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Whether you’re a student on a budget, a family with children, or a travel aficionado, spending a summer abroad in Europe can easily create a large dent in your finances.

However, with a little bit of planning and the use of alternative travel methods, making your way around Europe does not have to necessarily break the bank.

Let’s look at five major ways on how to travel Europe cheaply.

5 Budget Tips for Summer Travel in Europe Eat Local Food From Non-Tourist Restaurants

If you are in a big city and see a restaurant with a sign that says, “We speak English” you will most likely pay for this convenience, one way or another. Such tourist-friendly restaurants cater to foreigners who don’t really know a fair price for food and most likely chalk up an expensive meal as an “authentic European experience”.

You will find great reward in bypassing these familiar-feeling restaurants for locally owned cafés and hole-in-the-wall places that may speak only broken English. Off the beaten path, these eateries offer fresh, traditional cuisine at a fraction of the cost. The staff is usually made up of lively family members who pride themselves on their homemade food, which is created from produce that was hand-selected at the local market that morning. Plus, if you choose a meal with ingredients that are in season, your plate is likely to be even more inexpensive.

Research Free Activities in the Areas You Are Visiting

Although notoriously an expensive city, Paris, France offers free admission into the Louvre and other museums on the first Sunday of every month. Major cities, such as London, Paris, Barcelona, and many others have free walking tours. Even without the official tour group, walking around is often the best way to explore hidden gems of the city. Depending on the area in Europe, your most exciting adventures could be found at the beach, on hiking trails, or browsing storefronts in the heart of the city.

Take Budget-Friendly Transportation

Consider all of your options: planes, trains, buses, boats, car share rides, bike riding, and yes, hitchhiking (although the latter is only advised in extreme situations). Fortunately, there are several budget airlines available in a wide variety of European cities, and a one-way trip can be as cheap as $20 Euro if you travel with a carry-on bag only. Warning: budget airlines are known for charging extra fees, so be sure to follow all regulations. Some airlines will have a lot of instructions, such as printing your own ticket beforehand, so be prepared to put in a little more work if you want to save a few bucks this way.

Thanks to the infrastructure in Europe, trains are also a cheaper option, especially with a Eurail pass, plus a student or family discount. Eurail is the leading train transportation company that connects people to cities all over the European continent. They provide several different train pass options—from weekly and monthly passes, to passes that work exclusively in chosen countries—in order to give you the best value for your dollar. Also think about taking buses for long-haul rides. Companies like Megabus and Eurolines provide reclining seats, air conditioning, beverages, and other amenities for your enjoyment as you travel across Europe. Take advantage of their low fare which can be as cheap as just a few Euros per ticket.

For more local transportation, don’t forget about taking the metro, riding city buses, using phone apps to initiate car share rides, and biking around town for the more scenic route. Quite honestly, anything will be cheaper than a taxi cab.

Book All of Your Transportation in Advance

This is definitely not advised if you want your trip to Europe to be full of spontaneity. However, it should be noted that more often than not, plane and train rides, when booked at the right time in advance (typically six weeks before departure), can save you hundreds of dollars per ticket.

Knowing how to price shop these tickets helps, too. When looking for the best airline prices, search through Skyscanner.com. This search engine allows you to view the most affordable prices from different airlines available. You can even see if changing the date or airport departure aids in lowering your overall ticket price.

According to Tom Allen of WizEssay, “Planning your trip ahead of time can save you thousands of dollars over the course of a long-haul trip. When you factor in flights and boarding that can be booked months in advance, why wouldn’t you want to make arrangements that lower your budget?”.

Avoid Hotels as Housing

Yes, hotels deliver a luxurious experience with tons of amenities—but they also come at a price. Try staying in Europe with more affordable housing through hostels, AirBnB rooms, couchsurfing, house sitting, HomeExchange, or even WWOOFing (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) and Au Pairing. Of course, WWOOFing and Au Pairing are a bit different; they are an exchange of a few hours’ work per day for free housing and meals. This would be great for a single person who wants an authentic, long-term experience. House sitting is usually also free—and sometimes, they pay you.

All in all, traveling across Europe doesn’t have to be full of large expenditures. With these simple tips, the bulk of your budget will now be more on the thrifty side. When it comes down to it, all you have to remember is to live like the locals do.

This way, you will be saving money and you’ll get to have a much more fulfilling experience.

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Hardly anything compares to plunging into the unknown by yourself.

Too often do we associate traveling with group activities, family obligations and collective endeavors. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but you can hardly call yourself a hardened globetrotting adventurer if you’ve never gone on a trip all by yourself.

It gives you a chance to reflect on and reassess your life, not to mention the fact you can truly meet new people without being constrained by the group. If you’ve ever felt that itch to travel alone, here are some great adventures for solo travelers.

Great Adventures For Solo Travelers China’s “The Big One”

Solo travelers will particularly enjoy trips to the faraway mountain slopes of China. Lush landscapes, rocky hills, historical monuments and bustling cities are an exceptional treat packed into a 28-day long journey known as “The Big One”.

It is an in-depth experience of the great country that will immerse you into the rich history of the country. It truly cannot quite compare to anything else, and it’s bound to leave you changed forever (for the better, of course). Of course, you will get a chance to see the Terracotta Warriors with your own eyes and step onto the Great Wall.

 

Cycle Through Morocco

There is no better way to meet new people than on a cycling adventure through Morocco. You’ll get a chance to explore wondrous orange landscapes of the Atlas Mountains as they stretch into infinity and disappear in the blue haze.

Along the way, you will be accompanied by other solo travelers, since the setup has been mostly created with one-man adventurers in mind. If you’d like to marvel at palm groves, arid slopes sculpted by time and incredible Atlantic sunsets, this is a perfect adventure for you.

 

Sail a Ship With Your Own Hands Around the Canary Islands

Boarding a fun-filled cruise ship is easy. How about a real, gritty seafaring experience that puts you in the thick of it?

Believe it or not, you can spend a whole week on the open sea under the command of a captain, with a merry crew of sailors. The name of the ship is Morgenster, and it will take up to 24 inexperienced sailors on an adventure around the Canary Islands.

The crew is there to mentor the newcomers, but don’t worry – the work isn’t excruciating. You’ll get plenty of time to sunbathe and explore tropical shores. Just be a good sport and listen to the instructions of your skipper, and if this is your first time sailing, get a funky Go Travel Acustrap that will reduce nausea and make your journey a dream.

 

The Epic Trans-Siberian Railway Journey

Orient Express is out of commission? No problem!

An epic journey on train tracks still awaits you on the Trans-Siberian Railway that goes from Beijing to Moscow. This is a perfect adventure for people who really want to enjoy some contemplative solitude. There is hardly anything more meditative than sitting in your comfortable compartment with the sound of moving along the train tracks in your ears and incredible, untouched landscapes moving past you. Depending on what package you choose, the journey can take up to 20 days.

 

Colombia for Coffee Junkies

Visiting the far-side of the South American continent sounds like an amazing idea, but if you are a true coffee junkie, this trip is pure heaven.

You’ll journey directly into the Colombian highlands and walk through real coffee plantations. Not only that, but you’ll also get a chance to learn more about the process of making coffee and you’ll be able to visit local roasteries too.

 

Get Frosty in Finland

If you want to battle the elements and witness some of the most breathtaking natural landscapes, Finland is the right step on your solo journey.

The birthplace of Santa Clause fully justifies its honorary title once the winter months come. You have an opportunity to join a dog-sledding team and try all snow-related activities under the sun, including skiing and riding a snowmobile. However, the biggest treat on this vacation is definitely seeing the Northern Lights for the first time.

 

Sail Along the Shores of the Balkan

The Adriatic Sea is a small and charming stretch of the Mediterranean tucked comfortably between the Italian and Balkan Peninsula. However, solo travelers tend to prefer sailing along the epic shores of the Balkans and enjoying the dramatically harsh mountain ranges that tower over picturesque coastal towns.

You’ll get a chance to stay in several urbanities of both Croatia and Montenegro, and you’ll definitely visit the legendary Dubrovnik, Split and Kotor.

 

The Magic of Oman

It seems the Arabian Peninsula is embroiled in perpetual conflict which is unfortunate for countless reasons, but one of the major ones is definitely the fact that the rest of the world does not get a chance to truly grasp the captivating beauty and ancient history of the region.

Thankfully, we have countries like Oman – the most welcoming out of the bunch. Go on a solo adventure of self-discovery as you follow the very steps of T.E. Lawrence, through mesmerizing deserts, enchanting oases and mystifying Bedouin villages.

 

If there has ever been a time to go on a solo adventure, it’s now. Believe it or not, there’s a growing demand for solo traveling around the globe, and traveling companies are eagerly tapping into that trend.

After all, it’s not that hard to understand why we have become so enamored with the idea – we live in a world overstuffed with people, opinions and scrutiny over social media and entertainment platforms. It is only natural that, every now and then, a modern person needs to clear their head and enjoy a bit of solitude.

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Activities

In this article we are exploring the activities available in the province of Hainaut, the Westernmost province of Wallonia.

Belgium is a country known well for its culture, tradition, food and beer. At least for me it is anyway. We’ll be covering all of these in other articles and videos, so watch out for those.

But first, we start with the...

Activities in Hainaut, Belgium: Getting There

From the UK, Hainaut is easiest reached by plane to Brussels, or overland by car from the neighbouring countries. Most of the cities and towns in Hainaut, such as Mons, Charleroi and Chimay are connected by regular trains running direct from Brussels Airport. For this trip, we were based in Mons, which is the most central town for exploring Hainaut, and we hired a car.

Getting Active

It certainly wasn’t something I had associated with Belgium, but I was overwhelmed by the amount of activities on offer in this region, and we weren’t even exploring in summer! I’ve focused on just a few, all of which are featured in the video above.

Indoor Skiing

We headed to the Ice Mountain Adventure Park, where the first activity we tried was Indoor Skiing, on real snow! Yes, that’s right, I thought you could only find that in the mountains.

The snow is made from the process of water being sprayed and cooled at lightning speeds, meaning there’s always a thick layer of snow. You don’t have to travel over to the mountains to ski on real snow, brilliant.

Ice Mountain has two slopes to chose from, one for beginners and one for the more experienced, with the beginner’s slope having an easy roll carpet to get you to the top. There’s even small jumps and a rail grind to try on the more advanced slope.

Prices for adults start from €17 for an hour or €42 for the day, and there are monthly subscriptions and weekend offers (such as 2 hours for €25 plus spaghetti Bolognese) available too. Lessons are available from €55 and you have the choice of private or group lessons, with all the equipment available to hire too.

For me, I love to ski so to have this available for a quick stint of skiing is brilliant, and after you can enjoy a Belgian beer and a bite to eat in the restaurant, which overlooks the slopes.

Indoor Skydiving

I’ve never tried indoor skydiving, and if I’m completely honest it’s never been high on my list. That’s because on paper, it doesn’t look like that much of a thrill, and I’m a real adrenaline junkie! I was so wrong.

As I casually sat in the briefing listening to the safety precautions, I realised that this is pretty crazy, and I had to pay attention. Don’t get me wrong, the instructor is always there to make sure you don’t get blown away, and there is a second person controlling the fan speed.

I watched the others before me, and honestly my heart was racing. Especially after you see a couple of people struggling to keep their balance, and let’s face it, mine was being filmed for our video! It was then my turn and before I knew it, I was flying! Now I guess a weightless hovering is a more accurate description, but it was brilliant.

I found you really must focus on only making subtle movements otherwise your balance is off, and you’ll crash into the side. So, once you master the skill it’s a real buzz to be effectively floating in the air whilst people watch on with a coffee in their hand! Then the most fun part is when the instructor grips you and whizzes you around and up and down. Far more of an adrenaline rush than I expected.

Prices start at €59 for two flights (children €49) and up to €119 for 5. This price includes all the safety equipment and your detailed lesson before you head to the wind tunnel.

Battle Karting

Battle Karting can only be described as a cross between regular go-karting and the video game Super Mario Kart! It all takes place in electric karts controlled by sensors linked to the game, you race around a track that’s projected onto the floor from above. Your position on the track, in the race and in respect to other karts is determined by the software behind the game. It should prevent you from crashing! Sounds intriguing right? Well it is, and it’s also a lot of fun.

After a briefing and introduction to the different games and rules, you jump in the karts and away you go. Our first race was a typical circuit format, where you race each other around the track, but with a twist! There are several bonuses to pick up along the way, such as turbo boosts, rockets to shoot down opponents, and even a bonus to leave a puddle of oil to slow down your opponents.

My next favourite game was Battle Snake, where you pick up fruits to lengthen your tail, a bit like the old game of snake on your phone. You can’t cross anyone else’s snake and the winner is the person with the longest tail! Other games involve a virtual football pitch where you hit the ball in the oppositions net and covering the grid in your teams’ colour.

Each game has points allocated to the winner, and an overall winner is crowned. I can honestly say, as a keen go-karter, I wasn’t expecting this to be such great fun! Prices start at €6 for 5 minutes up to €36 for 30 minutes, it’s located close to the town of Mouscron and only 20 minutes from Lille.

