Best autumn spots in Tokyo (and day trips​ from the city)

Summer’s almost over and although I’m going to miss all the colorful and boisterous festivals, I’m certainly not going to miss the sticky humidity.

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Bon-odori festival at Nishiarai-daishi Temple

Surprisingly, the breeze is much cooler today and I think (and hope) the beautiful season of autumn will be upon us soon! I’m looking forward to seeing the leaves turn into vibrant hues of yellow, orange, and red again! I’m pretty sure I’m going to be busy being trigger-happy and exploring the city then, so in the meantime, I’d like to share some of my favorite autumn spots in Tokyo and nearby areas. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves 🙂

Rikugien Garden

One of the most impressive Japanese gardens I’ve seen no matter the season. In autumn, try to visit in the late afternoon then you can check out the night illumination until 9pm.

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Autumn foliage on spotlight

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Lovely Japanese landscape

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Full moon over Rikugien Garden

Best time for viewing: Mid to late November

Access: Komagome station (Hibiya line)

 

Ginkgo Avenue (Jingu Gaien Park)

Rows of towering ginkgo trees made me feel like a giddy kid on Christmas morning 🙂 It also made me sing a Coldplay song… for they were all yellow! :p

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Ginkgo Avenue

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Walk down this avenue that leads to a park with food stalls and beer!

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Dine al fresco at this café with outdoor heaters

Best time for viewing: Mid to late November

Access: Gaienmae Station (Ginza line) and Aoyama-Itchome Station (Hanzomon line)

This year, I’m hoping to visit more recommended autumn spots:  Shinjuku Gyoen near Shinjuku station, Showa Memorial Park near Tachikawa station, and Lake Kawaguchiko near Mt. Fuji too! Speaking of side trips…

Autumn day trips from Tokyo

If you have ample time, I suggest getting out of Tokyo not only to view the foliage and take a gazillion photos, but also to enjoy the serenity and wide open spaces in the countryside.

Nikko

I wrote a blog post about Nikko in 2014 and though the weather was a bummer, I’d still recommend it as a day trip destination from Tokyo. If you get there early enough, you’ll have time to check out the following sights:

1) Shinkyo Bridge – pictured below

2) Toshugu Shrine – a World Heritage Site worth visiting!

3) Kegon Falls – which isn’t visible when it’s raining, but you might see a few red-faced monkeys by the cliffs

4) Edo Wonderland – If you want to cosplay or watch a well-choreographed ninja show and a geisha show, according to my coworker 🙂

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Shinkyo Bridge

Best time for viewing: Late October

Travel time: Around 2 hours from central Tokyo (depending on the route)

Access: Nikko station in Tochigi prefecture / Check the routes here.

Hitachi Seaside Park

On my first year, I fell madly in love with fall in Japan once I laid my eyes on this garden! They look like giant rambutans and red pompoms, but according to my research, they are called kochia or burning bush, and more than 30,000 of them are planted here every Autumn. This place is also popular in Spring when the same hills below are covered with 4.5 million nemophila (baby blue eyes) flowers.

Check out the unfiltered and unedited photos below. Definitely worth the 2-hour commute! 😀

 

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Hitachi Seaside Park in autumn

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I wanted to hug them all 😛

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The park also has a carnival!

Best time for viewing: Early to mid-October

Travel time: From Ueno station, it takes almost 2 hours by train.

Access: Ajigaura or Katsuta station in Ibaraki prefecture / Check their site for details.

 

Hope you’ll have a blast like I did. Happy travels! 😀

<3, jenie

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My top Tokyo spots for 2016 (Part 1)

For the past few months, I’ve been receiving messages from friends asking for travel recommendations. Here’a list of the top spots I’ve discovered in Tokyo this year alone 🙂

*Click on the photos to enlarge 🙂

 

Shimokitazawa

Last May, I met up with a Japanese ex-student and she showed me around this bohemian neighborhood. If you’re a photographer/ Instagrammer or a fashionista/shopaholic, you’ll go crazy here.

There are cool cafés, restaurants, vintage clothing stores, flea markets, and bars with craft beers. We took a break in one of the quaint wooden huts and had a picture-perfect red velvet waffle but too bad it was bland and not moist enough. The blended coffee made it up for that dessert’s mediocrity, though 🙂

 

Avid shoppers can probably spend the whole afternoon scouring all the second-hand clothing stores here. I would’ve tried other cafés (and bars, if they were open) but I’m a cheapskate and didn’t want to shell out at least 400 yen for every cup, but I’d love to go back again and bring my tourist friends soon!

