Sunday, December 18, 2011

New cheap three day JR pass for Tokyo and Kanto region

If you are a tourist in Japan and want to travel in Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto region for only three days, then this may be the best pass for you - particularly if you want to use the Shinkansen (bullet trains). 

The JR Kanto Area Pass is new and was launched on December 1 2011 .  It is a discounted pass for unlimited rides on JR trains in Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto area. 

Valid for three days, the pass is available for rides using reserved seats on ordinary cars on Shinkansen, limited express and other trains.  Visit popular tourist destinations such as Mount Fuji, Izu and Karuizawa with this pass. Check out the link below for more details and where to buy it in Tokyo. 

Cost is Y8000 (adults) Y4000 (children) for three days travel

Kitten on the owl in Tokyo causes photo frenzy

By Carole Goldsmith © Copyright 2011-All Rights Reserved.

Surprise, there was a new celebrity star at Ikebukuro station in Tokyo when I was there last April.  It caused an absolute photo frenzy. A black kitten sitting on the head of the owl sculpture at Ikebukuro station, 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 attention for around five minutes . The crowd gathered and Kitty was sitting put, relaxed with around 1000 happy snappers clicking away on their cameras and mobile phones.

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. Now I just need to find that photo of the celebrity of the day. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

Beware of the wandering groper's hands and whack them if they come near.

By Carole Goldsmith © Copyright 2011 - 2015, All Rights Reserved 

You can still find some old gropers travelling on the trains in Japan.  The pink carriages for women with protect you from the leeches in peak hour...but not in the other hours - Beware of the wandering groper's hands. 

I have seen the pink carriages for women in Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya, available in peak hours mornings and evenings when the trains are packed and we are pushed into the trained by white gloved conductors. 

With all the very short shorts that some young ladies are wearing in Japan in summer, thank goodness for the ladies carriages. 

I was travelling on a train in a major city in Japan, reading a book. A middle aged man got on the train and sat next to me, the carriage was not very occupied. As it was a warm day, I was wearing a skirt that came to my knee and was totally absorbed in my very interesting book. Out the corner of my knee, I saw the man's hand moving from his knee, towards my knee. His hand seemed to be getting closer and closer and just as he went to grab my knee, I turned around and looked him in the face and said in my best Japanese " If you touch my knee, I will whack you with my book and call the police."

He went red, moved away and go off at the next stop. Fortunately, this has been the only almost groping that I have ever experienced and I have been traveling in Japan for over 20 years. An English female friend of mine, who is a fluent Japanese speaker was grabbed in the breast by a groper in a crowded Japanese train. She not screamed at him, but a fellow passenger called the police and he was carted off to the Koban (police box) at the next station. 

If it does happen to you when traveling in Japan, have a good book ready to hit them with and get your cell phone ready to call the police.... They will be there at the next stop. 

Congrats - Parramatta - outdoor dining, bus shelters and Taxi Stands Smoke Free

It is about time Japanese government and restaurant owners made inside and outside their restaurants smoke free.  Then tourists like us won't have to breath in the toxic chemicals, carcinogenic contaminants from second hand tobacco smoke

In Australia, restaurants are not only smoke free, but progressive city councils like the City of Parramatta, west of Sydney, are banning smoking outside restaurants, and at bus shelters and taxi stands. Congratulations to the City of Parramatta, lets help they do that in Melbourne, Sydney and other states in Australia and right across Japan. 

 Smokefree alfresco policy a breath of fresh air 

for Parramatta diners and workers  


Parramatta City Council’s decision last night (December 12) to adopt a smokefree alfresco dining policy will improve health, protect employees and children, and will be popular and good for business, say employee and health groups.
The SmokeFree Australia coalition* of 11 health and employee organisations has welcomed the Council vote to make outdoor dining licenses conditional on being 100% smokefree by 1 May 2012 – with incentives to venues to make the change earlier.
Parramatta also voted to make bus shelters and taxi stands smokefree, and to urge the NSW government to legislate statewide to end smoking in dining and other crowded public places.
Says SmokeFree Australia co-ordinator Stafford Sanders: “Parramatta’s diners, including children, and also the staff at these workplaces, will breathe a big smokefree sigh of relief that they can now eat and work free of tobacco’s toxic, carcinogenic contaminants.
“This is a popular move - Council’s surveys of community opinion have consistently showed a high level of popular support for removing tobacco smoke contamination from food service areas.
“Dining venues will soon realise that going smokefree will not help rather than harm their trade – many families will come back to outdoor dining in Parramatta, which is really Sydney’s demographic hub.
“We congratulate Parramatta City Council, and especially Councillor Michael McDermott who has provided courageous leadership on this issue.
“We also commend Council staff for their efforts in gathering the evidence to confirm the level of community support – which is so strong that the policy will need little enforcement.
“Smokers will comply with little objection, as most of them accept that smoking should only be allowed where it doesn’t risk harm to others - especially children and staff who have no realistic choice but to be in these crowded places.
“We call on all other councils, including Sydney City, to follow the example of the 32 NSW councils that have acted responsibly to protect their communities and workplaces.”  

