I am really sorry for being on hiatus for the past weeks, it has been a busy holidays for me and my family, because it was our first! Yes, it was our first Christmas and New Year together. Will be sharing our family stories in the coming weeks. ♥
For now, let me share you my first wander of the year…
Spending New Year in Japan can be a little unusual from other countries, since most of them are spending their holidays visiting their first Shinto shrine of the year, which they call hatsumōde (初詣 ). This was my first New Year outside of Philippines and since we live in the Greater Tokyo Area, we chose to revisit Tokyo’s famous entertainmentdistrict, Asakusa.
Most people in Japan are off from work and school starting December 30 until January 3. It is the time of the year when people are cleaning their houses, paying all their debts, buying new charms or omamori, visiting relatives and exchanging gifts.
Upon getting off the train station via Ginza Line, we were surprised that some roads were closed and there were hundreds or maybe thousands of people on the road. Discipline was observed despite the busy event – policemen and road officers were stationed in every corner.
Japan can be considered as one of the modernized country of this generation, however despite the dynamic growth of technology, they still preserve remaining pieces of their past. They value their own history that much and making it consistently sure to pass it on to their next generation.
Take a look at the Kaminarimon Gate or “Thunder Gate” (雷門) strikingly painted in red with giant lantern and two statues of guardian gods – Raijin (left, god of thunder) and Fūjin (right, god of wind).
* This structure was built more than once due to war and fire, take note that the current one was built in 1960 under Edo Period. (Oh yes, Asian History, love it. ^^, )
This will serve as thefirst gateto the main temple, Kaminarimon Gate.
TIP If you are planning to visit the shrine during the holidays, you really have to be patient. I mean it, because you have to walk with hundreds of residents and tourists while following their rules.
Their history, vivid as it may seem, signifies their practices and lifestyle. You will never question its visibility all over Japan. Someday, I am going to wear Japan’s national costume while roaming around the city! Yay! #AddedToMyOwnBucketlist ♥
After entering the gate, look what surprise we found… 👣
Before reaching the temple grounds, you will be welcomed by more than 50 Japanese Souvenir shops. This is one of the perfect spot to get your authentic gifts/memorabilia like magnets, chopsticks, green tea, biscuits, Japanese dolls, small figurines and the like. PS. This street was only 250 meters long but it took us 20 minutes to reach Sensoji Temple due to the massive crowd.
The second entrance gate is called Hozōmon or “Treasure-House Gate” (宝蔵門) which will lead you to the main hall of Sensō-ji. It features three large lanterns and the most prominent lantern is a red chōchin that hangs at the center.
On the left, you will see the five story pagoda or Gojūnotō (五重塔) that contains some ashes of the Buddha. I am totally amazed with the temple’s characteristics and ornament, impressively designed thousand years ago.
As I share more photos, I was reminded that patience is actually a great talent and it will go a loooooong way… 👌👣
Tokyo’s Largest Buddhist Temple
It was not in the photo, but at the side of this hall, you will see stalls selling Japanese ‘omamori’ or amulets, incense and ‘omikuji’ fortunes.
As we enter the Sensōji Temple or also known as Asakusa Kannon (浅草寺), we only spent few minutes to make our wish and prayers, so we can give way to other attendees. Please be reminded that the temple is quite dark and the air is covered with thick incense.
* I am not sure if they allow it or not, but whenever I visit temples, I don’t take pictures inside, to simply pay respect to their beliefs and sacred places.
Since Asakusa has a lot to see, let’s look around…
If you get tired or you prefer to take a break, Asakusa has a lot of food to offer – from fried snacks like chicken, long potato fries, takoyaki, mochi and noodles. (Price Ranges from ¥200-800)
However, I found something fancy…
For ¥200, you will enjoy this healthy coated banana with candy sprinkles and it is too cute to eat, right?
Cheers to JP for having cool and cute stuff! 😂
I got my ref magnet for ¥380.
You should also try getting your O-mikuji (おみくじ)or paper fortune available at the sides of the hall.
How to do it?
Drop ¥100 at the tip box.
Shake a box full of sticks.
The stick you draw shows the number of your omikuji.
Take a paper from the drawer with the corresponding number and see if you are 吉 lucky.
Of course, I tried it too…
My first omikujifor this year was a bit heartbreaking!!! I received a bad fortune which says the following:
“Thunder hit and sound is breaking the sky, it is really dark and terrible. A man of good sense of humor stay within a house closing the gate and doors. All looks really lonesome. There maybe some mistake and misunderstanding in writing a mail to others. Though you do your best with utmost care, troubles may be always your way.”
* Your request will not be granted. Patient will get well. The lost article is hard to find. The person you wait for will not come. Stop building a new house. Stop starting a trip. Marriage and employment are both bad. *
* WARNING *
Do not let this piece of paper decide for your choices in the future.
My simple wish may not come true but no one can stop me from taking wonderful trips and meeting the person I am waiting for. Honestly, there’s no wedding plans on the table. Haha! ♣
If you received a positive omikuji, you can keep it. In my case, since it is not a good one, I folded and tied it to the tree where bad lucks were collected
♦ PERSONAL NOTE ♦
We had the whole afternoon walking and checking some shops for authentic Japanese goods and it felt good to know traditional practices of this country. It wasn’t so bad to be accustomed to a new environment. More likely a breath of fresh air coming from the ancient times with modern clothes. Lels.
So if you’re looking for an authentic Japanese thing to do – do not forget to include Asakusa’s Sensōji Temple in your Tokyo itinerary! 🎌
HOW TO GET THERE?
Asakusa is served by different railway lines such as Asakusa Subway Line, Ginza Subway Line, Tobu Railways and Tsukuba Express.
I wouldn’t miss the chance of sharing tips on how to travel Japan cheaply.
