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The hardest thing is parking

Posted by Heliocentrism on February 27, 2015

Monday, December 29, 2014

All Pictures

“…and the old people were never seen from again.”

Back to the Forest

The light of day gave us an extra boost of bravery that we took to the Aokigahara forest. It was early in the morning and none of the caves, or lava related sight-seeing activities were open. We just wanted to walk around and look at stuff.

We stuck to the trail and did not go down too far. It was cold. It had snowed the previous night and it started to snow again on our walk. While in the woods, Mark told me about some scary tale about the forest involving abandoned grandparents left in the winter to starve to death. Once we were sufficiently cold we headed back to our warm car.

“Can I interest you in a nicely overpriced parking spot, ma’am?”

He called me over.

Next we went to see a big Buddha who would let us walk around in his belly. We had no trouble finding him. He was right were Google maps said he would be. The problem was where to park.

The attraction did not have its own parking lot. We drove past it, but turned around when we saw no place to park. As we were passing it again, from the other side, a guy with a bright orange vest motioned us to his parking lot. He seemed to know what he was doing and he called us over with such authority, we figured that this was the official parking lot of the Kotoku-in shrine.

As we got out of the car Mr. Orange gave us a ticket with a time on it. I asked him how much the parking cost. It was ¥800 for 30 minutes. YIKES!! We were already parked. We handed him the cash and crossed the street.

When we left we found a better parking spot a few blocks up the road. It had a machine you paid instead of an overly confident guy, but it was too late. The mistake had already been made. “You win this time, Mr. Orange.”

He’s empty inside.

We didn’t want to go over our 30-minute time limit and have to pay another ¥800 for parking. So, we zipped through the shrine. We ran through the gardens and stopped at the souvenir shop to pick up some postcards. We went inside the Buddha and took many photos, all the while checking the time.

We were back to our car in 25 minutes.

Capital City!

Calculon

The next stop was Tokyo. We found our hostel with ease. I walked in to inquire about the parking situation. The clerk at the hostel told me that they had one parking spot that cost ¥1,000 per day to use. My heart skipped a beat; ¥1,000 per day is practically free when it comes to downtown Tokyo parking.

“Is it available?” I felt like even asking was being too optimistic. The guy rummaged through half a ton of papers on his desk looking for something that would tell him if the spot was open for the duration of our stay. He chattered on and on about things I didn’t care about as he read through random papers here and there.

There were several false finds. “Oh this is it. No. No. This is the information about the blah blah blah. Did you know that blah blah blah… ?” I stood there trying not to look anxious. I really didn’t want to blow half our travel money on parking.

“Here it is. Here it is! You can use the spot.” He went into a little speech about how the spot was only for guests, there was only one, and how much it would cost. I knew all this already. He told me all of it about 20 minutes earlier when I walked in.

I tried to interrupt to ask him where the spot was. Mark was illegally parked on the street and waiting for me to give him news about our parking situation. But, the guy ignored me and continued with his sermon. I counted out all the money I needed to pay for both the parking fee and the cost for Mark and I to stay at the hostel while he was talking.

I placed the money on the silver money tray on the counter. He tried to shoo it away. He had not done the calculations yet and did not want to deal with money right now. He was still talking about parking.

Finally, when he was done he asked if I wanted to pay for the parking all at once now, or day by day. I told him that I would pay for everything right now and tried to hand him the money he shooed away before. He rejected the money again.

“You must first check-in, but to check-in you must pay for your stay.” He said this so solemnly, I would have thought, that he thought, that I thought paying was optional. Had I not been trying to give this man money for the past 10 minutes?

Again, I placed my wad of cash on the silver tray and again he shooed it away. He pulled out a calculator and pushed buttons like a mad accountant. He mumbled some numbers in Japanese. Once again, I placed my money on the silver tray, but took it back when he waved his hand at me. The money was messing up his calculations.

When he was done with his math, he gave me his figure. I place my cash on the silver tray once more. He counted it and meticulously wrote me a receipt. I took the receipt and asked where the parking spot was. “Didn’t I tell you? It’s right there.”

Mark has his own city?

Let’s go to the insane asylum!

I made reservations that evening for dinner at an insane asylum themed restaurant. I read about it in some odd e-zine some time back. But since then, I’ve only been to Tokyo for business.

