Otsu-karesamadesu: The Japanese Riviera

This post has been written reluctantly due to all the video footage I lost.  For this one, we would have to stick to good, old-fashioned photos.  No time lapses this week, sorry. 

I am not a Japanese language expert but Otsukaresamadesu (お疲れ様です) roughly translates into “Great work!” in English.  If I’m wrong, please let me know.

One of the great privileges in this world is living next to the beach.  Or by a lake.  Or near any pleasing body of water.  Most of the expensive properties around the world can be found along the French Riviera or Lake Como.  And I totally agree with how these are being valued.  How do you put a price on the view you get every day of the week?  Some might even argue that it’s priceless.  I guess that makes it a bargain, then? 

A couple of my Japanese friends asked us what we wanted to do:  go to the world-renowned port-city of Kobe or visit the virtually unknown city of Otsu.  If you read the title, it is kind of obvious which one we chose.

Otsu is the capital of Shiga, which is a prefecture of Japan.  I was surprised to discover a lot of interesting facts about Otsu.  One of them is that it is the main port in which you could access Lake Biwa, Japan’s largest lake.  I’ve been hearing about Lake Biwa from literally everyone here in Kyoto.  I also heard that there was a UNESCO world heritage site here called Enryaku-ji, but I would have to visit this some other time.

 

From Kyoto Station, it is quite a challenge to get to Otsu.  You would need to take the JR Tokaido-Sanyo line and switch trains at Zeze station.  At Zeze, transfer to the Keihan-Ishiyamasakamoto line and alight at Hamaotsu station.  That’s it you’re there!  One way costs a total of 410 yen.   The whole trip just takes around 30 minutes!

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Just look at that view!  If I didn’t say this was in Japan, you would have probably mistaken this for another country.

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The whole group striking a pose by a viewing deck.  IMG_1913

In order to best experience Otsu and Lake Biwa, my friends suggested to take the Michigan Cruise which was an old-fashioned American paddle boat. It was going to be an 80-minute ride around Lake Biwa.  The ticket costs 2,780 yen for adults and 1,390 yen for kids.  If you’re a student, just show your ID and you just need to pay 2,260 yen!  Oh yeah!  If you’re really hungry, they serve a lunch buffet on board for an additional 2,700 yen.

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I have never seen nor been on a paddle boat before so I was really excited!  Another first!IMG_1900

The boat was HUGE.  IMG_1888

My friend said this was the tallest hotel in Shiga.  Maybe also the slimmest?  I wonder what the view is like up there.IMG_1896

Another group photo after the cruise!  It was a ton of fun!  お疲れ様です

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It is so near to Kyoto!  I think this just replaced Osaka as my preferred weekend getaway.  I mean, just look at the views!  I’ll pick living near water vs. living in a city about 90% of the time.  If it was that easy.

I’d really like to go back and shoot time lapses here next time!

Kyoto Time Lapse! +GoT Ep. 3 Is Now Loading

You know that feeling when you’re so immersed into whatever you’re doing that you don’t realize a week just passed?  That was last week.  Whew.

First, nothing delights me more than speaking to my girlfriend properly.  Not just sending some random emoticons and late messages.  I’m talking about real conversations in real time.   Maybe I’ll do a piece on long-distance relationships some time in the future.

Second, as you might have suspected in this post’s title, I cannot wait for GoT to fully load.  Given Japan’s internet, it should be over before I finish writing this post.  And yes, *spoiler alert*, John Snow is alive!  Ep 2’s ending was something else and a total rebound from the always-dismal season opener.

Third, I am still dumbfounded with how the Spurs lost to the Thunder.  I know how damn good the Spurs are and losing the series in 6 games was really below expectations.  No wonder Pop’s interview was so dry.  But, it’s also exciting how the Thunder will size up against GSW.

This time lapse shows the Nishijin area of Kyoto where you the Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) is located.  This was shot for roughly 6 hours on a 5-second interval.

