Discovering Hiroshima Castle aka Carp Castle or Rijo Castle

From the brochure of the castle, I got to learned that the castle is also know with a different name. Hirsohima Castle is also famous as Carp Castle or Rijo Castle in Japanese. The area where the castle was built known to be Koi-no-ura (Koi Sea Shore) and “Koi” means Carp in Japanese. Good to know the origin of the castle name.

After strolling around Peace Memorial Park, we targeted other parts of the downtown but because most of the places to see are museums which require more time, we ended ourselves exploring the Hiroshima Castle. Before reaching the castle we passed Hiroshima Museum of Art. Then we crossed the underground walkway to the castle.

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And not far from the street where we emerge from the underground walkway, we saw the Second Compound or Ninomaru of the castle where the Main Gate and surrounded Turrets are located. We walked towards the said gate. Before we crossed the Gate Bridge to the Main Gate, we stopped for few photo shots moment.

Ninomaru (Second Compound)

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Bridge Gate, Main Gate and Turrets (Yagura)

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Moats that surrounds the castle from the Gate Bridge

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Omotegomon (Main Gate)

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Hira-Yagura (One-Layer Turret)

We crossed the bridge and entered the Main Gate. We walked a bit towards the middle of the compound and I looked around and observed. I saw a door located at the corner, part of Hall Turret (Tamon-Yagura) and I walked and climbed towards it. My family followed me and we took off our shoes then put it on the shoe cabinet available near the door. Next, we stroll the Hall Turret and there we saw different exhibits. At the end of Hall Turret is Taiko-Yagura (Two-layer Turret) where the drum at the second part and used before for Samurai sally out.

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Main Entrance and Hira-Yagura (One Story Turret) captured from inside of Ninomaru

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One of the drums at Taiko-Yagura (Two-Layer Turret) used for signals

After looking around at Taiko-Yagura and Tamon-Yagura, we walked back and reached inside the Hira-Yagura and the top of the main gate.

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Inside the Ninomaru Omote Gate  (the top layer of Main Gate)

 

Inside Hira-Yagura (One-layer Turret)

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Ruins of Ninomaru (basepoint to defend the gateway of the castle)

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Moats that surrounds the Castle. Scenery after crossing the walkway towards Main Compound (Honmaru)

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Moats that surrounds the Castle. Scenery while leaving the castle ground

Honmaru (Main Compound)

When we reached the Main Compound of the castle, the first thing we saw was Hiroshima Gokoku Jinja Shrine where we saw another stone gate similar to what we saw in Miyajima Island. The original shrine has already built in two locations, the shrine was also destroyed by atomic bomb. When the decided to rebuild it, it was rebuilt after the war within the ground of Hiroshima Castle. As per history, the purpose of building the shrine is to mourn the Hiroshima-Han victims during the Boshin War (Japanese Civil War).

 

 

Photos of Hiroshima Gokoku Jina Shrine

We moved forward nearing the castle tower, but before we reach the tower itself, we have other stuff that we saw within the ground of Hiroshima Castle. We found the location of ruins of Hiroshima Imperial Military Headquarters. After reading the brochures in my hand, I’ve got to understand, why Hiroshima was possibly the main target of atomic bomb attack, its because of the castle ground was a military base. And I also learned that the base was also use to infiltrate the plan of Allied forces during World War II, in a war like that, a military base can be a main target for attack.

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Hiroshima Imperial Military Headquarters Ruins

At the ground, we also  found a castle ground map that looks like inscribe in a metal piece and put in a stone.

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Hiroshima Castle ground map

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The original foundation stones where the Castle Tower was built

As we walked towards the castle, I got more excited, I knew it was not the original tower, because like other buildings in Hiroshima City, it was also destroyed during the atomic bomb attack. The castle location is in the corner most of the ground and in an upper layer that we need to climb few steps of the stairs. The restored castle tower shows what its look before the second world war, thus we enjoyed the photos outside before we decided to enter the tower. The castle tower now served as museum before the war. We paid the entrance fee and ready to explore the building. At first, I never realized how many floors the castle has and when we were strolling around it, I just learned that it has 5 floors. All floors has exhibits and I cannot really take photos because there’s portion of the exhibit not allowed to take shots. But as far as I remembered, I still sneaked some shots inside the museum thought it was not too many unlike other museums where photography is allowed.

