ARRIVING TO FUKUOKA, JAPAN
After the first part of Korea, the next leg of the trip was Japan, specifically the Fukuoka region since it's one of the closest flights from Seoul (about 1 hour). A lot of South Koreans vacation there due to its close proximity and well-known onsen culture, so it was an easy destination choice for our trip. We flew in to the Fukuoka International Airport and took the shuttle to the Hakata Bus Station.
FIRST MEAL IN JAPAN: INABA UDON
Once we were inside the Hakata Bus Station, we decided to have lunch at Inaba Udon. I ordered the cold udon noodles with a poached egg and a side of tempura and it was the perfect first meal. The udon was thick and a little bouncy with a great chew, and the sauce was mild but perfectly seasoned with the rest of the toppings. I loved the bonito flakes (tissue-paper thin fish shavings with an intense umami flavor).
BUS RIDE TO YUFUIN
The bus ride was so scenic that it deserves its own section in the blog post. I had to keep telling myself that no photos would do it justice so to stop and just enjoy the ride instead of taking photos every second because trust me - I could have taken photos the entire time because it was so beautiful!
ARRIVING AT YUFUIN
Once we arrived to Yufuin, I felt like I was transported to a movie. Yufuin is a famous hot spring town located in Yufu, Oita Prefecture. This tranquil town is surrounded by naturally flowing hot spring water and the mesmerizing Mt. Yufu.
CHECKING IN TO YUFUIN TSUBAKI
The beauty didn't end once we arrived to Yufuin. Checking in to Yufuin Tsubaki felt like entering another world from another time, yet met with upscale amenities and comforts of the modern day. The rooms are in the Japanese tatami style so you really get the traditional experience while staying here. Another high point of this property is the private onsen in each of the rooms - or more like buildings I should say. I enjoyed a dip every chance I got because it was truly so relaxing and one of my favorite things we did on the entire Asia trip. The view was also incredible once it was the daytime and we opened up the sliding doors. The hotel staff assured us that there no one had access to the back area, so we can fully enjoy the view without worrying about being exposed to others outside.
I was so excited to finally experience kaiseki, a traditional multi-course Japanese meal for our first dinner. The hotel offered a casual kimono for us to wear during our meals, which were the dinner and breakfast before check out the next morning. We changed into our clothes and headed next door to the restaurant for dinner. We had so many courses with a variety of dishes from seasonal vegetables and produce to seafood, pork, and wagyu beef. There were also soups, rice, and pickles served with each dish. The meal ended with a custard, which Yufuin is famous for. We also ordered beer and drinks with our meal and were so stuffed that we couldn't finish everything even though we tried our best. This isn't even all of the dishes; my phone ran out of storage so this was what I captured. It was such a fun experience and one I highly recommend to anyone visiting Japan (click here for a previous Japan trip)!
JAPANESE 7 ELEVEN
Once we checked out of our hotel, we went in to downtown Yufuin and decided to take the 30 minute walk to the lake. We wanted to pick up a couple drinks on the way there, so we stopped by a 7 Eleven in the town. Japanese 7 Eleven's are world renowned for having freshly made, high quality meals, snacks and drinks that are also extremely affordable. Both the milk tea and apple tea drinks that we chose were so refreshing and the perfect refreshments to hold us over.
HANA TO KA
We were almost at the lake when we stumbled upon this gorgeous juice shop called Hana To Ka. Muscat grapes are in season during this time of year, so I had to order a muscat juice and it was one of the best things I had on the entire Asia trip. The interior was absolutely stunning as you can see with the wooden frames and beautifully preserves florals lining the ceiling.
The next stop was more out of necessity, but it was one of my favorite purchases of the entire trip. Did you know that honey is a natural cure for so many ailments, including cold sores? Sorry if that's a little TMI, but I was so exhausted during the trip that my body was starting to show it, and I knew that applying honey on my cold sores would provide instant relief. When we came across Bee Honey, I knew I had to stop inside this honey shop and buy some. They also serve their honey on top of ice cream, which is one of my favorite desserts. The honey helped with the pain immediately and even cured my cold sores completely within 3 days, so I highly recommend this to anyone who is feeling under the weather from traveling or just sick in general!
