Melbourne time

Hello, こんにちは Kon'nichiwa

Well hello, Kon'nichiwa, or should I say こんにちは.....

This blog is about my trip to Japan later on this year. The countdown has begun, today is Easter Sunday, 27 March, I fly to Japan in 70 days, 5 hours and 10 minutes! I know three words in Japanese - hello, thank you and goodbye. I don't drink beer and I don't like raw fish. But I love meeting people, seeing new places, culture and history. I will only pass this way but once and I feel the need to try and see as much as I can in as little time as I have. .
Cheers. 乾杯

Click On Flag To Translate

Thursday, 21 July 2016

21. You have to have an Engineering Degree to use a Japanese Toilet

In Japan you never have to worry about squat pots or lack of toilet paper, because the Japanese people are time travellers from the future.




Their toilets look like mission control at NASA. If you ever wanted to know what it was like to jump into the Doleran with Michael J. Fox and ol’ Doc Brown and take a dump in the year 2525, head to Japan.





The problem with this technological dookie machine of wonderment is that it has 42 buttons and all of them are written in Japanese. Figuring out how to flush one of these is like diffusing a bomb. Maybe the red button flushes, maybe it sprays water meant for your bum at such velocity it hits the ceiling, maybe it air dries your ass with jet engine force—you just never know.

Information and photo 2 taken from Travel Write Sing

Friday, 3 June 2016

20. Plus Size Clothing in Japan

Everybody knows Japanese people are smaller than Westerners, while they are dainty and have small feet, we are wider, heavier and have bigger feet. When I was in China, I saw the most beautiful leather shoes and sandals - not the sort of cheap crap that gets exported to Australia, this was real good quality stuff, but there was only one problem - they didn't come in my size. None of them did. The biggest I saw was a 37 and that was considered huuuge over there. A 37 is only a size 6!


It is, I've been told, the same with clothing. A friend who had visited Japan said an XL over there is like a size 12 here! I won't be going shopping for clothes when I'm in Japan. Or for shoes.




Where to Find Tall and Plus Size Clothing in Japan
I came across a website called Surviving in Japan which goes into detail about where to find clothing for tall and bigger size people. It does say though, most of the stores listed are online sites only available in Japanese. Which isn't much help to anyone other than a Japanese person. Or someone who speaks the lingo.






Bra Size Converter
For ladies with a fuller figure, Click here to convert your bra size to the equivalent Japanese size. Example, if you wear a 20G in Australia, you would be a 95I in Japan. If you wear a 36D in America, then you would be an 80E in Japan. Equivalents are given for US, UK, AUS/NZ, EU/JAP and B/E/F (Belgium, Spain and France)




International Dress Size Converter
To find your clothing size, Click here.






Thursday, 2 June 2016

19. Prayer for Tourists

Well, it's only three more sleeps then I'm on my way. The closer it gets, the more I know I have things to do which have not been done because somehow I can't seem to calm down to do them. I am also become quite excited as the time draws near (it's about time it happened!).

Knowing all the hundred and one things I want to do, the things that bedazzle all tourists, I give you - The Prayer for Tourists.


Prayer for Tourists

Heavenly Father, look down on us your humble, obedient
tourist servants, who are doomed to travel this earth,
taking photographs, mailing postcards, buying souvenirs and
walking around in drip-dry underwear.
We beseech you O Lord to see that our plane is not hijacked,
our luggage is not lost and our overweight baggage goes unnoticed.

Protect us from surly and unscrupulous taxi drivers, avaricious porters
and unlicensed English speaking guides.
Give us this day divine guidance in the selection
of our hotels, that we may find our reservations honoured,
our rooms made up, breakfast included, and (hot) water running in the taps.

We pray that the telephones work, and the operators speak our tongue
and remember our morning call for the sake of others on our tour,
And that there is no mail from our children awaiting us
which would force us to cancel the rest of our trip.

Lead us, dear Lord, to good, inexpensive restaurants
where the food is superb, the waiters friendly and the wine served complimentary.
Give us wisdom to tip correctly in currencies we do not understand.
Forgive us for under tipping out of ignorance and over tipping out of fear.
Make the locals love us for who we are, and not for what we can contribute
to their worldly goods.

