Niffyat’s Guide to Japan – Part 3 (Staying Connected & Saving Money)

Posted by tiffany • Japan

Note: This is part 3 of a series dedicated to my advice on travelling to Japan. For the entire series, see:
Part 1 - When to Go & Where to Stay
Part 2 - Getting Around
Part 3 - Staying Connected & Saving Money

Staying Connected

Some people like to go on vacation and disconnect. That is fine for some vacations, but without connection in Japan, it’s quite impossible to navigate the transit systems. Surprisingly, free wifi is spotty in Japan, although it seems to be getting a bit better in Tokyo. Also, I like to post photos and check in to stops on Foursquare while I’m in Japan. I also need to communicate with my Japanese friends via LINE. As a result, I rely on pocket wifi to stay connected in Japan.

Niffyat’s Guide to Japan – Part 3 (Staying Connected & Saving Money)

Pocket wifi allows you to disable your mobile devices’ data plans and connect to a small wifi device that you carry with you. They’re quite inexpensive in Japan, but wifi speeds vary. Most Japanese Airbnb’s have pocket wifi that you can use while you’re renting the unit, but I now always get one at the start of my trip that we can take from city to city with us. I recommend Sakura Mobile because they have amazing customer service (no, this is not a sponsored post! I just really love these guys). Alternatively, you can rent a sim card in Japan for Android or iPhone, but I have never bothered with that because with a mobile wifi, you can share it if you're travelling with others. If you do use a pocket wifi, make sure it’s password protected! One of the Airbnb wifi’s was unlocked, and I remember noticing on a train ride that 15-20 people had connected to it, which severely slowed it down.

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Niffyat’s Guide to Japan – Part 2 (Getting Around)

Posted by tiffany • Japan

Note: This is part 2 of a series dedicated to my advice on travelling to Japan. For the entire series, see:
Part 1 - When to Go & Where to Stay
Part 2 - Getting Around
Part 3 - Staying Connected & Saving Money

Basics

Japan has one of the best transit systems in the world. If you have lived in a city with a decent public transportation system, you’ll do just fine with catching trains. But even if you haven't, don't worry! The trains typically run really frequently, are rarely late, and are easy to figure out after a few rides.

Niffyat’s Guide to Japan – Part 2 (Getting Around)

Major Japanese train stations (or eki in Japanese) are not like the American stations I have been to. Major Japanese train stations, like Tokyo’s Shibuya Station, Osaka's Namba Station, Kyoto’s Kyoto Station, or Shinjuku Station) are like giant shopping malls with a train station inside of them. There’s tons of shopping and food inside of and adjacent to the major train stations. They're really quite massive and you can easily get lost in the them. So just make sure you have allocated enough time to find what you’re looking for and try not to get too frustrated. Smaller stations are much simpler and typically only have a few stands or stalls, so they're very easy to navigate in comparison.

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Niffyat’s Guide to Japan – Part 1 (When to Go & Where to Stay)

Posted by tiffany • Japan

Note: This is part 1 of a series dedicated to my advice on travelling to Japan. For the entire series, see:
Part 1 - When to Go & Where to Stay
Part 2 - Getting Around
Part 3 - Staying Connected & Saving Money

I’m not a world traveler quite yet, but I do love visiting Japan. Studying Japanese for over ten years, Japan is where I go to test how well I know the language. Besides testing my Japanese, another reason I keep going back is because there’s so much to do across the different cities and regions. You could never truly experience Japan in it's entirety in a single trip. Because I’ve been multiple times now, I frequently get asked by friends for advice or suggestions about trips to Japan. I thought it would be easier and more convenient to share my travel tips in a dedicated series of blog posts instead of across Facebook messages or emails. And with that, let's get started!

Niffyat's Guide to Japan - Part 1 (When to Go & Where to Stay)

When To Go

First, to alleviate any fears I will say this—any time or season you go to Japan, you’re going to have a great time. I personally don't think there's a "best" time to go, as all seasons have their benefits. The first time I went to Japan was early summer in 2013 (May-June). The second trip was in late August/early September in 2015 for 2 weeks. In 2016, I went during the sakura (cherry blossom) season (April) for two weeks and then in the fall (November) for two weeks again.

