Taraibune in Sado

A Taraibune is a traditional boat originating from Sado Island. It essentially looks like a wooden barrel cut in half and is manoeuvred with a single paddle attached to the front of the boat. Traditionally, they were used to fish mollusks like abalone but nowadays they are a popular attraction among tourists. One may try the taraibune in Ogi harbor but it is perhaps better to go for a ride at the Yajima-Kyojima park instead which is much more scenic. The red-lacquered bridge linking the Ya Island and the Kyo island over the pristine water is often used in promotional material for Sado island because of its unique beauty.

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Shibuya Crossing

Shibuya crossing is the busiest intersection of Japan. The area, thanks to the many restaurants and other forms of entertainments, attracts a large crowd. The place is also quite famous among foreigners, who like to take selfies and videos as they cross the intersection multiple times. What’s so special about this crossing is that when the predestrian signal turns white, you can cross in any direction and hundreds of people flood the intersection at the same time.

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Hakuba Yari, the Highest Onsen in Japan

If you have climbed mountains of the Japanese Alps or tall volcanoes like mount Fuji, you know how good it feels to bath in a hot spring after a hard day of hiking. Now imagine you arrive at your campsite with a natural outdoor onsen waiting for you with an amazing scenery. This is the dream waiting for you at Hakubayari Onsen, the highest onsen in Japan.

A mountain hut is built every spring next to the hot spring and disassembled in fall before avalanche season. A tentsite with limited space is also located next to the hot spring (all spaces were filled by noon on the day of our hike).  A small cafeteria serves a simple dinner in the evening and staff can prepare cup noodles at lunchtime. More importantly, they sell beer. Yes, Japanese mountain climbing usually involves beer and most guest of Hakubayari onsen can be seen with a beer in hand at some time during their stay.

The hut is actually on the way to Hakuba-Yarigatake, a prominent peak in the region. We started our climb of Yarigatake from the hut at around 6 in the morning and summited at around 10:30. The view was spectacular. We could see mount Shirouma, Mount Tateyama, mount Kashima-Yarigatake, and Kurobe Damm.  

The trail we took back and forth to the summit starts from the Sarukura parking lot. We got a ride from familly member but I know that taxis will drive you up there from Hakuba station. 

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Climbing Mount Fuji by the Subashiri Trail

Some coworkers in my research lab organized a trip to Mount Fuji this past summer. Although it is possible to reach the summit and come back in a single day, like I did before by taking the Fujiyoshida trail, we elected this time to spend a night at a lodge and take the Subashiri trail. We started our hike at the Subashiri fifth station in early afternoon and reached our lodge in late afternoon. At the lodge, we had curry for dinner and spent most of our evening enjoying the beautiful scenery. After a very short and rather uncomfortable night, we woke up at 2 in the morning to start our night ascent of the summit of Mount Fuji. The trail was so crowded and the climb up was slow but it was an exciting experience to see all the hikers heading up the famous volcano with their headlamps. We summited at around 4AM, just in time to witness the amazing sunrise while eating our breakfast. We then headed down by the osunabashiri (Gotemba is the official name) trail which is so sandy that many chose to run all the way down. 

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Yokohama Chinatown

Yokohama’s Chinatown, one of the largest in the world, is renowned for its delicious Chinese restaurants and gift stores. Most of the Chinese who have immigrated to Yokohama were of Cantonese origin but the selection of food is quite diverse with dozens of restaurants packed in a relatively small area. The area is deserved by the Motomachi-Chūkagai Station of the Minatomirai line. Express trains link Shibuya station in Tokyo with Motomachi-Chūkagai in about 40 minutes. If you are looking to eat in Yokohama Chinatown, I recommend to try the dumplings at a restaurant with a large image of four chefs with golden hats and lots of medals around their necks. Their dumplings are apparently award-winning and I confirm they are delicious. They have many establishments withing Chinatown so it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

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Todoroki Valley

Todoroki Valley is an oasis of nature in the middle of Tokyo. The valley, which is about  10-20 meters deep, was dug over time by a small river. In the summertime temperatures remain surprisingly colder in the valley thanks to the cold water and the shade provided by the large trees. A path follows the river and eventually leads to the Todoroki temple and a small teahouse. Next time you can’t bear the intense summer heat, head to Todoroki valley for a refreshing encounter with nature!  

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Ma Zhu Miao Temple

The Yokohama Ma Zhu Miao Temple, located in the chinatown of Yokohama, is dedicated to the Chinese sea goddess Mazu. It features a large colorful gate with vibrant green, blue and gold colors. The many lanterns linking the gate and the temple are illuminated at night.

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