Travel Tips for Tokyo…

I have shared Japan travel tips in a previous post but let me add some more from our last trip to Tokyo in December. First stop was always the grocery since we need food supplies to fill up the refrigerator in the apartment we rented through Airbnb (www.airbnb.com). Remember, we are budget travelers and therefore cost efficiency is important. 😄

Tip: Prior to booking, make sure the place is near a grocery store. Some items are cheaper and choices are better than the convenience store.

Grocery store Comodi-IIda


Store entrance below street level

Mini Grocery in front of the apartment


Tip: Near closing time some of the meals are already discounted up to 50% off.  Grab some to eat at your rented place or hotel. 

Maki Sushi Plates at the Grocery Store


Different Kinds of Tea


You can find different kinds of Japanese green tea at the grocery store. I always buy a box or more to give away to relatives and friends. It’s always a gift that they appreciate. I personally liked the roasted green tea. 

Tip: Choose your location wisely. Always research before you book and ask the landlord about the area 😊 Is it quiet and safe? Near the train station?

We got an apartment in Bunkyo area which is a quiet part of Metropolitan Tokyo. The train station is 3 to 5 minutes away. There’s a shrine nearby and the Shin-edogawa Park is walking distance. Restaurants and food places are aplenty. The Catholic church is also a 10 minute walk away.

Winter time view while walking towards the park


The winter view at the park


Tip: Prior to finalizing your booking, check out the area for restaurants or food markets. What we did was to use google earth to view the area. Bunkyo had good restaurants near the train station street level exits.

Tempura Place

Ramen and Gyoza Place


The go to food place 😄 Yoshinoya!


Japanese Curry House


Korean Burger Joint Lotteria


Fast food are always a happy sight for when you’re weary and tired from walking around Metropolitan Tokyo. Especially if you’re with family with growing kids who seem to be always hungry! 😄

Tip: Drop by the convenience stores like Lawson, Family Mart, 7-11. They do have instant meals that they can heat for you. Kids love the chicken kaarage that can fill their little tummy plus it’s affordable. 

Chicken Kaarage at a convenience store


You will not get hungry anywhere in Japan. For as long as there’s a convenience store! You will not get thirsty either for there are numerous vendo machines! Plus some even offered chips and sandwiches. 

Japanese Custard Cake Stall


A must try Takoyaki in Akiba area


Don’t hesitate to try out the street food stalls selling snacks like Japanese Custard Cakes. It’s a favorite of my kids and filled their tummy while walking around. Aside from the Takoyaki, of course. 😄



xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

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Getting Around Japan…

It’s that time of the year again in this side of the world. It’s summer time and people are preparing to escape to somewhere cold or to the beach. My social media timeline is full of travels to one of my favorite destination — Japan! It’s spring time and always a good time to visit since it’s also the Sakura season. The bitter cold of winter is no more. The gardens will be so pretty and colorful. The shrines alive with the trees turning green again. Oh, how I miss the Land of the Rising Sun!🇯🇵😄

After numerous trips to Japan, we finally decided to use a card to easily use their train transportation when we visited last December. Since we find the JR Pass too expensive for a vacation in Tokyo area only, we opted to get the Pasmo Card. JR Pass is okay if you plan to go around Japan. Like traveling from Tokyo to Kyoto to Osaka. But in my opinion it’s not a good deal if you will just stay in one city. You can get a Pasmo or Suica card at the airport.

Pasmo Cards


We loaded ¥10,000 in the adult cards and half of that amount for the kids 12yo and below. The card of the child was linked to an adult card. It can be personalized with your child’s name. The reason we chose Pasmo instead of Suica was because we can refund everything. 😄 Of course, some of the family members opted to retain the card as souvenirs or to be used for when we visit again.

Train Station going to Narita using Keisei


We used Keisei Electric Railway from Narita to Tokyo and back. Not the Skyliner but the normal train with lots of stops! If you aren’t in a hurry, you can save money by using the regular train. It will be 30 minutes longer but you can catch some sleep on the way to the city. 😊 If you are in a rush to get to the city, choose the Skyliner. It is more expensive though.

