Monday, July 7, 2014

Mount Fuji for a Day

Hello! I'm back after hibernating for a month. I have accepted a new role in the corporate world which made me busy as a bee. Now where was I? Oh, there are still some stuff I'd like to share with you about the trip to Tokyo.

We visited Japan's highest and most sacred mountain: Mt. Fuji.


We took the touristy route this time because we only have a week to explore the city and booking a day tour will save us time and energy. It is also economical. I booked the tour online in advance from Japanican. I made sure to check the weather forecast before booking the exact date of the tour because it doesn't make any sense to visit Mount Fuji on a rainy or cloudy day. It usually likes to hide its peak in a bed of clouds.

We assembled at Keio Plaza Hotel in Shinjuku together with other people who booked the tour. Our transportation was a giant motorcoach. The seats are comfortable that can be reclined. There is no bathroom on board but we made stops every few hours. Despite areas with heavy traffic, we were able to make it on time. We were also taught how to sing the Mount Fuji song and the Sakura song while traveling on the road.





The road to Mount Fuji's 5th Station is closed due to heavy snow but that's OK. It had been the tour's disclaimer even before we signed up because the weather can really be unpredictable. What matters most is we got to see the gorgeous snow-capped peak at the nearest distance possible.



Next stop, Oshino Hakkai. It is a small picturesque village with beautiful ponds with spring water that came all the way from Mount Fuji's melted snow.





Look at the size of this ancient tree!



Next stop, Lunch at Lake Kawaguchi. We were served a Japanese-style set lunch. There's nothing special about it but it was filling.


After a hearty lunch, we went straight to Shiraito Falls. It's a waterfall from melting snow falling down Mount Fuji.


Our last stop before the tour ends was Fujisan Hongu Sengen Taisha Shrine. A Shinto shrine that has been around since ancient times.






The tour was efficient! We managed to see a lot of beautiful sceneries in such a limited time. The tour guide is pleasant, entertaining and knowledgeable about the sights. We were even able to squeeze in an origami lesson on the ride back to Tokyo. The tour has an option to take the shinkansen back to the city but we chose to take the cheaper option. It was time and money well spent!

Photos taken by Canon 550d and iPhone5

Friday, May 9, 2014

Muji

I am a Muji customer for six years now and counting. Muji  is short for Mujirushi Ryohin which translates to "No Label Quality Goods". My first Muji experience was in Causeway Bay, Hong Kong. I remember purchasing in 2008 two pairs of aluminum square hangers that are still being put to good use till today. When Muji opened in Manila, I was ecstatic because it is now more accessible to me. Hence, it eliminates the issue of excess baggage during overseas trips. Some of the Muji stores I was able to visit were in Hong Kong, Manila, Tokyo and New York.



What's so special about Muji? Well, I like their minimalist concept (no-label/brand policy), simple designs and their conscious effort in saving the environment through recycling plus minimizing waste production. I just have to share their four core principles:

  1. Streamlined, functional design eliminating excess decoration.
  2. Basic, understated color guaranteed to blend and never dominate
  3. Value for money, the right balance between quality and price
  4. Complete lifestyle product range encompassing all aspects of life 

As a Muji devotee, I went to Muji Yurakucho store, their flagship store located in Ginza which also houses the largest Muji cafe. Beside it is the infamous Loft.



Mike and I tried their coffee and some of their pastries. Everything was yummy!


Assorted baked goods and deli selection.


I also had the opportunity to browse some stuff and have lunch at their store in Shibuya. Mike bought two packs of ground coffee while I contemplated in buying their ready-made butter chicken sauce.


Muji stores in Tokyo sell bikes that you can customize. Biking is up the husband's alley. I could tell from his facial expression that he was enthralled.


I chose the 3-Deli set. A set consists of 1 hot deli + 2 cold delis + rice and a drink of your choosing. Their apple juice is now a favorite. The menu is not in English so I had to point a lot and ask some questions from the staff. A Japanese translation app I downloaded from the App Store was very helpful.


