Highway Bus Travel Across Japan - Part 2

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Highway Bus Travel Across Japan - Part 2

On the third day, before taking the overnight bus to Kanazawa from Kyoto, we have a delicious meal at the Yamatomi restaurant. It serves local cuisine prepared with Kyoto vegetables and seasonal ingredients. Dishes include citrus sudachi and ponzu sauce with grilled matsutake mushrooms; steamed seasonal vegetables and ham; and fresh oyster soaked in vinegar.

The double-decker bus to the ninth city of Kanazawa, called Hokuriku Dream Osaka, departs from Kyoto Station. It passes through Shiga prefecture and Fukui prefecture and heads towards the Sea of Japan. The journey to Kanazawa takes slightly over six hours and includes stopovers. At 5.45am, the bus arrives at Kanazawa Station. So on the third day of this highway bus adventure, we have travelled about 520km and cleared the cities of Takamatsu, Tokushima, Kyoto and Kanazawa.

On the fourth day, we decide to go by highway bus to Chirihama in Noto Peninsula. However, we first go to Kanazawa’s Omichi Market to have breakfast. There are nearly 180 stalls here, selling seafood caught from the Sea of Japan, and locally-grown fruits and vegetables. We drop by the Yamasan sushi restaurant, which opens at 7.30am, and tuck into a sushi rice bowl topped with fresh seafood. The Wajima Express highway bus to Chirihama departs from Kanazawa at 8.50am and arrives at the Nishiyama Parking Area at 10am. We’ve now cleared the 10th city of this trip. What is unique about this area is that you can see cars, as well as tourist and chartered buses, travelling on the Chirihama Beach highway. This is possible because of the beach’s fine sand grain. However, highway buses are not allowed on the beach.

We return to Kanazawa by highway bus which leaves the Nishiyama Parking Area at 10.30am. After this, we head by highway bus from Kanazawa to the town of Shirakawago – the 11th “city” of this trip - in Gifu prefecture. The travelling distance is about 75km and the journey takes around 1.5 hours. This vast area surrounded by mountains has been declared a World Heritage Site. Here, you can see historic villages with thatched roof houses which are over 100 years old.

Next, we travel by highway bus to what is known as “Hida’s Little Kyoto”. We arrive at the 12th city of Hida Takayama at 3.50pm. It previously flourished as a castle town and is known for its specialities such as Hida beef and Takayama ramen. The beautiful city is also featured in Michelin's guide book as a three-star tourist attraction. We go to the Tenaga Ashinaga restaurant and feast on Hida beef sukiyaki and Hida beef steak. At 7pm, the Hidatakayama highway bus departs from Hida Takayama and heads to Nagoya - the 13th city. We arrive at Nagoya at 9.30pm. It is a huge city so there are quite a number of bus routes here.

We decide to travel by the overnight bus to the 14th city of Shinjuku. The Nagoya-Shinjuku route is popular among passengers, partly because of the luxurious Quality Express highway bus. Some of the facilities this bus boasts include curtains, spacious seats with ample legroom and automatic reclining seats. In addition, other perks such as eye masks, earplugs and air cushions are also provided. The bus leaves Nagoya at 11.30pm and the travelling distance to Shinjuku is around 350km. Including stopovers, the travelling time is about 5.5 hours. We reach the East Exit of Shinjuku Station at nearly 5am.

On the fifth day, we travel by bus from the New South Exit of Shinjuku Station to Aizu Wakamatsu in Fukushima prefecture. A one-way trip on board the Yumekaido Aizu highway bus costs 4,800 yen (S$58.73). The bus departs at 7.30am and arrives at the 15th city of Aizu Wakamatsu after 4.5 hours. Before taking the highway bus to the 16th city of Koriyama, we make use of the time to check out the popular Higashiyama hot spring resort. It is about 4.2km away from the station. As it takes an hour to reach the hot spring by foot, we rent some electric bicycles instead and arrive at the hot spring in 40 minutes. We check out the rooftop hot spring and enjoy the spectacular autumn scenery and mountain views.

After soaking in the hot spring, we return to the bus terminal. There is a dining hall beside the terminal so we try some Aizu ramen and Katsu curry before boarding the bus to Koriyama. From here, we board a highway bus which leaves at 4.30pm for the 17th city of Sendai. A one-way ticket to Sendai costs 2,100 yen (S$25.69). We reach Sendai, famous for specialities such as zunda dango, sasakama and beef tongue, at 6pm. The Urban highway bus to the 18th city of Morioka departs from Sendai at 7.15pm. The journey takes about 2.5 hours. We manage to find a hotel to stay the night and later have dinner at a yakiniku restaurant, where we try a local specialty, Morioka Reimen.

On the sixth and final day of this highway bus adventure, we return to the Morioka bus terminal. From here, there are highway buses that head to Kuji in Iwate, Odate in Akita, Hachinohe in Aomori, Hirosaki in Aomori, and one that travels directly to Aomori. To fulfil the condition of clearing 20 cities, we initially plan to take the bus to Odate and then to Aomori. But alas, we find out that there is no highway bus which travels from Odate to Aomori. So we tweak the plan. We will head to Odate, return to Morioka and then take the direct bus to Aomori.

On the sixth and final day of this highway bus adventure, we return to the Morioka bus terminal. From here, there are highway buses that head to Kuji in Iwate, Odate in Akita, Hachinohe in Aomori, Hirosaki in Aomori, and one that travels directly to Aomori. To fulfil the condition of clearing 20 cities, we initially plan to take the bus to Odate and then to Aomori. But alas, we find out that there is no highway bus which travels from Odate to Aomori. So we tweak the plan. We will head to Odate, return to Morioka and then take the direct bus to Aomori.

At 8.20am, we take the highway bus to the 19th city of Odate. The travelling distance is about 150km and the ride takes 2.5 hours. At Odate, before boarding the highway bus back to Morioka, we grab a quick bite at the Shuhoku dining hall, which is operated by the bus company. Its speciality is a dish made from Akita’s chicken. It also sells udon, among other things. After eating, we return to Morioka by bus. The last highway bus we’ll be travelling on for this entire trip, Asunaro, departs Morioka at 3.50pm. We reach the 20th city of Aomori, our final goal of this trip, at 6.30pm. Our six-day highway bus trip, which started in Kagoshima and spanned 2,000km, has finally come to an end!

Tips:

1) Certain bus terminals have dining halls nearby so you can grab a quick bite before boarding the next bus

2) In Aizu Wakamatsu, do make a trip to the popular Higashiyama hot spring resort

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