HAKONE

Where the mountain, lake and temple meet in one picturesque spot.

The infamous Hakone Shrine, with its red torii gates over Lake Ashi.

Getting to Hakone

Most travellers tour Hakone from Tokyo as it takes only 30 minutes by shinkansen from Tokyo station to Odawara whereby a transfer via the Hakone-Yumoto station will bring everyone to the town of Hakone. We travelled from Osaka via the Shinkansen because our journey started in Osaka and it took double the time to reach Hakone. Despite that, the journey was relatively peaceful and relaxing as the ride was smooth and we got some well deserved rest on the quiet train.

Accomodation options

Being a popular destination for day trippers and short stay travellers, Hakone has a range of accommodation options. As we were on a long trip away from home, our main priority was to keep the cost low but at the same time have the location be accessible and lodging comfortable enough for a good day’s rest.

Most hotels in Japan were pricey and hence we settled on K’s House Hakone. Even though it was a hostel, it sure was a quality one with an outdoor onsen attached! We paid around 5000 yen/pax for a Japanese room (traditional japanese futon beds) with toilet attached. Price varies according to peak/off-peak seasons. My friend bathe in the onsen and said nothing could beat soaking in a hot bath when the weather is chilly outside. 

K’s House is walkable from the station (15mins) but the local bus took about 10 mins and it stopped right opposite the hostel, so it was very convenient! More details can be found on their website, and you can reserve your rooms directly over there. 

A quick snapshot into our room, very decent sized, clean and has greenery out the window. The onsen is a steal!

Hiking Hakone and visiting the famous attractions 

We decided to do a hike in Hakone which would eventually bring us to the famous Lake where the Red Torii is and what we didn’t know was how long this hike took us!

Old Tokaido Stone Paved Road

This trail used to be one of the 5 famous highway constructed in Edo period to travel between Edo and Kyoto. Here you get to do some serious forest bathing as the path leads you through stunning nature and the beautiful forests of Hakone. The trails are lined with many slippery mosses so even with good trekking shoes, we find it challenging! Be careful and walk slowly! 

The walk takes around 1 hour plus to reach this traditional tea house known as Amasake Chaya. For me this was the highlight of Hakone, because the tea house had a very rustic charm to its interiors, there’s traditional fireplaces and the Amasake tea was oh my delicious! I still miss the mochi i had there! You could also take a bus there but i recommend doing the hike and ending it with the tea there, you will find everything taste better after a good walk. 

Amasake comes in alcohol and non-alcoholic form and is meant to bring some health benefits to you, like combating the fatigue in your body and helping with the gut health by introducing good bacteria. Try them, you will most probably like it! 

Lake Ashi to Owakudani 

After lunch at Lake Ashi, we hoped on a sight-seeing cruise bound for the Hakone Ropeway at Togendai St. to take us to Owakudani St. On clear days, you will have fantastic views of Mt Fuji. It was a very pleasant cruise, the breeze and sun was very welcoming as Hakone was still chilly during the time we visited. 

Owakudani

Being one of the most famous points in Hakone, for a reason because you get to see volcanic activity up close. This place came to be due to a phreatic eruption and pyroclastic flow that occured almost 3000 years ago. While we were there, the skies in the distance cleared up, and Mt Fuji was clearly visible, what a moment! 

As the trail was closed by the time we reached, we just had the famous sulfur black eggs, p.s. it just taste like any other normal egg 🙂 I do give a thumbs up for the aerial views via the Ropeway. Despite it being a very touristy destination, i think its still worthwhile once in a lifetime. 

More photos for you all to enjoy! 

Final thoughts

We thoroughly enjoyed Hakone, despite it being a popular tourist spot. Rather than a day trip, a few days there will allow you to slow down the pace, not rush from site to site, and maybe even set time aside for the Onsen and museums. Will i be back again? Definitely. 

Oh the curry and the izakaya shop we went in Hakone was Oiishi max. Here are the address to them if you are keen. 

Curry House: Cocoro

Address: 475-8 Yumoto, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa 250-0311. Refer to google maps for more accurate opening hours. 

Izakaya House (Below pic): Karuta

Address: 1 Yumotochaya, Hakone, Ashigarashimo District, Kanagawa 250-0312, Japan. Cash accepted only, make reservations recommended. Refer to google maps for more accurate opening hours. 

Oiishii!

Till the next post!

Universal Studios Japan!

Screaming in excitement

Introduction

Universal Studios Japan

Address2 Chome-1-33 Sakurajima, Konohana Ward, Osaka, 554-0031, Japan

Universal Studio Japan is a popular theme park in Osaka, Japan, which officially opened its doors to the world on March 31, 2001. It is one of six Universal Studios theme park worldwide and second to open outside of United States. Japan Universal Studios happens to be the most visited theme park in Asia. Now it is no wonder why it’s important to plan ahead and get your tickets in advance online before heading there. 

