Travelling with a baby in Japan

Congratulations are in order to our Sales Manager Harry Sargant and his wife Sveta, who welcomed baby Matthew into the family on the 4th of April!

If the idea of travelling in a foreign country is a daunting prospect for many, the idea of travelling in a foreign country with a baby in tow is enough to give anyone the heebie jeebies. But don’t worry – parenthood does NOT mean the end of exciting holidays! We promise!

At InsideJapan we have years of experience organising fantastic holidays for parents and babies in Japan, so we know that travelling with kids doesn’t need to be scary or stressful. Plus, as our clutch of InsideJapan babies steadily grows, we’ve been gathering some excellent first-hand experience ourselves!

In this blog post, we’ve collated some hints, tips and advice from our various InsideJapan mums and dads, gleaned from their experiences travelling with sprogs in Japan. If there’s anything we’ve neglected to cover, please don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below.

Mark & Rie, both members of the InsideJapan team, in Japan with baby Jun

Mark & Rie, both members of the InsideJapan team, in Japan with baby Jun

Can you breastfeed in public?

It is quite uncommon to see women breastfeeding their children in public in Japan, but there are good nursing rooms available in many places. Here you’ll find curtained booths for privacy, and hot water machines for mixing formula too.

If you are riding the bullet train, there is a multipurpose room that can be used for nursing – but you will need to ask an attendant to unlock it.

When we picked Rie’s brain on the subject, she told us that if you have a baby carrier that you wear on your front, you can often get away with breastfeeding completely unnoticed in any public place. This goes for whether it’s on the train, in a restaurant, while walking down the street or even when running across a pedestrian crossing!

Rie also recommends avoiding taking the subway at busy times of day if you’re travelling with a baby, as it can be very crowded and you can’t assume that you will be given a seat.

Rie and Jun

Rie and Jun

Should I bring nappies (diapers)?

We suggest bringing a supply of nappies for the flight and for the first few days of your trip, but it’s very easy to buy more in Japan so you don’t need to worry about stuffing your case with the buggers.

Matsumoto Kiyoshi
If you need to buy nappies, then keep an eye out for drug stores such as ‘Matsumoto Kiyoshi’ for nappy supplies.

What else should we bring?

Our company Co-Director, Simon, travelled to Japan with their young daughter, Florence, in 2013. Simon recommends that parents bringing young children to Japan pack both a child carrier and a pushchair, as he and his wife Bethan found both extremely useful on their trip. Pushchairs are particularly handy, as they are free to take on board most aircraft and you can wheel them as far as the plane door. They also provide a good opportunity for your beloved sprog to have a little nap during the day, or even to sleep in while you’re out in the evening.

Simon also recommends bringing a stash of baby food from home, since although baby food is available everywhere in Japan, it can sometimes be difficult to coax your child into eating the local version! Games and toys are a great idea for the plane journey, too.

Florence waits for the bullet train in Tokyo!

Florence waits for the bullet train in Tokyo

 

What should we do?

The main piece of advice our InsideJapan parents could offer in this department is not to try to pack too much in – take your time, go slowly, and don’t expect to keep up the pace you would if you weren’t with kids! Of course, it depends on the age of your little one – but what we’ve found is that the thing they enjoy most is having lots of attention from Mum and Dad, so in actual fact it doesn’t matter a huge amount what you do.

Ordinary sightseeing and everyday activities like riding the train or visiting a garden provide excitement enough without the need to worry about packing in specifically “child-friendly” activities – although there are plenty of adventure playgrounds, aquariums, theme parks and activities available for those who do want to fit them in.

Interacting with other people can also be one of the most enjoyable aspects of bringing your sprog to Japan, and you may well find that your baby is treated as something of a minor celebrity during your trip!

Max Mundy, offspring of PR & Marketing Manager Jim Mundy, makes friends in the park

Max Mundy, offspring of PR & Marketing Manager Jim Mundy, makes friends in the park

What about accommodation?

Japan is very well geared-up for family travel, with a great variety of family-orientated accommodation options, from self-catered apartments to family rooms in hotels and traditional inns. Do be aware that you will need to pre-book cots or family rooms before you travel.

