Yamanashi and Fuji Q Highland

Yamanashi is a very popular destination for tourists and the Japanese alike. The prefecture is surrounded with world heritage sites and lakes. Yamanashi has also various parks that provide a spectacular view of Fuji San. The mountain can be spotted all around town as long as there are no clouds looming. The city is also popular for its many lakes the transition of the seasons have a dramatic effect in regards to the lakes surroundings. Colorful blossoms during the spring and summer periods while silky white snow covered grounds during the winter its nothing but breathtaking.


Mount Fuji
Mount Fuji

The popularity of the spot is also reflected in the price. This was perhaps one of the more expensive spots I have visited in Japan almost everything seemed to be overpriced. I suppose living in the country side in Japan in comparison has this effect on my spending. The purpose of visiting Yamanashi was for spending a couple of days at Fuji Q Japans top amusement attraction. Fuji Q has by far been the best amusement park I have ever been to. Check below for my ride thrill rating and ranking.


 

Fuji Q Highland
Fuji Q Highland – Fujiyama 

In terms of accommodation there are various lakeside hotels available however depending on the time of year you choose to visit the spot prices can fluctuate considerably spring all the way through to the end of summer months the highest prices are charged. If your sole purpose for coming to Yamanashi is to visit Fuji Q highland than the Highland resort would be my number one option the Hotel is a true resort in every sense of the word. Equipped with a pure wood Fuji mountain Onsen and free admission to Fuji Q highland. The more economically friendly option would be AirBnb me my partner managed to book a house in the woods however had we had no car there was no way we could have commuted.

AirBnB
Our AirBnB

In terms of food Yamanashi is famous for Hoto a type of thick cut noodles cooked in a special broth mixed with vegetables a very rich and delightful dish that seems to have been designed for the cold winter days. However, if you fancy western cuisine you are in luck as there are various Italian, steakhouses and American restaurants around town.

Hoto Udon
Hoto Udon

 

Yamanashi instantly became one of my favorite spots in Japan I will be sure to revisit again. Spring is considered to be the most popular period for visiting Yamanashi since the lakes are surrounded by blooming flowers of all sorts of colors and scents.

 

 

 

Fuji Q

Ranking

  • Eejanaika

The only ride in the park with dangling legs. Also, the most intense ride in the park. Thrill seekers are sure to be satisfied.

 

Rating: 10/10

 

  • Fujiyama

Named the King of Coasters perhaps not to the extent of the above ride however this iconic coaster ride is a thrill seekers favorite. The ride elevates to about 80m before it sends you into a heart pounding speed churning adrenaline thrill ride.

 

Rating: 9/10

 

  • Dododonpa

The fastest ride in the park and has recently gone through some restoration. The ride goes up to 180km/h in 1.56seconds enough said.

 

Rating: 9/10

 

  • Takabisha

When I first saw this ride, I was terrified specially after all the reviews I read online. However, in my opinion in comparison to some of the rides above this was disappointing. The 121-degree tilt drop it’s the rides selling point and I think is also its downfall.

 

Rating: 7/10

 

  • Super Scary Labyrinth of Fear

The warning
The warning
Fuji Q Labyrinth of Fear
Fuji Q Labyrinth of Fear

This is not a ride but I thought I will put up here since many will want to experience this one. Firstly, this attraction requires a payment of 1000 yen it is not included as part of the free admission ticket. As far as the experience goes the scares are there random chases, dim lighting it’s all present they sell the experience as a maze. But, it is far from that there is only one pathway to take and there are arrows indicating the path to take. Me and my partner enjoyed it however it wasn’t as scary as they sell it to be and in my opinion the extra admission cost was not justified.

Rating: 7/10

 

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My top 5 directors (No.5) – Alfred Hitchcock

5) Alfred Hitchcock

 

Alfred Hitchcock
Alfred Hitchcock

For this entry rather then write about the man I will pick two of my favorite movies from this master and discuss them. Hopefully, this will provide a more in depth analysis for my decision. Within each category I will briefly discuss the impact of the movie, their importance in the world of cinema (influence if you will), and will provide videos of the most important scenes in my perspective. I will avoid story details for the sake of avoiding spoilers.

