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July 2019: The First ILL Glamping in Kawaguchiko, Yamanashi, near Mt.Fuji

Tuesday, July 30th, 2019

Breakfast timeBreakfast time

On July 6th, 6 people (Laura, Yafa, Lya, Maryssa, Erik and Kyejin) and 2 guests (Maryssa’s friend and Yafa’s friend) headed to Kawaguchiko in Yamanashi near Mt.Fuji.

Although it’s known as one of the best places for the view of Mt.Fuji in Japan, we couldn’t see Mt.Fuji because of the rain but the city near lake Kawaguchi was already so beautiful itself and we had an amazing time together.

Keep reading the post and check out pictures from our fun trip below!

1. How was the activity? Score from level 1 (bad) to level 5 (good). Why?

Our Home from June 6 to 7Our home from June 6 to 7

Laura: (5) I was great! Really fun and even if it was raining we walked around and were very active ☺ The time in the cabin was amazing too. We all worked together and had a great time.

Lya: 6/5; It was really fun, I had a blast with everyone ☺

KitchenKitchen

Maryssa: 4; Everything was really fun and everyone there made every activity better! The rain was unfortunate, but we made the best out of the situation and could still do a lot!

Barbequing OutsideBarbecuing Outside

Erik: 5! Glamping was really fun! It was my first time doing it here in Japan. We even had a sauna in the cabin!

Yafa: 2/3; It was raining all the time.

In the SupermarketIn the Supermarket

Kyejin: 5! We had to walk 45 minutes from our cabin to get groceries (and of course, another 45-minutes walking on the way back to our place). That was a great exercise xD We enjoyed walking around the city. BBQ was so good, UNO game was so fun, and all the people were amazing… It was just a perfect activity!

2. How was the scenery/sightseeing there? Score from1 (bad) to level 5 (good). Why?

Lake KawaguchiLake Kawaguchi

Laura: (5) It was a beautiful place! The fog in the forest and lake made it look mysterious.

Arakura Fuji Sengen Jinja (新倉富士浅間神社)Arakura Fuji Sengen Jinja (新倉富士浅間神社)

Lya: 2; Sorry, we couldn’t see Mt Fuji because of the rain. We saw some good temples and nature tho. I’m sure it’s beautiful when there is sun/sakura/momiji.

Chureito Pagoda (忠霊塔)Chureito Pagoda (忠霊塔)

Maryssa: 4; Everything was green and beautiful. The lake was stunning and the forest around it was so pretty! I wish we could’ve seen Mt. Fuji, but everything else was still gorgeous.

The View from Our CabinThe View from Our Cabin

Erik: 4! The house we rented was exactly in front of a beautiful lake, so we had a really nice view. With the rain and the fog, the ambiance was really chill, for cooking and sleeping. Afterward, we went hiking to Chureito pagoda, it’s a short hike and about 200 steps, but you get the view from the whole city which makes it totally worth it, even in the rain!

Yafa: 2/5; I didn’t have time to enjoy the scenery.

The Misty CityThe Misty City

Kyejin: 4! Although I couldn’t see Mt.Fuji, the misty city was beautiful. I liked the smell of the misty mountain too : D The lake near our place was very nice.

3. What was the most memorable moment of this trip?

Playing UNOPlaying UNO

Laura: There were many! I will choose a couple, 1) The restaurant we went at the beginning of the trip (recommended by Stan), the place was very cozy and we had a good time talking and planning. 2) We all sitting at the breakfast table.

Making S’moreMaking S’more

Lya: Cooking and playing together! Good job everyone ♡

We Made S’more!We Made S’more!

Maryssa: There were so many great, hilarious moments. I loved teaching everyone how to make s’mores and seeing each person’s reaction for the first time! But I think even this moment ties with the epic game of UNO we all played.

Lya Catching a BugLya Catching a Bug

Erik: If I have to say, I think playing Uno til late in the night, and doing BBQ! (I used to bbq every week back home, so it brought back many memories T_T) After that hiking in the rain was super fun as well!! Also, everyone screaming at the presence of bugs lol

Yafa: The BBQ was amazing and the team made great effort for having a great and memorable moment.

Hairdressers and a CustomerHairdressers and a Customer

Kyejin: Walking to the supermarket in the rain, having a wonderful barbeque and pasta (prepared by Eri and Lya) with wonderful people, learning how to make s’more from Maryssa, playing UNO until 3 am, having a huge and amazing breakfast prepared by Lya, changing hairstyle for Lya, Maryssa and Laura on the train, hiking to the pagoda, sleeping really well on the bus on the way back home… ^_^

4. How was food? What was your favorite?

Barbequing in an Argentinian WayBarbecuing in an Argentinian Way(?)

Laura: (5) Incredible. Everything was really good thanks to Erik and Lya. My favorite was the pasta that Lya made ☺ and of course, the s’mores that Maryssa taught us how to make.

Happy Dinner TimeHappy Dinner Time

Lya: Food was awesome. I loved the meat (≧▽≦) many thanks to our BBQ expert (๑•̀ㅂ•́)و✧

Cooking PastaCooking Pasta

Maryssa: The food was so delicious!! The pasta and bbq at the cabin were really really tasty and it was basically all you could eat! The local udon was also great and fun to try.