Some useful Japanese for travelling with a baby:

・my child / baby is x months / x years old
私の子供は x ヶ月/ x 才です
(Watashi no kodomo wa x kagetsu/ x sai desu?

・child chair / baby chair (e.g. at a restaurant) / do you have a baby chair?
ベビーチェア/ ベビーチェアはありますか?
(Baby chair / baby chair wa arimasuka?)

・push chair / can I take my push chair?
ベビーカー/ベビーカーを持ち込んでもいいですか?
(Baby car/ baby car o mochikondemo iidesuka?)

・Bottle warmer / can you warm this milk?
哺乳瓶ウォーマー/ミルクを温めてもらえますか?
(Honyubin warmer/ Miruku o atatamete moraemasuka?)

・Where can I get baby food?
どこで離乳食が手に入りますか?
(Dokode rinyushoku ga teni hairimasuka?)

・Do you have any antiseptic / a plaster?
消毒液/ばんそうこうはありますか?
(Shoudokueki/bansoukou wa arimasuka?)

Anpanman

Jun and Anpanman

・Do you have child minding service?
託児所はありますか?
(Takujisho wa arimasuka?)

・Do you have child medicine for temperature/pain?
小児用の解熱剤(げねつざい)/鎮痛剤(ちんつうざい)はありますか?
(Shouniyou no genetsuzai/chintsuzai wa arimasuka?)

・Where can I find a doctor? my baby is ill…
小児科はどこですか?子供が病気なんです。
(Shounika wa dokodesuka? kodomo ga byoukinandesu.)

・Can I take a picture of my child here?
子供の写真をここで撮ってもいいですか?
(Kodomono shashin o kokode tottemoiidesuka)

・Do you have a cold compress/ice pack?
アイスパックはありますか?
(Ice pack wa arimasuka?)

Max & mum Vanessa sampling okonomiyaki

Max & mum Vanessa sampling okonomiyaki

・nappy / diaper おむつ (Omutsu)

・baby change facilities おむつ交換用ベッド (Omutsu koukanyou beddo)

・baby meals / child meals 離乳食 / キッズメニュー (Rinyushoku/ kids menu)

・Straw/sippy cup ストローのついた乳幼児用カップ (Straw no tsuita nyujiyou kappu)

・Bib よだれかけ (yodarekake)

・Crayons クレヨン (crayons)

・Child’s menu キッズメニュー (kids menu)

・Whole milk 牛乳 (gyunyu)

・Formula 粉ミルク (kona milk)

・Nursing room 授乳室  (junyu shitsu)

・Wipes おしりふき (oshirifuki)

・Cot / crib ベビーベッド (baby bed)

・Cutlery/spoon for my child 子供用のナイフ・フォーク・スプーン (kodomo you no knife, folk, spoon)

Mark, Rie & Jun

Mark, Rie & Jun

If you need any more information about travelling with young children in Japan, don’t hesitate to get in touch and we’ll do our best to answer your questions.

For more on travelling with kids in Japan, see our previous blog posts: How to travel with a toddler in Japan and Baby loves Tokyo.

Making Sense Of The Tokyo Metro

Tkyo Subway

You see that spaghetti dinner up there? That’s the map for Tokyo’s subway system, Tokyo Metro. Although it may look daunting at first glance, with a little explanation (and a lot of pictures) you’ll be riding the underground like a true Tokyoite in no time!

First off, let’s learn a bit about the subway situation in the big city. There are two main subway operators in Tokyo: the Tokyo Metro and the government-owned Toei subway. Altogether, these two operators combine to make 290 stations on 13 separate lines. With over six million passengers per day, sometimes the carriages can get pretty packed.

And this is before the rush...

And this is before the rush…

Wait, TWO different operators, you say? Doesn’t that confuse things even more, you wonder? Has Tokyo gone mad, you exclaim?!
Well, you’re correct on all accounts. Both the Tokyo Metro and the Toei subway form completely separate networks, and the tickets procured from one will not work on the other. Fares can be different, and to transfer from one operator to the other necessitates purchasing transfer tickets, further complicating things. As mentioned earlier, daunting, right?

