Nagoya, Your Gateway to Central Japan

A lot of people dream of getting a free trip. I’m sure that at least once or twice in your life, you have been tempted to join those ‘Win a Free Trip to ______!’ contests on the internet. And if a person is lucky enough to win that contest then WOW, right?

I feel that if a person wins a trip, one is left satisfied and lucky.

But if a travel blogger is invited to a sponsored trip, it’s a whole different story. One is not only left feeling satisfied and lucky but also successful. I never went into this endeavor to get free trips. I only wanted to share my stories. That’s it! I wanted others to feel what I felt during my trips through my articles. I wanted to express myself and my advocacy of gratitude through a platform where I can inspire one person or more.

But as I continued to write more articles and started to get noticed by more people than what I expected, doors with opportunities were opened. And when opportunities are given, it’s up to us to take them and see where it leads us. 

When I received an invitation from NGP Integrated Marketing Communications together with Jetstar and Chubu Centrair International Airport for a 5 day Familiarization trip of Nagoya and its surrounding areas, I cried. I was so overwhelmed in that moment that I couldn’t contain my feelings. 

The Nagoya Familiarization trip was joined by:

  • Senior Media Relations Officer and Jetstar Account Manager of NGP Integrated Marketing Communications
  • Jetstar PR Manager of Southeast Asia
  • 4 other travel bloggers (Gael Hilotin of Pinay Solo Backpacker, Vins Carlos of The Poor Traveler, Gretchen Dublin of Filipina Explorer representing Pinoy Adventurista, and Lloyd Salac of The Lost Boy Lloyd)
  • 5 travel and lifestyle journalists from Inquirer, Philippine Star, Manila Bulletin, Business Mirror, and Malaya Business Insight

I learned a lot during this trip, not just from the places we went to, but from the people I was with. This was one of the reasons why I was so excited for the trip. I knew that I would be able to talk to a lot of writers and industry professionals with more experience than me. The trip was more than just familiarizing myself with the country. It was also an avenue to learn more about writing, traveling, and life. 

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At Nabana no Sato’s Begonia Garden (Photo from Gael Hilotin of Pinay Solo Backpacker)

This amazing opportunity is a big part of my heart now and I’m sharing a piece of it to you through this experience write-up.

When your amazing opportunity comes or if it already has, I hope that you share it too. Your story can inspire someone to live out something they never thought they could, open doors they never thought could be opened, and bring out the best part of themselves to others and maybe, one day, the world.

CAUTION: This article is long as I summarized everything in one write-up. I hope you enjoy my experiences and photos. I learned a lot from this trip and I hope you have grateful realizations of your own through my Central Japan experience(s).

FOR FOREIGN READERS: I used a bit of Filipino words in this write-up because I like providing emotional reactions in my own language. Please note that there are no English translations. The words or phrases are italicized.

GETTING A JAPANESE VISA

Japan has eased its visa rules on Philippine passport holders in the past few years. And we could definitely see it through increasing social media posts of Cherry Blossoms, Japanese temples, sushi, and many more.

According to Japan Times and JNTO, Japan was visited by 350,000 Filipinos (30% higher than 2015) last year. Industry professionals say that the desire to travel to Japan won’t decline anytime soon since low cost carriers like Jetstar are able to provide increasing financially-stable Filipinos more affordable flights to the country.

I haven’t written any full guides on getting a Japanese visa but you can read our application experiences through these articles:

During my first application, both my sister and I were granted a single entry visa. READ – JAPAN: How My Sister & I Travelled to OSAKA-KYOTO-NARA for P25,000 Each ALL-IN

During my second application, my whole family was granted a multiple entry visa. READJAPAN: How My Family Travelled to TOKYO for P24,000 Each ALL-IN

NAGOYA, YOUR GATEWAY TO CENTRAL JAPAN

Is Nagoya worth it? I’ve been sent this question quite a few times after I published my Central Japan experiences last year. READ – A CHERRY BLOSSOMS EXPERIENCE IN CENTRAL JAPAN: How My Mom & I Spent P19,600 Each ALL-IN for 3 Days in Nagoya, Takayama, & Shirakawago

Airline companies operating in the Philippines fly directly from Manila to Osaka, Tokyo, Nagoya, or Fukuoka. If you’re traveling for the first time to Japan, the popular trip to take would be one to Tokyo or Osaka. 

There’s The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Osaka.

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Hogsmeade at Harry Potter World USJ (Photo from Osaka Trip 2015)

There’s Disneyland and Disneysea in Tokyo.

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Photo from Tokyo Trip 2016

There’s Hachiko and Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.

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My sisters at Shibuya Crossing (Photo from Tokyo Trip 2016)

Osaka is your gateway to Kyoto and Nara while Tokyo is your gateway to Mt Fuji.

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At Fushimi Inari Shrine, Kyoto (Photo from Osaka Trip 2015)

Syempre yung mga SIKAT puntahan, yun ang UNANG pupuntahan.

When I read Japan one-week itineraries, Nagoya is just a stopover where tourists spend less than 12 hours a day in. Or it is merely a gateway to both Tokyo and Osaka as Manila to Nagoya routes usually has the lowest flight rates.

Even I was allured by Osaka and Tokyo first. When Jetstar officially launched all 3 direct flights to Japan, my eyes were still on Osaka and Tokyo. I’ve never even heard about Nagoya up until that point. Even if this is the case, Nagoya is actually home to 30,000 Filipinos, the biggest Filipino population in Japan.

It took a seat sale promo to Nagoya that I couldn’t pass up to open my curiosity of the travel opportunities that Nagoya can actually offer.

For my first trip to Nagoya, I really had to research well. At the time, not a lot of travel bloggers or journalists from the Philippines wrote about Nagoya experiences. I had to rely on Japan guides that were mostly written and published online by the Japanese government and tourism sector.

I was really overwhelmed by the wealth of information from the research because we only had a 3 day trip and I realized that there are so many things to do in and around Nagoya.

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Tsuruma Park (Photo from Nagoya Trip 2016)

Nagoya is your gateway to amazing tourist sites in Central Japan or what locals refer to as the Shoryudo (or Rising Dragon) route. The sightseeing route is called this way as it symbolizes a dragon ascending to the sky. The rise starts from Nagoya which fortunately Filipinos have the luxury of flying directly to courtesy of Jetstar.

Although the destinations in the Shoryudo route can be accessed from Osaka and Tokyo, Nagoya is the most convenient starting point because it requires less travel time which means less transit expenses and stress.

Takayama Views

At Takayama’s Nakabashi Bridge and Old Town with my Mom (Photo from Nagoya Trip 2015)

Our 5 day Familiarization trip took the Shoryudo route and we were able to explore the Chubu and Hokuriku regions. This route offers diverse and all-season attractions for every kind of traveler.

So, again, is Nagoya worth it? After that first Nagoya trip in 2016 and the Nagoya Familiarization trip last April 2017, I can say with pride and confidence that Nagoya is definitely worth a trip or two or MORE!

TO/FROM NAGOYA WITH JETSTAR 

The Nagoya Familiarization trip was my 5th time to travel to Japan. Out of those 5 trips, 4 of my flights were with Jetstar.

Jetstar Japan officially launched its direct Manila to Nagoya, Tokyo, and Osaka flights last 2016 but there was actually a Japan route already operating before that with Jetstar Japan’s partner airline, Jetstar Asia (both under the Jetstar group). Jetstar Asia had flights from Singapore to Osaka with Manila as a layover since 2012.

I remember seeing that Jetstar Osaka promo and immediately booked it! It was a dream come true moment because my sister and I were finally visiting JAPAN, definitely a travel feat at the time! We got a roundtrip flight from Manila to Osaka for only ₱7,723+ each! We were so ecstatic! READ – JAPAN: How My Sister & I Travelled to OSAKA-KYOTO-NARA for P25,000 Each ALL-IN

For my last 3 trips to Japan, including the Nagoya Familiarization trip, I flew the Manila to Nagoya roundtrip route.