Tourists may come from different cities, so I would recommend you to try Hyperdia, smartphone app that has routes and timetable for railway and aviation in Japan. 👌
This year has been so good since I was able to start my own blog to share my endless stories. Lately, I’ve been receiving tons of inquiry on how to travel around Japan and this December I will share you tips on how to do it! This post might be too long but surely it will be helpful on your trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. 🎌✈️
I listed all topics that are frequently asked and I ended up with 15 points for you to know before going to Japan, JaFUN! 😂 I promise to update this post as necessary. 👍
1. Travel off peak and you’ll save a lot. Plan your trip by starting to choose from the four seasons in Japan.
(1) New Year Holidays (end of December to January)
(2) “Golden Week” Holidays (End of April til first week of May & adjacent weekends)
(3) “Bon” Festival Season (weeks centering on August 15)
Winter (December – February)
Prepare to layer clothes during this season because the temperature can drop below zero degrees. It’s time to enjoy winter sports and hit the hot springs. Don’t forget to bring your overcoats, sweater, scarves and gloves.
Spring (March – May)
It also known as the“Sakura/Cherry Blossom Season”.A good sign that spring is just around the corner and most of the places are covered in pink. People enjoyed eating at park and drinking their local beers under the full bloom trees. Bring your lightweight jackets, sweaters, turtle necks.
Summer (June – August)
Summer in Japan is seriously hot and humid wherein temperature can be 40° C. People are visiting the beach and attending festivities from different cities. It is also the perfect season to climb up some mountains including Japan’s tallest, Mount Fuji.
Japan has numerous airports that you can choose from as your entry and/or exit points. In this way you can save time from going back and forth to the same city.
(1) Haneda Airport busiest airport in Japan that handles most domestic flights and less international flights. It is also closer to the city than Narita Airport.
(2) Tokyo’s Narita Airport mostly handles majority of international flights. It is located in Chiba, 60 kilometers outside of Tokyo.
(3) Osaka’s Kansai International Airport is one of Japan’s most important airports. Just like Narita, they have huge hubs that can serve domestic and international flights.
(4) Nagoya’s Central Japan Airport is Japan’s fourth most important airport that handles domestic and international flights form the former Nagoya’s Komaki Airport.
(5) Fukuoka Airport handles domestic flights but they also have few international flights such as Korea, China, Taiwan, Singapore.
(6) New Chitose Airport is the main airport of Sapporo and considered as one of the busiest. Mainly domestic flights and few international routes.
(7) Kobe Airportoffers domestic flights only. The nearest international airport is Osaka’s Kansai Airport.
(8) Okinawa’s Naha Airport served as an international airport that caters to 11 cities (Hong Kong, Korea, China, Taiwan).
Listed above are the main airports in Japan, so you can plan where to begin and end your trip, or simply visit one city at a time.
For example, you can book a flight to Osaka then exit via Tokyo or vice versa. In that case, you don’t need to go back to Osaka for your return flight. ✈️
I would love to share budget airlines within Japan, however I am still researching about it and how it works for tourists. I’ll update this post as necessary. ✈️
4. Airline Ticket
In some cases, this will be the most expensive part of the trip. Personally, I haven’t tried budget airlines going to Japan because of ‘trust issues‘. I know it’s cheaper but I am more comfortable on big planes and usually I have check in baggages. Plus, it is my mother’s sole decision when it comes to this part of traveling.
Since traveling is a booming activity for the present generation, it is very economical to search for the cheapest airfare so you can put most of your money allocation in enjoying the country’s sightseeings.
List of Budget Airlines that has flights to Japan:
Simply wait for promos that is usually held every holidays and/or payday. They sell it for as low as 3,000 pesos ($65 per way).
Best Tip I can suggest is to BOOK EARLY.
Some tourists, book their own tickets as early as 6 months prior their trip to save bucks. And mind you, it is helpful!
Keep in mind…
To apply for the visa a month before the trip because single entry visa is only valid within 3 months from the date of approval.
5. Japan Rail Pass
As I said, traveling around Japan is not expensive as you think due to the release of Japan Rail Pass.
This is the sign that you can see at the train stations all over Japan. A group of privately owned companies that provide railway service to mass consumers in Japan. I am telling you that they are timely and efficient. If you will avail this pass, you can travel around Japan using shinkansen bullet train, non bullet trains and buses.
“JAPAN RAIL PASS
is a special fare ticket that is available only to travelers/tourist visiting Japan for sightseeing.”
* Please be reminded that Japan Rail Pass cannot be purchased in Japan.
You have to buy it from an authorized sales agent/office before going to Japan.
(a) A foreign tourist/visitor under the entry status of “Temporary Visitor” as seen on your passport. Upon entry in Japan, presenting your stamp will allow you to use the rail pass.
(b) If you are a Japanese National living outside of Japan who meets the following conditions:
a. who has permanent residence in that country
Person meeting this condition must provide written proof of the following:
・ Right of permanent residence
・ That they are living in a country other than Japan
b. who is married to a non-Japanese residing in a country other than Japan
Persons meeting this condition must provide written proof of the following:
・ That they are married to a foreign national
・ That they are living in a country other than Japan
・ That their spouse (a foreign national) is living outside Japan
If applicant failed to provide these papers, issuance of pass maybe denied.
Two Types of JAPAN RAIL PASS
(a) Green (for superior-class Green cars)
Each of these types is available at a 7-day, 14-day, or 21-day Pass.
The actual cost in local currency is calculated based on the Banker’s Selling Rate (BSR), etc.at the time the Exchange Order is issued. Please note that the purchase exchange rate may differ from the exchange rate in effect when you actually visit Japan.
* Children who are age 6 through 11 as of the date on which the exchange order is issued are eligible for child PASS prices.
* Prices are subject to change. The applicable price is the price valid on the date when an Exchange Order is issued.
The validity period of a Japan Rail Pass is the consecutive 7, 14, or 21 days period, beginning on the date of its first used.
Once a starting date has been assigned to the pass, it cannot be changed.
For steps inbuying pass, turning exchange order and making reservation, please click here.
