Protected: First Expedition: Meeting Location

June 4, 2010 Enter your password to view comments.

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Yes, Yes, Yes! Oh Yeaaaaaaaaah!

I hope that my excitement will last a little longer than just a few hours but the weather forecast for Saturday has changed again, and if it stays like that, the sun will be shining high in the sky on Saturday.

There is a 10% chance of precipitation. Partly cloudy. Mild. Temperature of 24°C. Winds NE 8km. Humidity will be 41% with a dewpoint of 10° and feels-like temperature of 24°C, according to Japan Meteorological Agency.

For more details see the chart below.

Nevertheless, keep your fringers crossed people!

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Alex Kawano.
Official HE Blog Author

First Expedition: You Spoke, We Listened!

You Spoke, We Listened! The alternative sightseeing spot with most votes is ‘The Ice and Wind Caves in Aokigahara – Mt. Fuji’!

And to give you a little a glimpse of what you might experience this Saturday, I added videos, images and explanations about each spot here.

Narusawa Ice Cave
Narusawa Ice Cave was formed by Lava from Mt.Fuji with average temperatures hanging in the 2.7°C (37°F) throughout the year. The cave is covered with ice 364 days, and icicles are every where you can possibly imagine. One single icicle sometimes grown up 27.4m (90ft.) long and 45cm (1.5ft.) wide. The entire cave is 137m (450ft.). Entrance fee: ¥200 p/person.

Fukagu Wind Cave
Fugaku Wind Cave was also formed by Lava from Mt.Fuji with average temperatures hanging in the 2.7°C (37°F) all year round, making this cave propitious for cold storage of silkworms. It is about 182m (600ft.) length and 8.2m (27ft.) height.
Somehow, there is no echo sound inside it and the walls are all covered with ice. Entrance fee: ¥200 p/person.

Weather Forecast
Quick update on the weather forecast for Saturday, June 5.

Thank you everyone so much for your votes! And I am looking forward to experiencing this trip with you this Saturday! Yay!!

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Alex Kawano.
Official HE Blog Author

First Expedition: Alternative Choices (aka Back Up Plan)

To all participants,

It seems like the Almighty is againt us and it is very likely it will rain this weekend.

In order to make your experience worth the cost, we would like to hear your opnion about what you would prefer to do in the event of rain on June 5.

Our friend YK has come up with a few choices. You will be able to see these choices and vote by accessing the link below.

Click here to cast your vote.

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Alex Kawano.
Official HE Blog Author

First Expedition: Gearing Up For Some Serious Adrenaline

Hello everyone and apologies for the delay to send updates on our first expedition.

As we’re all aware of, preparation is an essential factor for any outdoor adventure (specially this one!) and having the necessary supplies and equipment can make a difference in our overall enjoyment and experience. Due to this reason I will introduce some new information and rephrase a few others previously mentioned in past articles.

— Read it carefully —

Picking-up The Car
The car, a 8-passenger van, will be picked up at 6am on June 5. The car rental*1 is located only a few minutes from Shinjuku Station.

Where We Will All Meet?
We will meet a couple of blocks away from Shinjuku Station*1 at 6.30am. If for reasonable circunstances you cannot make it on time please let us know well before the departure time. Please note that we will be able to wait only until 6.50am.

There’s an old saying that goes, “If you are five minutes early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, then you’ve got a lot of explaining to do.” I couldn’t agree more.

What You Should Bring
When heading out for a hiking trip there are some definite basic items you should bring along and the most important are definitely food and water.

01. Water: Bring at least 2 bottles (500ml) of water but don’t drink it just because you have it. Drink enough to stay hydrated and save what you can in case of an emergency. Remember anything can happen at anytime, don’t assume you won’t need it.

02. Food: We, of course, won’t be able to bring a three course meal with us but try to carry enough energy bars to not only satisfy you for the length of our hiking but also extra to keep you alive for at least a week.

03. Cell phone: Make sure the battery is 100% charged (It might be a good idea to also bring one battery pack that can be easily purchased at any convenience store in Japan. Make sure to check if the plug is compatible with your cell phone model) and if you don’t get a signal the first time, try moving to a different location if possible.

04. Compass: Why a compass? A compass can be very important not only if you get lost but also if you call for help you can then aid rescuers in figuring out where you might be. Remember that technology is dependant on power and can be unpredictable and unreliable but a compass will almost always work (Not sure if that applies for Aokigahara though!).

05. Blanket / Jacket: If you are constantly feeling cold in Tokyo then it might be a good suggestion to bring a small blanket or a very warm jacket. Inside the forest it can get quite cold in the afternoon (or because of the presence of some ghosts) even if it is extremely hot outside.

06. Change of Clothes: Bring at least one change of clothes in case you fall over, trip or slip. You don’t want to scare everybody away on the train with that Sadako (character from the movie ‘The Ring’) looks on you.