Team BBQTeam BBQ

Erik: Food was awesome!! Laura brought goat milk caramel, which was absolutely delicious. I tried S’mores for the first time in my life (thanks, Maryssa!), it was a memorable experience ☺ Breakfast was amazing (Lya!) And… BBQ… well…^^

Best BreakfastBest Breakfast

Yafa: The food was really good. We had a huge nice breakfast. The steak was my favorite.

Kyejin: 100 out of 5 : D Lya’s pasta and breakfast, Erik’s BBQ, Maryssa’s s’more and Laura’s caramel were all fantastic!

5. Will you recommend this place to others? Score from 1 (No way) to level 5 (Absolutely). Why?

Hiking SeriouslyHiking Seriously

Laura: (5) It is a beautiful place to explore, and glamping was perfect (you have it all, the right amount of nature and civilization).

Lya: 5/5; recommend with no rain and friends. 3/5 with rain and alone. The sights are still enjoyable but traveling together made it way better.

Hydrangea Near Lake KawaguchiHydrangea Near Lake Kawaguchi

Maryssa: 5 Absolutely! It was so beautiful and charming. The scenery was wonderful and despite being a tourist attraction, it felt like a quiet, small town.

Walking in the RainWalking in the Rain

Erik: 5! Yes, why not? Going to fuji is a nice getaway from the city any given day! It’s only 2 hours away, and you get amazing views, pure air, and the possibility of BBQ things.

Yafa: 3/5; I recommend it moderately. It’s better to go during spring and when not raining. Also, I thought that the expenses compared to the place are a little high.

Kyejin: 5! Yes! I’m sure it’ll be even better if we can see Mt.Fuji : D It’s not far from Tokyo but it was a completely different place.

6. Any comment?

Fun Shopping TimeFun Shopping Time

Laura: Thank you, everyone! Especially Kyejin, for all the time and energy she put in organizing and making sure everyone made it to the place and had a great time.

Lya: So fun~ 12/10, would do again with sun ☀

Maryssa: Everyone who joined the trip made it as fun as it was. Thanks to everyone for making this trip so fun a memorable! My friend who joined felt welcome and comfortable thanks to everyone. I’m excited for more adventures together!

Erik: Let’s do it again someday!!! ☺

Results of UNOResults of UNO

Kyejin: It was amazing teamwork. Thank you, everyone!

Thank you for finding a great place and being our human navigator, Laura.
Thank you for shopping a day before our camping day and bringing all the heavy ingredients, Maryssa. And please say thank you to Yukiko for all Japanese language help!
Although it was a late time, thank you for making efforts to join the activity with a good friend, Yafa!
Thank you for amazing cooking (pasta, BBQ, and breakfast), and hunting all bugs to save our lives, Lya.
Thank you for photographing, barbequing meat perfectly and guiding us to the pagoda and the lake near the station, Erik!

But please remember I was the first legendary winner of the great ILL UNO history ever… : P keke
- Note: Laura was the most frequent winner by the record, Erik was the most frequent winner as he remembers(!?), and Lya was the last winner of the great ILL UNO history so far.

On the BusOn the Bus

~ Laura, Yafa, Lya, Maryssa, Erik, Kyejin

P.S. Our next activity is hiking at Mt.Kentoku (2,031m) on August 18th so join us if you’re interested in this challenge!

P.P.S. Making fire wasn’t easy… Everyone was so moved at the moment when Maryssa and Lya succeded!!

Trying hard

Success

June 2019: Fun Kayaking in Okutama

Friday, July 19th, 2019

Before Kayaking

On June 16, the 3rd Sunday of the month as usual, 7 people (Anna, Meg, Laura, Yafa, Alicia, Motoko, and Kyejin) and 2 guests (Alicia’s friend and Motoko’s friend) headed to Okutama.

Okutama (奥多摩) is a town located in the west side of Tokyo. It’s just 1.5 hour away from the city but there are lots of different river and mountain activities available. It’s a perfect place for Tokyoites who want to enjoy nature.

Training for Kayaking

We decided to do kayaking as it’s easy even for beginners and most of us don’t have any experience.

By the way, did you know the difference between kayak and canoe? There are many differences but one of them is, kayaking paddles have two blades while canoeing paddles have one.

1. How was the activity? Score from level 1 (bad) to level 5 (good). Why?

Kayaking

Yafa: 5/5 The activity wasn’t very difficult and it was a well-balanced exercise between sports and enjoyment.

Alicia: I would score this activity a LEVEL 5! Not only was it fun, I really appreciate the fact that I was able to partake in an activity I’ve never tried before in Japan. Being outdoors surrounded by nature, water, and sunlight really made my mood feel great and as a part of a wellness program, this activity really marked all the boxes! I was able to have fun, relieve stress, clear my mind, work on my fitness, bond with everyone, get a tan, and work on my kayaking skills! It was really a great choice for an activity!

Anna: 4! Not 5 because I would have loved to stay more in the water, but it was great!

Fun Kayaking

Laura: 5, it was fun and the place was beautiful : )

Meg: 4. It was awesome!! I wish we got to do it longer!

Motoko: 4.5: Kayaking was amazing and its score was 5+, but the unexpected car ride almost made me sick. *I get motion sickness easily.