These information are also available at http://www.japanrailpass.net.com, I just saved you from clicking another link. I also converted prices into US Dollars and Philippine Peso. You just have to check the rates again since it varies every day. 😊
6. Transportation around Japan
Aside from traveling around Japan using the JR Pass, you can also take advantage of their major highway buses like Willer Express. Book your tickets early and one thing is for sure, it’s CHEAPER as low as ¥1,700 – ¥2,000.
I did not recommend any use of cab/taxi because it is EXPENSIVE.
Aside from the airfare ticket, accommodation in Japan can be a little painful. If you are traveling with family and group of friends, hotels can be the best option without compromising your safety and comfort. However, there are options available wherein you can save money and stay on a limited space.
Cheap Hotels (These sites has budget/package deals for Japan)
When I visited Osaka last October, I tried using airbnb for the first time and it was way cheaper than hotels. I got an entire loft for three days for ¥8000 / P3,120 / $66. I can’t have room service or housekeeper during my stay but I can definitely manage my expenditures during the trip. I can also cook my own food and do my laundry!
You can choose from whole apartment, shared room or private room.
Will you still travel without Wi-Fi? Nah, it’s everyone’s way of communicating and sharing photos online is something we look forward to in every trips. It is also necessary when we get lost unintentionally.
Please be reminded that you don’t need to buy a new phone compatible in Japan because free WiFi is just around the corner. Mainly at the train stations.
Some cities has data limit but I think it’s better than nothing. 😄📶
Most overwhelming part of the trip is planning your itinerary. There’s so much you wanted to do but you have limited time and money. Let’s prioritize what we really want to experience in Japan without hurting our wallet/savings.
What are the activities can you try in Japan?
Open air bath (hot spring)
Yakiniku Festival in Hokkaido (February)
Illumination in Tokyo
Sapporo Snow Festival
Winter Sports (skiing, ice skating and sledding)
* List of ski and snowboards resorts in Japan, click here.
Celebrate tons of festivals (Hina Matsuri), White Day, Saint Patrick’s Day and Children’s Day
They also have cheaper tickets varying from 7, 5 and 3 must see attractions. Tickets for limited number of attractions is called Universal Express Pass.
There are numerous theme parks in Japan and I am still trying to explore some of their attractions. One at a time, maybe. 😊 For now, these are the famous theme parks that people, even Japanese residents, go to every season.
Warning: Always jam-packed.
11. FREE Things To Do(according to cities that I’ve been to)
Again, traveling around Japan is not as expensive as you think. You can add these activities in your list because these places are definitely for FREE! Plus it will give you the real Japanese vibe. As you can see, you can experience Japan’s culture at no cost. 👌
Balance your itinerary with these free places. 📝
Harajuku Lane (Takeshita Street)
Sensō-ji (famous Buddhist temple)
Pay a visit to the most loyal dog, Hachiko
Imperial Palace in Tokyo
Visit Parks (Yoyogi, Shinjuku)
Odaiba (Largest Gundam, Rainbow Bridge)
Otaku Haven in Akihabara
Attend a Matsuri Festival
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
Tsukiji Fish Market (You have to fall in line as early as 5 AM because they will only allow 120 tourists/day. (PS. It is closed to tourists since December 1, 2015 until January 17, 2016 – BUSIEST Time of the Year.)
Osaka Castle Park (going inside the castle requires admission fee)
Explore the elegance of Kyoto Station
Arashiyama’s Bamboo Forest
See a real Geisha
Kyoto Imperial Palace
12. Food and Drinks
It’s not Japan without trying their famous cuisine! To experience the Japanese dining culture, try to eat at their specialized restaurants like Izakaya(pubs) and yatai (food stalls). Most of the restaurants in Japan specialized just one type of food. 🍴
(a) Ramen (varies from different cities) ¥400-800 per bowl
(d) Yakiniku (grill it the way you want it) ¥500 – ¥2,500
(e) Takoyaki ¥300 – ¥700 (6-8 pieces)
(f) Meal Set ¥600 – ¥1000
(g) Mochi ¥100 – ¥150
(h) Drinks ¥80 – ¥160
Vending machines are almost available in every corner! It’s a little bit pricey tho, price ranges from ¥110 – ¥160. But if you are eager to save, I suggest you to visit big grocery stores like Yaoko, Homes’, Aeon, Maruetsu and Seiyu. Drinks are sold as low as ¥70 – ¥150 (500ml – 1L).
Almost every week, we visit the grocery stores to buy our food so definitely I can share you an updated price of products.
Mineral Water ¥90-180 (500ml, 1L)
Coffee (to go / can) ¥130-180 (300ml)
Milk ¥150-180 (300ml, 1L)
Beer ¥90-200 (300ml, 500ml)
Sports Drink ¥100-250 (300ml, 500ml, 1L)
Sodas ¥80-160 (300ml, 500ml, 1L)
Fruit Juice ¥80-200 (250ml, 500ml, 1L)
Chocolates (bars) ¥60-300
Chocolates (packs of 12) ¥150-300
Bento (Meal Set) ¥200-600
Best TipGrocery items are mark down at NIGHT! Grab some bread and drinks for your breakfast/snack. 🙂
13. Convenient Stores
If I will define Japan’s convenient store in one word it would be A-W-E-S-O-M-E. It’s like a mini grocery store that has everything you need. Open 24 hours to make people’s lives convenient. They have variety of drinks including beer & wine, bento meals, fresh salad, rice balls, fried snacks, doughnuts, fruits, ice cream, chocolates, cookies, chips, supplies, books, magazines, make up, chargers, prepaid gaming cards, prepaid credit cards, toiletries and some stores has MUJI apparels. They also have ATM, fax machines, photocopying machine and clean restrooms.
What are the convenient stores “konbini” in Japan?
Almost every touristy place has souvenir shops, you just have to check the prices carefully. Save when you can! 👌
Let me give you some suggestions.
(1) Don Quijote houses a lot of products from chocolates, clothing, gadgets, bags, apparels, shoes, appliances, make up, and many more. Prices are always marked down. They also give discounts for tourists by simply presenting your passport and visa. Some stores are also open for 24 hours so you can do something even at night! As of June 2015, they already have 260 shops throughout the country.