Grant us the strength to visit the museums, the cathedrals,
the colonial houses, national parks, and convict jails
listed as "must see" in our guide books.
And if by chance we skip an historic monument to take a nap after lunch,
have mercy on us, for the flesh is but weak.

And when our trip is over and we return to our loved ones, grant us
the favour of finding someone who will look at our home movies and
listen to our stories.
So our stories will not have been in vain.......

Amen


Saturday, 28 May 2016

18. Takayama Accommodation

Great Western Hotel

I had actually booked a double room here ages ago, and when I stopped smoking back in February, I had to contact the places I'd booked and ask to change my booking to a non-smoking room. Unfortunately all the non-smoking double rooms were booked, so I ended up cancelling. After having seen the cost of the double room at K's House hostel, I noticed this hotel had rooms for a similar price but much bigger of course and better appointed.



Above: Spa and wellness centre


Above: Twin room

Twin Room - Non-Smoking

Room size: 23 m²
Beds: 2 single beds

Soundproofed, air-conditioned room with a smoothly sophisticated decor. Each room includes a refrigerator, an en suite bathroom and flat-screen TV with video-on-demand movies available for purchase.

An extra bed can be accommodated at extra charge.

Room facilities: Air Conditioning, Desk, Heating, Interconnected room(s) available, Soundproofing, Shower, Bath, Hairdryer, Free toiletries, Toilet, Bathroom, Slippers, Pay-per-view Channels, Telephone, Radio, Flat-screen TV, Refrigerator, Electric kettle, Wake-up service, Alarm clock.

The hotel also has a Spa and wellness centre, including sauna, hot tub and massage.





K's House Takayama

This is a hostel on one of the main roads a few streets down from the railway station, and a three minute walk away.





Double Room
Room size: 6 m²

Simple room with a double bed, air conditioning, a flat-screen TV and an en suite bathroom.

Amenities like toothbrushes, yukata robes and shaving kits are not provided. They can be rented between 08:00 and 21:00.

Room facilities: Air Conditioning, Heating, Shower, Bath, Toilet, Satellite Channels, Flat-screen TV

Free WiFi is available in all rooms.


Hotel or Hostel?

I know I save $18 of I stay at the hostel, but $207 for a room that's 6 m² is over priced. The hotel room at $225 is 23 m². Do I save $18 ot "treat" myself to the larger room in a hotel? I like the idea of their wellness centre and I wouldn't mind having a massage. From what I've been reading, everything closes early in Takayama and by 8 o'clock, the streets are dark and empty. How boring, especially as it'll be summer when I'm there, it would be lovely strolling around in the evening. With this in mind, if I was staying in the hostel, I'd have company, meet other people in the common areas (lounge etc), listen to people's stories of their travels, perhaps get some advice etc.

I will have been staying in a 6 m² for my week in Kyoto, although that room has a single bed so it won't be as cramped, and in a four bed dorm for my night in Kanazawa, perhaps I might really look forward the the larger room. The hotel room in Tokyo where I spend my last four nights, is 14 m² - a single room. Hmm.... perhaps I will go for the hotel after all. I have to make a decision in the next few days - by next Saturday at the latest. Decisions, decisions, decisions.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

17. Bathing Rule When Drunk

I found this fab place in Tokyo - it's called the Ooedo-Onsen Monogatari. It says, "Te Ooedo Onsen Monogatari is a lavish hot spring theme park on Odaiba. It is a great place for the uninitiated to first experience a Japanese hot spring bath, and is also a fun, special treat for people of all ages."

Their website gives a list of 14 rules and etiquette regarding bathing (communal). But Rule No. 2 has me stumped -


Hmm... does that mean it's okay to enter the bath if you're only a little bit drunk? Or tipsy or half-pi**ed? What if you're three sheets to the wind but not under the table?

So ..... if you're muddled, plastered, sloshed or inebriated but not completely off your face then it's alright to enter the bath. Just remember which one is the correct one. (If your a fella, don't go in the ladies' bath)


Saturday, 14 May 2016

17. GEAR Ticket Booked

GEAR - A Show with a Difference


My ticket for GEAR is booked, I need to be there an hour before the show starts to collect and pay for it. GEAR is a non-verbal performance at the Art Complex 1928 building. I don't know what the story line is but it involves mime (of course if it's non-verbal! - naturally!), juggling, break dancing and magic acts, using the latest technology stuff. Sounds very interesting. Some friends who visited Japan last year saw the show and raved about it.