Will the ticket you just bought get you home?Possibly!

Will the ticket you just bought get you home? Possibly!

You may, at this point, just throw up your hands and resign yourself to spending a fortune on taxis for your holiday in Japan. However, we’re here to help! Perhaps realizing how intimidating the Tokyo subway system can be for foreign visitors, much effort has been made recently to help accommodate those looking to travel underground comfortably.

You can breathe a big sigh of relief and put away your change purse and calculator watches, as there is another, better way to pay your fares. There are a variety of contactless, RFID pay cards available for purchase at certain train stations. These cards can be charged up with cash and then just waved over the card reader at one of the many gates leading to the platforms. And the best part? These cards work between lines and operators, cutting out the need to buy individual tickets and saving time and money in the long run! Easy, right? And with names such as Pasmo, Suica, and Manaca, the cards are as fun to say as to use.

One of the best purchases you can make on your holiday to Tokyo!

One of the best purchases you can make on your holiday to Japan!

 

Just touch your newly bought card to one of these, and you're in!

Just touch your newly bought card to one of these, and you’re in!

What’s that? You can’t understand Japanese? No problem! Subway station signs are in English, as are most maps and other signage. There’s even an English option on the ticket machines. Once you’ve boarded the train, announcements are in both English and Japanese, ensuring a stress-free, smooth transition whether you’re getting off at the next stop or transferring onward.

And, if you don’t want to read anything, English or Japanese (hey, you’re on vacation, right?), each subway line is numberd, signposted, and color-coded, making catching your train that much simpler. For example, you want to catch the Tozai Line to Nakano? Just take the blue colored line with a “T” in the middle. You’ll be browsing manga and anime goods at Nakano Broadway in no time!

 

Helpful signs in English will get you where you need to go.

Helpful signs in English will get you where you need to go.

Of course, for the tech savvy among us, Tokyo Metro provides a free tourist information app. Using this app, you can search areas by popular landmarks, chart the best course there, and enjoy restaurants and tourist information all in English. And with free wifi available at over 140 subway stations in Tokyo, it’s easier than ever to stay connected. However, be sure to factor in to your crazy night out that the Tokyo Metro does not run 24 hours! If you find yourself out past midnight, prepare to stay out a little while longer, as the trains don’t start again until around five.

I think you'll find something to do...

I think you’ll find something to do…

Phew. That was a lot to take in, I’m sure. But, now that you know the basics of the Tokyo Metro, you can ride with confidence on your next holiday to Japan….and of course, if you are travelling with IJT, you will have your Info Pack to help you along and make you travels easy!

 

Hosting A Live Charity Event in Tokyo

Event Poster FInal Draft2 copy

Official promotional poster sent out to websites and shared on various social media sites

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20,000 yen for Lenny Kravitz, 4,500 yen for The Charlatans or a mere 1000 yen donation to see The Cinders and friends. Many went Lenny’s way, but we had our share of the crowd too!

4 years on from the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake, and as my recent blog on Ishinomaki highlighted, there is still a lot of support and development required in the town, and many other tsunami-stricken areas of Tohoku region.  While the Japanese government is investing in other economic stimulation projects, it has seemingly lost some focus on what should still be a top-priority issue – the social, economic and developmental support that Tohoku requires.  As Prime Minister Abe and Co. lick their lips at the prospect of the 2020 Olympic Games, the machine that sucks extra taxes out of the locals, yet provides financial gain and entertainment for the corporate/political elite and very few else, residents and businesses in towns like Ishinomaki remain displaced, with families and business owners living/working in temporary structures that should have been long vacated.

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The Cinders, with IJT Tour Leader, Steve Parker on guitar and vocals.

Charity campaigners are still out on the streets of Tokyo, collecting money the stricken population of the region; for cats of Fukushima; ownerless pets of Tohoku… My band, The Cinders, believe that if the area is to move on and see a future of prosperity and happiness, priority needs to be given to the children, offering hope and the opportunity to progress successfully in life after such a harsh start. For this reason, we decided to host a music event with the aim of raising funds for the Ishinomaki Town Academic Fund for Orphans.

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Around 80 people came to enjoy the night of free music.

