sugary, flowery, photo!spam

13 07 2010

As I mentioned in my ‘good ‘cherry’ hunting’ post, the Japanese sweet factory Kikyoya that we visited has a very impressive museum of sugar flowers.  Now, to be honest, I’m not sure if these were all made by hand, or if they are all made of sugar, but I’m positive they would have to have been put together by hand and would have taken a long time to make.

So, firstly we have some purple and white flowers –

and a close up –

isn’t the detail amazing?

Irises –

Bamboo shoots –

Gourds –

A hydrangea bush –

and a close up of the hydrangeas –

Imagine sticking all those flowers together!!!

And lastly, probably my favourite, autumn leaves –

although this next close up isn’t from the tree above, it’s kinda similar, being an omikuji (fortune) tied to a branch of autumn leaves –

Of course this is only a few of the photos I’ve taken, so if you’d like to see more please head on over to my flickr set!  It includes fish, cosmos, lilies, snow covered grass, wisteria, cherry blossoms and more!





good ‘cherry’ hunting

5 07 2010

Sorry I haven’t updated in a while!  It’s been busy to say the least!  So much as been happening lately, between parties, meeting old friends, work, and the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (yesterday), I haven’t had much time for myself lately.  But I did manage to take some time out a few weeks ago to go on a Hato Bus tour “Hunting for cherries”.

One of the things I love (and hate) about Japan is the difference in the seasons.  And one thing that changes with the seasons is the fruit that is available.  For example, in winter I live on mikan.  But in June, my absolute favourite fruit becomes available – the Japanese Cherry.  There are a few varieties of Japanese Cherries, and, in general, they are pinker and lighter in color than most cherries available in Australia, and are also much sweeter, although there are some slightly sour varieties.

A couple of prefectures in Japan are famous for their cherries, namely Yamagata and Yamanashi.  Having tasted both, I highly recommend Yamagata cherries, but at about 600 or 700 yen for 200g, they are quite expensive.  Another option to get your fill is to go to a farm that offers an ‘all you can eat, pick them yourself’ deal.  Usually you are able to walk around an orchard for about 30 or 40 minutes, and pick (or ‘hunt for’) as many cherries as you like to eat right there for about 1000 to 2000 yen.  And trust me, you can eat a lot in that time…  However, if you want to take some home you have to buy them separately.

As I don’t have a car, the easiest way for me to do this was to go on a tour.  My friend and I went on a Hato bus tour, that not only included cherry picking, but also a visit to Mt Fuji, a buffet lunch, and a brief stop at a Japanese sweets factory called Kikyoya.  The cost was about 9,500 yen, but it really was worth it as it was a full day – almost 13 hours!

We were really lucky with Mt Fuji, because despite being June and cloudy we were able to see the whole mountain.  Actually, when I booked the tour, I didn’t check what the extra activities apart from lunch and cherry picking were, so I wasn’t prepared for this stop.  The 5th station is about 2300m above sea level so it’s much cooler.  On that day it was 10 deg C and raining, and even though I had bought an umbrella, I neglected to bring a jacket.

After that it was on to lunch at the Fuji View Hotel.  It’s owned by a fairly famous hotel chain, and actually had John Lennon stay there once, but their lunch buffet was pretty standard.  There was one thing on the menu that is a Yamanashi original dish – Houtou.  Basically a miso soup with flat udon noodles and a pumpkin flavor.  It was really yummy, and I’m looking forward to trying to make it myself once it gets cooler again.

Next it was off to the Japanese sweets factory, where we were taught how to wrap Shingen-mochi.  Kikyoya is also the home of a very impressive display of sugar flowers, animals and trees.  There were so many different displays that I’ll be doing a separate photo!spam post later this week.  But here’s a sneak peek…

And lastly, the cherry picking.  Normally I’m actually quite nervous climbing up ladders, but apparently when there are cherries at the top I have no problems.  On top of stuffing my self stupid at the cherry orchard, I also bought about a kilo of cherries to make sakuranbou-shu (expect a video of that adventure in about 6 months once it’s finished…  stewing?).

And of course, what’s being a tourist without some shopping!

As always more photos are on flickr, and a post about the sweets with also appear later this week!





