December 30, 2015

Kansai International Airport


The Kansai International Airport (KIX) is a major international airport of Japan and the gateway to Kansai region and to the other parts of Japan. One interesting fact: the airport stands on a man-made island located in Osaka Bay.

KIX airport provides practically everything. I listed here the service facilities that would be helpful upon your arrival at KIX Airport.

Information Counters

This is where you go when you think you’re lost or doesn’t know where to start. The staffs are friendly and speak decent English. Information counters are identified by their (?) marks.

I remember the moment we arrived at the airport the first thing that we looked for was a Currency Exchange shop and just a couple of steps from this shop is the Information Counter. We went to the Counter to ask where we could buy tickets and rent a Wi-Fi router. They happened to be just a couple of steps away.

Tourist Information Center

Kansai Airport
Tourist Iformation Centre and Travel Desk

Basically, they provide tourist information (Kansai and throughout Japan) that you might need. They also handle tickets and hotel reservation; we bought our Kyoto City Bus One Day Pass here. For more information visit Kansai Tourist Information Center.

Currency Exchange

Kansai Airport

There are a number of currency exchange shops at the airport. Japan is a cash-based society; trains, buses, vending machines and most stores only accept cash. So exchange at least an equivalent of 10, 000 yen or higher. Don’t worry about keeping large amount of cash; Japan is an incredibly safe country.

Rental Services

Kansai Airport

Near the Tourist Information Center are the Wi-Fi router rental shops. Although there are plenty of Wi-Fi hotspots in Japan we still opted to rent a Wi-Fi router due to its convenience.

Wi-Fi routers are pretty useful specially when exploring; this will prevent you from getting lost (google maps). For us, we used the router for looking up nearby restaurants and food shops that are “must try” since we forgot to search for places to eat in Osaka and Kyoto beforehand.

Transport Services

Kansai Airport
Ticket Vendos for Nankai and JR Lines

There are a number of options to get to and from the KIX airport: bus, train, car, taxi and high-speed ferry. But it all depends on where you’re going to or coming from and how much are you willing to spend. As for us, we prefer the train and bus.

Train lines from the KIX airport bound for:

Nankai Line
Nankai Line

Namba Station – Approx. 34-45 minutes by Nankai Line
Osaka Station (Umeda) – Approx. 65 minutes by JR Line (Kansai Airport Rapid Service)
Shin-Osaka Station – Approx. 50 minutes by JR Line (Airport Express HARUKA)
Tennoji Station – Approx. 30 – 45 minutes by JR Line
Kyoto Station – Approx. 75 minutes by JR Line (Airport Express HARUKA)
Nara Station – Approx. 65-85 minutes by JR Line (with transfer at Tennoji Station)
Hyogo Station – Approx. 1 hour and 45 minutes by JR Line (with transfer at Osaka Station)
Wakayama Station – Approx. 30 – 45 minutes by JR Line (with transfer at Hineno Station)

Limousine bus services from the KIX airport bound for:

Osaka Station (Umeda) – 1,550 yen / Approx. 1 hour to 1 hour and 30 minutes by Kansai Airport Transportation Enterprise (KATE)
Kobe – 1,950 yen / Approx. 1 hour and 10 minutes by KATE
Kyoto – 2,550 yen / Approx. 1 hour and 25 minutes to 2 hours (depends on your destination in Kyoto) by KATE
Nara – 2,050 yen / Approx. 1 hour and 5 minutes to 1 hour and 25 minutes (depends on your destination in Nara) by KATE
Wakayama – 1,150 yen / Approx. 40 minutes by KATE

The high-speed ferry has only one route which is KIX to Kobe airport; it costs 1,850 yen (930 yen for children). Travel time is about 30 minutes. While the taxi can be very convenient it is also a luxury. Price depends on the size of the taxi and standard fare ranges from 13,000 to 15,000 yen.


December 21, 2015

Kyoto City Bus Basics


Bus terminal outside the Kyoto Station.

The most convenient way to explore Kyoto is by bus. The city has a very extensive bus system which could be complicated and overwhelming at first, but they can get you anywhere as long as you know which bus to board. To help you with, you should get yourself a copy of the Kyoto City Bus Travel Map BUS NAVI (there are two sightseeing maps, the simplified one and the more detailed map). They are available at the Kansai International Airport and Kyoto Bus Information Center, outside the Kyoto Station. You could also download them from Bus Navi 1 and Bus Navi 2 and study them in advance.

