Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami, Japan

April 18, 2019

Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com

Having been spoiled by the calmest winter I've ever experienced in my life since moving to New York City at 8 years old - I was really itching to see some snow this year in Japan. Upon a quick search, it was easy to locate a bunch of snowy destinations and snow peaks perfect for a day of snowboarding, skiing, or any other winter-related activities within hours away from the center of Tokyo. But I was looking for something a bit more relaxing. Of course, there is no shortage of onsens and ryokans that are available in Tokyo but finding one that was close to some snow took some digging. I came across Takaragawa Onsen and I was immediately mesmerized by the open-air bath. So alas, I dragged my boyfriend here for a weekend get-away to celebrate our monthnaversary (no idea why we still do this after like 6 years, but I know there are others doing this still, so I don't feel too cheesy sharing).

During the booking process, we quickly learned that this onsen actually boasts the largest open-air bath onsen in all of Japan, making us even more excited to see it in person.

Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma station, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comBiggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comBiggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comBiggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com
Neutral winter outfits, camel coat and Dr. Martens boots, Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comCamel coat portraits, wood and glass door close up portrait, camel double face coat, Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com

Getting to this onsen was a bit of a journey though. Instead of using the JR/Shinkansen trains, we got a package that provided a kaiseki-style dinner and breakfast along with roundtrip bus rides from Shinjuku Station. Taking the train would have saved us about 2 hours from the entire journey, but, it would mean that we would have to trek our way to the location of the onsen without their shuttle service. Compared to taking the train, the bus ride lasted about 4 hours total, with stops several times throughout at some pretty cool rest stops. My boyfriend and I agreed that this was probably just as fun as the stay at the onsen to be quite honest. It's not every day that you can take a long drive through rural parts of Japan without worrying about driving and just catching up and stopping for snacks. Plus we actually went on a weekday (Thursday) meaning there was no tourists in sight and only 6 other guests on a 40 person bus with us.

Using the hotel's mode of transport ensured that we would arrive on time for check-in. Meaning we didn't have much time to really explore the grounds before our dinner promptly at 6:30 pm.

Kaiseki dinner, Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comKaiseki dinner, sake tasting, sashimi course, Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com
Ryokan stay, wooden japanese room, Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com
Couple in ryokans rooms, snow window onsen, onsen room with snow backdrop, Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com

Biggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comBiggest open-air bath onsen in Japan. Takaragawa Onsen, Minakami Gunma, Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com

Sleeping early allowed us to wake up pretty early the next morning to go soak in the onsen, finally. To our surprise, there are actually 4 open-air onsens in the vicinity. One each specifically for each gender, and two co-op baths (I believe). The photos above are of me in the gloriously acclaimed "biggest open-air bath onsen" in all of Japan. It was such a cool experience to be able to float around in warm water with snow and a river surrounding me. It was also really calm and peaceful since there weren't many people in around (hence being able to take these photos despite being in an onsen). It is also worth noting that you are given a yukata to wear for walking around and between the baths when you check in. Girls are given a short dress to bathe in the co-op baths too!

Alas, my snow cravings were satisfied and I didn't even feel that much burdened by it - instead, it made me even more relieved. If you're looking for a close to nature experience in Tokyo the next time you visit, then I highly recommend this little gem. I can only imagine how pretty it is during the foliage fall season.

For more of my Japan adventures, click here.



Camera Gear Used: Nikon D600 (body only) with 50mm F1/4 and 24-70mm F3.5 lens.


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Onjuku Beach, Japan

November 28, 2018

Onjuku Beach, Tokyo, Japan, hidden spots that you must visit in Japan, day trip from Tokyo, Sundance Resort Onjuku, Chiba Prefecture beaches, best beaches near Tokyo, winter at the beach, Japanese beaches that you must visit, Japan travels - Onjuku Sundance Resort Japan / FOREVERVANNY

I haven't exactly figured out what it is that attracts me so much to the ocean during the off-season. Back in my teenage years, living in New York, I would often take the D train from the Bronx all the way to Coney Island in the middle of winter, whenever my heart was heavy and my mind was cluttered. I didn't exactly get on the beach. I preferred to watch it from the train platform until my face was cold enough to make me want to go home.

A lot of things have been on my mind as of late, so a trip away from the hustle and bustle of Tokyo was much needed.

