All posts by Mizhelle

A Clover Story

There was a time in my life that whenever I felt bad, I would go looking for clovers. It became a habit around five years ago, when I’d just moved from Manila and noticed that clovers were more abundant in Tokyo. I have always loved the magical stories people weave in everyday objects, so naturally, I felt drawn to the idea of searching for a four-leaf clover.

Of all the times I looked for one, I was only able to find it once. I was on my way home from school and by some miracle, a patch of clovers caught my eye. The sidewalks near the University of Tokyo are lined with plenty of small clovers and yet with a glance, a shy four-leaf jumped into sight, as if waiting, asking to be picked and wished upon.

I remember being puzzled at first. I kept counting the leaves to make sure I wasn’t mistaken. And when I finally realized what I was holding was real, I was flooded with euphoria. I pressed it, made a bookmark, and gave it to the person who taught me how to find joy in looking for clovers.

In the years that followed, I remained vigilant whenever I saw clover patches. Never mind that I looked strange crouched and busily looking. It wasn’t really finding one that mattered, it was just knowing that they exist. Like the happiness that momentarily slipped from my fingers, I believed it is out there, waiting to be found.

But in the last two years, I haven’t looked for one at all. I think I learned to temper my moments of sadness with other simple joys. Sadness was, after all, a familiar friend, one that you no longer shut the door to as you grow older; one that you invite in, chat with, and say goodbye to knowing that you’ll see each other again. Continue reading A Clover Story

Have Fun with Farm Animals! Visit Mother Farm in Chiba.

Basic Info:

Location: Futtsu, Chiba
Highlights: Farm animals, animal shows, flower fields, fruit picking, crafts workshop, shopping
Good for: Friends, families, couples, pets
Admission Fees:
Same-day Tickets
Adult – JPY 1,500
Child – JPY 800
Dog – JPY 600
Pre-sold Tickets
Adult – JPY 1,350
Child – JPY 700
*Sold at ticket machines (Loppi, Famiport, etc.) in convenience stores
With Round-trip JR Tickets
Adult – JPY 8,400
Child – JPY 6,000
*Sold at JR View Plaza inside JR Stations and Ekinet (Japanese only)
Hours:
9:00-17:00 on weekends and holidays/9:30-16:30 on weekdays (Feb to November)
9:30-16:00 on weekends and holidays/10:00-16:00 on weekdays (December to January)
 Access:
By Train – Take the JR train from Tokyo Station to Kimitsu Station/Sanukimachi Station
By Highway Bus – Take the bus from Tokyo Station to Kimitsu Station
*There’s a shuttle for Mother Farm at Kimitsu Station
Official English Website: http://www.motherfarm.co.jp/en/

Report

Date Visited: March 25, 2017

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Tickets to Mother Farm have cute animal designs.

The last time I wrote about Mother Farm, I didn’t go in-depth. I went again earlier this year, and given how lovely the place is, I think it deserves an article that talks more about its charms.

Continue reading Have Fun with Farm Animals! Visit Mother Farm in Chiba.

Hiking Trip: Mt. Tsukuba (Miyukigahara Trail)

Basic Info

Location: Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture
Height: Nantai Peak (877 m); Nyotai Peak (871 m)
Difficulty: Absolute beginner to intermediate
Duration: Climb – approximately 2 hours on a leisurely pace
Access: From Tsukuba Station (Tsukuba Express), take exit 3. The bus for Mt. Tsukuba arrives on Bus Stop # 1.
When to Go: May to June for lush greenery; Late October to late November for (a bit of) fall foliage

Report

Date Visited: March 20, 2017
Route: Tsukuba Shrine→Nyotai Peak →Ropeway to Tsustsujigaoka (via the Miyukigahara Trail)

Overview

Mt. Tsukuba makes an easy day trip from Tokyo. Located in Ibaraki Prefecture, one can easily get to the mountain by hopping on the Tsubaraki Express or a highway bus from Tokyo Station. Both will take you to Tsukuba Center, where you can ride a bus to either Tsukuba Shrine or Tsutsujigaoka, which serve as the mountain train’s entry points.

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Bus Stop # 1

Several hiking trails are available, but for this particular trip, I chose Miyukigahara. Frankly, I wish I didn’t, as the the trail was mostly composed of steep rocks. (I prefer to see lush greenery and flowers on my hikes.) The trail, however, is pretty straightforward, with markers along the way to tell you how far you still need to go to reach the top.

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The Miyukigahara Trail is marked with several signposts.

