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! ;)
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. :)