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Megan
Megan

Megan is a freelance editor and journalist based in Tokyo.

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Culture in the Capital: Top 5 Art Galleries in Tokyo

Although Tokyo is the center of Japanese politics and economy, it is also the heart of Japanese culture. The city has a vast amount of multi-faceted and unique galleries, which are scattered across the city. Here are some worth visiting.  Mori Art Museum At the top of a 54-story skyscraper in Roppongi, the Mori Art Museum is the behemoth of the Tokyo art scene. The museum's inaugural retrospective of Yayoi Kusama presented a labyrinth of polka-dot-infused installations, while the current Go Betweens exhibition by photographer Jacob A. Riis is in an attempt to look at the world through a child's eyes. After touring the galleries, head to the observation deck on the floor below, where you'll find unrivaled 360-degree views of the metropolis. Admission price: ¥1,50053F Roppongi Hills Mori Tower, 6-10-1 Roppongi, Minato-ku Wednesday–Monday, 10am–10pm; Tuesday 10am–5pm 03-5777-8600 www.mori.art.museum/eng/index.html Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo As Japan's most popular museum of contemporary art, this museum houses nearly 4,500 domestic and foreign works of art. It features an array of contemporary art exhibitions, including permanent collections that allow visitors to experience the flow of the art, distinctive special exhibitions such as large-scale international exhibitions, as well as paintings, sculptures, fashion, architecture, and design. The museum facilities include an art library, where visitors can search for art-related information. Admission price varies: ¥500–1,000 4-1-1 Miyoshi, Koto-ku, Tokyo, 135-0022 10am–6pm (closed on Mondays) 03-5405-8686 www.mot-art-museum.jp/eng/ Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography Japan's only museum specializing in photography and imagery features three exhibition galleries that display works of photographers and image creators from within and outside Japan, as well as 28,000 collections. In addition, films specially selected are screened in the hall on the ground floor. Other facilities at the Ebisu Garden Place gallery include a museum shop, cafe, and a library. Don't miss the annual World Press Photo Contest, where the winning shots of over 5,000 photojournalists from around the world are displayed. Admission price varies: Free–¥900 Yebisu Garden Place, 1-13-3 Mita Meguro-ku 10am–6pm (until 8pm on Thursday and Friday); closed Mondays 03-3280-0099 http://syabi.com/e/contents/index.html National Art Center, TokyoA unique and innovative art exhibition facility, the center focuses on serving as a venue for various art exhibitions, instead of maintaining a permanent collection. In its 14,000 square meters of exhibition space—one of the largest in Japan—it houses several small exhibitions being run at the same time, focusing on ceramics, photography, drawings and paintings. Designed by architect Kisho Kurokawa, the center also promotes outreach activities through its educational programs, and the Art Library serves to collect and disseminate information related to art. Admission price: ¥1,600 7-22-2 Roppongi Minato-ku Tokyo 106-8558 10am–6pm (closed Tuesday) 03-5777-8600 www.nact.jp/english/ National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo (MOMAT) One of several museums and other attractions located in Kitanomaru Park, MOMAT displays an extensive collection spread out over three floors. The collection focuses mainly on Japanese modern art from around 1900 through the 1950s and 1960s, although they have a small section of more contemporary art. Noteworthy features of the permanent collection are portraits by early Japanese modernist Kishida Ryusei and wartime paintings. Admission price: ¥430 3-1 Kitanomaru-koen, Chiyoda-ku, 102-8322 10am–5pm (open until 8pm on Fridays); closed Monday 03-5777-8600www.momat.go.jp/english/

  • Living
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  • Tokyo

Let's Go Camping!