Hike – Mt Takazasu, Mt Syakushi and Mt Shishidome 高座山、杓子山、鹿留山

2 06 2010

Quick Overview

Mt Fuji

Mt Fuji

Slightly out-of-the-way, this trail is a little difficult to get to, but worth the effort.  Affords great views of Mt Fuji 富士山 and Lake Yamanaka 山中湖 from October to May, and also well-known for its mountain azaleas during late May.  The trail is a little challenging, with some very steep (there are ropes) and slippery sections.  Proper hiking boots are recommended.  There are also no facilities or shops along the track, so bring water and food.  However, at the summit of Mt Syakushi 杓子山 is a nice picnic area.  Due to the cost of the taxi to the trail head, it’s recommended that you do this hike with a friend or in a group.

Distance: not including taxi and bus -11km
Duration: 4.5-5 hours
Difficulty: medium (slippery and steep in places)
Season:  Suitable all year, but snowy in the winter months
Starting point:  Toriiji Pass 鳥居地峠
Finishing point:  Uchino Bus Stop 内野バス停

Maps

A map of the hike  can also be viewed at GPSies

There are many different and interesting hikes in this area, so I recommend you buy a map.  The Mapple 山と高原地図 series number 31 map is of the Mt Fuji 富士山 region, and is available on Amazon.co.jp.  Note, this map is in Japanese, but does include some English and furigana.

The Hike

Trail Head

Trail Head

Firstly, there is no English signage on this hike, so take a map or a memo of the Kanji!  However, the trail is well-defined, and doesn’t have many variations, so it’s fairly easy to follow.

From Fuji Yoshida Station 富士吉田駅, take the exit to the left and catch a taxi to Toriijidouge 鳥居地峠.  The taxi will drop you off next to a forestry track on the right, signed Mt Takazasu 高座山 and Mt Syakushi 杓子山.  Shortly along the track is the hiking trail on the left.  Just keep following this trail up through a lightly forested area, and after about a kilometre you will enter a cleared area and be able to see the peak of Mt Takazasu 高座山 in front.  From here, until Mt Takazasu 高座山, you will have great views of Mt Fuji 富士山.

Mt Takazasu

Mt Takazasu

You can access a road to the right, but just keep on forward to climb the very steep trail to the peak of Mt Takazasu 高座山.  This section of the hike is quite slippery, and there is a rope if you need it.  It should take about 50 minutes to reach Mt Takazasu 高座山 from Toriijidouge 鳥居地峠.

From the peak of Mt Takazasu 高座山 take the trail down the other side (north-east) signed Mt Syakushi 杓子山, and then up and down through another forested area until you reach Ozasudouge 大権道峠.  Here at the pass is a Hang Glider  Platform, and you should also have another view of Mt Fuji 富士山.  It should take about 40 minutes to reach this point.  Keep following the trail to the left of the Hang Glider Platform.  From here the path will become steep again with ropes, but it should only take about 40 minutes to reach the peak of Mt Syakushi 杓子山.

Mt Syakushi

Mt Syakushi and Mt Fuji in cloud

Once again, from Mt Syakushi 杓子山 you have good views of Mt Fuji 富士山.  There is also a bell and a couple of picnic tables to take a break.  Once you have finished resting, take the path on the right (east).  It’s a fairly flat walk to Mt Shishidome 鹿留山, and should take about 45 minutes.  Before reaching the peak of Mt Shishidome 鹿留山, there is a Y intersection, and a sign pointing to Mt Shishidome 鹿留山 and Nijuumadouge 二十曲峠.  To go to the peak of Mt Shishidome 鹿留山 take the path to the left.  On Mt Shishidome 鹿留山 you can see some old Beech and Oak trees.  It will only take 5 minutes from the intersection.

Once you are finished on Mt Shishidome 鹿留山, head back to the Y intersection and take the other trail towards Nijuumadouge 二十曲峠 down.  The trail is quite steep and slippery going down in sections and there are ropes again.  Head downhill for about 50 minutes, before you reach a small stone Buddha at Tachinzukadouge 立ノ塚峠.  Now turn to the right and follow another forestry road, signed Uchino 内野.  Eventually this road will become paved and have a few turn offs, but just keep headed on the main trail downhill.

Stone Buddha

Stone Buddha

After about 40 minutes you will enter into a farm area, which will soon give way to houses.  When you reach the first main crossroad, take a right, and then a left and keep heading down towards town.  At the 3rd intersection (and after crossing two rivers) take a right, and about 200 or 300 meters down the road will be the Uchino bus stop 内野バス停 on the left.  This should take about 20 minutes from the farm area.

