Japanese Street Fashion

It’s Tokyo Fashion Week this week (Oct 16-22), so with all the top names in the biz with their eyes on the Japanese capital, here is a little something to help them along…

There is a saying in Japan that goes: “Deru kui wa utareru” – or “The nail that sticks out gets hammered down.” In other words, conformity is key.

This saying is often trotted out by those wishing to denigrate Japan for its perceived intolerance of individuality. Whilst there is some truth to the old adage (no smoke without fire, after all!), Japan today is famous for precisely the opposite, and nowhere are the Japanese more expressive than in the weird and wonderful fashions to be found on the city streets.

The following is a brief guide to some of the wackiest trends to have graced the streets of Tokyo, Osaka, and indeed any of Japan’s urban centres. Whilst most of these trends had their heyday in the 1990s, their influence can still be seen in the eclectic fashion choices of today’s youngsters – especially in the Harajuku area of Tokyo. By the way – these aren’t the twee, manufactured “Harajuku girls” of Gwen Stefani’s dubious 2004 album, and they are certainly not those of Avril Lavigne’s recent (and atrocious) “Hello Kitty” – which frankly has no redeeming features (watch it here at your own peril). These are the genuine article – so next time you’re in Tokyo bring this guide along and play street fashion safari!

1. Lolita

Lolita is perhaps the most recognisable of Japanese street fashion trends – unsurprisingly since it has been around for years now. The trend began way back in the 1970s when Japanese brands such as Pink House, Milk and Angelic Pretty started selling flouncy skirts, corsets and bonnets and basically sticking frills, lace and bows on anything and everything. You can still spot Lolita girls out and about in 2014 – just head down to Harajuku in Tokyo to be in with a chance of a sighting!

Lolita fashion

Lolita fashion

Within the Lolita trend are many sub-trends encompassing different styles of Lolita – from the self-explanatory Gothic Lolita (lots of black, heavy on the Victorian vibe); Sweet Lolita (as childlike as possible – think bows, pastel colours and stuffed animals); and even Kodona, a type of masculine Lolita style influenced by Victorian boys’ clothing.

Gothic Lolita

Gothic Lolita

Sweet Lolita

Sweet Lolita

Lolita is one of the more “kawaii” trends in Japanese fashion. “Kawaii” essentially means “cute,” but due to the movement’s immense popularity and all-pervading presence in Japanese culture it really deserves its own post!

2. Kogal

“Kogal” simply means “high school girl” in Japanese, and this is also a trend that will probably be familiar to most foreigners. Adherents of this style typically wear very short skirts and baggy socks reminiscent of Japanese school uniforms, spend a lot of time in purikura photo booths with their friends and refer to themselves as “gyaru,” simply meaning “gals.” The Kogal style began to emerge in the 1970s, peaking in the late nineties before subsiding into relative obscurity.

gyaru

3. Ganguro

Centring around the Shibuya and Ikebukuro districts of Tokyo, Ganguro style became popular in the mid-nineties before fading out of favour by the time the new millennium swung round. The look is characterised by a dark tan, white eye make-up with heavy black mascara, and bleached blonde hair. It has been speculated that Ganguro style evolved in order to deter sexual harassment on public transport by being purposefully ugly, or even as a form of revenge against the constraints of traditional Japanese society.

Buriteri, a famous Ganguro girl frequently featured in egg magazine in the nineties

Buriteri, a famous Ganguro girl frequently featured in egg magazine in the nineties. Her name comes from the word for a very dark soy sauce!

The Yamanba and Manba styles developed as offshoots from Ganguro and are characterised by even more extreme make-up, even darker skin and neon-coloured clothing and hair. In Japanese, “yamanba” literally means “mountain hag”! These styles became popular after Ganguro, so you may still spot a Manba or her male equivalent (known as Centre Guys) in Tokyo today!

Manba girl

Manba girl

Center Guy

Center Guy

4. Cosplay

Cosplay is strictly more of a hobby than a fashion trend, and it has spread from Japan to become popular with youths and comic book convention attendees worldwide. Cosplay is short for “costume play” and simply means dressing up as a character from a video game, comic book, movie or cartoon. The movement became popular in the early nineties and is alive and kicking today – you only need to visit one of Akihabara’s Cosplay restaurants to see the proof for yourself.