Walking

We passed a lot of open countryside and beautiful forest begging to be explored. But from the village of Ellezelle, you can walk the inviting 6km starting at the Maison du Pays des Colline. “Le Sentier de l’Etrange” is a really enjoyable and not challenging walk, which passes art sculptures by the artist Watkyne, all in the breathtaking surroundings of the green Hainaut countryside. These sculptures make for a great photo and add a new element of enjoyment, ensuring you take in each one.

Apparently, every year there are more added, meaning it’s worth coming back to find the new ones.

PASS Science Park

Our next activity was exploring PASS Science Park, which has a number of interactive exhibitions for old and young to discover science and learn something new. It’s located in Wallonia, just a short journey from Mons. Interestingly, PASS is also a regeneration project built in an area of Hainaut known for its coal mines, in fact there used to be hundreds of coal mines here. Some of the coal mining history is recognised inside, and it still represents the shape of the old coal mining building.

You’ll also find several special exhibitions and workshops, mostly put on for education or art purposes. I was impressed with the outside, you can learn about how the landscape was formed from the “slag heap”, which has now been colonised by plants! Finally, there’s a network of tracks and studded paths to explore by bike, with a variety of interesting artwork along the way.

You can buy tickets to PASS online, and they are a reasonable €15 for adults, €10 for 6-18 year olds and free for children under 5 years.

Triobalade Tour of Mons

For a unique way to explore the city of Mons, I really recommend you try the Triobalade. It’s basically a tour for 1, 2 or 3 people on a three wheeling Tuk Tuk! You can choose a tour length from 30 minutes to 2 hours. Our driver Ludo gave us a fantastic tour which included the Grande Place, information about the Legend of the DouDou, and myths about the city, including why you should rub the bald monkey’s head with your left hand. For more information about the culture of Hainaut, make sure you watch our other video and article.

So tell me, were you expecting that there was this much to do in Hainaut? I know I certainly wasn’t.

It was a pleasant surprise, that on top of the things I was expecting, such as the amazing culture and beer, there was something more. Something to please us adrenaline junkies, somewhere to escape to go skiing, on real snow, some beautiful nature and a place to let out the inner child in you (on the Battle Kart field!).

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Road Trip

Kyushu island is a unique part of Japan that is often overlooked by visitors. It’s far away from the busy hotspots of Tokyo and Kyoto. 

What if I tell you that Kyushu island is only a short domestic flight away and it's easy to reach and explore? 

Kyushu is a paradise for nature lovers with its stunning countryside and unique landscape with trees, mountains and active volcanoes. The island offers a more relaxed experience of Japan, giving you a break from the hustle and bustle of the most popular cities in the country. 

What I most like about Kyushu island is how easy and accessible the island is to visitors, and it's the perfect location to enjoy a road trip in Japan. 

So, what are you waiting for? Pack your driving licence, grab a rental car and explore the major sights around Kyushu island. 

I've put together a fun itinerary for exploring Kyushu that can be done over the course of one week.

From the onsens of Oita to the stunning rolling countryside of Yufuin and from the volcanoes of Aso to the castles of Kumamoto to the exciting nightlife of Fukuoka, Kyushu has it all. 

Here is my ultimate guide to exploring Kyushu, Japan.  Transportation options: flying to Kyushu from Tokyo 

Flying to Kyushu island from Tokyo Haneda International Airport couldn't be easier. Once you've arrived at the international terminal you can transfer to the domestic terminal. 

There are many domestic flights going to Kyushu. With Japan Airlines or ANA (All Nippon Airways) you can fly to Oita, Kumamoto or Fukuoka which has the biggest and most popular airport of the three. 

Tokyo Narita Airport also has some options for flying to Kyushu, such as with Jetstar to Fukuoka. 

You can also take the Shinkansen highspeed train to Kyushu island. Depending on where you are in Japan, you can take the train from Tokyo or from Shin-Osaka station to Hakata (Fukuoka) station by using the JR Tōkaidō Shinkansen or Sanyō Shinkansen lines. 

The train can be a more expensive option for travellers compared to flying. Journey time from Tokyo to Hakata by train is around five hours. 

Another alternative travel route to reach Kyushu island is to take the ferry boat from Busan, South Korea to Fukuoka, Japan. 

How to rent a car in Kyushu, Japan

It's rather easy to rent a car on the island of Kyushu, Japan. Be sure to register for an international driving licence in your home country well in advance before arriving in Japan. 

I arrived at Oita Airport and used Toyota Rent a Car company which offered a pickup service from the airport. After exploring Kyushu, I could drop the rental car off in Fukuoka at the end of the trip. 

One tip would be to request an English navigation system in your rental car as they have both Japanese and English ones available. 

Driving in Japan is rather simple and straightforward. Just keep an eye on the local speed limit. It's also advised to keep some small change at hand for parking and tolls as normally the machines only take cash. 

Recommended road trip route around Kyushu island

To complete my recommended road trip route, you will need a week’s duration to visit all the destinations listed in this guide. 

If you wish, you could break up sections to complete over a long weekend or take longer and spend more time in each destination and extend the trip further than a week. The option is purely based on how you prefer to travel. 

I've recommended flying into Oita airport to pick up your car rental and then end the trip in Fukuoka. If you want to switch the route around you could start by flying into Fukuoka and ending up in Oita. 

Another option is to start in Fukuoka and then loop around from Oita and head back to Fukuoka (journey time 2 hours). Toyota Rent a Car has pick up and drop off points at both locations. 

All route options are flexible, and it would depend on how you reach Kyushu island so feel free to adapt and change my recommendations to fit your travel plans best. 

Global 3G/4G data and Wi-Fi in Kyushu, Japan

All around the Kyushu island I found the 4G signal reliable and well connected. I'd recommend getting some data whilst exploring Japan so you can stay connected.

Google translate can come in handy to help with conversations, and Google maps can help with directions if the navigation system becomes confusing. It's also helpful to contact local guest houses in case you encounter a delay on route. 

I would recommend getting a Skyroam device to take with you on your trip as it offers good daily rates for multiple devices so you can stay connected whilst in Japan. 

Japan Rugby World Cup 2019 across the island of Kyushu

In 2019 Japan will be a host country to the Rugby World Cup, and many of the games will be held at stadiums across the Kyushu island making this a wonderful excuse to go on a road trip. 

Games will be held in Oita at the Oita Stadium, in Fukuoka at the Fukuoka Hakatamori Stadium and in Kumamoto at the Kumamoto Stadium.

The games will be as follows:

- Oita - Oita stadium:

New Zealand vs Canada - 02/10/19 @ 19:15

Australia vs Uruguay - 05/10/19 @ 14:15

Wales vs Fiji - Wales vs Fiji - 09/10/19 @ 18:45

Two of the Quarter-Final games will also be held in Oita.

- Fukuoka - Fukuoka Hakatamori Stadium:

Italy vs Canada - 26/09/19 @ 16:45

France vs USA - 02/10/19 @ 16:45

Ireland vs Samoa - 12/10/19 @ 19:45

- Kumamoto - Kumamoto Stadium:

France vs Tonga - 06/10/19 @ 16:45

Wales vs Uruguay - 13/10/19 @ 17:15

Fukuoka, Oita and Kumamoto city will be putting together a whole host of activities for travelling fans such as transportation to the stadiums and fan zone areas to cheer on your team. 

Matsuri in Kyushu

To mark the celebration of the Rugby World Cup 2019 and to promote the unique and diverse culture that can be found around the Kyushu island, a special event called Matsuri in Kyushu will be held for international visitors.

Matsuri in Kyushu, which in Japanese translates into Kyushu festival will be held between the 28-29th of September in Kumamoto city centre. It is close to the Rugby World Cup fan zone area so everyone can take part in the fun activities that will be on display over the course of the two-day event. 

Prefectures participating in the event will be from around Kyushu. Yamaguchi, Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Okinawa will all come together to showcase their local culture to the international visitors. It will for sure be an entertaining event jam packed with loads of traditional Japanese activities to take part in. 

Practical guides and rules to understanding onsen culture:

Bathing in an onsen is a popular and relaxing pastime in Japan. It is most popular in Oita, the home of onsen with geothermal activity from the volcanoes heating up the hot springs. You will find many naturally heated onsens in the area, and, in fact, Oita is the onsen capital of not only Kyushu but the whole of Japan with thousands of hot springs to choose from. 

So, bring your onsen towel with you as you will have many opportunities to enjoy a relaxing onsen around Kyushu. 

What I wanted to do here is offer some words of advice to international visitors and first-time users of onsen as there are a few points you should bear in mind before you get started. 

- Take a shower before entering the onsen to ensure you're completely clean. 

- You must be naked in the onsen as clothes are considered dirty. 

- Public onsens are normally split into male and female sections. If you wish to share an onsen, you can book a private one at selected guest houses. 

- No tattoos are allowed in onsen. If you have tattoos, you can look for tattoo friendly onsen. Tourism Oita have created a map to show the locations. 

- Your towel must never touch the onsen water. You can place your small onsen towel on your head whilst enjoying the onsen. 

-  Don't dunk your head under the onsen water.

- Avoid water splashing in the onsen area. 

- Dry yourself before entering the changing rooms. 

- Remember to sit back, relax and enjoy your onsen experience in Kyushu. 

You will soon learn that Japan is a culture built on respect, and rules are normally put into place to make the experience enjoyable for everyone. Now you know the basic rules to enjoying an onsen experience and you should be all set. 

The prefecture of Oita

Within Oita Prefecture, you will find popular locations such as Oita city, Yufuin and Beppu to explore which offer plenty of onsen options to choose from as well as beautiful countryside, nature and fun city life. 

Oita 

First, we will visit the city of Oita which is worth staying over for the night. 

Tenku Open-air City Spa & JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Oita

When you arrive in Oita city, why not relax and enjoy your first onsen? Be sure to check into the JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Oita which is easily found next to Oita railway station. 

Once checked in, you can enjoy the best city view of Oita city from the relaxing Tenku Open-air City Spa which is located in the roof of the hotel. Perfect for relaxing either at sunset when the city lights start to turn on or first thing in the morning as you watch the sun rise over the city. It's truly the best and most relaxing spot in Oita city. 

This natural carbonated hot spring features baths with panoramic views of the city, plus saunas.

Bar hopping and local foods around Oita 

The best nightlife and places to eat around Oita city can be found north of the train station. Here you can find a wide selection of bars serving izakaya style BBQ snacks or a whole host of local dishes. 

The area was made popular by salarymen enjoying a tasty bowl or two before grabbing the last train home. 

Local dishes that are a must try include Bugo beef, Seki mackerel and chicken tempura. You can wash down these tasty dishes with a glass of Shochu which is produced in Kyushu. Enjoy the nightlife by sampling a taste of local dishes on your visit around Oita city. 

Beppu

Oita as a prefecture has the most onsens and the largest output of hot spring water in Japan. One good example of this can be found in the city of Beppu. Driving from Oita city to Beppu is relatively easy to do as it’s around a 25-minute drive.

Enjoy a relaxing foot spa 

If you would like to rest your feet, Beppu has a large selection of free self-service public foot spas that can be found scattered around the city. Don't forget to pack your own towel to dry your feet when you're done. I would recommend the Beppu Kaihin Sunaba Onsen which looks out to a stunning sea view. 

Close to this location you can also find a sand onsen on the beach. It works by being buried under sand which is heated by rising steam. This is a very unique form of onsen that can be found in Beppu and around Kyushu. 

Jigoku Hells visitor onsen

Beppu is also home to visitor onsens called Jigoku which translates to English as “hells”. These hells are meant for viewing only. You can find seven of them located around the city of Beppu. 

You can purchase a Beppu Jigoku ticket at any of the entrances that will give you access to all seven of the hells. Parking is also available for free at the locations. 

Because of fumarolic gas of around 100 degrees, these hells are not open for bathing and only for visitors to view from a distance. Five of the hells are located in the Kannawa district and two in the more remote Shibaseki district.

Umi Jigoku is the most popular of the hells and one of the most beautiful as well. Here you can see the large hot spring and the vast steam that rises from the pond. 

Worth trying on your visit to the Jigoku is the hot spring steamed pudding which is served at a number of the cafes at the hells. 

At Chinoike Jigoku location, the pond water is a red blood colour. It is one of the most photogenic locations of the seven. Worth visiting and stopping off for sure. 

Jigokumushi Kobo Steam Cooking Center

Feeling hungry? Why not go to an onsen restaurant! At Jigokumushi Kobo Steam Cooking Center you can purchase a selection of ingredients, such as fresh vegetables, dumplings, eggs, meat cuts or seafood to be steam cooked from the hot spring steam. 

You can rent a steam chamber to cook your meal in, and whilst you wait you can use the foot baths under the dining table to relax. A delicious, unique and fun dining and cooking experience to try in Beppu. 

Yufuin and Yufu mountains

Yufuin is famous for its stunning countryside and vista like scenery. A good idea is to park up your rental car at the Yufu train station and rent a bicycle for the day from bicycle shop ren-cha. Then you can go and explore Mount Yufu which includes a selection of wonderful foothills that offer a refreshing breath of fresh air and stunning views. A great way to spend the day. 

Close to the Yufu train station you can find the guest house Yufuin no Take which makes for a great place to park your car and rest your head for the night for a busy day ahead. You will want to wake up bright and early to make your way to Mount Aso.  

