Friday, April 26, 2013

Japan (Mar 2013): Day 3 Daytrip to Aizu Wakamatsu

Brief Itinerary for this day:
-5am woke up
-7am gathered at the hotel lobby
-about 7:20am took train from Shinjuku station to Tokyo station
- 0808-0929am took Shinkansen from Tokyo to Koriyama
- 0945-1057am took local train from Koriyama to Aizu Wakamatsu station.
-kinda lost track of time for the rest of the day since was busy enjoying myself...apologies.
-Tea Ceremony
-Spent 1hr to dress up in Kimono outfit at Tsuruga castle
-Watched Samurai swordsplay performance
-Visited Tsuruga Castle
-Sake Tasting at a Sake factory
- 1800-2200 took train from Aizu Wakamatsu to Koriyama, then Shinkansen from Koriyama to Tokyo, then taxi from Tokyo station back to my hotel at Shinjuku.

My expenditures: 3925yen
- 2625yen Souvenirs at Tsuruga castle
- 420yen Wooden sake cup at the sake factory
- 120yen Potato chips to tide me through the long train ride back to Tokyo
- 760yen Chicken cutlet with rice and gyoza bento set from convenience store for supper

Part of my prize from the photo contest was a day trip to Aizu Wakamatsu (Fukushima). It was an enjoyable activity packed day which consists of Shinkansen ride out of Tokyo, Tea Ceremony, lovely lunch, being dressed up in Kimono when visiting Tsuruga Castle, watched Swordplay performance, and visited a Sake factory for wine tasting.
You can also see a brief report of my activities for this day on the Japan Photo contest's official website here:

Aizu Wakamatsu is a charming town located on the western part of Fukushima prefecture near Niigata prefecture (fyi, the Daiichi nuclear plant is located more than 100km away, on the extreme eastern part of Fukushima prefecture near the coast, with a whole row of mountains between Aizu and Daiichi).

Yes, to be honest, I was also initially concerned about radiation when I was informed that I was being shortlisted for this award, but after spending a few months to monitor (daily) the radiation levels for Aizu Wakamatsu, I realised that the radiation levels for this town have maintained to somewhat similar to Singapore's radiation levels (about 0.09 uSv/h).

Since I love to eat Tonkatsu, so the the nice folks from JR East company arranged to get me a nice Tonkatsu sandwich ekiben (bentos you eat on train rides) for breakfast on the Shinkansen.

Mayumi-san had this very colorful box of Ekiben. 
Had a short 15mins transit at Koriyama to alight from the Shinkansen to catch a local train.
JR Ban-etsu West line (local train)
 Nice scenery on the train ride on our way to Aizu Wakamatsu from Koriyama. Yes, there's toilet onboard this local train.

Arrival at Aizu Wakamatsu station

1 of the 2 Ito-sans whom travelled with us for this day. He is a photographer helping to capture my activities at Aizu Wakamatsu. I sneaked this shot of him while he was trying to take a photo of me with the train. hehe. 
Aizu Wakamatsu train station exterior.
London cabs was specially arranged to drive us around on this day. yey...

The other Ito-san, who helped to plan this day's activities, and also happened to be having a bout of hay-fever on this day. Aww...
 1st activity of the day, Tea Ceremony at the Ochayagoten at Oyakuen

Eat the sweet bean dessert before drinking the tea...

Beautiful garden at Oyakuen

Had lunch at the Choyokaku located at Oyakuen...just 1 min walk away from the Tea ceremony venue.

Lunch specially prepared for me...
Sauce Tonkatsu. This is so good...
Konnyaku noodles with soup. This is actually my first time eating Konnyaku. :)
This udon is really so yummy. Love the soft texture of the udon which goes really well with the broth.

After lunch, it's time to head over to Tsuruga castle...where I spent 1 hour being dressed up. :)

Me, with the group of 15 journalists.

It was a short walk to watch the Samurai swordplay performance.

Yes. He sliced it.

That's Tsuruga Castle in the background

Changed back to my normal outfit.
 Was met by a Watanabe-san who patiently walked us through the castle while she explained the various artifacts to me in English. She's an English guide for Tsuruga castle.

Nice view from the top.

Was impressed by this lady who did a wonderful story narration of the history of the castle. 

Browsing for souvenirs at the castle
 Final activity for the day, sake tasting and a tour of the sake factory. I am someone who doesn't drink much alcohol, actually, this is my first time drinking sake...and it was so nice I had 2 cups! Mayumi-san was initially worried whether I was able to handle alcohol but even I was surprised at myself for not stopping at just a sip. 

Sake were made from these rice grains...

I was given a bottle of sake, it had a pic of me on it. :) 
 Was sad to leave Aizu at the end of the day. Had a bit of a rush since we only managed to arrive at the station just 5mins before the train had to leave. I especially regret forgetting to take a photo with many of the friendly people I met on my short day at Aizu Wakamatsu today.

To the warm gentleman (who was a representative from Aizu) who had been worried for me since I wasn't feeling well during the morning (my dear husband passed the flu to me just before I left for Japan so I spent my first 3 days in Japan being semi-sick...grrr), the 2 ladies (plus 1 daughter) whom helped to dress me up in the kimono, the group of gentlemen who did the amazing sword performance, the lady who brought me around Tsuruga castle, the talented lady who did the story-narration performance at Tsuruga castle, the gentleman whom brought us around the sake factory...and many others whom I met on this day...I'm sorry I am unable to remember all your names...but thank you for making this visit such an enjoyable experience for me.   
I hope I will be back to Tohoku again for a visit someday.  

Looking up, at Tokyo station.

 During the long train ride from Aizu Wakamatsu back to Tokyo, everyone was so tired that most of us just dozed off. Before saying goodbye to the gentlemen from JR East at Tokyo station, we managed to take a group photo. The 8 of us here travelled together since early morning 7am from Shinjuku...and it was nearly 10pm when this photo was taken.  Was also surprised to receive more gifts from some of them...which included a nice little spoon, a few Chopper mobile chains (had a fellow One Piece fan from 1 of the gentlemen from JR East. Hehe...) and also 2 cute looking sake cups. 

After saying goodbye to 4 of them, the remaining 4 of us took a taxi (my first time taking a cab in Tokyo...haha) from Tokyo station back to my hotel in Shinjuku.  

Thank you to everyone who was involved, in one way or another, in organising this photo contest and the activities. 

Supper from convenience shop.

My bottle of Sake

Go next to Day 4 Kawasaki

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