Never Stop Exploring – Mt Wakasuka

Most people go to Nara to see the deer. After our experience at Mt Daimoji, I didn’t want to get any surprise and this time we studied the location map and determine that there was another mountain behind Nara Park that we can climb – Mt Wakasuka. And while it was not too high – just about 350 metres, apparently there was proper access to the summit. Great!

So after the obligatory photos with the deer at Nara, we made our way to the entrance gate of Mt Wakasuka. There is a small admission fee of Y150 per person.dsc01045

We started our climb via a small flight of stairs flanked by trees with leaves that was turning red. 20161108_112533The stairs ended and became a small path which was very easy to walk. But it was raining and getting cold but all that was forgotten when we reached the first opening from the forest and got this stunning view.20161108_115845

And as the path ended, more and more stunning view emerged. It was all the more beautiful with the fog rolling in.dsc01103

There was this big open area where I would have love to just lie down and roll down – if it wasn’t raining.dsc01076

We reached this place that some website describe as a plateau where there were some signage. I supposed this is the mountain peak?dsc01062

But there was more road to go and so we continued our climb until we came to the top where there was a refreshment kiosk, a toilet, a guard post and a big car park but no view. What a bummer!dsc_2017

There was a road leading down from the car park and so we decided to walk down. After 20 minutes of walking, we felt that it was wrong. According to the map we seen at the entrance, we were suppose to be walking on a trail and not car road. So we decided to back track. By now the rain was getting heavy and we were in our poncho and the camera has been kept.

We reached back the summit and went back down to the plateau where the view has become even more beautiful with the heavy fog. dsc_2026 dsc_2032Thank goodness both our phones are waterproof phones! But visibility was getting bad even though it was only about 11 am and we didn’t waste too much time taking photos.dsc_2036

dsc_2038

And we saw the trail that we should have taken to reach the bottom and it was an easy walk from here on to the bottom. Another off the tourist path outing done and dusted. Wet hike but nonetheless one of the highlight of this trip.

Never Stop Exploring – Mt Daimoji

So there we were happily exploring the many temples along the Philosopher’s Path. We came to this Nanzenji Temple. We didn’t want to pay to go into the temple so we just wandered around the exterior. Somewhere at the back, we came to this forest and there was a trail!

Ting! Our eyes light up!. At that time we didn’t have any idea of where exactly we were and heading to but heck, got trails we trek. And so off we go exploring.

 The initial part of the trail was some gentle slope and staircase.dsc00346

As we go along, the ground became a bit more technical with many roots. But it was still fairly easy to walk on.dsc00347

Subsequently, the trail became a proper dirt path.dsc00357While there wasn’t many people, we did encounter a few hikers. Most of the time we were in the forest and surrounded by trees with nothing much of a view to see what was beyond. Then we came to this trail marker and learnt that we were on Mt Daimoji!dsc_1925

Oh my, a real mountain! We were excited but the board didn’t tell us how far to the summit and it was already mid afternoon. We didn’t want to be caught in the dark in the forest. A lady trail runner came down. First thing I noticed – she wasn’t carrying any water which means it might not be that far away. We managed to ascertain from her in a splattering of English that it will take us another 30 minutes to walk to the summit. Great! So since it was about 3 pm, we figure we had plenty of time.

But after 30 minutes of walking, there was still no summit. Then we met an elderly gentleman who was hiking up. He spoke English! And then the bombshell. He said another hour to the summit! Which means 4.30 pm. And as it get dark at 5 here, we were in a fix. We had no torch and just enough water for a casual stroll not a trek in the dark. But we could smell the summit! So near and yet so far. We took a gamble and decide to push on. And we reach the summit in 15 minutes!20161105_160815

Lesson learnt. Never believe anybody you met on the trails when they tell you it is XXXX distance or XXXX time to a certain point.  God knows I said the same things to a lot of hikers before. Hahaha

So we reached the summit and there was a group of Japanese picnickers having a party. After the customary summit photo – the view was so so only, we decided to descend. dsc_1932

We had taken 2 and a half hours to reach the summit. It was now 4 pm and we figure if we go down the same way, it will be dark, in fact very dark before we reach the bottom. Did I mentioned I had no particular desire to be caught in the dark?  So we asked the Japanese whether there was an alternative way down and it turned out there was. Just 45 easy walk down. They said, pointing to the opposite side from where we had came up from.

So we followed their directions and went down and barely 10 minutes later we came to this place which I shall call the false summit – and it had a stunning view of North Kyoto! 20161105_163232

Although it was only 4 +, the sun was already setting and it was beautiful!dsc00380

And then there was this interesting structure. dsc00389which I found out later was some sort of pit where annually in August during the Obon Festival, it is lighted up in a bonfire and it will form the word “大 “ which can be seen from far far away all over Kyoto. 

Photo from Openkyoto.com

Photo from Openkyoto.com

There were 2 set of steps leading down and we didn’t know which one to take. We got directions from Japanese teen and he told us either one can. dsc00390So we choose the one on the left and walked into a by now rapidly darkening forest. Certain part of it was tricky to navigate and there were ropes to hold on to. But where were the rest of the hikers. When we started our descent from the false summit, there was one fella in front of us and another behind us. But both of them had disappeared. We figured we had taken a wrong turn and decided to back track as we didn’t want to go deeper into the forest. Then we saw another trail marker which pointed to the direction we had went. So we weren’t wrong but it felt so wrong to us. Nevertheless, we decided to soldier on and after 40 minutes of walking in the forest, we finally emerged onto a road which appears to run through the backyard of some houses.

