Thursday, January 30, 2020

What's in a (Business) Name? Noventa

This shop might be good for your health.
Spotted by Hannah Mercado along Claro M Recto Avenue in Cagayan de Oro City.
Thanks Hannah!

For more amusing business names, please visit Go Random.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Food for the Eyes and Food for the Mouth at Asakusa

We were staying at Oak Hostel Fuji, just half a kilometer east of Asakusa. No doubt a visit to Asakusa was part of the itinerary.

Food for the Eyes

First up was the Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center. FIRST UP literally because we zoomed past the information desk and the display of brochures on the ground floor and headed straight to the 8th floor for a view of Nakamise Shopping Street and Senso-ji to the north, and Tokyo Skytree to the east. (Also on the 8th floor is a cafe, but we didn't go to that floor to feed our mouth, but to feed our eyes.)

Kaminarimon Gate and Nakamise Shopping Street

From our 8th floor perch, we swooped down the elevator to see Nakamise Shopping Street up close. We joined the gaggle of tourists swarming Senso-ji's Kaminarimon Gate. (Chotto matte, before entering the gate to go to Nakamise, do a 180-degree turn and admire the architectural design of Asakusa Culture Tourist Information Center. We did.)

Nakamise Shopping Street is, duh, a shopping street: the path from Kaminarimon Gate down to Hozomon Gate (Senso-ji's second gate) is lined with souvenir shops and food stalls on both sides!

 Nakamise Shopping Street

(If you abhor crowds and don't care much for shopping, trade the crowds with murals on the shops' rollup shutter doors by visiting Nakamise early in the morning or late at night, when the shops are closed.)


Murals on shutter doors of shops

Senso-ji or Asakusa Kannon Temple has a main hall, a five-storied pagoda, four small halls/buildings, and three gates (including Kaminarimon and Hozomon), all painted red. Senso-ji, completed in 645, is Tokyo's oldest Buddhist temple! (If you're not afraid to read your fortune and to part with your 100 yen, try your luck with Sensoji's omikuji, a fortune telling paper—Senso-ji has omikuji in English.)

Senso-ji

How to draw omikuji

After visiting Senso-ji, we traced our steps back along Nakamise, but turned right at Denpoin Street. It wasn't the goods that attracted us (the shops were already closed), but the storefronts and the paintings on the stores' rollup shutter doors, made to transport you to Japan of old.

Denpoin Street

Storefronts along Denpoin Street

Before crossing Sumida River, the river which separates Taito City (where Asakusa is) from Sumida City (where our hostel, Oak Hostel Fuji, is located), we took some snapshots of the great yellow poop Asahi Flame on the Asahi Beer Hall. Oh, and Tokyo Skytree, too.

Tokyo Skytree and Asahi Beer Hall


Food for the Mouth

There are many food stalls along Nakamise Shopping Street, but we only tried taiyaki at Kurikoan, and age manju (deep fried mochi) at Asakusa Kokonoe. We had to leave some space for dinner...

Different flavors of taiyaki at Kurikoan

Asakusa Kokonoe

...at Ganzosushi, a conveyor belt sushi restaurant near Asakusa Station. Would you believe it's my fifth visit to Japan but my first time to eat at a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant?! *facepalm*

Ganzosushi

Sushi plates at Ganzosushi cost 95 yen up to 600 yen (each plate color/design has a corresponding price). I picked anything that caught my fancy and I ended up picking really expensive—and very delicious—ones!

Delicious sushi!

Across the street from Ganzosushi is Exit 8 of Asakusa Station. So what, you ask? Well, well, well, this is the portal to Asakusa Chikagai, an underground shopping area with restaurants and bars (and a bank of coin lockers).

Entrance to Asakusa Chikagai


A bar at Asakusa Chikagai

I explored Asakusa Chikagai when I went looking for Tobu Tourist Information Center (more on that after this Japanecdote). The first thing I saw when I went down the steps to Asakusa Chikagai was the stand-up noodle shop called 文殊 Monju. There was only one customer. I checked the menu, it was in English, and when I turned to the machine to place my order I couldn't figure out how to use it, it was in Japanese. The lone customer helped me order kakiage (noodles, choice of soba or udon, with vegetables and seafood tempura) for only 390 yen. The man behind the counter asked me where I'm from and when he found out I'm from the Philippines, he made chitchat with all the Filipino words he dug up from his brain while I furiously blew on my very hot soba noodles.

