Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Tokyo - Day 10 Hanging With Kosuke

15th September Day 10 – Hanging out with my Japanese friend Kosuke.

And then Saturday rolled on in. It was a pretty relaxed slow start to the day, I had planned to meet with Kosuke at 12pm at Kaminarimon Gate.

What I didn’t realise is how far it was from Locky’s place. It took me about 1.5 hours until I met up with Kosuke, I was so very apologetic as its quite rude to make people wait in Japan (and everywhere else J)
Anyway, I wasn’t completely my fault I was told the wrong directions and got a bit lost, but never mind I still managed to get there ok.

Kosuke showed me around the gate and even took me down the very busy street and showed me the beautiful temple. I was shown the proper way to bless yourself before you enter a Buddhist temple, and the correct way to pray.

You must first clean your hands and mouth at the washing basin, then enter the temple, before you pray you are suppose to throw some Yen into a box, put your hands together to pray. It’s actually quite cool, and even though its not something I do, it was a really great experience.

It was so much fun hanging out with a Japanese dude, and Kosuke’s English was amazing so he was able to explain to me what the ‘warriors’ that guard the gates and temples. There is one warrior who has an open mouth, this resembles life, the reason being is that when you are born you are making a lot of noise aka screaming. On the other side, there is the closed mouth warrior, and obviously this resembles death.

After we walked around the main street for a while, we grabbed some beef bowl which is a Japanese dish which is basically rice and beef strips on top. Kosuke and I mixed it up a bit. We also ordered a raw egg which you dig a hole in your rice and pour the egg into the hole and mix it all up. It gives it a great feeling, and makes you want to climb some stairs and raise your hands like Rocky!!!

Kosuke was an absolute legend even though I very much offered to pay, he refused saying that ‘it’s was his country and I’m the guest’, but when he comes to Australia he is going to order a steak and make me pay!!
We were now feeling full and ready to keep checking out the surrounding areas. Kosuke showed me all the really nice restaurants and told me about all the different foods. I told him that I wanted to buy some Tobi (or Tabi) shoes. These are the 2 toed shoes that the Ninja’s (supposedly) used to wear. We found a random shop that sold them, and for the bargain price of only 1000Yen! Perfect! I picked them up! Can’t wait to wear them in Australia.

I also picked up a Japanese headband that read something along the lines of “Power & Spirit” which is pretty cool!

So it started to get late, and I still had an hour bike ride to get home and then eventually a bus to catch to Osaka so we said our goodbyes and pretty much concluded an awesome experience I had with Kosuke!
I chilled out with Locky and a German dude at Locky’s house until the unfortunate time approached where I had to catch my bus to Osaka!

My time in Tokyo was amazing! I don’t think I have enjoyed a city as much as I did in Tokyo! The place just has so much energy such an awesome city!

But next up we have Osaka, cant wait!!

Till next time!


Lovely temples!

pretty busy place!

The 'gods' of entertainment! 

We watched a special parade...

My friend Kosuke and some hot Indian chick!

Kosuke and myself!

Hanging out!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Tokyo - Day 9 Riding around Tokyo - Sony Building

14th September Day 9 – Riding around Tokyo, checking out the Sony Building in Ginza and visiting the shopping streets in Ueno.

Friday was another early wake up as Locky as he had to go to school so I woke up early as well to leave his flat with him. Today my plan was to do some more bike riding around Tokyo! Its so much fun riding around in Tokyo, you get to see so much of the city, and because its so flat its quite an easy ride as you can push yourself as much or as little as you want.

My legs are still aching from Mt. Fuji so its nice to jump on a bike to ride away the pain and soreness. So I had already tried to visit the Sony Building once before but it was closed, so this was my second attempt, it was pretty easy to find as I have this new app for my phone that downloads offline maps to your phone and then uses the GPS built into the phone to track your location! It’s actually really handy!

So I eventually found the Sony Building that was a fair ride from Locky’s place maybe an hour away. But like I said before it’s nice riding around Tokyo.

I locked my bike up with the thinnest bike lock I had ever seen, just praying that my bike wouldn’t get nicked as I spend time checking out all the gadgets in the Sony Building.

I explored the many floors of the Sony building, everything from the gaming section to the music section to the TV’s and cameras. I touched, used and tried everything! It was so much fun, I could have spent (if I had the money) hundreds of thousands of dollars on EVERYTHING.

