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Archive for the ‘Tokyo 都’ Category

Towers and Emperors

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 20, 2015

Thursday, January 1, 2015

All Pictures

Yoyogi Park from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building

Let’s do whatever…

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building is pretty much closed to the public during the first and last week of the year, with January 1st being the exception. On New Year’s day, it opens early enough that you can almost see the first sunrise of the year.

Before New Year’s eve we planned on getting up super early to be one of the first people to get into the towers. It’s free to get in so, we thought with all the long lines for the Skytree and Tokyo Tower, this too would have tons of people trying to get in.

Who needs a selfie stick?

But after getting to bed late the night before, we just weren’t in the mood to do anything “super early”. Instead, we woke up, when we woke up.

I wanted to skip the free tower all together to avoid the crowd. But we couldn’t think of anything else to do in Tokyo on New Year’s day that wasn’t closed or crowded. Mark made the decision to just go stand in line for the government building anyway.

We got to the towers around 10:00 in the morning. There wasn’t even a line. We just walked right through and got on the elevator. We walked around taking pictures and wondering where the crowd was. (Probably still in bed.)

High Brunch

We had an early lunch in the north tower. The prices weren’t too bad. The set lunch was less than 10USD per person. This is an even better deal when you remember that the tower is free to enter.

I’m really glad we didn’t waste any time or money going to Tokyo Tower or the Skytree. Both if which we could see from our view during our meal.

This is where the longest line in the world was.

After lunch it was up to Mark to pick what we did next. We had eaten very slowly, so it was about 16:00 in the afternoon. Even though it was late, Mark thought there might be a chance to see the emperor.

We took the subway to the Imperial Palace. There we could see the area where the lines were, marked off by orange traffic cones and canvas tarps. We could tell that there were many, many people in line earlier in the day.

While we were sipping drinks and eating lunch these people were standing around, waiting, and freezing. The emperor and his family came out every hour on the hour to wave at the crowd. But now, they were all gone and the emperor was inside.

No emperor for you.

Mark was a little disappointed that we missed the waving emperor. But I think we spent our time more wisely having lunch in the tower rather than standing in line in the cold.

All Pictures


Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

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.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • 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 askwhatATMs 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.)

Ace Inn Shinjuku

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°41’32.2″N 139°43’22.3″E
  • near AkebonobashistationontheToeiShinjuku line
    • Exit #3

Address:

〒160-0001 東京都新宿区片町5-2

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • ¥3,300 ~ 4,500 per person per night

Hours:

  • Check in 16:00
  • Check out 11:00
  • There is a receptionist available 24 hours a day.

Notes:

  • 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.”


It’s about to get real!

Tokyo Subway
(東京の地下鉄)
(Tōkyō no chikatetsu)

How to get there:

Phone:

  • 0120-104106 Customer Service (Japanese Only)
  • 03-3834-5577 Lost and Found
    • Lost property is kept at in Ueno Station’s (Hibiya Line) Lost & Found Center (across from the pass office) or 3-4 days.

Websites:

Apps:

Downloads:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 5:00 – 0:00 (actual time varies from station to station)
  • The trains run later on some holidays.
  • Rush hour:
    • 7:30-930
    • 17:30-19:30

Notes:

  • Getting to the Airport
  • Special Cars and Rules
    • Some cars are only for women (and children under 12) during the rush hours.
    • No eating or drinking.
    • Don’t put luggage on the seat beside you.
    • Do not talk loudly or make too much noise.
  • If you’re having trouble remembering what line you need, just remember the first letter of the line’s name. For most of the lines a tourist will use, the line’s symbol will be the same as the first letter of the line’s name.
    • This is not true for all the lines of the Tokyo subway system, just the ones mostly used by tourists.
  • There is a steep learning curve. At first the Tokyo Subways system will confuse you, especially when you compare it to more logically planned subway systems like that of Seoul or London. But you will get a hang of it.
    • The subway is actually run by 2 companies, Toei and Tokyo Metro.
      • Be careful when buying a day pass.
    • The train, and monorail are also separate from the subway system.
    • I have never used the bus in Tokyo and cannot give any advice on that.
  • The Suica card can only be used to ride the JR Railway.

Map:


Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
(東京都庁)
(Tōkyōto-chō)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°41’22.6″N 139°41’31.5″E

Address:

2-8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture 160-0023, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 3-5321-1111

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • North Observatory: 9:30 to 23:00
  • South Observatory: 9:30 to 17:30
  • Closed :
    • (Entry ends 30 minutes before closing.)
    • North Observatory: 2nd and 4th Monday of each month (next day if a national holiday)
    • South Observatory: 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month (next day if a national holiday)
    • Both observatories: December 29 to January 3 (except January 1)

Notes:

  • 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.
  • I recommend going to the South Tower if you just want to look at Tokyo, but going to the North Tower for lunch or dinner.

Tokyo Imperial Palace
(皇居)
(Kōkyo)

&

The Imperial Palace East Gardens
(皇居東御苑)
(Kōkyo Higashi Gyoen)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°41’06.6″N 139°45’10.0″E (Tokyo Imperial Palace)
  • Coordinates 35°41’10.5″N 139°45’33.8″E (The Imperial Palace East Gardens)

Address:

1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda, Tokyo Prefecture 100-0001, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 3-3213-1111

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

The Imperial Palace East Gardens:

  • 9:00 – 16:00
  • Mondays, Fridays, New Year (Dec 28 to Jan 3)

Map:

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Tokyo 都 | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

The Last day of 2014

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 13, 2015

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

All Pictures

 

Island Fun

On New Year’s day we went to Odaiba, an artificial island built for the glory of shameless capitalism. I knew that the stores on this island would probably be open. But, if for some crazy reason, none of the malls or shopping centers in the island were open, we could always just walk around looking at the many statues (including a replica of the Statue of Liberty), TV studios, or beach where no one is allowed to swim.

