Travel Japan On A Shoestring (II)

Posted on Friday, 18 April 2014 by haan | 0 comments

Travel Japan On A Shoestring (I) | Travel Japan On A Shoestring (II) | Japan Budget Travel Guide

After transportation, this post will talk about food. Pardon me if I do share some tempting food photos :P

1. Don't eat at touristy places

At touristy sites such as the way going to Fushimi Inari (伏见稻荷神社), food is always at the price of 500 yen (same in Nara, Tokyo etc). The same thing costs much cheaper at non-touristy areas. 

8 takoyaki for 500 yen, on the way from the train station to Fushimi Inari. 

At Nishiki Market, you get 6 takoyaki for only 180 yen. Okay, I know it looks not-so-tasty.
At Teramachi, you get a version with extra mayonnaise and spring onions for just 400 yen. A basic version is 8 for 350 yen. 

2. Eat at market

Even though Nishiki Market (錦市場) is pretty famous, we found some nice, fresh and cheap sashimi there.

3. Eat at Standing shop

Am not sure if that's the correct English translation, but it's a shop where you have to stand and eat your meal. You can't sit for long time there, but the dishes are pretty cheap. The onigiri served there is like 2 for 100 yen, which is only half price of what you normally get from convenience store or supermarket. 

立食 is the keyword. 立 means stand, 食 means eat or food. The bowl of soba is 290 yen, comes with free drinking water.

4. Eat at university cafe

The prices of the food sold at university cafe are very reasonable. Moreover, you can choose from a very wide variety, including rice, noodle, various selections of dishes, as well as dessert. Normally you can have this for lunch only. No breakfast or dinner will be served. You may consider having a big brunch here at noon :) 

Big lunch at Kyoto University, yet paid little (compared to restaurants). 
Another lunch at the cafe of Ritsumeikan University (立命館大學), nearby Kinkakuji (金閣寺). 
You may ask if we are allowed to enter the compound of universities. Most of them, there is no one checking. You can enter freely. Even though they know you are not a student, that is not a problem too!

5. Half-Price Bento (便當) at Dusk

Since 6pm, most supermaket will start to reduce the price of bento, starting from reduction of 20-30 yen,  to 20-30%, then 50%. Normally, if you reach a supermarket at about 1845, you'd see most of the bento have been half-priced. Grab the deal! There is no further reduction because they are mostly gone at such price. Normally at such time, you will spend at most 300 yen for a satisfactory (enough to make you full) bento. 

6. Stay at somewhere with a kitchen for you to cook

Self-prepared meals are definitely much cheaper. Buy your ingredients from supermarket instead of convenience stores. If you see those with the words “業務”, just go in. Normally their prices are pretty good!

Didn't really cook much while in Kyoto, so I don't have example of the supermarkets there.

There are a lot of truly-convenient stuff in Japan. You can buy a 180g rice, then another pack of cooked curry. Heat them for few minutes respectively (or in parallel), then mix them together, and that's! It will cost you around 200 yen only. Of course, as a health-concerned person, I'd advise to intake some fruits or vegetables too! 

Travel Japan On A Shoestring (I)

Posted on by haan | 0 comments

Travel Japan On A Shoestring (I) | Travel Japan On A Shoestring (II) | Japan Budget Travel Guide

As we all know, Japan is an expensive country. Based on my limited experience, I'd like to share some tips, which I hope they would be helpful to travellers who do not wish to miss this country.

I will mainly share about how to spend less on transportation and food, as accommodation is more on personal preference (hostel or hotel, dorm or private room), and its price also depends on seasons. This post is specific to Kyoto, but some of the tips are applicable to other parts of Japan too. This post will talk about TRANSPORTATION.

1. Make use of the special passes offered only to tourists 

The prices might have slightly increased, since the VAT in Japan increased by 3% since 1 April 2014. 
This image was taken in January 2014. 

I only used ICOCA & HARUKA 
All other passes are of good value too, but I'm not the type who travels fast, covering a lot of places in a day. Holding such pass, you can do like this - go to Mount Koya in the morning, take lunch is Osaka, have dinner in Kobe, then back to Kyoto to stay overnight. Sorry to say this is just not my style :P 

Another benefit of using such passes is, you don't have to worry about taking the wrong train to wrong places. Unlimited rides within certain period make such mistakes incur no additional charge. If you are in Osaka, check out the Osaka Unlimited Pass.  