We finally made it to Lake Kinrin after a lovely stroll through the main street. The leaves were just changing colors and it was absolutely breathtaking to witness fall on this side of the world. The air was crisp, and it was just the perfect autumnal atmosphere that I was craving to experience.
LUNCH AT Izumi Kinrinko
Right next to Lake Kinrin, there's a beautiful restaurant called Izumi Kinrinko that offers traditional Japanese buckwheat, or soba, noodles. I ordered the radish soba with pickled mushrooms and it was so fresh and delicious. We also shared this dumpling dish that was made out of the extra noodle dough, with toppings like green onion and bonito flakes.
Yufuin Kinsho Croquettes
After lunch, my dad wanted to try croquettes, a famous fried potato dish from Yufuin Kinsho Croquettes. We got the popular beef and potato croquette and the crab cream croquette. Let's just say my mouth is currently watering thinking about the crab croquette!!!
To be honest, the reason why I didn't go inside any of the animal cafe's this time was because I felt like I was going to lose it and cry once I get near any of the animals - especially the cats since they reminded me of Kiki and Gigi. I was feeling a bit homesick at this point in the trip since this was the longest I've been away from the girls, so every little cat-like thing (and chicken-like and round-like thing for that matter...) was making me emotional. So even though we avoided going inside, I still wanted to show y'all how many cute animal cafe's there are in Japan and I'd still highly recommend you visit one when you're in Asia (click here to see me visit a cute dog cafe the last time I was in Asia)!
Checking in to the Blossom Hakata Premier Hotel
We headed to Ichiran Ramen for dinner, which was luckily in the next building over from our hotel in the Sunplaza. Fukuoka as a whole is known for its amazing food scene, so I was excited to try Ichiran Ramen since I didn't get to try it the last time I visited Japan (click here to read about the last ramen I tried). Ichiran is known for its no-contact ordering style where you press buttons similar to a vending machine to order, and make extra selections on sheets of paper without ever having to speak to a waiter. Seating is also designed to cater to diners eating alone, although you can unfold the coverings in between each seat if you're eating with others. The pork tonkatsu broth is deep and creamy from the pork fat, yet not overpowering or overly fatty. It's rich and just the perfect meal after a long day of exploring Japan. Although it's also known as a tourist location, I still think it's something you have to try once when you're in Japan, and we had fun with the no-contact service style.
Hakata Bus Terminal
We ended our trip in Japan the way we started: at the Hakata Bus Terminal. Since we had time to kill, we decided to spend our last couple hours here before our flight back to Seoul. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this bus terminal, this is no ordinary station. Rather, it's a multi-story shopping center filled with countless shops and restaurants. We truly could have spent all day there and we still would have run out of time.
I didn't get footage of everything we did and tried, but we started the day with trying the Japanese chocolate pie at McDonald's, which tasted like a chocolate-filled chocolate croissant (too greasy in my opinion, but the chocolate flavor was there). Next we walked through Lawson's, a popular Japanese convenient store chain. We tried traditional Yoshinoya and it was so different and much more fresh than the version we're used to at home in the States. Before our time ran out, my dad and I went to Hakata Uogashi, a revolving sushi restaurant, and my mom went to a mentaiko restaurant right across the hallway at the same time to cover more ground since our bus to the Hakata International Airport was leaving soon. We also went to Daiso and a leather luggage shop to pick up some Japanese crockery and extra bags to bring everything home in. Overall, we did SO MUCH during these last few hours in Japan, and I can say that I was so satisfied that I got to check everything off my list while we were here.
Flight to Seoul
Staying in lounges before flights has been a saving grace while traveling for me. While they're absolutely not necessary by any means, I found the larger seating that's offered in these lounges to be much more comfortable so that I can rest before the flights, which are harder for me to try to nap in. It was a good place to reset before returning back to Korea.
And that wraps up the Japan leg of the Asia trip!
To see more of the Japan trip: click here for the Youtube video.
What do you think of the onsen, and would you stay there? Let's talk below in the comments section!
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