Well I’m back


That’s right, my adventure in Japan is over, and it’s been a very long time since I wrote anything on this blog. I want to keep writing, and I will be looking back more and more to write posts about my adventures in Japan, and some since returning.

So some quick news. Yes, I returned from Japan on 15th August, with nearly 30 hours travelling door-to-door. But before leaving Japan, I of course did many things, went to some new places and some old, met new people and made friendships stronger. I got a girlfriend. I went to Spain. I visited the new tallest building in Japan. I ate food from all over the world: Spain, Italy, France, England, America, China, Korea, Japan, Peru, Thailand. The last few months that I had in Japan I will remember forever, as they were some of the best to me.

Soon I will be returning to university, but the adventure is not over. I want to keep travelling, keep experiencing new things. I plan to go to Finland within the next year, possibly other European countries. My girlfriend is coming to England in September, too, which will be another sort of adventure entirely.

So yes, hopefully I will start to post more here, along with the literal thousands of photos I have (see here). I think the next post will be about my trip to Kobe, although there are dozens of other things to write about too!

See you all soon,

Safe Travels



A New Project

I have started a new project here on wordpress that I think many of you will be interested in joining.

I want to start a community, and a directory, for travel writers. A place where you can submit your own writing, read others. You can share your own experiences and share in others, and get more recognition and publicity.

If you are interested in joining, please check out the website at http://www.travelwritersdirectory.wordpress.com

Getting Around in Japan

So, you’re in Japan for a while, and of course you want to see the country?
Most people immediately think Shinkansen – the bullet train. The bullet train is great, it’s fast, convenient and simple. Also great if you have a JR Pass.

Buy without the railpass, it is expensive, and many young travellers are on a budget. So what about some alternatives?

Often time, domestic flights are cheaper than the bullet train. For example, taking a flight from Osaka to Tokyo is cheaper by air, just be sure to book in advance.

Local Trains:
If you have enough time in your hands, you can get anywhere by local trains. Looking at my trip for Hiroshima tomorrow, local trains, despite taking 5 hours longer, is half the price, and often allows you to see more of Japan’s beautiful scenery.

There are many private coach companies in Japan, and taking an overnight is the cheapest. It also saves on accommodation for one night. I personally use Willer Express. They offer a deal to customers outside of Japan (as in book outside of Japan), of 3 non-consecutive journeys for a very low price.

An amazing website I found, called Hyperdia.com conveniently displays all of this information to you, all you need is to say when and where. It displays rail, air and coach all in one, giving you information on times, prices and where to change. You could easily use it to plan one journey from Hokkaido in the north to Kyushu in the South.

Hiroshima Pre-trip Planning



Well, in a few days I will be getting my student loan through, and I will have enough money to do something worthwhile again and go travelling.

Two years ago I spent a week in Hiroshima, doing the usual sightseeing, meeting new friends and the like. It was an incredibly fun week, and I met a lot of great people. I wish I had photos from Hiroshima, but that was part of the group of photos that did not get backed up online, and so when my laptop broke, I lost all of them.

So, next weekend I have decided to go back to Hiroshima, see the city again, take lots of photos and try and find some old friends still in the city.

I will be travelling by coach with Willer Express. It is by no means the fastest way to get to Hiroshima, but it is much cheaper than taking the bullet train. A round trip with Willer Express, from Umeda in Osaka to Hiroshima Station, costs about ¥8,000.



Once in Hiroshima, I will be staying at J-Hoppers Hiroshima as I did last time. I stayed there before, and know it to be a nice place. For a room in a dormitory, it will only cost you about ¥2,500 a night, so cheap as chips.


So I’ve made my plans, and on Thursday I will book everything last minute (hopefully), and then I’m off, to the furthest from home I’ve been seen being in Japan!


