Monday, December 29, 2014
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- InternationalATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask whatATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)
- Coordinates 35°28’46.2″N 138°39’30.6″E
Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture 401-0332 , Japan
- Parking is free
- Hiking is free
- There is a charge for visiting the Lave tunnels or the caves
- There is no closing time for hiking. But, really, do you want hike here after the sun goes down?
- Vice – Suicide Forest in Japan
- If you go hiking here, DO NOT leave the path. Not only is there a chance you will see dead people, but you will most likely get hopelessly lost!
- Coordinates 35°19’00.1″N 139°32’10.1″E
- Parking 35°19’00.1″N 139°32’03.9″E
4-2-28 Hase, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture 248-0016, Japan
- +81 467-22-0703
- Temple: 200 yen
- Statute: 20 yen
- Parking: 200 ~ 800 yen
- Don’t go to the nearest parking area. It will be very expensive (800 yen/hour).
- It will take you about 10-15 minutes to see the Buddha, so you will want the cheapest rate.
- It will be cheaper to use any parking lot nearby that you pay for via a machine (not a human).
- Temple: 8:00 – 17:30
- Statute: 8:00 – 16:30
- This is where you can see the Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu).
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
- Coordinates 35°41’22.6″N 139°41’31.5″E
2-8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture 160-0023, Japan
- +81 3-5321-1111
- North Observatory: 9:30 to 23:00
- South Observatory: 9:30 to 17:30
- Closed :
- The North Tower has a restaurant with the better view and a bigger souvenir shop. But because of the restaurant and the bigger souvenir shop there is less space for tourists to move around when looking out at Tokyo.
- The South Tower has better views of Tokyo. Its souvenir shop is very small and its cafe is in the middle of the deck leaving lots of space for tourists to enjoy the view of Tokyo.
- Coordinates 35°39’30.1″N 139°41’44.4″E
2-13-5 Dogenzaka | Harvest Bldg 2F, Shibuya, Tokyo Prefecture 150-0043, Japan
- +81 3-3770-7100
- 17:00 – 23:00
- I recommend making reservations.
- You are encouraged to play with the staff and act like you really are an insane inmate.
- The food is decent. It’s nothing special. This place is more about the atmosphere than anything.
Ace Inn Shinjuku
- Coordinates 35°41’32.2″N 139°43’22.3″E
- near Akebonobashi station on theToeiShinjuku line
- Exit #3
- ￥3,300 ~ 4,500 per person per night
- Check in 16:00
- Check out 11:00
- There is a receptionist available 24 hours a day.
- The wi-fi is pretty decent throughout the whole hostel.
- There is one parking space. (You can see our white k-car in the photo above.)
- ￥1,000/ night
- My Hostelworld review:
“Tokyo is expensive, so I can’t expect too much from a budget hostel. The place was clean enough for the most part. My bed, sheets, and towels looked pretty clean, but I did get run over by a huge roach in the common area. The kitchen is quite small, and dirty looking. Because the place looks a bit run down in the lobby, some travelers don’t make as much of an effort to pick up after themselves as they should. But, if you just want to stay for a night or two this place might be okay.”
Back to the Forest
The light of day gave us an extra boost of bravery that we took to the Aokigahara forest. It was early in the morning and none of the caves, or lava related sight-seeing activities were open. We just wanted to walk around and look at stuff.
We stuck to the trail and did not go down too far. It was cold. It had snowed the previous night and it started to snow again on our walk. While in the woods, Mark told me about some scary tale about the forest involving abandoned grandparents left in the winter to starve to death. Once we were sufficiently cold we headed back to our warm car.
He called me over.
Next we went to see a big Buddha who would let us walk around in his belly. We had no trouble finding him. He was right were Google maps said he would be. The problem was where to park.
The attraction did not have its own parking lot. We drove past it, but turned around when we saw no place to park. As we were passing it again, from the other side, a guy with a bright orange vest motioned us to his parking lot. He seemed to know what he was doing and he called us over with such authority, we figured that this was the official parking lot of the Kotoku-in shrine.
As we got out of the car Mr. Orange gave us a ticket with a time on it. I asked him how much the parking cost. It was ￥800 for 30 minutes. YIKES!! We were already parked. We handed him the cash and crossed the street.
