Havoc and Bright Lights

These entire year and six months has been an entire roller-coaster ride for me. I get in a long queue; preparing on every little inches of risks I'll make, and thinking about how I can manage to do all of this things in a jiff. Then, as the ride starts to move, dozens of thoughts and regrets came to my mind as I say, "Oh no, what have I done?" followed by a humongous BAM! (or insert any other sound effects you may find amusing). Life turns around and around and hits me on the stomach, or perhaps every inches of my body.

A Reflection from Japan Trip

This probably will be my last writing about my latest trip to Japan, before an already planned hiatus due to my final assignment (plus upcoming thesis defences and a one big, final exhibition by the end of the year) in order to graduate. I probably will still write something in this space of mine, but I just can't tell when since I doubt if I really have that reserved time to do so (I usually write every weekend, but since it's my final assignment, I'm supposed to do that EVERYDAY, even on the weekends). 

I dedicate this entire special post to my fellow family members during our trip to Japan. It was a extraordinary experience I had with you all, since I don't really travel often with a larger group (even though it's only for 4 or 5 or 6 people). So here it is, my kind of long, personal reflection...

I Sent My Hello to Fuji-san

On top of the mountain, look at the clouds below 
There's no higher peak than up here 
The thunder rolls far away from my feet,
Mt. Fuji is the highest peak in Japan.

The blue sky in the background, standing nobly 
Wearing a white crown on her head 
Flowing, her purple skirt trails far away,
Mt. Fuji is a treasure of the world.

Fuji no Yama, a Japanese children song about the greatness of Mount Fuji.

My curiosity tingled the very first time I saw Mount Fuji from the Shinkansen's window back then in 2014. The mountain was beautifully showered with thick, white snow, quickly becoming an eye catching centre of attention for anyone. "I swear that I will be back to Japan to witness the beauty of Mount Fuji," I promised myself. 2 years later, I had this very lucky endeavour to spend a day to visit my old acquaintance Fuji-san, with a help of a one day tour service in Japan. 

The service let us having a sightseeing tour of Mount Fuji via several places: Mount Fuji's 5th Station, Lake Kawaguchi, and Hakone National Park. The journey started so early in the morning on 5 AM. The bus that will take us to the main terminal and then the whole journey will arrive at Shinjuku station to pick us up. 

By the way, we arrived so much earlier than we expected and it's extremely difficult to find an open restaurant at 7 AM here in Shinjuku. Shinjuku was a mess, complete with sleep-walking drunk people who dropped his/her beer cans everywhere (it was Sunday, people must be partying hard yesterday). Luckily, we found a Lotteria after scrutinising (almost) half of Shinjuku.

After spending some quite time in Shinjuku (we visited some open shops like drugstores and the famous Don Quijote), the bus arrived and it took us to a bigger bus terminal where people were sorted into big groups based on the places they'll go. By the way, the tour guide for the trip was a friendly looking woman who told us loads of fun facts about Japan; from its tradition, culture, landmarks, and so many other things! 

The first destination for the trip is Mount Fuji's 5th Station, located inside the Fuji National Park. It is  a place where people could do some sightseeing around Mount Fuji, complete with several souvenir shops, restaurants, and even shrines in it. This is not my favourite part of the day's trip. It was super crowded due to its popularity, and I didn't even see Mount Fuji in this station caused by thick clouds covering the mountain. But anyway, I still had a chance to look at lots of cute souvenirs of Mount Fuji, and a chance to take a photo in front of a shrine after a long queue (the photo turned out to be... You'll see).

The next place we'd seen was Lake Kawaguchi, where we would have some nice lunch and short sightseeing around the lake. Japanese traditional food was, um, good; despite the abundance of seafoods that I ate in a meal, which I didn't really savour. The sightseeing was relatively a short one due to the amount of time left that we had. At least we got ourselves a nice ice cream, hehe (Note: peach ice cream is so good!).

The next and final place we'd visited was a part of Hakone National Park, where we took a boat ride to the rope station and took an aerial line ride to the top of Mount Komagatake, of course, for the sake of enjoying the view of Mount Fuji in the late afternoon. It was one of the most beautiful scene I saw while travelling in Japan. Truly breathtaking!

There is this shrine named Hakone Shrine Mototsumiya and it was located on the summit of Mount Komagatake. The view of Mount Komagatake's summit with the shrine on top of it was so whimsical I feel like I'm in a Studio Ghibli feature length film!

Finally, in a view minutes walk to the other side of Hakone Shrine Mototsumiya, I finally saw Mount Fuji, Fuji-San, in a really, really, splendid side. Thankfully, it was a one fine day to see the mountain so there was absolutely no difficulty for us in walking and such other things. I'm so thankful for this view! It was so beautiful!