 By the time I left, the stand-up noodle shop had attracted a couple more customers

Cheap eats

Kakiage

There is no food in Tobu Tourist Information Center Asakusa, but this information might or might not be useful for you, so I am including it in this post about Asakusa. Tobu Tourist Information Center is located in the Ekimise building, behind Exit 8 of Asakusa Station, and it is where you can buy discount passes for Nikko. You're welcome.



This article is now available as a mobile app. Go to GPSmyCity to download the app for GPS-assisted travel directions to the attractions featured in this article.



Sa May Kanto (2019)
Pocket WiFi: Japan Wireless
Keisei Skyliner and Tokyo Subway Tickets
Tokyo Accommodations: Oak Hostel Fuji, Hostel Owl Tokyo Nippori, Centurion Ladies Hostel  Ueno Park
Food for the Eyes and Food for the Mouth at Asakusa (you're here!)

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Tokyo Accommodations: Oak Hostel Fuji, Hostel Owl Tokyo Nippori, Centurion Ladies Hostel

When choosing an accommodation, the first thing I look at is location. Here are three hostels in very good locations in Tokyo that my friends and I have stayed in...

Sumida-ku Higashi Komagata 2-13-3
Tokyo 130-0005
+81 3 6658 8864

Why stay at Oak Hostel Fuji?
  • Near Asakusa Station – Asakusa Station (Tobu Railway, Toei Subway, Tokyo Metro, Keisei) is just 550m from Oak Hostel Fuji.
  • Direct access to Narita Airport (Asakusa Station) – Though Asakusa Station is not served by the Keisei Skyliner, it can still be reached without transfers using the Keisei Access Express (1310 yen, 1 hour 10 minutes).
  • Direct access to Nikko (Asakusa Station) – From Asakusa Station, Nikko is just 1 hour and 50 minutes away via the Tobu-Nikko Limited Express.
  • Near subway stations – Honjo-Azumabashi Station (Toei) is a 5-minute walk (450m) away;  Asakusa Station (Toei / Tokyo Metro) is a 7-minute walk (550m) away.
  • Near Asakusa – Senso-ji in Asakusa is just a 10-minute walk from Oak Hostel Fuji.
  • Near Tokyo Skytree – Tokyo Skytree is just a 15-minute walk from Oak Hostel Fuji.

My friends and I booked their Deluxe Group Room. It had two bunk beds, a sofa bed, a hammock, a little sala (where the sofa bed is), refrigerator, electric kettle, full length mirror, rack with hangers, and large lockers. Towels, toothbrush, and cotton set were provided for each occupant. Although it was a private room, it did not have its own toilet and shower. But the shared toilets and shower rooms (separate for each gender) were just on the same floor. The room is on the topmost floor, accessible by elevator. (I think I was too fat for the elevator—it would sound in alarm whenever I'd get on it with my friend. It would only take one of us at a time.)

On the ground floor is the reception area, common room, kitchen, and vending machine.

Deluxe Group Room

Little sala with a sofa bed, hammock, refrigerator, and electric kettle

Bunk beds in the Deluxe Group Room

Dorm beds start at 2,400 yen
Deluxe Group Room (good for 5 persons) 13,000 yen (less if fewer number of people)
Book Oak Hostel Fuji through booking.com



Hotel Owl Tokyo Nippori
Arakawa-ku Higashi Nippori 6-59-3
Tokyo 116-0014
+81 3 6321 0011

Why stay at Hotel Owl Tokyo Nippori?
  • Near Nippori Station – Nippori Station (JR Railway, Toei Subway, Keisei) is just 400m from Hotel Owl Tokyo Nippori.
  • Direct access to Narita Airport (Nippori Station) – Nippori Station is one of the two stops of the Keisei Skyliner (2520 yen, 40 minutes).
  • Near Yanaka – On the other side of the tracks of Nippori Station is Yanaka district, a neighborhood worth exploring for its old town feel.

My friends and I stayed in this hostel a total of five nights. The first two nights in a private 4-person room, the next three nights in the dorm.