The Pasmo Card is not only for transportation but can be used to buy food at the convenience store or even in restaurants that accept it for payment. Even vendo machines accept it. Very convenient to have especially if you have children who are constantly hungry and a trip to Family Mart or Lawson to buy food is something that they enjoyed doing. My child lost her Pasmo Card with about ¥3,500 remaining balance when we were in Akihabara. But it was linked to my card so we were able to retrieve the balance. We just reported it to the nearest train station and with a minimal fee we got a new card and the balance intact. The vacation wasn’t ruined!😅

However, if you plan to move around Japan then you have to get the JR Pass. You will also have easier mobility and it will help to cut down on transportation cost. Check out www.jrailpass.com for more information. 

Getting around Tokyo and understanding their train network is tough. But with the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the country is definitely preparing. With influx of tourists wanting to visit the country, most of the sites are tourist friendly. There are translations and menus in English. So different from the first time I visited Japan in 2008.

I know I should post more often. To be more active in my online journal. 😂 I’m really sorry blog! You have been neglected but I hope I can find time to write some more… soon!😄

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

Kampai to the Year 2017…

First, let me greet everyone (virtual visitors and friends) a Happy New Year! May all your aspirations for 2017 come true and abundant blessings bestowed to you and your family.

It’s now two years in a row that I welcomed the New Year in Japan. Last year, we were in Osaka and now in Tokyo. It’s dreadfully cold but I don’t mind even if I had colds and my nose became dry. Moisturizer was a big help but still it’s painful when you wipe your nose!😂 Celebrations in Japan to welcome the New Year is totally different from my home country. It’s quiet at midnight! 😄 

To see a fireworks display we had to go to Odaiba area. The show started at 7 pm on Dec 31 (New Year’s Eve) and lasted for 10 mins. It was cool as there was even a Hello Kitty figure up in the sky. Too bad wasn’t able to capture it! 

Fireworks at Decks in Odaiba


The giant Gundam is still in Diver City until March 2017 but since we had a photo taken on our previous trip, we didn’t bother to pose again. Shops closed early and at 9 pm we were on our way home to our rented Airbnb apartment (www.airbnb.com)  in Bunkyo area. 

I know I should write more about the recent trip/s but I got so tired from the cardio exercise a.k.a. walking that I think I will have to bid adieu for now. See you again soon when I post my Macau & Tokyo escapades!

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

Mt. Rokko Snow Park…

Because it was winter time when we visited Osaka in Japan, we thought of going to a nearby place where we can see snow. And the nearest one was Rokkosan Snow Park (www.rokkosan.com) in Mt. Rokko, Kobe. However, much to our disappointment there wasn’t really a lot of ‘fresh’ snow in sight. Rather, what we saw was man-made or “fake” snow. 😂 Maybe winter time came late in 2015 or Queen Elsa was probably still sleeping otherwise we would have been “frozen” to the bones. Kidding aside, it was a snow park and they didn’t advertise that you can find fresh snow there. And besides, if we really wanted to go snow skiing, we should have made travel plans to Sapporo where fresh snow is abundant. We definitely are not snow skiers so Rokkosan Snow Park will do. 

IMG_6154 rokkopark

Rokkosan Snow Park Entrance

IMG_6121 rokko snow park

Ski Slopes

IMG_6124 rokko snowpark1

Man-made Snow

We still had fun though with what the small snow park had to offer. The coldness in the mountain was different. The thermal wear, bonnet and mask helped a lot to fight the freezing temperature. The kids had fun snow sledding. So who are we to complain? Mission accomplished. Too bad, we arrived late and so there was limited time to build a snowman, sledding and no time to learn how to ski. The area closed at 5:00 pm except for the ski slopes. Probably if there’s a blizzard up in the mountains, the snow park will be awesome if blanketed with snow all around. 