The tour ended as we got home via the bullet train to Tokyo Station from Odawara Station near the National Park. Got ourselves some take away dinner before going back to our basecamp in Shibuya area. We slept right after we finish our dinner (we should for the sake of discovering new places in the next morning!).

So far, tour service in Japan is somehow different from other that I ever experienced in the other country. Somehow, it was so much disciplined (judging on how they always being on time and so on) and... I got a lot of new information from the tour guide! The tour guide never stop telling us a lot of things about Japan and its culture and so many other places we could also visit around the area that we are currently visiting.

I can conclude that even though I'm not really a big fan of tour and travel service, I can always rely on them when it comes to discovering some new places. They open some opportunity for us, making a brand new experience for us to feel. In this case, they made me accomplish my long time wish: saying hello to my big old friend Fuji-san. Until we meet again!

Can you guess this song which I came across some moment ago?

Seeing Dotonbori Beyond My Phone Screen

I lost my phone in Osaka's largest shopping district.

Which means, I was having such a hard time trying to track down my phone, searching in places I went to before its unfortunate loss. The search ended after we went to the police and then called it a day. It was such a tragedy. How come I was so clumsy I drop my phone or left it somewhere I couldn't even remember it?

This is so far my very first experience and encounter with the police department in Japan. All I could say about them: they are truly helpful. People told me to go to the nearest police box near the Dotonbori bridge and I did. There was no one inside the police box (I guess they were currently patrolling) so we searched around the area and met an officer (perhaps he is some kind of security officer), and he helped us making a phone call to the patrolling police officer. It took us some quite time before the police officer to came, and she (a policewoman! All I can remember about her is she's as cool as Judy Hopps from Zootopia!) quickly made us report about the loss. I never thought reporting a lost phone will be this easy.

She asked, perhaps, the other police boxes within the area and district if they found any lost phone with the same characteristics as I told them. There were none. It was an hour since I realise I lost my phone, and I wasn't giving up. I decided to turn on the Find My Phone application in my mother's phone and enter my account there. My phone is still in the area and not moving. This means two: Someone found my phone and he/she haven't leave the Dotonbori area, or, I dropped my phone somewhere and someone haven't find them.

Two hours passed and I finally learn to let go my phone. It was a long day already, I shouldn't be thinking about it too much. Letting go something and be patient could mean something better will come, my parents often said.

Walking around Dotonbori without my eyes attached to the phone screen, was indeed, beautiful. When I was in the police box, a Japanese man came to report a phone that he found left in the ATM. He stayed longer that I did, even though he was only there to report a stranger's phone. Then, I saw two high school girls giving a homeless man lunches. This is the first time ever I watch the city lights and the city signs illuminates so beautifully. This is the first time I counted there were lots more Koreans I met in Dotonbori rather than Japanese. This is the first time I laugh louder than I should. This is the first time ever I played in the rain, after all this time thinking it 'too childish'. I realised to see things closer.

If this event regarded as a memory ball like the one in Inside Out, it will be a blue ball, that slowly turned yellow. This will never be a part of bad travelling experience. I am, still, grateful for this to happened. Thank God, thank God, for letting this happened I could learn something from it.

Saturday, 16th July 2016

Claudia Novreica, 2 days without her phone, contemplating about her life.

Note (18/07/2016): My apartment host in Osaka found my phone after she searched it all the way to Dotonbori. She called a gaming arcade I was in the day I lost my phone. I knew someone's taking a good care of my phone since I don't lose it tracks when I lost it. Thank you Hiromi, and whoever take a really great care of my phone. I am so grateful for your presence.

Kyoto From The Eye of A Retrophile

If I have another chance to visit Japan in the future, I would love to stay in Kyoto much longer. Being a massive retrophile and a culture and heritage junkie makes me crave for temples, historical sites, and even traditional houses of Kyoto. Kyoto is considered one of the best historical cities in the world, offering loads of temples and massive Japanese history to learn.

We rented a traditional Japanese house while staying in Kyoto for 3 days and 2 nights. Our journey in Kyoto began after we got out from Uzumasa station after a long Shinkansen ride from Tokyo (there is another station really near from our house, but it didn't connect to the main Kyoto Station), which was located near our house for the next 3 days. We looked so confused an old lady was asking us if we got lost. It was so much fun yet tiring when we try to find the house, which was actually located in a quiet neighbourhood like I often saw in Japanese movies and cartoon!