Kyejin: 5. It was so fun and I didn’t want to finish kayaking ;_; so I was almost crying when it was time to go back. It wasn’t so difficult nor dangerous. Also, the staffs were kind and friendly, and the owner was a kayak representative of Japan! Amazing!

2. How was the scenery/sightseeing there? Score from1 (bad) to level 5 (good). Why?

Kayaking Okutama

Yafa: 5/5 the scenery was just amazing!

Alicia: I would say the scenery was a LEVEL 5! I’ve only been kayaking in my hometown, Miami, where we would kayak in the ocean and see things like boats, islands, rough ocean waves, etc. But this kayaking experience was a whole different experience! The mountains, the amount of greenery, the refreshing water, the sunlight, the security and untouched feeling of nature, was really breathtaking and I feel really lucky I was able to see such a scene and experience the natural side of Japan more!

Anna: 5 being able to see the views from the kayaks was so new and different. Maybe it was a bit bright at some points but the weather was so good it made it perfect.

Perfect Weather for Kayaking

Laura: 5, lots of green and nature. Plus the weather was great.

Meg: 4. It was really nice and so much nature.

Motoko: 5: It’s not too far from the city, but has a lot of green and mountain view. The lake was also surrounded by good scenery to get relaxed.

Kyejin: 5. It was really beautiful. The weather was perfect - it was sunny, hot enough but not too hot. We were so lucky to go kayaking on such a wonderful day during the rainy season.

3. What was the most memorable moment of this trip?

Kayak Time

Yafa: The moment to get into the boat and where I tried to keep my balance.

Alicia: I would say the most memorable moment from the trip was taking a picture near the waterfall while everyone was kayaking! I think it was the only time everyone was actually able to get together while we were in the kayaks, so it was funny to see everyone working together to stay near the waterfall and hold on to each other for the picture!

Anna: Seeing a man fishing on a floatable donut (?) in the middle of the river. It really made me think about my lifestyle and how much I wanted to be him.

Laura: Being able to explore around the river after getting full control of the kayak.

Okutama Kayaking

Meg: Kayaking in the water and just relaxing.

Motoko: Everyone’s smile while kayaking. Some were good at paddling, and some were not really, but everyone was smiling and I could see his different aspects I cannot see at work. The sky from the lake was also beautiful. When I looked up while I stopped paddling, looked up, I felt as if I was floating in the sky.

Kyejin: Can’t pick just one. When I first sit down on the kayak and got scared a little bit, when I was enjoying the view of the river surrounded by mountain under the blue sky, sitting down on the kayak without paddling, when we were trying to take pictures together on the kayak and it was difficult to do so we had to grab each other’s kayak, when I had to leave so I was almost crying : D

4. How was food? What was your favorite?

Soba Restaurant

Yafa: The best soba I have ever had served by two amazing grandma and grandpa xD The best was the cake that they gave us as a welcoming gift.

Alicia: The first thing I had was the beef croquette from the nearby local meat shop that was recommended to us by our guide from the rafting place. I really liked that it was a local business with a unique authentic taste owned by an elderly couple. The croquette really felt special because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get it anywhere else! My favorite meal was definitely the udon I had at the local soba shop. The portion was good, the flavors were good, the owners of the shop were also really friendly, and again I got the feeling of uniqueness because it was a local shop and I appreciated it more because I knew I wouldn’t be back often to be able to taste that specific udon so I’m glad I got the chance to! There weren’t many options of restaurants but everywhere we did go had friendly staff and the food was great!

Udon

Anna: The omiyage food we brought was quite good, it was from a shop close to the kayak place.

Laura: Good! The soba place was cozy, the soba was good but the best was the Oden service. Delicious homemade oden.

Meg: I really liked the menchikatsu. So good.

Ice Cream

Motoko: Ume soft served ice cream. The green ume plum flavoured sauce was a little bit sour but refreshing after the exercise.

Soba

Kyejin: Food after an activity is always so good : D The menchikatsu from grandma and grandpa who will retire this year was very tasty, the ume soft ice cream sold on “Snack Day” on June 16 was delicious, the soba served by sweet and kind grandma and grandpa who gave us cake as a gift was also great too! If I have to choose one, maybe I would choose soba. I was full so I thought I couldn’t finish it but once I tasted it, I just couldn’t stop eating lol

5. Will you recommend this place to others? Score from 1 (No way) to level 5 (Absolutely). Why?

Kayak Paddles

Yafa: 5/5 Not very far from Tokyo it allows an emergence into beautiful and almost untouched nature. And for people stressed by the noisy city it gives a moment of beatitude.

Alicia: I would definitely recommend this place to others, LEVEL 5! Not only is there kayaking, but there were also many other services available such as canoeing, rafting, paddle boarding. I think there’s something for everyone to enjoy, it’s a great group activity, and it’s a great chance to enjoy the outdoors in Japan while having fun!

Anna: 4, if you like to do different activities I think this is very different to do an activity around Tokyo.

Laura: 5, this activity is good for anyone. The level of challenge was good, something new but with a bit of practice (and with great instructors, like the people Meg found for this trip) anyone can enjoy it. Pretty safe too.