* SmokeFree Australia   coalition for safe workplaces   (see weblink:’03)
Action on Smoking and Health Australia; Australian Council of Trade Unions; Australian Council on Smoking and Health;
Australian Medical Association; Cancer Council Australia; Heart Foundation; Lung Institute of WA;
Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance; Musicians’ Union of Australia; Non-Smokers’ Movement of Australia; United Voice

Gifu Park - in the sky and time to meditate

By Carole Goldsmith © Copyright 2011 - 2012 - All Rights Reserved

I love Gifu Park, beautiful Japanese Gardens, floral displays when I was there this November and surrounded by the forest of Mt Kinka.  The weather was perfect 22 degrees celcius, so I took the challenge and rode the Kinka Ropeway (cable car) to the top of Mt Kinka. Once at the top, it was quite cool so I walked briskly along the quiet pathway, surrounded by magnificent greenery and stopped to meditate at one of the benches. The Gifu Castle and the Castle Museum were well worth a look. 

In the grounds of the gardens are the Gifu City Museum of History and the Nawa Insect Museum that I will have to see, next time I am in Gifu. I walked up to the red pagoda that you can see below . I was so peaceful up the top of the mountain, I stayed there for five hours before I came back down on the cable car for a cool ice cream and besides, it was time to return to the gardens. 

Gifu is a very peaceful town and just 20 minutes from Nagoya Station to Gifu Station by the JR Tokaido Line.For more details see

Friday, December 9, 2011

Where to stay on a budget in Tokyo

Copyright 2011 - 2015 © Carole Ann Goldsmith - All rights reserved
Finding budget accommodation in Tokyo is easy if you know how and where it is.
Listed below are some of the places I have stayed at in Tokyo and these range from the very low cost to  convenient and medium cost business hotels.
Tokyo and surrounding areas Great Tokyo web-sites - what to do, transport, attractions and fun in Tokyo.

Tokyo Backpackers Hotel - New Koyo Hotel  very cheap hotel for Tokyo Rooms small, but OK, common bathroom - usage set times for men and for women, fun place for young and young at heart). Free wi fi if you have your own equipment,  hotel computers available near kitchen for guest's use. Single rooms Y 2300 per night (Japanese/Western) Semi Double Rooms are Y4000yen per night (for a total of 2 people ) - price includes tax and service charge. About 15 minutes walk from Minami Senju station but full details are on the map.

Check out the other hotels on your walk to the station
There are quite a few cheap hotels nearby on the walk to the station, so go to the area and check them out. You can get some great bargains for Y2,500 - Y3,500 a night around that location. Ask the hotel staff if you can check out the rooms.

Other budget accommodation in the centre of Tokyo

Tokyo Central Youth Hostel (formerly Tokyo International Youth Hostel)
This new youth hostel opened in April 2011 and is located in the center of Tokyo. Only one minute walk from the west exit  of JR Iidabashi Station on the JR Sobu Line. Located on the 18th floor of the building, you get a great view of Tokyo and its sky scrapers. I stayed at this Youth Hostel when it was the Tokyo International Youth Hostel and it was run very professionally like a business hotel. Rooms are dormitory style with bunk beds, sheets included, visitor's tax added, male/female rooms (not coed) Y 3360.00 (per night, per bed).  Private Room 3 beds, Sheets included 10080.00 JPY (per night, per room)

Supermarket on the first floor of the building and lots of cheap to medium priced restaurants located in the main street  - head out the front of the building, turn left and cross the street at the first traffic lights on your right. Head down the street and look for the coin in the slot restaurants - they are a real bargain.

The Yoyogi YH is in the National Youth Center and is next to Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine. All the rooms are single rooms at this YH. Price is Y 3000 per night and Y 600 for non YH members.

Toyoko Inn.