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Castle Tower (now a museum)

Each floor showcases different exhibits that portrays Hiroshima. At the first floor, there’s displays about Ancient Hiroshima, Castle History, its government, life inside the castle, its defense and even different castles in the world can be seen. At the second floor, the exhibits are more of castle town life and culture where it includes samurai versus townsfolk lifestyle. In the third floor, we saw different weapons and armors displays. The fourth floor currently displayed that time has a theme of life and progress of  Hiroshima Castle Town.

 

Some Exhibits displayed inside Hiroshima Castle Tower

We reached the final floor or fifth floor which called as Observation Platform. We stayed a bit in the floor because it offers a scenic views that surround the castle in many ways. Because the castle ground surrounded by trees and green plants and moats, I can sense how Japanese has great pride in their castle. Aside from having yagura or turrets that protects the castle grounds, there is moats that prevents the invaders to reach the castle  easily. If you are a strategist, it is a great place as well for military bases. And that’s what happened to Hiroshima Castle.

 

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Scenic snapshots that surrounds the castle ground and the moats from Castle Tower Observation Deck

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O-Torii – A Boundary Between the Spirits and the Human Worlds

As I mentioned from my previous post entitled “Miyajima Island – Island of Gods” that introduced a bit of Miyajima Island, on the way to the island while we were in the ferry, I had a chance to see O-Torii during high tide. And I was amazed of what I witnessed because the sceneries were all picturesque for me.

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O-Torii while in the JR Ferry

From the local restaurant that we had lunch we walked along the pathway near the shore where some local stores are available on the left side and on the right side the O-Torii was already visible from a far.

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O-Torii (Grand Gate) is a symbol of Miyajima Island and the belief that surrounds it is that Great Torii is the boundary between the spirits and human worlds (reference: visit-miyajima-japan.com). Learning that facts is one of the interesting  information I got for the said island and it was a way to understand a bit why the island seems to be sacred to Japanese.

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O-Torii

When we were closer with O-Torii, the water subsided a bit compared to the high tide that I saw while in the ferry. Seeing such structure on the inland of the sea was pretty amazing but to learn more that it stands on its weight was more mind-blowing. Because of that fact, natural calamities that passed by in Japan did not affect the Grand Gate and as we can see, it still magnificently stands to where it is.

After few hours in Mount Misen, we descended the mountain the same way we reached the summit which includes trekking, riding a cable car and taking a bus.

When we reached the ground, we explored the Itsukushima Shrine.

O-Torii and the surrounding area (water subsided)

After the exploration to the sacred shrine of Itsukushima, my sister and I walked down to the O-Torii since the land was dry from sea water due to low tide. We had a chance to approach the Grand Gate and we had lots of photos of it.

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Up close and personal with O-Torii

Hiroshima – An Introduction To The Home of Two World Heritage Sites

Because Hiroshima is very far from Tokyo, I booked a domestic flight in ANA Airlines, where I found the cheapest price available at the time that I was booking the flight because I was able to maximize their offer price for foreign visitors.

After watching Sumo event and after spending time in Akihabara, when we reached the hotel, we immediately packed all our stuff back to our luggage since that night was the same as our last night in the hotel. We woke-up early in the morning as our flight was around 7AM and our airport was Haneda Airport, which is another airport located nearer in Tokyo compared to Narita Airport, the entry point we had in Japan.

From Kayabacho Station, we took Tozai Line to Nakano, transferred at Nihombashi, changed to Ginza Line to reach Shimbashi Station. At first we planned to take Monorail Line which mean we plan to go to Hammamutso station. When we were waiting at Shimbashi Station for the next train, we found out that the next train goes directly to Haneda Airport, I asked one officer in the train to confirm if the next train goes to Haneda Airport, and he confirmed it. We took the said train. When we were inside the train, my sister and I checked the next station that the train will stop by and we quite surprised because it seems it has too many stations on its route. Then, my sister and I keep monitoring the next train stop and we were thankful because it bypassed many stations, as time really matters for us in that situation because we were catching up with our flight schedule.

