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Counting the cost of surfing in Japan

One of the worst things about being a surfer in Japan, or any nation for that matter, are those days when there's no surf. Even worse than this are those days when close study of swell, wind, and weather charts tells you that they'll be no surf of a Saturday morning so you wake up late. But then you flip on the webcam out of curiosity only to find that there is, in fact, surf! It sounds petty (and it is) but it's enough to make a surfer weep.  So it is this Saturday morning that I find myself making matters worse by doing a bit of surf kit itinerary check and reflecting on how much it costs to go surfing in Japan.The timing isn't completely arbitrary. Last month I picked up a new wetsuit to get me through Japan's winter surf. After a session last weekend during which I could no longer feel the tips of my fingers and a case of 'ice cream' head that made it a bit tricky to focus, I promptly went out and bought gloves and a hood/cap. I was hoping to give them a run out today. Anyway, I'll add this to some of the other surfing bells and whistles that make up my surfing in Japan kit and wince at how much all of this has cost me. Starting from the top ... Wetsuit cap/hood I picked this up from a Murasaki Sports in Shin-Ochanomizu. They seemed to be having a 20%-off sale on a lot of their surf clobber (maybe a January sales thing). This is a 'large' size cap/hood from TABIE REVO (no idea). It's 3mm and has an extended neck that can tuck into the wetsuit. I felt like a complete plonker trying it on but it slipped on like a favorite sock and certainly feels warm. It's a little tight on the jaw but hopfully that'll prevent the teeth from chattering. Cost: 3,680 yen (with tax) Gloves Same store, same brand. 'Large' size. Black with a rather loud purple lining. These are 3mm. I recon I've got pretty winter resistant hands. I never wear gloves in day-to-day-life so I'm confident that I won't need to step up to 5 mm. Cost: 3,440 yen (with tax) *Surfing in Japan hack: I got 2,000 yen off the above due to points aquired from the purchase of the wetsuit below. Wetsuit I picked this up in December from a store called The Suns, again in Shin-Ochanomizu. The Suns has some sort of relationship with Murasaki Sports and they'll give you a point card that you can use in both. I'm not one for shopping around, it bores me stupid. I went in, said I had a budget of around 50,000 yen and was looking for something that could keep me surfing in January, maybe February, and then back again in March, in the central/north Chiba breaks. The kind worker picked out this Super Freak by O'NEILL. It's 5 mm on the legs and body. 3 mm on the arms. I love it! It's really easy to paddle in, gives me at least an hour of super warmth before things start to get a little chilly, and is nice and easy to slip on. The same can't be said about getting it off at the end though. Also, at 3 mm, the arms aren't the warmest. Still, I'm really happy with it. Cost: around 52,000 yen (with tax) Booties I don't know why we have to call them 'booties' instead of just 'boots'. Mixed feelings about these booties from Feel. I've had them for a few years now though. They start off warm but they don't half let a lot of water in. I can feel them weighing me down at the back end of a session. They're a nightmare to take off once you get back to the car. I have to 'peel' in stages which is the last thing you want to be doing when your freezing to death. Cost: It was a long time ago, but I think around 5,000 yen The stick I got this from a large secondhand store near the beach in Chiba (not one of the 'OFF' chain). It's a 6,2; a great all-round board for this part of Japan. It cost 15,000 yen. I've not idea how old it is but it works like a dream. Along with my smartphone (depressing, but yes), laptop, and electric blanket, it's one of my most