07. Hiking Shoes/Boots: This is totally optional and I am not saying that you should buy hiking shoes in case you don’t own one but the protection of your feet needs to be given top priority when hiking. Foot pain or discomfort can quickly take the fun out of hiking, and an injury could prevent you from walking at all. Hiking boots are designed to provide comfort and support for the feet and ankles while walking on rough and wet ground as in Aokigahara. Wearing them will significantly reduce the wear and tear on your feet and minimize the risk of an injury.

Costs
On this trip we will share costs for the car rent (incl. insurance), gasoline (round trip), toll (round trip) which must be paid by the end of the trip.

Car Rent ¥20,160 (1-day hire / insurance incl.)
Gas ¥10,000*2
Toll ¥ 6,400*2 (round trip)
Total ¥36,560*2
Total p/ Person
(with 8 participants)
¥ 4,570*2
Total p/ Person
(with 9 participants)
¥ 4,062*2
+ Personal Expenses ¥ 3,000

Please note that all spots were confirmed last week and if you cancel now or don’t show up on the day, you will still be liable to pay for your share.

Hiking can be fun and exciting but it can also be dangerous if we are ill prepared. A few rules we should hike by are to always tell someone where you are heading to and when they should expect you to return.

As for me, I am also gearing myself up with possibly every single thing to ensure the safety of every participant. Please mind yourselves that we will still head out to Aokigahara even if it rains.

If there is something you were not able to understand and/or wish to make a suggestion, please feel free to write it using the comment box below.

Looking forward to seeing you all next Saturday.

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Alex Kawano.
Official HE Blog Author

*1 For security reasons, I will send the location details to each participant by e-mail.
*2 Estimated costs. The final cost might differ slightly.

Rainy Season 2010: Places You Must Visit Top 5 – No.1

This article was written by me for BiOS Blog on May 27, 2010.

Today we will introduce the no.1 in the Top 5 list of places to visit during the rainy season in Japan.

Koyasan (Mount Koya)

History:
The original Mt. Koya monastery was founded in 816 by Kobo-Daishi, the great sage and exponent of the Shingon Esoteric sect of Buddhism. Kobo-Daishi traveled in China until 805 and reportedly spent 30 years in meditation at the present site of Okunoin. Many of the Japanese pilgrims that visit Mt. Koya each year believe Kobo-Daishi, also known as Kukai, is just resting in his tomb here and waiting to be reborn.

Koyasan is located in an alpine basin that is 800 meter high and measures six kilometers from east to west and three kilometers north to south. One Koysan-based monk told the Daily Yomiuri, “Kobo Daishi selected Koyasan as the [ultimate] ashram for his mediation because it was a place where he could feel the connection between the sky and the earth…The basin is surrounded by two circles of mountains, and the inner and outer circles have eight peaks each. The area resembles a lotus flower”—an important Buddhist symbol.

At the height of its power in the 15th century, Mt. Koya contained 1,500 monasteries and thousands of monks. In the 16th century, shoguns, who felt threatened by the monks, ordered the slaughter of large numbers of monks. In the 17th century, the economic power of the monasteries was broken. Many temples were destroyed and religious leaders were banished. In the Edo period much of the land belonging to the monasteries was confiscated.

Women were prohibited from entering Mt. Koya until 1872. But not long after that monks were allowed to wed. In 2004, Koya was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Where is it?
Mt. Koya-san is located in the northeastern part of Wakayama and is in Koya-Ryujin Quasi-National Park.

Where to visit:
Okunoin Temple is where the body of Kobo Daishi is enshrined. Around the temple are thousands of tombs filled with ashes of the dead (or their hair) ready to be brought back to life when Kobo Daishi is reborn.

The Lantern Hall is the main hall. It contains thousands of burning lamps, including two lamps that are said to have been burning for 900 years. Behind the hall is the closed mausoleum of Kobo Daishi, where it said the sage achieved enlightenment. Nearby at the Mimyo-no-hashi bridge you can see people ladling water over the Jizo statues as an offering to the dead.

Cemetery Around Okunoin Temple is one of Mt. Koya’s greatest attractions. It embraces beautiful shrines and temples and 300,000 tombs are found. Some of the tombs are quite grand and impressive-looking. belonging to important samurai, noblemen, shogun, poets and religious leaders. Some date back to the 12th and 13th century. The historical figures Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582) and Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1537-1598) are buried here.

A two kilometer path winds through the cemetery which is shaded by massive, old cedars and umbrella pines and lit at night by stone lanterns. Near the large parking lot there is a space-ship-shipped tomb dedicated to the employees of a an aerospace company. According to Lonely Plant. there is also a monument dedicated to a white ant produced by a pesticide company to assuage its guilt for killing millions of insects.