I stumbled across a photo of Onjuku Beach a couple of weeks ago by chance. Not knowing that it was so close to the center of Tokyo, I still wanted to just be basking in the sun here so badly. A quick search for hotels by the beach led me to this resort featuring rooms with huge windows that face the ocean. I knew exactly that's where I wanted to be.

It's been a mild fall/winter as of late in Tokyo, so the weather was pleasant enough to stroll around the beach comfortably with a light jacket. The boyfriend and I spent most of the time by the window admiring the drop-dead gorgeous sunset and sunrise, though. Oh and also cheering for tiny people surfing as well. I personally hate getting sand in my shoes and how sticky the salt water makes my hair.

At night, we got picked up by a local fisherman for dinner at his restaurant that probably doubled as his home. The food was good, the drinks hit the spot, but it was his gentle smile and the first thing he said to Shun and me that touched me.

We were walking down from our hotel, and though we were already a couple of minutes early, he was already waiting. We hurried down the steps, just to be greeted with a 'take your time.'

It's such a simple phrase, but something that's rare to hear.

It's something that struck me, in trying to come to terms with all of the losses and changes that I've faced recently. It was a good reminder to take it easy sometime.

Onjuku Beach, Tokyo, Japan, hidden spots that you must visit in Japan, day trip from Tokyo, Sundance Resort Onjuku, Chiba Prefecture beaches, best beaches near Tokyo, winter at the beach, Japanese beaches that you must visit, Japan travels - Onjuku Sundance Resort Japan / FOREVERVANNY
Onjuku Beach, Tokyo, Japan, hidden spots that you must visit in Japan, day trip from Tokyo, Sundance Resort Onjuku, Chiba Prefecture beaches, best beaches near Tokyo, winter at the beach, Japanese beaches that you must visit, Japan travels - Onjuku Sundance Resort Japan / FOREVERVANNYOnjuku Beach, Tokyo, Japan, hidden spots that you must visit in Japan, day trip from Tokyo, Sundance Resort Onjuku, Chiba Prefecture beaches, best beaches near Tokyo, winter at the beach, Japanese beaches that you must visit, Japan travels - Onjuku Sundance Resort Japan / FOREVERVANNY
Onjuku Beach, Tokyo, Japan, hidden spots that you must visit in Japan, day trip from Tokyo, Sundance Resort Onjuku, Chiba Prefecture beaches, best beaches near Tokyo, winter at the beach, Japanese beaches that you must visit, Japan travels - Onjuku Sundance Resort Japan / FOREVERVANNYOnjuku Beach, Tokyo, Japan, hidden spots that you must visit in Japan, day trip from Tokyo, Sundance Resort Onjuku, Chiba Prefecture beaches, best beaches near Tokyo, winter at the beach, Japanese beaches that you must visit, Japan travels - Onjuku Sundance Resort Japan / FOREVERVANNYOnjuku Beach, Tokyo, Japan, hidden spots that you must visit in Japan, day trip from Tokyo, Sundance Resort Onjuku, Chiba Prefecture beaches, best beaches near Tokyo, winter at the beach, Japanese beaches that you must visit, Japan travels - Onjuku Sundance Resort Japan / FOREVERVANNY
Onjuku Beach, Tokyo, Japan, hidden spots that you must visit in Japan, day trip from Tokyo, Sundance Resort Onjuku, Chiba Prefecture beaches, best beaches near Tokyo, winter at the beach, Japanese beaches that you must visit, Japan travels - Onjuku Sundance Resort Japan / FOREVERVANNY
Onjuku Beach, Tokyo, Japan, hidden spots that you must visit in Japan, day trip from Tokyo, Sundance Resort Onjuku, Chiba Prefecture beaches, best beaches near Tokyo, winter at the beach, Japanese beaches that you must visit, Japan travels - Onjuku Sundance Resort Japan / FOREVERVANNYOnjuku Beach, Tokyo, Japan, hidden spots that you must visit in Japan, day trip from Tokyo, Sundance Resort Onjuku, Chiba Prefecture beaches, best beaches near Tokyo, winter at the beach, Japanese beaches that you must visit, Japan travels - Onjuku Sundance Resort Japan / FOREVERVANNY






Camera Gear Used: Nikon D600 (body only) with 50mm F1/4 and 24-70mm F3.5 lens.
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Bloomed

