Sometimes I don’t want to tell people about my work because the answer takes some explaining to do. I tell people I’m a writer and they think I write a book or that I write in newspapers or magazines. The only reason I couldn’t give a proper reaction is that I’m always undecided about whether I should be amused or flabbergasted. Really? In this time and age where everything is made available on the Internet, people still confine writers to books and newspapers? Because I am not the writer they think I am, the conversation usually goes longer than it should.
“Nope, I am a technical writer,” I say.
90% of the time here’s how they’d respond,
“What the hell is that?”
I kept spelling it as Righa until I reached the hotel itself and saw its name across the face of the building. Rihga Royal Hotel Osaka is one of the 11 hotels under the Rihga Royal Hotel Groups. The hotel chain can be found in different locations, such as Osaka, Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, Okinawa, Nagano, Ehime, and Kagawa.
For 3 days, our group stayed at Rihga Royal Hotel. It is one of the prominent landmarks in Osaka ideal for its proximity to some places of interest, such as Umeda, Shinsaibashi, Namba, and Universal Studios Japan as well us to the city of Kyoto.
The hotel houses a number of in-house restaurants and shops that sell flowers, clothes, souvenirs, even cars. It has its own shuttle service that can take its guests to and fro the train station. Rihga is over 80 years old and you can see it in the overall design of the hotel. But this is Japan so you can expect to see modern technologies, such as the machine-operated toilet, vending machines and the singing and dancing robot down the lobby.
There are different types of rooms located in three different areas inside the hotel: Executive Floor, Tower Wing, and West Wing. We stayed in the West Wing where the rooms are smaller in size and the room rates are cheaper. The Twin Room, where I stayed with another blogger, is about 32.7 to 44.0 m² in size. It is equipped with two double-beds, an LCD TV, aircon, mini ref, safe, trouser press, adapter, and hair dryer.
Have I mentioned that I have a thing for duvet covers? Yes I do, and Rihga’s beds have them so it made sleeping extra comfortable (that and the fact that the mattress is also quite comfy to sleep in).
My most favorite part of the room is the bathroom, particularly the super toilet. In the Philippines, I’ve only seen this kind of toilet once, and that’s at Salvatore Cuomo. In Japan, they are everywhere, even on public restrooms. The ease of use, the fact that the toilet seat gets warm once you sit on it, made bathroom time a little more fun for me. I know I sound like a cave man, but can you blame me? Japan toilets are amazeballs!
Another thing that I loved in the shower is the toiletries. One of my issues on hotels is the fact that the liquid soap, shampoo, and conditioner are usually not foamy; not at Rihga’s. It was so fun to use them and they come in big bottles that I had to stop myself from taking them home because it would definitely look like stealing, haha… 😀
Rooms have WiFi and the connection was pretty strong so if like me you just can’t wait to post everything on social media then this is something that you’d appreciate if you stay here.
Our stay comes with free breakfast and we had a choice to eat in their traditional Japanese restaurant in the basement or the buffet. I was able to try both. In the Japanese resto, you are going to be served with set meals. Food is good, but not as satisfying as the ones that you can find in the buffet. Rihga’s buffet by the way, is one of the most famous in Osaka so even if you don’t plan to stay at Rihga, you can at least go there to try their buffet. I swear it’s worth it.
I’d give this hotel a 4 out of 5. The staff are very courteous and nice, even the housekeepers who never failed to greet us whenever we pass by, the place is in close proximity to some of the best spots in Osaka, the room is clean, sleeping has been comfortable, wifi is reliable, and the buffet is excellent. I can definitely recommend Rihga to people who are planning to visit Osaka.
Rihga Royal Hotel Osaka
5-3-68 Nakanoshima, Kita Ward,
Osaka, Osaka Prefecture 530-0005, Japan
Telephone no.: +81 6-6448-1121
12 years ago, I used to go to Edsa Shangri-La Hotel. Before you become too impressed, the hotel visit wasn’t anything like you were thinking. What I would do is enter the lobby, appreciate the display of grandiosity of this hotel, then go all the way to the back exit to SM Megamall. That’s it, I just literally used the hotel as short-cut to SM. I kept doing it though because I was drawn to the glamour of Shangri-La like a moth to a flame. Few weeks ago, I was able to return to Shangri-La and I’m happy to report that this time, I did more than pass by in the hotel. Nope it was not a staycation (I’m hoping though that I would get to do that soon 😉 ), I went there for lunch in one of the in-house restaurants of the hotel, the Summer Palace.