During one of our many subway or train transfers, we came across a clock. Since it was almost noon we decided to miss the next train and wait for the chime. The resulting song, Mark took to make his video of our entire trip.

This photo will not be so cute once the Robopocalypse starts.

There was a lot of things to do and see on this island. Most of them being very overpriced. First we walked around looking at all the giant or small replicas of statues, flames, or robots. Mark wanted to exchange some cash for an item he could remember the island by.

“You’ve never heard of me or my art. So, that’s why I must charge you much, much more for a t-shirt than you would normally pay.”

There was a t-shirt art expo set up right next to the Gundam statue. Mark headed there. He thought that he could get himself an overpriced Gundam t-shirt to take home. But, the shirts had nothing to do with Gundam.

It was just a bunch of t-shirt vendors trying to make names for themselves. Some of the art of the shirts were okay, but most were just plain weird. Since neither Mark nor I had ever heard of any of the artists and didn’t understand the themes of any of the brands, we weren’t willing to shell out $30 for any of their t-shirts.

There was a long line, so clearly the t-shirt vendors had found their target audience. Mark and I were just in the wrong place.

One Piece food

We found an amine themed restaurant. One of the signs for the restaurant showed the characters from One Piece chowing down on some delicious looking cartoon food. It looked like fun. It must be, the place was packed. All the tables were full and there was a long line of people waiting to get in.

We stood in line too. I wanted to check out the menu so I could figure out my order while I waited in line. It was just regular non-One-Piece-related food. The walls were painted with scenes from the show and there were statues of the main character out front. For this the restaurants happily charged $25 for curry rice and other typical Japanese family restaurant food.

We ended up eating at Subway at the food court of the mall next door.

Rainbow Bridge

We walked along the beach and then across Rainbow Bridge. It was cold but we enjoyed the view of Tokyo on our 45 minute walk. Mark complain about how I had tricked him into exercising, but he kept stopping to take panoramas.

We walked to the nearest train station and took the subway to our hostel. We rested while Mark figured out the best place for us to go to see a good New Year’s ball dropping.

Nice to meet you.

First we went to Meiji Shrine. We wanted to look around and take photos, but somehow ended up in a crowd of people waiting for something. Mark kept telling me that any moment we would start moving and then we would see the rest of the shrine. I took out my tablet and started reading an e-book.

“Any minute now…” – Mark

After 20 minutes of waiting in the cold and not moving an inch, I questioned Mark’s theory of what we were waiting for. Mark got out of the line and stopped one of the passing police men. He asked him what our line was for.

The cop told him that these people were waiting for midnight to hear the bell in the shrine to ring and pray. It was 21:00. These crazy people were standing out in the cold with the intention of waiting for 3 hours doing nothing. None of them even had e-books with them.

New Year’s wishes

“This is totally CRAY!” I told him. “I agree!” We got out of line and followed some cops into the shrine. It turned out that if all you wanted was to walk through the shrine and take photos, you could. You just could not stand there or move too slowly.

Waiting for some amazingness

We spent the next 3 hours wandering around Yoyogi Park. We passed many food stalls. There were vendors everywhere, but they were all just setting up and none of them had food ready to sell. After a while we found a subway station and made our way towards Tokyo Tower.

We were hoping to see the ball drop there.

There!

We stopped by a 7-Eleven and got some snacks and hot coffee. There was a park bench with a view of the tower. It was also away from the crowd. We sat there and talked about how neither of us had ever seen a ball dropping on New Year’s eve. It was very cold but I was excited.

That’s it?

When it was almost midnight we got up and move towards the crowd for a better view. Then Tokyo Tower lit up then flashed a bit. Then it said, “2015”. That was it.

There was no big ball of lights slowly moving down the tower. There were no fire works. Later we found out that they had drop thousands of balloons from the top of Tokyo Tower. But only the people standing really close to the tower could see any of them.

No sparkly ball or fireworks at midnight

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

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.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • 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 toaskwhatATMs 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.)

Ace Inn Shinjuku

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°41’32.2″N 139°43’22.3″E
  • near AkebonobashistationontheToeiShinjuku line
    • Exit #3

Address:

〒160-0001 東京都新宿区片町5-2

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • ¥3,300 ~ 4,500 per person per night

Hours:

  • Check in 16:00
  • Check out 11:00
  • There is a receptionist available 24 hours a day.

Notes:

  • 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.”


It’s about to get real!

Tokyo Subway
(東京の地下鉄)
(Tōkyō no chikatetsu)

How to get there:

Phone:

  • 0120-104106 Customer Service (Japanese Only)
  • 03-3834-5577 Lost and Found
    • Lost property is kept at in Ueno Station’s (Hibiya Line) Lost & Found Center (across from the pass office) or 3-4 days.

Websites:

Apps:

Downloads:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 5:00 – 0:00 (actual time varies from station to station)
  • The trains run later on some holidays.
  • Rush hour:
    • 7:30-930
    • 17:30-19:30

Notes:

  • Getting to the Airport
  • Special Cars and Rules
    • Some cars are only for women (and children under 12) during the rush hours.
    • No eating or drinking.
    • Don’t put luggage on the seat beside you.
    • Do not talk loudly or make too much noise.
  • If you’re having trouble remembering what line you need, just remember the first letter of the line’s name. For most of the lines a tourist will use, the line’s symbol will be the same as the first letter of the line’s name.
    • This is not true for all the lines of the Tokyo subway system, just the ones mostly used by tourists.
  • There is a steep learning curve. At first the Tokyo Subways system will confuse you, especially when you compare it to more logically planned subway systems like that of Seoul or London. But you will get a hang of it.
    • The subway is actually run by 2 companies, Toei and Tokyo Metro.
      • Be careful when buying a day pass.
    • The train, and monorail are also separate from the subway system.
    • I have never used the bus in Tokyo and cannot give any advice on that.
  • The Suica card can only be used to ride the JR Railway.