It was the first time for us to host such an event  – our first aim to secure a live venue for a Saturday night as close as possible to the anniversary date of March 11th. Thankfully, an art and live space by the name of Gamuso Chroma, just 10 minute’s train ride from Shinjuku, was obliging enough to allow us to hold our event for free. This was a huge relief, considering that most live venues will allow only 5 bands to play in an evening, each paying up to 30,000 for 30 minutes of stage time!

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Gare Mcnalle – Japanese solo pianist/singer with an incredible 4-octave voice. Bohemian Rhapsody solo effort – quite something to listen to!   

Next was the task of finding a number of bands willing to join us for the evening. Having been on the fringes of the Tokyo music scene for a couple of years now, as a spectator or performer, I was able to find a range of bands that would hopefully make the evening a memorable one. Hearteningly, of the 8 acts that the proposal was put to, 6 agreed enthusiastically to take part. Then came to inevitable wave of questions – how many amps? what brand and serial numbers? the intricacies of the PA system? could we provide for a VJ? how many mics? what keyboard was available? could equipment be brought by car to the venue entrance? any chance of an avant-garde dancer being able to perform…?

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Ruber Rosa treat the crowd to a little of Van Halen’s “Jump”

Surprisingly though, it wasn’t too much of a challenge to satisfy the artists’ thirst for minutae. Oh, but then came the request from the venue manager – no use of wooden drumsticks, but instead, special noise-reduction sticks that help maintain the balance of sound being produced. Surely this would cause some disquiet among our rock bands, but no, not one squeak of dissent. After all, I presumed, we were playing for free, and the real important focus was to get donations flowing into the children’s fund. I believe everyone was equally attuned to our aim.

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Trancey guitar sounds of LosingMySilentDoors

Next up, some marketing. Our bassist, Justin, got to work on placing ads in Tokyo’s most widely-distributed English-language magazine, Metropolis (metropolis japan.com). I similarly found some Tokyo-based social/music event websites to post on and the rest was down to word of Facebook mouth, and relying on our musical guests to invite their friends and family.

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An acoustic set (always with an injection of anger) by punk pop duo, Theaterbootlegs.

And so to the morning of the event. Even though each band would only be performing for 30 minutes each, they of course needed to rehearse, set up their equipment and have their volumes, reverbs, distortion levels and microphones adjusted accordingly. After 4 hours of greeting musicians, putting up posters, rearranging amps and microphones, chairs and tables; connecting, disconnecting and unravelling twisted cables (subsequently inducing occasional cable rage!) and trying to breathe amongst the haze of cigarette smoke (it seems that Japanese musicians can only breathe if nicotine intake is high), we were finally ready to plug in and play.

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The kings of Tokyo indie folk pop rock, The Watanabes.

There was, however, always the lingering fear that nobody would come to watch, which grew ever stronger as we approached the start of the opening band’s set. To great relief, people started pouring through the doors at 6pm, and I am thrilled to say that after a night of folk guitar, nineties and noughties cover versions, Japanese indie rock, 80’s US rock covers, Japan female punk pop, UK indie rock originals, Stevie Wonder and Queen covers on piano, and Melodic UK folk rock, that we managed to raise 82,000yen for charity.  New friends had been made, music and laughter had been shared, and we had managed to do our little bit to support the ongoing struggles in Tohoku.

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Ganbarou Ishinomaki! Let’s go Ishinomaki! The words emblazoned across the afflicted Tohoku town’s memorial site.

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                                     The Ishinomaki Memorial

For those interested in hearing some of the great indie acts that participated, please check out their music by clicking on the following links:

The Cinders (UK/Japanese Indie Rock):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tjqeKAEs8GE

https://www.facebook.com/TheCindersJP?ref=profile

theaterbootlegs (Japanese Punk Pop):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp3mXZijGOk&feature=youtu.be

The Watanabes (UK indie folk/pop/rock):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j5noXehtKuI

Ruber Rosa (US Rock Covers):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wqIKH5QUho

mcrana galle  (Japanese piano soloist, Queen, Stevie Wonder covers):

Barely Regal (UK/US Rock covers):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GsNy5SSX4l4

Losing My Silent Doors  (Japanese Indie Rock):

https://soundcloud.com/voli-bori

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8 Things to look out for when in Akihabara

Akihabara is truly the Japan’s capital of “otaku” – often translated as ‘someone who has obsessive interests in video games, manga, anime, electronics and the like’. There’s more manga and anime in this little district of Tokyo than exists anywhere else in the world. But whether you consider yourself a fan of such things completely misses the point; this neighborhood is a traveler’s dream because it is unlike anywhere else any of us have ever been and will ever go to. And isn’t that why we travel in the first place?

