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.