(皇居, Kōkyo) Walk to the Imperial Palace and around, Tokyo Japan

If you know Tokyo very well it might be fun to try walking around using google maps instead of riding the trains. Yes you can say that trains are more convenient and you can call me crazy, but lately all I have been doing is walking to places. From our place in Shinjuku-ku to the Imperial palace or from here to Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and even all the way to Ueno. For a girl who was raised in a car society (Manila), I really enjoy the amount of walking that I could get done here in Japan. The first three days might be a pain but soon you`ll get used to it too and find that the feeling of walking is so nice.

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I still got to see some of the Sakura flowers around the imperial palace.

So this was probably 4 days ago but I decided to google maps my way to the Imperial Palace which was only 1hour and 4 mins away from our place by walking. Since It would take me about 20 mins by train, I thought why not just walk. It`s just going to be another 40 mins anyway and I had a lot of time on my hands.

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I also got to see Odette of swan lake. There are tons of turtles too.

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In case you want to know when the palace is open here is a schedule. The one on the right is in English.

Watch out though for tourists. I don`t want to generalize the Chinese too much… I don`t hate them but I hate the chinese tourists that I met. They threw trash on the palace grounds, spat on the ground and they even bumped me along the path when there was still space next to us. It was just a little crowded so I just made sure to stay away from the crowds and stick to my own path. It was pretty refreshing. I would encourage everyone to take a walk here or even just to sit down by the palace. There are many people both Japanese, and tourists ( and its nice to people watch, I love to people watch : and not in a stalker kinda way if you know what I mean )

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猫カフェきゃりこ (Calico, Cat Cafe), Shinjuku Tokyo

My grandma and I saw this when we were on the bus on the way to Shinjuku. The building is a little hard to spot and if you can’t read Japanese you won’t really be able to see the sign. It says 猫カフェきゃりこ on its windows. You’ll have to look up the buildings to be able to see the sign.

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This is the ground floor of the building.

The cat cafe itself is located on the 5th floor but the entrance is located on the 6th floor of the building. Maybe you could find it if you google maps it. I know that Japan is filled with many cat cafe`s and its not exactly cheap but a good place to relax with some cats. If you are a cat lover such as myself, not exactly something I would try to do everyday or else ill be broke. It’s ¥1200 per hour and if you want to buy food and drinks its ¥200 for all the drinks and ¥300-500 for the food here. The food you can give to the cats is ¥300, I suggest that you just get this if you want to be able to touch a lot of cats. Since there are a lot of rules on handling their cats.

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The 5th floor where most of the cats are and where you could drink coffee and tea

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Heres another view of the place. Its pretty big and at the time we went there, there were about 30 people.

Good service here and I noticed that their staff could speak english so you won’t have problems here in the cat cafe. I love the style of seating they have and the food choices were good too. My grandma and I just got chai tea and iced coffee, and by the time we got the food snacks the cats were swarming all over us.

The chai tea and iced coffee, ¥200 each

The chai tea and iced coffee, ¥200 each

Sleepy kitty

Sleepy kitty

Another sleepy kitty

Another sleepy kitty

Something you could try if you are along the streets of Shinjuku or if you are staying around Shinjuku. There are many things that you could do around the area so you need not go for to look for something interesting to do. Although it is easy to get lost in Shinjuku train stations so i would suggest that you look up the place first before coming here. Getting on a bus would be the best idea if you would like to come here and get down on Shinjuku Eki Mae. Enjoy!

猫カフェきゃりこ (Calico, Cat Cafe), Shinjuku Tokyo

Check out their website: Calico Cat Cafe 

黒部ダム Kurobe Dam and Tateyama Alpine route

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黒部ダム Kurobe dam is one of Japans biggest Dams which is found in the eastern part of Japan. It takes about 4 hours by 2 bullet trains to get there from Tokyo. To get to the dam itself you even have to take a bus, tram and walk about a few 700 steps up and this is the view that you get once you reach the very top. Breathtaking.

ImageNow before you get to the top of the mountain you must first try their train at the bottom of the mountain. This will take you to a lot of maple trees and  beautiful views of the dam and lake.

ImageThen heading up the rope-way you would see that the view outside is changing from Autum to Winter. There is more snow to be seen and the temperature drops colder than it was at the bottom of the mountain. The travel time up takes about 45 mins and be sure to check their schedule before heading up the mountain because there are a limited number of trams.

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VIEW FROM THE TOP. This is the view you get when you reach the end of the tram and you will also reach the only hotel which is up there in the mountain connected to the tram. It is the highest hotel in Japan according to them, and it is also an Onsen! There is even a rotenburo (Open air ofuro) for those who are brave enough to get into the cold and take a hot bath.

SONY DSC  There is a walking tour of the place around the hotel. So i would suggest for you to take that. Make sure that you have shoes that are good for snow. There are also spiked shoes  SONY DSC SONY DSCthat one can borrow at the hotel but you have to be early since everyone would want to try the hiking tour and its not always that you get to do that because the snow is pretty deep.