Japanese_Cosplay1

5. Decora

For fans of Decora style, more is most definitely more. Decora originated in the late 1990s and is still one of the more common styles to be found in areas like Harajuku today. Youngsters dressed in Decora style resemble walking confections, with plastic trinkets, cute furry toys, brightly-coloured hair clips, patterned face masks and every imaginable accessory piled on top of various layers of clothing.

Decora style

Decora style

decora

Here at InsideJapan, we do not proclaim to be fashion know-it-alls, but we can help people who do know their stuff to include a fashion element to their trip. We know where the cool kids hang out in Tokyo, we can get you doing some Yuzen-silk dyeing in Kanazawa or get you wearing a Kimono at a traditional Kimono manufacturer in Kyoto and our private guides can take you to the best shops for the latest fashion insight. If you want something more fashion specific, then we can look into it….we can do just about anything in Japan. All you have to do is ask.

Tokyo – Next Door and a World Away

鋸山11
Don’t let the fact that few have heard of Nokogiriyama, and even fewer visited, fool you into thinking “Saw Mountain” isn’t an excellent option for a day trip from the Tokyo area.

鋸山6
Located across Tokyo Bay on the Bōsō Peninsula (Chiba Prefecture), a little over an hour from Yokohama and closer to two from Tokyo, this mountain derives its name from its resemblance to a Japanese woodworking saw, or nokogiri. It used to be a stone quarry during the Edo period, and the excavation of rock is partly responsible for giving the mountain its unique appearance.

鋸山8
The main attraction is Nihon-ji, a Buddhist temple that traces its history back to the Nara period, about 1,300 years ago. This is where you’ll find Japan’s largest stone Buddha, which used to be the largest figure of Buddha anywhere in Japan until the completion of Aomori’s bronze statue in 1984. Entrance is ¥600, and you’ll also receive an English map and description of the sprawling temple grounds.

鋸山9
The Hyakushaku Kannon is an impressive relief of Kannon, a bodhisattva and goddess of mercy, carved directly into a quarry wall. Hyaku means one-hundred, and shaku is a traditional unit of measure in Japan (and East Asia, although not uniform), the average length between nodes on bamboo, or approximately one foot.

鋸山17
The 1,500 Arhats are smaller statues of spirits or beings that have attained nirvana. They were chiseled from special stones sent by sea from Izu. The enormous task took master artisan Jingorō Eirei Ōno and his 27 apprentices 19 years to complete. Unfortunately, many of the masterpieces were destroyed in the anti-Buddhist movement of the Meiji period, but there are current efforts to restore them to their former glory. Still, among Buddhists, Mt. Nokogiri is widely regarded as one of the holiest mountains in the Kantō area; some even say the world, though I suspect they have a Bōsō bias.

鋸山13
The views from the cliff faces out over the bay are breathtaking, and you could easily spend a couple of hours visiting the different sights of Nihon-ji.

鋸山19
Standard footwear is adequate, but do be aware that there are many steps and you may be a little short of breath if you’re not used to hiking or climbing many stairs.

鋸山21
You might be surprised to learn that the stone statue of Buddha in Nihon-ji is nearly twice the size of the bronze statue in Tōdai-ji, Nara.

鋸山15
If you’ve made an early start and have a few extra hours after your visit to Nokogiriyama, you might want to take a trip a little further down the peninsula to the beach town of Tateyama, which has a claim to fame as the primary filming location of a popular TV show called “Beach Boys”. From Hamakanaya Station, take the JR Uchibo Line 25 minutes south to Tateyama Station (¥410 each way, departures roughly every half hour).

鋸山2
From Tokyo, there are two ways to Nokogiriyama. One is by train, with a transfer at either Chiba or Soga stations to the JR Uchibo line, disembark at Hamakanaya Station (2 hours, ¥1,940 each way). The other is by a train and ferry combo. Take the Keikyu line to Keikyu Kurihama station (72 min, ¥960 each way), board a bus at stop number 2 for the Tokyo Wan Ferry port (10 minutes, ¥200), and board the ferry to Kanaya (40 minutes, 720 one-way, ¥1,320 return).

鋸山5
If you like variety, you might like to do the trip to Nokogiriyama in a big circle, taking the ferry one-way and train the other. If you’re planning a visit from Yokohama or Kamakura, it takes even less time, but the ferry is really the best option. The ferry leaves roughly once an hour, and the schedule can be found here (departures from Kurihama port are on the left, and from Kanaya port on the right):

Kurihama Ferry 2
For those arriving at JR Kurihama Station (instead of Keikyu Kurihama station mentioned above), take the bus from stop number 5 (12 minutes, ¥200). For groups of 4, a taxi is the same fare as a bus and leaves on your schedule.