USJ Ticket Purchase (For overseas)

Don’t wait till you head into the country to purchase your ticket! Universal Studios Japan has a few themed attractions that are highly popular and if you wish to skip the queues and be guaranteed an entry, purchase the express pass in advance at USJ webpage linked above or head to Klook to purchase.  

I personally brought it from Universal Studios Japan website and because my planning was a little late, i missed out on the express tickets from both websites, (including Klook), they were all sold out. I could only purchase the normal day pass which cost about 8600Yen/80Sgd/58Usd depending on the day of the week you are visiting. Weekends are going to cost you a lot more and not to mention the crowds! 

A tip from many sources, it is best to head to Universal Studio Japan on a Wednesday or Thursday as Monday and Tuesdays can be filled with school kids on excursion and weekends are filled with the general tourist crowds and families out on a weekend trip.  We went on a Monday and it was equally crowded! 

Buy the express pass if Super Nintendo World is top of your bucket list, saves the time to actually rush down to get a timed entry and head in at any time you want to experience the beauty of either the day or night. More on timed ticket entry later. 

Getting to Universal Studios Japan and Opening hours

It is convenient to get to Universal Studios Japan by train. Take the JR Yumesaki line from Osaka Station to Universal City Station which takes around 10-15 minutes and cost about 180Yen/1.70Sgd/1.20Usd (one way), or if you are lost, google maps will lead you with the right train line to board. From Universal City Station, there will be clear signages leading you to the park station. 

USJ Entrance

The opening hours of Universal Studios Japan varies and it is best practice to check the official website for the opening time of the date you’re visiting, even a day before to ensure that it doesn’t change. If the opening time states 9.00am opening, be there 1 hour before as it is common unspoken practice for them to open the gates 1 hour before opening time. Our opening time for that day was 8.00am, so we made sure to be there before 7.00am and true enough, the gate opens at 7.00am. Our crowd video snippets will tell you that this is an open secret. 

Us at 6.40am waiting for the unofficial 7.00am opening time.

Themed Zones

Universal Studios Japan has 10 areas of themed zones, each transporting you to a different world of excitement and thrilling adventures. Here’s the map.  

Courtesy of USJ

Here’s a brief snapshot of the themed zones 

  • Super Nintendo World
  • The Wizarding World of Harry Potter
  • Minion Park
  • Universal Wonderland
  • Hollywood
  • New York
  • San Francisco
  • Jurassic Park
  • Amity Village
  • Waterworld

We did not visit all of them, some areas we briefly walked through as we spent a huge amount of time at Nintendo and Wizarding World of Harry Potter, taking into account queuing for the rides. However, let us run you through these areas that we will recommend for anyone intending to visit these areas. An update in 2024, Spiderman has swung its last run in Jan 2024 so keep your eyes out for the next marvel feature hopefully? 

Super Nintendo World

As this themed area is the newest attraction, it was prone to heavy traffic. To combat this problem, USJ has introduced timed ticket entries (free) or (in advance – charged) to enter this play zone. For us, we didn’t managed to snag any express pass or advanced timed ticket entries, hence we went for the free timed ticket entry. 

The timed ticket entry is relatively easy to follow through, as long as you download the official Universal Studio Japan app, when you enter the doors of USJ, you can head over to your app and reserve the time slot you want for the timed entry. Just be early during your timed entry slots as the queue can take quite awhile to clear. 

what a timed entry looks like on the app

This area was our favourite as Super Nintendo was rooted deep in our childhood memories and games, if you were like us, this place will feel right at home to you. 

Power-up bands

To enjoy a more interactive and immersive experience, get yourself a power-up band to interact with the blocks and games in the area to earn digital coins and keys to unlock the ultimate challenge with Bowser Jr. The power-up bands comes in 6 different characters for you to personalise. Connect the band with the USJ app and you are set to go, there’s even a standing to compete with the people around and with your friends!  

All the colorful bands
Getting to the front is hard! Even with our timed entry

Inside Nintendo World 

Got our bands and ready to go!

The entrance brings back many nostalgic moments and when you pass through the green tunnel shown above, you will hear the tunnel sound in the games you used to play! 

A look inside the park!

Not just a child’s play, it’s an adult playground as well. We were so excited to start using our bands to collect digital coins from the power-up boxes lining every corner. As you can see, despite with timed-entry, the area gets really crowded, try to go as empty handed as possible to have a more pleasant experience playing with the interactive games. 

Mario Kart (Koopa’s challenge)

The first thing we did was head over to the ride attractions, mainly the Mario Kart as that was the most popular ride and the queue builds up really fast. Our tip for you is to head straight for single-ride line, as it generally goes a lot faster. If you are lucky, you may even still end up playing the game with your friend. 

