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 13: Hedgehog Cafe Yokohama

HEDGEHOG CAFES ARE REAL!

SPOILER ALERT: this cafe also had Meerkats!

To be honest, I don’t like when animals are commercialized. But, I will say, this Hedgehog Cage is immensely clean and very careful on how guests handle the hedgehogs and meerkats.

When you first walk in an employee sits with you and explains the hedgehog personality, and the correct way to handle them. They sit with you for a while to make sure you’re doing it right. Not only that, the staff walks around the entire time making sure the animals are safe, and being handled adequately. I appreciated the educational aspect of the entire experience.

If you’re in Yokohama, you definitely don’t want to miss this Hedgehog Cafe. Admission includes a drink of your choice, leather gloves, and 1 hour of Hedgehogs and Meerkats.

You can check out this photo of Tim Ferris visiting a Hedgehog Cafe while in Tokyo!

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)

 

MY TRIP TO JAPAN! PART 11: Cat Cafe Yokohama

Remember my post about my grandmother’s goat farm in Venezuela?

or, my post about visiting the Owl Cafe in Asakusa, Japan ?

Or, my post about working with Owls at a Nature Preserve?

So, you better believe I was excited to visit the Cat Cafe in Yokohama. It was clean and well designed. The kittens looked happy and healthy.

The business model is simple. You pay for the time you want to spend at the cafe. The cost includes a cup of vending machine coffee, slippers, and access to a lockable cubby for your belongings. (A note about the vending machine coffee, it’s surprisingly delicious! The Japanese have mastered vending machines. More on that later).

ネコ  Neko  –  (cat in Japanese)