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Archive for the ‘travel’ Category

I am writing about my last Japan trip in a non-linear/non-chronological way because…just because. I have been busy with other aspects of life i.e. job, hence, the gap. 

So I already told you about my non-eventful six-day stay in Yokohama where I spent four days going back and forth my hotel and the convention center. Then the fifth day I was locked up in my hotel room writing non-stop and then it was only on my last day I was able to go around for a bit. In the morning before going out for a little bit of sight-seeing, I decided to try a fastfood chain: Mos Burger.

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Of course I shouldn’t be surprised but still I was when I took a bite of this burger. It was good, better than the blah version I had in Singapore (because of my Singapore Mos Burger experience, I stayed away from it). And it has to be good since it is a Japanese food chain.

After my walkathon in Minatomirai, I decided to have lunch in the restaurant across my hotel.

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For JPY 850, it was ok, I guess. Did not rock my world, really.

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In the afternoon, I took the train from Kannai to Kanda, which was about 45 mins. Then I used Google Map to locate my hotel from the Kannai station. It said I should come out of the South exit.

It was a bit of a walk but not that bad. The location is perfect because it’s walking distance from our Tokyo office (the receptionist said it was about 4 stoplights away, I just go straight). And considering its location (it’s within or near the financial district), the price was reasonable.

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And the room and the bathroom are bigger than the one I booked in Yokohama (which was more expensive)

After checking in, I went straight to our Tokyo office since I had a teleconference at 4 pm (3 pm Singapore time).

I had to take note of the path I was taking since because it’s me, I may get lost. Even if the receptionist says just go straight.

I don’t know what to call this. Working holiday? I was supposed to be on holiday and yet I worked. I must be nuts. This our Tokyo office.

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After the conference call and bit of a chit-chat with colleagues, I went back to the hotel to ditch my tablet-laptop hybrid (more about that later) to go to Akihabara. Yes, the land of the otakus.

But before that, I had to go to Lawson to try my luck in buying a ticket to Studio Ghibli Museum.

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Nope. Fully booked on my days off. And on the days available either I’m already back in Manila or I will be in Singapore. Lesson learned: book a month ahead.

After leaving my laptop in my room, I decided to walk since the map says my hotel is just near Akihabara.

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Oh, elevator parking slots. They should have these in Makati and BGC where finding parking slots is a nightmare. 

So I walked and walked.

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The little streets that I took were lined with little pubs that were still closed. Probably they open for the dinner crowd of office workers/salary men/women.

I realized I wasn’t getting near to where I’m supposed to be so I went back to Kanda station and took the JR and just jumped off the next station (I can’t remember what that is) and took a gamble. Hehehe. It turns out it was also Akihabara, but I had to walk farther to get to the stores I must go to.

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And I was running out of time. I learned the stores close at 8:30 pm. My girls are asking me to find them Attack on Titan stuff.

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Look at the prices…enough to give me a heart attack.

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My brother would freak out at these Gundam toys.

Sailor Moon FTW!

Pokemon love

And…there it is, Attack on Titan. But they’re sooooo expensive!

I have to find cheap ones or second-hand toys. No way I will buy them toys this expensive.

I was sooo tired that I forgot to have dinner. I just grabbed one of those convenience store dinners to bring to my hotel.

This is my neighborhood in Chiyoda at night.

 

I am melancholic these days for some reason that I cannot comprehend (probably I’m just burnt out) so I’m listening now to the piano version of the Kimi no na wa soundtrack to ease this heartache. It’s the same music I was listening to when I was on top of a hill, surrounded by blue flowers, while I stared at the Pacific Ocean. Listening to Kataware Doki transported me back to this hill where I spent hours just gazing at the sea and the flowers last spring.

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I remember it was a cloudy Thursday and I was having lunch with colleagues in some traditional Japanese restaurant not far from our Tokyo office in Otemachi. One colleague asked me where will I be going the following day, which was my last free day in Japan. I said I had no idea, probably I’ll go to Ueno. One of them laughed, “What will you be doing in Ueno?!” I then realized it was a bad idea. Then I said, I don’t know. Maybe I’ll find something or somewhere else I could go.

That afternoon I was flicking through my Instagram feeds and saw a friend posted his trip that day to Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki prefecture. It was similar to this photo I took.

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And it took my breath away.