I didn’t get to be in the same kart as my friend but it was fun nevertheless. For the Mario kart, you will have to put on these VR googles and it will take you on a virtual kart race that feels really immersive. Highly recommend to queue for this game, kids will love the experience as well. Here’s a POV from my friend’s experience on the Mario Kart below. 

The other ride is Yoshi’s adventure, where you take a kid’s track ride through the themed zone. As the queue for this was way longer as many families with kids were queueing for this ride, we decided to skip that, and head on to the restaurant for a meal and spend the rest of the day playing with the interactive games to collect the 3 keys to enter Bowser JR’s challenge. We didn’t made it unfortunately, even trying to complete the different games required queueing, and we realise we do want to spend some time outside of Nintendo world to see the other zones as well. 

Here’s some pictures from our experiences in Nintendo World. I would love to return to try a night experience in future, as the lightings will bring a different visual experience compared to daylight. 

Wizarding World of Harry Potter

This was actually the first attraction we went to, because we didn’t manage to obtain the first timed entry for Nintendo World and lucky us, because it was just the opening of the day, the crowds were just streaming in and we managed to head over immediately to the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey theme ride! The queue moved fast and within 10 minutes, we were on this exhilarating journey as the ride transport you to the Harry Potter and the quidditch game. I could still remember the fire breath from the dragon right in my face!

After the thrilling ride, we spent some time at the wizarding shop and admire the expensive wands and robes that they put for sale. Unsuspecting tourists will be tempted to buy something there as everything felt so movie-like and real. The wand makes you want to buy it and cast a spell within the Wizarding world at USJ, there are a few points to play out those spells with your newly purchased wands. As the queue for the other ride grew longer and we had to rush to our timed entry at Nintendo World, we headed to queue for Butter Beer before quickly moving on to Nintendo World. 

We trying butter beer!

Jurassic World, Minion Park, Amity Village & Waterworld 

After a few good hours or spending half a day at both Potterworld and Nintendo World, we moved on to other themed areas of the Park. My friend is a big fan of minions hence we made a point to visit that themed area and we were lucky to meet the minion mascots, and took many pictures with them. We also went to Amity Village and took the infamous jaws ride, it was the perfect excuse to just sit down and let the boat take us through the adventures because we were tired of standing and walking.

Then we went on to catch the action packed stunt show at Waterworld (highly recommended). The sound effects together with the explosions and gunfire will keep you glued to your seat and very entertained. Hehe, another respite from standing 🙂 Then onwards to the last attraction at Jurassic World where we waited for the meet and greet with the Dinosaurs. It was so surreal to see these dinosaurs up close, it was one of my favourites, because i love dinosaurs. Dropping some cool pictures here and also some videos of the meet and greet with Dinosaurs. 

Food in USJ 

Spending money on food in USJ can’t really be avoided if you want to spend a full day inside. You could take in some sandwiches from Lawson outside or just try some of the themed food in any of the attractions that you loved! How many times am i really heading back to USJ, so we had lunch at Nintendo World. The marketing i will say is 100% geared towards you spending your hard earned cash but the taste isn’t up to any gourmet standards that will make you go wow, and will return 100% just for food.

Honestly we were just tired and hungry and the food at Nintendo world looked cute, the queue was horrendous but the cafe was quite instagram worthy and has a cute Toad mushroom video to keep you entertained. The outlook of the dishes looked great but they taste alright, wouldn’t say it’s a disaster but for the price, well let’s just say, you don’t go to USJ just to eat, it’s for the overall experience! 

Overall experience at USJ

Highly on the to do list for your Osaka trip! Would recommend staying at the hotel inside USJ if you plan to spend a whole day there, because the tiredness from all the adrenaline and walking is real. Otherwise, get the 2 day pass if you want to take it slow at every theme attraction or trying all the rides are your priority because without the express pass, the wait can be really long for each ride. Be prepared for crowds and emptying your wallets for cute merchandises and exorbitant food prices that may not fill up your tummy leading you to second servings somewhere else. 

P.S We settled our dinner out of USJ, the whole area in general, and went for a very Japanese restaurant near the mall in Osaka station that only has their menu in Japanese and the prawn was still alive in our sashimi! Culture and food shocked and a group of Japanese ladies decided to chat with us. Rest and onward to Hakone! 

Missed our journey? Start from our first post in Osaka!

48 hours in Osaka (Part 2)

A continuation of Part 1, we visited Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium and the Osaka Castle.

Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium 

Address1 Chome-1-10 Kaigandori, Minato Ward, Osaka, 552-0022, Japan

Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium is considered the biggest and Japan’s most spectacular aquarium, well known for their interactive and innovative presentations. There are over 15 large tanks, each recreated with a specific region of the Pacific Rim in mind. The largest, most iconic centre-piece of the aquarium is the “Pacific Ocean” tank, spanning 9m deep and 34m long with 5,400 tons of water, home to Kai and Yu, their 2 whale sharks, the largest species of fish in the world. Here’s a glimpse into the “Pacific Ocean” tank. 

Kai and Yu, the 2 whale sharks of Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium.

Admissions and Prices 

Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium is a famous attraction for both the locals and foreigners, having a reservation for a timed entry ticket is highly recommended and should be done in advance before heading there. You can buy the timed entry e-ticket here, even foreigners can easily purchase it with any visa/master card. The opening hours of the Aquarium varies by the months and the day of the week which you are visiting, the selection can be made and taken note of when purchasing the e-ticket. 

Exterior of the Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium

The price list are as follows in Jap Yen, do note to check the website for a more accurate pricing, as those in red are the prices for different dates of the month. It will change according to date and month, this is just for reference. 

16 and Over \2,700 \3,200 \3,500
Ages7~15 \1,400 \1,650 \1,800
Ages3~6 \ 700 \ 800 \ 900

Try to visit early as the aquarium does get really crowded later in the day, even on a weekday. Furthermore, starting early gives you more opportunities to catch the feeding times of the different tanks, as well as ample time to enjoy the aquarium as there are close to 30,000 creatures, encompassing 620 species! Although, the Kaiyukan aquarium may have a slightly pricier admission but it provides a very rewarding and enriching experience for all ages alike. 

Highlights of Aquarium

Apart from the 2 iconic whale sharks shown above, we felt that there were a few exhibits that were really worth it and one of them was our main reason for heading there. That is the seasonal exhibit where the Mola-Mola aka oceanic sunfish are displayed!

There are very few places in the world where you can actually see Mola-Mola in their natural habitats and the nearest one closest to home is Nusa Penida, Bali. They are seasonal and generally sighted during the months of August to early November when the water temperature drops. However, it is not a 100% sighting even when diving during the Mola season, i’ve heard of people diving for 12 sessions straight and not seeing a single one in the wild! 

Apart from the seasonal exhibit, spend time at the Aleutian Island tank to see the puffins, Monterey Bay to see the sea lions, Tasman sea to watch the playful pacific white-sided dolphins! Don’t miss the huge Japanese spider crabs in Japan deep and the exotic jellyfishes floating around graciously in the Jellyfish exhibit. 

Cute ring seals
The puffins of Aleutian Island

Final Thoughts 

We love the Kaiyukan Osaka Aquarium, it can be quite therapeutic to look at the huge sea creatures swimming around and hours do pass by without you realising! Although we went in relatively early, we completely missed the lunch hours of the restaurant we were intending to visit! There’s a huge gift shop in the aquarium and kids would love it there. Besides the aquarium, there’s also the giant tempozan ferris wheel and legoland nearby which you could explore. Is it worth the money and time? Yes, totally. 

Osaka Castle

Address1-1 Osakajo, Chuo Ward, Osaka, 540-0002, Japan

History

Osaka Castle was built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1537-1598), a powerful and feudal lord during the Sengoku period. Upon completion, the castle has seen through its fair share of wars that were raging in Japan at that time – essentially unifying the country and bringing temporary peace. However not all peace lasts forever and the Castle has been destroyed numerous times. In 1665, the main castle suffered fire damage due to a lightning storm, while another 200 years passed before it was destroyed during the Boshin war

The most recent reconstruction to the Castle was made in 1928, and was recognised by Japan government as a “historic site” in the 1950s. The last restoration done to the Castle was in 1997. Today, the castle you visit is a beautiful testament to traditional Japanese architecture with its subtle balance of colours and shapes used in the different levels of the castle. 

Admission

Osaka Castle park surrounding Osaka castle is free, so feel free to head over and spend a few hours there. Tickets are required to enter the main tower and Osaka castle museum, as well as the Nishinomaru Garden. We head over to Osaka Castle after our Aquarium visit hence we were relatively late. 

We even took a break at a mall in the park, called Miraiza, and had some Tully’s coffee. Mid-may, everything was heating up, including the weather! Unknown to us, we didn’t research enough and thought the castle will stay open till late. To our horror later, the castle closes at 5pm, it was close to 4pm but we wanted to head in to explore and enjoy the observatory rooftop hence we ran to join the long queue. 

Walking towards Osaka Castle
We even went for a coffee break at Miraiza not knowing the Castle’s closing time!

After a short while in the queue, we realised they allow people to skip the queue for those with a QR code admission, that was when i realised we could have just purchased online on the spot and skipped the queue! So i went online to Klook and purchase a ticket each, once we had the confirmation email and QR code, we passed it on to the lady checking and there we go, through the gates, without the queue! 