Meg: 4. Yes, I totally recommend for a nice chill day to relax and enjoy.

Motoko: 4: I recommend this place for those who want something special for holidays. If you don’t like water activities, maybe not. This activity would be tough in winter.

Kyejin: 5. Yes! It’s not far from Tokyo but the atmosphere is completely different. There are many activities to enjoy in the beautiful nature and I think it’s a good place for a day trip for those who live in Tokyo.

6. Any comment?

Kayak Shop Kayak Shop Funny Face

Yafa: The ome ice cream was also very oishi.

Alicia: I think we got so lucky being able to kayak on such a beautiful day, I couldn’t have asked for better weather! If I were to say something I would change for next time, it would probably be that the actual kayaking portion felt a bit short so it would be nice if we can enjoy it a bit more next time! But everything was so fun! I want to say thank you so much to everyone who organized this activity! I think it was a great choice, and I’m really happy I was able to go and participate with everyone! I had a great time and would definitely do it again!

Anna: Kayak people were super nice and took lots of pictures of us in the water. And recommended us what to eat and where!

Polaroid

Laura: Thank you Kyejin for organizing! It’s great we can try new experiences with the people we see every day at the office. We get to know each other better : )

Meg: Come join us!!

Motoko: If the company plans a kayaking event, I definitely join! Once is not enough to fully enjoy it.

Kyejin: Thank you for coming, everyone! I’m so happy I got even more awesome memories with these awesome ILL friends. I’m already so excited about our next activity, camping, in a few weeks!

In Front of Restaurant

~ Anna, Meg, Laura, Yafa, Alicia, Motoko, and Kyejin

P.S. Our next activity is camping (or glamping) from July 6 to 7 in Yamanashi near Mt.Fuji!

May 2019: Mt.Mitumine and Mitsumine Shrine

Thursday, May 30th, 2019

Our May activity had 4 brave hikers - Anna, Meg, Laura and Kyejin! It was May 19th, the 3rd Sunday of the month as usual.

We met at Ikebukuro Station at 10 am and went to Seibu-Chichibu Station. It took about an hour and a half, and we had to take a bus to the Owa (大輪) bus stop for 35 minutes. It was a steep 3-hour hike and since the last bus back home was at 4:30 pm from the top of the mountain, we tried not to take a lot of breaks and kept hiking.

When we reached the summit, we could breathe in the fresh air and had some time to walk around the famous Mitsumine Shrine (三峯神社; Mitsumine jinja). It is surrounded by tall and old trees and somewhat has some mysterious atmosphere.

We haven’t been to this much high mountain for the last few months so it wasn’t an easy hike but it was definitely worth!

1. Was this hiking easy or hard? Score from level 1 (easy) to level 5 (hard).

Laura: Objectively: 3. Nice trail. Nothing dangerous. For me, the highest mountain I have ever climbed by foot: 5.

Meg: 3.5

Anna: I’d say this one was a 3 for me. Compared to others it was quite challenging since the whole route was quite steep.

Kyejin: 3. The route was steep but not very difficult. We haven’t done any long hike recently so we felt it was much harder than usual.

2. How was the scenery/sightseeing there? Score from 1 (bad) to 5 (amazing).

Laura: 5, beautiful mountains and green all around.

Meg: 3

Anna: I loved this route since the route is very natural as if made by the mountain and there are almost no stairs.

Kyejin: The Mitsumine Shrine was stunning! It was crowded with visitors but I could see why. And it was more rewarding to see it after a long hike. The scenery on the way to the top was also beautiful.

3. What was the most memorable moment of this trip?

Laura: The three abandoned houses almost at the top of the mountain. (How were those people able to live there? Grocery shopping? Maybe are haunted!)

Meg: Flying the drone, eating Laura’s nature valley, planning all the next events on the way back!

Anna: Finding Meg’s PASMO which got lost in the middle of the trail >_< Also watching Kyejin and Laura eat as in a food competition was something to be remembered.

Kyejin: Listening to a kind obaachan talking about the history of her restaurant, sharing snacks with ILL hikers, reaching the shrine after a long hike, etc. So many!! :D

4. How was food? What was your favorite?

Laura: Most of what we ate was snacks we brought from around home. But the local snack, miso potato, was very tasty.

Meg: I had niku udon this time and it was really good.

Anna: Again miso potato was awesome!!

Kyejin: Laura’s Nature Valley was good, Chichibu miso potato was so tasty and my butadon was so amazing that I could eat up in 5 minutes!

5. Will you recommend this mountain to others? Score from 1 (No) to level 5 (Absolutely).

Laura: 5. Yes, a beautiful place. If someone is not up for a 3-hour hike climbing up, going by bus or car to the top of the mountain is also good! I want to bring my dog and kid.

Meg: 3, It’s hard to say because I didn’t make it up to the top haha.

Anna: Hmm probably 3. Nice mountain, a few spots to take pictures in the middle of the trail so why not : )

Kyejin: 3.5. There was a beautiful dam, and Laura said a baby bear was running there o_O Recommend it for those who want to see a bear! In general, it was really good too!

6. Any comment?

Laura: Need to practice hiking uphill. I could barely make it : D

Anna: Join us next month!

Kyejin: It’s a heads up but we’re going kayaking in June and camping in July xD Let me know if you’re interested!

