Kawaguchiko – Finding Enjoyment on its Lake after Unexpected Moments

After spending sometime in the 5th station of Mount Fuji, we decided to go to Fujikawaguchiko. A town near at the base of the mountain. My whole family and I will never forget this town in our Japan travel because it was the place we experienced a nervous and quite hopeless moments of our lives. It was not really a life threatening situation but a desperate moment of our travel.

After we got off from the bus we took from 5th Station to Kawaguchiko Station, we walked around near the station to find an ATM machines so I can withdraw some money we need. First, we tried the convenience store that we found and we were unlucky because I was not able to take some money because it seems that my ATM card was not being accepted. Next, we tried another similar convenience store and I tried again my ATM card and the result were the same. At that time I started to feel anxious. We walked back to the station and went to the information center and asked around about the ATM nearby. After some inquiries, I let my parents stayed in the station. My sister and I went to find the banks and the post office that was given to us by the officer from information center. There were two more banks we visited and tried my ATM card, again both result were the same. I was really confused and surprised because I was able to get the money at the ATM in airport. There was one last place we had tried on, the post office where there’s international ATM. At that time, I was really nervous and felt uncomfortable because my family and I were in the middle of a town far from Tokyo and does not have enough money to even come back to the city (I only reserved the bus and still need to pay for it). At the post office, I tried to use my ATM again and the result was failed again. When that happened I had a feeling that my ATM card was somewhat blocked by my bank in the Philippines. It’s my suspicious reason why my ATM was not accepted for almost 5 places with international ATM.

I was thinking to call the bank. I have my mobile phone but felt doubtful to use it since I was weary about the international calls that will cost me. I checked my Skype and checked if it has still load to allow me to call outside. I saw that it wasn’t enough. I reloaded my Skype account and used it to call the bank. During the call, my hunch was  correct. The bank blocked my account after they detected, that there was withdrawal in my ATM outside the Philippines. I was really angry with them, because they never notified me, then told me they’re trying to reach me but unsuccessful. The agent that was talking to me, immediately unblock my card. After the call, at the post office, I tried my ATM card again and without issues, I successfully withdrawn money. It was really a great relief. That time I felt at ease. My sister and I came back to the station to pick-up my parents. That’s the only time we were able to had our lunch. What an experience indeed!!!

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Lake Kawaguchi (Kawaguchiko)

Because we lost time to see more around Fujikawaguchiko, I decided to see the nearby lake from the station. We walked around half an hour and we reached Lake Kawaguchi. As we were anticipating the bus scheduled booking that I had to go back to Shinjuku, we estimated our time to spend in the lake. We spent sometime in some parts of the lake. We walked a bit and enjoyed the sceneries that the lake is offering.

Kawaguchiko Station

Finally, we went back to Kawaguchiko Station. And there I exchanged my booking to bus tickets and paid appropriately. Then we’ve waited for our bus to arrived. If our travel from the city to Mount Fuji 5th station was smooth in the morning that day, it was different when we were on our way back to the city. Since it was Sunday night, we experienced the traffic jam that Japan has. We left Kawaguchiko station past 6PM and we arrived in Shinjuku station almost 11PM and had our dinner in the area. We reached our hotel in the city almost 12AM. It was a good thing that the next day adventure we had in our schedule gave us ample time to rest because we were schedule to watch Sumo Bout event.

That’s how we spent our third day in Japan.

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Mount Fuji – A Sacred Famous Mountain and Arts Inspiration in Japan

One of the considered perfect cone volcano in the world is Mount Fuji. I first learned to know about this volcano in Japan when our very own active volcano from my country named Mayon Volcano which is also considered to be the same with perfect cone volcano. I learned that Mount Mayon considered to be similar to Mount Fuji. Though I haven’t seen Mayon Volcano for real and only in photos, I can see the resemblance of the two. For me, both of them are probably has perfect cone. Based on photos, both of them has magnificent scenery from a distance. The difference that I can emphasized between the two is Mayon Volcano doesn’t have snow-capped because we don’t have winter season like Japan.

As a mountaineer, I also dreamed to climb Mount Fuji. But during the trip to this mountain, it’s not part of the family’s itinerary, I only planned to see the mountain and its summit up close and personal and be within the mountain since I was with my family.

It was our third day in Japan when I scheduled the trip to Mount Fuji. It was Sunday that day and the only thing I booked was a bus going to Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station (also known as Yoshidaguchi 5th Station or Kawaguchiko 5th Station) of the mountain from Shinjuku Station in Tokyo and a return bus from Kawaguchiko Station back to Shinjuku Station.

All of us woke-up early in the morning and prepared as early as possible we can based on the time calculations I did to reached the bus station that will bring us to Mount Fuji. From the hotel we took subway Hibiya Line from Kayabacho station to Naka-Meguro and we transferred to Marunuchi Line to Ogikubo in Ginza station and got off at Shinjuku Station.

Because Shinjuku station is one of the major and interchange station we experienced some difficulties to find the bus terminal that I bought the ticket online. The terminal we were looking for was Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal. We arrived at Shinjuku station at the right time that I planned it, but because we need to find the terminal, it seems that the timing was very tight as the bus schedule we need to take was 6:40am and at 6:30am we must be in the terminal as we need to exchange the booking that I had to a bus ticket. We asked few locals around the area of Shinjuku station but it seems no one understand our English language. We looked around and saw where the bus coming from and asked again while we were walking towards the  terminal. We talked to someone and confirmed where the terminal was. I had a map of the bus station but because of some orientation issue we got confused at first. My sister whose really good in directions confused too until she noticed some of the landmarks.

