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Hello965 friends: Matsumoto, Japan

Why we chose this city: Two words: Wasabi Farm.

Duration: One night.

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@almallaks

Where we stayed:We stayed at the Matsumoto Tokyu Inn. It was OK. But again, we didn’t really care about accommodation so much since we were always out. It’s a 5-minute walk from the train station, which was fantastic.

  • Things to do/see in Matsumoto:
    • Daio Wasabi Farm: You need a good day for this because you’ll need to take the train to get to the farm and then a lot of walking. If you’re lucky the weather will be good. It was pouring rain when we went so we couldn’t rent bicycles. But it was fun, you get to walk around the Wasabi Farm grounds and then you can go to the café area and try different kinds of Wasabi products. Make sure you try the one that’s fried. We can’t recall what it was exactly, but it was so delicious.

       

    • Matsumoto Castle: It’s glorious. We had to go really quick on our last day so we didn’t get a chance to do the tour, but if you have the time, it could be fun.

       

  • Food in Matsumoto:
    • There is a Vie De France at the train station. We suggest going there for breakfast. They have the famous melon bread along with a huge selection of Japanese inspired breads and pastries. Just try it all. You’ll never get the chance again. Also, their Black Sesame Banana Smoothie is amazing. We tried to recreate it – check our Instagram (@almallaks) for the recipe!

[JR Train: (Matsumoto to Nagano) – 51m – 0 transfer]

[JR Train: (Nagano to Yammanouchi) – 70m to Yudanaka Station]

by @Almallaks

Hello965 friends: KANAZAWA, Japan

KANAZAWA by @Almallaks

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Why we chose this city: Simple city, but cool things to see: one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan, an authentic samurai house/museum and a modern art museum. Oh yeah, and a ninja temple. So you can guess what we did there.

 

Duration: We only stayed one night, which was enough. But, we made sure to leave Kyoto early to make use of our first day in Kanazawa and took the last train the next day to Matsumoto.

 

Where we stayed: We stayed at the Kanazawa Excel Hotel Tokyu. It is a good hotel and the location was perfect. Walking distance to almost all our attractions. But, you will need to take the bus from the train station to the hotel. Just ask the information desk at the station and you’ll be good to go. Note: all directions below are made based on this hotel.

  • Things to do/see in Kanazawa:
    • One of the most beautiful gardens in Japan: Kenrokuen Garden

       

    • While walking from the hotel to the garden, you will pass the modern art museum on your right hand side. It will be hard to miss. Stunning building.20140329_113719

       

    • The samurai district is on the opposite side of the hotel. Ask for directions. But, it is a pleasant walk and the tour of the house does not take long. Very interesting to see.20140329_121350
    • What’s even better than the samurai house, is the ninja temple called Ninjadera. This needs to be booked in advance so make sure to ask your hotel to arrange it for you!
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  • Shopping in Kanazawa:
    • We weren’t there long so we didn’t get around to shopping. BUT, there is a HUGE department store literally across the street from the hotel should you feel the need to spend some Yen.
  • Food in Kanazawa:
    • On your way to the garden, on your right hand side, you will pass by a small shop. They sell Melon bread with ice cream. MAKE SURE YOU TRY THIS. And don’t worry, you can’t miss it, the heavenly smell will get you.
    • If you take a left after you exit the hotel and then a right, you will be in a small street. On your right hand side, there will be a small restaurant called The Cottage. It’s a husband and wife run place. You will love it. And the menu consists of whatever Tony feels like making that day. If you go, please tell Tony and Momo that Saad and Noor from Kuwait say hi! And make sure to try Tony’s tiramisu if it’s available… to die for!

      The Cottage

      The Cottage

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[JR Train: (Kanazawa to Matsumoto) – 5h 15m – 1 transfer]

STAY TUNED!!!

by @Almallaks

Hello965 Friends: Osaka, Japan اوساكا

by @Almallaks

Why we chose this city:We chose this city because of one thing really: sumo! This was one thing we were really interested in experiencing while we were in Japan. We got lucky that there was a tournament happening around the same time, so we jumped at the opportunity. We booked the tickets online in advance and collected them upon arrival. It also happens that Osaka is one of the biggest cities in Japan and is known for the food.

 

Duration: We stayed in Osaka for 2 nights and we think it’s plenty.

 

Where we stayed:Hotel Monterey Grasmere Osaka. Really nice hotel actually with a great location: connected to the train station and walking distance to the city center – Namba.