Access:

Shimokitazawa station on the Odakyu line or Inokashira line

 

Design Festa Gallery 

After a visit to Meiji Jingu in Harajuku with Xavier, I thought of finally checking out this artsy place. It’s not just a gallery that holds workshops, but a cozy café & bar as well. It was humid when we got there so instead of ordering a beer, I ordered a mixed berry smoothie. (A sign of aging :p)

 

As always, I went trigger happy and entered the mini exhibit rooms then photographed almost every graffiti and wall art along the alleys while my companion sat at the al fresco area while playing Pokemon Go hehe.

 

 

Access: Harajuku station on the JR Yamanote line

Yanaka Ginza

I had no idea what to expect when I was assigned to explore this area and take photos for work. All I knew was there’s a shopping street (that’s why it’s called Ginza) but I didn’t know this place had a reputation for having a lot of wandering cats. No wonder there were a lot of feline public art and I walked by a few neko-themed shops. As a huge cat lover, I enjoyed my two-hour visit to this small, traditional town in the middle of bustling Tokyo. The place is known for the huge Yanaka Cemetery and there are a few temples around the area too, such as Kyoo-ji, a Buddhist temple.

Two more spots worth visiting and returning to are: Yanaka Coffee and Menya Hidamali ramen shop that served a satisfying shio yuzu ramen. These two weren’t in my itinerary so I was pleasantly surprised to have chanced upon them that day. It was a humid day and according to my phone, I walked a total of over 14,000 steps, but everyone knows I’d rather explore places I’ve never been than sit in front of my laptop in the office 😀

 

Access: Nippori station on the JR Yamanote line

 

Omotesando

I’ve been working in this area since May and though grabbing an affordable lunch is tough, there are some spots here that travelers would love: Commune 246 and Spiral Gallery, to name a few. There are several food trucks and hip (but kinda pricey) cafés in the area, such as Blue Bottle Coffee and Shozo Coffee.

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Commune 246

A cool outdoor food court, Commune 246 has a variety of food trucks selling international fare and a selection of local and craft beers. At the back, you’ll find Caravan Tokyo, a mobile accommodation listed on Airbnb. Turn to the right side of the van and you’ll see Shozo Coffee, a little store that serves great drip coffee 🙂

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Caravan Tokyo

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Shozo Coffee

 

Design and Architecture

 

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Sunny Hills

 

Omotesando is known for its architectural gems and I think Sunny Hills has the most eye-catching wooden facade. This Taiwanese store sells pineapple cakes so the entire building is designed like a woven basket. It’s a masterpiece by Kengo Kuma, the renowned architect chosen to design the Olympic Stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

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Spiral Gallery

 

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One of the exhibits last summer

 

If you’re into design, drop by Spiral, a multi-purpose center with a café, restaurant/bar, stationery store, exhibits, and art gallery.

Across from this building stands Ao Kita Aoyama, a shopping complex and office building with 16 floors and looks stunning at night.

 

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Ao Kita Aoyama Building at night

 

Access: Omotesando station (Hanzomon or Chiyoda line)

That’s all for now, check out my Instagram for more travel ideas and regular updates. For my next post, I hope to write about my top food spots in Tokyo. Travel happy, peeps 🙂

jenie

5 Lessons I’ve Learned in 2015

2015 was one heck of an emotional rollercoaster for me. But despite all the ups and downs, I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned along the way:

  1. It’s possible to outgrow a job, a city, or even the most important people in our lives. Accept the truth then let go if you think you’ve tried hard enough. (Easier said than done, of course)
  2. Grieve and quit blaming yourself for the turn of events. Be kind to yourself and forgive.
  3. Don’t feel guilty for being happy. It doesn’t mean you’ve forgotten the past. It just means you’re learning to live with loss and have decided to move forward.
  4. Losing people is a part of life – just like gaining new ones, who could make a huge impact in your life again.
  5. Cherish those who stood by you despite the distance and your excess baggage. They’re the people you should bring along as you go on with your journey. Thanks to all of YOU. You know who you are 😉

Lastly, below is a very timely reminder I came across up in the air last September. Gracias, Universe!

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En route to Amsterdam, September 2015

 

Here’s to 366 days of new chances, changes, learnings, and opportunities for growth. I’m ready for you, 2016!

<3, jenie

 

#LoveandLetLive

Hotel de Ville, Paris. September 2015.

