Day 3: ‘Lost’ in Otaru

When I said ‘lost’ I meant it literally and metaphorically. When I went to Hokkaido with my family years ago, for some strange reason, the famous ‘longkang’ aka Otaru Canal made an impression. It is really just a big drain lined by old warehouses. But years ago, I told myself I must come back for the night scene with my future partner to-be. It surely came true. I went back not just with my partner but also with two super playful little girls. Funny thing is, the day was not as ‘romantic’ as I envisioned.

Very early on day 3, the Mr took a solo recce to find our destination for the day aka Sakaimachi as well as the Otaru Music Box Museum. We decided that Mt Tengu should be saved for the evening because the night scenery is oneof the top 3 in Hokkaido. So, with all plans and route set, we started the morning walk that was probably the longest walk ever for the trip. This is all thanks to the early morning heavy snow (till now I still think it felt like a snow storm). The girls were thrilled and because the snow was beating hard on our faces, I think we made a wrong turn right at the beginning of our supposedly 30-minute walk and ended up at our destination only about 3 hours later (yes, to our complete disbelief). Of course, we did not spend that full 3 hours walking. There were quite a few stops along the way to compose ourselves as well as to get some warmth. We even made a long stop at the Otaru post office to mail out some post cards.

Treading in the heavy snow

Our stop at Otaru Post Office to mail some postcards


Finally we reached our destination at Sakaimachi which is basically where all the happenings are in Otaru. Famous Letao, rainbow ice-cream, 六花亭 Rokkatei and 銀の鐘 Ginnokane. Because we arrived pretty late and with Mt Tengu in the pipeline, we did not manage to have our leisure tea break at any of the cafes. Nonetheless, we still managed to pop into the famous but very touristy Otaru Music Box Museum. We did stay there for quite a while because we were too tired from the walk. Honestly, we weren’t very impressed and after making our payment, we went for a super yummy lunch at Victoria which I think is a must-try for all who visit Hokkaido. Apparently it’s famous for it’s hamburg. It also comes with salad and drinks bar.
Finally reached!
Otaru Music Box Museum
The girls were just so intrigued by the pretty music boxes. So scared they will break any of them
Famous Hamburg at Victoria
This is how to eat it. Slice and DIY grill on the tiny grill
My huge Ribeye steak
After the late lunch, we went to LeTao, hoping to grab a quick tea break before taking a cab to Mt Tengu Ropeway. But it was packed and so we did takeaway instead. As the skies started to turn dark, we hailed a cab, all prepared to go to the Mt Tengu Ropeway station. In the cab, the driver started to radio someone. Turned out he was checking if the Ropeway was even operating. And his suspicion was right, it was closed for the day due to bad weather. On one hand, I was very thankful for the kind help by the cab uncle, on the other, I wished I could check earlier so that we would have waited for a table at LeTao, if I knew earlier, or even grabbed my rainbow ice-cream.  (So lesson learnt, when it is winter always remember to find means to check if various attractions were operating. )
Very very disappointed, we asked the cab uncle to send us back to our Airbnb. The girls were so disappointed that they could not see more snow, so, I brought big K out to an open space near our apartment for some snow fun.
Unconvinced that we might have to end the day on such a low, Mr suggested that we quickly grab a cab and return to Sakaimachi to have the rainbow ice-cream. In just 15 minutes we found ourselves slurping the famous ice-cream at Vienna cafe 15 minutes before its closing time YAY!


After that we continued exploring Sakaimachi and we had our dinner at a very local seafood diner (俺のジンギスカン)where I had the best Uni Don ever!
After dinner, we continued braving the snow to the famous Otaru Canal for the famous night scenery.


Finally our batteries started to flat out and we made our way back to the apartment. To end the super eventful day, we stuffed ourselves in the famous LeTao desserts…and were totally blown away by the fromage cheesecake!
I guess after this particular, we were no longer fazed by any unexpected events. And that’s also the day I realised itinerary was not meant to be followed for this trip.
Our Journey:
Day 1 & 2 KIX to Hokkaido
Day 3: ‘Lost’ in Otaru
Day 4: Mt Tengu & Sapporo
Day 5: Sapporo & Maruyama Zoo
Day 6: Back in Otaru
Day 7 : Shiroi Koibito & our last snowy encounter
Day 8: Hokkaido to KIX to Osaka
Day 9: Lego Discovery Centre & USJ
Day 10: USJ to Home

Day 1 & 2 KIX to Hokkaido

Merry Christmas! A rainy Christmas eve it was and here I am reminiscing our snowy holiday. When oh when will I ever spend Christmas in the midst of white snow.

Anyway, since I am sleepless (insomnia strikes again), I might as well start blogging more about the trip while it is still somewhat fresh in my mind. I shall start with the our day 1 and day 2.

Day 1: On the plane and Hotel Nikko Kansai

For this trip, we chose an afternoon flight out of Singapore. We realise that as we age, taking red-eye flights can be very tiring especially with young children. I really dislike the feeling that we can’t check into the hotel upon the early arrival. We learnt our lesson from our last trip to Osaka when we had to roam around very lethargically before we could get our first shower and rest after the long flight. Yes, we did ‘save one day’ but I think that one day saved was rather meaningless due to the fatigue and the waiting. So, for this trip, we chose a different flight timing and arrived in Kansai at night. ‘Wasted’ almost the whole day on the plane but at least we did not feel as tired as before. Since our flight to Hokkaido was at 8.30am the next morning, we spent the night at Hotel Nikko Kansai which is just opposite the airport. I wish we could stay longer at this  super comfortable hotel and not just for about 7 hours. So, our day 1 was just gone like this — 7 hours on the plane, almost one hour clearing customs, then 30 mins of supper and then 7 hours of sleep in the hotel.