A couple of the big highlights for me, were trying on the headphones. So my first pair I tried on were over $200AUD which were some really nice Sony over the ear headphones and I listened to my own music. I found the bassiest track I could find a rocked out! Whilst I was rocking out (on my own) I looked over to my left and realised that there was an even more expensive pair, with an amplifier that you plug your iPhone into to increase the sound quality.

I finished the song I was listening to and tried the new setup. Ok, so the headphones themselves cost 49,800YEN ($612AUD) and then the small iPhone Amplifier is 39,800YEN ($489AUD) so the whole setup cost $1.101AUD, and it sounded awesome! I just wish I could have bought them and taken them home to listen! It was great!

After I had my head blown off by some of the most amazing audiophile equipment I have ever tried I headed up to the Camera equipment and took some photos of the little model train sets that they have located near the Camera kit. It was fun! But again I couldn’t afford any of it.

Next up was the TV and Entertainment centre. I was just walking around this building with a huge smile on my face and shaking my head in just astonishment, I got chatting with on the Japanese girls that work there and I explained to her how great this was. She pointed me upstairs to the next room that featured the latest in 3D entertainment, the Sony Headset/Goggles!

I waited in line for 15 minutes playing with the cool Sony Phones and Tablets until I was called into this room, where there were 4 stations and a really comfy leather chair next to each station. On each station there was a Sony Headset and a pair of the $612AUD headphones!

So you sit down in this chair and a Japanese girl explains to you in Japanese how to adjust the headset to fit your head, clearly myself and the other American guy in the room had no idea what was happening. We managed with a little bit of help from the ladies, put the headphone on and watched the trailer for the new Spiderman in 3D! I’ve seen the movie, but in 3D it looked AMAZING!

I came out of that room once again just giggling in excitement thinking that one day, this will be normal!
At the moment, I think the Headset was a bit to bulky and heavy, and that after 30 minutes of watching you will get a sore neck… but this is only the beginning!
After the amazing 3D experience, I went up another set of stairs and watched This Is It, the Michael Jackson movie on a huge TV with great speakers.
Once I had had enough and go to depressed to continue I went to the toilet and got my bum washed and dried using the special toilets and then headed back outside to find my bike in exactly the same place I’d left it.

I jumped back on my Pink bike a travelled to  to just check out another small suburb in Tokyo. There was lots going on, people everywhere, lots of markets it was really great. I was looking for some special Japanese 2 toe’d shoes called Tobi, I found a pair but they were 3,000Yen and I was sure I could find some cheaper.

Anyway, it was getting late, so I road my bike back to Shinjuku to meet Locky and his Japanese girlfriend so we could head back to their flat together.

It was a great evening, Locky and his Girlfriend cooked some great Okanamiyaki which filled me up and let me pass out with food sleeps! Perfect.

TL;DR – Checked out all the gadgets in the Sony Building, and had some amazing food!

The Imperial Palace in Tokyo, it was closed so i couldnt go in, instead i took this photo!

One of the many Japanese Parks!

Who would of thought there was a Hooters in Tokyo, Ginza!

The fully pimped out Amp + Headphone setup!

This little guy was awesome... its a WATCH!!!!

The shopping street in Ueno!

So much activity!
Stay Tuned! They are coming quick and fast!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Tokyo - Day 8 Relaxing

13th September Day 8 – Spending my time Riding around Tokyo! And sleeping!

My 8th day in Tokyo was pretty uneventful, I was still exhausted of my 15 hour hike up and down Fuji so I spent most of the time exploring parks and sleeping in them. For me, this is all I wanted to.

And it was perfect! I found a great park, where I just dosed off for over an hour, so relaxed and so peaceful it was fantastic.

The night was very early as I was so tired… so to sum it up my 8th day in Tokyo was recovery!

The End :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Mt.Fuji 3776m Day - 6 & 7


1636 (local time)

Mt Fuji, Japan

Written in Koenji, opposite the train station on a park bench…

I’ve been thinking how im going to start this blog… and to be honest the only way I feel I can express my-self is probably through a facial expression. To sum it up in several words: Tired, Hurting, Hot, Thirsty, Stressed… but when I recap about what has happened in the last 24 hours! I’d say the most important words I come to think of are: Relief & a feel of accomplishment, as I have just climbed the highest mountain in Japan, and also went the highest I’ve ever been in my life. I Climbed Mount Fuji!

