Sunday, July 23, 2017

Itinerary and Expenses: 9 Days of Nerdiness in Kansai

I'll tell you a secret. I fell in love sometime in my 10-day Japan trip in autumn of 2015. I had a quick love affair with Ainokura Village in Toyama Prefecture and I fell madly and totally in love with Kyoto. I fell in love and I promised I'd go back for another visit.

381 days later, I was back in the arms of Japan. This time I made like a gentleman and took it slow; I did not bolt through cities like what my friends and I did in 2015. I stayed in the Kansai Region for nine days, stepping foot in just four (Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, and Osaka) of seven prefectures (the other three are Hyogo, Mie, Shiga).


Since I was traveling alone, I went all out in nerdiness, visiting temples, shrines, and historical places, and, most importantly, as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region that time and distance would allow.

In planning out my itinerary, I tried to keep within the same budget as my 2015 trip: an average of Php 4500 per day for accommodation, food, transportation, and admission fees.

This trip happened late November 2016 with the exchange rate at 0.465 PHP for every 1 JPY

Accommodation. Like my 2015 trip, I set aside Php 1500 a night for accommodation, for a total of Php 13,500 for 9 nights (about 29,000 yen with an exchange rate of 0.465). In Osaka, the cheapest hostel I found was 1100 yen a night, but I eventually settled for a single room (though bathrooms were shared) in business hotels, which cost me 2500 yen (less than Php 1200) per night. In Koyasan, I wanted to try the temple stay, but it was way beyond my budget (temple stay would cost at least 9,700 yen a night, with breakfast and dinner), so I settled for the only guesthouse in town, Koyasan Guesthouse Kokuu, where a capsule space costs 3500 yen a night. Nara and Kyoto hostels were a bit more expensive compared to Osaka (dorm beds would cost an average of 2500 yen a night; whereas in Osaka, 2500 yen could already be a single room), but still within my budget. If you're comfortable staying at hostel dorm rooms, set aside a budget of at least 2500 yen per night (some can cost up to 3800 yen a night, depending on the area).

Transportation. Neither the JR Pass nor the JR Kansai Area pass was beneficial to my itinerary. Instead, to get around, I paid the regular fare using the Kansai One Pass (only for tourists), an ICOCA or IC transportation card that could be used in various train/subway lines in the Kansai area. Although this did not offer fare discounts, it did provide convenience. Rather than buying a ticket every time I had to ride the train/subway, I could just tap the card at the turnstiles (provided, of course, I had enough credits in the card). The Kansai One Pass also offered discounts/benefits at various tourist sites. For traveling within the city, I took advantage of unlimited ride passes such as Koyasan World Heritage Ticket, Nara bus pass, Kyoto bus pass, and Osaka Visitor's Ticket (for Osaka municipal subways/buses/tram only). I planned out my route in advance to make the most of these unlimited ride passes.

Food. I spent an average of 2,200 yen a day for 3 meals, snacks, and drinks. It was a good mix of convenience store boxed meals (400 to 600 yen), set meals from donburi shops (450 to 1000 yen), and restaurants (meals from 1100 to 1500 yen). For Japan, I advice to budget at least 3,000 yen per day for food.

Admission fees. There are temples, shrines, parks, gardens that can be entered for free. Most though would charge an admission fee (from 200 to 1500 yen). Some transportation passes offer discounted admission fees to some tourist attractions (expenses marked with an asterisk in the above table are discounted rates). The Koyasan World Heritage Ticket came with 20% discount coupons for Kongobuji, Kondo Hall, Daito Pagoda, and Reihokan Museum. The Kansai One Pass offered discounts/benefits to many attractions around the Kansai area, but I was only able to use it at Monkey Park Iwatayama in Kyoto (100 yen discount) and Osaka Museum of Housing and Living (free audio guide rental worth 100 yen). With the Osaka Visitor's Ticket, I was also able to get a 100 yen discount on the admission fee for the Osaka Museum of Housing and Living.