  • Things to do/see in Osaka:
    • We went to a Sumo match. It was one of the most interesting things we’ve ever done. Highly recommend it.

       

    • Osaka Castle. So beautiful and the area surrounding it is really nice to walk around in.

       

    • Namba –city center. Restaurants cafes and lights galore. Really nice and has little restaurants in the alleyways.

       

  • Shopping in Osaka:
    • We actually didn’t really shop anywhere except in Tokyo, but you will find a lot of stores in the city center (Namba).
  • Food in Osaka:
    • Make sure to try the fried octopus, they have many stands in Namba where you can try it. It’s their specialty!
    • Sanpei Restaurant: This is where we tried the Okonomiyaki (savory pancakes@), they were oh-so-good. You get to choose which toppings you want so you can be as safe or as adventurous as you want.
    • Lord Stowe’s: Tiny bakery in Namba (just for pick up). Not Japanese, BUT they had delicious egg tarts in different flavors. We loved the original; perfect for breakfast with coffee.
    • Matsuzakagyu Yakiniku: great restaurant in the town center. Top quality meat you get to grill yourself in a traditional Japanese setting. When you go, ask for Kuniyoshi!
    • Osaka is known for their food so ask your hotel for recommendations as well.

       

NEXT: [JR Train: (Osaka to Nara) – 51m – 0 transfer]

@Almallaks

Japan 101

by @Almallaks

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@Almallaks

We started planning our trip way in advance because we wanted to get the most out of it. We decided to go for 3 weeks and cover as many cities as possible. How did we decide on the cities? After loads and loads, and LOADS of research. There are so many beautiful places in Japan and so many things to see and experience. It is impossible to cover it all, unfortunately. So, it all comes down to preference and what you want to see and do.

Our route:

Tokyo -> Osaka -> Nara -> Kyoto -> Kanazawa -> Matsumoto ->Yamanouchi ->Tokyo

Japan Route

When to go: You can choose to go in any time of year, there are cities for every season: beaches and mountain climbing for summer, ski resorts for winter, and the spring for none other than the beautiful cherry blossoms. That was our choice – the cherry blossoms. So, we chose to go Mid-March to beginning April. But even with meticulous planning, the cherry blossoms bloom according to the weather that year, so it’s risky.  We kept our fingers crossed.

What to do before you go:

  1. If you’re planning on being in Japan for a while and traveling to different cities, the easiest and most economical way to travel is by train. Taking a cab everywhere will get very expensive, very quickly.
  2. We recommend purchasing the Japan Rail Pass, which gives you unlimited access to the Japan Rail (JR) Lines. We took the train everywhere even within the cities whenever we could. You can purchase one of their packages on their website: jrpass.com Here’s the thing, you can only purchase this pass BEFORE you go to Japan and once you land at the airport you activate it.

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Another thing you should look into is getting a MIFI: mobile wireless internet. That way, you can use your phone while you’re there without actually having to get a Japanese line. Cheap and easy. They actually can have it delivered to your hotel and then before you leave Japan, just place it in the cardboard envelope they provide and drop into any mailbox close by and  you’re done.  We got ours from japan-wireless.com

  1. ASK– anyone and everyone that you know who has been to Japan. Everyone has a different experience when they go– the more things you know, the more choices you’ll have on what to do when you get there. And even then, you’ll end up doing only a fraction of that stuff and find your own activities that you happened to come across. It’s just that kind of place.

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Packing:

If you’re planning on doing what we did (3 weeks, multiple cities via train), we highly recommend taking MINIMAL luggage. You will need to be mobile. Their trains run like clockwork, by the minute, literally. There will be a train at 5:17 pm and it will leave exactly at 5:17 pm – no joke. And there will be lots of walking (and getting lost) and stairs.  So, we only took a total of 4 pieces: two carry-ons (small, compact, 4 wheels for easy maneuvering) and two backpacks. And that’s it.

No, we are not kidding. You have to pack extremely well. Things you can layer, things you can re-wear and match with ease. Do not take anything you don’t really “need.”

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OK, Although it’s been a while since we went, we will try to be as thorough as possible. We want to give this beautiful place justice. Stay tuned and read the details of our experience in future posts on hello965.com!!

@Almallaks

Almallaks is all about family health and fitness. Saad and Noor – fitness enthusiasts at heart – with their little girl, Faye, post about their daily life, workouts, food and parenthood in hopes that they can grow as a family, stay active, have fun, and inspire others to do the same.
Instagram: @almallaks – Snapchat: almallaks