Mt Fujisan 3776m

Before I get into the story of my climb, I want to provide you, the audience with a little bit of information about Mount Fuji, thanks Wikipedia.

Mount Fuji or (Fuji-san) is the highest mountain in Japan located on Honshu Island at 3,776.24m (12,389 ft).An active strato-volcano that last erupted in 1707–08.

Mount Fuji lies about 100 kilometres  south-west of Tokyo, and can be seen from there on a clear day. Mount Fuji's exceptionally symmetrical cone, which is snow-capped several months a year, is a well-known symbol of Japan and it is frequently depicted in art and photographs, as well as visited by sightseers and climbers. It is one of Japan's "Three Holy Mountains. Along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku; it is a Special Place of Scenic Beauty, a Historic Site, and has been submitted for future inscription on the World Heritage List as a Cultural (rather than Natural) Site.

For me, what made this such a memorable achievement was the fact that I have never, ever hiked that high in my life, Mount Fuji stands at 3,776mtrs, and although it isn’t all that high compared to other mountains in the world, what makes it special for me is that I planned this trip all on my own.

When I first had the idea of coming to Japan, Mount Fuji stood there as a Number 1 thing to do! When I started reading into it a little bit more I realised that when I get to Japan, the official climbing season is over. Which means there will be no rescue support if something goes wrong, and at 3,776mtrs there is a high possibility of things going wrong – my main concern was Altitude Sickness.

The reason being, is that I had never been this high before so I had the fear of unknown, I didn’t know how my body was going to react to the thin air of 3,776mtrs. So obviously I was worried.

With the climbing season finished, it also meant that there wont be regular busses running to and from the mountain which meant I would either have to fork out $50AUD for 3 hours of sleeping, or just battle it out in the cold for free… obviously I chose the latter.

Anyway, I bought my ticket that dropped me from Tokyo to Kawaguchiko, this 2 hour bus journey cost me 1,700 Yen, which is equivalent to $20AUD. (as it stands the exchange rate is 1AUD is 81YEN)
From Kawaguchiko you can do a bit of exploring of the 4 lakes here, but honestly I wasn’t all that concerned about that – as obviously my aim was Fuji.

So when I arrived at Kawaguchiko bus station at around 12midday, I only did small bit of walking around the lakes, but most of my time was spent buying supplies and resting my legs!

The lakes were quite beautiful, but when I looked towards Mt. Fuji it was almost completely covered in clouds! Not a great sign, and actually I was confused as I had been studying the weather over the past week to pick the best day for hiking, and for this day (Wednesday 12nd of August) it was predicted to be the best weather to summit as there would be no clouds, wind or rain.

The Lakes of Kawaguchiko!

Beautiful flowers ran along the side of the walking path!

As the hours ticked by the weather had gotten worse – it had started to rain! I was devastated as I thought I would be in for a very wet and miserable night!

To drown my sorrows I resorted to eating, so I went to a local restaurant and ordered just the standard dish of Ramen (noodles, in a soup with beef and seaweed). As I enjoyed my meal, I studied up on the different trails and routes you could take.

After my meal, I called Mum and she wished me luck and it was almost time to catch the 1650 bus from Kawaguchiko bus station to the 5th Station on Mount Fuji which is 2,300mtrs high, so basically already I had climbed in altitude 2,300mtrs in one day without any acclimatization! Normally you are meant to spend at very least an overnight at 2,300mtrs… but not me!

Since it was off-season I also had the slight concern that I would be hiking on my own, which in any circumstance is extremely dangerous, but fortunately for me I met a French guy called Bruno who I was going to be doing a majority of hiking with. But before I even start to tell you about the start of my hike, I need to tell you about a bunch of 21 year old Americans from California.

So I met these guys, whilst waiting for my bus to the 5th station, and being my friendly self I got chatty to them.

“Hey guys, are you planning on hitting Fuji tonight”
“yeah we are, but we don’t really know anything about it” they replied.
“hahaha, well what are you planning on hiking in?” I asked.
“this” they all replied.