When we left we found a better parking spot a few blocks up the road. It had a machine you paid instead of an overly confident guy, but it was too late. The mistake had already been made. “You win this time, Mr. Orange.”
We didn’t want to go over our 30-minute time limit and have to pay another ￥800 for parking. So, we zipped through the shrine. We ran through the gardens and stopped at the souvenir shop to pick up some postcards. We went inside the Buddha and took many photos, all the while checking the time.
We were back to our car in 25 minutes.
The next stop was Tokyo. We found our hostel with ease. I walked in to inquire about the parking situation. The clerk at the hostel told me that they had one parking spot that cost ￥1,000 per day to use. My heart skipped a beat; ￥1,000 per day is practically free when it comes to downtown Tokyo parking.
“Is it available?” I felt like even asking was being too optimistic. The guy rummaged through half a ton of papers on his desk looking for something that would tell him if the spot was open for the duration of our stay. He chattered on and on about things I didn’t care about as he read through random papers here and there.
There were several false finds. “Oh this is it. No. No. This is the information about the blah blah blah. Did you know that blah blah blah… ?” I stood there trying not to look anxious. I really didn’t want to blow half our travel money on parking.
“Here it is. Here it is! You can use the spot.” He went into a little speech about how the spot was only for guests, there was only one, and how much it would cost. I knew all this already. He told me all of it about 20 minutes earlier when I walked in.
I tried to interrupt to ask him where the spot was. Mark was illegally parked on the street and waiting for me to give him news about our parking situation. But, the guy ignored me and continued with his sermon. I counted out all the money I needed to pay for both the parking fee and the cost for Mark and I to stay at the hostel while he was talking.
I placed the money on the silver money tray on the counter. He tried to shoo it away. He had not done the calculations yet and did not want to deal with money right now. He was still talking about parking.
Finally, when he was done he asked if I wanted to pay for the parking all at once now, or day by day. I told him that I would pay for everything right now and tried to hand him the money he shooed away before. He rejected the money again.
“You must first check-in, but to check-in you must pay for your stay.” He said this so solemnly, I would have thought, that he thought, that I thought paying was optional. Had I not been trying to give this man money for the past 10 minutes?
Again, I placed my wad of cash on the silver tray and again he shooed it away. He pulled out a calculator and pushed buttons like a mad accountant. He mumbled some numbers in Japanese. Once again, I placed my money on the silver tray, but took it back when he waved his hand at me. The money was messing up his calculations.
When he was done with his math, he gave me his figure. I place my cash on the silver tray once more. He counted it and meticulously wrote me a receipt. I took the receipt and asked where the parking spot was. “Didn’t I tell you? It’s right there.”
Let’s go to the insane asylum!
I made reservations that evening for dinner at an insane asylum themed restaurant. I read about it in some odd e-zine some time back. But since then, I’ve only been to Tokyo for business.
This was my opportunity to check out this restaurant.
Diners are encouraged to play along with the theme. Mark and I saw some customers handcuffed and chained together as they were led to their table. But speaking Japanese with a very limited vocabulary, put a damper on our experience.
For one thing, I don’t know that many curse words in Japanese. I know the word, “fool” and a really rude way to say “you” but, this is quite tame compared to the horrible things I can say in Spanish. So when the waitress came over, with her purple eyes, she failed to shock us with her scandalous vocabulary.
So she tried using English. But, English isn’t really her thing and at first we didn’t understand what she was getting at. For one thing, she got the names for the female and male genitalia mixed up. Then she tried to ask us about our sex lives, but we couldn’t understand her the first 6 times she asked. The conversation ended with her just saying the word, “pussy” over and over along with some other stuff that could have been English and/or Japanese.
I’m sure that whatever she said, it was all very naughty.
The food is nothing special. I think they put most of their creative effort into their drinks. The menu starts with drinks giving you high hopes of things to come. But the food, with the exception of one or two dishes, is just regular non-asylum themed food that you can get anywhere. It just costs more.
You pay for the atmosphere, the fun, and the creepiness.
I enjoyed the restaurant, but I think I would have liked it more if I knew more rude words in Japanese.