Menu

Area Information

Search

RenaeLucasHall
RenaeLucasHall

Renae Lucas-Hall is a novelist and writer of Japanese fiction and non-fiction. Renae has published three books: Tokyo Hearts: A Japanese Love Story, Tokyo Tales: A Collection of Japanese Short Stories, and Tokyo 2060: Welcome to the Future. Find out more about Renae at cherrryblossomstories.com.

Area of Residence
Tokyo
Area of Interest
Tokyo
Blog Title
Cherry Blossom Stories Blog
Blog URL
https://www.city-cost.com/blogs/RenaeLucasHall
Follow for updates
Spread the word

RenaeLucasHall's Activity

8 Tips to Help You Choose a Hotel in Tokyo

1. LOCATION: Tokyo is vibrant and energetic but it can also be tiring and quite frustrating for first-time visitors who are trying to navigate their way around this incredible city. Therefore, it’s important to choose a hotel that is convenient and readily accessible to the major tourist attractions. One of the best and easiest ways to choose a hotel in Tokyo is to stay somewhere that has good access to the Yamanote Line. This is a circular railway loop that stops at nearly all of the major train stations. If you choose a hotel next to Shibuya, Shinjuku, Akihabara, Ueno, Harajuku, and even Ikebukuro train station on the Yamanote Line you will have easy access to many popular tourist attractions and shopping areas. Other areas such as Roppongi or Nishi-Azabu, Ginza, Hibiya, Nihonbashi, and Asakusa are also terrific locations because they are very central, although they are not on the Yamanote Line. Shinagawa is a good location if you're planning to travel on the Shinkansen bullet train at some point to other areas in Japan but it's not the best place to access the most popular attractions. Odaiba is a fun new area surrounded by restaurants and amusement parks but this area is also a bit too detached from the rest of Tokyo and I’ve heard quite a few people complain about this.  Try to avoid hotels next to Haneda or Narita Airports and hotels in Chiba, Kamakura, and even Yokohama. These areas are really quite far from the major attractions in central Tokyo so your travelling times and your travel costs will also be more if you stay in these areas. You will also need to change train lines multiple times if you stay in these outer areas and this can be very confusing, especially for tourists who don’t speak Japanese.  There is also another really great way  for you to literally see how convenient your hotel is before you book: Simply, copy and paste the hotel’s address into Google Earth and zoom in to the street where your hotel is located. Make sure your hotel is (a) centrally located compared to the other main areas in Tokyo, (b) close to a train station, (c) near a convenience store and a couple of restaurants and coffee shops.  2. TYPE OF HOTEL: Tokyo offers a plethora of hotel options. You can stay in a Godzilla themed hotel (The Hotel Gracery in Shinjuku) or a Hello Kitty themed room (Keio Plaza Hotel, Shinjuku), a traditional ryokan, a capsule hotel where you sleep in a pod (I recommend Book and Bed Tokyo - it has over 1,700 English and Japanese language books!), serviced apartments, and basic one-star hotels or luxurious five-star hotels such as the Imperial Hotel. You can also take part in a homestay with a Japanese family.  3. GOOD AND BAD AREAS IN TOKYO: Depending on what sort of tourist you are you should stay in an area that suits your needs. If you’re travelling with young children you should probably avoid the Kabuki-cho area in Shinjuku because this is basically the red light district in Tokyo. You’ll also probably want to avoid Roppongi because this is an area filled with bars, clubs and adult entertainment. Akasaka Mitsuke, Hibiya, Ebisu, Asakusa and Ginza are all very nice places to stay and they are considered to be five of the most reputable areas in Tokyo.  