We didn't meet our host, Hana, while we're staying in Kyoto, but she told us how to retrieve the house keys and provide everything we need while staying at the house. It was a really nice house, I could say. I fell in love with the interiors! It was a traditional house with antique furnitures, complete with any Japanese traditional house necessities; tatami room, shōji, kotatsu (Unfortunately we can't use it because it's summer), and futon beds!

Yes, we did a little photo shoot at this pretty little house. Hehehe.

We got up earlier the next morning for a walk at Arashiyama, a district located in the outskirt of Kyoto known for its historic sites and natural beauty. The location can be easily accessed via train and it took us approximately 2 minutes walking from our home to the nearest train station, Arisugawa. 

The roads are still empty by the time we arrived at Arashiyama. This district is absolutely my favourite place to visit during my visit to Kyoto, due to its traditional atmosphere and old but beautiful buildings it has! The after rain weather that we experienced the time we went there making it nearly perfect!

Because it was still so early in the morning, we decided to take our first stroll to the famous Arashiyama bamboo grove located around 10 minutes by walking down the main street. The main street lead us to smaller streets which was surrounded by the beautiful, green, bamboo forest. We witnessed such a beautiful harmony between God and man's creation. It was breathtaking, yet so relaxing.

What makes the sight even more enigmatic was, for the first time ever, I saw a Japanese graveyard and its tombstones. I read a lot about Japanese traditions and rites, and I notice that Japanese funeral is one of the most unique process they had there in Japan. Summer in Japan is also known in popular culture for celebrating the deaths with a festival called Obon. Too bad Obon will be held in August, making me arriving a month earlier in Japan. I wish I could experience this iconic celebration in my next visit to Japan!

We also decided to took a glimpse of Tenryu-ji temple, known as one of the five best zen temples in Kyoto, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Although we didn't manage to snap some photographs, but still, this place is a must visit!

After Tenryu-ji Temple, we went to another popular site, the one and only Fushimi-Inari shrine. The shrine was jam-packed with people, due to its popularity and people manage to visit the shrine to take photographs at the beautiful vibrant orange gates (the same circumstances as mine, duh). It's pretty easy to get to the shrine via train or subway. The nearest train station's name is pretty obvious and it's printed in a gigantic font size: Fushimi-Inari train station, or Inari Station. 

We got off from Fushimi-Inari train station and it was a pretty long walk to get from the station to the shrine. But don't worry, there will be lots of souvenir shops and restaurants you can savour first! There were also lots of food stalls across the road that leads us to the shrine.

The gates were so much crowded than the base temple and we're desperate to enjoy the view, well at least for a short moment of time. How do we finally manage to escape the crowds and take good pictures? Simple. Climb the Inari, the mountain where Fushimi-Inari shrine is located. There are 5000 gates and it must be a long trail, the further you walk, there will be less people in your photos! Haha!

No good photos of mine, so here's Fushimi-Inari shrine featuring my cousin.

We continued our journey in Kyoto by taking multiple buses to the famous Higashiyama District, where we will be taken back to the past, walking in a street full of traditional buildings of Kyoto. We went in from Sannenzaka street, going all the way to Kiyomizu-dera, and then going back to the main street via Ninenzaka. Didn't take a lot of pictures, but of course we're saving the best to show them up here. Hehe.

We discovered a small shrine (I still don't get the name of it), which turned out to be super colourful because the usual wooden plaque used for people to make a wish was replaced with beanbags!

Kiyomizu-dera was, again, jam-packed with people from across the world. We didn't even manage to get a decent photo at there, but at least we can savour ourselves with tasty Matcha ice cream (Not pictured due to small Snapchat-sized photo)! Haha!

Our last destination in Kyoto was considered impromptu. I never heard or searched anything about this place before, but we're SO GLAD to find this final place. The place is Toei Kyoto Studio Park, a park that displayed quiet vast amount of sets that were used for filming, especially films that sets in the past Japan era.

There were LOTS of attractions we can actually do, but since it was around 4 PM already, we only manage to enjoy up to 2 attractions. First, we watched a show about the making of Japanese movies (which involves a lot of visual effects and tricks) starring a samurai and a ninja. Then, we tried a haunted house attraction which is super creepy because it's not a ride where you can sit down and close your eyes every time a ghost appear, but you should walk in a small group in order to survive. That gave me such a chill!

The journey ended shortly after we arrived at our home. It was such a fine day for us to explore the beauty of Kyoto. Once again, if I have another chance to visit Japan in the future, I would love to stay in Kyoto much longer. There are probably loads of places that I haven't explore yet, due to the lack of time in Kyoto. I never expect Kyoto to be this beautiful. Another place in this world keeps on surprising me with its beauty and memories. Thank you Kyoto

Lastly, enjoy this legendary Sukiyaki that accompanies me during writing this post.