Archive | January, 2013

Goodbye Australia, Hello Japan!

30 Jan

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Leaving Australia is  definitely a weird feeling.  I packed my bag and organised everything.  It took me a lot of effort to pack lightly but I’m glad I managed it.  If I packed as much as I originally planned then I probably wouldn’t have been able to carry my bag. 

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The hardest thing for me will definitely be missing my family, boyfriend and friends back home.

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I’m very glad my brother will be coming with me! being all alone in a new country for the first time since I was 4 alone would definitely be more scary. 

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Look out Japan,  here we come!!!!

Top 10 Spots to Make Hours Disappear in Tokyo

27 Jan

Check out this article on Tokyo. It has definitely given me some more ideas on where to go 🙂

Origional copy found here – http://www.pedestrian.tv/travel/home-feature/top-ten-spots-to-make-hours-disappear-in-tokyo/5f5f6566-c511-4965-afef-2bb36a1a9f68.htm

Hannah x

Top 10 Spots to Make Hours Disappear in Tokyo, January 24th 2013Japan is like that person you know, you know the one, the person who is so intense that you have no choice but to respond in kind and either intensely love or intensely hate their dumb head. No middle ground. Japan has a personality that is so distinct, so uniquely Japanese, that if you have ever thought Japan miiggghht be a place you would like, you Mos Def need to go there IMMEDIATELY! But in an orderly fashion. Arigato. 

For this Smirnoff Start Pure City Guide, we have enlisted the help of Japanophile Eloise Rapp and included the Tokyo inspired ‘Tokyo Sidecar’ cocktail for your enjoyment. But remember, not everything needs to be big in Japan, so enjoy responsibly.

Tokyo is a hypnotic and exciting place to live; it is very easy to let all of your spare time get sucked into a vortex of incredible art, design, music, food and cultural events that occur constantly and year-round. Hence the title of this top ten list.

During my stint in Tokyo I lived in Shimokitazawa, one of the city’s liveliest and loveliest neighbourhoods full of tiny bars and cafes, thrift stores, nan and pop bike shops on every corner and a warm village atmosphere. I worked on a bunch of freelance projects including writing trend reports for WGSN, styling for fashion and underground club events, textile prints and odd graphic design jobs. I tried to go to Japanese lessons and just ended up learning from my friends instead (recommended).

The creative community is vibrant and welcoming, full of talent and great craftsmanship; which is why my labelRAPP was conceived over there. I love my low-brow, rowdy izakayas, local design and thrifting, and as you will find, Tokyo caters to these needs in abundance.

A-Z Café 
Address: 5F 5-8-3 Minami-Aoyama, Minato-ku
Phone: +81 3 5464 0281
Website: atozcafe.exblog.jp
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 12noon–11pm

Although most high-rise bars will forever play second fiddle to the Bill Murray endorsed New York Bar, the A-Z café is my pick for best drink with a view. The joint creator of the space is the ubiquitous artist Yoshitomo Nara, whose devil children lurk on the walls and tables.

Karaoke 747 
Address: 6F Sanwa Bldg, 3-6-7 Shinjuku San-Chome, Shinjuku-ku
Phone: +81 3 3352 3410
Website: www.karaoke747.jp
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 6pm–5am, Sunday and Saturday (and public holidays) 3pm–5am

Until a friend politely provided me with the name of this karaoke establishment I knew it only as “the one with the glowing space decals and staff who dress up as pilots”. Karaoke 747 is the only K bar you need to know about in Tokyo, and hot selling points include a costume rack, tambourines, high school dance lighting and an encyclopaedic catalogue.


Picture by Eloise.

Vacant 
Address: 3-20-13 Jingumae, Shibuya
Phone: +81 3 3352 3410
Website: vacant.n0idea.com
Opening Hours: Shop & café Monday to Sunday 12noon–8pm

A serene pit stop just a step from the mayhem that is Harajuku’s Takeshita Dori (that’s tacky shit street to you). An ambient, inviting space encouraging creative interaction, Vacant is part zine shop, part cafe and part exhibition/performance space. A great place to discover Tokyo’s emerging artists. Also, David Byrne loves it.