Family picture before departure


Body still not used to the cold. All masked up during the walk to the hotel


Luxurious toiletries at Hotel Nikko. The only picture I captured of the hotel











(Tip: Hotel Nikko Kansai is very popular and expensive hotel because many travellers will choose to stay here for the night before proceeding to downtown the next day but if you can book at least 60 days in advance, they offer super good early bird rates. For us, we actually got the twin room for $154 via

Day 2: New Chitose Airport & Otaru

Day 2 spelt the real start of our holiday. The troop probably only caught less than 6 hours of sleep before our next leg of journey. As I did not manage to book ourselves on the ideally timed 9.30am JAL flight to New Chitose Airport so, we had to settle on the 8.30am flight on ANA (which was actually my preferred airline between the two). The girls were fantastic, woke up fairly quickly without much dilly and dally and off we walked to the airport to check in and have our brekkie at Mcdonalds. Everything went according to plan and the flight was exceptionally pleasant as it was very empty. We even got to change our seats to window seats.


Wefie before we board the domestic flight


We flew on ANA




Thanks to the empty flight we could take the window seat and saw such beautiful clouds







There you are, Hokkaido in all white snowy glory

We arrived at New Chitose Airport around 9.30am. The plan for this day was to just explore the airport, which is great for shopping and for kids. Top on the list was the Waku Waku Doraemon Sky Park. The Ks like Doraemon cartoons very much and so, this park was included in the plan just for them. Enroute to our destination, we discovered Royce Chocolate World. The girls were amazed at the automated production line of Royce Chocolate and I wish we had more time to explore.

So, back to the Doraemon Sky Park. It was definitely not very crowded and to be honest, I was disappointed that it was rather small. It is a like a mini trickeye museum where you can take fun 3D pictures. Instead of spending more time in the paid area, the girls spent a longer time at the FREE little playground (also Doraemon theme) next to the actual park ;(


Royce Chocolate World…wish we had more time to explore


Girls just stared at this chocolate making machine for a long time


Here we are!


Very very rare chance to meet and greet Doraemon


Lotsa picture taking setting


So cute




At The FREE playground


I cannot resist buying from the gift shop


Dorami Taiyaki

We spent slightly less than 2 hours at the sky park. After which, we decided to skip the Hello Kitty Happy Flight park as well as the planned lunch at Doraemon cafe so that we can have our first proper Japanese meal. I had my first Uni Ikura Don and the Mr had Zaru Soba. Post-lunch was spent roaming around the level shopping area. I would strongly suggest friends who intend to visit Hokkaido allocate at least 1-2 hours at New Chitose Airport. Most of the famous Hokkaido foods can be found (like LeTao, Shiroi Koibito etc) and more importantly, there is a Calbee shop there. I have always been a great fan of Calbee’s Jagariko, especially the salad flavoured potato sticks. So, I almost jumped in glee when I saw the shop selling the Jagariko in REAL POTATO and HOT! Big K was turned instantly into #1 fan (she had two cups when we departed).


Yummy hotate, Uni and Ikura Don…I concluded that I don’t quite like Ikura but am crazy about Uni


Mr’s set


Mega Mega Capsule Trap


I can have many many cups of this!




Shopping paradise for the pokemon fans

After spending about half a day at the super happening New Chitose Airport, we bade our good-bye and went on our first train journey to Otaru. The train journey gave us a glimpse of what to expect for the next few days. We saw traces of snow and the ocean view, we saw as we approached Otaru, was simply breathtaking.

At Otaru station, we were greeted by our Airbnb host, Hirofumi san and we started our first family airbnb experience. The little apartment was definitely a new experience for us. Everything was so ‘Japanese’, from the futons on the floor, to the tiny lounge table with warmer underneath. Not forgetting the Japanese styled bathroom. Certainly an unforgettable stay. (The link to Hirofumi san’s airbnb listing is here)

As we got too comfortable in the apartment, plans to grab a nice dinner out was scrapped. We decided to walk to the nearby supermarket to grab some food instead and we experienced our very first heavy snow storm on the way there and back. Otaru certainly welcomed us with lotsa snow.


The only picture we got from the outing to the supermarket. We were simply happy to hide from the crazy snow.

So, here it is….our pretty smooth and uneventful day 1 and 2 of the holiday, except for that unexpected heavy snow. Shall post more on the trip over the next few entries.

~Holiday with Ks~ Itinerary draft 1, 2, 3 and discarded

This was the first time in my travels that I had to throw more than 50% of my itinerary away during the trip. Was quite disappointed that some item on the bucket list were not struck off but am still pleasantly surprised by some finds. Before we even returned,  I had already received a few PMs to share my itinerary because it seemed like we were having lotsa fun during the trip. Indeed we were having lotsa fun. But it was not because of the itinerary, it was because we threw the itinerary out of the window. So here I am sharing the supposedly final draft of the itinerary (which I hope is still useful to friends) and at the same time what actually happened, on a table format.