~ Anna, Meg, Laura, Kyejin

P.S. The 3rd Sunday of the month is our Activity Day so the next event will be on June 16th and we’ll go kayaking! Please join this fun event, dear ILL people!

April 2019: Beautiful Hanami at Hitsujiyama and Kinchakuda

Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

Our April activity had 7 brave hikers - Anna, Lya, Meg, Laura, Maryssa, Stan and Kyejin! Since it’s a perfect season for hanami, we decided to go to 2 different places to enjoy beautiful flowers, 1) Shibazakura Hill (芝桜の丘; Shibazakura no oka) at Chichibu Hitsujiyama Park (秩父羊山公園; Chichibu Hitsujiyama Kōen) and 2) Kinchakuda (巾着田; Kinchakuda).

1) Chichibu Hitsujiyama Park (秩父羊山公園; Chichibu Hitsujiyama Kōen)

Hitsujiyama Park is a 20 minutes walk from Seibu Chichibu station. The name of the park, Hitsujiyama, literally means Sheep Mountain as hitsuji (羊) means sheep and yama (山) means a mountain. As the name shows, you can see some sheep in the park.

Our destination was Shibazakura Hill (芝桜の丘; Shibazakura no oka) on that day. It is located in the south of Hitsujiyama Park (羊山公園) and has an area of about 17,600m².

We could enjoy cherry blossoms in full bloom on the way to the hill. There are different kinds of cherry blossoms, which made the place even more colorful and stunning.

Shibazakura Hill is planted in more than 400,000 pink phlox mosses of 9 different colors. In the blooming season, it becomes a flowering carpet shape is designed from Floats and costume patterns of the Chichibu Night Festival and night festival’s excitement.

2) Kinchakuda (巾着田; Kinchakuda)

Kinchakuda Plateau is a 15 walk from Koma station. We just needed to follow a red sign with 巾着田 (kinchakuda) so it wasn’t difficult to find it.

When we arrived at the place, the Spring Festival was already over but instead, we could enjoy the 菜花 (nanohana; rapeseed flowers) in full bloom ourselves. There was no crowd and we were the only people there! The purse-shaped field filled with rapeseed flowers is surrounded by cherry blossoms in full bloom too, and when the wind blows, it rained cherry blossom petals. It was such a beautiful place.

1. Was this hiking easy or hard? Score from level 1 (easy) to level 5 (hard).

Laura: level 1

Stan: The hike was VERY easy, grade 1. And why? Well, we did not really do any climb except few stairs : )

Anna: Easy, easy 1! I think it’s the first time we didn’t encounter stairs!

Lya: It was so easy! No big slopes, barely any stairs, really chill : D

Meg: 1. It was easy. XD We didn’t really hike up any mountains this time.

Maryssa: 1 Easy. There were few hills.

Kyejin: Level 1. It was easy!

2. How was the scenery/sightseeing there? Score from 1 (bad) to 5 (amazing).

Laura: level 5. Luckily we went when the Sakura trees were fully bloomed. Plus, the park surrounded by mountains was beautiful.

Stan: The scenery was much better than I expected in both cases - firstly, I had known Chichibu a bit from the past and I did not expect so many sakuras (including the pink, leaning ones) over there in a full bloom, plus the shibazakura flowers were great and I finally managed to see them. So 5, of course. And why? Flowers. I just like them.

Anna: 10! The cherry blossom trees in Chichibu were stunning! There weren’t as many people as in Tokyo famous spots which made it even more beautiful than any other big Sakura park I’ve seen before.

Lya: 7/5. Sakura and flowers were in full bloom! All the colors! So pretty♥

Meg: 5. It was soo beautiful. One of the best hanami spots and not a lot of people. I highly recommend this place to do hanami and enjoy sakura.

Maryssa: 5 The flowers were blooming beautifully.

Kyejin: It was the most beautiful and not crowded hanami I’ve ever experienced. I would love to visit there again next spring!

3. What was the most memorable moment of this trip?

Laura: There was a spot full of Shidarezakura in full bloom. Since it was a bit windy the rain of sakura petals was very pretty.

Stan: Probably the sakura petal falls in the wind.

Anna: I discovered a punishment for Korean kids. Ah and of course Sakura rain ✿

Lya: When the wind blew softly and it rained Sakura petals. Stan took a good video of it!

Meg: Enjoying the sakura fall down with the wind and eating yummy food.

Maryssa: Walking down the path lined with sakura trees.

Kyejin: Showing Anna how to write her own name as a Korean punishment o_O and dancing with everyone in the rapeseed flower field. Also, the sakura rain whenever the wind blows…♡

4. How was food? What was your favorite?

Laura: I didn’t eat much since I had a cold. But the snack shared by Kyejin was good (good)

Stan: I only had one food and that was yakiniku, grilled one, one the stick. So I cannot compare, but then again, no matter how I look like, I am not a “big eater”…

Anna: New things I tried were miso potatoes and buta miso don. Both worth it.

Lya: SNACKS FTW. My favorite was wild boar skewers (๑•̀ㅂ•́)و✧

Meg: Maryssa and I had a butadon and it was really good. The homemade gelato was awesome too!

