March 12 – April 12 on Universal-Doll is going to be all about Spring Japan travel (with the occasional fashion update thrown in because #fashionblogger). I’m especially going to talk about some more unexpected destinations like this Castle in the Sky along with travel tips. But I’ll also have some Osaka and Kyoto news as well.

 

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My best photo that shows how it feels to be at Takeda Castle and it’s the first photo. May as well stop the blog post now.

I found out about Takeda Castle in Hyogo (竹田城 Takeda-jo) through rocketnews. Never did I think I would travel somewhere because of a site that mainly posts photos of whacky Japan and plastic surgery. But it was their one rocketnews post in a few about how pretty some things in Japan are.

Takeda Castle is known as Japan’s Machu Pichu because of how it an old ruin that nests above the clouds. It’s known as Takeda Castle, but really it’s just ruins from a leftover castle built in the 1400s on a mountain. It doesn’t have a big foreign tourist draw, but when I was there a lot of Japanese tour groups were visiting.

 

kMjoprlHere’s a fancy helicopter shot from Infojepang

I showed the post to my man and he was really interested to so we decided to make a day trip of it from Osaka. It’s a very easy day trip from Osaka/Kyoto/Kobe. It took about two hours from Osaka, we stopped at the Wadayama train station for Yoshinoya.

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Travel tip: Looking for cheap and quick? A gyu-don restaurant such as Nakau or Yoshinoya. My meal was 490 yen or $4.50. I ordered the Meat with green onions and egg or top right.

My man was mainly interested because we could hike it, he’s like half-goat so the idea of scaling anything fills him with happiness. I on the other hand love a good hike but hate unstable heights, like it’s my #1 fear (dark water #2). I took a medicine for a long time that left me feeling dizziness with heels above 3 inches, much less a mountain. But I heard hike and agreed. I even bought sensible shoes and pants for the endeavor. And wore eyelashes and full makeup, because I’m me. :smiley:

Takeda Station in Hyogo is the drop off point and Takeda area itself was really pretty!

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If this is the first thing you see when you get off a train, you know you’re in for a treat.

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A little warning about the train, check out that Takeda Castle mascot “Takeji” so cute!!

TakejiSo cute!! (from the Asago City website)

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Takeda station is in the town of Asago and wow the main drag was pretty. New old-style houses that some must’ve been ryokans.

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Koi swimming through the streams lining the main road. Along with cute statues of Mickey Mouse and Doraemon.

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Even Pikachu got in on the action. All the cherry blossoms final road. No editing, they were really that pink.

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If you’re upset you’re going to miss peak time to view the sakura, really don’t be. After is always great. You get to watch them fall and floating down rivers they’re especially lovely.

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And the shrine entrance starts the journey up the mountain.

and there will be no pictures of that.

Remember when I said unstable heights were my number one fear? Well that set off a panic attack.

Really like several panic attacks up the mountain. And because I was on the side of a mountain I couldn’t go down that was just as horrible. So I would have a panic attack, hike up a bit more, panic, hike, panic. And I got asthmatic because I was wasting my energy just freaking the fuck out.

But I got up the mountain and Takeda Castle rocks!

And hiking is not a requirement to see it, most sane rational people who didn’t listen to the whims of a goat man drive up and park or take a taxi. And go up like 3 measly flights of stairs to see the castle. 

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iPhone pano! I never use this but I think it really explains how high up you are.

Takeda Castle’s nickname is “The Castle in the Clouds” you are so high up and the view is just spectacular. Even on an overcast day it’s just uninterrupted and glorious!

We had the bonus of visiting on what a tour guide said that day was full bloom of Takeda Castle. Yup. Sakura in the Sky!

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I bombarded you with a bunch of cherry blossom centric photos and the “castle” is really just raised rocks, it was totally awesome and I’d visit again in another season, during Fall leaves aka koyo it’s supposed to be breathtaking as well. The view is fabulous, the city around it is super cute and it was a very worthwhile day trip. It’s also a place that’s popular with Japanese tourists but still not too busy. Sakura viewing crowds can get suffocating and this definitely wasn’t.

To note: Takeda Castle’s Cherry Blossom season is later than Osaka or Kyoto. We were there on April 10th and Osaka and Kyoto usually are peak times April 1. So if you’re in Kansai later I really suggest getting your blossom on at Takeda!

Bonus! The JR Bantan line from Takeda to Wadayama had super cute trains!

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Man I love wrapped trains. It doesn’t beat the Takamatsu Kotoden train, but it definitely fit its surroundings.

Cost of travel day, because I like to show that traveling Japan doesn’t have to be expensive:

Travel: The trip from Osaka to Takeda is covered within the Japan Rail Pass so that part was included in my original spending. We also went to Hyogo castle on our way back. I walked to the JR Namba stop in Osaka so all travel was included in the Rail Pass. 14 day rail pass is around $30USD a day.

Lodging: My hotel was 7,400 yen a night in Osaka.

Food: Breakfast was bakery breads and canned coffee 500 yen, Lunch was Yoshinoya 500 yen, refilled bottle of waters for hike (free), snack and coffee at ChocoCro was 600 yen, dinner was Takoyaki back at Osaka for 600 yen.

Taxi down: 1,500 yen

Entrance to the castle: 300 yen

Total spent without lodging or travel: 4,300 yen or $40

Total including everything (food, lodging, travel): 14,900 yen or $130 for two people: 22,400 yen or $210.