The Japanese love outdoor life, especially camping, which offers a good alternative to staying at typical Western or business hotels, or ryokan. Families with kids will appreciate the experiences you can get away from urban life. As we enter the Fall season, and the weather starts to get more bearable, camping can be an economical and fun way to enjoy the Japanese countryside and make the most out of your trip to the many scenic spots around Japan.Some 3,000 campgrounds (camp-jo) are scattered all over the country, while campsites where vehicles are allowed to park in tent sites (auto camp-jo) are also common. Mostly owned and managed by public bodies, Japanese campsites offer various facilities and equipment—from showers, cooking utensils, and rental tents, to hot springs, tennis courts, and playgrounds. Generally well equipped and clean, facilities vary between campsites and may not be the same standard as those in Europe and the United States—depending on your previous camping experiences.Most campsites here rent or sell all the necessary camping supplies, including tents, sleeping bags, foldable chairs, and tarpaulins (food and clothing is never available). While all campgrounds differ, they are often located right next to, or in close proximity to, hot springs and are set in beautiful natural environments. During the summer holidays many campsites in scenic spots around the country are besieged by campers. If you plan to camp during the summer, or even during long weekends, early reservations are recommended. In addition, there are check-out and check-in times at each campground so it may be helpful to note these times when making a reservation. If camping in the colder winter months, some may be closed so inquire beforehand.One issue that may arise when camping in Japan is finding a suitable campsite. Although the majority are connected by a bus network, some can be difficult to access and driving may be the only transport method. I recommend checking the location and available transportation before embarking on your trip so as not to be caught out. In addition, don’t hesitate to visit tourist information centers to get information about local campsites. If driving isn't possible, it may be worth choosing a campground within walking or cycling distance from a train station.Although very reasonable, daily charges at campsites range considerably. While it is more common to charge a set fee per night, some also include a charge per person. Expect to pay between ¥500 and ¥2,500 per night, while some are completely free of charge. If you have been in Japan for any time at all, you have probably noticed that the Japanese love to be well-equipped for all outdoor activities. And camping is no different. Tokyo is littered with outdoor shops, but the best by far, I believe, for camping equipment is Montbell. Their self-inflating mattresses (¥10,000)and pillows (¥2,500) are reasonably priced and worth purchasing to help make your camping experience even more enjoyable, and comfortable. While there are hundreds of campgrounds worth visiting, here are a few suggestions for sites closer to Tokyo for a visit during the Fall months:TohokuKotakamori Auto Camp-joSohara-yama, Hibara, Kita Shiobara-mura, FukushimaTel: (0241) 32-2334Access: 40 minutes by bus bound for Bandai-kogen Hibara from Inawashiro Station, Banetsu-saisen LineOpen: All year roundPrice: ¥1,575 per personActivities: Lake Sohara, Goshikinuma Marshes; fishing, boating, hiking, and cyclingKantoHikawa Camp-joHikawa, Okutama-machi, TokyoTel: (0428) 83-2134Access: 5-minute walk from Okutama Station, Oume LineOpen: All year round (closed: December 28–January 5)Price: ¥700 per personActivities: Tama River; fishing, swimming, and hikingAshinoko Camp-muraMoto-Hakone, Hakone-machi, KanagawaTel: (0460) 84-8279Access: 45-minutes by bus from Hakone-Yumoto Station, Odakyu LineOpen: All year roundPrice: ¥1,575 per tentActivities: Lake Ashi, boating, fishing, and hikingChubuSaiko Camp Village GNOMESaiko, Fujikawaguchiko-machi, YamanashiTel: (0555) 82-2650Access: 20 minutes by bus from Kawaguchiko Station, Fuji Kyuko LineOpen: All year roundPrice: ¥1,000 per tentActivities: Lake Saiko, hot spring; boating, cycling, hiking, tennis, and fishingFor more information on campgrounds, please visit: www.mapple.net/camp/; www.hatinosu.net/camp/

