On August 12, 2016 I set off from Tokyo motivated and determined to achieve a very spiritual goal, to climb to the summit of Mt. Fuji, the highest elevated mountain peak in Japan. Mt. Fuji is a 3,776 meter (12,388 ft) high active volcanic mountain, which last erupted in 1707. Despite not having erupted in over 3 centuries, scientists and researchers believe it’s due. In September of 2012, a report was released highlighting that Mt Fuji’s magma chamber pressure had risen to a worrisome 1.6 megapascals, which is estimated to be higher than when it last erupted. However, those discouraging numbers are neither here nor there to the many that attempt to scale the volcanic mountain yearly during the official climbing season from July to September. Off season climbing is permissible, however cold weather, snow, high winds, and a lack of mountain station support have often lead to accidents and tragedies.
Due to the number of websites and blogs providing information about climbing Mt. Fuji, I won’t get into the technical details about how to climb it, but rather gloss over my experience a little. Mt. Fuji is accessible by many forms of transportation, I took a 2-3 hour bus from Tokyo Station to the popular local town of Kawaguchiko. This small town is popular because of its proximity to Mt. Fuji and for its beautiful view points of the famed Japanese holy mountain. A view of Mt. Fuji reflecting from Lake Kawaguchiko is a highly sought after picture if you’re lucky enough to capture it with cooperating weather. On my trip to Kawaguchiko, I arrived with no hiking gear so I rented all my necessary equipment for a set price of 10,200 yen ($100.00 USD) from a local shop near the station. After which, I took a 1-hour local bus to the Fuji Subaru Line, 5th Station located at an altitude of 2300 meters. The Fuji Subaru Line, 5th Station in Yamanashi Prefecture is the furthest accessible point up Mt. Fuji by bus or car and is a popular point for sightseeing, souvenir shopping and leisurely viewing of the UNESCO World Heritage site up close. Moreover, it is home to the starting point for the Yoshida Trail, the most popular base for a climb to the summit.
It is recommended before beginning your ascent up the mountain to take 1-hour to acclimate yourself to the altitude. I began my hike at approximately 6pm with my goal to reach the summit before sunrise, which was shortly prior to 5am. As I began my hike, feeling as prepared as possible, I noticed many people from around the world that took a more casual approach to the hike. A lack of preparation, especially in terms of proper hiking shoes and warm clothes can make the difference between success and failure to put it mildly. Mt. Fuji should not be underestimated and requires planning and preparation, both mentally and physically. Do not attempt to do it on a whim! Most people will list the climb manageable between 6-7 hours, which I think is meant to be encouraging to promote the climb. However, I think 7-8 hours is a more realistic time frame, which I completed on the latter side of my approximation. For those feeling unsure of their ability to climb without a safety net, there are several mountain huts available for refuge. However, do not expect to walk-in and be sold on their minimal accommodations for rest they offer, reservations are more than likely required. These huts are expensive and personally, I don’t recommend them if you are looking to rest for less than 2-3 hours, I suggest you take breaks outside around the stations and keep going if you’re up for it.
After reaching the original 8th Station Tomoe-Kan mountain hut by midnight, the distance to the summit was listed as being only 376 meters more and is estimated to be only 1-hour further. However, due to several factors including exhaustion and the increasing difficulty of the climbing terrain, I started to slow down because the goal was to reach the peak by sunrise and regardless of my pace, I was going to be waiting more than an hour or two at the summit. On this last solo leg up the mountain, I made friends with three guys from the Philippines, Brazil, and Ireland – we bonded in the solidarity of being completely exhausted. One of the guys was suffering from a very bad case of altitude sicknesses. Fortunately, the altitude didn’t affect me, probably because I’m of Tibetan blood. Lhasa, the capital of Tibet lies at almost the same altitude as the summit of Mt. Fuji – a nugget of information I enjoy sharing which defines why Tibet is commonly referred to as the ‘Roof of the World’… After reaching the summit shortly after 2am Saturday morning, it was only a matter of time before the sunrise. As the clock ticked slowly in our frigid conditions, all eyes on the summit were locked on the dim horizon. As seconds became minutes, the glow of the horizon began illuminating ever so slowly. The anticipation of mother nature waking up has never been so surreal. All my symptoms of fatigue had been forgotten as the seconds ticked and the sun slowly began to rise. This grueling climb likening to heavy metal music pounding on my body had turned into a classical orchestra slowly reaching its long anticipated crescendo. As the horizon slowly lit up and the sun began to rise, I soon witnessed the most pristine sunrise I have ever seen in my entire life.
