Demon's Rift - a blog archive

Home - and a deadline looming
Ten chan at 11:35PM, Oct. 24, 2007
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posts: 27
joined: 9-6-2007
I'm HOME.

I'd been planning to write a whole bunch here tonight, but everything I thought of has flown out of my head while I catch up on Beta fires and e-mails and such. Heh! I've been awake for well over a day straight, anyway, and home for a little less than an hour. I'm still planning on typing up a whole huge blog entry about my Japan experiences, and tips for other first-time travelers.

But for now, it's enough to say, I'm HOME.

~ Ten-chan

P.S. Friday is my next scheduled update, but the page isn't finished yet! Heh! I really need to get my butt in bed, but I'm hoping to have the page done in time for the update. Cross your fingers for me!
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:24AM
Ten chan at 4:06PM, Oct. 25, 2007
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posts: 27
joined: 9-6-2007
For first-time travelers to Japan, this is a first-time traveler's hints and suggestions, centered on Tokyo and Kyoto.

1. Things that are Hard to Come By

Before getting on the airplane, purchase a packet of cloth handkerchiefs and carry one with you at all times. Also acquire a tiny bottle of hand sanitizer to slip into a purse or pocket once you're in-country. Believe it or not, napkins, paper towels, and air hand dryers are rare once you're away from the airport and hotels. Restaurants and eateries will provide hot wet towels (either the terrycloth or paper kind, but always wet and warmed) to wipe your fingers before you eat, but no napkins for spills and such.

A pocket handkerchief is also a handy thing to have if you plan to visit any shrines and wish to take part in the purification of hands and mouth - to wipe up drips.

While you're out walking the city streets, especially in Tokyo, you will run into people standing on the sidewalk hawking small tokens, free gifts, usually for a new store opening. Go ahead and take it if these people offer one, because a lot of the time, it's a packet of paper tissues. Not just the face kind. You'll see why this is a godsend in a second.

Toilets are another adventure altogether; I think especially for women. Unless you have no other alternative - as sometimes I didn't - use the Western-style toilet. There may not be toilet paper or soap (yep, wipes and soap are the other rare things in public restrooms), but at least the commode itself is recognizable. Otherwise, the Japanese-style cubby consists of a hole in the floor.

Well, okay, it's not THAT bad. It is a porcelain sink, rectangular, but set in the floor. You have to, um, straddle. If you're lucky, there may be a bar to hang onto while you take care of things. I have no idea how those ladies manage to stay so fresh and pretty in their skirts and heels after using the thing, but hey, I'm an American wearing baggy jeans and I almost hurt myself laughing when I walked into the subway restroom and had a wild moment of thinking I'd accidentally gone into the men's room.

The other things hard to come by while cruising around on foot, are rubbish bins. The vending machines are truly awesome, placed strategically on almost every block, in singles to lines of ten. Most of them carry beverages like tea, coffee, Coke or Fanta, vitamin drinks, a weird version of Gatorade called Pocari Sweat, fruit juice, some sparkling drinks like flavored water, energy drinks, and beer. Next to the machines 99% of the time, sits a trash can. But be careful! Most of these are only for recycling the bottles and cans that come out of the vending machines. You'll have about a one-in-ten chance of finding other bins to take combustibles and non-combustibles as well as those for recycling. If you buy something that comes in a bag with handles, take it with you for your trash and keep an eye out for those treasures called rubbish bins. If you aren't having any luck near the vending machines, make a beeline for a convenience store.

2. Purchasing Tickets on the Subway and Trains

3. Choosing Places to Eat - Cheaply and Otherwise

4. Studio Ghibli - How to Get In and All the Wheres Involved

5. Bus Tours - Take Them!

6. Other Attractions

7. Want a Kimono? I Have Just the Place for You

I will fill in the rest of these as I have time, and as things occur to me. If anyone uses my guide while visiting Japan and find it helpful (or unhelpful), please let me know! Some of the fun and adventure is finding these things out for yourself, but if you're like me, sometimes surprises aren't a good thing.
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:24AM
Ten chan at 4:49PM, Oct. 26, 2007
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posts: 27
joined: 9-6-2007
2. More Preparation - Phone Number & Forms

Do you know the phone number of the place you're staying in Japan? Be sure to have it with you, because you'll need it right away on the plane. You'll be given an immigration form - everyone who isn't a resident of Japan will have to fill it out - and it specifically asks for your Japanese address and phone number. For us, it was as simple as pulling it off the hotel brochure. But that wasn't the end of it.

We took traveler's checks with us as well as a card. We found out the best place to cash the checks in Tokyo was in a bank above a post office . . . where we needed to fill out forms that asked for our phone number in Japan. This probably isn't true for everyone, but it doesn't hurt to know it anyway. A nifty thing about Japanese culture is that there are plenty of people who hold jobs to greet customers, answer questions, and thank them as they leave. Don't be afraid to walk right up to the person who says “Irasshaimasen” to you and flash those checks - he or she will help you fill out the form. In Kyoto, we were able to exchange the TC for yen right at the concierge desk of the hotel.

I know it is possible to rent a mobile phone, speaking of phone numbers, while in Japan. We did not do this, though with Cingular and Verizon as our providers, our phones were useless to us. I would urge travelers to at least look into it.

One last note on forms - on the way back to the US, someone will hand out more forms. For residents, it's the blue customs declaration form. Handy tip: Only one form per family is needed even if, like in my case because of timing my marriage and my passport, the last names are different.

3. Purchasing Tickets on the Subway and Trains

4. Choosing Places to Eat - Cheaply and Otherwise

5. Studio Ghibli Museum - How to Get In and All the Wheres Involved

6. Bus Tours - Take Them!

7. On Foot vs. On a Bike

8. Want a Kimono? I Have Just the Place for You

9. Other Places I Went
last edited on July 18, 2011 10:24AM

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