Should be a great week ahead!  Hope you have an awesome week, too!

 

Going to Japan Soon? Check Out DIY Travel Japan!

Okay.  The reason I’m super busy this week is because me and my friends are starting to build a community for travelers in Japan.

You might be saying: Oh, another one.  But this one is different.  Why?

With visa restrictions all over the world getting more relaxed (especially in Japan for the past 5 years) and air travel becoming more affordable, traveling has now become accessible to a wider audience.

Consequently, people have now become more independent when it comes to traveling.  In the past 20-25 years, people used to rely on a lot of travel agencies to arrange tours.  But now, the trend is doing it yourself.  DIY traveling is now the trend.  With all the information available online, this is so easy to do and much more rewarding.

The idea of online sharing has also been trending lately.  To name a few: Beme and Snapchat have started real-time video-sharing, Uber went with ride-sharing, and Airbnb is massive in the apartment-sharing business.

Inspired by these, our group thought about a creating a platform where people can create and share past and future events with each other.  This is also a place where people from all over the world who are looking for something fun to do in Japan.  A real trip that is created by real people in the hopes of creating the best travel experience in Japan.

The website is coming soon!  I’ll give you all the details about it.

But for now, connect with us on Facebook!  Please share and invite your friends!

If you have any comments or suggestions, please let us know!

SHARE YOUR TRIP NOW! CLICK THE PICTURE TO JOIN THE FUN!

diyjpperm

Time Lapse: Kyoto Sunset

Found a way to break out of the apartment rooftop contraption.  All it took was opening one of the laundry room windows. *insert clever laugh*

Golden Week went by really quick. Too quick.  I’m still recovering from all the lost footage in Otsu but it is what it is.

Sunsets are always beautiful.  The transition from various degrees of yellow to various shades of orange is a sight to behold.  It is quite hard to use a negative word to describe a sunset.  It’s one of the main reasons I jog in the afternoon.  Lately, it’s been quite tricky to time them due to the longer daytime so I just tried to leave the camera shooting for a couple of hours while I went out for a jog.

E.M. Goldratt’s Critical Chain was a fantastic novel on business.  It was a lot about what runs in the minds of different levels of managers across different institutions.  Project management (and this does not only apply in business) is something that is dynamic.  Not unlike what most business textbooks say.

And this is what really is exciting about testing assumptions.  Assumptions make or break any mode of thinking.

Now I understand why one of my undergrad professors always nagged us about what our assumptions were.

Enjoy the sunset!

 

 

In Kyoto, We Bike, Bike, Bike!

It was only here in Kyoto that I reacquainted myself with biking.  Prior to Kyoto, I could not remember the last time I rode a bicycle.  

Biking was one of those things that you just had to do when you were a kid.  It was part of childhood (my childhood, at least).  This is why I am astonished every time I discover people my age (or older) who do not know how to ride a bike.  The feeling is almost synonymous to the feeling of not knowing how to spell your name.  Once you can spell it, you just never forget for the rest of your sane life.  Same goes for biking.

And then Formula 1 happened.  Top Gear took over my teenage life.  The Fast and The Furious made me dream.  When I got my student driving permit (2nd year HS) and finished driving school, the dream was no longer a dream.  The feeling of punching the accelerator was the greatest feeling ever.  The high school and college years were all about cars, from a hobby perspective.

All good things come to an end and I had to say goodbye to Big Berta.  

Once I got here, the first thing I had to buy was a set of wheels.  2 wheels.  A bike!  Everybody seems to bike here in Kyoto.  In other parts of Japan, people bike but not as much as they do here.

My only non-negotiable was that my bike had to have gears.  I’m a speed freak and a fixed-gear bike would not be able to deliver that.  Having a bike with gears isn’t only for speed.  It also comes in handy when tackling hills and crested roads.  So whenever you find yourself in Japan or in any foreign city where a bike is necessary, do yourself a favor and get one with gears.  You will never regret paying the extra bucks.  It doesn’t have to be a 21-speed monster, 3-6 gears should be enough for daily commute.