Toritonkun 
Address: B1F Nakamura Bldg, 2-15-3 Kitazawa, Setagaya-ku
Phone: +81 3 5430 5156
Website: tabelog.com/tokyo
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 5p –5am

The logo of this busy smokehouse/izakaya is a chicken riding a pig. Any questions? Toritonkun, in my old locale of Shimokitazawa, provides the most fun you’ll have eating in a while. A Japanese-only menu with a bit of food photography means you’ll be doing some experimental ordering, but it’s all pretty amazing. Get the karaage and sweet potato dessert chips.


Picture by Eloise.

Harajuku Chicago 
Address: B1F Olympia Annex Bldg. 6-31-21 Jingumae, Shibuya-ku
Phone: +81 3 3409 5017
Website: www.chicago.co.jp
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 11am–8pm

The thrift store to end all thrift stores. This place is a cavernous, stuffed-rack wonderland with walls of suspenders, yukata, hippie skirts, old tees and fur jackets. Everything is sourced from Japan and the US, and the prices are superb.


Picture by Eloise. 

Claudia 
Address: 3-8-4 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
Phone: +81 3 3353 8636
Website: claudia-italy.jp
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 6pm–2am

Shinjuku is full of glaring tourist landmarks, but not a whole lot of relaxed places to stop at for an unfussy dinner or afternoon wine. Claudia is ideal, tucked away in a great little pocket of bars and restaurants just out of the chaos. Delicious Italian fare with a great wine list and great vibe.

Boro-ichi Markets 
Address: 3-8-4 Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku
Phone: +81 3 3353 8636
Website: www.city.setagaya.lg.jp
Opening Hours: Second weekend of December and January 9am–8pm

If you travel to Tokyo in December or January, lucky you – the Boroichi markets are on. A world-class antique & flea market in one of Tokyo’s prettiest neighbourhoods boasting a huge spread of second-hand dealers in everything from pickled plums and moss cultivations to kimono silks and hand weapons. Delicious winter street food is the cherry on the cake.


Picture by Eloise.

Gallery & Shop “DO” by Claska 
Address: 1-3-18 Chuo-cho, Meguro-ku
Phone: +81 3 3719 8124
Website: www.claska.com
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 11am–7pm every day

Domestic chic unleashed, DO in the covetable Claska hotel is where I head for my Japanese interior and object fix. There are so many beautiful things to buy here it’s almost ridiculous; food, clothing, kitchenware, stationery, accessories, you name it. Superb for presents.

SCAI the Bathhouse 
Address: Kawashiwayu-Ato 6-1-23 Yanaka, Taito-ku
Phone: +81 3 3821 1144
Website: www.scaithebathhouse.com
Opening Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 12noon–7pm

Doubling as an excuse to spend time in the beautiful, historical neighbourhood of Yanaka, a visit to SCAI ensures you’ll catch some of the most exciting and sophisticated contemporary art coming out of Japan. It actually is a converted 200-year-old bathhouse.

Hanbey 
Address: B1F Kusumoto Bldg, Dogenzaka, Shibuya-ku
Phone: +81 3 3464 0775
Website: www.hanbey.com
Opening Hours: Sunday to Thursday 5pm–1am, Friday and Saturday 5pm–3am

A cheery, battered-and-fried friendly izakaya plastered with Showa era film and propaganda posters. Great yakitori, fried noodles, and the complementary fresh cabbage with miso dipping sauce is a game-changer. Ancient television sets play original Astro Boy episodes, naturally. J-menu only.

BONUS. Seasonal must-do’s: 

SUMMER Koenji Awa Odori and Enoshima
SPRING Yoyogi Park and Nakameguro Canal
AUTUMN Mt Takao and Shinjuku Gyoen
WINTER Kusatsu Onsen and Sanriku Kotatsu Train

Words by Eloise Rapp.

Tokyo on the Cheap

22 Jan

For a bit of a laugh I thought I’d share this. It came in my emails this morning.

