Monday, December 27, 2010

the colors of Kyoto Botanical Gardens in Spring

By Carole Ann Goldsmith Copyright ©All Rights Reserved

Visiting the Kyoto Botanical gardens is one of the delights of being in Kyoto in Spring (April). Wander under the canopy of cherry blossom trees along the river as locals celebrate the Sakura (Cherry blossom festival).

View the magnificent multi coloured flowers on display or have a picnic in the treed area.  I spent hours wandering the garden, painting a picture of the flowers while joining the many other artists in the gardens celebrating spring.

Many of the Kyoto Buses stop at the Botanical Gardens,  ask at the bus centre next to Kyoto station for a bus map and details of buses that go to the Kyoto Botanical Gardens.  Take a picnic and be ready to relax in the colours of spring.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Steak, chips and vegies for dinner Lake Shikotsuko - Hokkaido

Carole Ann Goldsmith Copyright © 2010 All Rights Reserved

When I visited the beautiful Lake Shikotsuko in Hokkaido, I stayed at the Shikotsuko Youth Hostel ,  a wonderful A - framed building with a great view of the Lake.

When I arrived, the hostel manager, a very friendly happy man, was telling jokes in Japanese to his guests from around the world. I soon joined the joke group and before long we were all roaring with laughter, even though we could not really understand everything he was saying. His laughter was certainly infectious as he was very animated when telling the jokes. Then I went for an afternoon leisurely walk around the magnificent lake beside the forest. A little hungry,  I bought some barbequed corn on sale from the lakeside market vendors.

The hostel staff were preparing dinner for the guests, when I returned to the hostel. I could smell the aromas from bowls of delicious looking Sukiyaki (Japanese meat and vegetable stew in a light broth) being cooked on the hot gas flames. Yum, I thought to myself, I was certainly looking forward to that delicious meal at 6PM after my natural hot spring bath at the hostel

All squeaky clean, I was feeling very relaxed after being immersed in the hot spa waters. Now it was dinner time and I was really looking forward to eating that sukiyaki, with freshly cooked rice and miso soup, that I had seen the hostel manager serving to the other guests.

All of a sudden the Hostel manager arrived at our table, which I was sharing with 5 other people. The manager said, "Carole san, it is your birthday today, and we have a special meal for you". He had arrived with a tray of plates each covered with grilled steak, potato chips (fries) and a small salad..The table was decked with knives and forks, while the other tables had chop sticks for the sukiyaki.

I am not really a steak, chips and salad person and would have really preferred the sukiyaki. I did however really appreciate the trouble that he had gone to to make a special dish for my birthday and for our table. Also I am not sure how the other people on my table felt, as they were probably also expecting sukiyaki.

This lovely meal was followed by a huge birthday cake, complete with candles all alight for everyone at the hostel to enjoy. Then everyone sang Happy Birthday to me. After dinner, the hostel manager told some more jokes in Japanese and soon we had tears in our eyes from continuously laughing at his jokes, all told in Japanese. His energy and enthusiasm for making the hostel a fun place to be,provided us all with some very happy days at Shikotsuko. I will always remember my fun and happy birthday and the hilarious time we had a Shikotsuko Youth Hostel beside the beautiful Shikotsuko Lake Shikotsuko in Spring.
Many thanks to the manager at the time for making my trip to Shikotsuko such a great time.

Japan's green corporate power steams ahead

Carole Goldsmith Copyright © 2010 All Rights Reserved

Eighteen of Japan's corporate leaders report, in a compelling book titled Japan’s Green Comeback - Future visions of the men who made Japan, the initiatives implemented in their company and the community, to help save the environment.

Published in 2000, by Pelanduk Publications and edited by Tadahiro Mitsuhashi, with translations by Junko Edahoro, Nathan Wilson and Danielle Wilson, the publication provides an insight by Japan business leader into the visions for the future of their company and the environment. Among the companies represented are Toyota, Sanwa Bank, Fuji-Xerox, East Japan Railway, Taiheiyo Cement, Shiseido, Aeon Group - JUSCO, Tokyo Electric Power Company and other leading organisations. This is a must read for global business leaders and for everyone concerned with the environment - and aren’t we all

Green corporate power examples include: Sanwa Bank Limited Midori Fund which has been set up to plant trees. Over the past 27 years, it has planted 800,000 trees at over 13,000 locations including schools and homes for the aged. Major shopping centre developer JUSCO has also planted 2.54 million trees at around 192 shopping centres.

