Tokyo to Kansai Region

For some unexpected reasons, I had to go to Kyoto in July, then Osaka the next week. The easiest solution? A two to three hour ride in the Shinkansen (bullet train). How much is a ride? ~JPY13,000 one way to Kyoto. That’s the end of my plans to ride the Shinkansen. Time to bring the cheap accountant out.

What are my options? Shinkansen, normal train, bus and plane.

  • Shinkansen is JPY13,000 one way, around 2-3 hours.
  • Normal train takes around eight hours, the cheapest I found was JPY9,000.
  • Bus ranges from JPY5,000 to 14,000 depending on the type of bus. The sleeper, high end bus is of course the most expensive. You can do the overnight one, to make the eight-nine hour travel less useless.
  • Plane can be as low as JPY4,000 (Jetstar, Peach, Vanilla) to JPY20,000 (ANA), and less than an hour.
    • However, one should include the travel time to/from the airport and the cost.
    • Based on this, plane rides can only go as low as JPY6,000 and takes around four hours
      • JPY4,000 plane
      • JPY1,000 ticket to Narita
      • JPY1,000 to Osaka from Kansai airport. It’s JPY3,500 from Kansai Airport to Kyoto, though there’s a JPY1,700 option with multiple transfers

It’s a no brainer – it has to be a bus if I’m going to Kyoto, but I have flexibility between flying and using the bus to Osaka.

Willer Bus

I used Willer Bus, and lucked out. They had a sale! I paid JPY5000 for this bus, at probably around 50% discount. The meet up point is about a block away from Kyobashi Station of Ginza line – they do provide a google map accessible link in their email.

I was a bit disappointed with this bus station. It’s clean and good, I was just spoiled with the overall transport system of Japan. 

We left at 21:12ish, then arrived 5:48 the next day.

The entire seat inclines (yes, the entire seat). It’s a decent imitation of a lazy boy. I’ll give it a 7/10 in imitating the lazy boy.

Going back, I took a different bus (because this one is not on sale anymore), and that was a painful trip. The seat reclines a lot, yes, but it’s pretty narrow and, well, basically the pains we had to go through with a normal long bus rides. I don’t wanna go through it again. T.T

So for my Osaka trip, I just booked flights. Maybe next time I’ll still book flights for Kyoto trips, or hopefully, have my company pay for my Shinkansen tickets.

 

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Up The River

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July 15, 2017

A trek alongside the river and falls of Mt. Kawanori is just the thing to do in summer. As a training hike for Mt. Fuji, my friend and I decided to go up Mt. Kawanori, which, based on the blogs, requires a 6-7 hour hike overall.

Our Actual Itinerary

  • 5:15 leave home
  • 6:46 take rapid line to Okutama station in Shinjuku. This is the earliest train.
  • 8:21 arrive at Okutama station, the last stop. Take a bus going to Kawanoribashi (Bashi is Bridge). This bus is right in front of the station. Take note though, a lot of people take this bus so if you are willing to stand, the  just go in. This will take less than 10 minutes.
  • 8:45 start hike. We ate a quick snack, took some photos, applied sun screen etc. Take note, somewhere on the hike, you’ll have to choose between going straight to the summit (the tourist way) or pass through the falls (the hiking way). We took the right turn to the falls.
  • 10:00ish we arrived at the Falls
  • 12:00ish summit. We stayed for a quick 20 minute lunch, and photo ops, then went down. Some of our friends who walk fast got there 40 minutes before us.
  • 15:30ish at the station
  • 15:45ish back at Okutama to take the rapid line to Shinjuku

How Much?

  • Train from Shinjuku – JPY 1080 (1hr)
  • Bus to jump off – JPY260 (or 280?)

We had a side trip, but I figure the return trip should be more or less the same.

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On the first hour of the hike, there’s plenty of these bridges. You really are just following the flow of the river. 
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The source of the river? This HUGE falls. I don’t even remember it’s name, but it was pretty big. It was also a less than five minute walk from the main trail to the summit.
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After passing through the falls, the trail is pretty generic. But it’s all OPEN fields. OPEN. Meaning there are no corners for you to crouch and do your business, if you know what I mean. So what did we do? We did it out in the open.
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Finally, I see the end!
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dum dum dum dum!!! Here’s the summit marker.
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And unfortunately, this is all the “view” we got to see. The summit is surrounded by trees. T.T

Archery in the Forest

July 23, 2017

An archery range nestled in the mountains, this archery experience is way better than the traditional Japanese one I had and the archery lessons in the middle of the city.

So, what to do?

Step 1. Reserve a spot online here. If I remember correctly, they only have two slots during the day, with each slot accommodating four people.

Step 2. Go to… Huh. I don’t know. Ok, I’m stopping the tips part, coz I just remembered a friend organized this for us. Basically it took us one hour to get there. I suggest you work your google maps skills.

How much?

I’m a student, and a first time guest. I was charged a JPY2,500 flat rate. My friend was a second user and he was charged JPY500/hour.

 

Everything is done by an old couple – mainly by the husband.
You first get a lesson, then they send you to a course off the forest. Each person gets five arrows – if you lose one, you pay JPY500. This is my only hit that was not even in the board. 😦

 

Bad, bad tourist

July 20, 2017
I love nature trips. With the increasing people density though, the “nature” part is quickly being contaminated. People like this is aggravates the situation.

In the midst of the beauty of Arashiyama’s famous Togetsu River, he just threw a water bottle. Then he sat down and smoked. Littering and smoking – I don’t know which made me angrier. (If you don’t know much about Japan, note that smoking is only allowed in designated private spaces.)

I wonder where this guys is from. A crazy Japanese or one of those universally considered rude tourists?

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.  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. 😦

 

 

Chinese Visa

June 21, 2017

Since I’m going to Beijing for an exchange and Filipinos need visa to go almost everywhere, I had to apply for my Chinese visa.

Planning

Accomplish the online form (just google Chinese visa application form, there’s one site applicable to all countries). You’ll have to tick which type of visa. In my case, they refused a tourist visa (which was recommended by Peking University). They (the consular) wanted a short, non business visa. Guess who wins?

Fortunately, the type of visa you selected in your application form can be changed manually, so it’s pretty convenient.

Prepare your requirements:

  • Photocopy of invitation letter
  • Photocopy of resident’s ID

Yup, that’s it.

Consular Office

The Tokyo visa service center is about 15 minutes walk from Toranomon station, Ginza line. Go in the building (it’s in the 8th floor), fall in line at the counter, and they’ll tell you what to do. At this time (July 2017), there’s a Tully’s Coffee at the ground.

It’s like the US visa, they have a quick “interview” then you are told whether the visa will be granted, and told when to go back. Regular processing is around 4 days, and payment is made when claiming the passport. I need to pay JPY9,400 (If i remember correctly).
So after my entire offboarding story when I was in Netherlands transiting in Xiamen, China, I’m now going back, this time armed with an actual visa! 😀