Kiyosu Castle

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How To Get There:

From Nagoya Station, take the JR Tokaido Line Local for Gifu and get off at Kiyosu Station.  It takes 7 minutes and costs 200 yen.  From Kiyosu Station, you still have to walk about 17 minutes to reach the castle.  Try to ask the locals on which direction you should go so you won’t get lost.

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Sakura at Kakamigahara

This is my favorite place to see the cherry blossoms because it has a romantic, jdrama-ish feel to it. During the sakura season, the park ground gets covered with a carpet of pink petals. My favorite part is the pathway where you can see pink paper lanterns hanging on the cherry blossom trees. This year, unfortunately, I visited a little too late. Thus, when I stepped out of the train station, this area was unrecognizable. Almost all cherry blossom petals have already fallen on the ground. It’s been four years since I last saw this place, and it’s disheartening that I have to wait again for another year to see its beauty. Sakura, you are so beautiful but you fade away so quickly.

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Hana Festa, Kani City

Flower parks are heaven on earth.  Standing in the middle of a field surrounded by lovely flowers makes me feel like I’m somewhere surreal.  I feel thankful that Japan has a number of flower fields that I can go to and enjoy.  I consider flower fields as one of my favorite destinations for travel.

Just around 25 minutes from where I live in Gifu Prefecture, there’s a city with a flower field famous for its different species of roses. Aside from roses, you can also see other kinds of flowers.  The name of the place is Hana Festa Commemorative Park which is located in Kani City.  It was the month of October, so I went there to see a field of cosmos.

The place is difficult to go to because of the lack of public transportation.  When I reached Kani station, I actually tried to ask one local if there was a bus going there on that particular hour, but unfortunately there was none.  So I decided to take the taxi.  The distance from the station to Hana Festa was a little bit far.  I had a chat with the taxi driver, and he mentioned about his travel to the Philippines.  After he dropped me off, I was concerned on how I could get home, so I still had to ask him how to get a taxi.

There is an entrance fee when you go inside Hana Festa.  Lucky for me, entrance was free during that time.  I forgot how much I paid for the taxi but I think it was a bit expensive because I felt quite relieved knowing that I didn’t have to pay the site’s entrance fee.

Hana Festa is huge.  Even though I had a map, I still asked one of the gardeners where the cosmos field was.  I already walked a long distance and I wanted to get to the cosmos field before I ran out of energy.  You’ll have moments when you’ll feel like you are the only person around.  There were a number of times when I saw no one in sight which gave me perfect opportunities to do selfies or use my monopod.

Hana Festa is a relaxing place to go to especially if you are just in a nearby city or somewhere in Tono region.  I’d probably go back there again when the roses are in bloom as Hana Festa is also considered as the best rose garden in Japan.

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I can’t really read kanji, but this is the bus schedule.

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How To Go There:

From Nagoya Station, ride a train bound for Tajimi.  Get off at Tajimi Station and ride a JR Taita Line for Gifu.  Alight at Kani Station.  The total train fare from Nagoya to Kani is ¥ 970.  From Kani Station, you can ride a bus (refer to the bus schedule above) or take a taxi.

Magome-juku, Gifu

Do you want to experience how the Japanese traveled from Kyoto to Tokyo during the Edo Period?  You can try walking along the ancient road in Magome-Juku.  Magome-juku walks you back in time during the Edo Period.

Magome-juku is located in Nakatsugawa which is one of the cities in Gifu Prefecture.  It takes 30 minutes by bus from Nakatsugawa Station.   As you walk along the town, you can find museums, restaurants, and shops that sell souvenir items.  The buildings and houses that line the streets resemble the old Japan.

Magome-juku is best explored early in the day.  I went there in late November of 2015.  I rode the first bus from Nakatsugawa Station , and I was the only person who got off in the area.  The tourist center was even closed when I arrived that I just took a picture of the walking map that was posted in one of the shops.  Some shops were still closed and there were even two cars that managed to use the narrow road.  The roads were steep, but I enjoyed strolling and taking pictures while it was still free from crowds.  After an hour, that was when the town was filled with tourists.

Magome-juku is an old post town where travelers during the Edo period rested after a long journey. When it rained, the road became muddy and too difficult to traverse. That’s the reason why the road is covered with stone pavements.  They made life easier for travelers and their horses.   It is also too steep that travelers sometimes leave their horses at one of the lodging places where they stay overnight before they go on their way.

Walking through Magome-juku will give you an experience of how it felt like to travel a long distance during the Edo Period.  It is a place that has become witness to the journeys of old Japanese people.

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How To Go There:

If you are coming from Nagoya, ride a JR Chuo Line Rapid for Nakatsugawa (Departure track number 7 or 11). It might take 71 to 85 minutes to get there. The fare costs 1,320 yen.  Once you reach the Nakatsugawa Station, ride the Kita Ena bus and get off at ‘Magome’ bus stop.  Here is the bus schedule.  I’m not sure if the schedule is updated but I used it in 2015.