See Also

Waste Reduction and Recycling - Cuts Costs (Australia - Japan)

Toyota's new assembly line to cut emissions

The “Losto” Locker at Tokyo Station

By Carole Goldsmith Copyright © 2010 All Rights Reserved

Arriving at Tokyo Station from Narita airport, (the first time a few years ago), I was very excited to explore Tokyo for the first time. “The buzzing city, that never closes”, that was how my friends had described Tokyo. This was also my first trip to Japan on my own and I was extra excited about the adventure of traveling around the country and seeing traditional Japan.

As I could not book into my hotel until 2.00 P.M., I had four hours to check out the sights around Tokyo Station. With a small suitcase and day pack, plus feeling a little tired from the nine hour trip from Australia, I went in search of lockers. There was block of lockers just nearby so I rushed over and placed my suitcase in the locker. The locker fee was Y500 for four hours, just the right time, I thought to myself.

I held the locker key in my hot little hand and placed it securely inside the pocket of my day pack. Off I went, out of one of the station’s exits, (not really noticing which exit I had left from). Armed with my map of Tokyo, complete with a subway guide, I headed off to explore the surrounding area. Wow, the subway was a maze of colour coded train lines and I somehow managed to figure out how to get to the tourist attractions by subway, not far from the station.

At 1.45 PM,, I returned to Tokyo Station to collect my suitcase from the locker. I extracted the locker key from my backpack and started looking for the locker. Not having any idea which exit I had left from and not really sure which entrance I came in, I looked around in amazement . Where on earth was the locker that I had my suitcase in? I looked at the number and looked at the lockers ahead of me and tried to match up my key with the locker. No, my locker key’s number was no where to be found. This started the nightmare of looking for the lost locker at Tokyo Station.

Here I was in Tokyo, my first day of travelling alone in Japan, I could not find my suitcase. I wandered around the station, went in and out of exits, trying to find something familiar. After an hour of unsuccessful searching for the chosen locker, I stood in the central area of some part of Tokyo station and just burst out crying. I was talking to myself and uttering some silent obscenities under my tongue and saying out loud “losto locker” – I thought to myself – maybe someone will understand my Japanese English – or Janglish. Almost immediately, I was surrounded by a group of around eight Japanese ladies, who seemed very concerned about me, sitting in the middle of Tokyo station and bawling my eyes out.

Hmmm… I did not see anyone else doing this, so maybe it was not really the done thing to do at Tokyo Station.

One of the ladies asked me in perfect English – “Can I help you?” I was in a very distraught emotional state by now and their offer of assistance made me even more frustrated. I could not tell them what was wrong in Japanese as my skills in communicating in their language were almost non existent, at the time. I waved my locker key in the air and between sobs of “losto locker”, I looked at them in a state of absolute panic. In a matter of seconds, they had called a policeman over from his police box.

I initially thought – now I am getting arrested – so I sobbed even louder. But the policeman was there to help me find my locker. He looked at the number on my locker key and smiled. Together, the policeman, the eight ladies and I following, proceeded to the “losto locker”. Within thirty seconds, the wonderful policeman found my locker. I opened it, feeling very relieved, and extracted from my suitcase, a bag of little koala souvenirs from Australia. After many “thank you very much” or “domo arigato gozaimashita .” I gave all the ladies a little toy koala and a slightly larger koala toy to the policeman. They all seemed very happy with the gift and I was certainly extremely excited to be reunited with my luggage.

The ladies then invited me for afternoon tea, which I offered to pay for, but no, they all wanted to find out about Australia as they were all travelling to Sydeney and Goldo Coasto the next month. And that was the nightmare of the lost locker at Tokyo station.

The moral of the story is to always, check the exit that your locker is near at Tokyo Station

Monday, November 8, 2010

Cut travel costs in Kansai region Japan with the Kansai Thru Pass

Carole Goldsmith – Copyright 2010 All Rights Reserved
Many tourists to Japan, (whom I meet on my travels), arrive at Kansai International Airport (KIA) and start their Japan Rail (JR) Pass straight away. The JR Pass is an excellent resource for travelling long distances across Japan on the speedy Shinkansen and on other JR transport. For budget travel in the Kansai region however, the most economical ticket is the Kansai Thru Pass (KTP).

About the Kansai Thru Pass   (see weblink
With access to KIA, subways, private railways and buses in Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Koyasan and Himeji, the KTP is certainly a bargain. On top of all this travel, you receive a booklet with discount coupons for around 350 Kansai region attractions and a very handy guide book. You cannot however, use the KTP on JR trains or buses.