Hokkaido / OSAKA 2016
Plan Summary of What Actually happened? Detail day to day programme to be provided on later entry.
Day 1 Wed 30-Nov SQ 616 Depart Singapore at 1405
Arrival at Osaka 21.20
Check in Hotel Nikko by 10.15 and sleep by 11pm
We were held up at the customs and by the time we got out of it, it was almost 10-ish. All plans to tuck the girls in by 11pm because we had to wake up super early to catch the 8.30am flight to Hokkaido. Ended up we had a very late supperof gyudon at our favourite 24-hour sukiya. The hub did his snacks stock up at the convenience store. By the time we were in bed at the airport hotel, it was way past midnight. So, the girls had the least amount of sleep ever at 6 plus hours.
Day 2 Thu 1-Dec > Flight to Chitose Airport (Sapporo) NH1711 0800
> Arrival 0950
> Book Asahiyama Train tickets
> Buy Kitaca (trains)
> Play at Doraemon Waku Waku Park
> Lunch @ Doraemon or Hello Kitty Cafe
> Hello Kitty Happy Flight**
> Train to Otaru around 1500 (90 mins approx)
> Check into Airbnb
> Dinner at Otaru
Detailed post here

Everything went according to plan except:
a. we did not go to the Hello Kitty park
b. we did not book the Asahiyaman train tickets, something we never did throughout the trip
c. we did not have lunch at the HK nor Doraemon café. Instead we dined at one of the (very much prefered) Japanese restaurants
d. We did not manage to have a nice dinner at Otaru because of the super heavy storm. Instead we struggled our way to a nearby supermarket and got emergency supplies to keep warm and dabao food back for dinner. We stayed in the apartment from then on.

Day 3 Fri 2-Dec >Sankaku Market?
> Mt Tengu Ropeway
> Lunch at Mt Tengu (Combo set)
> Otaru Music Box Museum
> Ice-cream at Venetian Cafetaria
> Glass House or Otaru Museum
> Tea time at LeTao
A super dramatic day! Decided to put Mt Tengu towards the end of the day. Ended up we got lost in snow storm and all plans got pushed back by at least 2 hours. Mt Tengu was closed by the time we wanted to go due to bad weather. Almost had no ice-cream and almost had to leave Otaru in regret the next day. Made a mad dash to eat the rainbow ice-cream before the shop closed. Then walk in the crazy snow again along the canal.
Day 4 Sat 3-Dec > Breakfast
> Train back to Sapporo
> Check in Hotel or drop luggage
> Ask Hotel staff to help make reservation at Sapporo Kani Honke for 6/12 and dinner/lunch plus ticket to Mt Moiwa for 4/12
> Daimaru Pokemon Center
> Shop around the Sapporo Station
> JR Obsertory deck
Plan completely trashed.
Tried our luck to get up to Mt Tengu. Sacrificed the night view thinking, well we still had Mt Moiwa. Spent half a day there and had BK for lunch.
Went to Sapporo, checked in and went Xmas market for a short while, thinking that we could visit again since it was so near. But WRONG! We never stepped foot in it ever again. Had quick snack and went to the only thing we followed on the itinerary, the Pokemon Center which was a complete disappointment.And nope, we did not go up the JR observatory deck. Just shopped around the area and discovered the rows of ‘turn turn turn’. And nope, we did not make any reservation for Kani Honke (HUGE REGRET) and nope we did not make any reservation for Mt Moiwa restaurant.
Day 5 Sun 4-Dec >Sapporo Central Wholesale Market / Curb Market or Nijo Fish Market
> Rera Outlet / Mitsui Outlet / Shop around susukino areaORSapporo Beer factory> Mt Moiwa Ropeway (Consider lunch or dinner at Mt Moiwa)
Followed nothing on the list.
Went to Maruyama Zoo which means bye bye Asahiyama Zoo. Good call by daddy…more on that in later post.Went for a buffet that is popular among the locals. Their buffet style is just too different from ours but we just whacked the crab to compensate for not going to Kani Honke.Briefly saw the famous clock tower.
Day 6 Mon 5-Dec > Asahiyama Zoo
> Shop around Sapporo station
> Sapporo Winter Illumination
> Walk around Sapporo TV Tower and Odori Park
> Susukino
Nope we did not go Asahiyama Zoo. We went back to Otaru instead. But totally love OTARU! found a good place to shop and I got to ARCADE! No complaint. I can’t even remember what we had for dinner.

And we did not step foot into susukino AT ALL! Another ‘amazing thing we did’ LOL! Figured we can forget about shopping and eating with the troop.

Day 7 Tue 6-Dec > Shiroi Koibito Park (Tozai Line Miyanosawa station) opens at 9am
> Central Wholesale market (Jyogaiichiba- 幌市中央卸売市場) (tozai line Nijuyonken station)
> Aeon Shopping Centre (14 mins walk)
> Odori Park
> Sapporo TV Tower
>Dinner at Kani Honke
Heavy heavy snow day again. Had to cab from the station to Shiroi Koibito Park.

