JAPOW! Part 2

Just another morning in Yamanouchi, Nagano, Japan.

The key to the survival in this kind of snowy region in Japan,

Clear snow off your car the night before when you know it’s gonna snow overnight!

Otherwise you’ll end up spending looooong time the morning digging your car out of snow and get it going. You’ll be late for work!!

Enjoy the video.

Please don’t do this while in Japan

Nor even at Japanese restaurants near you…

A story of Japanese Curry

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They look gross, frankly, but once you’ve tried it, you wouldn’t mind because you’ve been hooked.

Hooke by its spiciness, flavour, smell.

Oh and with its toppings/additions you can have with it.

It seems either “Deep Fried Pork”=トンカツ or “Deep Fried Chicken”=チキンカツ to be very popular as your choice, after having spent quite some time with mainly NZ friends in Japan over multiple trips to Japan.

What’s even more amazing is that each region, each household seem to have own recipe for curry. I even have a secret recipe for this dish.

And now into the main subject

I know where you come from, how you feel, but, no… That’s not right…

You may not understand what I’m talking about.

This is about “Eating Japanese Curry with chopsticks“.

Now you have a better idea with this photo.

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To protect their privacy, I put dots over their faces.

But you see what I mean?

No, you need to use a spoon for this!

As I said at the beginning, I know where you come from, being in Japan you are so keen to show off your chopstick skill, like Mr Miyagi caught a fly with them.

But, save that skill for other occasions…

Use a spoon when you’ve ordered a curry.

I’m pretty sure it even either sit right in front of you on the table, or brought to you when you get the plate.

I’m watching you…

a-japanses-sign

Today’s Phrase

Kareh Wo Hitotsu Onegai Shimasu カレーを一つお願いします = Can I have one curry, please

That’ll be cool if you can place an order in a restaurant! Keep trying!

A nightmare of renting a car in Japan

This could be the hardest challenge you face while travelling in Japan

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Or even before setting your foot on the soil, over the internet while organising your trip. You may even forget about hiring a car when you can travel around the whole country by trains and buses.

Why is it so hard? I just want to hire a car. But it’s not that easy.

I hope in a way this is happening only to me.

At the same time, to be fair, I’ve rented a car only in small-mid sized towns and never in cities or at airports. The situation can be quite different and easier if you are picking up your car at those places.

The reasons that make it so hard are

  • You can’t choose a vehicle like you normally do shopping online, choosing an item with a photo and click and so on
  • You have to contact companies by sending emails and wait
  • Often those reply emails are not helpful if your request/order is not suited to their situation and, in this particular case, I have to go through all the process all over again through their website and by emailing and waiting
  • You can’t find too many options for 4WD vehicles although you want to drive in snowy regions during winter
  • You can’t make credit card payments
  • Sometimes you don’t even know exactly what kind of a car you are hiring until you actually get to the rent-a-car place

AND I DO SPEAK AND READ THE LANGUAGE!!

I can only imagine your nightmare to go through without being able to read or speak Japanese.

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This time there isn’t a single thing I can do for you to help out or ease your situation. The enemy is so huge, I’m just a tiny dot on a map.

Actually, at least I’ve raised your awareness of this renting a car situation in Japan, so that’s something, a bit of contribution to the travellers’ world, I want to believe.

I just have a tinge of doubt in my mind, that there is something I don’t know but you know, about renting a car in Japan. It could be in fact very easy and I’m just missing something.

If so, please tell me what I can do to make my life easier!

See you next time.

Today’s Phrase

Kuruma Wo Mikka Kan Karitai Desu 車を3日間借りたいです = I want to rent a car for 3 days

Listen multiple times and you’ll get this!

 

How to find Nagaden @ Nagano Station

Changing trains at Nagano Station to get to Yudanaka

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It’s pretty simple.

If you’ve arrived at Nagano Station by one of those JR line, like Shinkansen=Bullet Train, head out to the Zenkouji Exit 善光寺口 first.

You should be able to find one of many signs pointing directions which way Zenkouji Exit is.

Once you found which way you need to go to, go downstairs then you’ll see these to your right.

 

There is a Starbucks and the bus terminal once outside on this side of the station.

Also, along the fence to the bus terminal to the right, you find,

A convenience store – Daily Yamazaki

A Soba Noodle Shop

Then go downstairs again then you’ll be at the entrance and ticket counter for Nagaden

Once you get here, it’s for ¥1260, just under an hour away to Yudanaka, the gateway to Snow Monkey.

From here to Yudanaka, you can refer to my previous post for more detail,

How to get to Yudanaka Part 3

I hope you can have a smooth transfer at Nagano Station!