A three day KTP costs just Y5000 (adult) Y2, 500 (child – 7-12 years) and a two day pass, only Y3,800 (adult) and Y1,900(child). These prices have been the same for the last five years that I have been buying the Pass. Available for foreign tourists on a short stay entry and Japanese nationals living abroad, the KTP can also be purchased by someone accompanying these persons as their guide, as advised on the discount travel ticket’s website.

I usually buy two X three day KTPs at the Travel Counter, located on the first floor of KIA, to the left of the Customs exit area. You are required to show your passport to purchase the Pass. Make sure that you check the expiry date on the back of the Pass, to ensure validity for your entire trip. To do this you need to know about the Japanese year system. This is based on the number of years that the current Emperor has reigned, so 2010 is the year 22 in the Japanese calendar, 2011 will be 23 and so on. It will start from zero again when there is a new Emperor in Japan.

So look at the back of the KTP, when purchasing - if it expires on 22-5-31, that’s May 31, 2010. This is important to note, especially if you are purchasing one Pass for the early part of your trip and one Pass for the latter part. The Pass is also sold at various venues across the Kansai region, so check the web-site for details.

If you are arriving at KIA in the evening, it is not necessary to start the Pass until the following day. A ticket on the Nankai Airport line to Namba in downtown Osaka is only Y890. The KTP is more economical for longer trips of an entire day across the Kansai region. Also, another great feature of the Pass, is that you don’t need to use it on consecutive days, like other rail passes. You can validate the KTP for the day you wish to travel, by inserting it though the ticket checker, with the picture of the lady with the little green witches hat and Kansai Thru Pass in English. It is very convenient to travel on different train lines, buses and on subways – all with this one card.
Traveling with the Kansai Thru Pass and exploring the region

The guide map that comes with the Pass suggests some model day trips, such as the Kobe, Akashi, Himeji, Yokubari course that takes you from the downtown Osaka to Himeji Castle, coastal areas, to Arima Hot Springs, and then back to Osaka. There is also the World Heritage course to Kyoto and Nara and another to the historic City of Koyasan. According to the Koyasan Tourism’s site ‘Kôyasan is home to an active monastic center founded twelve centuries ago by the priest Kûkai (posthumously known as Kôbô Daishi) for the study and practice of Esoteric Buddhism’. Try the temple stays in Koyasan also.

For my most recent KTP travel, I used the Pass to discover Osaka, Kyoto and Himeji. The second largest city in Japan, Osaka is the food capital of Japan and has so much more than the well known Osaka Castle to offer visitors. My first port of call was Dotombori, close to Namba Station, the central hub of Osaka, Dotombori has a great selection of restaurants, shops, neon signs galore and the big crab, a favourite meeting place for locals. While I was there, people lined up in their droves at two small take away street stalls to try Osaka’s famous Okonomi-yaki (Japanese pancake) and the Tako Yaki, small octopus dumplings.

Tennoji area, (near Tennoji station), is also a bustling area, with many Pachinko parlours, small markets and shops. Spa World close by, (near Shin-imamiya Station) is a large leisure complex with spa baths from several countries plus an indoor swimming pool. The Shitenno-ji Temple is the oldest Buddhist temple in Japan. Nipponbashi, nearby is electrical shopping town. Check out also the Osaka Castle in spring to see the large surrounding park with cherry blossom in full bloom. The Kaiyukan Aquarium, and the bay area are also well worth a visit. For further details see

As well as traveling to Kyoto on the KTP, you can also use the Pass to move around this former capital of Japan and visit all its temples, shrines and other tourist attractions. Drop into the bus terminal office, out the front of the Kyoto main station, show your KTP and ask for a bus map of Kyoto. You can then hop on and hop off, all the buses using the KTP and allow at least two days to explore Kyoto.

