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
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
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
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Note: For a link to all my pictures from Hawaii see my Hawaii Summer 2014 OneDrive album
A modern Tibetan wedding. Pictures speak a thousand words!
Note: A link to all my Portland, Oregon – December 2013 pictures: http://sdrv.ms/1duwGJ7
This past summer my mom visited me in Japan and our schedule was action packed to say the least. Although we had a great time travelling around western Japan, there is one particular experience I wanted to highlight, which was our journey up Mt. Rokko and to Arima Onsen in Kobe. Although I have been to Kobe several times, this trip out of the city is something I have never ventured to do and was excited to try with my mom. Mt. Rokko (931 meters or 3054 feet) is the highest peak in the Mt. Rokko mountain range and provides a scenic green backdrop to the city of Kobe. At its peak, a beautiful panoramic view of the city of Kobe can be captured from its observatory deck. In addition to its observatory, various small tourist attractions can be found on Mt. Rokko, including: a botanical garden, a music box museum, a pasture with flowers and sheep, Japan’s first golf course and the Rokko Garden Terrace, a complex of a few restaurants and shops. On the opposite side of the mountain accessible by ropeway lies Arima Onsen, a famous hot spring town with a history of over one thousand years. Arima Onsen is considered one of Japan’s oldest hot spring resorts and is a fixture among the top in onsen rankings. The town has two types of hot spring waters which spring up at various sources around the town: the Kinsen (“gold water”) is colored brown with iron deposits and is said to be good for skin ailments and muscle pain, while the clear Ginsen (“silver water”) contains radium and carbonate and is said to cure various muscle and joint ailments. My mom and I chose to visit Taiko no Yu, the only onsen in town that offers both experiences. Be aware travelling up Mt. Rokko and to Arima Onsen is no short of a journey and will require you to board or be boarded by nearly every form of transportation from Sannomiya Station in order to get there, including: trains, a cable car, busses, a ropeway; and even possibly yourself if I happen to get tired and require a piggy back ride.. 🙂 This experience is a must do if travelling to Kobe, Japan!
For information on onsens near Seattle see Seattle Met article: Hidden Hot Springs Near Seattle
Pictures Speak a Thousand Words!
Note: A link to all my My Mom in Japan 2013 pictures: http://sdrv.ms/136SeH3
What Happens In Vegas… Stays In Vegas…
On most of my trips back to the United States, I usually have a layover, which is not always a bad thing if planned well. For this trip, I stopped in Taiwan for what would have been an 8-hour layover, which I had changed to a one-night stay for an opportunity to do some sightseeing! In 2008, I had this same layover and made use of the 8-hours by making a short trip into the city. However, this time around with one night and two days to see Taiwan, I was able to accomplish a lot more. After arriving in Taiwan in the late afternoon on a Thursday, I quickly took a bus to Taipei City, and checked into the Pacific Business Hotel located in the commercial district. First on my agenda was to visit the Shilin Night Market, the biggest of Taiwan’s several and very popular tourist hot spots. These markets get under way around dusk, with vendors offering everything from accessories and clothing to snacks and carnival games. Taking a stroll around these night markets provide a great chance to sample and ‘smell’ several different types of local Taiwanese food, including the infamous ‘Stinky Tofu’. After spending some time at the Shihlin Night Market, I decided to look for some local English-speaking compatriots, which I found at the British owned Brass Monkey restaurant and bar. Met some cool people there, including a Taiwanese-Australian guy named Andy who was kind enough to show me the ropes around his city.. The next day, I made a visit to the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, which I thought was the National Palace Museum until just now (whoops)… Nevertheless, it was a still a nice experience… Sun Yat-sen was a Chinese revolutionary and first president and founding father of the Republic of China (“Nationalist China”). As the foremost pioneer of Republic of China, Sun is referred to as the “Father of the Nation” in the Republic of China (ROC), the “forerunner of democratic revolution” in the People’s Republic of China, and affectionately as “The Big Sunshine” among his homies and inner circle – just kidding on that last one.. At the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, there is a changing of the guard ceremony in his honor every hour, which I took some cool pics of.. This trip to Taiwan was great and I’m definitely motivated to go back again! Shout out to my new friend Andy for helping me squeeze out every ounce of fun in my short visit, thanks bro!
Note: A link to my Taiwan 2012 album
Visiting southern California in the winter makes one truly appreciate the difference weather makes in one’s quality of life. When I left Seattle, it was cold and raining nearly everyday. This is something I should be used too, since I’m from Seattle, but having lived away in better climates these past several years, I was reminded how much I hate the rain! Spending 2-weeks in California visiting my friends Nawang and Rigo was the winter weather escape from Seattle I desperately needed. I can still recall the recent feeling of playing tennis (6-3, 7-5 :)) in a T-shirt and shorts in the California Sunshine in December!.. I don’t know about you, but in the winter I have a hard time remembering the feeling of humidity, heat or any type of summer weather for that matter, so spending some time in southern California was a welcome reminder how the sun feels when it shines. Living in Tokushima it can be very cold in the winter and very humid in the summer, but for the most part it’s at least sunny year-round… incidentally, both Tokushima and Los Angeles are both 34th parallel north cities… My time in California was spent mostly between hanging out at Nawang’s in Anaheim near Disney Land, a trip to L.A. to watch Slam-Dunk Champion rookie All-Star Blake Griffin and the Clippers play… and a trip to San Francisco to ring in the New Year! Overall, it was a great time and I’ll leave it at that! And lastly just for Xbox statistical records, I left California on a six game Madden win streak vs Nawang! Manning to Wayne all day baby!..
