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Vending machines: Refreshments on the move
It seems to me that when the Japanese do something, they do it thoroughly and they do it well. Vending machines are a case in point. Most modernised countries have them in certain places but in Japan they are everywhere – according to what someone told us, 5,510,000 of them in total in the country! You can't walk for more than five minutes in any town without coming across at least a couple, and often a whole row. And the range of drinks (and sometimes other items) sold is vast. Fancy a coffee? You are likely to face a choice between three or four brands, each in several strengths and available hot or cold. Iced tea? There will probably be even more variations available. Plus all the usual soft drinks, fruit juices, chocolate milk, water and many others that I couldn't begin to identify – the selection is overwhelming at times!
As well as drinks I also spotted soups, pot noodle dishes, bakery products, toiletries (toothpaste, tissues etc), and even alcohol (see photo five, a vending machine in Kyoto).
We found ourselves using the drinks ones quite a lot - on train journeys or for a quick refreshment while sightseeing. Prices were usually between 120¥-150¥, depending on the item. You drop in your coins (or insert a note), and items that are available at the value of what you have inserted light up for you to make your selection. Note that hot and cold drinks can be distinguished by the colour of the surround to their button – blue for cold, red for hot. Hot coffee will be in a can, cold may be in a can or bottle, as are the soft drinks etc. Once your drink is dispensed you will also receive your change. In all the times we used these machines we never once had a problem with items not being dispensed, change not being given or anything else – all worked smoothly.
Next tip: we loved Lawson’s!
Lawson’s Station: "We love Lawson's!"
To satisfy late night snack cravings or indeed at any time of day, head to Lawson's. We found the one in Senkyoro, almost opposite the Fuji Hakone Guest House, to be the ideal spot to pick up dessert and/or a drink to enjoy while relaxing in the lounge after dinner. They have some things you will recognise from home (a good range of Hagen Dazs ice creams, for instance), and many that you will not. We bought plum wine here (very nice), an odd-looking half-hollow chocolate cake (less so) and a can of hot coffee from an impressive range on display. You can also buy hot snacks and some non-food items e.g. toiletries.
In some other towns too Lawson's became our place of choice for snacks and drinks, and a Lawson's sighting would spark a reaction in our group, with a cry of "We love Lawson's!" And when my umbrella broke during near-typhoon weather conditions on our last afternoon in Tokyo, again Lawson’s came to the rescue with a very practical transparent one, such as many Japanese carry, for just 550¥.
This is my last tip, so please click here if you would like to return to my intro page to leave me a comment – thank you.
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Think the best place in Tokyo to shop is the famous Ginza district? Want to stop into a local convenience store for a drink or a pack of cigarettes?
Why not just stop at your local vending machine? Japan leads the world in vending machines per capita, with one machine for every 23 people.
In Japan, you will see drink machines bout every hundred meters, and they are kind of an eyesore. Most of the drink machines sell water, Coke, juices and coffee, but occasionally you will find one that sells beer, and even more rare, hard liquor. Cigarette vending machines are still very common in Japan, and the government issues cards that verify the purchaser's age.
You will also see vending machines is lower-end restaurants... At these machines, you pay and select your food item, then the machine prints a ticket that you hand to the cook or server.
Osaka: Fukuoka vs. Osaka shopping
Fukuoka is not as large as Osaka, and doesn't offer as many unique shopping opportunities as Osaka does. That said, the central shopping area of Fukuoka is in and around Nishitetsu Fukuoka Station. The more unique shopping opportunities are found West of the station on the smaller streets of Tenjin and Daimyo wards. There is also the large mall mall called Canal City within walking distance of the station to the East towards Hakata.
Osaka's shopping is not so much scattered as it is vast, it forms a long chain down Midosuji (street) from Umeda station to Namba. Umeda and Osaka station have all the large dept. stores and newly built shopping complexes such as the Isetan complex on top of Osaka Stn. For high concentration in one area, I think you can't beat Umeda.
Then we have the wide boulevard of shopping you referred to, Shinsaibashi, which runs along Midosuji (street), underground, and scatters off along the side streets. Namba has the covered shopping street (which you refer to, and runs to Shinsaibashi stn.) as well as Namba Parks and Namba Walk shopping malls. You also have the trendy and hip areas of Nishishinsaibashi and the street running between Yotsubashi and Honmachi stations (Yotsubashi line) Parallel to Midosuji (street).