Mt Takazasu, Mt Syakushi, and Mt Shishidome

Mt Takazasu, Mt Syakushi, and Mt Shishidome

To and From

As always, the following routes are just recommendations.  Please use Hyperdia or Jorudan’s Train Route Finder to find the most suitable route for you!

From Tokyo Station 東京駅, or Shinjuku Station 新宿駅, catch the JR Chuo line 中央線 to Otsuki 大月.  You may need to change trains at Takao 高尾 to continue further out to Otsuki 大月.  From Tokyo 東京, it should take approximately 1hour 40min and 1450 yen to Otsuki 大月.  At Otsuki station 大月駅, change trains to the Fujikyuko line 富士急行線.  Note, on the Fujikyuko line 富士急行線 you can not use a Suica or Pasmo, and you will have to buy a ticket quickly as sometimes the transfer time is short.  Travel on the Fujikyoko line 富士急行線 for 46min until you reach Fuji Yoshida Station 富士吉田駅.  This leg of the train journey costs 990 yen.  For an English timetable of the Fujikyuko line 富士急行線 click here.

From Fuji Yoshida Station 富士吉田駅 catch a taxi to Toriijidouge 鳥居地峠, which take about 15min and costs between 2000 and 3000 yen.

From Uchino Bus Stop 内野バス停, catch the bus back to Fuji Yoshida Station 富士吉田駅.  Cost is 450 yen, and it takes 23min.  The timetable (in Japanese) can be found here.  Pasmo and Suica cards can be used on the bus.

From Fuji Yoshida Station 富士吉田駅, make your way back to Tokyo 東京, opposite the directions above.

Alternatively, you may wish to buy a combination JR Holiday Pass ホリデー・パス and Otsuki Ofuku ticket 大月往復きっぷ if you are going on a Saturday or a holiday (Including Sundays and national holidays).  The combination ticket will save you 840 yen if you are travelling from Shinjuku 新宿.  The JR Holiday pass ホリデー・パス will cover all JR local train travel within the pass area, for one day, for 2,300 yen.  See the JR website for details on the Holiday pass ホリデー・パス.  The Otsuki Ofuku ticket 大月往復きっぷ will cover return travel to Fuji Yoshida station 富士吉田駅, over 2 days, for 1,400 yen.  See the Fujikyu Railway 富士急行 website for details on the Otsuki Ofuku ticket 大月往復きっぷ and the combination ticket 大月往復きっぷ+ホリデー・パス (only in Japanese).  Both tickets can be bought from JR Midori no Madoguchi JRみどりの窓口 or travel agents, from one month in advance.

Links

Fujikyuko Line timetable http://www.fujikyu-railway.jp/forms/info/info.aspx?info_id=4031

Fujikyu Bus line timetable from Uchino Bus Stop to Fuji Yoshida Station (Japanese) http://bus.fujikyu.co.jp/line/jikokuhyo/07.html

JR Holiday Pass information http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/holiday_pass.html

Otsuki Ofuku Ticket information (Japanese) http://www.fujikyu-railway.jp/forms/info/info.aspx?info_id=4223

Holiday Pass + Otsuki Ofuku Ticket information (Japanese) http://www.fujikyu-railway.jp/forms/info/info.aspx?info_id=8611

My Flickr photo set from Mt Takazasu, Mt Syakushi and Mt Shishidome http://www.flickr.com/photos/michelelisa/sets/72157624187603334/

A slideshow of photos from another member of the group I hiked with http://www.m-miyata.jp/yama/Syakusiyama1005.html

Map of hike on GPSies http://www.gpsies.com/map.do?fileId=jvqgzcenfiyrbcmt

Useful Kanji

Fuji Yoshida Station 富士吉田駅
Toriiji Pass (Toriijidouge) 鳥居地峠
Mt Takazasu 高座山
Mt Syakushi 杓子山
Ozasudouge 大権道峠
Mt Shishidome 鹿留山
Nijuumadouge 二十曲峠
Tachinzukadouge 立ノ塚峠
Uchino Bus Stop (Uchino basu tei) 内野バス停
Mt Fuji 富士山
Lake Yamanaka 山中湖
Tokyo Station 東京駅
Shinjuku Station 新宿駅
Otsuki 大月
Takao 高尾
JR Chuo line 中央線
Fujikyuko line 富士急行線
JR Holiday Pass ホリデー・パス
Otsuki Ofuku ticket 大月往復きっぷ
JR Midori no Madoguchi JRみどりの窓口