Happy travels folks,


Upcoming Posts

Autumn Colours
When Bettina and I went to see the changing of the leaves in Kyoto.
When Chris and Kirsty came to Japan
Two friends from England came out to see me and celebrate New Years.
New McDonald’s 50s Burger
The first of McDonald’s Japan’s new nostalgic American series.
– More archived posts from 2011

Don’t own a television? Japan’s public broadcaster doesn’t care, but still wants your money

This actually happened to me a couple of months ago.
I told him I had no TV, and he said a quick succession of complicated words I didn’t understand. I told him again I have no TV. He understood, but I think he mainly gave up because I’m a foreigner that doesn’t understand formal Japanese.


NF 1

Paying taxes works a little differently in Japan. Often, large companies will simply deduct the required income tax from employees’ paychecks, and even file the necessary paperwork for them. On the other hand, workers have their earnings taxed twice, with residency taxes which are based on their income from the previous year and must be paid quarterly. Like most things in Japan, resident taxes can be paid with a fat wad of cash at the convenience store.

But perhaps the weirdest of all are government fees for public television in Japan. Not only do the bill collectors go door to door soliciting payment, but some administrators are looking to make people pay the fees whether they own a TV or not.

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On Top of Osaka – 27/09/13

What seems like an age ago now, back at the end of September, a friend and I, Bettina, headed up to Osaka on a clear evening.

Our first stop was the Osaka Sky Building, one of the tallest buildings in Osaka and one of my favourite places in the city. SO we hopped on the Keihan line and set off to the city.



The lovely Bettina on the Dōtonbori Canal.


The Umeda Sky Building is one of my favourite tourist attractions in the Kansai reason. The views from the top are stunning. I had hoped to get their for sunset, but we left too late and it was already dark by the time we got there. Bettina hadn’t been there before and was getting ridiculously excited on the run up to getting there, and was took a huge amount of photos.



View from the top.


The tower is 40 stories tall, with a ring-shaped viewing platform at the top called “The Floating Garden Observatory“. You can see a 360° view of Osaka and down the coast to the Inland Sea and Kobe. To go up the tower only costs ¥700. At the top is a cafe and lots of places to sit and enjoy the view.

One thing I had forgotten about the first time I went to the building was how big a date spot it was. Every single person up there that night were a couple, and their were hearts everywhere. I guess I hadn’t noticed the first time, but it got fairly strange the second time.



Sea of lights.



Bettina at the top



Osaka Hi-rise


After a couple of hours at the top and a quick beer, we headed back down and made our way South to Dōtonbori, a central area of Osaka with many shops, restaurants and bars. It was getting on in the evening and we wanted something to eat. However I did get us slightly lost on the way. The thing with Japanese stations is that they are huge. Aside from the tracks and platforms, they often have dozens of exits, and are frequently linked to underground shopping centers and into above ground department stores. I managed to chose the wrong exit, and we ended up half a mile from where I though we would be. We chose a restaurant on the side of the canal, under the famous “Glico Man”, and ordered yakisoba (noodle dish with mixed meats) and okonomiyaki (a savioury pancake made with meat, cabbage and noodles, topped in special sauce in mayonnaise).



Pulling silly faces








After finishing our meal, we had some time left, so I took Bettina to what is still my favourite bar in Osaka, DS CAFE. I’ve written before out that bar, and I still love it there. So we had a few drinks, met a random Filipino man, then had to dash for the last train home!

A quick explanation about my old photos

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’d have seen that this is not my first time in Japan. I’ve been posting blog posts that I made the first time round, though there aren’t very many of those. Instead, I am uploading all the photos I do have here.

There are about a thousand or so photos left from my first trip. Unfortunately, while I was in Japan, I did not back up any photos, and only about half of the photos were uploaded to facebook. So when my laptop broke and the hard drive got friend, I lost over a thousand other photos, and 11gb of video footage. 

Kyoto Day Two – 11/06/11

This post is taken directly from my old blog, one that I tried to write during my first trip to Japan. This post was orginally posted at gaijinabroad.blogspot.com.

