Viewing the Majestic Mt. Fuji

Being Japan’s icon and rightfully so, seeing Mt. Fuji is definitely a must for me.  There are so many ways and so many places to enjoy the view, but for my trip, I chose to see Mt. Fuji from three vantage points in two days from the Fuji Five Lakes region.  I tried viewing Mt. Fuji from the Chureito Pagoda, Mt. Shakushi and Lake Kawaguchiko.  So yeah, these are the more nature-leaning sightseeing spots for Mt. Fuji.

I’ve read that Mt. Fuji’s visibility is somewhat unpredictable, so choosing the date to see Mt. Fuji (which I set practically four months in advance) was a gamble for me.  But as you’ll see, it did pay off 🙂

Access to Fuji Five Lakes Region Coming from Tokyo

Let me start though by sharing how to get to the Fuji Five Lakes region.  If you’re coming from Tokyo, the cheapest and fastest way to get to Fuji Five Lakes is via bus from the Shinjuku Bus Terminal.  The trip roughly takes 2 hours and it costs JPY 1750 up to Kawaguchiko.  You may purchase in advance and just approach the counter so you can get your ticket and have your seat assignment, or just purchase upfront. This is a hard lesson learned for me: to make the most of your trip, check the timetable and be at the bus terminal at least half an hour early so you can purchase your ticket.

Shimoyoshida

I was originally going to alight at Kawaguchiko Station, but the bus would stop at Shimoyoshida first, where Chureito Pagoda is, so alight at Shimoyoshida station I did.  And then I wish I didn’t, because I felt I was in the middle of nowhere.  Don’t get me wrong; the town was quiet and lovely, but save from a couple other passengers–a lady and a man–who got off, there was no one else around because the town was covered in snow.  And there were no signage near the bus stop that tells you how far Chureito Pagoda is, or which direction you need to head.  So I mustered up my courage and asked one of the other passengers.  She started telling me that I had to walk, and when I asked how far, she was hesitating.  That got me nervous, for sure, until the other passenger spoke up and told me that he’ll show me the way.  So we kept walking for at least 10 minutes until he spoke up and pointed at the mountain on the other side of the road.  And boy, he did point way up to the mountain’s summit.  For the second time that day, first being the moment I got off the bus, I thought of giving up.  But I didn’t want to waste the gentleman’s kindness so I kept on.  He pointed the way to the train station, i.e., my save point, and then he gave me instructions on how to get to the shrine entrance.  I walked on, but didn’t find the way, so I retraced my steps.  I came across another couple and this time, they took me right at the steps to Arakura Shengen shrine (where Chureito Pagoda is).  So here it is, in pictures:

For a second, I wanted to cry after my phone shut down.  I haven’t texted my host yet to pick me up, and it was about to get dark in the next 10 minutes or so.  But I steeled myself and focused on getting to the train station.  Thankfully, I was able to charge my phone when I got to Shimoyoshida station, texted my host, and then waited at Fujisan station.  I then spent the night at Peace & One resort which I wrote about here.

Mt. Shakushi

Mt. Shakushi’s summit is one of the underrated viewing spots for Mt. Fuji, but when you conquer the two-hour hike, it’s said to be worth it.  Note that I wrote “said to be” because it was too cold for me and I didn’t have enough time. But the trail is beautiful, too:

 

Lake Kawaguchiko

Following my failed quests to reach Chureito Pagoda and Mt. Shakushi’s summit, I had to ask my host several times if Lake Kawaguchiko is at sea level or not.  The lake is one of the most scenic spots to view Mt. Fuji and this spot is the most accessible of the three, and is actually within the busy town.  The lake is just a 5 – 10 minute walk from Kawaguchiko bus station and there are plenty of signs to guide the way.  I was running on a tight schedule so I just managed to take a few shots of Lake Kawaguchiko:

This time, Mt. Fuji wasn’t completely visible at all (or maybe I was just looking at the wrong direction^^;;) In any case, it was still worth checking out Lake Kawaguchiko, mostly because I’d lose sleep for days in regret if I didn’t! Haha!

Two days, three spots, priceless encounters with places and people.

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Japan Tourist Visa Tips for Philippine Passport Holders

Have you been wanting to go to Japan, but are intimidated by the visa application?  Read on then as I share with you tips on how to improve your chances of getting a tourist visa!