 

 

Vertigo (1958)

 

Vertigo (1958)
Vertigo (1958)

Many people become familiar with Alfred Hitchcock through either watching Psycho or Vertigo. I spent maybe two hours thinking about which movie deserves first place and also sat and watched both movies back to back. I finally decided Vertigo just felt like a more complete structured piece of art and everything fitted together like puzzles nothing seemed out of place. I remember a few years back me and a couple of friends were seating down having a few cold ones watching Shawshank Redemption (1994) and suddenly one of them asked “is there such a thing as a perfect movie?”

Many including myself would argue no matter how good a movie is there is always going to be a slight glitch somewhere that would take away from it being perfect whether it is a camera shot, dialogue an out of place movement by the actors etc. All that changed when I watched Vertigo a movie of epic proportions dreamy scenery, outstanding cinematography, hauntingly soothing sound track and above all the” dolly zoom” more commonly known as the “vertigo effect”. The genius that was Hitchcock was the first director to use this method in a movie in order to create the sense of confusion that the protagonists suffered as a result of fear of heights.

The various locations used for the story around San Francisco are all shot to perfection not one tree feels out of place. One particular scene featuring the Golden Gate bridge is amongst my favorite scenes from the movie. The bridge makes multiple appearances throughout the movie perhaps reminding us of the movies grandiose significance, and Hitchcock’s confidence bordering arrogance. To be this good such self-belief is expected.

Some critics have criticized the movies running time however I personally found the pacing to be perfect having watched the movie multiple times I never really felt like skipping a scene or finding myself getting bored.

 

 Why Vertigo?

Scenery, story, mastery without a doubt Hitchcock’s defining moment a masterpiece. The movie has been restored to high definition therefore there has never been a better time to watch this classic.

 

Impact?

Its influence runs wide however the “vertigo effect” is probably the most impactful influence. Movies such as Goodfellas (1990), Jaws (1975)  and Road to Perdition (2002) have all adapted the dolly shot technique. Panoramic wide shots and masterful camera work make each shot as vivid and impactful as paintings on canvas. For those familiar with the work of Federico Fellini they will start to spot his influence on Hitchcock immediately however saying that nothing seems generic. Hitchcock simply borrows and perfects with a sprinkle of his own genius.

 

Favorite scene

 

 

This scene for me encapsulates Vertigo perfectly. Dreamy cinematography, the escalation of music and wonderful use of scenery and colors.

 

 Psycho (1960)

Psycho (1960)
Psycho (1960)

What has not been said about this movie? Perhaps the most influential movie of all time specifically in the field of horror particularly the slasher genre of horror. Arguably the first slasher movie. Before Michael Myers and Jason there was the mentally disturbed Norman Bates. No other movie deals with mental illness the same way Hitchcock does with Psycho. Anthony Perkins does an outstanding job portraying the disturbed Norman.

 However, as it always tends to be the case the real star here is the man sitting on the directors seat calling the shots. That`s right the tension, the moody, almost unsettling atmosphere, and disturbing scratching and screeching music create tension that even today’s horror movies fail to replicate despite having the technology to do so. Perhaps this is where it has all gone wrong we have become too dependent on artificial means in evoking terrifying emotions, and thus reduced the impact of such movies. The impact of Psycho on popular culture has been immense the iconic shower scene, the scream of fear are instantly recognizable.

What makes this movie so great in my opinion is that very little explanation is given behind Normans obscure behavior this lack of explanation in psychological horror has become the norm in such movies ever since. There is this gut feeling that something is not quite right and this is evoked through Hitchcock’s masterful handling of the camera, and use of symbolic imagery to provide some level of explanation into Norman’s odd behavior. A good example of this being Normans use of taxidermy as decoration perhaps hinting towards his propensity for violence, yet he is portrayed as being very calm and collective in his approach.