In our group of friends, we have a mother figure as cute as a button, but as fierce and protective like a lion. Hence, we call her “mommy,” and she treats us like we were her kids. She is one of the sweetest persons you will ever know, like a justification to her name that is after everyone’s favorite breakfast. She is a mother, a seasoned traveler, a successful businesswoman, and a psoriasis warrior. Meet our latest Travel Bug feature, Mary Jane Pancake Villamater.
Tell us some things about you.
I’m a traveling entrepreneur and a mother of 3 beautiful kids. I’m working hard to achieve my goals and dreams, which include traveling around the world. My name is Mary Jane Pancake, a Psoriasis Warrior, Yes! I am a Psoriasis patient. It developed when I was 15 years old, but I have learned to deal with it.
How many countries have you been already?
I’ve visited 17 countries already.
You travel on your own many times, do you prefer it this way over traveling with companions?
Some people like to travel with a companion, but I like traveling on my own. Even so, I like traveling with my family, and I admit that traveling with friends is way more fun.
Which place do you think is underrated and should be visited by people?
Places that I think should be visited by people are the following:
- museum – to know the history
- market – to know the trading and to learn to deal the local money
- temple/churches – to learn or know about religion
- local community – to practice their local language and to discover the local lifestyle
- restaurant/street food bazaar – to taste the different kinds of local food
- souvenir shop/local factory – to learn about their handicrafts and economies
- post office – to buy or check out stamps
- historical sites
When you go to a place, are you looking for anything in particular?
When I go to a place, I feel like I’m searching for something that I do not know. It is like finding yourself by establishing connection with the locals and learning their cultures, behavior, or even religion.
Where do you usually stay?
I usually stay in suburb places; hostel or a small room for rent.
Have you ever experienced anything bad while traveling?
Yes, in Hongkong. I took the train and saw an available seat. As soon as I sat, a Hongkonger yelled “Ayu ayu” to me. The person acted like I accidentally sat on her finger and hurt her, when in fact she moved across the seat so I wouldn’t be able to sit. I think they mistook me for a domestic helper, whom I heard suffer from discrimination in Hong Kong. So I told them that I am a tourist. Then she wouldn’t stop making all sorts of noise and everybody in the train were looking at me like I’m a criminal. It saddens me to be discriminated and I hope the Hongkongers would recognize and do something about racism in their country.
What is the best thing that you love about traveling?
It develops skills that I didn’t even know I had. It helps me to learn new languages and it gives me a feeling of accomplishment. Meeting new people is the best, as well as pushing myself to the limit. Of course I like being a walking Encyclopedia. Oh yeah, I like tasting the best coffee in every country.
Do you have a favorite destination? Which one is it and why?
My fave destination as of now is Saigon City in Vietnam, the city that never sleeps. Coffee shop is open 24hrs and there are lots of bookshops, restos, and street food. I love it!
You mentioned you have a psoriasis, can you give us a little background about this?
Psoriasis is a long-term disease of the skin; some people can develop psoriatic arthritis. Psoriasis is not contagious. It’s a chronic condition with no cure, but it can be controlled or go into remission. Not all patients have the same experience, doctors will class the condition as mild, moderate, or severe.
Persons with psoriasis face challenges in the workplace. Very few will be given a chance for employment. Once employed, they face a constant threat of losing their jobs once they flare up. I hope more chances will be given to people with psoriasis especially in getting jobs. Because of the negative impact this disease has on patients’ quality of life, 83% of psoriasis patients feel the need to hide their condition. So most of them are scared to travel.
he exact cause of psoriasis is unknown, although it is known that your genetic makeup plays a significant part. It is also known that psoriasis is the result of something going wrong with the immune system, which can be set off by certain trigger factors.
How do you manage your condition when you travel?