Map:


NI-TELE Really BIG Clock

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°39’50.8″N 139°45’35.9″E

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

Chimes at:

  • 10:00
  • 12:00
  • 15:00
  • 18:00
  • 20:00

Notes:

  • designed by Hayao Miyazaki, the guy who did most of the anime you’ve heard of
  • It’s in Shiodome, in front of the Nippon Television Tower.

Odaiba
(お台場)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°37’29.1″N 139°46’33.6″E

Address:

Daiba, Minato, Tokyo Prefecture 135-0091, Japan

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • Shops’ and restaurants’ hours vary

Notes:

Things to do on Odaiba:

  • Rainbow Bridge ((レインボーブリッジ) (Reinbōburijji) – Cross Rainbow Bridge on foot.
    • The walk across takes about 30-45 minutes
    • free
    • April to October: 9:00 – 21:00; November to March: 10:00 – 18:00
  • Find the Gundam in front of the DiverCity Tokyo Plaza.
    • The plaza is open from 10:00 – 9:00.
  • Venus Fort
    • Shopping Mall
    • 11:00 – 21:00

Meiji Shrine
(明治神宮)
(Meiji Jingū)

in

Yoyogi Park
(代々木公園)
(Yoyogi Kōen)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°40’34.6″N 139°41’57.7″E

Address:

1-1 Yoyogikamizonocho, Shibuya, Tokyo 151-8557

Websites:

Downloads:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • Park 5:00 to 20:00 (until 17:00 from mid October through April)
  • Shrine 5:45 – 16:30

Tokyo Tower
(東京タワー)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°39’30.9″N 139°44’43.6″E

Address:

4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato, Tokyo 105-0011

Phone:

  • +81 3-3433-5111

Websites:

Cost:

  • main observation deck (150m) – ¥900
  • Special observation deck (250m) – an additional ¥700

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 21:30

Notes:

  • The tower is not as expensive as Tokyo Skytree but, just as crowed. I preferred going to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s free and has a great view of both Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower.

Map:

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Tokyo 都 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Impossible of a Visit

Posted by Heliocentrism on March 6, 2015

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

All Pictures

Typical Japan during a holiday…

The impossibilities are endless!

Well, I didn’t expect everything that we planned to see this day to be open. Somethings I knew would be closed, even before we got to Tokyo, and had expected to view only from afar. What I didn’t expect were things like high walls blocking my view of imperial flowers.

It looks like he’s traveling alone.

The Yasukuni Shrine was a 30 minute stroll from our hostel. So, we got up early and ate cereal before heading out. We passed by the Yushukan War Museum first. There we were greeted by a sign telling everyone that the museum was closed and we should come back after the winter break. “When exactly do they expect  working people to come visit this thing?”

Then we went to the museum’s accompanying shrine. It was very shrine like; nothing over-the-top special about it. We could tell that the real festivities would not happen until New Year’s eve night. But we came to say, we saw the shrine that everyone gets all upset about when the Prime Minister of Japan visits. That was really the most interesting thing about this shrine.

There are some amazing gardens across the moat and on the other side of that wall.

We walked towards the Imperial Palace Gardens. It’s open whenever the Emperor is not in residence. People walk the gardens to relax and some even run there to train for the many marathons in Japan. But, Emperor Akihito always spends New Year’s day with his family at this palace.

I thought we could walk around it and look towards that general direction and maybe glimpse some trees or something.

Nope.

I guess we could have come back on New Year’s day and stood in line out in the cold with millions of other people to hope for a chance to see the emperor waving at everyone from a balcony. But, crowds, the cold, and waiting are three of my least favorite things.

For a split second I thought the crowd meant that it was open.

We came upon a small crowd of people walking around the entrance to the Imperial Palace. I knew the palace should be closed, but there was a crowd. Maybe they knew something I didn’t.

Mark and I walked all the way to the main gate, which was really far away from were we first saw the crowd. There were clumps of people walking up to the gate to read the sign saying that the palace was closed. That’s why you should never follow a crowd!

The future is here.

Next we went to the Nakagin Capsule Tower where we stood on the side walk and took photos. There was no way for us to get in. To discourage anyone from asking to be let inside, they put up a sign on the door that said, “This building is impossible of a visit.”

Well, that ends that.

I tried to get a photo of a selfie stick in action.

Now for things that are open.

Next we took the subway to Sensoji Temple (also known as Asakusa Temple). This temple, like most temples, is never closed for holidays. And this particular temple is always crowded.

A student of mine and me at Asakusa temple in 2006.

This was actually the very first temple I had ever visited. Back in 2006 when I first moved to Japan and worked for GEOS, a company that has since gone bankrupt, two of my students took me to see it. I told them that I hadn’t seen much of Tokyo besides the many times I had been there for business meetings that GEOS forced be to go to.

Two of my adult students took it upon themselves to show me a little of Tokyo. I don’t remember much of what we saw that day other than this temple. It really impressed me. I took everyone who visited me that year to this temple.

I would drink tea everyday if I lived here.

We then walked around looking for what Mark called, “stupid tea cups”. I liked it and really wanted to see the giant tea cups in person. Mark was unimpressed.

The shop that the tea cups advertised was open and they even had a sale going on, but we didn’t care about going in. I didn’t want to find some fragile thing, like a tea cup or kettle, that I really liked only to have to carry it around the rest of the day.

Let’s see a tower!

Next we went to see Asahi’s Golden Turd. The building was closed. Mark stood on the steps wishing for beer and cursing the Tokyo gods. “The stupid tea cups shop is open, but this, this you close!?”

Once he stopped weeping, we walk towards Tokyo Skytree. Since the day was filled with so much disappointment Mark was determined to go up the Skytree, if it was open.

I’m too disgusted by the long line to smile.