(2)Hyaku En Shoppu / Daisohas everything for only ¥100 plus tax. You can find dining wares, toys, craft items, school supplies, Hello Kitty stuffs and a lot more!
(3)Tokyo KitKat Chocolatory offers unique Kit Kat flavors that is only available in Japan! Some famous cities has their own specialty flavor too!
(4)Starbucks Tumblers & Mugs are available everywhere but if you are looking for the collectible items marked with the name of the city, Starbucks at the airport has it. It is also available in their respectivecities.
* Each tumbler costs around ¥1,400 including tax.
(5) Buy & Send Postcards! They sell 10 cards for ¥350-500.
15. Lastly, you should be aware that tipping is not allowed in Japan without compromising the service.
I know it’s quite long and may looks boring with all the information, but hey this post is for everyone who would love to go to Japan someday. I also included useful links that you can read later on. For you to travel on a light budget, you should learn how to plan and prioritize.
Personally, I’m not recommending a travel full of things to do on a limited time.
It’s not fun at all and you will end up exhausted.
It might work for those who only want good pictures, but I will suggest you to go for the GOOD EXPERIENCE. Something that you will treasure in your wonderful journey in seeing the world because one day you will pick up a photograph and remember the story behind it. I wish it’s a remarkable story. Would you like to remember how tired you were on the entire trip? Tired in a sense that you forgot to enjoy while spending your hard earned money?
Think about it.
There are people who don’t need these and they are the spontaneous travelers. They like to be surprise of the things they will encounter. Such a provoking idea, however there are still people who are quite hesitant to travel around Japan because of the language. I also get worried at times when I travel around the city, but I would like you to know that people who works at the airport, train stations & famous tourist spots know how to speak business English. Just give it a try and they will try to help you the best way they can.
I therefore conclude that with thorough planning and preparation, you can surely save bucks in the Land of the Rising Sun. 👌 💰
Cheers to more adventures! 👣✈️🌏
PS. I don’t advertise any of these. I’m plainly sharing facts with you. 🙂
Aside from the fact that I am half Japanese, of course, I Love JAPAN!
I started visiting Japan when I was 12 years old, my parents processed our papers as early as they can after they reunited in 2002. Basically, I am a resident in both countries.
Living in another country has distinct advantages and disadvantages. As for me, I was raised in a tropical country, the Philippines, and I am quite not comfortable with freezing temperature. Honestly, this is my first autumn and winter experience in Japan. A big luck for me.
For now, let’s talk about the reasons why I love Japan.
1. Availability of Vending Machines.
Yes, you can see vending machines everywhere and this is not your ordinary ‘jidō-hanbaiki’.
What can you get in a Japanese vending machine or ‘jidō-hanbaiki’? Basically, it offers hot and cold drinks, and surprisingly some of these machines also sell ice creams, toys and even hot meals like hot dog, French fries, Takoyaki(grilled octopus) and Onigiri(rice ball). No worries, these machines are managed daily.
Convenience at its finest.
2. It’s not Japan without Hello Kitty!
She is a fictional character born on November 1, in the suburbs of London, England. She was produced by the Japanese company Sanrio, created by Yuko Shimizu.
Hello Kitty stuff toy in Tokyo Solamachi of Tokyo Sky Tree.
Hello Kitty is almost everywhere in Japan. From clothing, toys, bags, shoes, key chains, stuff toy, kitchenware, food and the lists goes on.
To eat or not to eat?
They also have Sanrio Puroland, a theme park that features Hello Kitty, Little Twin Stars and My Melody. It is located in 1-31, Ochiai, Tama-shi, Tokyo for only ¥3,000.
Shall I visit you soon?
3. Craft Haven!
I’ve been making art journals and doodling for a month now, and I cannot deny the fact that ZIG and Kuretake products are easy to find and cheaper.
What can I say? It’s amazingly awesome! In one press or merely the sensor can flush the toilet. If you need some rinsing after urinating, no need for physical bidet, just simply press the button.
You can also increase/decrease its water pressure and sound volume.
Most of the time it is located just beside the ‘throne’, however I found some establishments that simply install it on the wall.
Aside from these buttons, they are also generous with tissue paper and you can immediately dispose it off the ‘throne’. No worries, it won’t cause any clogs in the sewage system.
5. Accessible and Efficient Transportation
Japan’s Rail System is truly one of the best, you can never question its speed, cleanliness and astounding service of efficiency. You can even travel around Japan by simply riding their Shinkansen (新幹線)/ Bullet Train.
They have reloadableSuica Card for passengers, it works as simply tap & go. You can also use the same card when buying at the convenience store or vending machine.
Trains have schedules and always on time, in case there is a delay, there might be suicide or earthquake.
Watch trains, come & go.
You can reload your card or buy tickets here.
If you don’t have Suica Card, you can still buy single journey tickets like this.
6. It’s a 4 Seasons country.
It’s just a four hour flight from the Philippines and you can experience spring, summer, fall and winter. Yay!
Sharing my Sakura experience! Cherry blossom usually starts in late March ’til May. They say that it’s the best season to visit Japan in a cool weather.
Cherry Blossoms when we visited our relatives in Kamakura City.
(My mother will kill me if she see this photo. I love you, Ma!)Cherry Blossoms in 2014
Since this is my first, I still don’t have any pictures of autumn and winter. As soon as I have one, I will update this post. ♥
7. Matcha Lovers!
Matcha (抹 茶) is finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea, it’s widely available in Japan. Most of the restaurants I’ve been to offered green tea rather than water.
Hot Matcha after Sushi. Vanilla ice cream topped with Matcha.
Krispy Kreme’s Matcha Doughnut is ♥
Of course, Starbuck’s Matcha Frappuccino.
Japan has the largest production and consumption of strawberries “ichigo“ in the world. You can find it easily because of its availability throughout the year, although the best season is from January to March.
Strawberry Shortcake, anyone?
How about strawberry picking? Hey, that’s my beautiful cousin!
