A Travellerspoint blog


Kinugawa spa resort

View Coronavirus 2020 on baixing's travel map.

Jan. 29/20

I woke up early again and crossed the street to the train station. I decided to go to Kinugawa, which is a natural spring onsen town. There were about 10 free onsens for foreigners until the end of February so I wanted to take advantage of them. It was only about 4 stops and I arrived there at around 9am. My hotel check in time was 3pm and in Japan, good luck to you if you show up early because sometimes nobody is there.
I thought I would put my bag in a locker at the train station, but it $7 so I decided just to carry my bag around to the onsen. However, I was still too early. I sat down on the bench and used the free wi-fi in the train station. I checked my wechat and I had a message from the ferry company saying my ticket back to China had been cancelled. Did you know there was a pandemic? I immediately called the ferry company and they told me that they couldn’t give me a refund, I would have to contact Ctrip directly because that’s who I paid for the ticket. Do you know how hard it is to find an english speaking operator at Ctrip...it’s hard… They have a North American office so I called there first. They wouldn’t give me the refund because I bought it on a Chinese app. It was a little bit lucky that Kinugawa was having this promotion today because there were four very polite ladies standing doing nothing behind a bright red “Welcome to Kinugawa for Chinese New Year” sign. Do you know what that meant??? They all spoke Chinese and English, exactly what I needed. Kinugawa was expecting a lot of Chinese people to visit. Lucky me! One of the women volunteered to translate for me on the phone after I explained the situation, however, the wi-fi signal did not reach her table and she would not be able to walk over to the bench I was sitting on using the wi fi approximately 20 metres away. So I went back to the bench and I asked her if she would come over if I waved at her once I got an answer because the hold times were very long and she said yes. I may have been on hold for 20 minutes but when I looked over at her, she was busy with someone else. The other 3 women didn’t speak English, only Chinese and Japanese. So they were also useless. I used my vast Chinese vocabulary to try to tell the woman on the phone to wait and she got the message. She also managed to find someone that spoke English at Ctrip which was amazing. She promised to give me a full refund. Mission accomplished.

As soon as I hung up the phone, a man came over to me and asked me if I needed help in perfect English, he spoke Japanese and Chinese. I thought “if you have been listening to me this whole time, why on earth are you telling me now, after I’m finished with my struggle?” I said “no thank you” and left the station. By now the rain had stopped and the free onsen was open.

The first onsen was called Kinugawa Park Hotel.
This was my favourite. It had long hours and two enormous pools inside and one rock pool outside and a wooden boat shaped pool also outside that was boiling...you boiled your skin off it was so hot!
I went there twice in two days. It’s a shame we can’t take photos inside because all of the onsen were very beautiful! It was fantastic! All of them also had luxurious undressing and dressing areas with amazing hair and skin products.

So throughout the two days I was in Kinugawa I had six showers and tried samples of at least 32 different Japanese hair and body products. This marketing plan didn’t work on me though, because I didn’t know the names of any of the products I was using.

After about 1 hour there, I walked to the next one across town which was called Kinugawa Onsen Hotel.

Once again a beautiful hotel but I was a bit early, not to worry, there were free tea and snacks in the lobby as long as you showed your foreign passport.
I asked someone if I could stand outside on the small porch and she said ok. She opened the window and I stood there for a minute with my tea until someone came running and ushered me back inside. I guess it wasn’t a very sturdy porch. By that time, the onsen was open and I took another shower and another bath and tried at least 4 more beauty products.
The last stop of the day was, Isshinkan. It was also a very nice onsen but I only had about 45 minutes to try it out. There was another rock pool inside which was not very hot.

I returned to my hotel.

There was a sign on the front door that said closed and so I had a bad attitude since I got there. It was about 4:45pm so this didn’t make sense to me because check in time was 3pm.
To my surprise the door was open and there was a man sleeping on the bench inside. The hotel had given me instructions on how to do a self check in on a small computer. When I tried to put my code in...it didn’t work. So I woke up the sleeping man thinking he could help me. All he said was “no, no, no, no” and he started to make a pot of tea. I gave him my passport and I just said “key”. He just kept repeating no. I saw the wi fi password on the wall so I connected to it and called booking.com again. After 15 minutes or so on hold, the woman on the line said she would talk to the man for me in Japanese. So, I waved him over, he talked to her and then he gave me my key.

I went up to my room, finally put my bag down and then I was hungry. There is a cheap grocery store in that part of Japan called, Lion D’Or. Golden Lion. I found one on Google maps that was about a 30 minute walk away, so I made it my next destination. I got there in time for half price sushi, after 7 p.m.! I went home with a bounty of grocery takeout, again. As I walked pass the main town square, I noticed they still had a Christmas tree up, at the end of January. It was funny to me.