Thought we would stay for a short while, we stayed half a day. Bye bye Central market, bye bye Aeon and whatever is there on the itinerary. Snow was bad and there was no cab for us to return to the station. Walked in our 3rd heavy snow but it was simply memorable. Thankfully there was a Seiyu in the area to grab some shopping.

Had our first and last ramen in Sapporo…ya I know…


Day 8 Wed 7-Dec > Return Flight to Osaka NH774 at 1100
> Arrival at 1300 at Itami
> Airport Shuttle @ 1330 or 1415
> Arrival at USJ @ 1415 or 1500
>Check in Universal Port Hotel
> Train to Hep Five
> Dinner @ Gudetama Café
Bye bye Hokkaido. Super cold morning. Long bus ride to the airport due to traffic. Almost late for flight actually. Couldn’t do much shopping again. Oh well…I already gave up by then.

Touched down Itami and almost missed the bus because they took so long to put baggage on the belt. Thank goodness the lady at the ticket counter told the bus to wait for us!!

Checked in and went downtown Osaka. Did not go HEP FIVE for the ferris wheel, just shopped around really. We did have dinner at Gudetama cafe.

Day 9 Thu 8-Dec >USJ Decided to go LEGOLAND before heading to USJ as our pass was a 1.5 day plan. LEGOLAND was great. We also went Tempozan Ferris Wheel since we skipped HEP FIVE. It was awesome!
Day 10 Fri 9-Dec >USJ
> Airport shuttle 7.10pm
SQ 615 Depart Kansai 11.30pm
Arrive Singapore 5.40am
Probably the only day that went as plan…but also thanks to the good call by the daddy to buy the express pass.

Actually this final itinerary is a very watered down version of my initial itinerary which was so packed that we even had to cover Hakodate and Niseko. But I am glad that we did not go ahead because I think what ever we have done for this trip really stretched us and the kids a lot, given the weather and conditions. I definitely will be finding another chance to visit to tick off the places that we did not go but probably not during winter. Summer maybe…for the flowers as well.

~Holiday with Ks~ A Memorable white white Hokkaido holiday 

And so our long awaited year-end holiday has come and gone, to our great disappointment. Once again I wonder why did I not book ourselves a longer holiday 😭 well because the airline system quoted a more expensive price for a later return…I really am quite clueless how this whole thing work.

Anyway, regrets and laments aside, this trip to Hokkaido and the last two days in Osaka was one that had quite a few ‘firsts’ for us:

  1. We travelled in our pack of 4 only (not with the village because snowy and icy grounds can be very slippery for the folks) for the first time.
  2. For the first time the girls got to carry their own back packs to manage their own stuffs. A commendable feat for our princesses
  3. We stayed at an Airbnb for the first time as a family and the girls had a wild time
  4. We took a domestic flight for the first time as a family as well and I got to give thumbs up to ANA.
  5. For the first time, my shopping loot did not fill up half of my suitcases. A major major strange happening as a good friend could testify…and I am talking about JAPAN! *crying my heart out and plotting my next ‘revenge’ trip*

There are other ‘firsts’ but they, to me, should be given more ‘credits’ so I shall categorised them as the TOP MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES (OR RATHER, INCIDENTS) in the next part of this entry, and here goes:


Before the trip, I was very worried that there would be no snow during our stay in Hokkaido because the primary objective was to see snow (the girls chose this over Disneyland). And my idea of ‘see snow’ was to just see the snow that would be on the ground and on roof tops because my deepest impression of Hokkaido from the visit many years ago was the snow scenes I woke up to every morning. I did not understand why snow storm or heavy storm was not part of that impression. (On hindsight, I realized it’s because this time we self-travelled so we had to walk in the snow while previously, I was with a tour group so we were forever on the bus) So, to my horror and big K’s delight, we encountered heavy heavy snow not once but thrice  during the trip. The first two was on the first day and second day in Otaru and the third one was on our last day in Sapporo. As a result of the snow storm that resulted in poor visibility, we took a wrong turn on the 2nd day and we did 3 hours of walking to reach our destination in Otaru that supposedly should only take 30 mins walk (of course also due to our need to take multiple stops). Misery and cold aside, these walks in the crazy snow were our top memorable experiences during the trip. The girls were amazing (maybe because they were warmly wrapped in two jackets) and really walked through the snow with minimal complaints, other than the occasional requests to carry from the younger one. Big K completely busked in the snowy weather. I think kids being kids, seeing snow for the first time is kind of like a big deal in life for I,too, remember my first time seeing snow very fondly. And because of the heavy snow, hot drinks, fries and chicken karaage in convenience stores tasted exceptionally well and my first Mister Donut for the trip was heavenly delicious. We even had snow fights half way through our walks, another daddy’s brilliant idea to alleviate our situation. More on our snowy encounters in subsequent posts on the trip.




Snow Fight!


Completely oblivion to the cold weather


The best tasting donut EVER!


We love Japan as a holiday destination due to its cleanliness, polite people and to a large extent, reasonably safe environment. But on this trip, we encountered a particular incident that left a very deep impression on me personally. Culturally, Japan has always been very unique but like all developed countries, many people would fall through the societal gaps. On my previous trips to Japan and even Hong Kong, I had seen such people commuting on public transport but I had never felt so threatened like this particular incident.