IMG_6067-rokko cable

Rokko Cable Car Station

If you decide to check the place out and visit,  our route was via train from Osaka to Rokko station. Then we took the bus towards Rokko Cable Car station. We paid for the park’s entrance fee at the cable station which included the to and fro cable car ride and bus ride when you get to the top. We didn’t stay long in the area because we had to travel back to Osaka which took a lot of time with the normal train ride. If you are press for time then better take the 10 minute Shinkansen ride from Osaka to Kobe.

xoxo, 

the traveling KANGaroo


Japan! Japan!…

Japan is now becoming the most popular destination for tourists from my mother land, Philippines. Previously I think it was Hong Kong and I too was a visitor numerous times in that place. Back when the exchange rate was low that you can shop til you drop and there were no tensions yet between our country and China. Now, Hong Kong is just a memory. Not in the travel destination list anymore. Most people when ask where they want to go will say: Japan! Japan!… 

I can honestly say that going to Japan is better for Filipino tourists. Not only because it’s the new “in” destination and you also want to have a photo in Tokyo, Mt. Fuji, Osaka, Kyoto or as far away as Sapporo. But basically it’s the culture immersion that I think is much more important. We can definitely learn a lot from the Japanese people. From their inventions to their polite ways. I probably had faux pas during our trips there and maybe made the Japanese secretly cringe. But their politeness ruled and I got away with it. Sorry about that. Ha!ha!

Our latest Japan visit was winter time. I think I should also go during summer time as it’s the only season I haven’t been to yet. I should complete all the seasons and see which is the best one. So far, it’s still Autumn time for me because I love the “bearable” cold weather and the colour of the leaves. I know some will prefer Spring time with Sakura in full bloom. While others say Summer time is better because it’s warm and you can wear pretty outfits. Whatever you prefer, let’s all try to visit all the seasons if we can. Anyway, there are a lot of things to do there and exploring is fun!

During our recent Osaka trip, we decided to rent and stay in an apartment through AirBnB (www.airbnb.com) which was hosted by Genesis Ltd. It was near Namba area (3 Chome-3-36 Ebisunishi, Naniwa Ward) and the train station (Ebisucho Station) going to the city and to/from the airport was just a mere 3 minutes walk. The area where we stayed had one of my favourite discount store “Don Quijote” (www.donki.com) nearby. The apartment had 4 bedrooms, dining and living rooms. Of course, the rooms aren’t that big but 11 people were definitely comfortable. We saved money on food since we bought from the grocery store and cooked meals. Plus, the bonding time was great because the dining table and living area was the preferred hang out place for everyone. The downside with the accommodation was that the toilet is located outside, in the landing between the floors. I guess it’s easier for the host to clean it and for security purposes also since they don’t need to go inside the apartment anymore. Still, I prefer a toilet inside the apartment if possible! Must take note of that next time we decided to stay again using AirBnB. Overall, the stay was pleasant. The host was accommodating and can easily be contacted for minor issues during the stay like the wi-fi connection problem. We stayed for 7 nights and was billed 2,199 Euro or approximately USD 2,482 (PHP 114K) at the current exchange rate. Accommodations in Japan are expensive especially during peak season so I guess it was a good deal. If we stayed in a hotel, we will pay more as we need to book at least 5 rooms. It was also booked ahead of time. Like 6 months in advance so imagine the cost if we booked it a few weeks before our trip. 

A few tips when staying in a Condotel or Apartment for rent:

  1. Don’t forget to research for the nearest grocery store in the area. If none, a good convenience store will do which is really aplenty in Japan like Lawson and 7-11. A bit expensive than a grocery store for items such as water, drinks, bread but they do sell ready to eat food too. 
  2. Although shampoo and bath gel are provided, don’t forget to bring your own toilet essentials. If not, the nearest convenience store can help.
  3. Before you book for your accommodation, ask questions first. Is it near the train station? If not, what is the recommended mode of transportation. You can also google the place to check it out before you finalise everything. Having a place (be it a hotel or apartment) near a train station really helps a lot. Unless of course, you can afford to take the taxi. If you’re a big family or group, better take the train!
  4. Check out the food places in the area. We were happy to see my children’s favorite affordable restaurant “Ohsho”  nearby and it was the first stop for hungry tummies on the day we arrived. The gyoza is a must!
Osho

Gyoza no Ohsho Restaurant

We were near the Tennoji area. And if you opt to explore that way, you will be able to see and visit Abeno Harukas which is the tallest building in Japan at the time of our visit. It housed the Kintetsu Department Store which is huge. When you visit on New Year’s day then you might want to grab some lucky bags from any store you fancy in Japan! Who knows you might be lucky and get something of great value for less.