Before I got to Kinugawa, I thought that my illness was over. But after soaking in 12 different pools of hot water and running around soaking wet, I was sick again. I just ate my sushi and blew my nose all night long, again.

Posted by baixing 13:28 Archived in Japan Tagged kinugawa Comments (0)

Snowy Nikko

View Coronavirus 2020 on baixing's travel map.

Jan 27, 2020
Toshi’s mom was very worried about me taking the train by myself. She took a giant piece of paper and wrote every step of the directions to my next destination in Japanese for me. I was going to Nikko to see a famous temple and bathe in the natural spring onsen. She also gave me at least 3 pamphlets from the train company written in Japanese. I was about to walk to the train station but Toshi’s dad made me get into his car. He said good bye and despite all their worry, he left me on the wrong side of the tracks. I almost got on the train going in the wrong direction.

I thought that the bus would be easier because I checked Google maps for the directions, but it ended up being kind of a mess. The bus dropped me off at another train station. It was only one or two stops to Nikko from there. However, the ticket seller only saw a white lady and sold me the most expensive ticket, of course. But I didn’t know what I was buying because it came off of my Pasmo (debit) card. I don’t know what happened, I thought I tapped on, but when I got to Nikko, they told me to give them more money! I was so confused and angry, I just ran away.

My hostel was across the street from the train station but no one was there to check anyone in. It was freezing and the lobby was not much warmer than outside. I didn’t know what else to do so I sat down and worked on my next assignment in Tokyo. When the hostel manager finally showed up he pretended not to see me, I had to beg him for bed. After a strange conversation, I finally figured out that there was one bed available for the night. I took a shower and put my stuff down. There was a guy from France who hardly spoke any English. I tried to talk with him for a bit and he was so patient with my horrible French it was hilarious. He wanted to know if there were any onsen nearby and I told him I didn’t know. When I went to the tourist information centre, I remembered his idea. I asked if there were any onsen nearby. The tourism agent had already given me about 10 maps and pamphlets for things I didn’t ask for. She became really excited and told me that there was a special promotion for foreigners. There were about 30 free onsen in town and in other towns nearby this month. If I had never met the French guy, I wouldn’t have asked and wouldn’t have known about the free onsen!
I got back to the hostel and showed him all the free onsen. He was really excited. I went out to get more sushi and takoyaki (squid balls).


I had a leisurely dinner by myself because the french guy met a Japanese motorcycle gang leader and left with him. Then an American lady came with her Spanish boyfriend. He had left his international driver’s licence on the table in the shared kitchen. I had already started to look for him on Facebook, in case he was gone. So, when they walked in, I recognized him and gave him his licence back. He didn’t seem to care, he just said, “I leave everything everywhere”, and I found out later this was true. His junk was all over the common areas all the time. At first I made friends with the American lady. We went to the free onsen together and some German people we already met were also there. They had already found out the ancient Japanese free onsen secret. I thought I was special.

Jan. 28, 2020

I woke up early and went to the Tosho Temple. It was snowing a lot and the snow was really heavy, wet and horrible but I got there before the crowds. I walked around in the snow until I was sick of it and my feet were freezing and soaked right through.


Luckily there was a free onsen nearby at a 5 star hotel. I showed them the pamphlet I got yesterday and they let me right in. You could sit in a small wooden tub with 2 other old Japanese ladies outside in the snow...fantastic. At least my feet were warm and clean again. I stayed there for a while and ate my snacks of oranges and nuts afterward.

I went back to the hostel and the french guy told me all about his party with the motorcycle gang. I tried my best to speak french to him. The american woman, Aleasha was listening. Apparently my french was causing her mental anguish. I went to bed and I heard her say “Are they finished? That was the worst french I ever heard.” I said from behind my hostel bed curtain, “That was my french Aleasha” she didn’t reply. Later I heard her trying to force the french guy to speak english to her because she didn’t speak a word. Goodbye Aleasha.

Posted by baixing 12:09 Archived in Japan Tagged nikko Comments (0)

Utsunomiya with Toshi

View Coronavirus 2020 on baixing's travel map.

Jan 25, 2020
I had to wake up early to meet Toshi. He knew the ancient Japanese secret of buying train tickets in Tokyo. We had to go the basement of a mall first and then wait in line for a store to open up. Toshi called it a shareholder store…. I don’t know what that means but we waited in line a bit for the store to open and when the garage doors opened dramatically, everyone ran in and got their cheap tickets. So we took our tiny tickets to the train and headed to his parents’ house which is near Utsunomiya. I think it took 4 trains to arrive there.

His parents live in a small town with one onsen and one grocery store. We ate sushi from the grocery store and then went to the onsen. When we got back his parents were home from playing pachinko. They said hello as their english is limited and they called their other son over, because he speaks English. He wanted to ask me all about Toshi. They were very worried about him and they wanted me to tell him to “settle down”. I told them, don’t worry about Toshi, he’s like the wind! Toshi goes where the wind blows. It was weird and uncomfortable. Then I just went to bed on a futon on the floor.