This was my opportunity to check out this restaurant.

Hungry?

Diners are encouraged to play along with the theme. Mark and I saw some customers handcuffed and chained together as they were led to their table. But speaking Japanese with a very limited vocabulary, put a damper on our experience.

Let me just tell you all the naughty words I know in English.

For one thing, I don’t know that many curse words in Japanese. I know the word, “fool” and a really rude way to say “you” but, this is quite tame compared to the horrible things I can say in Spanish. So when the waitress came over, with her purple eyes, she failed to shock us with her scandalous vocabulary.

So she tried using English. But, English isn’t really her thing and at first we didn’t understand what she was getting at. For one thing, she got the names for the female and male genitalia mixed up. Then she tried to ask us about our sex lives, but we couldn’t understand her the first 6 times she asked. The conversation ended with her just saying the word, “pussy” over and over along with some other stuff that could have been English and/or Japanese.

I’m sure that whatever she said, it was all very naughty.

Mad Chemist

The food is nothing special. I think they put most of their creative effort into their drinks. The menu starts with drinks giving you high hopes of things to come. But the food, with the exception of one or two dishes,  is just regular non-asylum themed food that you can get anywhere. It just costs more.

Tokyo brings out the worst in some people.

You pay for the atmosphere, the fun, and the creepiness.

I enjoyed the restaurant, but I think I would have liked it more if I knew more rude words in Japanese.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Aokigahara
(青木ヶ原)
(Suicide Forest)
 

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°28’46.2″N 138°39’30.6″E

Address:

Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture 401-0332 , Japan

Websites:

Cost:

  • Parking is free
  • Hiking is free
  • There is a charge for visiting the Lave tunnels or the caves

Hours:

  • There is no closing time for hiking. But, really, do you want hike here after the sun goes down?

Videos:

Notes:

  • If you go hiking here, DO NOT leave the path. Not only is there a chance you will see dead people, but you will most likely get hopelessly lost!

Kōtoku-in
(高徳院)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°19’00.1″N 139°32’10.1″E
  • Parking 35°19’00.1″N 139°32’03.9″E

Address:

4-2-28 Hase, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture 248-0016, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 467-22-0703

Websites:

Cost:

  • Temple: 200 yen
  • Statute: 20 yen
  • Parking: 200 ~ 800 yen
    • Don’t go to the nearest parking area. It will be very expensive (800 yen/hour).
    • It will take you about 10-15 minutes to see the Buddha, so you will want the cheapest rate.
    • It will be cheaper to use any parking lot nearby that you pay for via a machine (not a human).

Hours:

  • Temple: 8:00 – 17:30
  • Statute: 8:00 – 16:30

Notes:

  • This is where you can see the Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu).

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
(東京都庁)
(Tōkyōto-chō)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°41’22.6″N 139°41’31.5″E

Address:

2-8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture 160-0023, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 3-5321-1111

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • North Observatory: 9:30 to 23:00
  • South Observatory: 9:30 to 17:30
  • Closed :
    • (Entry ends 30 minutes before closing.)
    • North Observatory: 2nd and 4th Monday of each month (next day if a national holiday)
    • South Observatory: 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month (next day if a national holiday)
    • Both observatories: December 29 to January 3 (except January 1)

Notes:

  • The North Tower has a restaurant with the better view and a bigger souvenir shop. But because of the restaurant and the bigger souvenir shop there is less space for tourists to move around when looking out at Tokyo.
  • The South Tower has better views of Tokyo. Its souvenir shop is very small and its cafe is in the middle of the deck leaving lots of space for tourists to enjoy the view of Tokyo.

Alcatraz ER
(アルカトラズE.R.)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°39’30.1″N 139°41’44.4″E

Address:

2-13-5 Dogenzaka | Harvest Bldg 2F, Shibuya, Tokyo Prefecture 150-0043, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 3-3770-7100

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 17:00 – 23:00

Notes:

  • I recommend making reservations.
  • You are encouraged to play with the staff and act like you really are an insane inmate.
  • The food is decent. It’s nothing special. This place is more about the atmosphere than anything.

