Tag Archives: Adventure

A Japanese Adventure: “An Icy Delight” …

Wow! It’s been a couple of months (I think) since I last blogged about the amazing Japanese adventure.. 🙂 It’s time to get back to it!

The next stop was perhaps THE best stop of our trip…. none other than Fuji-san … aka Mount Fuji!

I’ve forgotten our awesome tour-guide’s name… but she made great use of our long bus ride… by educating us on the mountain structure and regional landscape, a little Kanji-analysis, some awesome origami (yes, we made Mt. Fuji!) and telling use some mysterious stories…
I can’t believe I don’t remember the story.. I’m going to have to chase my sister on this! (Stay tuned!)
By the way, in the snaps below you’ll notice that in my (not so well-done) Mt. Fuji origami pieces, the white layer at the top (which represents Mt. Fuji’s snow-capped peak) is always different in size. While you may be tempted to think this is because of my ridiculously poor origami skills (and you’d be right) .. it is also intentionally different because it represents Mt. Fuji at different times of the year (more snow on the peak in winter).. 🙂

The weather was definitely a step up from our earlier hot and humid days… It was still humid but cooler… and we had no idea just how cold it was going to get.. 😉
We had been told that our first stop was going to be the ‘Ice-Cave’.. and we were pretty excited when we finally got off the bus and saw the sign “Narusawa Ice Cave Entrance”.

Our guide once again took us through the flow of the ice-cave and warned us that there would be some narrow tunnels and that we’d really have to kind-of crouch and scoot a bit. We were also ‘advised’ to take a hard heat to protect our fragile heads….

Of course I didn’t take a hard hat and I ended up exactly as the warning sign said I would:
(The sign also won the award for cutest warning sign ever… haha… :D)

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And so off we went.. descending into the unknown.. 🙂

Our guide carried a giant thermometer to show us exactly how fast the temperature would fall (mercury-based thermometer and not a digital one.. )

It’s a short way down and yes it does get quite low at times.
Little tips:
1. If like me, you are not used to the cold, you may want to carry some gloves. Why? The bamboo supports are COLD too and slippery! So gloves might help you get better grip. You don’t want to slip and fall down…
2. It get’s cold pretty quick. The temperature fell almost 20 degrees in the little walk! At the bottom of the cave, surrounded by ice… it was 3 degrees celsius! (Yup, for me.. coming from a 40 degree climate… that’s COLD!!)
3. Obviously.. carry a nice warm jacket.. 🙂
4. Wear comfortable and solid shoes.. maybe hiking boots.

It was an amazing experience… my nose turned red and I was freezing! I didn’t have a warm jacket so I was wearing a thick sweater on top of a light hoodie… yeah.. it didn’t feel enough.. 🙂

We then took a little breather before heading off to another cave: The Wind Cave!
Our Mount Fuji adventure had just begun… there was a lot more to see… trekking between the sites took some time and allowed us to take in the amazing natural beauty around us.
Stay tuned for upcoming posts on the trek!

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A Japanese Adventure: Getting Started!

It’s only been 2 days since I returned from a perfect little tour of Japan, and I can’t describe just how badly I want to fly back to the little island paradise.

This is the first post in a series which will cover various aspects of the journey. I’ll be adding some tips for those who’ve never been to Japan, and I’ll also try to add links to any useful websites.

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The UAE-Japan Cultural Center (http://jp.ae/) organized a summer tour of Japan this year, and my sister and I (who had previously studied Japanese at the center) were fortunate enough to take time off work to be able to join the adventure.

We landed at Kansai airport (http://www.kansai-airport.or.jp/en/index.asp), which is built on a man-made island about 50 km from the center of Osaka. Passing through the airport was a fairly pleasant experience. There are signs in English so it’s easy to find your way through. Due to the sudden influx of a large number of tourists (including ourselves :-)) queues at passport control were pretty long. However, the process was quite organized and we made it through without any hiccups.