Pocket WiFi. It was important that I had a pocket WiFi for this trip. Luckily, Flytpack let me use their pocket WiFi for free for the entire duration of the trip. If not, it would have cost me an about Php 3000 for the 9 days rent and courier fees.

Plane ticket. Like all my other posts about trip expenses, I did not include the plane ticket, because the ticket cost would depend on where you're coming from and which international airport in Japan you wish to start/end your journey in. But since this post is about Kansai, I will tell you that I flew in and out of Kansai International Airport in Osaka via a budget airline, with a connection in Manila. Much as I wanted to fly direct to Osaka from Cebu, I found it too expensive. The regular roundtrip ticket for the direct flight would cost around Php 22,000 (on sale it would cost at least Php 13,000).


Japan is the most expensive country in Asia that I have traveled to, but with a bit of planning and research, a trip to Japan need not break the bank. Fewer number of days, of course, will cost less. But, I warn you, once you visit Japan, you will want to keep coming back!



Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Adlaw, Osaka Ako sa Osaka
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

Concentrate on Kansai (2016)
9D/9N | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka (you're here!)
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado

Monday, July 17, 2017

I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

Observations of a mustache while...

Walking the streets of Japan:

1. The Japanese do not eat while walking. When one eats while walking, especially in crowded places, there is a possibility of bumping into another person and spilling food or drink on them. Thus, the Japanese consider it impolite to eat while walking.

Most mornings I would leave the hostel early and would buy food for breakfast from a convenience store, but then, if the convenience store didn't have a sitting area, I'd have a problem: where could I eat my breakfast? My options were to eat standing outside the convenience store or find a park where I could sit down and eat.


2. There are no trash bins along the streets of Japan yet the surroundings are clean and free of rubbish. I only saw trash bins by the door (or sometimes, inside) of convenience stores. I'd also see bins next to vending machines for drinks, but these bins were for specific bottles or cans only. Whatever trash the people have they make sure to throw it in the proper bin or, if they can't find a trash bin nearby, they just bring it home and sort it properly (sorting trash is a whole new ballgame in Japan).

3. They have 5-way / 6-way crosswalks, making it a cinch to get from one street corner to the corner diagonally opposite! Forgive my ignorance, but I live in the Philippines where there are no 5-way / 6-way crosswalks and where crossing the street, whether on a pedestrian lane or not, is done at your own risk (risk is lower at the few areas where there are pedestrian signal lights, haha!).

5-way crosswalk at Shibuya. Photo by Shibuya246/Flickr

6-way crosswalk at Kyoto Station. Screenshot from Google Maps

4. Even narrow streets have a crosswalk and pedestrian lights! In just four steps I had crossed a very narrow street in Kyoto and only noticed there was a pedestrian light when I had reached the opposite side.

Screenshot from Google Streetview

5. Some small streets have no curbs but are clearly marked to show where the sidewalk is.

Screenshot from Google Streetview

6. Many people wear a surgical face mask. My first thought was that they were sick and didn't want people to catch whatever they have. A bit of googling revealed that another reason for wearing a surgical face mask was to avoid getting sick. And some wear it just because. (In the Philippines, people have started wearing masks, but I believe it's to protect themselves against dust and air pollution.)

On my trip in late November 2016, my body was adjusting to the low temperature causing my nose to run. While waiting for Horyuji Temple in Ikaruga Town in Nara to open, an old lady stopped to talk (by talk, I mean communicate with hand gestures) with me. In the middle of our "conversation", I sniffed, and she pointed to me, then to her nose, then made an X with her forearms, and then covered her nose and mouth with her hand. She didn't mean to say I had stinky breath (I'm sure I brushed my teeth!), but that I should wear a mask because I had colds.

