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5 Ways to Travel around Tokyo
I have been in Japan for four months and so far I have not yet left Tokyo. There are a number of reasons for this, including the fact that I have not had much time off of work, I have not had much money to travel, and, the biggest reason of all, I'm still in the process of exploring Tokyo itself.Every weekend I try to do something new - whether it's going to temples or shrines, trying out the taxi system, or having the ride of my life. There is always something exciting to do here and I reckon that I have not even uncovered an eighth of the city's wonders.But there is a method to my madness. I have certain techniques to finding things to do in this huge and diverse city... and I'm about to share five of them with you...Please note: These techniques can be used to explore any large city with a good public transport system.1. Google MapsGone are the days of pinning a map to the wall and throwing a dart to see where you should travel to (if those days even existed). Now, thanks to the traveler's miracle - Google Maps - we have a much more detailed terrain to throw our darts at.But how do we throw our metaphorical darts on Google Maps, I hear you ask?Well what I do here is pick a station - any station - that is within a reasonable distance from my home. I then zoom in real close and a whole bunch of little pins start popping up. Well, ladies and gentlemen, if you've used Google Maps before (as I'm sure you all have), you can click on those pins to get more information about what's there. In fact, there is a little key that you can use to know what each pin means. You can then save your favourite spots and use the directions to tool to find the best way to get there.Even if you're not the plan-out-my-entire-day type of person, you can still make use of Google Maps when you've gotten lost after a particularly complicated exploration adventure. Indeed, you can use it to find your way home, or to a nice cheap hotel nearby. You can even use the Google Maps Review service that let's you know if the local hotel is a haunt for local murderers.2. Travel WebsitesSpeaking of Google, there are plenty of travel websites that are only a Google search away. Type in any city, the area you want to to to, and what you would like to do. Generally, a few websites should pop up at the top of your search page. However, I would recommend using more than one website and maybe cross checking to see if these places are actually worth going to.Personally, I swear by four websites: Time Out Tokyo, Trip Advisor Tokyo, Japan Guide, and, my personal favourite, Tokyo Cheapo. The great thing about Tokyo Cheapo, as the name implies, is that it shows you all of the cheap events and attractions all around Tokyo. I have used this many times to find great out-of-the-way restaurants, free museums, temples and shrines, as well as some great events.These websites are great if you're a love-to-plan-out-my-whole-day type of person (like me). And even if you're not, you can still use these websites as a starting point - a way to find events, or at least the cost of traveling to one particular area. The websites also offer some excellent information about Tokyo and different tips and tricks for exploring the city.So make sure you check them out if your ever come to Japan.3. GeocachingHands up: Who like treasure hunting? Well why not go treasure hunting in the middle of a vastly populated city? Impossible, you say? Well let me introduce Geocaching.Geocaching is essentially modern day treasure hunting, and although I have not yet done it myself in Japan, I think it's a great way to explore any city, town, or even wild, overgrown areas. Basically, geocaches are 'treasure chests' that come in varying sizes and are hidden almost anywhere in the world. All you have to do is sign up to their website, find the nearest geocach, and go!What's great about geocaching is that you get to explore out-of-the-way places - whether it's exploring a residential area, a teeming city centre, or a calming forest area. And while you're out geocaching,you could easily stumble into tucked away little areas that most tourists never visit. You could find some excellent local restaurant or discover a tiny little trinket store - you never know what you might find.You can find all the information you need on the geocaching website, and I reckon that it is a great way to find out-of-the-way and out-of-the-ordinary places in any city or area.4. AppsAlthough many of the above websites have their own apps, I felt that there are many different 'app only' apps that can be used in very creative ways - as you can utilise them to not only explore the city, but also to meet interesting people along the way.There are your typical apps like Meetups where you can choose your interests and meetup with like-minded people in any given area. These apps are of course good for finding different events that most tourists will not be aware of (and of course they're in many different languages). However, you can also use other types of apps, like Tinder and OKCupid, to meet people in the city that you are visiting and maybe find some locals to show you around. Now I haven't done this personally, but I knew this Swiss woman who did this using Tinder - she didn't lead anyone on, but she would use it to meet locals and go to places that aren't in most guidebooks.There's also a great app that I occasionally use called