April 14, 2018

KEEPSAKE THIS MOMENT LONG SLEEVE WRAP DRESS, Cherry Blossoms Bloomed in Tokyo, Cherry Blossoms Portraits, Cherry Blossoms Tokyo, Tokyo Spring Style, Red Floral Wrapped Dress, Long Sleeve Wrapped Dress / FOREVERVANNY.com
KEEPSAKE THIS MOMENT LONG SLEEVE WRAP DRESS, Cherry Blossoms Bloomed in Tokyo, Cherry Blossoms Portraits, Cherry Blossoms Tokyo, Tokyo Spring Style, Red Floral Wrapped Dress, Long Sleeve Wrapped Dress / FOREVERVANNY.comKEEPSAKE THIS MOMENT LONG SLEEVE WRAP DRESS, Cherry Blossoms Bloomed in Tokyo, Cherry Blossoms Portraits, Cherry Blossoms Tokyo, Tokyo Spring Style, Red Floral Wrapped Dress, Long Sleeve Wrapped Dress, JW Anderson Pierce Bag / FOREVERVANNY.comKEEPSAKE THIS MOMENT LONG SLEEVE WRAP DRESS, Cherry Blossoms Bloomed in Tokyo, Cherry Blossoms Portraits, Cherry Blossoms Tokyo, Tokyo Spring Style, Red Floral Wrapped Dress, Long Sleeve Wrapped Dress / FOREVERVANNY.comKEEPSAKE THIS MOMENT LONG SLEEVE WRAP DRESS, Cherry Blossoms Bloomed in Tokyo, Cherry Blossoms Portraits, Cherry Blossoms Tokyo, Tokyo Spring Style, Red Floral Wrapped Dress, Long Sleeve Wrapped Dress / FOREVERVANNY.com

Probably the girliest you have seen me in months - but it's pretty hard to resist Spring blossoms in Tokyo and a dress that blends me right in (thanks Keepsake).

Excited to start something new in Tokyo and to be closer to Australia (which means the Aussie brands are so much closer to me now). Hope these images make you want to come to Tokyo for these cherry blossoms next year (because I definitely need to catch them more properly the second time around).



Dress: Keepsake The Label / FSHNBNKR (c/o)
Shoes: Acne Studios Jensen Boots (25% off on Shopbop)
Bag: J.W Anderson Velvet Pierce Mini (new season)
Earrings: Faeber Studios

Photos by Shun S.

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Coffee Shops and Cafes Worth Visiting in Tokyo, Japan

February 13, 2018

8 Tokyo Cafes You Must Visit

For a long time, I've debated on sharing my insights on Tokyo because I feel like a lot of this information have already been covered in one place or another. As someone who really loves coffee, I've always been keen on seeking out cool cafes and coffee shop to visit anywhere that I get a chance to travel to. But when it comes to Tokyo, some of my fondest coffee moments have happened here.

Having been to Tokyo several times and visiting a lot of cafes in the past - I've nailed down my top 8 for you to try if you're heading to Tokyo soon!

しろいくろ
Address: 2 Chome-8-1 Azabujuban, Minato, Tokyo 106-0045, Japan

8 Tokyo Cafes You Must Visit8 Tokyo Cafes You Must Visit
This is one of my more recent finds. It's a cake shop who's concept came about when an architect met a coffee lover.

They both didn't like sweets so they came up with this little shop, whose cakes are fluffy and deliciously unsweetened. They accompanied their cakes with a really solid line of drinks from lattes, espresso, and drip.



8 Tokyo Cafes You Must Visit
Café de l'Ambre
Address: 8 Chome-10-15 Ginza, Chūō, Tokyo 104-0061, Japan

L'Ambre is more of a coffeehouse than a cafe. There's no special latte art or anything Instagrammable - but I promise that if you're a true coffee lover, you'll be thanking me for telling you about this place.

It's just right off of the flashy street of Ginza, which gives it this old-school, hole-in-the-wall that feels like it's been stuck in time since 1945. Here you'll be served 40-year-old beans that get prepared meticulously right before you (if you are lucky enough to grab a bar seat).

Having been here quite a few times already - I've already tried many of the beans, but my favorite drink here still remains the 'Frozen Amber' which is one of the few cold drinks that they have.



Blue Bottle
Address: 4 Chome-1-6 Shinjuku, Shinjuku City, Tokyo 160-0022, Japan

You can never go wrong with a good drip - and Blue Bottle is one of the best, even in the States. They are also the most convenient as there are multiple locations throughout Tokyo.