Before I continue though, let me just remind you that

  1. I’m not guaranteeing 100% approval.  That’s really up to the embassy to decide!
  2. I’ll be talking about how I prepared and what I think helped me bag a multiple entry visa, and most importantly:
  3. Check what’s stated in the Embassy of Japan in the Philippines’ website.  I did, and still do from time to time.

So, let’s continue!  Japan started granting multiple-entry tourist visas for Philippine passport holders residing in the Philippines only in 2013 but they have further relaxed the requirements as of September 30, 2014.  That makes Japan even more accessible for us, and we can be granted a visa valid for up to 5 years with a maximum stay of up to 30 days.  Sweet, huh?  😀

Now, on to the tips:

  1. Whether you’re aiming for a single entry or a multiple entry visa, you need to have a valid passport first.  This may be common sense but I can’t stress enough how important it is.  And, renew your passport six months before it expires!
  2. This is just my personal preference, but my preparation took years.  I didn’t aim for Japan right away; I traveled to other countries first and went to South Korea before attempting my first Japan visa application.  This is to build a good travel record and prove that I’m really just visiting for recreation and not for any other business.
  3. Know the type of visa you intend to apply for.  Check here what best suits you.  What I did was apply for a single entry visa last year and this year, multiple entry.
  4. Gather the documents.
    • Make sure you completely and correctly fill out the visa application form.  Read the instructions carefully!  It doesn’t hurt being neat, either; avoid erasures and corrections as much as possible.  The form is actually editable, so use it to your advantage.
    • For photos, it’s best go to photo studios and tell them you want your picture taken for Japan visa application, and they’ll know what to do.
    • If you’re a first-time applicant, you will most likely need NSO documents such as a copy of your birth certificate and/ or marriage certificate.  If you’re dreading long lines and stress-inducing waiting times, fear no more because you can now order said documents online and be delivered to your doorstep in three working days, for your convenience!
    • In getting your bank certificate, it’s best to do so days before you submit your visa application.  In this case, I believe the more current your document is, the better.  As to how much money you should have in the bank, the Embassy hasn’t really specified; but when I applied for a five-day stay in Osaka last year, I had ~PhP50k and more than ~PhP100k when I applied for my Tokyo trip (also for a 5-day stay).  The rule of thumb is they want proof that you’ll have enough money to cover your expenses for your trip.
    • The daily itinerary need not be too detailed, but it has to show that you do have a pretty concrete plan of what you’re gonna do during your stay.
    • Other documents that are not required but will boost your application are transportation and accommodation bookings (if not staying with a friend or relative).  As much as possible, choose plans that have a flexible cancellation policy.  For first-time applicants who are employed, a certificate of employment (COE) is not required, but it’s a good supporting document nonetheless.
    • In general, remember that the documents should be within the prescribed validity and format, and your documents should be neat.
  5. Submit your requirements.
    • Except for a few cases, visa applications should be submitted through travel agencies accredited by the Japanese Embassy.  This option is actually easier, hassle-free, and they will review your documents before accepting the application.
    • Remember that not all travel agencies process all types of visa application, so read and confirm with the agency/ies of your choice.
    • Visa application itself is free, but the travel agencies charge processing fees.
    • When is the best time to submit?  Personally, for tourist visa application with no guarantor, 6 – 8 weeks before travel is enough.  If you think this is too close to call, I’d say the advantage of applying close to your intended travel dates is that your documents are more up-to-date.  You might want to check with your travel agency of choice as well.
  6. Wait and hope for the best!  Processing time is officially around 7 – 10 working days, but you can get yours in as early as 2 – 3, which I did in my two applications.  If you have a guarantor, expect the processing time to be longer since there will be more papers to verify.  Your travel agency will inform you when your passport is available for pickup.

 

Feeling more confident now?  Great! Now plan, prepare and go for it!

Relax

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Sunken Garden, University of the Philippines, Diliman.  Taken on a Sunday afternoon.

Occupied for a week in a year for the university fair; otherwise, it’s pretty much free for everyone to enjoy.  The field is great for sports and the surrounding shade is perfect for picnics, studying or just plainly relaxing.

 

For the weekly photo challenge Relax

Hello there! It’s been a while.

It’s been really busy these past few weeks but I miss writing.  Hope you’re all doing well 🙂

I went to Tokyo and Yamanashi two weeks ago, and I’m excited to share with you my experience.  For now, here’s a preview, and it’s of the resort I stayed in near Mt. Fuji.

Airbnb listing