This is the Art Complex 1928 building where the show is. Knowing what it looks like, I'll know what to look for when I'm there.


It dates from 1928 (well obviously!) and was originally the Kyoto office of the Mainichi Newspaper. Today the building houses restaurants, a café and a theatre.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

16. Language and Culture

Today, I learned something very important - never, ever, ever say, "Chin-chin" when raising your glass because chin-chin is a Japanese colloquial word meaning penis. That would be what you'd call a cultural cock-up.



To prevent raised eyebrows and offence, say "Cheers" instead, or better still, the Japanese "Kanpai" (乾杯)

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

15. I've got a little list

Thinking about how I have to get my skates on and make a final decision about which accommodation I'm going to choose, I started to write a poem in my head to the tune of "I've Got a Little List" from The Mikado! I didn't get very far, only the first verse but it's enough or at least a start for you to see the tempo. With the video clip underneath it makes for a bit of light entertainment and good all round fun.

BTW, for those dreadfully un-edumacated folks who don't know one end of an operetta from another, the Mikado is set in Japan (very appropriate) Nanki-Poo, the son of the Mikado (a rich dude, the local big-wig with pots of money and power) flees his old man's court cos he doesn't want to marry Katisha - an old bat old enough to be his grandmother! He dresses up as a minstrel and falls in love with the new kid on the block Yum-Yum who he reckons is a bit of alright and who he 's got the hots for.


As some day it may happen that accommodation must be found,
I've got a little list - I've got a little list
Of guesthouses and hotels in the cities I'm around
And they may have been missed - they may have been missed.

I've got 'em on the list--I've got 'em on the list;
And they'll none of 'em be missed--they'll none of 'em be missed.
Because I've made a little list!





Today's quote: I'm really very sorry for you all, but it's an unjust world, and virtue is triumphant only in theatrical performances ~ W.S. Gilbert, The Mikado

14. Tokyo accommodation to get sorted

I really need to make a decision on where I will stay in Tokyo. The first place I booked was a hostel, but my finances have changed and I can optimistically look at staying in a hotel. Still need to budget though and not splash out as if money grows on trees.Yes well, the first place I looked at was a hostel in Shinjuku and someone said Shinjuku is a good area for transport, it's a transport hub, you can go anywhere from there. And my JR Pass will still be valid, so if I get the JR train from Shinjuku (Yamonote line) I can use that to get on and off and travel around seeing Shibuya, Harajuku (for grannies?) Ueno. It can also be used to do a Yanaka walk by getting off at Ueno, following the walking map and getting back on the Yamonote train line at Nippori.

I also think I would like staying in Asakusa but I cannot use my JR Pass there so would have to be buying metro or subway tickets. I had thought to spend the first day in Tokyo, the second day out of the city on a day trip, and my last full day in Tokyo. Another thing to take into account is the distance from hotel to train station. As I'll have a nearly checkout this needs to be factored in. Staying in Shinjuku, I would have to leave earlier than if I stayed in Asakusa and of all the hotels, only the Dormy Inn EXPRESS Asakusa does breakfast from 6:30am. This of course should not be a reason to choose this hotel, there are other, cheaper hotels.

Shinjuku

East of station
Imano Tokyo Hostel 6 bed female dorm $179 - ( 11/12 mins 900 m)
Tokyu Stay Shinjuku - $562 - (7 mins 550m)
Toyoko Inn Tokyo Shinjuku Kabuki-cho (RED Light district) $398 breakfast (13/14 mins 1.1km)

West of station
Nishitetsu Inn Shinjuku $471 - (11 min 950m)
Kadoya Hotel - $577 - (6 mins 500m) nice colours


Shibuya
Tokyu Stay Shibuya Shin-Minamiguchi includes breakfast, microwave, washing machine - $567 (8 mins 650m)
Shibuya Granbell Hotel - $596


Asakusa
Richmond Hotel Asakusa $493 (9 min 750m)
B:CONTE Asakusa $534 (7 mins 700m)
Red Planet Asakusa Tokyo Single Room with View $544 (8 min 650m) **

Via Inn Asakusa $376 (7 mins 600m)

Asakusa Central Hotel Ladies floor $405 (5 mins 400 m)
Dormy Inn EXPRESS Asakusa breakfast included Double room station side view $561 (2 mins 190m)

I've since done some more editing, cancelled some, kept some and have four left in Shinjuku, one in Shibuya and six in Asakusa. The easiest way to check their locations is from the maps I did. The red X'x show the hotels I selected. I am leaning towards Shinjuku rather than Asakusa.

