Japan is one of our favourite countries. Melody and I travel to Tokyo frequently because it is such a buzzing and lively city. Kyoto, on the other hand, is one with so much hidden charm, so much to discover, so much to experience and take home.
Besides these two major cities, we had always wanted to visit the countryside and to experience a different side of Japan. So, when Apple Vacations Singapore www.applevacations.com.sg approached us to organise a ladyironchef x Apple Vacations Singapore tour especially for our readers, we said yes immediately! Apple Vacations Singapore specialises in mainly Japan tours, and with their in-depth knowledge of the country, they are an ideal partner that we can work with to make this trip possible.
Back in may, we travelled to Japan to curate the best of Mie, Wakayama and Osaka. And come November, we will be leading a group tour to revisit our favourite picks. It will be a 8D6N trip, and we promise nothing but fun. And good food.
Apple Vacations Singapore is offering an early bird discount of S$200/pax (valid for the first 10 signups) for readers of ladyironchef. Should you be keen to join us for this adventure, kindly email [email protected] or call +65 6533 5161 to book your seat.
Below, we share 20 highlights from the itinerary that is finalised by Apple Vacations Singapore and us, and this is what you can expect from our upcoming tour to Mie, Wakayama and Osaka.
1. LIVE TUNA FILLETING PERFORMANCE AT KUROSHIO MARKET
Kuroshio-Ichiba (seafood market) is known for the biggest catches in West Japan. Here, you can taste the freshest and best tuna. There are three live tuna filleting events every day, and it is quite an eye-opening experience to watch the chef skilfully fillet the huge fish. You get to taste them right after they are sliced, too!
2. VISIT TO YUASA SOY SAUCE FACTORY TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE PRODUCTION OF SOY SAUCE
Have you ever wondered how much work goes into producing that few drops of shoyu that you dip your sashimi in? And that ponzu sauce that completes your Japanese salad? Now, you have a chance to take an exclusive tour in the soy sauce factory to understand the making of these award-winning Japanese condiments! Soya sauce is such an integral part of Japanese cuisine, and to witness the production process is really quite enriching.
3. EXPERIENCE FRUIT PICKING
Wakayama is a beautiful area in the Kansai region, and it is perhaps most famous for producing fruits. How much fun it would be to pick strawberries in winter, and melons in summer! Come October, we will have the hands-on experience to pick seasonal fruits too.
4. SPECTACULAR SUNSET AT ENGETSU-TO ISLAND
Off the coast of Shirahama (Wakayama prefecture) sits a tiny island with an outstanding sandstone structure. Perfectly arched with seawater passing through, that silent beauty is a lovely spot to catch the sunset, especially when the rays pierce through the hole; so picturesque.
5. SHIRAHAMA, PRISTINE WHITE BEACH AND ONSEN RESORTS
Japan is known for many things, but we have never associated the country with nice beaches. That was until we set foot on Shirahama Beach. Located on the Western coast of Wakayama perfecture, Shirahama is popular for its pristine white beach and onsen resorts.
6. TAIJI KUJIRA PARK, THE LARGEST WHALE MUSEUM IN THE WORLD
Get up-close and personal with the darling of the sea, and watch performances by these cute creatures. The whale museum is tucked away in a quiet part of Wakayama, but it is nothing short of picturesque and beautiful.
7. NACHI NO TAKI WATERFALL, ONE OF THE HIGHEST WATERFALLS IN JAPAN
This 133-meter waterfall is one of the tallest waterfalls in Japan. And quite arguably the most stunning. Standing from afar, it is a mysterious beauty against the Nachi no To (Nachi Pagoda) and its surrounding lush greenery. But as we climbed the steps towards the majestic work of Nature, what greeted us was an extraordinary waterfall that is so huge that we stood in awe and listened as it therapeutically takes its splashes. We were pretty much lost for words, and this is one sight that you have to see for yourself to be truly blown away.
8. STAYING AT ONSEN (HOT SPRING) RESORTS
So the Japanese are known to be very healthy and boast good skin. Onsen is the answer. For the uninitiated, onsen is ‘hot springs’ in Japanese, and Japan being a volcanically active country is blessed with hundreds and thousands of onsen, all with healing contents from the minerals that have people from all over the world flocking to Japan to stay in one of those onsen ryokan (hot spring resorts).
For the upcoming trip, you will be happy to know that you will be treated to both indoor and outdoor onsen experiences. Just a note that soaking in an onsen requires one to be completely naked, so if you are not comfortable, you can book a private bath at a nominal fee.
9. KAISEKI DINNER
The traditional way to dine, and probably the highest level of artistic dining is what the Japanese call ‘kaiseki’. Combining seasonal produce, precise cooking techniques and acute aesthetical directions, the chef whips up a multi-course Japanese meal to pamper the guest.