Here’s the link to the Klook purchase. You can buy on the spot on the day itself if you aren’t sure there’s enough time for you to head there. The opening hours of the Castle is from 9am-5pm daily. The ticket cost (SGD 5.50/yen 600/usd 4.00) per person. 

Castle Attractions

The Osaka castle is surrounded by secondary citadels, gates, turrets, and impressive stone walls and moats. There are many a thousand artefacts in the museum with holograms, 3D pictures and other technologies to describe the rich history of the Castle. The top floor of the Castle also provides a impressive view of the city. Even if you do not wish to enter the Castle, do give Osaka Castle park a visit as the Castle looks beautiful from the outside as well. Here’s a few pictures below to explain why a visit is recommended! 

One of the display inside the museum to showcase Osaka Castle and its surroundings
just outside the castle
One of the side of the observatory platforms. There’s north, south, east and west views.
The moats surrounding the castle

Final thoughts

We would definitely recommend Osaka Castle, or a trip to Osaka Castle Park, no matter if it is the cherry blossom season or not, it is beautiful in many ways. Just admiring the castle from outside may be sufficient for those not into the history or crowds within the main tower. However, to better appreciate Japan’s culture, we strongly recommend sparing a few hours to explore the museum of Osaka Castle. 

bugcat from outside agrees that its beautiful too!

Osaka Castle park is relatively huge, therefore you can opt to take a train that takes you around the park. The schedule and location can be found here.

The train that takes you around Osaka Castle Park, good for all ages alike!

Bonus

Craving for dinner or lunch and had cravings for Yakiniku? We happen to find one that was great value for money and will recommend it to anyone looking for a fuss-free meal near a main transfer station, shin-osaka station. 

Here’s the restaurant name:

Osaka Yakiniku Matsuya Shin-Osaka

Address5 Chome-16-1 Nishinakajima, Yodogawa Ward, Osaka, 532-0011, Japan

Hungry

It was pretty affordable, with meals ranging from YEN1000-4000/SGD10-40/USD7-30, i ordered the beef steak set, while my friend ordered a combination of beef and pork. Our advice, stick with the beef! They do provide an english menu when requested however we realised sometimes the local Japanese menu has more variety, so we just used google translate to order. 😀

Up next, we head to Universal Studio Japan for a fun filled day of adventures! 

48 Hours in Osaka (Part 1)

Attractions not to be missed! 

There are quite a number of attractions in Osaka, appealing to a wide range of ages, kids to elderlies. As 2 grown adults, the places we recommend below are good for all ages and they will keep you pretty occupied and exhausted by the end of the day. Here are the attractions we visited in a nutshell: 

  • Dotonbori 
  • Osaka Kaiyukan Aquarium
  • Osaka Castle
  • Universal Studio Japan (There will be a separate post on this) 

Brief History of Dotonbori

The history of Dotonbori runs all the way back to 1612 where a merchant named Yasui Doton invested using his personal capital to develop and expand the Umezu River into a new highway that links the local canal network with the Kizugawa River. Unfortunately his project was interrupted by war and he was killed in the Siege of Osaka in 1615. His cousins later completed his work and in his memory, it was named Dotonbori or “Doton Canal”. 

Dotonbori

This lively entertainment area of Dotonbori is Osaka’s most famous tourist destination, renowned for its neon lights, extravagant signage and a wide range of restaurants and bars. It is a place you will see on most people’s social media feed when they are in Osaka and not a place to be missed, if you are a first timer to Osaka.

Since it’s post-covid, the area was bustling with tourists even on weekday nights. We made it our first stop to have our dinner and take in the views of the bustling entertainment area, primarily to have a picture with the famous Glico running man. 

The famous Glico Running Man

Crowded night scene of Dotonbori

With a quick google search, there will be many recommended famous restaurants to try out in Dotonbori. However we just went accordingly to google reviews, the highest one that is near to us at the point where we are. There were 2 street foods that we tried that night, namely Takoyaki and Okonomiyaki. If you have limited stomach space when you’re in Osaka, and it’s your first time, please try these 2 iconic dishes! 

The queue for Okonomiyaki was quite long, therefore my friend went to queue for Takoyaki, to curb our hunger and to make our wait less torturous. Here are the stores we went for Takoyaki and Okonomiya respectively. 

Takoyaki Kukuru Dotonbori 

AddressJapan, 〒542-0071 Osaka, Chuo Ward, Dotonbori, 1 Chome−10−5 白亜ビル 1階

 
Takoyaki

The Takoyaki was very different from the ones in our home country, Singapore. The fresh batter shown through when you take a bite, the octopus inside was a huge piece. I am not qualified to say this was the best takoyaki in Osaka but for a comparison back home, this was really worth the queue. They were only sold in 8 for (890 Yen/8.20 SGD/6 USD) or 12 pieces and could easily fill you up if you’re alone. Menu available here.

