Matcha Parfait

July 20, 2017

Arashiyama is all about matcha! Whoa. One of the shops right in front of the Tenryuuji Temple had such a delicious looking matcha parfait on display, and I’m not one to resist temptation…

So off I went, and lookie lookie:

Display picture vs actual dish – the actual dish is actually better! Oh, and I honestly think that the container is honest to goodness bamboo.

And this is the “innards” of that dish. Nomnomnom

 

A Cluster of Stars: Subaru

July 5, 2017

The Subaru factor is far from Tokyo. Well, I can’t really complain – it took me more than two hours to get to the factor in Gunma for Subaru, and it’ll take me longer to go to Panasonic. A, the things we do to visit these esteemed companies.

A pretty good perk of studying are company visits – we get to see the inside of companies we otherwise would not be allowed to see. You can’t exactly knock on a factory and ask “can I look at your operations?”

So. Who is Subaru?

They are an plane manufacturing company that decided to use the jet engines to cars.

Yes, you’ve read that right. Planes. Jet Engines. Cars.

That’s basically it. They’re not really out to be the next Toyota. They are happy in their own world. Heck, they keep their production in Japan and USA, not really the ideal places for cheap production. It’s because they are not after cost – they are after quality with exceptional standards on safety.ย  Yeah, yeah, that’s sales talk right there and I was convinced.

The visit was highly interesting. All I could think of is “robots, robots, ROBOTS!”. To be clear, robots are not necessarily terminator type robots. Robots can simply be one arm that handles the welding of the car door. We saw how cars are made from rolls of steel to that couple of million yen cars. Yes, from rolls of steel. We saw how they stamped, welded and assembled the cars. We saw the conveyor “belts”, and transmission “robots” that facilitated all product transfer.

Japanese companies are at the top of their fields when it comes to manufacturing. I got a peek at it. Wish pictures were allowed. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

 

 

Branding: Crafting with your Hands

May 2017

One of our classes is branding, with classes mainly involving workshop sessions where we used our hands on crafting activities. The goal is to identify the brand and to visualize it. Now, I still don’t get it, but the activities are pretty interesting (though I hope I never do it again).

One of them is looking at a classmate, and try to make a mask of that person using your understanding of this person. So you talk and ask questions, then draft a mask. Here’s mine!

and here’s the rest of the class’:

The NAIA Pain

June 4, 2017 (technically 11:56pm, June 3 in Manila)

One thing with the Philippines – you get used to waiting. Long lines are the norm, and be prepared to pay for each and every benefit. (We do try to imitate the capitalistic US)

Unlimited Fees

So, going to NAIA requires a fee on the expressway (if you wanna have a faster route). It’s a bit cheap, at only around PHP50 (rate changes regularly). Using the airport is also charged at PHP1,620, unless you are an OFW or a kid, in which case you get a discount.

Long Lines

When they say be there two hours before, be there two hours BEFORE. Lines are long, and you should prepare well.

Blackmail – Laglag bala

It has lied low in the past couple of years, but it may still be there. How does it work? Once you pass through the security check, they (the employees), will put illegal stuff in your bag (before, it was a bullet which was illegal before, but was amended by the President) and require you to bribe them to let you go. So watch your bags, never let anyone else touch it, and if flagged, don’t touch anything and don’t let anyone touch anything.

Sakura – Grass Edition?

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May 13, 2017

About nine months ago, I remember a guy telling me to go to Fuji on May. That’s probably because of this – the grass sakura. I think it would have been majestic had Fuji-san graced us with her presence, but that is one elusive sight. Was it still worth it? For people who want to take a breather from the city, most definitely.

How to get there

From Kawaguchiko station (look at article Fujinomiya), go to Platform 7 for the Shibazakura. There’s a shuttle bus at JPY2000. That’s round trip, with entrance tickets included.

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We’ve got the most special seats in the place. Right next to the driver!
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They also have shows. They’re not much, but it’s decent entertainment.
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Hello, Mt. Fuji – flower edition! This is the reverse of the usual shot. See that platform? Normally people go up there, and the real Mt. Fuji is right behind us. Unfortunately, the mountain’s hiding so we had to settle with the flower edition.
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The good thing with the rain is that you get shots like this.
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Shibazakura! Fields of flowers, lake, mountains. What else do we need?

 

 

 

 

 

Asuka Shrine

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May 14, 2017

One of the main shrines in the Fuji area, the tree with the ribbon is more than a thousand years old! That’s good quality, right there.

We walked from our place, Hotel Mt. Fuji You to here for around 20 minutes, so just consult your google maps. ๐Ÿ˜‰

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This is the entrance before the torii, before the demarcation point between the earthly world and the spirit world.
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On the way to it, we saw plenty of paths filled with sakura flowers. It seems that the beauty of sakura is merely increased with how fleeting it is (considering they bloom for only around two weeks)

Aokigahara Caves

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May 14, 2017

It’s a pity Aokigahara is famous for the suicide, when it is has a beautiful forests and plenty of caves. They have lava cave, wind cave and ice cave. We started with the Ice Cave, walked around 20 minutes to go to the Wind Cave, then walked around two hours across the forest.

It costs JPY600 to go to both caves, btw.

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Narusawa Ice Cave

The cave is pretty small, and there’s an area that is around 3/4 of a meter high, so better practice your squats before coming here.