9. KitKat Assorted Flavors
Yes, I admit that I am trying and eating new flavors every month. They sell each pack of 12’s for only ¥230 – ¥250.
Willer Express is a major highway bus company operating in Japan since 1994.
I know, pink buses are too cute! It’s like it was made for pink lovers.
Last September, I posted my story about climbing Mt. Fuji in celebration of my 24th Birthday. It was totally fun, amazing and very organized. It was my first international climb so I did not risk my safety and took the chance to have my reservation via Willer Express.
It was very easy to make a reservation via their website at http://willerexpress.com/en/. They had schedules for the Mt. Fuji Climbing Package, and I chose the dates closer to my birthday. I would suggest you reserve your slots early, it is honestly cheaper.
Reservations are available three months in advance!
Here are the routes availablethat are also eligible for BUS PASS.
Sounds good for tourists with Japan Bus Pass
There are also other routes, however these are not available for Bus Pass.
You can pay using credit card immediately or pay within two days if you opt to pay via convenience store within Japan.
As soon as I made my reservation, I received the confirmation email in less than a minute.
Since I am not a fan of any credit card, I immediately visited Family Mart and pay.
Ready for my trip!
Their website was easy to navigate and you also have the option to choose which bus you personally prefer, but keep in mind that price varies.
This popular RELAX bus has a blanket, electrical outlet, personal monitor/television, foot rest, leg rest and has wide seat.
If airlines have business class, Willer Express also has their EXECUTIVE Bus. It includes blanket, electrical outlet, DVD player, television, foot rest and privacy curtains. This bus also has toilet.
You can also choose BEAUTE Ladies in three colors, Pink, Yellow and Red. It has only three seats in a row, blanket, electrical outlet, leg rest and privacy curtains.
There are also other buses available depending on your own preference. Comfort and safety is not questionable with Willer Express.
They are also offering free membership registration, each point is equivalent to ¥1.
When we went to Mt. Fuji, we just had a standard bus that has 60 seats capacity and for my upcoming trip to Osaka, I chose the VALUE Bus that will travel overnight. It has blanket, electrical outlet, foot rest and toilet.
I am finally turning one of my dreams into reality.
Few weeks ago, I shared my first climb in the Philippines way back 2013. Today, I will share my experience in Japan’s Tallest Mountain, Mt. Fuji, which also served as my first solo pre-birthday climb.
It was late July when I chatted Kuya Eric Muñoz, a good friend I met online. We were supposed to climb together last August however our schedules didn’t matched. He taught me everything I needed to know so I can still push through with the climb.
I started climbing since 2013 and I cannot hide the feeling of gratification whenever I reached the summit. From sunrise to sunset, you will see through your bare eyes, your very own lens, how amazing this world could be. I believe that climbing a mountain is like achieving your goals in life, you work hard and you certainly do your best while reaching the top but the road is steep and you will need people to help and guide you. You will realized that this journey is not just about yourself. However, you still have to be cautious with the people you work with. As you grow, you will learn how to find balance in everything you do.
Mount Fuji, is a symbol of Japan and one of the most famous mountains in the world. This mountain contributes to Japan’s physical, cultural and spiritual geography. It is also their tallest mountain, standing at 3,776 meters (12, 380 feet). It is an active stratovolcano that is formed by violent eruptions. It has layers of rock, ash and lava.
– National Geographic
Fuji-san is the most popular tourist site in Japan, for both Japanese and foreign tourists. There are more than 200,000 hikers every year during summer season, from July to September, and I am not confident enough to plan my own itinerary so I decided to have my reservation via Willer Express in advance. There were only four dates available for September, so I chose the dates closer to my birthday and that was September 12th to 13th.
I highly recommend Willer Expressbecause they made our tour climb very easy and well organized. I paid for ¥27,800, which includes our roundtrip bus transportation from Shinjuku to Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station, accommodation at 8th Station, dinner, breakfast, gear rentals optional) and an English speaking tour guide.
I did not expect my parents to grant my request to climb Mt. Fuji on my own. They were worried because of its difficulty and I am not yet able to fully converse in Nihongo, however, Willer Expressmade it so easy for us. In line with this, I will write another article about how I got my reservation.
After making my reservation, it’s time to prepare the things needed for this major climb. Most of my things were bought by my mother, totally my first time to organize my stuff with Mama. Yes, when I was in the Philippines, I was used to doing things on my own. Please do not misinterpret the statement, I am really happy that I am now living with my family. Who wouldn’t want mother’s care? ♥
I brought the usual essentials for mountain climbing such as the following:
1.5L of water
toothbrush and toothpaste
500ml of Pocari Sweat
waterproof bag for my phone (it might rain)
extra pair of clothes & socks
For capturing memories, I have my three years old iPhone4S, Instax Mini8 and Go Pro Hero 4S.
I wasn’t able to bring my hiking stuffs from the Philippines, so we took advantage of Willer Express Gear Rentals. It includes waterproof Berghaus hiking bag, hiking shoes, headlamp with extra set of batteries, two ski poles and rainwear.
As much as possible I plan to pack light during this climb to avoid too much exhaustion.
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR?
Aside from planning, it is also very important to know what to wear during hiking. Back then, as long as I am comfortable, it won’t matter.
However, climbing a mountain as high as 3,776 meters or 12,380 feet is alarming. I am supposed to be ready but I still ended up wearing leggings, t-shirt, hoodie, gloves, bonnet, and an extra leggings and socks to wear for the night. Plus the rain wear I rented, in case of rain and strong wind.
Ideally, you should consider the following:
Various layers of clothing since the temperature on the summit is close to the freezing point.
If rain occurs, I personally don’t advised umbrella. It’s useless. Rainwear is a lot better to keep you dry and warm too.
To keep you warm, do not forget your gloves, bonnet and scarf.
You can also bring head wear for safety due to falling rocks.
Most importantly, please use a durable shoes.