More often than not, kaiseki is served in aristocratic ryotei (high-end restaurants), and reservations are always required. But you need not go through the hassle of communicating with the ryotei; Apple Vacations Singapore has taken care of this and our tummies are in for a treat! Get your cameras ready, please.
10. TAKE POSTCARD-WORTHY SHOTS AT SANDANBEKI
Rock walls and majestic cliffs, and an underground cave to relive the ancient times when pirates ruled the area. This is one unique experience of Wakayama and a spot where you can take postcard-worthy shots.
11. MORE PHOTO SPOTS AT SENJOJIKI
Another wondrous creation of Nature, Senjojiki sits against the Pacific Ocean, and this plateau is created by the erosion of ocean’s waves.
12. PITSTOP AT ONIGAJO
With its endless horizon and blue skies, the coastline along Wakayama and Mie reminds me of Cinque Terre in Italy. We had a quick pitstop at Onigajo, which is better known as the Demon’s Castle. According to legend, Oni a monster of ancient Japan used to live in this rugged one-kilometer coastline facing Kumano-nada.
13. SEAFOOD LUNCH AT AMA HUT
One of the highlights of our Apple Vacations Singapore tour was having lunch at the Ama Hut. Ama, for the uninitiated, is Japanese woman shell diver. They specialise in diving deep into the ocean to collect abalone, shellfish and pearls. We enjoyed a delectable seafood spread – of abalone, Ise lobster, large clams, scallops and turban shells – that was prepared on the spot by the ama divers, who all have at least 40 years of diving experience.
14. LEARNING MORE ABOUT PEARLS AT THE MIKIMOTO PEARL ISLAND
Have you ever been curious about the process of pearl cultivation? Our first tour had us blown away by the intricate and enriching process, and this is one pit stop that is indeed unique to Mie. Pearl lovers should prep their credit cards for a round of shopping here, too!
15. VISIT TO ISE JINGU, ONE OF THE MOST PROMINENT SHRINES OF JAPAN
Among the most prominent shrines of Japan, Ise Jingu is one huge land of worship with a very rich history. Take a stroll around the premise where the ancient royal family stayed in, and learn about the Japanese’s religious rituals; it feels like a journey back in time.
16. EXPLORE OKAGE YOKOCHO
A bustling street of local snacks, crafts and little souvenirs. Lines of machiya (old wooden houses) make up the fascinating Okage Yokocho, and a few things to look out for includes Akafuku Mochi, soft serve in a myriad of flavours, and ancient Japanese crafts.
17. TASTING MATSUSAKA BEEF, THE BEST JAPANESE BEEF
We know Kobe beef, we know wagyu, but how many know about Matsusaka beef? Known to be the best in Japan, Matsusaka beef is rare and usually only available in Mie. Perfect marbling that melts in your mouth, no trip to Mie is complete without a serving!
Note: In one of the kaiseki dinners at Mie, there will be an optional add-on for Matsusaka beef.
18. IGA-RYU NINJA VILLAGE, THE LAND OF NINJA
Have you ever been curious about the lives of ninjas? If so, you will have an eye-opening experience at The Iga Ninja Museum. We hopped on a ninja train to travel to Ueno in Mie, where the Iga Ninja Museum is located. There, we learned more about the history of ninjas, and watched a live demonstration of ninja weapons and technique.
19. OSAKA CASTLE
What is Osaka without Osaka-jo? Monumental and dignified, this landmark is a must-visit when in the Japanese city. Note: Entrance to the castle is subjected to availability.
20. SHOPPING AND EATING AT SHINSAIBASHI AND DOTONBORI
Dubbed as the most happening area of Osaka, Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori is an undisputed heaven for shoppers and foodies. Streets after streets, little boutiques and eateries make up the famous Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori – from every lady’s favourite Japanese drug stores, sushi bars and all the Japanese snacks, independent fashion boutiques and departmental stores like Daimaru, you haven’t been to Osaka if you haven’t been to Shinsaibashi and Dotonbori.
LADYIRONCHEF X APPLE VACATIONS SINGAPORE 8D6N TOUR TO OSAKA, MIE & WAKAYAMA
- Date: 1 Nov – 7 Nov 2014 (8D6N)
- Tour Fare: S$2,899NETT/pax (inclusive of airport taxes and tipping)
- Flight, itinerary, hotels, and meals are all included in the package
- Extension after the tour on your own is possible, but there is a minimum surcharge of S$200 by the airline, and this is subject to availability.
- Return flights on Singapore Airlines
- There is an early bird discount of S$200/pax, valid for first 10 readers who sign up before 31 July 2014.
- Sign up for the tour by going to Apple Vacations Singapore’s office at 26 Upper Cross Street, email [email protected] or call +65 6533 5161.
This post is brought to you by Apple Vacations Singapore.