My friend and i shared half so that we could have the stomach space to try Okonomiyaki. 

Prices of Takoyaki

Okonomiyaki Sakaba O

AddressJapan, 〒542-0076 Osaka, Chuo Ward, Nanba, 1 Chome−7−15 江戸安ビルB1F

A gem we found around the corner where we first walked into the alleys of Dotonbori. A google search gave us a pretty high review and it was very near us. The famished us just decided to queue and trust the reviews. 

Remember to head there early as the queue builds up really fast and the seatings in this restaurant are limited. However, the okonomiyaki far exceeded our expectations, it was so delicious. While queuing, my friend headed to buy Takoyaki above, because the wait was long and we were starving. 

Us eating Takoyaki while waiting in line to enter the Okonomiyaki restaurant

As much as i would like to detail what we ordered, i can barely remember, haha! You can refer to the menu online here. 

I think we ordered the Ebi Tama (1000yen/9.20SGD/6.80USD) which is the pancake with prawn, cabbage and egg. Then we ordered the bite sized gyoza (550yen/5.00SGD/3.70USD). I highly recommend all of them, the okonomiyaki was made fresh on site and then transferred to the hotplate in front of you to keep it warm and crispy. The cabbage had a sweetness to it, paired so well with the batter of the pancake and the ingredients were fresh and they don’t stinge on them. To me that was easily my favourite in Osaka and till date, i often find myself wanting to return for more. 

Pictures and vidoes can’t reflect the great taste of the okonomiyaki here, but here’s a few short vids to let you see how the place and food looks like! 

A small and casual setting with great okonomiya and drinks!
Interior of Okonomiyaki Sakaba O
All our food!

Our thoughts

We will recommend Dotonbori as a great first stop in Osaka to explore and have a feel of the night scene, including the wide variety of food options to fill your belly. Next up, we head to the Aquarium and the castle in our next post! 

Osaka, the food capital of Japan!

The motto of Osaka is “Kuidaore”, which means “Eat yourself broke”. Osaka is known as Japan’s kitchen.
Any city where the people are willing to eat themselves into poverty is a place where food is taken seriously.


Japan Airlines (JAL)

Osaka! Oh yes we made it. We flew Japan Airlines (JAL) from Singapore to Tokyo, and then transited from Tokyo to Osaka. There are direct flight options from Singapore to Osaka via Singapore Airlines as well. 

In my opinion, JAL has modern fleets and their level of service was pretty impeccable. This was my first JAL flight and i was quite impressed with the quality of the food and the comfort of the seat. They are quite strict with their luggage weight restrictions though, be sure to weigh and pack properly to avoid troubles at the counter check in. 

Why Osaka

With nearly 2.7 million inhabitants, half of Singapore’s population, Osaka has grown to be Japan’s third-largest city and a highly popular travel destination in the Kansai area. What brought us to Osaka? My friend! She wanted me to experience Osaka for the first time with the highs of the relatively new Super Nintendo World (18 March 2021, cue Covid period) at Universal Studio Japan, the famous Osaka Castle, the Glico poster and the famous street foods of Osaka. 

From skewered meats to gravity-defying sweets, eating is big business in Osaka. They are best known for takoyaki, stewed beef tendon (doteyaki), deep-fried skewers (kushikatsu), okonomiyaki and many more. Due to limited stomach spaces and time there, we only tried what we could get around the vicinity that we were traveling in, more on our favourites to come in the next post. 

Being a virgin to Osaka, i was expecting it to be like Tokyo, with the confusing metro lines and the hustling with the crowds to get to a certain place. However as i set foot into Osaka, it felt comfortable. We were there mid-may, the weather was mild and comforting, neither too warm nor humid. The airport custom lines weren’t even as bad as Tokyo as i’ve remembered and we got out of the airport relatively fast to the train station, to take the train to the city centre. 

Getting to Central Osaka

There are many ways to reach Central Osaka from Kansai International Airport, rental cars, limousines or trains. We opt for the most economical and straightforward way which is taking the train. From our research, we’ve decided to take the Nankai Airport Express and Limited Express Rapi:t. The Limited Express Rapi:t is best as it covers the distance in just 34 minutes. It may cost slightly more, but with more comfort. Besides, the train is beautiful! 

Tips, we brought our tickets last minute on Klook, which gives you a cheaper rate than buying on the spot. It should cost about SGD10.30/ USD 7.60/ 1,030 yen whereas buying at the ticket station or machine cost about 1,130 yen which is around SGD 1 more each. Head over to the counter as instructed in Klook’s instruction to redeem and you are set to go.  

Here’s some images and videos to enjoy from the train station! 