When we reached Haneda Airport it’s just right time, we’re not too early nor too late. The flight from Tokyo to Hiroshima took at least an hour and that flight actually saved us a bit of time. We touched down at Hiroshima Airport passed 8:20 AM in the morning and got off the plane passed 8:30 AM. Because we’re new, we did not realize that the bus schedule to Hiroshima Station is closer to our arrival schedule, therefore we were left behind even before we can buy our bus ticket (which can be get through automated machine) and we waited for the next schedule which was after an hour. When the next bus arrived, we boarded the bus immediately. The airport does not have train station and the only way to go to Hiroshima Station is through bus. The bus travel from the airport was around 45 minutes to reach Hiroshima.

At Hiroshima station, since it’s our first time again in another city of Japan, we really don’t know where to go to reach our hotel in the city. That problem was forgotten a bit after I saw the JR Train Line office at the station. I booked our ticket train from Hiroshima to Kyoto to reserved our seats the next day we travel. We scheduled to spend almost 2 days to go around in Hiroshima.

After booking the train ticket, we got off at the station and followed few people as we thought they were exiting the station. We ended up leaving the station in a wrong way. We passed the station docking area and underground way since we still did not realize where majority people goes when passing the station. We learned the right way later that day.

Tatami Room

River View from our Room

Even we used the wrong way in getting off the station, we were still able to find the way to our hotel. We did not take a cab as I booked a hotel just near Hiroshima Station. We reached the road Johoku Dori and turned left and then we crossed the bridge. After crossing the bridge, the hotel accommodation were after comes next. We stayed at Hotel Century21 Hiroshima located at Hijiyama Dori. In that hotel, we got a room with tatami room and river view. I really like the room that was assigned to us by the hotel.

The only plan that I had in mind initially in Hiroshima is to walk around in downtown to see the city and its historical places. I checked some brochures that I picked-up from the airport so I can plan and add more to the basic itinerary that I had.  My sister and I talked about what we’re going to do for the day while we were in the hotel. I had Miyajima in mind as additional to Hiroshima city. We discussed which one will go first, at first my plan was the city then Miyajima Island. My sister thought opposite. Her idea was more sensible than mine since the afternoon of the next day, we’re planning to go to Kyoto which is another famous city of Japan and very far from Hiroshima. So we decided with agreement that we will go and explore Miyajima Island first and followed by the city the next day.

Because of limited time we had, the major places we visited within Hiroshima Prefecture where two of world heritage sites can be found, they are:

1. Miyajima Island, Hatsukaichi City

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2. Hiroshima City

Hidden Panorama - Hiroshima Prefecture

Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse – From Custom Houses To Cultural and Shopping Complex

After Zuo-No-Hana Park, we walked towards Red Brick Warehouse building. On our way, we crossed the bridge and we saw Minato Mirai 21 in different angle.

Minato Mirai 21 while crossing the bridge to Red Brick Warehouse from Zuo-No-Hana Park

Red Brick Warehouse is one of noticeable building structure around the Port of Yokohama. Both because of its color, old design of the building and its location in an open space in the port.

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Entrance

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When we entered the Warehouse #2 (based on the brochure I have), we discovered that the building are full of shops, restaurants, diners and cafeteria. We had lunch at the 1st floor of the building where the food court is located and they call it as Picnic court where I saw a lot of people. My whole family enjoyed our lunch. Then, we walked around the building to see different stores until we reached the balcony. The balcony is one of the spots in the building that I enjoyed because of the sceneries it offered which is the surroundings of port of Yokohama and a great location for up close and personal view of Minato Mirai.

Sceneries while at the balcony of Warehouse#2

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We haven’t visited the Warehouse #1 as the building used in exhibits and events.

I also learned that the building is a historical building in the city which used as a custom houses before. The building or warehouse #1 which is the shortest building among the two was partially destroyed because of Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

Asakusa – Home of Famous Sensoji Buddhist Temple

From Ameyoko, we continue our stroll and we never noticed immediately that we reached Okamachi Station which still along JR Yamanote Line. Because we are looking for some souvenir products that we can bring home, we decided to go to Asakusa. From Okamachi Station we went back to Ueno Station. Then, we switch train line to Ginza Line and got off at Asakusa Station.