Phew… thank God, it was still bright enough for us to see and we got out just in time.

Back at our apartment, we did a Google search and discovered that there was actually a very much easier 30 minutes climb via the steps from Ginkakuji Temple where we had started our day, and which we should have taken for the descent but somehow missed.

But all well that ends well and at least we got our legs exercised and managed to explore something off the beaten path and climbed a mountain that was 433 metres high – 3 times that of our Bukit Timah Hill.

Running in Kyoto – Kamo River

One of the things I love to do when overseas is to find a nice place to run. Ideally some place where there are no or little traffic and people. Not for me, the crowded sidewalks of Beijing or even Tokyo. In Kyoto, we found a beautiful place to run – alongside the Kamo River.20161109_084001

The Kamo River is like what the Singapore River is. A river that runs through the heart of the city franked both side by roads and buildings and with many bridges over it. In both cases, the authorities have put in much effort to make the riverside a place for people to commute or to just sit and enjoy the view. But this is where the similarities end. Unlike the Singapore River which is a river converted to a concrete drain converted into a beautified waterway, the Kamo River retains much of it original form. One can literally walk right into the river much like what I did here while taking this photo. So unlike the Singapore River which is out of bounds to anyone.dsc_2181

Beside the easy access, the river water is so clean and teeming with ducks, egrets and other birds. dsc_2063

There was also many storyboard like this telling the history of the area. These are mostly located under the many bridges which span the river and protected from the elements.dsc_2204

Our run along the river bank was pleasant enough and we spent a lot of times stopping to take photo. We got lucky and were rewarded with this beautiful rainbow.dsc_2071

The path on the side was a mixture of asphalt and sand/granite mix and straight all the way. There were bridges at regular intervals for vehicles to cross the river and we did not have to stop for traffic or anything else and could just run on and on. There are regular markers along the way indicating the distance between each bridge.20161107_130133

Interestingly, we could choose to cross to the other bank via the many bridges or we could simply cross the river. One could simply wade across since the water level is so low unless it rains or we could cross via some nicely placed “stones” like what this office lady is doing.dsc_2114

And here is a close up of this interesting bridgedsc_2140

And this is M crossing the bridge. Look at how much she has to stretch her leg to leap to the other piece.dsc_2135

Indeed the gap between the stones is rather big and I really admire those people in their working attires who can cross the wet and slippery stones with ease.

We did an easy sightseeing smell flower pace run down or rather up the river until the junction where the Kamo River is joined by the Takano River to form the main Kamo River. dsc_2162

For the past hour or so it has been raining intermittently. We could have love to continue to explore the upper reach of the river but and we were getting cold and so we decided to turn back completing a 12 km run in the process. 

The next time you are in Kyoto, why not go for a run or a stroll or cycle along the Kamo River instead of visiting a shopping mall. You won’t regret it!

Snow Monkey

I always wanted to see the snow monkey. The first time I saw them was at the Ueno Zoo and that was a bit of a disappointment because they looked so miserable.

This time round I went to the Iwatayma Monkey Park at Arashiyama. For me, the highlight of the day must be the Japanese Macaques or Snow Monkey. First time seeing these monkeys up close and not in a cage or enclosures. These are “semi-wild” or “semi-tamed” monkeys much like those we have back in Sg. Not afraid of humans and will snatch food from visitors. They hang around the summit of the visitor centre at the Iwatayama Monkey Park on Arashiyama mountain. The monkeys are free to roam around and not confined to the Monkey Park but hey why want to hunt or gather food when there is food aplenty here from gullible tourist who pays to feed them.

Alert

Alert

Dozing

Dozing

Hopeful

Hopeful

Street Food of Tokyo

Tokyo was not some place where we expected to find street food but we did came across some gems.

Like while stumbling around in Shunjuku one night, we found this back alley where there were a whole lot of small little outlet selling Yakitori and noodles. These are really small outlet like this one here which can only seat at most 6 persons in front of the counter.

There were a few variety of skewered meat wrapped over different sort of vegetables and mushroom.

 

Nothing really spectacular about the food except for the below bowl of curry like food filled with what I believes are the left over from the making of the Yakitori. This was really good. 
Just a short walk away from the above was a soba stall which had a perpetual queue. One reason for the queue was that the place can only sit 8 persons so everybody wait their turn for some one to finish, sit down, order and gulp down the gigantic bowl of noodle and then goes off. 

  

Of course, we being food loving Singaporean, we got to join the queue and wolf down the bowl of noodle despite us just finishing the Yakitori. By the way, the bowl of noodle only cost Y300!

Just before our hotel, there was this little mobile truck selling Sweet Potato. M bought 2 to try. She said they are very soft. I think they have been cooked to death!

At Asakusa, there were stalls after stalls of snack food. Most time we don’t know what they are but that did not stop us from buying everything that looks good which practically mean every stall.

Some sort of pastry which comes in different flavours like green tea and strawberry.

This store had the longest queue

 And the Princess with their produce – a huge polo bun

 Master chef making some sort of hot dog.

And M enjoying it
Another Chef doing something else
And that me with the result.

Not really a lot of street food but what was available was good although I think they are not too healthy. But heck, I will have regretted it forever if I didn’t try any of them!

Mt Fuji

Went to Japan. Wanted to go up Mt Fuji but this is not the season. Couldn’t even get to go to the Fifth level as it was closed due to the snowstorm the previous week. So we ended up just having to do the tourisy thing: we went to this place called Owakudani where we get view Mt Fuji.

And tada! here are the many views of Mt Fuji from different spots in the area