For the second day of visiting Kyoto, instead of using the KTP, there is an economical Kansai City Bus All-day Pass (Adult:¥500/Child:¥250), you can buy at the Kyoto Bus terminal. My favourites Kyoto attractions are the Kinkaku-ji Temple (Golden Pavilion), Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), Kyoto Botanical gardens, and the walk in Spring under the cherry blossoms, beside the gardens.
For great souvenir shopping, head to the Kyoto Handicraft Centre and have a go at making Japanese handicrafts at the centre’s short courses. I made a cloisonné broach and a clay doll bell - you can also make your own spinning top, woodblock print, incense bag, gold powder drawing, folding fan painting, and much more. See . Japan National Tourism Organisation suggests some great walks in Kyoto

Then I travelled west to Himeji using the third day of my KTP. Around ten minutes walk from Himeji station, Himeji Castle gardens provided for me, one of the best cherry blossom viewing areas in Japan. There are approximately 1,000 cherry trees around Himeji Castle in bloom from the end of March to the beginning of April. This is according to the Himeji Tourist Guide and Map (published by Himeji City, Himeji Convention and Visitors Bureau). With the cherry blossoms framing the castle and grounds, Himeji Castle sparkles at springtime. The drum performance of the Sakura festival, (usually early April each year) and the spectacular castle and cherry blossoms attracted 1000s of visitors while I was there.
Once inside the castle, we were asked to remove our shoes and everyone walked in their socks to preserve the inside of the World Heritage building. Plastic bags were provided for our wet shoes and umbrellas in true Japanese style. On each floor, we viewed relics from the castle’s history and progressively climbed six flights of very steep stairs to the top of the castle. The view from the castle’s top floor of Himeji City and parts of the castle were indeed breathtaking. Then it was time to climb down the steep stairs and once outside take more photos of the cherry blossoms framing Himeji castle. Entry Fee: 600 yen full fee or 480 yen with the KTP voucher.

So have fun exploring the Kansai region with the Kansai Through Pass - you will save a heap of Yen.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Yes Robots sometimes do make mistakes

By Carole Goldsmith  Copyright ©2010 All Rights Reserved

Visiting auto and other manufacturing plants is one of my favourite activities to do when visiting Japan. Most tourists go to Kyoto, Tokyo, Osaka and travel around the country side, I do that too. However, given the opportunity to visit a factory plant tour, I get very exited and that is one of the highlights of my trip.

On one warm spring day, I had booked myself in for an auto plant tour. The lovely Kimiko (not her real name) who was assigned to be my own private tour guide, took me on a walking tour above the production line. The robots were in action, doing what they do naturally, at least naturally via computers. I watched with facination as their long arms were moving slowly while picking up the car's seat and placing it in the car body with absolute precision.

I asked Kimiko "Do the robots ever make mistakes?"  No, they never make mistakes," said Kimiko. Just at that very moment, we watched as the next car body approached. The tip of the robot's arm reached and collected the next car seat on the assembly line. All of a sudden, the robot released the car seat and it went flying through the air and fell to the side of the assembly line. The car body arrived and there was no seat to go in it as it was on the floor by now. Kimiko held her hand to her face in a very shocked state. I was really trying to control my laughter as Kimiko was obviously very embarassed about the naughty robot making a mistake.

I said politely, "Robots are really like humans and sometimes they just make a little mistake when they are tired". We had a little laugh together and went on our way to see the rest of the tour

So Yes, robots sometimes do make mistakes

Finding your ATM bank balance in the land of the rising yen

By Carole Goldsmith Copyright 2009, All Rights Reserved
Withdrawing cash from an ATM and getting your bank balance with a foreign (non Japanese) bank keycard is not so easy in Japan, unless you know how.

First - about the rising yen against the $Australian - As a regular traveler to Japan and an Australian, I have watched the rise of the Yen against the $Australian ($AUD) over the past 25 years. In 1981, my first trip to Japan, the rate was around Yen 300 to $1AUD. In 2008, $1AUD fetched Yen 105 and in early April 2009, $1AUD (cash) was buying only Yen58 and $1AUD (travelers checks) brought slightly a higher Yen rate of 67. So although prices are around the same in Japan for hotels, food and travel, because of the low $AUD against the rising yen, everything was costing me around 40 percent more than last year in April 2009.

Finding your bank balance and withdrawing cash in Japan
So getting back to the cash withdrawal and finding your bank balance at an ATM in Japan, it is more than a frustrating challenge. My ATM bank keycard has the Maestro and Cirrus symbols on the back .I can use that at bank ATMS in many other countries to withdraw cash and check my balance. This is not so easy in Japan. When I was staying in the Tennoji area of Osaka. I knew that I had been paid for a job back in Australia, so I went to the Post Office ATM to withdraw cash and check my balance. The ATM instructions were all in English and withdrawal was easy, the ATM slip gave me the withdrawal amount but no balance. I asked the postal staff how I could check my balance (zandaka in Japanese). They said that I could only check my balance if I had a Japan Post Account. Then I went nearby to the UFJ bank and tried my key card there. All instructions again in English, all went smoothly, but the ATM slip reported it was an invalid card and could not handle my transaction. I asked a bank staff member for assistance and they were very helpful and went through the ATM enquiry process with me, however my key card did not work in their machine.
I tried the ATM at Lawson’s Convenience store, but it was all in Japanese with no English version. I can read Hiragana and Katakana, but Kanji is a little difficult for me to master the bank instructions.