Photo by Hinochika/Shutterstock


Commuting around Japan:

1. No matter how crowded the station is, everyone knows how to queue, whether getting on the train, taking the escalator, exiting/entering through the turnstiles, etc. So it was quite embarrassing for me when I accompanied Hitomi, a Japanese Couchsurfer, to Cebu South Bus terminal to catch a bus for Oslob. We were first in line and when the bus arrived, everyone behind us just surged towards the bus, fighting to get in through the narrow bus door. Needless to say, we were not the first ones to board. When Hitomi finally got on the bus, two other people squeezed in with her, and her slipper fell off but no one bothered to pick it up and give it to her (everyone was busy elbowing their way in to secure a seat). I told her to take a seat and I had to block the way in order to fish out her slipper. When we had finally settled in, she remarked, "It was chaos."

People line up patiently to get in the train. Photo from Fast Japan

2. On escalators, people stand on one side and keep the other side free to give way to people who are in a hurry. In Tokyo, people stand on the left side of the escalator. In Osaka, people stand on the right side.

3. It's oh so quiet in the bus/train. Nobody talks on the mobile phone while in a public transportation. Everyone keeps to themselves, keeping their eyes glued on their mobile phones, getting some shuteye, or just staring into space. Those who do talk with their companions keep their voices low.

4. Nobody eats inside the train even if there is no sign prohibiting so. With the train shaking and braking, spills are likely to happen. Plus the train cars can smell like food. Like eating while walking, it is also considered impolite to eat and drink in the train.

5. Oftentimes priority/courtesy seats are left empty even if there are no other seats available. Other times, people who sit on the priority/courtesy seat would stand up and give way to those who need it like a pregnant lady, a mother carrying a baby, elderly, and disabled.

6. There are Women Only train cars. Lucky for the ladies they get to ride comfortably when us men would have travel like sardines in other train cars. But I understand they have implemented this so the women would feel safer and not have to worry about perverts groping them in a crowded train car.

Photo from Business Insider



Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan (you're here!)

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Adlaw, Osaka Ako sa Osaka
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

Concentrate on Kansai (2016)
9D/9N | Nov 2016 | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado

Saturday, July 15, 2017

I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions

Observations of an unfashionable mustache in a land where the modern and the traditional commingle, where simplicity and outrageousness walk side by side.

Conformity

I don't think I had seen any Japanese wearing sunglasses during my trip. Yeah, I went during autumn, but, hey, there are sunny days in autumn, too! The Japanese don't seem bothered by the sun's dazzling light. Is it because they are in the Land of the Rising Sun? I asked my Japanese friend if he wears sunglasses. He doesn't. Why? Because everyone else doesn't. If he wears one, he thinks he'd stick out like a sore thumb. My friend conforms to blend in.

While waiting for the train, while walking in the streets, I'd see double. Or triple. I'd see two or three (or more) friends, usually young ladies, wearing the exact same outfit or the same outfit but in different colors. We call it "twinning." The Japanese call it "Osoroi Code" (osoroi means "matching"). These young ones conform to stand out.

Photo from Tokyo Fashion

Modesty

For Japanese women, showing décolletage, even in a casual setting, is deemed inappropriate. But that doesn't mean women in Japan walk around all covered up. Because, strangely, short short skirts are not frowned upon. So ladies, when in Japan, remember: low necklines, not okay; high hemlines, a-okay. Go figure!

Photo from Tokyo Faces



Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions (you're here!)
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Adlaw, Osaka Ako sa Osaka
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

Concentrate on Kansai (2016)
9D/9N | Nov 2016 | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado

Thursday, July 13, 2017

An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers

There are so many interesting things to see in Japan. Even the manhole covers! There are over 6000 manhole cover designs and I have only seen 0.30% of that number! (Some I missed to take a photo of, but have found photos of them thanks to citizens of the internet world!) Designs usually include the city/town's crest/seal/emblem, official flower/tree, and/or local spots.


