Tag: japan

Top 6 Things To Do in Shin-okubo Koreatown (Tokyo)

Top 6 Things To Do in Shin-okubo Koreatown (Tokyo, Japan)

Shin-okubo in Tokyo is the second largest Koreatown in Japan and is often called the “Myeong-dong of Japan”. It is a vibrant and colorful neighborhood crammed with everything Korean from cafes to restaurants, beauty shops and salons to K-pop goods stores, and a lot more.

Every day, the streets of Shin-okubo is packed with tourists and locals speaking in Korean language that strolling around would probably make you feel like you’re actually in Korea.

Here are the top 6 things you can do in Tokyo’s Koreatown to make your experience more fun:

01 | Make your own perfect Samgyeopsal

Forget about ramen or sushi for a while and plunge yourself into some Korean cooking. Try samgyeopsal (pork belly), a popular Korean dish grilled alongside slices of vegetables and paired with their staple food, Kimchi.

Don’t know where to go?
I recommend Tonchan, a famous Korean food chain in Japan. Affordable. Delicious. Satisfying.

Top 6 Things To Do in Shin-okubo Koreatown (Tokyo)

02 | Hunt for your Holy Grail Cosmetics and Skincare Products

Korean cosmetics and skincare have taken the world by storm and if you’re a K-beauty enthusiast like me, I’m sure you know what i’m talking about — SPF-infused makeup products, 10-step Korean skincare routine, pH-balancing toners, snail glass skin vs. honey skin beauty trends, cleansers for your skin type, and so on.

03 | Gush over your favorite K-pop stars

It’s not surprising anymore to hear someone going crazy over their favorite K-pop idols. Blame it on all these K-dramas and K-pop music. I mean, come on. . .they can dance, sing, rap, act, and almost have these perfect looks that make you question your existence.

So yeah, if you’re into K-pop, then you’ve found your heaven on earth.

04 | Try some Korean food items

Explore a Korean grocery store and check out their spicy noodles, chips and crackers, tea, gochujang or hot pepper paste, and even the famous soju which is Korea’s version of vodka with low alcohol content.

Don’t worry if you can’t read Korean, most of the staff can communicate in English so you can always ask for assistance.

05 | Sing your heart out

If you want to avoid the crowd, a karaoke over food and drinks would be a good choice. Sing and dance to your favorite K-pop songs, and of course, bring your friends to make the experience more fun!

06 | Stroll around

And lastly, just explore. This needs no explanation. If you stroll around, you’ll discover more amazing and fun things to do around Tokyo’s biggest koreatown, Shin-okubo!

Top 5 Things To Do in Shin-okubo - Tokyo's Korean Town

How to get to Shin-okubo:

Take a train to Shin-okubo Station (JR Line). Upon exiting the station, turn right and walk down the street. You’ll start seeing many Korean shops in less than 2 minutes.

Have you been to Shin-okubo? Let me know what you like about your visit in the comment section below!

Quick Facts (Shin-okubo Koreatown)

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Top 5 Things To Do in Shin-okubo - Tokyo's Korean Town

Complete Steps in Applying for a Japan Tourist Visa (for Filipinos)

Dreaming of traveling to Japan and experiencing its unique culture, beautiful scenery, and great food but worried about the seemingly troublesome visa process?

Here, I’ll be sharing with you the complete process of applying for a Japan single-entry tourist visa (both without a guarantor & with a guarantor living in Japan at the time of the application). Please remember that I am not giving you any assurance that you’ll be granted a visa by just following these steps. This post is just to give you an idea on the process and hopefully increase your chances of getting approved.

Getting a Japan tourist visa might sound so difficult and intimidating, but trust me, it’s really not as long as you comply with the requirements and follow the instructions well. I’ve been granted three times and the process each time was very smooth. The preparation might take a bit of time but once you’ve applied, you only have to wait for 2-5 days to get the result.

Note: Again, this is only for those who are visiting Japan as a tourist or visiting relatives/friends/partner (without a guarator & with a guarantor living in Japan at the time of the application). For other types of visa, please go to the official website of Japan Embassy in the Philippines or visit any accredited travel agency.

Step 1 : Gather all the necessary requirements.