valued possessions. The picture was taken in Bali (but I wish Chiba looked like that). Cost: 15,000 yen Leash The old one snapped last month. Just old age as, luckily, the waves that day were little tiddlers. I got this leash/leg rope from a local store here in Urayasu, Chiba. It's by CREATURES OF LEISURE. It's a 'standard' thickness and 2 m in length. I like the 'quick release' pully thing and the bright blue color. Cost: 5,000 yen Board bag A trip to Bali on an LCC airline forced me into buying a new, more streamline, board bag. I detailed that in a post here. The bag is from TRANSPORTER. It's light and slim and can only handle one board. I got it from The Suns. Cost: 7,000 yen Kit bag This was a gift, and I love it. It's got a water proof and insulated lining. The showers at my regular surf spot are cold so I can fill up some bottles with hot water and in this thing they'll still be nice and warm when I'm out after a session. Cost: It was a gift so rude to ask. Anyway, this is years old now but I found similar items online for around 5,000 yen Trinkets Key holder - can't remember and given the above costs, negligible Hot gel - 2,000 yen Board wax - 280 yen I've started so I might as well carry on with this cost of surfing in Japan business. Travel costs I'm about a 45 min drive from my regular break. I use one toll road/highway which costs me 880 yen (with an ETC card) one way. I'm not exactly sure but the buzzy little 'k car' Daihatsu that I drive requires about 4,000 yen to fill the tank with gas and I can squeeze four beach trips out of that. Parking is 500 yen (at the beach). While a lot of my Japanese surfer counterparts are lighting up pre-surf cigarettes I'm trying to give this spindly frame of mine all the help in the water it can get. Every morning before setting out I buy two packs of energy gel (weider ENERGY IN), a 4-stick pack of Calorie Mate, and packet of biscuits, all from the local Family Mart. This comes in at around 600 yen. On the way back I make a stop at a highway service station to ditch the rubbish and down a can of vending machine coffee (130 yen - it's a highway service stop after all). The cost of surfing in Japan: Budget summary Kit Wetsuit cap/hood  3,680 yenGloves3,440 yenWetsuit52,000 yenBooties5,000 yenThe stick15,000 yenBoard bag7,000 yenLeash5,000 yenKit bag5,000 yenTrinkets3,000 yen (est)Point card discount- 2,000 yenTotal: 97,120 yenTravel ...Highway tolls1,760 yenGas1,000 yenParking500 yenSnacks and coffee730 yenTotal: 3,990 yenOver the course of year, maybe I average four surfs a month and two bars of wax (summer / winter) Total: 191,520 yen Absent from this list are ... a very old, and thinner, wetsuit: 30,000 yen board shorts (they're redundant right now and are packed away somewhere): 7,000 yen the first board I bought in Japan (which I no longer use): 30,000 yen a car (not necessarily an essential for surfing in Japan, but this is more than likely going to be the case): not saying - this will make my eyes water I had though that doing this cost of surfing itinerary check was going to make me puke but the totals are actually not as high as I feared. Don't get me wrong, I could be buying a couple of flight tickets home to see the family with this, and around 4,000 yen for a surf session seems high. However, one could easily drink 4,000 yen away weekly in weekend drinks (which I rarely do). No, for me, surfing in Japan is emphatically worth it. In fact, I'm not sure I could put a real price on it. Well, no, I probably have a limit but I'm not sure where that is and given that work prevents me from surfing on weekdays, I'm unlikely to find it right now. Anyway, I hope this has helped any prospective surfers in Japan get an idea of how much it costs and what kind of surf gear you can get over here with what kind of money. More of my surfing in Japan stuff ... An Introduction To Surfing In JapanThe Best Surf Shops in Tokyo