HelloTalk. This app not only connects you with people whose language you're trying to learn, but it also connects you with people in many different areas. Therefore, you can use it to make friends in any city and maybe meet up with some interesting people in interesting places.5. Just GoAlthough I am a 'plan-out-my-day' type of person, there's nothing that I enjoy more than occasionally just winging it. Just going around the city without any serious planning. It's true that I might have some idea of the area that I would like to visit, but generally I will just walk around on the streets and enter any shop, restaurant, or entertainment center that takes my fancy. In fact, the best way to 'just go' in Tokyo is to either rent a bicycle for the day, or take the train and get off at some random stop. I have explored the areas around almost every one of my train stops on my way to work - even if there is nothing about that place in any guidebook, there are still plenty of things to see and do.Just make sure that if you do decide to use any of these methods that you still keep your Google Maps with you in case you get lost and need help getting back home. It might also be a good idea to bring a phrasebook with you in case you get lost in an area with no English speakers... This can happen, even in the heart of Tokyo.For more stories about my travels around Tokyo, visit my blog at boothinjapan.wordpress.com and subscribe to my YouTube Channel
Suicide In Japan: Reasons & Solutions
Hey, what’s up! My name is Nobita, a native Japanese guy who was born and raised in Japan. Writing in English is terrifying! This is a big challenge for me. Please readers! Don’t be too hard on me!My very first post on City-Cost is about suicide in Japan as I made a video about the subject recently. Why many Japanese "Commit Suicide" in Japan? (Sorry, I was a little bit too emotional at that time, so it might seem like I’m a little crazy).Let me explain in more detail.Suicide in Japan is a huge issue. Statistics say that more than 250,000 people in Japan take their own life every single year. Among developed countries, Japan has an extremely high suicide rate. This is definitely not something we can be proud of. As a Japanese person, it makes me really sad.Maybe this situation doesn’t make sense to you, right? Japan is economically so successful, and such a great country. Many people have decent jobs and can make money enough to live their own lives. Even though, “The more money, the happier.”, doesn’t apply to everyone, you may be a little confused.But it’s no mystery for me. Every time I take the train in Tokyo, the faces of the people look very tired, sad, and have no energy at all. You can easily see how stressful and painful their situations are.Studies or statistics about suicide in Japan aside, I’m gonna talk about the reasons for suicide in Japan only from my perspective. In my opinion, there are 2 major reasons. 1. Too much work Actually, I know well how hard and stressful typical Japanese companies are, as a person who has experienced them. (I’m self-employed right now though, so I don’t belong to any company currently).Imagine, 6am get up. 11pm get home and immediately go to bed. This is not only on weekdays. Sometimes even weekends. This is not joking.How would you feel?To make matters worse, in my case, I didn’t like the job at all so everyday meant nothing to me. I was hoping tomorrow never comes. I was always working insane hours and looking back, I felt like I was a prisoner. Of course the paycheque was coming in each month, so I was stable, at least financially. That being said, it was definitely NO LIFE AT ALL.Many Japanese companies have a strong work-ethic environment, meaning your first priority should be your job. Your family or friends or anything else is secondary. It’s not rare to work even weekends in Japan.If you truly love your job, there is no problem at all. But if you don’t, you would get so much stress, and, for many, end up taking your own life. 2. Too much pressure from parents Going university is really important in Japan. Society or media or TV tells you, "You should definitely go!”. Some people believe going to a famous university is the only way to get a job and become a successful person.As a result, many parents are crazy to make their children go to university regardless of their children’s will. Fortunately for me, my parents didn’t push me too hard to go to university (I went by my own will). But I heard some parents force their children to study all day, every single day from an early age to get in a famous university or to achieve academic success. Obviously not every child likes studying. Everyone has different likes and dislikes. If you are doing things you dislike too much, stress levels will get higher and you may end up in a hopeless situation.A sad fact about suicide in Japan is, even so many young people also take their own lives. Compared to other countries, the rate is extremely high. Of course, there are a lots of reasons, but one of them is definitely too much pressure from parents, I think. My actionAs a native Japanese person who truly loves Japan, I’m not happy about suicide in this country and couldn't just let it go.My action is to make people smile as much as possible. Every video I make is related to this, always. Sometimes I ask crazy questions just because I want to see people smile and show this to others. If you watch the below video, you can see what I’m talking about.