(But his version had flowers that were much bluer, probably due to the filter he used).

I asked him on IG how to get there. He said they just drove there but there was a time (was it last year?) he took a bus to get there. He said it took them more than two hours by bus from Tokyo. I suddenly had the urge to go there, whatever it takes. And according to my research, I can take the Express (JR Joban line) from Ueno station (1.5 hrs) or just the ordinary line, the Tokyo Yamanote Line (2 hrs and 45 mins).

Armed only with information from the Japan Rail app I downloaded on my phone and some Google search, I hopped from my hotel to Kanda Station then took the JR line to Ueno (for JPY 140). Then took the Express going to Katsuta station from Ueno because I was later than I expected. I planned to reach Hitachi 8:30 am, but guess what? It was already 8:30 am and I was still at Ueno station. As you can see it was JPY 3820 (PHP 1,711) for a one-way trip. If you’re not taking the express, you’ll only pay for the first ticket costing about JPY 2,270.

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I just love their trains.

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And how fascinating…their villages are powered by solar energy.

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Upon reaching Katsuta, I searched for the Minato line (Hitachinaka Seaside Railway) that would take me to Ajigaura station. I had to ask the railway officers at the train station office where can I find the Minato line. He had to look for a colleague who can speak English. Note to self: Push through with plan to study Nihongo.

The Minato line was farther down the platform below the railway office. I was pleasantly surprised to see a one-car train, just like the one (albeit it was a two-car-train) in Spirited Away. I was chatting with another friend (who lived in Japan for years for his PhD in Tsukuba University, also in Ibaraki prefecture) via FB Messenger while I was on my way to Ajigaura and he told me that whenever he rode this train, it felt like he was going to be transported to some mysterious fantasy anime land.

The ticket was JPY 1,000, including the entrance to Hitachi Seaside Park.

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So there in Ajigaura station, there is already a bus (free) waiting for passengers alighting from the train to bring to Hitachi. About 5-10 minute drive.

Well, hello there, 10-hectare park!

 

I rented a bike for JPY 300 for 4 hrs I think, can’t remember exactly. Because the nemophilia (baby blue eyes) hill was really far from the entrance. The best way to get around Hitachi is by bicycle.

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There is a train going around the entire park but of course your mobility is limited by the schedule of the train. Better take the bike so you can be free to move around.

And finally, the baby blue eyes!

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Thousands and thousands of them…

 

And spent a few hours just sitting on top of that hill and listen to songs on my iPod.

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It felt like I was in some movie. It was so ethereal.

The nemophilia was the main attraction for me but there are other places in the park where I spent dreaming away my day.

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If you’re hungry, don’t worry. There is a place near the nemophilia area where your can buy your lunch. It was not that expensive as I thought it would be. But you can bring your own food there, too.

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And I had my lunch here among the oldies.

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And of course, I had to have my ramen. I think this was JPY 400-450.

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I got lost riding my bike. So basically I was able to go around the entire park because I got lost looking for the entrance. And I saw that there was an amusement area there complete with Ferris wheel and roller coasters and all those things to keep children happy. Because what kid would be happy hiking among flowers?

So before I took the bus to take me back to Ajigaura station (3:45 pm), I bade the sea goodbye with a kiss.

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I want to go back in autumn to see these:

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It’s like being in a movie.

Flowers make me really happy but I am allergic to them (they trigger allergic rhinitis that lead to asthma). Oh the irony!

 

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This is the Golden Pavilion in Kyoto, Japan (taken in the spring of 2009)

Two days ago I had a dream I was back in Japan.

What to do???

Either I go back this autumn or I finish this blog post series about my latest trip there. But all I can manage now is a quick post.

 

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OK, I just got off work. Finished at 8 pm. I can’t take it anymore. I need to empty my head.

So I browsed through my Japan photos and I was transported back to Yokohama. I covered the conference for four days straight, wrote my stories on the fifth day, all day. I wasn’t able to leave my hotel room (which was really tiny, with a tiny soaking tub), except to eat in the restaurant just across my hotel.

 

I attempted to go to the mall in the early evening to have dinner but my editor was messaging me furiously on my Skype and I had to jump out of the train going to Minatomirai and back to my hotel in Kannai to fix one of my stories being edited.