Using Google maps I can measure out 4.3 KM of shopping. Yes, it requires walking, but you have the train in between and taxis as well.Related to:
- Business Travel
- Food and Dining
- Family Travel
General: Beer Price Index (retail)
Beer is most commonly sold in 333 and 500ml cans, as well as 500 and 633 bottles.
Price for proper beer in the supermarkets (not the low malt stuff) ranges between 190 yen for a 333ml can to around 330 yen for a 633ml bottle.
Add around 10% if purchased in a convenience store, and for the premium brands (Yebisu, Suntory Premium etc), add around another 15%
These days I tend to stick to the premium brands, but still drink Asahi Super dry and Kirin Lager on occasion.
Craft beer is naturally more expensive but not often found in the supermarket. Imported beer is available in most supermarkets but tends to be limited to Budweiser, Guinness and Heineken. Specialty stores will of course have a greater range.
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KIDDY LAND: Toy Madness in Tokyo's Kiddy Land
Got an afternoon to spare in Tokyo? Got a day to spare even? Interested in toys toys toys and more toys? Action figures, cuddly toys, minature plastic food, minature anything, clocks, pens, stickers, dolls, anime figures, king size bears with bloody claws, manga stuff, games, pillow cases, crawly things, creepy things, cute things, funny things, furry things, THINGS THINGS THINGS EVERYWHERE!!! 6 floors of toys!
Then you come to the right place. This is your heaven.
(Unfortunately I didn't bring my camera the day I went there but the 2 pics is great examples of what you can find there although they're taken a few blocks away .. outside a toy manufacturer..)
What to buy: I was about to say anything you can't find at home but that would mean you'd walk out with half the store...
What to pay: Anything from a dollar to several hundreds of dollars!Related to:
- Family Travel
- Romantic Travel and Honeymoons
ORIGAMI is the art of paper folding in Japan.
It started when the technique of paper-making was brought to Japan from China by way of Korea in the 6th century.
At that time, paper was a rare and precious commodity, and a formal kind of paper folding developed for use in both religious and secular life.
There is perhaps another reason for the importance of paper in Japanese life. The Japanese word kami can mean "paper" as well as "God" . This has given rise to a belief that paper is sacred.
What to buy: the 100 yen stores now sell them in various design.....for only 105 yen for a pack of 50 or sometimes 100 pieces of paper..Related to:
- Arts and Culture
- Family Travel
Maruzen: Countless floors of books books books
The Maruzen megabookstore in Marunouchi Tokyo opened just this september (2004). It is I don't remember how many floors (9?) of books and stationary, all you can wish for. For foreigners there is also a huge selection of english books as well as some in other languages. Particularly fun if you want books on Japanese society, culture, cooking etc.
Stack up here. Not too expensive either.
What to buy: Go for the titles you will find it more difficult to get your hands on in your home country. In today's world with internet shopping availabilities, the selection from home is of course much wider. However, the Japanese bookstores often don't offer their services abroad.
There is a range of small and cheap handbooks on Japan called "Japan in your pocket". Even if some are hopelessly outdated (from the 1980's), and even if they are sometimes a bit over-pedagogic "elderly people can often feel lonely when they live far away from their children and grandchildren" (duh!) they still offer some insights and facs about many parts of Japanese life and society, history and culture. They are prized about 900 yen each, and could make for a nice souvenir for you or your friends at home.
What to pay: From a small paperback book of about 700 yen to as much as you like!
A popular souvenir: Japanese lacquerware
What to buy: Ok, now this lacquerware "nurimono" in Japanese, is actually not my kind of cup of tea you know. But I know that many people really like it.
Nurimono is usually black (but can be red or even colorless), and made up of wood with special lacquer on it. This is put on in many many layers, hence fancy nurimono is really pricey.
The classic one is black with a design of gold and maybe other colors within the lacquer. To me it looks a bit too perfect, like it were made of plastic, and I am more a fan of the rustic style ceramics (see other shopping tip), but many people appreciate the skillful craft and sleak designs.
For a look at nurimono, check out the link below.
You can buy it at many places including souvenir shops although I suspect the quality isn't the highest here. Also, in department stores you can get your hands on really expensive nurimono. Antiques stores may also be of interest.
What to pay: I can vaguelly remember reasonably priced items from around 800 yean for a small box, but these may have been of really poor quality.
Izakaya Ja Nai
If you are a male then Japan is a great place to shop for a girlfriend or wife. Within a day of arrival you are guaranteed to have had your ego boosted because you have the blue eye or look alike Blad Pitt.