  • Nankai Limited Express Rapi:t counter
  • About to board the train
  • Platform 2
  • Limited Express Rapi:t and its beautiful round windows
  • Me inside the train
  • Happy times
Arrival of our train
Interior of the Limited Express Rapi:t
Smooth and quiet, there’s sun blinds too if you think the sun is giving you too much of a headache 😉

Next, we navigated the metro and head to our Airbnb which will be our home base in Osaka. In the next few posts, we will talk about our favourite foods in Osaka, the attractions we went and also a post dedicated just to Universal Studio Japan and Super Nintendo World because there’s so much to do in a day there. 

Osaka map is much less complicated than Tokyo
Osaka’s metro map is less complicated than Tokyo

Accomodation

Our airbnb is located at Nishi-ku Osaka-Shi, 10min from Shinsaibashi station and 8min from Honmachi. As you can refer to the map above, it is very well connected to Central Osaka, 12min to Dotonbori and 25min travel time to Universal Studio Japan by Metro. 

The airbnb is equipped with a kitchen, washing machine, a separate bath and has everything one needs for a comfortable stay. I would recommend just 2 person maximum in the room, as the space is quite small. 

Here’s the listing if you are keen to know more and book! 

Maui wildfires – Lahaina

Condolences and praying for a healthy recovery

Heartbreak

Wildfires, we know what they can do. In early May this year, Western Canada had its fair share of wildfires that destroyed thousand of hectares. As the wildfire season continued, it has thus far destroyed closed to 13.3million hectares to date. More info about Canada’s wildfire can be read here.

However, what i really wanted to do here is to send my condolences and prayer to the hopeful recovery of Lahaina, western Maui, as a devastating wildfire destroyed what was once the economic and tourist hub of Maui. I saw the news, 9th August 2023. It was Singapore’s national day and 8th August 2023 in Hawaii, almost a day behind us due to timezone. 

At first i thought, oh wildfire, it’s bad but usually not overwhelmingly affecting too much. Having spent 2 months in the United States over the summer season, it wasn’t uncommon to see smokes and fires sometimes breaking out in the middle of nowhere, either caused by negligence or by nature, say a lightning strike. I saw the Instagram reel and many of the Hawaiian businesses that i’ve followed sharing the news, and i knew it had to be something catastrophic. 

I googled more, check for more videos and slowly realised the extent of the damage it had caused to Maui, left me in gasps. Over these 2 days, i remembered fondly of my times in Hawaii, mainly Oahu, and a small part of Big Island. The joy it provided me, the friendly aloha spirit and the ever clear inviting waters. I wished i was there, so i could offered more help and resources like blankets etc, other than cash that could provide them with more immediate relief. 

Aerial view damage of Lahaina
Aerial view damage of the coast of Lahaina

Donations

Right now i am sourcing for reliable places to donate and likely will go with either one. These 2 are some of the native councils namely,  Ainamomona, hawaiiancouncil. For Hawaiian council (CNHA), they have a partnership with Kamehameha schools, Alaka’ina Foundation family of companies and  Kākoʻo Haleakalā to match up to $1,000,000 in community donations for ʻohana impacted by the devastating wildfires on Maui. 

What happen to Maui

I have not been to Maui, most of my time in Hawaii was spent in Oahu and a short period on Big Island to see the volcano erupt. However, i’ve heard many accounts of travelers who had been there, who love it so much, and was almost always a recommendation from them for us to visit again one day. 

For you guys, here’s a map of Hawaii, and it’s various island, that made up Hawaii. Oahu is the home of the state capital. Looking at the map, you can see Lahaina, where the most severe damage is done. To date, as i’m writing, the death toll continues to rise to 53, with billions of dollars needed right now for the island to rebuilt itself. The wildfire started on Tuesday (Hawaiian time) and became widespread, fuelled by winds from passing Hurricane Dora.

Here’s a live update from washingtonpost on the situation, if you would like to follow. 

Hawaii Overview
Hawaii Overview

What you can do now

Some of the things that could help them now are

  • Do not travel to Maui

If you were planning on traveling to Maui in the near future, CANCEL your trip. The devastation from the wildfires will have a lasting island-wide impact on Maui’s resources, and the community needs time to heal, grieve and restore.

  • Do not book a hotel stay. Survivors are priority now.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association and Hawaii Hotel Alliance are currently working with hotels in other parts of Hawaii to house displaced residents.

  • Do not fly to Maui

Hawaiian Airlines and Southwest Airlines are lowering prices so victims can evacuate off the island. It is not a time for you to book cheap flights for your vacation.

  • Donate, if you can

The residents of Maui needs your help. If you’ve ever been to Hawaii, wants to go, or simply wish to help, do consider donating instead.