 There’s also the Shinsekai area which we passed by on our way to explore Nipponbashi DenDen town and Namba Parks. It’s an entertainment district and is vibrant at night. Although, there were a lot of people too during the day. 

In our previous Osaka visit, DenDen town was a favourite. And it was still a place we dropped by for the young and the young at heart to indulge. Don’t forget to browse and explore the items in some of the shops if you visit. Sometimes they sell stuff at bargain prices. Although shopping is no longer tax free unlike previous visits, you can get a tax refund for purchased items with a total of Y10,ooo and above. 

We were very laid back this trip and wasn’t in a hurry to go from one place to another. Surprisingly, the winter weather wasn’t what we prepared for and expected. It was actually not so bad. We hardly use our thermals except for when we went to Mt. Rokko in Kobe. Probably due to the global warming or El Nino Phenomenon which is affecting the planet. 

Namba Parks (www.nambaparks.com) at night was nice. The lights were so pretty with their Super Flower Illumination. Visiting Japan after Christmas and until New Year’s day celebration was not so bad after all.

One of the favourite of my little one was the Japanese cakes. And this trip we found some tummy delights we haven’t tasted before. Pablo is definitely a popular one but you can find stalls that sell yummy cakes when you keep looking around. There’s this shop in Namba near Takashimaya named Penguin and they sell the yummiest Japanese cakes according to my 10 year old. It was her favourite from a previous trip and probably she’s right because it was always sold out. During our winter visit we went several times to the store but wasn’t able to purchase. Maybe wrong timing of the day. The little one was disappointed but good thing we found some more stalls that compensated for her Japanese cake craving.

There’s a popular store that sells pork buns and dimsum that have stalls in some train stations named 551 Horai (www.551horai.co.jp) and it’s good. Don’t compare with Tim Ho Wan in Hong Kong or Din Tai Fung from Taiwan. Just give it a try when in Japan. The line is long sometimes though.

If you are by chance in Japan now or planning a visit for the first time, enjoy the place! Next time, I will post stories of other places we visited during our trip. 

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

 

Exploring Kyoto…

Kyoto is one of the top tourist destination in Japan. There are so many tourists visiting the place. I’ve been there twice and each time was almost the same. We still can’t sit on the bus because most of the time it was standing room only. The shrines were crowded especially the popular Kiyomizu-dera Shrine. But with all of that, it is still one of my favorite destination in this country.

Here’s some tips:

1.If you are visiting from nearby Osaka, it’s best if you travel to Kyoto early. The JR Rapid line takes about 35-40 minutes to get to Kyoto from Osaka.  It can get crowded in the trains and bus if you decide to leave late.

2. If you are on a day trip in Kyoto, I suggest you buy the hop on hop off bus ticket. It’s value for money and it can get you from one shrine to another. Just don’t mind standing as the bus is always full. Cost about 600 yen (adult) and 300 yen (child)

3. I suggest you visit Kiyomizu-Dera Temple first. It’s quite a long uphill walk from the bus stop to the shrine. There’s an entrance fee of about 300 yen. This place is popular and very nice during Spring as you can see some Cherry Blossom trees in full bloom. In Autumn, it is also very picturesque because the leaves are colorful.

Kiyomizu-Dera Temple

4. On your way down from Kiyomizu-Dera shrine, you will pass by the stores selling souvenirs and Japanese food. Don’t be shy to eat the samples. Grab some and drink the free tea. It will fill your tummy after all the hiking. Ha!ha!

5. Souvenirs like Japanese dolls are affordable in Kyoto. Just explore and check the stores selling the cheapest one. I got mine at the bottom area. I saved about 1,000 yen. The shops in the upper area tend to be more expensive. Explore the place and you’ll even see the Totoro shop inside one of the stores. My kids and their cousins were overjoyed to see so many cute stuff. 🙂

Totoro

6. Visit as many shrines as you can in Kyoto. Gion Shrine is also a nice one to visit. From there, you can walk to the Geisha District.

7. If you want to catch some geisha, you have to go to the Geisha District in Gion, Kyoto. Usually it’s dusk to night time that you can catch a glimpse of them alighting from a car and going inside one of the many dining places. It’s a bit expensive to dine in this area though. Also, as a tourist you have to act respectfully and take pictures discreetly.

