We would eat breakfast, pack our bags, catch the airport shuttle and take a 8.5 hour flight back to Seattle! Sayonara Nippon, until next time!
I woke up pretty early and forced myself to go back to sleep. I would wake up, try to organize my belongings into my bags. We would be meeting Snipes who was my fathers first friend in Japan who arrived at Yakota Air-force Base with him back in 1986. He now had a civilian job after retiring. We would get the chance to sit and have coffee with him and speak about old times, what was going on now and our plans for the futures. The last time we’d seen him was when we were living in Japan as children. Facebook is awesome!
After spending some time with him we would have to say goodbye as we were all meting with Kanako and Natsumi at 1pm.
After both arrived we would go to a toy store before eating lunch. We were able to sit for awhile and catch up and learn more about Kanako’s new job working for the ambassador from the US.
After eating we would take the train to a traditional Buddhist temple where we would do a Japanese fortune teller. I was very nervous, Kanako, Natsumi and Rupert pulled good fortunes then crystal pulled a bad one that she tied. I would nervously pull a good one! Dez would pull a bad one right after.
We would wash our hands at a temple toss a coin in a wishing well type thing and pray.
After this we would visit the many small shops in the area and just walk.
This lead us to the train station that we Would take the Harajuku. We would visit more shops for hours.
Next we would head to an arcade place where we would take booth pictures and I would win first place in Mario cart beating Rupert kanako and Natsumi!
After we ate again at a small lounge. We talked more and shared food.
Kanako and Natsumi would walk us back to our train station and we would say our goodbyes and head on our way back to Ginza and sleep.
I SLEPT FOR 15 HOURS!
I woke up and would go down stairs to take advantage of the Onsen that was on the 5th floor of the the ryokan. I would return an hour later to get dressed repack my bag send a few sunrise pix to friends and family, checkout and take the taxi ride to the train station and head back to Tokyo.
We would arrive back in Tokyo around 1230 to check into our hotel drop off our heavy bags and head to the currency exchange for more yen! My good friends Sayo and Natsumi would meet us at the Ginza building currency exchange. They would get a chance to briefly meet Dez, Madi and Rupert before Natsumi, Sayo and I would head out for lunch.
I wanted Okonomiyaki for a few reasons. It’s very popular, I’ve been asked if I liked it now for YEARS! And a lot of people had asked me if I’d ever tried it. We would go to a spot in Ginza that specialized in okonomiyaki. It would be served with grilled ramen, miso soup, Chinese cabbage salad and rice. One thing I did not know about Okonomiyaki was that the main ingredient was Chinese cabbage. I am not a fan. I asked if they could make it without it but after the puzzled looked by the waiter I decided just to deal with it and eat it anyway. Honestly, it wasn’t bad! Without cabbage it would have been great lol!
Natsumi, Sayo and I talked about our lives, what was going on and what was coming up.Sayo’s husband Nayalan would join us later in the day along with her younger sister Tomo who came all the way from Nagano (2.5 hours via bullet train to spend time with us and see me!).
After eating we would head to Tokyo station to meet Sayo’s younger sister, her husband and my friend Yuki.
I was happy to see them all, especially to meet Sayo’s husband for the first time whom I had heard so much about. Nayalan is a pretty awesome individual. He pretty much knew Tokyo better than all of us. He would help me find souvenirs for my father, and a Japanese DVD player that I hoped would play my region coded Japanese DVDs (it did.. YES!). I was happy to have a chance to catch up with all of them. Nayalan even answered all of my random questions about his family background. He even has a tumblr and pretty awesome YouTube channel about his life in Japan! He is an artist who draws very well too! I didn’t get to ask him what brought him to Japan but i know he taught English for 5 years and ended up meeting Sayo.
After seein taffy being made and going to the domo store in tokyo station I would randomly see a Japanese guy with a Tulane University Greenwave shirt. I asked if one of my friends could ask him if he would take a picture with me. My brother graduated from undergrad at Tulane in New Orleans, Louisiana, so it was very surprising to see a random person with this shirt.