Note: For a look at all the pictures I took, see my California Winter 2010 Album!
Well, I’ve now made my way down to California and almost immediately headed to Las Vegas for 2-nights with Nawang and Rigo! Although the weather in southern California was suspect at first, things have now turned less than unusual as Christmas day was in the mid 60s and sunny. Onto some highlights in Vegas, but as the saying goes, what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, so I’ll be brief. This was now the fourth time I’ve been to Las Vegas and although the strip has changed, the energy in the city hasn’t! With two friends that view Vegas as a weekend option anytime of the year, we drove and stayed at T.I., situated on the north side of the strip, accessible to most everything. After winning a little at black jack, enough to pay for room expenses, I bet on Boise State (-16) to beat Utah in the MAACO Bowl in Las Vegas. With Vegas flooded with both teams’ supporters, Boise State beat Utah 26-3 and daddy won a new pair of shoes, literally. Check out my picture with some of the Boise State fans! All in all, it was another great time in Vegas! Our late night highlight included drinks at club Lavo in the Palazzo hotel! Check out that place if you ever in Vegas!
This past weekend, I headed down the Oregon coast to the small town of Warrenton, Oregon where I spent a large portion of my childhood growing up. Warrenton has a population of approximately 5000 people and is situated between Astoria and Seaside, Oregon, which are separated by less than 20 miles. I spent a lot of time between these three cities growing up and is the reason I am writing this blog. I hope I can share with you a little history and beauty of these old American towns.
Before moving to Warrenton, my family lived in Astoria until about my first grade year in elementary school. Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River, Astoria, Oregon is a town slightly larger than Warrenton, with a population of approximately 10,000, its history dates back 200 years. The town was named after the famous American investor (and first American millionaire) John Jacob Astor. His American Fur Company founded Fort Astoria in 1810. Astoria, Warrenton, and Seaside’s economies have long been centered on fishing, fish processing, and lumber. Astoria still feels like an old American town today, and is the reason why a countless number of Hollywood movies have been shot there over the years, including Kindergarten Cop, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, Free Willy, Short Circuit and of course Goonies. While in Astoria, I stopped by the old Astoria County Jail, which is now an Oregon Film Museum. The location was used in the opening scene in the 1985 movie, Goonies.
From Astoria, Warrenton can be reached by crossing the Highway 101 bridge. Warrenton is where I completed elementary school, junior high school and 1 year of high school before my family moved to Seattle, Washington. I have a lot of fond memories growing up in this small town, and it was nice to visit all the familiar places after all these years. Warrenton is most famous for Fort Stevens State Park, which was the primary military defense installation for the Oregon coast. The fort served for 84 years, beginning with the Civil War and closing at the end of World War II. In addition, not too far way is the Peter Iredale shipwreck from October 25, 1906 (which happens to be my birthday and no I’m not over 100). The wreckage is still visible, making it a popular tourist attraction as one of the most accessible shipwrecks from the Graveyard of the Pacific.
And last but not least, Seaside, Oregon is another small town not too far away and is famous for the Lewis and Clark Turnaround. The Turnaround at Seaside, Oregon is designed as the official end of the Lewis and Clark Trail. A bronze statue of Lewis and Clark stands facing the Pacific Ocean at the west end of Broadway at the Turnaround on the center of the Prom. The monument commemorates the 18 month, 4,000 mile journey from Saint Louis to the Oregon Coast the two American pioneers trailblazed. Check out my pictures below!
Note: For a look at all the pictures I took, see my Oregon Coast 2010 Album
Recently I returned to Japan from a great 2-week trip home to the United States to visit my family and friends! This trip had many memorable moments, but I’ll start by sharing my experiences from an 8-hour layover I had in Taipei City, Taiwan. With only 8-hours in Taiwan, I tried to make the most of my transit time rather than wait at the airport for my connection. After arriving in Taiwan, I quickly moved through Taiwanese immigration and to the airport information desk, where I was given all the necessary maps and flyers for a short trip downtown. At the airport bus stop, I met two Japanese surfers heading to Bali on an overnight layover looking to do some sightseeing as well. Together we made the 1-hour commute downtown in a double-decker bus with no air conditioning. Clearly we were no longer in Japan as the bus driver was smoking in the bus and the level of service and hospitality had taken a dip. Nevertheless, my overall first impressions of the Taiwanese people were extremely positive! At 509.2 meters (1,670.60 ft) from the ground to its highest architectural point, I visited the tallest building in the World. After a trip to the top, my Japanese surfer buddies and I made short visit to a Taipei City Night Market for some Taiwanese cuisine! Check out the video below and my picture album, Taiwan 2008 for a look at my 3-hour trip in Taiwan!