Saturday, October 31, 2015

Opportunity to explore Yamanashi/Mount Fuji in Japan!

Hello all! Here is an opportunity to explore Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan, where all the amazing seasonal fruit-picking, winery, onsen, Fuji 5 lakes and scenic landscapes near Mount Fuji can be found. This prefecture encompasses the northern part of Mount Fuji. An alternative choice to explore Mount Fuji aside from Hakone. By joining this discovery project (doing survey with no cost incurred), you will get to enjoy free experimental tours to explore this region!

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Below are my recent shots taken in this region. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Shizuoka: 30th June 2015

The weather on this day was beautiful as I began my day having the buffet breakfast offered by the hotel. I opted for an outdoor seat to absorb the view of the hectic train situation at the nearby Tokyo station.

After breakfast, checkout was smooth and I was really happy with the overall impression of Maranouchi Hotel, Tokyo. I think I will come back again in my future trips :) I made my way to board the train going towards Shizuoka. It's about an hour train ride on the Shinkansen Hikari. Feeling excited along the way!

So I was supposed to meet Ms Hiroyo Aizawa, who will be my guide in Shizuoka (contact below). I have contacted her a few weeks before the trip. I was very pleased with the places that she has suggested me to visit in this half-day tour. Our only hope is for good weather as according to weather forecast, it was said to be cloudy and Mount Fuji is unlikely to be seen from the areas that we had planned to visit.
I saw Hiro at the station with a signboard written my name. Felt kinda embarassed though haha..but I was so glad to see her :)

She brought me to a nearby coin locker at the station to deposit my luggage before we set off in a local train to Shimizu station. In the short train ride, Hiro was very interactive as she filled me information to understand the various aspects of Shizuoka.

 Chibimarukochan (樱桃小丸子) is from Shizuoka!

After reaching the station, we took a cab going to our first destination, Miho Pine Grove (三保の松原) along the Miho Peninsula, Shizuoka prefecture. The taxi driver was a 71 year old man, who looked extremely friendly and energetic. We made small chats together and it was a pleasant ride before we reached the Grove.

And there it was, Mount Fuji! The weather was just right. We could see Mount Fuji with the waving pine trees along the beach. Hiro said we were very lucky to have seen Mount Fuji as for the past few days, Mount Fuji was shrouded by thick clouds. I'm really pleased with this!

So Miho Pine Grove had a mystical legend, which was also known as Hagoromo (The Feathered Robe). The following description was taken from Wikipedia: "The story of Hagoromo concerns a celestial being flying over Miho no Matsubara who was overcome by the beauty of the white sands, green pines, and sparkling water. She removed her feathered robe and hung it over a pine tree before bathing in the beautiful waters. A fisherman named Hakuryo was walking along the beach and saw the angel. He took her robe and refused to return it until she performed a heavenly dance for him. As the angel could not return to heaven without her robe, she complied with Hakuryo's request. She danced in the spring twilight and returned to heaven in the light of the full moon leaving Hakuryo looking longingly after her." 
Mount Fuji

The entrance to the beach

The Pine Tree in the legend

I took a couple of shots of the vicnity as the scenery was simply lovely with the pine trees. We said farewell to Mount Fuji and continued with our cabride to Nihondaira Ocha Kaikan. This was the place where one can experience tea picking and it has the green tea plantation fields and also see Mount Fuji. Mount Fuji is a shy mountain, as quoted from Hiro. I find this comment really apt as it seems to appear and disappear at times. I was really happy to see it again at Nihondaira. I did not do any tea picking but took some pictures of the lovely fields and the hydrangeas (Ajisai), which are blooming in season.