I spent my Saturday with Saskia, a dutch girl. She mentioned the night before she was seeing some monkeys, and I asked if I could tag along. We headed up to Arashiyama, seemingly out in the country but in reality not even out of Kyoto. We started by heading to a temple, which I can’t remember the name of. The garden at the temple is a UNESCO world heritage site. It was nice, with a huge koi pond and lots of Japanese style garden arrangements. There was also a big, famous bamboo grove up there, so we headed that way too. After the temple and the garden, we got a slightly expensive (for my budget anyway) lunch of fried pork, egg and rice, which tasted really good. Slight note that has come into my head, I think my mind is deteriorating. The quality of my writing is going down hill, and I seem to be writing in a child like way. This is not good. Also, I keep wanting to write emotes onto my blog, such as J. I guess this one comes from being on the internet too much. I must break that habit!
Walking through the bamboo.
Temple walkway
               Anyway, on with the blog. After lunch we headed to the Arashiyama monkey park. It was a ¥550 entrance fee, so I was really hoping it’d be worth it. There’s nothing worse than paying money just to be disappointed.  The monkey park was on top of Arashiyama or Stormy Mountain literally translatd. Luckily for us it wasn’t stormy at all. It was a pretty hard climb, even though it was less than 200m tall. It was slowly getting hotter as we climbed. At the top of the mountain is the monkey park and viewing platform. There were dozens of monkeys sitting around or playing up there, and the view of Kyoto was absolutely amazing! I honestly did not realise how big Kyoto was until I went up there. It seems so much smaller from the ground, compared to Tokyo at least. We spent a good couple of hours on top of the mountain with the monkeys, despite one trying to swipe at me! I took so many photos and videos, and I’m not looking forward to the mammoth task of uploading them all!
Baby monkey
The view from atop the mountain
          After Arashiyama, things got worse though. When we got back to the hostel, I found I had lost my wallet. I took apart my room looking for it, and could not find it. I then went back up to Arashiyama to see if it had been handed in at the station, as Arashiyama was the last time I definitely had it. There was no sign of it at the station. I went to the nearest koban and asked there. The Japanese police were incredibly helpful and friendly, and despite not having my wallet there, took down my details and essentially filed the incident, so that if it does turn up I will be contacted and the wallet returned to me. As of yet, the wallet has not shown up, and I don’t feel that it will. But being the easy guy that I am, life goes on. I’ll just cancel my card that was inside, and get a new wallet. One that I won’t lose!
After that, I headed back to the hostel and had a drink, and then was invited to an Irish bar in Kyoto with a couple of Americans, the dutch girl, a Singaporean girl and a Japanese girl. Quite a mix, and from the looks of it, we seemed to stand out a bit in the bar. Having no cash (as I lost my wallet), one of the Americans paid for my drink and I would pay back today (Sunday). It was an imported American Ale called Rogue Dead Guy, fruity and pretty strong, and should have been colder. It was incredibly expensive as well, at ¥1000 for a pint (possibly, they don’t use imperial measure here). By the time I got up this morning, the Americans had checked out and left, so I didn’t have the chance to pay him back.

Kyoto Day One – 10/06/11

This post is taken directly from my old blog, one that I tried to write during my first trip to Japan. This post was orginally posted at gaijinabroad.blogspot.com.