Read my first experiences of the Manila to Nagoya flights here:

APRIL 2016: During this trip, my mom and I got a roundtrip flight from Manila to Nagoya for only ₱5,840+ each! READ – A CHERRY BLOSSOMS EXPERIENCE IN CENTRAL JAPAN: How My Mom & I Spent P19,600 Each ALL-IN for 3 Days in Nagoya, Takayama, & Shirakawago

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Jetstar aircraft at New Chitose Airport (Photo from Sapporo Trip 2016)

DEC 2016: This flight was sponsored by Jetstar. Based on research and sample booking, roundtrip flights from Manila to Nagoya to Sapporo would cost a total of ₱10,299+ during seat sales and ₱16,500+ during regular bookings. Please note that these prices are just estimates. READ – SERIES: Travel Gratefully From Manila to Sapporo With Jetstar

The Manila to Nagoya roundtrip flight was all too familiar as it was already my 3rd time taking the route but here are just some differences during the Familiarization trip.

It was my first time joining an international Fam trip so I didn’t really know what to expect but the first surprise came from the airport! Our group had our own check-in counter!

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Jetstar Check-in Counters at NAIA Terminal 1

#MEDYOSPECIAL

#MEDYOVIP

HAHAHAHA!

I really felt significant. Although the lines from the regular counters were not that long, I really felt special checking in a counter that had a ‘MEDIA’ sign.

The flight from Manila to Nagoya took around 4+ hours. When you arrive in Japan, time seems to go a bit faster since Japan is an hour advanced. There is no jet lag effect but there are hints of change which I’ll explain a bit later [Find ** in Weather].

The flight was very smooth this time around. The air turbulence was worse when I took this route during winter.

The main difference for this latest flight compared to the other ones was that instead of a bus transporting us to the arrival area of the airport, the airplane had its own gate with a jet bridge.

I remember bracing myself for the cold and abrupt change of weather whenever I get off a Manila to Nagoya flight but this time we had a jet bridge buffer. Even during departure, the Nagoya to Manila route already had its own gate and a connecting jet way for the aircraft so there was no shuttle bus to transport us to a farther aircraft parking area.

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Shuttle Bus from Jetstar Aircraft to Airport Arrival Area (Photo from Sapporo Trip 2016)

Jetstar flies directly from Manila to Nagoya 4x weekly and daily to Tokyo and Osaka. Book your flights TODAY at http://www.jetstar.com/ph/en/home or inquire at jetstar@email.jetstar.com

Watch out for updates, seat sales, and promos on Jetstar’s social media websites!

Facebook: Jetstar Asia

Instagram: @jetstarasia

Twitter: @Jetstar_Asia

If you want to receive the latest deals and promos straight to your email address, sign up here!

WEATHER

During our 5 day trip, the weather was surreal. Coming from a country with only 2 seasons, I always look forward to trips where I get to experience new seasons. Never did I imagine that I would get to experience most of the seasons in just 1 trip!

Our whole tour group was very lucky to experience an itinerary that made us experience summer, rain, winter, spring, and an autumn-ish vibe all throughout our stay. The Shoryudo route is definitely an all-season sightseeing attraction especially from April to June.

Here were the weather conditions during our whole stay:

DAY 1

DAY 2 DAY 3 DAY 4

DAY 5

Spring & Summer

Winter

Rainy & Autumn-ish!

Spring & Summer

Summer

For Day 3, it was cool to have another season to experience but it rained the entire day which shortened our time with a few of the scheduled tourist sites. 

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Raining at Shirakawa-go (Photo from Gretchen Dublin of Filipina Explorer)

My perception of summer in this enumeration is not the same as summer in the Philippines. The weather in Japan was still cold but the sun’s heat was high and about all the time which made the chilly winds bearable. This kind of ‘summer’ is comparable to the weather in Baguio.

**Since Japan is an hour advanced compared to Manila, I did feel that time ran a little faster. The call time of the whole tour group was between 8AM to 9AM every single day. I always allow myself ample time to prepare and fix my things so I always set my alarm to 5AM.

During the 2nd day, I felt like I was being rushed to wake up. I woke up at around 4AM, earlier than my alarm, annoying I know! HAHAHAHA! And when I opened my window, it looked like it was 7AM or 8AM! It made me feel like I was already late for the day. The sunrise and sunset was a little earlier than what my body clock was used to so I did feel that kind of change. But it was an easy adjustment the days after.

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5AM View from Hotel Buena Vista Matsumoto Room

After the 3rd day of the tour, I was really looking forward to what was coming the next day. All the different seasons in the first 3 days was very overwhelming. I asked myself, “God, what do you have in store for us tomorrow?”

It was an amazing feeling that way. I felt like a kid again excited to experience something new. A lot of us often complain that life gets too mundane sometimes. But we should always look forward to every single day and maximize every second of it. There is always something new to learn. We don’t have to travel to be excited for new days ahead. It’s a new day, that’s already a good enough reason for us to be grateful and excited!

TRIP ITINERARY, GUIDE, & EXPERIENCES

Here is a summary of our 5 day Nagoya Familiarization trip:

DAY 1

DAY 2 DAY 3 DAY 4

DAY 5

Centrair Aiport

Breakfast at Kariya Highway Oasis

MAGOME

Magome Observatory Deck & City Walk

Lunch at Magomeya

MATSUMOTO

Matsumoto Castle

Matsumoto City Walk

Hotel Buena Vista Matsumoto

TOYAMA

Ogizawa Station

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route

Lunch at Kurobedaira Restaurant

Snow Wall

Tateyama Station

Dinner at Gomangoku

APA Hotel Toyama Ekimae

SHIRAKAWA-GO

Shirakawago historic village

Shiroyama Observatory Deck

Wada House

Lunch at Irori

TAKAYAMA

Takayama City Old Government Building

Traditional Street

GUJO HACHIMAN

Dinner at Bizenya

Business Hotel Gujo Hachiman

Asahi Sample

Gujo City Walk

Lunch at Yoshidaya

KUWANA

Jazz Dream Nagashima

Winter Illumination and Dinner at Nabana no Sato

NAGOYA

Tokyo Daiichi Hotel Nishiki

Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology

Lunch at Sakae Area

Sakae Area

SCMAGLEV and Railway Park

Centrair Airport

Here is a day-to-day narrative of my grateful experiences in each destination we traveled to (with facts and tips):

DAY 1

ARRIVAL AT CHUBU CENTRAIR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

I’ve always praised Japan because everything was efficient but there was slight change during this trip. It was already my 3rd time at this airport and 5th overall in Japan that made me notice the change. The immigration process took a little longer than I expected. I observed that immigration officials asked a lot of questions.

In my first 4 trips, no questions were ever asked to me. They just took my passport, looked at me, and gestured to do the biometrics scan. But for this trip, the immigration officer asked questions, paused, and looked at me a lot. This was the same case for some of the Filipinos in line. Immigration officials were even confirming with each other. It was just new to me.

My theory is that since there is a steady increase in Filipino tourists in Japan, the immigration process is stricter? Or maybe I’m just over thinking this, right? That’s just my hunch and observation. We still got through nonetheless!

At the arrival area, we were greeted by Jetstar’s PR Manager together with airport and tourism officials with a big ‘Welcome to Nagoya’ tarp. We were then led to our chartered bus where we were formally introduced to each other. After the introductions and distribution of press kits, We were briefed by our official tour guide, Tomoyuki ‘Tomo’ Ozaki [More on this amazing tour guide later. Find ** in My First Int’l Familiarization Trip], on our route and what we should expect for the day.

KARIYA HIGHWAY OASIS

Since we arrived at 6AM, our first stop, OF COURSE, was BREAKFAST! HAHAHAHA! 30 minutes away from the airport is Kariya Highway Oasis, an amusement and shopping facility and also a popular highway stopover. 