Major Bus Routes

1) From Kyoto station to Kiyomizudera Temple/Gion: Bus Nos. 100 or 206
-From Hankyu Kawaramachi Station: Bus No. 207 and get off at Kiyomizu-michi

2)  From Kyoto / Hankyu Saiin Station to Ninna-ji Temple: Bus No. 26 and get off at Omuro Ninna-ji (the bus stops right in front of the temple)
Ryo-anji and Kinkaku-ji Temples can be reached from Ninna-ji Temple by Bus No. 59

3) From Hankyu Kawaramachi station to Ginkaku-ji Temple: Bus Nos. 5, 17 or 102 and get off at Ginkakuji-michi
-From Kyoto station:  Bus Nos. 5, 17 or 100

4) From Kyoto Station to Otagi-Nenbutsuji Temple: Bus No. C6

5) From Kyoto Station to Nijo Castle: Bus Nos. 9, 50 or 101

How to Ride the Kyoto City Bus

1) Kyoto buses have designated bus stops, which I find incredibly awesome because we don’t have that here. Here in PH, you can ride the bus anywhere! Going back, all bus stops have signs that display schedule of buses that stop at that area (written in Japanese and English). Major bus stops have signs that indicate the approach of the next bus.

Getting around Kyoto
Bus stop near Kawaramachi Station

Sign of an approaching next bus

2) Once your bus has arrived, get on the bus from the rear door and exit at the front.

3) Pay the exact bus fare when you get off. There’s a payment box beside the driver: within the flat fare zone costs 230 yen for adults and 120 yen for children (6-12 yo). If you think you're going to ride the bus more than 3 times, I recommend you purchase the Kyoto City Bus One-Day Pass. The One-Day Pass, which costs 500 yen, will let you ride the bus (only for the Flat Fare Zone) as many times as you want valid only for one day.

Getting around Kyoto
Ticket vendo

There’s a screen in the bus that displays the route and the next bus stop and at the same time there’s also an announcement of the next stop.

Getting around Kyoto

Getting around Kyoto

***Kyoto City buses are mostly green colored while Kyoto buses are beige. 


December 20, 2015

Kyoto Travel Guide

Kyoto Travel Guide

Kyoto is one of the most well preserved ancient cities in the world. It was the capital of Japan before the Imperial Court transferred to Tokyo. What I love about Kyoto is that I got to experience what Japan feels and looks like in the ancient times while offering me the convenience of the modern world. For instance, inside a temple built in 16th century is an ultra-modern toilet facility that has more buttons than your cellphone.

Speaking of temples, Kyoto has thousands and if I’m not mistaken 16 of them are listed as World Heritage Site. But wait, there’s more! Kyoto is also known for its stunning landscapes and traditional houses known as “Machiya”. I almost forgot, if lucky enough you’ll get to see Geishas and Maikos walking around Gion area. Although I find their make-up weird I still find them attractive. 

The City of Kyoto was our  first destination in the Kansai region. Well my first impression of Kyoto was it was mountainous. If you're coming from Osaka you know you're approaching Kyoto when you start to see farms and mountains especially when you're riding the Hankyu Line.

We allotted three days for Kyoto and on our first day it was snowing. I was wearing 4 layers of clothes but I was still shivering! Guys, I'm from a country where the sun feels like it's just meters away. Also, this is my first time to experience winter. It was hard. 


Read Kansai International Airport entry.


Kyoto is one of the cities that offers wonderful places and experiences. I listed here the details of our three-day itinerary which could help you with yours. Read more...

Kiyomizudera Temple


The most convenient way to move around Kyoto is by bus. The city has a very extensive bus system which could be complicated and overwhelming at first, but they can get you anywhere as long as you know which bus to board. Read more...

Kyoto Bus Terminal just outside the Kyoto Station


February is a good time to travel to Japan (Kansai Region) though you have to prepare yourself for the cold winter. My friend and I are both budget conscious so we opted for a budget hotel, the Shin-Osaka Sunny Stone Hotel (will make a review on this). We decided not to stay in Kyoto because the rates are higher and besides, Kyoto is just 30 minutes away from Osaka via JR Special Rapid Services and 15 minutes via Shinkansen (but this is expensive). 

In general, check Tripadvisor, Airbnb and Couchsurfing. They have some of the best deals. 


During winter when prices of airlines and hotels are cheap. On a serious note, you can visit Kyoto anytime of the year - every month’s weather offers a unique experience. It all depends on you what you want to see and experience. As for us, Japan is the nearest to the Philippines that have snow, so we went here during winter.