2. Daily bus pass, 500 yen only

Plan well, by making the places not widely scattered in a day. For example, on the 1st day,you might only just walk around the nearby places (eg. Gion). On the 2nd day, you can take bus to cover the further places. As such, 1st day you spend nothing on transportation, 2nd day you spend only 500 yen for bus. 

Daily buss pass is a good choice if you will take at least 3 bus rides on a day (each ride costs you 180 yen).

Check carefully for the places covered by this bus pass. Some further areas such as Arashiyama is not covered. 

 3. Make use of Seishun 18 Kippu

This pass is available to both locals and tourists. You can use JR all across Japan for 2,300 yen per day (Shinkansen is not included). It is only available three times a year during school holiday seasons (spring, summer, winter). For detailed information, please refer here.  

I didn't know about this earlier enough. Otherwise, I'd have utilized this to travel from Hokkaido to Tokyo. 

4. Visit Kinken Shops (金券ショップ)

You can see them widely available in Kyoto. My local Japanese friend, Kanae, told me about this. You could get things at a cheaper price here, for various types of train tickets, stamps, prepaid cards for parking, books, phone, or for shopping etc. 

The shops look like this. FYI, 切符 means "ticket". 京阪切符 means the tickets between Kyoto and Osaka. 

You can see examples of price reduction offered. However, the staff may not converse in English very well. 

5. Use Google Map or HyperDia to check for the cheapest route

In order to get to somewhere, there are a lot of ways. I always check for the available options via Google Map or HyperDia. You may say, Google Map is sufficient, why HyperDia? Honestly, sometimes I find HyperDia provides more accurate information than Google Map. 

6. Utilize the Free Wifi spots

Some people would rent a WiFi device throughout their time in Japan, so that they can have access to the Internet at all times. To be frank, you can do some preparation beforehand to get rid of such spending. For example, you plan your day, check all the routes info, save them into your smartphone. Then, you won't need to have Internet access at all times. 

Yea, sometimes we might have change of plan. So what? Nowadays, a lof of places do provide FREE WiFi. Just get connected and check the necessary. There is no need to snap photos and share in Facebook as soon as you reach a place. You are not that important as you think you are. Without instant posting, life still goes on. Your friends and family are too busy to follow your steps every seconds, every minutes. Sharing can be done at night, when you get back to accommodation with free WiFi. 

You may say you like to explore less touristy places and you need Google Map. In this case, you can launch the application before you leave your accommodation (with WiFi provided), get your "current location", then have it opened. When you move to another place, your "current place" will be updated and shown in the map. You will get an idea where are you. Don't under-estimate the money and time you spend on WiFi or Internet. They can be greatly reduced, and when accumulated, it could be a big amount of money and time.

If it's cheap to get a SIM card and 3G service, I will normally do that. Just that I feel the Data Only Package in Japan is kind of dear. 

7. Hitch-hike

Though it exists, hitch-hiking is not very common in Japan. Also, the transportation system in Japan is very good, basically you won't really face a condition that "you wanna go somewhere, but you can't find the way". Just that, if you really wish to reduce further on your expenses amount, hitch-hiking is still an option (provided that you have sufficient time and patience). I did not hitch-hike in Kansai. If you are into hitch-hiking in Japan, you can read this article.

While I was in Niseko, since it is a very Western environment, hitchhiking happened quite often. We (the helpers) normally have a cardboard with the words HIRAFU (where we stay) and KUTCHAN (where we want to go for grocery shopping) on different sides. Hold the cardboard, stand near the road, put up your thumb, someone would stop for you in less than 5 minutes. Otherwise, a return journey to shop for groceries would cost us at least 700 yen (by bus). 

Back from Japan 2014 (III)

Posted on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 by haan | 0 comments
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Back from Japan (I) | Back from Japan (II) | Back from Japan (III) | 3-Month Japan Trip Expenses | On the Road of Japan Photo Album



由於Kabuki是賣日式食物(yaki soba, teppanyaki, okonomiyaki, chan-chan yaki, takoyaki)的,所以當然少不了日籍廚師和工作人員。除了日本人,還有美國的、英國的、德國的、澳洲的、台灣的、大馬的,而在這裡的日本人,都不是很典型那種,他們大多也都去過不少地方、見識過外面的世界、英文說得不錯,也不會說旅遊時都只想去那些已經發展得很好的國家。至少,他們和我那班時常都有很多顧忌的日籍同學相差很多。


