A moment in Tokyo

Here’s a video I found off YouTube that demonstrates how awesome Tokyo is. Locations were Shibuya, Harajuku, Roppongi, Ginza, Akihabara and Shinjuku. It was filmed and edited by a guy called Mark D. Manalo.

The Akashi Kaikyō Drive: Crossing the longest bridge in Japan

Hinjew posted a video on YouTube when we crossed the Akashi Kaikyō bridge, which is the longest one in Japan. He’s doing about 120 km/h here, so it looks shorter than it really is.

From the Wikipedia article:

The Akashi-Kaikyō Bridge (明石海峡大橋 Akashi Kaikyō Ō-hashi?), also known as the Pearl Bridge, has the longest central span of any suspension bridge, at 1,991 metres (6,532 ft). It is located in Japan and was completed in 1998[1]. The bridge links the city of Kobe on the mainland of Honshū to Iwaya on Awaji Island by crossing the busy Akashi Strait. It carries part of the HonshūShikoku Highway.

The bridge is one of the key links of the Honshū-Shikoku Bridge Project, which created three routes across the Inland Sea.

Japanese Festival at the Old Port of Montreal

I got news today that there is a Japanese festival at the Old Port in Montreal. The festival will be held August 14th (this Saturday) starting at 2 PM. Reading the website, there will be tons of activities and entertainment, not to mention samples of Japanese cuisine. It’s the first time I will be attending such an event, so I look forward to it. It’ll hopefully bring back a few memories from our trip!

Looking back at the trip and things we would have done differently

It has been about two months now since we’ve been back from Japan, and the team has discussed several changes we would have done the next time around.

  • Reserve domestic plane tickets in advance: one of our mistakes was hoping to purchase a domestic flight ticket the day of departure. Unfortunately, the price was double, and this went against our budget rules (that is, save money!). Buying a ticket for the day after was considerably cheaper.
  • Bring our own GPS: our car’s GPS was completely in Japanese. Luckily for us, we managed to memorize the button combinations involved when putting in telephone numbers to read our destination. Next time, we are going to bring our own fully-functional GPS unit with maps of Japan. We were fortunate to have a HTC HD2 with Google Maps to aid us while we were lost.
  • Purchase an ETC pass: we had to carry cash and coins for the tolls, resulting in a lot of loose change afterwards. Next time, we’ll simply buy an Electronic Toll Collector pass to make our lives easier.
  • Bring an unlocked USB GSM modem: the modem we were given by NTT Docomo was incompatible with our Cradlepoint PHS300 broadband router. Fortunately, we hooked up Hinjew’s HTC Tytn II to the PHS300 as a broadband router so we can share the connection.
  • Use the subway system more: we had no clue the subway system in Tokyo was so efficient, clean and fast. If we had known this, we would have used it a lot more often in the beginning of the trip.
  • Bring more money: preferably US currency, all the hotels we stayed at did not accept the Canadian dollar. The exchange rate at the time (and even presently) is par, so the best time to travel is now! While our budget was 2,200.00$ for the trip (without flight) having more money meant a lot more could have been accomplished. We did stay in some rather expensive hotels when there were cheaper alternatives as we wanted a comfortable trip.
  • Pool our money in advanced: our plan was to split hotels, the car, gas, tolls and the internet among ourselves. Since our budget was about 2,200.00$ each, we should have pooled the money beforehand as opposed to accounting for everything afterwards.
  • Organization: there were times where we could have maximized our stay in a city by visiting more places, but the team did not know how long it would take in terms of transportation (we didn’t want to stay out too late or miss an event).
  • Stay longer: for some (ok, just I, Fallout) eleven days was way too short. My original plan was to stay in Japan for an entire month, but getting time off work was a challenge in itself, let alone budgetary concerns.

All in all, we were all very satisfied with our trip. There is this idea in the air to revisit the country again next year when funds are available and do a “Japanigans Part II”. 🙂 Till then, this blog will be online indefinitely and hopefully updated with some fresh content/news when something relevant comes up.

Lost & Found, and more last minute departures

A member of the Japanigans team lost quite a few valuables on this trip, but managed to get them all back.

On our first day, this person lost 3500 CAD in cash at the airport. We were at the SoftBank counter on the fourth floor and our friend left a stack of cash inside a plastic bag on the counter. We simply went downstairs to the NTT Docomo counter without a clue. Within five minutes, the SoftBank lady that we spoke to upstairs approached us. She asked us if we had forgotten anything. A quick check on our pockets revealed that indeed, we were missing a lot of cash. She returned our cash and didn’t even take a small reward we were offering her.

On the second last day of our trip, this same person lost about three thousand dollars worth of camera equipment. We were on the subway, going back to our hotel, with our hands full of items we had bought. Halfway to the train station, our friend remembered that he left his backpack on the subway. We all thought that we would never see the bag and its contents again.