After this the randomness continued when we saw an electric bull outside the station. We all wondered why it was there and Nayalan showed some interest. I told him I’d pay the ¥200 it cost to ride it to video him doing it! He said he’d pay half and I could pay the other. After seeing his bravery I had to try it to! Why? Well I’m in Japan! I don’t know any of these people watching me and could care less what they think, plus who else could say they road their first electric bull in the middle of Tokyo outside in front of staring Japanese people? Nayalan would stay on for 24 seconds before getting tossed off. It really didn’t seem to be going so fast until I was the one in the helmet with one hand up. It was pretty shaky and getting clipped kind of hurt especially after being sore from Fuji! I stayed on for 27 seconds. And yes I have the video!
As the sunset we (Natsu, Sayo, Tomo, Yuki, and Nayalan) headed to Yoyogi Park which has historical relevance to being one of the first parks where bboys would practice in the 80s after wild style came out. We got off the train at Hyrajuku and walked a ways to the park and just sat and people watched and took pictures before searching for the snoop dog tribute Mural. on our way we would stumble upon a festival in the park. We drank beer, got snow cones and watched Hawaiian performers, and just enjoyed each others company for a few hours.
After this we would head to shinjiku where the hachiko dog statute and the busiest cross walk in the world is. The sidewalk wasn’t so busy to say it was Saturday night but we would walk through twice and take pictures from one of the busiest Starbucks in the world.
We would walk Yuki to her train station before going to really cool spot in the basement of some building in Tokyo. The restaurant was in the basement of a building and was almost a mini food court with about 5 restaurants. We would sit down and be given 5 menu’s from all of the restaurants and we were able to order from anywhere we wanted.
They convinced me to try raw horse meat and swore to me it was good. I watched them all prove it before I would try.
After dinner we would all head home. I had such a fun day and a great time with all of them and enjoyed their company. Sayo’s younger sister Tomo who will possibly be attending Gunma university and studying abroad at Central Washington, even baked me homemade cookies and individually wrapped them! 🙂
After making it back to my hotel I would share my day with my Brodie’s reach out to my dads old Air Force buddy about meeting in the morning shower and sleep.
THIS IS THE POINT FUJI GOT REAL!!
You know that feeling you have when you first wake up from a nap… The feeling of wanting to slowly wake up, get use to your surroundings, stretch. Yeah, well none that happened for me.
After waking up from a nightmare that bugs were crawling on me and being cold I was jerked awake by Rupert telling me it was time to go as if we were late for something. I jumped from the top bunk of what looked like a huge bunk bed. We would hike in dark up Mt. Fuji from station seven.
The trail would become even more difficult. We found ourselves climbing over rocks trying to dodge the ledges thankfully we had good weather and only dealt with rough winds at times. Thank goodness for warm clothing! Safe to say it was cold! After hours of hiking and stumbling over rocks, it seemed as though we would never get to the top. The mountain was crowded with people! This was a Thursday night / Friday morning, I could only imagine what a Friday / Saturday would look like. We heard conversations, chants, random noises, radios, ect. Definitely not so peaceful.
Hours in I would see the same young elementary school boy that impressed me in the daylight by 2am was in tears crying from frustration and probably pain and lack of sleep.I felt his pain… I would also have an old man fall flat on his face about 30 minutes later! Honestly, I couldn’t help him. I was so tired that I knew if I tried we would both end up on the ground.
Looking forward and backwards we could see nothing but headlamps of people miles ahead and behind us, everyone with relatively the same goal, make it to the top before sunrise. Around 4 daylight would start to break through the clouds. It was honestly a bit discouraging. We looked up and saw tons of people miles ahead of us and my goal changed from making it before sunrise to just making it to the top! Throughout my heart would beat way to fast, head would ache and altitude would cause dizzyness. I would have to stop get water and catch my breath bc I definitely wasn’t trying to end up on the news for dying on Fuji!
As the sun began to peak above the clouds you could hear the roars and cheers from people whom had made it to the top. Beautiful faces of all races of people who had all come for the same thing! People from all over the world (mostly Japan of course) filled the mountain peak.
It took about 5 minutes for me to actually calm down stop and appreciate the moment of what was just accomplished. As I searched for the rest of my team I would meet each of them individually, between bathroom runs, taking pictures and or just finding a place to sit down.
Dez and I would take pictures of the sunrise before I finally sat down with my sister madi and waited for my brother Rupert. I ordered ramen for ¥1000. I was so tired I found my self dozing off and napping (I’ve been told this is a bad idea at such high elevation).
We stayed on top of the mountain for about 2.5 hours just enjoying the moment and mostly looking for each other to take pictures and waiting on one another to receive the final stamps on our sticks.