Note: For a link to all my pictures from this trip see my Mt. Fuji 2016 One Drive album
When visiting Tokyo, a must visit tourist attraction is the Tokyo Skytree, the largest tower in the world. At 634 meters (2,080 feet), the Tokyo Tower is absolutely the best place in Tokyo to get a 360 panoramic view of the city. The tower is the primary television and broadcast site for the Kanto region, however its actual purpose is often overshadowed by simply being an observation tower with an amazing view of the city. Although advance tickets are available for purchase, I don’t recommend you buy them. Advance tickets will no doubt guarantee a day and time reserved ticket, however there are no guarantees for clear skies. It is absolutely necessary to visit on a nice day if you are at all interested in capturing the moment. Lastly, there is a Fast Skytree Ticket Counter for international visitors for a shorter wait, but be aware it costs slightly more and may be unnecessary if the standard lines are not busy, take a look around and evaluate the value before purchasing. Don’t forget to bring your passport in order to take advantage of the international perk.
For more information in English: http://lang.tokyo-skytree.jp/en/
The beauty of visiting Seattle for domestic or international travelers is its close proximity to another foreign country, Canada. Getting up to see our friendly maple syrup loving neighbors up north can easily be assessable by car, bus, or a speed-ferry – as I like to affectionately describe it. Clipper Vacations offer a number of sightseeing tour options to Victoria, B.C., Canada, including overnight and day-trip accommodations by ferry, which moves as fast and can be as choppy as a speed boat be aware. My parents and I took the day-trip from Seattle to Victoria in the summer of 2016. The 3-hour boat ride departs Seattle early in the morning and leaves Victoria in the late evening. Included in their 200 USD day-trip option to Victoria, B.C. is a visit to The Butchart Gardens, one of Victoria’s most popular attractions. The Butchart Gardens were founded in 1904 when 55 acres of abandoned lime quarry was transformed into a stunning sunken garden with seasonal floral displays, all done in the Victorian tradition. This convenient Butchart Gardens tour picks you up upon arrival at the Victoria Clipper terminal and you are shown the city highlights on your way to The Butchart Gardens. The tour provides a couple hours to independently explore the Gardens, followed by a ride back to Victoria’s Inner Harbour allowing ample time to explore the many beautiful inner harbour sights.
For more information: Victoria Day Trip With The Butchart Gardens
Note: For a link to all my pictures from this trip see my Victoria Island, B.C. Canada 2016 One Drive album
Seattle is home to 7th largest Japanese-American community in the United States with over 30,000 residents. Japanese immigration into the Seattle community dates back to the mid-1880s and to this day their presence is woven into the fabric of pacific north-western culture. Every year, the Japanese-American community in Seattle celebrate Bon Odori, a traditional summer festival in which the Japanese honor their ancestors who have passed on, remember and appreciate all they have done, and celebrate their ongoing presence in the lives they enjoy today. Also known as Obon, the festival is an official Seafair event held at the Seattle Betsuin Buddhist Temple. The festival is highlighted by traditional music and street dancing in a giant oval. Many festival attendees can be seen dressed in Japanese kimonos, yukatas, or happi coats. The event also features Japanese food booths and refreshments, taiko and martial arts performances, craft exhibits and demonstrations. The festival is usually held over two days and evenings in mid-July, and is a great opportunity for people from all walks of life to share in the traditions and culture of Japanese-Americans living in Seattle.
For more information visit: Seattle Buddhist Temple website
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Mt. Ranier National Park is an icon of Washington state’s landscape and a symbol of beauty accentuating the backdrop of Seattle’s skyline. Ascending to 14,410 feet above sea level, it was established on March 2, 1899 as the fifth national park in the United States. Mt. Ranier is an active volcano and is the most glaciated peak in the United States, spawning six major rivers. With over 25 glaciers, the mountain is often shrouded in clouds that dump enormous amounts of rain and snow on the peak every year, which often makes it difficult to get that perfect picture when visiting. Despite those odds, I was able to get a few nice shots as I spent one night camping in the park with friends!