Final words

I love Hawaii, it’s a place dear to my heart now after spending a month there. Let’s pray that Lahaina, Maui will recover steadily and the residents’ soul be filled with warmth and safety again. Stay strong Hawaiians, your people always have been.

Taking the plunge!

Jobs fill your pocket, adventures fills your soul

Jamie Lyn Beatty

Final days at work, preparation for a 2 month trip

Now, where do i start? 

My friend Shanery and I, we came from different backgrounds, different career, different lifestyle. I remembered the day we met, we chatted at a coffeehouse after climbing at an indoor sport climbing facility at Climb Central, we got introduced to each other via a mutual friend, Cheryl. 

Travel, mountains, hiking, outdoor sports, nature, we chatted for hours about our travel stories and realised, hey we kind of hit it off really well and can’t wait to actually travel together one day to experience the joy together. (This was covid period, quote 2020), none of us were able to travel out of the country so we had to wait. 

2022 in short

Fast forward 3 years, not only had we gone on a few trips together, like road tripping Melbourne when the borders first reopened, to hiking in the Taiwan mountains soon after she opened her borders to our countrymen. I dreamed to step foot on United States for the first time for my birthday, which happened to be United States Independence Day. Whereas, my friend was really keen on road tripping United States in a Camper van, and a plan was hatched in our minds. We wanted to go on a three month or longer road trip in 2022 to United States, exploring the different states and hiking the national parks. We even went on to book a few campsites in advance. 

Unfortunately, 2022 was a rough year for both of us, i didn’t had a smooth time at work and my health either. Questioning the days spent working at home for a job that kept me in my comfort zone for a very long time. Trying to move forward but lacking the motivation to do so.

The health also kept me on my job as i had many check-ups and physiotherapy to attend to. There wasn’t much travel except for the few neighbouring short trips to Malaysia as well until my friend had her personal stuff sorted out, as i wanted to be there to support her. My headspace concurrently wasn’t in a good place to enjoy, there was this unknown source of stress constantly wrapping my life, personally and professionally.

2023 and beyond

2023, this was a year where the dust settled, i finally took the break i wanted. It was very uncomfortable to leave my job and know that i will be back home months later jobless. However, i took this opportunity to break out of my comforting and secured life and went for something my soul always wanted, to travel and be away from familiarity for a good period of time.

My friend was due to return to her career soon and she happen to have this short period to take a break from the rough covid years before heading home to workforce. It was why we finally decided, it’s time for us to fulfil our 2022 dream trip. 

With the limited time my friend had before she needs to return to her career, we ditched the camper van idea. Instead, we decide to help shave the costs down by taking a month basing ourselves somewhere, then the next month travelling. Travelling on the go is very expensive because you will have to keep moving. Moving often meant that your transport costs and accommodation costs will chalk up to a big amount.  

The destination we chose was Japan for 2 weeks, after which we flew to Honolulu, Hawaii, stayed there for a month, and then we spend the final month travelling the west coast of United States via domestic air, public transport and rental cars. This blog came in 3 months late because we tried to create as much content as we could when we’re on the road, and we never seem to find the time to properly create content.

As we are not full time content creators, without the luxury of time, we are unable to update as we travel. Nonetheless, the backlogs will be updated here. 

In the upcoming posts, we will share more about why we decide to head to a certain country and where we explored/travel. We will also share more about the destinations in detail, (attractions, accommodations, culture, tips, transportation etc). So stay tuned if you are excited to read more about our adventures! 

In the meantime, here’s us travelling out of Singapore, and coincidentally meeting our friend, Jiayun, who just returned home from her solo 3 months adventure in Canada. Our flight out and her flight back home timing happened to match! We could briefly see each other before saying our goodbyes! If you are keen on hearing her side of the story, you can also read up on her blog here regarding Canada.

Pic below from left to right: Shanery, Jiayun, Michelle (Me) 

Shanery, Jiayun and Michelle
We met in transit.

You can guess where we are heading to next right? 😀

Inside JAL flight
Inside flight

About Us and Why sgroamers!

Kayak Fishing adventure
We went kayak fishing

Hey everyone!! We are two adventurers and dreamers from the sunny little red dot on the world map, which is Singapore!

It all started with watching hundreds of travel videos and an urge to travel since the pandemic that we thought that we wanted to start creating vlogs as memories to keep as well as to share useful advices and tips where ever we roam (in Singapore or around the world), hence the birth of our name.

The blog will serve as supplementary content to our videos of anywhere we travel as well as our home base, Singapore. 

You will find more detailed information like tips/tricks, the what and how that can’t be shared over one channel alone! 

We invite anyone like-minded to follow our journey. If you have enjoyed the content, consider subscribing to our blog and our youtube channel below 🙂 

https://www.youtube.com/@sgroamers

We do most real live updates here on Instagram: @sgroamers

Stay safe and happy!