I went to Seoul!

It’s been a long time since I last wrote a blog post.

Yep, you guessed it right.  It’s due to school and other things.  I can’t believe my 2 years in Japan are already nearing the end.  Sad.

Thesis: check!

Graduation: in 2 weeks!

I managed to squeeze in a one-week vacation in Seoul.  Met up there with my girl, who came from the Philippines.  How’s that for a date?

I made a short travel video about it!  I really missed making these.

More info on our itinerary in the next blog post.

Hope you enjoy this in the meantime.

Cheers!

To Kobe Or Not To Be

Wow. It feels like I have not blogged for ages!

September marked my 1st year anniversary of being in Japan but ironically I spent it in the Philippines.  It was the summer break and my birthday month as well so I was left with not much of a choice.  Anyway I’m back in Japan!

Two of my friends came over to Kyoto for a week and I grabbed the opportunity to visit new places with them.  Kobe was always on my Japan travel bucket list but for some reason it always gets bumped off.  It’s not so far off from Kyoto at just an hour’s train ride.

Access from Kyoto: 

a) Take JR from Kyoto Station – buy 1080 yen ticket and take the Tokaido Sanyo line bound for Himeji.  Get off at Kobe-Sannomiya.  Travel time is about 50 minutes.

b) Take Hankyu Line – buy 620 yen ticket and take train bound for Umeda.  Get off at Juso station and transfer to Hankyu Kobe line bound for Shinkaichi.  Get off at Kobe-Sannomiya.  Travel time is about 65 minutes.

I’ve heard a lot of feedback from tourists saying that Kobe is such a wonderful city.  But I was more interested in the places that locals visit there and I stumbled upon the majestic Nunobiki Falls.

From Kobe-Sannomiya, I highly recommend walking towards Shin-Kobe (northwest) to Nunobikiyama.  It is a great way to get acquainted with the city and only requires a 30-minute leisurely walk.  If you’re in a rush, you can take the Seishin-Yamate line to Shin-Kobe(210 yen), where you will be conveniently located at the foot of the Nunobikiyama in 10 minutes.

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There will be a trail leading to the waterfalls as you go down at Shin-Kobe.  You may also ask the counters if you cannot see the signs.  The 30-minute hike involves a steep but gradual incline.  It is also lined with signs in English so that you can find the falls easily.  I assure you it will be worth it!

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After the falls, go up 5 minutes and you will see the best view of Kobe from above!

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The hike will surely make you hungry.  As you make your way around, head back to Shin-Kobe and take the Seishin-Yamate line to Motomachi (210 yen).  Head down south to Nankingmachi, which is Japan’s 2nd largest Chinatown.

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Here you will find the best Chinese-Japanese streetfood and the cheapest authentic Kobe beef!  The whole street different from the others and imparts a Chinese vibe to it.  Just walk straight until you arrive at the plaza.  Lots of stalls are located here and everything tastes very well and have good value.  There will be a 2-3 stalls selling authentic Kobe beef.  They offer it in a variety of sets: beef only, with rice, with ramen, with ramen and rice.  The price ranges from 350 – 1500 yen which is very reasonable.  This is ideal for people who just want to eat the best food without having to shed huge sums of money in restaurants.  A Kobe beef set in an average Japanese restaurant will cost you around 3000-10,000 yen.  Best to go here during lunch and dinner.

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After filling up with that awesome Kobe beef, it is time to head south and see the famous Kobe Port.  Kobe was one of the first cities to open its borders for business after the formal ending of sakoku which was kind-of-like a policy of seclusion to world trade.  I also noticed a lot of half-Japanese (hafus) which was kind of interesting.  After about 15 minutes of walking southwest from Nankingmachi, you will already see the Kobe Port Tower.  We didn’t bother to head up since it costs 2000 yen to do so.

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We were here during nighttime so we were able to see the whole harbor in its full lighting glory.  This also meant that we were unable to experience the 40-minute Kobe Bay Cruise which runs from 10am-7pm(1100 yen).  There is also a giant mall (Mosaic) that is located here if you are feeling hungry or want to do some shopping.

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That’s it for my Kobe blog.  Personally, I think an overnight stay would be best if you really want the full Kobe experience.  It is such a big city with lots of places to see and activities to do.  Credits to my friends Geryl and Lady for some of the wonderful photos!

Don’t forget to check-out my travel video of Kobe below.  Let me know if you have any questions or feedback.

Cheers!

The Beginner’s Guide To Climbing Mt. Fuji

Mountain Day here in Japan is in 2 days (Aug.11) and people are gearing up for the hike ahead.

My friends and I decided to go earlier in August to avoid the massive crowds that climb Japan’s many mountains.  Another reason was that we decided to climb Mt. Fuji, the highest mountain in Japan.  Some 300,000 people climb every year and the most dense months are during the climbing season (July 1- September 10 for Yoshida; July 10 – September 10 for the other trails).

First off, some quick stats about Mt. Fuji.  You have to know what you are climbing!

  • Mt. Fuji is a dormant volcano with its highest peak  at 3,776 m.
  • Mt. Fuji can be accessed from 2 prefectures: Yamashina and Shizuoka.
  • There are 4 trails in Mt. Fuji (in no order): Yoshida (most popular), Subashiri, Gotemba, Fujinomiya.