Maryssa: The food was great. The butadon was so delicious.

Kyejin: Miso butadon (the one on the right side in the picture) was so gooood! The one on the left side is hiroshima okonomiyaki and it was good too : ) Anna and I shared these two dishes and we were very satisfied! And we had late dinner after hiking at the Mexican restaurant where Maryssa introduced and it was great too. Everything was perfect on that day : D

5. Will you recommend this mountain to others? Score from 1 (No) to level 5 (Absolutely).

Laura: level 4. If people go during the time either the sakura trees or the gardens have lots of flowers, the park is very pretty. Otherwise, I think it is too far away and there are no trails around there to venture into the forest or mountains nearby. But the station and town are pretty and the people friendly so it is a nice place to hang out.

Stan: I can recommend both places with 5. I am not sure if Chichibu is worth 5 out of the sakura/pink moss blooming season, but in this case yes.

Anna: Yes! It wasn’t crowded at all and it was beautiful. The second location we went to also looked like a perfect place to have a barbecue.

Lya: 5! Absolutely, it was gorgeous!

Meg: 5. It’s just so beautiful and food is good too! : D

Maryssa: 5 Would definitely recommend. The scenery was stunning, food was delicious, and staff were nice.

Kyejin: Of course. It’s now my secret(?) place for hanami!

6. Any comment?

Stan: Thanks for the great trip, socializing was also outstanding, I personally need more stuff like this, it made me switch off, even though I was working occasionally.

Anna: Looking forward to the next hiking with everyone. There are always nice sceneries around no matter the season.

Lya: A really fun and pretty day (≧▽≦) Special mention for Sushi Go!

Meg: Big thanks to the company! : D

Maryssa: I would call it more of a walking tour than a hike, but it was gorgeous and a nice place people could spend the whole day having a picnic at.

Kyejin: Yes, big big big thanks to the company! : D It was really fun and I can’t wait for our next hiking already. Let’s hike, people!

~ Anna, Lya, Meg, Laura, Maryssa, Stan, Kyejin

P.S. The 3rd Sunday of the month is the Hiking Day so the next hiking will be on May 19th! Please join this fun hiking, dear ILL people : D

March 2019: Hiking Mt. Gongen, Mt. Koubou, and Mt. Azuma in One Day!

Monday, March 25th, 2019

Anna, Lya, Meg, and Kyejin went hiking 

On March 17th, on a beautiful Sunday, Anna, Lya, Meg, and Kyejin went hiking to 3 different mountains, Mt. Gongen (権現山), Mt. Koubou (弘法山), and Mt. Azuma (吾妻山).

Those mountains are located between the Hadano and Tsurumakionsen stations on the Odakyu Odawara line and the stations are easily accessible from Shinjuku station directly without any transferring. It takes about an hour only so it’s a perfect day trip from Tokyo!

Since each mountain is about 250m tall only, it was a relatively easy hike. There are plenty of picnic tables and benches so we could rest enough and play fun card games whenever we arrived at the summit of each mountain. It’s said you can enjoy an amazing view of Mt. Fuji on a clear day but unfortunately it suddenly got cloudy when we were at the observatory. It’s also a popular place, especially during the cherry blossom season.

1. Was this hiking easy or hard? Score from level 1 (easy) to level 5 (hard).

Meg: 2.5 or 3 because of the uphills.

Lya: The hike was 2 hard. The beginning was pretty straining but it got easier after a while ^^

Anna: Mount Koubo was an easy relaxing hike although as usual, it started with stairs but we did our best and got easily to the first stop!

Kyejin: 2. If it was just one mountain, I would give 1 but since we hiked to 3 mountains in one day, I give 2!

2. How was the scenery/sightseeing there? Score from 1 (bad) to 5 (amazing).

Meg: 3 The view was nice and you could see a nice view of the area we were in.

Lya: I would give a 4 to the scenery. It was beautiful and we could see far, but we missed the Sakura blooming. That would have been a 5.

Anna: We had perfect weather for hiking not too hot not too cold so we enjoyed the day a lot. There were nice stops in the way like a sightseeing mini tower, statues of the demons of the woods and lots of Sakura trees that unfortunately hadn’t bloomed when we went. So if you have the chance to get there when they bloom I’m sure the views will be even more rewarding!

Kyejin: 3. Too bad we weren’t able to see Mt. Fuji or cherry blossoms but still there were a small temple, a big bell, an old well, an observatory, interesting trees, pretty flowers, weird bugs(?) and lots of sheep ᏊˊꈊˋᏊ so I enjoyed it a lot! Also, we had to walk along the river from the station to the park for about 15-20 minutes and I liked that too.

3. What was the most memorable moment of this trip?

Meg: Sushi Go haha

Lya: Playing Sushi Go (≧▽≦)

Anna: This time we enjoyed the breaks playing cards and eating!

Kyejin: Of course playing Sushi Go! It’s a “Spanish(?)” card game Anna brought.

4. How was food? What was your favorite?

Meg: Eating fried chicken from the fried chicken shop was awesome! The omiyage shop was really good too with lots of testers.

Lya: If we don’t count dinner, we mostly had snacks, so nuts and cheese FTW. And that chocolate thing that Anna and Ruben brought. (• ε •) If we count dinner, the fried chicken was amazing. And the fried cheese. I like all the foods. ALL OF THEM!