4. BOOK YOUR HOTEL ROOM AND YOUR PLANE TICKET TOGETHER: If you live in the UK I highly recommend the online travel company Expedia. On this website you can book your hotel room and flight together as part of a package deal. You should also subscribe to Expedia’s mailing list because they offer some great reductions on flight and hotel prices and you’ll get notifications for these sent straight to your inbox. JTB (Japan Travel Bureau) is also an excellent tour operator that can help you with a full range of standard and customised tours. JTB has offices and bilingual employees all over the world. I’m sure every country offers holiday package deals through online travel companies so do your homework before you book and you’ll definitely save a lot of money.  5. CHOOSE A HOTEL WITH BREAKFAST INCLUDED: If you’re staying in Tokyo for at least a week then you should definitely consider a hotel with breakfast included and it’s best to choose one with lots of variety. Quite a few three-star hotels offer a free Japanese breakfast and a Western breakfast with omelettes, sausages, meat patties, salad, bread rolls and croissants, orange juice and tea or coffee. This is the perfect way to start the day and a free breakfast could save you a lot of money.  6. PROS AND CONS OF HIGH MULTI-STOREY HOTELS: Some of the major hotels have at least 25 floors and although you can enjoy great views of Tokyo and even Mount Fuji on a clear day you are also more likely to feel frightened if an earthquake occurs and you're staying on one of the upper floors. I was staying in a room on a very high floor when I experienced an earthquake that measured above 6 on the Richter scale and I can assure you I was very scared. If this happens when you’re in Tokyo the room will move up and down and side to side, the elevator will not be in service, and you’ll be advised to stay in your hotel room. Call the hotel receptionist for advice, don't panic, and sleep in your clothes that night with your suitcase packed and ready to go if you're anxious. Hopefully, there will be no more earthquakes. One thing is for sure: If you experience an earthquake in Tokyo you'll definitely have a memorable trip.  7. SIZE OF YOUR ROOM: If you can speak at least basic Japanese then it would be a good idea to choose a hotel room in an area that is located on the outskirts of Tokyo because you’re more likely to get a bigger room. This would be an important factor if you’re staying for at least two weeks. I would only recommend you to do this if you’ve been to Japan before so you don’t get confused changing trains or finding your way around Tokyo. If you’re travelling alone I would advise you to book a room with a semi-double bed rather than a single bed and you’ll definitely be a lot more comfortable, especially if you're tall or an above average sized person. Take a look at the tourist photos for the hotel that you want to book on TripAdvisor and then you can get a good idea of how big your room is going to be. Also check to see if the room has a wardrobe to hang your clothes or enough space to store and open your suitcase. Some hotel rooms in central Tokyo are described as shoeboxes because there is hardly any room to move and you have to open your suitcase on the bed which can be annoying.  8. SMOKING AND NON-SMOKING ROOMS: I see a lot of people on TripAdvisor complaining that their room smelt of cigarette smoke when they checked in to their hotel in Japan. These people all seemed to be quite upset about this because they specifically booked a non-smoking room. Many people don’t realise that Japan is not as strict with their smoking laws so you may find it difficult to make a complaint about cigarette smoke to the concierge at your hotel. If cigarette smoke really bothers you, make sure you book a room at a hotel that is completely smoke-free. If this is not possible you also have another option. Many hotels in Tokyo are refurbishing some of their rooms in time for the Olympics in 2020 and they don’t want guests who are smokers in these rooms, so look for hotels that offer newly refurbished non-smoking rooms when you book and you’re more likely to get what you want. A lot of hotels are also offering air purifiers as standard in all their rooms and this can help a lot. Air purifiers are usually listed as part of the room amenities in the hotel descriptions.

  • Living
  • Money
  • Transportation
  • Tokyo

Why is Life in Tokyo So Good for Expats?