The Toyoko Inn chain provides comfortable business hotel rooms with en suite bath rooms and located across Japan. Prices are around Y7,400 single - Y9000 double in major cities and around Y5,500 single, $7500 double in country areas. Quiet rooms, very clean and well run, free breakfast, TV, internet connection in room, computers in foyer, very easy to book.  Cleaning done at hotels from 10.00 AM to 3:00 PM . Become member for Y1500 and when you stay 10 nights at any Toyoko Inn, you get one night free, also discounts on first Monday and Sundays if Toyoko Inn member
I reccommend and have stayed at Toyoko Inn Ikebukuro Kita Guchi No 1. 
Located around ten minute's walk from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo and the Narita Express (to and from Narita Airport) leaves from this station. Tell the staff your estimated arrival time, when you make your booking and I suggest that you call from airport to confirm your new arrival time if that differs from what you booked on line. Also there is a great salad shop and supermarket nearby. Cheaper accommodation available in the next street Great location. See map on the above website on how to get to hotel.
Many restaurants in the streets surrounding Ikebukuro Station.

If you want a rest from the bright lights of Tokyo then Kakegawa is the answer, escape to Kakegawa in the country located between Tokyo and Osaka.
Toyoko Inn in Kakegawa is very near to Kakegawa Shinkansen station and Kakegawa JR station, also great hotel, very friendly staff and delicious breakfast - the best Miso and vegetable soup i have ever tasted. Located in the Shizuoka region, Kakegawa is around 90 KM west of Mt Fuji and roughly half way between Osaka and Tokyo. Wonderful place to visit, quiet and lots of tourist attractions… bird park, flower garden buffet, hot springs and Dr Fish, castle and much more…. See Mt Fuji on your way back to Tokyo. Opened March 2010 so lovely fresh and new hotel with Hotel swipe cards for added security.

Supermarket around 15 minute walk and plenty of restaurants in the main street,

Check out the new Toyoko Inn new hotel openings too for great opening specials New Tokyo Toyoko Inn opening in April 2012
Happy Travelling

Monday, December 5, 2011

More smoke free Japanese restaurants in Japan please

By Carole Goldsmith - Copyright - All Rights Reserved

Just back from number 20 trip to Japan and I am astounded that the Japanese laws still allow smoking in restaurants. Every restaurant I went to in Osaka and Kyoto in the evening, had smokers puffing away in part of the restaurant. Half of the restaurant in some of them was smoke free so the staff told me.....yes - I saw the smoke drifting across the restaurant. So to avoid the poisons of second hand smoke and a coughing fit, I did not dine at any of these restaurants.. they were not smoke free. Also at Takayama and Koyasan, the two restaurants that I ate lunch at, you guessed it, someone lit up near me, so I departed pretty quickly.

There was one restaurant at Kyoto station that had no smoking over lunchtime, that was delightful. Apart from all the Western restaurants that surround Kyoto station, I could nor find one Japanese restaurant that was smoke free for the evening meal. Seven Eleven meals come in handy when you can't go to restaurants because of the tobacco smoke pollution.

Why don't some innovative Japanese set up smoke free Japanese restaurants in Japan. .

The Japanese Ministry of health is promoting no smoking habits as smoking related cancer and stroke is rising rapidly in Japan.

But how can they compete with the cigarette promotion and vending machines on every corner and the Japanese government's ownership of 50 percent of Japan Tobacco, the world's third largest tobacco company.

At least young people have to now prove they are 18, before they can buy cigarettes from vending machines.
This was not the case a couple of years ago, there were no restrictions on buying cigarettes from vending machines.

Maybe when the restaurant employees start suing the owners for smoking related illness and the smoking related health bill climb higher, the laws allowing smoking in restaurants may be changed.

I and the many other visitors to Japan who are used to smoke free work and dining environments in our own  countries, we would love smoke free Japanese restaurants to go to in Japan.

Friday, July 8, 2011

How to travel Japan on a budget

By Carole Ann Goldsmith Copyright ©2004 - 2011 All Rights Reserved

 For everything you need to know about travelling Japan, see The Japan National Tourist Organisation’s (JNTO’s) website
  There is a wealth of information about many places to visit, with details how to travel there, budget and other accommodation, transport and cultural tips. Also check out to see all the famous people and tourists visiting Japan since the earthquake and Tsunami.  Please check the map of Japan to see where the cities and tourist attractions are located. Click on the particular city that you are interested in and a summary will appear with a link to detailed page and tourist. For example, click on Hiroshima and then click on Miyajima. Then at the bottom of the Miyajima pop up, page click on Detailed page and information on the tourist attractions at Miyajima will appear as follows:

 JNTO- Accommodation Search is an excellent site and you can check out budget accommodation , Youth Hostels and Japanese inns, plus more expensive accommmodation.
 Budget Accommodation across Japan Great site with budget accommodation across Japan.
Japan Youth Hostels
one night  around Y 2,500 - Y4,000 per bed
(share room, bunk beds, tatami mat rooms, singles, doubles, family room - around Y5,000) can be a little noisy at times, most with a curfew time at night,  and country hostels are usually quieter than city ones.

