Nov 29, 2012

Outgoing letters/お手紙発送

I have lots of incoming and outgoing letters in November, but I'm so behind with posting about them. :(  I can't believe that it's the last week of November! Well, here are my outgoing letters sent early November.  The first letter was to my pal in Poland.  I think I sent this letter very late October, and that's why you see Halloween KitKat chocolates (pumpkin pudding taste) in the picture.  I was crazy about this chocolates for the whole month of October.  It was only for Halloween season. :)
This one was for my Canadian pal.  Halloween candies and KitKat were sent along.
These traveled to my pals in Germany, Croatia and USA.
This one traveled to Indonesia.
I have more pictures of my outgoing letters as well as lovely incoming letters so will post them soon. :)  Have you been writing letters?

Nov 28, 2012

Hiking in Tochigi / 栃木でハイキング

Last Friday in Japan (November 23rd) was our public holiday called Kinro Kansha no Hi or Labor Thanksgiving Day, so it was a long weekend!  I went hiking to Tochigi prefecture, one of our most popular tourist attractions with the three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the historic town of Nikko, and I had lots of fun!
Well, before I go further, I want to say thank you here to Non san who helped us a lot with planning.  We didn’t know much about hiking spots in Tochigi, so without your help we could not have such a nice experience.  Thank you!!!
She recommended hiking trails in Shiobara Hot Spring Village.  I’m not sure, but I think it’s somewhere around 200km from Tokyo (We took trains to get there).  Here are some of the beautiful views we enjoyed while hiking.  We were little late for the colorful autumn leaves, but we enjoyed the leaving autumn and felt the arrival of winter in the air. :)
Beautiful waterfall called Mikaeri no taki.
A suspension-bridge called Mikaeri no tsuribashi.
A beautiful view from the bridge.
As it’s called Shiobara “Hot Spring Village”, Shiobara area is known for nice relaxing hot springs, and you can find them almost every corner of the area.  What made us really happy was that they had free ashiyu or footbath in the hiking trail!!!  I jumped when I found it! :D  This is us having our foot in nice ashiyu.  It made us forget the time, and it took us more than 30min. to finally pull our foot out from the hot water! :D
In Japan, hot springs are very popular, and it's common that we go in there being naked with strangers (men and females are separated).  I had some penpals visiting Japan from different countries, but so far my Finnish pal is the only person who went in there and others didn't go.  I took sauna with her being naked when I visited her in Finland, so I guess for her being naked in front of other women wasn't a surprise.  Anyway, if you are not comfortable taking a hot springs being naked, you might want to try Ashiyu. :)  It's really relaxing!
Has the winter arrived in your area?  Maybe summer for those who live in the southern hemisphere?  I hope you are having a nice season!

Nov 22, 2012

Starbucks Card/スターバックスカード

Do you remember what 23rd of every month means?  Yes, it's Fumi no hi! :D  Tomorrow the Friday is 23rd, so I'm supposed to have a posting about the winners from the previous month's applicants for my third Fumi no hi Give-away project, but as November 23rd is a public holiday in Japan that means we're having a long weekend, I'll be gone for a weekend trip so have to postpone the posting to 26th.  Sorry about this! :(  I hope those who made entry in my last month's Fumi no hi project will come back on 26th to see if your name is on the posting! :D  Oh, if you want to remove your name from the applicants, please message me here ( or you can just leave a comment here.  Thanks! :)
Yesterday I sent my friend a birthday card and as a present a prepaid Starbucks card.  You can use this card to buy coffee etc. at Starbucks cafe. :)

I found this prepaid Starbucks card where you donate 100yen (about $1.3US/1 Euro) when you make the first charge on this card, and then till this Christmas every time you use this card, Starbucks donates 1% from your paying cost to Michinoku-Mirai Foundation which was established by the private companies Kagome Co., Ltd. , Calbee Inc. and Rohto Pharmaceutical Co., Ltd. to grant scholarship to these children who lost both or one of their parents in the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11 2011.  Here is the card.  It came with nice package where you can write a little message inside.
It explains inside that what this project is for and how you participate in it.
I sent her the card together with a lovely birthday card. Hope she will like them.
This card was sold from September 3rd till October 31st this year, so I bought some with some money prepaid to make them a nice birthday present, and the one I sent yesterday was the last one I bought.  I hope my friends have been enjoying their coffee and maybe some sweets at Starbucks. :)  Some of them told me that they also gave this card for their friends' birthday.  That's so nice!  I love the idea that we can help children by having a cup of coffee.  I know 1% is very small, but I think "action" is what counts, right?

I must admit that my attention for the quake-damaged areas has been fading out day by day, but I try to pause every once in a while and think of those people who have been going through tough time and see if there is anything I can do.  I know it's always not much I can do with my small hands, but there is always something that I can do. :)  I'm glad that I found this Starbucks Cards and could participate in this project.  By the way, according to Starbucks, from September 3rd till October 31st, the donation through this project reached 19,426,400yen (about $236,907US/185,013Euro).  This project will be continued till Christmas, so the donation will become bigger! :D

Like the message of the Michinoku-Mirai Foundation says, I hope that every single child grow up without giving up their dreams!! :)