 

Shirakawago, Winter Wonderland

Winter Wonderland is real.  I’ve spent two winters in Japan and on those times I never failed to visit Shirakawago.  It is my favorite place during winter.  I had wonderful memories during my recent travel.

My trip last December 2015 was the most memorable because I got to spend it with my two friends.  I remember the first time I visited this place alone and told myself how special it would be if I could just share its beauty with family and friends from the Philippines.  As we were walking towards the village, my friend –who traveled for the first time in Japan, told me that she was about to cry.  I knew the feeling.  It was snowing heavily and the place was pristine white.  The date we chose to travel didn’t disappoint us because just by looking at the scenery, we knew we were in wonderland.

I enjoyed the place because it snowed all through out from the moment we arrived until we got on the bus.  We had to use an umbrella to keep our cameras dry and to keep the snow from getting our coats wet.  Well, from time to time, we savored the beauty of the snowflakes letting them cover us.

My friend took a lot of pictures and videos of us.  I didn’t have to worry about not capturing my moments in this beautiful place.  We were born in a tropical country so snow is something we considered magical. Each of us took turns making our own little snowman.  We made a video greeting our loved ones a happy new year.  My friend made a snow angel, and then after that, we had to look for missing gloves.

I remember telling my friend that she was lucky because not all first-time travelers in Japan go to Shirakawago unless they read or heard of it beforehand.  This place is famous locally but it’s a secret gem for foreign tourists.  Shirakawago is one place I wouldn’t miss every winter.

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If you want to see how Shirakawago looks like during summer, you can check my previous post Summer in Shirakawago.

Shirakawago, Gifu

Shirakawago is a UNESCO World Heritage site located in Gifu Prefecture.  This place is a famous tourist destination in Japan especially during winter.  I`ve already experienced Shirakawago during winter but I still wanted to visit the place again in a summer because of the beautiful photos I saw in a blog.

Since it was a holiday, specifically Silver Week, the commute took longer than usual.  I didn`t really expect it.  The bus left the station at around 9:45 am and was supposed to arrive at 12:45 pm.  Instead, the bus arrived in Shirakawago at almost 2:00 pm.  My bus schedule for going home was at 3:00 pm so I was really stressed out thinking how I`d be able to enjoy my trip to Shirakawago.

When I arrived in Shirakawago, I hurriedly went to a bus counter and inquired about the availability of other buses at 4:00 pm just in case I wouldn`t be able to make it at 3:00 pm.  Fortunately, there were still available seats from Nohi bus.  When I was talking to the woman in the counter, she mentioned that most of the buses had been coming and going late because of traffic problems.  I assumed that my bus might also depart late so I didn’t buy a new ticket.

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It took me almost two hours to walk around and take pictures in Shirakawago.  If it`s your first time, maybe you can give yourself four hours.  You`d be able to really tour inside some of the houses and go to Shiroyama Viewpoint to get a good view of the whole village. I was not able to go there because of my limited time.  But in case you do, there`s a shuttle bus in the center of the village that goes there directly.  There`s usually a line of people waiting for that bus.   I went back to the bus station at 4 p.m. and I was glad the Meitetsu bus arrived just in time.  When the bus driver checked the names of the passengers, I wasn`t on the list!  It turned out that the 3 pm bus in which I had a reserved ticket for left on time. So the bus that newly arrived was for passengers who were scheduled at 4 pm.  I sat on a bench and waited until everyone got in.  After that, the two ladies who sat on a bench near me stood up and talked with the driver.  They also got left behind like me.  Fortunately for us, there were available seats at the back so the driver let us get in. The odds were in my favor!  I didn`t have any seatmate on my rides back and forth.

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Shirakawago during the summer is filled with green rice fields and different varieties of flowers. It`s a lovely village worth visiting when you are in Japan.  However, it isn’t really popular for first-time tourists who opt for Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka  If you want to see the other side of Japan, plan a trip to Shirakawago.  It`s very accessible especially if you`re just in Nagoya area. But please do check the best dates to travel or see what the place looks like at the moment before hopping on a bus.

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Tips for Travelers:

If you`re planning to go to Shirakawago during a big holiday like Golden Week or Silver Week, expect that there`s traffic congestion. If you are on a tight schedule and would want only a day trip, please book in advance, maybe two or three weeks ahead.  Or better yet, ride a train until you reach Takayama.  From there, you can buy a bus ticket going to Shirakawago.  In normal days, the buses arrive on time

How To Go There:

Go to Meitetsu Bus Center just somewhere at the back of Nagoya Station.  You can buy a ticket to Shirakawago (an estimate of 7000 yen round trip) on the third floor. Just ask the person behind the counter for the different time schedule. It`s best to buy a round trip ticket.

You can also ride a train going to Takayama.  Then from Takayama bus staion, you can buy a ticket going to Shirakawago.  This was what I did the first time I went to Shirakawago.  I rode a train going to Takayama and stayed there overnight because I still wanted to explore Takayama.  On the next day, I bought a bus ticket going to Shirakawago.  The bus may stop at different places but just remember that Shirakawago is the last stop and it`s where almost all the passengers get off