See you next time!

Today’s Phrase

Michi Ni Mayor Mashita 道に迷いました = I’m lost

Hmm… Not ideal but you could be in this situation so listen and practise!

 

Foot Bath 足湯

Warming up from your feet

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What is it?

In most of Onsen towns, you will find so-called “Public Foot Baths”.

Those are the place where you soak just your feet in (most cases) running hot water in public setting.

Link to Wikipedia in English for detailed explanation of what they are.

Why?

Basically because it warms you up.

But more precisely,

According to the idea based on Eastern Medicine, Your feet are supposed to have lots of vital function to your body system.

You must be familiar with Reflexology. That’s to massage the back of your feet where there are supposed to be so many different “Tsubo ツボ = Pressure Point” that are connected to different part of your body like organs and so on. Then by massaging them, you have those functions revitalised and re-activated.

There goes a similar theory here. At your feet, you have several thick veins and arteries. And they are the furthest from your heart. Therefore, in cold circumstances, you have less active circulation.

By warming up your feet, it encourages your blood circulation at the furthest point from your heart=Your feet, thus warmer body.

How to do Foot Bath

This is a no brainer. Take off your shoes/boots, sit down comfortably and simply soak your feet in the water.

What you need

So if you are staying at one of those Onsen towns in Japan, you want to carry a small towel called Tenugui=手拭い, at least. Ideally, a bath towel as well in your backpack so that you can always be ready to jump in an Onsen or soak your feet in any foot bath.

You now know one thing better than before.

Keep enjoying your time while travelling in Japan!

See you next time!

-Today’s Phrase- 

Ashiyu Wa Karada Ga Atatamari Masu 足湯は体が温まります = Ashiyu warms up my body

Listen and practise. You’ll know what exactly means once you’ve experienced!

 

For those who have never seen snow before

4 things you should know if you are thinking about skiing or snowboarding for the first time

Please skip this article if you are familiar with skiing or snowboarding. This post contains the very basic explanation for visiting ski resorts intended for beginners.

So Japanese winter is quite famous throughout the world nowadays.

For the amount of snowfall, its quality, the reason can be varied.

There are more and more visitors during the winter months visiting places like Nagano, Niigata or Hokkaido for winter fun.

It is a fact now that there are increasing number of people, from those countries that never get snow, taking up winter sports such as skiing or snowboarding for the very first time in their lives.

Even a place like Yudanaka has been filled with overseas visitors to go skiing or snowboarding during the busy winter months.

That’s awesome, we love to share the love and our passion.

BUT there are some things you need to know before jumping on it.

Take a breath and read these through.

When you finish reading, you will be in a way better position than before, that could ultimately save your life.

So here we go.

1, Snow is a natural phenomena. It doesn’t fall if it’s warm

Roughly explained, snow is a frozen form of rain, that means it got frozen near zero temperature in the sky. So if it’s above zero degree temperature it will come down as rain.

When you visit ski resorts early in the season, which is late November to the end of December, you may not see snow depending on the weather condition. Just like summer has cold or hot summer, winter has those.

There may not necessarily be any snow if the winter is starting up as a warm one.

2, If you don’t have your own gear, it takes time to get yourself set up for skiing and snowboarding at a Rental shop

Skiing and snowboarding are not something that you can go out and do right away when you don’t have a gear. You need to have your rental gear set up for you according to your shoe size, height, weight and ability level, that means you need to go through a certain process.

Particularly if you are a part of a group, the loser it takes to get ready the bigger the group size is.

3, Cotton is not ideal on the snow

It’s commonly known that cotton is not ideal for sports activities.

Wearing ja pair of jeans is not ideal when skiing or snowboarding, or it may even put you at certain risk like hypothermia.

Why?

It gets wet easily, hard to dry then wearing a wet clothing takes away your body heat.

Ski/Snowboard jackets and pants are there for a reason.

4, It’s wiser not to expect that you can ski or snowboard straight away if you have never done it before

Skiing and snowboarding are a sport with a particular set of equipments.

It will require some training or getting used to them. Quite likely you won’t be skiing and snowboarding elegantly right from the beginning when you have not done it before.

The best way to start out is to learn by taking a lesson.

Majority of major resorts nowadays has multi lingual ski and snowboard lessons available.

It is a dangerous sport to certain point, and you can reduce the risk of injuries by taking at least 1 lesson when you start out.

It will be easier and quicker to learn, more fun and less painful.

So, now you know about it a bit more and hopefully I’ve got your expectations right. It’s always better for you to do some research in advance and get your gear from the rentals the day before you go skiing or snowboarding so you have a whole day for it.