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Japan 2013, Week One (Part IV)

Posted by Tiffany • Japan

Shinjuku, Shibuya, and Harajuku

Waiting for the train…Once I saw Nakano-shinbashi station’s entrance, I immediately knew why I missed it the first time. You can see it here; I wasn’t looking for the Tokyo Metro sign. I was looking for a station more grandoise like Shinjuku Station, the only Japanese train station I had seen so far. Nakano-shinbashi is a small station that feels like the MUNI Metro stations in San Francisco. Luckily the train fare purchasing system was fairly simple, so I easily bought a passbook for the train and headed down to the platform. The station’s interior was under construction, so there were signs everywhere displaying “Go-chuui kudasai/please be careful.” I had just missed the train so the platform was empty when I got there. I wasn’t sure if all the doors on the platform would be in use so I posted up in the middle and waited. Within a few moments, people started to show up and also wait for the train. I remember thinking “Everyone is going to stare at me because I obviously am not Japanese” and I had the feeling that Nakano was not an area tourists frequented. But no one was rude or stared at me, which was actually nice. I had heard from other bloggers or friends that I should get used to stares, but I didn’t experience it at all (or I didn’t notice it, but I am sure I would have noticed it once as I was in wide-eyed puppy mode the entire time and was looking at everyone and everything!)

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Japan 2013, Week One (Part III)

Posted by Tiffany • Japan, Japan 2013

2013 ends in a little over 48 hours and I haven’t finished blogging about week one in Japan! Sorry for the delay. I have a little explanation blurb at the bottom of this entry, but for those who don’t want to hear excuses about my lack of updates, please enjoy the post!

Lost in Nakano

The day after the barbecue at Ono’s, Noriko had to work so I was on my own. It was Monday and the start of a new week, so it was fitting that I was venturing out into Tokyo for the first time by myself. With the free portable wifi-router that came with my apartment rental, I could use my phone to navigate and search for information so I wasn’t too worried about getting really lost. Also, the Japanese address system is different than anything in the United States, so my focus wasn’t on figuring out a place’s street but rather determining the subarea-block-building numbers. For example, I was staying in Tokyo’s Nakano ward, in the 51st block of the 2nd subdivision of Yayoichi district.

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Japan 2013, Week One (Part II)

Posted by Tiffany • Japan

Lost in Shinjuku

The shuttle took about an hour to get to Shinjuku because there was not much traffic at that time of night. I was in awe the entire ride over, but I won’t detail it here since it’s the only thing I blogged about while in Japan. On the shuttle, there was a display screen that showed messages in English, but the driver’s announcements and explanations were all in very formal and very fast Japanese. I couldn’t really make out what he was saying, but when we arrived in Shinjuku station, I exited the shuttle, confident that I would be able to locate my best friend Noriko, who was waiting for me somewhere in the station.

This was delicious. The waitress brought this over, sat it down, then took out a small blow tourch and seared it. YES.Noriko lives in Tokyo (Kunitachi to be exact) and insisted on meeting me at the station to help me find my way to my rental apartment. What I didn’t realise that Tokyo’s main train stations are huge; major Tokyo train stations are like shopping-mall-train-station-hybrids. I initially was trying to avoid using my Japanese rental phone because the cost was 99 cent for each text sent or each voice minute used. But eventually I had to call her, because we could not find each other. In hindsight, I should have found out exactly where the shuttle drops off and told her that spot, but I thought the station was a reasonable size and that she would know all the exits. Typing that now sounds ridiculous, now that I know what a maze the stations are. Even Tokyo residents might not use all of the entrances and exits, so it’s hard to learn the entire station layout. I was carrying my huge suitcase (which I brought so I could fill it with souvenirs and goodies), a huge carry-on bag, and my backpack. I tend to overpack because until this year I was a travel noob, so everything was super heavy. It also started to drizzle, so I was carrying an umbrella. Somehow we managed to locate each other (after me walking up and down the same street with my luggage for 30 minutes).

This all may sound like a horrible experience, but I was so ecstatic to just be in Japan (and maybe slightly delirious) that I didn’t really feel annoyed at all.

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Japan 2013, Week One (Part I)

Posted by Tiffany • Japan, Japan 2013

I returned from my month long stay in Japan almost two months ago. I promised to blog while I was in Japan but with the exception of the brief thoughts I shared during my first day there, I didn’t blog at all. I do feel a little regret because I really wanted to write down each day’s experiences, but I also feel I made up for it by taking so many photos.