鋸山14
From either Kanaya ferry port or JR Hamakanaya station, it is about a ten-minute walk to the ropeway (¥500 one-way, ¥930 return), which will take you to the entrance of Nihon-ji and departs every ten minutes. There are toilets and refreshments available at both ends of the ropeway, as well as at the big Buddha.

鋸山16
Again, for those who appreciate history or nature, this makes for a great day trip from the main conurbation of Tokyo. With its unique atmosphere and spectacle, and a remoteness that belies its proximity to the city, it will likely leave you feeling as if you’ve just had a dream, as it did me.

鋸山22

InsideJapan and the Japanese Ministry of Environment

Kirishima Kinkowan National Park

Kirishima Kinkowan National Park is famous for it’s beautiful and otherworldly volcanic scenery.

As a representative of InsideJapan Tours, I’ve been working with the Japanese Ministry of Environment to help them promote overseas tourism in their National Parks. Together with loads of great local people, several of us longtime expat foreigners have been traveling around to various National Parks in Japan to see just what’s on offer. As with my visit to Nikko National Park a few weeks ago, I am beginning to realize that even in places I’ve been to multiple times before, there is still so much more to see.

Friendly people

As is so often the case in Japan, we were met by friendly people every step of the way.

Because InsideJapan Tours believes in getting travelers beneath the surface of Japan when they visit, I’m always happy when I can help find new ways to make that vision become reality. And it’s finding lesser visited destinations like this one that allows one to see the Japan of the past and just what it is that makes the country so special. This week I went to Kirishima-Kinkowan National Park with an amazingly talented group of individuals including the great photographer Everett Brown, the publisher of the fantastic Japanese language travel magazine Kyushu no Mura, the supremely talented Brad Towle – director of the Tanabe City Kumano Tourism Bureau, and the fine folks from Umari – one of the coolest operations in Japan that I know of.

Romance and water

Thinking of honeymooning in Japan? How about following the trail of the very first honeymoon couple in Japan. The famous samurai Sakamoto Ryoma came here after his wedding, a long time before he became an instrumental figure in overthrowing the government.

Edo station

This little old train station hasn’t changed much over the years. There’s no ticket machine and there’s no one here to check your ticket even if you had one. But what really makes it special is that a local family sells a bento here with food that is reminiscent of what people were eating 100 years ago. It has been voted the best bento in Kyushu but I will go on the record as saying it is the best bento I’ve had anywhere in Japan!

onsen

At almost every onsen town in Japan you will hear stories about why that onsen is better than onsens in other parts of the country, but if you come to this part of Kagoshima you will find so many varieties of hot spring that there are local people who can recommend you an onsen depending on exactly what ails you. I opted for the hangover onsen.

Land  of the Gods

In Japanese mythology, this area is where it all begins. The true land of the gods. While visiting some of Kirishima’s famous shrines I was struck not only by the elegant Shinto architecture but especially by the beautiful surroundings. Each shrine we visited was more secluded than the last and all of them were beautifully interwoven with the island’s vast natural surroundings.

Ryokan

If you have yet to experience Japanese hospitality, you are in for a treat! Scenes at traditional ryokans – Japanese inns – like this one turn the everyday into the extraordinary.

Pure water

At cleansing stations near the entrance to most shrines and temples in Japan you will find intricately crafted dragons with crystal clear water pouring from their ferocious looking mouths, but I think I like this home made version almost as much.

Food

A twist on traditional Japanese incense, the tea placed on top of this small porcelain lamp gave off just the slightest perfume. The owner of the soba restaurant where I found this explained to me that although traditional incense can overpower the taste of the food, the smell of green tea compliments their dishes. Wonderful!

134 year old direction

What I love best about this 134 year old direction marker is that the carvers chose a hand with its pointer finger extended rather than a simpler arrow to direct travelers (like myself) in the right direction.

Shrines and temples

This shrine was on a big hillside overlooking a couple of mist covered volcanos and a big blue lake. Completely deserted, we took our time to enjoy it’s every last detail.

Duck!