I tried to compile all my biking videos so far into one video.  Maybe I could turn this into another set on its own.

Enjoy!

HD!

 

Time Lapse: Murakami and Kamogawa

My love for reading fiction is negatively correlated with my age.  When I was a kid, I would remember bringing home shortened versions of classic novels from the bookstore.  I had a ton of them.  You name it and I’ve probably read it.

As I grew up, things became very different.  Fiction became literally fiction to me.  It was too out there.  Too perfect.  It’s just one of those moments where you don’t know how it happened.

But then now, reality isn’t really that different from fiction.  There are only moments.  And most of my cherished moments in Kyoto are spent with nature.

Haruki Murakami is the only Japanese writer I know, which makes him my favorite by default.  I plant to read all his books while I’m here.  I didn’t even know he was born in Kyoto until I searched him on Google.  Anyway, I’ve just finished reading Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman about a couple of hours ago.  It was a fascinating collection of moments.  There’s still some beautiful weirdness in there, if you know what I mean.

Here’s this week’s time lapse.  I tried something new today by splitting one sequence into different vibes.

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Time Lapse: A New Take on Daimonjiyama

I think I may have taken too many subjects this quarter.  

I’m taking Finance, Business Research Methods, Statistics, E-Marketing, Nihonggo, zzzzzzz.  The curse of free education.  Why slack off, right?

This time lapse was taken two weeks ago.  I had no time this weekend to take a new one.  This one shows a different perspective and shows more of the mountain’s slope.

I hope I can take a new one next week!

 

Tokyo Drift! A Fast and Furious Journey (Part 3)

I suddenly remembered that I have to write about the last leg of my quick Tokyo trip!

In case you missed out on the earlier posts, here’s Part 1 and Part 2

The last part of our trip covered most of Central and Western areas of Tokyo: Akihabara, Harajuku, and Shinjuku.  These are the busiest places in Tokyo (probably in Japan) and offer a lot in terms of things to do.

We started by visiting Tokyo Imperial Palace.  The palace grounds alone will take you about 30 – 45 minutes to circumnavigate.  One can really feel that this is the epicenter of the Japanese empire just by walking around.  The attention given to the plants, flowers, trees, and structures cordially dial in majesty.

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Behold!  The almighty castle walls!
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How big were horse-drawn carriages in Japan back then?  Because this street is so wide!
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The trees are just perfectly manicured.  Not a leaf out of line.
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We were really lucky because these were not supposed to be in bloom until 3 days later.

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From there, we took the subway bound for Yoyogi Park.  This is a massive and beautiful park that ends at Harajuku.  At the middle, you can drop by Meiji Jingu to get a breather.  It felt like a stretch of 2.5 kms. of gravel.IMG_1676

If you followed our route, this is what you should see:IMG_1678

We went crazy with all the shops from Harajuku to Roppongi.  There were a lot of foreigners living here too.  This area will gladly take your money.  Name a brand and chances are, a flagship store will be in this area.  So bring a lot of dough.  Or don’t.IMG_1679

If you go left from here, you will arrive at another famous shopping destination, Takeshita Street where you could get a shot at one of the graffiti-lined walls.  Each of us just had to take one.

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According to my sister, this street is mostly kawaii girls stuff.  But she was able to find this store, Monki.  There’s a cool dessert place beside it if ever you are a guy shopping with a female.

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The iconic Hachiko just near Shibuya Crossing!IMG_1689

Maybe it is just because off-season but I think Dotombori in Osaka is much busier than this one.  If you are thinking about getting a nice view from the Starbucks joint you see in this picture, good luck getting in.  The upper floors of the train station and malls are the best places to get a nice shot.  I just wished I was into time lapse photography when I went here.  IMG_1693

We had to double back to our hostel to get our bags and got lost.  All the subway-switching can get really confusing.  It really pays to know some kanji especially when the nearest map looks like this:

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We had a great bowl of Seaweed Shio ramen after an exhausting day.  Unfortunately, I forgot the name of this ramen place in Shinjuku.