Airport Tips:

  • Forms: Do not forget to fill in the forms detailing your visit, any cash you are carrying etc, prior to reaching passport control. The forms are relatively easy to find. There are two forms you must fill. Do not forget to check both sides of the form! 🙂
  • Sim Card: In Japan, you cannot obtain a voice enabled sim card without comprehensive registration. There is no concept of a visitor voice sim as there is in other countries. However, data-only sim cards are available for visitors. As you exit the baggage claim area in Kansai airport, on your left is Starbucks. Right opposite Starbucks are sim card vending machines. Yes, vending machines 🙂 I purchased a sim card pre-loaded to 1GB data. I did have to top it up with another 1GB towards the end of the trip. The cost, if I’m not mistaken, for the 1GB sim card was about 3000 Yen. You can also find 3GB and 5GB data sim cards. They were available in standard, micro and nano sim form at the vending machine. The sim I purchased was from ‘so-net’. More information is available here: http://www.so-net.ne.jp/prepaid/en/index.html#buy
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  • Money Exchange: There is a money exchange at the airport which you should take advantage of, if you’ve not already brought some yen with you. Money exchanges are not very common, and although major department stores take credit cards, most of the small vendors, souvenir stores and coffee shops, etc deal only in cash.

From the airport we took the group tour bus to our hotel, the Kyoto Tokyu hotel, in Kyoto, where we’d be staying for the first leg of our tour. We arrived late at night, and were glad to find a simple dinner had been arranged for us in our rooms – sandwiches and crips. Given the 9 hour flight, we were all quite happy to snack away and get some shut-eye before our first day of site-seeing.

The hotel
Kyoto Tokyu hotel was perfect (http://www.kyoto-h.tokyuhotels.co.jp/en/). I couldn’t really find anything to criticize. Everything from the rooms, the wifi and the fantastic breakfast buffet to the service, the location, and the little souvenir store in the hotel was perfect. It is also quite close (5 minute walk) to ‘Lawsons’ (http://lawson.jp/en/). Lawsons is a 24/7 convenience store for any snacks, beverages or essentials you might need to pick up.


Day 1: Breakfast buffet at the hotel

The breakfast was deeelicious! There was a wide selection of dishes to sample, including Japanese breakfast dishes, fresh fruits, juices as well as the usual American breakfast selection.

Favorites:
‘Matcha’ latte:  The Matcha Latte from the breakfast buffet vending machine was great!
From Wikipedia: Matcha (抹茶, pronounced [mat.tɕa]) is finely ground powder of specially grown and processed green tea.
In Japan, Matcha is extremely popular, both as the tea itself, but also as a flavor for sweets, beverages, snacks, cakes, etc. The tea can be quite strong/bitter if you’re not used to it, but matcha flavored snacks are delicious! In fact the first thing I saw at the airport was a Starbucks, which had a Matcha latte and Matcha frappuccino on its menu. (http://www.starbucks.co.jp/en/beverage/frappuccino.html)
Eggs Benedict – Kyoto style (also from the breakfast buffet)
One word: Delicious.

Weather Tips:
Summer can be quite hot and extremely extremely humid. Even for someone like me, travelling from Dubai, where temperatures hit 50 degrees Celsius and humidity is quite high.
If you’re travelling to Japan in July or August, you need to have 2 essentials:
A Fan: Yup. The nice manual fan that you use to cool yourself down. We were fortunate enough to be given some free fans on our very first morning, and, believe it or not, we were, all of us, using those fans till the very last moment of our very last day.
Water: Drink lots of water as you will need to take long walks and you will sweat a lot. The good news is that there is a vending machine almost at every single street corner, selling an assortment of unique, and delicious, cold, and often hot, beverages. So you can choose to purchase water bottles (usually costing between 100-130 yen) at any vending machine, if you prefer not to carry one with you.

The next post will cover the ‘Tea Tasting Session’ which was arranged for our group at the hotel after breakfast!  🙂