These little ducks acted like they were our best friends… until they realized we didn’t have any food. ;)

Thinkers stream

Just minutes before returning to the airport, Everett and I were looking at a beautiful little stream that was running in between peoples’ houses. At first we thought it was just a regular river born of rain coming down from the surrounding mountains but a local took us up to its source (pictured here) and we learned that it is actually a spring. We could literally see the water gushing up from out of the ground. Everett said it best, “heaven on earth”!

Japan: Country of Diversity?

The idea of Japan as an ethnically and culturally homogenous country is a pervasive one, both in Japan and across the world. For foreigners, the idea of Japan as a homogenous country is pretty ingrained – and for most Japanese (as any expat in Japan will tell you), the sight of a person of non-Asian descent speaking Japanese is still cause for incredulity. Obviously, this doesn’t exactly scream diversity!

(As a side note – this experience also gets old pretty quickly for the tiny minority of non-Asian native Japanese speakers living in Japan. Watch some of Ken Tanaka’s videos for a funny perspective on what it’s like to be a “Kei Nihon-jin” – someone who was born and raised in Japan but is not ethnically Japanese)

There is also a political dimension to the myth of Japan’s homogeneity: it fosters a sense of national identity, contributing to the strong Japanese sense of cohesion. For this reason the Japanese government has traditionally endorsed the misconception. A sense of national unity does have important benefits, but it also has the effect of forming a barrier against the world – keeping the outsiders out and the insiders in.

In reality, of course, what constitutes “outsiders” and “insiders” isn’t as simple as you might expect! Japan is more ethnically diverse than most of us realise. Although ethnic minorities in Japan have historically received little to no recognition and have even been actively suppressed – things have changed considerably, and today efforts are being made to preserve and rehabilitate the unique cultures of Japan’s minority groups.

Ainu

The Ainu are the indigenous people of northern Japan and have a culture, language and religion entirely distinct from that of Japan as we know it. During the Meiji Restoration, when Hokkaido was officially incorporated into Japan, Ainu land was confiscated, their language was banned and their cultural and religious practices curtailed. In 1899, they were officially labelled “former aborigines” and granted Japanese citizenship, forcibly assimilating them into the general population in a process that overall took less than fifty years.

Ainu

From the time of Japan’s unification until 1997, the Japanese government’s official position was that there were no ethnic minorities in Japan – and it took until 2008 for the Ainu to gain official recognition as a minority group. They remain Japan’s only recognised ethnic minority. At this time, the Japanese government also released a statement acknowledging the fact of the Ainu people’s subjugation during the Japanese “modernisation” and expansion.

Ainu family in 1906

Ainu family in 1906

Today there are very few people of pure Ainu descent left in Japan, but some citizens with Ainu heritage have made attempts to rehabilitate aspects of their culture, traditions and music. One such example is Oki, a musician of mixed Ainu and Japanese descent who plays the tonkori – a traditional Ainu instrument – in the Oki Dub Ainu Band.

Although the damage to Ainu culture can never fully be repaired, Ainu populations in cities across Japan have established political and cultural communities, and there are now institutions whose aim is to protect Ainu rights and heritage – such as The Foundation for Research and Promotion of Ainu Culture (FRPAC) run by the Japanese government. The Ainu political party was also founded in 2012, with the aim of realising a multicultural and multiethnic society in Japan.

Ryukyuans

The Ryukyuan people, indigenous to the islands between Taiwan and Kyushu (including modern-day Okinawa), are another sector of Japanese society with culture and traditions distinct from that of mainland Japan.

ryukyu

Preceded by three other Okinawan kingdoms, the Ryukyu Kingdom was a thriving independent dominion from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, participating in trade with China, Southeast Asia and mainland Japan. This long history of trade meant that Ryukyuan culture developed from an extremely diverse group of influences which can be seen in its arts, crafts and architecture.

In the seventeenth century the Ryukyu Kingdom was invaded by Japan and forced into subordination, before finally being officially incorporated into Japan in 1872. More destruction followed in the twentieth century, when the former Ryukyu kingdom became the site of the devastating Battle of Okinawa, and subsequently came under American administration for nearly thirty years.

Despite this turbulent history, and despite Okinawan people having suffered widespread discrimination in twentieth century Japan, Ryukyuan culture has gone on to become something of a success story. Music, dance, art, architecture, textiles and food on the Okinawa Islands are strikingly different from that of mainland Japan, retaining their multicultural flavour and making these islands some of the richest and most diverse areas of the country.

