and gorgeous castle in Japan. It is pretty expensive to get there from Osaka, i was lucky that my Osaka friend's husband was going Hyogo that day for work, so i managed to get a lift. Otherwise i would have gotten myself a Kansai thru pass.
Himeiji Castle was indeed pretty but it was very crowded at the time i was there. Well i'm still glad that i went there.
I then took a train from Himeji to Kobe (970yen). Kobe felt like a very modern town to me.
There is a waterfall (Nunobiki Falls) in Kobe that i wanted to check out because i'm such a fan of waterfalls, but i didn't because it was hard to get there and i didnt have enough time. There is also some sakae museum which caught my interest but it closed pretty early. So, i only managed to go to Meriken Park, walk around the Motomachidori (shopping district), and tried some Kobe pudding. One thing that i kinda regret is not trying the Kobe beef, because i love steak, but it was way too expensive. Do try it if you can and tell me how good is it. :)
Everyone loves Kyoto because it's really so damn beautiful! It takes about 1hr 45mins from Osaka to Kyoto costing around 700 yen.
My Dutch friend and I started off with Arashiyama. I bet you have already seen lots of instagram photos about that bamboo forest, i've been wanting to go there, and it's really gorgeous.
We then took a train from Arashiyama to Fushimi Inari Taisha, another instagram worthy place. It takes about 1hr 15mins (yes, it's not that near, Arashiyama is pretty far off, that was why it was our first stop) and cost about 440yen. I really love how pretty that place is.
We then headed to Kiyomizu-dera by train, 30mins, 210yen. Pretty temple and it was also nice walking around that area.
Next was Gion Street where we had some fun spotting Geisha.
There's so much more in Kyoto that is worth exploring. I definitely would want to go back there again if i have the chance to.
That's about it for Kansai area. ;)
Zousan cafe is about 1 hour drive from Hiroshima city. It's located at a small town with lots of warm and friendly farmers. Wwoofing there was tough yet extremely rewarding. I think I've grown so much from it. I did so many things that i have never done before.
I had some difficulties when i was there though, mainly people issue, which i later concluded to be associated with culture difference and communication barriers. I almost wanted to leave earlier than I planned to. But i'm glad i didnt. "It's all in you mind", that's what I've learnt, you are the only one that can control your own happiness. Whatever tough situation you faced, as long as you keep the positive thinking and learn to stabilize your emotions, everything will work out just fine. And it did.
I was there during a super busy period - 5 days straight of public holidays where we had event at the cafe every night. I worked from 8.30am to 11pm during those days. Then the following week, we started harvesting and mashing tea, which requires us to start work at 5am in the morning. But the owners of the cafe were really nice, they kept asking me to rest whenever i can. At times it was me who didnt want to because i know how short-handed they are. It's a big problem that japan is facing, shortage of farmers, that's why they need wwoofers like us.
The interesting thing is that one of the staff is an astronomy professor, he had many telescope with him, so i got to see the moon from the telescope for the very first time. It was so amazing.!
I saw many shooting stars too!
It's pretty cool how he, an early 30s professor who used to worked for NASA, chose to live in the country-side with the hope to share information about astronomy with the country-side people through radio broadcasting. He also love hunting, so i got to try a lot of wild deer meat. There are simply too many deer in the country side and they are destroying the farmers' crops, that's why they have to hunt them. They also catch snakes sometimes to make snake wines. haha.
So beside farming (harvesting tea, removing weeds), i also helped out at the cafe (making coffee, cutting vegetables, preparing food, serving, and lots of cleaning and washing).
I like how the owner was proactively introducing me to the locals and his friends from Tokyo and Korea. He said it's a part of the experience, which i enjoy very much. He and his family took me out a couple of times - shopping, dinner, and even onsen. It's really nice of them.
Besides cafe and farm, the owner recently started a fishing business. I went out to the sea to fish with them once. It was pretty cool.
The accommodation there is pretty simple, futon style, it's not very clean but livable. There ain't wifi though, so i most of the time I would stay at the cafe till i'm about to sleep. The cafe is about 5mins drive from the accommodation place. So i usually tag along with the manager, who was also living there, to work and back home. If you decide to wwoof there, the owner will pick you up from Hiroshima Train Station, so no worries about getting there.
During my off days (once a week), i visited Hiroshima city, Miyajima, and Hamada. Hamada weren't on my list at first, but because the manager had to go there to settle some stuff, i had the opportunity to visit that place. He took me to Iwami Tatamigaura and then we drove all the way to Izumo-taisha.
Iwami Tatamigaura is so pretty! I just love being by the beach. I felt so rejuvenated! It's definitely a place worth going to.
It takes about 2 hours drive from Hamada to Izumo-taisha, but it's a coastal highway, so it's really pretty. We passed by many rice fields too. I just love road trips so much!
Izumo-taisha is one of the most ancient and important Shinto shrines in Japan, It's said to be oldest Shinto shrine in Japan. I can't believe i didn't know about it. So glad that my manager brought me there.
Overall, wwoofing at Zousan cafe was pretty rewarding for me. The owner is a very funny and entertaining guy. I had lots of fun drinking, chating, and singing with the team. This is kinda like a place where people work extremely hard but play extremely hard too. haha.
