Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Kira at the Park

Our recent visit to Japan got us inspired to look for parks around the metro where we can enjoy as a family.

We wanted to veer away from going to malls and start to appreciate the beauty of the country. After all, if we take time to do it in other countries then why not also visit our own parks.

So since April 9 was a holiday, Mac and I decided to go Quezon Memorial Circle. Entrance for cars was only at 15 pesos. But if you decide to go there without a car, the park is free.

Although not as well maintained as parks in Japan, the Quezon Circle is still a nice park to go to. You can ride your bike, play badminton, have a picnic, they have a big playground for kids, fun rides open during the weekends and of course a strip of stores where you can buy food.

I heard the park can be crowded on Sundays though but I didn't see it since we were there on a tuesday.

We would have wanted to stay longer except that it looked like it was going to rain so we just decided to pack up and leave. It was a lot of fun though.

Mac and Kira having lunch

Kira is having so much fun. She was so tired when we got back to the house and she was already sleeping even in the car

View of the bicycle lane, you can also rent bicycles if you don't have one

My bike with the Quezon Circle monument at the background

Road Trippin Tokyo: Yoyogi Park, Shibuya

Our official last full day for our Tokyo vacation was spent shopping!

I told Mac I will not go home until we get to ride a bike in Japan so we headed out to Yoyogi Park to rent a tandem bike. You can rent a bike for 200 yen (around 100 pesos) which is good for 1 round in the cycling oval and usually lasts around 15 minutes.

To get to Yoyogi Park, you get in the JR Yamanote line (green line) and go down Harajuku station. Outside the station if you are facing the road you walk to the right (opposite to Takeshita Street) and turn a bit to the right to see the entrance to Yoyogi park.

Saw a lacrosse mascot just outside the Meiji Jingu shrine

At Yoyogi Park

Admiring the beauty of the cherry blossoms before they completely fall out. Notice the ground, those are cherry blossoms

The center of Yoyogi Park features a big fountain

They also have a dog run where you can let your dogs play without a leash. There's a different area for big and toy dogs. I really love Japan!

Along the biking path

Our tandem bike

Cherry Blossoms

We headed to Shibuya after to visit Hachiko who is very famous now I suppose due to the Richard Gere movie.

Watched the people cross the famous Shibuya Crossing and shop for souvenir items in Village Vanguard and Don Quijote's discount store.
Shibuya crossing. Since it was early, there were not a lot of people crossing yet. Notice the circular building to the left, that is Shibuya 109 which is all full of fashion stores for women. There is also a Shibuya 109 men's building to the right (not in picture)

Of course, Hachiko will greet you when you exit the station

Took a picture of the Shibuya map so as not to get lost. This was located just beside Hachiko's statue. The bottom part has peeled off but all the important places are at the upper portion anyway
We also looked for and dropped by the Butler cafe, too bad they were fully booked. I guess you have to make a reservation beforehand. But from what I saw, the girls eating here would come all dressed up as royalty also to get the full experience.

We ended the day a bit earlier than usual to had time to fix our luggage and prepare for tomorrow's trip back to Manila.

Overall, this was one trip that I felt we truly maximized and enjoyed.

Road Trippin Tokyo: Roppongi & Odaiba

Roppongi is an upscale shopping district in Tokyo. It is even called Roppongi Hills, I suppose after Beverly Hills.  This was originally not in our itinerary but since our train will stop by this station, we decided to go down and have a look around. If you are not planning to buy anything fancy in Tokyo, I suggest you skip this.

View of the Tokyo Tower (or the Skytree, I'm not sure) from the 3rd floor of Roppongi Hills

There are art shows and galleries in the Mori Art Museum

TV Asahi Building. You can enter their building as they have a gift and souvenir shop in the first floor

Garden in the middle of the city
Pets are so pampered here. I would love to bring Kira but I'm sure this costs a lot

 By noon, we were heading towards Odaiba already. This, to me, was more exciting as Odaiba houses several indoor theme parks like Legoland,Sega's Joypolis and Aqualand. It is also the home of the life-sized Gundam in Diver City Mall. If we had to do the Tokyo trip again, I would have skipped going to Disneyland because of its unbelievable lines and stayed in Odaiba longer.
Who is the happiest to be here?