Mount Aso

Mount Aso is an active volcano and the mountain’s active volcanic peaks include Mount Nakadake, Komeduka, Kusasenri and Daikanbo crater. 

This area is a spectacular area of natural beauty and worth the stop along your road trip. The best and safest location to have a good look over the edge into the Nakadake crater is from the viewing area.

The toll road to the crater is also open if you wish to use your own car, and the crater is an easy one-minute walk away from the car park.

The popular ropeway that was used for visitors to get to the top of the crater remains out of service.

Before visiting Mount Aso, you should check for live updates on visiting the crater as the visitor situation can change daily due to weather conditions.

It's important to note that if you have health issues such as asthma, it’s advised not to visit the crater area.

You can find a selection of light hiking paths that can take you to different viewing points of Mount Aso’s volcanic craters.

The hiking paths are normally less crowded and a great way to discover the landscape. You could find yourself having the whole place to yourself, and it almost feels like you’re on Mars whilst walking around the area. 

Stay at a traditional Japanese ryokan

Otohime no Sato is a traditional Japanese ryokan located within close driving distance from Mount Aso. 

If it's your first visit to Japan, then staying one night at a traditional Japanese guest house called a ryokan is a must. 

Kyushu offers a wonderful selection of ryokans to choose from, particularly those with private access to relaxing onsens. 

The best ones that offer the most relaxing and peaceful atmosphere are located in the countryside amongst nature, and Kyushu has many of these types of ryokans to offer with an idyllic setting. 

Traditionally ryokans are passed through the guest house owners’ families, and many ryokans can date back through generations, some even back to the Edo time. 

Normally a night’s stay at a ryokan will come at an additional cost compared to standard hotel stays but the experience is well worth the value. 

Mostly for its unique Japanese cultural experience, a ryokan can be rather interesting to try for visitors as it's so different to a normal night’s stay. So, why not try it on your visit to Japan at least once?

Your room will be a traditional Japanese room with tatami mat and thin paper walls and doors. It's advised to take your shoes off before entering and to keep your luggage off the delicate tatami floor to avoid damage. 

Normally a guest will have a yukata robe, bed pyjamas, towels, bedding, sheets and pillows provided by the ryokan. These items might be stored away when you enter the room for the first time. This way you can use the room before bedtime when the beds are made up for use. 

Normally your stay will include a dining experience and breakfast service which is usually included in the price. 

The dining is a wonderful experience to enjoy traditional cuisine and dishes from the guest house area.

What is special about staying at the Otohime no Sato ryokan is the private onsens which you can rent out either in the evening or morning and you have one all to yourself to relax and enjoy. 

Be sure to book a ryokan for at least one night on your road trip around Kyushu. 

Kumamoto

Kumamoto is another popular city on the Japanese island of Kyushu in the south-west of Japan. There are many incredible attractions, sights to see and dishes to try for travellers who happen to be visiting the city of Kumamoto, the largest city in the Kumamoto Prefecture.

Hotel the Gate Kumamoto

For an affordable stay in Kumamoto, be sure to check out Hotel the Gate Kumamoto. This brand new modern, cosy and clean hotel is located close to JR Kumamoto station and offers you a comfortable stay. Here you can have a good night’s sleep in Kumamoto for a great price. 

Kumamoto Castle

Kumamoto Castle dates back to the 17th century and is considered one of the top three most important castles in all of Japan. The castle was greatly destroyed by the earthquake that hit most of the Kumamoto city in 2016. 

Work is underway to rebuild Kumamoto Castle back to its former glory, and it will take some time until the construction work is completed. Until then, many of the main areas are closed off from access but you can still walk around the outside fortress grounds of the castle. 

Kumamoto city is working on recovering and reopening the main Tenshu exterior by October 5th, 2019 for the rugby visitors.

For the love of Kumamon

Created by the government of Kumamoto Prefecture, Kumamon is a mascot known in Japan as a your-charm. Kumamon is used to promote the island of Kyushu, and I'm sure you will spot the happy bear mascot all around the island of Kyushu whilst on your road trip. Be sure to keep a look out for him. 

You can even visit Kumamon’s official office in Kumamoto to say hello in person, and he also started a Youtube channel. 

Kumamon has grown in popularity over the years and has become a big success for the island’s promotion. Maybe you might want to buy some Kumamon gifts to remember your time in Kumamoto. 

Ajisen Ramen for lunch

If you are looking for a lunch spot in Kumamoto, then you must try the popular ramen restaurant, Ajisen Ramen. The restaurant is famous for its heavy level of roasted garlic that takes over the thick broth. This food is sure to pack flavour, and you can get a good lunch set deal here for a reasonable price. 

Based on the Kurume ramen concept, the addition of the extra garlic chips and oil concept have earned many fans. Have a seat and enjoy a tasty bowl of Ajisen Ramen. 

Suizenji Garden

Suizenji Jojuen Park is a traditional Japanese garden that surrounds a natural pond. Here you can enjoy and admire the peaceful natural landscape that's located in the city. For the best view of the garden and the pond, enjoy a tea ceremony at the tea house where you can relax and unwind with an incredible view. 

The garden is also home to a Suizenji temple which was built in 1632. The surrounding garden represents parts of the 53 Stations of the Tokaido, an ancient route that ran from Edo to Kyoto, and the hill is meant to represent a small-scale Mt. Fuji. 

Kamitori and Shimotori shopping arcade

When looking for nightlife in Kumamoto, be sure to visit the Kamitori and Shimotori shopping arcade area. It's the place to be for evening dining and entertainment. With loads of options to choose from, these arcades are perfect for enjoying izakaya style dining and finding an excellent selection of craft beers. 

My recommendation is Neginozu for izakaya dining (chicken is a good option) and Voyager for a good selection of Japanese style craft beer. For those who are feeling more adventurous, you could also try a sushi train concept restaurant. It’s great fun, and the food is very delicious.

Fukuoka

Fukuoka is the capital and the largest city of Fukuoka Prefecture, located at the tip of the northern shore of the Kyushu island. Fukuoka has been an important harbour city for many centuries. The city is best known for its ancient temples, great beaches, modern shopping and fun nightlife. 

Fukuoka actually consists of two cities that were combined in 1889 when Hakata joined with Fukuoka to create a mega city. Hakata is still a popular district within Fukuoka. There’s a Shinkansen railway station there, and the district is also a popular spot for ramen lovers. 

Here is what you can do during your visit to Fukuoka. Accommodation: Book and Bed Fukuoka

Book and Bed is the perfect stay for book lovers in the city centre of Fukuoka. Nestled between the book shelves you can discover hidden cabin beds where guests can stay for the night.  

When you’re not sleeping you can enjoy reading amongst the endless selection of books on display. 

It's like a capsule hotel but with a unique and interesting twist. This is a fun and an alternative way to experience a one-night’s stay in Japan, and it’s also a perfect location to base yourself in Fukuoka. 

Yusentei Park

If you're looking for tranquillity in Fukuoka and wish to escape the city for a moment, look no further than the Japanese garden of Yusentei Park. 

It is a peaceful place and a great example of a Japanese-style garden that surrounds a lake. Spend some time walking around here and check out the large selection of koi carp that occupy the lake as well as the superb greenery.  

Be sure to also visit the tea house that looks over the lake and enjoy a tea ceremony. 

Dazaifu Tenmangu

Dazaifu Tenmangu is a shrine dedicated to Sugawara Michizane who is known as the god of learning. The shrine grows in popularity around exam time when students flock to the location to pray for good results. 

As you walk up to the shrine you will notice a selection of brass ox statues which act as symbols of luck if you rub them. If it's success in exams or academic achievement you seek, this is the shrine for you. 

The temple is located 250 meters away from Dazaifu train station. The street is lined with cosy traditional shops selling local products, such as hand-crafted chop sticks or the delicious bean paste cake called Umegae Mochi. Perfect spot for finding Japanese gifts to take back home with you. 

If you wish to jazz up your photos in Dazaifu, you can rent a kimono or yukata here for the evening as the cosy town offers a perfect back drop. 

Once you’ve passed the shops, you will find a torii gate that marks the entrance of the shrine. Leading up to the shrine, you will meet a series of two arched bridges and islands representing the past, present and future. They will then lead you to the walled courtyard of the shrine.

The area is also popular for being surrounded by over 6,000 plum trees which add a wonderful element of natural beauty to the surroundings. 

Ichiran Dazaifu Sando ramen noodle

Ichiran Dazaifu Sando is a popular ramen chain which was first established in Fukuoka, Kyushu. Their restaurants can be found all around..

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Kyushu island is a unique part of Japan that is often overlooked by visitors. It’s far away from the busy hotspots of Tokyo and Kyoto. 
 
What if I tell you that Kyushu island is only a short domestic flight away and it's easy to reach and explore? 
 
Kyushu is a paradise for nature lovers with its stunning countryside and unique landscape with trees, mountains and active volcanoes. The island offers a more relaxed experience of Japan, giving you a break from the hustle and bustle of the most popular cities in the country. 
 
What I most like about Kyushu island is how easy and accessible the island is to visitors, and it's the perfect location to enjoy a road trip in Japan. 
 
So, what are you waiting for? Pack your driving licence, grab a rental car and explore the major sights around Kyushu island. 
 
I've put together a fun itinerary for exploring Kyushu that can be done over the course of one week.
 
From the onsens of Oita to the stunning rolling countryside of Yufuin and from the volcanoes of Aso to the castles of Kumamoto to the exciting nightlife of Fukuoka, Kyushu has it all. 
 
Here is my ultimate guide to exploring Kyushu, Japan. 
 

Transportation options: flying to Kyushu from Tokyo 

 
Flying to Kyushu island from Tokyo Haneda International Airport couldn't be easier. Once you've arrived at the international terminal you can transfer to the domestic terminal. 
 
There are many domestic flights going to Kyushu. With Japan Airlines or ANA (All Nippon Airways) you can fly to Oita, Kumamoto or Fukuoka which has the biggest and most popular airport of the three. 
 
Tokyo Narita Airport also has some options for flying to Kyushu, such as with Jetstar to Fukuoka. 
 
You can also take the Shinkansen highspeed train to Kyushu island. Depending on where you are in Japan, you can take the train from Tokyo or from Shin-Osaka station to Hakata (Fukuoka) station by using the JR Tōkaidō Shinkansen or Sanyō Shinkansen lines. 
 
The train can be a more expensive option for travellers compared to flying. Journey time from Tokyo to Hakata by train is around five hours. 
 
Another alternative travel route to reach Kyushu island is to take the ferry boat from Busan, South Korea to Fukuoka, Japan. 
 

How to rent a car in Kyushu, Japan

 
It's rather easy to rent a car on the island of Kyushu, Japan. Be sure to register for an international driving licence in your home country well in advance before arriving in Japan. 
 
I arrived at Oita Airport and used Toyota Rent a Car company which offered a pickup service from the airport. After exploring Kyushu, I could drop the rental car off in Fukuoka at the end of the trip. 
 
One tip would be to request an English navigation system in your rental car as they have both Japanese and English ones available. 
 
Driving in Japan is rather simple and straightforward. Just keep an eye on the local speed limit. It's also advised to keep some small change at hand for parking and tolls as normally the machines only take cash. 
 

Recommended road trip route around Kyushu island

 
To complete my recommended road trip route, you will need a week’s duration to visit all the destinations listed in this guide. 
 
If you wish, you could break up sections to complete over a long weekend or take longer and spend more time in each destination and extend the trip further than a week. The option is purely based on how you prefer to travel. 
 
I've recommended flying into Oita airport to pick up your car rental and then end the trip in Fukuoka. If you want to switch the route around you could start by flying into Fukuoka and ending up in Oita. 
 
Another option is to start in Fukuoka and then loop around from Oita and head back to Fukuoka (journey time 2 hours). Toyota Rent a Car has pick up and drop off points at both locations. 
 
All route options are flexible, and it would depend on how you reach Kyushu island so feel free to adapt and change my recommendations to fit your travel plans best. 
 

Global 3G/4G data and Wi-Fi in Kyushu, Japan

 
All around the Kyushu island I found the 4G signal reliable and well connected. I'd recommend getting some data whilst exploring Japan so you can stay connected.
 
Google translate can come in handy to help with conversations, and Google maps can help with directions if the navigation system becomes confusing. It's also helpful to contact local guest houses in case you encounter a delay on route. 
 
I would recommend getting a Skyroam device to take with you on your trip as it offers good daily rates for multiple devices so you can stay connected whilst in Japan. 
 

Japan Rugby World Cup 2019 across the island of Kyushu

 
In 2019 Japan will be a host country to the Rugby World Cup, and many of the games will be held at stadiums across the Kyushu island making this a wonderful excuse to go on a road trip. 
 
Games will be held in Oita at the Oita Stadium, in Fukuoka at the Fukuoka Hakatamori Stadium and in Kumamoto at the Kumamoto Stadium.
 
The games will be as follows: 
 
- Oita - Oita stadium:
 
New Zealand vs Canada - 02/10/19 @ 19:15
Australia vs Uruguay - 05/10/19 @ 14:15
Wales vs Fiji - Wales vs Fiji - 09/10/19 @ 18:45
 
Two of the Quarter-Final games will also be held in Oita.
 