Instead of daily blog posts, I have decided the next best thing would be summaries of my stay, breaking it down by each week. It has taken me almost two months to write this down because, as sappy and ridiculous this may sound, I really miss being in Japan and I feel a bit sad and nostalgic when I reminisce. However, I really want to share with my family and friends what I did in Japan and what I experienced while there. So please enjoy this first entry!

The Plane Ride

Let’s start at the very beginning, indeed. This trip was the first time I left the country, so it was my first experience flying internationally. It was also the longest plane ride I’d ever taken. To match the theme of firsts, the plane we flew on was the largest plane I’d ever seen.

Obligatory wing shot.

The Malaysia Airlines plane was an older plane, meaning it had no wi-fi. It did at least have a little in-seat console that had an entertainment center that allowed you to listen to music, watch movies, and track the plane’s location, but the UI was horrible so it was a bit frustrating to use. That said, the flight was 11 hours long, so I ended up watching 3 films: In Time, Caught in the Web, and The Duchess. I couldn’t really sleep at all during the long flight, but I did doze off during the Duchess (sorry Keira Knightley) and slept for about 2 hours. In Time was not the best movie, but Caught in the Web was very interesting! I recommend it!

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日本にいます。I’m in Japan.

Posted by Tiffany • Japan, Japan 2013

Harajuku

I am finally in Japan! I have been here for 4 days so far. I really want to blog as much as possible, but everything has been quite hectic. I am having fun of course, but I haven’t had any time to slow down and relax until this morning. I actually wrote this little entry while I was on the Airport Limousine shuttle bus from Narita airport to Shibuya Station, but didn’t have time to post until now. Enjoy!

I just thought to myself that “it is 15 minutes until 11:00 pm,” but that’s not the correct format here. It’s currently 22:45. I changed my phone to reflect 24 hour time weeks ago, but I’m still not quite used to it. I’m constantly thinking of the time in 12 hour shifts and adjusting accordingly. And after a surreal experience going through immigration and customs, then stumbling around Narita trying to acquire my JR pass (they were closed, by 10 minutes. Curse my weak bladder, or perhaps the 11 hour flight), I just managed to catch the 22:00 shuttle to downtown Tokyo.

Because everything has been such a mad dash from the plane to the shuttle, nothing has felt real; there has not been a moment where I felt like “wow, I am in Japan.” But we just passed a driver on the highway and she was driving on the opposite side of the car; this lead me to realized we are driving on the opposite side of the road. And at that moment, that seemingly insignificant detail I noticed from the plush seats of this “Airport Limousine,” it finally hit me: check this one off the life goal list, Tiffany. You’re finally here. You’re in Japan.

Jetsetter Style

Posted by Tiffany • Blog, Wear

I haven’t posted in ages! I’m doing a horrible job with my blog’s “rebirth.” So now for the excuse: I’ve been incredibly busy, preparing for my upcoming Japan trip. As anyone who knows me personally can attest, I have been planning this Japan trip for the past four to five years. I’ve been imagining this trip in my head so long—I still cannot believe I’m actually going. I’ve done all of the important things already, like buying the plane ticket, acquiring an apartment to rent for the three weeks I’ll be there, and buying my JR train pass. But now that I have less than a week left until my departure, I have started to plan out other small things. My best friend lives in Tokyo, so I’ve been working with her on figuring out a rough schedule for my stay, but now I’m also realising that I need to pack enough clothes to last me for three weeks.

The good thing about staying in an apartment is I will have easy access to a laundry machine, but since this is my first international trip, I don’t want to over or underpack. So what’s an international travel newbie to do when looking for fashion inspiration while abroad? Go to Pinterest and Polyvore of course! I found some pretty adorable inspiration boards that I can use to plan out the travel outfits I have in mind. Take a look at the following 3 inspiration pins from my board. Also, if you know of any great articles or posts about how to pack light for an international trip, please let me know!

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Let’s start at the very beginning.

Posted by Tiffany • Blog

San Francisco Bay

I admit that I am often overly ambitious. I tend to make lofty, sometimes grandiose plans for myself. It usually happens after seeing someone else do something I want to do. Whether it is playing an instrument, learning a certain dance, or creating my own comic—I have an assortment of “life goals” that I want to accomplish. I like to think that it’s mostly for my own satisfaction, although I’m sure there’s some desire for for public admiration in it as well.

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