 Psycho is as much about exploration of the mind as it is a horror movie therefore writing about this movie is no easy task. After all there has been books written about the interpretation and significance of the movie.

 The use of shadows, dark blacks and symbolic imagery symbolizing introvert desires are presented in masterful fashion. This is as much of an art house movie as it is provoking and effective. No movie horror or otherwise has been able to achieve the same level of impact as Psycho it is a colossal achievement that stands unmatched and probably never will be.

 

Why Psycho?

 

My favorite movie shot in black and white no other movie makes use of black and white the same way does Psycho possibly with Vampyr (1932) being an exception. Plus very few movies encourage as much discussion as Psycho despite endless books detailing the movies significance and interpretation.

 

Impact

 

The most explicit movie of the 1960s breaking barriers and demonstrating violence and taboo themes can be part of the industry. Its impact on popular culture and a prime example of psychological study and masterful directing make this classic a marvelous achievement. The ambiguity of the cause of Norman Bates illness has allowed spin offs, sequels and recently a fantastic TV series (Bates Motel). A show worth checking out.

 

Favorite scene

 

It’s almost impossible to choose a single scene every scene is significant and plays an important part in understanding the story. Consequently, I will provide two scenes that had the most impact on me.

 

This scene demonstrates Bateman’s complicated relationship with his mother.

Here we see Norman finally having lost control of all reason.

Mount Fuji and the wondrous climb

Mt. Fuji

Beautiful Mt. Fuji
Beautiful Mt. Fuji

Early August I climbed Mt. Fuji. The whole experience felt unreal I had only seen pictures of the volcano mountain or watched it appear in movies. Actually, seeing it in person was truly amazing. The mountain is the highest mountain in Japan, standing at 3776 meters and it is still believed to be active although it last erupted in 1707.

I was accompanied by some friends for the climb.

We had decided to embark on the climb during the night in the hope of reaching the top before sunrise in Japanese referred to as the “goraiko” (arrival of light). From the foot of the mountain to the summit there are ten stations. However, the most popular station to start the climb is at the 5th station. This is where we began our adventure. Taking pictures and extremely happy we started our walk. So far so good this is going to be easier than expected, we thought. It did not take long for me to change my mind. With each station the climb got steeper and the pathway narrower. Slow moving crowds of people made the whole process even more tedious. Taking prohibited routes was the only way we could have reached the summit in time for sunrise. Risking our lives while the onlookers whispered “sugoy”, was enough motivation to get the climb done. With each station, there are small inns that provide light food and refreshments at extortionate prices, but most importantly a resting place before continuing on with the climb.

Taking a rest is extremely important something that we did not do regretfully. By the time, we had reached the last station exhausted legs and burning headache from the altitude had kicked in. The sky started to slowly break away from the night and hint of light started to break through the clouds. The air felt colder and the wind had started to pick up. The line of people had slowed down significantly no doubt from exhaustion. This slightly frustrated us since the sun broke through the clouds lining the sky with orange and purple. Breathtaking to say the least and worryingly calming.

Sun breaking through the clouds
Sun breaking through the clouds

Worried that we may miss the sunrise rendering the whole climb as pointless we gave in to frustration and forced our way through the crowd. Not very characteristic of me. However, only having one bottle of water throughout the whole climb, and a couple of steamed buns which I came to regret later on, and slight sleep deprivation mixed with a brutal climb, I had a reason to be frustrated. We finally did it we had reached the top walked through those Japanese style gates. Waves of people had already taken the best spots for the viewing of the sun. Nonetheless I managed to find a good spot behind a man shorter than me. The sunrise made the whole climb worth it, the decent however is another story. People oohed and ahhed the more the sun became visible. Couples embracing each other and some crying. Claps and cheers all around the moment the sun had fully exposed itself. A warm fuzzy feeling ran through me resembling tranquility it made the climb feel like a real achievement.

