- - - 11/29/2004 - - -

Hakone - The real post

Filed under: — Andy @ 6:45 am

Forward: It seems that I have written a lot again, and if you have time please view the photo gallery of Hakone as well.

The Hakone Gallery

As you can tell from a few posts ago, I went to Hakone. Last Monday I got up really early in the morning and, realizing that I also had Tuesday off, decided to go to Hakone. I went to Shinjuku and bought the Hakone Free Pass which gives me unlimited transportation within Hakone for a few days. I also got a ticked on the ‘shinkansen’(bullet train) that gets me there much quicker. The shinkansen was interesting, as the conductor sat up above the passengers which allowed a free view out of the front of the train. When I got to Hakone I took another short train, which had a lot of switchbacks, up a mountain. The fall colors were actually quite beautiful as well, yet the sky was fairly cloudy and Mt. Fuji was only seen through a hole in the clouds. Once I got to the top, I took a cable car followed by a ropeway to ‘Owakudani’. Owakudani is a volcanic activity area with lots of sulfur pools and steam. I took some time to explore the area and also did not pass up the opportunity to eat the famous Hakone Black Eggs. They are eggs that are hard boiled in the sulfur water so they are completely black on the outside. This was followed by another ropeway down the mountain to ‘Lake Ashi’. I then boarded the scenic boat bound for the other side of the lake. I relaxed and enjoyed the view I went across the lake. By the time I reached the town on the other side it was getting dark. As can be inferred, I made no previous plans beforehand and was making my trip up as I went. I walked around town for a while before finding an information office. The guy, who spoke no English, was happy to help me. Hakone is famous for ‘Onsen’ which are traditional Japanese hot springs and I did not want to leave without going to one. So the man gave me a few choices of places to stay that had an onsen. After contemplating for a while I decided to stay at a Japanese ‘Ryokan’ or traditional Japanese inn, which also happened to be the most expensive place there was. Yet, I will attest right now that it was money very well spent. As soon as I arrived an old Japanese lady dressed in a traditional kimono was there to greet me and for my entire stay there treated me almost like royalty. My room was amazing with an even better view of the lake. Hot tea and a sweat were there ready for me as I entered the room as well. One of the reasons I decided to go to the Ryokan was because a traditional Japanese dinner and breakfast were provided. Dinner was served to me in my room and everything was completely delicious (see picture). After dinner I went to the bathroom, yet when I returned not 2 minutes later dinner was magically and completely cleaned up and the futon was perfectly set up. After a wondrous meal I decided to go to the onsen where I spent the next few hours just relaxing.
The next day I woke up to the most beautiful sunrise on the lake. I got up early to enjoy the day, yet again as soon as I returned from the bathroom breakfast was magically ready and the futon gone. I then went walking in the morning along the famous ‘Ancient Cedar Avenue’. Yet as I was enjoying my relaxing morning stroll I was suddenly attacked by a mob of elementary school students who wanted to practice their English. I could not refuse as they asked me questions followed my signature and pictures. They then performed ‘Taiko’ for me and held up homemade pictures about Hakone (see video in a future post). The weather was perfect in every sense. I hiked to the Hakone gardens and observatory point and had the most beautiful view of Mt. Fuji… ever. Well, besides the time I actually climbed it. They even had one of those binocular machines free for use, and I picked out the trail I used when I climbed it last year. Upon marveling at the mountain for at least 30 minutes I made my way to the start of a hiking trail I picked out on a map. I love hiking and being by myself allowed me to go at any pace I wanted, which is fast. The trail I chose was up a mountain then back down it followed by an ancient stone pathway. The way up the mountain was incredibly steep as it seemed I had to jump to get up each stair. Yet I made my way up fairly fast passing a few groups on the way, including a pair of old ladies who commended me on my speed. I was also amazed that the old ladies were able to make it up the path which was incredibly difficult even for me. It gave me another reason why they have such long life spans here. I made it to the top way before the suggested amount of time it stated on the map. I relaxed for a while, ate an ‘onigiri’(rice ball), and started down the mountain. The path down was much longer and thus much less steep, so I decided to make my own new sport. It was called run down the mountain… where every step could be your last. I passed countless groups on my way down, and as I did I could hear their comments as they were both shocked and amazed at what this weird ‘gaijin’(foreigner) was doing. When I got down I relaxed and took my time along the ancient stone paved road back to town. One in town, I made my way to Hakone temple and took a stroll along the lake edge. I decided to leave a little early as I read about a ‘kamaboko’(fish cake) museum in Odawa, which is the major city before Hakone, where I could actually make my own kamaboko. I got on the express bus and left Hakone and Mt. Fuji behind. Unfortunately, it was a holiday and the road down was packed so I arrived at the museum too late to actually make kamaboko. I did enjoy the museum, and saw how kamaboko is made. I got back on the train to Shinjuku followed by a train home… of course I took some time in Shinjuku to play Tekken 5 again. :)

The train with the great view to Hakone.


- - - 11/28/2004 - - -

New Taste

Filed under: — Andy @ 5:33 pm

Yum.. socks with a NEW TASTE!
At least they feel soft and delightful.