What I was only expecting when arriving at Asakusa area was to find a market with a lot of Japan souvenirs that we can buy as it seems the name of the place is quite famous for it. Outside Asakusa Station, I already liked what I saw. As we walked along in an alley near the station with half-dome glass roof, I observed that the place is indeed a tourist destination, as each alley has stores lined, up to its end.

Half-Dome Roof Walkway

We followed the half-dome roof walkway, to look for a place to have our lunch, after our lunch we walked again until a our feet brought us to where most of the crowds are going and coming from. Few minutes passed, we found a nearby market on the way to the temple and we discovered that the temple is Sensoji. The temple was in my list when I’m doing the itinerary plan, but I not realized that the temple is in Asakusa area.

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Asakusa Nakamise Shopping Street

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Asakusa Nakamise Shopping Street (Facing Kaminarimon Gate)

Asakusa Nakamise Shopping Street (Facing Hozomon Gate)

We continue our walk, we followed the crowd until another shopping street existed before Hozomon Gate, I learned later that the shopping streets is called Nakamise. A lot of people, I can say a crowd of people are passing Nakamise. A lot people were kept on looking and buying stuff and I myself enjoyed the street while passing it going to and coming from the temple.

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Sensoji Temple Map

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Hozomon Gate

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Main Hall (Kannondo Hall) Hondo

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Interiors of Main Hall (Kannondo Hall) Hondo

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Five Storied Pagoda

Yogodo Hall

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Awashimado Hall

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Nitenmon Gate

Asakusa Shrine

After passing Nakamise, the first structure to see is the Hozomon (Niomon) Gate. It followed by the Main Hall (Kannondo Hall) of the temple. The other significant structures to be found within the area are Five Storied Pagoda, Yogodo Hall, Awashimado Hall, Nitenmon Gate and Asakusa Shrine.

Bronze Statue of Uryu Iwako

Tomb of Toda Musui

Bronze Hokyoin-to

Aside from halls, we found some tombs existing in the vicinity of the temple:

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Kaminarimon Gate is the gate structure of the temple before reaching Nakamise.

Ueno Park – One of Japan’s First Public Park and Once Kaneiji’s Ground

Ueno Park

Ueno Park

From Tokyo Station, we took JR Yamanote Line to Ueno Station. We got off at Ueno Station to visit Ueno Park. The park entrance is just beside the Ueno Station and because of this no one will ever miss the park by any visitors. We checked the map and search for things we can see around the area. There are lots of places to see in the park and all these places had their own entrance tickets. Because that day was our last day in Tokyo, we wanted to make a wise decision because we wanted to see more places as we can in a limited time that we have.

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Grand Fountain

Day Market

Tokyo National Museum

Therefore we decided to walk around the park and not to enter to any museums. Near the entrance we passed the The National Museum of Western Art Tokyo. Next, we saw the Grand Fountain wherein at the time of our visit, beside the fountain was the temporary day market. As we walked further we found The Tokyo National Museum. During that walk I used Triposo app to see if we can see interesting areas in the park aside from museums. Facing The Tokyo National Museum main entrance gate, we turned right and found The Ueno Rinnoji Temple (Rinno-ji Ryodaishi-do) which is a Buddhist temple which enshrined two priest. The temple is part of cathedral of Kaneiji temple. Beside Rinnoji temple, the Kaneiji Temple Imperial Cemetery. After taking few photos around the temple we walked back towards The Tokyo National Museum until we were near the Gate of the Inshu-Ikeda Residence known as “Kuromon (Black Gate)”.

The Ueno Rennoji Temple

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Kuromon (Black Gate)

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Kuroda Mermorial Hall

In the same corner of Kuromon, we saw Kuroda Memorial Hall. The hall was part of the estate of Kuroda Seiki which considered as father of modern western-style painting. Kuroda Seiki offered the part of his estate to be used for furtherment of the art.