Hannah x

 

Tokyo on the Cheap

Bang for your buck in the capital

by Sean O’Mara

Posted 1/21/2013

Tokyo is consistently ranked as one of the most, if not the most, expensive city to live in. This unfortunately carries over to visiting as well, as vacations in Tokyo aren’t cheap. Compounded with the fact that otaku can be notoriously stingy (there are figures and video games to buy, after all), what’s a desperate otaku to do if you can’t quite afford lodging for your trip to Tokyo? Well, to be entirely honest, you should probably delay your trip and save up more money. Nobody likes getting a call in the middle of the night from their son/daughter/friend/relative asking to have money wired overseas. With that said, and with tongue planted firmly in cheek, we’d like to present to you some of the alternatives for cheap lodging in the world’s biggest city.

Note: the following article is presented for entertainment purposes only and shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Otaku USA is not responsible if you end up in jail, deported or dead thanks to your shoddy travel planning.

1. Sleeping in Public

The cheapest option is also the worst, but free is free. Nothing quite says “you shouldn’t be visiting this country” like sleeping on the streets. This method is particularly terrible because Tokyo tends to experience severe weather extremes. In the summer it will be absurdly humid, rainy and hot and you will smell like rancid gym socks almost immediately. In wintertime it’ll get cold enough you actually might die. The relative safety of Japan means that the only hassling you’re likely to get for trying this idiotic method is harassment from the cops, although theft still occurs even in seemingly crime-free Japan, so hopefully you’ve developed a comfortable method for sleeping on top of your luggage. Don’t let the passed out salarymen in train stations fool you: this is not a socially acceptable thing to do. Japanese people will view you as the weirdo you are if you try this.

Cost: None
Misery Index: Very High

2. Sleeping in Restaurants

The classic last-resort of drunk masses who don’t feel like taking a taxi home after the last train or shelling out for proper lodging, this method takes advantage of the generosity of Japanese people. In many restaurants it’s unlikely you’ll be asked you to leave, but you might get shaken awake and told not to sleep. It’s not unusual to see people (locals, usually) practicing this method of cost-cutting, and places like the McDonalds in Kabukicho actually have signs that expressly forbid this behavior. We once spent a very long night with a friend passed out in a ramen shop in Roppongi and by the time morning rolled around, it was clear paying for the taxi would have been the better option.

Cost: Minimal. Buy something though, you jerk.
Misery Index: High.

3. Karaoke Parlors

Most karaoke places will offer set deals for a few hours late at night, the idea being that you can while away the time until the trains start again singing Aerosmith songs with your mates. In actuality, there’s not a whole lot to stop you and a friend from just crashing out in the room. Add in the fact karaoke shops usually offer a selection of food and drink and TVs will automatically play videos, and it’s almost like room service with cable TV! Most karaoke rooms have soft couches, but they’re also inherently loud places, so you won’t get the most restful sleep. Hopefully you brought ear plugs.

Cost: Moderate.
Misery Index: Moderate.

4. Capsule Hotels

Despite being mentioned in every article written about Japan throughout the 80s and 90s, capsule hotels are not quite the ubiquitous institution you might expect. Most major train stations will have capsule hotels nearby, but given that their target demographic is Japanese businessmen, they’re not always the easiest option for tourists, especially if you can’t speak Japanese. Tourist-friendly capsule hotels do exist, such as the Ace Inn Shinjuku which has plenty of English-speaking staff and caters to foreigners. Capsule hotels aren’t nearly as claustrophobic as you might expect, but they’re definitely not the roomiest option. The price (usually around 3,000yen/night) makes them a worthwhile option, assuming you’re okay with a few of the downsides like shared shower/bathroom facilities and the fact that you have to be out of the hotel every day by late morning.

Given the opportunity, you should try them out; they’re a lot of fun, not as cramped as you’d think and if you try one of the “real” capsule hotels you’ll be able to surround yourself with salarymen and experience a side of Japanese culture rarely seen. All will have showers, some will even have washing machines. Typically they will also offer food, although co-ed travel groups might be out of luck as most capsule hotels are strictly for dudes (Ace Inn welcomes both sexes, however). So do your research and try them out at least once.