Ok, so 1 of them, was in shorts and a t-shirt, the other two were in a pair of trendy jeans and a t-shirt, I was clearly shocked by this, as I started to realise how unprepared these guys were!
I then explained to them, that it gets to below freezing up on the summit, and that snowed last night!
Their faces dropped as they started to scramble through the bags trying to find clothes that were suitable!
I asked them, if they had head torches.

They replied “no”.

I then proceeded to explain to them that “we are hiking at night time, and granted if there was a full moon yeah, there might be enough light, but unfortunately tonight its very close to becoming a new moon, meaning that it will be very, very dark”.

I told them where the local shop was and told them to get plenty of water, snacks and of course torches!
Anyway, we saw these Americans a few times on the mountain and they were battling. The last that I saw of the Americans the tallest one was suffering from Altitude Sickness, and the rest of them were freezing cold… I didn’t see them leave the mountain. But then again, I caught the first bus back down.
Right, let me get started about the story that was ‘Summiting Fuji’

the bus station in Kawaguchiko

So, like I said earlier I had met this French guy named Bruno, who was also very much prepared for the trip, with plenty of food and warm clothes! I had decided he was going to be my hiking buddy.
When the bus dropped us off at the 5th station (1000YEN each way), which marks the boundary between heaven and earth and at an altitude of 2,300mtrs you felt pretty high. We got changed into our warmer clothes and started our hike. It had gotten dark pretty quickly but I didn’t want to get out my head lamp out as Bruno (Frenchy) and a Korean dude (James) had theirs on already.

5th Station of Mt Fuji
James and Bruno

We hiked and hiked trying to keep a slow and steady pace, as we were in no rush because we started our hike at 6pm and the sun wouldn’t rise until 5.34am the next day. So we basically had 11 hours to reach the summit but the actual hiking time was 350 minutes or 6 hours.


View of the city below!

So we basically had 5 hours to do nothing apart from get cold, so the slower we went the better it was.
The start of our hike went really well, and I was able to take some awesome photos of the city below. It was an hour into our hike when we realised we had been going the wrong way… lucky for us we only had to back track 20 minutes. It didn’t bother me, it just meant we wasted some time.

Anyway, so we hiked up and up and up until we reached the 7th Station at 2,700mtrs. We had climbed 400mtrs up so there was no real sign of the altitude having any effects on our bodies.

Myself and Bruno (Frenchy) just waited at the 7th station, thinking that it will be warmer at the 7th than the 8th or 9th, so we sat around trying our hardest to keep warm, as it was only 7 degrees and getting colder. Eventually a couple from Spain had the same idea as us, so our group of 2 (as we lost James, the Korean dude) turned into a group of 4! Perfect more chat, meant time went by faster.

All the hikers we met on our way to 7th station. Japanese, French, Korean and American in 1 shot!

The 7th Station was 6 degrees! COLD

The city below!

The lovely Spanish Couple!

I think we mucked around, telling jokes and talking about our travel stories for about 2 hours, until we got way to cold so we decided to hike up to the 8th station at 3,200mtrs. According to the map, this hike was supposed to take 100minutes! We did it in 50minutes, and that was taking it slow.

This sucked for us, as it meant we had to sit around, and get cold for even longer… GREAT.

At 3,200mtrs I felt the altitude starting to have an effect on my body, I didn’t feel dizzy or sick… just out of breath. Probably due to the lack of oxygen at this height, it probably didn’t help as we were no longer hiking, but scrambling up pretty gnarly rocks, using our hands and feet – see the photos!
The higher we climbed the colder it got!

I thought I had prepared well for the cold, well as well as I could have with my current equipment. I had 2 t-shirts, 1 long sleeved t-shirt and a Wind & Water Resistant Jumper, I borrowed a beanie and gloves as well. And still this wasn’t enough. Ideally I would have brought up thermals and ski gear.

But I still managed, when I started freezing, I just started to jump on the spot or do push ups, I may have looked stupid, but it kept me warm.

We waited around at the 8th station for ages, but we all got too cold and climbed a little bit more to another mountain hut just above the 8th station. What made it really depressing, as that we would look inside these mountain huts to see people sleeping, all rugged up in blankets and sleeping bags, whilst we are outside freezing our asses off! I suppose that’s the down side of not paying 3,000YEN ($45AUD) for 3 hours of sleep!

It was no longer a hiking path... but a scramble up volcanic rock!