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Kaneiji Temple

From the corner, we turned right and walked until we found the Kaneiji Temple. Kaneiji temple is also a Buddhist temple. I just learned that the whole Ueno Park are grounds of Kaneiji which converted into the park after it was destroyed during civil war and the temple has been relocated to where it is now. We spent time for taking photos in the surroundings of the temple and left to continue our stroll in the park.

Prince Komatsu statue

Ueno Park – Famous in Cherry Blossoms During Spring Season

We walked back to the center of the park by taking the same path we took on the way to Kaneiji Temple. After reaching the Kuroda Memorial Hall again, we walk the pathway where we found the Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. We passed the main gate of more than century old Ueno Zoo. Along the way we saw the statue of Prince Komatsu. According to Wikipedia, Prince Komatsu Akihito was a member of Fushimi-no-miya, one branches of shinnoke of imperial family of Japan and eligible to Chrysanthemum Throne if the main line died out.

Benten Gate

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Bentendo

Some Fish found in Boat Pond

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Boat Pond

We walked in the middle and main walkway of the park. The said pathway is the famous area for sightseeing during spring season where visitors expecting  cherry blossoms. In the nearby area we found the Benten Gate and Benten Hall which surrounded by ponds such as Uno Pond, Boat Pond, Shinobazu Pond and Hasu Pond. Benten Hall was dedicated to Benten a goddess of good fortune, wealth, music and knowledge.

The Shitamachi Museum

From Benten Hall we walked towards The Shitamachi Museum (Museum of Down Town Customs). The said museum was dedicated to its traditional culture of Tokyo’s Shitamachi.

Ameyoko

After leaving Ueno Park, we walked in the nearby market called Ameyoko (a short name of Ameya Yokocho – candy store alley). Based on history the market was black market before second world war where most of American products were available. But even this time, it seems that if follows the history, because the said market still selling lots of various western products and common store sellers are not local Japanese but foreigners.

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Twilight : White Night Melbourne – Flinders Street Station

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Twilight (Post#3) : White Night Melbourne – Flinders Street Station

Photo above was captured during light shows at Flinders Street Station building in the midst of White Night celebration in Melbourne held last February 2014.

Tokyo – From A Small Fishing Village To A Bustling Metropolitan Prefecture

When I am researching information about Tokyo, there is a curiosity about the history of one of the popular or famous city in the world. Tokyo’s former name was Edo which was part of old Musashi Province (information from Wikipedia) wherein fortified by Edo clan. Edo  was a small fishing village around 18th century, but seeing Tokyo right now, as I knew that it was a city until I understand that it’s not just a city but a metropolitan prefecture of Japan. It is the most populous metropolitan area of the country and where Japan’s government located.

After seeing some part of Tokyo, knowing what it was before is an amazing thing to discover. Realizing how far it progressed from where it was before is truly considered exponential growth and success of the small village.

A Metro To Remember

The inbound flight that I was able to book to Japan was through Narita Airport. The said airport is 1 hour train to Tokyo Downtown. At first, when I started planning my family’s itinerary, Narita area was first on my list to visit while in Japan with the reason that it is near from the airport and considering utilizing our time. Then I changed the list when I was finalizing the itinerary, I replaced Narita with Tokyo.

We left home from Dasmarinas Cavite around 1AM of September 11, allotting 4.5 hours before the scheduled flight. The past few days that week in my country had gloomy weather as almost every afternoon to evening, in Metro Manila and its outskirts had been raining. We left early as we were trying to anticipate road traffic challenges that may arise if the weather will be the same. I was really glad that Friday early morning, the road was quiet as we travel on the way to the airport. We had smooth travel from home to the airport and the good thing about that morning, it wasn’t raining at all. Around 2AM we’re already at NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) Terminal 3.

At the airport, we followed the norms of people traveling international such as paying travel taxes and flight checking-in. After checked-in, since it was still early and we had ample time to spare, we had our breakfast at local food chain in the airport. Next, we went to immigration gate. After passing immigration, we went straight to the airline’s gate. While waiting at the designated gate of our flight, I was thinking about Japan. In my mind, in just less than an hour or so, I will be on my way in a country called “Land of the Rising Sun”. A country which for me was only a dream. At that moment of my life, I felt excited because soon the dream in my mind will become a reality. And the momentous about it, I’m traveling with my family.

