Sunday, February 7, 2016

Tohoku 2015 東北の旅 - Toyoko Inn Morioka Ekimae 東横イン盛岡駅前

Stayed 09.10.2015 (Fri)
Booked thru'
- Twin Room = 6,612 yen
- Single Room = 6,372 yen

During this trip to Tohoku, we stayed in Toyoko Inn in three different prefectures (Morioka, Sendai and Hirosaki). Have a good impression of this budget business hotel after my previous stay in Okayama. All the pros I can think of: convenient location, clean facilities, simple yet delicious complimentary breakfast and most importantly all these are a single at an affordable room rate. The design/style may not be the best or most elaborate relative to other boutique hotels, but all amenities are well taken care here to ensure you get a good night rest. My experience with Toyoko Inn hotels has always been pleasant - looks like I have sung enough praises of this local hotel chain. I believe Toyoko Inn will still be one of my top picks for accommodation whenever I stay in a city area.  

European style exterior.
There are two Toyoko Inn hotels in Morioka - stayed in the branch situated in front of the train station. Personally, this particular branch in Morioka has one of the best looking exterior I have ever seen before. Concept of dedicating one section of the lobby as a dinning area for breakfast is the same in every branch I have stayed in so far. Stayed in a single room by myself - typical small sized room with minimal walking space especially after opening the luggage. Did noticed that they did not provide deodouriser in the room; had to request for a bottle at the front desk. Another thing that I discovered (while navigating their webpage) is that Mt Iwate can be viewed from the 14th floor of this hotel. 

Single room

What's nearby?

(1) Morioka Reimen 盛岡冷麺
Originated from Korea, cold noodles has been improvised to become a symbolic dish of Morioka. There are a handful of restaurants within walking distance from the hotel. Wanted to go to Senroukaku (盛楼閣) but it was under renovation on the day of visit. Went to Pyon Pyon (ぴょんびょん) instead, a Korean cuisine restaurant to have my refreshing bowl of cold noodles for dinner. 

(2) Kitakami River 北上川
Woke up earlier than usual to explore the surrounding area before breakfast and chanced upon Kitakami River. Parks are created alongside the river, a similar concept we have in Singapore, where the local community can enjoy their leisure stroll here. Had a good morning warm up to loosen the tight muscles while trying to spot Mt Iwate from afar - Unfortunately I did not manage to witness that on this cloudy day. Instead, spotted a gigantic Iwate's mascot "Wanko" here promoting the annual National Sports Festival of Japan which will be held in Iwate Prefecture in 2016. 

On a good day, Mt Iwate can be seen in the background.
Say Hi to Wanko - the mascot of Iwate Prefecture.

Toyoko Inn Morioka Ekimae 東横イン盛岡駅前
〒020-0034  岩手県盛岡市盛岡駅前通14-5

Monday, February 1, 2016

Kyushu Spring 2014 九州春季之旅 - Maizuru Park 舞鶴公園

Visited 15.03.2014, 26.03.2014

Fukuoka Castle ruins in Maizuru Park.
Luck. The ultimate aim of this trip to Kyushu was to experience cherry blossom season. From late Dec and early Jan onwards, the meteorological center in Japan issues a forecast on the bloom of cherry blossoms and updates the information progressively. Despite efforts to plan this trip based on past years' data, we were still about 1 - 2 weeks earlier than the full bloom period. Visited Maizuru Park on the very first day when we arrived in Kyushu but could only see flower buds. No luck in Ureshino Onsen as well. Nearer to the end of this trip, we finally witnessed the beauty of these flowers in Sakurajima and Ibusuki. On the day before we flew back to Singapore, we made our way to Maizuru Park again and was amazed by the transformation one week later. Was extremely delighted to see the entire park decorated by beautiful blooming cherry blossom trees. 

Day 1: No flowers at all!
Day 12: In time to catch the blooming flowers.
Maizuru Park is one of the most popular cherry blossom viewing spots in Fukuoka. There is a symbol assigned to every station in Fukuoka subway and the nearest subway station, Ohori Park, is represented by Sakura! There are about 1000 cherry blossom trees planted in Maizuru Park and the blooming period falls between late March to mid April. Maizuru Park is also where the ruins of Fukuoka Castle can be found. Series of activities are kicked off during the cherry blossom festival which typically last over a week or so. This is the time whereby people start to flock in with their picnic mats, enjoy their food and drinks while admiring these pink flowers which appear only once a year.

During the festival week, the stage for these flowers are lighted up brightly at night till 2200 hrs. The contrast against the dark skies makes these delicate flowers look exceptionally mesmerizing and endearing. Therefore, do not forget to pay a visit to the park at night to participate in "夜桜" (sakura viewing at night) during the short cherry blossom period. 

Contented to catch a glimpse of these blooming flowers in Maizuru Park just before going home!

Other Sakura viewing spot? Nishi Park (西公園), located about 7 minutes walk from Ohori Park subway station, is also a well known hanami location in Fukuoka city.


Maizuru Park 舞鶴公園
〒810-0043 中央区城内1

How to get there?
By Fukuoka city subway, via Kuko line (orange line) towards Meinohama and alight at Ohori Park (K06).