Japan Day Two (Part 2) – Bullet Train and Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination

This is a continuation of the Japan Trip Report. You can read more here:
Booking Lufthansa First Class Using United Miles
Lufthansa First Class Denver to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt to Osaka
Japan Day 1: Nijo Castle and Kinkaku-ji
Westin Osaka Review

Japan Day Two (Part 1) – Fushimi Inari and Nara

This is a continuation of the Day Two report in Kyoto. After spending some time feeding the sacred deer in Nara, we decided to catch the bullet train towards Tokyo before the sky opened up on us. We made our way back to Kyoto station and picked up our stored luggage before catching the bullet train. This was our first bullet train ride, and we enjoyed it. When the bullet train pulls up to the station everyone quickly boards and finds a seat. In case you can’t tell from the blurry picture – they pull up pretty quick. This was the best picture we could get without risking missing our train!

Our Ride to Nagashima/Tokyo

Our Ride to Nagashima/Tokyo

The train is very quiet, and you will not hear a single person on their cell phone. This went for most of our experience on trains in Japan, actually. The one time we heard a cell phone ring on the subway the guy looked incredibly embarrassed and RUSHED to silence it.

Shinkansen (Bullet Train)

Shinkansen (Bullet Train)

Our JR Rail Pass covered bullet train rides for seven days on certain bullet train types. It did not cover the Nozomi or Mizuho, which are the fastest trains. But the trains it covered were plenty fast!

During my research on Japan I came across an article on cnn.com about an amazing winter light show in Japan. When I looked up where it was located, it seemed most efficient to stop there on our way to Tokyo from Kyoto. We got off the bullet train in Nagoya, stored our luggage there and took a bus to Nabana no Sato. We had a very hard time finding where to catch the bus from Nagoya and a couple people we asked spoke no English (but were very friendly/polite). We finally caught a guy who spoke perfect English and was able to direct us outside the station to the bus station. The other transportation option we had considered was taking a local train from Nagoya to Nagashima and then a shorter bus ride from there.

After a 30 minute or so bus ride, we arrived at Nabana no Sato. Nabana no Sato is a botanical garden that puts up an amazing winter light display starting mid-November. Admission was 2000 yen (~$20) but also included two 500 yen certificates for use towards food inside the park. So really it was more like $10. It was entirely worth going out of our way to get there.

When you enter the park, there are clear paths people were following to see the lights. The path brought us to a gorgeous light tunnel.

Light Tunnel Nabana no Sato

Light Tunnel Nabana no Sato

Following the path further brings you to the main attraction – a HUGE light display of Mount Fuji. The lights were synchronized to music and changed to represent all of the various seasons. It was gorgeous.

Mt. Fuji Cherry Blossom Display at Nabana no Sato

Mt. Fuji Cherry Blossom Display at Nabana no Sato

For an idea of scale, the tiny black shapes in the bottom of the picture are people’s heads. The display was huge and breathtaking.

Nabana no Sato Mt. Fuji Display

Nabana no Sato Mt. Fuji Display

Even though it was cold out and somewhat difficult to navigate to, we were so happy we made the effort to go to Nabana no Sato. We loved the light displays. Following the Mt. Fuji display, we entered another light tunnel – this time representing fall.

Nabana no Sato Light Tunnel

Nabana no Sato Light Tunnel

There were also lights set up to spotlight the gorgeous fall foliage along the path.

Fall Foliage at Nabana no Sato

Fall Foliage at Nabana no Sato

The path wound us back around to a courtyard with many different food stands. We wandered around and chose one based on a long line and great smell. It looked great and seemed to be very popular. We used the coupons included with admission. Turns out what we chose was takoyaki – also known as octopus balls. They were batter around chunks of octopus. We both tried it but didn’t care for the texture of the octopus.

Takoyaki

Takoyaki

The tiny piece you see on the lid is the octopus chunk that was inside each ball. This was not, however, our final adventure for the night. Our final adventure turned out to be how to catch the bus back to the train station! We found what we thought was the bus stop, and tried to ask a few people for clarification. This was the most difficult language barrier situation we experienced on our trip. We used the Google Translate app to try to help, but it failed in this situation. One bus pulled up, but was quickly full. The bus driver was explaining in Japanese (logically) what would happen since the bus was full. My boyfriend heard someone say “yokatta” which he knew meant “good”, so we figured we were okay. Luckily, we found a younger guy who spoke a tiny, tiny bit of English. He pointed to where we were standing and said “wait”. Sure enough, shortly after that a second bus pulled up.

We made it back to the bullet train and soon after arrived in Tokyo. We had another tiny adventure trying to find the Conrad Tokyo, but managed to make it there as well. That review is coming up next.

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About Rebecca

I'm an engineer who is new to the points game. Hoping to share my discoveries as I collect points to travel the world.

6 responses to “Japan Day Two (Part 2) – Bullet Train and Nabana no Sato Winter Illumination”

  1. nick says :

    I’ve been excitedly reading your blog as I will be heading to Tokyo/Kyoto in March. My gf saw your post on Nabana No Sato and really wants to go. Do you have any advice on how/when to get there? I think we’ll stop by on our way back to Tokyo. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!

    • Rebecca says :

      There’s a few different ways to get there and I am by no means an expert! We took the bullet train from Kyoto and then transferred to a bus – we had to walk down the block to get to the bus station. We didn’t quite plan our train ride/bus transfer times correctly and wound up rushing – so honestly I can’t really tell you how we got to the bus station sorry!

      Researching now I realized I put the wrong station name up in the post – will edit it. The options we found were bullet train to Nagoya then 30 minute Meitetsu bus ride or bullet train to Nagoya, local train to Nagashima from Nagoya then 10 minute bus. We chose Nagoya and took a bus from the Meitetsu bus center (which is what we had to walk outside to – so I would look up directions to there from the bullet train if you go that route.)

      I believe the winter illumination stops running at some point in March, you may want to double-check that before you go. We arrived shortly after sunset and made sure to catch the 2nd to last bus on the timetable (in case we missed it). The buses stopped running fairly early, so we only had a couple hours there. I think we left around 7pm. But make sure that you are able to catch the bullet train after the bus too.

      Tripadvisor comments on Nabana no Sato also had some directions if I remember correctly. Good luck and enjoy!

  2. dreamies says :

    Hi, I stumbled upon your blog when researching about how to go back from Nabana no Sato. Everyone talks about how to go there but never mentioned how to go back which is something that I’m most concerned about as it will be dark by then. Reading from your experience, I understand that you took Meitetsu bus from Nagoya station to Nabana no Sato. So where can we spot the bus stop for the return bus to Nagoya station? Is it the same bus stop as we dropped off before?

    • Rebecca says :

      The bus picked us up in the same area we were dropped off. There was a small building with benches you could wait inside right next to the bus stop. Most of the people we ran into there were very friendly and willing to help even if they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) speak English. We used the Google Translate app on our phones along with a wifi-hotspot we rented to pull up questions at times (it was incorrect a few times, but helped to get the point across). Enjoy your trip!

      • dreamies says :

        Thanks for answering my question 🙂 One more thing, will there be any English announcement in the bus before the Nabana no Sato stop? Dont wanna get off at the wrong stop.

      • Rebecca says :

        I don’t remember there being any English, but it’s possible there was on the “next stop” electronic sign. I remember it was fairly clear when we got there – that part wasn’t too confusing. It was pretty crowded at the stop with several other buses.

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