Higashiyama Area. Snow :)

  • You can buy baked goods at family mart or any convenient store. For 100 yen you already have a decent bread for breakfast. Our hotel is just a couple of steps away from family mart so I buy food during the night and eat breakfast in my room before going out. Also, if you're on a tight budget, try all the food samples you'll see. :)
  • We eat breakfast and dinner in Osaka, it's cheaper and more convenient to us.
  • For day 3 (Arashiyama area), eat a heavy breakfast 'coz you'll be walking a lot. Bring a bottle of water and candies. Also, you don't have to visit all the temples I mentioned on Kyoto Itineraries but you need to see the Bamboo forest and the Togetsukyo Bridge. They're just charming.
  • Supposedly, our first stop (for Arashiyama) is Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple but we didn't know that we were right in front of its gate; it's exactly the last stop of the bus. It sucks because we walked pass the temple. Well, the first person we asked didn't know it existed. Too bad for us. :( Even if you have read all the articles and blogs on the internet and googled every travel guide, you will still get lost.
  • During winter, Arashiyama is colder than in any other part of Kyoto (I guess) so dress appropriately.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Bring a map. Maps are available at the airport, in stores and tourist spots. They're practically everywhere.  For free!
  • Don't be afraid to ask for directions. The locals are very much willing to help you out.
  • There are a lot of other places to see in Kyoto like the Fushimi Inari, Kyoto Imperial Palace, and  Museums. Plan ahead. 
  • The Kyoto City Bus is your best friend. 
  • Use Hyperdia for railway timetable.


Kyoto Itineraries

Kyoto is one of the cities that offers wonderful places and experiences. I listed here the details of our three-day itinerary which could help you with yours. If you got only one day for Kyoto you could follow our first day and for two days our first two days and so forth. We were coming from Osaka so I also included here the time of departure for Kyoto and what train and bus to ride. 

We opted to stay in Osaka because it would be an inconvenience to transfer hotels. But it's important to note that the hotel must be near to train stations; walking distance near. Our hotel, Shin-Osaka Sunny Stone Hotel, is just a walking distance from the Nishinakajima-Minamigata Station of the Hankyu line and Shin-Osaka Station of JR line.

We didn't follow our plan for day 1 because we woke up very late.

Kinkakuji Temple

Day 1, Higashiyama Area
  • Depart for Kyoto around 7 am. 
  • Take the JR line at Shin-Osaka Station to Kyoto.
  • Arrive at Kyoto Station around 7:30 am.
  • Take City Bus 100 or 206 and drop off at Kiyomizu-michi.
  • Walk to Kiyomizu-dera Temple. Explore temple. In case you get hungry, outside the temple are food stores and shops lined up with free tastes!
  • Walk through Sannenzaka and Ninenzaka Slope.
  • Head to Kodai-ji Temple. Explore the temple.
  • Stop by at Yasaka Shrine
  • Eat lunch at Gion.
  • From Gion, take City Bus 12 going to Nijojomae. Walk to Nijo Castle. Explore Castle.  
  • From the castle, take City bus 12 and get off at Shijo-Kawaramachi. Walk to Nishiki Market. Walk straight (along Shijo street) then turn right. Shop and eat at Nishiki Market. 
  • From Nishiki Market, walk to Hankyu Kawaramachi Station (bound for Osaka) or take City Bus 5 going to Kyoto station. 
  • Bound for Osaka.

JR line, Special Rapid Services (Shin-Osaka to Kyoto) JPY 560.00
City Bus flat rate JPY 230.00
Hankyu line (Kyoto to Osaka) JPY 400.00
Food JPY 2,000.00
Entrance fees
Kiyomizudera Temple JPY 300.00
Kodaiji Temple JPY 600.00
Total  JPY 4,090.00

Day 2, Kinkakuji and Ginkakuji Area
  • Depart for Kyoto around 7 am. 
  • Take the Hankyu line at Nishinakajima-Minamigata Station to Kyoto (Saiin Station).
  • Arrive at Saiin Station (Hankyu line has a lot of stop overs) around 8:00 am.
  • Take bus 26 bound for Ninnaji Temple.
  • Explore temple. There are vendos inside in case you get thirsty.
  • Take bus 59 going to Ryoanji Temple.
  • Explore temple then take bus 59 and head to Kinkakuji Temple. This is my favorite, maybe because it's gold. Kidding. It's just beautiful. 
  • Eat lunch at Kinkakuji area. 
  • After lunch, take bus 204 going to Ginkakuji Temple
  • Explore temple.
  • Walk through the Path of Philosophy.
  • Walk to Honen-in temple. 
  • After exploring temple, take bus 5 (or 17 and 100) to Kyoto Station.
  • Bound for Osaka.

