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

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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.

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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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Jiufen, Taiwan / A Real Life Spirited Away

October 22, 2018

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If you've already seen my Taiwan post, you'll know that Jiufen was one of the main reasons why the boyfriend and I decided to stay in Taipei. Upon making the final decisions for this trip, we decided last minute to spend a night and full day in Jiufen despite knowing that most people generally do a day trip here, instead.

We got there at around 5 pm even though we left Taipei around 1:30 pm or so because our driver got lost taking us to the closest drop off point to our hotel. Tip: make sure you find the best route for your driver ahead of time before going since they will generally just drop you off by the bus station for Old Jiufen Street. For those who've seen snippets of our trip there via Instagram, the place we decided to stay at was called 'The Ore Inn Jiufen.' Since we had booked this hotel at last minute, most of the rooms were sold out. Because of that, we ended up getting a quadruple room that had mountainside views and a bathtub (which was super nice to sip bubble tea in, haha).

After throwing all our things down in our hotel room, we immediately went out and got a spot at Ai-Mei teahouse on the terrace for the best view of the sunset. The sky turned purple and pink and it was so gorgeous. We were super lucky since it was typhooning just the day before and even early that morning.

It probably wasn't a good idea to have tea and sweets on an empty stomach since we didn't get to eat anything for lunch. But that gave us the best appetite to try a lot of the food in Jiufen Old Street that night. On the walk back to our hotel, we stopped at pretty much any vendors that were still open and bought everything to go to have dinner back at the hotel. It was this moment that I realized we made such a good decision to stay while everyone else was rushing to get on the last bus back to the city.

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Wearing Pomelo dress, Common Project sneakers, and Proenza Schouler PS11 Mini with a Fendi bag bug.
The next morning was probably one of the highlights of my trip. We woke up to catch the sunrise, and although I'm not an early riser, it was quite easy to get up since our hotel's window was massive. The air was crisp and the town was really quiet. Something about Jiufen was ten times more charming to me in its early hours rather than its lively night scene that so many of us are reminded of from the famous 'Spirited Away.' Maybe it's the hoards of tourist there at night that really ruined it for me. The roads were small and there were so many people that we were literally moving one step at a time. If you're planning on visiting Jiufen, I definitely recommend just finding a quiet teahouse with a good view to perch yourself there for a good hour or two and really try and enjoy the quaintness of being in a place that feels worlds away.

Shops along Jiufen's Old Street doesn't open until 10 am, and despite that, the place was super characteristic. The second photo that the boyfriend snapped of me ended up looking like a screengrab from the part where Chihiro lost her parents because they turned into pigs from obsessively eating at the street stalls.

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Aside from being able to really get to know Jiufen since no one was around, we were also able to stumble upon cute teashops that had the cutest ceramics and chat with some locals (something that would probably be impossible during the daytime). On one of the strange alleys that we decided to climb through, we found a photographer's studio who was happy to see us and share some of the photos that he has been taking across Asia. He also laughed at us since he was prideful about shooting with only film and developing everything himself-- seeing that the boyfriend and I both had digital cameras.

By 10/11am, the tourists began to show up and shops started opening. We grabbed a quick bite and some taro buns to go and looked for quiet shelter back at the hotel before checking out. I'm glad we ended up staying the night and avoided daytime there since even on the way down around noon, we saw all the traffic jams that took place for those that were on their way there.

Honestly, I'm no expert on traveling, but I do think that the best way to experience a place is to really give it time. If there's a place that you've been wanting to visit, don't just show up for the photo opp, but make a little time to actually stay and allow it to grow on you. And of course, I couldn't advise this anymore for a place like Jiufen.


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






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Taipei, Taiwan

October 11, 2018

3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei, Instagram spots in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY
We booked tickets for Taiwan a month before we actually headed there. Prices were low, and it was a rare weekend where Shun was able to take an extra day off to add on to the weekend. The trip was 3 days and 2 nights and we both had little to no expectation of what was to come (except for all the food we would be eating, this part we were fully aware).

Splitting the trip up by doing the first 2 nights in Taipei and the last night in Jiufen - we pretty much reserved all our time to eating instead of sight seeing. I think we took a cab passed the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall and found ourselves in an alley with a view of the Taipei 101 -- but that was mostly it. The rest of our time was spent obnoxiously eating as you can still catch on my Instagram stories under the highlight 'Taipei/Jiufen'. I pretty much only really remember devouring everything at Shilin Night Market the first night and Raohe Night Market on the second night.

3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei, Instagram spots in Taipei, Taiwan fashion editorial, famous rice noodles - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei, Instagram spots in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei, Instagram spots in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY
Wearing: MINKPINK top from Shopbop, GRLFRND Denim jeans, and Proenza Schouler PS11 bag
3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei, Instagram spots in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei, Instagram spots in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei, Instagram spots in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei, Instagram spots in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY
3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei, Instagram spots in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei, Instagram spots in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY
3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY
3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY
Wearing: Free People Rib Knit tank, old leather shorts (similar here), Common Projects sneakers and Proenza Schouler PS11 bag.
3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY
3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY
3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY
3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY3 days in Taipei Taiwan, Taipei streets, things to do in Taipei, Shilin Night Market, Raohe Night Market, food in Taipei - Taipei, Taiwan / FOREVERVANNY
Wearing: Free People Rib Knit tank, Acne Studios sweater, cotton black joggers (similar here), Common Projects sneakers and Proenza Schouler PS11 bag.

Due to us both not knowing a word of Chinese and playing everything by ears in terms of places to eat/drink, we weren't able to jot down most of the things we love to share on this trip. However, Taipei was so fun that I think we're on high alert for deals back soon. Maybe we'll be able to get to know the place better and share some recommendations next time!

These photos are a compilation of Shun and my own photos since we had our own cam for this trip. It was nice to not have all the photos featuring me for once.


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


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