Ace Inn Shinjuku

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°41’32.2″N 139°43’22.3″E
  • near Akebonobashi station on theToeiShinjuku line
    • Exit #3

Address:

〒160-0001 東京都新宿区片町5-2

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • ¥3,300 ~ 4,500 per person per night

Hours:

  • Check in 16:00
  • Check out 11:00
  • There is a receptionist available 24 hours a day.

Notes:

  • The wi-fi is pretty decent throughout the whole hostel.
  • There is one parking space. (You can see our white k-car in the photo above.)
    • ¥1,000/ night
  • My Hostelworld review:

“Tokyo is expensive, so I can’t expect too much from a budget hostel. The place was clean enough for the most part. My bed, sheets, and towels looked pretty clean, but I did get run over by a huge roach in the common area. The kitchen is quite small, and dirty looking. Because the place looks a bit run down in the lobby, some travelers don’t make as much of an effort to pick up after themselves as they should. But, if you just want to stay for a night or two this place might be okay.”

Map:

Posted in Fujikawaguchiko 町, Honshū, Japan, Kamakura 市, Kanagawa 県, Tokyo 都, Yamanashi 県 | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Nobody wants to look at Mt. Fuji

Posted by Heliocentrism on February 20, 2015

Sunday, December 28, 2014

All Pictures

Mark is really getting into this blue cave.

2 Hours early.

Because of our early departure from Popeye’s Media Cafe, we got to the cave 2 hours early. At first we thought about using this extra time wisely, by stopping at a laundromat or coin-laundry as they are called here. Mark and I packed only 3 days worth of clothes and, not including what we were currently wearing, we were completely out of clean clothes.

We stopped at one place that had lots of washers and dryers. (Sometimes, you find laundromats here with 2 washers and dryers.) We sorted our clothes and then turned around to choose which machine we wanted. Here in Japan not all washing machines do the same thing.

Some are bigger, but more expensive. If you can fit all your clothes into a bigger machine it might be cheaper overall than doing 2 loads. Some are exclusively for shoes. Some are heavy-duty and are meant for washing thick blankets and duvets.

Some give you the option of using hot water. This is a rarity in Japan. Most home washing machines don’t give you a hot water wash option. The ones that do, require you to get a hose that links the washer to your kitchen faucet or bathroom shower to access the hot water. In Japan you are supposed to get the germ killing power of hot water from the sun when you hang out your washing on a nice sunny summer day. What you are supposed to do in the winter or when it rains, I have no idea.

We looked at the machines and tried to figure out the cheapest way to get all our laundry clean. The smallest, cheapest machine was something like ¥800 ($8) for one load. The biggest was ¥1,600. We looked at the dryers. They cost about $2 for 10 minutes of drying. I know it’s been a long time since I’ve had to go to a laundromat, but come on!

We passed a couple other coin-laundrys, but they all had roughly the same prices. “I’m not dropping ¥3,000 ($30) just so I can reuse my own clothes. I’ll wash my clothes by hand before it comes to that!” It never came to that. The washers and dryers at the hostels were a lot more reasonably priced with an average of ¥150 to wash and ¥100 for 20 minutes for the dryer.

Instead of doing laundry, we took a nap in the car then went to Seven-11 for hot cup noodles. After eating, we went back to sleeping in the car. By the time we were thoroughly cold, the cave opened.

Someone’s looking for his breakfast.

The cave was nice; not too cavy. It was big enough to walk through upright except for one small section. It was drippy, but well lit.

It is supposedly colder inside the cave than outside, but this is hardly noticeable in the winter. It’s cold everywhere! Except for the part near the in-cave water fall, I thought it was warmer in the cave. But, that might have been because we were walking along the path in the cave and outside we were just standing around.

We did prepare to be cold on this trip. We had 2 packs of kairo, the sticky and the regular type. The sticky ones come with an adhesive on it’s back and you are to stick it to your clothes, never directly to your skin. But I never feel any warmth from it when I stick it to my clothes. Once I said, “Screw the rules!” and slapped one right to my back. It felt like I had a nuclear reactor burrowing into my spine.

The best thing to do is to just hold onto the kairo and stick your hands into your jacket pockets. You could put them in your mittens, too. If you’re a guy you could stick them in your pants’ pockets to keep your legs warm. This does not work for the ladies; women’s pant-pockets are just not deep enough.

It’s just at the end of this road.