See you on the slopes!

-Today’s Phrase-

Ski Wo Rentaru shitai desu スキーをレンタルしたいです = I want to hire a pair of skis

You will need this phrase when hiring skis!

How to fill out Black Cat Form

A bit of cultural lesson Part 2

black-cat-stand

Before getting in to the subject, here’s a useful phrase you can pick up. It’s related to the subject of this post, will be super handy when trying this Black Cat thing in Japan.

-Today’s Phrase-

Kono Nimotsu Wo Kono Jyusho Made Onegai Shimasu

このにもつをこのじゅうしょまでおねがいします

Can I have this luggage sent to this address, please

This one is hard!! But you can do it!!

To make your travel in Japan less stress-free

I have mentioned of the nation-wide logistics network in Japan, represented by the company called “Kuroneko Yamato” aka Black Cat.

If you haven’t read that yet, here’s the link for you.

Previous post on Black Cat – Takkyubin

 

How does the docket/ticket for delivery look like?

Docket Kuroneko Yamato 1.jpeg

I will explain the circles in each colour below.

Kuroneko Yamato Dokcet 2.001.jpeg

Dark Blue: This is for the address you want to send to. Top 7 box is for the zip/postal code. Japan has 7 digit postal code system. As long as you got this code and the name of your accommodation right, sometimes your stuff can get delivered. Yes, this system is that good or I should say the local drivers know the area inside, most of the times, I’m not guaranteeing it though. You’d o your job right first.

Yellow: Your address. It’s often hard for travellers like yourselves without the permanent address in Japan. If I were you, I would put the Airport address on it so at least your stuff can get sent back to the airport depot without going missing somewhere in Japan. However, I’ve never done this since I have some address I can put on. I’, just saying this. Or your friend’s address, if you have in Japan?

Bright Green:it has 3 separate words in it. From left, “Golf”, “Ski” and “Airport”. So you want to circle one of those if you have a relevant luggage or purpose.

Red: That’s the date you put on if you have a specific date that you want your stuff delivered. In Japan, months are written in number, for example January is 1, June is 6, December is 12. You put the month first on the left side of the character , which stands for Month, then the date on the left of , which is for Day.

Light Blue: That’s for the time during the day that you want your stuff delivered if you have specific time to ask.

Things I would do to prepare in advance

Obviously it is hard to get anything done if you don’t speak the local language.

But there are things you can do to minimise the stress, uncertainty and worries.

For example, if I were you, I would copy and paste the address in Japanese and keep it with me, with the address in English in my hand, and I would use that if my English writing wouldn’t work when I’m dropping it off at a depot or a counter.

I’m hoping that whoever deals with you on the spot will help you out. Generosity and going above and beyond is often the virtue engraved in Japanese people.

The bottom line is, it’s way more reliable than airlines, I’d say.

Now hopefully you will enjoy your time in Japan even more, with less stress!

See ya next time!

 

What do you do with your rubbish in Japan?

The country all about manners

Everyone comments Japan is clean.

Everyone says, at the same time, it’s hard to find rubbish bins (or trash cans? in US term) on Japanese streets.

There is a reason for that.

It’s because in this country rubbish is something you take home with and then dispose of.

That’s why you don’t really see to many rubbish bins or trash cans on streets in Japan.

Without knowing this, we see a lot of situations like this.

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What’s happening here is that some other type of rubbish been thrown and mixed with Aluminium Cans.

This is a big No-No.

Around Vending Machines

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So if have visited Japan before, you know their love of vending machines.

Quite often you see plastic boxes right beside them like this.

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These are the bins for drink containers.

In this photo above,

on the left, for “PET bottles”, as you can see literally,

and on the right it says, “Bottles Cans” that means glass bottles and aluminium/steel cans go in there.

In some places you even see more boxes like this.

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From left, Cans, Combustibles/Burnables and Pet Bottles
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This tiny plastic basket is for collecting Pet Bottles caps separately

I live in New Zealand and we don’ collect Pet Bottles caps separately.

Apparently in Japan, these caps are collected separately because,

  1. So the recycling can be done easier
  2. Apparently once those are collected, somehow they can be turned into monetary value worth donating for certain causes as a part of charity

I honestly don’t know the system as to how that works but it is very common feature while travelling in Japan.

So now you know a bit more in depth how Japanese society works.

My advise is that do not litter the place you say you get impressed by its cleanliness, which will be quite contradictory of your thoughts and actions, right?

Here’s the mantra everyone knows.

“Take only photographs, Leave only footprints”.

Well, be a tidy tourist and enjoy your stay in Japan.

See you next time.