  • Living
  • Tokyo

Tasty, Cheap, and Wholesome Fast Food

Fast food can be so much more than oil-soaked fries and sloppy burgers that we are used to in most Western countries. Japan is full of their own fast-food chains, which are somewhat different to American chains with Japanese-friendly menus. Of course these do exist, such as the ubiquitous McDonalds, KFC, and Domino's Pizza, but Japanese fast-food outlets tend to use fresher “real” ingredients with better presentation. While you may not yet realize it, some of these have even made their way over to the States, and other countries around the world. Although I try to steer clear of fast food as there are so many other delicious options, fast food here is actually relatively healthy—or healthier than most—as well as convenient, cheap, and tasty. Everything you would hope for in a meal. The choices here are aplenty, but some of the favorite quick-service eateries in Japan are detailed below. MOS Burger Established way back when in 1972, MOS Burger is the second-largest fast-food franchise in Japan after McDonalds. It now has outlets in Taiwan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand,  Indonesia, South Korea and even Australia. MOS Burger’s motto is “Making people happy through food,” and they make many a customer happy with their menu that includes items such as hamburgers, hot dogs, rice dishes, and rice burgers that use buns made of rice instead of the usual bread-based bun. Burgers from ¥170 www.mos.co.jp/index.phpSukiya One of Japan's best-known gyuudon (beef on rice) joints, Sukiya has an impressive 1,856 outlets throughout Japan, with restaurants in China, Taiwan, and Brazil, too. While they serve a pretty delicious standard beef-bowl combination (beef, onion, ginger, rice) they also have plenty of other tasty options, such as other donburi (rice bowl dish) made from almost any ingredients, as well as curry. You can get your Sukiya fix anytime of the day or night as it is open 24 hours a day—of course. Prices start from ¥210 www.sukiya.jp/ First Kitchen Owned by drinks maker Suntory, First Kitchen has 126 stores around Japan, most of which are concentrated around the Kanto region of the country. The staple of its menu since its founding in 1977 has been its Bacon Egg Burger, but have branched out to serve pizza, pasta, fried chicken as well as somewhat unusual items such as croquette burgers, shrimp burgers, and katsu burgers. As a slightly humorous aside, the restaurant is often abbreviated as “Fakkin” (ファッキン). However, the company doesn't approve of this name—I can't imagine why—and even redesigned the logo in 2005 to emphasize the letters “FK”, as it prefers to be called. Burgers from ¥280 www.first-kitchen.co.jp/Yoshinoya No article on Japanese fast-food chains would be complete without mentioning the oldest and largest chain of gyuudon restaurants: Yoshinoya. First opened in 1899 at the Nihonbashi fish market in Tokyo, it now has stores all over Asia as well as in the US. The menu includes regular- and large-size beef and pork bowls, as well as raw and soft-boiled eggs to add to the dishes, and miso soup. Most outlets are open 24 hours a day, and the orange and white sign means it is pretty easy to find along the crowded city streets. Gyuudon (beef bowls) from ¥300 www.yoshinoya.comCoCo Ichiban Curry Like Japanese curry and need it fast?  Have no fear, Coco Ichiban Curry, Japan's top curry rice restaurant, is here. With millions—okay maybe not quite that many—of options, you can have curry with almost anything in it at CoCo. You can also choose how much rice you want and how spicy you would like your curry. The simple curry and cheese is a favorite of mine, and the katsu curry doesn't go down too badly either. The franchise can be found in eight other countries around the world, and even operates another fast-food chain called Pasta de Coco, although I have never been there—yet. Curry from around ¥300 www.ichibanya.co.jp/index.html

  • Living
  • Food
  • Tokyo

Bargains Galore at Japan's Second-hand Stores

Second-hand stores, called recycle shops in Japan, are a great place to get quality goods for cheap. Very cheap. Almost anything including clothing, books, furniture, electrical items, and even traditional knick knacks can be found here. Perusers of second-hand stores have been known to find items  that haven't even been used, with original price tags still intact! Although the Japanese have a long history of buying and selling used items—especially clothes (kimono) and books—the culture of looking after things very well means most Japanese consumers tend to turn their nose up at used items that show any significant wear and tear. This means there are many bargains still in almost perfect condition out there waiting for you to purchase! However, important to note is that bargaining and haggling is not the done thing in Japan, so don’t expect a discount if you don’t like the price. Recycle shops are popular with foreigners and locals alike as in Japan you actually have to pay to have larger unwanted items taken away by the garbage men. This means it is often easier—and cheaper—to take your unwanted goods to your local second-hand shop.  If the recycle shop is too far away, or the items are too difficult to transport, you can also ask them to come to your house to assess and pick up larger items, such as furniture. They may or may not pay you for your goods, or they may charge you a small fee to collect them—it depends on what they are looking for, and what condition your items are in. You don’t have to agree to the deal if you don’t like it, and if you have time, you could even try to have multiple stores come in for an assessment. For those looking to make your millions, recycle shops are not the place. Although reasonably priced for buyers, sellers won't get much for their items, but are great for those looking to get rid of items quickly and conveniently. If you're looking to make a bit more money, but still need quick action on disposing of goods, try Craigslist, which is garnering increasingly more interest among the foreign community in Japan. You can even find around Tokyo large chain stores that sell used furniture. The slightly upmarket ones seem to source some cool, designer-style stuff that looks like it came from bankrupted boutique cafés, salons, and the homes of recently expired wealthy Tokyoites. The main areas in central Tokyo you can find recycle shops are Yoyogi, Shimokitazawa, and Koenji, which are known for having an eclectic and fashionable atmosphere. However, areas further afield outside the Yamanote line seem to house many more of these shops and may be a more lucrative shopping experience. A favorite of mine for second-hand wares are the chain stores called Book Off (books, CDs, DVDs, mobile phones), Hard Off (electronics, games, musical instruments), and Mode Off (clothes). Others in the group include Garage Off (car parts), Hobby Off (toys and games), and Off House (everything). Although they may be somewhat humorously named, these stores are amazing and sell the largest range of second-hand items I have ever seen! The Book Off group is probably the most common, with one in almost every neighborhood around Tokyo—although they do range considerably in size and amount of stock. These are great places to pick up second-hand English books, and range in price from a very reasonable ¥100 to an upper limit of around ¥500. Happy shopping! Sun Field second-hand store: www.ecology-life.com/english/index.html Craigslist: craigslist.jp/ Book Off: www.bookoff.co.jp/ Hard Off: www.hardoff.co.jp/ New York Joe Exchange: newyorkjoeexchange.com/

  • Living
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  • Money
  • Education
  • Tokyo