My first working day in Kyoto. I met a mother and son at breakfast this morning, and the invited me along with them for their day. I think it was their last day here in Kyoto before heading South. Anyway, we started off by going to the Nijo Castle, which is the first castle I’ve been t in Japan. They say it’s a castle, but it seemed like more of a manor house with walls and a moat. It didn’t have the winding, walled pathways to create deathtraps, or the tall white donjon or keep that is characteristic of Japanese castles. That saying, it was built by the Tokugawa in 1603, so the need for proper castles was much less than decades before. What was cool was that all around the main manor was a nightingale floor, a floor that is nailed just right so that each step you take squeaks, the resulting sound being something like a nightingale’s song. Trying to walk along that without making a sound is impossible! It seems artistic now, but it was created so that people, such as assassins or ninja couldn’t sneak around without being heard. So essentially it was fuelled by paranoia.
The moat around the Nijo-jo Castle
After that, we moved to the Fushimi Inari taisho, or shrine. There was a festival there today, but unfortunaltey we missed it. It was still an impressive shrine. It just went on and on. It is famous for its huge number of red wooden torii or gates. And there were literally hundreds of them, covering all the pathways. We took a turn somewhere at the back of the shrine and stumbled upon several very old cemeteries, which in Shinto means lots of mini-shrines for the deceased. They were really cool, all old and mossy, and made for a lot of good photos. These cemeteries were way up a mountain, but there was still a little old lady who had walked up there (and it wasn’t an easy walk) to pray at these shrines. From the looks of things, she was moving from one shrine to the next (I saw her at 3 different shrines in a row), so perhaps she was doing a pilgrimage. You could tell that some of the shrines had not been visited for a long time and were slowly falling apart. There were some signs of life up there though: newly placed rice and salt trays, lit incense and candles; that sort of thing. Eventually, after getting a bit lost, we headed back down the mountain, a way we hadn’t come up, and not through the shrine. This way lead us through what looked like tiny farms, strange after the dense forest of the mountain. All of a sudden there was a school, all this way up. The first kids we saw seemed confused to see gaijin up there, but being young as they were, they said “Konnichiwa.” first, and then simply “Hello.” It was a really big school. We got lost somewhere on the way down, after following groups of school kids. Luckily, a friendly fifteen year old; whom I didn’t get the name of; offered to help us (and practice his English).
Red torii gates at the Fushimi-Inari Shrine
Mountain-side cemetery
We managed to get back into town, and on a whim decided to see the Kiyomizudera temple, this one Buddhist rather than Shinto. Again this was on top of a very tall hill, much like the shrine. On the way up, it started raining, which I was happy about, as it would clear the humidity that has been hanging around and cool me as I walked. It was a ¥300 (may have been ¥700) entrance fee, which I wasn’t happy about (I don’t like entrance fees for things as it is, but religious establishments, however large a tourist attraction, should not charge for entrance.  If this was one of the UNESCO world heritage sights as well, it really, really shouldn’t charge. A world heritage price should be something for everyone to behold without paying anything, only contributions (which seemed sizable as it was)). Anyway, once in it was quite spectacular. It is probably one of those places that is always featured in Japanese photo series. The view of Kyoto wasn’t much to speak about (especially not after Tokyo), but the mountain setting was amazing; the tiled temples and the pagoda peaking out of the dense green forests, all built on the side of the mountain. By this point we were all pretty tired, so we made our slow way back down the mountain. On the way I had a ツリプル or triple ice cream: strawberry on top, then dairy, then green tea. The strawberry and the dairy were nice, but I can’t say I’m a fan of green tea ice cream. Or green tea. Or tea at all. But still, try everything once, so I ate that. A wet, rainy walk, a bus ride then a subway 3 stops, and then another walk, and we were back at the hostel, with me in my dorm (currently deserted) and them in their private room, to rest for a while.
Kiyomizu-dera, overlooking a cloudy Kyoto
My favourite photo. Unfortunately I had to be quick and it didn’t come out very well.
Next on my agenda is dinner, but I don’t know if I’m going to bother buying something to cook or get some conbini (Japanistation and contraction of convenience store). I’m avoiding going out for food as much as in Tokyo, though I rarely did for dinner. In fact, most nights in Tokyo I slept from too early to eat, and if I woke up hungry, I’d just tide over until a very early breakfast at around 6am (more conbini food). And that is what I have done today in Kyoto.
Since arriving in Kyoto, I have been bitten by mosquitoes or gnats or some bug at least a dozen times. Though I seem to be the only one that has been bitten! Perhaps I am tasty to bugs… Scary thought I guess.