It was. But everyone and their mom was in line hoping to buy tickets before it closed. Later, we talked to some people staying at our hostel who went up the Skytree. They wasted a whole day to buy tickets to go up only to spend about 30 minutes up there before getting bored.

I didn’t have the heart to tell them that if they were willing to pay about 8USD more, they could have taken their passports and gotten the special foreigners’ Fast Ticket and skip the line entirely.

I didn’t feel like dropping ¥2,820 on the Skytree, when we could go to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building for free. Rather than tell Mark this out right and start an argument, I suggested checking out Tokyo Tower first, then seeing which tower we would rather go up.

Tokyo Tower: The Eiffel Tower, only smaller and more orange

After seeing Tokyo Tower, it was clear that Tokyo Skytree was better. Tokyo Tower’s tickets were cheaper and it had shorter lines, but the Skytree was more exciting. Mark concluded that if we were going to see one of these towers, we should see the other one, but not today.

How can we be at a subway station and still completely lost!?

Negotiating the subway in Tokyo when you still don’t have the hang of it is stressful and tiring. It also takes so long to figure out what to do.

There is free wi-fi at most of the subway stations in Tokyo and navigation apps help a lot. We were doing great until my tablet’s battery died. There are no charging areas at any of the stations.

Once we had to figure things out by looking at a map, we lost interest in sightseeing. It’s that damn confusing! (At least at first.)

By the end of the next day we figured out how the whole thing worked and stopped using the apps to get to places. But by the evening of this day we had had enough.

Subway adjacent food

It took us so long to find the right station on the correct line to take us back to our hostel, that we chose what restaurant to patronize based on its proximity to said station.

Unlike other subway systems in other cities, in Tokyo you can be at point A and station A wanting to go to point B near station B and have no way of doing that. Sometimes, you have to go above ground and walk to another line because there are no transfers between the line you are on and the line you need to get to.

Later we chose where we wanted to go based on whether they were on one of the Toei Lines or Tokyo Metro Lines. Then we stuck to either Toei or Tokyo Metro Lines for the whole day. It just made life easier.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

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.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • 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.)

Ace Inn Shinjuku

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°41’32.2″N 139°43’22.3″E
  • near Akebonobashi station ontheToeiShinjuku line
    • Exit #3

Address:

〒160-0001 東京都新宿区片町5-2

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • ¥3,300 ~ 4,500 per person per night

Hours:

  • Check in 16:00
  • Check out 11:00
  • There is a receptionist available 24 hours a day.

Notes:

  • 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.”


It’s about to get real!

Tokyo Subway
(東京の地下鉄)
(Tōkyō no chikatetsu)

How to get there:

Phone:

  • 0120-104106 Customer Service (Japanese Only)
  • 03-3834-5577 Lost and Found
    • Lost property is kept at in Ueno Station’s (Hibiya Line) Lost & Found Center (across from the pass office) or 3-4 days.

Websites:

Apps:

Downloads:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 5:00 – 0:00 (actual time varies from station to station)
  • The trains run later on some holidays.
  • Rush hour:
    • 7:30-930
    • 17:30-19:30

Notes:

  • Getting to the Airport
  • Special Cars and Rules
    • Some cars are only for women (and children under 12) during the rush hours.
    • No eating or drinking.
    • Don’t put luggage on the seat beside you.
    • Do not talk loudly or make too much noise.
  • If you’re having trouble remembering what line you need, just remember the first letter of the line’s name. For most of the lines a tourist will use, the line’s symbol will be the same as the first letter of the line’s name.
    • This is not true for all the lines of the Tokyo subway system, just the ones mostly used by tourists.
  • There is a steep learning curve. At first the Tokyo Subways system will confuse you, especially when you compare it to more logically planned subway systems like that of Seoul or London. But you will get a hang of it.
    • The subway is actually run by 2 companies, Toei and Tokyo Metro.
      • Be careful when buying a day pass.
    • The train, and monorail are also separate from the subway system.
    • I have never used the bus in Tokyo and cannot give any advice on that.
  • The Suica card can only be used to ride the JR Railway.

Map:


Tokyo Imperial Palace
(皇居)
(Kōkyo)

&

The Imperial Palace East Gardens
(皇居東御苑)
(Kōkyo Higashi Gyoen)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°41’06.6″N 139°45’10.0″E (Tokyo Imperial Palace)
  • Coordinates 35°41’10.5″N 139°45’33.8″E (The Imperial Palace East Gardens)

Address:

1-1 Chiyoda, Chiyoda, Tokyo Prefecture 100-0001, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 3-3213-1111

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

The Imperial Palace East Gardens:

  • 9:00 – 16:00
  • Mondays, Fridays, New Year (Dec 28 to Jan 3)

Yasukuni Shrine
(靖国神社)
(Yasukuni Jinja)

&

Yushukan War Memorial Museum
(遊就館)
(Yūshūkan)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°41’38.6″N 139°44’37.8″E

Address:

3-1-1 Kudan-kita, Chiyoda, Tokyo Prefecture 102-8246, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 3-3261-8326

Websites:

Cost:

Shrine:

  • free

Museum:

  • 800 yen

Hours:

Shrine:

  • 6:00 – 18:00

Museum:

  • 9:00 – 16:30
  • A few irregular closure days in late June and late December

Nakagin Capsule Tower
(中銀カプセルタワー)
(Nakagin Kapuseru Tawā)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°39’56.1″N 139°45’48.2″E

Address:

中銀本社ビル中銀カプセルタワービル
〒104-0061 Tōkyō-to, Chūō-ku, Ginza,
8 Chome−16−10

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free to look at from the street.

Hours:

  • Always available to look at from the street.