- - - 11/24/2004 - - -


Filed under: — Andy @ 7:56 pm

- - - 11/19/2004 - - -

Tekken 5

Filed under: — Andy @ 6:35 pm

Tekken 5 has officially been released in Japan!

- - - 11/16/2004 - - -

Shinjuku Southern Lights

Filed under: — Andy @ 9:29 pm

Last weekend was pretty relaxing.
On Sunday I went with a friend to the batting center I found before. It was further than I remember by bike, but my friend didn’t mind. Aftwards, we biked in the wrong direction from home to go to a really good ramen shop, and it was really good. We then played catch ball in the park and when we couldn’t see anymore biked back home.
Monday, I spent in Shinjuku. I had another language exchange lesson with my friend. They are always lots of fun. After we talked for hours, we walked around Southern Shinjuku. Every year at this time it has lots of lights and decorations set up for the holidays. It light and weather at the time were both beautiful. We ate Thai noodles at a crowded Thai restaraunt for dinner. Here are a few pictures of the lights…

My friend..

- - - 11/13/2004 - - -

Nikko Slide

Filed under: — Andy @ 6:29 am

As promised, here is the video of the long slide in Nikko:
download (1.7MB)

- - - 11/11/2004 - - -

Nikko in Autumn

Filed under: — Andy @ 8:57 pm

Living in a desert for most of my life (Los Angeles), I rarely ever saw fall colors. The closest thing I got was a small maple tree in the front of my house that seemed to turn brown and shed all its leaves in the winter. However, in Japan I made sure to go out and see the famous fall colors that are abundant here. I took yet another trip out to Nikko to stroll among the wonderful colors. Truthfully, pictures could not capture the colors that I saw, but here are some that I took anyway.

This monkey did not like me taking pictures of him. This was right before he charged at me. The monkeys in Nikko can be dangerous, but since I have been to Nikko many times I know how to deal with them. I took a violent step toward the monkey and held up my rock throwing arm… the monkey immediately turned and ran.
Monkey: 0 - Andy: 1


- - - 11/8/2004 - - -

6 Months!

Filed under: — Andy @ 5:04 am

It has been 6 months since I began my life in Japan.
I am amazed at how fast the time has gone.
I have already done so many things here.
I have so many more things to do.
6 more months to go.
Maybe more?

- - - 11/7/2004 - - -

Fall Flowers

Filed under: — Andy @ 4:51 am

It’s time for fall flowers and colors. Last week and a half I went to 2 flower festivals. One was a chrysanthemum festival, and the other festival was for a flower the Japanese call コスモス(cosmos ). The cosmos festival was held at Koganei park which is where I live, so I went there with a freind with another friend’s bike. After the festival I challenged my friend at ping pong, and I was surprised at how good he was. Yet, still not good enough to be me :).

Next picture post will be of the 紅葉(Autumn colors) in Nikko!

Fall colors were showing at Koganei park as well

Me eating a fried squid on a stick.. Yum!

- - - 11/6/2004 - - -

Tamagawa River

Filed under: — Andy @ 5:28 am

Last Wednesday was a Japanese holiday. Some weird one like "Culture Day”. Anyway, I had the day off of work. I decided to something interesting and figure out what Japanese people do on culture day, so I borrowed my friends bike and decided to just ride around to experience Japanese culture. There is a river (Nogawa River) not far from my house, and that river has many parks along it so I figured it was the perfect place to go to see Japanese culture. I left the house at around 2pm, and as soon as I got to the park I saw lots of families out having a picnic or BBQ or just out having fun. There is a bike path along Nogawa river and having nothing else to do figured that biking along the path would be the best way to see what Japanese life is really like… away from all the major train stations and people. I also have somewhat of a love for biking probably from all the times I used to go to the bike path at the beach in CA. What other way can you really go far distances while being outside in the open air and being able to look at everything around you? After biking along the river for about an hour or two, I saw a batting center (バッティングセンター) and decided to try out how good my batting skills were after not playing baseball for an incredibly long time. To my surprise the 100 km/h was no problem for me. It got a little harder when I tried the 120 km/h and 130 km/h ones, but overall was happy with my performance. I made some friends with some Japanese people there who were impressed with my performance, and enjoyed practicing their English with me. Upon leaving the center I decided to look at a map to actually find out where I was. I realized that I was halfway to the Tamagawa river. The Tamagawa river is a fairly large river that runs south of Tokyo. Although it was a far way until the Nogawa river met the Tamgawa river, and the people at the batting center said I was insane, I decided to make a goal to reach the point where the two rivers met. A long time later, as it was getting dark, I finally made it! After a beautiful day biking, looking at Japanese culture, and batting I finished it off by relaxing at Tamagawa. When it was too dark to see anymore, I turned around and biked back home.

Nogawa River, right before it meets the Tamagawa.

It seems that this place is very famous amoung the Japanese to come, relax, and watch the sunset.

The meeting of the two rivers.

- - - 11/4/2004 - - -


Filed under: — Andy @ 8:18 pm

These are one of those things you should check before you get a pet.