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So it was only on my sixth day and my last day in Yokohama that I was able to see a bit of the city. I just walked from my hotel and didn’t care where I ended up.

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So Yokohama is a port city, the first one to open up to foreign trade. So naturally it had Western-style old buildings like this, which was the old Customs house of Yokohama.

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Which was bursting with flowers…

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I crossed the highway and ended up at the Red Brick warehouses, historical buildings which were the customs warehouses during the late 19th century. They are now shopping malls/event centers.

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And there was an adjacent park where I lingered for a bit. DSCF1177

And walked a bit further…Hey hey hey! There’s the Pacifico convention center. Minatomirai.

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And I just enjoyed the cloudy spring morning. DSCF1183

The flowers. Flowers everywhere. Everytime I come to Japan, there are always flowers everywhere, which I dearly love.

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I spent the rest of the morning taking photos of flowers around Minatomirai. I can’t remember where I had lunch but I remember going into one of the malls in Minatomirai. I left Yokohama at 1 pm-ish to go to Tokyo central, which was about 45 mins away…not bad.

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I spent 6 days in Yokohama and didn’t see much. Hahahaha!

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I’ve always been fascinated with the country ever since I was a little kid. I grew up watching Japanese animation, from Voltes V and Daimos to Ranma ni buno ichi (Ranma 1/2). My mom also went to Japan for post-graduate short courses so she brought home toys, clothes and stories from the country that was so alien and yet intriguing.

Then I fell in love with Japanese anime. I binge-watched Fushigi Yuugi, Rurouni Kenshin (all episodes and arcs, including the OAVs), Ghost In the Shell, and a lot more. I am still in love with Studio Ghibli. My favorite movies are still Spirited Away (Chihiro no Sen) and Love Letter (live action) by Shunji Iawai. I picked up a few Nihongo phrases and sentences along the way.

So in 2009, I went with my bestfriend to Kyoto and Nara and stayed there for eight days. Which weren’t enough. I vowed I will come back.

Then I got hooked on Your Name (Kimi No Na Wa) by Makoto Shinkai. I was a goner.

So I came back on 3 May for some work-related stuff (during the Golden Week!!!) but this time alone in Tokyo. I was there for 11 days, which I still find were not enough. I was so bitin. I think I will never get enough of it.

I spent the first 6 days in Yokohama, working like crazy and it was only on my last day I was able to see more of the city on the edge of the Pacific before I headed back to central Tokyo.

So on my first day, after the 1.5 hrs drive from Haneda Airport, I searched for the train station that would take me to the nearest stop to the conference venue. Of course, being me, I got lost. Walked around for 2 hours. I found myself in Yokohama’s Chinatown.

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The street food was yummy, by the way.

And I witnessed a Dragon dance. Which was weird. Dragon Dance during the Golden Week.

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After an hour or so, I finally found the conference center. Hooray. So in the next four days the only scenery I would see is this.

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And this:

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I am now fighting off flu that has been threatening to bog me down since the beginning of this month when I arrived in Japan on 3 May.

After 11 days in Japan, I went back home to be with my girls for 7 days and I was off again to Singapore. Just got back yesterday. Now I’m sick. Been working like crazy for weeks.

I will write about Japan in a few days. Let me get these work-related stuff off my desk.

But first off, I’ll give you a preview of what Japan for me is like this time around (my first visit was in 2009, Kansai region).

Hitachi Seaside Park

Pretty, no?

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On my last day in Taiwan, I checked out that morning from Chaiin Hotel and deposited my luggage in one of the metered storage/boxes at the Taipei Main Station. It was TWD 100 for I don’t remember how many hours. It was a better option than rushing back to Chaiin Hotel, which was a long walk from the Main Station, then walk back again dragging my luggage to ride the airport bus.

After depositing my luggage, I went back to our Taipei office to take photos and say goodbye to colleagues. Then I had lunch with a colleague a few stops away from the train station nearest our office. I had a few more hours to kill before I travel back to Taoyuan Airport.

I went to the Taipei Confucius Temple instead of the more popular Longshan Temple because I always avoid the touristy areas. I am suplada like that. But you know, the older I get, the more I dislike crowds.

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Yes this is a selfie fail

I spent an hour or two in this place, away from crowds. It was peaceful but annoyingly hot at the same time.

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A perfect way to end my birthday trip.

‘Til then, Ilha Formosa.

 

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