Finally we found the bus terminal and we saw a lot of people in the station. It was not really surprising because Mount Fuji is a popular tourist destination in Japan. I went inside the ticket office where queues of people can be seen, I queued myself and when it was my turn, I exchanged my booking to a ticket and we were set to board the bus. Most of the people coming to Mount Fuji were climbers or hikers. They were completely geared for the climb. When I saw the climbers I felt some envy within myself because they will climb Mount Fuji and I wasn’t.

We queued in the line and waited for our bus. When the bus arrived, I started to get excited because Mount Fuji like its country of Japan was one of my dream to see for real. When we got on-boarded in the bus, I can’t deny the excitement that I felt. The bus left the terminal and while we were trying to leave Shinjuku area, I saw some part of Shinjuku. I just realized and noticed that the place is towering of buildings. It seems there are lots of businesses districts and offices area that surrounds Tokyo.

We took the highway after leaving Shinjuku area. The bus travel we did that day was the first travel we had by land aside from train. From the time that we arrived in Tokyo, we always took trains from one point to another. Because we were in the bus, it added some excitement because I can see some part of Japan while traveling. The great thing about it, I can see a lot of places while in the road. The whole travel took us more than 2 hours before we reached the 5th station in Mount Fuji. Because we traveled in Sunday morning there’s not much traffic in the road. When we reached the base of the mountain, I felt that the atmosphere changed and the road trajectory was snaky. Then, next thing happened, there’s some drizzle in the air. Being part of the mountaineering group made me realized the rain within the mountain specially if nearer in the summit seems to be normal and that drizzle in Mount Fuji was not really surprising to me.

After the rain just stopped while in 5th Station in Mount Fuji

At 5th Station (Fuji Subaru Line 5th Station)

Around Mount Fuji 5th Station

Before we reached the 5th station of Mount Fuji, the rain fell. And when we got off the bus, we felt the cool weather in the mountain. And to think that its raining, we really experienced the windy chilly rain. Since the 5th station is the most developed than other stations around the mountain before summit, we saw different establishments in the area such as hotel for accommodations and shopping stores that people can go to temporarily as a shelter while it’s raining outside and for last minute shopping before climbing the summit.

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Mount Fuji Summit

With Mount Fuji Summit

Mount Fuji is so popular to tourist and people flocking in the mountain is normal. And I also learned, that the weekend that we visited the mountain was the last weekend that the mountain was open for climbing season as it will close due to season changes. I saw a lot of groups who really came just to climb the mountain and I felt sadness again. I promised to myself that I will come back in the mountain with the objective of climbing the summit of it.

At one of the shops in Mount Fuji 5th Station

Since we were not climbing the mountain and the timing when we reached the 5th Station was not really that great. What we did were stayed and roamed around inside of one of the stores in the area as we were amazed on a lot of stuffs and souvenirs to enjoy, had our lunch, walked around in the nearby temple and lookout and finally we took photos as we can with the summit of the mountain as our background.

Komitake Shrine

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Komitake Shrine

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Sceneries at Observation Point near Komitake Shrine

Japan Highlights At The First Visit

I know that it’s been a while since my last post. After being busy in a project at work, I was busy planning my next out of the country adventure this year together with my family.

Traveling in a country with visa is most likely a dream to me because your chances to see that country is whether the visa application is approved. If the visa approved we are really lucky. If not, the hope will probably gone as there’s no way to come to that country in a normal and legal way.

When I heard that Japan loosen a bit of its strictness in processing visa specifically for tourists visa to promote their tourism, I put some thought to visit the country since last year. Then, I waited my chance for cheap airline ticket since I am planning to travel together with my family (with my parents and my youngest sibling). Last February this year, I received alert email from one of the budget airline in my country and I grabbed my chance to book tickets for myself and my family. Honestly, it was difficult to get cheap ticket with combined promo rate both for departure and arrival flight but with perseverance I was able to find combinations of dates for our travel.

Almost 7 months had passed and I’m still not sure if we can really travel to Japan for many reasons. And last August, I processed all our visa applications and submitted it to one of the authorized travel agency of Japan Embassy as their office does not accept anymore applications directly from applicant. I completed all the requirements and prepared for the visa fee. I applied a single entry for all of us. And after 3 days of processing, the agency called me and notified me that the visa were already approved. I was ecstatic when I heard the news, because the major worry of the travel planning if we can push visiting Japan got resolved. When I returned to pickup the passports, I was surprised for one thing. I received a multiple visa for 5 years in Japan while the rest of my family just got single entry. For me and my family, being approved even for single entry in Japan was one of the great things happened because it gave us a chance to see the country even for once. I just thought that if there is a need to re-apply for visa, it will be probably easier because we’ve had a record that we had visited Japan.

Even before visa application processing, I already started searching places to visit in Japan. Since after the booking of our flight, I have hope that I will be able to see Japan. When our visa approved, that’s was the time I made a real itinerary. I planned the places to visit and the accommodation where were going to stay. I aligned all the accommodations that we need to all places we planned to visit. Since I’m always on a budget, I selected hotels walk able to and from the train station, as I learned that taking a cab in Japan is quite pricey. I also bought necessary advance tickets such as train pass and sumo ticket to reserved guaranteed slot for my family.

My family and I traveled the country within 10 days, these includes two flights to and from Japan. In total we spent at least 8.5 days roaming around in Japan.

Here are the following places we’ve  got a chance to visit.

1. Tokyo

Ginza

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Akihabara

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Ueno

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Asakusa

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Tokyo Skytree

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2. Yokohama

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3. Mount Fuji and Kawaguchiko

Mount Fuji

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Kawaguchiko

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4. Miyajima and Hiroshima

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5. Osaka

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6. Kyoto

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Our trip was really quick by I tried to see as much as we can since I was with my family. In the next coming post. I will described the experience that myself and my family had in our first visit in Japan.

Until then.