Akihabara

In a simple stroll through “Akiba” (as it is commonly and affectionately known by most Tokyo-ites) there are more things to point out, talk about and be astonished by then would ever fit in a single blog post so instead I’ve chosen 8 things that I love about this quirky part of town. If you are coming to the area be sure to keep an eye out for the following!


Oden Vending Machine

1) Japan has become famous for vending machines and they can now be found throughout the country. Indeed, I’ve seen them in the middle of rice paddies and on top of Mount Fuji. I’ve seen banana vending machines, french fry vending machines, flower vending machines and some others too sorted and seedy to mention here. But there’s nothing quite like a hot cup of oden or ramen noodles from a vending machine (pictured above). The perfect place for a pick-me-up during a day of sightseeing in Akihabara.

One Person Karaoke

2) In Japan, as in most places, karaoke tends to be a social event. Something you do with your friends or even family to have a bit of fun and enjoy one another’s company, if not their singing voice. But in a neighborhood known as a haven for nerds and outcasts it is no surprise that you can find one person karaoke booths. The perfect place to let out your inner rock star or let off some steam, perhaps by belting out a few Journey songs (an advert for the booths is pictured above).

All girl sushi

3) Sushi in Japan is a craft, even an artform at times. It has spread throughout the world but there is nothing like the sushi that can be had in one of Tokyo’s premier upscale sushi shops. Unfortunately, sushi chefs have traditionally been and remain almost entirely male. This is largely said to be because most women’s hands are too hot and this in turn affects the flavor of the sushi. But in Akihabara you can put that myth to the test at this all girl sushi restaurant (pictured above is Nadeshiko Sushi – http://www.nadeshico-sushi.com).

Shrine in Akihabara

4) Akihabara is closely associated with electronics and it is known for being at the cutting edge of manga, anime and the Japanese video gaming world so it can be quite a surprise to see all the traditional culture that remains side by side the bright and brash billboards and advertisements. Visit a local Shintō shrine or stop off at a traditional eatery while strolling about.

Live Idol Show

5) One of the things that brought Akihabara to the forefront of otaku culture was the ability to see live music shows by “idol” groups on a daily basis. Although these no longer take place on the street like they used to, you can still see some talented and fun shows every day of the year. Both during the day and at night are venues where you can let your inner fan shine. Find an idol club and dance your cares away while waving different coloured light sticks (the venue pictured above is called Dear Stage and typically has live shows everyday from 5-6pm till around 11:30pm – http://dearstage.com).

6) Not pictured but entirely worth checking out are Akihabara’s retro video game arcades. Sure it’s fun to come and see the newest gadgets and most up-to-date driving and shooting games but nothing will bring you back to your childhood faster than a go at one of the games you grew up playing!

Traces of the past

7) A bit different from number 4, try looking for traces of Akihabara’s past as you wander throughout the area. Though not always traditional, there is plenty of evidence of what the electronic district was like before manga, anime and pornography took over. After all, a place as unique as Akihabara isn’t made overnight!

Assemblage

8) Assemble your own electronics. As you leave Akihabara JR Station on the ‘Electric City’ side, continue under the tracks and you will find a plethora of vacuum tubes, radio innards, computer wires, various kits and loads of speciality shops selling the pieces that make our electronics tick. Although you might not have the confidence to put one of these kits together on your own, you can get some help at the Assemblage desk. Make a little radio, assemble a robot or throw together a blinking doodad. (The staff won’t be fluent in English but they always make an effort and they certainly know what they are doing. Make sure to leave plenty of time for this.)