 Later I was walking around the Osaka Port Area and I came across a 711 store (and they are all around Japan). Much to my delight, there was an ATM with the Maestro and Cirrus symbols, plus instructions in English. Hooray, I could check my balance and withdraw cash; either transaction would cost me 210 Yen. The balance was in Yen or $USA. The friendly 711 staff lent me a calculator to convert my Yen balance to the $Aussie balance - I was happy, finally I had my current balance. I recall now seeing some advertising that 711 had ATM’s for Maestro and Cirrus cards.

711 to the rescue and a great help to travelers wanting to check their bank balance in Japan

Monday, October 11, 2010

Hotel Chuo Oasis- A great place to stay close to downtown Osaka

Written by Carole Goldsmith Copyright 2009 & 2010 , all Rights Reserved.

Recently opened in May 2009, Hotel Chuo Oasis is a great place to stay in Osaka. The reception staff are very welcoming, friendly and helpful and between them, they speak English,Thai and of course Japanese.

A very spacious lobby with a water featureand side garden plus attractive pot plants is a good area to relax in a smoke free environment. The lobby also has free internet, TV, lounge chairs, tables and chairs for guests to enjoy a chat, plus cooking facilities, washers and dryers to the side for your convenience. The rooms are clean and quiet, with very comfortable beds. There is a TV, internet cable to use your lap top in your room, a fridge, shower and bath to relax and soak in. With no curfew, Hotel Chuo Oasis has a secure card system for you to enter your room at all times and the building after midnight. There is a female non smoking floor that I really like.

Close to Shin Imamiya station on the Nakai (Airport line), JR Shin Imamiya and Dobutsuen Subway station, the hotel is also near a shopping mall and Tennoji shopping centre plus Tennoji Park. Close by to the hotel, there is a large supermarket, a Family Mart plus Flets Yen 100 shop for lots of bargains.

Also conveniently located close to Namba station, the heart of Osaka and OCAT, the inter city bus terminal. Hotel Chuo Oasis is certainly a gem of a hotel to call home when in Osaka.

For more details and to check out their YouTube video see :

Monday, October 4, 2010

Know the characters for male and female in Japan - especially in the bathroom.

By Carole Goldsmith Copyright ©  2010 , All Rights Reserved

When visiting Japan, you really need to know the characters for male and female in the bathroom. I remember staying at Yoyogi Youth Hostel in Tokyo and I was getting ready for my evening bath in the same bathroom as the previous evening.

It was the female bathroom the night before, so I just assumed that it would be the correct bath-room...... wrong,

I soon found out that it was the wrong bathroom as a group of Singaporean students came bounding in the bathroom and said that I was in the male bathroom and I should learn the characters for male and female.

Sure enough the manager of the hostel had changed the Japanese signs so that the male and female bathrooms had traded places.

I certainly learnt the symbols for male and female in Japanese after that funny experience

Match-making and going on a date in Japan

By Carole Goldsmith Copyright 2010 All rights Reserved

One afternoon around 5 PM, I was waiting on Iidabashi Station in Tokyo when a quiet young man came up to me and said Konnichi wa. That means hello in Japanese. I turned around and said konnichi wa in return and uttered a few other Japanese greeting words.  He wanted to practice the English that he had learnt in his recent class. " I have learnt English for 6 months and my English is still like Japanese English" he said with a sigh. I wanted to practice my Japanese language skills as I had been studying hard and writing lots of characters (kanji, hiragana and katakana) I told him this as we waited for the approaching train.

On the train we went and the train pushers were already to push us inside the train. We went to the back of the train and continued our conversation.  My name is Moro he said. I would like to meet you for coffee so that we can practice English and Japanese together. We arranged to meet at Shinjuku on Saturday afternoon at 3 PM. I got off at the next stop " Suidobashi" as I had to do some electrical shopping.

I met Moro at the designated place the following Saturday. To my surprise, he turned up with a young Japanese woman, Kimiko san. After the introductions and lots of giggles from Moro and Kimiko, he told me that he would like me to travel with them both to his country town. The reason he explained was to convince his parents that he should marry Kimiko, whom he loved, instead of the woman they had arranged for him to marry. Yes match making still occurs in Japan.

Battle of the Wasabi Loaded Nori Roll

By Carole Goldsmith Copyright © 2005 – 2010  All Rights Reserved

Written June 2008
Lined up in five teams of eight battlers each, it is a race to choose the team leader who has taken a bite of the wasabi loaded nori roll and can hold it their mouth for five minute As the five chosen leaders start to consume their nori roll slowly, the teams have to choose which leader has taken the one and only nori roll with half a teaspoon of wasabi concealed inside.

The person with the wasabi loaded nori roll whose mouth is probably burning by now, must not show their distress, in fact they must not show any reaction at all.

If you have ever had a half teaspoon of wasabi in your mouth, you would know that this is a very difficult food to conceal as your eyes water and your face goes somewhat red. The race is on as the whole room full of people survey the five leaders, one and one only has the wasabi in their mouth... but no-one is showing any signs or calling out hot.. atsui desu.

Each of the five teams make their selection, but is any one correct? Team three have picked the leader with the wasabi loaded nori roll who agrees to the deed and promptly drinks a tall glass of iced water.
Then it is time for a new group of team leaders to try the task - It is all part of fun of an end of the term Japanese school party in Wombat Land (Australia). Lots of Sushi (Japanese) and Wombats (Australians) gather together to play some Japanese fun games and practice English and Japanese. Meanwhile it is time for the teams to pick a new leader for the next exciting battle of the wasabi loaded nori roll. Stay tuned for more Japanese school party games.

Are Some Japanese Women Giving Marriage the Flick?

By Carole Goldsmith Copyright © 2005 – 2010 All Rights Reserved

Written May 2005

With the rate of marriages down and the divorce rate rising in Japan, some Japanese women are deciding that is may be better to buy a designer bag than become Mr. Susuki’s wife. For some Japanese ladies, is the life of being married to a salary man who devotes all his time to his company, coming to an end?

The National Institute of Population and Social Security, Ministry of Health and Welfare (Jinko tokei shiryoshu - demographic statistics, 1999) revealed, that the Japanese marriage rate was 6.3 per 1000 population in 1998. The divorce rate in the same year was 1.94 per 1000 population (Source Facts and Figures of Japan , 2000 Edition, Foreign Press Centre Japan (FPCJ). In more recent times the 2006 Facts and Figures of Japan, FPCJ publication showed that in 2005 the marriage rate dropped to 5.7 per 1000 population and divorce rate rose to 2.08 per 1000 persons. (FPCJ source United Nations, Demographic yearbook 2003, Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, (Jinko tokei shiryoshu - demographic statistics, 2005)

Japanese single female friends of mine in their late 20s or early 30s living in Japan and Australia, tell me that there is pressure on them from friends and family to marry. They are also being encouraged to marry Japanese men. These women are independent confident professional and university educated women. Some have non Japanese partners whom they love, and they are happy to live in de-facto relationships and do not want the legal bind of marriage. One of my friends, a high school teacher, is around 35 years now. She is very happily living a single life sharing a house with her Uncle. She told me a few years ago, that she did not want to marry Susuki San, be his wife and lose her identity as a professional woman. She would never see him because he would live a life devoted to the company, plus she would have to do all the shopping, cooking and housework.

As a busy professional woman, she believed that the household duties should be shared when the two people are working. She had experienced this with an American boyfriend she lived with for a year. She also said that if she ever did marry, she would marry a Western man for a life of equal opportunity. Sharing of duties of course will depend on the male and the country which he comes from.

Another Japanese friend once told me that she would she would rather have a designer bag or a pet than be a Japanese man’s wife and slave. Others choose the good life and convenience of living with their parents and they share the household costs and duties. They also spend long hours in their busy jobs and are expected to stay back at work like their male colleagues. I do have a few Japanese married friends with modern views who share all the house hold duties as they are both working. A Japanese girlfriend went home to Japan for Christmas and for a sister’s engagement The pressure was on for her to get married as she is hitting 30 but she loves her single life in Australia. She prefers to keep her relationships to dating and not living with the person, as that would take away the independence that she loves.

When another Japanese friend finished her University Degree in Australia, her family back home wanted her to settle down into a job for life and get married, all of this in Japan. She feels this pressure on her constantly but she wants to do all sorts of casual jobs in Australia and have some fun before the dreaded settling down happens. Japanese women are changing and an increasing number are opting for single life and independence. Yes, there are still elaborate weddings in Japan that cost a fortune, that many women do want to experience. I saw the hotels decked out for weddings when I was last in Japan in June last year.

With the changes on laws on pensions in Japan, so that women now get half of their spouse’s pension when they divorce, the divorce rate is expected to rise in the future. Older women may want to experience a life of freedom and independence that some of their younger counterparts are doing now. Then the poor Japanese husband may have independence that they may not like that as much as the ladies. Worse still they may become homeless and that is a sad occurrence that happens already now... that is another story.........

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Jagalchi in Busan - poor animals stuck in cages in pet shops - just like Japan.

Carole Goldsmith, Copyright 2010

Today I went to Jagalchi, only a few subways stops from Busan Station in Korea. After buying a couple of jackets and caps, I wandered on towards the market area. On the way I passed three pet shops and one more further down the road. Poor young cats and dogs stuck in cages on display for potential buyers, just like the pet shops in Japan. The poor little animals in the cages, some without even mats in their cages jut laying on the cold wire of the cages. Many looking around and probably hoping that they would get out of their cages soon.

Why does Korea and Japan persist in keeping poor little animals in cages in pet shops when people should be buying dogs and cats from refuge shelters for lost animals.

In Japan I also saw female dogs, stuck in cages for non stop breeding and they hardly ever get out of the cages. This should be banned as well as the poor animals, probably a result of breeding, who are stuck in cages in pet shops in Japan and Korea.

A quick trip to Busan, Korea

By Carole Goldsmith Copyright 2010
I flew to Seoul last Monday for some meetings and to attend an International environmental expo. So for the weekend I decided to travel to Busan, about three hours south of Seoul. The return trip Seoul to Busan by KTX train (up to 300 km per hour) costs around $US90.00. Traveling to Busan takes just under three hours, a smooth and stress free trip. There are elevators at Seoul Station and at Busan station to the train platforms, with all the steps on the subways in Seoul, it is great to have elevators, especially when you are carrying luggage.

I booked into the Dongyang Motel (  tel 82 051 442 1248) which is one minute' walk from Busan station. Go to ground level, come out to front of station, turn left and walk straight parallel with the railway track and you will find the Donyang Motel. The rooms are very spacious and comfortable, with a large TV, computer and internet in room and a separate bathroom with bath and shower. A standard room is Won 40,000 ( around $US35.00 per night)and a luxury room Won 45,000 (around $40.00 per night). There is a great view of the city and the harbour from my window.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Japan on a Budget E Book

Carole Goldsmith Copyright 2010

I am in now working on my book How to Travel Japan on a budget. The book is for every one who always wanted to travel in Japan and throught Japan too expensive. Ï have been travelling Japan on a budget for over 20 years, so over that time I have gathered many travel tips especially for people who have never been to Japan before.

I will sell the E book on and the book will provide lots of tips on budget travel, accommodation, eating out, culture, where to get your bank balance and withdraw money and lots more.

In Melbourne Australia, where I usually live when I am not on planes, trains or buses, I teach a course as follows on


International freelance journalist Carole Goldsmith, has been travelling Japan ‘budget style’ for over 20 years. She will provide tips on preparing for the trip, valuable web-sites and an insight into Japanese cross - cultural awareness. Carole will also guide you through a range of budget travel and accommodation in the major cities as well as in villages away from the main tourist areas. Join Carole on her trip around Japan from the far north of Hokkaido, through to the southern island of Kyushu. Enjoy the local foods, the friendly people, the exciting, fast moving cities, the beautiful countryside and the wonderful culture of Japan.

By writing the E book, I will be able to spread the world on how easy and economical it is to travel Japan on a budget. Hopefully the book will be finished and on line at Amazon. com by June 2010.

Pink "snow" in Tokyo

By Carole Goldsmith Copyright 2010

Last week, a strong wind blew masses of pink petals from the cherry blossom trees in Iidabashi (a suburb of Tokyo). As the petals flowed to the ground, it was like pink snow was falling and the ground was suddenly covered by a pink blanket of blossoms.

Children in the street were holding handfuls of the pink snow and throwing them in the air like snowballs. Adults were on the ground with their mobile phones flashing away the pink spectacle.

It certainly was an exciting time for all as pink snow lined the streets of Iidabashi and stopped young and old in the tracks from the frenetic pace they all seem to usually move.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Kitten on the owl causes photo frenzy

Carole Goldmith Copyright 2010

Surprise, there was a new star at Ikebukeru station last night (around seven PM), that caused an absolute photo frenzy. A black kitten sitting on the head of the owl sculpture at Ikebukeru station, (a suburb of Tokyo) was surrounded by a crowd of excited people.

Amid sounds of "kawai" or "cuto" (cute), there were mobile phone cameras everywhere snapping the little star. Kitty sat there calmly miowing and cleaning herself lapping up the attentionfor around five minutes . The crowd gathered and Kitty was sitting put.

All of a sudden came a hand to the side of kitty. The cat's owner collected the star of the day and out the station they went with the cat sitting calmly on the owner's head, probably getting ready for a fish dinner.

An exciting end to the day's busy schedule.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Toyoko Inn - A great place to stay in style on a budget

welcome to Tokyo

Usually I fly into Osaka, so I know where I am going, but I have not flown into Tokyo since the were Y300 for $AUD1 - and that was a few years ago.
So I fly into Tokyo on 6 April at 20.00 with Jetstar, the plane was full.
After a swift move through customs and immigration, (Japan is so organised), I exchange money at the Bank money exchange to the left of the exit. No commission is taken.
Now to travel to downtown Tokyo, there are several options listed on site, but I chose to use the Airport Limousine service as they drop near major hotels. The cost is Y 3000 to the Ikebukeru area, Hotel Metropolitan stop. Tell the Limousine people where you want to go and they will book you on to the correct bus. The next bus was going to be 9.55 so I called my hotel to let them know I would be arriving later (so they would keep my room - you need to do that if you have given an earlier time of arrival.
As I approached Tokyo at around 23.15, there were many offices lit up and would you believe it, people still working at their desks- male and people office workers slaving away. Maybe they were shift workers but I would guess that they are day shift people still at work and they will go home on the last train and be back there at 9 in the morning.
The trip takes about 1.5 hours and it was a smooth run to the city.
I alighted at Hotel Metropolitan and I was no where near my hotel, so I asked for directions along the way. At times like this when you are frustrated and feel a little lost, just ask and you will get directions.
The term The police in the police box (Koban) to the left of West Exit of Ikebukeru Startion were very helpful and directed me - Turn right at Kentucky and turn left at next corner and walk straight ahead until you see Toyoko Inn No 1 on the right hand side.
So off I went and within five minutes I was there - 23.45 to be exact.
Tired and survived the trip into Tokyo and ready for a good night's sleep.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Your one stop travel information on Japan

Your one stop travel information on Japan

By Carole Ann Goldsmith Copyright 2010 - All Rights Reserved

My absolutely favourite and - the most useful travel web-site on Japan is definately the Japan National Tourism Organization's site This excellent site is available in several of the world's global languages.

You can browse by destinations, interests and see where the places you want to visit are on the on-line map of Japan. There are links to travel information, accommodation and attractions and you can find out all about the history and culture of this super efficent and exciting country. Browsing for youth, hotels and ryokans (Japanese style inns) around Japan is easy and you can reserve hotels and ryokans on Japan's leading reservation sites.

JNTO's site also has a Japan Travel Planner for train and map information for traveling around Japan. You can also check when the cherry blossoms will bloom at different parts of the country so follow the cherry blossom parties and enjoy your travels.

Get planning now as you will be traveling soon.

No - Japan is not expensive to travel.


This blog is for everyone who ever told me that Japan is expensive to traval - when they have never been there before. Japan is not expensive to travel if you know how to do it cheaply. April this year will be my 20 th trip to Japan and I want to share with you many buget travel and cultural tips to hhelp you save money

When I can book a single room in downtown Tokyo or Osaka for under $USA 50 and I need to pay over $US 100 for a single room, in a small City in Australia where I reside, something is not quite right.

There are all sorts of travel passes to buy before you go to Japan or once you arrive there.
Planning your trip before you leave home and booking some of your accommodation in advance will help prevent travel stress when you arrive, particularly if you have a map of your hotel in your hot little hand. In true excellent customer service, your location map to your hotel will usually indicate - which line you travel on and the station or bus stop to alight - then there will be a very detailed map to your hotel.

A word of warning - do not catch a taxi from the airport (Narita - Tokyo or Kansai - Osaka) it will cost you a fortune - e.g. around $US 250 from Narita to down- town Tokyo.
There are a selection of trains and busses traveling to down-town, all at reasonable prices.

So join me on my journey as we travel around Japan and please enjoy your trip.

Carole Ann Goldsmith