Now, the way down, at this point we had no sleep and only about an hour’s rest in the cold of the summit. Initially I was looking forward to the descent, oh how I changed my mind after a couple of steps. A slope with a smooth surface made the process worst then climbing up the mountain. I slipped and fell once after a couple of breaks I chose to look past the pain and run down that mountain. “I am never doing this again”, kept repeating in my head on the way down, every tree at this point started to look like drink vending machines. As you may have already guessed once I reached the bottom I run towards the first vending machine and bought four bottles of sports drink and finished it all in one shot. Those who were getting ready to climb the mountain looked at me terrified. I looked like I had come back from war; sweat drenched and pale with four bottles of drinks down in 20 seconds, no wonder I was getting strange looks. I couldn’t help but laugh at the people who were about to start the climb (now I looked like a madman). All smiles like we were before them – bound to change once they reach the 7th station.

Sea of people admiring the view
Sea of people admiring the view

Saying that it was a one of the best experiences in my life. Not only because the climb is a test of character and resilience but it really felt like an achievement. Doing it with good friends made the whole experience worthwhile. It was hard probably the hardest thing I have ever done. Will I do it again never as the famous Japanese proverb goes “He who climbs Mount Fuji is a wise man, he who climbs twice is a fool”.

But having climbed the mountain was a very unique and a special experience.

Thailand a traveler’s tale

Thailand A traveller’s tale

Living in Japan in December is a bittersweet time. The weather is super cold however if you are into snowboarding and skiing then Japan is your dream location. If you are like me and can’t ski and loath the cold and you are on vacation, you would want to get out and travel somewhere warm.The problem with this is Japan is slightly isolated therefore the places you can travel to is very limited. For this reason, the most popular destinations during this season is either Thailand or the Philippines. Therefore, I was caught up between these two destinations. Speaking with a few friends who had traveled to Thailand or had family living there I chose to give it a shot.

I instantly fell in love with the country. There was sunshine all day I felt right at home. Wearing shorts and a t-shirt on December is an awkward experience. It was especially humorous to see Christmas trees displayed around Bangkok or Christmas songs blurring out from stores and convenience stores when the weather was 35 Celsius. The hot weather somehow reduces that special feeling associated with Christmas.

What made me love the place so much?

Prior to travelling there, I had this idea of Thailand being relatively dangerous and a heavenly world for sex tourists. This is partly true being a tourist you have to stay on your toes, and yes sex tourism is one of the biggest attractions for many. In my experience, I had a very comfortable stay the people where super nice some of the nicest I have met in my vast experience in travelling. On one or two occasions I was charged extra on Taxi rides but I suppose that is expected being and looking like a tourist with a camera strapped around his neck. In terms of travel from the second day onward I started using the train service. It’s cheap and convenient but most importantly you avoid the chaotic traffic in Bangkok. MY GOD the traffic …

What did I do whilst staying there?

Thailand
Lovely golden statue glowing under the burning sun

Honestly, I think I overstayed. I was in Bangkok for one week for those who have traveled there know that in terms of sightseeing there isn’t much there, and the whole city can be covered in 2 days. However, I did meet some great people and they made my stay worthwhile and took me around. The highlight of my sightseeing tour was certainly the temples and the floating market. The eloquent detail of the temples left me in awe beautiful golden temples and Buddha busts illuminating with the reflection of the sun was truly beautiful. The floral scent of burning incense created a magical atmosphere that heightened the experience. The burning sun had at this point left me and my friend exhausted so we decided to visit a local Thai restaurant.

Thai food?

Exotic dishes.
Exotic dishes.
Thai Dessert - Banana honey and vanilla ice cream with nuts
Thai Dessert – Banana honey and vanilla ice cream with nuts

Thai food instantly became my favorite kind of food. Without a doubt, Thai cuisine is the king of exotic dining. Each and every dish bursts with exotic flavors. Pine nuts and herbs dried lime and salted shrimps ate with this mysterious leaf that I could not figure out what it was created a rainbow of flavors on the tongue. This was one of the two starters. Next came deep fried chicken placed inside wrapped banana leaf which had to be patiently removed to expose the scrumptious chicken dipped in smokey pomegranate sauce. My friend ordered me an equally exotic soft drink consisting of mango and passion fruit with a dash of lime mixed in honey helped cool me down. The main dish was the classic green curry and rice. Creamy, not too spicy and extremely fragrant. Lastly, came the dessert honey coated banana with vanilla ice cream and pistachio was the perfect finish.

