Lala Lopez de Leon 2024


March 9 - 10, 2024

Not to exaggerate at all, but that second weekend of March was perfect!  It seemed that all of our guardian angels connived to gift us with the ideal weather – never mind the playful wind – and it was smooth sailing from beginning to end!

It was meant to be a sequel to an earlier gathering of dear old friends from our student days, who had somehow dropped the old habit of gathering at the cafeteria for some chit-chat, because we all had to move on with our own lives!

But that weekend, it was like the old flames of friendship was instantly rekindled, like the last chit-chat we had at the cafeteria was just yesterday! 

For sure that Saturday started perfectly! While this bubbly group of young-at-heart ladies mumbled about Shinjuku Station being too crowded and dizzying, we made it on time for the 10:20 a.m. departure on the Odakyu Line Express bound for Hakone Yumoto.

Now settled on our reserved seats and discussing our itinerary, not too long, the drama started to unfold. Soon our coach was abuzz with gasps and sighs…and there it was, the reason for all that!  Amidst the clear blue sky, majestic Mount Fuji revealed itself! Snow-capped, high and proud, commanding everyone’s attention. So happy to see it again, in all its glory!

Now settled on our reserved seats and discussing our itinerary, not too long, the drama started to unfold. Soon our coach was abuzz with gasps and sighs…and there it was, the reason for all that!  Amidst the clear blue sky, majestic Mount Fuji revealed itself! Snow-capped, high and proud, commanding everyone’s attention. So happy to see it again, in all its glory!

So, it was Lita’s idea to spend the weekend at Sanrakuso, a traditional Japanese house and the ancestral home of her old friend, which was converted into a Ryokan and fitted with Onsen hot springs baths.

Sanrakuso is primarily managed by an energetic mother-daughter team, who have gained a tremendous reputation for serving the most sumptuous dinner and breakfast at a very reasonable rate. 

After checking in, with the long day still ahead of us, we ventured out into Gora, which is on the Tozan Tetsudo’s line and is one of Hakone’s most popular destinations. From Gora Station, we took the bus for this route for a 20-minute ride to Hakone Venetian Glass Museum, also called the Hakone Glass Forest.

This facility houses a museum, a garden, a café/restaurant and a museum shop. From strategic places one can see on the horizon the mountains of Hakone, which at the time of our visit was sprinkled with snow.

It’s amazing to find so many precious artefacts and artworks all in glass!  Even the garden had bushes and shrubs of flowers made of glass!  Spots here and there perfect for picture-taking!

For an avid fan of glass artworks, I wanted so much to stay longer and view each piece at a more leisurely pace.  The Venetian glass pieces were just mesmerizing!

I just know, anyway, that I should like to come again and explore this glass museum even more in detail.

As the sun started to set and let out a saffron glow at the horizon, we knew it was time to go home – well, our home for the weekend, Sanrakuso.


Imagine the 10-12 course traditional Japanese dinner spread that awaits your return!

Well, imagine too the same enticing spread at breakfast the next day!

Imagine the hot springs bath that’s there for the asking to soothe your tired legs after a long and exciting day!

Yes, exactly what we enjoyed on the weekend at Sanrakuso.

I’ll be back!!

Walk with me: Kawagoe

January 13, 2024

To all the gentle peeps and followers of Jeepney Press, Happy New Year!


Time for new beginnings, and new adventures for a senior citizen who has become restless and daring, like me!

I have never been to Kawagoe but have heard about it, and from what my dear old friend told me, it is a very charming place and totally worth a day trip.

Known by its nickname Koedo or Little Edo, Kawagoe is accessible through three major train lines; but as we eventually discovered, the Hon-Kawagoe Station on the Seibu Shinjuku line is the closest to the main attractions of the area.

The first order of the day was to check the Hon-Kawagoe Station Tourist Information Center for tips on how to plan our tour the best way. Eager to get hold of English maps and brochures, although a Japanese version would be great as well, of course, the kind ladies compiled a whole set for us that included curious-looking maps featuring products that are just a few of the many prides of Kawagoe: Unagi Map, Soba & Udon Map, and Washoku Lunch Map.

This is what I find truly endearing in Japan – local governments are fully supportive of local businesses. And that, in many ways, translates into an effective marketing that propels them into the national consciousness.

Kawagoe was part of the ancient Musashi Province and in the 1450s – 1550s was controlled interchangeably by two warring families, the Uesugi and Hojo clans. Eventually, the Later Hojo clan prevailed, and from that victory, Kawagoe served for another 45 years as a satellite town defending Edo, now Tokyo.

It was created as a town when the modern municipality system was established on April 1, 1889, but suffered major damages from a fire in 1893 and was rebuilt through the use of the traditional Kura warehouse construction technique. In 1922, it merged with the neighboring Senba village and became the first municipality in Saitama Prefecture to receive city status.

It was almost noon when we set foot on the very corner of the main street of this old historic town.  With eyes ahead on that long stretch, we however immediately spotted the Noren (welcome curtain with shop’s name) of Unagi Kohinata. No questions asked!  We were hungry and couldn’t think of anything else but Unagi Kabayaki! A full hour spent leisurely enjoying our lunch of delicious, delicate broiled eel – it was so worth the price of JPY2,500!

Now ready for our tour…and as we approached the Kurazukuri No Machinami, or Kura no Machi, I was, Wow, it’s true, it’s Koedo! If everyone promenading on that street, that very day, were all in Kimono, you would have felt being transported to the Edo Period! 

Not to be missed, primarily because it towers over all the structures in the area, is the Toki no Kane (Time Bell Tower). It has gone through four reconstructions, the fourth and last being what we see now, rebuilt immediately after the Great Fire of Kawagoe in 1893.  One regret, though, we missed the ringing of the bell at the specified times at 12:00 noon, 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. 

Most of the streets and pathways to these attractions are neatly paved in Ishi-datami resembling cobblestones. This I found to add to the charm of Koedo Kawagoe, and is definitely kind for walking, especially for the elderly.

The Koedo Kawagoe map showed several shrines and temples. While it was way far away North from our starting point, we thought it would be fulfilling to complete our tour with a visit to Kawagoe Hikawa Shrine. It was built about 1,500 years ago, and is accented by a 15-meter torii gate! 

This is definitely not my last visit to Koedo Kawagoe.  I must go back to see what is left of the castle, the primary hall section of it, or the Honmaru Goten of Kawagoe Castle. Besides, there are so many more of the cuisines, and their famous sweet potato delicacies to try!

I wouldn’t mind taking 15,372 steps once again!

Till the next adventure!