Cost: Moderate
Misery Index: Low

5. Internet Cafes

Internet cafes (often called mangakissa– “manga cafes”) offer “night packs” of 3-6 hours for a set price, usually between 1,000 and 1,500 yen. You’ll usually get your own mini-cubicle with a chair and computer, and various amenities depending on the location. A self-serve drink bar (unlimited soda, juice and coffee) is pretty standard. Some places don’t have chairs (which is actually better for sleeping, as you can curl up on the floor), some have very uncomfortable chairs, some keep the lights bright all night long; basically, there’s a lot variation and ultimately your comfort will depend on where you stay. Many Internet cafes will have showers, which is great because, let’s face it, you may stink. You’ll also have a large selection of manga to read and many will have a PS2 in each cubicle, if you feel like playing video games you could just play at home. As an added bonus, you may get to overhear people in neighboring cubicles watching porn or couples trying to get it on because they’re too cheap for a love hotel!

Cost: Low
Misery Index: Moderate to low

Bonus Option: Love Hotels

Thanks to the traditions of multiple generations living under the same roof, thin walls and a healthy sex trade, Japan’s love hotel industry thrives. The core business of love hotels revolves around people looking to rent a love hotel for just an hour or two, but after peak hours most will offer night packs that allow you to stay until morning for a reduced rate. The result is a considerably reduced cost that might actually be worthwhile if you’re traveling as a couple. More than two people might pose a problem, but being persistent can pay off, just be sure to say “no” to the creeper in front of the hotel who offers to pay for half “just to watch.” The upside of staying at a love hotel is big, comfortable beds, nice bathrooms and being able to brag to your friends back home about how you stayed at a love hotel. The downside is that you won’t be able to stay there very long, and there’s none of the amenities that real hotels offer (like providing a place to keep your bags during the day). Most major train stations will have a cluster of love hotels, so at the very least you’ll have plenty of options.

Cost: High
Misery Index: Low

The bottom line is that there are cheap options to stay in Tokyo, but you’ll need to do your research and think outside the box if you really want to save money, and being able to speak some Japanese will always help. More often than not, these extreme options aren’t really worth it – you’ll end up uncomfortable and grumpy and in the end your trip might not be quite as incredible as you had hoped. Tokyo is the kind of city where a little more money to spend can improve your enjoyment considerably, so keep that in mind when budgeting. If you’re forced to cut corners because of cost, delaying your visit and saving more money will always be the be better option.

What to Pack?!

22 Jan

Image8 more days!!! I’m starting to get beyond excited, also a little freaked out. This will be my first time travelling overseas since I was 4-years-old! It will really be a big adventure!

Now is the hard part for me, packing light. I only have a backpack, and while it may be a big backpack, I don’t want to take too many things as I’m pretty sure I’ll want to buy a lot in Japan. Since I can’t take as many bags as in the photograph I’ll have to plan this as well.  So here is a list of things that I think I will need:

Money:

  • Cash
  • Cash Passport
  • Credit Card
  • ATM Card

Documents:

  • Passport
  • Copies of all documents – stored separately
  • Driver’s licence
  • Travel Sim
  • Address of Australian Embassy – 2-1-14 Mita, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8361
  • Guidebook
  • Maps
  • Phrasebook
  • Extra passport photos
  • Diary
  • Bushiness cards – I have heard that they are used a lot in Japan – does anyone know if this is true?

Food:

  • Bottle of water
  • Snacks for long waits – nuts

Clothes: – probably fairly important

  • Tops
  • Jeans/Tights
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Thermal wear
  • Jacket
  • Scarf, Gloves, Beanie
  • Swimmers
  • Money belt

Medical Supplies:

  • Any prescription medicine
  • Sunglasses
  • Chap-stick
  • Pumice stone
  • Creams

Toiletries:

  • Quick dry towel
  • Tooth brush
  • Toothpaste
  • Dental floss
  • Deodorant
  • Soap & Shampoo – might just get in Japan
  • Face towel
  • Moisturizer
  • Brush
  • Make-up
  • Perfume
  • Ear buds

Electrical Equipment:

  • Wall socket adapter
  • Camera, Charger, Batteries, SD Cards
  • i-Pod
  • 3DS

Random:

  • Bag Locks
  • Duct tape – in case the bag breaks or for any quick repairs
  • Plastic bags
  • Sleeping mask, Ear plugs

That is all I can think of. Because a lot of this is small things I think I should be right. Hopefully!