Anna: This mount didn’t have any food stalls so make sure to bring your bento/onigiri when hiking! After that, we also walked around the area and tried karaage from a からげ専門店 it was very good!

Kyejin: We found a karaage shop that won lots of awards from international competitions. We had to wait in a line but it was totally worth! The Nagoya restaurant we went to after hiking was pretty good!

5. Will you recommend this mountain to others? Score from 1 (No) to level 5 (Absolutely).

Meg: 3 I recommend this mountain but maybe less than our previous ones because there wasn’t so much to see or attractions on the actual route of the hike but we did see sheep which was fun!!! There was also a sign for possible monkeys!!

Lya: 4 because it was pretty but there can always be a prettier mountain, somewhere. Also, lack of sakuras. But please go see it fit yourself

Kyejin: 3. Yes, it was easy enough and fun enough at the same time.

6. Any comment?

Meg: The hike was really fun and relatively chill this time compared to previous hikes. We ate lots of snacks, played lots of games, and ate some yummy fried chicken that has apparently won an award. Then, we went to Izakaya for more food. Yay! We love food! Haha. I really enjoyed my time with everyone and it was only one train ride away from Shinjuku. The weather was good too! Thanks, everyone!

Lya: I want to play more Sushi Go. The hike concept should be to play it in more and more extravagant places. I want to win once at least, everyone was so good!! (≧▽≦)

Kyejin: It was super fun! It’s always so pleasant to have a great time with great people! I’m already looking forward to our April hike.

~ Anna, Lya, Meg, Kyejin

P.S. Please join this healthy and fun hiking in April, dear ILL people!

February 2019: Plum Festival at Soga Bairin, Odawara

Thursday, March 7th, 2019

Plum Festival in Japan

Odawara Plum Festival is held in Soga from early February to early March every year in Japan.

 

February 23rd was the perfect day for our February hiking, and Anna, Lya and Kyejin went to Soga to enjoy the beautiful plum blossoms and “mini” hiking.


 

This was what’s written on the board in the view point:

Soga Plum Orchard

The Soga Plum Forest, located about 4 miles northeast to the central district of the city of Odawara. The forest is made up of three areas: Bessho, Hara, and Nakagawara, approximately 35,000 trees of white plum.

The views of Mt.Fuji, the Hakone and the Tanzawa mountain range and the Sagami Bay are also wonderful, and it has been selected as Kanto Fujimi 100 view (One of the best places to enjoy viewing Mt.Fuji).

 

Message from Anna:

“Wonderful Saturday surrounded by plum trees.

This last Saturday due the start of the hay fever season (with the fear of sugi trees) and knowing it was time for ume to bloom Kyejin-san proposed a nice adventure in Soga. I think that’s the first time I see so many ume trees in their fields with lots of space for walking and zero crowds!

We had an enviable picnic (that goes for you who hasn’t joined yet ;-) )and we finished with a mini hike to a viewing point of the city.”

 

Message from Lya:

“The weather was grand, and so were the Ume trees!

We had tasty food (thanks Anna!), a nice walk and a lot of fun. One of the highlights was to find wild kiwis and pet Shiba inu. Much love! (๑♡3♡๑)”

 

Message from Kyejin:

“I haven’t seen so many plum trees before (there are over 35,000 trees!) and haven’t realized how colorful they are. We did a “mini hike” and could see the whole village filled with colorful plum trees. That’s why we could smell plum flowers anywhere in the village.

The picnic was awesome too. We bought Japanese festival foods including umeshu Lya treated and one of my favorite parts was Anna’s Spanish omelette. That was just perfect for the ume picnic!

It’s alway so pleasure to travel with good people. The plum trees were beautiful but our trip was even more beautiful :D It was full of stories and fun moments! I already look forward to our next adventure.“

 

The next hike is going to take place on March 17th! Are you joining us? Let us know!

- Anna, Lya and Kyejin

January 2019:The Mt. Nokogiri Hike

Monday, February 4th, 2019

 

Four brave hikers challenged the cold winds to see some breathtaking views on top of Mt. Nokogiri. Alice, Anna, Ernst and Kyejin went to Chiba Prefecture, Tokyo’s neighbouring prefecture on a crispy clear Sunday in late January.

 

 

January is a tough month for hikers. The cold makes hiking a challenge, even with the right equipment. We wanted to go to Mt. Takao, but a last minute change proposed by Anna led us to Mt. Nokogiri.

 

 

It is about 329m tall and there are an astonishing 1,500+ Buddha’s on the mountain. Small ones, huge ones, laughing ones, smirking ones, studying ones, sleeping ones, etc. There was no end to them! Sadly, not all were intact. During the Meji-era a lot of Buddha’s were destroyed in an anti-Buddhist movement. Even now, there are CCTV cameras watching over the statues.

 

 

Alice has visited Chiba before, but that was for Disney and Narita airport (who of us cannot relate to the last one?). Alice said it was wonderful to spend some meaningful time in Chiba, because we definitely did some exercise there! We had to walk up so many stairs, that the stairs still haunt my dreams. Or rather nightmares…

 

 

Happy to report that from Mount Nokogiri, we had excellent, unobstructed view of Muira and Izu Peninsula, Tokyo Bay, as well as Mount Fuji most of the time. That we could see Mt. Fuji from almost every stop was awesome, as Anna tells us. With some extra training, some of us want to conquer Mt. Fuji one day!