It was a cold day and my Muji coat came in handy. I got this at half the price in Muji Yurackucho.


I hope they open a Cafe & Meal Muji here in Manila soon. I'd also like to bring my sister too in Muji Yurakucho. She was the one who introduced Muji to me when she was living in Hong Kong. It was just across her serviced apartment. But during that time, it didn't have a cafe and it didn't serve meals.

My sister and I can form a groupie. Lol.

First Photo via Selectism, Second Photo via Fashion Journal and the rest of the photos taken using iPhone5

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Gundam

Most of our childhood and adolescent years were spent watching Japanese cartoons. Part of the plan was to visit the 1:1 RX-78 Gundam Robot outside Diver City located in the Odaiba district. The RX-78 Gundam is a fictional manned robot introduced in 1979. It's a long running Japanese anime series and TV franchise.

To get here from our place, we had to ride the Keio New Line from Hatagaya station, go down Shinjuku station, ride the Toei Subway Oedo Line, go down Shiodome station, ride the Yurikamome monorail then hop off Daiba station. The whole commute takes 49 minutes and costs Y 660. The Yurikamome monorail is driver-less and felt like it runs on rubber tires. I recommend sitting in front so you can get a spectacular view of the bay and the Rainbow bridge.

It was a beautiful day. Cool weather partnered with sunny skies. When we hopped off the monorail and walked over to Diver City, a wave of nostalgia swept over me when I saw the 18 meter Gundam. It was so surreal! I'd like to see this next time at night and enjoy the light show.


Snap.Snap.Snap.







I look so tiny with Gundam.


The experience was fantastic! This is one of the highlights of our Tokyo trip.

Some info taken from Gail Nakada of Huffington Post and Gigantic Statues
Photos taken using Canon 550D

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tokyo's Piss Alley

So we stumbled upon Memory Lane (Omoide Yokocho) by chance while we were strolling Shinjuku. Mike and I were both undecided where to eat. Memory Lane is an alley filled with eateries and bars serving Japanese street food mainly yakitori, beer, sake and the like. It is near JR Shinjuku train station's east exit. The ambiance is like old-world Tokyo. The locals refer to this place as Piss Alley (Shonben Yokocho) because the area originally had no public restrooms until it burned down in 1999 and got rebuilt. During the early post-war days, they say it was a drinking den frequented by criminals. Foreigners call this place Yakitori Alley and was also featured in A Mind of a Chef, one of my favorite TV shows in TLC.



While deciding among these places to eat, a cook from one of the bars approached us and said "Mazarap". (Masarap means delicious in Tagalog)  Apparently, he identified us to be Filipinos. We had to squeeze in with the regulars mostly men wearing business suits and carrying briefcases often referred to as "salarymen". The place can seat about 6 - 8 persons. We ordered a big bowl of ramen and gyoza to share. We got our wishes. The food was delicious. I literally felt like one of the locals. This is a perfect place to soak up some Japanese culture.


Best. Gyoza. Ever.


The smells here are enticing. The prices are affordable.


Sigh! I love Japan! I wish I can live here. =)

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Sakura Season

The sakura also known as cherry blossoms were in full bloom while we were in Tokyo. It was a spectacular sight to behold. Walking under clouds of pink petals was like being in a fairy tale. I couldn't get over on how beautiful they were. The appearance of these pink blooms signify the winter season is almost over.



During springtime in Japan, flower-viewing parties are held called Hanami. Hanami is a small party or get together held outdoors to appreciate the prettiness of these pink trees. This custom is centuries-old.



Sakura up close.

A weeping cherry tree at a Shinto temple near Mount Fuji.


Many parks and gardens in Tokyo are great spots to view cherry blossoms or host a hanami. I suggest checking the cherry blossom forecast if you're planning a trip to Japan's vast urban sprawl in springtime. After this experience, I have new found respect for flowering trees. I'm excited to see these again most probably in Kyoto.

Happy Easter!

Photos taken using Canon 550D and iPhone5

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