Japanese Tax Deduction AKA 'Furusatonouzei' or 'Hometown tax'

Have you ever wonder where your resident tax go and how your resident tax money is spent?Now, you can choose how your tax money is spent by the municipalities - local government and which municipalities will get your money. At the same time, receive some gifts from them. This system required you to prepaid your tax first by purchasing items from the stores operated by the municipalities then file a tax return to reduce your resident tax.How much should I buy?The purchase amount will be calculated by the sum of handling fee (2000 yen) and tax reduction amount.For example, If a family with no kids with an income of ten million yen then the reduction amount will be 176K yen and the maximum purchase amount will be 178K yen.* You can use "Reduction rate chart" or "Rakuten reduction rate simulator" to find out your maximum deduction amount.Wait a minute, am I paying extra 2000 yen?Yes, but you will get those items for free and the remain 176K yen will be refunded by reducing your resident tax each month in the following year, similar to how rebate works.What are the steps?Find out your household income? If you don't know, this is your chance to ask your wife/husband ;)Use the "Reduction rate chart" to calculate your maximum purchase amount (Reduction amount + 2000 yen)Find an official store that is operated by the municipality then select the items, you can buy from different municipalities.The municipality will send you the documents (donation certificate,"One-stop" application form and receipt).If you file your own tax return, you need to keep the "donation certificate" from the municipality and file it together. If the company you work for handle all your tax filing then you need to request the "One-stop" application form when you purchase the item. ( Maximum of 5 different municipalities) you need to file each municipality separately if you are using the "One-stop" application form.Extra linksOfficial government siteWikipediaRakuten reduction rate simulatorSimple explanation

Let's Get Lucky with Fukuburo!

    Fukubukuro or "lucky bags" are Japan's answer to getting rid of last year's stock and giving the consumers a steep discount to help expedite the process. You'll see them out as soon as shops open after New Year's Eve ends. In some places, that's just a few hours into the new year. In others, it's January 2nd or 3rd. In any case, the grab bag of old inventory usually comes in a few distinct flavors and price categories.    In the stores, you'll usually see a display version of the goods in the bag, so there really aren't any surprises. Bags usually start around 1,000 yen for what is usually at least 2,000 yen worth of goods, but the fancier the retailer, the more expensive the bag options. Many clothing stores only offer options around 5,000 yen and/or 10,000 yen. If you're more into brand name designer goods, these sales might not be your thing as the items you can get for super cheap will also be last year's model or excess stock. If you don't mind being just a little behind the cutting edge, these sales are well worth the time and energy.    Fukubukuro can run out quickly, so if you know you want to grab one from a specific store, it is a good idea to go early and get what you want while it is available. While these are major sales days, they are nowhere near as chaotic as Black Friday stateside. We are in Japan after all.This was my haul from Sendai sales-day of 2016. I headed straight to a cloth and craft store where I filled the blue bag with scraps for 500 yen. The green bag is some discounted fleece I bought to make a couch cover. Then there is this lovely red fukubukuro. Unlike most lucky bag buying opportunities, this was unplanned on my part. As I waited in line to buy some lunch-pack sandwiches in front of one of Sendai's department stores, one of the workers brought out a stack of these bags. There might have been around 50 of them in the cart the guy was pulling, but within minutes of him placing the load next to the line of consumers waiting to check-out, every single one was gone. There was no display in this case, so I wasn't sure what I was getting into, but I was willing to take the bet that whatever was inside was well worth my 1,000 yen. I was not disappointed.        All of that for 1000 yen. Mostly snacks, candy, and cup noodles, sure. Also, under the candy you'll see a warm pair of fuzzy red socks with white polka dots which were left over from some coca-cola campaign, according to the package. I think the white envelopes contained towels of some sort, but as it has been a year, I'm not entirely sure.    Nowadays you can find a lot of information about these sales online before you go to the stores. Just search for the local shopping mall online and you can find a list of participating stores and deals on the website. For instance, this is the deal I hope to take advantage of tomorrow: 5 pairs of kids Sanrio socks for 1000yen. A good deal if you have a small child who is occasionally obsessed with Hello Kitty, I'd say.    In addition to the fukubukuro, other sales are also a big deal on the first few days of the year. Check out your local retailers for their sales information.    One national chain that I usually spend at least 2,000 yen at around the first of the year is Mister Donut. If you're a fan of donuts, it's usually a good call. In previous years, the 2,000 yen fukubukuro from Mister Donut has included 20 donut coupons (good for one donut each at any point before March of the new year) in addition to an article of service-ware (glass, plate, or mug in different years), a calendar, and a towel or blanket. I may be forgetting some additional elements, but that doesn't stop it from being a good deal if you like donuts and eat more than 20 donuts in 3 months. My family does.    Keep in mind that while Japan's sales days are not nearly as rambunctious as those in some other countries, the shopping experience can still be difficult, exhausting, and even frustrating. If you too are planning to brave the crowds for the chance to get a bargain, remember to take care of yourself. Avoid getting hangry (hungry-angry) by eating at least a little something before you head out and don't be afraid to take a break when you need to. If you have small children, leave them with a trusted sitter or keep a close eye on them. Make sure they have what they need, too (a juice box, a snack, a potty break, whatever) as you make your way through the crowds.    So what lucky bags are you buying? Which stores offer the best bargains for you?Oh, and Happy New Year!