Shinjuku



Asakusa





Wednesday, 30 March 2016

13. JR Pass

MY JR Pass arrived today from JTB. Junior handed it to me saying gee their drivers are lazy. It had been put on the floor outside. Oh, ah well, it didn't require a signature. And it came. I opened the envelope with anticipation trying to make head of what I was seeing.
It tells you to check
a) Your name (must be the same as your passport),
b) Ticket name (Type of Ticket, Duration, Adult/Child)
c) Exchange deadline (Please check the exchange deadline written)
d) You have been given both the "Passenger Coupon" and "Exchange Coupon".

Above: What a JR Rail Pass Voucher looks like

The above isn't mine, it was floating around on the internetosphere

Always check your ticket
Or in this case, your voucher. Always check, it pays to check. They (JTB) had made an error. I was surprised at this, because the JTB Corporation is the largest travel agency in Japan and one of the largest travel agencies in the world. They specialise in tourism. For some reason, I had the idea JTB were the "Official" Japanese tourist company in Australia. I don't know where I got that idea from, maybe from reading some of their stuff. Anyway, I won't say I'm not disappointed because I am. Very. Disappointed. One can only hope things carry on more smoothly in Japan than they have so far. And the trains run on time.

JTB gave me the wrong one!
They gave me a 7 day pass, and I ordered and paid for a 14 day pass. I checked the confirmation email and yes, it definitely says 14 day pass and the amount $560. Then I checked my account and yes, the amount of $560 had been debited to my account last week. I rang them but of course it was after office hours so will have to ring them tomorrow. I hope they don't tell me I have to post the incorrect one back to them, I wouldn't be a happy chappy if that happens. I mean I paid $7.00 to have the thing delivered to em, but I'm damned if I'm expected to pay to post back when it's their mistake. Bugger. I wish I'd gone with the other mob after all now, not only would I have saved $8, but I'd have received some free stuff and most likely the correct voucher.


Today's quote: Smart people learn from their mistakes. But the real sharp ones learn from the mistakes of others ~ Brandon Mull



Saturday, 26 March 2016

12. Buying your Japan Rail Pass

Well the time has come the walrus said
to speak of other things,
and go and buy your JR Pass
and see what travel brings....
................ No seriously, I am within the three month period now, so time to buy my JR Pass (it's quite exciting isn't it? I mean it's actually starting to happen!)


Anyway, the question I am pondering is this - does it matter which website you buy it from? Do you go for the cheapest? Is one site more reliable than another? One site I found was $15 cheaper but for title it's either Mr, Miss or Mrs - no Ms. Seeing as I have made it to my advanced age, I am certainly not a Miss, I am no longer a Mrs, and I sure as hell don't want to be called "Miss" again!

For the benefit of travelling around Japan, does it matter a great deal or not? Another site seemed alrgiht until I read the bit that said if the voucher when being sent got lost in the mail, then stiff shite, you're up you know what creek without a paddle. Hmm, great. I won't be going with that one.


If you're going to be doing a lot of travelling over long distances, it pays to get the JR Pass, it pays for itself before the end. I calculated it would cost me around $900 were I to buy each ticket separately but, getting the pass I save about $400 - that's a lot of money.

Update
I started this post yesterday, came back today to finish writing it and also to book the JR Pass. The website that had the pass $15.00 cheaper doesn't have it $15.00 cheaper anymore. When I went to their website today, the price had risen and although still cheaper, the difference was only $8.00 so I ended up going with the other mob. Yes, I know I paid $8 more and eight bucks is eight bucks and feelings about how a website is run shouldn't come into it, but I did think them sneaky with their free book with your booking (you have to book a minimum of two passes) and for $13.00 you can speak to them any time in Japan if you need help. To me, that's a bit of a con, you can speak to the JR people at train stations for any help you need and you don't need to pay $13.00 for the privilege of doing so.


