On our most recent trip to Japan (April 19 to May 9, 2018), we made a spontaneous trip to the Fuji Five Lakes region. It wasn't in our itinerary, but we dropped our initial plans to chill in Shibuya and Ginza to visit the Arakurayama-Sengen Park instead. Arakurayama-Sengen Park offers one of the best views of Mt. Fuji, and it was something that I wouldn't mind seeing. I highly recommend making this a full-day trip as the commute took about 3 hours one-way (about $60 round trip per person). Our JR Rail Pass wasn't valid on this day, but the commute would be a lot cheaper if you had a JR Pass. We left the InterContinental Tokyo Bay at 11 am and arrived at Shimo-Yoshida Station around 2 pm.


Getting there wasn't too difficult, but it wasn't easy either as you have to transfer onto different trains. The Chureito Pagoda is located in Arakurayama-Sengen Park, and is about a 10 minute walk from Shimo-Yoshida Station. However, in order to get up to the viewing point of the Chureito Pagoda, it's another 400 steps up the stairs. I am definitely glad that I opted for flats that day, or else my feet would have been in major pain.



How To Get to Chureito Pagoda

1. Get to Shinjuku Station
2. Get on the JR Chuo Line-Limited Express Kaiji 103 特急 Kofu
3. Arrive at Otsuki Station (1 hr 1 min, 4 stops)
4. Get on the Fujikyuko Line 各停 Kawaguchiko
5. Arrive at Shimoyoshida Station and walk 21 min to the Chureito Pagoda


Shinjuku --> Otsuki --> Kawaguchiko --> Shimo-yoshida 



The Chureito Pagoda is a five storied pagoda on the grounds of the Arakurayama-Sengen Park. If you walk a few more steps, there are stairs going up to the viewing point where it offers a wonderful view of Mt. Fuji, the five-storied pagoda, Fuji Yoshida city, and Sakura trees (during Cherry Blossom season only). I loved that free wi-fi was also available in the park, especially if you don't want to waste data posting Instagram Stories.


 Such an incredible view!


Hungry? There were about three food trucks on the ground area of Arakurayama-Sengen Park. We got an order of takoyaki (5 for 500 yen), but the lady was nice to give us an extra piece.


[Japan] Chureito Pagoda

by on Friday, June 29, 2018
On our most recent trip to Japan (April 19 to May 9, 2018), we made a spontaneous trip to the Fuji Five Lakes region. It wasn't in our ...
Happy Lemon is a China-based tea chain that has quickly expanded globally since its opening. The company was founded in 2006. and has branches in over 100 different cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Taipei, Hong Kong, USA and Canada. They are also the freshly handmade bubble tea franchise chain shop floated on the stock exchange market in December 2014.


 I was introduced to the brand early last year at an Instagram meet, and I believe they have opened a few more locations since then. The mascot of Happy Lemon is an easily recognizable one ... literally a large anthropomorphic happy lemon.


Their menu includes a range of drinks such as milk tea, yakult, smoothies, but their most popular one is their rock salted cheese series. The salted cheese series is my favorite, and it's described as "creamy and enriched cheese mixed with rock salt." I have been to Happy Lemon on a few occasions, and most of the time I get the Green Tea with Salted Cheese, which I highly recommend to try.


Earlier last week, I also attended a Yelp Elite Event at the new Vaughan Happy Lemon location. The location was huge and super vibrant in colors (mainly yellow). The space is adorned with several decals showcasing the drinks and the brand. Overall, the experience was nice as two members were on hand that afternoon and the process to redeem the free drink went rather smoothly. Lots of drinks to choose from the menu!

Like many BBT shops, the routine to order is pretty simple:

1) Choose your drink
2) Choose size
3) Choose hot or cold
4) Choose topping
5) Choose sweetness and ice level 

Milk Tea with Pearl Sago and Puff Cream 


Mango Matcha Latte



FLASH GIVEAWAY

I would love for you guys to try the drinks. Therefore, I have teamed up with Happy Lemon to provide 3 FREE drink vouchers (medium drink) to TWO (2) WINNERS. Enter below to win :) The two winners will be contacted on Thursday (June 21) morning, and vouchers will be mailed out ASAP with Fedex Express (next morning delivery).

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Disclaimer: The vouchers provided in this post were complimentary. However, all of the opinions expressed in this review are of my own.