由於身邊的日本人比較多了,他們除了在空閒時間問我們一些英文,我們也禮尚往來,會向他們學習一些簡單的日文。Yuka算是我主要的老師。我們從housemate,變成workmate、roommate,然後attic-mate。在餐館當kitchen hand,每天除了要切很多新鮮蔬菜和生肉,最令我有恐懼感的就是要洗大量的碗碟杯子。那之前,我很少戴手套洗碗碟,但在那裡,真的不得不這麼做。有些東西,不身歷其境,確實不能深切感受到。

在Hirafu那段時間,是住在Australia House,每天走幾步路就可以到餐館工作。Australia House那裡住了不少helpers,所以除了餐館的同事,進進出出都會和許多負責其他工作崗位的人碰面。比如說,有來自澳門的Naomi(打掃住宿)、來自香港的Bonnie(在Wabi Sabi餐館工作)和Haru(在滑雪中心工作)、來自西班牙的Oliver(打掃住宿)、來自瑞士的Maxime(負責除雪)、美國的Jesper(打掃住宿)等等。

其實,我還蠻佩服Scott的。他是很典型的生意人,有一次他offer Shilly說帶她一起去snowshoe,原來是要Shilly幫他寫一篇關於snowshoeing的文章。從他身上,你是“不可能得到免費午餐”的。我們私底下時常說他壞話,但說歸說,每個人都還要留下幫忙或跟他打工(日本人都是受薪的,每小時750円,住在閣樓每月月租是30,000円)。說到底,也就是各取所需而已。他有很多人都趨之若鶩的ski pass,很多人都是沖著這樣東西而來。Australia House那裡共有5張ski pass,大家必須預定,每次3小時。如果真的想用一段時間來學滑雪,跟他換宿算是不錯的選擇,不然來個幾天的滑雪trip,基本上也很難將技巧學好。

在那裡遇到很多20幾歲、剛大學畢業的年輕人。相較他們,我、Alan & Janine、Ho、Lawrence這些算是比較年長的了,但你也會看到,通常host比較會給較為年長的helpers委以重任。比如說,我和Ho會負責一些網站、和IT有關的事宜;去年11月開始就長時間幫忙他的Alan & Janine成了Oasis Lodge的lodge managers;和他們一樣待蠻久的Lawrence成了Kabuki餐館的manager。Scott自己也有親口說,通常亞洲人比較愛整潔、不偷懶,總的來說是“比較靠譜”。



其實,Jeanene拒絕過我,因為我不能在三月初就抵達。但,我總是有很強的戰鬥力,以及鍥而不捨的精神。被拒絕之後,我還這麼寫:“In case you still need anyone (for website or cleaning) at anytime between 18 Mar and 12 Apr, please let me know. I will try to find other places but honestly, your hostel is still my first choice :) ”


Jeanene的年齡應該和我沒差太多,但我并沒問她確實幾歲。平時,她都是一個人打理、想很多東西。我去到之後,時常會給予她建議,我抵達和工作了幾天,我們才第一天見面。她說她很感謝我給她建議、和她商量事情。我的工作範圍其實也沒有很 well-defined,也就是看到什麽是應該做的,就做。我常要求說週末週日我要放假,她也都會答應。

有一次住宿 overbooked,我恰巧打算去朋友那裡過夜,她要求我是否能把床位讓出來一天,我也就依她的意思。她沒跟我計較,我也可以很隨便。

23歲的Alex,有時會很情緒化,只要你看到他氣色不好臉色不佳,就知道他是不在狀況了。來自加拿大的他,曾突然說他兩天后想離開,弄到我們不曉得是否應該認真看待他一時之間的決定。Jean叫我給他一點開解吧,我很衰,我說每個人都會經歷這種階段,讓他冷靜一下,就沒事的啦!我和Alex一起在客房工作時,時常都會閒話家常。我說我來日本是爲了處理一些私事,他似乎也是爲了一個日本女人去到那裡。不過我的事處理好了,他的日本女人依然無聲無息。至於我的同房Nicole,是我到了那裡第一個認識的人。在日本working holiday的她,雖然工作很忙,但我們也曾有過不錯的交流,只可惜在我走之前,沒機會和他及Alex一起到 izakaya(居酒屋)吃一餐。