The flight was more than 4 hours. The plane took off around 5:30AM in Manila. We landed in Narita International Airport past 10:35AM. Japan was 1 hour ahead in Philippines. We disembarked the plane and walked towards immigration section. Standing in one of the airport in Japan was the realization of my thoughts that I was really in Japan. When we passed the immigration officers, that was the time I believed we will really see and experience Japan.

After the immigration, one of the first thing that’s unique with Japan at the airport is their toilet where you have a lot of options to do aside from the normal stuff that people does. What I’m referring to is that, their toilets has options to play some music or soothing sounds while doing your business. And most of the manual stuff like flushing before and after, it will be done automatically for you. Well, in my country that’s not the case, though some malls has toilets with automatic flush after doing your business.

We were adjusting in the airport and I was thinking what’s the next thing to do, we tried to figure out how we were going to Tokyo downtown. We found Skyliner desk, Skyliner is a train line that directly goes to Nippori and Ueno Station (another option is Narita Express train line that goes straight to Tokyo Station). I chose Skyliner because our Japan Railpass was not yet activated and it has only 7 days, we will be in Japan for 10 days so we were saving the other 3 days. I also knew that we still have chance to experience Narita Express train once we return to the Airport, for our scheduled flight back to Manila. Skyliner is just one of the great trains that we were able to ride while in Japan. I bought the tickets for four and then I looked for ATM to get some money. We went upstairs  (where the departure floor is located) to pickup the pocket WiFi in Japan Post Office that I reserved for rent prior arriving in Japan, WiFi will enable us to connect to internet while roaming around the country which is a LTE connection, unlimited data and cheaper for 10 days compared if I will activate data roaming in my mobile from my country and the best of all, all in the family can connect internet seamlessly.  After I picked-up the wifi, my father told me that he lost his jacket somewhere and it seems he left it after we passed the immigration officers. My father and my sister went to Information Desk at the airport and requested to looked for the jacket. It was a good thing that we had some photos of the jacket and we were able to show it to airport officers. In few minutes of waiting, my father’s jacket had been returned to him immediately. That kind of experience in a new place was really a great thing. I appreciated how people in that place were so efficient and trustworthy that they can easily find my father’s jacket. It may be a different situation if we were in another country.

Because of the incident, we came back to the Skyliner train desk where we bought our tickets and we requested to replace our tickets as the ticket schedule has passed already. They issued us new tickets for next train which will be leaving soon. We hurriedly went down to the train platform but the train doors were already closed when we arrived and its departing, we missed it for the second time. I came back upstairs and let my family wait in the platform as it’s quite inconvenient if all of us going up with our luggage. I talked to the train officer and advised me to get new ticket. I returned to the Skyliner for the second time, the third schedule given to us was at least an hour waiting time, a very sufficient time for all of us not to miss the train. Missing the train is not really something that’s surprising for us to experience because its our first time to find the train platform and it’s also first time to ride a train in Japan.

From Narita Airport Station (because there is Narita Station which different station), we arrived at Ueno Station after an hour.  Japan is a country where train is the most common and most efficient public mass transportation. After arriving in Ueno Station, we started to use our Passmo card I bought together with the Japan Railpass. Passmo card are usable to all trains and buses around Tokyo, but it cannot be used for long travel. Passmo card are accepted to many cities in Japan, maybe in the next coming years they have one card for all transportation which I will be looking forward to in the future. I did my research about public transportation in Japan and understood that there are specific tickets for some train lines. That’s why I made sure that we have the appropriate ticket for the train line we will be taking. From Ueno Station, we transferred to Tokyo Metro Subway and took Hibiya Line towards Naka-meguro and got-off at Kayabacho Station where our hotel for 4 consecutive days in Tokyo is very near and the hotel we will be staying is Sotetsu-Fresa Inn Nihombashi Kayabacho.