From Nihondaira Ocha, we walked to a nearby park to see more hydrangeas. The flowers were so lovely that I cant help but took more pictures of them. It was my first encounter!
The Hydrangeas in Bloom

The green tea leaves

Me and Hiro

We then visited a nearby hotel named as Nippondaira Hotel. This hotel was really posh and has a strategic location with great views of Mount Fuji on a clear sky. I hope to stay there in the future in winter perhaps to see Mount Fuji! Hiro kindly brought me there to their observatory deck to see the mountain and surroundings. 

I did some shopping at the hotel's shop and we waited for the shuttle bus that brings us back to Shizuoka station. Kinda helped me save some transport cab fees back to station! Appreciate this thought as advised by Hiro.

Along the shuttle bus journey, Hiro sang a short verse of her Mount Fuji and tea picking song. I bet it would have been real fun if she sang the entire song as she sang really well! When we reached the station, based on my request, we walked about 10min to Nanaya Matcha shop for some green tea icecream. I get to know about this shop from a blogpost and was really excited to try their icecream as they have 7 different grades of matcha icecream based on the intensity of matcha in it. They also have the roasted tea flavor. I tried the middle grade matcha icecream and the roasted tea. It was heavenly taste!!

We spent some time speaking to the staff and to understand about the history and origin of this interesting ice cream shop before making our way back to Shizuoka station. Along the way, Hiro introduced me to the various shops selling famous produce of Shizuoka which includes wasabi, tea leaves, sakura-ebi. It was an enlightening trip to have learnt so much about Shizuoka from Hiro and I really appreciate her effort in making this a wonderful trip for me. We bade farewell with several souvernirs given to me by Hiro and I was really happy that the weather turned out to be great on that day =)

If you are looking for a customised day trip/tour suggestions in Shizuoka, you may contact the following:

To check out the status of Mount Fuji from viewing at Shizuoka, you may refer to the following website. An awesome one which has updates every hour!

Attractions covered:
1. Miho Pine Grove (三保の松原)
2. Nihondaira Ocha Kaikan
3. Nippondaira Hotel
4.  Nanaya Matcha

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kasukabe: 11th July 2015

Today was the day we would be leaving Japan back to Singapore. Time flies everytime when you are having a vacation and sooner or later, you would have to take the plane back home!!

For our last day, we decided to visit Kasukabe, the place where the creator of Crayon-shinchan lived, to visit a mini theme amusement park in a shopping centre (Lala Garden Shopping Centre).

The information below is really catered to fans of Crayon-shinchan, which include the both of us. I long wanted to visit here and take pictures with the statues of shinchan and his family 5 years ago during our first trip to Japan, but it was delayed and this time, we decided that we should not miss this!!

A train ride from Asakusa to Kasukabe brought us to this little city. About 10min walk from the station, you will reach the shopping centre and the amusement centre, that was fully decorated with Shinchan and his family and friends, is right there to welcome you!

 I must say this was really an awesome trip to Japan to explore the Yamanashi Prefecture, the beauty of Atami and Shizuoka, the majestic views of Fujisan at Kawaguchiko and also the lovely animals, great catchup with friends and Sensei and also encounters with new friends, not forgetting the great hospitality by the staff at Hoshino Resorts Risonare Atami and Kai Atami. If not for the opportunity that they have given me, I would not have thought to visit Atami and plan my trip around Fujisan this summer!

I hope you have enjoyed my journey thus far through these blogposts. Feel free to ask if there is anywhere or anything that you will like to find out more about the place I have visited, although I will be busy planning my next trip to Japan soon!

Mother Farm/Chiba: 10th July 2015

This was our last full day at Japan. Time really flew when you were enjoying fun fun fun! Today, we made an impromptu decision to rent a car from the nearby Shinjuku Minami Toyota Car Rental Office :) This time, I did not make reservation online. Instead, I tried to make a booking directly at the office haha, hoping that every thing will go fine. 
Our Toyota Ractis Car

One thing different from our car rental experience at Kofu was that we could rent the ETC card to manage the fees at the toll gate at Shinjuku area. maybe this was because we were in the city area where there are many toll gates? But, anyway it was really convenient to have one while zooming thru those tolls. One word of caution, make sure you drop down your speed when approaching these gates to avoid accidents! 

