So having stayed in Yokohama whilst visiting Tokyo, then moving on to Kyoto via bullet train, time had now come to move on to the third and final leg of our journey – a stay in Ina, a small city situated in the Nagano prefecture.
However, without a direct rail route to get there, Ryan and I was to take a shinkansen (bullet train) to Nagoya, where we would then catch a bus and travel to the Komagane highway bus stop where we would be picked up by Terrance and Yuko and then ferried to our Ina accommodation via their car.
Eh, simple enough.
Nagoya in case you are wondering is Japan’s fourth largest city in terms of population, and with the headquarters of Toyota being situated nearby, well, you can expect a pretty well off and modern city.
Having successfully arrived at the huge train terminal via train, Ryan and I found ourselves a few hours to spare, and eager not to waste any of our time in Japan, we immediately started walking, setting our sights on the Nagoya TV Tower as a suitable destination.
Nagoya is a beautiful city, and the street that we happened to be marching down was littered with public art everywhere you looked. Beautiful sculptures, statues and architecture certainly was the order of the day.
A particularly interesting sight that we stumbled on was the Sky-Boat Ferris Wheel, which believe it or not, is attached to the side of a shopping center! (Sunshine Sakae in case you want to look it up.)
Eventually we stumbled into the pleasant Hisaya Odori Park, with the sight of the Nagoya TV Tower looming largely in front of us…
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Having now ogled more than enough baseball related things to satisfy our need, we next turned our gaze to LaQua, the adjacent spa resort (complete with shops, restaurant, and thrill attractions) that is technically still part of the bigger Tokyo Dome City complex.
(The reason for having grabbed our attention, is of course the giant, hubless Ferris wheel – Big O – and noisy roller-coaster – Thunder Dolphin – that passes right through both the building and Ferris wheel as part of its route! How can you not want to go and take a closer look at that!)
Although neither Ryan nor I was interested in visiting a spa at that time of day, it’s worth noting that if you did pay a visit to Spa LaQua, you would be treated to a particularly luxurious onsen experience, with the spa hosting natural hot spring pools, an outdoor bath, massage bubble bath, saunas and of course serene relaxation areas.
(And if I think back now to how all the walking seriously killed my feet, in hindsight perhaps we should have made a pit stop there!)
After watching people enjoy some of the thrill rides (note, LaQua also has a water slide on the premises!), we played around with the idea of grabbing a bite to eat (which by the way is quite easy in Japan thanks to their obsession with picture menus and of course their world famous plastic replica food displays to help you along), did a spot of shopping (technically browsing through a supermarket to see how it looks), and then settled for some delicious Halloween-themed ice cream from Baskin-Robbins, better known as 31 in Japan.
(Seriously, their selection of flavours are incredible!)
And what were we doing while we were wolfing down our refreshing treats?
Why taking in the immensely entertaining Water Symphony musical fountain display of course!
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With the Yokohama Oktoberfest beer garden now well and truly behind us, onward we marched towards the giant, neon lit ferris wheel in the distance, stopping only because we were distracted by the lights coming from the rather prominent Yokohama World Porters building in front of us.
As it turns out, the Japanese love for themed things truly knows no bounds, because the first floor of World Porters is of course… Hawaiian themed.
No joke. Surfing videos, tiki statues, palm leaves – well you get the picture. Still, it was interesting to walk about, and in the process we did manage to lay our hands on a weird ice cream soda float thing with a massive block of ice in the middle.
Which was nice and refreshing if I remember correctly.
Back on our mission to make it to the brightly lit ferris wheel in the distance (which turns out is the world famous Cosmo Clock 21 ferris wheel, once the tallest ferris wheel in the world, and also star of the 1992 Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth movie!), we eventually stumbled across the Cosmo World amusement park.
Being neither kids nor romantic, we didn’t stray in the park for too long, but certainly took long enough to admire all the cool kids attractions that certainly would have been a fun outing back in the day when we were still running around at knee height!
Continuing our late evening stroll, we came upon the Dockyard Garden at the foot of the Landmark Plaza, just in time to be treated to the the jaw-droppingly amazing and technically stunning Yokohama Odyssey 3D projection mapping show – which kept us (and by now our aching feet) completely enthralled from start to finish.
(I’ve blogged about this artistic technical wizardry before. An absolute must to take in if you are ever in the area!)
And because Yokohama didn’t seem to want to stop showing us interesting things, next in our line of vision was the magnificent, permanently moored Nippon Maru sailing ship (built in 1930 and employed as a training ship for the cadets of the Japanese merchant marine), currently used as a museum ship that is open to the public.