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Here’s someone starting to squat to pass through the small tunnel.
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The end of the tunnel above wasn’t impressive, but the way out (this view) was pretty cool (cool – get it? haha sorry).
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I don’t know why they have bars on the ice. It’s not like people will steal them. (Yeah, people might touch but come on, it’s ice!)
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You have to wear a helmet. And you should. These scratches are proof of all the heads they protected. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Wind Cave

The wind cave path is right behind the toilet! Turn right, then walk for around 20 minutes. I doubt you’ll get lost. Don’t go off the trail!

Once we got there, I kind of got confused why it’s called a wind cave. Really. It looked just like the Ice Cave!

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With a much impressive pillar of ice.
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The natural refrigerator! There was even some picture of people offering this to their “lord”. I remembered the guy from Frozen selling ice – probably similar, eh?
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At the end of the cave is this simulated stock room. They stored silkworms and tree seeds here.

The Infamous Suicide Forest

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May 14, 2017

I am not a superstitious person but I’m pretty easy to scare. So when I knew I was walking into what is known as “Suicide Forest”, I was pretty scared. I kept on thinking that I’ll see some personal effects of those who have left. About five minutes later, I was kinda hoping. No luck.

How to get there

There’s a pass you can buy at the ticket booth in Kawaguchiko station for a two day unlimited pass for JPY1300. It passes through the Aokigahara area, and some parts north of the Kawaguchiko river. As one way fare to Aokigahara is JPY670, we decided to just buy the pass.

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This is our introduction to the forest – parasitic trees. That didn’t bode well for us.
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It was pretty dense – this is just the entrance.

Superstitious or not, we were careful to follow the directions.

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This is what the rest of the forest looks like. Plenty of moss. Very quiet for those who wanted a lifetime of silence.

Now, after our trip, that’s when I started to read on Aokigahara. Here are some items I’ve learned:

  • This place has been mentioned in literature, one of which was the manual for suicide (in Japanese). So people actually go here. About a decade ago, they usually find a hundred bodies here (take note, find). However, with how famous the place has become, they stopped publishing the numbers.
  • The reason why it’s scary? It’s unnaturally quiet. As it is very dense, it probably serves as noise cancellation. Did I feel it? Nope. I am not a quiet person. So my friend and I were talking the ENTIRE time, sometimes with music. Inย  hindsight, I’ll probably be scared had I been alone.
  • There are signs discouraging people from suicide. I didn’t see one – or maybe I saw one but didn’t recognize it as it’s in Japanese. But I did see a lot ofย  “do not go off the trail” signs.
  • Years and years ago, they even had the practice of leaving people here to die. That and with all the suicides, the atmosphere is believed to be “malevolent”. Oh, and they even have a practice (based on one blog) where one person sleeps next to a dead body when found to appease the evil spirit.
  • It IS creepy. Please don’t go there alone.

Fujinomiya

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May 13-14, 2017

Fuji is one of the more known areas in Japan for one simple reason – Mt. Fuji. I see Mt. Fuji even from my place in Tokyo, Odaiba. Unfortunately, when we got there, it was so cloudy we didn’t see Mt. Fuji at all. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

How to get there

1. Go to the Keio bus terminal near the south exit of Shinjuku, 4th floor. The fare is around JPY3,500 roundtrip, less 10% for students (just tell them at the counter). Book your ticket online as tickets sell fast. When I went, those with no reservations have to wait 3 hours. Ouch.

2. Get off at Kawaguchiko Station.

That’s it. Basically Kawaguchiko Station is the main transportation hub here.

We stayed at Hotel Mt. Fuji You, which is the cutest hostel I have ever been, at a decent price (JPY3,800 a night)

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It’s small, but really cozy. Oh, and less than a 300meters from the Fujisan station. That’s around JPY200 ride away from Kawaguchiko Station.
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Fuji flowers!
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That’s Fuji-Q. Honestly, it felt like a stairway to nowhere.
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That’s quite a fence.
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I knew the Japanese are not the tallest people, but come on! I think the door’s merely 4 ft tall!

6 hours in Xiamen

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April 30, 2017

With six hours for my layover, there’s NO way I’m staying in the airport. Almost all nationalities can leave the airport if they have a 24 hour transit. Some nationalities even have 72 hours (not for Filipinos). Since my layover is from 6pm to 12mn, might as well have dinner in China, right?

Immigration

There’s a separate lane for the 24/72 hour visa free entries. The girl at immigration speaks decent English, and that’s about all the English I encountered. I had a friend write some Chinese phrases, and boy were they helpful!

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My “script” has ~three sentences: 1. Please take me to xxx restaurant. 2. Please take me to Xiamen Airport and 3. I don’t have a visa. Can I stay here for 24 hours, and may I leave the airport?

Transportation

At the taxi stand, I talked to the lady helping everyone. She helped us hire a car for only CNY60. It took us 15 minutes (yes, I timed) to go to the restaurant another friend recommended.

Since the restaurant was full, my buddy and I decided to just walk around. We asked some people (they have a google translate-ish app they used to talk to us), and off to the lake we went.

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Sorry for the picture quality. We were rushing. Either way, you’re not missing anything.

Food

Near the lake is a restaurant. Of course we didn’t order the weird stuff. We paid CNY96 in total.

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This is one of those restaurants where you point and they cook it for you, I think. Since we don’t speak Chinese and these are probably expensive, we decided to just go with the normal dishes.
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This is streetfood. Of course we didn’t try it.
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At the airport, a drink is around USD0.15. That’s so cheap! In Japan, a drink is at least a dollar. O.O

Back to Xiamen Airport

We then flagged a cab, and it took us 20 minutes and CNY40 to get back. We were back to at the airport three hours before our flight, with the check in counter opening 10 minutes after we arrived.

It was a good two hours of experiencing Xiamen.