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The Oasis is like a mall or department store that showcases a 60m high Ferris wheel. We all had breakfast at the food court inside. I wasn’t really hungry at the time because food was served on the plane. I only bought a beef bun (Siopao-like).

I really liked walking outside the Oasis. The weather felt really refreshing. 

For more information on the Kariya Highway Oasis, visit http://www.kariya-oasis.com/

MAGOME

After the Oasis, we had about an hour and a half before we reached our first official tourist site. Since we just flew a 4 hour flight, I felt like everyone SLEPT on and off for a bit! HAHAHAHA!

But on the way, we were greeted by a lot of Cherry Blossom trees and beautiful views. The ‘Wow! Ang ganda!’ reactions and excitement from the tour group really hyped me up!

Transits are definitely experiences that we should maximize. Passing by beautiful views in a blur is a moment that we should always cherish and be grateful for. In that second or minute, you are blessed to see an opportunity.

When I’m on a trip and I see beautiful views in transit, I force myself not to sleep. I feel too grateful and blessed to miss out on seeing something I may or may not ever see again. During these kinds of trips, I live in the moment even if I’m sleep deprived! HAHAHAHA!

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Magome, a tourist attraction in Nakatsugawa City, is a feudal post town that features traditional Japanese housing, museums, and food establishments along a stoned slope surrounded by breathtaking mountain views and luscious flower blooming trees.

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Water Electric Wheel Generator in Magome

MAGOME OBSERVATORY DECK & CITY WALK

ANG LAMIG DITO! Pero ang ganda!  If you’ve been to Takayama and Shirakawa-go, Magome is a little and mix version of that. The views were pretty and scenic!

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I really liked the 15 to 20 minutes walk going down from the observatory deck. It was like I was walking through Takayama’s old town but a bit slanted. It’s a town brimming with culture and history. If you like culture and nature walks, this is an interesting tourist site to visit.

MAGOMEYA

We had our first official Japanese lunch at Magomeya. OMG! Ang ganda ng view! I really like eating with breathtaking views. I was already impressed with the interiors of the restaurant but the view just made me fall over the edge for it. It made me realize that I was really there.

I was in Japan!

GISING NA GISING NA AKO! HAHAHA!

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The food served was a bento box with a few small bowls. Aside from taste, Japanese food is also well-presented and organized. It just makes the whole eating experience authentic and aesthetically-pleasing.

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Nakatsugawa City is 1 hour and 30 minutes away from Nagoya station. Some popular destinations to look into are Magome, Naegi Castle Ruins, and Tsumago Juku. For more information on Magome and Nakatsugawa City, visit http://n-kanko.jp/

MATSUMOTO

From Magome, we traveled for about 1.5 to 2 hours to reach Matsumoto. Everyone definitely caught up with sleep during this time!

After a breathtaking sightseeing walk, a delicious lunch, and feeling the cold weather, SYEMPRE BAGSAK! HAHAHA!

MATSUMOTO CASTLE

Matsumoto, the second largest city in the Nagano prefecture, features one of the most famous and original castles in Japan. The Matsumoto Castle is a national treasure that was constructed over 400 years ago. Built during a civil war, the 6-story (officially, it’s only 5 but there is a secret floor where warriors hid) high structure was where lords and warriors assembled, planned, and lived.

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Entering the castle, we were asked to take off our shoes and put them in a plastic bag. When I travel, I don’t really prioritize cultural tours but when I do visit a place like this, I appreciate its value. Climbing and roaming around inside the castle was culturally inviting. I kind of ask myself, “What the hell could have happened in this exact spot 400 years ago?”

Knowing that warriors used to man this castle, I imagined ninjas hiding behind the wooden planks. It was definitely intriguing.

The stairs inside were pretty steep and if you have weak knees, it will be a bit of a challenge. MARAMING STAIRS! STEEP PA!

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I went barefoot inside because my socks were a bit loose. I was surprised that after all the walking and climbing inside the castle, my feet weren’t dirty! It just had a bit of white dust but it was still clean! That’s how the Japanese cleans its tourist attractions. SOBRANG GALING!

If you love Japanese history and culture, the castle is a must visit. The castle is open from 8:30AM to 4:30PM and admission costs ¥610 or ₱260+ per person. 

MATSUMOTO CITY WALK

After the castle, we walked around the city for around an hour. There was nothing new as Matsumoto city is a bit modern and comparable to other cities in Japan.

HOTEL BUENA VISTA MATSUMOTO

For our first accommodation, I was surprised to find out that we’d be getting our own rooms!

Again,

#MEDYOSPECIAL

#MEDYOVIP

HAHAHAHA!

I went on a Familiarization trip in El Nido the month prior and I had a roommate so that is what I expected for this trip. But finding out that we had our own rooms really overwhelmed me. Most of the people in our group have already experienced a lot of Familiarization trips than me so I don’t think they felt as surprised as I was.

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Hotel Buena Vista Matsumoto Room

I really liked the hotel. The room and bathroom was spacious. Although the Japanese is known for its space deprived business hotels, the room size for this hotel was just right. Walang masikip na feeling!

Dinner was served at 1F La Café Terraza and breakfast was at the 14F Sorpresa French restaurant. Both were buffet style and really good. I liked dinner better but what made breakfast lovely was the view of the snow capped mountains from afar. Matsumoto is known to be a popular city because of the Japan Alps views.  

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View from 14F Sorpresa Restaurant

If you’re interested in staying at Hotel Buena Vista during your stay in Matsumoto, visit http://www.buena-vista.co.jp/en/

Matsumoto is around 3 hours from Nagoya station. Some popular destinations to visit are Matsumoto City Museum of Art, Shirahone Spa, and Matsumoto Castle.

For more information on MATSUMOTO CITY, visit http://www.city.matsumoto.nagano.jp or contact Satoshi Tadachi (Assistant Director, Matsumoto City Office of Tourism and Hot Spring Division) at satoshi_tadachi@city.matsumoto.lg.jp and Yamamoto Ayumi at yamamoto_ayumi@city.matsumoto.lg.jp

DAY 2

TOYAMA

TATEYAMA KUROBE ALPINE ROUTE

Our 2nd day in Japan was what most people from the tour group were excited for including me! SYEMPRE MAY SNOW! HAHAHAHA!

A lot of people say that the most beautiful places are the hardest to get to. In this instance, the whole alpine route isn’t HARD to get to but it’s LONG!

Here is a summary of our whole Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route tour:

Bus from Matsumoto Hotel to Ogizawa Station (1 hour) → Kanden Tunnel Trolley Bus (16 minutes) → 200 steps up to Kurobe Dam View point → 200 steps down to Kurobe Dam Walk → Kurobe Dam Walkway (15 minutes walk) → Kurobeko station cable car to Kurobedaira station (5 minutes) → Lunch at Kurobedaira → Kurobedaira station Tateyama ropeway to Daikanbo station (7 minutes) → 5 to 6 flights of stairs up and down to and from Daikanbo Viewpoint → Tateyama Trolley Bus (10 minutes) → Yuki-no-Otani (Snow Wall) Walk → Tateyama Highland Bus (50 minutes) → Tateyama cable car (7 minutes) → Bus from Tateyama station to Toyama destination (1 hour)

I highlighted all the transfers. It seems complicated but it’s really not. Mahaba lang talaga siya! BUT IT’S ALL WORTH IT! I PROMISE! SOBRANG GANDA!

The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is one of the most popular attractions in Central Japan. Even though I’m writing this as a tourist coming from Nagoya, this attraction can be accessed from Osaka and Tokyo as well.

The route starts at either the Ogizawa or Tateyama station. Here is a summary of access options and estimated time from popular cities. 