DAY 1 OF MT. FUJI CLIMB (September 12, 2015)
Before I do something or go somewhere, I make sure I made my own research of what to expect. I have read few blogs narrating that they were not able to see the sunrise due to bad weather, and I am really good at overthinking. For one month, I prayed for good weather and strength to survive. I was so excited, I didn’t get much sleep. I am supposed to wake up at 4:30 am, and I was up an hour early.
I’ve got the most caring mother, and the sweetest father.
He woke up early to take me to the meeting place in Shinjuku. We left the house around 5:15 am because we have to be in Sumitomo Building at 7 am. Good thing we left early, train schedules were messed up due to earthquake around 5:50 am. If you noticed, I didn’t mention any breakfast, I am really controlling my bowel movements.
From Shinjuku, it will take a ten minutes’ walk to Sumitomo Building.
Finally, we arrived around 7:10 am.
As I checked – in, I was given a piece of paper indicating my bus number, which was 3. Before I proceed in getting my rentals, I said goodbye to Papa and ask him not to worry because I’ll be home tomorrow.
Let the adventure begins.
On the other room, I was instructed to approach the marshals in yellow vest to claim my rentals. Even though there are a lot of guests, in a minute or two, I was attended already. They provided my gear rentals and asked me to check it. All of the items turned out to be in good quality and clean.
While transferring my stuffs, I was already seated beside Hune Lin Liu. She’s a student from Taiwan, who is currently studying here in Tokyo. We looked for the assigned bus and was hoping to seat beside each other. However, we were the last to get inside, so I ended up sitting beside a guy from Germany. I hesitated to start a conversation, since I am so nervous about the whole trip. Seriously, I can’t imagine myself climbing with foreigners, but I know I can take advantage of the English language.
We left Shinjuku before 8 am and I can say that all seats for Bus #3 was taken. My eyes were too observant, I can see participants from different countries.
To start the trip, our bus tour guide introduced himself as Ritsu Orihara. He has been a tour guide for Mt. Fuji for two years, I cannot imagine how many times he climbed their tallest mountain. He has the capabilities of a professional mountaineer and he really can converse in English.
On our way to the 5th Station, he even talked to us one by one. He made rapport to everyone. As I made my turn, I told him that I am from the Philippines, however my family is here and my father is a Japanese so I am staying for good. He was very grateful and has a big smile on his face, saying “Thank you for staying.” I appreciate all his efforts, we all know how Japan needs to boost their young generation.
Moreover, we were given reminders such as the following:
bring at least 1.5L of water
upon reaching Mt. Fuji all trashes must be kept on our own since there are no garbage bins at the mountain
commodes are available in every station but make sure to keep ¥100 coins handy for tip
food and drinks are available in every station however it will be pricey
Welcome to Mt. Fuji, A World Heritage Site!
Our initial view.
It took us three hours to reach the 5th Station, including a 20 minutes stop over. We were still inside the bus, and the view was totally breathtaking! At first I hesitated to take pictures but I can’t contain the urge, so I made a few shots. And that’s when Mr. Germany and I, started a small talk. I’m sorry I forgot his name. He asked what my camera was, and I told him it was Go Pro, an action camera you can use for outdoor activities. He told me that this was his first climb, and he mentioned we were bothlucky for a good weather. I totally agree.
Finally at the 5th Station (2,305m) by 11 am. It was a special holiday weekend for the Japanese, and I can say that Mt. Fuji was jam-packed.
5th Station (2,305m)
We were given an hour to eat lunch, go to the rest room and rent a locker if we need to leave some stuff. We were dropped off at Komitake Building. First floor served as the souvenir shop, diner at the second floor and lockers available at the third floor for only ¥300. I leave my backpack and shoes, making my bag lighter. One ofHune Lin Liu’s friend approached me if she can leave her shoes and I said yes, since I got more space. She handed ¥150 in exchange. I guess we both want to save some bucks.
Hashtag Selfie. Hashtag Half Face.
At 12 noon, we all meet at the center of 5th Station (Bay D). All along I thought it was only Ritsu who will guide us, however we have additional tour guides and they were Ishida MotoyukiandYasuko Kitahara. We had some stretching and short briefing of what to expect, do’s and don’ts.
All of them were speaking English, it wouldn’t be so hard to communicate if needed.
Since there were a lot of guests, we were given a badge attached to our shoes and a green fish bag tag indicating we were from Willer Express. In that case, it will be easy for us to acknowledge our group. Instructions were made very clear. They mentioned that the climb usually take 6 hours to 8th station, however guests that weekend were tripled so it might take a little longer.
They assured us that food and drinks were available in some parts of the trail. Same situation applies with restrooms. On the other hand, the higher we climb, the pricier it gets. For example, restrooms in 5th Station costs ¥100, while in 6th to 8th station it will costs ¥200, and at the summit it will be ¥300.
While discerning my environment, I can see participants from all walks of life – there were group of exchange students, couples, families and surprisingly, there were some adult in their late 50’s/60’s.
For safety purposes, they informed us that we should not hesitate to inform them how we are feeling. Climbing Mt. Fuji can still be dangerous because of the weather condition. The weather can be different in every station, simply expect the worst but stay cautious. If in case someone cannot pursue the climb, they can stay at one of the lodgings in 7th Station and meet us the next day at the 5th Station. Trails are properly identified, no need to worry of getting lost.
Shoe Selfie, my best friend during climb.
We all know that listening to instructions is very important. It’s not just about my safety, but for everyone I am with during this climb. We have to be responsible enough to follow the rules and respect their culture.
Deep inside, I am excited and fidgety at the same time.
I can do this with Him.
In this journey I learned that we all need sometime alone to think and reflect on our own.
We were asked to fall in line. All tour guides were dispersed, Yasuko was in front of the line, Ritsu was at the middle & always does his headcount from time to time and lastly, Ishida or “Gen” at the tail of the line.
We started climbing around 12:35 pm.
Yellow for Yoshida Trail. Go #TeamRitsu!
There are 4 different trails that lead you up to the summit of Mt. Fuji.