Akihabara

8) You’d have a hard time missing the colorful billboards and advertising that dons the various buildings of Akihabara but surprisingly few people take the time to really look at these and appreciate the aesthetic – and even artistry – that is so uniquely Akiba. From adverts for maid cafes to posters announcing the latest video game release, you’ll know that you are a long way from home when take a little bit of time to look towards the sky and admire the scenery.

 

As I said at the beginning of this post, you don’t need to be an “otaku” to enjoy a day out in Akihabara!

The Tokyo Apartment Rental Game

After recently seeing the 2 years on my apartment rental agreement come to an end, I had to reengage in activity with my Tokyo Estate Agents– and oh how the memories of 2 years prior came flooding back, when my bank account was completely drained.

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The realities of life in Tokyo – rich or poor, Japanese or expat – is that there is very little space. So, while average rental costs may not exceed other great cities across the world, living space is typically very limited and you end up with very little for your hard-earned yen.

 I decided to stay put in my little ferroconcrete den for another 2 years for reasons that may become clearer as you read on…

 As in my home country of the UK, (real) estate agents in Japan are not the most popular organisations, and likewise, the image of the money-grabbing landlord holds true for many here in Tokyo, too.

So, you need a roof over your head: first the apartment hunting game. The majority of property owners wishing to rent out to tenants prefer to channel all the contractual and legal wrangling through the estate agents. Hence, pretty much any area of Tokyo will have a wealth of (wealthy) agents around the so-called Ekimae (station front) area.

 All display “great deals” in the shop window for what I call “ghost apartments” – ones which have always (coincidently?) just been rented out, when you enquire…

”But what about this one, Sir?” So, you are lured into the shop by the marketing hook and start to trawl through the dozens of rooms on offer.

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40,000 yen (4万)/ 250 pounds for a studio apartment, no deposit, no key money required – something is fishy – haunted, a murderer’s former abode, railway tracks running through it or simply disgusting? Don’t worry, its already unavailable anyway!

And when I talk of rooms, the Tokyo singleton on an average white-collar salary is often only able to afford the one room – a tiny single room studio apartment. Unlike in London, house sharing is also not an option in Japan’s capital, so your room is where you eat, sleep, watch TV, entertain… At least you have privacy, well, that is if your walls are not paper thin!

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Early afternoon in this dark 6 tatami mat room and the light needs to be on already!

Apartments are very often still measured using the old Japanese system of counting tatami mats. These traditional rush straw mats are, sadly, increasingly giving way to vinyl flooring or timber parquet, however they are still the way to gauge living space.

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A typical plan of a (large) apartment, showing the balcony on the left, even the 2 gas rings and sink in the kitchen (K) and each tatami mat in the 2main rooms(6畳)

Tokyo tatami mats (a little smaller than their equivalents in western Japan) are 1.76m x 88cm. A typically-sized main room for single occupancy is therefore a mere 6 ”Jo”, i.e. 6 mats, so pretty tight at just under 10 square metres! This one main room will often (but not always) have a small built in wardrobe, and your one source of light – hopefully sliding glass doors which give out onto a little balcony space (perhaps itself the size of a single mat). You certainly need to know where the sun is going to be when choosing – north facing is not a good way to go unless you want to live under artificial lighting whenever you are at home, day or night.

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Making the most of a balcony – fake ivy, astroturf and cactuses, along with a few herbs

Other areas in the apartment – the genkan; a tiny square area a little lower than the rest of the apartment floor, which has room to park 4 pairs of shoes orderly by the front door; a kitchenette with one or, if you are lucky 2 gas/ electric cooking rings; and a prefab, plastic bathroom where you can literally shower whilst on the toilet. Don’t expect to stretch out in the bath either – Japanese style is box like and deep.

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No need to worry about getting the bathroom floor wet!

What about heating? Typically a joint AC/heating unit is fixed on the wall, up by the ceiling – great in the summer but as rudimentary physics dictates, warm air rises, so not so perfect on cold winter nights in a country that lives on the floor!

So there you have it – otherwise no fittings, curtains, furniture, bedding, oven, fridge, TV or washing machine, (by the way – you may have to have that on your balcony!) Essentially, a box with little character and questionable insulation.