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Nov 20, 2012

Christmas stamps / クリスマス切手

Does your post office issue Christmas stamps?  Last week I bought Christmas stamps for this year, and here they are. :)  They're sticker-type stamps.
These are 50yen stamps.  You can send a postcard within Japan for 50yen.
These are 80yen stamps.  You can send a letter up to 25g within Japan for 80yen.
These are 90yen stamps.  You can send a letter up to 50g within Japan for 90yen.  With this stamp, you can also send a letter up to 25g to Asian countries.
These 50yen stamps are one of my favorite this year. :)  Esp. the one of the Christmas tree in its shape!
Have you started Christmas shopping?  When do you start writing Christmas cards?  Here in Japan, we send cards to our family and friends for the New Year's Day rather than Christmas, but we can still buy Christmas cards at stores.  I usually enclose Christmas cards with my letters written in early December, and after mid. December I enclose the New Year's cards instead. :)
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Nov 8, 2012

Incoming letters/ 届いたお手紙

I received many letters last week, and it was like Christmas and birthday came at the same time! :D  Here are my lovely incoming letters from Germany. :D
I love the stamps! :) 
Could anyone tell me what "luftpost" means?
My pal enclosed lots of pictures and a postcard from her trip this summer to Iceland, and they're all beautiful!  Here is the postcard.  I think this is my first postcard from Iceland.! XD  I'm a BIG fan of hot springs, so I'd LOVE to go to this outside hot springs on the upper left picture in the postcard.  Looks so nice!!!
The northern lights in the postcard (right bottom) is so beautiful.  When I was living in Canada, I saw beautiful northern lights every winter.  I miss them so much!  It was  like a treat in the cold winter over there. :D  Have you seen the northern lights?

This wonderful letter and the handmade card is from my pal in the U.S.
And the stamps.
I love the stamps!  She used the commemorative stamps celebrating the 100th anniversary of a gift of 3,000 cherry trees to the U.S., and you can see a panorama view of the cherry trees in full bloom around Washington's Tidal Basin.  By the way, this March we also had commemorative stamps celebrating the same in Japan (you can see the design here), and I used those stamps for my American pals. :)

This is from my lovely penpal in Latvia.  I love her autumn stationery. :)
Latvian stamps.  So lovely. :)
These lovely letters are from Sweden, Vietnam and UK. :)
Lovely Swedish stamps!
Cute stamp from UK! :D  I love the mustache!  By the way, what does "Movember" mean???
I've been doing well with catching up with my letters and already replied to some of the letters I received last week. :)  I will post my outgoing mail soon.  I hope your mailbox has been happy as well! :D
By the way, 3 packages out of 5 packages I sent out for my first Fumi no hi Give-away project arrived at its destination in USA, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Venezuela, and I hope the rest of the packages will be delivered soon. to Italy and Mexico! :D

Nov 7, 2012

Hiking @ Mt. Takao & Mt. Jinba /高尾山&陣馬山でハイキング

Last Sunday I went hiking to Mt. Takao and Mt. Jinba both located not too far from downtown Tokyo.  Mt. Takao is 599m (1965.2 feet) tall located within an hour by train from downtown Tokyo, and it has become a very popular spot for hiking esp. after it was introduced in the Michelin Green Guide Japan for Travel and Tourism for 3 stars in 2007 (see here for further info. about Mt. Takao).  Mt. Jinba located along the border of Kanagawa prefecture and Tokyo is 857m (2811.8 feet) tall, and to its peak from Mt. Takao, you take a westward trail for about 5 hours (10km/6.2miles).  Compared to Mt. Takao where I saw lots of tourists, Mt. Jinba was more for a quiet hiking. :)
It's about 15km hike from Mt. Takao to Mt. Jinba, but since I'm a beginner in hiking, we decided to "cheat" by using a chair lift like in this picture.  I've heard that Mt. Takao is really crowded in autumn as many people come for the beautiful autumn leaves, but it was more than I expected!  We had to line up for the chair lift for like 30 minutes.  There was a long line up for cable car as well.  There were many people!
It was only 2km to the top of Mt. Takao from where we got off the lift, so that wasn't too hard.  The autumn has already arrived, and it was really beautiful. :)
Mt. Takao is one of the "100 Mt. Fuji Viewing Spots in Kanto" basically meaning that you can have a great view of Mt. Fuji, one of our most beloved mountains in Japan, in the distance. :)  It was a clear blue sky, so we had a great view of Mt. Fuji.   In the picture, the mountain with its top covered with snow in the distance is Mt. Fuji.
When we arrived at the top of Mt. Takao, I was surprised how crowded it was!  I think Mt. Takao has become way too famous since it received 3 starts in the Michelin Green Guide.  Lately I've seen many advertisements for hiking there (even TV commercials), so it has become more like a touristry site esp. on the weekends, I guess. :(  I'm not a big fan of being in the crowd, so we left there almost right after we got there and headed to Mt. Jinba.
The hiking path to Mt. Jinba from Mt. Takao was quiet and calm with less people.  We went through a quiet path like in this picture, and it was really beautiful.  The birds were singing and leaves were dancing; the light was falling onto us through trees that was really refleshing. :)

We stopped at a small rest area for lunch.  This is the view we enjoyed while having lunch. :)  I loved those mountains, mountains upon mountains, layered upon another like artistically torn pieces of wrapping paper.

And finally on top of Mt. Jinba!
OK, this doesn't look as amazing as it actually was due to my horrible camera skill, but it was really beautiful! lol  It was about 5 hours walk from Mt. Takao to Mt. Jinba, much longer than I expected it to be, but I really enjoyed the beautiful afternoon! :)  It was really refreshing!!
If you like hiking and decide to come to Japan, you might like to take the same path that I took. :)  Do you like hiking?  Where would be the most famous hiking spot in your area?