Spotted in: Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo

This manhole cover is adorned with two of Tokyo's symbols:
somei-yoshino cherry blossom and ginkgo biloba tree.
Let's learn Kanji:
東京 Tokyo
下水道 (gesuido) sewer
合流 (goryu) confluence


TOKYO
Spotted in: Shibuya Ward, Tokyo

And this here is none other than Hachiko!
Saw this by the Hachiko Memorial Statue outside Shibuya Station.


Spotted in: Ainokura Village, Nanto City, Toyama

On this manhole cover are azalea (flower) and paulownia (tree), the symbols of the former village of Taira, to which Ainokura belonged to. In 2004, four towns and four villages (including Taira Village) merged into what is now called Nanto City. This manhole was constructed before the merging. (Thanks to Gokayama Tourist Information Center for providing information about this design! I couldn't find it on any website.)
Let's learn Kanji:
排 (hai) drain
Photo by そらみみ via Wikimedia Commons


Spotted in: Himeji City, Hyogo

Himeji City's manhole covers are decorated with the white heron and the orchid Pecteilis radiata (also known as White Egret Flower). These two are symbols of the city.
Let's learn Kana (Kanji and Hiragana):
消火栓 (shokasen) fire hydrant 
ひめじ Himeji

Let's learn Hiragana:
ひめじ Himeji
おすい (osui) sewage


Spotted in: Miyajima/Itsukushima, Hiroshima

On the center of this manhole cover in Miyajima is the island's seal/emblem.
Let's learn Kanji:
汚水 (osui) sewage
Photo by そらみみ via Wikimedia Commons

And why the maple leaves on this drain cover? Because the maple is Hiroshima prefecture's tree.
Let's learn Kanji:
広島県 (Hiroshima-ken) Hiroshima Prefecture + 木 (ki) tree


Spotted in: Chuo Ward, Osaka City, Osaka

In this manhole cover are Osaka City's seal/emblem, the city's tree (cherry tree), and Osaka Castle.
Let's learn Kanji:
中央区 (Chuo-ku) Chuo Ward

And this one shows some of the city's tourist attractions: Tombori river cruise, Dotonbori Canal, Osaka Castle, and...I don't know what the two buildings are. If you know, please leave a comment.
Let's learn Kanji:
大阪市 (Osaka-shi) Osaka City
空気弁 (kuki-ben) air valve
水道局 (suidokyoku) Waterworks Bureau


Spotted in: Toyonaka City, Osaka

Toyonaka City's manhole cover has roses (the city's flower) and a crocodile. Because crocs live in the city's sewers! Just kidding! The crocodile is Osaka University's official mascot Machikane-wani or Dr. Waninamed after the huge crocodile fossil discovered in 1964 in Osaka University's Toyonaka campus.
Let's learn Hiragana:
とよなか Toyonaka


Spotted in: Koya Town, Wakayama

On the center of this manhole cover is Koya Town's emblem.
Let's learn Kanji:
汚水 (osui) sewage
Photo from Japan Visitor



Spotted in: Nara City, Nara

Nara is known for its more than 1,000 free-roaming deer in Nara Park, thus the deer on the manhole cover. The design also includes the city's flower, yaezakura (a variety of cherry blossom), and the city's emblem in the center.
Let's learn Kanji:
汚水 (osui) sewage


Spotted in: Ikaruga town, Nara

On Ikaruga Town's manhole cover are the Japanese black pine (the town's tree), camellia sasanqua (the town's flower), and Hokkiji (a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Ikaruga Town).
Let's learn Hiragana:
いかるが Ikaruga
げすい (gesui) sewage

Colored version from Muza-chan's Gate to Japan


Spotted in: Kyoto City, Kyoto

I saw three different manhole cover designs in Kyoto City. All three have a simple patterned design with Kyoto City's crest on the center.


Spotted in: Uji City, Kyoto

In Uji City, I spotted two manhole covers that, like Kyoto City's covers, are designed with a pattern surrounding the city's emblem.