If you’re thinking about living in Tokyo you’re probably filled with excitement but at the same time you might be slightly apprehensive. That’s how I felt just before I left Australia for my first long-term stay in Japan many years ago. I was lucky I’d already made quite a few strong connections thanks to a previous six-week homestay experience, but I knew that after my arrival in Tokyo I would have to find a job, somewhere to live and cope all by myself without any support from my family. A lot of people send me messages on Twitter or via my website worried about whether they’re going to be okay living in Tokyo. When I reply, I almost always offer reassurance and tell these people they are going to love the experience and they’ll definitely have the time of their lives. Below are six reasons why I believe Tokyo is a great place for expats: 1. YOU'LL FEEL VERY SAFE IN TOKYO - Although Japan has had a rough ride since the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, it was recently reported that the radiation levels in Tokyo are less than Paris and London. - I’ve never had anything stolen from me in Japan. You could fall asleep on the train with your bag on your lap and it will most probably still be there when you wake up.- Crime is at a very low level in Japan. In fact, I’ve never been harmed in Tokyo and I’ve never come across aggressive or passive-aggressive personalities in Japan. Japanese people are renowned for their politeness and I always received the upmost respect from Japanese people when I worked as an English teacher in Tokyo. - Although I’ve experienced minor earthquakes in Japan, I’ve always been okay and I’ve never been injured during an earthquake. A lot of buildings in Japan are built to resist earthquakes and all I’ve ever felt is a lot of shaking and rattling but this didn’t continue for very long. 2. YOU CAN EARN AND SAVE A LOT OF MONEY: - The full-time rate for teaching English in Japan varies but the average salary is between ¥250,000 to ¥300,000 per month and even if you’re paying for rent, utilities and food you’ll still have lots of money left over at the end of the month for exploring other parts of Japan, shopping and going out. 3. THE SHOPPING IS JUST AS AMAZING FOR FOREIGNERS AS IT IS FOR JAPANESE PEOPLE: - I love to shop and Tokyo offers some of the most diverse and exciting shopping experiences in the world for women and men alike. There are a great choice of local and international big brands in Ginza, cute and kawaii fashions in Harajuku, electronics, manga and anime goods in Akihabara, independent boutiques in Daikanyama and Shimokitazawa, shopping and entertainment in Odaiba, bookshops for avid readers in Jinbocho and over sixty vintage and antique shops in Nishi-Ogikubo. You can read my Shopping Guide to Tokyo for more information.4. YOU'RE GOING TO LOVE ALL THE HEALTHY JAPANESE FOOD: - I love Japanese food. It’s healthy, delicious and satisfying. I’ll also share a secret with all the girls reading this blog post: There’s a good chance you’re going to lose weight if you live in Japan. The rice dishes, sushi, noodles and light meat dishes are less calorific and a lot lighter on the stomach than the meat and potatoes Westerners typically serve up - this means you’re almost certainly going to lose weight even without dieting!5. JAPANESE CULTURE IS CAPTIVATING AND EASY FOR EXPATS TO APPRECIATE: - The Japanese culture is beautiful, captivating and interesting. Even if you’re from a Christian background, you’ll still appreciate the Zen and Shinto temples and shrines, the beautiful landscapes and the traditional customs like ikebana and tea ceremony as well as the performing arts such as noh, kabuki and bunraku. Modern popular culture in Tokyo will certainly stimulate your senses and you’ll see street fashion on a scale you’ve never seen before. 6. OMOTENASHI WILL BE YOUR REASON FOR WANTING TO STAY IN JAPAN: - Omotenashi is a Japanese word that is difficult to translate into English but I truly believe it is omotenashi which makes Japan so special in just one word. You’ll have to visit Japan to truly understand omotenashi but for me it describes the genuine sincerity you receive in Japan where your every need is foreseen, as well as the kindness and hospitality you’ll surely receive from the Japanese people whether you’re in Tokyo or any other part of Japan. Omotenashi is what makes Japan so wonderful and I think it would have to be the feelings evoked from omotenashi that stir up the desire within me to return to Japan again and again. I’ve been to Japan six times so far and I’m sure I’ll return for at least another six visits. I would recommend everyone to experience Japanese omotenashi in their lifetime. It will live within you even after you’ve left Japan and I’m sure you’ll want to return to Japan in the future just to recapture this special feeling.