It was towards the end of our trip when we were in Osaka. We decided to make our way via train from Universal City to downtown Osaka for our dinner. On the platform, the hub had already noticed this young man talking to himself strangely and so, he told us to move further down the platform. To our horror, the man followed us and boarded the same cabin as us. We got seated down and unsure if it was deliberate, he chose to stand in front of us and kept staring at our girls and the mumbling never stopped. Not only that, he has white foam at corners of his mouth and even tried moving closer to us when the train started moving. I think maybe it’s with the girls, both the hub and I were on super high alert. Not helping is big K would look at him and I had a very tired small K on my lap who dozed off almost immediately. The hub and I toyed with a few ideas, to either change cabin, ignore or simply hop off at the next stop. But my worry was if we chose the last option and he actually followed, what would happen? I was also worrying if we chose to stay on, what might also happen. Hence, we decided to try to get rid of him asap. So, when the train stopped at the next station, we stood up (me with the sleeping small K and daddy with the pretend-to-be-sleepy big K) very very very slowly. And because that stop was like an interchange, many people alighted.  We were so happy when he also showed signs that he was getting off the train. So, we decided to  pretend to alight the train instead but purposely moved behind the exiting the crowd. The moment the door closed we were so indescribably relieved and went straight back to our seats.

This incident probably left the only negative mark on this holiday trip. It was the first time I felt very insecure and worried about the kids’ safety. It’s this horrible feeling that gives you the bumps when you start to wonder ‘what if the person has a knife in his pocket?’ I know we shouldn’t jump to conclusions frivolously but as parents, I think it is unavoidable to place your kids’ safety as utmost. It is definitely a lesson to be learnt and I think now when I travel with kids my senses would be even more heightened.

#3: ‘TURN TURN TURN’ and Hot Chocolate

Our last trip to Japan left a deep impression on the girls. As predicted, they love the place as much as me. But what probably captivated them most were the machines found in almost every corner in Japan. This is probably the only place around that let you buy nice hot drinks from the vending machines everywhere. This is probably also the only place where you have buy a large selection of toys from machines aka the Capsule Machine aka ‘turn turn turn’ by the small K. During this trip, the line ‘later I let you turn turn turn’ probably popped up on a daily basis to motivate the girls, especially the recovering small K (more on that later), to walk the distances or to wake up from stubborn and wrongly-timed naps. For the big K, a can or a bottle of hot cocoa from the wonderful vending machine would be the great enjoyment for her. So, instead of making ourselves all flare up and frustrated, these ‘turn turn turn’ and vending machines became our life savers.


‘TURN TURN TURN’ started on day 1 in Hokkaido


This one probably 败 much of our travel money on these machines


Rows of Capsule machines at Esta Sapporo




Part of the turn turn turn loot


Her constant hunt for hot cocoa….she took at least 2-3 cans or bottles of hot cocoa on this trip. This Georgia version one is probably her favourite of all. She could even read the japanese katagana for cocoa LOL



A few of my closed friends would know that we almost did not hop on that plane to Kansai. Small K was sick about 2-3 weeks before the trip. She had a one-week fever and a very pesky cough right up to the couple of days before the trip. The PD gave us antibiotics for us to stand by in case the fever did not subside or the cough persisted badly. However, after the PD visit, her fever went away and we were left with the cough that we thought we go away with lotsa water intake and the usual medicine. The day before the trip, she started to have fever again and that caught us completely off guard. Her energy dipped tremendously and we started panicking. Brought her our family GP as her PD was out of town and he saw her blood results and quickly asked us to start the antibiotics to see if the fever can be controlled by the next day. Definitely a nail-biting 12 hours and I even had to consult our insurance agent if we will get compensated if we cancel the trip, and yes, it would be a full compensation for all expenses incurred before cancellation. To be honest, I suppose we could just bring all medicine along and fly and give her paracetamol before we touch down in Japan so that the fever radar won’t detect anything, but that would be the most selfish thing to do. She could worsen due to the cold climate and she could just pass the fever around. It would definitely not be fun finding a doctor in a foreign country where English was not the native language. But I guess, small K must have wanted to go on the trip badly. Around 8pm that night, she threw up suddenly and the fever subsided very quickly after that. The whole night I followed a friend’s advice to do essential oil treatment to control the fever and not sure its that puke or the oils, there was no reoccurence of fever from then on. So, the next day we went on our afternoon flight out of Singapore with a huge relief. And I am so happy that she was very cooperative throughout the trip, obediently wore her mask most of the time (which was the reason why her tiny face was always covered in most of the photos LOL) and finish her horribly-tasting antibiotics withs zero complaint.


Our little family has always been close. The Ks adore both myself and the hub big time, although they seem to favour the daddy more and prefer to find me only when they need help, comfort or the toilet. Holiday trips are probably the only time we could have the daddy exclusively for that few days. However, holidaying with them is no joke. It is tiring beyond words. Since we started bringing them on trips, I always come back 1-2 kg lighter. This time round, I did not weigh but my pants are looser for sure. They are very energetic when they want to, and very NUA (or lazy) when their mood calls for it. They are of no help at all when it comes to packing and heavy suitcases. They love to run around once they see big space and you will see us screaming for them to return like some mad man and woman. Carrots and sticks have to be utilised very frequently and many times concurrently. But there is no doubt that travelling with them is very fun. We would discover new sides of them during every trip. For this trip, I realised big K can be counted on to take care of her own belongings while small K can’t, turned out she is the forgetful one like the mummy. Small K is the one whom you can count on to polish food off the plates while big K can just survive, on rice, potato and hot cocoa. Both Ks love the snow! Big K did not mind the wet boots and pants at all and would go near snow whenever she see it (video evidence below) while small K is the fussy one. We had to dry her socks and boots twice at Mt Tengu because she hated the wet feeling but still went out to play after all the fuss. Then it’s the little funny things they say and do during trips that make each of these trips unique. This is the reason why we will try our best to bring them out on at least one major trip every year, despite not so great finances. They love to travel and are angels on flights (but half angel and half devil on land). They would forgo toys for holiday, mainly the big K, how not to bring them along.