Mt. Tsukuba has twin peaks named Nantai and Nyotai. For those who want to enjoy the view from the top without the workout, there’s a cable car at Tsukuba Shrine and a ropeway at Tsutsujigaoka. Continue reading Hiking Trip: Mt. Tsukuba (Miyukigahara Trail)

Tsukuba Wanwan Land: A Chance to Pet 500 Dogs and Cats!

Basic Info

Tsukuba Wanwan Land
Location: 〒300-4353 Ibaraki Prefecture, Tsukuba, Numata 5-7-9 (https://goo.gl/maps/WguvrbDV77n)
Hours: 10 AM to 5 PM
Official Website (English, limited)
Admission:
Adult (ages 13 and up) – JPY 1500
Child (ages 3 to 12) – JPY 700
Senior (65 and above) – JPY 750
Infant (ages 0-2) – free
Access:
By Bus: From Tokyo Station, take the bus for Tsukuba Center (approx 70 mins). From Tsukuba Center, take the bus bound for Mt. Tsukuba and get off at Tsukubasanguchi Bus Stop. Tsukuba Wanwan Land is a 10-minute walk from here.
By Train: From Akihabara Station, take the Tsukuba Express to Tsukuba Station.From Tsukuba Center, take the bus bound for Mt. Tsukuba and get off at Tsukubasanguchi Bus Stop. Tsukuba Wanwan Land is a 10-minute walk from here.


Review

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One of the dog pens at Tsukuba Wanwan Land

One of the things I miss sorely about Manila is being in the constant company of dogs and cats. Living the single life in Tokyo doesn’t allow much room for pets, especially if you’re always out and about. Of course, if you live in one of the major cities in Japan, you can very well visit animal cafes to satisfy your need for a furry companion. But with limited hours, overpriced drinks and at times overcrowded shops,  I’d say heading out to the Tsukuba is a much better alternative. Continue reading Tsukuba Wanwan Land: A Chance to Pet 500 Dogs and Cats!

#TōhokudeYokatta: How Japanese Netizens Transformed a Politician’s Blunder into an Inspiring Message

On April 25th, Tuesday, during a presentation on the March 2011 disaster, a callous remark slipped out of then minister of reconstruction Masahiro Imamura. Revisiting the numbers that represent the damage the disaster had made, Imamura casually pointed out that, “It was a good thing that the disaster hit Tohoku,” as the damages would have been incalculable had it struck anywhere near the capital.

Needless to say, the remark was not well-received. When Prime Minister Shinzo Abe took the stage later that night, he began with an apology, stating that Imamura had uttered inappropriate words during his presentation that hurt the feelings of the disaster’s survivors. It was too late to do damage control however, as Imamura’s words had made its way to Twitter, and enraged comments have popped up under the hashtag “TōhokudeYokatta.” (#東北でよかった; Good thing it was Tōhoku)

People called for Imamura’s resignation and by Wednesday night, the minister caved into submission. In the timeline of news stories, this would have been the end—a transgression has been made and accordingly sanctioned, balance has been restored, and people can now move on to the next story.

Except that the hashtag didn’t disappear after that. Once the bearer of bad news and angry messages, #TōhokudeYokatta became a badge of honor, with Twitter users reappropriating Imamura’s words to highlight what’s good about Tohoku. From gorgeous scenery to local cuisine, Twitter was filled with overflowing appreciation for the region. Continue reading #TōhokudeYokatta: How Japanese Netizens Transformed a Politician’s Blunder into an Inspiring Message

Jealousy in Japanese

Yakimochi – literally grilled rice cake. Why is this word used to refer to jealousy? This video explains a bit of the word’s etymology as well as how it is used.

Credits:

Chasing Cherry Blossoms: A Gallery

When is the best time to see cherry blossoms? Where are the best spots to see them? These are two of the most common questions I get from people eager to visit Japan.

The truth is, even for people living in the country, finding the best time and place to see cherry blossoms can be tricky. Forecasts can only predict as much, and if you’re only free on weekends, chances are the places you visit will be packed with (drunk) people.

Of the five years I’ve been Japan, this year was first time I’ve made considerable effort in checking out as many places in Kanto as I could, given the limited time and resources. Below is a gallery featuring the spots I visited.

Otona Water Park /音無親水公園 (Oji, Tokyo)

Located near the city hall, Otona Water Park is among the relatively quieter spots to enjoy cherry blossoms. Perhaps this is because the more popular and more spacious Asukayama Park is close by. I personally love the way the branches lean towards the wooden bridge. The spot always makes for good pictures.

Access: JR Keihin Tohoku Line Oji Station/Toden Arakawa Line Oji Ekimae Station/Google Maps URL Continue reading Chasing Cherry Blossoms: A Gallery