- Fukuoka - Fukuoka Hakatamori Stadium:
 
Italy vs Canada - 26/09/19 @ 16:45
France vs USA - 02/10/19 @ 16:45
Ireland vs Samoa - 12/10/19 @ 19:45
 
- Kumamoto - Kumamoto Stadium:
 
France vs Tonga - 06/10/19 @ 16:45
Wales vs Uruguay - 13/10/19 @ 17:15
 
Fukuoka, Oita and Kumamoto city will be putting together a whole host of activities for travelling fans such as transportation to the stadiums and fan zone areas to cheer on your team. 
 

Matsuri in Kyushu 

 
To mark the celebration of the Rugby World Cup 2019 and to promote the unique and diverse culture that can be found around the Kyushu island, a special event called Matsuri in Kyushu will be held for international visitors.
 
Matsuri in Kyushu, which in Japanese translates into Kyushu festival will be held between the 28-29th of September in Kumamoto city centre. It is close to the Rugby World Cup fan zone area so everyone can take part in the fun activities that will be on display over the course of the two-day event. 
 
Prefectures participating in the event will be from around Kyushu. Yamaguchi, Fukuoka, Saga, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Oita, Miyazaki, Kagoshima and Okinawa will all come together to showcase their local culture to the international visitors. It will for sure be an entertaining event jam packed with loads of traditional Japanese activities to take part in. 
 

Practical guides and rules to understanding onsen culture

 
Bathing in an onsen is a popular and relaxing pastime in Japan. It is most popular in Oita, the home of onsen with geothermal activity from the volcanoes heating up the hot springs. You will find many naturally heated onsens in the area, and, in fact, Oita is the onsen capital of not only Kyushu but the whole of Japan with thousands of hot springs to choose from. 
 
So, bring your onsen towel with you as you will have many opportunities to enjoy a relaxing onsen around Kyushu. 
 
What I wanted to do here is offer some words of advice to international visitors and first-time users of onsen as there are a few points you should bear in mind before you get started. 
 
- Take a shower before entering the onsen to ensure you're completely clean. 
- You must be naked in the onsen as clothes are considered dirty. 
- Public onsens are normally split into male and female sections. If you wish to share an onsen, you can book a private one at selected guest houses. 
- No tattoos are allowed in onsen. If you have tattoos, you can look for tattoo friendly onsen. Tourism Oita have created a map to show the locations. 
- Your towel must never touch the onsen water. You can place your small onsen towel on your head whilst enjoying the onsen. 
-  Don't dunk your head under the onsen water.
- Avoid water splashing in the onsen area. 
- Dry yourself before entering the changing rooms. 
- Remember to sit back, relax and enjoy your onsen experience in Kyushu. 
 
You will soon learn that Japan is a culture built on respect, and rules are normally put into place to make the experience enjoyable for everyone. Now you know the basic rules to enjoying an onsen experience and you should be all set. 
 
 

The prefecture of Oita

 
Within Oita Prefecture, you will find popular locations such as Oita city, Yufuin and Beppu to explore which offer plenty of onsen options to choose from as well as beautiful countryside, nature and fun city life. 
 

Oita 

First, we will visit the city of Oita which is worth staying over for the night. 
 

Tenku Open-air City Spa & JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Oita

 
When you arrive in Oita city, why not relax and enjoy your first onsen? Be sure to check into the JR Kyushu Hotel Blossom Oita which is easily found next to Oita railway station. 
 
Once checked in, you can enjoy the best city view of Oita city from the relaxing Tenku Open-air City Spa which is located in the roof of the hotel. Perfect for relaxing either at sunset when the city lights start to turn on or first thing in the morning as you watch the sun rise over the city. It's truly the best and most relaxing spot in Oita city. 
 
This natural carbonated hot spring features baths with panoramic views of the city, plus saunas.
 

Bar hopping and local foods around Oita 

 
The best nightlife and places to eat around Oita city can be found north of the train station. Here you can find a wide selection of bars serving izakaya style BBQ snacks or a whole host of local dishes. 
 
The area was made popular by salarymen enjoying a tasty bowl or two before grabbing the last train home. 
 
Local dishes that are a must try include Bugo beef, Seki mackerel and chicken tempura. You can wash down these tasty dishes with a glass of Shochu which is produced in Kyushu. Enjoy the nightlife by sampling a taste of local dishes on your visit around Oita city. 
 

Beppu

 
Oita as a prefecture has the most onsens and the largest output of hot spring water in Japan. One good example of this can be found in the city of Beppu. Driving from Oita city to Beppu is relatively easy to do as it’s around a 25-minute drive.
 

Enjoy a relaxing foot spa 

 
If you would like to rest your feet, Beppu has a large selection of free self-service public foot spas that can be found scattered around the city. Don't forget to pack your own towel to dry your feet when you're done. I would recommend the Beppu Kaihin Sunaba Onsen which looks out to a stunning sea view. 
 
Close to this location you can also find a sand onsen on the beach. It works by being buried under sand which is heated by rising steam. This is a very unique form of onsen that can be found in Beppu and around Kyushu. 
 

Jigoku Hells visitor onsen

 
Beppu is also home to visitor onsens called Jigoku which translates to English as “hells”. These hells are meant for viewing only. You can find seven of them located around the city of Beppu. 
 
You can purchase a Beppu Jigoku ticket at any of the entrances that will give you access to all seven of the hells. Parking is also available for free at the locations. 
 
Because of fumarolic gas of around 100 degrees, these hells are not open for bathing and only for visitors to view from a distance. Five of the hells are located in the Kannawa district and two in the more remote Shibaseki district.
 
Umi Jigoku is the most popular of the hells and one of the most beautiful as well. Here you can see the large hot spring and the vast steam that rises from the pond. 
 
Worth trying on your visit to the Jigoku is the hot spring steamed pudding which is served at a number of the cafes at the hells. 
 
At Chinoike Jigoku location, the pond water is a red blood colour. It is one of the most photogenic locations of the seven. Worth visiting and stopping off for sure. 
 

Jigokumushi Kobo Steam Cooking Center

 
Feeling hungry? Why not go to an onsen restaurant! At Jigokumushi Kobo Steam Cooking Center you can purchase a selection of ingredients, such as fresh vegetables, dumplings, eggs, meat cuts or seafood to be steam cooked from the hot spring steam. 
 
You can rent a steam chamber to cook your meal in, and whilst you wait you can use the foot baths under the dining table to relax. A delicious, unique and fun dining and cooking experience to try in Beppu. 
 

Yufuin and Yufu mountains

 
Yufuin is famous for its stunning countryside and vista like scenery. A good idea is to park up your rental car at the Yufu train station and rent a bicycle for the day from bicycle shop ren-cha. Then you can go and explore Mount Yufu which includes a selection of wonderful foothills that offer a refreshing breath of fresh air and stunning views. A great way to spend the day. 
 
Close to the Yufu train station you can find the guest house Yufuin no Take which makes for a great place to park your car and rest your head for the night for a busy day ahead. You will want to wake up bright and early to make your way to Mount Aso.  
 

Mount Aso

 
Mount Aso is an active volcano and the mountain’s active volcanic peaks include Mount Nakadake, Komeduka, Kusasenri and Daikanbo crater. 
 
This area is a spectacular area of natural beauty and worth the stop along your road trip. The best and safest location to have a good look over the edge into the Nakadake crater is from the viewing area.
 
The toll road to the crater is also open if you wish to use your own car, and the crater is an easy one-minute walk away from the car park.
 
The popular ropeway that was used for visitors to get to the top of the crater remains out of service.
 
Before visiting Mount Aso, you should check for live updates on visiting the crater as the visitor situation can change daily due to weather conditions.
 
It's important to note that if you have health issues such as asthma, it’s advised not to visit the crater area.
 
You can find a selection of light hiking paths that can take you to different viewing points of Mount Aso’s volcanic craters.
 
The hiking paths are normally less crowded and a great way to discover the landscape. You could find yourself having the whole place to yourself, and it almost feels like you’re on Mars whilst walking around the area. 
 

Stay at a traditional Japanese ryokan

 
Otohime no Sato is a traditional Japanese ryokan located within close driving distance from Mount Aso. 
 
If it's your first visit to Japan, then staying one night at a traditional Japanese guest house called a ryokan is a must. 
 
Kyushu offers a wonderful selection of ryokans to choose from, particularly those with private access to relaxing onsens. 
 
The best ones that offer the most relaxing and peaceful atmosphere are located in the countryside amongst nature, and Kyushu has many of these types of ryokans to offer with an idyllic setting. 
 
Traditionally ryokans are passed through the guest house owners’ families, and many ryokans can date back through generations, some even back to the Edo time. 
 
Normally a night’s stay at a ryokan will come at an additional cost compared to standard hotel stays but the experience is well worth the value. 
 
Mostly for its unique Japanese cultural experience, a ryokan can be rather interesting to try for visitors as it's so different to a normal night’s stay. So, why not try it on your visit to Japan at least once?
 
Your room will be a traditional Japanese room with tatami mat and thin paper walls and doors. It's advised to take your shoes off before entering and to keep your luggage off the delicate tatami floor to avoid damage. 
 
Normally a guest will have a yukata robe, bed pyjamas, towels, bedding, sheets and pillows provided by the ryokan. These items might be stored away when you enter the room for the first time. This way you can use the room before bedtime when the beds are made up for use. 
 
Normally your stay will include a dining experience and breakfast service which is usually included in the price. 
 
The dining is a wonderful experience to enjoy traditional cuisine and dishes from the guest house area.
 
What is special about staying at the Otohime no Sato ryokan is the private onsens which you can rent out either in the evening or morning and you have one all to yourself to relax and enjoy. 
 
Be sure to book a ryokan for at least one night on your road trip around Kyushu. 
 

Kumamoto

 
Kumamoto is another popular city on the Japanese island of Kyushu in the south-west of Japan. There are many incredible attractions, sights to see and dishes to try for travellers who happen to be visiting the city of Kumamoto, the largest city in the Kumamoto Prefecture.
 

Hotel the Gate Kumamoto

 
For an affordable stay in Kumamoto, be sure to check out Hotel the Gate Kumamoto. This brand new modern, cosy and clean hotel is located close to JR Kumamoto station and offers you a comfortable stay. Here you can have a good night’s sleep in Kumamoto for a great price. 
 

Kumamoto Castle

 
Kumamoto Castle dates back to the 17th century and is considered one of the top three most important castles in all of Japan. The castle was greatly destroyed by the earthquake that hit most of the Kumamoto city in 2016. 
 
Work is underway to rebuild Kumamoto Castle back to its former glory, and it will take some time until the construction work is completed. Until then, many of the main areas are closed off from access but you can still walk around the outside fortress grounds of the castle. 
 
Kumamoto city is working on recovering and reopening the main Tenshu exterior by October 5th, 2019 for the rugby visitors.
 

For the love of Kumamon

 
Created by the government of Kumamoto Prefecture, Kumamon is a mascot known in Japan as a your-charm. Kumamon is used to promote the island of Kyushu, and I'm sure you will spot the happy bear mascot all around the island of Kyushu whilst on your road trip. Be sure to keep a look out for him. 
 
You can even visit Kumamon’s official office in Kumamoto to say hello in person, and he also started a Youtube channel. 
 
Kumamon has grown in popularity over the years and has become a big success for the island’s promotion. Maybe you might want to buy some Kumamon gifts to remember your time in Kumamoto. 
 

Ajisen Ramen for lunch

 
If you are looking for a lunch spot in Kumamoto, then you must try the popular ramen restaurant, Ajisen Ramen. The restaurant is famous for its heavy level of roasted garlic that takes over the thick broth. This food is sure to pack flavour, and you can get a good lunch set deal here for a reasonable price. 
 
Based on the Kurume ramen concept, the addition of the extra garlic chips and oil concept have earned many fans. Have a seat and enjoy a tasty bowl of Ajisen Ramen. 
 

Suizenji Garden

 
Suizenji Jojuen Park is a traditional Japanese garden that surrounds a natural pond. Here you can enjoy and admire the peaceful natural landscape that's located in the city. For the best view of the garden and the pond, enjoy a tea ceremony at the tea house where you can relax and unwind with an incredible view. 
 
The garden is also home to a Suizenji temple which was built in 1632. The surrounding garden represents parts of the 53 Stations of the Tokaido, an ancient route that ran from Edo to Kyoto, and the hill is meant to represent a small-scale Mt. Fuji. 
 

Kamitori and Shimotori shopping arcade

 
When looking for nightlife in Kumamoto, be sure to visit the Kamitori and Shimotori shopping arcade area. It's the place to be for evening dining and entertainment. With loads of options to choose from, these arcades are perfect for enjoying izakaya style dining and finding an excellent selection of craft beers. 
 
My recommendation is Neginozu for izakaya dining (chicken is a good option) and Voyager for a good selection of Japanese style craft beer. For those who are feeling more adventurous, you could also try a sushi train concept restaurant. It’s great fun, and the food is very delicious.
 