Our journey down would be a long one… A very long one. About 2 hours down Madi and I realized that the trail we took down was much easier than the one we took up. After putting together this mystery and realizing there were too many elders and children on this trail headed up the mountain. We had seen both on our climb up, but definitely not as many as we saw headed up. We realized Rupert had chosen to take the expert trail. While this honestly made me a little angry at first, we had made it… The past was the past.. Plus it was his birthday so this really was a senseless argument.
After a few near ankle sprains a meeting between my bottom and the ground, a headache, thirst and some bathroom breaks, we finally made it down to the 5th station a few hours later.
We took the bus for an hour down to the train station, hopped in a taxi and would arrive at our ryokan (traditional japanese hotel) 2 hours before check in. We’d use their free wifi, eat at the karaoke restaurant across the street check in, shower and I would fall asleep by 430pm until the next morning!
August 1, 2013 was the day we climbed Mt. Fuji’s Yoshidaguchi trail. We woke up, got dressed and were on the bullet train by 620am. I am a bit hungry since I don’t eat instant oatmeal but I will find food. We eventually found food and ate at Mos Burger. Rupert and Madi started their climb from the Umaumagaeshi starting point which was about 2.5 hours from the 5th station where Dez and I would be starting. Dez and I left from the train station by bus at 2:50pm and took an hour bus ride to the 5th station of Mt. Fuji. We would get off the bus and I would buy my Fuji hiking stick, (everyone bought there’s at the train station, I didn’t because I thought the ones at the top would look different because the wood wasn’t the same as I remembered my fathers stick he received in ‘89. Dez and I would walk about 15 to 20 min to meet up with Rupert and Madi. Two Americans who taught English in Korea asked us if we were from Seattle because they noticed Dez’s Seahawks backpack. In order to meet up with Rupert and Madi, we would veer left on the trail while everyone else kept right. Simultaneously 3 people screamed “nooo wrong way!” But we informed them we were meeting our friends. After meeting the rest of our team at the 5th station we paid ¥200 for a stamp on our Fuji walking sticks. Our team literally walked about three minutes before we hit a hut selling sixth station stamps. Was this a joke?! Who knows… We paid anyway. The seventh station definitely wasn’t as close. Walking this trail really wasn’t that hard, dirt small rocks hills and switch backs. If this was what Fuji would be the entire time I could deal with it. Bathrooms were a suggested donation of ¥200 at the bottom of the mountain. I paid not wanting bad karma. We made it to the seventh station around 7pm at night. We would have to walk a few more minutes to our reserved napping hut that would cost us ¥5800 yen each. The hut had food, snacks and water but they definitely new the worth and demand of their product. After paying ¥500 for a soy sauce top ramen it was time to rest. We slept on mats until about 11pm when we would wake up, get our gear together and start our journey.
Before we started hiking we saw a picture of this guy… lol basically it says be on the look out for this guy!! YIKES!!
This is Dez on the trail when we first started and her Seahawks backpack!
Up the stairs we go! This is kind of how fuji started, switch backs and stairs.
Almost to station 7…
We made it to our hut that was just a bit past station 7.
Overpriced snacks, Supply and demand baby!
Overall, like I said the first half of the hike wasn’t bad at all, I remember telling my brother if this was how it would be I would be okay! We would then rest from 7p to 11p before waking up and starting day eight.
The day before the Fuji hike we made sure our bags are packed, snacks are bought and supplies are ready. I am still nervous about the climb but am ready to complete this mission and conquer this challenge. Our hotel is inside Nagoya station so I only went out a few blocks to explore since most of tomorrow and Friday morning will be spent hiking and climbing. We went out to a small restaurant around 7, everyone ate, we returned to the hotel finished organizing bags and slept.
On day 5 I woke up, replied to some emails, released Episode 5 of Road to Fuji, had some iMessage conversations and napped a bit longer. We all got up around 630a re-organized our bags for checkout, ate breakfast at Starbucks and headed toward Kyoto to the Obubu Tea Farm which is in Wazuka, Japan. To be honest no one knew what to expect but this was an idea created by Rupert. We road from Osaka to Kyoto, took a local train, bus and walked before we reached our destination around 11am. From the time we entered to the time as left our host Manchu and his interns showed us nothing but hospitality. We tried 10 different teas that opened my eyes to teas outside of the usual strong bitter traditional Japanese tea. We ate tea cake and even had green tea noodles for lunch. We drove up 2 mountains to see and feel the tea fields. Although the tour was only to supposed to take 4 hours we spent an extra 2 hours learning more about tea, telling stories and buying tea. Monchu even gave us a ride back to Kyoto station which was about an hour and a half away. We talked to Manchu about Japan, his family, his business and life. We were sad leaving the farm, but even sadder to leave Manchu. Obubu has a website Facebook twitter and YouTube where you can watch the tea cultivating process!