Inside one of the mountain huts... i wanted desperately to use the 'flash on my camera to wake her up!! :)

Getting Closer!

To the Summit!

You arent even allowed in the huts!!

Temperature drop to 5 degrees 

So cold, but still a smile on my face!

We waited around at a mountain hut called “the Real 8th station” and we stayed there for about an hour freezing again in 2 degrees! We eventually paid 100yen ($1.5AUD) for some ‘hot water’ inside the hut to defrost! After 15 minutes of defrosting we started the epic journey to the summit! We were going to climb from 3,400mtrs to 3,776mtrs!

The 'Real 8th Station

A Stamp for 2euros.

A Small Bottle of Water 5euros

We were close!!

Dropped to 0 degrees!

Toilet - the sign above the WC reads -anyone found sleeping has to pay 30euros for a nights accommodation-

We set off, I wasn’t very quick at all, I was having to stop after every 10mtrs of hiking to catch my breath and to stop behind the trail of other hikers! I honestly wasn’t feeling all that good, I’m not sure what it was, it could have been the altitude or it could have been that I haven’t slept, or the cold getting to me, or it even could have been the fact that I was just exhausted from all this hiking… either way I was not feeling great but, it was just mind over matter! I just forced my legs to keep going! And keep going they did! I finally made it to the summit!! The Spanish couple were the first to witness a broken Stephen!

I had over heated, I had started to sweat which wasn’t great, it means that when the sweat cools, you get even colder… luckily it wasn’t that bad, and we found an ice covered bench sat down and settled to watch the sunrise!

The american boys struggling!

Almost... there!

...getting closer!

.... 10 more meters...

....just keep going...


Wow, it was amazing! The reds, oranges and yellows blew me away! Unfortunately I couldn’t get a great photo because I was to busy looking at the sky! Once the sun had fully risen and our body’s had once again defrosted we started our walk around the crater. There was no words to describe how please I was to be on top of Fuji! I was on an absolute natural high! We took some photos and continued on our merry way around the crater.

Sunrise approaching, but still so very cold...

So many colors!!

Starting to defrost!

still defrosting...

All the other hikes crammed on the top of a hill!

Here she comes... almost warm again!
Shrine Gate!

Another shrine gate, notice the snow in the corner of the building... THATS HOW COLD IT WAS!

The Actual Summit!

The highest ive ever hiked in my life! 3776m!

The shadow of mount fuji cast over the Japanese Countryside!

So even though we were on the top of the mountain, we weren’t actually on the Summit or Peak. To get the peak we had to hike up a really, really steep incline for 100 – 200 meters and then we were on the official top! This didn’t take us all that long, yeah we were all tired! But for me, I just wanted to get to the top!
After all this was done, and we took more photos it was now time for the epic decent down… Now if you have read any of my other posts you would realise how much I dislike… no not dislike, HATE going down hill, and going downhill on Fuji was probably the worst! It was loose volcanic gravel that was really tricky to hold your footing, also I knew that it was a long way down, 2 hours infact until I hit the bottom, and ill be honest, I hated every minute of it!

The dozens of switchbacks to get downhill!

It was so boring...


I was so glad to finally get to the end and take off my shoes to reveal my blisters and also to share with the world the beautiful aroma of sweating in Gore-Tex hiking boots for 15 hours!

Anyway, we caught the 9.40 bus back to Kawaguchiko station, as soon as I was in the bus I was asleep… no joke! Apparently that bus was full of people that were sleeping as well, it would have been great to get a photo.

When we got to Kawaguchiko I bought my ticket back to Shinjuku, Tokyo, and for some reason I got a discount… not sure why! But again, as soon as I was in the bus, I was asleep again.
Eventually we made it to Tokyo and after a kinda stressful afternoon of me finding out where I would be sleeping that night, an Aussie dude called Locky put me up for a couple of nights, and we went out with his friends for a massive meal! It was a great way to end a very intense 24 hours!

As soon as I got back to his Apartment I passed out!

The next day we had to get up pretty early as Locky had to head to school, so I road his bike to the local park and slept for another hour it was fantastic, sleeping in beautiful green grass in the shade was a lovely way to end a pretty eventful 48 hours!!!

The beautiful park i napped in!

Blue sky, nice soft grass... perfect!

Thanks for reading and stay tuned for the next updates!!

Steve bye bye!