Notes:

  • There is no way to get inside to look around, unless you’re paying to spend the night.
  • There are many rumors that this building will be torn down soon. But, these rumors started in 2007, so…

Sensō-ji
(浅草寺)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°42’53.0″N 139°47’47.7″E

Address:

2-3-1 Asakusa, Taito-ku, Tokyo

Phone:

  • +81 3-3842-0181

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • 6:00 – 17:00

Notes:

  • Sensoji Temple is the oldest temple in Tokyo.
  • Sometimes referred to as the temple near Asakusa.

Niimi Head & Teacups
(ニイミ洋食器店)
(Nīimi Yōshokkiten)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°42’38.0″N 139°47’17.1″E

Address:

1 Chome-11 Matsugaya, Taito, Tokyo

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • It’s actually a shop.

Hours:

  • The shop’s hours are 10:00 – 18:00
  • Closed Sundays

Notes:

  • The head and teacups are advertisements for a shop that sell table and kitchen ware.

The Asahi Beer Hall 
(スーパードライホール)
(Super Dry Hall)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°42’35.4″N 139°48’01.1″E

Address:

1, 1 Chome-23-1 Azumabashi, Sumida, Tokyo

Phone:

  • +81 3-5608-5111

Websites:

Hours:

  • 11:30 – 23:00 for Flamme d’Or,
  • 10:00 – 21:00 for Asahi Sky Room

Notes:

  • The gold thing on the top of the building is supposed to be the ‘burning heart of Asahi beer’ and a frothy head.
    • But, most people refer to it as “the golden turd” (kin no unko, 金のうんこ) and the Asahi Beer Hall itself as “poo building” (unko-biru, うんこビル).
  • Apparently, it’s not a bad place to get a beer and a view of Tokyo.
  • There are several restaurants in the building.

Tokyo Sky Tree
(東京スカイツリ)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°42’36.1″N 139°48’38.5″E

Address:

1 Chome-1-2 Oshiage, Sumida, Tokyo 131-0045

Phone:

  • +81 570-55-0634

Websites:

Cost:

  • Online Ticket Purchase (Japanese Only)
  • TEMBO DECK (350m)
    • maximum of 10,000 tickets per day
    • ¥2,060 – no time assignment
    • ¥2,570 – day/time assigned
  • TEMBOGALLERIA (450m)
    • additional ¥1,030
  • Skytree Fast Tickets
    • Show your passport to be able to purchase this ticket. (Japanese Citizens accompanying a foreign tourist may also buy this ticket.)
    •  ¥2,820
    • This ticket allows you to skip the line.

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 20:30

Notes:

  • The tower is expensive and crowed. I preferred going to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s free and has a great view of Tokyo Skytree.

Tokyo Tower
(東京タワー)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°39’30.9″N 139°44’43.6″E

Address:

4 Chome-2-8 Shibakoen, Minato, Tokyo 105-0011

Phone:

  • +81 3-3433-5111

Websites:

Cost:

  • main observation deck (150m) – ¥900
  • Special observation deck (250m) – an additional ¥700

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 21:30

Notes:

  • The tower is not as expensive as Tokyo Skytree but, just as crowed. I preferred going to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s free and has a great view of both Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower.

Map:

Posted in Honshū, Japan, Tokyo 都 | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The hardest thing is parking

Posted by Heliocentrism on February 27, 2015

Monday, December 29, 2014

All Pictures

“…and the old people were never seen from again.”

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.

“Can I interest you in a nicely overpriced parking spot, ma’am?”

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.”

He’s empty inside.

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.

Capital City!

Calculon

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.”

Mark has his own city?

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.

Hungry?

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.

Let me just tell you all the naughty words I know in English.

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.

Mad Chemist

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.

Tokyo brings out the worst in some people.

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.

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

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.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • 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.)

Aokigahara
(青木ヶ原)
(Suicide Forest)
 

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°28’46.2″N 138°39’30.6″E

Address:

Fujikawaguchiko-machi, Minamitsuru-gun, Yamanashi Prefecture 401-0332 , Japan

Websites:

Cost:

  • Parking is free
  • Hiking is free
  • There is a charge for visiting the Lave tunnels or the caves

Hours:

  • There is no closing time for hiking. But, really, do you want hike here after the sun goes down?

Videos:

Notes:

  • 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!

Kōtoku-in
(高徳院)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°19’00.1″N 139°32’10.1″E
  • Parking 35°19’00.1″N 139°32’03.9″E

Address:

4-2-28 Hase, Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture 248-0016, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 467-22-0703

Websites:

Cost:

  • 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).

Hours:

  • Temple: 8:00 – 17:30
  • Statute: 8:00 – 16:30

Notes:

  • This is where you can see the Great Buddha of Kamakura (Kamakura Daibutsu).

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
(東京都庁)
(Tōkyōto-chō)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°41’22.6″N 139°41’31.5″E

Address:

2-8-1 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku, Tokyo Prefecture 160-0023, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 3-5321-1111

Websites:

Cost:

  • free

Hours:

  • North Observatory: 9:30 to 23:00
  • South Observatory: 9:30 to 17:30
  • Closed :
    • (Entry ends 30 minutes before closing.)
    • North Observatory: 2nd and 4th Monday of each month (next day if a national holiday)
    • South Observatory: 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month (next day if a national holiday)
    • Both observatories: December 29 to January 3 (except January 1)

Notes:

  • 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.

Alcatraz ER
(アルカトラズE.R.)

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°39’30.1″N 139°41’44.4″E

Address:

2-13-5 Dogenzaka | Harvest Bldg 2F, Shibuya, Tokyo Prefecture 150-0043, Japan

Phone:

  • +81 3-3770-7100

Websites:

Cost:

Hours:

  • 17:00 – 23:00

Notes:

  • 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

How to get there:

  • Coordinates 35°41’32.2″N 139°43’22.3″E
  • near Akebonobashi station on theToeiShinjuku line
    • Exit #3

Address:

〒160-0001 東京都新宿区片町5-2

Phone:

Websites:

Cost:

  • ¥3,300 ~ 4,500 per person per night

Hours:

  • Check in 16:00
  • Check out 11:00
  • There is a receptionist available 24 hours a day.