8. If you want to experience the Shinkansen or the bullet train, I suggest you try it from Kyoto to Osaka. There’s a Shin-station in Kyoto. An expensive 10 minute train ride but totally worth it just for the experience of riding one. 🙂  In 2008, we paid about 1,200 yen per person and we were standing the whole time!

Shinkansen in Kyoto Station

Shinkansen in Kyoto Station

9. There are many dining places in Kyoto. But we were a large group and getting seats in a Japanese restaurant was quite hard. We ended up eating in our fave Ohsho restaurant near Gion Shrine. Kids also can’t get enough of the vending machines and the over the counter food at Lawson’s which made them full all the time. I can’t say the same for the adults though. 🙂

10. Kyoto station is huge and is a major transportation hub in Japan. If you want to go shopping on the way home, an Isetan department store is housed there. There’s also Yodobashi near the station that you can go to.

Explore, Enjoy, Experience. Then you’ll have many stories to tell and share. I hope you enjoy your trip as much as we did.

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo

The Wanderer in Osaka…

The reason why I fell in love with Japan is maybe because of Osaka and Kyoto. I’m glad I first set foot here instead of Metropolitan Tokyo. Don’t get me wrong for all of you Tokyo lovers. I appreciate Tokyo but will not tire of going back to Osaka. 🙂 Although, I am hoping to go to Hokkaido on my next trip sometime in the future. I would love to explore all of Japan hopefully before I get an arthritis. Ha!ha!

Anyway, I’d like to retrace some of the foot prints I’ve made in Osaka with this post. Hopefully it will help you or give you an idea of “touristy” places that might be interesting to visit or explore.

First is Osaka Castle. We took the JR Railway train to get to this place. Wear comfortable footwear as you will walk for about 15-20 minutes from the train station to the castle itself. Walking is good for our health and in this country I practiced walking for miles. I didn’t mind because it’s cold anyway during the times that I visited. I have no idea how it is during summer though!

Osakajokoen Station

Osakajokoen Station

View from the distance of Osaka Castle during Autumn

View from the distance of Osaka Castle during Autumn

View from the top floor of Osaka Castle

View from the top floor of Osaka Castle during Autumn

Osaka Castle from afar during Spring

Osaka Castle from afar during Spring

Osaka Castle during Spring

Osaka Castle during Spring

Autumn will bring you colorful leaves which I really like but Spring time will let you see the Cherry Blossoms which is abundant in this area. Usually it’s early April and will only be for a short time. There’s an entrance fee of about Y600 (adult) if you decide to go inside the castle and if I remember it correctly, kids go in for free.

Before the one in Singapore was built, there’s Universal Studios Japan which was the first one in Asia. I don’t know if they’ve updated it already to cater to English speaking tourist but when we went there before it was a lost in translation kind of day. But we loved it because it has the E.T. Adventure, Jaws, Jurassic Park and Back to the Future rides! The Hollywood Dream ride is also cool plus they also have the Waterworld show. It’s different from the one in America and something new to experience so if you are up to it, go and visit. Try to be an early bird though so you can experience all the rides! Check out their entrance ticket fee and new offerings at this site: http://www.usj.co.jp/e/

Even if you’ve been to other theme parks, you’ll still enjoy this one. We did because Spiderman speaks Japanese! 🙂

People young and old appreciates Den-Den Town! I was so amazed at the volume of the toys being sold in this area. Tall buildings side by side selling toys. We didn’t go home empty handed and even the hubby bought a toy that until now he has yet to start building. Ha!ha! My kids were in heaven and couldn’t get enough. And as usual, I was there to police every purchase that can or cannot be bought. There’s always a budget in every trip and we should stick to it.

 Grab some Takoyaki at Dotonbori area. One of the popular tourist spot in Osaka. It’s lively and there are a  lot of stores and restaurants in this area. I enjoyed watching all the people, locals and fellow tourist in this very busy place.

That’s all for now. Hope the foot prints you’ll make in Osaka will be as enjoyable and memorable as mine. 🙂

xoxo,

the traveling KANGaroo