In fact, they're such a staple that I've actually never really stopped to take a decent photo of one of my pours.





ONIBUS COFFEE
Address: Japan, 〒153-0051 Tokyo, 目黒区Kamimeguro, 2−14−1
8 Tokyo Cafes You Must Visit8 Tokyo Cafes You Must Visit

Aside from its aesthetically pleasing Japanese features, this place's coffee is one that I enjoy with or without milk. I love their upstair's window seat which faces a train track. If you go in the morning, the light shines in so perfect, it feels like you're in an anime.


STREAMER COFFEE COMPANY
Address: 1 Chome-20-28 Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0002, Japan

8 Tokyo Cafes You Must Visit
Streamers Coffee is actually quite popular in Tokyo, for good reasons of course. Visuals aside, I personally really like their 'military lattes' which is a matcha latte with two shots of espresso poured on top. You'll definitely recognize it when you see it.


Mojo Coffee
Address: Japan, 〒162-0817 東京都新宿区 米田ビル 2F
Address: 3 Chome-22-15 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

8 Tokyo Cafes You Must Visit
Of all the places mentioned on this list - this one is probably the most out of the way, but I would make the trip for their mocha, served adorably with a marshmallow on the side. They have a shop in Harajuku but I like the quieter one that's out of the way more. This New Zealand spot is quiet and is perfect for a longer stay. They also have breakfast and a selection of NZ wine for later on in the day.


リシュー (Reissue)
Address: 3 Chome-25-7 Jingumae, Shibuya, Tokyo 150-0001, Japan

8 Tokyo Cafes You Must Visit
Japan is known for its quirks, and this place definitely delivers that in latte forms. Here you can get a 3D latte art created for you on the spot with just a photo. If you search this place up via Instagram, you'll definitely be overwhelmed by the stuff that's been done here. One time, all of my friends got their dog's faces on all our lattes and it was pretty awesome.


Toranomon Koffee
Address: 1 Chome-1-23 Toranomon, Minato, Tokyo 105-0001, Japan

8 Tokyo Cafes You Must Visit
After Omotesando Koffee closed down, they moved over to the Toranomon building. The same concept is kept here with their shop design. Their coffee bean specialty is also the same and they also have some awesome alcoholic-caffeinated drinks.


If you have any favorites of your own - I'd love to know!
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October in December

December 24, 2017

Asymmetric Pleated Skirt ASTRAET Sacai Uniqlo Tokyo Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com
Asymmetric Pleated Skirt ASTRAET Sacai Uniqlo Tokyo Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comAsymmetric Pleated Skirt ASTRAET Sacai Uniqlo Tokyo Japan / FOREVERVANNY.comAsymmetric Pleated Skirt ASTRAET Sacai Uniqlo Tokyo Japan / FOREVERVANNY.com

How fitting is this green for today but also how is it already December 24th? I have no idea where the year went since these photos felt like they were taken just yesterday back in October on Nakano-broadway after I devoured 7 layers of soft swerve on a cone.

I miss Tokyo a lot, and it sucks I won't be able to spend an extended time there again anytime soon.

Hoodie: Uniqlo
Skirt: ASTRAET JP
Shoes: Sacai (similar)
Bag: JW Anderson Pierce

Photos by Shun S.


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Ine-no Funaya, Japan's Venice

December 19, 2017

Ine-no Funaya, Japan's Venice / FOREVERVANNY.com

The last time I visited Kyoto was earlier this January. While researching a few spots to see, I came across a couple of articles about Kyoto's hidden gem --Ineno Funaya (伊根の舟屋). As a sucker for seaside dwellings and lifestyle, this became one of my most sought out places to visit in Kyoto. Unfortunately back in January, the weather was quite unbearably cold and the commute here would take quite a huge chunk of the weekend that I had planned to stay there. So, I wasn't able to make it then. For this time around, I made the stay long enough to have enough time for a day trip here.

I'll admit, getting to this place was quite the trek. I believe we took 4 different trains and 2 buses along the way since we also got lost, and also wandered off. But was it worth it? YES.