Fukuoka

 
Fukuoka is the capital and the largest city of Fukuoka Prefecture, located at the tip of the northern shore of the Kyushu island. Fukuoka has been an important harbour city for many centuries. The city is best known for its ancient temples, great beaches, modern shopping and fun nightlife. 
 
Fukuoka actually consists of two cities that were combined in 1889 when Hakata joined with Fukuoka to create a mega city. Hakata is still a popular district within Fukuoka. There’s a Shinkansen railway station there, and the district is also a popular spot for ramen lovers. 
 
Here is what you can do during your visit to Fukuoka.
 

Accommodation: Book and Bed Fukuoka

 
Book and Bed is the perfect stay for book lovers in the city centre of Fukuoka. Nestled between the book shelves you can discover hidden cabin beds where guests can stay for the night.  
 
When you’re not sleeping you can enjoy reading amongst the endless selection of books on display. 
 
It's like a capsule hotel but with a unique and interesting twist. This is a fun and an alternative way to experience a one-night’s stay in Japan, and it’s also a perfect location to base yourself in Fukuoka. 
 

Yusentei Park

 
If you're looking for tranquillity in Fukuoka and wish to escape the city for a moment, look no further than the Japanese garden of Yusentei Park. 
 
It is a peaceful place and a great example of a Japanese-style garden that surrounds a lake. Spend some time walking around here and check out the large selection of koi carp that occupy the lake as well as the superb greenery.  
 
Be sure to also visit the tea house that looks over the lake and enjoy a tea ceremony. 
 

Dazaifu Tenmangu

 
Dazaifu Tenmangu is a shrine dedicated to Sugawara Michizane who is known as the god of learning. The shrine grows in popularity around exam time when students flock to the location to pray for good results. 
 
As you walk up to the shrine you will notice a selection of brass ox statues which act as symbols of luck if you rub them. If it's success in exams or academic achievement you seek, this is the shrine for you. 
 
The temple is located 250 meters away from Dazaifu train station. The street is lined with cosy traditional shops selling local products, such as hand-crafted chop sticks or the delicious bean paste cake called Umegae Mochi. Perfect spot for finding Japanese gifts to take back home with you. 
 
If you wish to jazz up your photos in..

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Travel Dudes By Melvin by Guest Author - 1w ago

Ecuador is often overshadowed by its bigger neighbor Peru, but one of the great things about Ecuador is that really has it all, and Ecuador has the advantage of being a much smaller country.

That means if you have just a week to travel you can get to see a lot in a very short time frame.

A One-Week Ecuador Itinerary Ecaudor Has Something For Everyone

Some of the best Ecuador tours take advantage of this, and they will pack as much or as little as you want into a week. Ecuador really does have something for everyone.

Whether you’re a history buff, a culture fanatic, a wildlife spotter or a thrill seeker, looking for your next adrenalin hit, Ecuador truly is the place to see it all.

It even has superb options for the perpetual beach bum to lie around on the beach drinking cocktails – though with so much else to see and do it is hard to sit still.

See the Natural Side of Ecuador

The best Ecuador tours can take in snow-capped Andean mountains, overgrown Amazonian jungle teeming with wildlife, magical hot springs and historic colonial towns, all within the space of a week.

Or you could mix it up a bit and throw in bird watching in the cloud forest, or shopping for traditional souvenirs in colorful indigenous markets. Ecuador tour packages that do this well take into account logistics, so you have plenty of time to enjoy yourself, with not too much time on the road.

Distances are relatively short compared with North American standards, and roads between major towns are decent.

Visit Quito and Otavalo

In a week, you could fly into Quito and explore the UNESCO World Heritage site in the colonial heart of the city that very afternoon, before heading off for an overnight trip to Otavalo.

Otavalo is worth a stop, especially for those that like culture and shopping, as Otavalo is considered one of the biggest markets in South America, particularly on a Wednesday or Saturday when the streets are awash with a kaleidoscope of color.

Visit Volcano Terrain

The next evening you could head back to Quito, and in the morning drive through the avenue of volcanoes, past Cotopaxi, one of the highest active volcanoes in the world, towards Banos.

This little town is truly a thrill-seeker’s paradise, set as it is in the shadow of the mighty Tungurahua volcano which is highly active and prone to burst its top from time to time, at short notice, adding to the adventure. You could spend a day or two in Banos, enjoying biking, rafting, hiking, rappelling, canyoning or simply chilling in the hot springs after which the town is aptly named.

The Devil’s Nose Train Ride

On the next day you could take the exhilarating Devil’s Nose train ride, with its switchbacks – a nineteenth century engineering feat worth admiring, before driving through more colonial cultural gems to Ingapirca.

The Colonial City of Cuenca

You could stop a while here to photograph Ecuador’s best Inca ruin, and head to the jewel of the south, colonial city Cuenca. After a morning enjoying a wander around the cobbled streets, through the markets and into the majestic churches you could drive towards the beach and spend your final day relaxing on the coast, before catching your flight out.

Strike the Depths of the Amazon Jungle

But that’s just one option, and not everyone likes it all crammed in so much. There are plenty more choices. For example, you could land in Quito and head directly to the Papallacta hot springs, high in the Andean mountains.

While away a few hours watching hummingbirds peck at the vegetation while you soak in the deliciously warm waters. You could then take a flight and motorized canoe deep into the Amazon jungle for a few days to birdwatch and spot wild creatures galore, including monkeys, snakes, caiman, sloths and river dolphins. From there you could fly back to Quito and take day trips to the cloud forest (more hummingbirds and butterflies than you have ever seen), Otavalo (for shopping and culture), straddle the Equatorial line and hike up a mountain or two.

Make Time for the Galapagos Islands 

If you have just one week and love wildlife, the Galapagos Islands may be just the place. This once in a lifetime adventure can be experienced cruising aboard a luxury yacht or using different islands as a base and staying on land. This is one trip you will never regret.

Despite the volume of visitors in the Galapagos, it never feels truly crowded once you’re out of the airport, and you’ll take in wildlife that you’ve never seen before or since. Blue footed boobies, Sally Lightfoot crabs, marine iguanas, sea lions and frigate birds abound.

Depending on your cruise you could observe bright pink flamingos or albatross, or even the Galapagos penguin or giant tortoises, and if you’re really lucky you could snorkel with hammerhead sharks. While a Galapagos trip will keep you busy with the wildlife, there’s also plenty of time to relax with a cold drink and reflect on the wonders you have seen.

Indeed, you could spend your week doing any activity of your choosing. You could hike a different mountain every day, with many peaks at an altitude of more than 5,000 meters. Bird watchers can tick countless unusual birds off their list in a week with a trip to the jungle and cloud forest. You could spend a week riding horses, or exploring colonial towns and staying in luxurious, historic old hacienda buildings, converted to meet your every need. Or you could do some of all of these – a different activity every day from Monday through to Sunday. There is something for everyone in Ecuador.

Whatever you are looking for from your week’s vacation, Ecuador really does have it all, and it’s all easily accessible.

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Though New Zealand is a natural emigration destination for Australians, people from all over the world including Japan move there to make a new beginning.

There are many things that work in favor of New Zealand including its temperate climate and beautiful countryside. Best of all, the cost of living in the country makes it a very desirable moving destination.

If you are a resident of Japan, which is a busy and expensive country, you will find that moving from Japan to New Zealand is a very good decision to make.

 

Here is a Brief Look at How You Can Make the Move to New Zealand. Multi-Cultural Country

Before you make the move to New Zealand, there are a few things to keep in mind. For one, the country plays host to people from many parts of the world which include Asian counties like Japan or China, Europe and America and so is considered a multi-cultural nation.

Second, most of the people who call New Zealand their home are from Europe, though these days, more and more South Asians are also starting to emigrate to New Zealand.

The nice thing about living here is New Zealand is a very safe and clean country just like Japan. It also has a low cost of living which along with nice tax laws make it a very desirable country to emigrate to.

Live Comfortably on Your Present Salary

Although the cost of living in New Zealand is low especially compare with that of Japan, the salaries paid in the country are also lower than what you would earn for a similar job in Japan and in Europe. So, if you are moving to New Zealand from Japan, USA or Europe then on your current salary you could enjoy a very decent life in New Zealand.

Main Language is English

English is the main language spoken in New Zealand. Although Maori is the other major language spoken in the country, very few people actually speak it.

The country’s climate is mild but in the monsoon season, it can get very wet and snow falls in the mountains in North Island as well as in the lower reaches of the South Island.

Research your Opportunities Before Hand

Unlike Japan currently, New Zealand is facing a mini economic crisis. So, if you are moving there, then it may be hard for an expat like a Japanese person to find a suitable job.

So, be sure to research your options before making the move. To get a good job, you need to know the English language well because finding work without a good working knowledge of the language is almost impossible. There may be some companies who look for employees who speak Japanese.

Emigration Requirements

When applying for a resident visa, you need to show that you and your family are healthy. A medical examination may be required.

Once you gain your permanent resident visa, you can then avail of an excellent healthcare system. When looking for accommodation, you will need to deal with periodic tenancy. In periodic tenancy, there is no fixed time scale and a three-month notice will be required if you want to leave your accommodation.

Consult the Expat Info Desk Expat Guide

Finally, before moving to New Zealand from Japan you should find out more about how to relocate efficiently. A guide can show you how to settle into your new life.

You should also find a guide that shows you which the best areas to live in the country are. Also, these guides will also show you where to meet like-minded people and which schools are most suitable for your children. The Expat Info Desk expat guide is a book that can provide you with all this useful information.

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Sights

Kanagawa is a coastal prefecture in Japan, located within a short distance of Tokyo. The capital of the prefecture is Yokohama. 

Kanagawa Prefecture is also home to Kamakura and Hakone, two other highly popular day trip destinations that you can easily reach from Tokyo.

Kanagawa has a lot to offer for visitors to the region, such as rich cultural heritage, tasty cuisine and entertaining nightlife. It's worth spending some time here and exploring this unique area of Japan. 

Within this helpful travel guide I will unearth the hidden gems that are worth discovering around the Kanagawa Prefecture.

Here are the Hidden Gems of the Kanagawa Prefecture Yokohama, the Capital of Kanagawa

Start your journey to Kanagawa Prefecture by visiting the city of Yokohama. 

Yokohama is one of the largest cities in Japan. At the end of the Edo period in 1859, the city port opened to foreign trade, and Yokohama grew quickly from a small fishing community into one of Japan's major port cities

Yokohama remains popular among expats and international communities as it is seen to be the first city in Japan that opened to the outside world. 

This is one of the reasons why international sports is popular in Yokohama, and you can find big stadiums with local teams, such as baseball, soccer and rugby there. 

Additionally, international cuisine and nightlife are popular in Yokohama, making this an exciting city to visit on a trip to Japan. 

Getting to Yokohama

The quickest way to Yokohama is by the Tokaido Shinkansen, a high-speed rail line which stops at Shin-Yokohama Station. 

The rail line connects the city of Yokohama to many major cities around Japan, such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya and Osaka. Journey time from Tokyo to Shin-Yokohama Station is around 18 minutes. 

Another alternative is Yokohama Station which is the most popular and affordable option for reaching Yokohama from Tokyo with a journey time of around 45 minutes. 

It's a popular commuter route and over two million passengers take this journey daily so bear in mind the busy commuter times as it can get crowded.

If you fly into Tokyo Haneda International Airport, you can easily take the Keikyu Line to Yokohama Station, and the journey time is around 23 minutes. 

Whilst in Yokohama, it's easy and affordable to get around using the public metro service called the Yokohama Municipal Subway. Both the Minatomirai Line and Kanazawa Seaside Line will help you to access many of the main sites, areas and attractions in the city.

As you can see from the suggestions above, Yokohama is easily accessible from Tokyo by using a number of different options, so you have no excuse not to visit. 

Accommodation: Y's Cabin hotel – Kannai, Yokohama

If you're looking for something different and a unique Japanese place to stay in Yokohama, why not try a capsule hotel?

Y's Cabin hotel can be found in the Kannai district of Yokohama, and it makes a great base location for your visit to Kanagawa Prefecture with easy access to public transport. 

In the late 1970s, capsule hotels became popular options for Japanese salarymen who happened to miss trains home or were away on business looking for affordable sleeping arrangements. In recent years, capsule hotels have also become popular amongst international travellers looking for affordable budget options. 

Capsule hotels work in a similar way to hostels where you share a large common room space (male and female sleeping areas and bathroom sections are separated), and each guest is assigned a personal private space called a pod. Within each pod you will find your bed, sheets, PJ's, towel, locker storage, TV and privacy shade – everything you would need to make your stay comfortable. It's your own private pod that you have to yourself to get a good night’s sleep. 

I would class Y's Cabin hotel as a more upscale luxury version of the capsule hotel concept as the cabin space is modern and clean and makes for a wonderful first capsule hotel experience. 

You also have access to private hot bath called onsen where you can relax after a long day of traveling around Kanagawa Prefecture. 

If it's your first stay at a capsule hotel, be sure to observe the rules and customs and follow the instructions given to you by the staff members at check in. Enjoy your stay in this unique Japanese environment. 

Rugby World Cup 2019 in Yokohama, Japan

Japan will host the Rugby World Cup in 2019, and Yokohama will be a host city for some of the biggest games of the tournament. The games will be held at the International Stadium, Yokohama.

