RELISH THE BEAUTY OF SAND DUNES IN JAPAN

The infamous sand dunes in Japan is finally getting its recognition in recent years!

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I can imagine being stranded in a desert and this oasis is my only lifeline.

Definitely a one-of-a-kind experience, Tottori Sand Dunes located in Tottori Prefecture, in the Chuugoku Region of Japan is slowly showcasing its charm and attracting more tourists.

The expanse of this tourist spot stretches 16 km from east to west and 2.4 km from north to south, with the lowest and highest point having a 90 m height difference. Once you step in, you may be reminded of its likeness of the deserts around the world.

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The camel ride

You may be having an image of Japan as a country full of hot springs, ryokans, temples, anime, and maid cafes, but seeing the sand dunes where you can ride a camel, do sandboarding and paragliding from the sand hill is quite unthinkable isn’t it?

Screenshot (106)While it is possible to ride a camel, you can also just opt for a Photo Op with a camel for only 500 yen. The camel riding is inclusive of Photo Op for 1,300 for one person. A photographer will be present to take pictures from your device and in addition to that, he will also take another from his camera as a service.  Claiming of the picture will be at Rakudaya Shop (らくだや) just across the Sand Dunes. The 3R size (or L size in Japan) of the photo will be given for free while the A5 size will be available too and it comes with a Camel-themed photo holder for 1,100 yen.

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Victory pose after climbing the hill

Sandboarding and paragliding activities require reservations. Both activities operate for certain periods only.

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After a lengthy hike towards the hill, you are handsomely rewarded with this magnificent view of the Sea of Japan.

Apparently, the sand dunes has introduced a new activity called “Sakyu Segway”. This experience provides yet another unique experience wherein tourists can traverse across the sand dunes on wheels. The slots are limited for 300 persons this Golden Week (April 28 – May 6). Reserve a slot here!

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Walking towards the highest dune

It is preferable to go by car for a free entrance. A free parking is available near the Rakudaya Shop. Going by bus will require to ride the lift in order to arrive to the actual sand dunes. By doing so, purchasing from a ticket machine (300 for round trip, 200 for one way) outside the souvenir shop will be required.

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And while you’re at it, visit the Sand Museum too! It will be open from April 2018 to January 2019.

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Keep in mind that the bus operation schedule around Tottori doesn’t go till late night so for a convenient stay, it is advisable to book a hotel near the station.

Access by bus: From Tottori station, ride the bus at bus stop 0 (zero) to tottori sand dunes (370 yen).

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Three Shrine Pilgrimage for Love (恋の三社めぐり)

Visit the three shrines to have a good luck in love!

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Located in Nagoya, the three shrines, namely Takamu Shrine (高牟神社) Yamada Tenmangu (山田天満宮) and Shiroyama Hachimangu (城山八幡宮) are said to grant you good fortune in love.

Upon visiting the shrine, visitors will need to get a paper in pink color and inside it is another paper called 願いの文or Wish Statement. In Yamada Tenmangu and Shiroyama Hachimangu, the pink papers are also placed somewhere the shrine, so visitors can take one and get it stamped by the officials. Visitors need to pay 100 yen per stamp in each shrine.

In my case the paper is already stamped when I bought it and I just have to pay for a hundred yen. And after collecting three stamps from each shrine, a souvenir is given regardless which shrine you came last. In addition to that, they will ask you to write in the Wish Statement.

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Got my souvenir after completing the stamps!

So why are these shrines called the power spots of love?

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Source
  • In Takamu Shrine, it is believed that its water well has one of the best waters in Japan and is famous for granting longevity and a promise of romance once you drink it.

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  • In Yamada Tenmangu, a stone of a couple snuggling who watches for everyone’s happiness in love can be spotted in the shrine. Throw a donation in the box on the left and touch the stone while asking for a wish.
  • The Renriboku in Shiroyama Hachimangu is known as the sacred tree for matchmaking and marriage. You can also touch this tree and make a wish! Beside the tree are wooden wishing plaques (ema) with people’s hopes and wishes written on it. The location of this tree is pretty tricky since it strays away from the shrine. If you want to get there, from the area between the parking and entrance of the shrine, walk on path to the left then to the curved path and you will notice a huge tree with a rope tied around it.

Here are the details about the three shrines:

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There is no decided sequence in which shrine you have to visit first, but since the shrines are a few blocks away from each other, it is recommended to visit the nearest shrine from your location first.

Here’s my recommended route if you depart from Nagoya Station:

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Aside from love luck, each shrine also offers various lucky charms and also grants different kinds of good luck so make the best out of your visit in all shrines!

古井の水 = 恋の水 because 恋 and 古井 are both read as Koi. Hence,  恋の水 may be a wordplay of 古井の水.

Click here if you want to find out more shrines with love luck near you!

恋の三社めぐり

Winter Wonderland

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It is my first time to experience snowfall in the month of February, as we are living in central Japan, we only have those 2-3 days of snowfall for the whole winter season. I thought that after the January snow, spring would welcome me with its cherry blossoms but February gave me another chance to see the pristine landscape of the countryside of Japan! So I headed out to the park and made a new friend~

 

Budget Travels: Tokyo

Want to make the best of your trip to Tokyo? This post might help you spend less than what you expect. While Tokyo was once dubbed as one of the top cities with a high cost of living, we can never deny that traveling there may exhaust our budget and come home with an empty pocket.