Notes:

  • 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.”

Map:

Posted in Fujikawaguchiko 町, Honshū, Japan, Kamakura 市, Kanagawa 県, Tokyo 都, Yamanashi 県 | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

¥5,000 in 日本

Posted by Heliocentrism on June 2, 2010

May 28, 2010

All Pictures

excited for ramen

おつかれさまでした (Otsukaresama deshita/Good Work)

When Mark and I left Thailand we pooled together all our baht. It came up to roughly 235USD. This was going to be all the money we would spend in Japan. This was great since I thought that we really only needed about 100USD each for a day in Tokyo. I thought maybe we could even save some of that for Chicago.

All our luggage couldn’t fit in the taxi.

As you might already know, we had some problems getting Mark’s passport back. During the time the office was closed because of the protests, Mark’s visa had expired. The lady at our company said that it would be alright. It wasn’t.

Mark had overstayed his visa. When we got to the airport the authorities wanted him to pay a fine. Mark tried calling the lady at the office who told us that it was “no big deal” but she didn’t pick up her phone. When Mark explained why he was still in Thailand past the visa’s end date the officer offered two solutions. He could pay the fine or he could cancel his flight and stay in Thailand one more day.

How would that help? Mark overstays his visa and to fix it, he just overstays it a little more?

We paid 75USD to keep Mark from going to Thai prison. If this were the Philippians I would have let them take him away and hoped that he ended up at the Cebu prison I’ve seen on YouTube so often. But from what I know, Thai prison is far from being that wonderful.

Leaving Thailand

Once the fine was paid, they let us on our way. About 10 hours later we were in Japan, the country in which I first overstayed a visa. And yes, the immigration officer did threaten to drive me down to Tokyo and throw me in jail, but I didn’t believe him for a second. But that’s a story for another day… or later on in this entry.

Tokyo Subway

We had about 17,000YEN after paying Mark’s fine, but it didn’t really matter. We only used 10,000YEN of it between the both of us. If things were cheaper we might have spent more money, but since they were kind of expensive we hoarded most of our cash.

Once in Japan we hopped on a train and went to Akihabara. I’m not exactly sure where the best part of Akihabara is, but we were wandering around for while. Rather than waste all our time at one spot we decided to go to Shibuya to look for Hachiko.

Hachiko, you waited for me?!

Once we found the metal dog, the plan was to walk to Harijuku and find one of the biggest 100-yen shops in Tokyo. A 100-yen shop is basically a dollar store, but way better. I love 100-yen shops in Japan. They are one of the greatest things that this country has brought to the world.

Harijuku = Shopping!

We did get lost a few times, and had a little trouble figuring out the best way to get back to Narita but we made it in time for our flight. We could have stay out a little longer because the flight was delayed for 2 hours.

Don’t look so happy. This is serious!

Okay, here’s the story

I had just finished up my one year contract working in Japan. My last day of work was November 15, 2006 and my visa expired November 15, 2006. My flight was the next day.

It never even occurred to me to check the date on my visa since I was leaving the day following my last day of work. Usually when you get a visa, you are either given more time than you need or there is a grace period in which you can overstay.

When I was stopped at Narita’s passport control, the lady informed me that my visa had expired 6 hours ago. My first reaction was, “that’s not a big deal, right? I’m obviously leaving.” As I was  escorted to a little office on the side, I realized that it was, indeed, a big deal.

You could go to jail!

No one at GEOS, the company that I worked for, mentioned this. There was no memo saying, “By the way, you might want to stop by the immigration office at least a week before your last day and get an extension on your visa, so you don’t get in trouble.” And GEOS loved faxing over stupid memos!

One of the guys at the head office even asked me if I planned to do any travelling around Japan before I went back home. He never mentioned that I needed to get an extension on my visa if I planned to work on my last contract day. Mind you, that I have to work on my last contract day…

My last class ended at 22:00. Narita airport was 1.5 hours away from my town, Togane. The last train out of Togane leaves a little past 22:00. There was no way I could have made it to the airport in time to not overstay my visa.

I asked an officer who spoke a little English what happens next and he told me that I needed to pay a 5,000YEN fine. No big deal. I pulled the money out of my wallet and put a 5,000YEN note on the table. An older,  higher ranking officer came out from the back room and handed my money back to me. “No. This Serious! You maybe go jail”

What? Me in Jail?

The first officer disappeared into a back room leaving me to listen to the older officer’s jail ranting on my own. He held up my passport, pointing to the expired visa. He nodded at it and shook his finger as if it had been a naughty little visa. “This Serious!” He took my passport and the offending visa into a back office. I thought it was very funny.

I looked around at the other people in the room. “He can’t be serious? My plane leaves in 45 minutes. It’s not like I was trying to stay in the country.” No one around me spoke English. Most of them seemed to be doing worse than I was. One lady was crying hysterically. Maybe she was actually going to be sent to jail or at least thought she was.

I’m to pretty for jail!

The older officer came back out with my passport and another man. They discussed my passport in Japanese passing it back and forth as if there were something completely unbelievable on it. Every now and then the older officer would look up at me to remind me that, “This serious!”

How long should we keep her in jail?

It had become too over the top. With all the theatrics, there was no way I could actually be heading to jail. I figured that it might help if I played along. As long as they got this show over with in time for me to get on my plane, I guess I could join in. I stopped smiling and looked at my feet. “Golly gee, I can’t believe that I might be going to jail. Woe is me!”

Please have mercy on me. I am but a wretch with an expired visa.

“Okay. Okay.” The older officer said to me. “You first time. Pay goh-sen-en.” I handed him the ¥5,000 that I had given him half an hour ago. He took out a little visa stamp and placed it in my passport. Then he wrote a little note on the page and handed the book back to me. “Now, may stay 15 day more!”