An interesting find was a colorful drain with Japanese globeflowers, Uji City's flower.
Let's learn Kana (Kanji and Hiragana):
市の花 (ichi no hana) City flower
やまぶき (yamabuki) Japanese globeflower

Another interesting find in Uji City was a manhole cover with maple (the city's tree) leaves, and Ujibashi (bridge), one of the most ancient bridges in Japan.
Let's learn Kanji:
宇治市 (Uji-shi) Uji City
汚水 (osui) sewage

Let's learn Kanji:
消火栓 (shokasen) fire hydrant


YAMANASHI
Spotted in: Fujikawaguchiko, Yamanashi

And here's one from my friend, Bunny, who visited Fujikawaguchiko recently. Thanks, Bunny! On this manhole cover are oenothera (the town's flower) and, on the center, the town's symbol.

Let's learn Hiragana:
おすい (osui) sewage

Have you seen any interesting manhole covers in Japan? Do send me a photo and its location and I will add it in this blogpost. Thank you, fellow drainspotter!



Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers (you're here!)
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Adlaw, Osaka Ako sa Osaka
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

Concentrate on Kansai (2016)
9D/9N | Nov 2016 | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets

I am not a caveman. I do not poop in a hole nor wipe by butt with a leaf. I know what a bathroom, a shower, a faucet, a bathtub, and a toilet are. But stepping into a bath/bathroom/toilet in Japan makes me feel like a caveman.

Ofuro (Japanese Bath)

When my friends and I booked at Goyomon, a minshuku in Ainokura, we were told that the minshuku didn't have a private bathroom. We said amongst ourselves we'd have to go a day without taking a shower if our only choice for a bath was to go to a sento (public bath house). To our relief, Goyomon did have a private ofuro, a Japanese bath! (I guess the person we were communicating with meant there was no private bathroom in the bedroom.) Whew!

In the ofuro was a low tap with a detachable showerhead, bottles of shampoo and bath gel (all labeled in Japanese syllabic script or kana), a low plastic stool in front of the tap, and a bath tub of hot water. I was the last to use the ofuro and I knew (hoped) my friends were smart enough to soap, shampoo, and rinse before soaking in the tub!

Photo from Trip101


Bathroom

I am guessing owning a property in Japan is expensive that's why most apartments are small. A small apartment therefore will have a small bathroom. In the Airbnb apartment we stayed in in Shinjuku, the bathroom was complete with toilet, sink, bathtub, and shower, all in one small space—with arms outstretched I could touch opposite walls. (Tall westerners wouldn't have any wiggle room in a bathroom this size.) I was amazed how well thought out and efficient the layout was. The faucet/tap could be swivelled from the sink to the tub and the shower was also connected to the same tap.

Photo from City Hotel NUTS


Toilet

When entering a Japanese house/inn/guesthouse/hostel, one is expected to remove his/her shoes and slip into house slippers. But that's not the end of the footwear change. When entering the toilet one must remove his/her house slippers and change into toilet slippers! That's the first step.


Step two: Say "Open Sesame!" Some toilets have lids that automatically lift open to welcome your butt.

Step three: Sit on your throne. On cold days, you might want to sit on the toilet even if you don't have any business there, because some toilets have heated seats!

Step four: While doing your thing, study the panel. If you can't read Japanese, try to figure out the symbols. There's a shower for the front or for the behind. There's a button for flushing sound if you want to drown out the embarrassing sounds your butt is making.

Step five: Dry your butt. Yes, there's a dryer button: 乾燥 or the button with the wavy lines.

Step six: Flush. Which one is the flush button you ask? Did you just do number two? Then press 大 (big). If it was just number one, then press 小 (small).

Step seven: If you had just dropped a giant stink bomb, then please press the パワー脱臭 power deodorizer button. Please!

Photo from GaijinPot

Step eight: Wash your hands. Some toilets have a toilet tank sink. Pretty ingenious. Water that you had used to wash your hands will be utilized for flushing the toilet.

Photo from Sanko

Some public toilet cubicles will have a very small, maybe 6 inches in diameter, sink.