Second, the equipment I had:

  • 2 base layers, 1 heat-tech layer, 1 insulated windproof jacket
  • 1 pair of heat-tech leggings, 1 pair of fleece-lined joggers, 1 pair of knee-high socks
  • 1 pair of Adidas AX2 Hiking Shoes (trust me, you would want to invest in some good hiking shoes; wearing sneakers is fine if you’re okay with slipping and dealing with rocks in your shoes)
  • headlamp (you will also really need this)
  • sunglasses, cap, handkerchief to shield from dust (neck and foot gaiters also if you can)
  • 3L of drinks (wish I had more), a huge bag of peanuts and cookies
  • sunblock, cooling wet wipes (the descent will be very hot)

I will post our annotated itinerary here and what we did to get to the top.  We all hike for fun and do not regard ourselves as pros.  The trail we took is Yoshida. Hope you guys can pick up a few tips from this post!

July 30:

14: 45Bus to Fuji Subaru 5th Station from Kawaguchiko station (55 mins; 2100 yen roundtrip)

  • Better buy roundtrip tickets from Kawaguchiko station to avoid queueing on the way back

15:40 – Arrived at Fuji Subaru 5th Station

15:40-16:45 – Checked out stores and bought all food and drinks for the hike (everything is marked up 30% from retail)

  • Everything is still priced OK here so I suggest buying as much as you think you need for the hike
  • The comfort rooms here are good (and free) as well compared to the ones going up.  if you can, do everything here.  You’ll never regret it.

16:45 – 19:30 – Arrived at Fujisan 7th Station and booked a hut for 3 hours (5,400 yen)

  • The hike at this stage was relatively easy and could be done faster if you’re fit enough
  • For beginners, I suggest for you to book huts so that you can get some rest.  During the day, it costs 1,100/hr.  At night, it costs around 1,800 yen/hr.  you can try haggling if you know some Japanese.  The last huts are located 2 hours up at stations 8-9.  However, these get booked the earliest.
  • All comfort rooms going up will set you back 200 yen/use.  Do not expect motorized toilet seats and other pleasantries.

August 1:

20:30 – 4:00 – Resumed the ascent to the peak and waited for Goraiko (sunrise)

  • At this point, most of us exhausted our drinking supplies and had to buy.  Everything is marked up by at least 150%.  Coffee and Coke will cost you 500-700 yen.  A hot cup of instant noodles will cost you 700 yen.  Cash is king!
  • As you approach the peak, the pace will be significantly slower since people tend to take a lot of pictures.  Be patient.

4:00 – 8:00 – Watched Goraiko and went around the crater

  • It was around 2 degrees Celsius at the peak.  Good to wear your warm stuff once nighttime arrives.
  • Assuming you arrive there in time, Goraiko will take around 30 minutes total.

8:00 – 12:00 – Descent to Fuji Subaru 5th station

  • Make sure you at least have a handkerchief and sunglasses to cover your eyes, face, and neck.  The descent seems easy but the slope is quite steep and it is very dusty!
  • Expect to land on your butt going down.  Make sure to cover your lower extremeties to prevent injuries.
  • Bring lots of water! It will be very hot on the way down (if you did our itinerary) and they don’t sell anything during the descent as well (which I thought was cruel).

12:15 – 13 – Bus to Kawaguchiko station

That’s pretty much it for the climb.  Prior to the climb, we visited Churreito Pagoda which is the perfect place to capture Fuji from afar.  It is also where most of the postcards about Japan are shot.  We highly-recommend visiting this once before the climb.

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The team! Missing one ’cause she was taking the photo.

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It really looks like a painting from afar.  We also could not believe that we were to scale up that thing in a couple of hours!

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Told you it was like one of those postcards.

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From the other side of Kawaguchi (which is one of the five lakes which surround the mountain).  It is also home to vast fields of flowers (including lavender!).  Yes, it smells as good as it looks.

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The men striking a pose.

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I had to!

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The complete team at Fuji 6th station!

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You could literally the sun rising from the horizon.  It was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen in my life.

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The entire slope during the last 50m to the peak was filled with spectators.

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The sun!

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Wow, just wow.

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The torii gate at the peak entrance.  I was spent, yo.

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My friend loves taking photos.

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Walking around the crater of Mt. Fuji.  The last explosion was some 300+ years ago.

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Come here I’m about to take you higher

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Group photie by the crater!

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And a solo.

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Spectators in awe because they made it.

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While waiting for the others to rejoin us at 5th station.

Thank you to my friend, Aizhana, for the wonderful photos!  More hikes to come!

And since I love making videos, here’s one for the entire trip.  Mountains, friends, and roller coasters!

 

Thanks!  If you have any comments or questions, just post them below.

Kyoto: Daimonjiyama

My friends and I have started a travel group called DIY Travel Japan. We aim to share our DIY travel experiences in Japan to the world through blogging and vlogging.

Since I am co-contributing to the group, I’ll be sharing our content here in my blog as well.

If you have been following my blog, you know that I have been to Kyoto’s Daimonjiyama many times. Weekly, in fact.

This however is different because it shows group dynamics.  Real people, real events, and real interactions with Japan.

For the complete details on how to DIY this trip, check out Conquering Kyoto’s Mountains.

Please watch in HD and don’t forget to like our Facebook Page and subscribe to our Youtube channel for more.:)

Thank you and enjoy!