Archive | November 2014

Aokigahara Hiking

Autumn always feels so short. Never enough time to get more hikes in to see the autumn leaves.

Was lucky and scored a perfect autumn day – clear skies, dry and views of Mount Fuji.

Got to finally see the Aokigahara woodlands, also known as the Sea of Trees (Jukai), so called, because when viewed from the sky, it looks like a sea of trees. Also, incidentally known as the suicide forest. Unfortunately, it is the site where many Japanese people go and never come back. The government has tried to prevent as many suicides as possible from happening there. And upon arriving there, there were signs and surveillance cameras warning those who enter to reconsider their options. The woodlands were formed by the trees that grew on the lava flow from volcanic eruptions.

Despite it’s grim history, the woodlands actually features a beautiful easy walking trail to some great lookout points.

The day requires an early start as it takes about 3 hours from Tokyo to get to Kawaguchiko station.

Riding the Fuji kyuko train:

From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking

Got to see Mount Fuji along the train trip.

From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking

From Kawaguchiko station, you’ll need to take a 45min bus trip over towards Lake Saiko – which is a crazy name for a lake, am I right? (you get it don’t you?).

At the starting point from the Fuketsu lava caves, there’s a surveillance camera as you enter the woodlands. They basically keep an eye out for suspicious entering the trail (ie someone wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase).

You’ll also come across this sign, very early into the trail:

From Aokigahara hiking

Translation:
Your life is a precious gift from your parents. Please think of about your parents, sibings and children. You are not alone. Talk to someone.

And the phone number of the suicide prevention team of the local Fuji district police dept. phone name is given.

The woodlands is a sea of twisted trees and roots around the base of the Mount Fuji area and five lakes district. Surprisingly very green.

From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking

There is a clearly marked trail which you should stick to. Wandering off the path is tantamount to getting lost. Those who go to end their life there do so by getting lost in the forest and then committing suicide by hanging.

From Aokigahara hiking

Along the route, is an ice cave which is pretty lame. And yes, entry is going to cost you.

From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking

The highlight of the trail was going out to Sankodai lookout point (which means View of 3 Lakes). A view of Lake Saiko, Lake Motoso and LakeShojiko and also Mount Fuji. Simply stunning.

From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking

And the autumn leaves were in their prime.

From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking

A most interesting looking plant specimen:

From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking

Lake Saiko:

From Aokigahara hiking

The plains below:

From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking

There’s also a bat cave:

From Aokigahara hiking

Although me thinks they don’t actually have any bats there. They just tell you that “they’re sleeping”. “Sleeping”, my left foot. They are making a racket, charging 300yen entry for bats that aren’t even there.

Inside the bat cave:

From Aokigahara hiking

Be warned, the tunnels are insanely low. Not for the old folks or those with bad backs and knees.

From Aokigahara hiking

A really awesome hike. Well, not so much a hike as a nice trail walk with a few hills. Various lookout points with stunning views and various caves along the way. Highly recommend going in Autumn.

From Aokigahara hiking

Doable as a day trip, provided you make an early start and aim to get to Kawaguchiko station at about 9am. And buses only run about one an hour from the station to Lake Saiko area. Quite a fascinating area. I will admit I was super curious about visiting this forest. Had heard it was a little bit scary given its reputation. Definitely worth visiting. There are plenty of attractions at Lake Kawaguchi. Here’s a post where I was there 3 years ago.

From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking

Saga international hot air balloon festival: highlights

So many photos taken. Too little hard drive space to put all my photos onto.

Here are some highlights from the Saga International Hot Air Balloon festival. Went all the way down to Kyushu for it over the long weekend. Weather was temperamental but managed to see two days of lift off. Festival runs for about 5 or 6 days and I went down for 3 days. But a lot of events were cancelled because of unfavourable weather conditions.

This is what I was able to capture. Also took video footage so may get around to putting up a video sometime in the next decade.

From Hot air balloon festival highlights
From Hot air balloon festival highlights
From Hot air balloon festival highlights
From Hot air balloon festival highlights
From Hot air balloon festival highlights
From Hot air balloon festival highlights
From Hot air balloon festival highlights
From Hot air balloon festival highlights
From Hot air balloon festival highlights
From Hot air balloon festival highlights

Autumn hiking

Went hiking on the weekend. Perfect autumn day. Sunny, clear sky, autumn leaves were at their peak and got stunning views including that of Mount Fuji.

Went out towards Fuji 5 lakes district.

Here’s just a few pics for now. Full write up to come in due course.

From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking
From Aokigahara hiking

Afternoon tea in Fukuoka

Hisashiburi afternoon tea. It’s been ages since I’ve done an afternoon tea in Japan. Did one recently, but not in Tokyo.
I went to Kyushu for the long weekend last weekend and caught up with an Aussie friend from my Fukushima days who now lives in Fukuoka. Met him and his wife and his new baby for a nice afternoon tea in Fukuoka at the Grand Hyatt hotel.

The hotel is in Canal City, one of the shopping districts near Hakata.

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

Here is the hotel:

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

The back entrance:

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

The afternoon tea was pleasant enough. The hotel was pretty nice too, considering it ain’t no Tokyo.

All your tea essentials:

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

They only had about 4 to 5 teas on offer and very standard ones (English breakfast, darjeeling, early grey, assam). I went the assam, with hot milk in a jug.

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

On offer was the Caramel afternoon tea set – a seasonal tea menu for autumn. It was actually pretty good.

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

You can’t really go wrong with caramel.

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

Everything on this plate was delicious:

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

The vanilla ice cream was amazing with a hint of caramel. The caramel sponge cake roll was so moist and fresh fruit added a hint of citrus to offset all the caramel sweetness.

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

The sandwiches were neither fancy nor gourmet, bu they were decent enough:

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

Only one scone and a small one at that. But we essentially got two plates of desserts.

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

Notice something missing in the above two plates?

I’ll give you a minute to think about it.

Notice the absence of jam! No jam for my scone. Tsk Tsk.

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

The hotel was quite nice and there was also a live pianist who did some decent cover music:

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea
From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

The Terrasse Lounge:

From Grand Hyatt Fukuoka afternoon tea

It was a nice afternoon tea. My first one in a while. No tea sampling but free hot water refills allowed. Service was good, and it was excellent value for money. Approx. 2000yen plus tea. Given there are probably limited afternoon tea options in Fukuoka, it’s probably the best option. We whiled away a few leisurely hours there. A pleasant day indeed. Need to save up my pennies for a some very pricey afternoon teas that have been locked in, coming up in a couple of months.

Nokonoshima Island highlights

More photographic treats.
From Fukuoka city, just a 10minute ferry ride is a small island called Nokonoshima. There’s a big island park there which has an impressive garden park filled with an assortment of seasonal flowers and great ocean views.

Here are a few highlights.

From Nokonoshima highlights
From Nokonoshima highlights
From Nokonoshima highlights
From Nokonoshima highlights
From Nokonoshima highlights