Let those who want to post their lovely Paris shots, post their shots. Let those who want to change their profile photos, temporarily change their photos. Let those who want to pray, pray. Let those who want to eat bacon, eat bacon. BUT we shouldn’t let those who want to spread fear and hate win.

Where did 2015 go?!

Well this is an early year-end post. I can’t believe 2015 is coming to a close. The year started out melancholy for me, but it seems like things are going in my favor this quarter and I’m incredibly grateful. September was too amazing for words because of the epic Euro trip with my wonderful travel buddy & interpreter 😀 I got some good news in October too. I’m back to copywriting part-time for a US company that doesn’t work overtime and doesn’t require Japanese! Makes me wish this year wouldn’t end soon, but I’m psyched and a little more optimistic about 2016!

I fell in love with Barcelona and Amsterdam in 2015 ❤ 

Two-timing Blogger

I’d like to apologize to my blog for taking it for granted the past months. I’ve been a two-timer since July because I’ve started blogging for GaijinPot, where I’m tasked to write about offbeat attractions, unique hideaways, and foodie spots. Here are some of my articles so far:

1) The Other Side of Asakusa: Swing By Rox Dome Batting Stadium

2) Gratify your Mexican Cravings at Guzman Y Gomez

Looking forward to writing more!

Summertime Gladness

I decided to leave Tokyo’s concrete jungle for 11 days and visit the tropical islands of my homeland. Longing for the sun, sand, and the sea since winter, every minute of our stay in Palawan felt surreal. Swimming in the stunning Busuanga Bay Lodge pool and having a hearty lunch at a private and pristine island made my summer holiday one for the  books. If only I could stay in that wonderful island for a month, I would. Here are some photographic proofs from the memorable trip that gave my nomadic heart and tummy so much joy 🙂

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I’m head over heels for Palawan! Hope to come back again soon 🙂

On Cherry Blossoms & New Beginnings

As someone experiencing four seasons for the first time, I believe the bloom of cherry blossoms is one of nature’s rewards and a way of saying “Go outside!” after a gloomy and painfully cold season of hibernation. Its charm also comes from its fleetingness, lasting no more than 2 weeks. In Japan, these flowers symbolize the beautiful yet fragile nature of life. More importantly, they signify new beginnings. Spring marks the start of the fiscal year and a new school year, as well as the time for fresh graduates to kick off their corporate lives. It also coincides with the renewal of my working visa this month.

When I found out that sakura trees in Tokyo were in full bloom, I didn’t think twice about making time and making my way to the city’s popular viewing spots. I must say it was worth the long wait and the tropical island girl in me can’t be any happier that winter’s over.

Here are some of my shots around the metro, particularly in my neighborhood, Nishiarai, Ueno Park, Tokyo Midtown, Chidogafuri Park, and Naka-meguro River.

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Living in Tokyo has its challenges but these priceless and breathtaking rewards remind me why I decided to stay. I just got my new working visa from the Immigration Bureau yesterday and it looks like my love affair with Japan continues. See you again next year, wonderful sakura! 🙂

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A Letter to My Future Self

Dearest future Jenie,

You’ve come a long way so don’t you dare stop exploring and seeing the world the way you did when you wrote this. Keep your sense of wonder and adventure alive, and keep following your bliss no matter what happens.

Don’t make your life miserable just to earn more moneyDSCF1357. We can’t have get everything we want, so choose wisely.

Travel with your friends and loved ones as much as you can. Collect tons of memories and photos, forget expensive things or status symbols.

Be kinder especially to those who need it most. Never become too desensitized with the harsh realities of life to the point of indifference.

Practice yoga even if you can’t reach your toes anymore. Drink more water, eat more fruits, and have a glass of red wine every night (hihi).

Love with all your heart though you know it could break into pieces. Put it back together with duct tape and bounce back anyway.

Never stop reading and keep writing to express yourself and to purge and clear your mind.

Also, don’t you ever miss a flight because you forgot to bring your passport, like you did when you were 28.

And lastly, stay silly, merry, and grateful.

Lots of love,
Jenie-san

 

Life Lessons I’ve Learned from Teaching English in Tokyo

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Taking a hiatus from my advertising career and moving to this megalopolis was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made, but the lessons I’ve learned about courage, fulfillment and determination have outweighed all the hurdles and struggles I had to overcome.

I hope it inspires at least one person to chase after their dreams this year, and not “someday”.

Read more about the 3 Life Lessons I’ve Learned from Teaching English here.