Reiho-kan Museum houses old implements, paintings, scrolls, mandalas and statues. Particularly noteworthy are the scroll Reclining Image of Sakyamuni Buddha on His Last day and The Eight Guardian Deities and the wonderfully expressive wooden sculptures by Unkei and Kaikei, both of whom worked in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Kongobuji Temple is the head temple for the Shingon sect of Buddhism. It contains one room with lovely screen paintings of willows and another room where Toyotomi Hideoyishi committed seppeku (ritual suicide). The temple owns the oldest colored mandala in Japan: an 850-year-old mandala known as the Chi Mandala, which is comprised of two works. The Realm of Kongokai and The Realm of Taizokoai. Each is made of seven pieces of silk and measures 4.27 by 3.94 meters. The mandalas are very fragile and rarely shown. They were recently recreated using high computers, fluorescent X-ray imaging and ultraviolet beams and other high tech methods.

Where to stay overnight:
Koyasan is also one of the best places to experience an overnight stay at a temple lodging (shukubo) where you can get a taste of a monk’s lifestyle, eating vegetarian monk’s cuisine (shojin ryori) and attending the morning prayers. Around fifty temples offer this service to both pilgrims and visitors, known as shukubō in Japanese.

Prices vary between ¥9,000 and ¥15,000 per night and include two meals. You will be offered the opportunity to join in the morning prayer session, a hypnotic experience involving sutra chanting, incense and gongs. Note that not all temples are set up to handle visitors who don’t speak Japanese.

• Jimyoin
Located in the center of Mt. Koya and convenient for sightseening. Quiet temple lodging surrounded by large garden. Enjoy the bath with heated natural water carried from the crystral stream in the mountain behind the temple.

• Daienin
A fairly typical temple, centrally located (walking distance to both ends of town) and run by a friendly bunch of monks.

• Koyasan Onsen Fukuchi-in
The natural hot springs of Koya-san are available only at this hotel and are open 24 hours a day. Only vegetarian dishes are served here, and the meals, which feature seasonal ingredients, are painstakingly planned and prepared by the head chef with a different course every month. from ¥22.000.

While the monks don’t drink, alcohol is available to guests at dinner, and perhaps even from a vending machine. Temples have set hours at which the front gate is opened and closed, and the time the bath is available. This curfew can be as early as 9 PM, so don’t expect to head out after dinner — although you’ll want to go to bed early anyway if you want to attend the morning prayers around 5 AM!

How to access:
The mountain is accessible primarily by the Nankai Electric Railway from Namba Station in Osaka to Gokurakubashi Station at the base of the mountain.
A cable car from Gokurakubashi then whisks visitors to the top in 5 minutes. The entire trip takes about 1.5 hours on an express train or 2 hours by non-express. Traffic by vehicle can be terrible on weekends until well into the evening. On weekdays, the mountain offers a pleasant drive followed by the excitement upon reaching the monasteries lining the summit.

For more information visit www.shukubo.jp/eng

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Alex Kawano.
Official HE Blog Author

Rainy Season 2010: Places You Must Visit Top 5 – No.2

This article was written by me for BiOS Blog on May 26, 2010.

Today we will introduce the no.2 in the Top 5 list of places to visit during the rainy season in Japan.

Urami No Taki (Urami Waterfalls)

Urami waterfall is one of the three great waterfalls in Nikko and it is located in the upstream of Arasawa stream, which is the branch of Daiya River. Because it is located in the valley, it is very quiet and cool even in summer. It has 20m (66 ft.) high, and 2m (6 ft.) width. There are several unnamed waterfalls around the fall, and on the way to the fall.

Not many people visit this fall during the monsoons in Japan. So, you can enjoy a quiet and relaxing moment here. Until 1902, visitors were allowed to access the areas behind the fall, but there was a minor rock fall in that year and the access was closed.

Japanese famous poet, Matsuo Basho visited this fall and made a poem. You may come up with your very own poem while there.

How to get there:
Nikko is located about 125 kilometers north of Tokyo and makes a good one or two day trip from Tokyo.

• From Asakusa Station
The Tobu terminal station in Tokyo for trains to Nikko is Tobu Asakusa Station, which can be accessed by subway (Ginza and Asakusa Subway Lines).

There are hourly rapid trains between Asakusa and Nikko, which take about two hours and cost 1320 yen one way. In the morning and afternoon, there are also a few limited express trains (all seats reserved), called “Kegon”, which only take 105 minutes, but are twice as expensive as the rapid trains.

• From Shinjuku Station
Direct limited express trains, cooperated by Japan Railways (JR) and Tobu Railways, connect JR Shinjuku Station with Tobu Nikko Station. The one way journey takes two hours and costs ¥3,900. All seats are reserved.

• From Tokyo or Ueno Statioon:
Take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen to Utsunomiya Station and transfer to the JR Nikko Line. With a good connection at Utsunomiya, the one way trip takes about 100 minutes. Due to its high cost (about ¥5000 one way), this option is probably only attractive to holders of the Japan Rail Pass.

For more information about Nikko visit:
www.nikko-jp.org

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Alex Kawano.
Official HE Blog Author