Toyoko Inn chain  has economical priced hotellocated around Japan.  Prices range from Y7,400 single - Y9000 double  in Tokyo and around Y5,500 single, $7500 double in country areas. These are comfortable business hotels, very clean and well run with free breakfast, TV, internet connection in room, computers in foyer and very easy to book Toyoko Inn hotels around Japan. Cleaning hotel from 10.00 AM. Become member for Y1500, stay 10 nights and get one night free, early check in, also discounts on first Monday and Sundays for members. Check out their web booking discounts.

Travel - Check out JNTO travel planner and lots of tips on traveling from the airports and around Japan.

Traveling in the Kansai Region - Kansai Pass

Happy Traveling and more tips to come on an E Book on How to travel Japan on a Budget - out soon on Amazon

Budget Travel in the Kansai region

By Carole Goldsmith Copyright ©2009 -2011 All Rights Reserved
Most tourists whom I meet while traveling Japan, have a two or three week Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) that they use to speed around the country on the Shinkansen, or bullet train, as widely known. The traditional JR Pass, that enables you to travel across Japan on all JR lines (except on the Nozomi Shinkansen) is really handy and economical if you are travelling from say Osaka to Tokyo and then up north to Hokkaido. A day or so there and you are off again on the Shinkansen, to travel back to Osaka, Kyoto and then down to Kyushu. It is really great value if you are travelling long distances every day, as the JR Pass covers consecutive days of travel.

But do tourists really need to start their JR Pass when they fly into Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka and plan to spend a few days in the Kansai region, including Kyoto? No they don't.

I usually fly into KIX when traveling to Japan and explore the Kansai region for a few days before scooting off to the West or East of Japan. The real secret of traveling on a budget in the Kansai region is to use the Kansai Thru Pass, a special ticket for tourists visiting Japan.    From the Kansai Thru Pass website

This Pass excludes JR lines. You can travel ‘from Kyoto to Osaka, Kobe, Mt. Hiei and Himeji. Get on and off the train or bus bound for Wakayama, Nara and Koyasan as you like during the period of validity. and find out where and how far you can travel plus on which rail lines and buses you can use the Kansai pass.

There are two types of tickets - Adult: 3day ticket - 5000 yen, Children (Ages 7 to 12) 2day ticket - 2,500 yen and 2day ticket 3,800 yen (Adults) 1,900 yen (Children)

You can buy the ticket at Kansai International Airport KAA Travel Desk (1st Floor / 07:00 – 22:00) and many other places in Kansai as listed here. Make sure that you ask the staff who sell you the ticket when the Pass will expire.

For budget accommodation in the Kansai region, check out Seek Japan’s excellent budget accommodation website Also Hotel Chuo Oasis close to the centre of Osaka is a great economical place to stay. See my blog

So if you are going to spend a few days in Osaka, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Mt. Hiei and Himeji and explore Wakayama, Nara and Koyasan, invest in a Kansai thru pass and get moving on your discoveries. With the Pass, you receive a map that lists all the transport routes where you can travel and a little booklet with complimentary discount promotions that you can use at 350 listed major tourist facilities.

Have fun traveling and keep smiling.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

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

By Carole Goldsmith Copyright ©2009 - 2011 - 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 is costing me around 40 percent more than last year.

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 Visa, 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.

Shiraishi Island – Japan’s Hidden Paradise

By Carole Goldsmith Copyright ©2009 - 2011 All Rights Reserved.
Need an escape from your hectic life in the big cities? Shiraishi Island is the answer for complete relaxation and fresh sea air. Located a short ferry ride from Kazaoka in Okayama Prefecture, Shiraishi Island is Japan’s hidden paradise.  Every year when I travel to Japan for a few weeks, I usually spend a week at Shiraishi. As I board the ferry at Kazaoka, I exchange greetings with the ferry captain, who knows me by now – last April was my fifth visit.

Traveling on the ferry, you can slowly feel the accumulated city and work stress leave your body. Within 35 minutes we arrive at the island and I collect the key from the ferry office, for a pre booked room at the Island’s international villas. The ferry office manager’s son calls out ‘konnichi wa and gives me some fresh fish to cook at the villa.  I wander up the 15 minute walk to the villa, well signposted along the way, A couple riding bicycles along the island’s narrow paths, stop to say bon jour or good day. Fred and Sophie are from France and are staying at the Villa for a couple of nights.