1) Philippine passport
– Must be signed, not broken, and has at least 2 blank pages
– Must be valid for 6 months prior to your travel date
– Remove the passport holder.

2) A duly accomplished Visa Application Form.
– You can get a copy of the application form from here and print it in A4 size OR get it at any accredited travel agency where you will submit the requirements.
– The information can be handwritten or typed. If handwritten, write legibly.
– Avoid any erasures. In the case of making a mistake while writing, don’t use a corrector pen. Just cross out the word/s with two lines and write the correct info on top of it or on the sides.
– When filling out, make sure to put N/A on all the parts that are not applicable. DO NOT leave any blank.
– Once you’re done, don’t forget to sign it.

Note: On the form, you will be asked to write your airline and the name of your hotel. This doesn’t mean you have to book in advance and submit your plane ticket/hotel reservation. The embassy doesn’t require those. What you have to do is just to write your intended airline and hotel name if ever your visa is approved.

3) ID Picture
– 4.5 cm. x 4.5 cm. with a white background (just visit any photo center at your nearest mall)- Write your name and birthdate at the back of the photo and paste it on the application form.
– You will be needing only one photo but prepare two just in case.

4) PSA Birth Certificate
– Must be issued within one year by the PSA Main Office or any Serbilis Outlet Center nationwide
If your PSA birth certificate is unreadable, submit it along with your birth certificate from the Local Civil Registrar.
In the case of Late Registration on your PSA birth certificate, submit a Baptismal Certificate with the complete address and contact number of the church, your high school or elementary School Record (Form 137), and School Yearbook (if possible).
If you don’t have any record in the PSA, secure a Certificate of Non-Record from the PSA and submit it along with your birth certificate from the Local Civil Registrar.

Note: #4 is not required if you have been granted a Japan visa before and you can submit your old/valid passport with the used Japan visa.

5) Marriage Certificate (if married)
– Must also be issued within one year by the PSA Main Office or any Serbilis Outlet Center nationwide.

Note: #5 is not required if you have been granted a Japan visa before and you can submit your old/valid passport with the used Japan visa.

6) Daily Schedule in Japan (Taizai Yoteihyo)
– See samples and download the form here in Japanese or English.
– Make it as simple and short as possible.  Don’t make it sound complicated.
– For columns that have the same answer (e.g. staying in the same address for a few days), just write “same as above”.

Tip: If you’re looking for a cheap accommodation while staying in Japan, I recommend Agoda or Airbnb.

Agoda – You can book without paying in advance and you can even cancel weeks or days before your arrival date without any charges.
Airbnb – For first-time users, sign up through my referral link to get Php1,000-Php2,000 off your first booking.

Without a guarantor

* Techically falls under Visa for Tourism

If you will shoulder all of your expenses, you have to submit these requirements in addition to nos. 1-6:

7) Bank Certificate
– Must have a validity of 3 months from the date of issue
– Make sure to submit a Bank Certificate, NOT a Bank Statement.

Note: Your Monthly Average Balance is stated in your Bank Certificate so it’s NOT a good idea to suddenly put a large amount of money just for your application. Doing this might lead to a denied application.

8) Income Tax Return (Form 2316)
– Get the latest one and submit it in a clear photocopy.

With a guarantor living in Japan (family/close relative)

* Techically falls under Visa for Visiting Relatives (up to 3rd degree)

Your guarantor/sponsor should send you the following requirements and you have to submit them in addition to nos. 1-6.

7) PSA Birth Certificate
– Your family or relative’s birth certificate to prove that you’re related to each other. Please refer to #4 for additional info.

8) Guarantee Letter
– You can download the form here in Japanese or English.
– Must be completed and signed by your guarantor/sponsor

9) Invitation Letter
– Download the form here in Japanese or English.
– Must be completed and signed by your guarantor/sponsor
– Basically explains why your guarantor wants to invite you (e.g. sightseeing, reunion, wedding invitation, etc.)

10) Family Registration (Koseki Tohon)
– Only applicable if your family or relative in Japan has a Japanese spouse or relative
– Must be issued within the past 3 months

11) Residence Certificate (Juminhyo)
– Should state all family members
– Must be issued within the past 3 months
– If the guarantor is your relative/family’s Japanese spouse or relative, they must send you both of their residence certificates.