(The pictures are actually of Seodaemun Prison in Seoul and do not reflect the Japanese immigration office at Narita Airport in any way unless you have a sense of humor.)

All Pictures


 

Japan
(日本)
(Nippon)

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.

Phone:

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • 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.)
  • 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.)

Tokyo
(東京)

How to get there:

  • 35°40’53.0″N 139°45’58.1″E

From Narita Airport –

There are many ways to go from Narita Airport to downtown Tokyo. The way we chose was the cheapest yet slowest way.

Buy a ticket on the Keisai line (京成本線, Keisei Honsen) to Nippori (日暮里駅). This will cost less than 1100YEN and take about 1.5 hours.

You can buy a ticket to Nippori and then buy another ticket to another station in Tokyo or you can buy a ticket all the way to what ever station you want to go. You will check out of the Keisai line and then check back into the subway system. If you don’t have any money left on your ticket you will not get it back.

If you are lucky you will be able to get on a rapid train that skips a few stations.

Website

Cost:

  • Everything is expensive!

Map:


Akihabara
(秋葉原)

How to get there:

  • 35°41’55.6″N 139°46’27.1″E

From Nippori Station (日暮里駅) –

Check out of the Keisai line (京成本線, Keisei Honsen) and go to the Yamanote Line (山手線, Yamanote-sen). It’s the green subway line to Akihabara.

To buy tickets:

  • Look for the English subway map and find Akihabara.
  • The number next to the station is the amount of money you need to get there from the station in which you are in currently.
  • Find a machine and press the English button.
  • Specify how many people you are buying tickets for and how much money you want on each ticket.
  • Put you money in the machine and take your ticket(s) and change.

Website

Notes:

Map


The Statue of Hachiko
(chūken Hachikō)
(忠犬ハチ公)

How to get there:

  • 35°39’32.7″N 139°42’02.1″E

By Public Transportation –

Go to Shibuya Station (渋谷駅) on the Yamanote Line (山手線). The are many signs telling you which exit is the Hachiko exit or “Hachikō-guchi”.

There will many people getting their picture taken with Hachiko. Just stand in line and wait your turn.

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:


Harajuku’s Daiso
(ダイソー)

How to get there:

  • 35°40’17.1″N 139°42’13.4″E
By Public Transportation –
Go to Harajuku Station (原宿駅) on the Yamanote Line (山手線). Once you exit the station go straight passed the Family Mart. Soon you will see the Daiso on your left.

Website:

Cost:

Hours:

  • Usually 9:00 – 21:00

Notes:

  • Be careful when entering Diaso. I always go in to just look and come out with hands full of things I didn’t know I needed.

Map:

Posted in Chiba 県, Honshū, Japan, Narita 市, Tokyo 都, Tōgane 市 | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

So Why Do You Want to Join the JET Program?

Posted by Heliocentrism on February 28, 2010

February 24, 2010

All Pictures

Asakusa Temple in Tokyo, Japan

The Japanese Embassy, Guam

The picture above is of one of my students and me at the Asakusa Temple in Tokyo. At the time this picture was taken I was living in Japan and I was really skinny. I worked for a company called GEOS and I was having a good time; not a great time, but a good time.

I had friends, but most of them work for the JET Programme. I have to say that I was quite jealous of them. They had a huge social network. They knew people in other towns that they didn’t have to serendipitously meet on a subway or anything. They also had Japanese coworkers that they hung out with.

My own coworkers at GEOS seemed tired and over worked, but only because they were. They mostly lived far away. None of them lasted very long at GEOS. By my 4th month of working at GEOS, I was the most senior member at the eikaiwa. I had to rely on casually meeting people on trains or in grocery stores or making friends through my students. (Most of my students were around my age or older.)

Lucky for me, I had one really nice student and he had many foreign friends. He would invite me to go with him anytime these friends were having a party. Many of them were in the JET Programme. I am still friends with a few of them today.

One of my fellow English teachers in Seoul, South Korea

Stay Away from the Channel

Then I moved to South Korea and worked for English Channel. When I worked there the company was okay. They always paid me on time, though I did have to check all my pay stubs to make sure they gave me all my overtime. If I did get paid the wrong amount, it was easily and quickly fixed and I would get the rest of my money in the next pay check. I really had very few complaints.

However, as my contract was nearing to an end, things started to change. There was a new manager and new people in charge at the head office. The new people in charge gave me the impression that since I wasn’t resigning, it wasn’t worth the effort for them to be polite to me.

When I didn’t get the end-of-the-contract bonus that I was supposed to get one month after my last day, I e-mail Mike, the new guy in charge of Human Resources. His response was literally to only say, “That sucks,” and not offer to help me. I did get my money after e-mailing Bob, the guy that used to be in charge of HR.

So, when I decided to go back to South Korea, I didn’t trust English Channel enough to resign with them.  I started to look for a different company. It’s a good thing too. I heard from my old co-workers that English Channel stopped paying the pensions and health insurance for many of its employees; this is illegal. There were also been many times when teachers were not paid on time. Sometimes, the Korean employees did not get paid at all.

I just want to make a note that not all English Channels are the same. It’s like a chain company and they do not all have the same management. The one I worked for, was not a chain, though. It was run by, Kenny, the president of English channel. I’m sure it won’t be long before this company goes bankrupt.

Dea Gin Girls’ High School in Seoul, South Korea

SMOE!!

That’s when I found SMOE (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education). They place ESL teachers in public schools in Seoul and it is modeled after the JET Programme. I enjoyed my time teaching at Dae Jin Girls’ High School. I was finally able to just teach English without hearing about how the school was losing money.

One of my 2nd grade classes (That 2nd grade of High school = 11th grade in the US)

No one tried to pressure me into working on Saturdays, to sell books, or more classes. I just taught English lessons. And my co-teachers were great, Mrs. Kim and Mrs. Oh! I also enjoyed teaching the English teachers and other co-workers.

