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.Β  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. 😦

 

 

Sakura – Grass Edition?

P_20170513_131605.jpg

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.

P_20170513_125918.jpg
We’ve got the most special seats in the place. Right next to the driver!
P_20170513_133006.jpg
They also have shows. They’re not much, but it’s decent entertainment.
P_20170513_134323.jpg
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.
P_20170513_135124.jpg
The good thing with the rain is that you get shots like this.
P_20170513_141946_PN
Shibazakura! Fields of flowers, lake, mountains. What else do we need?

 

 

 

 

 

Asuka Shrine

P_20170514_080251.jpg

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. πŸ˜‰

P_20170514_080046.jpg
This is the entrance before the torii, before the demarcation point between the earthly world and the spirit world.
P_20170514_074535.jpg
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

P_20170514_105840.jpg

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.

P_20170514_104612.jpg

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.

P_20170514_105506.jpg
Here’s someone starting to squat to pass through the small tunnel.
P_20170514_105840.jpg
The end of the tunnel above wasn’t impressive, but the way out (this view) was pretty cool (cool – get it? haha sorry).
P_20170514_105852.jpg
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!)
P_20170514_110123.jpg
You have to wear a helmet. And you should. These scratches are proof of all the heads they protected. πŸ˜‰

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!

P_20170514_114418
With a much impressive pillar of ice.
P_20170514_114408
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?
P_20170514_114614.jpg
At the end of the cave is this simulated stock room. They stored silkworms and tree seeds here.

The Infamous Suicide Forest

P_20170514_113630.jpg

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.

P_20170514_103534.jpg
This is our introduction to the forest – parasitic trees. That didn’t bode well for us.
P_20170514_111151
It was pretty dense – this is just the entrance.

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

P_20170514_113630.jpg
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. InΒ  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 ofΒ  “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

P_20170513_135124.jpg

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. 😦

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)

P_20170513_164232.jpg
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.
P_20170514_161858.jpg
Fuji flowers!
P_20170513_160413.jpg
That’s Fuji-Q. Honestly, it felt like a stairway to nowhere.
P_20170514_163302.jpg
That’s quite a fence.
P_20170514_163025.jpg
I knew the Japanese are not the tallest people, but come on! I think the door’s merely 4 ft tall!

National Health Insurance Premium


July 12, 2017

All residents in Japan can (required to?) obtain national health insurance, whereas you only pay 30% of all medical fees. It’s a benefit from the government, so it’s pretty simple.

Your premiums differ depending on your prior year’s income. How do they know? There’s a form they mail your registered address around February/March, and you have to fill it up to say how much you’ve earned. As students, we pay the minimum amount, which is around JPY1,300 yen.

Now, what if you forgot to fill up this form?

They charge you the maximum amount, which is around JPY4,500 yen. Oopsie.

But Japan is nice – they know that they have highly unaware, blissful foreigners who don’t even read the mail from the ward office (basically your location’s government office). So you can just go to your ward, and have it corrected. No late charges, no interest, no nothing. But you’ll have to pay your arrears, I think.

This is how I had mine updated – I’m in Koto Ward. (to know your ward, look at your address. The one with -ku on it is the name of your ward. In my case, TIEC is in Koto-ku, so Koto Ward it is)

 

How to get there

At Tozai Line, Toyocho station, take exit 1. Turn right and walk for around 5-10 minutes (300 meters ish)
At the Ward Office

The entrance is in the second floor, and an information center (with English speakers) is at the entrance.

At the entrance (second floor), go to station 8. In front of the section is a number queue machine. Take a number.

She’ll basically ask you if you worked last year (I think that’s what she said), so I simply said I am a student. She then asked if at worked part time (baito in Japanese) and I said no. She then filled up a tax declaration form, told me to pay a couple of slips (the insurance slips) then made me go up the fifth floor to submit the tax declaration form.

This is the form she filled up. She just asked for my Residence ID and did everything.

I went up to fifth floor, took a queue number (again), and once in the counter, filled up my address, name, birthday and phone number. Oh, and I had to write “student” in one of the boxes.

I was also asked for a hanko (seal), and since I don’t have one, we settled for a fingerprint. He processed some stuff in his computer, returned my tax declaration form, then told me to go home.

Done in 30 minutes!

Of course, the part that took longer was the lady in Station 8. The thing is, she was asking me to pay the three slips which is around JPY14k. So I was confused – was it because I was late in those months? I’m supposed to pay JPY1.4k per month, so imagine having to pay JPY14k for three months! So I kept on saying no, I’m a student!!! She then took an iPad, called a translator from somewhere online, then explained that those are for the whole year. Whew!

RoboSquare

April 1, 2017

The things one finds in tripadvisor. This one was not on my list, but I had so much free time I had to scroll for ideas. One that interested me was the FREE robot show. So off I went.

The Robosquare is in now way cutting edge technology. But it’s pretty good for those who are out for a stroll. πŸ™‚

P_20170401_135538

P_20170401_135552

P_20170401_135623

P_20170401_135544P_20170401_135639