I was surprised to find that, after all of these innovative toilet related stuff, there are still squat-type toilets around!

Photo from Matcha

PS. If you stumble into an old school toilet without all the bells and whistles and have to resort to good old toilet paper, please remember to flush your used toilet paper. Throwing used toilet paper into the trash bin is a big no-no.



Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets (you're here!)
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Adlaw, Osaka Ako sa Osaka
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

Concentrate on Kansai (2016)
9D/9N | Nov 2016 | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado

Sunday, July 9, 2017

An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines

I am not a complete dummy when it comes to vending machines. We do have vending machines in the Philippines but they are few and far between. And it's usually just for cold bottled and canned drinks, or coffee, or junk food.

In Japan vending machines are ubiquitous. It seems to appear every few hundred steps. One or two in every corner. Or twelve in a row! There are the usual machines that sell bottled/canned drinks. With some machines selling cold drinks only, some hot drinks only, some a combination. There are machines that sell beer only. There are machines that sell wine.

Twelve machines in a row!

There are machines that sell coffee, banana milk, strawberry milk, banana chocolate milk, green tea dispensed in a paper cup. Hot or cold.

Hmmm...what shall I have? Coffee, banana milk, strawberry milk, banana chocolate?

There are machines that sell biscuits, waffles, bread, sandwiches, milk, juice, and other drinks—all in one machine. A mini convenience store.


And then there are machines that sell ice cream. Perfect for a hot day. Or even a cold day! Who says you can only eat ice cream during summer?

Ice cream

And then there are those for the health nuts. How about some sliced apples?

Sliced apples

And if you need something to occupy yourself on your daily commute you can catch up on current events or immerse yourself in some fiction. But only if you can read Japanese.

Newspapers

Books

Too stressed from work or the rush hour traffic or something and need your nicotine fix?

Cigarettes

And when you get home you realize you have no time to make dashi (soup stock)! Just get a bottle of flying fish soup stock round the corner.


Those are what I have seen in the few days I was in Japan. My friend, Bunny, who recently went to Japan, spotted a machine for hotdogs, takoyaki (octopus balls), deep fried chicken, fries, burgers, and riceballs!

Photo by Bunny

I hear there are also vending machines for umbrellas, underwear, socks, neckties, eggs, bananas, oranges, and ramen!



Japan
Know Before You Go
Single Entry Tourist Visa for Japan
Roam Around Japan with a Swagger
An Ignoramus in Japan: Vending Machines (you're here!)
An Ignoramus in Japan: Bathrooms and Toilets
An Ignoramus in Japan: Manhole Covers
I Spy With My Little Eye: Japan's Fashion Contradictions
I Spy With My Little Eye: On the Go in Japan

From Tokyo to Hiroshima (2015)
10D/9N | Tokyo, Toyama, Kyoto, Hyogo, Osaka, Hiroshima
Tokyo Accommodation: Shinjuku Airbnb
Tokyo: Memorable Tokyo Eats
Tokyo: Odaiba
Tokyo: Doing Touristy Things in Tokyo
Toyama: A Hamlet Called Ainokura
Kyoto Accommodation: K's House Hostel Kyoto
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Wisdom from the Road: On exits #2
Kyoto: By the Thousands (Kyoto Imperial Palace, Sanjusangendo, Fushimi Inari Taisha, Arashiyama Bamboo Grove)
Kyoto, Japanecdote: Turning Japanese
Kyoto: Braving the Crowds at these UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Kyoto (Kiyomizu-dera, Nijo Castle, Kinkakuji)
Hyogo, Japanecdote: If Only I Could Speak Nihongo
Hyogo: Day Trip to Himeji: Himeji Castle and Shoshazan Engyoji Temple
Hyogo, Japanecdote: Am I an Alien?
Hiroshima: Strolling and Snacking in Miyajima
Hiroshima: Remembering the Past in Hiroshima
Osaka, Japanecdote: How to Lose Friends
Osaka Accommodation: Osaka Airbnb
Osaka, Japanecdote: Where is Bentencho Station?
Osaka: Osaka Adlaw, Osaka Ako sa Osaka
Osaka, Japanecdote: Learn From Your Mistakes