Even when I flare up, it doesn’t stop me from traveling. I just cover up my psoriasis by wearing long-sleeves shirts, pants, or leggings. It never bothers me, maybe because I’m used to it. Sometimes, when I feel uncomfortable, I just avoid swimming on beaches or when I do I go night swimming. I also choose a spot with less crowd. I put on sunblock and I never forget to put on ointment and moisturize my skin. I use moisturizer, ointment, soap, shampoo, and conditioner that are not harsh for my skin.
I bring my medical certificate always. Sometimes I can’t avoid food or drinks that can trigger my psoriasis, because as a traveler, I like pushing myself to the limit so I can have more fun. That’s me though, and I’m not saying that everyone with my condition shouldn’t mind about their diet. But basically, it’s never been a problem for me. Traveling with psoriasis is possible as long as you know how to manage it.
Is there any tips or advice you can give to people with psoriasis who may also want to travel?
Don’t forget the emergency outfit; long-sleeves and pants and scarf especially when you’re going somewhere cold. If your psoriasis gets triggered, take your meds (bring your medicine kit and medical certificates) and always wear sunblock lotion.
No one knows exactly what psoriasis is. It isn’t an infection or an allergic reaction, nor is it contagious. So learn to observe your body, know the psoriasis-triggering chemicals or toxic food before you travel.
Keep your skin moist, try not to scratch or pick your skin. Go easy on yourself, don’t worry, avoid the stress, smoking and drinking alcohol, and bring vitamins. Go and visit your dermatologist first and of course learn the style, the color of the outfit that suits you and for girls with psoriasis, never ever forget your concealer.
Remember to moisturize. Applying a moisturizing lotion can help relieve a mild case of psoriasis, especially one that’s associated with dry skin or low humidity.
You love sharing trivia, can you share with us tidbits about some countries?
Most Sheep Per Capita – Falkland Islands (UK): With only about 3,000 people, the Falkland Islands are home to approximately half a million sheep. Understandably, wool is their major export.
Most Languages Spoken – Papua New Guinea: Although English is its official language, only 1-2% of the population actually speak it. As the most linguistically diverse country in the world, over 820 – youth languages are spoken in Papua New Guinea or 12% of the world’s total. You thought it’s the Philippines? You’re wrong hehe…
Roads Made of Coral or country that has no sands? – Guam: Because Guam doesn’t have any natural sand, the island nation makes its asphalt using a mix of ground coral and oil rather than importing sand from abroad.
Largest Country with No Farms? Singapore: Although there are a number of small nations in the world that show no hint of having an agriculture-based economy, (take Vatican City for example) Singapore is the largest of these urban city-states.
Is there any place where you were culture-shocked? Can you tell us about it?
In China, the babies are really adorable but you will notice something different. The infants wear split pants or open-crotch pants. It’s basically a hole in their pants, their cute bottoms are exposed. You may not know, but diapers are rather expensive in China so Chinese will dress their children in these pants so it’s easier for the kids to use the restroom when they need to. In some places, you may even witness children with a shirt but no bottom pants because it’s easier for the parents to clean them up after the kids do their business.
What is the most adventurous thing you’ve done while traveling?
Getting lost in the middle of the night in Panglao, Bohol while riding my motorbike. I left the bar around 10pm, I reached the hostel around 4-5am.
Any smart travel tips you’d like to share with our readers especially to solo female travelers?
To avoid getting lost in a new city, recognize the landmarks, take pictures of every zebra crossing, check the signboards on any public transport, or follow the people. If there are no people because it’s late, go back to the place where you’re staying, or go to the station or terminals, resto or shops, and ask for directions. Always bring maps because most of the time our smartphones get battery drained. Get the contact number of the accommodation where you are staying before you leave. Use GPS always. Lastly, and if there’s no other choice, turn your shirt inside out hahaha…
Author’s Note: In the Philippines, there’s a superstition that people get lost because of elementals. The solution for this they say is to turn your shirt inside out
Searching for accommodation, creating itinerary, filing for leave vacation, and setting a budget are some of the principal concerns of most people (myself included) when planning to travel. In my case, add which outfits to bring on that list. These matters when piled up can be overwhelming, but pale in comparison when faced by a person with medical condition like psoriasis. How can a person with psoriasis prepare for travel? Is it even possible for them to travel given their delicate condition? These are some of my nagging questions when I attended the presscon of Psoriasis Philippines (PsorPhil) and LEO FarmaTM last October during the observance of the National Psoriasis Week. In an open forum, the guest speakers (Josef de Guzman, PsorPhil‘s president; Dr. Ma. Lorna Fernandez-Frez, MD; Dr. Irene Gardiner, MD) offered some tips on how to manage psoriasis while traveling.
