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?
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. 😦
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
Superstitious or not, we were careful to follow the directions.
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. In 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 of “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.
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 cutesthostel I have ever been, at a decent price (JPY3,800 a night)
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
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.
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!