Here are the things to consider for a perfect budget travel:

Transportation

1. Traveling within Japan 

  • Local Bus : Japan Bus Line | Willer Express
    • If you are away from the airport access, traveling through the local bus is the best choice. The downside of this option is you have to sit for a long period of time (to prevent this always get out of the bus on every stops).
  • Shinkansen: Japanican
    • Shinkansen ticket prices are known to be expensive as it obviously gets you faster to your destination, but Japanican’s website displays discounts for a trip with the shinkansen and hotel combined.
  • Plane: Jetstar
    • Jetstar has always been our choice when going to Kyushu. It is one of the airlines with the cheapest airfare within Japan destinations.

2. Traveling from another country

  • Cheap Flights / Promo Seats
    • Your local airlines may offer flight promos, so be sure to subscribe to them for promo alerts or regularly check their website for discounts!
  • JR Pass
    • After arriving in Japan, the JR Pass offers discounted tickets or unlimited rides for foreigners passport holders and/or temporary visitors.

Train Passes

Getting train passes for your travel will save you from the hassle of buying tickets in the station’s ticket machine. Just keep in mind not to travel during rush hours because you will be completely stuck inside the train.


Hotel Accommodations

1. Booking.com

  • Recommending this to you because I have already booked three times here and everything went smoothly. Just remember to print the pdf after checking your reservation details as it will serve as your entry ticket to the hotel.

2. Airbnb

  • I booked here once when my mom and I traveled to Osaka. It was a fair agreement as I was able to ask the host if we could check-in for as early as 10am. She is cool about it because she is a fellow Filipino. Before deciding to book, look for reviews, the total cost of your stay, and contact the host to make sure your stay will be as comfortable as you expect it to be. (Get $31 to travel on Airbnb!)

3. Couchsurfing

  • What I read about Couchsurfing is it is completely free, but of course you need to return the favor of letting you stay in their place. If you’re willing to meet nomadic people like you then give Couchsurfing a try! (Make sure to do safety measurements first before contacting the host, although the stay it’s free, it can never guarantee your safety.)

Things to ask when booking a hotel:

  • Is it near the train stations?
    • Staying near the Yamanote loop line is probably the most convenient because the line stops at some of the most famous spots in Tokyo – Shinjuku, Shibuya, Harajuku, etc. Also, if you miss your station, you can just continue riding on the loop until you arrive again at your destination! (It’s time-consuming though).
  • Are there convenient stores/ restaurants around or inside the hotel?
    • Some hotels will have restaurants inside, it may be a little bit pricey so you can resort to convenience stores or cheap dining around.
  • Is it quiet during nighttime?
    • If you want a livelier atmosphere at night, stay around Shinjuku. Otherwise, it is best to stay in Ueno for a calm, relaxing nightlife.
  • Is it safe?
    • Make sure to stay away from suspicious areas. Reading the hotels reviews will inform you about the safety of the area.
  • Can the host/ staff understand English?
    • Considering that you will stay in Tokyo, most hotel staff may be able to communicate with you in simple English.

Food

The best experience in traveling is when you taste the local specialty foods. You can ask the hotel staff where the famous local restaurants are.


My Hostel Recommendation

When I traveled to Tokyo, I stayed in Oak Hotel which is located in Ueno. The hotel is well-situated because it is very close to the convenience stores, a few restaurants can be reached within short distance. Ueno is a complete opposite of Asakusa even though the two cities are adjacent. The area is very peaceful at night, businessmen walk their way towards home, a few tourists would commute on their way back to their hotels.

Diary of a fangirl: Meeting him for the first and second time.

It was a long struggle of contemplation whether to attend GOT7’s fan meet or not. Buying a ticket is easy, but it got difficult when the one I plan to buy is being sold at a Japanese website. But I missed a lot of their events already so I thought there’s no holding back to this, I’m going  to the fan meet expecting every difficulty I am about to face.

Finally, I managed to bid for the ticket. And as if the universe is conspiring against me, I realized it was for the live viewing event, I got the wrong ticket! I was panicking, of course, because the site states that only the seller has the power to cancel any transactions. I’m doomed I thought. But I decided to buy another ticket again, this time, I double-checked everything. I successfully got one!

When the mail arrived containing tickets, I plan to sell the live viewing ticket. As I opened the packet, three cards fell. I recognize that those cards are for the hi-touch event. Instead of going to the fan meet only, I decided to attend the hi-touch too.

Two days before the trip and my plan is all set.  I was able to reserve for a place to stay through Airbnb. I also got my shinkansen tickets from the nearest station. This is it, I’m going alone, my first time to be with nobody but myself. A great opportunity for another self-discovery, I thought. But before I started packing my things, it just happened that my mom decided to tag along. I asked my mom if she’s serious about going with me, knowing that my purpose for this travel is for the hi-touch and fan meeting. I’m happy that she’s cool with it!