Before this, the only thing I knew of Kyoto is the temple famous for the orange torii gates. Because I knew zilch of this city, you can say I was waiting to be surprised. My education in what used to be Japan’s imperial capital began on our third day in Japan. In this post, I will show you the places you can see in a day in Kyoto.
Kyoto is the 7th largest city in Japan in the central part of Honshu island. It used to be the capital city of Japan from year 794 until 1868. Kyoto is now the capital city of Kyoto Prefecture in the Kansai region.
Kyoto is home to thousands of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines, some of which are free to be explored by tourists. It is also the place where you can find the geisha, or the professional female entertainers trained in music, art, dance, and communication. Although you can find these women in other parts of Japan, Kyoto remains to be the best place to experience the geisha culture.
How to get to Kyoto?
When you touch down Japan you can take the train to go to Kyoto. Travel time depends on which airport you are coming from.
- Kansai International Airport (KIX) – 90 minutes from Kyoto by direct express train
- Osaka International Airport – 50 minutes by airport limousine bus
- Central Japan International Airport – Less than 90 minutes from Kyoto via airport express and Japan Railway (Shinkansen)
In our case we were taken by a shuttle from our hotel to the train station, then with the use of our JR Pass, we took the train to Kyoto. For convenience, avail of Japan Rail Pass, a discounted ticket that can be used for travels on all JR national trains in Japan, including Shinkansen bullet trains and Narita Express.
Honestly, I was just another sheep in the herd; didn’t pay much attention to our transportation and went along where the others lead. I look at the train system in Japan the same way I look at a rubik’s cube, fascinating but incomprehensible. Apparently, the confusion is not exclusive to tourists; even Japanese people get lost in their own train stations. This is how hiring a tourist guide may serve you well.
You can go explore Kyoto on your own, but you can also book a tour with a travel agency. Our Kyoto tour was handled by Dragonfly Tours. Our call time was set at 9 in the morning. Our group convened in the lobby of Rihga Royal Hotel where we met with our Japanese guides. I forgot the name of the young slim girl who barely spoke but had a permanent smile on her face. The other, I remember so well because she shares the name of one of my favorite book characters, Midori from Haruki Murakami’s novel, Norwegian Wood.
Midori Fujimura is a short woman with hooded eyes, plump cheeks, and fairly long hair. She was wearing a blouse with a floral pattern that matches her hat. She speaks good English because according to her she stayed in the States for some years. Our tour guide at Universal Studios Japan used her black folder, which she raised above her head so we wouldn’t lose her in the crowd. Midori is more creative, she had a stick with a mini hello kitty doll dangling on the tip.
You can book a trip with Dragonfly Tours here.
Our first stop is the Fushimi Inari-taisha, a Shinto tourist widely known for Senbon Torii (thousands of torii gates). This shrine is erected in honor of Inari, the Shinto rice god who is a patron of blacksmiths and the protector of warriors. Fushimi Inari is the main shrine out of all shrines dedicated to this god.
Some tourists take the trek to Inari mountain, which takes about 2 to 3 hours. Our group didn’t go that far. As a sign of respect, stop at the Temizuya to perform Misogi, a Japanese Shinto practice of ritual purification before entering the shrine.
As mentioned before, Fushimi-Inari is well known by the torii gates, which in Shinto, symbolizes the transition from the profane to the sacred. There are thousands of them at Fushimi-Inari and by the entrance stood a giant version of it. Now you’ve probably seen your friends’ photos posing under this orange-colored structures that have become the signature of this shrine. In person, the trails covered by torii do invite a photo session, but we found that this isn’t exactly an easy thing to pull for the reason shown in the image below.