-Today’s Phrase-

Nihon Wa Seiketsu Desu にほんはせいけつです = Japan is clean

Keep practising, the only way to get better!

Coin Lockers/Luggage Storage

@ Just Outside Yudanaka Station

There are 2 ways to leave your luggage at Yudanaka Station when you are going to see Snow Monkey or going up to Ryuoo Ski Park for skiing or snowboarding.yudanaka-station-coin-locker-001

Once you walk out of the station, you will see the restaurant GOEN.

Just behind this restaurant, you will find the Ryuoo Ski Park Rental Shop.

1, Inside this rental shop

yudanaka-info-centre-front-door

¥500 for a day for up to the size of a suitcase.

Be aware of their opening hours. During the winter months, which is late December through to End of March, 8am – 6pm.

2, Coin Lockers

Right next to the rental shop behind the blue vending machine, you will find some coin lockers. ¥300 for a small items, ¥500 for a large luggage.

yudanaka-coin-locker

Now you can be stress free without a large item in your hand.

Make sure to have enough coins. These lockers only accept coins.

Well if you don’t, there are heaps of vending machines everywhere that you can break down notes by buying one of those beverages, otherwise the rental shop can offer the exchange to coins.

Go now enjoy whatever you fancy in Yudanaka!

See you next time!

-Toda’s Phrase-

Coin Locker Wa Benri Desune コインロッカーはべんりですね = Coin Lockers are convenient.

Coin Lockers are pronounced as pretty much the same! Have fun learning this!

Black Cat, A bit of Cultural Lesson Part 1

An Inside Tip to get around easily in Japan

black-cat-flag

So imagine you have arrived at Narita Airport.

You have a huge ski bag. So heavy just even to go through the customs.

If I were you I wouldn’t be too excited about the journey ahead.

The idea of carrying that through a busy train station in Tokyo is so daunting…

Here’s a solution to lighten your head and (maybe) shoulder or arms.

BLACK CAT!

Or more precisely, Kuroneko Yamato クロネコヤマト

Here’s the link to Kuroneko Yamato English website for more detail.

What Is it?

This is basically the nation-wide scale delivery system offered by the company called Kuroneko Yamato.

It’s also known as Takkyubin 宅急便.

There are many other companies for Takkyubin in this country but by far this Kuroneko Yamato has got the furthest reach throughout the country from the top of the northern end to the southern end of the country.

Lots of friends around me who have visited Japan many times call this Black Cat, as you can simply see in their logo, so I may as well stick to that nickname.

How does it work?

Basically, you either bring your stuff to the place where they do accept drop off or ask them to come collect it.

Black Cat Kuroneko Yamato 1.jpg

Wherever you find this flag or their logo, that means these places do accept your drop off.

For example, majority of convenience stores through the country do accept drop offs.

The better way to maximise this system

Let’s say, you are going to somewhere for your ski holiday and you have the same accommodation booked already for 7 days.

If I were you, the first thing I would do is as soon as I get out to the arrival lounge at the airport I’ll go look for this logo.

I actually know exactly where they are at Narita Airport, that’s always right at the end of the building on the ground floor, the same level as you come out.

Then I walk to their counter, fill out the form, make a payment then done!

No Stress!

Then you are about to leave your accomodation at the end of your holiday, you should be able to ask someone at your accomodation to get in touch with a local delivery driver to come pick up your stuff.

Be aware that these company ask you to set up the pick up 2 days in advance if you want your stuff delivered to the airport.

This is because, as far as I understand, your luggage has to go through some sort of check before they get delivered to the depot inside the airport.

Their depot for your pick up is normally on the same floor as the departure lounge so you have no hassle dragging around inside the airport.

Well set up aye?

How much?

Basically the further the distance for delivery, the more expensive it gets.

The fare itself normally gets calculated by the total size of your luggage, in other words the total dimension of height, width and depth.

However, in my usual case, a ski bag (around 23 kg) normally incur an extra charge since they are longer and heavier.

But it still costs me only just over ¥2000!

What’s more about it is, it’s an overnight delivery!

If you want more out of them, they can actually deliver at the designated time that you want!

Far out!

Like these are still not good enough, if you are not present when they get delivered, the driver guy normally comes back later on the same day!

Japanese go far above and beyond when it comes to service, almost too much!

This post is getting quite long so I will tell you on another post as to what  you need to know to fill out the form.

Thanks for reading this far!

-Today’s Phrase-

Kuroneko Yamato No Takkyubin クロネコヤマトのたっきゅうびん = Kuroneko Yamato Delivery Service

Listen to nail this. this phrase sure will help you in Japan!