Getting Around: The Clever Way

Japan has one of the best public transportation systems in the world: modern, developed, comfortable, and efficient. However, traveling in Japan and around Tokyo on Shinkansen (bullet train), Japan Rail (JR) trains, or by bus is very expensive, especially when you have more than just one destination. Luckily, there are many travel passes available that can help to make your holiday in Japan a lot cheaper, and sometimes easier. The passes below can be purchased at travel service centers at main train stations in Tokyo, or some can even be bought online. Travel passes really are the smart way to get around Japan! R EAST PASS Unlimited travel on all JR East Shinkansen and limited express trains for five consecutive days. Can be used on any five days within the 14-day validity period from the date of issue. Only visitors to Japan are eligible. ¥22,000; www.jreast.co.jp/e/eastpass JR KANTO AREA PASS Three days of unlimited travel on JR East Shinkansen and limited express trains in the Kanto region. Only valid on consecutive days. Passport is needed to purchase. ¥8,300; www.jreast.co.jp/e/kantoareapass/ JAPAN RAIL PASS Can be used on all JR trains — including Shinkansen — as well as buses and ferries during the validity period (7,14 or 21 consecutive days after exchange). Only visitors to Japan are eligible; cannot be purchased within Japan. ¥29,110–59,350; www.japanrailpass.net TOKYO TOUR TICKET (TOKYO FURII KIPPU)  This one-day ticket allows unlimited travel on local and rapid JR East trains within Tokyo, all Tokyo Metro and Toei subway lines, Toei buses, the Nippori-Toneri Liner and the Tokyo Toei Streetcar Arakawa Line. ¥1,590; www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/tokyo_free.html TOKYO METRO ONE-DAY OPEN TICKET Valid for a day’s travel on all Tokyo Metro lines. ¥710; www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/1day/ COMMON ONE-DAY TICKET FOR TOKYO METRO & TOEI SUBWAY One-day travel on all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines.  ¥1,000; www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/1day/ TOEI ONE-DAY ECONOMY PASS Unlimited use on the Toei subway lines, Toei buses, Toei Streetcar (Toden) Arakawa Line and the Nippori-Toneri Liner for one day. ¥700; www.kotsu.metro.tokyo.jp/eng/tickets/value.html RINKAI LINE ONE-DAY TICKET  Unlimited one-day travel on the Rinkai line. ¥700; www.twr.co.jp/lg/en/fare.html TOEI BUS ONE-DAY ECONOMY PASS Valid for one-day unlimited use of Toei buses around Tokyo. ¥500; www.kotsu.metro.tokyo.jp/eng/services/bus_ticket.html  METRO & GRUTT PASS 2014 Combines two Tokyo Metro One-day Open Tickets and the Tokyo Museum Grutt Pass 2014 to provide discounted entry to 78 points of interest around Tokyo. Valid for two months from the date of initial use. ¥2,800; www.tokyometro.jp/en/ticket/value/other/ YURIKAMOME ONE-DAY PASS One-day unlimited travel on the Yurikamome line.  ¥820; www.yurikamome.co.jp/en/fare_ticket/other_ticket/ MT. TAKAO TICKET A one-day round-trip ticket from any station on the Keio or Keio Inokashira lines to Takaosanguchi Station, as well as a one-way or round-trip ticket for the Takaosan Cable Car or Lift. 20% discount; www.keio.co.jp/english/riding/discount.html