This place is crowded hence, it takes some patience and good timing to take an Instagram-worthy photo under the torii gates. So here’s a tip:
The trick is to wait for the people walking ahead of you to get as far as they possibly can so they wouldn’t be seen on the frame then go right up in the middle and make everyone behind you wait. This is how my fellow bloggers took their photos.
Other points of interest in Fushimi Inari grounds include the Kagura-den, the inner shrine, and the Shin Ike pond. There is no entrance fee at Fushimi Inari.
After our lunch at Maruyama restaurant, we hopped on a taxi to get to our next destination, Kiyomizu-dera. We put off at Higashiyama-ku, one of the well preserved historic districts in Kyoto. The street is lined wooden buildings and traditional looking stores.
There are cafes, restaurants, and numerous shops that sell various things. Walking along this district is an experience in itself, everywhere you look, you would feel compelled to buy something to eat or something to take home as souvenir.
After walking the length of Higashiyama-ku, we reached Kiyomizu-dera (pure water temple). It’s an independent Buddhist temple built in 780 on the site of the Otowa Waterfall in the eastern part of Kyoto. Kiyomizu-dera is one of the Historic Monuments of Ancient Kyoto in UNESCO world heritage sites. Entrance fee to this temple is JPY 300 (PHP 136.30 – USD 2.77).
Along the way I spotted some Japanese people donned in traditional outfit. The weather was humid and I noticed that many of them were already sweating. I initially thought there was an event somewhere, then I realized that the Japanese prefer to be in traditional clothing when they visit shrines and temples. I am impressed by their dedication.
Kiyomizu-dera is known for its wooden stage that juts over the hill. Unfortunately, it’s this feature of the temple that was used by some 200 people who jumped off the stage down to the hill below believing that it would make their wishes come true. Record shows that 34 of these jumpers died from the attempt. I’m not certain about the veracity of the claim, but I highly discourage you from doing the same stunt. I mean can we please just enjoy the view without hurting ourselves?
A few people from our group went all the way to Koyasu Pagoda. They say that if you’re pregnant and you reach this pagoda, you will have a safe childbirth.
I am not pregnant and the thing that I found more interesting is the Otowa Waterfall. I asked Aleah (Solitary Wanderer) to come with me. Together, we patiently waited in line for an opportunity to drink from the three streams. They say that if you drink from these streams, you will have longevity, find success in school, or find love. Drinking from all streams is deemed greedy though.
Kyoto Station’s futuristic architecture is so striking it can be a considered as a destination of its own. It is designed by Japanese architect, Hara Hiroshi, the same genius behind Umeda Sky Building.
Kyoto Station is Kyoto’s transportation hub that caters to Japan Railways, Karasuma Subway Line, and Kintetsu Railways. It also has a terminal for buses that travel long distance. Moreover, the station has malls, a department store, a sky walk tunnel, and an observation deck.
I didn’t know it is also considered as an important landmark in the city until my fellow bloggers started taking photos of it. Kyoto Tower stands at 131 meters tall and is the tallest building in the city. You can enjoy a panorama view from the top of the tower, but we didn’t go right in as it was not included in our itinerary.
Street food to try
When you go to Fushimi-Inari, try the grilled mochi JPY 500 (PHP 226.51 – USD 4.61). It is the most expensive street food I have ever seen, but it got me so curious I asked two of my fellow bloggers, Gael (ThePinaySoloBackpacker) and Jed (Biyaherong Barat) that we share a stick. Luckily, they agreed. I love mochi but for a street food it’s a tad pricey, so if you’re on a budget and you want to try it, do a Marjorie and ask friends to buy it with you.
I also recommend the matcha ice cream and this one you can find along Higashiyama-ku. Before this trip, I have avoided matcha like a plague because who wants to eat grass? Definitely not me. But in Japan, they use matcha in a way that would make you understand why there is a matcha craze in the first place. Though the green tea flavor is present, it’s never overpowering, as in the case of this ice cream. I just approached one of the stalls and bought myself a cone.