 

 

We also got to admire the 31-meter-tall carved Buddha and unusual rock faces. Unusual in the sense that Mt. Nokogiri was a former quarry and the rock was cut out and shipped off. There was another very large Buddha carved out on the wall of an abandoned quarry site.

 

 

Unfortunately, we weren’t able to see the temple that was built on Mt. Nokogiri, as it was under renovation and construction. Hopefully the next visitors will be able to see the temple. In any case it was a nice day trip out of the busy city!

 

The next hike is going to take place on February 23rd! Are you joining us? Let us know!

 

 

~Alice, Anna, Ernst and Kyejin

Halloween at ILL

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

Hello!

Last month on the 28th, we had a mini Halloween party in our Tokyo office!

One week before the party, we also started decorating the office to enhance the Halloween festive mood.

And here are some pictures from the event :) We set up a make-your-own-tacos? burrito? kabab? table for the October event.

 Some of us also dressed up in costumes! Can you guess who we’re dressed up as?

Thank you!

Nanatsu

ILL NINJA WARRIOR

Friday, October 21st, 2016

 

Hi everyone! Nanatsu here. :D

On September 29th, 15 of us went to Forest Adventure in Tochigi as a company trip! Have you ever heard of a Japanese TV program called “Sasuke” or maybe in the U.S. you’d call it “Ninja Warrior” where competitors compete in multiple obstacle courses to be the “muscle king”?  Well, Forest adventure is no less tough than them! Some activities were definitely challenging, and we had to use the muscles we hadn’t used for a while. (I could barely got myself up when I woke in the next morning…)

 

After about 2 hours bus ride from Akasaka,  we arrived at Forest Adventure Ohira, Tochigi. It was raining a bit in the morning, but luckily, the rain stopped by the time we arrived in Tochigi. (Good karma, maybe!:p) 

After putting on harnesses, getting a safety briefing and practicing together with the forest crew, Akira-san, we went off to the adventure!

There were 2 courses in Forest Adventure Ohira. One is ”Discovery Course” which is mainly for children between 5 years old to 9 years old and ”Adventure Course” which is more suitable for 9 year olds to adults. We took “Adventure Course” which is consisted with 32 activities divided into 5 sites in total.


Image from Forest adventure website (http://fa-ohira.foret-aventure.jp/)

We started off with an activity that was about 5 meters high and gradually went up to taller trees.

There were also zip lines between each site and they were super refreshing!

 

 

V

 

Also, each activity in Adventure course had an indication of its level from 1 to 4 .

 

 

 

Overall, it took us about 2.5 hours to complete the entire course, but it was definitely a rewarding, unique experience/workout you wouldn’t be able to have often in Tokyo.


A group shot after completing the course!

After we completed the course, we rewarded ourselves with the BBQ in the forest!

 

We also went to all-you-can-eat-grapes at a local veneyard in Ohira after we left Forest Adventure!

A variety of grapes we had was 巨峰 (kyohō, literally “giant mountain grape”) and it was a speciality of Ohira area.  

 

We also all got to take 1 bunch home as an omiyage. 

That’s it for today’s event report on Forest adventure trip. Thank you guys for reading this post!  Stay tuned for the next event report!

Best,

Nanatsu

P.S. Special thanks to Hawken, Jae, Marvin and Meg for providing the pictures and the videos!

Bowling Night at Innovative Language

Thursday, August 4th, 2016

Hi everyone! Nanatsu here.

 

As it’s been forever since we last updated our office event blog here, we’d like to get back to sharing it with you all. My name is Nanatsu and I’ve worked on content for JapanesePod101.com in the past and now I’m working on the HR team at the ILL Tokyo office, and I’m also one of the party organizers for the company. :)

At the ILL Tokyo office last Friday, we had our 3rd after work party this year! This time, we got ourselves down to the iconic city central of Tokyo, Shibuya, and had a company bowling tournament! =○

Here are our co-workers, Matt and Nori playing “太鼓の達人 (Taiko no tatsujin)” the popular arcade game while waiting for the others to show up at the bowling place…

At the bowling alley we went, シブヤEST (Shibuya EST), we could use a monitor to order food and drinks remotely just like one of those 居酒屋 (izakaya, Japanese-style bar) or カラオケ(karaoke). Although it maybe took a little longer to get service here than in an izakaya, it was still very convenient as we could 100% focus on the game without having to run to get food.  

 

After ordering some food & drinks and some announcements from the party organizers as usual…

 

 

 The game begins!

 

“Nailed it.”

“I’m done.”

 

Everyone did a great job, trying their best to get the top score! Great job!

 

(All photo courtesy to Jaehwi, our KoreanClass101.com star!)

Have you been bowling in Japan? It’s one of the most popular sports to play after school or work since many bowling alleys in Tokyo are open until late at night. You will see a lot of “サラリーマン (sararīman) practicing even around midnight while drinking a beer or two. If you have a chance to visit one, please check out the place with the convenient ordering machine, too!