Mt. Mitake Easy Day Hike

Access: JR Ome Line Mitake Station
Cost: Around JPY 3,710 (Shinjuku Sta. to Mitake Station: JPY 970; Bus to Mitakesan: JPY 280; Round-trip Cable Car JPY 1,110; One-way Lift to Anzan Sugi: JPY 100)
Difficulty: Absolute beginner to beginner
Duration: Approx. 3 hours
Hiking Course: Mitake Station→Mitakesan Station (Cable Car)→Anzan Sugi→Shopping Street→Musashi Mitake Shrine→Nagao Taira→Tengu Rock→Rock Garden

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Date Visited:  April 16, 2017

While not as popular as Mt. Takao, Mt. Mitake makes a very pleasant day hike for people living or staying in Tokyo. Most of the hike is pretty easy with some options for challenging routes. And by easy, I mean I hiked this mountain with a grade one sprain, which is something no person with proper sense would do, but given that I frequently meet elderly people with slightly impaired motor abilities go on hikes, I decided to take on the challenge. (That, and I was seeing my end to a promise to a friend.) Continue reading

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/

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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.

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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

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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

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

Bloom: An Ode to Cherry Blossoms

Tokyo Past 3’s YouTube channel is back, and it opens its 2017 run with a short piece on mortality and cherry blossoms, recited over shots of spring in the Kanto region.  Shogyō mujō (諸行無常) or “the temporality of all worldly things” happens to be one of my favorite themes, and more often than not I incorporate it in things I make. There’s only so much you can capture given the limits of time, erratic weather and a 9-to-5 job, but overall, I’m rather happy that I got to see them while they lasted.

BGM is “Koi to Komorebi no Toshishitsu” by Ryo Lion. Special thanks to Chihiro for looking over the piece for grammatical and spelling mistakes. He still thinks I cursed him because I sent him a birthday message in Tagalog.

A Chock-full of Chofu: A Day Trip to Jindaiji Botanical Garden, Jindaiji Temple and Yumori no Sato

Date Visited: March 18, 2017
Itinerary:

  • Jindai Botanical Garden
  • Jindaiji Temple
  • Yumori no Sato (Hot Spring)

“Are we still in Tokyo?” My best friend Yui asked the moment we got off the bus. The night before, I had asked her on a whim if she wanted to go to Jindai Botanical Garden.  We knew it was too early and too cold to see flowers, but we decided to do a bit of hanami before we went to have drinks.

It was a grey afternoon, and since we both had not been to the area before, we had no idea what to expect. Chofu was every bit a part of Tokyo, but the area where the park is located is far removed from the hustle and bustle of the city. It was quiet and peaceful, the perfect destination for souls worn out by the daily grind. Continue reading