To/From

Ogizawa Station

Tateyama Station

Nagoya

4 hours by train 3.5 hours by car or bus 5 hours by train 3.5 hours by car or bus

Osaka

6 hours by train 6 hours by car or bus 5.5 hours by train 5.5 hours by car or bus

Tokyo

5 hours by train 4 hours by bus 3 hours by train 6 hours by bus

These are estimated schedules based on tourist brochures and Rome2Rio. The train schedules vary depending on what kind of train you’ll be taking (JR, Shinkansen, Local, etc). The most convenient and affordable routes are transits coming from Nagoya.

I feel that for this specific attraction, a guided tour is best. For solo or group travelers planning on a DIY, I think it will be a bit stressful and more expensive.

The cheapest tour package I’ve seen on the internet is a 1 day tour from Nagoya (Yokoso). The tour includes all transits + entrance fees + lunch. It costs around ¥15,000 or ₱6,500. There is also a 1 day tour from Tokyo and costs ¥30,000 or ₱13,000. Most of the tours coming from Tokyo and Osaka range from 2-3 day tours which roughly costs around ¥50,000 or ₱21,000. Amount stated is for 1 person only.

After our experience, I can say that these costs are worth it. The complexity and the breathtaking moments you’ll get to see and experience during the tour is worth it. You’ll be awed with everything!

So, how was our experience?

Bus from Matsumoto Hotel to Ogizawa Station (1 hour)

From our hotel in Matsumoto, we traveled around an hour to Ogizawa Station. The ride felt like a trip to Baguio. There were a lot of winding roads but you get to see a lot of snow capped mountains. I felt like I was in a Swiss movie. I didn’t feel like I was in Japan.

Kanden Tunnel Trolley Bus (16 minutes)

1,433m HIGH!

At Ogizawa station, even though it got colder the heat from the sun made the weather more comfortable. Our tour was before golden week but nonetheless there were still a lot of tourists because it was the 10th day after the opening of the Snow Wall Otani.

Most of the tourists were locals and Chinese. The Chinese tourists bothered me a little because there was a lot of pushing and blocking while I was taking photographs.

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At the station, the line was pretty long for the trolley buses so when it was our turn to enter the buses, there were no more seats. The bus was pretty cramped. I thought at first it was a cable car but it was a bus attached to electric wires that went through winding roads INSIDE a mountain. It felt like a Space Mountain ride!

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Trolley Bus at Ogizawa Station

IT’S A WOW TALAGA! During the whole ride, all I could think of was the extreme effort in excavating that kind of route. SOBRANG GALING TALAGA NG JAPAN!

200 steps up to Kurobe Dam Viewpoint

1,470m HIGH!

When the tourist officials led us the way to the stairs, we weren’t informed that it would be 200 steps. So during the first flights, we thought nothing of it. But it was getting colder and colder and the stairs started to look higher and feel longer. The tourist guides were only smiling and saying that we were getting nearer and nearer. The reactions of the others in the tour group were really funny.

At the top, that’s when we were told how many steps it was. I think it was actually better that we didn’t know how many steps it would be. Because if you’re climbing and YOU KNOW how many more steps you have to climb, you’ll get stressed and tired thinking of the number. Medyo nakakapagod siya dahil may kasama ring lamig!

BUT IT WAS ALL WORTH IT!

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I was out of breath and the view took my breath away! IBA! ANG GANDA! The pictures don’t do justice for what I saw and experienced.

You had to be there!

YOU HAVE TO GO THERE!

The view of the dam and the snow capped mountains was exhilarating! Hinihingal pa ako nun ah! It was definitely worth the climb!

Kurobe Dam Viewing Deck Photo from The Poor Traveler

Kurobe Dam Viewing Deck (Photo from Vins Carlos of The Poor Traveler)

One of the tour guides informed me that the view is also breathtaking during summer or spring when the water from the dam is flowing. Sometimes, a rainbow would actually appear and you’re above it. I would definitely want to see that kind of view!

200 steps down to Kurobe Dam Walk

The walk down was slightly easier but it was colder being inside than outside.

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Kurobe Dam (15 minutes walk)

I’ve never been to a dam before so this was a great first! There were just a lot of tourists so the people traffic while walking through the dam was a bit high. It was hard to take good photos because a lot of people are in the background or passing you by.

But the view was still as breathtaking as it was at the viewpoint.

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Kurobeko station cable car to Kurobedaira station (5 minutes)

This cable car felt like a roller coaster ride that just goes up and up and never going down. We got to sit here but it was also cramped. The 90 degree slant was a bit uncomfortable if you’re facing the opposite way.

Again, this was a IT’S A WOW moment for me. The cable car wasn’t floating through the air, it was actually riding on an upward rail (comparable to the peak tram in Hong Kong) that was still INSIDE the mountain. SOBRANG GALING! The amount of time planning and actually executing that plan for this kind of route was well thought out! ANG GALING TALAGA!

Lunch at Kurobedaira

1,828m HIGH!

Kurobedaira station was pretty chaotic. There were so many tourists coming from different kinds of direction.

We had lunch at Kurobedaira where it was situated facing an amazing view of snow and the Japan Alps. It was very scenic.  

Since there were so many tourists and I feel that this was the only or main restaurant at this station, everything seemed to be systematic. When we arrived, we were seated at a table where the bento boxes were already served. Other tables mimicked the same. It felt like a ride where the staff had 2-3 minutes to clean the ride until the next batch comes along.

I was one of the last few to finish my meal and was just trying to finish my water when the wait staff was clearing everything out. Because of their uncomfortable stares, I had to finish my water standing up. For me, the food was just okay. But the view was a BIG THUMBS UP!

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Lunch at Kurobedaira

After eating, we all went outside the restaurant and marveled at the view! HAY SOBRANG GANDA! The sun was out and about and the background was so pristine. IT WAS BLINDING! You definitely have to wear shades for this! There were a lot of people taking photos, playing with the snow, and just looking at the Alps. It was breathtaking!

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Kurobedaira station Tateyama ropeway to Daikanbo station (7 minutes)

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From Kurobedaira, ETO NA! ANG HANGING CABLE CAR! This is the one you’ll usually see in photos. The cable car is pretty cramped with tourists so make sure you situate yourself near the windows or door. 7 MINUTES OF HEAVEN! It was all white everywhere. And from afar, you can see how luscious and soft the snow was! It was mesmerizing! 

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5-6 flights of stairs up and down to and from Daikanbo Viewpoint

2316m HIGH!

The viewpoint was definitely one of my favorites during this trip. I keep saying the words beautiful, breathtaking, awesome, overwhelming, etc all through out this article but this view was all of those things and so much more!

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GUSTO KO NA TALAGA UMIYAK DITO. Sobrang ganda talaga! I was a bit disappointed because the guides only let us spend a few minutes here. Most of the people from our tour group went down immediately after taking photos.

The viewpoint was a bit cramped and the Chinese tourists were pretty annoying. But when they went down, most of the people followed suit and we had a little breathing room. I just wanted to sit down and watch that view ALL AFTERNOON. I really felt like I was at the top of Mt. Everest minus the potential death falls and impossible life changing climbs.

I felt like I was living a dream but I wasn’t sure what dream it was. It was THAT special. NAKAKAIYAK YUNG VIEW, I swear. When the tourism officials approached us, I said 5 or 10 more minutes. Ayoko talagang umalis!

Tateyama Trolley Bus (10 minutes)

Our next transfer was another trolley bus. This ride was more comfortable as there weren’t too many tourists yet and we had a lot of space and breathing room. During the ride, na-#SeparationAnxiety na ako dun sa view! It was that amazing for me. I wish I had more time there.

Yuki-no-Otani (Snow Wall) Walk 

2450m HIGH!

Snow Wall (Photo from Vins Carlos of The Poor Traveler)

Snow Wall (Photo from Vins Carlos of The Poor Traveler)

Tateyama has one of the heaviest snow falls in the world amounting to as high as a 10 story building! During spring, they excavate a route where tourists can walk through snow walls.

You can definitely have your ‘Frozen’ moments here and ‘Let it go’! HAHAHAHA!

The highest point of the snow wall can reach up to 20m! Can you believe that?