在這裡換宿,也見識到了不少客人。有一晚,共有21個大馬馬來人check-in,真的是要感謝亞航飛名古屋(Nagoya)的新航線。我跟他們說馬來文,他們很開心,還熱情地送我一個大馬風味的杯面。曾來過兩個法國女學生,亂到... 我不懂該如何形容。有兩個男生很奇怪,是朋友,卻要分開、每人住一個單人間。台灣女生吃麵包,似乎都喜歡搽巧克力醬。菲律賓的5名住客,每天早上都很努力在廚房煮早午餐,早餐當場吃,然後帶便當午餐出去。來自澳洲的一男一女,在日本買電單車,打算以騎電單車的方式,在日本旅遊兩個月,之後再到俄羅斯、蒙古等國家。也有遇過來自新加坡的女生,一個很友善很正常,另一個,雖然我們都說中文,但我覺得她怪怪的,問的問題都很奇怪,基本上我覺得自己跟她溝通不到。


東京重聚(Gathering in Tokyo)


感謝美雪強力推薦的Jaipur印度餐,及帶我到Naka Meguro(中目黑)看櫻花。
感謝瑪莎魯請我的沖繩套餐,以及特地從福岡飛到東京和我相聚,還有安排超棒的hanami party。


Back from Japan 2014 (II)

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Back from Japan (I) | Back from Japan (II) | Back from Japan (III)3-Month Japan Trip Expenses | On the Road of Japan Photo Album



第一次慶祝 Candlemas(La Chandeleur / Crêpe Day)。
第一次經歷超棒的powder snow。
第一次體驗hanami party。
第一次 fail a test。




關西部份算是屬於純旅遊。我弟和朋友Caroline一起從台灣出發到關西。住多人房時,認識了大馬籍但在新加坡工作的Ka Shin。至今我們還保持著聯絡。







Fiona不在的時候,我們三人駕了她租的車,去了一趟支笏湖(Lake Shikotsu)看冰祭(Ice Festival)。那是我第一次,也是最後一次和Chris和Dylan一起出遊。


從俱知安(Kutchan)去到安奴普裡(Annupuri)的Oasis Lodge,根本就是從地獄升上天堂。客廳裡頭的fireplace,讓每個人都感覺暖暖的,我不再覺得冬天充斥著那麼多悲哀的情緒。也是helpers的Alan & Janine,是lodge managers。他們兩人都很好、很愛乾淨。我一個人一間房,雖然空間沒多大,但靜靜暖暖,我很滿足。除了地下室有超多的馬鈴薯、蘿蔔和大蔥可以任吃,我們也有過多的燕麥,所以會拿來做甜點,免費讓客人吃。


在那裡生活,最經典的一次就是臨睡前沒鎖房門,半夜三點多,竟然有個美籍男客人進錯我的房間,嚇到我,但我依然可以在既迷糊卻鎮定的情況下,跟他說了三次“你進錯房間了”,他才驚覺和開始道歉。住在那裡,感覺就像在小歐洲,客人們都來自澳洲、歐洲或美國。大概只有在人家送貨來,或我們到超市grocery shopping時,才會遇到日本人。



Back from Japan 2014 (I)

Posted on by haan | 2 comments

Back from Japan (I) | Back from Japan (II) | Back from Japan (III) | 3-Month Japan Trip Expenses | On the Road of Japan Photo Album



去年去印度,某程度上我是想自己去那裡受一些挫折,當做是懲罰自己,怎麼可以 / 會有那些不該有的想法。怎知,整個印度之旅是那麼的美好,遇到不少的好人好事,沒肚瀉沒被騙,說出來我自己都不敢相信。

在印度,經歷過最難熬的心情,機緣巧合之下,去上了內觀冥想課程。短短的十天,心情有很大的起伏。雖然冥想著,有時腦子里頭卻是洶湧的翻騰,一些塵封已久的記憶紛紛湧現,淚水也會不自覺地流下,堅持了那麼多個月的信念,差點就守不住。幸好,當時在那裡寫的一封信,最終沒有寄出去。從課程學習到的,是一個簡單的道理:everything arises just to pass away, everything is impermanent。一切感覺,都會過去、會消失的。我一直這樣跟自己說,也希望那一天,很快就會到來。

2013年11月3號,屠妖節那天晚上,我自己這樣寫過:我希望以后还可以与他见面,而那时我可以很肯定地告诉自己,everything is already over, you are now perfectly all right。