They taught me so much about Korea. Whenever they saw me planning a trip, they would give me advice on things to do there. Many times Mrs. Kim or Mrs. Oh made reservations for me since I do not speak Korean very well.

So now I would like to live in Japan one more time. This time I want to work in a public school like I did in Seoul, so I applied to the JET Programme. I was given an interview at the Japanese Embassy in Guam. I think the interview went well. Hopefully, I will hear back from them in April.

The interviews for the JET Program are notorious for being rough. There are blog entries out there from interviewers who say that their fellow interviewers delight in tormenting prospective teachers. I was expecting the worst, but my interviewers all were very nice.

I’ve noticed that Guam is filled with nice, friendly people who are quick to offer help with directions or to drive you around to take pictures of Point Udall.

If you do need to stay in Guam, especially if you have an interview for the JET Program, I recommend The Tamuning Plaza Hotel. It is not fancy, in fact it’s a bit old. But the rooms are huge and the staff is very helpful. It’s about 2 blocks away from the ITC building where the Japanese embassy is. The room rates are pretty good, and you can rent a car from them for about $50 a day. (The room rates are better when you book it through hostelworld.com.)  Since you rent the car from the hotel, you can rent it on days you need a car and just walk to the beach when you don’t need to drive.

The hotel is near Agana Beach. It’s a great beach for kids because the water is shallow even far out. But, it’s not that great for tall swimmers.

Because I’m in a bit of a nostalgic mood, here is a picture of the little Japanese town I used to live in. It’s called Tōgane (pronounced Toe-ga-nay) in Chiba Prefecture. There isn’t much going on there; just onion and rice fields. It was a great place to live.

The old neighborhood in Japan

All Pictures.


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Guam

How to Get There:

From Bangkok –

  • The best airline that I found to get to Guam from Bangkok was Philippines Airline.
  • There’s a long stop over in Manila’s airport. (I will blog about the Ninoy Aquino’s shenanigans later.)

Guam has one commercial airport, the Antonio B. Won Pat International Airport. It’s near Hagatna.

You pretty much have to fly into Guam. There are not boats, and trains are just ridiculous.

Websites:

Notes:

  • Guam is a territory of the United States. This means that if you are American, you do not need a passport to travel to Guam.
  • If you are not an American, then you will need the same visa to enter Guam that you would need to get into the continental United States.
  • The people of Guam are United States citizens, just at a better climate.
  • You can only us US dollars here.
  • I recommend renting a car unless you are with a tour group.
  • Although Guam is a small island, it is not anywhere small enough to just walk around.
  • The beaches here are great.
    • When you go to any beach in Guam, DO NOT go out to the breakers. They look pretty, but do not leave the calm water. The current out there is very strong and many tourists have died. There are also many coral reefs. Corral can be very sharp and you don’t want to be pushed into corral by strong waves.
  • There are 2 military bases on the island.
  • Forget about seeing Point Udall. Just forget it!

Umatac Bay

How to get there:

  • 13°17’54.8″N 144°39’48.3″E
  • This is on Route 2 in Umatac.
  • It’s just about the only part of Route 2 in Umatac that’s near the ocean.

Address:

2, Umatac, Guam 96915, Mariana Islands

Websites:

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • The monument is out in the open and can be accessed at any time.

Notes:

  • This is the spot where Magellan landed and started off the burning and pillaging of the Chamorro villages. Soon after the conquistadors would show up by way of Miguel López de Legazpi.
  • The land would be taken away and claimed in the name of Spain’s King and Queen no Chamorro had ever seen. Later the Guamese would be converted to Christianity, because they needed to learn how to be civilized.
  • Miguel López de Legazpi would then move onto The Philippines. Mark and I would run into him again in Manila.

Fort Soledad
(Fort Nuestra Señora de la Soledad)

How to get there:

  • 13°17’42.4″N 144°39’36.1″E
  • Once you’ve found the Umatac Bay, you can see the fort.
  • Just follow Route 2 past the Spanish Bridge if you’re heading south.
  • If you’re heading North, it’s before the Spanish bridge.

Cost:

  • Free

Notes


Two Lovers Point

How to get there:

  • 13°32’09.5″N 144°48’05.2″E
  • Take Route 1 in Tamuning to Route 34.

Address:

Two Lover’s Point, Tumon Bay, Guam, USA

Phone:

  • 671-647-4107

Website

Cost:

  • 3USD per person

Hours:

  • 8:00 – 20:00

Notes:

The Story of Two Lovers

There once was a Chamorro chief, who had a lovely, charming, and intelligent daughter. She was so lovely and charming that a Spanish captain fell in love with her and asked her father for her hand in marriage. The chief, seeing this as an opportunity to make peace between the two peoples thought it a great idea and said, “Sure. Why not?”

The daughter, being young and beautiful, wasn’t interested in the old crusty Spaniard. She preferred a hot, young Chamorro guy who liked to watch sunsets while saying profound things. Unfortunately, his family was not in the same tax bracket as the chief’s family.

The chief told his daughter to forget about the handsome guy who was actually the right age for her and to think about the positive aspects of marrying the old Spanish captain. The dad and the Spaniard went ahead with the wedding plans and they both got all excited when the big day came.

Right before the wedding the bride-to-be went for a walk. She walked all the way up to what is now known as Lovers Point to be with the guy her dad didn’t feel was good enough for her. Eventually, her father, the Spaniard, and many wedding guests found the lovers. Her father tried to order her to get back to the wedding, but she wasn’t listening.

The young lovers tied their long shiny hair together in a tight knot. They held each other and kissed one last time. Then they jumped.

It was a long way down. There’s a lot of pointy coral down there.

Map:

Posted in Chiba 県, Guam, Honshū, Japan, Tamuning, Tokyo 都, Tōgane 市, Umatac, United States, The | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

 
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