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There were a lot of tourists here so foot traffic was high. You can see a lot of people carving out words and icons on the snow walls.

The high snow wall and the beautiful blue sky really complimented each other. While I was walking, I was just staring upwards. It seemed like we were marveling at tall buildings.

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If you’ll visit this attraction, make sure you’re wearing the proper footwear. I really wish I brought snow boots so I could have walked more and played in the snow. My plimsolls slipped way too much for this tourist site.

Alpine Route - Murodō Plain (Photo from Vins Carlos of The Poor Traveler)

After walking through the Snow Wall, you can walk back using this trail! (Photo from Vins Carlos of The Poor Traveler)

The sun was a little high too and a bit of heat came through so make sure you bring sun block and shades. But in the late afternoon, it got colder and colder. The feeling was super ICY!

The area where the snow wall is, Murodo, has hotels and accommodations if you wish to stay longer. There are also more tourist sites like Mikurigaike Pond, Hot Springs, and other viewpoints.

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Tateyama Highland Bus (50 minutes)

After the snow wall, we visited a conservation center before riding another bus. The bus ride was a 50 minute scenic route consisting mostly of winding roads. This transfer was a tour bus and was announcing different stops and tourist landmarks like trees and waterfalls.

Medyo nahilo ako sa bus ride na ito! But I tried to ignore it because the view was magnificent. We passed by more mountains and slopes of snow. The whole experience was definitely a REAL WINTER WONDERLAND!

Once we arrived at the cable car station, we had to wait for 40 more minutes because there were so many tourists. I just hung out with a few people from our tour group at the 2nd floor waiting area where you can see an amazing view of mountains and a setting sun. 

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Tateyama cable car (7 minutes)

977m HIGH!

This cable car flew through the air and also passed by inside a mountain. At this point, one of the travel bloggers told me that we walked a total of almost 10,000 steps. The fatigue was setting in a bit.

Bus from Tateyama station to Toyama destination (1 hour)

At Tateyama station, our tour bus was waiting for us. The route finally ended! I was relieved and sad at the time. The tour was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had.

The Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is an all-season attraction. If I get to return, I definitely want to experience the route during autumn (September to October). But for most tourists, the best time to visit is when the Snow Wall Otani is up during Spring (April to June) especially if you’re doing the Shoryudo (Central Japan) route and want to experience all the seasons.

Since Switzerland is too expensive and Mt. Everest is quite impossible for most of us to experience, I feel that the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route is an amazing and worthwhile alternative!

For more information on the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route, visit http://alpen-route.com or contact Tomokazu Washida (Chief, Tateyama Sales Promotion Department Overseas Sales Center) at tomokazu-washida@alpen-route.co.jp

GOMANGOKU

From Tateyama station, we traveled around an hour to get to this restaurant.

After a tiring tour day, we were rewarded by an amazing dinner at Gomangoku. For me, visiting the Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route was already a reward itself but the dinner was definitely a bonus! It was our tour group’s first course meal.

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We were seated in a private Japanese room and everything looked very authentic! Since this was a course meal, food was served one or two plates at a time. SOBRANG SARAP! NAKAKAIYAK! Authentic talaga!

My favorite plate at this restaurant was the cold soba noodles! During this plate, I was already full from the fresh sashimi, beef, appetizers, etc but I had to finish it! GANUN SIYA KASARAP for me! The noodles tasted like they were just freshly made from hand. And when I combined it with the soup, ginger, and green onions! AY WOW! If I could have eaten this meal at the Daikanbo viewpoint, sobrang HEAVEN na talaga!

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If you’re visiting Toyama, this restaurant is definitely a must try! If you want to eat at Gomangoku, visit http://www.gomangoku.co.jp/

APA HOTEL TOYAMA EKIMAE

From the restaurant, this hotel is around 10 minutes away.

The hotel room and bathroom at this hotel was a little cramped. But since I was too tired, I washed up a bit and went to bed straight away not minding it anymore. When I woke up, I felt that the bed was actually pretty comfortable. Looking around, I noticed that all hotel items were too crowded on the side desk. I couldn’t even find the power outlets at first because everything was side by side.

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The buffet style breakfast was just okay. There were a lot of choices mostly Japanese appetizers and soups. When I was about to finish breakfast, one of the waitresses approached me and was telling me something in Japanese. I told her I couldn’t understand her and she still kept on saying something in Japanese. She didn’t do any hand gestures or say anything in English. I told her I didn’t know and she just went away.

Toyama City is a 3 hour car or bus ride from Nagoya. If you’re visiting Toyama and don’t mind small spaces, stay at this hotel. For more information on APA Hotel Toyama Ekimae, visit https://www.apahotel.com/hotel/hokuriku/02_toyama-ekimae/english/ or inquire at ahtoeki@apa.co.jp

In terms of quality (comparing it to our first hotel – Hotel Buena Vista in Matsumoto), I suggest looking for better business hotels in the area.

DAY 3

During our 3rd day, I knew what to expect because I got to visit both Shirakawa-go and Takayama in 2016. READ – A CHERRY BLOSSOMS EXPERIENCE IN CENTRAL JAPAN: How My Mom & I Spent P19,600 Each ALL-IN for 3 Days in Nagoya, Takayama, & Shirakawago

If you read my article, a day trip from Nagoya to both Takayama and Shirakawago is possible. It takes 2.5 hours by bus from Nagoya to Takayama and then from Takayama, you can take another bus to Shirakawago which will take another hour. To save costs on transportation, use the Shoryudo pass.

But since it was just me and my mom during my first time, we didn’t really get anything cultural out of it. It was just a sightseeing tour so having Tomo and some tourism officials the second time around made me learn more about these places.

SHIRAKAWA-GO

During our 3rd day, it rained the whole day. The amount of rain was intermittent but it rained all throughout the day.

From our Toyama hotel, we traveled around an hour to Shirakawa-go.

Shirakawa-go was a UNESCO world heritage site because of its historic villages. Its roofs shaped like hands in prayer enamor tourists all over the world. The best season to visit is during winter when the illumination happens at night. All the roofs are covered in white powder snow making you feel like its Christmas every day.

SHIROYAMA OBSERVATORY DECK

Our bus stopped first at the observatory deck. It was continuously raining but the view was beautiful nonetheless. The background of the snow capped mountains was still a delight to see.

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SHIRAKAWA-GO HISTORIC VILLAGE

Unlike last year when my mom and I walked going down from the deck, we took the bus instead since it was raining.

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This time around, there were more Cherry Blossom trees in full bloom. It was a beautiful experience seeing the village again.

WADA HOUSE

We also got the chance to enter the Wada Gassho House to see what these traditional village houses looked like from the inside. My mom and I didn’t get to do this last year.

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The Wada house felt like a luxurious cabin without furniture. Since this was converted to a museum, we saw lifestyle materials used in the past and Japanese rooms fully covered in Tatami.

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We also got up close and personal with the material used for the famous roofs of these Gassho homes.

IRORI

We had lunch at Irori inside one of the traditional house villages. From the outside, you wouldn’t actually know if they were restaurants, guesthouses, or museums. You have to ask because there aren’t much English signs as well.

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At this restaurant, everything was served at once. Our table was full of plates with different appetizers, meals, soups, and a cooking pot with beef and pork. The Hida beef bowl was so good pero nakakabitin! 3 pieces of beef lang! I liked the sweetened potato appetizer too! The whole meal was delicious!

SHIRAKAWA-GO BRIDGE

Since it was raining and we only had little time to explore, the group didn’t get to see the suspension bridge my mom and me saw last year. This is closer to the tourist information centers and bus stops. I feel that this is a highlight when visiting Shirakawa-go.

The unstable bridge with a beautiful flowing river under and a backdrop of breathtaking mountains is definitely a must experience. It’s the perfect entrance to Shirakawa-go. 