The picture at the bottom shows the hotel from behind us. People go up this alpine route to see the famous sunrise. An hour hike in the morning and you could see it beautifully rising. But I was not able to do this because it would have required me to wake up at 4am and the snow was too deep when we went here.

SONY DSC SONY DSC SONY DSCHeading down the mountain would take about another bus ride and a few stops plus riding another rope-way. On the way down we took a few short side trips to the mountain view of Tateyama.

Then when we got to the bottom we took another train to Unazuki Onsen where we stayed the night. The next day we took another tram going around the place. The tram is open air which is nice except it was too cold! My sister and I were freezing. Thankfully on the way home the tram was closed. If not I would have frozen to death. The tram though has a beautiful view of more Kouyou (Red autums leaves) and more dams and lakes. The view here is breathtaking.

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If you ever get the chance to come here. Do not miss out on the onsen and their ramune ice cream! I personally love the different ice cream flavors that they serve in Japan because I am an ice cream lover. Taking the alpine route was a great decision although if you have a lot more time than my family and I did, take more time. We did this all in 5 days which is pretty jam packed but worth it. Another 4 hour shinkansen ride home and we were back to Tokyo. Hope that you try this alpine route out! I heard that the best time to go here is during spring when the flowers bloom and on February when there is a lot of snow.

Side trips from Tokyo: Karuizawa Ski Resort (軽井沢町)

1521892_10202813804217095_824266896_n軽井沢町 (Karuizawa Machi), If you are ever looking for another short side trip from Tokyo and you want to learn how to ski then Karuizawa prince hotel ski resort is the place for you. We left Tokyo at around 6am and we got to the hotel at 8am. On the way there we stopped to eat breakfast and if you would want to ride the lifts at the ski resort then I suggest that you buy the lift pass (lifto kenn) at 711 where it is sold a little cheaper than it is at the resort.

We applied for half day lessons (which cost us about 8 thousand yen per person) the only problem is if you are a for1560635_10202813800497002_1995728252_neigner who cannot speak Japanese then you should request for a teacher who can speak a little English. My brother and I got one who could speak a little English for my brother. He was a very good instructor. There are also many people here during the holidays so I suggest you go here during the non holiday seasons.

1525742_10202813802737058_1567073855_nThere is also another way to get here besides by car. Since our uncle was able to bring us to Karuizawa and we were able to borrow all of the ski wear at the resort we did not have a hard time whatsoever. However if you do not have a car you could come here by bus or better yet by train. On the way home, traffic was really bad even if we left at 4pm. So I would suggest the train if you are in for the convenience of getting to the ski resort. The resort is also a good shopping area! I noticed that a lot of foreigners go here for a little morning ski and then they go out in the night to go shopping at the many outlet stores that are right next to the resort.

1524811_10202812915914888_443719864_nSo if you are looking for a very short side trip out of Tokyo. Karuizawa is another place to go to.  Snow is like gold to people such as me who live in the Philippines where it is summer all year round. This is a fun place to go to and to ski for a little while.

Side trips from Tokyo: Hakone Park (富士箱根伊豆国立公園)

Early this year we went to 富士箱根伊豆国立公園 (Fuji Hakone Izu Kokuritsu Koen) Fuji Hakone Izu National park. It is absolutely beautiful here and If you are looking for a very short but good side trip from Tokyo, Hakone is the place to go to!

58995_10202794795021877_71131521_n.jpgWe left at 9am and we took the Romance car from Shibuya which cost us about 22000 Yen together with the Hakone Free Pass. I would suggest that you buy the free pass at Shibuya as I heard that it is cheaper to buy it here. It is only a 2 hour train ride away from Tokyo and on the way to Hakone we saw Mt. Fuji from the train. Hakone is very cold. So if you are weak to the cold I suggest that you bring your gloves and mufflers for extra protection.

1525021_10202794798141955_1577550600_n When we got there we followed the route going around Hakone. We took the trail going to the Jinja shrine, The Kaizokuban River cruise and then we took the ropeway up the mountain where the famous Onsen Tamago is made in Owakudani. Take long stops on top of the mountain because there are many things to do such as eat the Onsen Tamago and you could see Mt. Fuji too from the mountain. Although we only stayed for a day, we hope to come back again so that we could tour some more. Since we lacked so much time in going around Hakone.

On the way down the mountain we were already rushing since our train was at 545pm. If you are to go to Hakone I noticed what people do here is stay at a hotel 1555387_10202794797021927_110126407_nnear the mountain so that they stop there and then on the next day they go back down the mountain and tour the sites on the way down. A day is enough to go around Hakone, however if we did have 2 days I would think that we would have seen more things. We were really in a rush and most of the time i was looking at my watch for the time, Its a good thing that everything in Japan is on time so we had no problem even if we were running late. But if you would like to enjoy the whole of Hakone then I would suggest that you stay here overnight to better appreciate this beautiful small town.