Yoshida Trail (Yamanashi Prefecture) – most popular; best route to take for climbers with zero experience
Fujinomiya Trail (Shizuoka Prefecture) – shortest distance to the summit.
Subashiri Trail (Shizuoka Prefecture) – suited for more experienced hikers
Gotemba Trail (Shizuoka Prefecture) – most difficult route
At first, the weather was quite tolerable. I remembered applying sunblock as advised by Kuya Eric, and since I am buddy with Hune Lin Liu, I offered the lotion. My hoodie didn’t have any closed pockets so I asked her to keep it, so we can reapply easily. Yay! Big thanks, Darling! ♥
After almost an hour of walking, we reached the 6th Station, where the ascending and descending trail meets. It was foggy and cold, but I can still manage.
However, we were told that we might reach 7th Station in 2 – 3 hours and there will be no restrooms available along the trail.
Portable restrooms costs ¥200. Please be reminded that no one will collect fees from using the restrooms. You have to drop the coins at the tip box. As I go inside, it was totally smelly but no litters around. I guess everyone was disciplined enough to follow rules.
As we continue hiking, trail gets steeper and busier.
The mighty sun says “Hi” to everyone.
It was getting hotter and I don’t want my usage of Koji soap into waste! So, I didn’t removed my hoodie. If you noticed, I didn’t eat much but I drink a lot. Along the trail, I already finished 500 ml of Pocari Sweat.
Here are some photos showing how ‘konderu’ it was during that day.
konderu (混んでいる)means crowded
As we walked along the sides of Mt. Fuji, we were in awe of the sea of clouds
on our way to the 7th Station.
It was beautiful and breathtaking.
Since it was the last week of hiking season for September, they were expecting thousands of hikers that weekend. Everyone had a smile on their faces, I think we were all excited to reach the 8th station and take a rest.
We walked continuously and I took a drink once in awhile. The water was cold and refreshing. I noticed I am having dried lips, good thing I have my lip balm.
We reached 7th Station (2,700m) around 4 pm and I was already gasping of air. I made some deep breathing exercises. The higher we climb, the air becomes thinner.
I kept on telling myself “I can do this”. I am thankful I found a good company. They were really nice, including the tour guides who constantly checked on our condition.
Be reminded to replenish with water and few snacks to have enough strength. I was indeed challenged with this climb, aside from the altitude, I was struggling with the cold temperature.
“Gambarimasu” Team Ritsu!
I saw Mr. Germany, and I did not hesitate to take the available seat beside him. We made a small talk. He told me that the pace was too slow, due to traffic jam of climbers. Oh snap! It was absolutely all right for me, on the other hand, it will take us longer hours to reach the top.
Since I drink a lot, goodbye ¥200.
This restroom was way better than the portable ones in 6th Station, it has flush available and supply of tissue. As advised, we can flush after a few use, since the water supply is limited at the mountain.
At the 7th Station, around 2,900m, you will see the red Torii-gate as the land mark of Torii-So.
Torii-So at 2,900m
Before we continue walking, our tour guides reminded us that the trail to 8th Station will be harder, steeper and more challenging. Again, I told my inner self to stay calm and be cautious.
Aja! I can do this.
We resumed walking and I bumped into some Malaysian folks. We had a good small talk about mountains and my previous visit in Kuala Lumpur. As much as I would like to join them walking, I needed some rest, so I let them get ahead of me. I found Hune Lin Liu and we walked side by side. She was so kind, and I am very grateful.
I did not noticed I was already walking with Gen and the lady from India. Again, I forgot her name. My bad.
4 Asians in 1 Photo
Gen from Japan, Lady from India, Hune from Taiwan and yours truly from the
beautiful island of the Philippines.
This photo was taken at 6 pm and we were half way through the 8th Station.
My legs were already tired from walking. I remember the lady from India sharing her jacket because I was already shaking. It was a cold, windy night. Participants from Team Ritsu continue their hike, while six of us took a 10-15 minutes rest while waiting for Gen, he was assisting last few hikers from the group.
Aside from my short legs, I am not used to cold weather.
I told myself, ‘Challenge Accepted’.
As soon as he arrived, we continue walking. Gen kept on telling us to walk slowly and perform deep breathing. I saw his heavy hiking bag, but he can still smile and cheer for everyone. He was very kind and considerate. I walked with him so I can push myself to continue.
I had no pictures for the night. Priority: Safety.
We reached the 8th Station First Aid area around 7 pm. Unfortunately, we have to leave some of the members of #TeamRitsu.
7 hours of walking amidst the moody weather, was no joke at all.
We were just 300 meters away from our mountain lodge. I walked hand in hand with Gen and it was like hiking with your personal coach. He taught of deep breathing and lend me another jacket. We had few small talks, I am not sure if he had been or he wanted to visit Cebu. Little did I know, we were already at Hon-Hachigome Tomoe-kan (本八合目トモエ館). Without his help, I couldn’t make it. I was also grateful, I did not experience altitude sickness.
If you are planning to hike Mt. Fuji next season, you should make your reservation ahead of time. Most of the mountain huts turned out to be full during the crowded season.
We arrived at Tomoe-kan (3,400m) at 8:15 pm. We took some rest until we were called for dinner. I had no picture of the food, but it was hamburger-topped curry and rice. I wasn’t able to finish everything but it was delicious.
They can accommodate up to 250 guests with their bunk beds, with Japanese futon or sleeping bags. If you are hungry, you need not to worry because they are also serving dinner and breakfast for hikers. At the entrance of their hut, you will also see that they are selling noodles, water, energy drink, chocolates, chips, souvenirs and post cards.
I forgot to mention that you can buy Mt. Fuji stick that will serve as your pole. In each station, you can have stamps on it for ¥300-600.
I am lying comfortably on my Japanese futon at 9:30 pm, while charging my gadgets. FYI, WiFi signal was excellent at Mt. Fuji. I wanted to sleep but my head can’t stop thinking of the sunrise.
DAY 2 OF MT. FUJI CLIMB (September 13, 2015)
I woke up around 1 am, it was very cold and immediately went to the restroom. Goodbye ¥200.