Shirakawago River

My mom & I enjoying the view of Shirakawa-go’s Suspension Bridge (Photo from Nagoya Trip 2015)

There are no entrance fees at Shirakawa-go but if you want to visit the observatory deck without hiking up and down, van transfers are available for ¥200 or ₱87+ per way. For more information on Shirakawa-go, visit http://www.shirakawagou.jp/

TAKAYAMA

Takayama is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Central Japan because of its Japanese authenticity. When I went last year, there were so many western tourists. This came as a surprise to me because I usually just see Asian tourists based on my experiences in Osaka or Tokyo.

If you’re a foodie, you’ll definitely like Takayama! Make sure to try the torched Beef sushi and ice cream!

TAKAYAMA CITY OLD GOVERNMENT BUILDING (TAKAYAMA JINYA)

Since it was still raining, we toured the old government building first. If it’s spring, cold, and raining, DO NOT GO BAREFOOT HERE! Since we have to take off our shoes, I had to go barefoot again because of my loose socks. The whole area was covered in Tatami which actually mimics the temperature outside!

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SOBRANG LAMIG NG PAA KO! GRABE! I felt it through my whole body! I couldn’t concentrate on the tour that much because SOBRANG LAMIG TALAGA! But I did listen to some of the facts being stated and it was interesting to note Takayama’s government structure, functions, and way of living at this building many years ago.

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Rooms of Takayama gov’t officials were marked according to their positions with different designed tapes.

Just like with the Matsumoto Castle tour, I wondered what happened many years ago in the exact spots I was standing on. Naging ICY din ba paa nila? HAHAHAHAHA! 

In some rooms, I felt like I was in a ‘Ring’ movie. I felt like Sadako would come out anytime. All the interiors of the building resembled some scenes from the film. Scary! HAHAHAHA!

The Takayama Jinya is open from 8:45AM to 5:00PM and costs ¥430 or ₱188+ per person. 

TRADITIONAL STREET/OLD TOWN

After the tour of the government building, it was still raining. It was a downpour! It was a bummer too because people from the group didn’t get to explore Takayama’s Old Town which I feel is a very nice place to explore. It’s very culturally inviting! And you’ll definitely feel the #JapanVibes!

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This time around, the Cherry Blossom tree near the red Nakabashi bridge was in full bloom. It was fun experiencing the heavy rain, the Cherry Blossoms, and the deep red bridge. It all complimented each other that I didn’t mind getting drenched by the rain.

When in Central Japan, I highly recommend visiting Takayama.

For more information on GIFU, visit ‘Go Gifu’ on Facebook, www.kankou-gifu.jp, and www.gifu-pr.com or contact sawamura-masahito@pref.gifu.lg.jp

GUJO HACHIMAN

From Takayama, we traveled around an hour before reaching Gujo Hachiman.

If I can describe Gujo Hachiman as an actor from a typical Hollywood film, I would confidently say: ‘Were in the middle of nowhere!’

That’s what I felt like when we arrived in the area where our hotel was. The area was enclosed by mountains, near a river, and just a few buildings and houses were around. It’s an off the beaten path route in Japan and a destination worth looking into.

We were given a half hour rest at the hotel before we rode the bus going to the restaurant where we’ll have dinner.

BIZENYA

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I loved Bizenya!

We were all seated on the floor in a private room. It looked so classy!

It was a course meal again wherein different plated meals were served one after the other. Bizenya served a cooking pot with Hida-gyu beef along with different varieties of sushi and sashimi.

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NO WORDS. ANG SARAP. IYAK NALANG SA EXPERIENCE!

Everything was fresh and new to me, it all tasted so good!

I enjoyed this dinner a bit more than the other ones because everyone was laughing and just having fun talking.

The Hida-gyu beef was served and cooked first but after a few plates, everyone was wondering where the the rice was. We found out that the rice always comes last (before dessert)! HAHAHAHA!

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One of the travel bloggers google-d why this was and we all found out that during private and formal dinners, the rice always comes last so that people would be too full to eat it. The Japanese has always been known to eat healthy. This trick really comes in handy!

But it was definitely a culture change for us Filipinos where we always have rice as a staple. We had to request for the rice to be served immediately (for those interested). It was really funny how it all played out!

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My favorite was the dessert! I was really full by then but the dessert was just too good not to finish! AHHHHH HEAVEN! The cheesecake ice cream hybrid was so creamy and delicious that I wanted more! HAHAHAHA! Walang busog busog sa ganung cheesecake! WALA! HAHAHAHA!

If you’ll be visiting Gujo, you have to EAT here! I didn’t find any websites for this restaurant but you can visit them at 264 Hachimancho Yanagimachi Gujo Gifu or contact 0575-65-2068 (+81-575-65-2068). 

BUSINESS HOTEL GUJO

This accommodation was just okay. But I did like the nature view at the window. The room was spacious but the bathroom was pretty small. The feeling was isolating. I liked the bed though, it was very comfortable!

What I didn’t like most about the room is that the walls are pretty thin. I could hear the murmurs and actions of the people staying at the rooms beside mine. You’d know if they flushed the toilet or are taking a shower or talking to someone on the phone. It was a bit uncomfortable to move around.

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With this hotel, the rooms are not automatically locked. You have to open and lock it with an actual key.

The breakfast was plated but you can ask for unlimited rice and Miso soup. It was very tasty and the staff at the restaurant was very accommodating.

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The staff doesn’t speak English much though. The man at the counter was talking to me in Japanese continuously. I already said I didn’t understand but he kept talking to me! And what was weird was that he showed me a dating app with a photo of a woman and asked me if he would swipe right or left! OMG! It was really weird and so random!

If you’re interested in visiting Gujo Hachiman and staying for night, you can look into this hotel. For more information on Business Hotel Gujo, visit http://www.gujo.biz/hotel/

DAY 4

During the morning of our 4th day, we continued to explore Gujo.

ASAHI SAMPLE

Our first stop was the Asahi Sample Workshop. At this place, we got to try making a food sample of a dessert (shake/snow cone). Gujo is known for manufacturing realistic food samples.

When you’re at the mall, the food samples displayed in restaurant windows can actually influence you to eat there or not. But most of the time in the Philippines, what is displayed is not usually what is served.

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In Japan, specifically Gujo, they turned food sampling into art. After making our own samples, I was at awe at the displays of ramen, pizza, dessert, and other food items being sold at the gift store. They looked good enough to eat.

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The Asahi sample workshop was done near a beautiful flowing river. The water looked refreshing enough to drink, I swear! You could smell and feel how clean it was! The backdrop was also nature filled and beautiful. I LOVE JAPAN SCENERIES! I could just stare at them all day!

GUJO TOURIST CENTER AND TOWN WALK

From the Asahi sample, we went to the Gujo tourist center where we met local tourist officials. Since Gujo is one of Japan’s biggest dance towns, we first went to the back of the tourism souvenir shop to watch 2 Japanese women teach the audience some Gujo Odori dance steps.

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They did a mix of hand gestures and clapping steps while inviting some of the tourists to dance with them.

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A mini Rio de Janeiro in Japan?

After that we walked through Gujo town. The town resembled Magome but on a flat terrain or a little Takayama Old Town. The tour guides said they were referred to as the ‘Little Kyoto’.

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What made me admire Gujo town was the clean water running through the street canals. Even before the tourism officials acknowledged it, I already noticed how clean it was. In my mind, I asked myself if safe kaya inumin yung tubig?. On cue, the tour guide said that locals wash plates, clothes, and food with the water. Unbelievable!

I would never see a canal THAT clean in the Philippines. HAY! And after a few minutes, lo and behold, a Japanese woman washed her vegetables using the water from the street canal. She looked annoyed when we took photos of her but GRABE! IBA TALAGA SA JAPAN!

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View of Gujo Hachiman Castle from Gujo Town

YOSHIDAYA

After our walk, we ate lunch at Hotel Yoshidaya. It was a private sit down Japanese room again just like Gomangoku. They served a hot pot wherein we added a raw egg. Plated meal courses were served again one after the other.