So, here it is…my top 5 memorable experiences in cold cold Hokkaido and Osaka. Shall be sharing more on our trip or rather how a wonderful itinerary was throw our of window and how to derive fun despite all the misses soon.



Osaka with Kids Part I: Universal Studio Japan

Here I am, again, reminiscing our amazing Japan holiday. As promised, though not very promptly, I am blogging more about the trip in detail as a record for future reference and also for friends who intend to visit Osaka with children.

When planning the holiday, I had doubts about Osaka’s suitability as a holiday  destination for young kids. But after some googling and asking around, it turned out to be a great place for kids! First of all, I like the idea that it is relatively less crowded than Tokyo. Then I realized that it has hidden many interesting places for kids to explore. So many that we probably only covered the tip of the ice berg. So, I shall be writing on some great places for young children, and trust me one full day at each place may not even be sufficient. The first I shall touch on is OF COURSE, Universal Studio Japan (USJ) – THE MUST GO when visiting Osaka!

USJ is definitely more fun than USS . Just the Universal Wonderland itself is enough for the kids to go wild half a day. Elmo, Hello Kitty, Snoopy and USJ’s very own mascot Moppy are so adorable that even the adults would go wooooooo and wahhhh!

Mascot hunting is a lot tougher in Japan. The locals just grab and snatch. For us, we just pushed the kids forward! LOL!

This is Moppy!

The super cute Sesame Street

Meet and Greet with Hello Kitty!

Then of course we got to go the Harry Potter  Wizarding World! The only one is Asia! We read that it won’t be easy to get into the world as well as to go on the 4D ride due to its popularity. So we resort to buying express pass before we even flew to Osaka so that we could confirm our entrance to the area! The moment we stepped into the ‘Hogsmeade’, aka the town that the students of Hogswart went to during Christmas season, the ooooooos and the ahhhhhhs started again! Seeing the scenes of one of my favourite books and movies come alive was so unbelievable! Magical is an understatement. The Hogswart’s Express, the butter beer, the Ollivander’s wand shop, the Honeydukes candy shop, even a real owl, plus many many sights, sounds and smell that you thought you would never see them before your eyes, become reality.

A real owl!


‘Snow-covered’ houses in Hogsmeade


Ollivander’s Wand Shop

The Hogswart Castle where the 4D ride is located in. The interior is AMAZING as well! Too bad we couldn’t bring phone in.

A huge pity that this is not real. BUT they do up the cabin for tourists to take picture in costumes in. We did not do it because it was way too expensive.

Of course we had to take the so-popular Harry Potter 4 D ride. Big K went on the popular Harry Potter 4D ride with us while small K and my mum waited for us outside due to height and medical restrictions, respectively. I am not a fan of thrill ride BUT the 4D ride is a big MUST TRY for all Harry Potter fans! As we had extra express pass, Kay and I went on the ride a second time! I think it is very hard to resist the fantasy idea of taking a flying broom going on a super fast Quidditch match!

Of course, other than the highlights I have mentioned above, there are definitely many other rides in USJ that will suit those in pursuit of adrenaline rush. Not forgetting the other characters such as Snoopy (which has an amazing feature park – probably the girls’ favourite hangout in the whole USJ), minions, Shrek etc. There is also a night parade which was decent enough to please the kids but not quite as entertaining as the ones in Disneyland.

Pretty majestic parade


 All in all, USJ was a fun experience for us and to the ks, it was  probably the highlight of their adventure in Osaka. They definitely can’t wait to make their return again.

Kansai Holiday Day 3 : Kyoto

 Kyoto! Kyoto! How glad we are that we did not pull you out of our itinerary in the end. Almost did not visit Kyoto because we were worried about the amount of walking and upslopes. Thank goodness for the Mr’s wise words, ‘since we are all the way there, just go lah! ‘
Kyoto is simply charming beyond words. And we went to only two key places – Kiyomizudera and Nishiki Market. So charming that the Mr says we got to go back and stay a few nights in Kyoto itself. 

Our day trip to Kyoto almost went the other way before we even stepped foot in Kyoto. Took the Keihan railway (instead of Hankyu which was much easier for us as the station to board the train was almost at the doorstep of our hotel) as it is supposed to be the better way to get us into the centre of Kyoto city and we wanted to fulfill Kay’s request to take a different type of train. But the Keihan station from which we were supposed to depart from was rather secluded and unlike other railway, the staff was not as helpful. 