 

Performance of "Eisa," traditional Ryukyuan dance, at Ryukyu Mura in Okinawa

Performance of “Eisa,” traditional Ryukyuan dance, at Ryukyu Mura in Okinawa

Japanese Koreans

Another significant – and problematic – ethnic group in Japan is the Korean-Japanese population, known as “Zainichi”, who are officially considered foreign residents rather than an ethnic minority. Over the course of Japan’s history, Korea has been instrumental in transmitting the culture and religion of the Asian continent to Japan, and some of Japan’s most treasured crafts were first brought to the country by Korean immigrants. It is even likely that the first Japanese people emigrated to Japan from the area now known as Korea.

Contact between Japan and Korea only became antagonistic in the twentieth century, and many of the ethnic Koreans now living in Japan are the descendants of forced labourers brought to the country after Japan’s annexation of Korea in 1910. This population is thought to number in the hundreds of thousands – perhaps even millions – and its members have often faced discrimination despite having lived in Japan for their whole lives.

Although discrimination against ethnic Koreans unfortunately still exists in Japan, through the activism of Zainichi organisations and other minority groups – including the Ainu – the social atmosphere continues to improve. A Korea-Japan friendship festival is now held each year in Tokyo and Seoul to promote better understanding between the two cultures, and Korean food and culture (particularly pop music) is enjoying a surge in popularity in Japan.

A scene from 2013's Korea-Japan Friendship Day

A scene from last year’s Korea-Japan Friendship Day

Besides the groups mentioned here, there are significant communities of ethnic Brazilians, Taiwanese and Chinese in Japan, along with others.

So there we have it!  Busting the myth of Japan’s homogeneity and celebrating its cultural minorities :)

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.

IMG_0212

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.

IMG_0210

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!

IMG_3423

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.

IMG_0198

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.

IMG_0182

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.

IMG_3473

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.

IMG_0184

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!

IMG_0206

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.

IMG_3616

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.

 

IMG_3650

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?!

Why Wi-Fi in Japan?

Japan is a leader in world tecnology. Everyone knows about the Bullet Train, hi-tech toilets, interesting gadgets and Japan also has super fast internet speeds as pretty much standard. However, this hi-tech country has not been quite as forward thinking in terms of its Wi-fi services with many hotels still offering internet services through LAN cables. Things are changing though, with some cities providing a free service….but this is by no means standard at the moment.
If you want to stay connected in Japan, what’s the best way to do it?

PuruPuru

When I travelled to Japan recently, I got myself a Puru Puru Emobile Wi-fi device. I received the device  in a nice little pack at my first hotel and never looked back. I stayed connected just about everywhere.

Puru puru kit

In the old tea district of Kanazawa…

Kanazawa Puru On the Shinkansen…

Shikansen PuruOn top of Tokyo…

Puru Puru above Tokyo

On a small island…

naoshima puru

and on a beach, on an even smaller, small Okinawan island…although there were parts of the island it didn’t work on…

AkajimaIn general, it worked pretty much everywhere. Whether it was 35 floors up or underground on the subway, the signal was pretty much perfect.

It was not incredibly cheap, but was a whole lot cheaper than using roaming Wi-fi on my phone. I needed to stay in contact with work and family and Puru Puru was perfect…it also allowed me to show off to friends back in the UK as I posted pics  to Facebook and Twitter.

At the end of the trip, I just put it back in the provided envelope and put it in the post box, before I checked-in for my flight home. Easy.

Sometimes it’s not the destination but the journey

If you’re travelling between Matsumoto and Takayama (as many of our customers do) there are a couple of ways to make the journey, but my number one recommendation would be to take the highway bus through the Japan Alps.

I heard the journey was stunning, but nothing could have prepared me for how breathtakingly beautiful it would be!

As the bus trundles along twisting mountain roads (sometimes precariously close to the edge!), lush green mountain ranges dominate the skyline, with villages dotting the valleys below. Clear waterfalls, lakes and streams punctuate the landscape, as the bus carefully waits on a mountain edge for an oncoming vehicle to pass by, and between the mountains rice paddies wait patiently.

The journey is simple to make, and one to be enjoyed. Just sit back, relax, and keep your camera at the ready!

The view when travelling by bus from Matsumoto to TakayamaThe view when travelling by bus from Matsumoto to TakayamaThe view when travelling by bus from Matsumoto to TakayamaThe view when travelling by bus from Matsumoto to Takayama

 

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,402 other followers

%d bloggers like this: