Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Updates & News

Hi everyone,

First, I'd like to apologize to those who visit the blog and have not seen any updates in several months. There are several reasons which I would like to share:

1. I'm attending graduate school currently, so I have been working part-time and studying part-time which leaves little time for socializing. I feel sad that I am often replying to friends' emails with "I'm sorry, I can't (go/attend/etc.)." Graduate school makes you sacrifice things you hold dear; however, this sacrifice will end in one more year when I graduate. Hurrah for that!

2. Just before starting my second year of my MA program, I won a scholarship from the university. As a result, I am now studying and working even harder. I feel blessed to have been rewarded for my efforts, and in return, this recognition has motivated me to prove my worth.

3. I will be visiting Canada for the summer. From August 3rd, I should have more time to update this blog. Thank you for your patience.

In the meantime, please enjoy previous posts on the blog from Thailand, Japan and other places in the world. Enjoy travel! Enjoy life!

~ Cutenekko

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Mount Kintoki ~ A 2nd Time!

How does one spend X-mas in Japan? Sadly, I cannot afford a plane ticket home, nor do I have much time off for the holidays, so I did what I love most -- headed to the mountains for a climb! Mount Kintoki has been featured on this blog before (see HERE  &  HERE); I gave it another go and enjoyed a special, yet very nontraditional Christmas dinner at the summit.

Please come hiking with me....!


Kintokiyama is located in Hakone area and is famous for its view of Mt. Fuji on a clear day. The hiking route chosen started in a parking lot, just off the main road where a map informed hikers of the routes available. 

Photos: The start of the trail is marked with Kintaro's axe. 


Mt. Kintoki is thought to be the setting of a legendary folk tale in Japan. A boy of great strength named 'Kintaro' (lit. 'Golden Boy') befriended numerous animals in (supposedly) this area and later, slayed a demon (wiki page with more info is HERE) who terrorized those on the mountain. Regardless of the folk story being true or not, it's commonly told to small children in Japan, who view Kintaro as a hero. 

Photo: Only 20 minutes more to summit! 


This mountain is relatively easy to hike, especially for beginners. There is only one section in which you need to climb up a set of steep rocks, next to a tree; however, a rope assists hikers there. 

Photo: At the summit! 


The entire hike to summit takes approximately 1.5 ~ 2.5 hours depending on one's strength. At the top, a mountain hut and coin toilets can be found (cost: 100 yen). There are some picnic tables to rest your feet, but be sure to bring your camera in case of a clear day which will give you beautiful views of Mount Fuji (sadly, on my hiking day the weather was cloudy...). 

Photo: Summit marker

Mount Kintoki reaches 1,212 meters and at the summit marker, hikers can get a photo holding Kintaro's axe! As there were very few hikers on this day, I went overboard and took a lot of photos with the axe....(laugh) 

Photo: That axe was a little heavy...


I mentioned earlier this hike was completed on X-mas day, so I celebrated the occasion with a special dinner at the top ..........Ta-da!

Photo: Merry Christmas to me~!

Thank you Santa.

For those who enjoy the outdoors and don't mind a 2+ hour hike, Mount Kintoki is a lovely spot to visit. On a clear day, close views of Mount Fuji can be seen. 

Enjoy mountains! 

~ Information ~ 

Mount Kintoki (also called Kintokiyama) is located in Hakone, Shizuoka prefecture. English PDF file of various hikes in the area is HERE. English info is HERE

Access: 
Okakyu Romance Car from Shinjuku station to Hakone-Yumoto station. Change to a bus -- use platform #3 -- the "Togendai Line" route (exiting the station, it's across the street on your left). Ride for about 20 minutes. This route will be a little expensive due to the express train fare.

Romance Car info is HERE.

OR

Take an Odakyu bus from Shinjuku and get off at Kintoki-tozanguchi bus stop. It takes about 2 hours one way and costs about 2,000 yen ($20). 

Odakyu highway bus info is HERE.

Bring: 
Good hiking boots or solid sneakers, a warm jacket as the summit is windy, a camera, water and lunch or snacks. No burners are allowed at the top due to the bio-toilets. 

Hiking time: 
Round trip is approximately 4 hours. 

Special Bonus:

Madonna visited to Japan and I managed to snag a ticket to her "Rebel Heart" tour which was held at Saitama Arena on Feb.13th. With thanks from my friend in Chiba, and a radio station supporting the tour, my seat turned out to be an awesome one -- right on floor, two seats away from the end of the runway, which jutted out from the main stage. Woo! I didn't take many photos, because I wanted to enjoy the concert and dance till my little booty shook no more. 

My two photos to share: Cutenekko waits for Madonna / Madonna points to my butterflies.
   

Madonna was actually really funny during this concert. She bantered with the crowd and chatted quite a bit. This point surprised me most. I heard Radiohead will come to Japan to participate in this year's FujiRock festival. I wish I could go!

Monday, April 4, 2016

Exploring Yugawara

Yugawara a small resort town in western Kanagawa prefecture approximately 2.5 hours outside of Tokyo (Shinjuku) by express train (info HERE; map HERE). Famous for its hot springs and traditional craft shops, it is a popular destination for Tokyo-ites to spend the weekend at an inn.

I had the pleasure of visiting this charming town last fall; while there, I did a little of everything: hiking, autumn leaves viewing, and testing the hot springs. Let's take a look at Yugawara!

Photos: waterfall & flowing river
                

This hiking trail was actually on the way to the foot baths park, called 'Manyo Hot Water Park' (site HERE -- translation software activated). It's an easy walking trail, paved for the most part and appeared to be wheelchair accessible. 

Photo: Pink filter

Photo: Completely Zen

Hiking here to enjoy the leaves was wonderful. It's not well known, even among Japanese locals, so this area is a great escape from the city. The best part? At the end of the hiking trail is a hot spring park, with numerous places to soak your feet. Each bath has a unique feature such as bubble jets, stones for foot massage, etc. It's outdoors among the bamboo trees and the perfect way to sample Japan's hot springs without going 'au natural'!

Photo: Jet bath


Photo: Cutenekko soaks amid the bubbles...

If you are in the area of Hakone or Odawara, why not make a side trip to the little town of Yugawara? 

Enjoy outdoor baths!

Special Bonus: 
In Tokyo, there is a Buddhist temple called Gotokuji (read more HERE). It is most famous for housing a mini-army of cats! As my name means 'cute cat', I had to visit. I took two photos showing the power of these felines. Enjoy!

Photos: All hail us me-ow!
   

~ Information ~ 

Manyo Hot Water Park is located in Yugawara, Kanagawa prefecture. Homepage HERE. TripAdvisor reviews are HERE.

Access: 
Take JR Tokaido line to Yugawara station. Catch the Kanachu #2 bus from Yugawara station. Ride for about 10 minutes getting off at 'Ochiai Bridge'. 

Coming by car? Parking is available but there is a charge of 300 yen ($3).

Cost: 
To soak your feet in the baths, you need to pay. I'm sorry I forgot the cost, but I think it's about 500 yen per person ($5).