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While waiting for our midnight bus back to Kyoto, we checked our watches and realized that we had about 4 hours to kill.  Luckily, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is still open!  It has 2 observation decks: North (9:30-23:00) and South (9:30-17:30).  It gives you a stunning 360-view of Tokyo for free!  The elevator line might be long during the day so going at night is better (the night view is better too, I think).  Oddly, the observation deck has a toy store and a coffee shop at the top.  It even has complimentary Wi-Fi! IMG_1702

That’s all, folks!  This series is done!  I can’t wait to go back to Tokyo!

Here’s a video of the entire trip!  I’m very sorry that the camera is shaky, the gimbal is broken. 😦

Time Lapse: Uji and Mukaijima

Pink to green.

*This is quite a long post so if you just want to see the time lapse, scroll all the way down or click here.  Always in HD!

When you’ve been living in a city pocket for a reasonable amount of time, there’s always going to be this longing to go somewhere else.  Somewhere far.  This is what I have been feeling lately.

About a couple of weeks ago, my good friend Michael and his wife invited the group to his new place in Mukaijima.  However, we weren’t able to go last week due to unforeseen school events.  Yesterday was a fantastic day and we were all able to go.

Mukaijima is very accessible from the center of Kyoto.  From Karasuma-Imadegawa, we just took the subway and went all the way south and hopped off at Takeda to switch trains (Kintetsu).  From Kyoto station, you can just use the Karasuma line and head south (there are many alternate routes).  Ticket should set you back 500 Yen and about 45 minutes to get there.

Prior to heading there, I had trouble finding any bit of information about what to see and what to do.  Good thing I knew someone there!

My first impression upon going down the train station was the abundance of apartment buildings and the endless rows of fields.  It was very different from Kyoto (city center).  But this is still part of Kyoto nonetheless.

Roads were wider and cars dominated the streets.  Mukaijima Park was really nice and clean.  I found it hard to imagine that there was a cleaner place than central Kyoto.  Air quality is even better.  Another surprising thing about this place was children.  There were so many!  Maybe because this part of the city was more family-oriented.  Rent was a cheaper too, especially if you want to raise a family in a bigger place.  Supermarkets had better selection too.

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Mukaijima Park
We were able to go the Gakusei (Student) Center where my friend lived.  They made nabe (hot pot) for lunch and had some booze to spike the conversation.  For dinner, we made some freestyle sushi out of pickles, egg, sausage, and cucumber.  The combo was weird but it was delicious!

We got quite drunk due to the great bottle of sake that Michael had.  I think I got too drunk and lost my phone when we were chilling by Uji River.  BUT, we went back and found it (also chilling by the river).  Nothing gets lost here.  Except bikes and umbrellas!

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The spot where we found my phone.
It offers a different feel compared to the central Kyoto.  It is more laid-back and will nag you to sit outside, drink a beer or two, and feel the breeze.  Uji and Momoyama are also very accessible.  These are places famous for authentic Japanese tea and shrines.

WHEW!  I hope I didn’t bore you with that long post.

Thanks again, Michael and the wife for hosting!  Until next time!

*Nico Rosberg had a great race in China.  Things are looking good for Mercedes this season. 

 

Time Lapse: Sakura On High

I almost forgot to post a time lapse this week!  School started already last Friday so I’ll be very busy.  But I love doing this so I’ll try to find time and do my weekend posts.

This is a time lapse of the only sakura tree on top of Daimonjiyama.  Not the best of days, but the occassional cloud shifts intermittently allowed sunlight to pass through which looks kinda cool.