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Top Secret Japan and Super RC in Chiba and Akihabara Respectively

Today, we visited Top Secret Japan, which is a world-renown car garage for high performance modifications. Some of the cars they were working on were quite impressive to say the least. Getting to Top Secret was a bit long, especially since we had to switch trains twice.

Afterwards, we took a train that left Chiba directly to Akihabara. Thundergod and I (Fallout) wanted to purchase some Radio/Remote Controlled model cars since the beginning of the trip. Tamiya, one of the world’s largest model and RC manufacturers, is based in Japan. We found a reseller that sold virtually every type of kit and part available. Thundergod and I were kids in a candy store, each picking up a kit to bring back home and race.

Finally, our last day in Tokyo has come to an end. Tomorrow, we’ll be going to the airport at 1-2 PM to board our flight at 5 PM. We should be arriving in Montreal at 7:11 PM.

Super Autobacs, Tokyu Hands and Shibuya Drinking

We visited the Super Autobacs shop in the Koto district, where thousands of car parts, modifications, upgrades and miscellaneous products are sold. It’s a car fanatics dream come true. You will practically find everything imaginable: exhausts, window tints, air fresheners, sound systems, badges, engine mods, wheels, brakes, paint and the kitchen sink. We spent close to an hour in the store, just browsing through the aisles. Hinjew and Fallout both purchased a unique air freshener for their cars, a distinct smell that was not available anywhere else, called “natural squash”.

After Super Autobacs, we took the subway back to Shibuya and stopped by a MOS Burger. We’ve never heard of this restaurant outside of Japan before, so we’d like to think it’s a rare joint that serves burgers. The food was pretty good to say the least.

Afterwards, we went to Tokyu Hands in the Shibuya district, the flagship store that has seven floors of unique products that one cannot find outside of Japan. Items such as toys, games, arts & crafts, models, costumes, paint, luggage, novelty, furniture, pet supplies, drawing, lighting, do-it-yourself kits and other goods can be found at Tokyu Hands. There was something for everyone. I think we spent another hour or two in the store, going up every floor to see what kind of products one could buy. We wish there was a store like this back home!

Finally, to end our day on a good note, we went to a bar in Shibuya district called Kirin-City. We had a few drinks after a long day of walking and (window) shopping.

Harajuku Station, Shibuya and Tokyo’s Public Transportation System

This is a continuation of the previous post, where we got lost, received a fine and gave the car back to the rental agency.

Feeling a bit crappy because of the surprise parking ticket fine, we decided to go see the girls at Harajuku Station even though it was a bit too late for them to be out. We read online that the Harajuku girls usually hang out during the afternoon on Sundays. We decided to take a chance and go see them anyway. Worst, we could just walk around the area to kill some time.

Instead of taking the subway or train, we simply took a cab to get to Harajuku Station. This is where we passed by the Champs D’Elysees of Tokyo: all the major brand name stores such as Louis Vuitton, Nike, Gap, etc. had set up shop. Shibuya is known as Tokyo’s fashion district, and this was not far from the truth.

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We lost our car, got a parking ticket fine and more shenanigans

Today was quite an adventure to say the least.

It all started with us waking up too late for the breakfast buffet. See, our hotel has two types of breakfast: the buffet and the American breakfast. The buffet is only open until 10, while the American one goes till 11. The American is basically eggs, bacon/sausage and a drink of your choice, nothing more. Thundergod, Hinjew and myself (Fallout) thought the buffet was open until 11 AM. We were obviously wrong. Regardless, the meal was good anyway so no complaints there.

After going back to our room, each of us took a shower and basically taking our time getting ready to go out. At about 1 PM, we decided to finally hit the road and check out Akihabara, known as Tokyo’s electronics and anime district. We regretfully decided to drive to the district instead of taking public transportation, as we figured it would be faster to get there. We also assumed that the parking cost wouldn’t be that much. Also, it was our last day with the car, and we had to drop it off at the Toyota Rent-A-Car in Central Tokyo. Kill two birds with one stone, right?

Here’s where our adventure slightly turns to the worse.

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Tokyo needs restaurants that close late (or never)

Thank God for room service.

It’s 10 PM Japan Standard Time and there are no restaurants that close late, or do not close at all. Hinjew, Thundergod and myself (Fallout) are starving to death, and there is nothing open or close enough to our hotel. We don’t want to take the subway right now because, a) it would take us longer to get food, and b) we’re too lazy to go anywhere far. There may be places out there that serve food late, but we couldn’t find one online, and our hotel concierge is asleep.

Fortunately, at desperate times like these, hotel room service can (and might) save the day. A few seconds ago, we just placed an order for some food via a telephone call. The prices on the room service menu were actually decent. We’re just hoping the food is edible.