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At this restaurant, I loved the scallops and dessert (Wine Jelly). If you’re interested in eating at this restaurant, visit http://www.yoshidayaryokan.com/index_e.php

Gujo Hachiman is an hour car or bus ride away from Nagoya. Aside from the Gujo town and Asahi sample workshop, some popular destinations you can look into are the Gujo-Hachiman Castle, Ski Resorts, Bokka no Sato Park, and the Shirotori Odori Dance Festival.

For more information on GUJO CITY, visit www.gujokankou.com or contact Koji Mishima (Tourism Division Manager, Gujo City Government) at ko.mishima@city.gujo.gifu.jp

KUWANA

Around 2 hours from Gujo, we reached Nagashima Resort. Nagashima resort consists of Nagashima Spaland (amusement park + water park + hot spring + museum), Nabana no Sato (flower park), and Jazz Dream (outlet mall).

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View of Nagashima Spaland from Jazz Dream

The amusement park was very overwhelming for me. It consisted mostly of roller coasters. I mean, WHO DOES THAT? I can’t imagine riding a roller coaster after roller coast after roller coaster? DAMN! I could never handle that! Mahiluhin pa naman ako!

JAZZ DREAM NAGASHIMA

The Filipina Explorer and I window shopped around Jazz Dream. It is an outlet mall of popular and luxury brands like North Face, Adidas, Nike, and many more. 

NABANA NO SATO

If you’re traveling to Nagoya during winter or spring, NABANA NO SATO IS A MUST! GRABE!

Out of all the places we visited, this is my TOP 1! 

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Nabana no Sato is a flower and illumination park. The grounds feature seasonal flowers and shrubbery. Writing this, I feel like I’m there again! All hyped up and emotional! I can’t clearly explain what I feel about this place.

Entering the park, we were met by different kinds of flowers and plants beautifully designed in spirals and waves. Walking further, we saw more plants and flowers aesthetically placed around a lake with bridges. Everything was so picturesque. 

From afar, I saw something that resembled a UFO. It was actually a 360-degree panoramic tower to see the whole park. The viewing took around 10 minutes. It was pretty cold up there! 

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CNN dubbed Nabana no Sato as Japan’s most extravagant display! I feel that the extravagance started with the 12,000+ flower displays at the Begonia garden.

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It was colorful! NAKAKAKILIG! NAKAKAIYAK!

Pwede pang photoshoot and wedding pre-nup or WEDDING MISMO! HAHAHAHA!

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For me, the super overwhelming feeling started at the Tulip field. We only had around 10 minutes to stay at this field because we didn’t know the closing time. We spent too much time at the Begonia Garden.

Upon closing, we didn’t want to leave. Most of us only had about 5-10 shots of photos. That wasn’t enough! But the staff was very strict. They were even whistling at us to leave already.

The flower park was a praise-worthy sight! Gugustuhin mong gawin yung ginawa ni Julie Andrews sa taas ng bundok sa Sound of Music at kumanta ng ‘The fields are alive with the sound of music Ahhhhhhhh!’ HAHAHAHAHA!

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After the tulip field, we had dinner at one of the restaurants. It was another private sit down dinner. And DAMN! It was just like Bizenya again!

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SOBRANG SARAP! They served fresh sashimi, clam soup, fish, and many more. What I liked best was the Tempura.

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Walang wala sa Tempura natin! It didn’t taste oily or fatty! It was the best tempura!

Our dinner at Nabana no Sato felt luxurious. I was already overwhelmed by the tulip field, nadagdagan pa ng dinner!

After dinner, it was time to experience the winter illumination.

AND OMG! When I saw the tunnel, I really wanted to cry! 

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Tunnel + Romantic Music + Cold Weather = IYAK! 

It was magical!

It was awe-inspiring!

It was marvelous!

I even told the other writers “Feel ko pag cross ko nitong tunnel, kasal na ako!” HAHAHAHAHA! I’ll just let the photos speak for themselves. But PLEASE! YOU HAVE TO VISIT THIS PLACE! 

After the winter tunnel, you’ll see another tunnel of lights with an autumn theme. Outside of these tunnels, there was a vast lights illumination of a flower field with a show. #TITIGMOMENT

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I really want you to see and experience Nabana no Sato for yourself. I want you to feel what I felt! I want you to be as emotional or as awed as I was!

During my first trip to Nagoya, if I knew about this place, I would have definitely gone with my mom. I’m telling you now, if you’re visiting Nagoya, THIS IS A MUST during winter or spring!

NABANA NO SATO IS ONE OF THE BEST PLACES I’VE TRAVELED TO! THIS ATTRACTION IS DEFINITELY A MUST EXPERIENCE!

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Nagashima Spaland

Nabana no Sato

Admission Fee ¥6400 or ₱2,800+ (admission & unlimited rides at Spaland and waterpark) 
¥5000 or ₱2,200+ (admission & unlimited rides at Spaland) 
¥3500 or ₱1,500+ (admission & unlimited rides at waterpark)
¥1600 or ₱700+ (admission only) 
¥2300 or ₱1,000+ (winter illumination) 

¥1600 or ₱700+ (spring and autumn) 

¥1000 or ₱438+ (summer) 

The admission fee includes a ¥1000 or ₱438+ gift certificate to be used inside the park.

Fees are based from Japan-Guide.com

Nagashima Resort is an hour car or bus ride away from Nagoya. If you are interested in visiting Nagashima, visit http://www.nagashima-onsen.co.jp

NAGOYA

An hour away from Nabana no Sato is Nagoya. The gateway to all of the places I just wrote about!

TOKYO DAIICHI HOTEL NISHIKI

This business hotel is close to Don Quijote, a popular store of affordable shopping items that range from chocolates to cosmetics to pre-loved items to many more. I liked this hotel because the quality can be comparable to our hotel in Matsumoto.

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The room and bathroom was very spacious. Everything was very comfortable and the amenities weren’t crowded.

The buffet style breakfast was really delicious too! I loved the whipped cream + red bean paste combo for my toast! It was sweet and yummy!

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If you’re in Nagoya, this is a very good accommodation! When I come back to Nagoya and the rates are good, I’ll definitely book this hotel! For more information on Tokyo Daiichi Hotel Nishiki, visit http://www-a.global.hankyu-hotel.com/nishiki/

DAY 5

For our last and 5th day, it was more on transportation museums and free time.

TOYOTA COMMEMORATIVE MUSEUM OF INDUSTRY AND TECHNOLOGY (TCMIT)

I’m not so much into these kinds of museums but when I do go I am always inspired by the success achieved and challenges surpassed by the people behind the certain brand.

In this instance, the Toyota museum showcases the Toyoda family’s challenges and successes in both the textile machinery industry and shift to the automobile industry.

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I also liked the demonstrations because the staff seemed so passionate when talking about the company and its machinery. They are very genuine in reeling in your curiosity which doesn’t make it boring.

Museums like these are really an avenue for inspiration. You see that success comes from hard work and that nothing is impossible. 

If you’re a car enthusiast or inspired by back stories of big companies like Toyota, you’ll like this tourist attraction. The museum is open from 9:30AM to 5:00PM and admission costs ¥1,000 or ₱438+ per person. 

For more information on TCMIT, visit http://www.tcmit.org/english/

SAKAE

We had lunch at a mall in the Sakae area where we got to try Nagoya’s famous meal, Hitsumabushi (eel). It was really good!

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After lunch, we had a bit of free time so we went to the Oasis and Nagoya TV tower, some of the places I visited last year.

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SCMAGLEV AND RAILWAY PARK

I’ve always marveled at Japan’s train system. I really wish that someday, the Philippines can follow suit and progress this way.

If the dictionary can change the meaning of efficient, I’d change it to Efficient – Japan’s Train System. It’s definitely an epitome of what mass transportation should be.

Visiting this park, I was at awe at how the train systems in Japan have evolved. And they’re coming up with more ways to shock the world. GALING TALAGA!