- New Zealand vs South Africa - 21/09/2019 @ 18:45

- Ireland vs Scotland - 22/09/2019 @ 16:45

- England vs France - 12/10/2019 @ 17:15

- Japan vs Scotland - 13/10/2019 @ 19:45

Additionally, there will be Quarter Final and Semi Final games held in Yokohama. Yokohama is known for being a popular city for hosting sports events so be sure to stick around in the city after the game and enjoy the atmosphere of the fan zone area. 

The Cupnoodles Museum, Yokohama

Yes, you read the title correctly. You can visit a museum in Yokohama to learn about the history of the popular Japanese snack, the cup noodles. 

Momofuku Ando is the creator and founder of the instant ramen noodles and cup noodles. At the museum you can learn about his creative process that started in his work shed and lead to these great food inventions. The first instant ramen noodles (chicken flavour) were sold in 1958, and the convenient snack grew in popularity in both Japan and around the world ever since. 

After a trip to California, Momofuku Ando decided to create instant ramen noodles served in a cup to make the snack easier to consume and attract an international audience. Launched in 1971, the cup noodles were a big success, and the instant ramen cup noodles concept has been popular ever since. 

The fun doesn't stop there. Once you've learned about the history of the cup noodles, you can make your very own cup noodles to take home with you. Be sure to visit My Cupnoodles Factory and create cup noodles from scratch. You can choose your own ingredients and packaging design. It’s a super fun experience for ramen noodle fans of all ages! 

Momofuku Ando travelled the world to find new flavours and concepts for his instant ramen noodles. Be sure to visit the Noodles Bazaar to follow his ramen journey. The menu features eight varieties of noodles that he encountered during his travels in search of the origins of noodles. 

Enjoy the noodle culture from every corner of the world in an ambient night market setting. From Italian pasta to Malaysian Laksa you can sample all the different flavours and noodle tastes from around the world. 

For those brave enough, you can even try curry or miso flavoured cup noodle ice cream. It’s an acquired taste but worth trying for the unique flavours. 

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum

Don't end your Yokohama ramen adventure yet but head on over to Shin-Yokohama to visit the Ramen Museum. If you happen to be a fan of the ramen noodles, this place will blow your mind.  

The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum is best described as a food court themed around Tokyo, Japan in the 1950s when the ramen dish was first created. The entrance of the food court will walk you through a train station to give you the impression that you have gone back in time. 

Walk around the area and enjoy the displays which give you a nostalgic feeling. It's well designed and put together, and they even have street performers and police officers from the era walking around. You will find a selection of around 12 vendors selling a wide variety of ramen noodles. Each shop represents a ramen shop front. This means, you can try all the different ramen flavours from across Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu in one location, such as Fukuchan, Ide Shoten, Shinasobaya, Keyaki, Ryushanhai and Hachiya ramen.

Simply grab a map, select the ramen you wish to try and then purchase a ticket from the vending machine outside the shop. For those wanting to try all the different ramen bowls during one visit – you can! Each location has a small sample ramen bowl for you to enjoy the local flavours as you can. A word of advice before visiting: make sure that you arrive at the Ramen Museum with an empty stomach as you will be tempted to try multiple bowls of ramen during your visit. Enjoy! 

Enjoy Nightlife in the Noge district

If you're looking for a good time and fancy some nightlife, look no further than the Noge district in Yokohama. I would recommend some spots for you to visit but I personally think it's best to arrive in the Noge district and simply get lost and let the night take over and guide your plans

First off, arrive at Yokocho street which is located along the Ookawagawa River. This street is especially popular for its old-fashioned Japanese atmosphere. Here you will find a large selection of bars lined up against each other in old wooden buildings that bend around the river. Each bar has a cosy space and can only fit around eight people at a time including the bar staff. The bars serve a selection of beer, drinks, cocktails or Izakaya snacks for customers to enjoy. 

It's a fun experience with a small group of friends and you never know where you might end up so choose wisely and have a wonderful evening. What I loved about the Noge district the most was how the bars were different from each other and each location had a local and welcoming atmosphere. It's fun to hop around visiting multiple locations in one night to get the feel of the place. 

I also had a great experience asking the bar staff for recommendations for a place to visit and often the owner would walk us personally to the recommended spot. You get a real sense of community and fun with the locals in the Noge district. 

Explore China Town

When visiting Japan, it must feel rather odd to seek out Chinese culture, but the China Town area of Yokohama is the biggest in the country and a vibrant part of the city to explore. With its bright lights, colourful decorations and tasty dishes, it's worth spending some time here exploring the back streets for a bite to eat. 

Keep a good look out for a long line and this should lead you to a wide selection of tasty steamed buns called Manju that are worth trying. 

Take a Walk Along the Harbour Front

Start your walk by visiting Yamashita Park, which is closely located to China town. Here you will find a stretch of park land located close to the water. This space is frequently used by the locals to relax and exercise – it is a popular running route. Along this path, you can get a great skyline view of the city. In this area you can also find Osanbashi Pier, Hikawa Maru ship and Yokohama Marine Tower which offers a nice viewing platform.

Enjoy a Peaceful Journey Around Hakone

Hakone is located in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park just west of Yokohama and Tokyo. Here you will find Lake Ashi, the Owakudani geothermal valley with hot springs as well as the Hakone shrine

The mountainous town is best known for its endless amount of nature. The trees offer a beautiful autumn time foliage and stunning views of the vast lake. On a clear day you can even see the striking Mount Fuji in the background. 

In Hakone you can find hot spring resorts (onsen) created from the sulphur springs of the Owakudani valley. Another stunning place to check out is the Hakone Shrine, a Shinto shrine with a red “torii” gate overlooking Lake Ashi. The shrine can also be enjoyed from the boat cruise at a distance. 

Purchase a Hakone Free Pass – Hakone Transport Pass

For those visiting Hakone, be sure to check out the Hakone Free Pass which is a great way for travelers on a budget to explore the region. The Hakone Free Pass is valid for 2 days and you can purchase the pass at Odawara railway station. You can reach the station from Yokohama or Tokyo. 

The Hakone Free Pass gives you unlimited transportation on the Hakone Tozan railway, Hakone Tozan buses, the Hakone Tozan cable car, Hakone ropeway, Hakone Sightseeing Cruise, Odakyu Hakone Expressway buses and Numazu Tozan Tokai buses. The pass pretty much covers your whole journey around Hakone and will take you to all the top attractions making navigation nice and easy. 

Be sure to pick up a map with the timetables and work out your best route – you can travel around in a loop formation trying all the transportation options with the pass. My recommendation is to arrive early at Odawara railway station to collect your pass and take the Hakone Tozan railway to access the Hakone ropeway. The ropeway then brings you to a Sightseeing Cruise and onwards to Odawara by bus creating a nice loop route that covers all the main sights. 

As the Hakone Free Pass covers 2 days you can also stay overnight at one of the onsen resorts and enjoy the area longer – the option is yours. 

Hakone Tozan Railway

Being the only mountain railway in Japan, Hakone Tozan railway is a special experience for Japanese railway lovers and enthusiasts. The journey will take you from Hakone-Yumoto station (96 meters above sea level) to the final station, Gora (541 meters above sea level). The journey time to the top of the mountain is around 40 minutes. During the journey the trains will perform a track manoeuvre called a switchback. 

What is a switchback? Great question. I'll do my best to explain this unique train ritual. A switchback allows other trains to pass by on a single track as they go up and down the mountain. 

This is done by the drivers reserving the train into a parking bay to allow other trains to pass and switch the direction of the trains. Each time this happens, the driver and conductor switch compartments, and this occurs several times throughout the journey. 

It's rather interesting to watch the driver and conductor perform this unique routine that has been done this way for many years whilst enjoying the journey up to the mountain. It's for sure a unique train journey to enjoy in Japan. 

Owakudani – Geothermal Valley

From Gora to Sounzan you can take a transporter up the hill to reach the cable car. From Sounzan to Owakudani you can take the Tozan cable car to reach this point. Once you've finally reached Owakudani, be sure to spend some time here as you can find a selection of viewing platforms and take a good look of the surrounding valley and the geothermal activity that is taking place in the area. 

You can clearly see all the steam created from the hot active lava of the volcano. This is why one of the most popular attractions in the area is a selection of naturally heated hot springs called onsen. 

Another popular attraction to enjoy here is the black egg called Kuro Tamago. The egg is cooked in a geothermal spring until the egg goes black. You can purchase the eggs in the visitor centre in a bag of five. Locals believe that if you eat a black egg, you can add seven years of longevity to your life. Don't eat too many!

The Hakone ropeway offers stunning views over the valley and of the autumn foliage. The ropeway will take you from Owakudan to Togendai where you can access the cruise boats that will furthermore take you across Lake Ashi. 

Hakone Sightseeing Cruise

Before you get on the cruise boat, why not take a lunch break in the small town of Togendai? It’s located around the dock and looks over Lake Ashi. I would recommend enjoying a Japanese curry at the restaurant Resutoranran located a short walk away from the dock. The best way to enjoy Lake Ashi is to enjoy a peaceful cruise across the waters. A selection of boats run this route which is included within the Hakone Free Pass. 

I'd recommend waiting for the iconic pirate ship if you can so you can feel like a captain of the sea throughout your voyage. This also happens to be the best viewpoint to see Mount Fuji, so fingers crossed for you that you end up with a clear day and can enjoy a good sighting.

Hakone Shrine and the Floating Gate

Hakone Shrine is a Shinto shrine nestled peacefully in the woods on top of a hill

The steps start from Lake Ashi and lead up the hill to the Hakone Shrine. At the foot of the steps you will also find a picturesque floating gate which looks over the lake and makes for a perfect Instagram spot. 

A word of warning if you wish to take a photo of the floating gate: you won't be alone as many photographers line up to capture the moment. You might have to wait for your turn for some time. During our visit in the autumn 2018, Hakone Shrine was under construction but still open for visitors. The renovation should be completed in 2019. 

Hakone Shrine is a peaceful place to walk around for a while so do spend some time here exploring the grounds. You can also purchase a fortune telling slip at the entrance and see if it brings you good fortune.  

The Hakone Sightseeing Cruise stops close by to the shrine and you can stop off in a small town called MotoHakone-Ko for a relaxing coffee break at popular spots, such as Bakery and Table where you can look over Lake Ashi. 

You can also get the bus from MotoHakone-Ko back to the train station Yumoto. From there you can take a train back to Odawara and then onwards to Yokohama/Tokyo, which will complete your loop around Hakone. 

Hope you have fun exploring Hakone. 

Spend Some Time Exploring Kamakura

Kamakura is Japanese seaside city in Kanagawa Prefecture just south of Tokyo and Yokohama. In medieval times, Kamakura was an important political capital of Japan, which is one of the main reasons you will find many historical and important landmarks here, such as Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines. Today, the city is a popular resort town. Sometimes called the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, Kamakura offers numerous temples, shrines and other historical monuments to visit.

Taiizan Kotokuin Shojosenji is a Buddhist temple that is known for its giant Great Buddha, a monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which is one of the most famous iconic landmarks in Japan.

At Sagami Bay you will find the popular visitor spot, Yuigahama Beach which is a great for surfing and catching the waves or just relaxing on the beach. In addition, Kamakura's sandy beaches attract large crowds during the summer months.

Here is what else you can find in Kamakura city. 

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is Kamakura's most important shrine. It was founded in 1063 and enlarged and moved to its current site in 1180. The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the samurai.

During the New Year holidays, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is visited by over two million visitors. It is one of the country's most popular shrines for hatsumode (the year’s first visit to a shrine).The shrine is located along a wide stretch that starts from the water front and leads you through the city passing many bridges and gateways. Finally, you will reach a flight of steps that take you to the top of the main hall that overlooks Kamakura from above. A great way to walk around and explore the city. 

The hall also includes a museum which displays a selection of masks, swords, ancient documents and other treasures.Be sure to check out the large and impressive display of donated sake barrels that can be found on display next to the steps.During my visit I was lucky enough to witness a wedding ceremony taking place at the shrine. It's a popular attraction in the city to explore for sure. 

Houkokuji - Bamboo Forest and Tea Ceremony

For a less crowded bamboo forest than the one in Kyoto, be sure to visit the more relaxing Houkokuji bamboo forest in Kamakura. 

Often referred to by visitors as the bamboo temple, this location can at first be hard to find as it's nestled within a residential area off the beaten path. However, you will be beating the crowds that can often found at other bamboo forests. 

Walk around and enjoy the ambiance and relaxing atmosphere of the bamboo forest. Be sure to take a seat and take in your surroundings at the tea house and enjoy a casual tea ceremony. The tea is bitter but tasty with home-made sweet treats. 

Sit back, relax and take it all in. Perfect spot for those wanting some inner peace.

Cooking Knives at Sword Masamune

You will find a lot of historical heritage in the city of Kamakura but for a unique experience be sure to visit the cooking knives shop called Sword Masamune. 

In ancient times this shop used to make swords for the samurai, and the skill of sword making has been passed on through the family. 

The current owner is an 8th generation swordsmith but as the samurai are no longer around today, the swordsmith skill has moved on to making everyday kitchen knives. 