12) Copy of Residence Card OR Special Permit Resident Certificate of your family/relative in Japan
– Must include both front and back

13) Income Certificate (Shotoku Shomeisho)
– from the City Hall

14) Tax Return Certificates with Gross Income (Nouzeishomeisho: Form 2)
– from the Tax Office

15) Tax Income Copy (Kakuteishinkokusho Hikae) OR Bank Certificate (Yokin Zandaka Shomeisho)
– from the Bank
– Must be issued within the past 3 months

Tip: Although they can choose either one of these, it’s always a good idea to submit both as these documents will determine how capable they are of supporting you during your stay.

Note: Submitting a Withholding Slip (Gensenchoshuhyo) instead of #16 is NOT acceptable. Also, make sure that the Tax Income Copy (Kakuteishinkokusho Hikae) includes the gross income amount.

With a guarantor living in Japan (partner/friend/distant relative)

* Technically falls under Visa for Visiting Friends or Distant Relatives (beyond 3rd degree)

Your guarantor/sponsor should send you the following requirements and you have to submit them in addition to nos. 1-6.

7) Proof of Relationship
– In addition to photos of you together, your guarantor must also write an explanation letter about your relationship.

8) Guarantee Letter
– You can download the form here in Japanese or English.
– Should be completed and signed by your guarantor/sponsor

9) Invitation Letter
– Download the form here in Japanese or English.
– Should be completed and signed by your guarantor/sponsor
– Basically explains why your guarantor wants to invite you (e.g. wedding invitation, sightseeing, to get married in Japan, introduce to family and friends, etc.)

Note: For those getting married, apply for a 90-day visa as it will take a lot of paperwork to get married in Japan and you will be mostly spending time visiting government offices and waiting for your documents to be mailed at your given address.

When applying for this one, make sure to prepare a lot of supporting documents about your relationship (e.g. photos together, visa stamps to prove that you’ve traveled together or lived in the same country for quite some time, and the like).

But please remember: Unless you actually intend to get married during your stay in Japan, DO NOT use this as a reason just to get a 90-day visa. And DO NOT ever commit in any marriage-of-convenience act. The embassy has their ways to check whether your relationship is real or not.

10) Residence Certificate (Juminhyo)
– Must state all family members
– Must be issued within the past 3 months.

11) Copy of Residence Card OR Special Permit Resident Certificate
– Only applicable if your guarantor is a foreign resident in Japan
– For Japanese guarantors/sponsors, no need to send any of these.
– The copies must include both front and back.

12) Income Certificate (Shotoku Shomeisho)
– from the City Hall

13) Tax Return Certificates with Gross Income (Nouzeishomeisho: Form 2)
– from the Tax Office

14) Tax Income Copy (Kakuteishinkokusho Hikae) OR Bank Certificate (Yokin Zandaka Shomeisho)
– from the Bank
– Must be issued within the past 3 months

Tip: Although they can choose either one of these, it’s always a good idea to submit both as these documents will determine how capable they are of supporting you during your stay.

Note: Submitting a Withholding Slip (Gensenchoshuhyo) instead of #16 is NOT acceptable. Also, make sure that the Tax Income Copy (Kakuteishinkokusho Hikae) includes the gross income amount.

Step 2 : Choose an Accredited Travel Agency.

The embassy doesn’t accept direct applications anymore so you have to find an accredited travel agency who will process your application for you. Although the embassy doesn’t require any fee in issuing a Japan Visa, the travel agency will charge you for the processing fee which ranges from Php800-Php2,000 depending on the agency. For a complete list of accredited travel agencies, please refer to this link.

In my case, I have only used Friendship Tours – Cebu Branch. They have assisted me three times (all approved), so I personally recommend them for those applying in Cebu. They check all requirements carefully, answer questions well, and guide you in filling out the application form to make sure you won’t make any mistakes.

Step 3 : Wait for the result.

Aaand there you go! After all the hard work in preparing your documents, all you need to do is wait for the result. If you follow the above steps correctly and submit all the required documents, you will most likely get the result in just 2-5 days.

In any case where the embassy requests for additional/supporting documents, the travel agency will call you so make sure to keep your lines open all the time.

