Sunday, April 26, 2015

Getting Lost in Akihabara

Akihabara is known as the place-to-be for all modern tech and gadgets. A lot of people go here to buy cellphones, tablets, computers and other gadgets for very low prices. Also, if one wants to see cosplayers and other anime-related stuff, Akihabara is a paradise. 

Aside from the gadgets and cosplayers, Akihabara is also the home to a lot of maid cafes where, as the name implies, the servers are dressed as maids and call the customers as master or mistress. I've never been inside one, but I heard it's just like in the mangas and anime. :)

Akihabara Electric Town
Anyway, I went to Akihabara for the same reason as many foreigners do. But after two hours of walking around and going from one shop to the next, I got tired of seeing all these modern stuff and yearned for something a little simpler. So I started walking to the direction (don't worry, I had a map) which have less people, and I found this:

Kanda Myojin Shrine
This is the Kanda Myojin Shrine which, according to history, houses three major deities: DaikokutenEbisu, and Taira no Masakado. Many businessmen come to Kanda Shrine to pray for properity. What interests me most in this place are the ema or wooded plaques, where people write their prayers and hang them around sacred trees. 

Ema tablets with cool drawings.. :)
I also tried one of the Dancing Dragon fortune. :)

Dancing Dragon
my fortune.. <3
fortunes tied around a sacred tree
Afterwards, as I was looking around the temple, I saw some people gathering near the restaurant. There was a wedding parade! And I was lucky enough to see it. Three years ago, Divina and I also witnesses 2 weddings at Meiji Jingu Shrine. I really do like how they do their weddings, so traditional and solemn. The bride, groom and principal sponsor all wore traditional Japanese clothing, while the other guests were wearing cocktail dresses and black-tie.

attending strangers' wedding.. hehehe
Too bad it's not allowed to take photos inside the honden (main temple), but I did get some nice architectural photos of the temple and its details. 

It started raining again after a while, so I started my way back to the station. On the way, I saw a cafe that I think my friends will really like. XD

hehehe.. :)

So, that is how I spent my Sunday rest. If anyone wants to see the Kanda Myojin Shrine, it is located at 2-16-2, Soto-KandaChiyoda,Tokyo 101-0021, just 10 minutes walk from Akihabara Electric Town. You can get a map from the station, but the Kanda Shrine will be just a tiny dot in the map. Nevertheless, the tiny dot sure made my day and my walk so very worthwhile.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Hanami at Fujimori Park (Hachioji)

Hanami, or flower viewing, is a Japanese tradition wherein people come and watch cherry blossom (sakura) trees in full bloom. They would have picnics and small parties under the shade of the sakura trees. People all over Japan, and sometimes other countries as well, wait carefully for the forecast since the blooms only last a week to ten days.

Since I found out that I will be coming to Japan again this year, I've looked forward to experience either my first snow or first hanami. Unfortunately, the schedule they gave me was for April until June, so there is no chance of seeing snow (which happens between January and February). I hoped and hoped that I'll get in time at least to see the sakura blooms.

So, here I am now in Tachikawa again, but before I got here, my boss and his wife accompanied me to see the sakura trees in full bloom at Fujimori Park in Hachioji. It was such a magical moment for me, and I felt like I was in an anime. I didn't get to take a lot of picture since my hands were frozen from the cold (11 degree Celsius) but I tried to preserve the moment in my mind.

Here are some of the pictures I was able to capture:
Fujimori Park

Sakura Trees with Japanese lanterns

one of the game stalls lining the walkway

Sakura in bloom

people having picnics under the sakura trees

one of the food stalls (oden)
We only stayed for a short while, but I really did enjoy those few moments. Too bad I can't bring home a branch. XD Oh well, at least I get to cross off one item in my bucket list. Looking forward to more Japanese adventures! <3

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Idiot's Guide to Pico de Loro

We are not professional climbers, but when an opportunity for an adventure beckons, we try to answer positively. Last February, Ivy invited Hannah and Pau for a "hike" at Mt. Palay-Palay Pico de Loro. When they told me, I invited myself to tag along (hahahah!). So, on March 8, we went on to our first out of town trip. Little did we know, we were getting more than we bargained for. Read here for the whole details. :)

So, for other beginners like us, we have compiled the following list as tips and guides for your own adventure. We learned some of these things the hard way, so we hope that we can help others avoid some of the problems we encountered.

1) Do your research. If you have never climbed anything before, better use Google and search about Mt. Palay-Palay and its surrounding land. You should definitely do some meditation before taking on this "beginner" mountain as it is the most difficult peak for first-time climbers.