Honestly, based on my plan, after we arrived in Japan, we planned to see some places in the afternoon as part of our activity to end our first day. The original plan was to visit Ueno Park, but the plan did not happen because both of my parents were already tired as we haven’t slept due to early flight that day, I decided to cancel the planned activity.

The following places we visited in Tokyo are: Ginza for the first day, Ryogoku, Akihabara for the fourth day and Ueno, Azakusa, Tokyo SkyTree for the 9th day in Japan. Detailed stories of each places are posted or will be posted separately on the link given below.

Day 1 – Ginza

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Day 4 – Ryogoku Kokugikan

Hidden Panorama - Tokyo Fishing Village Metropolitan Prefecture

Day 4 – Akihabara

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Our second and last Saturday in Japan spent another day in Tokyo. Early in the morning, we took Shinkansen train from Kyoto to Tokyo. We left Kyoto Station around 6:23AM and we arrived in Tokyo Station around 9AM. Though these two cities far from each other, the Shinkansen train made us felt that both are just near each other. The estimated distance between Kyoto Station and Tokyo Station are around 500 km and it only needs more than 2.5 hours travel within the two stations. It was 3rd time we had Shinkansen Train, though it was not the fastest Shikansen, but it still comparable in terms of its speed, for what I’m aware of the Shinkansen train we took just late of 10 minutes compared with the fastest bullet train. Because it was long weekend (as September 21 is a public holiday in Japan), I anticipated that a lot of people were traveling and we reserved our ticket a day before and it’s almost fully booked  when I reserved our tickets, the seats we got were not beside each other and one seat was in another car train. I let myself apart from my family as I can be on my own and let my youngest sister be with my parents in another car train.

When we were at Tokyo Station, we looked around for luggage locker because our hotel for the night is near in Narita International Airport. After checking-in our luggage, we roam around again for the last time in Tokyo.

Day 9 – Ueno Park and Ameyoko

Hidden Panorama - Tokyo Fishing Village Metropolitan Prefecture1

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Day 9 – Asakusa and Sensoji Temple

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Day 9 – Tokyo SkyTree

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After taking our time with photo shots in Tokyo SkyTree, we decided to go down as we need to catch-up train going Otsuka to attend an event. From Tokyo SkyTree Station in Tobu Line, we returned to Asakusa  Station, then transferred to Ginza Line. We got off at Ueno Station. At Ueno Station  I just realized that I have to cancel our travel in the place that my family need to be, due to my unintended mistake, we had to take train to Tokyo Station instead to Otsuka Station as we need to catch-up the last trip of Narita Express train from Tokyo Station to Narita Airport Station, as our hotel for our last night in Japan was near the airport.

At Tokyo Station we walked so fast as we need to find the luggage locker we used to checked-in our luggage and bags at the station. We arrived at the train platform for Narita Express train at least 5 minutes before its scheduled departure as we were catching our breath. For all of us it was really a nick of time because if we missed the train, we have to take a taxi which was really expensive coming from Tokyo to Narita.

We arrived past 9PM at Narita Airport Station. Then, we took the shuttle bus to the hotel we booked. We checked-in at the Narita Tobu Airport hotel before 10PM. Before we ended the night, we had a wonderful and delightful dinner at the hotel as both of my parents complimented the food we had that night and I felt relieved to what I heard.

We woke-up early and did last-minute packing of our luggage and checked-out the hotel. We took the shuttle bus back to the airport. We arrived at the airport, had enough time before our flight. I went back to the Post Office booth and returned the WiFi device I rented. We checked-in in our flight and passed the immigration. We went to the designated gate of our flight and waited for our departure. At that time I felt that days passed so fast. I remembered 9 days ago, we just came in to Japan and yet that moment we’re about to leave the country. I sensed that in few hours I and my family has to go back in reality of our lives again.

I had a great time in Tokyo and oveall in Japan, though there are lots of places that I haven’t seen but we had wonderful time and we had fun as Japan offered us a lot of places to see to enjoy our trip in this country called “Land of the Rising Sun”.

Until I return again.

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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RyogokuIMG_3539

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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.