Incidentally, Mt. Ranier has a sister-mountain relationship with Mt. Fuji, the most famous mountain in all of Japan. More than a hundred years ago, many Japanese immigrated to Seattle, Washington. It is written when they saw Mt. Rainier for the first time, they were amazed by the mountain’s shape and sacredness, which looked very similar to their beloved Mt. Fuji. Therefore, they nicknamed Mt. Rainier “Tacoma-Fuji” for a long time with a feeling of nostalgia and respect.
In 1935, a National Park friendship started between the two countries, and on April 30, 1936 a sister-mountain relationship became official. To commemorate the occasion they exchanged rocks from each other’s mountains. The rock from Mt. Fuji has been displayed at the entrance of the Headquarters of Mt. Rainier National Park. It was presented in a wood box made from the “sakura” or cherry tree, which is the unofficial Japanese national flower. Likewise, the rock from Mt. Rainier is displayed at Mt. Fuji’s visitor center in Yamanashi, Japan.
For more information about visiting Mt. Ranier: https://visitrainier.com/
Note: For a link to all my pictures from Mt. Ranier National Park see my Mt. Ranier One Drive Album
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Note: For a link to all my pictures from Thailand see my Thailand Winter 2014 OneDrive album
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Note: For a link to all my pictures from Laos see my Laos Winter 2014 OneDrive album
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Note: For a link to all my pictures from Vietnam see my Vietnam Winter 2014 OneDrive album
Pictures of me being Santa Clause for kindergarten students! Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and a Happy upcoming New Year to my friends, family, and students!
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Note: For a link to all my pictures from Hawaii see my Hawaii Summer 2014 OneDrive album
The Awa O’dori “Dance” Festival is held annually August 12-15 as part of the O’bon festival in Tokushima Prefecture on the island of Shikoku, Japan – a place where I have called home for over 10-years. Awa O’dori is the largest dance festival in Japan, attracting over 1.3 million tourists every year. Groups of choreographed dancers and musicians known as rens dance through the streets, typically accompanied by the shamisen lute, taiko drums, shinobue flute and the kane bell. Performers wear traditional o’bon dance costumes, and chant and sing as they parade through the streets. Awa is the old feudal administration name for Tokushima prefecture, and o’dori means dance. Check out two of the groups I dance with annually! For more information check out Awa Dance Festival at Wikipedia.
This past weekend I finally decided to take myself out to the ballpark to see Tokushima’s very own independent baseball team, the Indigo Socks take the field versus their island rivals to the north, the Kagawa Olive Guyners. The Tokushima Indigo Socks were established in 2005 along with three other teams, all representing prefectures located on Shikoku Island. The 4-team league once established as the Shikoku Island League was changed in 2007 to the Shikoku Island League Plus to accommodate teams from outside the island and a vision to expand, however, it appears little expansion momentum has been made to date. The Independent Baseball League of Japan or IBLJ, Inc. operates the league through its headquarters in Takamatsu. The league was founded by commentator and former professional baseball player Hiromichi Ishige, who initially held all the rights to the teams, leadership, and players, but in 2006 established separate corporations for each of the teams. Although I’m uncertain of the exact vision of the league as it moves forward, I can only assume it is positioning itself for inclusion in the Nippon Professional Baseball league, which currently does not have a team represented from Shikoku Island. As for the quality of the product on the field, it met my expectations as far as the fundamentals of baseball are concerned and exceeded my expectations as I was witness to a rare long ball by a member of the Olive Guyners. Despite visible public relations and marketing efforts across the prefecture, the stadium was nearly empty as it appears a loyal fan base has yet to be established. Although Tokushima won dramatically 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th, and moved within half a game of first place in the league, there were only a small number of fans attending to bare witness. As for my final take, whether you are a fan of baseball or not, take it from me, attending any sporting event with great seats makes the experience much more enjoyable and can bring the beauty of any game to life. And, if you’re interested in watching the Tokushima Indigo Socks, trust me when I say the beauty will be in 3-D, because the best seats in the house will surely be open.. Go show ’em some love if you’re in town!
For more information in Japanese 日本 visit the league’s official website: http://www.iblj.co.jp/
This Golden Week holiday in Tokushima welcomed the return of the Machi Asobi Anime Festival and thousand of animation fanatics from all over Japan. Although this event is now in its 4th year in Tokushima and is considered the biggest anime, gaming and manga event in all of Japan – I was previously unaware of it and this year was my first time strolling through the festivities. The word “Machi” translates as street, town or city while “Asobi” means amusement, playing or game – a fitting name for the event as the fun and excitement lines the outdoor venues along the Tokushima City river boardwalk and streets. Since the first event in 2009, Japan’s anime industry leaders, including: directors, voice actors, producers, artists, and singers have been gathering annually in Tokushima to feature their latest productions. Although I have never been overly interested in Japanese animation, I do respect the enormous popularity it has within the Japanese culture and wanted to highlight this fun local event!
For more information in Japanese 日本 visit the event’s official website: http://www.machiasobi.com/
Following up on my most recent blog about the Tokushima Ramen Exhibition that took place at the Hana Haru Festival, I want to briefly take the time to now expand on the popularity of ramen in Japan, and share with you my local favorite shop, which I only recently discovered has made its way to the United States. For many Americans like myself, ramen noodles are commonly known to be associated with the stigma of being a cheap instant meal due to the generational popularity of Top Ramen. In 1970, the Nissin Food Products Co. in Japan established Nissin Foods (USA) in Gardena, California and Top Ramen was born in all its glorious flavors: beef, chicken, pork, and shrimp. Unfortunately for the true ramen connoisseurs in the United States who are well aware of the difference between instant and gourmet ramen, finding a good ramen shop was once impossible. Fortunately for those ramen lovers today, there is a recent growing trend of ramen shops popping up all over mostly urban cities in the United States, such as New York, Los Angeles, and Seattle to name a few. For more information on popular U.S. ramen shops, click on the link I’ve added onto each of the cities to see local rankings. As far as Tokushima ramen is concerned, one of my favorite local shops is Men Oh Ramen (translation – Noodle Kings), which to my surprise can be found in California. Although I’m far from a expert on Ramen, and confess I enjoy Men Oh Ramen most for its ordering conveniences and proximity to where I live, allow me to share a little of what I do know about these popular Japanese noodles. There are many types of ramen soup one can choose from, including the following: Shio (salt) – which has a clear, almost transparent chicken broth. Tonkotsu (pork bone) – which usually has a white or sometimes brown, thick broth made from crushed pork bones that have been boiled for hours. Shoyu (soy sauce) – made by adding a soy-based sauce to a stock usually made from chicken and various vegetables – with popular seasonings being black pepper or chile oil. And, Miso – which has a broth that combines chicken stock with a fermented soybean paste. Men Oh Tokushima Ramen prides itself on creating a unique Tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen, with its pork coming from local Tokushima pig farmers. Ramen noodles come in various lengths and widths, and include four basic ingredients: wheat flour, salt, and most importantly water. The type of water used to make these noodles often times can be the distinguishing factor in quality. With now an understanding of these basic types of ramen, I trust you will be well equipped to explore the many available toppings and sides on your own; as you slurp your own way to finding the TOP ramen shop wherever you may live in the world! いただきます! 🙂
For more information on Men Oh Ramen in the United States visit their website: http://www.menohusa.com
The Hana Haru Festa is an annual spring festival hosted by the city of Tokushima. The 3-day mid-April festival is highlighted by local Awa Odori dance groups performing the traditional summer festival dance throughout each day of the event. In addition to the Awa Odori dance performances, local hip hop dance groups battle it out in a Pocari Sweat sponsored ‘Fresh Dance Contest,’ featuring dancers of all size groups and ages. As in all Japanese festivals, there are of course an abundance of traditional festival food stands readily available, but the Hana Haru Festival is unique in terms of its Ramen Exhibition, which showcases the best of the best local Tokushima ramen. The festival also offers an arts and crafts exhibit of local Tokushima made products and on the last day special guest performances from nationally known singing artists culminate the weekend. A good experience worth checking out if in Tokushima in the spring!