Jan 26, 2020
Toshi went back to Tokyo in the morning and his parents took me to a small waterfall after they watched their other son’s relay team on TV. They lost. Their other son is a high school phys-ed teacher in Utsunomiya. So it was the teenagers in the race on TV. It took a long time for them to communicate this important information to me. They had a paper dictionary and I had Google translate.

Toshi's mom bought me stuff everywhere we went. She got me a wooden spoon and a cell phone bauble. We also went to a strange robotic puppet show.

I went to the grocery store to buy dinner and I thought I explained it to Toshi’s parents but they still sent their other son to drive around until he found me walking back from the 5 minute walk from the grocery store. He had a big black van and told me to get in. I didn’t recognize him immediately so I was a little shocked until I realized who it was. Toshi’s brother took me back to his house to have a snack and I met his wife and two children but they were afraid of me. The day before he mentioned going to eat sushi together in Utsunomiya, so I thought this was a precursor to our sushi dinner. But the sushi outing was never mentioned again. That was fine, I had my own sushi in my backpack. So, Toshi’s brother dropped me off back home. Toshi’s mom made me some avocado salad and I tried to share my sushi with her but she wouldn’t eat it.

Posted by baixing 12:02 Archived in Japan Tagged utsunomiya Comments (0)

Tokyo with Toshi

View Coronavirus 2020 on baixing's travel map.

I arrived in Tokyo at Shinjuku station. I was really nervous because of what everyone says about the difficulty of the Tokyo subway system. Actually, it wasn't that hard to navigate. I jumped on one train, but I had second thoughts at the last second, and I jumped off quickly before it left. At that point, I realized that I was in fact on the correct train. I just took the next one and then made it to my hostel finally.

It was not a very good hostel, dark and none of the other people staying there were happy to be there at all. Toshi met me at about 8 p.m. and we went out for izakaya (barbecue and beer). He ordered strange things like horse meat and intestines.
Jan. 20, 2020
I woke up and found some sort of dead bug in my bed. I decided to change hostels, obviously. I gave them the bug in a little baggie and went around the corner to another place, which cost a few dollars more, but was a huge improvement. They wouldn't check me in until 3 p.m., so I went to "Ramen Street" and stood in a random line that had formed. Ramen Street is under Tokyo railway station and apparently the most unique way to eat it is in two bowls. To prevent the chewy noodles from getting too mushy, you dip them into the soup instead of eating it all together. At first, I didn't understand the point, but after trying it, I realized that it really made a huge difference. I sat down beside a Canadian lady and we agreed this would probably sell well in Canada. The Singaporean women on my other side seemed to know exactly how to eat it and so I followed them.
I tried to see the Imperial Palace gardens but everything was closed on a Monday again.

I passed by a few architectural sighs such as the old Tokyo station
and the Tokyo International Forum.
There was also a neat bridge that used to be used as mile zero of every road in Japan.
Then I was tired and went to bed.

January 21, 2020
I had an interview in the middle of the day, so I used the wifi at the Museum of Modern Art. It was pretty OK, but I thought the craft gallery next door was just as good. In the MOMAT, there was this strange 10 part video series that tried to interpret a travel story from a few hundred years ago into modern times. They followed the trail of the characters in the book in a car and did little challenges that corresponded to the events in the novel. It didn't always make sense, but I guess it was an interesting idea. It would be cool to try something like that for the Odyssey or something, if it hasn't been done before.


I stayed at the craft gallery until it closed and then went to bed early again. I met a Vietnamese lady in the kitchen and we planned to go to the Imperial Palace the next day for the official tour. We also talked for a while to a guy who called himself a refugee from China. He wanted to create a political party in Japan in order to draw more attention to the problems in China. I asked him why he wasn't in Hong Kong and I didn't really understand his answer.

Jan. 22, 2020
Emily came to Tokyo. In the morning I went with my Vietnamese friend to the Imperial Palace. We joined the official tour and you could see the buildings where the Emperor gives his birthday speech. Everything is minimalistic because there was no money after the war.


After the tour I had to meet Emily so I said good-bye to my Vietnamese friend and then I walked to the restaurant where Emily and I were to have dinner later. I was really confused about the assignment as the instructions were not clear so I ran around trying to understand the menu before Emily arrived. When Emily arrived we went to see the Tokyo shopping area, Harajuku neighbourhood. Emily was hungry, so we had Mexican food before our wanderings. I was underwhelmed by the whole trendy area and so was she.

There was also a Shinto Temple nearby. We left at around closing time and I bought a used kimono at a craftsperson co-op that Emily had found.