  • Living
  • Food
  • Shopping
  • Money
  • Fashion
  • Education
  • Tokyo

Japan’s Most Famous Fashion Designers

I started studying Japanese language and culture at university in Australia when I was seventeen.  At the same time, I worked part-time for a very popular fashion company called SABA. This is where I started to appreciate high-end fashion by Japanese designers and I began to understand why fashion is such an important part of a country’s culture. Most of the clothes at SABA were upmarket but reasonably expensive. Their designs were also extremely sought-after by men and women of all ages and therefore we were always busy. I was very lucky to work there for about four years and I enjoyed every moment. Joseph Saba, the man behind the label, has been described as “arguably the most creative force in Australian fashion”. I now live in the UK but I visited Australia a few years ago for a couple of weeks and although SABA was acquired by the Apparel group in 2005, I still thought SABA was the best place to shop. Many years ago when I was working for this popular retail brand, most of the clothes were sold under the SABA label but at that time SABA also sold a selection of elite items in their flagship store from Japanese designers such as Comme des Garçons by Rei Kawakubo, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake. I was very young when I worked at SABA so the older and more experienced sales assistants used to look after any customers who were interested in buying these exclusive pieces. However, this didn’t stop me from admiring the quality and aesthetic beauty that each piece represented. A few years later when I lived in Tokyo, I bought several pieces from all three designers and I know they’ll always be absolute classics which will never go out of fashion. By the way, my favourite Japanese designer is Yohji Yamamoto – I think his designs are just as clever as they are beautiful. There are many famous Japanese fashion designers that I could mention but I have always been drawn to Comme des Garçons, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake, probably because of my experience working with these brands at SABA. These designers are world famous. They have been around for decades but each item in every collection is timeless. As well as this, each fashion piece is a work of art and a good investment. If you’re in Tokyo take the Omotesando subway (Chiyoda, Ginza, Hanzōmon lines) exit A5 to visit the flagship stores in Minami-Aoyama for all three designers. Yamamoto is known for his innovative style and billowing navy and black designs. Step into his store in Minami-Aoyama and you’ll see what all the fuss is about. Try on the clothes and you’ll become an instant fan. Up close, the cut and the stitching on each of his designs will amaze you and leave you incredulous. Walk in his designs and you’ll feel like you’re wearing a piece of art. Yamamoto has collaborated with Adidas, Hermès, Mandarina Duck and many well-known celebrities. The Comme des Garçons label was started by Rei Kawakubo in 1969. Many of the designs have a distressed look, allowing the feminine to be blended with the masculine. Kawakubo’s designs often have a sculptured look about them. They are presented in monochromatic tones and they are never tight-fitting or revealing. Fabric is the most important consideration at the start of each design and each design is structured to allow the individual to express themselves and stand out in the crowd. Kawakubo’s designs were particularly popular in the 1980s because they represented strength and power. Issey Miyake studied graphic design at university and this explains the reasoning behind his technological innovations. His Pleats Please collection became instantly popular in the early 90s. Each piece is made of 100% polyester fabric and it doesn’t need to be ironed, making it extremely functional. Steam is used to create each fold in an origami-like fashion. Issey Miyake is currently using 3D steam stretch fabric to create even more futuristic designs. The perfume L’eau d’Issey is a bestselling scent that has become a symbol of sophistication.  