Hannah x

Planning Part Five – Hiroshima, Miyajima Island and Mt. Fuji

21 Jan

Konbanwa!

It will only be a quick visit to Hiroshima, Miyajima Island and Mt. Fuji, staying 2 days at Hiroshima and Miyajima Island and dropping in on Mt. Fuji on the way back to Tokyo.

I think the main things I want to see in these places are:

  • The Peace Memorial Museum and Park – dedicated to the legacy of Hiroshima as the first city in the world to suffer a nuclear attack, and to the memories of the bomb’s direct and indirect victims.
  • Hiroshima Castle –  Originally constructed in the 1590s, the castle was destroyed in the atomic bombing in 1945.
  • Hiroshima Museum of Art (Hirosima Bijutsukan) at  Hiroshima Central Park
  • Itsukushima – aka Miyajima Island
  • Shukkei-en – historic Japanese garden
  • Hiroshima City Museum of History and Traditional Crafts – maybe I can learn something here?!
  • Children’s Peace Monument – if you haven’t read the story of  Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes you must read it!
  • Mitaki Temple – it’s a 20 minute up hill walk but it will be winter so should be easy!
  • Shimizu Gekijo Theater – could be fun

I’m pretty sure I’ll end up crying when I see the Peace Park/Museum and Atomic Bomb Dome.

Again, if you know of any other places I should make time to see. Let me know

Hannah x

HR20

Planning Part Four – Osaka

21 Jan

The Fourth town in the trip is Osaka! I’ll be staying here for 5 whole days.

I’ll have to find many things to do. Here are a few that I have found so far:

  • National Museum of Art – because I love art!
  • Osaka Contemporary Art Center
  • Shitennoji Temple
  • National Bunraku Theater – traditional Japanese pupper theater! – who wouldn’t love this!
  • Tempozan Ferris Wheel – I hear it’s a great view. I will take some photos while I’m on it and share! it was the World’s tallest ferris wheel from 1997-1999… and I’m scared of hights… this will be interesting!
  • Festival Gate Theme Park
  • Tennōji Zoo
  • Tamatsukuri Inari Shrine – built in 12 BCE… so old!
  • Osaka Castle Park 
  • Universal Studios Japan – I’m not so sure about this one…
  • Nanba Grand Kagetsu – another theater
  • Shitennoji Temple – The oldest temple in Japan, built over 1,400 years ago!
  • Nobeha no Yu Tsuruhashi or Spa World – Public Baths – why not!?
  • Umeda Joypolis Sega – games! this building even has a ferris wheel on the roof.
  • Osaka Tenmangu Shrine
  • America Mura (American village) – apparently this is simmilar to Harajuku and if it is I’m sure I’ll love it
  • Isshinji Temple – this one is a bit creepy – Its mausoleum houses an unusual thing — 12 Buddha statues made of human bones. The practice started in 1887 when the first statue was made from the bones of 50,000 corpses. Bones are donated by families and collected. A new statue is made every 10 years or so.

Anyway I think I covered everything. As always, if you know of somewhere you think I should visit that I haven’t mentioned let me know, or if you have visited any of these places share your experience with me in the comments.

Hannah x

 Osaka

Planning Part Three – Kyoto

18 Jan

Ohayou Gozaimasu!

″A traveler without observation is a bird without wings.” – Moslih Eddin Saadi

The third place I have planned to check out is Kyoto!
I’m really looking forward to this city. It looks amazing!

Here are a few things that I hope to do:

  • Go to the Kyoto International Manga Museum
  • Take part in a Japanese tea ceremony
  • Go to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji)
  • Visit the Nijo Castle – particularly the Nightingale Floor
  • Go to Gion – the Geisha district
  • Visit the Fushimi Inan Shrine
  • Be inspired by the Kyoto Imperial Palace

Has anyone been to these places? comment below and let me know what you thought 🙂
Or if you have been to Kyoto and know of other places that would be great to visit, let me know as well

I think my month away will go far too quickly and I’ll want to stay forever…

Hannah x

Golden Pavilion - kyoto