Christmas in Japan - The German way

I´ve been living in Japan already a few years, but the Christmas season always brings back the memories of my hometown and I wish to be there. But mostly I can not go back every year so I´m trying my best to enjoy christmas in Japan.  The Christmas atmosphere is totally different here.  The following points are very different than what I used to know:-    The weather is always too warm!     At least in Tokyo it can be sometimes amazing hot during the Christmas holidays (up to 20 degree). And of course there is no snow when it is so hot outside. -    People tend to go out for a date on Christmas eve. Usually Christmas is a holiday for the whole family in other countries. In Japan oshogatsu (new year's celebration) is the big family come together day. For many people Christmas is a romantic day, that´s why especially couples like to spend that day together. -    Christmas Illumination/light up:First time I saw those Illumination events in Tokyo, I was very surprised. I didn´t understand what it has to do with Christmas. In my home country (Germany) we don´t have those light ups. People usually hang some Christmas decoration like lightning stars or candle at their windows at home. -    Christmas Food:The typical Christmas food in Japan is chicken and Christmas cake. This tradition comes from a very old TV spot of Kentucky fried chicken. I guess nowhere else you will find this kind of food combination. In Germany there are many different kinds of dishes we are eating. Usually for the Christmas eve it is very popular to eat raclette or potato salad and sausages (it depends on the region). For the Christmas lunch on 25. and 26. December we have the big Christmas roast like duck, rabbit, goose or turkey. And of course all the time you can enjoy typical Christmas sweet like “Lebkuchen” or almond biscuit.-    Christmas markets open very late:Most of the Christmas markets in Japan open 2 weeks before Christmas and end right after Christmas. So always make sure to check out when they are open. Usually the Christmas season starts at the beginning of December, except in Japan.If I´m staying in Japan during the Christmas season, I´m trying my best to do as many traditional Christmas things as I can. Usually at the beginning of December, I´m starting to decorate the whole apartment with Christmas ornaments. For the right scent I´m used to put some cinnamon and orange on a small plate and put them in every room. Around mid of December, I´m baking together with friends some Christmas cookies and the kids love to make a small “Lebkuchenhaus” which looks like the small house of the bad witch of the Grimm fairytale “Hansel and Gretel”. After Christmas you can eat the whole house because it is mostly made from sugar, “Lebkuchen” and other sweets.As soon Christmas is coming, I´m taking out the big two meter Christmas tree. Unfortunately it is very difficult to find a big real Christmas tree, so I´m used to put a fake one. To decorate the tree with many ornaments and electronic candles are a typical tradition in my family and usually a lot of fun. The morning of Christmas eve in Japan is always a very busy time for me. I´m standing the whole time in the kitchen to cook for my Japanese family. We just celebrate one day in japan because usually nobody has off, when it is during the week. The typical Christmas lunch is a mix of all typical German food. Mostly every year I´m cooking a very huge duck which I ordered online, german style potato salad, red cabbage and octopus salad (that´s the Japanese part). As dessert we filling our stomach with Lebkuchen. After eating all those food we need to move our bodies. That´s why we visit the nearby Christmas market. In our case the Hibiya Christmas market is the closest. Also it has a very big candle pyramid original from Germany. Especially in the evening it looks very great! We just walk around and check out all the handcraft-/foodstores and drink a cup of “Glühwein” (hot wine).As soon it´s getting evening we are heading back to home and open all the Christmas presents which are laying under the Christmas tree. Most people just give presents to little kids, but I like the idea to also give a small present to the whole family members and friends. Then we are turning off all the lights, except from the Christmas tree, and watch all together a typical Christmas movie like the “Christmas carol”. My favorite one if from the muppets!The day will end in a typical Japanese way with eating delicious sushi at a nearby restaurant. Even I can´t celebrate in my hometown, I like now the way I´m celebrating in Japan too.