However, we were now near our ultimate target for the evening (even if we were struggling a bit to find the official entrance to the building).
(Image swiped from Google, because well, we were there in the evening and it was dark.)
From Wikipedia: “The Yokohama Landmark Tower (completed 1993) is the second tallest building and 4th tallest structure in Japan, standing 296.3 m high. When built, it was the tallest building in Japan until it was surpassed by Abeno Harukas’ in 2012. Also, at opening, it had the highest observation deck in Japan.
The building contains a five-star hotel which occupies floors 49-70, with 603 rooms in total. The lower 48 floors contain shops, restaurants, clinics, and offices. The building contains two tuned mass dampers on the (hidden) 71st floor on opposite corners of the building.
On the 69th floor there is an observatory, Sky Garden, from which one can see a 360-degree view of the city, and on clear days Mount Fuji.
The tower contains what were at their inauguration the world’s second fastest elevators, which reach speeds of 12.5 m/s (45.0 km/h). This speed allows the elevator to reach the 69th floor in approximately 40 seconds. The elevators’ speed record was finally surpassed by elevators of Taipei 101 (60.6 km/h) in 2004.”
The night time views of Yokohama from above didn’t disappoint, and were in a word, breathtaking.
Ryan and I spent a fair amount of time just chilling and taking in the night time scenery – and of course discussing the phenomenal lift speed that got us to this height in the first place!
Eventually we made our way down from Sky Garden and ambled around a bit in the by now deserted shopping sections of Landmark Plaza, eschewing the more fancy stores for views of the more nostalgia awakening ones – like this brilliant Pokemon Center we stumbled across.
And that was that.
Tired, sore feet, and no desire to walk back to Yokohama (from my side anyway), Ryan relented and expertly guided us to the nearby JR Sakragicho train station for a quick train hop back to our Super Hotel Yokohama rooms.
Where needless to say, I slept rather well.
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If you ever find yourself in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan, then it might just be worth your while to pop in to the renowned Hitachi Seaside Park whilst you are there.
Hitachi Seaside Park is a public park that covers an area of 190 hectares, featuring blooming flowers all year round.
In particular, the park has become known for its (Nemophila) baby blue-eyes flowers, with the blooming of 4.5 million of the translucent-petaled blue flowers in the spring drawing travellers from both near and far.
In Autumn the colorful cosmos blooms and blazing red kochia bushes (aka burning bush, ragweed, summer cypress, or Mexican fireweed) spring into action:
The park includes cycling trails and a small amusement park with a Ferris wheel. (It also hosts the annual musical Rock in Japan Festival every August.)
(If you were wondering, the nearest railway station is Katsuta Station on the JR Joban Line. Of course, Google Maps could have told you that.)
So my quest to play catch up in finally getting around to posting all of my phone camera photos up to the blog continues… Last year Chantelle and I did something uncharacteristic for my birthday by heading out for a very rare date night on the evening before the main event. We really wanted to try out this fantastic burger joint everyone had been recently raving about, namely Gibson’s Gourmet Burgers & Ribs, tucked away somewhere in the V&A Waterfront.
With the kids safely tucked in at Oupa and Ouma’s house, Chantelle and I headed south across the Boerewors Line, and not only successfully located the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, but actually managed to find parking as well (We hadn’t been there for a very, very long time, so I count that as something worthy of noting)! Then the hunt for Gibson’s was on, and after a long, enjoyable and sightseeing jaunt around the area, we realized that the restaurant is in fact a small little shopfront tucked in the food court in the actual Waterfront mall itself!
Initially a bit disappointed with the size of the restaurant then, our tune quickly changed when once seated, one quickly realized how cleverly the setup has been done – you pretty much feel that you’re inside a proper eatery, despite the fact that the mall walkway is literally right there in front of you!
Anyway, in terms of the food, we were definitely NOT let down. An awesome selection of burgers made the final choice difficult, but the end result that was put down in front of us were two of the best, freshest burgers that we had ever tasted.
In other words, a definite ‘recommend’!
By that stage it was pretty dark, and so we capped off an enjoyable evening together by taking a ride in the big ferris wheel that dominates the waterfront these days – the aptly named Cape Wheel. Neither Chantelle nor I had ever taken a ride on it before and so we were understandably excited stepping into the designated pod after slapping down our money on the counter (which was a little too much in my opinion, but hey, tourist fees – comes with the territory I suppose).
The ride is over pretty quick, and I have to say, we probably robbed ourselves of some of the views by doing it at night, but nevertheless, it was an enjoyable 10 to 15 minute sightseeing ride, and as always, the lights of Cape Town certainly didn’t disappoint!