The villa is a great place to stay with western and Japanese style rooms overlooking the sea and the neighbour’ vegetable gardens. Also the villa has a full kitchen and after weeks of eating at restaurants while traveling, cooking a meal adds to the island’s stay delight . There is a supermarket about five minutes walk from the villa to buy all of your supplies. Mrs Amano, the caretaker, a local who lives on the island, comes to collect money for the villa stay, in the late afternoon. The price per room, all with a view of the sea, is around $50 for the first night and around $45 for subsequent nights for a single supplement. For couples staying there, the price is Yen 500 less per person. Mrs Amano later brings me brocholli and onions fresh from her garden.

After a cup of tea and a chat with Sophie and Fred who travelled in Nepal and India, I go for a cycle down to the ferry and along the waterfront. Bicycles are available free of charge while staying at the villa.
There are many walks or bicycle rides to take around the island, a stroll down to the beach will take about 5 minutes by foot. A cold beer, freshly made miso soup and yakitori while chatting with Chieko and her family at San-chan, the restaurant and accommodation on the beach, is a good way to pass the afternoon. In May, the beach is a swimmer’s delight. As I plunge in the water and do my 30 laps of the ocean, the locals keep asking me “samui desu ka” – is it cold? They don’t tend to swim until June when summer if official, but this Australian swims whenever she sees water.

Larko the dog with a million yen view
I say konnichi wa to Larko, the light tan dog who lives in style, with his friend the cat, in a waterfront house near to San-chan. On a fine day you can find Larko sunning himself on his veranda and Junko San, his owner who lives in the house next door, comes to have a chat with us.
Great walks on the island
Close to the villa, there is a walk up to the lookout, a steep climb to a 360 degrees view of this magnificent island. This is fantastic to do as the sun sets on the horizon. There is also a walk along the waterfront that leads to a picturesque walking path with cherry blossoms in full spendour in April.  Another great walk is up to the temples, passing houses with multi coloured flower boxes on display and many vegetable gardens, green and luxuriant in the very rich island soil. The temple area is alive with cherry blossoms and azaleas in April and rhododendrons in May. On this last visit, I walked around the temple area with a friend Hiro, who had come to the island for a visit for the day.

You can also visit the neighbouring islands by ferry. Mannabe is well worth a visit, with a very well preserved temple, that serves as a community centre for activities and art displays. There is also a picturesque walk along the waters edge, to the left of the ferry port. Climb the hill to the temple, turn left and climb some more steps to find exercise stations, then the pretty flower garden that overlooks the sea and the island.

The very talented Shiraishi Island’s Mrs Shinohara
In the morning as Sophie, Fred and I are enjoying our breakfast on the outside deck , we see the bonneted head of an elderly Japanese lady, just below the veranda. She introduces herself as Mrs Shinohara and gives us some beautiful paper umbrellas that she has made and we accept gratefully. As she wanders back down to the road that leads down to the beach, she points to her house and indicates that she would like us to visit.

After breakfast, I go to visit Mrs Shinohara, and she tells me she is 75 years of age. She invites me for tea and cake as I sit at her entrance and she shows me how she makes the umbrellas out of newspapers and magazines. Then she points to the characters in traditional dress that she has made for a play. The very talented, Mrs Shinohara also proudly displays the ceramic bowls and vases she has produced and the birds that she made out of paper.

Sailing around the island in style

If you feel adventurous and want to sail around the islands, Amy Chavez, an American and long time resident of Shiraishi, and her Australian partner Paul will take you on a sail. This takes place throughout the year except for July and August when they are busy with the Moo bar on the beach. Amy also takes bookings for accommodation on the Island. For details of the accommodation reservations and the sailing schedule and fee, see below.

Getting to Shiraishi Island –
The cheapest way to get there is to catch the Bus from Osaka directly to Kazaoka, from OCAT, Osaka Central Bus Terminal, Namba, The fare is around $40 one way, the bus departs from Osaka daily at 9.45 and arrives in Kazaoka at 12.15 PM. When you get off the bus, walk straight ahead for three minutes and you will see Kazaoka station. For Japan Rail Pass travellers, catch the Shinkansen to Fukuyama station and then the local train to Kazaoka.