Saw this structure while walking from Odaiba station to Decks Mall

We did not go inside Legoland as it looked like it was too kiddie

Sega Joypolis was more fun. They had adult rides. Here is Mac with Sadako in front of the Sadako 3d experience. They have a lot of augmented reality technology also

And finally, Gundam


Gundam, beside him was a trailer truck which serves as the Gundam store

If you get tired of Gundam, just go inside the mall and shop

Don't forget to go back outside at night as Gundam gets lighted up

Walk along the bridge and you will see a Statue of Liberty replica and a view of the rainbow bridge. If I only had a bike, this would be so much fun!

They grow roses here

A picture in the bay is the perfect cap to the Odaiba visit
We heard there was also a good Onsen in Odaiba but due to lack of time we were not able to go. Something to park for next time. :)

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Road Trippin Tokyo: Mt. Fuji Day Tour

What is a visit to Japan without trying to see the famous Mt. Fuji.

We availed of a 1-day tour of Mt. Fuji with a Hakone day tour which includes a ferry ride along Lake Ashi and a cable car up to Mt. Komagatake. Bought this online from viator and our local tour guide was JTB Sunrise tour.

There were a lot of tourist with us and there was a total of 6 buses with 40 people each going up to Mt. Fuji at the time. It was mostly full of foreigners as the tour guide said that the Japanese locals will not schedule a trip to Mt. Fuji because it was mostly cloudy and raining. So on the way up, we were praying that we get a glimpse of Mt. Fuji.

Meet up for the tour was at the Hamamatsucho Bus Terminal but since we were staying in Shinjuku and Keio Plaza hotel was a short walk away, we called the tour and had our pick up moved to Keio Plaza.

The Bus Terminal was crowded when we arrived but they will give out stickers to identify you as part of the tour.

It was more than an hour's bus ride going up to the Mt. Fuji visitor's center which was our first stop. There really wasn't anything to do here but you can grab a bite if you did not get the chance to have breakfast.

This was very near the Mt. Fuji Visitor's center, I don't know if this was Fuji Q but the tour guide said this was one of the fastest coasters in the world. It would have been nice to go here. For next time!

Our tour guide Akiko had a lot of historical trivia but she was very very serious

The Mt. Fuji Visitor's center

Only up to the 4th station (there were six stations, the higher the station the closer to the summit) was open for the day so we went down but it was too foggy to see anything. We just played around with the snow.

very foggy

Dirty snow

Japan Alps

On the way back down, Mt. Fuji showed himself so our tour guide asked the bus driver to stop so we can take pictures for around 5 minutes.

Mt. Fuji

We availed of the lunch that was being offered with the tour and the lunch was inside one of a hotel. This was described as a Japanese traditional lunch.

The traditional lunch had salmon sushi, fried chicken, tuna, tempura, bowl of rice, & udon

After lunch, we rode the ferry along Lake Ashi and everything was just beautiful.

If you really wanna see the view, don't sit down. Go up the topmost floor and stay outside. The ride is just 7 minutes after all

Then up the Komagatake ropeway. This wasn't a cable car ride where you ride with only 3-4 people, this was more like a bus ride where you are with around 50 people standing. It was so cold up the mountain but we just had to climb the stairs to see the temple in the middle.

No use renting this since it was too foggy

The temple we wanted to see

Look at the temple far beyond

It was so foggy

You only see the road just ahead of you.

Afterwards, we rode the Bullet Train or the Shinkansen back to Tokyo and we arrived really early at around 5:30.

Overall, I recommend doing the tour. I am not really a fan of tours in general since you have to wait for other people and you are very conscious of the time but I feel that this tour was worth it. We paid around 6,000 pesos per person for this 1 day tour.
Had dinner in Shinagawa station