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Complete Steps in Applying for a Japan Tourist Visa (for Filipinos)

Suica Card: A Must-have In Getting Around Japan

Suica Card - A Must-have In Getting Around Japan

Although Japan’s rail system is one of the best in the world, its train stations are also among the busiest and the most complicated especially to travelers.

This is because most of the stations (especially in Tokyo) are sooooo huge that you would feel like you’re lost in a maze. And if you can’t read Japanese (Nihongo), buying tickets and knowing which lines to take could be a lot worse. Sounds like a nightmare, huh?

But don’t worry, one of the best ways to get around with ease is having a Suica card with you in addition to Google Map and your ability to ask for assistance.

What is a Suica Card?

SUICA stands for Super Urban Intelligent Card. It is a rechargeable prepaid smart card issued by the JR East that you can use on train lines and bus stations in Japan. You can also use it to pay at convenience stores, vending machines, shopping malls, and even restaurants that accept IC cards.

Why consider getting a Suica Card?

By using Suica, you won’t have to worry about buying tickets and searching for the train prices each time. You just need to load funds to your card at ticket machines and swipe it at the ticket gate of your designated train line. If you will be staying in Japan for a longer period, you’re most likely to be using trains a lot so it’s better to load a bigger amount so you won’t have to put funds to it again and again.

How to get a Suica Card?

Getting a Suica card is pretty easy. You can purchase it directly upon arriving at Narita or Haneda airport or at any ticket vending machine at JR Stations. Japanese and English are provided and the steps are very simple, fast, and easy. No need to show your passport, sign anything, or write down a lot of personal info.

The minimum amount you can load to your card is 1,000 JPY and up to a maximum of 20,000 JPY. If it’s your first time purchasing, a 500-yen deposit is required which will be refunded once you decide to return the card. But if you plan to visit Japan again, I suggest you just keep it with you for future use as it has a 10-year validity period.

Having to constantly change trains and lines can be somewhat daunting and stressful. But with Suica, you can save tons of time and stress. Whether you are a regular commuter or a seasoned traveler, a Suica card is definitely a must-have in getting around Japan.

Quick Facts (Suica and Pasmo)

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Suica Card: A Must-have In Getting Around Japan

Fuji-Q Highland’s Labyrinth of Fear: Japan’s Most Terrifying Haunted House

Fuji-Q Highland's Labyrinth of Fear - Japan's Most Terrifying Haunted House

Ever been to Japan’s biggest and scariest haunted house?

Be ready to send chills down your spine as Fuji-Q Highland’s Labyrinth of Fear gives you an average of 50-minute nerve-wracking experience you will never forget!

Listed as one of the largest and scariest haunted houses in the world, Fuji-Q Highland’s Labyrinth of Fear is not a place for the fearful. With its hospital setting and 900 meters of puzzling maze to deal with amid strange echoes and sounds, this two-story building depicts the perfect labyrinth of fear.

Fuji-Q Labyrinth of Fear (Japan's scariest haunted house)
japantimes.co.jp

The Labyrinth of Fear has a history traced to a popular hospital close to Mount Fuji where doctors were accused of selling internal organs of patients and disposing of their bodies which occasioned the spirits of the dead victims to haunt back and kill many doctors, a legend that has lived ever since.

Fuji-Q Highland's Labyrinth of Fear (Japan's scariest haunted house)
fujiq.jp
Fuji-Q Highland's Labyrinth of Fear (Japan's scariest haunted house)
jin115.com

The craziest experience I had with my partner (I went there with one more person) was the Room of No Escape where we were confined in a confusing space with weird ambience, no visible exit route, and ghosts chasing after us. That was so horrifying that I ended up losing my voice due to shouting non-stop. I doubt I would ever have the guts to try Fuji-Q’s haunted house again. >_<

Fuji-Q Highland's Labyrinth of Fear (Japan's scariest haunted house)
trend81.blog.so-net.ne.jp

If you think you’ve got the nerves to try out the eerie sounds, experience strange sights and smells, and walk through extremely dark passages, then the Labyrinth of Fear is for you!

But if you really can’t take it anymore, no worries. There are pink doors marked “retire” in a few parts of the building where you can just take the moment you decide to give up. But don’t you dare! The Labyrinth of Fear is something you would be proud of once you complete the 50 minutes of pure terror!

Can you make it to the end?
Good luck!