At the Toll Gate

Through the tunnel

To the winding road in the beautiful weather

We picked our car Toyota Ractis, checked that everything was okay, and off we went to Mother Farm!! It was about an hour and a half drive to Chiba where the farm was located. You may also opt to take train to Kimitsu station, then take their designated shuttle bus (free) to the farm. But, you might reach the farm at a later timing due to the fixed timing of the shuttle bus and there was more flexibility if we could drive. So we took the 2nd option! Driving was a pleasant one except the congestion while leaving Shinjuku. Otherwise, it was very smooth through numerous tunnels. Got to salute the Japanese for the well developed road network and the extremely powerful GPS in their car haha 

The weather was amazingly beautiful with wispy clouds and clear blue sky as compared to rainy days before. We entered the farm and what greeted us first were the Alpacas and the sheep. There were many shows planned round the clock, so you could check out the schedule to catch the different highlight! We booked the exclusive farm tour and while waiting for the time, we visited a show performance at the auditorium! 

The show was entertaining with the host introducing the various animals in the farm to the audience. What amazed me was the group of sheep which came into view at an orderly fashion! There were horses, pig, cow, alpacas, and even ostrich which came by to say Hi! 

After 20mins, we took the bus up a valley where the tractor tour began! It was an exciting ride as it moved through the valley that was accompanied by stunning scenery and of course more animals like the Alpacas and the Bisons. 

The tractor tour

Scenery in Mother Farm

The guide was also entertaining as she brought out a really fat but cute rabbit to greet everyone of us! This really excited the kids!

And there was feeding time for the sheep, cow, alpacas! 

After the tour, we went back to the entrance and started attending other shows. Mother Farm occupies really huge area! There are areas for dairy milk production, flower fields, vast land! You could take a leisure walk to explore around or take their shuttle bus that comes with some fees. 

One highlight that must be visited is the pig-race! On that day we visited, many school children also came and they were to participate in this pig race! There was still some time before the race, so we grabbed some yummy lunch at the cafeteria. We also saw these kids having picnic while waiting haha.. 

The race began! Teachers selected some kids for the race while the children raised their hands up, hoping they would be selected. 

You could see their expressions! And there went the little pigs. 

The champion is the one whose pig reaches the finishing line first and there was this boy who did so! Well done!! 

We went to explore an enclosure which had the capybaras. We saw capybara at Manriki Park Zoo too. This time, there was a pair! And as it was really hot, they decided to go for a dip in a nearby pool. We were so happy to catch all these precious moments of interaction! 

We also went to experience carrying hamsters and rabbits. They were quite plump I must say haha.. 

And last but not least, we managed to catch the flying duck show! It was an undescribable moment when we saw all the ducks running across the grass fields towards us! The host of course fed them well and gave instructions to them so that they could move as a whole

i felt this Mother Farm was understandably rated as a top attraction in Chiba Prefecture! There was so many experiences with animal encounters. We really enjoyed our time although we are you could imagine a kid will also have loads of fun coming here :D Definitely worth your time to plan a daytrip out of Tokyo in your next trip! 

We drove back after all the shows and returned the car safely. phew!! We then headed back to our hotel for a quick shower before meeting my Japanese sensei, whom I met while taking classes at Ikoma some time back. It has been 5 years since we last met! And I MUST say sensei did not change much when I last saw her haha.. She brought us to a very nice place for Izakaya near the Tokyo Metropolitan Building. 

We had a great time catching up, showing my photos to her and enjoying the good food! After dinner, we went to the Tokyo Metropolitan Building for some night view of the city. This was a free attraction and it was very worthwhile to come by and visit! I remembered coming here in my last trip but in the day. This time was at night haha! Thank you sensei for planning this for us! Hope to see her again in my future trips :)