Hankyu line (Osaka to Saiin, Kyoto) JPY 370.00
City Bus One-Day Pass JPY 500.00
JR line, Special Rapid Services (Kyoto to Osaka) JPY 560.00
Food JPY 2,000.00
Entrance fees
Ninnaji Temple JPY 500.00
Ryoanji Temple JPY 500.00
Kinkakuji Temple JPY 400.00
Ginkakuji Temple JPY 500.00
Honenin Temple JPY 0.00
Total  JPY 5,330.00

Day 3, Arashiyama Area
  • Depart for Kyoto around 7 am. 
  • Take the JR line to Kyoto station.  
  • Walk to the bus terminal outside Kyoto Station and look for C6 bus stop or you could ask the police on guard at the station (ask for "Otagidera mae" or just show them the map and point Otagidera mae). 
  • Once you get on to the bus, tell the driver you want to get off at "Otagidera mae". 
  • Travel time is around an hour.
  • Supposedly, our first stop is Otagi Nenbutsuji Temple but we didn't find it. Read my post on Adashino-Nenbutsuji Temple.
  • Walk to Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple and explore.
  • Walk to Gioji Temple and explore (and rest too).
  • Walk to Nison-in Temple and explore.
  • Walk to Bamboo Forest. 
  • Walk to Tenryuji Temple and explore. 
  • Eat lunch.
  • Walk to Togetsukyo Bridge and rest.
  • Take bus 72 or 74 going to Kyoto Sation.
  • If you still have the energy, walk to Kyoto Yodobashi and shop.
  • Bound for Osaka. 

JR line, Special Rapid Services (Shin-Osaka to Kyoto) JPY 560.00
City Bus JPY 460.00
JR line, Special Rapid Services (Kyoto to Shin-Osaka) JPY 560.00
Food JPY 2,000.00
Entrance fees
Adashino Nenbutsu-ji Temple JPY 500.00
Gioji Temple JPY 300.00
Nison-in Temple JPY 500.00
Tenryuji Temple JPY 500.00
Total  JPY 5,380.00

Total Expenses for three days: approx. JPY 15,000.00 (around PHP6,000)
*Breakfast, dinner and souvenirs not included.


December 14, 2015

Applying for Japan Tourist Visa (for Filipinos)

Applying for Japan Tourist Visa


Anything could happen.

It’s not true that Filipinos are exempted from getting a visa when visiting Japan. The good news is, for those of you who wants to apply for a tourist visa, Japan has relaxed its visa rules for Filipinos which started last 2014 (around September I guess). But this doesn’t mean that the process will be very easy. You still have to accomplish all the requirements to be able to get a visa.

Below are the requirements you need to accomplish when applying for a Japan visa.

1.) Philippine Passport.

Of course this is the basic-est of all the basic requirements when applying for a visa. Make sure that it is still valid for at least 6 months and should be in the best condition. And remove those fancy passport holders please. 

2.) Accomplished Visa Application Form.

Note: Do not leave anything blank, put N/A for those that are not applicable to you.

3.) 4.5 cm x 4.5 cm photo in white background and must be pasted on the application form.

4.) Birth Certificate issued by NSO.

For those sloths like me, you may request for a copy online at e-Census. And it will be delivered at your door, no need to queue at the NSO office.

5.) Marriage contract if married. If you’re single like me, then skip to #6.

6.) Daily schedule in Japan. 

This doesn’t need to be very detailed; a simple itinerary would be fine.
Below is a sample itinerary.

7.) Bank Certificate.

Yeah! Show them what you got babe! You really don’t have to have a hundred thousand in your bank account for you to support yourself in Japan; you just need to show them that you have that amount before going there.
Tip: Be very friendly and nice, and then borrow from friends. J

8.) Income tax return (form 2316). Original and photocopy.

Once you completed those, you’re 80% done. Why? If you want the visa, try to provide all additional proofs that you think will make them give you a visa! Below are the documents I provided along with the requirements stated above:

1.)Certificate of Employment/Approved leaves. This is to prove that your main purpose of visiting Japan is purely entertainment. And to let your boss know that you are still going back to work and won’t be applying there.

2.) Roundtrip tickets. I only recommend this if the tickets are on-sale (piso fare). Regular fare is kinda expensive, it would be best to inquire for reservations. Then proceed on buying the ticket once you get your visa.

3.) Hotel Reservation. 
Search through tripadvisor, airbnb, and couchsurfing.

4.) Lastly, statement of account (postpaid plan, credit card etc.). I don’t know why but my friend highly recommends this. 

Now, you’re all set. The next thing you should do is to file your application through an accredited agency.

List of accredited agencies to process your application: 

We chose Reli Tours at SM Megamall to handle our application; the handling fee was Php 1200.00. I’m not sure if the applicant is required to submit the requirements in person but in my case I was asked to appear in person.