Meet Kagaya and his Izakaya Restaurant
Kagaya is a lovely restaurant located in Shimbashi Tokyo. He specializes in the Izakaya style of dining. Upon being seated, you'll be greeted in a song and dance in a very personal way. After a bit, he offered the drink menu to us. He delivered it to us, specifically me, also, in a very personal way.His menu, for one, was in a very professional font. He must of spent a lot of money on a media print shop to make this menu, which offered very descriptive items.I chose:"Ah, I can finally get off of work, I'm starving man, master would you get me something good please."For the drink menu, they had pretty much anything a regular Izakaya style restaurant would have. But in order to make us feel as comfortable as possible, he wanted us to pick the country we were from, and he would serve us our drinks as accurate to that culture as possible. For example, one table ordered their drinks Brazilian style.Now that we had an idea of the accuracy of his widespread knowledge of different cultures, we decided to choose America.Many other things happened that night that made the experience wholly unique and memorable. If you'd like to know more, please see my youtube video on the experience. It may contain spoilers, so please watch at your own risk.Check me out on YouTube: Janglish Jerry
Going Above and Beyond
I'll admit I was pretty lazy before coming to Japan. To some extent I still am. But, Japan has changed me.It's not big revelation that people in Japan value a hard days work. Many salary-men will put in a six day work week and even working longer than the normal eight hours a day.They do sacrifice a lot to accomplish this. Family time, rest, relaxation and a host of many other things. They do it because in many cases it's expected of them. Sure, they do it for the money. You'd be hard pressed to find someone willing to work that long and hard for free.So, when I moved to Japan I knew that despite being a foreigner I was going to have to change. Obviously, no one was going to expect me to work those crazy hours or sacrifice all of my free time. But I knew, that for me, I would like to go above and beyond.This year I started coaching softball at my school. Certainly not because anyone asked. With the way our season started out I'm sure some people were wondering what I was even doing. That being said, no one required me to help out. I chose to. I chose to be a part of this team because something inside me changed.What am I sacrificing? A couple Saturday mornings. A few hours a week after school. So, what? Is my time so valuable that sleeping in is more important? Time when I wouldn't be doing anything anyways.For me going above and beyond was a no brainer. It surprised the people at my school. It's even surprised me! As the season comes to an end I feel I made the right decision. Sure we didn't win every game but I learned that a little hard work isn't so hard after all. It was all about being a part of something bigger, something bigger than just my "look out for number one" mentality. So, from now on when people ask, "how has Japan changed you"? This experience will be my response. What will your response be?
Tokyo One Piece Tower
If you are a fan of the #1 manga and anime series or even have a slight understanding of what it is, then this is a great place to visit. With themed attractions/activities based around each of the 7 main characters, this will bring you hours of fun. Located on 3F of Tokyo Tower, it opens at 10am and you can purchase tickets from the machines at the entrance. As you enter, make your way through an array of interactive comic panels before entering a room in which reside life-size models of Luffy and the crew (perfect for photo opportunities). Take the escalator to the next floor and the fun begins (your ticket admits you access to all of the activities/games an unlimited amount of times).There is Ussop's Road to Sogeking, a game in which you compete against 4 other competitors to strike down models of marines with a catapult. Successfully knock all 7 down and you have the chance to shoot down a flag which appears from behind a hidden screen, hit all the marines and the flag within 60 seconds and you'll win yourself a special Sogeking mask.Nami's Casino House: 3 casino style games in which you have to select the 'winner' by pressing the corresponding coloured button on a console in front of you (up to 12 players compete against each other at any one time). The first game is a race between 3 giant ducks and a camel; the second is a 'wheel of fortune'; and in the final game you must choose what will happen when Nami spins her magic stick: will it create lightning, rain, heat or cold. If you accumulate 300,000,000 in digital prize money then you win a special prize (a custom Nami credit card).Nico Robin's Ponoglyph Finder: take up your very own den-den-mushi and go in search of strange glyphs hidden all around the exhibition. You have 30 minutes to find as many as you can- place the den-den-mushi on the glyph and it will tell you if the glyph is real or fake: find enough real ones to get your picture on the digital display with the highest bounty.Brook's Haunted House: make your way through dark passageways in search of the sleeping zombie into who's mouth you are to place the blessed salt ball- be prepared for a fright or two!Zorro's Soul of Edge: enter your own private room and do battle with the marines. With a plastic sword and a projected screen in front of you, cut down incoming cannonballs- cut enough and you'll find yourself face-to-face with a boss marine- copy Zorro and perform the special technique to defeat him (make sure to strike a good pose, as this one is caught on camera!).Chopper's Thousand-Sunny Tours: take a tour of the infamous Strawhat crew's ship and discover where your favourite characters go to eat, sleep and play. There's also a chance to peep in on a character in the shower... be careful though, as you may be in for a bit of a surprise!Franky's Cafe: Franky has his own cafe in the attraction, serving a few snacks but only one drink- Cola (of course). Inside this cafe is a Franky-themed gachapon machine where you play the pinball-style game to win an exclusive prize.Sanji's Restaurant: located on the ground floor of Tokyo Tower, Sanji has his own restaurant where you can enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet for JPY2500 (£13.50).Luffy's Story: walk through various passageways including a house of mirrors and a spinning, burning bridge as you recollect Luffy's journey so far, culminating with a 4D cinema room where you relive some of his most iconic fights from the anime (complete with wind, heat, water and smoke machines).Live-action Show: watch your favourite characters for real! As you enter the 'cave' you are given a magic crystal, a host will appear on stage to set the scene and show you the special moves for activating the crystal (a bit of an arm wobble). The lights go out and the actors appear in very convincing costumes- they embark on an adventure in the cave, end up fighting shadow versions of themselves and of course need your help to save the day.For adults, entry costs JPY2600 (£14) and it is definitely worth checking out.