To find the ferry terminal, turn left at the station and on your right walk though the underpass, then turn left and right across the pedestrian crossing and walk straight ahead for 30 seconds. Then turn left and you will see the ferry terminal ahead. There is a ferry to Shiraishi at around 1,20 PM if you catch the bus from Osaka and that ferry cost $8 The daily schedule for the Island’s ferries is provided when you book your accommodation.
Accommodation reservations
Reservations for the International Villa can be made by TEL +81-86-256-2535 FAX +81-86-256-2576 (inside Japan)TEL 086-256-2535 FAX 086-256-2576

Or for email reservations at the Villas, San-chan and the other accommodation places on the island plus all about the sailing trips around the island, just contact Amy Chavez on;

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Carole's Japan on a Budget courses coming soon

By Carole Ann Goldsmith Copyright 2011 All rights Reserved.

My very popular Japan on a Budget courses at the CAE in Melbourne, Australia are coming up again in May, July and August.

Here is the description and the web-link to the dates.


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.

Look forward to seeing you in my courses. With tours starting up again in Japan and the country slowly getting back to normal after the disaster, I will enjoy showing you how to travel Japan on a budget.



Hong Kong discounted tours to Japan starting up again

By Carole Ann  Goldsmith Copyright  All Rights Reserved

Greetings from Vietnam where I am travelling and researching business articles for a month.

Japan has experienced the worst disaster ever, and I have been praying for the friends and families of people who lost their lives in the Tsunami and earthquake on March 11.  There have been extreme power shortages in Tokyo and north in the disaster affected areas. Everyone is hoping for the return to normality.

Good news for Japan's very affected tourism industry. I saw on TV recently that a major Hong Kong travel agency was resuming tours to Japan in mid April. These tours are heavily discounted to encourage people to join them. The tour groups will travelling to Osaka and western areas, which were not affected by the disaster.

So that is great to hear that groups are booking in for these tours and this will help Japanese tourism recover from the last month's extreme difficulties.



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Informatio​n for Australian​s in Japan from Dept of Foreign Affairs

Email from - Department of Foreign Affairs

details 12:54 am 16 March 2011

The travel advice for Japan has been reviewed and reissued. It contains the latest advice from the Australians Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety

Agency on exposure to radiation arising from nuclear incidents in Japan.
The text is repeated below. You can also access the travel advice at

The Department of Health and Ageing and Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has issued the following advice on exposure to radiation arising from nuclear incidents in Japan, based on information from Japanese authorities:

The recent earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on Friday 11 March has caused major damage to a number of nuclear reactors on the east coast of Japan. The Japanese Government has established an evacuation zone around the affected reactors.

ARPANSA has been closely monitoring the situation, in particular the potential exposure to radiation of Australians in Japan.

ARPANSA advises that there is a small chance of contamination at very low levels for Australians who were in the Fukushima area at the time of the incident. The risk of health effects from exposure at these low levels is considered very low to negligible. Australians who were in the affected area at the time of the incident should continue to follow the advice of Japanese authorities.

For those Australians in Japan but outside the affected areas, based on current information, ARPANSA advises that they are extremely unlikely to be contaminated and the health risks are negligible. As the situation
develops, all Australians in Japan are strongly encouraged to continue to follow the protective measures recommended by the Japanese Government.

Given the very low risk of exposure, ARPANSA advises that people should have no physical symptoms. If there is any doubt about contamination this contamination is easily removed by washing your body and clothes.

Australians returning home from Japan are highly unlikely to be contaminated or exposed to significant radiation and will not require checks for radioactivity. However, if people wish to seek medical advice
they should contact their local GP.

Meetings are being held with GP representatives, the Department of Health and Ageing, and ARPANSA to discuss the provision of consistent advice to those who present with inquiries about radiation exposure.

Discussions are ongoing between jurisdictions. Further information will be provided as the situation develops.

*Current as at 2200 hours (AEDST) on 15 March 2011. This information will be updated every six hours or more frequently as required.*

If you require consular assistance you can contact the Australian Embassy in Tokyo on 03 5323 4144 and you will be transferred to the Crisis Centre.

DFAT Crisis Centre

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Take a side trip to Korea - Seoul Best 100 Guide: The Best of Seoul in Your Pocket

Usually when I travel to Japan, I make a side trip to Korea and I just love Seoul. Here is some great news from Jenny at Korea Tourism Organisation Sydney Office.
Seoul Best 100 Guide: The Best of Seoul in Your Pocket

The latest edition of Seoul Best 100, a pocket guide of Seoul’s top one hundred must see sights has just been released. The guide gives a great introduction to the best sights of the capital city of Korea and is freely available from Korea Tourism Organization Sydney office.

