Posts tagged with japan

Things I learnt in Japan


  1. Commercial airlines take the fun out of flying. Airports are often overcrowded and always have so much ‘dead-time’ waiting for check-in, security, boarding, take-off, baggage claim, customs…
  2. Heathrow is horrific and I’m glad Guernsey doesn’t fly there any more.
  3. When UK customs say one piece of hand-luggage per person they mean it. Handbag and laptops are a piece and taking liquid or gels is still a pain.
  4. It takes around 1h 20mins to transfer between Heathrow and Gatwick by coach.
  5. Seoul’s airport is impressive even under construction – shame about the one-hour delays on the runway.
  6. Korean Air’s fleet delivers interactive individual LCD screens with seat-to-seat gaming or ancient dodgy CRT projectors depending on the luck of the draw.


  1. The JR Rail Pass offers massive savings for those wishing to get around. As well as Shinkansen bullet-trains between major cities you can take slower trains between towns and JR lines inside cities.
  2. Show your JR Pass and ticket at gates instead of putting your ticket in the machine. Otherwise be prepared for a polite yet firm official to tap you on the shoulder.
  3. JR Pass doesn’t let you get on the Nozomi Shinkansen. The quickest you can ride is the Hikori which is the same speed but has more frequent stops often.


  1. Tokyo subway is quite easy to navigate despite the sheer size and number of people thanks to near-complete Romaji maps.
  2. Kyoto subway is a bit of a mess thanks to multiple operators and no unified map.
  3. Fukuoka’s subway is fast, clean and easy to navigate… it is also new.
  4. Buy a credit ticket that will be deducted per trip. It saves a whole lot of time messing around with machines and costs and lets you get on the last few trains when the ticket machines have closed.


  1. All Internet cafes should consist of cubicles you can sleep in with TV, workstation, bean-bag, unlimited soft drinks and a free comic library like Gera Gera.
  2. Mobile phones are everywhere with people texting and gaming in the street, on trains etc.
  3. Mobile phone system is UTMS/3G so a GSM-only phone won’t work. You’ll also need to make sure your operator has a roaming partner in Japan because you can’t buy pay-as-you-go SIM’s in Japan unless you’re a resident.


  1. Japanese people are incredibly polite and helpful whether it’s a stranger sharing her umbrella at a road junction, somebody helping you pick up the contents of your bag sprawled across the floor or somebody from a shop coming outside to help you get your map the right way up and point you in the right direction.
  2. Tiny Police stations (boxes) scatter Tokyo and are equipped with maps to help lost people – addresses are hard to find without one. Check the web-site for where you’re going and you’ll probably find a printable map.
  3. Emotion is all about the eyes and not the mouth in Japan. It’s not just anime but even emoticons are eyes-only. A sad mouthed-face here is tearful eyes!


  1. The street-tent Japanese eateries are a great place to meet people as locals of all ages and foreigners get chatting.
  2. Cheese, milk and chocolate are not common. Kit-Kat and Snickers are about the only recognizable brand chocolate bars.
  3. Eggs turn up in many many dishes. Boiled and dropped into soups, or cooked and laid upon practically anything or sometimes raw over rice dishes.
  4. Food is beautifully prepared, even supermarket sandwiches and lunch-boxes. Crusts are too ugly for their sandwiches.


Update from Japan

Will only be a short one as I’m pretty tired from all the walking and traveling around.

Got into Fukuoka and spent a few days exploring and a few evenings being entertained by Jo who also gave me some pointers on Japanese culture etc. I also subjected his friend Hidori ? to my incredibly poor attempts at Karaoke although my rendition of Franz Ferdinand’s Take Me Home almost veered onto the side of not quite making ears bleed.

We ate the fabled delicacy Ramen – noodles in a meat soup – and visited a cool local bar as well as trying out a DVD of some Japanese comedy set in a hotel that was rather good – plenty of set-up and bringing the various elements together for the final wrap up.

After a few days I took a train down to Nagasaki which was hit by the second atomic bomb during World War II just a few days after Hiroshima. Went to the monuments and peace garden there – it’s a stark reminder of too much power too little responsibility.

Then decided to head all the way up to Tokyo on the Shinkansen bullet train and have spent a few days in a haze of neon.

I’ve visited shrines, temples, gardens, parks, stores, markets but far too many subway stations and their rather long connection walks (about 0.5km much of the time).

I feel like I’ve walked to the ends of the earth between that and all the walking around parks, shops, streets etc.

I also visited a geek paradise known as GoraGora – you get a small cubicle with a sliding closing door, padded floor, bean-bag, pillow, PC with net access and games pre-installed, TV, lamp and somewhere to put your shoes. Nearby is the free soda machine, showers and comic library (Japanese only – doh!). You can also have food delivered to your cubicle – all for the price of 980 JPY for 3 hours (about £5 GBP or $9 USD).

Hit the Sony Building which Jo’s generally-good TimeOut guide to Tokyo claims has a whole floor of PlayStation gear and games. It no longer has any such thing and indeed I couldn’t find a single PlayStation 3 in the building although I did see a Wii and the associated bits in a store but it should be out in the UK by now.

Tomorrow I’ll be taking another fast train down to Kyoto for a couple of days to get some more Japanese gardens and wild-life done. I think I’ve reached my shopping and bright lights limit – apparently Tokyo is one of the two biggest cities in the world depending on how you measure it (tied with Mexico City).

Everybody I’ve met is incredibly nice and polite – I’ve had Japanese people running out of their stores/hotels to help me when I spend more than a few minutes outside staring at my map and a kind lady in Nagasaki held her umbrella above my head for me. Which reminds me – I’ve left my newly purchased umbrella in the last hotel.


Going to Japan

Matt's photo of Mijajima Shrine I’ve wanted to visit Japan for quite some time but the opportunity never seemed to present itself. When my friend Matt wrote to me about his trip there and posted some great pictures of Japan at his photo blog I was more tempted than ever.

With my project reaching a milestone this week it seems like the perfect time to take a well deserved holiday. Clarissa can’t get the time off and isn’t too interested in Japan so I’m holidaying solo again (first time since Vancouver/BC in 2004).

The good news, for me at least, is that Matt’s brother Jo is living and working in Fukuoka and so hopefully he’ll help me find my feet for a day or two when I get there. We might even check out the ski/board conditions and head up there so I’m packing my ski-trousers – I’ll be wearing my jacket during the day as it’s quite cold this time of year.

There are so many things to see and do that I’m going to grab a £120 7-day Japan Rail pass which I have to purchase before I enter the country as it’s not available to Japanese residents.

Matt also helpfully pointed me at Japan-Guide which has lots of information but tomorrow I’ll head into town and pickup something I can put in my pocket. I’m not sure what net access I’ll have out there – my TyTN smart-phone will work apparently but C&W Guernsey have no roaming partners!

I can’t wait!