A Great View of Mt. Fuji

After the cave we headed to lake Kawaguchiko for a view of Mt. Fugi. Long before we got to our destination we could easily see Fuji on the horizon. Around lunch time we thought how great it would be to eat lunch somewhere while looking at Japan’s most famous mountain.

We drove for miles looking out for any restaurant with a mountain view. We drove and drove and drove. Every restaurant, cafe, or diner we passed had it’s back to Mt. Fuji.

The handiwork of the dumbest building planner in the world.

We passed a McDonald’s and thought, “Finally!” We parked our car and went in. The place was not too crowded, but we wanted to make sure to get seats by the window on the Fuji side. But, there were no windows on the Fuji side. It was just a cream-colored wall. The only window in the McDonald’s faced the road we were just on.

“Don’t you wish you were somewhere with a great view of something special?”

There was an Italian restaurant across the street from the McDonald’s. We decided to go there, even though we could see from the McDonald’s parking lot that it had no windows at all. “If I’m not going to enjoy a view of Mt. Fuji, I should at least enjoy my food.”

The Italian food was pretty good. There were windows on the inside, but they looked out to paintings of Italy. You could look out one window and see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Out another you could see Rome. This would have been all nice and well, if the real Fuji-san weren’t sitting outside the restaurant begging to be looked at.

This would be a great spot for a McDonald’s.

We found a parking spot near Lake Kawaguchiko where we could park for free. We took a million photos of Mt. Fuji. I took photos of Mark and Mt. Fuji. He took photos of me and Mt. Fuji. We took photos together with Fuji in the background then some with neither of us in them. Then Mark suggested that we look for Aokigahara.

Me – “You do see that the sun is about to set…”

Mark – “Yup. It’ll be creepy!”

“Mark, did you hear that?”

We found the forest some call the Suicide Forest. It was dark. I know that there is a hiking trail into the forest and that one should always, always, always stick to the trail. Wandering off the marked path could get you hopelessly lost and you can die of exposure.

In the dark I could not even see a path to follow. We went just far enough to say we went in, but not far enough that we could not see the lights from the cars on the road. I think Mark tripped on a fallen tree and we both decided to come back the next morning.

“The ghosts would be asleep then.”

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

How to get there:

You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.

Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan.  Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
  • InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
    • ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
    • The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
  • You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)

Ryugashi Cavern
(竜ヶ岩洞)
(Tatsugaiwa hora)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 34°50’42.7″N 137°38’55.0″E

Address:

193 Inasacho Tabata, Kita-ku, Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture 431-2221, Japan

Phone:

  • 053-543-0108

Websites:

Cost:

  • 650 yen
  • parking is free

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 17:00

Notes:

  • It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to explore.
  • Check out the blue Illumination Cave in the waiting area.

Lake Kawaguchiko
(河口湖)
(Kawaguchi-ko)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°30’37.2″N 138°46’25.7″E
  • free parking at: 35°30’46.0″N 138°46’04.1″E
    • This is not long term parking.

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • always avaible

Notes:

  • Go to the eastern end of the lake for great views of Mt. Fuji.
  • There are many hotels nearby that have onsens with great views of Mt. Fuji.

Aokigahara
(青木ヶ原)
(Suicide Forest)
 

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°28’46.2″N 138°39’30.6″E

Address:

Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture 401-0332 , Japan

Websites:

Cost:

  • Parking is free
  • Hiking is free
  • There is a charge for visiting the Lave tunnels or the caves

Hours:

  • There is no closing time for hiking. But, really, do you want hike here after the sun goes down?

Videos:

Notes:

  • If you go hiking here, DO NOT leave the path. Not only is there a chance you will see dead people, but you will most likely get hopelessly lost!

K’s House Mt.Fuji

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°30’20.6″N 138°45’38.4″E

Address:

6713-108, Funatsu, Fujikawaguchiko, Minamitsuru-gu, Mount Fuji, Japan

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • Check in 15:00-20:00
  • Check out 8:00-11:00

Notes:

  • There are a few free parking spots.
  • This is one of the nicest, cleanest, and most organized hostels in Japan.
  • The wi-fi is not that great, though.
  • This is part of a chain of hostels throughout Japan.

Map:

Posted in Fujikawaguchiko 町, Hamamatsu 市, Honshū, Japan, Shizuoka 県, Yamanashi 県 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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