I used JTB Travel and decided to have the voucher/pass delivered. The cost was $560. Now, all I have to do is wait.


Today's quote: The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes ~ Marcel Proust

Friday, 4 March 2016

11. Hiroshima/Miyajima Accommodation

As you know from my earlier writings on itinerary, I plan on doing a day trip from Kyoto to Hiroshima/Miyajima. A friend who is from that part of the world advised me to stay overnight as it needs more than just a day. That's all well and good, but when you have limited time, you do the best with what you have. I'm toying with the idea of going straight to Hiroshima from the airport, it will be a long day - a very long day indeed and I wouldn't get to Miyajima until after five in the afternoon, so a one night stay wouldn't be worth it, but two nights there and make my way to Kyoto on the Wednesday, I'll have five nights in Kyoto instead of seven. That could work.

With this in mind I've made a booking at a place on Miyajima Island - Sakuraya which is right on the beach. I've opted for a room with a sea view. Should be lovely looking out the window, inhaling the freshness of the sea. The only downside of this place is there are no meals provided or served. Not even breakfast.


Sakuraya

The 3 star hotel is at Hatsukaichi-shi Miyajima 853-1 Miyajima. and less than a 5 minute walk from the Miyajima Ferry Terminal. Which is good at the end of a long, tiring day with luggage.



Japanese-Style Room with Sea View
No meals available

Room size: 17 m²
Beds: 4 futon beds
This air-conditioned room features sea views, tatami (woven-straw) floors and Japanese futon bedding. Each comes with a flat-screen TV and an electric kettle with green tea bags. Comes with an en suite bathroom.
Please note that you cannot see the great torii gate from this room.

Room facilities:
Sea view, Flat-screen TV, Air Conditioning, Seating Area, Heating, Shower, Bath, Free toiletries, Toilet, Bathroom, Slippers, Electric kettle, Towels, Linen
Free WiFi is available in all rooms.
¥20,600 - $249


Photos are from the hotel website - obviously you get to watch the sunset at the end of the day, which is an added bonus. I love sunset and sunrise. No two are the same and each and every one is beautiful and special. (Now if I just had a better camera.....)



Monday, 25 January 2016

10. Food On A Budget

As I'm on a pretty tight budget, I'll be hoping not to spend too much on food. No fancy dinners for me this time. (Sigh) With this in mind, I've been researching costs for various things including food/meals and found some really good info. I know if I write it down on a piece of paper or type it in a word document, I'll either lose it or forget it, so posting it here is a good way to not forget. Plus, it might help others.


Malebranche Matcha Biscuits - only at Kyoto . It comes in a special metal box only found at the Kiyomizu-dera branch.

One important reminder though, when buying such food items, you have to buy them towards the end of the travel because most Japanese pastries and confectionary expires within 1-2 weeks. (Damn, I'm going to Kyoto in the first part of my trip!)

Although my rule of thumb when purchasing stuff in Japan is to turn around the item and check for this label : “日本製“. Expectedly, you will find that products with this label will be about 20-50% more expensive than say the China-made ones.

Eat at Japanese fast food restaurants
Japanese fast food restaurants are never out of sight in Tokyo. They are of course not the healthiest option around, but they serve delicious, safe, authentic Japanese food that is both satisfying and wallet-friendly – exactly what we need on a budget holiday.

To eat: Beef bowl (gyu-don)


Price: From 290yen/regular bowl or 400yen/set (includes miso soup and pickles)
Where: Sukiya, Matsuya, Yoshinoya

Extra tip: Sukiya and Matsuya’s beef bowls are offered in 4 different portions: mini, regular, large and extra large. If there are two of you, ordering the large (from 390yen) or extra large (from 500yen) bowl will most likely work out to be cheaper.


To eat: Tempura on rice or with noodles


Price: From 500yen/set (includes miso soup)
Where: Tendon Tenya


To eat: Soba and udon noodles


Price: From 270yen/bowl or 500yen/bowl with a mini bowl of rice with deep fried pork cutlet with egg and onion (katsudon)

Where: Fuji Soba

Extra tip: Soba and udon noodles are perfect regardless of the season as you can order them either warm (atatakai) or cold (tsumetai).