What other criteria are people looking at closely when apartment hunting? Aspects such as aspect (inevitably) – one worry being that your wonderful view, above the Tokyo cables and poles, may disappear if construction of a neighbouring building starts (some seemingly appear overnight here). You may soon find a towering, shadow-spewing edifice which extinguishes any natural light that you ever had.

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At least there is a view – even if not the finest!

Equally important – how far is the nearest overground or underground railway station on foot? The great majority of the millions of Tokyo commuters use what has to rank as one of the finest public transport systems in the world. Getting to your nearest train station is key in the dash to and from the workplace, and people are keen to reduce the commute in light of long working days. Too close though and your room will be shaking from 5am till past midnight every day of the year!

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2 train stations within walking distance – 7 or 8 minutes on foot, an ideal distance.

Another consideration – is the building a flimsy walled “apato” (often found in smaller and older apartment blocks)? The better option is modern robust, ferroconcrete “mansion” (a far from a country manor house), which is far better if you don’t want to hear the clicking of your neighbour’s chopsticks as they eat, let alone any nocturnal activity.

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The so called “designer’s mansion” – sturdy, functional and coolly expensive

Oh, and of course, there is cost to consider! In Japan, the process does not simply involve a deposit payment, your first month’s rent and you’re set. Other quite substantial costs are incurred depending on the landlord’s decision on how much reikin – (key money) to demand. This often irks the foreign tenant in Japan, as it seems to serve essentially a way of saying “thank you, almighty landlord for allowing me to pay you most of my salary for a dingy box provided with gas water and electricity for the next 2 years”. 2 months’ of deposit is quite common, and this is often non-returnable, no matter how spotless you leave a dwelling on vacating it. A guarantor company may even be required, which essentially covers your missing rent if you decide to make a run for it – another month’s rent. Oh, and of course, there is the friendly agent’s fee – take a month’s worth why don’t you?

 

So let’s break it down using a tiny apartment example to really emphasize what many single Tokyoites require to secure 6 tatami mat place, an hour by train from the (huge) central Tokyo area. Let’s assume a modest 80,000yen (500 pounds) rent per month. Initial costs to get a contract signed, may work out as expensive as follows:

 

2 month’s rent upfront

2 month’s deposit

1 month’s reikin (thank you/key money)

1 month to a guarantor company

1 month to the agent

Add in a little change for insurance payments and you are possibly heading towards a figure of 600,000 (around 4000pounds) to be paid in order to get a rental agreement signed. And remember, this is for a box of around 20 square metres, which you can do very little to – no redecorating, no car, no motorbike, maybe even no bicycles (where are you going to park it – on your bed?) no pets, no musical instruments, no life..?

I hasten to add that I have decided to sacrifice a large proportion of my salary to actually have a 2nd room to live in – an excess indeed but living out of hotel rooms for a fair part of the year, my need for more than one unit within which to exist is very important for my sanity. The sacrifice is well worth it and having just paid my friendly agent an extra month’s rent to re-sign the contract for another 2 years, I won’t be moving for a while.

 

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Yes, this was the money I handed over to the estate agent in order to simply secure a rental agreement!

Sacrifices, sacrifices, but of course, I have all the attractions of one of the most bedazzling cities on the planet on my doorstep. That’s another story, but I say, who needs space when you have Tokyo?!

Mount Fuji Gallery

Back at the beginning of the Mt Fuji climbing season (Jul 1 – Sep 1), we asked our customers to post their own pictures of the impressive mountain.We got a great response and some great photos from our UK, US and Australian travellers – thanks very much! We have also posted these on the InsideJapan Tours Facebook so take a look there and vote for your favourites.

 

Mount Fuji Gallery

Hazel Wilson
“Taken through the window of the Shinkansen as we sped towards Kyoto 3 years ago”

Mount Fuji Gallery

Ali Muskett
A surreal shot of Fuji from the nearby Safari Park (hence the elephant). IJT team member, Ali, is not allowed to win the prize, but we thought it was worth putting this one up.