[FLASH Giveaway] Happy Lemon Canada

by on Monday, June 18, 2018
Happy Lemon  is a China-based tea chain that has quickly expanded globally since its opening. The company was founded in 2006. and has bran...
 Shukubo in Mt. Koya (Koyasan)

About one month prior to the big trip to Japan; I made a reservation to experience a temple lodging stay for one night. The reservation for two people was made online on the official website of the Koyasan Tourist Association and Shukubo. I am not used to the Japanese-style toilets so I opted for the modern Japanese style (bath/toilet common style) arrangement, which was ¥11,000 a night (per person). So our one night stay for two people was ¥22,000 ($232.00 CAD).

This year, I wanted to spend part of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day away from the city hence the temple lodging. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love Christmas and celebrate it every year. However, it was just nice to be able to do something different, and simple.

Tues, Dec 24, 2013 (Day #15)

A shukubo is an accommodation that allows you to stay in a Japanese temple or shrine for the night, and enables you to experience the culture. You are given your own personal room, and there are multiple washroom facilities throughout the temple. Additionally, many of the temples have Japanese hot springs (onsen) on their proprieties for their visitors to enjoy.

The Journey From Kobe, Japan

We had spent the first half of the day exploring Kobe and eating some really good AYCE BBQ in Kobe Harborland. We lost track of the time, and stayed in Kobe slightly longer than we had planned. So instead of leaving for Kobe Station before 1 pm; we ended up getting there around 2 pm. We quickly purchased our tickets to Shin-Imamiya Station from Kobe Station and off we went.

 The following is the JR train route that we took to get to Koya-san from Kobe; the entire duration of the trip was about 3 hours long.

 1) JR Kobe Station --> Osaka Station --> Namba Station (40 minute)
* Get on the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Line at Kobe Station and arrive @ Osaka Station. Once you're at Osaka Station, you need to get on the Osaka City Subway-Midosuji Line to Namba Station. 

2) Namba Station --> Hashimoto Station (Wakayama) (50 minute)
* At Namba/Nankai-Namba Station, get on the Nankai-Koya Line to Hashimoto Station (Wakayama).

3) Hashimoto Station (Wakayama) --> Gokurakubashi Station (45 min)
* At Hashimoto Station, get on the Nankai-Koya Line and get off at Gokurakubashi Station. 
4) Gokurakubashi Station (cable car) --> Koyasan Station (5 min)
* There will be a cable car waiting for you at Gokurakubashi Station. Get on the cable car and get off at Koyasan Station.

 * Koyasan Station will be the last station, where you will then get on the city bus which should take you straight to your temple lodging. 

Temple Lodging

So after a very long journey to get to our temple; we finally arrived at Shojoshin-in Temple. This is the name of the shukubo that we stayed in for the night of Christmas Eve.


Shojin-ryori (Buddhist cuisine)

Dinner was promptly served at 5:30 pm, and we were a little late. However, our monk in the head office was very kind, and quickly checked us into our room. He showed us around for a few minutes, and asked us to follow him downstairs. We followed behind, and were escorted into a room where our dinners were warmly waiting for us.


After dinner, we went back to our room to unpack and relax. It was extremely dark outside by 7 pm and there was very little lighting on the street so we didn't want to go outside. I think Koyasan is livelier in the summertime as I have seen pictures of visitors exploring after dark. However, the temperature was around 0 degrees that day so no one was outside.

There were a few things provided in our room such as a tea kettle, cookies, souvenir chopsticks, tv set, and best of all .... FREE WIFI!! I was able to contact my family to tell them that I was doing great as I didn't get a chance to speak to them earlier. I didn't spend the entire night surfing the internet; rather I read a book that provided insightful information on Koyasan, Buddhism, and about the other great sights in the city while sipping hot green tea.

The traditional architecture does not allow for any central heating throughout the temple. Therefore, a heater was provided in every room. Be sure to bring something warm to wear if you're here in December as the hallway was freezing cold.


Staying at Shojoshin-in Temple for the night was an absolutely wonderful experience, and it was just so serene. I highly recommend Shojoshin-in Temple as the monks and staff were extremely friendly and polite, and the room was rather spacious for its means.

Breakfast

Breakfast was served promptly at 7 am in the same room that we had dinner. Like the dinner that we had the previous night; the breakfast was all vegetarian and nicely presented. My personal favorites of the entire meal were the miso soup and beans; so tasty!


Exploring Shojoshin-in Temple

Shojoshin-in Temple is one of the oldest temples on Mount Koya (Koyasan). Its large structure looked absolutely magnificent, and there's a Japanese style garden in the backyard.