  • Living
  • Shopping
  • Fashion
  • Tokyo
  • Osaka

How to Find an Affordable Home in Tokyo

When I arrived in Japan to teach English for the first time over twenty years ago I was very worried about the cost of renting an apartment in Tokyo, but I was lucky to find a job in The Japan Times that provided free accommodation. At that time, Japanese companies were happy to provide free housing and waive the utility bills because English teachers were in high demand. Nowadays, it’s still very difficult to rent an apartment in Tokyo, especially if you’re not in full-time employment. Even if you do have a well-paid job, you’re still going to need a guarantor and a lot of money for the deposit. You’ll also have to cover the cost of expensive upfront fees and you’ll need to prove you earn a lot more than your monthly rent payments. These days, there are a lot more housing options available for foreigners in Tokyo so it’s much easier to arrive in Japan, find fairly cheap accommodation, and take your time to look for your perfect job. This is great news for anyone planning to live and work in Tokyo. Why don’t you spend a couple of months checking out this vast metropolis and exploring the city before you start full-time work? Tokyo is full of wonderful sightseeing spots, cultural attractions, shopping destinations and traditional restaurants and eateries. Save some extra money before you head to Tokyo and once you’ve settled into your apartment or share-house, take the time to enjoy everything Tokyo has to offer before you knuckle down and start working. Sakura House is a specialized real-estate agency in Tokyo offering comprehensive accommodation services to foreigners from all over the world and they work hard to meet the requirements for all types of nationalities. Sakura House can help you find short-term or long-term affordable and furnished apartments, share houses or dormitories just about anywhere in Tokyo. They only require ¥30,000 yen and the first month’s rent so you save a lot on upfront fees. You can make advanced reservations through their website before you arrive in Tokyo. Social Apartment offer luxury share accommodation with private rooms which are very secure. Their lounges have state-of-the-art LCD TVs and luxury furniture. Some homes even have pool tables, fitness centres and rooftop balconies. Their residents are only 20% foreign, 60% male and 40% female, and they are usually in their twenties or thirties. Screening takes at least one week and you’ll need to show your passport, visa and alienation registration card. The initial lease is for six months and if there are no problems after that the lease will be extended to 1-2 years. Professional housekeeping is included and parties are organized several times a month by the residents. You can choose the amount of rent you want to pay, the area you want to live in, the size of your room and your length of stay on their website. Tokyo Rent manages apartments as an owner’s agent for long-term stays. You don’t need to have a guarantor or pay key money and agent fees. All you have to do is fill out an application form so Tokyo Rent can work out your needs, budget and preferences in order for them to find you a suitable apartment. They will show you up to three apartments for free and then they charge ¥3,000 for every apartment they show you after that. You’ll need to pay 1-2 months’ rent as a security deposit plus the first month’s rent and also ¥15,000 for insurance. When you leave the apartment you’ll also need to pay for professional cleaning. It would be a good idea to contact Tokyo Rent after you’ve arrived in Tokyo so you can see the apartments. Tokyo Room Finder is a free website that will help you find a room in Tokyo for one month’s stay up to a year and they can also help you find rooms where you can live with Japanese people. They don’t require key money or agency fees and you don’t need a guarantor. However, you will have to pay a deposit (from ¥10,000) and one month’s rent upfront. Also, a cancellation fee will be subtracted from your deposit if you don’t take the room. Gaijin Houses are cheap and very sociable share-houses which have been popular with foreigners for several decades but they offer very basic accommodation. The gaijin houses that I saw in Tokyo when I was living in Japan had five or six separate bedrooms with no furniture and a communal bathroom. You can find these gaijin houses advertised in English language newspapers distributed throughout Tokyo such as Tokyo Notice Board. The caretaker running a gaijin house is often a Japanese person who speaks very good English but everyone staying there is usually foreign. Gaijin houses have been around for a long time and this is probably the cheapest place for a long-term stay for foreigners but they aren’t usually very nice and they don’t have the best reputation. You usually pay for rent on a weekly or monthly basis in a gaijin house but I need to stress again that the accommodation is generally substandard. Roomorama and  Airbnb allow you to book short-term accommodation online or from a mobile phone from anywhere in the world so you have furnished accommodation arranged before you arrive in Japan. Hosts in Tokyo advertise their apartments with photos of what you can expect and they also show the cost of the apartment per night. You can pick up a really good apartment in central Tokyo at a great price. Airbnb and Roomorama act as intermediaries. They “verify personal profiles and listings, maintain a smart messaging system so hosts and guests can communicate with certainty, and manage a trusted platform to collect and transfer payments”.                      

  • Living
  • Money
  • Tokyo
More Posts
There aren't any questions yet.
More Questions
There aren't any reviews yet.

Category

Explore Area Information