不懂是自己心急、太過高估自己還是怎樣,我很想再次到日本“驗證”一下。在找不到 valid reasons 重遊日本的時候,我弟竟然說他要去那裡旅行,並且諮詢我一些關於他和朋友意見不合的事。就這樣,讓我找到了去日本的理由。之後,我又以“不喜歡過華人新年”為原因,選擇在那裡長待,而四月看櫻花,又成為我可以用盡90天旅遊簽證的另一個理由。


當時,我還這麼寫:“我要可以坦誠地面對自己的感覺。知道和面對之後,有沒有fail the mission是另一回事。成功的話,就快樂離開;不成功的話,還是要離開,但會給自己更長的時間。”

到了東京那晚,洗好澡可以準備入睡時,已經是凌晨一兩點了。我在斟酌是否要發信息給他,告訴他我已經到了。腦子還在猶豫,但手指已經把信息打好並且發了出去。當天晚上,我們就見面了。那天我們像以前好朋友時那樣,說些普通的話題,那些曾經通信的內容都沒有提及。短短的兩三小時后回到家,我就知道自己已經是 fail the test 的了。

晚餐時他說週末我們一起去個road trip吧,我也說好,但大家都異口同聲建議說要找其他同學一起加入。幾天過後,我們又見面了。那是個可怕的一天。好多以往在夏威夷的美好回憶都重來了。不只那些去的地方相似,連在車上他當司機我當導航的角色也一樣。在等壽司晚餐的座位時,我們有機會單獨聊了一下。他說了一些東西,令我必須暫時離席、到別處拭掉眼淚、平復情緒才得以回去繼續聊。那天晚上回家,我知道,自己陷入更嚴重的狀態了。連遠在歐洲的朋友看到我的面子書狀態更新,都可以猜到“我慘了”。

簡單來說,我覺得應該已經 pass away 的感覺,都依然存在著。可是面對他的時候,我又很理智,可以裝得很好,只是一回家,我就覺得很折騰。表面笑著,心裡揪著,表裡不一。我很討厭自己那麼理智,可是我又害怕自己不夠理智,會不小心做錯事。另一邊廂,我也很不喜歡自己不能誠實地面對自己、面對彼此。Road trip 結束當晚我決定隔天再約他單獨見面,給自己一個對自己坦白誠實的機會。


兩星期過後的週日,終於可以見面了。我知道自己或許會控制不了自己的情緒,所以約了他在他辦公室,不想在那些其他人會看到我失態的地方。等待的兩個星期,基本上我也沒睡好,每晚臨睡前,都會想,是不是應該 proceed,還是就這樣無疾而終就好了?最終還是決定 proceed,因為我嘗試說服自己無疾而終就好,但心裡似乎過不到那一關。兩星期的冷靜期,我也想好了該怎麼開口、該說些什麽。

我跟他說,我以為自己可以做到,可是我必須承認我是 fail 了。

基本上,我真的只是想把要說的東西說出來而已,沒有想說要去要求或奢望什麽。把全部東西說清楚,就算是好好的道別。“離別時,要好好告別,像最後一次” - 這點對我這種該死的處女座很重要。我并沒想說要跟他鬧翻,我純粹想誠實面對自己,及要求他給我一個讓自己比較好過、比較可以let go得快的機會。


回到家,趁我還沒改變主意,馬上把我們在網上的一切聯絡都斷絕、把以往的信息都刪除。至於我們的JAIMS group,我也交代了一聲然後選擇退出(雖然他叫我別這麼做)。很快地,就有兩位男同學來問我爲什麽退出。我說我不想講,幸好她們也都尊重,不再追問。



我知道,不能心急的。今後,我繼續走我的世界,他繼續忙他的工作。我們從此互不相干。對於那些曾有過的美麗回憶,忘掉應該是不可能的(尤其是我這種記憶力超好的人),但至少,必須可以 let go。

“人生所有的得意和失意,所有的喝采和喝倒采,到頭來只是過眼雲煙,當下笑過哭過就好,然後還得回到你孤獨的奮鬥裡。今朝滿堂掌聲,他日曲終人散,浮華如斯,看不開是執著,看得開就是智慧。” ~張小嫻

“放不下一個人,是誰的錯?當然是你。心在你那裡,思念也在你那裡,只有你能放下,誰也幫不了你。” ~ 《‪‎那些为你无眠的夜晚‬》張小嫻

老天再次給我考驗,我也相信一定有祂的原因。不要想那麼多,move on 吧!一切都會過去的,我需要的,只是多一點的時間。



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