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  • Tokyo

Working Out in Tokyo

Tokyo may be one of the world's most densely populated cities, but that is no excuse to forgo that oh-so-important fitness regime doctors are always telling us about. We all know finding a place—and the time—to exercise can be difficult no matter where you live, but, surprisingly, the concrete jungle of Tokyo offers many different ways to workout, no matter your budget. For runners, the city offers a wide variety of trials and routes for enthusiastic and not so serious runners alike. Best of all, these cost absolutely nothing, and are also a great way to get to know the city. Some routes are even lined with running stations that provide lockers and showers for use before and after your run for a small fee. The Imperial Palace Perhaps the most popular and well-known running circuit in Tokyo, this route is about 5km in distance. Although it can be busy, the circuit offers beautiful views of the Palace as well as a crash course in Japanese history. Run Pit near Takebashi Station offers a shower plan for ¥600 to use the showers only, or ¥900 for use of showers and lockers. Stations: Otemachi, Hibiya or Takebashi. http://runpit.jp/pc/ Yoyogi Park Popular with both young and old, Yoyogi Park is a wonderful woodsy escape in the heart of urban Tokyo. Open 24 hours a day, the park provides a compact circuit with lots of facilities nearby. Freshen up at Wired Cafe Fit, which offers a selection of facilities. Stations: Meijijingumae or Harajuku  http://www.wiredfit.jp/ Komazawa Park Not far from Shibuya on the Denentoshi Line lies Komazawa Park, just next to Komazawa University. Here running tracks inside the park are covered with distance markers so you can gauge your progress. Surrounded by greenery, Komazawa Park is an excellent place to get in a short run. Other on-site facilities include tennis courts, gymnasium, basketball courts, and archery room, which may be used for a small fee. Stations: Komazawa Daigaku http://www.tef.or.jp/kopgp/en_index.jspHowever, when it comes to providing cost-friendly sports and exercise facilities, public sports centers can't be beat. One of Tokyo's best-kept secrets, almost every municipality (or ward) in the city has some type of public sports center or recreation facility. Daily use of local gyms will set you back less than ¥500, and while no registration or joining fees are required, some might require ID to certify that you work, reside, or study in the area.Meguro Citizens Center GymnasiumMeguro Citizens Center Gymnasium houses a range of facilities, including a weight training room, a basketball court, a volleyball court, four badminton courts, a heated indoor swimming pool, and an outdoor swimming pool that’s open during summer for the bargain price of ¥200! Anyone can use the facilities and there is no need to be a resident of Meguro.http://www.city.meguro.tokyo.jp/shisetsu/shisetsu/sports_shisetsu/center_gym/Shibuya Sports CenterFeaturing gymnasiums, pools, and athletic fields, the Sports Center is an all-around recreational facility. Everyone from kids to seniors can use the center, as long as you live, work, or study in Shibuya.Admission is ¥400 for adults and ¥100 for elementary and junior high school children.https://www.city.shibuya.tokyo.jp/eng/living/sports.htmlOther areasInformation on these centers can sometimes be difficult to find, so if you can't find anything online, ask at your local ward office for more information.Shinjuku-kuhttp://www.city.shinjuku.lg.jp/foreign/english/guide/shisetsu/shisetsu_3.htmlMinato-kuhttp://www.city.minato.tokyo.jp/multilingual/english.htmlTraditional gyms in Tokyo are, for the most part, overpriced and relatively small for the  amount of customers who use them. With joining fees and monthly membership fees, these are the priciest option. But, in typical Japanese style, they provide great service, are well-equipped, and are a great way to workout in the colder winter months. Most even have saunas, sento, practice golf-driving ranges, and a variety of classes. With great amenities and gyms clothes available for rent, you don't have to carry around bulky sports clothes all day and can feel refreshed after your workout.Most cost around ¥12,000 per month, although special discount campaigns are sometimes offered, especially around the change of season. Most offer day passes so you can decide if they are for you before signing up.Tokyo American Clubhttp://www.tokyoamericanclub.org/health-and-recreation/fitness-center.htmlKonami Sports Clubhttp://www.konamisportsclub.jp/Gold's Gymhttp://www.goldsgym.jp/Tipnesshttp://www.tipness.co.jp/

  • Living
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An Introduction to Japanese Hot Springs

Japanese people have enjoyed onsen (hot springs) for hundreds of years. So it's about time you started enjoying them, too! Onsen are truly one of Japan's unique cultural experiences and provide a great way to socialize and enjoy Japan. In the Edo period (1603–1868), the habit of bathing at onsen spread rapidly among the public and it soon became popular to spend weeks at places with hot springs for rest and recuperation. Heated by geothermal energy, the different minerals dissolved in the water are said to provide distinct health benefits, and all hot springs are perfect for getting squeaky clean as well as relaxing the body and mind. Hot springs come in many forms: indoors or outdoors, gender separated or mixed, fancy or plain, and themed or, errrm, not themed. You can find them in hotels and traditional inns (ryokans), or in day spas and even in your neighborhood.Don't be scared of stripping down to your birthday suit; visitors to Japan often miss out on the joys of the Japanese hot spring. You will be amazed at how quickly the shyness disappears once you enter the soothing water! According to the Nippon Onsen Research Association, there are 3,185 onsen all over Japan. Back in the day, the citizens of Edo had to trek to spa towns outside the big city like Hakone and Atami to visit an onsen. However, today it is much easier to get your fix. You can now find a diverse range of onsen in and around Tokyo, from traditional public baths to massive, theme park-style complexes.  Onsen are often indicated on signs and maps by the symbol ♨ or 湯 (yu, meaning “hot water”). Sometimes ゆ (yu) is used, too.Below are some suggestions for every taste and budget. -Oedo Onsen Monogatari is Tokyo's first and only onsen theme park. Located in Odaiba in Tokyo Bay, this giant super onsen is modeled on an Edo period town. There is a huge variety of tubs, as well as restaurants, relaxation rooms and shops. You can even get a massage and spa treatments. ¥1,980 (adults), and ¥1,480 for admission after 6pm. http://www.ooedoonsen.jp/daiba/english/ -Neighborhood onsen Even locals are surprised at how many sento baths can be found in central Tokyo. Often located up side streets or between big buildings, these bathhouses can sometimes be hard to spot but keep your eyes peeled for the ubiquitous ゆ (yu) found at the entrance. Prices are very reasonable and can range from about ¥200 to ¥500. -Enoshima Island Spa (Enospa) This is one of my favorite places to go to relax. Located about an hour from Tokyo in the seaside town of Enoshima, Enospa has 10 outdoor and indoor pool areas, as well as a bath area, spa, cafe, and restaurant. Mt. Fuji can often be glimpsed from one of the ocean-side pools on a clear day. ¥2,400 (adults), 10a.m–10p.m; ¥1,440 (adults), 7–10p.m http://enoshimaislandspa.com -Hakone Kowakien Yunessun  This hot springs spa resort and water amusement park is located in Hakone—one of the best onsen resort areas in Japan—and just over one hour by train from Tokyo. The Yunessun spa resort has 25 spa-related services, including amusement spas, which are themed onsen whereby you can bathe in real green tea, sake, red wine, or even coffee. The Mori No Yu area is much more traditional, but both are worth a visit. ¥4000 (adults) for both areas. http://www.yunessun.com/english/