ADDITIONAL INFO

Attraction Name: Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear (located inside Fuji-Q Highland Theme Park)
Address: 5 Chome-6-1 Shin-NishiharaFujiyoshida 403-0017, Yamanashi Prefecture, Japan
Website: https://www.fujiq.jp/en/attraction/senritsu.html

Building: a 2-story hospital building
Length of time to complete: approx. 50 minutes
Total floor space: approx. 3000m² (32391 ft.²)
Distance to explore: approx. 900m (2952.7 ft.)

Age restrictions: elementary school students & up
Number of visitors: limited to 1500 people per day
* They don’t allow any visitor to enter this haunted house alone so you should bring at least one friend.

Ticket Price: 500 JPY (on top of the whole park’s entrance fee)
*Please see the table below for a complete list of entrance ticket prices as of June 2017.

Fuji-Q Highland Labyrinth of Fear haunted house ticket price

HOW TO GET TO FUJI-Q HIGHLAND

BY CAR

(Option 1)

  • Take Shuto Expressway #4.
  • Then take Chuo Expressway to Kawaguchiko national highway via Otsuki Interchange (IC). → 50 mins.
  • Lastly, take the Kawaguchiko Interchange (IC) to Fuji-Q Highland → 0 min.

(Option 2)

  • Take Shuto Expressway #3 to Gotenba Interchange (IC) via Tomei Expressway → approx. 60 mins.
  • Then take Expressway No. 138 (approx. 15 mins.) to Subashiri Interchange (IC) (approx. 3 minx.), and change to Higashifujigoko Road to Fujiyoshida Interchange (IC). → approx. 15 mins.
  • Lastly, take the Fujiyoshida Interchange (IC) to Fuji-Q Highland → 0 min.

BY TRAIN

(Option 1)

  • Take JR Chuo Main Line to Otsuki Station via Shinjuku Station → approx. 60 mins. by limited express
  • Transfer to Fujikyu Line bound for Fuji-Q Highland. → 50 mins.

(Option 2)

  • Take JR Tokaido Shinkansen to Shin-Fuji Station via JR Station from Koshinetsu,Chukyo, or Kansai.
  • Take Fujikyu Bus to Fuji-Q Highland → approx. 120 mins.

(Option 3)

  • Take JR Tokaido Shinkansen to JR Mishima Station via JR Station from Koshinetsu, Chukyo, or Kansai.
  • Take Fujikyu Bus to Kawaguchiko Station → approx. 120 mins.

(Option 4)

  • Take JR Gotenba Line to Gotenba Station via JR Station from Koshinetsu, Chukyo, or Kansai.
  • Take Fujikyu Bus to Kawaguchiko Station → approx. 120 mins.

(Option 5)

  • Take JR Chuo Main Line to Kofu Station via JR Station from Koshinetsu, Chukyo, or Kansai.
  • Take Fujikyu Bus to Fujisan Station → approx. 120 mins.

BY BUS

(Option 1)

  • Take Chuo Highway Bus Fujigoko Line via Shinjuju Station (South Exit). → approx. 100 mins.
Inquiry and Reservation
Fujikyu Highway Bus Reservation Center
+81-555-73-8181 (7:30 AM to 8 PM)
Keio Highway Bus Reservation Center
+81-3-5376-2222

(Option 2)

  • Take Chuo Highway Bus via Tokyo Station (Yaesu Exit). → approx. 110 mins.
Inquiry and Reservation
Fujikyu Highway Bus
+81-555-73-8181 (7:30 AM to 8 PM)

(Option 3)

  • Take Tomei Highway Bus via Yokohama Station (West Exit). → approx. 150 mins.
Inquiry and Reservation
Fujikyu Highway Bus
+81-555-73-8181 (7:30 AM to 8 PM)

(Option 4)

  • Take Tomei Highway Bus via Shibuya Mark City. → approx. 120 mins.
Inquiry and Reservation
Fujikyu Highway Bus
+81-555-73-8181 (7:30 AM to 8 PM)

(Option 5)

  • Take Chuo Highway Bus via Haneda Airport Line. → approx. 135 mins.
Inquiry and Reservation
Fujikyu Highway Bus
+81-555-73-8181 (7:30 AM to 8 PM)