Difficulties aside, we still managed to reach the famous Gion, the traditional Kyoto street (aka Geisha street?), pretty fast. The plan was to walk to Kiyomizudera temple then walk back to explore Gion after we finished touring the temple, which we thought would only take 2 hours max? But we were soooooooooo wrong!  The moment we got out of the train station we were dead lost. We realised that the temple is not as near as what the map says. So, taking a bus became an option. But holy moly, the bus was too full and crowded for this big group of ours. We decided to take a toilet break first (yes very anti-climax) before considering the next plan. Then came the toilet shocker! After a long search, we finally found a public toilet that only had a squatting cubicle — nightmare for the entourage with an old lady with knee problem and a 6YO who has never used such a toilet before! Not forgetting a daddy who had to manage the 4 YO in the gents and he had no idea how to get her started on that. The toilet break took longer than expected. However, the break was a good one on hindsight! I decided to try my luck to use google to find out the taxi fare to Kiyomizudera from our location! And the day suddenly turned around! The taxi fare shouldn’t cost more than 2000 yen. So taxi we took! 

The trip there showed us that we made a very very very very wise choice! The upslope to the main Higashiyama shopping street which is the route to the foot of kiyomizudera temple would have kill us all if we really walked! Not forgetting the climb to Kiyomizudera! We spent about 1000 yen on taxi fare and we were wowed by the crowd on a Wednesday. The Higashiyama shopping street was bustling! Our pockets were all ready to bleed. But we focused on our main objective and did the shopping later. Not before having some street food to boost some energy, of course! 


The Higashiyama Street


Fishcake on a stick


Finally we made it to the foot of the upslope to Kiyomizudera. The scenery along the walk was so beautiful that we couldn’t resist more pictures. 


Took a picture with a pretty Kimono clad Taiwanese

Then we did the usual routine at Japanese temples.  

Packing back some smoke blessings for the kiddos

Finally the moment that I personally have been waiting for — the famous Autumn colours of Kiyomizudera. Although some trees were showing signs of winter, the view was still breath-taking enough for me. One item ticked off the bucket list! (Now got to wait for the chance to return for the spring Sakura view) 


Too wowed! but the sun was facing us, the picture would have been even more beautiful!



The amazing structure of the temple


Because of the crowd and our near fatigue, we did not linger long at the temple itself. We started the descend which included a pretty steep downslope. Then we saw a queue. One thing we learnt in Japan is if people queue for something, we should also queue. It turned out that they were queueing for blessings in the form of spring water. So, queue the daddy and kiddos did.

As we continued our descend, we saw even more photo spots.   

Then curiosity and pure tiredness brought us into one of the many tea houses along the way and we had one of the most memorable breaks of the trip — a traditional Kyoto sweets experience alfresco style in the midst of a hill! This would rank as one of the must-dos in Kyoto! The whole experience was so serene and refreshing. And of course we managed to rest our hardworking legs. 

 We continued our downslope and took even more photos as the place is simply too beautifully filled with Autumn colours.


After close to 2 hours of temple tour, we proceeded with the mandatory shopping at Higashiyama. After a round of green tea and Kyoto crafts and snacks shopping, the Mr found an really secluded hideout during his toilet hunt. And we sampled the best warabi (Japanese mochi) and extremely delicious Kyoto sweets!! 

Finally, we were ready to return to Kyoto city. The cab ride to Nishiki market was more expensive than the way up. We encountered massive jam downhill but at least the girls caught their cat nap. 

Nishiki Market is pretty well known apparently. It is said to be the ‘kitchen of Kyoto’. Unfortunately we chose the wrong day to visit. Wednesday is the rest day for many shops. Thankfully, there were still some shops operating. Honestly, those were more than enough for us after a long day at Kiyomizudera. But this place definitely is worth visiting a second time.


We were finally ready to bid goodbye to Kyoto. Had a quick dinner at Kyoto Daimaru and off we went back to Osaka.


Tonkotsu dinner

So, there you have it! A very long entry on our  day trip to Kyoto. Only two key places and we spent a full day in Kyoto. Hence, we shall be back again for the Gion Street and the imperial palace. Maybe we could also venture to nearby Arashiyama? 

Till then Kyoto! 

Kansai Holiday Day 2: Nara, Alice & Dotonbori

We started our venture out of Osaka city on day 2, after a completely KO first night. The plan was to make a half day trip to Nara to visit the Nara Deer Park till maybe around 2pm and then shop around Shinsaibashi, followed by a quick visit to Alice on Wednesday to make my little Alice in Wonderland fan happy and then have dinner at Dotonbori.

But of course, with the kids around, all time schedule was thrown out the moment we stepped out of the hotel. There were a few ways to get to Nara from Osaka city, we took the Private Railway by Kintetsu. I wish I had done more research. I had thought that the railway would be the kind that has a table for us to eat our bento but I was wrong. There’s obviously a difference between the rapid and limited express railway, the price different was significant too, 560 yen Vs 1070 yen per one way trip. When Kay saw the difference in train, she kept asking to take the rapid one because it’s the one that comes with tables and all. We had wanted to compromise by taking the rapid train on the way back, but sadly, this rapid train only runs during rushed hour. So, we made adjustment on our day trip to Kyoto, instead.