The pocket zone by zone guide gives detailed information about major tourist attractions such as Seoul’s beautiful royal palaces and shrines like Changdeok and the Secret Garden, Deoksu Palace and the Jongmyo Royal Shrine are all in Zone 1. Also in this zone are sights such as Seoul City Square and top tourist attractions like Insadong, the famous cultural street loved by visitors for its art galleries, handicraft shops, excellent restaurants and famous tea-houses. The popular street of Samcheongdong with its many cafes and designer shops and galleries is the latest trendy place to be seen in Seoul.

In the centre of the capital is Cheonggyecheon, the 5.8 kilometre stream that runs through the centre of Seoul with its unique bridges and fountains and is a spectacular sight during the Seoul lantern festival. Also, in Zone 1 for those who love shopping Seoul’s south gate (Namdaemun) is a great place to search for a bargain. Selling a wide range of items from clothing to jewellery to Korean handicrafts, foodstuffs, homewares and more the market is a very popular place with shoppers to Seoul. Nearby is trendy Myeong-dong which is especially lively at night with all its bright lights, designer boutiques and is a place where Seoul’s lively young people hang out at night.

Zone 2 of the guide takes you to World Cup Park where Korea reached the semi final of the FIFA World Cup 2002 semi-final match against Germany. The Hongik University area of Seoul with its trendy nightclubs and markets is a great place to mix with Seoul’s youth and see all the latest trends and fashion.

Zone 3 can take you further out of the city for some fresh mountain air. Visit Mt. Bukhansan or Seoul Forest for a refreshing breath of nature. Dongdaemun Fashion Town in the eastern part of the city is popular for all night shopping, the shops here close at 5.30am in the morning. If visiting with children Seoul’s Chrildren’s Grand Park is a great place to take them to see the huge aviary with over 800 parrots and an aquarium as well as enjoy musical water fountains and fun park rides.

Zone 4 is the southern side of the river with Olympic Park and Lotte World, a massive shopping complex as well as theme park which is great fun for families with young children. It includes the Seoul Arts Centre, the Kimchi Museum and the famous fashion streets of Apgujeong (Rodeo Street) and Cheongdam-dong Fashion Street.

Zone 5 covers the best of nature with Yeouido Ecological Park and Seoul Grand Park and Zoo. Get the best view over Seoul city from the 63 Building on Yeouido Island or visit Times Square, the new urban entertainment cultural space with department stores, cinemas, E-Mart, bookstores and more.

Get your FREE Seoul’s Best 100 pocket guide today from the Korea Tourism Organization Sydney office by email: or phone: 02 9251-1717

Dated: 10 March, 2011

Further information: Jennifer Doherty, PR/Marketing Manager, KTO Sydney


Thursday, March 3, 2011

Carole in North Kyoto

Carole in North Kyoto in the countryside. Photo Copyright Carole Goldsmith 2011

Peaceful Hattoji - traditional rural Japan.

By Carole Ann Goldsmith Copyright ©2011 All Rights Reserved

Hattoji is the only place that I have been to in Japan, where I rarely saw another person when walking for about two hours along the roadway, surrounded by lush greenery. Very occasionally, a sole car would pass me and the driver would wave with a friendly smile. I discovered a little friend to chat to while I was walking on one track. A small green frog that sat on a rock croaking and it was happy to be photographed from front and back.

Located in Okayama prefecture, Hattoji is an historical city in traditional rural Japan. I stayed at the Hattoji International Villa, an absolutely delightful place to reside while I explored the surrounding countryside. According to the Hattoji International Villa website, the villa was originally built over 120 years ago, as a kayabuki thatched-roof farm house. When I was there a Japanese lady with her American husband and baby were also staying there. All four rooms are Japanese traditional style, with tatami mats and futons to sleep on. There is a fully equipped modern kitchen, for guests to cook to their heart’s content. We also enjoyed our meal sitting around the traditional Japanese fireplace and sharing travel tales.

To add to the total rural experience, bathing in the very deep goemonburo (traditional Japanese bath) that resembles a caldron is a real treat and oh- so relaxing. You can of course have the water at the temperature you choose and traditional showers are available too.

Hattoji thrived over 1200 years ago as a center of Sangaku mountain Buddhism and followers lead an ascetic life in an effort to purify themselves of society's excesses. Dating from 728, monks gathered here at the base of Mt. Hattoji (elevation 539m) and built an impressive complex of temples, monasteries and accompanying buildings. Because Hattoji has retained its traditional appearance, it was the setting for the black and white movie, Black Rain by Shohei Imamura. Source:

 The rustic village of Hattoji is surrounded by the mountainous forests, I saw the traditional thatched roof farmhouses. The happy frogs croaking night and day from the rice paddies and birds chirping from the trees were often the only sounds I heard during my stay at the villa.
One tip for Hattoji,  you need to buy your food in the village of Yoshinaga, which is where you catch your bus to Hattoji. Although there are a couple of great restaurants in Hattoji, Cowboy Joes plus the restaurant with the cow statue out the front, there are no supermarkets or places to buy food supplies. There are really friendly folks at the Supermarket near the Yoshinaga station to stock up on food supplies. The bus to Hattoji, leaves from the stop opposite Yoshinaga Station.