Trekking Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

At camping area in the nearby village Yulara not far from Uluru / Ayers Rock where we chose to sleep for the first night of our camping tour, we helped our tour guide in dinner preparation. To be honest, I was not really good in kitchen and food stuff but still I tried my best to be useful, like helping the group in washing the dishes. After dinner, our tour guide announced that our wake-up call was 6am the next morning.

I washed-up myself before I get in the swag. When I was inside the swag, I got a chance to enjoy the sky at night and tried to listen to my surroundings. While I was in that moment, I was also checking my other group mates and found some were snoozing, some still talking and some were just quiet like me.

Overnight in an open space and sleeping in swag was one of the first unique experience I had in the Outback. Yes, as mountaineers, I usually sleep in sleeping bag inside the tent but it was first in swag which quite different. Swag is like a self contain sleeping bag, I never felt cold over night which was really surprising but good as well. Before I totally passed out for day, I was with a thought of happiness and satisfaction with my first day with Uluru / Ayers Rock specifically the base walk experience. That night, I felt excited again and I was looking forward for the next adventure.

Second day at the outback, I woke-up early in the morning. I organised my swag, I tried to roll it to be like it was before I used it, but it’s kind of difficult to roll, so I just fixed it as much I can.  I joined my group in preparing our breakfast. Since I had shower the night before, I was ready for the day’s event. It was still dark when we left the camping area, I felt like it was still early in the morning. As we were catching the sunrise we drove back again to Lasseter Highway from Yulara and visited a lookout area called Kata Tjuta Viewing Area (or Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing). We waited a little, in few minutes we witnessed the sunrise while watching  Kata Tjuta from a far. While observing The Olgas , from a distance at our right side while facing The Olgas, Uluru / Ayers Rock was also visible, the sun was actually behind it. It was a spectacular moment for me. We watched how great sceneries that Kata Tjuta shows because it is a rock dome ranges, it was called t that moment with the sun rising, I felt really alive, I felt really good. It was a moment that I was content and loved my life. It was one of the effect of the Outback to me. Sometimes I can’t explain why, because to other people maybe it’s just a places of rocks with probably no meaning to them, but for me it was a world of amazing things and serenity.

— Uluru / Ayers Rock at dawn and early in the morning from Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing Area

Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) from Kata Tjuta Dune Viewing Area

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— On our way to Kata Tjuta

After, the sunrise, we went back to the bus and we drove towards The Olgas. We returned to Lassetter Highway and I knew that time, that the second day was the day to get up close and personal with Kata Tjuta. We arrived at the parking area where the “Valley of the Winds” trekking trail starts.

— Up close and personal with Kata Tjuta / The Olgas

— The trekking trail

— The first glimpse of Valley of the Winds from Karu Lookout

We jumped-off the bus and started our walk towards the base of The Olgas. At firs,t I thought that The Olgas are small hills until we were really close to it and realized how huge the rock formations and was like Uluru / Ayers Rock. Kata Tjuta is a unique kind of natural rock formation. I was reckoning, in such desert plain like Red Centre, that there such kind of rock formations like Uluru  / Ayers Rock and The Olgas existed. I was amazed how these were created and become what they are today. If we are living in a magical world like from a fantasy story, we can think of that someone may put Uluru and Kata Tjuta in the middle of desert plain and the most surprising, they are located in the almost center of Australia. I was still contemplating how these kind of rock formations evolved in the middle of the desert until I thought that it was some amazing geological miracle. The first part of the trail was Karu Lookout where we first witness the “Valley of the Winds”.

— The trekking trail

— The Olgas

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— Featuring the highest dome called Mount Olga

P1080011— Water Stream

We followed the trail inside The Olgas. I enjoyed the trek around the area. We passed a small water streams that looks like a natural canal or a petite river. Trekking in a natural environment such as The Olgas are one of the activities that I really enjoyed. Then, along the trail we saw the water falls which seems the source of the water stream that we just passed by. The same trail where the water fall is, we have to combine walking and hiking in an inclined part of one of the huge rock formation and there’s nothing to hold on. Honestly, that kind of trail made me felt really unsure to myself. I tried my best and we successfully passed the part of the trail until we reach the top area where the water falls came from.