Japanese Train Tickets


Shopping for Bento


Back to the itinerary. We arrived at Nara around 10am and took our time to find our way around. Surprisingly, the walk to the Nara Deer Park only took us a few minutes. But we were surprised to see only a few deers. I very vividly remember seeing MANY deers when I was a child and was really traumatised by them. So, we figured that we should continue walking and so, instead of just looking for deers, we decided to visit Todaiji (东大寺)which we guessed is probably where the deers would be.

Along the almost 30 minutes walk, we were definitely accompanied by many  more deers and really pretty autumn colours.


First sighting of deers


Wefie at entrance of the Nara Park


First sighting of Autumn Colours

We figured that we should let the girls try feeding the deers, in case we really won’t see any more deers. There were many roadside sellers of deer food. It cost 150 yen per stack of biscuits. The girls and the Mr did their maiden feeding of the famous Nara deers and like many who visited and warned, the deers were extremely friendly, to the extent of aggressive. As expected,  Kai was the first to be fightened and resisted feeding them. I did not snap many pictures of this deer feeding experience as we were quite busy helping the kids.


Feeding in action


Busy shielding Kai from an offensive deer


As we neared Todaiji, we could see the kids and the senior getting tired. Signs included, stops to kaypoh at little things such as below:


Something she has never seen before in Singapore


Peeking into an old traditional looking house


And the senior wanted a sweet Potato which we had to shield from the Deers


After seeing these signs, we figured it’s either time to eat lunch OR find a place to sit down. And this was when we chanced upon a really charming little place, the Okumura Commemorative Museum, that claimed to offer free rest, free tea and free entrance. You know that since young, we were taught that nothing is free in this world, so we went into this place with lotsa skepticism. In the end, we were pretty charmed by this little house. Indeed, there were free resting chairs and free toilet use plus free tea for us. There’s a very pretty little garden with beautiful autumn leaves. The terrace on the second level offered a very lovely view of the Todaiji and Nara. Of course, out of courtesy, we found out more about this place. In summary, it displays works of the Okumura Corporation in its efforts to develop products to help strengthen Japanese houses in time of earthquake. The founder of the corporation was born in Nara and hence, this little resting place is a social project as a give-back to Nara. The Mr was also delighted to see Earthquake & Seismic Isolation Experience Device aka the chair to sit on to experience Earthquake movements. I think we were too comfortable in this little rest area that we almost forgot our final destination.


After the longer-than-expected rest, we continued on our journey. And finally we smelled it and we were greeted by hundreds of deers!


This image does not do justice to the actual number of deers found


Pretty harmless looking right? Wait till you hold food

As we walked towards the entrance of Todaiji, we could not help but stop to take more pictures. The light and the place really made every picture look good.

IMG_6582     IMG_6602IMG_6580IMG_6574

Finally, we entered the huge open space in front of Todaiji. I wasn’t really expecting much honestly, but I  was totally wowed! The sight was more beautiful than I imagined.



Since we were at the temple, we got to let the kids try some new experiences and also, seek some blessings.


It’s a practice to clean our hands and face before entering the temple



Making a wish


I pray that I will like Primary School

So, after the visit to the temple and some shopping for charms, amulet and deers, we headed out of the temple compound and had our lunch at yet another, charming little restaurant which serves pretty local teishoku.



The girls successfully brought back a family of deers


My favourite! Hot Sake! Locally produced in Nara! Perfect for the chilly afternoon



The girls’ Kids Plate out of the many through out the trip


By 3 plus in the afternoon, we were pretty tired and couldn’t wait to get back to Osaka. But the little Kai got to throw us a tough question. She wanted to feed the deers. We decided that we will let her do that on the walk back to the station where the deers are less aggressive. But we realised as we neared the station, the roadside deer food sellers were gone, the deers as well. So, hating to disappoint her, my mum, Kay and sister rested at a bus stop while the Mr, Kai and I re-traced our foot steps and managed to find a lone seller and some deers. With that, Kai overcame her fear within the same day.



Mission Accomplished! Let’s celebrate with a Deer Biscuit

The village was obviously dead beat from the day trip out to Nara. As if we hadn’t punished ourselves enough, I suggested to visit Alice On Wednesday in Namba, since we will be in that area for dinner anyway.

Turned out the place is located in a rather dodgy area and dangerous traffic. The kids obviously paid no heed to the situation. Although tired, when they saw the little entrance to the shop, they came alive! The shop was a complete disappointment – small and nothing much to shout about- but I guess seeing their happy faces when they see a ‘real’ Alice small door kind of make the trip worth it. Just feel a little pity that we reached there quite late (Skies turned dark around 5pm every day)  and so, couldn’t snap many nice pictures.

By the time we reached Dotonbori, which was a 10 minutes walk from Alice, we were very tired but not hungry. So we walked to the linking Shinsaibashi Shopping Street to do some window shopping. We also took some pictures at the famous Glico Running Man signboard.

Finally, we were hungry enough to eat. We settled on a familiar brand, Osaka Ohsho for some Gyoza. We were expected not to be impressed. But we were either too hungry or the food was simply so much better than the Singapore’s outlets, we enjoyed the dinner and we almost instantly re-energised.


After the dinner, we also ticked off another item on bucket list – Takoyaki from the BIG Octopus shop which was right next to Osaka OhSho.


And with, probably the best, takoyaki ever tasted, we ended the super tiring and demanding day 2 of our Kansai Adventure.