By the time we got back downtown we headed we headed out for dinner. We had a really pretentious 6 course French meal. At the top of the hotel on the 17th floor.

Jan 23, 2020

I spent the morning writing up the report from yesterday’s meal and by the time I was done, I had to return to the same hotel. It was really busy and I got the last table and waited for Emily to arrive. They told me that they were very sorry, there was no pizza today. I did not care, I wanted risotto. There was a real Italian chef and everything was really good. However, the table behind us was doing something very interesting. I looked over and. they. had. pizza! What! The woman at the front desk lied to me! I made a faked shocked face and told Emily that I was jealous that they had pizza and we were not allowed to order anything. Someone came over right away and explained that they were very sorry and that this table was very special. They were allowed to have pizza and no one else was. Ohhhkay whatever. We laughed for a really long time about how many times they apologized in varying degrees of sincerity.
Then we had to go to the lounge area where they were doing molecular gastronomy. So that kind of messed up my report again because I couldn’t sit at the bar as needed. I was stressed out the whole time because I thought I would fail. The lounge was also really pretentious. If you want to sit in the corner window, you had to provide your hotel room key so we sat on the side windows as the corner window area stayed unoccupied. We had two drinks there and I had to order a snack, we weren’t really hungry so I just ordered some nuts for $7. We laughed when the server didn’t even charge us for the $7 nuts. Before we left the server also gave me a bag of rice crackers in a beautiful gift bag. I returned the gift bag but took the rice crackers.

That was the last time I saw Emily.

Jan 24, 2020

I finished up my report and celebrated with some convenience store sushi and a jar of sake.

Posted by baixing 11:39 Archived in Japan Tagged tokyo Comments (0)

Nagoya for an assignment

View Coronavirus 2020 on baixing's travel map.

I took the bus to Nagoya in the morning. It was a little difficult to find at first, but I made it. I arrived at Leo Star Hostel in the afternoon in time for my assignment at Wolfgang Puck again. It was up on the 10th floor, but there was a private party going on at the time. I was almost shooed away, but I persisted and eventually got my hamburger and wings.
I had a drink upstairs in the bar and went to bed.

Jan. 19, 2020
I had planned on checking out and hanging out in the lobby writing my report, but at 10 a.m., the owner actually kicked me out. I spent about an hour on the phone with booking.com, but there was not much they could do. The owner threatened to call the police. I packed everything up, put on my coat and hat and booked my ticket on my phone while standing in the doorway. I literally had nowhere to go. Somehow, I found the bus stop, just outside the train station. There was a power outlet and wifi on the bus, thank god, and I wrote my report all the way to Tokyo. The Willer bus was really comfortable and perfect for my "homework" assignment. It had electrically adjustable seats and small personal egg shaped pods to relax in. There was also a nice big table that I could pull down in front of me.

Posted by baixing 11:09 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

12 hour layover

Checkout time was at noon and I was feeling pretty OK, so I packed and left at that time.

The guy I met on the bus wanted to treat me to lunch and who could refuse? We had spring rolls, Vietnamese wraps and my last bowl of pho ever. I promise you this.

It was all delicious. Hung was taking an exam that day and had to leave quickly, so I said goodbye and then went to the airport on the bus.

So many people helped me lift my bags on and off the buses without a word. I really was touched. They are both at least 20 kg each!

I got to the airport around 3:30 p.m., but found out I couldn't check in until 9:30! Luckily, I met a couple from Florida who were visiting their son in Seoul. We chatted the rest of the evening and finally got on our planes. They had assumed they could check in at anytime, the same as I did, and we were both stuck in the lobby of the airport for hours.

I was very surprised when my bags were checked all the way to Honduras. You know what that means right? Twelve hour layover in Japan, my friend.

It was too late to try and hook up with Nicole, so I googled what I could do around Narita airport. Turns out, there's a quaint little Japanese village with a huge temple only one subway stop from the airport. I went to the temple and promptly fell asleep in the garden while listening to chanting monks. Quite possibly the best layover ever.

Then I bought some hand made rice crackers for the long haul to Dallas and had an early lunch of real Japanese sushi. Life goal #443 complete! Seriously, what is my life??? I did all that by about 11 a.m. on Sunday morning. Amazing.

Japan, I am coming back for you.

Me vs. sushi

Me vs. sushi

Shinshoji Temple

Shinshoji Temple

Me vs. sushi

Me vs. sushi

Turtle pond

Turtle pond

Narita street

Narita street

Shinshoji Temple garden

Shinshoji Temple garden

Me vs. sushi

Me vs. sushi

Shinshoji Temple

Shinshoji Temple

Narita street

Narita street

Shinshoji temple

Shinshoji temple

Crazy tired on the subway

Crazy tired on the subway

Posted by baixing 17:00 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 6 of 6) Page [1]