The Tokushima Vortis is the local Japanese professional soccer team representing the prefecture of Tokushima, Japan. The team is owned by the Otsuka Pharmaceutical company and primarily sponsored by Ostuka’s popular sports drink brand, Pocari Sweat. The team name Vortis is comprised from the Italian word, ‘vortices,’ which means ‘whirlpools’ – a symbol of tourist attraction visible in the Naruto Straits within the prefecture. Although the history of the team can be dated back to 1955 as the Ostuka Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd. Soccer Club, it wasn’t until 2005 Tokushima Vortis was officially adopted as its team name entering into its first year in Japan’s second-tier professional league (J-2). The Japanese professional soccer league, known as the J-League is comprised of two divisions, J-1 and J-2, with 18 and 22 teams included respectively. Each year in the league, the top three teams in J-2 replace the 3 worst teams in J-1 as a promotion for a successful season, a crowning achievement Tokushima Vortis celebrated for the first time last year in 2013. However, this promotion to the big boys’ league has come with big boy lumps as Tokushima finds itself without a win and in last place in J-1 League standings to date. Today I went to see last place Tokushima Vortis in action vs. 4th place Kawasaki Frontale, a team based south of Tokyo in Kanagawa prefecture. With over 8000 people in attendance, Tokushima Vortis was dominated 4-0. Despite the loss and the winless season to date, Tokushima supporters showed a lot of pride and dedication by cheering until the very end. A look around the stadium, I couldn’t see even one person making a break to beat the traffic, all of whom stayed until the customary team visit to acknowledge the fan support. The final cheers seemed rather supportive and encouraging for players having to dreadfully confront their fans after a butt-kicking loss, except for one bit of raw emotion I witnessed as an angry kid, screamed “booooooooo!” with thumbs down! Despite this 0-6 start, the J-League season has just started and will last well into December, so only time will tell if Tokushima Vortis belongs with the big boys..
Super Bowl XLVIII (48) was the American football championship game between the American Football Conference (AFC) champion Denver Broncos and National Football Conference (NFC) champion Seattle Seahawks to decide the National Football League (NFL) champion for the 2013 season. On February 2nd, 2014, Seattle defeated Denver 43–8, the third largest point differential (35) in Super Bowl history! This is the first ever Super Bowl championship for the Seattle Seahawks and the first championship for the city in 35 years, the last being an NBA championship by its Seattle SuperSonics in the 1978-79 season. As a long time 12th Man member and season ticket holder for the Seahawk’s new stadium inauguration season in 2002, this victory was one for the ages for Seahawks fans all around the world and for the city of Seattle!
For the first time since Super Bowl XLIV (2010), and just the second time in twenty seasons, the number one seeds from each conference met in the league championship. The game featured the league’s top offense (Denver) against the top defense (Seattle), the first time this has occurred since Super Bowl XXXVII (2003). The game began with Seattle’s defense scoring two points on a safety, the quickest score in Super Bowl history. Five-time NFL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Peyton Manning of the Broncos threw two interceptions in the first half, the second returned by Seahawks linebacker Malcolm Smith for a 69-yard touchdown. The Broncos trailed 22–0 at halftime and 36–0 towards the end of the third quarter. Seattle did not allow a score until the final play that quarter, and they held Denver to almost 30 points below their scoring average. The final margin of victory was the largest since Super Bowl XXVII (1993), which was also 35 points. Smith, who also recovered a fumble and made nine tackles, was named Super Bowl MVP.
What more could I highlight about this historic victory for the city of Seattle, A LOT, but with this Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory being the most-watched U.S. television event of all time, averaging a whopping 111.5 million viewers, I’m sure most everyone already knows we won.. So I guess there’s only two more things left to do, KEEP REPEATING IT and say it in other languages! haha! Super Bowl Photos > # SB48 Seattle Victory Parade Photos > #Celebrate48
For more information in Japanese 日本 visit: www.nfljapan.com
This winter holiday I had a chance to spend Christmas with my family and ring in the New Year with old friends!
Note: A link to all my Seattle, Washington – December 2013 pictures: http://sdrv.ms/19GAfNz
A modern Tibetan wedding. Pictures speak a thousand words!
Note: A link to all my Portland, Oregon – December 2013 pictures: http://sdrv.ms/1duwGJ7
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