Click here if you would like to read an overview of my 2 weeks vacation in Southen Taiwan
I guess everyone who visit Hiroshima City would definitely not miss the Peace Memorial Museum. It's actually the reason why i chose to wwoof at Hiroshima. I've always been interested in History.
But It wasn't as good as i expected it to be, probably because i went there at the wrong timing, it was so crowded that i had a hard time seeing the exhibts.
The Peace Memorial Park is huge; pretty nice to walk around. But visiting places like this always bring one's mood down. Well, it's really about learning from history and not letting horrible things happen again.
I also went to Hiroshima Castle. But honestly, it was alright... I guess after seeing Himeji Castle, other castles just look fine to me. haha.
That's all i did at Hiroshima city actually. haha.
I recently met a lady who live in Hiroshima and has a blog that is all about Hiroshima (attractions, food, events etc). I found out from her that there's a huge waste incineration plant there that is extremely informative. I wish i knew that earlier. So do check out her blog about Hiroshima if you are planning to go there.
Miyajima is famous for it's "floating shrine", which is a World Heritage Site. There are many deers there wandering freely around the streets and parks, just like Nara, but the deers there seems much skinner compared to those at Nara.
To get there, simply take a JR to Miyajimaguchi Station, and from there take the ferry to Miyajima (10mins, 170yen each way).
Don't missed Itsukushima Shrine, I find it really pretty, but i heard it's even nicer when the tide is high.
Miyajima is also famous for it's mountain top view at Mt Misen, which i didn't manage to go because i didn't have enough time. But I highly encourage you to do so, hiking is so rewarding.
Simply walking around the island is good enough for me. It's a pretty island!
Oh i had a super good but rather expensive ice cream (500 yen) when i was there! The ice cream cone is so delicious! It kinda taste like the 白色恋人cookie, which i love so much! You can find it in other parts of Japan too. Best ice cream i had so far.
That's about it! Have fun!
Click here if you would like to read an overview of my 3 months wwoofing experience in Japan.
This is where i had my best wwoofing experience out of all. It's also the only place that i didn't pre-plan. I got to know about this place from a taiwanese wwoofer that i met at my Hiroshima wwoofing place. When she told me how environmentally-friendly the owner of this place is, I had a very strong feeling that i will be able to click with the host very well. Which was true! :)
Another reason for going there was because i really wanted to go to Kamikatsu, a zero waste town, but i had a hard time finding a way to get there (it's a very small town in quite a secluded area). I was secretly hoping that the owner of this place will take me there, since he is so environmentally conscious, he probably will be keen to visit a zero-waste town too. That's what i thought back then. haha. And yes, he did brought me there :D
My Kagawa host is a musician who plays the Djembe and he's really good at it. He owns an event hall which he frequently hold concerts at; farm, and 2 guest houses. I got to experience so much during my 2 weeks there! The main tasks that were required includes feeding his animals (cats, dogs, goats, and chickens, rabbit), weeding his garden, harvesting food from his mini farm, making beer, and cleaning the house.
One thing i like about him is that he will always try to give you tasks that you like to do. "What are you good at or what do you like to do?", that was what he asked me right at the beginning. I told him that i like photography so he assigned me to help him take pictures of his newly renovated guest houses.
I was also assigned to do some art and craft, craving the guest house's signboard with my very novice skill.
I helped out with 2 events during my stay there, a music event and a free food event where i shared about my working experience at The Food Bank Singapore.
There were a couple of times that he had outside gigs to attend to, and most of the time he will take wwoofers along. It's really fun to be attending so many interesting events/concerts.
He also organised regular drum workshops and the best thing is wwoofers can join in too! We also had an opportunity to perform with him once! It was so stressful but fun!
I love how his place is filled with so much positive energy. He is extremely concern about the wellness of the people around him and emphasizes a lot about being happy. I met 3 other wwoofers when i was there and we had so much fun together!
I like working with him so much that i'm actually heading back there soon to officially work for him. haha. Sooooo i hope to see you there! I'm sure you will have lots of fun especially with me around. HAHA. ;)
Kagawa is famous for UDON! The udon there is so chewy and it cost only about 350 yen! Normally i can only buy food from the convenient store with 350yen, so it was really awesome to be able to sit down in a nice food store and enjoy a bowl of delicious udon. The best udon i had was a from a store called 吾里丸 located at 1 Chome-3-12 Miyawakicho, Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture 760-0005. Their famous butter udon is so tasty! Love it!
I've been to Takamastsu a couple of times with my Kagawa wwoofing host, but in terms of sightseeing, i only spent an afternoon touring around. My wwoofer friend and I rented a bicycle from the underground bicycle rental station for just SGD$1.50. The best thing is that there are such stations everywhere in the city and you are allowed to return the bicycle to any other stations. This, plus the fact that there are bicycle tracks everywhere, makes cycling around Takamatsu really convenient and enjoyable.
Besides riding around, we also window shopped at the shopping street located right outside Kataharamachi Station, and went to the famous Ritsurin Park (Entrance fee SGD$5.50). The garden was indeed huge and beautiful! I think it will be even prettier in Autumn or Spring with all the Autumn leaves and cherry blossoms. Damn i want to go back there!
I wanted to go Mount Yashima too, i heard you'll find a very spentacular view from up there, but i didn't have enough time to do so. Well, i'm heading back to my Ayagawa wwwofing place soon; i'll definitely find a chance to get there and share with you guys more about it.
That's all i have for now. :)