I took two things away from eating Thai food. It’s not just about stuffing your mouth it’s an experience. Travelling to Thailand is not complete without proper Thai eating experience.

I am sure you are salivating by now so let’s move on…

The floating market.

The floating market was great despite the long wait to get on a motor boat. The trip is brilliant slowly taken around it was amazing to see people who actually live around the area. The gentle breeze caressed my face as we went the water was surprisingly clean without any poignant smells or flies. Slowly we approached the shops who sold cold beers for extortionate prices and plenty of gift shops and creative art work on display. There were many food stands which were great I tried the noodles it was brilliant.

Definitely a highlight and a must visit if you travel to Bangkok however it takes two hours from central city to the river therefore be careful if you get a taxi. Luckily my friend who was Thai managed to bargain a great price for being driven to the floating market then took us to the Golden mountain and back to the hotel for 1600 THB. I know a great deal. Therefore, having the ability to speak Thai or being with someone who speaks Thai could save you a lot of money. Believe me. Also, being in Thailand finding someone to hang with is extremely easy people are very friendly or you could use apps such as tinder or something to find someone to hang with.

Floating Market
Floating Market

Thai boxing

Being a boxing aficionado it was only tempting to visit a Muay Thai event. The atmosphere was relaxed although a little tense. The fighters came in and performed their initial dance. People stared with excitement including me. The referee stepped into the ring and asked the fighters to touch gloves and the bell rang. Both fighters were extremely respectful bowing and touching gloves. It was great to see such sportsmanship in a violent sport most people associate with thugs. The traditional Thai music started to play as the Thai spectators roared and cheered as the two competitors kicked and threw straight hands to the face. On one side of the stadium people where actually betters shouting out odds and betting right there in the stadium. It was fascinating to watch. The fights normally started very slow it was almost like a Beethoven composition. It started slow and built up into something rather chaotic and violent. In one particular fight it was round three. The athletes approached each other one threw a leg kick the other responded with a Thai clinch and started to knee the ribs. At this point the other fighter also got a clinch and they placed themselves in the center of the ring exchanging brutal knees to the kidney and ribs being ringside I could hear the impact of those shots on the men. At one point one threw a elbow making a deep flesh cut on the opposing opponent with blood flowing  and dripping on the canvas. The betters were at this point screaming in excitement and money exchanged hands in dramatic fashion. I knew the fight was over. The fight ended with the opponent who had caused the cut to finish the fight with knees to the face.

Muay thai Thailand
Brutal beauty

Overall I loved Thailand outside of Japan if I could live anywhere else in the world it would surely be Thailand. I felt regretful not visiting Pattaya I will make sure I do so on my next visit. The sun is continuously shining the food is great the people are friendly. Despite all this Bangkok itself was relatively expensive and traffic was chaotic and certain tourists just take away from the magic of the country but putting that aside this is now my favorite destination. Let me know your thoughts, have you traveled to Thailand before? What was your experience like?

 

Nightly rose

Rose

The moon shone bright yet her hands where as warm as the sun

Illuminating a glow of innocence until her thoughts dwell into the past

Guilt takes over and the eyebrows cross

Thinking of ways to erase the past only feeds on her mistakes

Yet she keeps it strong and continues living on

The flowers at night cast a comic shadow

The roses seem bright in black and the green make soothing noises

She closes her eyes and takes in the curing tunes

Tears slowly form pulps on the corner of her eyes and roll down slowly to her lips

She licks her own lips to taste the broken heart

A smile forms and she makes the jump.

Redemptio – Punishment through darkness PART II: Ears and Nose (carelessness)

Ears and Nose (carelessness)


 

I woke with the sound of thunder and cold drops of rain

The wind was cold and chilled my skin and bone

I raised my left arm and gazed at the flat wound which once formed my hand

I let out a scream

 

‘Why you doing this to me – god help me please…

Is it for I have abandoned you?

Is it for I no longer look for your grace at times of turmoil?

For I swear with all my heart I shall embrace your grace

Forgive me lord’

 

I started to cry violently curled on the floor

Strangely the solid floor for which I landed seemed now cold and soft

I looked up for response and around me filled with darkness

The clouds formed a circle of gloom and poured black rain

Violently pouring I closed my eyes for I am alone in this nightmare

To open and find myself floating higher

A strange noise comes from my left

I turn to realise there is a cloud unlike those around me

This cloud illuminating white

The closer it got the harder it became to keep my sight

A breeze blew the cloud formed what appeared like words

The words appeared to be written in ashes read:

 

‘Feed me with two senses of thou choice and the path shall open before you’

 

I read the message attentively trying to figure its meaning

The winds started to pick up

The cloud for which I was on disappeared

Yet the saint bright cloud had not moved

I stared at the words in ashes but my vision was blurred

I looked left and right- what was once a sea of cotton like clouds

Had now become a single gulp of darkness

Like a desert at night but without the caressing sound of the gentle breeze or,

The bright illuminating stars

 

No – this was far more sinister there was no sound, no spot of beauty just pure darkness

With the cloud that once held me in its brace absent

I found myself walking in air without any sense of direction or guidance (his lost)

I take a few steps trembling in fear

Suddenly a burst of light blinds my eye I try to look but my eyes cannot open in such illumination

After a few seconds the brightness stops and darkness resumes

This time however something strange happened

I stood for a moment almost frozen

My eyes fixed, on what appeared like the moon

Although not like I know it

Is red with scars rather than holes as it appears from a distance

I could not help it…

Tears uncontrollably pour from the sides of my eyes

As I drop on my knees

The ashes on the bright cloud start excreting fumes as if rein lighted

Turning red to match the moon

A force starts to draw me closer to the moon

The closer it draws me the greater the heat

As it pulls me towards itself the ashes and the cloud follow burning brighter:

 

‘Feed me with two senses of thou choice and the path shall open before you’

 

I try to break free from the grip but the more I move the tighter the grip

My lungs feel as if they are about to collapse

The heat makes breathing unbearable

I think for a moment about the passage reading it out loud in panic

Senses…

The only senses I could think of are my eyes, ears, tongue

It suddenly occurred to me

To stop burning in the moon I must sacrifice two of my senses

Becoming aware of this my left hand had loosened

It felt like a sick TV show

I had gotten so close to the flames my skin started to peel and crack from the heat

I had to think fast – I chose my ears and nose

 

‘Good now feed them or be the hunted’

 

My left hand shaking I decided to start with my ear

I started with my left

I grabbed the top of my outer ear and closed my eyes hard and started to pull

I kept pulling until I felt a tear

Rather heard

I pulled and with each tear the tremble in my hand increased

I had to stop

The blood was rushing down the side of my face pouring onto the abyss

It was as if my blood was being consumed by the darkness

My ear half way ripped from my head

I took a deep breath

And another

And pulled with force the pinna tearing a big chunk of my cheek skin along with the ear

I threw it towards the direction of the blood moon and a loud screech was made as if to approve of my self-mutation

I did the same with my right ear the pinna this time taking a bigger chunk of my cheek I threw it at the moon like a dog yearning for food

It threw back another loud screech but my ear canal filled with blood the sound seemed less intense

 

‘Good’

Said a deep voice

‘Hither thou must finish what thee started bequeath the second flesh to sacrifice cursed one’

 

I decided for my nose

I put my index finger in my right nostril and my middle finger in my left

Now almost deaf from the blood in my ears

I pulled upwards in violent motion

Screaming and panting in pain but unable to hear myself

I kept pulling until I felt the columella rip from my top lip I decided to keep going pulling back until I felt the flesh completely removed from the nose bone

With little energy left I threw the slap of skin towards the blood moon and fainted into the darkness.