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100 Yen Stores: Quality Goods on the Cheap

100 yen shops (100円ショップor hyakku en shoppu) are discount stores that sell a wide range of products for the bargain price of only 100 yen (plus 8 yen consumption tax). Yes, EVERYTHING from snacks, stationery and tableware to kitchen goods, cleaning products and even make-up can be found here. The general rule is if you can't find something you are looking for, no matter how offbeat, you can probably find it at a 100 yen shop. Surely products sold this cheap must be rubbish quality, I hear you cry. No, actually. The standard of the products vary, but is generally pretty decent and well-worth what you pay. While not a lifelong purchase, most items will last for a good length of time. I have very rarely bought something that has actually broken, although sometimes you may just end up with an item you weren't quite expecting. There are thousands of 100 yen shops across the country, and range in size from multistory stores that sell absolutely everything to smaller shops that sell a limited selection of basic goods. The biggest chain is Daiso, which can now also be found in the US. One of the larger 100 yen shops in Tokyo is Daiso Harajuku on Takeshita Dori—a well-known tourist spot in the Harajuku area. Keep your eyes peeled while walking around the city and you are sure to find one every couple hundred meters or so. 100 yen shops usually sell their own branded goods that generally can't be found in other stores. As well as the usual wares, the stores stock a good selection of seasonal items. Going to a halloween party and missing that vital final piece of your scary outfit? No problem. Pop into a 100 yen shop and they are likely to have it. It's valentines day and you forgot to buy your male colleagues chocolates—as is customary in Japan—don't worry, the 100 yen shop will have something you can give them.  Need to buy a last-minute souvenir for a family member or friend? The 100 yen shop is one of the best places to visit when looking for gifts and you are sure to find something cool, quirky or just plain weird to take home. While Japanese supermarkets are known for their over-priced fresh fruit and vegetables, the Lawson Store 100 chain sells a wide variety of food items and even a range of fresh fruit and vegetables priced. Not everything is priced at 100 yen, but is still a lot cheaper than your local supermarket or convenience store. Although not as common as your average 100 yen shop, these stores really are amazing value, even for those not on a tight budget.  Beware that quality and choice varies between stores, so find one with a good selection. The stock often varies so you sometimes might not be able to find your favorite product. Oh, and they are open 24 hours a day, of course. For more info: Daiso http://www.daiso-sangyo.co.jp/english/ Lawson 100 store http://store100.lawson.co.jp

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