Mount Fuji Gallery

Matthew Young
Mt. Fuji in Autumn from Misaka Pass

Mount Fuji Gallery

Alison Sandlands
…and her husband found a great viewing spot in Hakone.

Mount Fuji

Louise Marston
Fuji from an alternative angle
“Did go to Hakone on first IJT trip to Japan in 2010, but it was hazy. However British Airways obliged on the way home”

Mount Fuji Gallery

Richard Hanson
“Mt. Fuji from seen from Oishi park across Lake Kawaguchi-ko on a cold winter’s morning.” Taken on tour in 2013.

Mount Fuji Gallery

Andy Potter
Spectacular photo of Fuji in the mist.

Mount Fuji Gallery

Ed and Dot Jaasma
Love this shot of Fuji in crystal clear skies, taken on their tour back in 2008.

Mount Fuji Gallery

Dirk
A perfectly framed shot of the great snowy peak .

Mount Fuji Gallery

Jim Cripps
Taken from the hotel room in Tokyo during our 2012 ‘Japan Unmasked’ tour.

Mount Fuji Gallery

Harry Bossert
“The day before my Inside Japan tour started, I went up the Skytree first thing in the morning and was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji in the distance…I never got to see it up close though, I’ll have to come back one day to do that.”

Mount Fuji Gallery

Gary McTeer
“My sister and I completed Japan Unmasked in November 2013 (Tyler was the tour guide). The day before the tour started, we made a day trip to Hakone, we were very lucky with the weather”

Mount Fuji Gallery

Grace Marquez
This was taken from the Shinkansen on her way back to Tokyo whilst doing a ‘Price Cruncher’ trip in January this year.

Mount Fuji Gallery

Graham Winkles
Fuji looking exceptionally peaceful last November.

Mount Fuji Gallery

Jamie
Still some mist lingering on the Ochudo Trail up the mountain.

Mount Fuji Gallery

Julie and Scott
On the way to the top of Fuji in 2012.

Mount Fuji Gallery

Sara Newman
“My Mt Fuji photo taken during the Spring Elegance Tour in March/April 2012. This photo was taken whilst I was on the Bullet Train to Hakone. Miss Japan so much”.

Mount Fuji Gallery

Kirsten Adele Faulkner
Another nice Fuji shot

Mount Fuji Gallery

Kirsty Wells
“This photo was taken from the sumit of Mt Tenjo in Kawaguchiko. In the foreground on the left of the photo you can see the red Eejanaika rollercoaster at Fuji-Q Highland theme park”.

Mount Fuji Gallery

Rob Harris
Taken from the Shinkansen heading back to Tokyo on the Tokkaido Trail tour in November ’12.

Mount Fuji Gallery

Jessica Collins
“We saw Fujisan while riding the cable car to the observatory. We were on the Tokaido Trail tour – One of the best trips of my life”.

Mount Fuji Gallery

Tingo Sudjai
A Beautiful photo of his daughter celebrating in front of Fuji!

Mount Fuji Gallery

Carol Fraser
“We were very, very lucky to her on many occasions on our tour Nov/Dec 2013 but this is one of my favourite views from Owakudani.” –

Wow. Thanks for these. Doesn’t matter how many times I see this mountain, I am always impressed by her. Who’s going to win the prizes?

Football in Tokyo

For a long time, Japan has been famous for miniaturising -and often improving- pre-existing ideas. The Walkman, the Haiku, the Capsule Hotel, and even the Tamagochi can be seen as a few examples of this trend. While the game of Futsal traces its roots back to early 20th Century Brazil and Uruguay, it perhaps comes as no surprise that this widely-enjoyed miniaturised version of football has taken hold in modern Japan.

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As a logical conclusion to a love of football coupled with a lack of space, many high-rise building owners in Tokyo began turing their rooftops into futsal pitches after the 2002 World Cup. Japan also formed its own professional futsal league, the F League, in 2007. The pitch pictured above is the Adidas Futsal Park, located on top of the Tokyu Building at Shibuya Station – right next to the famous scramble crossing. Looks like a lot of fun, but If you’re thinking of booking it for a kick about you better get in early – the last time I checked it was fully booked for the next 9 months!

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