For bookings of rooms at the Hattoji villa

Details of transport and tourist attractions see

Korea’s ONE STOP Medical Tourism Service Centers - A Great Success

By Carole Ann Goldsmith Copyright © 2011 - All Rights Reserved

Going on a trip across the sea from Japan to sparkling Korea then check out the the ‘ONE STOP’ medical tourism service centers.  

Following article Written December 2009 and first published then in Official Beauty Report USA.

The ‘ONE STOP’ medical tourism service centers (MTSC) opened by the Korean Tourism Organization (KTO) last July (in 2008), have proven to be a great success. An average of 261 people are visiting the centers every day.

Located at both Korea’s Lncheon International airport, Seoul and at the KTO tourist information center (TIC) in downtown Seoul, the MTSC staff assists travelers with everything from visa processing to making appointments at medical clinics. Center staff also arranges link-ups with highly professional medical services including herbal medicine, dental and fertility practices, eye and skin clinics, cardiovascular surgeons and aesthetic surgery. The center’s brochure suggests that surgery fees in Korea are only a third, sometimes even a tenth of those in the U.S.A.

Ms. Sunwoo Lee from KTO’s Strategic Tourism Product Team said that as of 31 December 2008, there were 50,456 visitors to the one-stop service centers, or 261 people per day.

The KTO’s TIC ONE STOP center has medical equipment for visitors to check their health including a BMI (body mass index) machine, a stress measurement device, a blood pressure meter and a machine to detect skin aging. Visitors can discuss their results with professionals at the center. According to Ms. Lee, all medical devices are very popular especially the BMI machine used to analyze body composition (fat mass, muscle mass) by using a micro-current. Center staff then advise participants on a suitable exercise and diet plan.

The airport MTSC has a lounge especially for medical travelers, a refrigerator to store drugs and free internet connection, so travelers can browse for information on medical service providers and travel agents. Both centers including the medical testing equipment, are free of charge to use.

For on-line information on Korean Medical Tourism see:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Ladies avoid the gropers – travel in the pink train carriages

By Carole Ann Goldsmith Copyright ©All Rights Reserved

In both Tokyo and Osaka, pink train carriages are provided for women only, in selected trains during peak hours. These are available for ladies to avoid being a victim of groping in packed trains. When travelling peak hours, I always use these carriages, to travel in peace.

Only last year in Tokyo, while travelling in a general public carriage during non peak hours, I was sitting a seat away from a man, aged around fifty years of age. I was wearing a summer skirt that covered my knee and was reading a magazine. Out the corner of my eye, I noticed that the man was moving closer to me and there was plenty of room on the seat. All of a sudden, I saw his hand moving and it looked like it was heading for my knee. As his hand got closer, I turned to him and looked him in the eye and at his hand and said in English (because I did not know how to say it in Japanese) “if you touch my leg, I will report you to the police”.

He went red in the face, because everyone was looking at him, moved quickly to the door and got off at the next stop. What I should have done when I alighted the train, was to report him to the police. If it happens again, I will do that. I guess I did not report it, as he did not actually grope me, the intent seemed to be there although.

An Australian female colleague of mine who was teaching English in Japan was travelling on a packed train in Osaka, one morning. She was groped on the breast by a man standing nearby. She shouted at him in Japanese and everyone looked in her direction. She then called the police on her mobile phone and they were at the next station to meet the man.

According to the Kyodo News agency, reported in Japan Times, October 15 2010, 89 percent of train groping victims do not notify police. The National Police Agency (NPA) survey (released on October 14 2010) revealed around 9 out of 10 train women who are groped on trains, do not let authorities know.

Of the 3,256 men and women surveyed in August 2010, in the three metropolitan areas centering on Tokyo, Nagoya and Osaka, around 80 per cent wanted security cameras installed in trains to deter the gropers.

Among the measures to combat groping, the NPA will strengthen police patrols, make it easier for victims to report being groped and in install more security cameras in liaison with railways personnel.

So ladies - to avoid the gropers in peak hours, travel in the pink carriages.