My little Christmas in Japan

Every year you come up with the same problem: what shall we do for Christmas? For me, coming from Germany, it was never a big deal because in Germany you normally have 3 days off for Christmas and mostly spend all the time with your family. But in Japan, Christmas is not a family festival – this will be one week later at New Year. In Japan Christmas is more a special day for couples and for little children. You don’t even have the Christmas days off. 24th and 25th December are normal working days, so if you are unlucky you gonna spend the day at work. At least the day before Christmas is a public holiday, even if it’s not for Christmas – it’s the Emperor’s birthday. But who cares if you can have a day off? My little Christmas in Japan so far Actually, it’s only the second time for me to spend Christmas in Japan this year. I often made trips to Japan for New Year’s Holidays and arrived here a few days after Christmas. But I’ve been here for Christmas in 2013 while my Working Holiday, already three years ago. Let’s have a little flash back!  In 2013 Christmas Eve was on a Tuesday, my boyfriend and I had to work. We ended up with nothing special, just having the traditional food of the Japanese Christmas Eve: fried chicken and a Christmas cake. Japanese people often get the fried chicken from KFC, you also can make preorders for it several weeks before Christmas. We just got normal fried chicken from the supermarket nearby. The cake was a tiny delicious strawberry shortcake which I enjoyed very much. So no special activities – we had to work again the next day anyway. Back to the topic: What will we do for Christmas this year? My (now) husband and I had a talk about Christmas around two weeks ago. Thanks to the calendar we gonna have three days off this Christmas, so we both decided we should do something special and not just sit around at home. But what? We had a few ideas which we could choose from:          1) Romantic Christmas dinner        2) Go out to see illuminations or Christmas markets         3) Make a trip somewhere        4) Go to Disneyland or another amusement park Let’s take a closer look to all the choices. What would be your favorite? 1) Romantic Christmas dinner Going out together with my husband for a little more expensive dinner was a pretty nice idea. We didn’t really visit a fancy restaurant so far – only kind of this at a French-styled hotel in Nikko over one year ago which had around 5 courses for dinner. However, I’m a little bit difficult with food and on Christmas Eve, for sure, all restaurants are even more expensive just because it’s Christmas. Maybe we should do this some other time a year, maybe for wedding anniversary.  2) Go out to see illuminations or Christmas markets Winter time is illumination time in Japan. Everywhere you can find tons of lights and it’s simply beautiful. Having a walk around with your loved one is really romantic – maybe also good for a date on Christmas. But luckily the most light ups will stay until February, so let us keep this up for another time.  Another option is visiting one of the Christmas markets which are held at some places around Japan. For me as German Christmas market really belongs to Christmas: having hot wine, some delicious food, decorated sheds around you and even some snow. Ok, at least the first three you can get easily around Tokyo. I really like the Christmas market at Akarenga, Yokohama. Even so I have to handle with the high prices at Christmas markets in Japan when I know the prices of everything is in my home country – and I already think it’s expensive in Germany! However, we gonna go there before Christmas and not on Christmas Eve itself. 3) Make a trip somewhereI really love onsen and my husband found out about a cat ryokan at the onsen prefecture Oita. We thought about making a short trip where, but when taking a look to some flight websites, we were shocked about the high prices around Christmas and New Year. Also the ryokan was booked out for our preferred date. If you want to make a trip somewhere you should probably prepare some months before. So, no trip with an airplane somewhere for us.   4) Go to Disneyland or another amusement park My husband knows how much I like amusement parks. And we haven’t been to Disney Resort for two years. So how about celebrating Christmas with Mickey and Minnie? However, there are a lot more amusement parks around Tokyo and all over Japan. It’s also great to visit Yomiuri Land or Sagamiko Resort with their own illumination paradises, which are really romantic. However, with this we are back to point 2.  For this year, we ended up with a mix of all the points. We gonna make a 2-days-trip to Osaka from 23th to 24th December. On the first day we want to go to Rilakkuma Café in Osaka and watch some illumination around the city. The other day we will visit the Universal Studios Japan and go back to Yokohama in the night, to have Christmas Cake at home on 25th. I’m looking forward to these three days. Hope you all gonna spend a lovely Christmas time! ☆彡