There are a few reasons why this place is considered one of Kyoto's hidden gems and one of the biggest is probably due to how tricky it is to actually get here. Located about 130km away from the center of Kyoto, there are barely any tour guides that will reveal this place and there aren't any direct transportations here either. While that sounds troublesome, my adventure here was quite eye-opening. I got to see most of the northern parts of Kyoto via train that I probably would never be able to see. The gorges we passed by were stunning and it was unreal when the train went along the coast for breathtaking views of nothing but the sea and sky. 

Another reason why this fishing village is considered a hidden gem is probably due to its well-kept tradition of life coexisting with the sea, in the forms of living in a 'funaya.' As the name is Ineno Funaya, you can already guess that it is what the boathouses in this village are called. This type of housing existed as early as the 1700s and has been kept that way until this very day. Along the 5km coast, only 230 of these 'funaya' homes stand today and they are all occupied by fishermen and families who actually live there. From the sea, looking into the houses, it's really hard to put into words how beautiful and serene it must be to live with the mountains behind you and the sea right in front of you... And it is no wonder why this place is also sometimes referred to as the 'Venice of Japan'.


Ine-no Funaya, Japan's Venice / FOREVERVANNY.comIne-no Funaya, Japan's Venice / FOREVERVANNY.com

I've warned you already that getting here is not an easy trip - but if you're up for the adventure, or looking for something else to do besides the usual in Kyoto, such as Fushimi Inari-taisha or Arashiyama Bamboo Grove, then read on to see what my itinerary for a day trip here was like.


How To Get To Ineno Funaya
This is probably the hardest part, but also most rewarding if you invest some time in planning. I recommend following Google map as it is pretty reliable. Make sure to always ask train conductors and operators along the way so that you can travel with an ease of mind as you'll be sitting on these buses and train for about 40min at a time without knowing if you're even on the right track.

To search, make sure you put in ' Ine-cho, Kyoto Prefecture' from where you are. The trip itself takes roughly 3 hours and 20min to 4 hours depending on what route you decide to take. There are times for the last bus and train you need to take back, so keep that in mind. I left at around 7:30 am for my trip and arrived at around 11:30 am which gave me around 5/6 hours to explore, eat and wander around before catching the last bus back.


Ine-no Funaya, Japan's Venice / FOREVERVANNY.comIne-no Funaya, Japan's Venice / FOREVERVANNY.com
Ine-no Funaya, Japan's Venice / FOREVERVANNY.com
Accommodations
I decided to do a day trip - but staying overnight is possible. There aren't many tourists that come here, but there are a few really cute boathouses that are open for you to stay the night at, since many people have begun coming here for quiet escapes from the cities. I would recommend staying at '与謝荘 Waterfront Inn.' If I find myself here again in the future, I would definitely stay the night to wake up early and see how the fishermen start their day.

与謝荘 Waterfront Inn
507 Hirata, Ine, Yosa District,
Kyoto Prefecture 626-0423, Japan

Activities You Can Do
Although the village is small and there aren't many tourists, you'll be surprised to find out that there are water taxis that you can take out to sea to admire the view from out there. There are also sightseeing tours by boat which are super relaxing as they are generally small groups. You can also rent bikes to ride around too. And also book a fishing experience as well.

Ine-no Funaya, Japan's Venice / FOREVERVANNY.comWADATSUMI Ine-no Funaya, Japan's Venice / FOREVERVANNY.com
What To Eat
Since it is a boating village, you can expect to find some of the freshest fish straight from the net here. I was supposed to eat at 'Funaya' but decided last minute to dine at 'Wadatsumi 海宮' instead for a more quiet lunch with views of the ocean behind our sushi chef. I later learned that this restaurant took a sea to table approach with a sustainability for the seafood it serves making it even better than what I remembered the meal to be.

Wadatsumi 海宮
593-1 Azahirata, Ine-cho, Yosa-gun
Kyoto Prefecture, Japan


It rained a lot that day so I got to have coffee in a pretty scenic cafe with the boyfriend. It was quite lovely to watch the rain in such a peaceful place.

INE CAFE (イネカフェ)
626-0423 Hirata, Ine, Yosa District,
Kyoto Prefecture, Japan


Ine-no Funaya, Japan's Venice / FOREVERVANNY.comIne-no Funaya, Japan's Venice / FOREVERVANNY.com

Without a doubt, this was one of the places that I looked forward to visiting the most this Japan trip and it ended up to not only lived up to all my expectations and more, but it is one of the best date-day-trips that I can remember with the boyfriend. 


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