Concentrate on Kansai (2016)
9D/9N | Nov 2016 | Wakayama, Nara, Kyoto, Osaka
UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the Kansai Region
Kyoto Accommodations: Guesthouse Wind Villa, Shiori Yado
Osaka Accommodations: Hotel Raizan, Hotel Mikado

Friday, July 7, 2017

Toledo Treasures

Forty-five kilometers west of Cebu City or a 1-hour/100-peso van ride that cuts across the width of the province lies the city of Toledo, where one can take a barge to get to the province of Negros Occidental. But wait, don't go aboard the barge yet. Spend some time checking out this city's little gems.



World War II Foxholes behind the unused Toledo City Hall

A pleasant surprise awaits history buffs in Toledo City. Sitting just behind the unused Toledo City Hall are World War II foxholes, silent witnesses to a significant time. These foxholes were built in 1942 and were used by the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). You can read more about it here.

Unused City Hall

One of the three foxholes


ECAP (CEBECO) Consumers Park

This park by CEBECO (Cebu Electric Cooperative) is the local teenager's hangout. The park is not especially big, but it is free for use and has open cottages built over a pond. What charmed me though were not the open cottages nor the pond, but the island in the center of the pond: the island of Cebu! Every city and municipality of the province is represented and it was like touring the entire province in just a few dozen steps.

Providing electricity to the province

Now we're in the town of San Remegio

Then down to the southernmost tip of Cebu


Capilla Sta Ana and Museum
9AM to 12NN / 1PM to 4PM
Admission fee Php 100 for locals / Php 200 for tourists

This beautiful chapel is owned by a native of Toledo who now lives abroad. In the air-conditioned chapel is the owner's collection of antique religious items, and carvings and paintings of saints. (Taking photographs of the collection inside the rooms are prohibited.) Even the doors of the chapel are antique! If I ever get married, I want to get married here. But they don't do wedding ceremonies here, just renewal of vows.

Outside the chapel is a garden with a small hedge maze. Take my advice: Don't attempt to get in the maze in the boiling heat of the sun. It will take some time to get to the center of the maze and out the same way! But if you need to get your 10,000 steps for the day, be my guest!






Malubog Lake and Dam

Malubog Lake and Dam, located in Barangay General Climaco, is a one-hour jeepney ride from Toledo's Poblacion Market. There's nothing much to do at the lake but spend a lazy day picnicking, snoozing under a tree, and watching the locals fish. To get up close to the dam on the other side of the lake, rent a boat for Php 500 or find a passenger boat that ferries locals (weekdays only) for only Php 10 per person.

Directions to Malubog Lake: At Toledo Poblacion Market, take a jeepney to Malubog Lake. It's a 1-hour and 20-peso very slow ride. If you want to get there faster, find a habalhabal (motorcycle).

Malubog Lake


Malubog Dam

How many gallons per second?

Across the lake, up an embankment, through a tunnel, and down a few hundred steps, my friends and I stumbled into the locals' hangout: the tip of Hinulawan River. The locals were quietly fishing in their own little spot, and one or two were in the water swimming. I found it so beautiful and tranquil and I felt like Alice in Wonderland. (We went in March. I have read in blogs that this little wonderland is now closed to the public.)

Through the tunnel

Down a few hundred steps

I felt like Alice in Wonderland

Hinulawan River



Go fish!


Biga Pit

I have only seen the beautiful blue waters of Biga Pit while on a plane. I thought it was a lake and later learned that it was Carmen Copper Corporation's (formerly Atlas Mining) tailings storage facility or mine dump. And no, the pit is not for swimming! To see Biga Pit, one must have permission to enter the mining complex.

Biga Pit. Photo from the Atlas Mining website.



Big thanks to Andrew: friend, host, and guide!