MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 15: Lake Yamanaka, Yamanakako

Yamanakako is a quaint mountain town, around one of Mt. Fuji’s 5 lakes, Yamanaka. It’s a must visit when traveling to Japan! I stayed here 4 days when I ran the Sponichi Half Marathon.

The bus from Tokyo to Mt. Fuji station is a scenic 3 hours. You can expect views of farms and rice patties – quite the contrast from bustling Tokyo. I was traveling alone, and although nerves almost got the best of me, the entire ride was easy to figure out, safe, and quiet.

I hope you don’t hesitate traveling across Japan on a bus or train — it’s easy to figure out and everyone is immensely helpful if you get into a situation where you need assistance.

Oh, and can we just talk about how breathtaking Mt. Fuji is?!

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 14: Sponichi Yamanakako Road Race (Half Marathon)

I traveled to Japan for the third time (in less than 3 years!) to Yamanakako to run in the Sponichi Yamanakako Road Race Half Marathon on May 26, 2019

I’ve been dreaming of participating in a Japanese half marathon for some time now, and this could not have been a more perfect race.

About 13,000 participants ran in the race, and it was memorable in many ways.

For starters, Mount Fuji. The first photo I took from my hotel room window – can you believe that view?! Mount Fuji is magical, and having it in clear view during the race was something I’ll cherish forever.

Second, running through Yamanakako, around Lake Yamanaka, and small village towns was beautiful. Not only that, the locals stand outside cheering for you in Japanese, even giving you high fives. That was super motivating.

Third, race day was hot, and I mean very hot. No one expected it as it was a record high for the season. Running in the heat can really mess with your mental game, and there were moments in the race where my mind went haywire. So much so that on mile 11 I wanted to call it quits ! I was so close to the finish line but the heat was getting the best of me. Thankfully my family was texting me during the race to keep me motivated.

Lastly, there was no one in the finish line waiting for me as I traveled alone to run this race. Not only that but there was no finishers medal, no awards, just me, myself, and I. There was something special about just having the sense of satisfaction that I had just completed this difficult thing.

I would certainly run this race again. It’s certainly a highlight of my life and travels thus far.

*If you’re planning on running this race and would like more details, I’ve put some pointers at the end of the post !

*Make sure you sign up for the correct race, there’s a 13K (which is 1 lap around Lake Yamanaka) and the Half-Marathon which is 13 miles (21K).
*There really aren’t many announcements leading up to the race. I received 1 email confirming I signed up and paid, and another email a couple weeks leading up to the race with my bib number and details on how to get to the venues. That was it.
*Wake up early (5:30/6am), eat breakfast, and head to the venue. I never eat before a race, but the race doesn’t begin until 9:15am. You’ll be happy you had food in your belly.
*Head to the venue early, Yamanakako is a very small mountain village and all the roads close for this event. You can schedule a taxi with your hotel to pick you up race day.
*I recently started running with compression sleeves and highly recommend it for this hilly, elevated race. I recovered quickly after this race because of the sleeves.
*Try to stay at a hotel that includes breakfast and dinner. Yamanakako is a small village and finding breakfast places can be tricky. I stayed at the Sun Plaza Hotel Fuji, and am happy I did.
*You can pick up your bib and packet race day. I picked everything up the day before, but there was no need. Everything is so organized that you’ll have no problem picking up your materials day of. There’s a special, small tent with International Runner’s packets.
*There are no signs or announcements in English. Everything, and I mean everything, is in Japanese. Don’t worry though, it’s all self-explanatory.
*Carry some cash (100-500 yen coins). There are vending machines along the path in case you need to purchase water. There are water stations, but with the intense heat the day I ran, I’m grateful I had cash on me for a bottle of water.
*The race ends at the middle school, which is uphill. Save some mental energy for that final push !
*Note that you will not receiving a finisher’s medal. You do receive a t-shirt when you pick up your packet though.
*Traffic is horrendous after the race, so I just walked to lunch and then to my hotel which was about 1.5 miles from the venue.
*Lastly, have fun. Take photos. Enjoy the views. This race is beyond memorable, and you’ll be happy you made the journey to Yamanakako, Japan.

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 12: Little Details in Yokohama

Japan is filled with little details. I’d say it’s one of the most charming aspects about their culture.

There are many things I saw in Yokohama that don’t fit into a specific category, so I’m sharing them together here.

Treasures such as an elaborately designed manhole cover, a doggy water bowl holder designed into the side of a wall, clever street art, or walking through a neighborhood and running into a park.

Cheers to the little things!

可愛い   Kawaii  (cute in Japanese)

 

Ruins and Wild Horses

Traveled to Cumberland Island this past weekend in quaint St. Mary’s — a small town in Georgia. The island is a smooth 45 minute ferry ride on St. Mary’s River.

The 35,000 plus acres of island is uninhabited and undeveloped, and utterly captivating. Cumberland Island is home to the famous Dungeness Ruins, a Carnegie family Mansion until it burned down.

I’ve never been this close to a wild horse and I must say, I was geeking out and blown away by the entire experience. The getaway was unusual, adventurous, and enchanting.

Realizing that often times the best adventures are uncomplicated.

Where is home?

I’ve spent years looking for the place my soul calls home. I know I’m not the only one. I’ve had many a conversations about this with my friends who love to travel.

I assume my personal restlessness comes from the fact that I’m a child of immigrants. The area which most of my maternal side of the family in Venezuela resides is arid and desert-like, so it’s no surprise then that New Mexico struck a massive chord within me. It reminded me of my childhood at my grandmother’s house playing with my cousins in the desert, and making clay from mixing water with dirt.

Even though it was my first time visiting, I felt a deep feeling of warmth and familiarity in New Mexico. The people and culture reflect care about entrepreneurship, food, art, nature, and spirituality.

This trip showed me that home entails more than just people and place, it encompasses values and nostalgia.

New Mexico:

Venezuela:

What about you?   Where do you call home?