Be sure to visit the shop, meet the owner, and check out this unique workshop and swords on display. Why not take a part of Japanese skill home with you and purchase an authentic Japanese kitchen knife? From fish knives to vegetable knives, they have a large selection to choose from.

These knives are top quality and extremely sharp, just like the samurai swords. Perfect way to remember your time in Kamakura, Japan. 

Okonomiyaki Kamakura Tsukui for Lunch

Making Okonomiyaki is a fun cooking experience with a group of friends when traveling around Japan. Made popular in Osaka, you can still find this food being prepared in other parts of Japan like in Kamakura at a restaurant called Okonomiyaki Kamakura Tsukui. 

The idea is to mix eggs with vegetables, such as bean sprouts, and a seafood, such as squid and shrimps. 

Then you cook the mixture in front of you on a hot plate grill until the food turns crispy golden brown. Once cooked, you can add fish flakes and sauce in the mix for additional flavour. 

This is an interactive Japanese cooking experience which is fun to try with friends. Most importantly, the food is extremely delicious, something you must try on a trip to Japan. 

Kamakura Shopping Along Komachi-dori Street

Before you leave Kamakura, be sure to make the most out of all the exciting shopping that can be found along Komachi-dori Street. 

Starting from Kamakura JR station you will find the entrance marked by a red torii gate. Along this popular street you can find a large selection of boutique fashion outlets, Japanese souvenir gift shops and countless cafes, restaurants and bakeries to choose from.

Komachi-dori Street is also a good spot to find Kimono rental shops. Walking around in this traditional piece of clothing can be a fun way to explore ancient Kamakura.

Thank you for reading about Kanagawa Prefecture

I hope you've found this in-depth travel guide about Kanagawa Prefecture useful and full of information for your next visit to the region. 

Have fun exploring the areas of Yokohama, Hakone and Kamakura on your next trip to Japan.

Travel tip shared by Dave for Travel..

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Travel Dudes By Melvin by Apartmentbarcelona - 2w ago

We don’t blame you if sampling Barcelona’s tapas is the first thing on your mind as soon as you touch down in the city. Patatas Bravas, Croquetas, Pan con Tomate, Calamares… our mouths are watering just at the thought!

The beauty of Spain is that you don’t have to burn a hole in your wallet to eat well, especially not when we’ve whittled down the cheapest tapas bars in Barcelona.

A simple rule that usually works: The more locals in the bar, the more authentic and nicer the tapas will be! 

Delicious and Cheap Tapas Bars to Visit in Barcelona 1) Bormuth 

Right in the heart of the trendy El Born neighbourhood, Bormuth has been loved by locals and tourists ever since it opened in 2013. If you’re looking to try authentic but affordable tapas in a happening venue, this is where you want to go. As well as offering all the traditional tapas dishes, Bormuth cook a sensational dish of fried aubergine with honey drizzle called patatas ‘mojo picón’ which is to die for. 

Heads up, on a Friday or Saturday night this place can get busy. Go early to avoid any queues, or wait inside with a bottle of wine.

2) Ca’l Chusco

What’s better than cheap tapas? Free tapas! At Ca’l Chusco in the city’s Barceloneta barrio, you can enjoy a complimentary tapas dish with your drink, giving you a chance to sample the menu and work out what you’ll order next time. 

Our recommendation? The bombas (fried potato balls) or fried fish. If you’re a fan of your freebie, you can also order bigger portions of any of the tapas dishes on the menu.

3) Cafè Milans 

With a chilled out vibe, good music, and friendly staff, Cafè Milans offers a fantastic range of exclusive cocktails as well as a myriad of authentic and affordable tapas. What’s more, on a Thursday they invite diners to eat as many tapas as their stomachs can handle, all for €3 a head!

4) Tapa Tapa

Normally we would suggest avoiding chain restaurants in Barcelona, but we’ll make an exception for Tapa Tapa. With more than 50 reasonably priced tapas dishes on the menu, Tapa Tapa’s tapas range from the classic patatas bravas, to Iberian ham croquettes, and offers a wide selection of seafood dishes, salads, meat brochettes and mini tapas dishes to nibble on.

There are more then five restaurants located across the city, all conveniently placed next to Barcelona’s hotspots making Tapa Tapa the perfect place to go after a day of sightseeing adventures.

If you’re in a large group, we recommend booking prior to eating. 

5) Moritz

Devised by the talented Jordi Vilà, Moritz knows good food, and even better tapas. All the dishes at Moritz have been influenced by Catalan cuisine, chef Vilà paying special attention to the quality of the produced used in his creations.

As well as many traditional favourites, the menu here includes beer-based tapas dishes such as the Moritz style ‘siscentó’ tapas. Many of the dishes are also under €6, making this exclusive experience enjoyable for all, no matter their budget.

Pintxos Bars

Pintxos may have originated in the Basque Country, but Barcelona knows how to do them just as well! From the classics to the most creative, pintxos are small pieces of bread with different toppings held together by wooden picks. At the end of the meal, you are charged on how many picks you have left on your plate!

6) Maitea

This tapas bar has a range of over 100 hot and cold pintxos that combine both Catalan and Basque cuisine, Maitea basing their dishes on ‘simplicity, originality, and equality’.

You can only expect the best at Maitea, and the bar has even received a Certificate of Excellence on Tripadvisor. It can get extremely crowded here so we suggest turning up before 9pm. Unsure where to start? Try our favourite pintxo, omelette and piquillo peppers served with a leek and romesco sauce. 

7) Euskal Etxea

This traditional bar in the city’s Old Town is Barcelona’s answer to gourmet pintxos. The restaurant is divided into two sections: a lively bar for casual diners and a more formal area for those eating out. Euskal Etxea offers some of the best ‘tapas on a toothpick’ available in the city, and what’s more, each pintxo costs you just €1.20.

8) Golfo de Bizkaia

Boasting food that has ‘the essence of the Cantabrian in small format’, this charming place is a must if you find yourself in the El Born area- although we reckon it’s also worth walking to wherever you are in the city… With all tapas at Golfo de Bizkaia made from seasonal produce, word has spread fast about just how great this bar is, so be prepared to fight for a table at rush hour. But for pintxos this good, it’s definitely worth it...

9) Irati

After 15 years in business, you know that you’re in the hands of professionals at Irati. Each of their pintxos includes at least four toppings, with the flavours of each ingredient perfectly complementing one another. During its busiest hours, the restaurant dishes out up to 600 pintxos with 50 different varieties, both hot and cold.

A particular favourite amongst locals is the scorpion fishcake with sour cream and egg, and at only 1.95€ a pintxo, we guarantee that you’ll leave Irati with a broken belt hole but not a broken wallet.

Alternative Tapas

10) Mosquito Asian

If you’re sick of patatas bravas and want to experience something a bit different, why not head to Mosquito. The restaurant’s unique twist on a traditional tapas bar sees them create a myriad of tapas inspired by Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean cuisine.

Mosquito’s specialty is Chinese dumplings with the xiaolong bao (steamed pork dumplings), a particular favourite amongst diners. They also serve a delicious selection of noodle, soup and vegetable dishes and a great variety of beers, some of which are even brewed just for the restaurant.

To receive the full Asian tapas experience, your best bet is to go here for dinner when its tapas menu is offered in its entirety. Enjoy more than 20 small dishes, all made from high quality local ingredients which form some of tastiest Asian tapas we’ve ever put in our mouths.

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Kanagawa is a coastal prefecture in Japan, located within a short distance of Tokyo. The capital of the prefecture is Yokohama. 

Kanagawa Prefecture is also home to Kamakura and Hakone, two other highly popular day trip destinations that you can easily reach from Tokyo.

Kanagawa has a lot to offer for visitors to the region, such as rich cultural heritage, tasty cuisine and entertaining nightlife. It's worth spending some time here and exploring this unique area of Japan. 

Within this helpful travel guide I will unearth the hidden gems that are worth discovering around the Kanagawa Prefecture.

Here are the Hidden Gems of the Kanagawa Prefecture Yokohama, the Capital of Kanagawa

Start your journey to Kanagawa Prefecture by visiting the city of Yokohama. 

Yokohama is one of the largest cities in Japan. At the end of the Edo period in 1859, the city port opened to foreign trade, and Yokohama grew quickly from a small fishing community into one of Japan's major port cities

Yokohama remains popular among expats and international communities as it is seen to be the first city in Japan that opened to the outside world. 

This is one of the reasons why international sports is popular in Yokohama, and you can find big stadiums with local teams, such as baseball, soccer and rugby there. 

Additionally, international cuisine and nightlife are popular in Yokohama, making this an exciting city to visit on a trip to Japan. 

Getting to Yokohama

The quickest way to Yokohama is by the Tokaido Shinkansen, a high-speed rail line which stops at Shin-Yokohama Station. 

The rail line connects the city of Yokohama to many major cities around Japan, such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Nagoya and Osaka. Journey time from Tokyo to Shin-Yokohama Station is around 18 minutes. 

Another alternative is Yokohama Station which is the most popular and affordable option for reaching Yokohama from Tokyo with a journey time of around 45 minutes. 

It's a popular commuter route and over two million passengers take this journey daily so bear in mind the busy commuter times as it can get crowded.

If you fly into Tokyo Haneda International Airport, you can easily take the Keikyu Line to Yokohama Station, and the journey time is around 23 minutes. 

Whilst in Yokohama, it's easy and affordable to get around using the public metro service called the Yokohama Municipal Subway. Both the Minatomirai Line and Kanazawa Seaside Line will help you to access many of the main sites, areas and attractions in the city.

As you can see from the suggestions above, Yokohama is easily accessible from Tokyo by using a number of different options, so you have no excuse not to visit. 

Accommodation: Y's Cabin hotel – Kannai, Yokohama

If you're looking for something different and a unique Japanese place to stay in Yokohama, why not try a capsule hotel?

Y's Cabin hotel can be found in the Kannai district of Yokohama, and it makes a great base location for your visit to Kanagawa Prefecture with easy access to public transport. 

In the late 1970s, capsule hotels became popular options for Japanese salarymen who happened to miss trains home or were away on business looking for affordable sleeping arrangements. In recent years, capsule hotels have also become popular amongst international travellers looking for affordable budget options. 

Capsule hotels work in a similar way to hostels where you share a large common room space (male and female sleeping areas and bathroom sections are separated), and each guest is assigned a personal private space called a pod. Within each pod you will find your bed, sheets, PJ's, towel, locker storage, TV and privacy shade – everything you would need to make your stay comfortable. It's your own private pod that you have to yourself to get a good night’s sleep. 

I would class Y's Cabin hotel as a more upscale luxury version of the capsule hotel concept as the cabin space is modern and clean and makes for a wonderful first capsule hotel experience. 

You also have access to private hot bath called onsen where you can relax after a long day of traveling around Kanagawa Prefecture. 

If it's your first stay at a capsule hotel, be sure to observe the rules and customs and follow the instructions given to you by the staff members at check in. Enjoy your stay in this unique Japanese environment. 

Rugby World Cup 2019 in Yokohama, Japan

Japan will host the Rugby World Cup in 2019, and Yokohama will be a host city for some of the biggest games of the tournament. The games will be held at the International Stadium, Yokohama. 

- New Zealand vs South Africa - 21/09/2019 @ 18:45

- Ireland vs Scotland - 22/09/2019 @ 16:45

- England vs France - 12/10/2019 @ 17:15

- Japan vs Scotland - 13/10/2019 @ 19:45

Additionally, there will be Quarter Final and Semi Final games held in Yokohama. Yokohama is known for being a popular city for hosting sports events so be sure to stick around in the city after the game and enjoy the atmosphere of the fan zone area. 

The Cupnoodles Museum, Yokohama

Yes, you read the title correctly. You can visit a museum in Yokohama to learn about the history of the popular Japanese snack, the cup noodles. 

Momofuku Ando is the creator and founder of the instant ramen noodles and cup noodles. At the museum you can learn about his creative process that started in his work shed and lead to these great food inventions. The first instant ramen noodles (chicken flavour) were sold in 1958, and the convenient snack grew in popularity in both Japan and around the world ever since. 

After a trip to California, Momofuku Ando decided to create instant ramen noodles served in a cup to make the snack easier to consume and attract an international audience. Launched in 1971, the cup noodles were a big success, and the instant ramen cup noodles concept has been popular ever since. 

The fun doesn't stop there. Once you've learned about the history of the cup noodles, you can make your very own cup noodles to take home with you. Be sure to visit My Cupnoodles Factory and create cup noodles from scratch. You can choose your own ingredients and packaging design. It’s a super fun experience for ramen noodle fans of all ages! 

Momofuku Ando travelled the world to find new flavours and concepts for his instant ramen noodles. Be sure to visit the Noodles Bazaar to follow his ramen journey. The menu features eight varieties of noodles that he encountered during his travels in search of the origins of noodles. 

Enjoy the noodle culture from every corner of the world in an ambient night market setting. From Italian pasta to Malaysian Laksa you can sample all the different flavours and noodle tastes from around the world. 

For those brave enough, you can even try curry or miso flavoured cup noodle ice cream. It’s an acquired taste but worth trying for the unique flavours. 

Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum

Don't end your Yokohama ramen adventure yet but head on over to Shin-Yokohama to visit the Ramen Museum. If you happen to be a fan of the ramen noodles, this place will blow your mind.  

The Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum is best described as a food court themed around Tokyo, Japan in the 1950s when the ramen dish was first created. The entrance of the food court will walk you through a train station to give you the impression that you have gone back in time. 

Walk around the area and enjoy the displays which give you a nostalgic feeling. It's well designed and put together, and they even have street performers and police officers from the era walking around. You will find a selection of around 12 vendors selling a wide variety of ramen noodles. Each shop represents a ramen shop front. This means, you can try all the different ramen flavours from across Japan from Hokkaido to Kyushu in one location, such as Fukuchan, Ide Shoten, Shinasobaya, Keyaki, Ryushanhai and Hachiya ramen.

Simply grab a map, select the ramen you wish to try and then purchase a ticket from the vending machine outside the shop. For those wanting to try all the different ramen bowls during one visit – you can! Each location has a small sample ramen bowl for you to enjoy the local flavours as you can. A word of advice before visiting: make sure that you arrive at the Ramen Museum with an empty stomach as you will be tempted to try multiple bowls of ramen during your visit. Enjoy! 

Enjoy Nightlife in the Noge district

If you're looking for a good time and fancy some nightlife, look no further than the Noge district in Yokohama. I would recommend some spots for you to visit but I personally think it's best to arrive in the Noge district and simply get lost and let the night take over and guide your plans

First off, arrive at Yokocho street which is located along the Ookawagawa River. This street is especially popular for its old-fashioned Japanese atmosphere. Here you will find a large selection of bars lined up against each other in old wooden buildings that bend around the river. Each bar has a cosy space and can only fit around eight people at a time including the bar staff. The bars serve a selection of beer, drinks, cocktails or Izakaya snacks for customers to enjoy. 

It's a fun experience with a small group of friends and you never know where you might end up so choose wisely and have a wonderful evening. What I loved about the Noge district the most was how the bars were different from each other and each location had a local and welcoming atmosphere. It's fun to hop around visiting multiple locations in one night to get the feel of the place. 

I also had a great experience asking the bar staff for recommendations for a place to visit and often the owner would walk us personally to the recommended spot. You get a real sense of community and fun with the locals in the Noge district. 

Explore China Town

When visiting Japan, it must feel rather odd to seek out Chinese culture, but the China Town area of Yokohama is the biggest in the country and a vibrant part of the city to explore. With its bright lights, colourful decorations and tasty dishes, it's worth spending some time here exploring the back streets for a bite to eat. 

Keep a good look out for a long line and this should lead you to a wide selection of tasty steamed buns called Manju that are worth trying. 

Take a Walk Along the Harbour Front

Start your walk by visiting Yamashita Park, which is closely located to China town. Here you will find a stretch of park land located close to the water. This space is frequently used by the locals to relax and exercise – it is a popular running route. Along this path, you can get a great skyline view of the city. In this area you can also find Osanbashi Pier, Hikawa Maru ship and Yokohama Marine Tower which offers a nice viewing platform.

Enjoy a Peaceful Journey Around Hakone

Hakone is located in the Fuji-Hakone-Izu National Park just west of Yokohama and Tokyo. Here you will find Lake Ashi, the Owakudani geothermal valley with hot springs as well as the Hakone shrine

The mountainous town is best known for its endless amount of nature. The trees offer a beautiful autumn time foliage and stunning views of the vast lake. On a clear day you can even see the striking Mount Fuji in the background. 

In Hakone you can find hot spring resorts (onsen) created from the sulphur springs of the Owakudani valley. Another stunning place to check out is the Hakone Shrine, a Shinto shrine with a red “torii” gate overlooking Lake Ashi. The shrine can also be enjoyed from the boat cruise at a distance. 

Purchase a Hakone Free Pass – Hakone Transport Pass

For those visiting Hakone, be sure to check out the Hakone Free Pass which is a great way for travelers on a budget to explore the region. The Hakone Free Pass is valid for 2 days and you can purchase the pass at Odawara railway station. You can reach the station from Yokohama or Tokyo. 

The Hakone Free Pass gives you unlimited transportation on the Hakone Tozan railway, Hakone Tozan buses, the Hakone Tozan cable car, Hakone ropeway, Hakone Sightseeing Cruise, Odakyu Hakone Expressway buses and Numazu Tozan Tokai buses. The pass pretty much covers your whole journey around Hakone and will take you to all the top attractions making navigation nice and easy. 

Be sure to pick up a map with the timetables and work out your best route – you can travel around in a loop formation trying all the transportation options with the pass. My recommendation is to arrive early at Odawara railway station to collect your pass and take the Hakone Tozan railway to access the Hakone ropeway. The ropeway then brings you to a Sightseeing Cruise and onwards to Odawara by bus creating a nice loop route that covers all the main sights. 

As the Hakone Free Pass covers 2 days you can also stay overnight at one of the onsen resorts and enjoy the area longer – the option is yours. 

Hakone Tozan Railway

Being the only mountain railway in Japan, Hakone Tozan railway is a special experience for Japanese railway lovers and enthusiasts. The journey will take you from Hakone-Yumoto station (96 meters above sea level) to the final station, Gora (541 meters above sea level). The journey time to the top of the mountain is around 40 minutes. During the journey the trains will perform a track manoeuvre called a switchback. 

What is a switchback? Great question. I'll do my best to explain this unique train ritual. A switchback allows other trains to pass by on a single track as they go up and down the mountain. 

This is done by the drivers reserving the train into a parking bay to allow other trains to pass and switch the direction of the trains. Each time this happens, the driver and conductor switch compartments, and this occurs several times throughout the journey. 

It's rather interesting to watch the driver and conductor perform this unique routine that has been done this way for many years whilst enjoying the journey up to the mountain. It's for sure a unique train journey to enjoy in Japan. 

Owakudani – Geothermal Valley

From Gora to Sounzan you can take a transporter up the hill to reach the cable car. From Sounzan to Owakudani you can take the Tozan cable car to reach this point. Once you've finally reached Owakudani, be sure to spend some time here as you can find a selection of viewing platforms and take a good look of the surrounding valley and the geothermal activity that is taking place in the area. 

You can clearly see all the steam created from the hot active lava of the volcano. This is why one of the most popular attractions in the area is a selection of naturally heated hot springs called onsen. 

Another popular attraction to enjoy here is the black egg called Kuro Tamago. The egg is cooked in a geothermal spring until the egg goes black. You can purchase the eggs in the visitor centre in a bag of five. Locals believe that if you eat a black egg, you can add seven years of longevity to your life. Don't eat too many!

The Hakone ropeway offers stunning views over the valley and of the autumn foliage. The ropeway will take you from Owakudan to Togendai where you can access the cruise boats that will furthermore take you across Lake Ashi. 

Hakone Sightseeing Cruise

Before you get on the cruise boat, why not take a lunch break in the small town of Togendai? It’s located around the dock and looks over Lake Ashi. I would recommend enjoying a Japanese curry at the restaurant Resutoranran located a short walk away from the dock. The best way to enjoy Lake Ashi is to enjoy a peaceful cruise across the waters. A selection of boats run this route which is included within the Hakone Free Pass. 

I'd recommend waiting for the iconic pirate ship if you can so you can feel like a captain of the sea throughout your voyage. This also happens to be the best viewpoint to see Mount Fuji, so fingers crossed for you that you end up with a clear day and can enjoy a good sighting.

Hakone Shrine and the Floating Gate

Hakone Shrine is a Shinto shrine nestled peacefully in the woods on top of a hill

The steps start from Lake Ashi and lead up the hill to the Hakone Shrine. At the foot of the steps you will also find a picturesque floating gate which looks over the lake and makes for a perfect Instagram spot. 

A word of warning if you wish to take a photo of the floating gate: you won't be alone as many photographers line up to capture the moment. You might have to wait for your turn for some time. During our visit in the autumn 2018, Hakone Shrine was under construction but still open for visitors. The renovation should be completed in 2019. 

Hakone Shrine is a peaceful place to walk around for a while so do spend some time here exploring the grounds. You can also purchase a fortune telling slip at the entrance and see if it brings you good fortune.  

The Hakone Sightseeing Cruise stops close by to the shrine and you can stop off in a small town called MotoHakone-Ko for a relaxing coffee break at popular spots, such as Bakery and Table where you can look over Lake Ashi. 

You can also get the bus from MotoHakone-Ko back to the train station Yumoto. From there you can take a train back to Odawara and then onwards to Yokohama/Tokyo, which will complete your loop around Hakone. 

Hope you have fun exploring Hakone. 

Spend Some Time Exploring Kamakura

Kamakura is Japanese seaside city in Kanagawa Prefecture just south of Tokyo and Yokohama. In medieval times, Kamakura was an important political capital of Japan, which is one of the main reasons you will find many historical and important landmarks here, such as Buddhist Zen temples and Shinto shrines. Today, the city is a popular resort town. Sometimes called the Kyoto of Eastern Japan, Kamakura offers numerous temples, shrines and other historical monuments to visit.

Taiizan Kotokuin Shojosenji is a Buddhist temple that is known for its giant Great Buddha, a monumental outdoor bronze statue of Amida Buddha, which is one of the most famous iconic landmarks in Japan.

At Sagami Bay you will find the popular visitor spot, Yuigahama Beach which is a great for surfing and catching the waves or just relaxing on the beach. In addition, Kamakura's sandy beaches attract large crowds during the summer months.

Here is what else you can find in Kamakura city. 

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is Kamakura's most important shrine. It was founded in 1063 and enlarged and moved to its current site in 1180. The shrine is dedicated to Hachiman, the patron god of the samurai.

During the New Year holidays, Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is visited by over two million visitors. It is one of the country's most popular shrines for hatsumode (the year’s first visit to a shrine).The shrine is located along a wide stretch that starts from the water front and leads you through the city passing many bridges and gateways. Finally, you will reach a flight of steps that take you to the top of the main hall that overlooks Kamakura from above. A great way to walk around and explore the city. 

The hall also includes a museum which displays a selection of masks, swords, ancient documents and other treasures.Be sure to check out the large and impressive display of donated sake barrels that can be found on display next to the steps.During my visit I was lucky enough to witness a wedding ceremony taking place at the shrine. It's a popular attraction in the city to explore for sure. 

Houkokuji - Bamboo Forest and Tea Ceremony

For a less crowded bamboo forest than the one in Kyoto, be sure to visit the more relaxing Houkokuji bamboo forest in Kamakura. 

Often referred to by visitors as the bamboo temple, this location can at first be hard to find as it's nestled within a residential area off the beaten path. However, you will be beating the crowds that can often found at other bamboo forests. 

Walk around and enjoy the ambiance and relaxing atmosphere of the bamboo forest. Be sure to take a seat and take in your surroundings at the tea house and enjoy a casual tea ceremony. The tea is bitter but tasty with home-made sweet treats. 

Sit back, relax and take it all in. Perfect spot for those wanting some inner peace.

Cooking Knives at Sword Masamune

You will find a lot of historical heritage in the city of Kamakura but for a unique experience be sure to visit the cooking knives shop called Sword Masamune. 

In ancient times this shop used to make swords for the samurai, and the skill of sword making has been passed on through the family. 

The current owner is an 8th generation swordsmith but as the samurai are no longer around today, the swordsmith skill has moved on to making everyday kitchen knives. 

Be sure to visit the shop, meet the owner, and check out this unique workshop and swords on display. Why not take a part of Japanese skill home with you and purchase an authentic Japanese kitchen knife? From fish knives to vegetable knives, they have a large selection to choose from.

These knives are top quality and extremely sharp, just like the samurai swords. Perfect way to remember your time in Kamakura, Japan. 

Okonomiyaki Kamakura Tsukui for Lunch

Making Okonomiyaki is a fun cooking experience with a group of friends when traveling around Japan. Made popular in Osaka, you can still find this food being prepared in other parts of Japan like in Kamakura at a restaurant called Okonomiyaki Kamakura Tsukui. 

The idea is to mix eggs with vegetables, such as bean sprouts, and a seafood, such as squid and shrimps. 

Then you cook the mixture in front of you on a hot plate grill until the food turns crispy golden brown. Once cooked, you can add fish flakes and sauce in the mix for additional flavour. 

This is an interactive Japanese cooking experience which is fun to try with friends. Most importantly, the food is extremely delicious, something you must try on a trip to Japan. 

Kamakura Shopping Along Komachi-dori Street

Before you leave Kamakura, be sure to make the most out of all the exciting shopping that can be found along Komachi-dori Street. 

Starting from Kamakura JR station you will find the entrance marked by a red torii gate. Along this popular street you can find a large selection of boutique fashion outlets, Japanese souvenir gift shops and countless cafes, restaurants and bakeries to choose from.

Komachi-dori Street is also a good spot to find Kimono rental shops. Walking around in this traditional piece of clothing can be a fun way to explore ancient Kamakura.

Thank you for reading about Kanagawa Prefecture

I hope you've found this in-depth travel guide about Kanagawa Prefecture useful and full of information for your next visit to the region. 

Have fun exploring the areas of Yokohama, Hakone and Kamakura on your next trip to Japan.

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