While exploring the life-sized train models, I can’t help but feel a Harry Potter vibe with the older trains. It definitely had that ‘Hogwarts Express’ feel to it.

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In my last 4 trips to Japan, I’ve never had the chance to experience the bullet train. But through this museum, I got to FEEL riding a bullet train because there was a simulation!

If you love trains like Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, this park is a MUST VISIT! The park is open from 8:30AM to 5:00PM and admission costs ¥1,000 or ₱438+ (simulators cost an additional ¥100 or ¥500per person. 

For more information on the SCMAGLEV and Railway Park, visit http://museum.jr-central.co.jp/en/

CHUBU CENTRAIR INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT

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Jetstar Check-in Counters at Chubu Centrair International Airport

AWWW, IT’S TIME TO GO BACK HOME! After checking-in our luggage, the Chubu Centrair International Airport officials gave us a quick tour of the airport.

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Some things to note about this airport:

They’re very strict with the 7KG carry-on baggage.

After the immigration process, only Starbucks and a café are open after 5PM. If you’re hungry, eat at the airport’s restaurants at the 3rd floor. There are better choices there.

Check out the observation deck!

There is a Hello Kitty and Pokemon store!

Airport Sky View Deck

Chubu Centrair International Airport Observatory Deck (Photo from Nagoya Trip 2016)

For more information on Chubu Centrair International Airport, visit http://www.centrair.jp/en/

NOTE: Most of the facts stated about each destination were obtained from press kits (tourist brochures, maps, souvenirs, etc) given by tourism officials. For the tips, most are my personal opinions but some were provided by our tour guides. Also, the amounts stated may vary depending on the exchange rate. As of MAY 2017, ¥1 = ₱0.44

MY FIRST INT’L FAMILIARIZATION TRIP

I was really overwhelmed by so many things about this trip. From the invite to preparation to the actual trip to writing it, everything was definitely a blur of emotional moments and unforgettable experiences. 

But here are the best parts about the trip that I will always cherish and be grateful for: 

**OUR GUIDE, TOMO

The Japanese are known to have the best work ethic. They want to exude honor in everything that they do and we were fortunate enough to see and experience that ethic through Tomo.

Tomo was one of the best and most accommodating tour guides I’ve ever experienced. He always went out of his way to make sure that we were having the best time. 

In instances when transfers or schedules were a little late, he looked and felt so sorry like we’ve been waiting for more than an hour (5 minutes palang naman ang nakalipas). He wanted everything to be organized and efficient. His efforts were something to salute and be inspired by. 

We were waiting for one of our cable car transfers during the Tateyama Alpine Kurobe Route when Tomo asked me to teach him a few Filipino words. He looked so genuine while I was translating for him. I didn’t feel like he was doing it because he had to but that he really wanted to learn more about us. 

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Tomo raising his umbrella to make sure we can find him in a sea of tourists at the Snow Wall

When I asked him questions, I felt like he always wanted to respond with the best answer. His English skill and translations are not yet 100%, but I really appreciate and value his efforts in communicating with us. 

He always thought of us. In one instance, he was drenched from the rain but he was still prioritizing how we were. He was always running around and making sure all our activities were on time and in place. He did his job, more than what was expected of him.

I’m really grateful for Tomo. I learned a lot during the Familiarization tour because of him. I didn’t only learn more about Japan but I also learned the significant value of efforts and working hard. 

If you’re interested in hiring Tomo as your tour guide during your next trip to Japan, visit his website at http://en.rollcabbage.com or contact him at guide@rollcabbage.com

TRAVELLING WITH OTHER TRAVEL BLOGGERS 

Life’s pretty surprising sometimes! One day, I’m just reading travel blogs as references for my trips. And then comes another day when I get to travel with the writers of those travel blogs!

When I found out the other travel bloggers that were also invited by Jetstar and NGP IMC, I became a little nervous at first! Kasi sobrang sikat nila! Medyo nahiya ako ng konti! HAHAHAHA!

But at the airport where we all met up, they were all so nice. And as the tour went on, I should have never been nervous at all.

Gael of Pinay Solo Backpacker is very outgoing and genuine. I was inspired by her reactions and excitement during the tour. I almost always shared the same sentiments with her reactions. I liked how she told her travel stories. It was pretty animated. Ang saya! Gael was also really funny. She’s a fun person to be with and someone you definitely want to travel with. There’s no dull moment with her. 

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With Gael Hilotin of Pinay Solo Backpacker and Vins Carlos of The Poor Traveler at Magomeya

It was surreal talking to Vins of The Poor Traveler. I’m not a religious reader of his blogs but when their articles show up on my Facebook timeline, I read them. I really like their photos. When we had chances to talk, I always ask him about his trips. And it was wonderfully weird talking about his adventures with him rather than reading about them on the internet. Sobrang sikat ng The Poor Traveler but there was no hint of arrogance or boastfulness when I talked to him, none at all. Vins is really a kind and humble person.

During the whole tour, I feel like my unofficial partner was the Filipina Explorer. Field trip lang? Well, actually, OO! HAHAHAHA! I hit it off with this travel blogger instantly. I swear pag nag-uusap kami, parang matagal na kami magkakilala. 

Gretchen is known for her travel stories with her daughter. I really liked listening to her stories about family, work, and life. 

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With Gretchen Dublin of Filipina Explorer at the Daikanbo Viewpoint (Photo from Gretchen)

I really felt at ease with Gretchen. She was very outgoing that I didn’t need to try so hard. There were no dead silences and ang saya talaga niya kasama. She’s very inspiring and has meaningful views on a lot of things. I’m really glad I met her. 

LEARNING FROM DIFFERENT INDUSTRY PROFESSIONALS 

Aside from the travel bloggers, it was also refreshing learning more about travel and writing from perspectives of print media, PR, and marketing professionals. 

During my Familiarization trip in El Nido, I was mostly with professionals from the hotel industry. It was a good learning experience but I found more relevance and familiarity with the professionals from the Nagoya Familiarization tour. It was easier to interact and find common ground. 

I liked my conversations with Gibbs Cadiz of Inquirer. He was a very thoughtful person. He had a lot to say about any topic that would come up. He is the type of person you would love travelling with kasi ang sarap niya kausap. Marami siyang kwento! I really learned a lot from him. 

I am very grateful to everyone for their stories and advice. I will definitely keep them in mind! 😉 

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#Jetstar2Nagoya Familiarization Tour Group (Photo from Mish Casal of NGP IMC)

I am very grateful to Jetstar and NGP IMC for this amazing opportunity. This has been one of the best travel experiences I’ve ever had. I will definitely remember this first! 😉 

ARTICLES FROM OTHER WRITERS

Check out #Jetstar2Nagoya posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to see more photos from our Nagoya Familiarization trip.

I also want to share with you the articles of the other writers from the tour group so you can read different perspectives of the Familiarization trip! Hope you have some time to read them! THANK YOU! 😉

 Into Japan’s Heartland by Angelo Garcia, Writer for Manila Bulletin 

 You gotta go to nagoya by Felix Suerte, Writer for Philippine Star

 Nagoya Itinerary Blog & Cental Japan Itinerary by Gael Hilotin of Pinay Solo Backpacker 

 Nagoya Budget Travel Guide by Vins Carlos of The Poor Traveler

Tateyama Kurobe Alpine Route: Winter Wonderland in Spring by Lloyd Salac of The Lost Boy Lloyd

★ A return to Nagoya by Gerard Ramos of Business Mirror

This Nagoya Familiarization trip was sponsored by Jetstar, Chubu Centrair International Airport, and NGP Integrated Marketing Communications. This is a sponsored write-up. All opinions are inspired by my experiences and nothing else. 

Jetstar  flies directly from Manila to Nagoya 4x weekly. Book your flights TODAY at http://www.jetstar.com/ph/en/home or inquire at jetstar@email.jetstar.com

 

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