What an end to 2014, and start of 2015. I will always remember 2014 as the year I became a parent for starters. What better way to finish the year, with a 5 months old, than making our ‘almost’ annual trip to Japan with our 5 months old!? More accurately, it was more like a whirlwind tour which included a short trip to Kuantan (Malaysia), followed by southern Japan, then Seoul (Korea), and then a quickie trip to Brisbane (Australia). Yes, it was more than just a return flight with a baby. Apart from one ‘bad’ flight, the rest were relatively pleasant, and gave us a real appreciation for those parents flying with an infant! Anyway.. here’s the brief of the whole trip..
To start with.. it was a few days in Kuantan for a quick catch up for Wai Kuan’s relatives (around 20th/21st Dec) , some seeing baby Ethan for the first time..
Baby didn’t mind the ‘budget’ accommodation that we didn’t have to pay for.. at least happier than mummy who whinged half the time about the ‘hotel’ we were given. Baby Ethan probably haven’t seen so many kids and people at the same time since he was born.
We were only there for 2 full days, and before you know it.. it was straight to Osaka as our first destination in Japan. Baby didn’t mind staying at Marriott Miyako either. You know he likes it, when he does this on the bed..
Whilst it was not quite at the same level as ‘Ritz Calrton’ in Hong Kong we visited a couple of months ago, the view was still very nice by a long shot. We could see almost everywhere we visited during the day around Osaka.
Having said that, the highlight of our short few days here was probably our short day trip out to Kobe, where we sampled real A5 grade Wagyu beef at Ishida. Try that with a baby in your lap!
And perhaps, the next most memorable highlight was watching the Japanese ‘tradition’ of eating KFC or any fried chicken that resembles eating a turkey for Christmas.. Strangely enough, you’ll see quite a few of these KFC takeaway stalls littered around subway stations, so that you don’t miss out on ‘turkey’ for Christmas!
We certainly joined in for this, although we went with Family Mart version of the fried chicken instead.
The next stop was Hiroshima, where we stayed at Sheraton hotel for a few days. Travelling with a demanding baby, we pretty much skipped the whole memorials/museums the place is famous for. Instead, it was dabbing into activities that we ‘think’ baby enjoy as well, namely.. Hiroshima Okonomiyaki..
.. and lots and lots of oysters. Not that baby gets to have any of it.. he got a ‘stick’ instead..
Apart from that, we enjoyed walking around Hon Dori (Book street… not that there’s too many books), and even managed to see a bit of Christmas lights they put on around town. Hiroshima is one place where I know we will have to come back some time in the future to visit.
Next it was Miyajima, which wasn’t too far away from Hiroshima, and only required a short train ride and a ferry hop to the famous island. We only did a day trip here, but probably took more photos here than anywhere else this trip! That’s because it was just so ‘pretty’. I have seen the famous Miyajima Shrine on photos, postcards, and articles plenty of times in the past, and the real thing did not disappoint..
Apart from the shrine, there were a few more surprises, namely.. giant oysters..
And.. paper eating deers..
Yeap.. a deer approached our backpack, sniffed out the pack of tissue paper, managed to eat all the paper and left the packaging behind. Grrrrr..
Next stop it was Beppu (別府).. further southwest, and where we had a short ‘onsen’ break for a few days. Normally, we go to onsens with public areas, where we hang around a whole bunch of other naked strangers. Travelling with a baby though.. we opted for a hotel with a private onsen this year at Hotel Umine (うみね). Umi means ‘sea’ in Japanese, and it’s no coincidence that our rather large room had a view of the ocean… if you didn’t mind including the car park as part of the view…
Baby’s first ‘onsen’ experience all happened right here in this bath with a ‘view’..
Not bad given baby handled the usual water temperature (of about 40/41 degrees Celsius) very well, and looked like he enjoyed it too!
The few days we were here was pure relaxation, where we were either bathing, eat seriously fine Japanese food, or just plain ‘family bonding’ time..
Next.. it was a train hop across Mt. Aso (skipping this mountain this time.. where we thought the semi active volcano might not be too appropriate for baby), to Kumamoto city. But we didn’t go there by just any train. We went there with ‘Aso-boy’ train.. which is basically a train designed with kids in mind!
It included a little playground for kids to dive in and mess around! Try to look for one of these trains anywhere else in the world!
It’s definitely the only train we’ve ridden so far where we didn’t need to worry about baby crying and pissing other passengers off. It was fun for the baby, more relaxing for mummy and daddy, and I can’t think of any other way to arrive at a destination feeling like all of us were actually ‘happy’.
The actual destination is almost ‘boring’ by comparison. The ‘kuma’ in Kumamoto means ‘bear’.. so it’s not too surprising that you see a ‘bear’ as the town mascot everywhere you go. The town is famous for horse meat and the massive castle that dominates the cityscape. We didn’t really do a lot here though, apart from walking around the big ‘dori’ (streets) for a bit of shopping and people watching. Yes, I did try one horse meat bun..but really.. it wasn’t that memorable. Maybe the ‘spicy lotus root’ is worth a mention? That was at least pretty unique..
Our final stop in Japan was Fukuoka, which again is time for mummy and daddy to go shopping and buy stuff that we do not need. Known as ‘canal city’.. naturally there were canals to take photos of..
All we remembered was that it was cold! VERY COLD! I didn’t mind it, and we were even lucky enough to even have a day snowing! Lucky baby have seen snow already! I didn’t even get to see snow until I was in my mid 2os.
Not that it lasted, and the snow all melted by the afternoon. Oh.. of course we didn’t forget to sample the very very famous Hakata Ramen littered just about everywhere in Fukuoka city..
Perhaps one distinct ‘attraction’ of coming just after new year, is that you get to buy these ‘mystery’ shopping bags known as fukubukuro (福袋). Basically you buy a bag of ‘stuff’ that are generally from the last season, but you don’t get to see what’s inside. Well, that’s perfect for me, when it comes to clothes. So I didn’t hesitate to grab a bag of socks.. appropriately named ‘2 weeks socks’!
Apart from shopping, we did manage to fit in a visit to ‘Anpanman Musueum’ for Ethan. Anpanman is literally ‘bread man’.. and is probably Japanese kid’s favourite cartoon.
We think baby had fun.. but it’s probably more appropriate for when he’s slightly older. Having said that, as parents, we probably didn’t like the term ‘museum’ being used here. Not only did we have to pay for entrance, we had to pay for just about every game that we want to play, and the place really does feel like a souvenir shop than a ‘museum’.
Anyway, this post is wayyy too long. The Japan leg of the trip ended on 3rd Jan 2015. Our next stop is Korea.. so I’ll take a break here! Overall, it was a good trip, although I would have preferred one that includes some sort of deep powder snow and a bit of snowboarding/skiing. Nevertheless, it was all good fun that constantly brings me back here year after year! So expect another post here next year!