2) Dress appropriately. Shirt and jeans are okay. If you want to wear shorts, at least wear leggings - there are a lot of rocks, tree roots and other things that could scrape you as you walk. Try to avoid skirts (which Pau wore, but with leggings) as it is very windy near the top, and white clothes (like Hannah's pants) unless you're okay with it turning brown. Also, bring change of clothes. You will perspire - a lot, and you will be dusty and uncomfortable; so you need something to change into after your hike. As for shoes, rubber shoes are good, as long as you are comfortable. If you have soccer shoes (with spikes), that would be better for those slippery soil and rocks.

3) Warm up your arms and legs before hiking. This is something we should have done, but we didn't (hahahaha!). The years we spent sitting down in school and in the office had finally taken their toll on our bodies, so you definitely need to do some stretching at the base camp before climbing. Just a few warm up exercises will do just so your muscles won't strain too much.

4) Bring food and water - lots of water. Trust me, you'll need lots and lots of water. Also, maybe some crackers or candy as you go up the trail. You'll need the energy for at least 2 1/2 hours climb (depending on your pace). Bring your own trash bag and don't leave any garbage. If you don't want to bring food, that's also okay. Before the first peak, there is another camp site wherein you can buy food and drinks. Just be sure to bring lots of money as their prices are as steep as the mountain itself. But then again, to bring those products up there was hard enough, so they do deserve some compensation.

5) Be there early. If you want to do a day hike, be there as early as possible. I think it's better to climb up at sunrise than climb down at sunset. Also, be courteous to your fellow climbers - a smile and greeting can do a lot of wonders.

6) Gear up. On the other hand, if you wish to watch the sunrise at the peak, maybe you can climb up in the afternoon and rest at the first peak camp site. Just bring sleeping bags, tents, ropes and flashlight. The ropes you can use during the ascend to climb those steep areas. Bring utensils for eating, sunblock, first aid and maybe some hygienic products. You don't want to greet a fellow climber with morning breath, that would not be a good morning.

7) Be aware of your surroundings. It's not so bad to look back once in a while. There is only one trail (as the other one was closed down), but the view going up is quite different when you're going down. If you have cameras, you can take some picture of the path just so you won't be confused afterwards. There are also markers along the trail, so be aware and take note of these things especially if it's dark.

8) Have your soundtrack. Having some music can help with the climb as singing helps stimulate breathing. It can also motivate you as you question yourself and sanity on climbing this mountain. Just keep it at a reasonable volume, as well as your singing voice. Some people may not appreciate your taste in music

9) Accept a guide's help. We almost didn't. Some of our companions were climbers so we thought we don't need a guide anymore. But the guy was persistent, so we let him help us - which actually saved our lives. The first peak is windy without any shades and covers, so the loose soil will eventually fly into your eyes. The guides know where to step on the loose path, so they can help you climb even with your eyes squinting so hard, they're already close. Be generous to those who helped you.

10) Have fun! Yes the climb is hard, and you have lots of stuff on your back, but the point of the climb is to have fun with friends and strangers. Enjoy the fresh air and listen to the birds singing. Try washing your hands on the cold stream and experience the beauty of nature. Meet new friends and maybe you can plan another hike somewhere much easier. Leave all the stress behind and focus on your self for once. Life is too short, enjoy it as much as you can.

So, there you have it! Hope this long article can help someone out there. Maybe us thychronicles girls will have another chance to climb other peaks and we can use some of our hard earned lessons from Pico de Loro. It was hard, but it was fun, and very much worth. :)

thychronicles at Pico de Loro (Mt. Palay-Palay)
P.S. Be sure to have the day after the hike as rest day, you're going to need it. :)

The first hike at Mt. Palay-Palay

A couple of weeks ago, Ivy invited Hannah and I to a hike with her office mates to Mt. Palay-Palay/Pico de Loro. As the only "beach" queen/butanding (I think) in our group of friends, of course I was hesitant to go. But seeing my mountain enthusiast friends excited and not wanting this opportunity to pass - I reluctantly agreed. We mentioned the trip to Ruth during last month's PIID meeting, in which she found it interesting and asked Ivy if she could come too. The last person to come with us was of course my boyfriend, his reasoning was that he was unsure about me and the mountains. So 4/6 of thychronicles went on an adventure ~

"Mt. Palay-palay or Pico de Loro is a dormant mountain located in the Cavite province. The mountain rises to an elevation of 664 m (2,178 ft) above mean sea level." -source It is one of the most popular mountains in the area, the other being Mt. Marami. One of the unique aspects of the mountain is the Parrot's beak at the peak - which is an optional climb for experienced rock climbers. Travel time may take around 2-3 hours from Manila, depending on transportation.