To eat: Bento boxes with various dishes


Price: From 390yen/box (rice with meat and salad)

Where: Origin Bento, Hotto Motto

Extra tip: Some of these bento houses are open 24/7, allowing you to satiate your hunger at any time of the day.


Want Western Food?

Where: MOS Burger, Lotteria and Freshness Burger for burger; First Kitchen, Saizeriya and Gusto for burger, pizza and pasta.

The average cost of a bowl of ramen even in hole-in-the-wall establishments is 750yen. Look out for lunch deals though – in places such as Shinjuku and Shibuya where office workers and students congregate, there tend to be “one coin” lunch promotions on weekdays. Meaning, lunch is for only 500yen! What more, some ramen shops offer free upsizing of noodles. Be sure to ask for it (o-mori)!

Other than fast food chain restaurants, convenience stores such as Lawson, Family Mart and 7 Eleven are your best bet on cheap food. Rest assured that their quality and taste are not compromised. For a quick breakfast, pick a rice ball (onigiri) or two for as low as 108yen each! There are also bento boxes for those with a larger appetite. Sandwiches, bread and Chinese pork/chicken buns can also be bought. Try the pizza bun for a twist of Chinese and Italian flavours. For an occasional indulgence, try the spicy chicken cutlet at Family Mart.



ENJOY FREE ATTRACTIONS

Where: Shinjuku


What to do: Go to Takashimaya basement for free food samples. Check out an unobstructed view of the entire Tokyo city and if you’re lucky, Mount Fuji, from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building.


Where: Yoyogi/Harajuku

What to do: Visit Yoyogi Park and the nearby Meiji Shrine, followed by a stroll down Takeshita Street (where you can find Harajuku crepe) and Omotesando Street.

Extra tip: Go on a weekend to see buskers performing all kinds of acts in Yoyogi Park. On Sundays in particular, you will see Gyaru and Lolita fashionistas sashay their way down Takeshita Street as wide-eyed tourists look on. They will usually say yes to pictures.



Where: Shibuya


What to do: Check out the latest Japanese fashion trends at Shibuya 109 – there are separate buildings for men and women. Observe the famous Shibuya crossing from the 2nd-floor Starbucks opposite the train station (you don’t have to buy anything). Take pictures with the statue of Hachiko, the loyal dog.


Where: Ueno
What to do: Picnic at Ueno Park. Busk in old Tokyo vibes down Ameyoko Street.

Extra tip: Get your souvenir-shopping (read: green tea KitKats and wasabi peas) done for cheap at Niki no Okashi (二木の菓子) on Ameyoko Street.



Where: Tokyo Station


What to do: See and take pictures of Tokyo Station’s new façade. Cycle around Tokyo Imperial Palace for free on Sundays, or simply wander around the garden.


Get WiFi for free

McDonalds and Starbucks in Tokyo do not provide free WiFi services. Fortunately, the frustrated cries of all tourists have been heard. Present your passport upon arrival at Narita Airport to register for free WiFi at more than 45,000 hotspots across eastern Japan for up to 14 days! For more information, visit the official website.

Say NO to shopping!

It takes quite a bit of self-discipline, but it’s all part of the Art of Budget Travelling. Unless it’s DAISO and it’s something you absolutely, definitely, certainly cannot find at home or is too cute to resist (we can always cut some slack for some kawaii cosmetics and cool electronic gadgets, can’t we?), put it down and walk away. Your cost-conscious alter ego will thank you for that later.

That being said, if you absolutely need to buy anything – from toiletries to stationery – just hit the nearest 100 Yen store. Food, however, is still cheaper in supermarkets and convenience stores. There are plenty of 100 Yen shops dotting Tokyo, but DAISO remains an edge above the rest in offering superior quality products, making it a good place to shop for souvenirs too. Don’t be misinformed, though – items in 100 Yen shops are in fact 108yen, not 100yen, after tax.

Another good place to shop for cheap bargains is Don Quijote (simply, “don-ki”) where you can find literally everything under the sky. Snacks, instant noodles, heat packs, iPhone chargers, medicine, cosmetics, underwear, anime costumes, porn? You name it, they have it.

One of the comments said there's a free "tourist train" at Shibuya where they are also very helpful with information.

The above information (apart from my two cents worth), has been used with permission and is from TripZilla Magazine by Lee Shu Shien.