When Midori saw us eating this ice cream, she said that next time, we should try the one from another store, which she claims is where you can find the best matcha ice cream. I thought the one that I was eating was delicious, but it turns out it wasn’t the best? Makes me wonder how the more popular matcha ice cream tastes like.
Cebu Pacific flies between Manila and Osaka five times weekly, with lowest year-round fares starting from PHP6,399. Cebu Pacific also flies from Manila to Tokyo (Narita), Nagoya and Fukuoka, as well as from Cebu to Tokyo (Narita). Book its trademark lowest fares now through CEBsakaflights or (+632)7020888, or follow its Facebook or Twitter pages for the latest seat sales.
Disclaimer: This Osaka fam trip was courtesy of Cebu Pacific. Photos, review, and opinions are my own.
Nothing is too late for a hungry bunch. At 11pm, our group went out of the street in search for some grub. We just spent 4 hours on a plane, about an hour and so more on the road to get to our hotel in Osaka. We were fatigued and famished and I was ready to call it a day despite the demand of my grumbling stomach. Then Michelle, the most cheerful of the bunch, happily reported that she found a ramen place that is still opened somewhere in the neighborhood. Now hold on a sec, did she just say ramen? That Japanese noodle soup dish in fatty creamy broth often topped with soft-boiled egg and chasu?! Okay, what is sleep.
Whenever someone asks me to name my favorite food, I’d always say ramen. The love affair began last year when I went to Butamaru in Alabang. Since then I try my best to sample other ramen places, but Butamaru remain unparalleled, not until this trip.
The signage is in Japanese, as everything else in Japan. Thanks to Michelle’s Japanese skills, we learned that the name of the place is Yatai Marutoku Ramen. It can be found in a corner of a street along Fukushima. We spotted some Japanese men enjoying a drink outside and some of them tried to speak with us. Soon, they cleared the table like they were trying to be polite because our number couldn’t fit inside the restaurant.
I went inside and found a long table bar facing the kitchen. It is manned by two Japanese men who spoke zero English. We learned pretty soon that generally, Japanese people don’t speak English. Had Michelle not been there I’m not sure how we would place our order when the menu itself is written in Japanese. Hence, I cannot translate to you the menu or tell you how much it cost, let alone the kind of ramen that we ordered.
Aside from ramen we also had gyoza, which is small and easy to eat, you’d wonder if you have been eating it at all. I’d pop it in my mouth and then it’s gone and I’m like where the f did that gyoza go? lol
I had the perfect spot to see the chef in action. First, he put the noodles on a kotobuki strainer and dipped them in a machine with boiling water. While the noodles are cooking, he laid out the bowls on the table, put some herbs, spices, and sauces onto them, then added the broth. He does this quickly and efficiently like dancing. I sat there in mawkish fascination as he pulled out the strainer from the water and poured the noodles on the bowls.
My hand shook from excitement as I brought the broth-filled spoon to my lips. Then I cursed, a good ‘ol girl from the ghetto curse that could get anyone in trouble. It was so good it will make you swear. How could a ramen taste this good?! It doesn’t even taste anything like the ones that I had back home. This one is gold, it’s something special, something unforgettable. Why couldn’t I stop myself from slurping its creamy broth? Why did I finish the broth to begin with when it never happened before?! And why did I eat the mung bean sprout when I always have it taken out whenever I ordered ramen before? This ramen shocked me to the core. I know how I sound, like a mad woman. But this is the best way I could narrate the experience.
I’m crying just remembering that this ramen is 1,655 miles away from where I am right now. To this day, my biggest regret is that I wasn’t able to go back there after that night. But you can definitely say that this ramen is one of the best things that ever happened to us in this trip. You can ask my fellow bloggers who were there with me if you don’t want to take my word for it. Some of them even went back; I should have gone with them!
Osaka is a beautiful city, I have many reasons to go back to it. But if it happened that I didn’t have any reason, this ramen would have been it. Yatai Marutoku Ramen alone is worth coming back to.
Yatai Marutoku Ramen
Address: 1-6-18 Fukushima, Fukushima-ku, Osaka, Osaka Prefecture, Japan
Telephone No.: +81 6-6454-5310