Us chicks, on the other hand, are suddenly handed a life of spinsterdom and lonliness on a huge sushi plate. What with the Western Men turning all 'Charisma' and chasing kimono and the local Samurais either too busy or too unpassioned to bother with the effort that love requires, we foreign chicks end up having to join ikebana classes and applique seminars just to pass the time of day.
Desexed, we roam the islands muttering and ***ing about our sorry lot.
To discover how well Western Man can pull the chicks in Japan, click on the website link below.Related to:
- Travel with Pets
- Budget Travel
Mandarake: Get your Manga and Anime fix in Tokyo
This store is choke full of good stuff. Anything you can think of, manga and anime, you are bound to find them here. Most items are second-hand but being Japanese, they are in mint and pristine condition. Shelves after shelves of manga - shojo, shonen, yaoi, kids' - and doujinshi (fanbooks). Try squeezing and elbowing in between the scores of rabid Japanese fangirls as they rummage through the hundreds of doujinshi like an expert.
Toys, anime CDs and the almost-extinct LDs, anime cels, and expensive artbooks and phonecards can all be found here. Stationary that would have cost a bomb anywhere else are found in discount bins and selling for dirt-cheap.
I can give you directions to the Shibuya branch. But it is rather complicated becos of the nature of Tokyo's messy street system.
1. When you exit the train at Shibuya station, walk all the way to the end of the platform, for that is where you should exit at the Hachiko exit. If you get yourself swept up by the crowd and go out from the first exit you see, you are going to end up on the wrong side of Shibuya and hopelessly lost.
2. When you get out of the building, you will be at the infamous intersection of Shibuya. When you cross the road, aim for the street between Seiyu Dept Store A and Seibu Dept Store B. That street is call Inokashira Dori. Ask someone to confirm, to save you from wasting time if you're lost.
3. Walk along it. When you finally come to a V-like intersection and saw the boutique ZARA to your left and a police box in the middle of the V, you are on the right track. Go towards the right street of the V-intersection.
4. Walk down it for about 2 mins, keeping your eye out for the BEAMS buidling on the left side of the road. Tilt your head up alittle as the BEAMS big metal logo is kinda high up. Mandarake is in the basement in that building and there is a ground-level entrance facing the street.
5. More clues, there is a Haagen Daz ice-cream parlor on the ground floor of BEAMS. And a Manga Mori directly across from it.
What to buy: Manga
They are mostly secondhand, mint and lower than retail prices.
What to pay: Depends on what you are looking for.
TUKA: mobile phone
What to buy: Japans mobile phone system is different from the rest of the world, so you can not use your own foreign phone. There are several possibilities to rent a mobile phone. You can rent one on the internet, or at the airport when you arrive. But this renting business is not very affordable. Most we discovered charged about 50 US$ a week, excluding calls.
As we were there for three weeks and wanted to be reachable, because of a very ill familymember, we searched for other possibilities.
A foreigner can buy a prepaid phone when he has his pasport with him and the adres he is staying (this can be a hotel).
The cheapest one we found was at TUKA. The phone was 6800 Yen, we had to buy a prepaid card of 3000 Yen with that. This card is valid for 30 days. And if you completely use it you will be still reachable, just can not call. After 30 days you have another 30 days to buy a new card (1000- 3000 yen). If you do not buy it the phone number will no longer be valid.
The TUKA phone came with an english explanation !!
What to pay: the phone was 6800 Yen (less then 60 US $)
and for 3000 Yen (25 USD) we phoned from Japan to the Netherlands regularly for 3 weeks. And mailed Yuichi some times.Related to:
Ezo Beer: Getting high quility beer in Japan
This tip is more for any ex-pats out there who are looking for quality beer at reasonable prices...
I've never been a big fan of Asian beers in general and in Japan if the domestic cost an arm and a leg. So, if your looking to try some new suds, check out this website.
the company is based in Hokkaido, near one of the many soap forests.
What to buy: Beer!
Beer: Which Beer Is For Me?
Any Japanese convenience store - Hot Spar, Family Mart, Lawsons....
What to buy: Kirin Stout - a bitter dark
Kirin Enjuku - golden brown, sweet beer
Sapparo Snow - Light beer only available in Sapporo
Nippon Premium - a bitter malt beer
Style Free Asahi - Thin light pale beer
Like in most of the countries I visit I try to buy some of the special local drinks that worth to take with you back home and here in Japan is it surely Sake. I already used this Sake when making home sushi after our return from Japan :)
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