We were supposed to climb the summit at 2:30 am to witness the sunrise at 5 am, but they rescheduled it to 3:30 am due to strong winds. I got cough and colds already.
The long wait is over, sunrise at 5:20 am.
It was indeed one of the best Sunday Morning I had.
Meet the Sun and Moon in one picture.
Goraiko (ご来光) means Sunrise.
Go has the meaning of politeness and respect. Rai means coming. Ko means light.
Words are not enough to describe how beautiful you are.
My 8th Mountain for my 24th Year of Existence.
Despite the challenges of this climb, I am still grateful for the opportunity and the people around me. I felt like I am a new person facing a new world and starting a new beginning. My decision to live away from the things and people I am used to will be hard and entails a lot of adjustments, but to live with my family is the greatest.
Last night, our tour guide informed us that we can walk around the crater of Fuji-san for an additional ¥500.
However, the weather wasn’t that good after the sunrise contradicting the forecast above. There was strong winds and mild rain.
Before we begin the descent, we had a sumptuous breakfast.
Gomoku Rice. Salmon. Tamago. All for Mt. Fuji Breakfast.
According to Ed Viesturs, “Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory”. I guess no matter how great things turned out to be, we still have to go down and face our own mountain.
We left 8th Station at 8 am. If you think you were strong enough to ascend this mountain, going down was a lot more challenging! It was slippery with pebbles, wind gets colder and stronger with rain. Honestly, this was the the worst part.
One and Only Photo while descending Mt. Fuji.
I descended the mountain from 8 am to 12:50 pm. I heard myself praying a lot of times, praying for the strong winds to stop. It didn’t stop, even the rain continues to fall and I have to continue despite these challenges. Just like in reality, you don’t let your problems stop you.
We were supposed to meet at Komitake Building at 12 noon. During that time, the Indian lady and I, were still at the 6th Station. I am already exhausted and crying of pain, it was very cold and my body was shaking. Gen and Yasuko, tried their best to assist me while walking. While holding my legs, Gen performed few massage and I can’t help but cry. He knew I am in pain. I saw him talking to some security officials and that’s when he told us that someone will take us to the 5th Station. I don’t know what to say, I am so thankful for this man. I couldn’t make it without him.
We were late for an hour and felt so sorry for the inconvenience. Again, I am seated beside Mr. Germany, he asked me where I had been and I told him what happened. They arrived at the 5th Station at 11 am and took all the time to rest while waiting for us. This time I did not hesitate to thank everyone.
We left 5th Station at 1 pm and arrived at the Kawaguchiko Lake at 2 pm. We have our option to try ‘onsen’ or rest inside the bus. I chose the latter. I took some rest and arrange my stuffs. No worries, I got my things from the rented locker. We returned the gear rentals at 3:15 pm.
Finally! We reached Shinjuku at 8 pm, it was traffic at the expressway.
That was long, but hey if you reached this part,
THANK YOU FOR READING, I APPRECIATE IT! ♥
Learning doesn’t stop inside the four walls of your classroom, it is a continuous process. I am already 24, and I am still learning a lot in various aspects. Once in a while, you have to do something new, something that will challenge yourself. We all have our own mountain to conquer, each path might be different but it will be worth it. I don’t pray for an easy climb or life, I pray for the strength to carry on no matter how hard, how high it will be.
We’re not cats, we have one life to live, so make it worthwhile.
Reach what you aim to be and I wish you the best.
Post Climb Selfie
It was indeed a very memorable weekend and birthday, at
Japan’s Tallest mountain, Mt. Fuji.
“24 Hours in Mt. Fuji for my 24th Year of Existence”
Again, I am forever grateful for the gift of life.
According to Stewart Dryburgh, Kit-Kat’s Global Brand Manager, Japan really loves Kit-Kat ( キットカット). In fact, it sounds like ‘kitto katsu’, which means ‘you will surely win’. It is the best selling chocolate since 2012 in Japan that led Nestlé to launch its first boutique, Kit-Kat Chocolatory.
It was opened last January 17, 2014, in Seibu department store in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district, where you can choose from wonderfully experimental flavours.
“Its success has been fuelled by the launch of hundreds of unusual and innovative special edition flavours to meet Japanese consumers’ experimental tastes and sense of style.
KitKat fans in Japan have been able to choose from varieties including Purple Potato, Cinnamon Cookie, European Cheese, Bean Cake and Wasabi – unwrapping sticks of pale green, delicate pink and lilac chocolate that look and taste very different from those anywhere else in the world.” – Nestle
Take a look on what we found…
I am very fascinated with Kit-Kat. Whenever I get the chance, I try new flavors available at the grocery. From the usual chocolate kit-kat, Japan offers exquisite seasonal flavours such as Dark Chocolate, Green Tea, Apple, Orange, Cheesecake, Mandarin and Lemon, Strawberry, Raspberry, Wasabi, Azuki Red Bean Toast, Rum Raisin, Roasted Tea, Purple Potato and Cinnamon Cookie. Each box cost¥400 that contains four packs.
There are also three special varieties created by Chocolatier Takagi, which are Sublime Bitter, Special Sakura Green Tea and Special Chilli. Two of which were out of stock when I visited the store.
On the other hand, I was able to get three awesome flavors.
I got Strawberry Maple, Sakura Green Tea and Ginger.
Cute packaging, good for gifts.
Yummy Treats from Kit-Kat!
You can never go wrong with these treats as ‘omiyage’.
Omiyage (お土産) is a gift or souvenir you give to friends, coworkers, and family after returning home from a trip.
Don’t forget to buy some new flavored Kit-Kats when you visit Tokyo!
Aside from Kit-Kat Chocolatory, you can also visit big supermarkets such as Seiyu, AEON, Yaoko and Ito-Yokado, they sell kit-kats for only ¥220-280 per pack (12 pieces). They usually have Green Tea, Dark Chocolate, Apple and Cheesecake.
Sometimes it is better to try something ‘new’, rather than the usual.