Once you submitted all the documents, go home and drink coffee or tea to reward yourself for what you have accomplished. Do not think of anything that has to do with your visa application because you’re just going to have a bad time. Just relax and wait and be optimistic.

Visa application process usually takes 3-7 days. Waiting for my visa was one of the longest 2 weeks of my life. We applied the week when the Pope visited the country so the processing time took a bit longer. A week after we submitted our applications, we were asked to submit a bank certificate again. Our travel agency told us that our account balances might not be enough. So I borrowed from my office mates and submit my bank certificate again. After three days of waiting, we finally got our visa. And of course, I returned the money I borrowed from my friends.

And that kids is how I got my Japan visa. Hoping for the best on your application!


Tarak Ridge: First Major Climb

Tarak Ridge: Adobo version

Tarak Ridge

This is one of my memorable climbs not just because it was my first major climb but I realized I can climb a mountain with major difficulty. Mt. Tarak  (1,130 MASL) has a difficulty of 4/9 and to be honest I wasn’t ready.  My last climb was back in 2012; I don’t exercise and I am usually sleep deprived. The night before our climb I slept at 12 midnight; I cooked adobo for our lunch and because internet.

I woke up at 3 in the morning to cook for breakfast. Yes, I am that nice. Hahaha! I was still sleepy but my nescafe 3in1 creamy white was doing its job well so I got that going for me. Our call time was 5 am but we left the house past 5. WOMEN, that’s why.

Our trek mates were getting impatient for waiting because we were an hour late. We arrived at Alas-asin at around 6 am. We paid the registration fee (which is left of the road) at the barangay hall then headed to Aling Kurding. You can walk from the highway or ride a tricycle to Aling Kurding’s. We chose the latter. Aling Kurding is an adorable old woman who guards Mt. Tarak. She’s been there for almost a hundred years yet she has the strength of a 30 year old woman. I’m just kidding.

With all seriousness, Aling Kurding lives at the foot of Mt. Tarak and that’s all that I know about her besides her being so nice. Her grand daughter, Ate Beth, was our guide that day. She has the strength of a horse. She has been climbing Tarak for a long time and what amazed me was she used slippers and she only brought 500 mL of water. Damn!

Anyway, let’s get back to Mt. Tarak. The trail has two parts: the easy at first which get harder and the hard which get extremely hard. The first part takes two hours and the latter takes one and a half to two. On the first part, the trail was easy but we walked through fallen trees and sometimes big rocks and giant roots. The moment you see talahib weeds the trail gets challenging: steep but manageable. Just be careful on holding on to plants because some are thorny.

When the going gets tough

After an hour of holding on to anything that looks sturdy we reached the Papaya River. It doesn’t offer a nice picturesque view but it’s a good place to rest – the water was refreshing and you can refill your water bottles here.

Papaya River

Papaya River

After our photo ops at Papaya River we decided to continue and boy it was hard! We have to stop every now and then because the trail, up to the ridge, was steep. You have to hold on to branches and roots of trees because you have nothing else. And every time I ask our guide, Ate Beth, how far the ridge is her response is always “One hour more.” She’s a joke.

View at Tarak Ridge

Tarak Summit

Well anyway, no matter how hard the climb was, when you get to the top it’s all worth it. The wounds I got from the thorns are worth it. The sprain didn’t matter because when you’re on top everything is just beautiful.


Register at Barangay Hall
Ride tric to Aling Kurding
Arrive at Aling Kurding
Start trek to Papaya river
Arrive at Papaya river
Start trek to Tarak ridge
Arrive at Tarak Ridge
Rest and eat
Start trek to Papaya river
Arrive at Papaya river
Start trek to Aling Kurding
Arrive at Aling Kurding

How to get there:

For those coming from Metro Manila, ride a bus bound for Mariveles in Fivestar, Cubao. Look for Bataan Transit buses, their trips start at 1 am. Tell the bus driver that you’re going to climb Mt. Tarak. If he doesn’t know where that is, get off from the bus and go to Genesis. Kidding. J Tell them to drop you off at Alas-asin Barangay Hall.  

Major Expenses:
Guide – 900 (for the group)
Tric – 100/pax (roundtrip from main road to Aling Kurding)
Bus (from Cubao to Alas-asin) – Around 250-260/pax

Important reminder:

Unless you’re a pro, do get a guide. There are a number of mountaineers who get lost at Mt. Tarak (as per Ate Beth). Because Mt. Tarak is sometimes a troll.

Contact (Guide):
Ate Beth: 09495869556