Bustour to Takayama

I was looking for a nice place in the mountain, which is not too far away from Tokyo. My solution was the little town Takayama in Gifu. It takes 5 hours by bus (Nohi Bus Service from Tokyo-Shinjuku). The view from the bus was great. I saw a beautiful winter landscape in a great mountainside with many lakes and dam. I arrived in Takayama during lunchtime and walked straight to the old town of the city, to see many old nice streets full of handcraft shops, restaurants and small sake stores. I walked around and tried many sweets and drinks like amazake, which were very delicious.  There was also the chance to try diffrent kinds of sake for just 200 Yen. The day ended with walking through a long street with many temples, along a small mountain.But I was very surprised. The city is very good for tourists. Every sign is written in Japanese/English and sometimes also in Chinese, Korean or French. At the tourist information you will find pamphlets in diffrent languages (English, Spanish, French, German..). Also mostly of the people in the tourist area can speak at least English and Chinese. Also you can do very easy daytrips by bus to Shirakawago and Toyama.

Visa For Land Of The Rising Sun #nomadicyatri

Land of rising sun is always dream destination for most of the travellers. If you are thinking to visit Japan, then here I am giving you a complete information about visa before you are check-in into gateway of Japan.Many countries have visa weaver in Japan and you can check the list of countries here visa exempt list.You require following documents before moving to embassy or to authorize travel agent.Declaimer : Every countries have different rules regarding visa to third country, but this post might help you to start process or just awareness while thinking to visit Japan :)Coming as independent (Self arranged)1- Copy of passport with first and last page having bio data.2- A completely filled visa application form.3- Covering letter which will explain your purpose to visit as well as itinerary.4- Photograph (2x2 inch but confirm with embassy)5- Travel booking(arranged tour if there), Hotel and air ticket with itinerary.6- Latest income tax return or Bank statement for 6 months (original one with passbook)Coming through guarantor (Visiting friends or family)Documents from applicant-Documents from applicants are same as I have explained above. You just need to cross verify with documents checklist in embassy homepage before submitting form.Documents from guarantor-1- Invitation letter original.2- List of visa applicants.3- Letter of guarantee if inviter is paying your expense.4- Copy of tax return/ certificate of deposit balance/certificate of income.5- Copy of passport first and last page.6- Residence card stating you visa type and expiry date.Special Note : Japanese embassy in Delhi is no more accepting direct application, you have to submit visa application through travel agents while Chennai , Mumbai, Bangalore and other parts of India you can submit visa application directly to consultant as earlier.Authorize travel agent: Currently in India there are only two travel agents.1- Cox & Kings Global Services2- VFS GlobalEmbassy URL (India) - Japan EmbassyVisa Fee - 440 INR charged by embassy and service charge from travel agent is 600~650 INR.Note: All the description presented here are based on Indian passport holder who visited Japan for 3 months. Visa rule changes time to time so keep looking on above websites for update.All the documents you can download from embassy website to avoid mismatch in format.

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