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I was planning to meet another IGOT7 / Ahgase (wordplay of IGOT7 written in Korean) before the hi-touch starts. We were actually supposed to meet in Sakuragawa, but my mom and I got lost trying to find the apartment and I was running late so we decided to meet at Intex Osaka. Thankfully it is easy to spot her, because of her being the only westerner at that time. I was relieved to find someone who I could talk to during the hi-touch since the majority of the fans there speak Japanese and I’m not yet comfortable with my Nihongo ><.

 

Then finally, the hi-touch began, I saw GOT7 climbing up the stage. Is it real? I thought. I’m so happy I can see them after a long time of stanning the group. There they are, standing confidently and happily while greeting their fans. I feel like I’m on top of the world now that I saw Jackson Wang, who has been my source of happiness during my stressful college years. I couldn’t help but stare at his physique, wondering how tall he might be, since he is always comparing his height to Bam’s. I thought of what I should say the moment I high-five him, but all of it went down the drain, I couldn’t speak to him, all I did was touch his hand and admire the perfect creature before me. OMG he’s drop-dead gorgeous, his eyes are sparkling while smiling! I wish we could’ve stared at each other for long.

After a while, they took a break, we waited again in line and once again I thought about saying something to him. They appeared on stage, this time he was playful, he jumped off the stage and proceeded to the booth to start the hi-touch.

The line started moving, and it was my turn to hi-touch him but all I could do is smile at him and appreciate his striking existence. I am so lucky to see and high-five him twice.


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The day of the fan meet. After arriving at the venue (Grand Cube Osaka) early morning, there was already a  lengthy queue for the fan meet. My mom and I decided to stay at a cafe on the second floor. At 12nn they started letting fans in the 5th floor, so I got in line and entered the hall.

Upon entering, the reception hall is cramped with fans falling in line to buy some merchandise or taking pictures of GOT7’s cardboard cutouts. I proceeded directly to the standees with GOT7 dressing as fox / rabbit which is sooo cute!

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Dressed as Fox or Rabbit for GOTPIA (GOT7 Zootopia)

Since there is not enough time to buy some merchandise, I quickly went inside the event hall and looked for my seat. CG16. It was near the aisle, I got a good seat although the stage is a bit far. My seatmate was a fanboy, he was so cute taking pictures here and there! He also brought a member’s plushie!

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The event started and the ahgabongs (Got7’s Official Lightstick) lit up the auditorium, it was so spectacular, I wish I had one with me too ><. They performed almost all of their Japanese songs, plus the Hard Carry omg it was breath-taking to see them perform live! Their dancing and singing are flawless!

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Throughout the fan meet, I was staring mostly to Jackson, his voice is so captivating I hope he receives more lines in the future! On the last part when he had his cap on, I couldn’t clearly see his face, I hope he lets us see his flawless look more in their upcoming schedules.

I feel so ecstatic until now and I am missing them already. I hope I will be able to attend next year’s event too! I made the right decision to travel all the way just to meet them ❤.

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Rabbit Jackson Keychain!

Thank you for reminding me what butterflies feel like ❤

The girl who leapt through time

 

What’s not to miss during the trip to Takayama is the open-air museum located west of the train station, Hida Folk Village (Hida no sato). Because of the vast space of this exhibit, it is quite isolated from the other sightseeing places around Takayama. Albeit being secluded from the main attractions in Takayama, Hida No Sato boasts the replicas of the village head’s house, huts, storehouses and farmhouses during the Edo Period.

The entire village is open for exploration and over 30 well-preserved cultural structures are scattered around the village.

The main houses across the Goami Pond (Goami-ike) near the entrance.

Koi Fishes and Ducks in the Goami Pond (You can feed them for 50 yen!)

Aside from the picturesque landscape the village offers, visitors can try some of the classic Japanese outdoor games (I wasn’t able to try all of those though because I was already distracted with my original plan: take a lot of instagram-worthy photos! -I semi-failed with this though ><)

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Traditional water gun target
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Playing with giant stilts. Being able to walk with these is not an easy task ><;

The gassho-zukuri houses (hands joined in prayer) unique with its thatched and steep roof.

Another type of house during the Edo Period uses a Kurebuki roof which, just like the thatched roof, can sustain the heavy amount of snowfall.

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Oh look! A wishing bell!

Sitting next to Hozumi’s house, the sight of this huge bell intrigued me of its purpose. The bell was supposed to grant wishes to anyone who followed the instructions written in front of the wooden fence: First is to make a bow, then Strike the bell once and finally make a wish during the echo. Despite my exposure to the rituals in the temple/shrines where bells are also rung, this significant artifact definitely piqued my interest as it echoed throughout the village.

Moving further inside the village, we found a wood crafting house. Aside from the woodcrafting house, the neighbor houses also have its own crafting specialty, too bad we aren’t able to try because nobody was tending the area. Nevertheless the woodcrafter’s sole existence in the world of arts and crafts satisfied us.

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Neko-chan souvenir!

The woodcrafter demonstrated his skills when we arrived in his niche. Inisde his abode are several masks made from wood, keychains, home decor, etc. Glad I was able to buy the cute little cat as a way to support the artisan.