We boarded a bullet train from Kyoto to Nagoya ate, checked in, debriefed about the day and slept.
Woke up at 5AM again and checked the social media. I found out through his instagram post Rupert got up in the middle of the night and explored Osaka by himself in the middle of the night. He even went to dinner alone. Once he woke up him and I would explore a rainy Osaka and failed in our search for sandwich bags (water resistant) but we returned made our way to breakfast. Before we did however we stopped a grocery store in the station and night snacks. I didn’t buy any snacks because the prices seemed high and I didn’t want to carry the snacks from Monday to Thursday. We ate breakfast at a place inside the station. I had pancakes and ham.
After breakfast we took the train to a temple
and attempted to go to the zoo not knowing it would be closed.Although we were disappointed we decided we would go to the aquarium instead. We stopped for ramen near by.
After eating we headed to the aquarium. Ironically this aquarium was the same one that I had been to on March 11, 2011 the day of the tsunami. I have a video of me there on that exact day.
The ferris wheel was right outside of the aquarium.
After the Ferris wheel we made our way back toward the hotel. We walked for what felt like miles until we found a currency exchange inside a store that looked like best buy, rei, Walmart and toys r us wrapped in one. After finally finding this place we had to find our way back to the hotel… We walked… And walked… And walked….. My legs felt as if they would give up on me. We finally made it to the hotel where I showered and lye down for a few minutes before it was time to go get sushi. We were recommended a place for sushi but after another long walk we gave up and ended up at a hole in the wall sushi place. The options were not so great and to expensive to fully enjoy. We would return to the hotel and crash.
WE WOKE UP STARVING!!! We ate breakfast, got dressed repacked our bags and headed towards the train station to use our bullet train passes for the first time.
We would take the local train one stop and then take the bullet train to Osaka for about 2 hours. After getting to Osaka we dropped our bags off and headed to Osaka castle.
Afterwords we made the mistake of returning to the hotel, determined NOT to fall asleep early. Everyone did, leaving me to go for dinner on my own. I had a beef bowl at Yoshino’s around the corner. Definitely not as good as I remembered. I came back to the hotel and went to sleep with the rest of the crew. #JetLagFail
Dez and Madi on our way to Osaka Castle. It was very hot and humid in Osaka.
Osaka Castle was pretty awesome, reminded me of Hamamatsu Castle. It’d be interesting to find out more about this history of these places!
So this man was letting people hold his birds for FREE! I saw an owl I wanted to hold but the owl didn’t look to happy and I didn’t want to get attacked!
We woke up in the capsule hotel. After showering I sent some emails and then hit the social networks. Once everyone was ready we hit the streets. We ate breakfast at Mr. Doughnut, a pretty popular doughnut chain. We were able to drop off our heavy bags at the next hotel before we roamed the streets of Tokyo. Sadly we would only be in the capsule hotel one night (wamp waaaamp)…
The currency exchange place wouldn’t open for another 45 minutes. We took that opportunity to visit a book store where Madi found a pretty awesome fashion style book and Rupert found a map of all Japan and a mini journal. We were able to get a better rate for our American dollar.
After exchanging the currency we would find a restaurant this time with no English menu. I ordered some kind of beef and rice and soup. This beef we later found out was beef tongue. The soup was really good — not sure what was in it. We headed back to the hotel to check in before heading to Shibuya.
In Shibuya we found a tattoo place called “Studio Muscat” and Rupert would make an appointment for August 3rd. We wandered a bit and took pictures of the Hachiko Dog. After taking a train to shinjiku garden we arrived at 440, to find out it closed at 430. The weather was very humid, but from the outside the garden looked very beautiful.
We would take the train back to Ginza where the hotel was located. The plan was to rest up before dinner, however a 630p nap turned into me waking back up at 2am and realize everyone else had been asleep too. I went back to sleep and didn’t wake up until the next morning.