Other than recommended and out of the ordinary tourist spots for Spring I’ll have advice on packing, ways people overspend in Japan, and Spring tips. So stay tuned  :loveword:

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After tromping around the Tottori Sand Dunes (Sankyuu) I headed back to the main Tottori train station, but realized I had more time to spend before last train. Since it was sakura season (Japan Cherry Blossoms) I checked via mobile wifi that the Tottori Fukuro River (Fukurogawa /袋川) sakura were in full bloom. I’m so glad I did. It was the best sakura I’d gotten to see all season! For previous sakura talks check out the “sakura” tag on Universal-Doll.

Japan Cherry Blossoms in full bloom in Tottori

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nameko saibai water guage Local children had drawn these cute rain gauges made out of PET bottles. Of course a lot are comic related like the Astroman and Nameko Saibai one.

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Litter signs in Japan can get really cute looking.  :bow:

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 So amazing right? I don’t think I edited any of these pictures other than cropping and resizing. No need to with all the lovely pinks  :loveword:

Corporate Salaryman Hanami

Business Hanami (Japan Cherry Blossom viewing) go full-out! I was happy to walk along when the lowly grunts on the corporate ladder were forced to wake up very early that day to secure a prime spot and secure all the goods. If you’ll notice there’s bottles of sake and mixers set up, along with giant trays of sushi and presents for the gifts.

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All the drinks and mixers getting set up.

Such a big feast! I can’t wait to enjoy Japan Cherry Blossom again this year. Just looking at these photos gets me excited. Have you ever seen them?

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Q-Pot Cafe Tokyo near Harajuku is one of the cutest cafes to pop in a long time (http://www.q-pot.jp/shop/cafe/). Done by wildly popular sweets deco aka sweets jewelry maker Q-Pot it’s the perfect niche cafe. It’s usually packed on weekends with a wait so weekdays is the best time to visit.

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These are just their regular desserts. Look how special and well done that their standards are. But you’re missing out on their seasonal (gentei) spectaculars, more on that below.  :sage:

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Q-Pot Cafe’s outside is like a small little cottage. With all the flashiness of Harajuku and the gilded brand stores that line Omotesando it’s such a refreshing simple, homespun change.

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The sweets wallpaper down to the biscuit shaped tables and wall motif. Everything is expertly chosen and uniquely crafted for this one-of-a-kind cafe. You definitely feel like you’re transported somewhere else than the backstreets of Omotesando.

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Like any special place in Japan there are goods to buy like take home Q-Pot Cafe biscuits and plates.

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The coffee sprinkled with their logo and each piece of silverware has their little Q-Pot teapot logo on it.

But of course what about my own choice? Their sakura-themed dessert.

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Or should I say desserts? A sakura cake tower, a sakura and white chocolate with Q-Pot logo and then a sakura macaron with edible jewelry.

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Check out that amazing macaron! It was heavenly, too. I couldn’t handle how I was eating jewelry, such a joy.

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Such a tiny piece of chocolate but a delicate little print. If you didn’t notice, it matches their wallpaper.

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Inside the sakura cake tower! The Japanese-themed dessert heaven of cake, matcha cream, red bean and sakura icing. It was soooo good!!

 

Unlike many places in Japan cameras are 100% okay and encouraged. The staff are happy to take pictures of you or let you roam around and take pictures. For 1,000 yen for a dessert and coffee and an unforgettable experience, it’s definitely a well-priced moment. It’s also such a wonderful moment to sit when you’ve been walking around Harajuku.

If you enjoy sweets and adorable settings please visit! Q-Pot Cafe Tokyo is located near the Omotesando and Harajuku train stations at 3-10-21 Kita-Aoyama, Minato-ku, Tokyo. I’m not done with posting about Q-Pot. 3 months ago I went to Q-Pot Cafe’s super secret room and enjoyed their special menu. I’ll share with that next month.  :cheery:

 

 

 

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I’m going to get straight into showing the gorgeous Okayama cherry blossoms of Okayama Handayama Park and then I’ll tell you how I ended up there after.

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Gorgeous, right!? And completely unplanned!

How I ended up in Okayama…

I had taken a plane using Peach Airlines from Okinawa to Osaka and my flight was supposed to leave at 8 but my flight ends up leaving at 9. Which made me arrive in Osaka at 11:30. The buses had stopped or were booked and they were holding one last train for passengers of my flight. So I ran with luggage to get on it.  :sweatbubble:

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I ended up being the only one on the entire train. Crazyyyy

But the train only took me to Hineno, which is still outside the Osaka city center. I had to take a cab and was freaking out about the possible $100 to $150 price. The cabbie ended up being super nice and said Peach Airlines is always late and does this. I was worried the whole cab ride, but my cabbie cut my bill in half and consoled me. I ended up arriving in Osaka proper at 1:00am, but cabbies win my heart.  :stepup:

I finally got to bed at 2:30 so waking up early for a long train trip was out of the question (which is what I had planned). Since I had a Japan Rail Pass and could go anywhere for a day trip, I looked up sakura watch on Yahoo Japan Weather and then used Hanami Walker to find that Okayama had lots of spots in full bloom that day and Okayama Handayama Park was its most recommended. (Protip: During Sakura season use both sites!).

Okayama is only an hour shinkanesen away from Osaka so it was an easy transit. :stepup:

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I rode the Sakura Shinkansen to Okayama to see Sakura. Very meta  :bow:

Lessons learned:
Sakura are gorgeous
Japan Rail Pass always is a great idea
Never book a late flight from Okinawa