(Option 6)

  • From Osaka or Kyoto stations, take a bus via Abenobashi Station (JR Tenno Area) and arrive at Meishin Ibaraki, Takatsuki and Hachijo Exit of Kyoto Station.
Inquiry and Reservation
Fujikyu Highway
+81-555-73-8181 (7:30 AM to 8 PM)
Kintetsu Highway Bus
+81-6-6772-1631 (9 AM to 7 PM)
*There are also other buses bound for Fuji-Q Highland from Kobe, Sannomiya, Shin-Osaka, and Kyoto.
The bus then returns to Fuji-Q Highland at night and picks up passengers bound for Kyoto, Umeda, Kobe, and Sannomiya.
*For other available routes, please click here.

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Fuji-Q Highland's Labyrinth of Fear - Japan's largest and scariest haunted house

Fall in love with Chichibu: A Beautiful Mountainous City in Saitama

So yes, we took another road trip to Chichibu, Saitama, Japan; and this time, in spring!

You can read my previous post here when I first went on a road trip to Chichibu in autumn last year. I’m so in love with this place that I can’t even begin to describe. Chichibu is so peaceful and beautiful. The people are so warm and everything is just exciting.

Going to Chichibu would take about two hours by car or by train from Tokyo. It is a city in the westernmost part of Saitama prefecture and is surrounded by forests and mountains.

Mt. Bukou (武甲山)

One of the most famous hiking spots in Chichibu is Mt. Bukou (武甲山). It is composed of limestone and stands at 1,304 meters high. A large part of it is used for mining, resulting in its unique shape. Legend has it that Prince Yamato Takeru, the son of the 12th emperor of Japan and one of the greatest soldiers (武 ) in his time, removed his warrior helmet (甲 ) and put it in a room made of rocks inside this mountain (山), thus the name.

Address: Chichibu 368-0001, Saitama Prefecture

Fall in love with Chichibu - A Beautiful Mountainous City in Saitama

Hitsujiyama Park (羊山 公园)

Another famous attraction is the Hitsujiyama Park (羊山 公园). In spring when flowers are in full bloom, this park is covered with Shibazakura and Tulips in different colors. There are also a lot of food stalls in the park where you can buy delicious street food while strolling around.

Address: 〒368-0023 Saitama Prefecture, Chichibu, Omiya, 6360

Website: http://navi.city.chichibu.lg.jp/flower/shibazakura/

Fall in love with Chichibu - A Beautiful Mountainous City in Saitama

Chichibu Muse Park

Chichibu Muse Park is another picturesque spot you shouldn’t miss.  There, you can go cycling, play in a big children’s park, see a garden full of colorful Tulips, buy ice cream (yay!), watch fireflies, and enjoy the breathtaking view of the mountains overlooking the whole Saitama region.

Address: 637-2 Kuna, Chichibu City, Saitama

Website: http://www.muse-park.com/

And of course, our road trip wouldn’t be complete without having a little barbecue party in the woods while listening to the birds chirping and the relaxing sound of the river. We spent a night in a big house right in the middle of the forest before heading back to Tokyo the following day. It was another exciting experience I’ll never forget.

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Fall in love with Chichibu - A Beautiful Mountainous City in Saitama

A Road Trip to Chichibu in Autumn (Saitama)

A Road Trip to Chichibu in Autumn (Saitama)

To escape the busy streets of Tokyo and enjoy the autumn leaves more, we took the most spontaneous road trip to Chichibu, a city in the westernmost part of Saitama Prefecture surrounded by beautiful mountains and forests.

Chichibu is just a two-hour drive from Tokyo (we set off from Hachioji). You can also take the train via the express Seibu Ikebukuro Line. From Ikebukuro, it takes about an hour and a half to get to Chichibu station.

While on the road, I couldn’t help but be amazed. This city boasts natural beauty and peaceful rural villages. I never expected seeing more.

Everything was just so beautiful — the mountains, the autumn leaves that were slowly changing colors, the orange trees which I saw for the first time, the smiles of the people. No words.

It was definitely ‘love at first sight’ and Chichibu will always be one of my favorite places in Japan. I’m so in love with it and I’ll definitely come back in spring and see more of its beauty.

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A Road Trip to Chichibu in Autumn