We were a group of three, and for the first two nights we booked a private room of 4 capsules with an ensuite shower room (soap and shampoo are provided). This room is on the ground floor. In the private room is a shelf for shoes (slippers are provided), a sink with mirror, and four capsules. Each of the four capsules had space near the wall for small luggage, but only the bottom capsules had a shelf. Each capsule had a light, one power outlet, two hangers, and a curtain for privacy. The room is quite small, but didn't really cause a problem. The shared toilet is just across the hallway.

On the 2nd and 3rd floors (there is an elevator to go to these floors) are the dorm rooms. A dorm room consists of 24 beds. Like the capsules in the private room, each capsule in the dorm had a light, one power outlet, two hangers, a curtain for privacy, and space near the wall for small luggage. The bottom capsules had shelf space, while the upper capsules don't. There is a shelf for shoes when you enter the 24-bed dorm and some space for large luggage. Slippers are provided for each capsule. There are three shower rooms (two of the shower rooms are available from 630am; and one is available 24 hours) and toilets at the far end of the dorm.

Towels can be rented for 200 yen.

On the 4th floor (accessible by stairs from the 3rd floor) are two coin washing machines (200 yen) and two dryers (100 yen per 40 minutes).

On the ground floor is the reception area, common room, two private rooms, and toilets. The common room has a TV, some laptops (for guests to use), a free hot/cold drinks dispenser (apple juice, coffee, tea, water) for guests, and a resident owl—a real owl!

Big plus: We were allowed to leave our luggage in the reception area when we had to go to another city in between stays.

Dorm room

Upper capsule

Dorm beds start at 1500 yen
Hotel Owl Tokyo Nippori has a mixed dorm, female only dorm, 4-bed / 6-bed private room with shower but shared toilet
Book Hotel Owl Tokyo Nippori through booking.com



Bonus! For females, especially solo female travelers, who would feel more comfortable staying in an all-female hotel, I found one while searching for a hostel near Ueno...

Centurion Ladies Hostel Ueno Park
Taito-ku Ueno 2-11-13
Tokyo 110-0005
+81 3 6803 0711

Why stay at Centurion Ladies Hostel Ueno Park?
  • Safety for female travelers – For female travelers who feel safer in all-female hostels, this hostel is for you.
  • Near Ueno Station – Ueno Station (JR Railway, Tokyo Metro, Keisei) is just 700m from Centurion Ladies Hostel Ueno Park.
  • Direct access to Narita Airport (Ueno Station) – Ueno Station is one of the two stops of the Keisei Skyliner (2520 yen, 40 minutes).
  • Near Ueno Park –You can spend an entire day in Ueno Park and you still would not be able to visit all the sites in it: Shitamachi Museum, Bentendo Temple, Ueno Royal Museum, National Museum of Western Art, National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum, Ueno Zoo, and Tokyo National Museum.
  • Near Ameyoko (Ameya Yokocho) – Ameya Yokocho, or Ameyoko for short, is an open-air market where you can do a bit of shopping and eating.

The 7-storey hostel (there is an elevator) is located near Ueno Station and Ueno Park, but far enough for it to be less busy. Reception is open 24 hours and access to rooms is keyless (just enter the code provided).

The dorm room, though with many pods (capsules), provides privacy with a curtain for each pod. Each pod has a power outlet, light, and TV. A small locker with a shoe tray for each pod is provided. A towel and toothbrush are also provided.

The dorm has shower rooms and toilets. Shampoo, conditioner, body soap, and facial wash are provided.

Regular Pod

Superior Pod

Dorm beds (pods) start at 2500 yen
Triple and Quad rooms are also available
Book Centurion Ladies Hostel Ueno Park through booking.com

Note: All photos in this blogpost were taken from booking.com because I was too lazy to take photos.


Sa May Kanto (2019)
Pocket WiFi: Japan Wireless
Keisei Skyliner and Tokyo Subway Tickets
Tokyo Accommodations: Oak Hostel Fuji, Hostel Owl Tokyo Nippori, Centurion Ladies Hostel  Ueno Park (you're here!)
Food for the Eyes and Food for the Mouth at Asakusa

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Keisei Skyliner and Tokyo Subway Tickets

The fastest and most convenient way to get from Narita Airport to Tokyo—that's if you're staying near Nippori Station or Ueno Station—is via Keisei Skyliner. The Skyliner only stops at Nippori and Ueno stations and the travel time is a little over 40 minutes. A one way ticket costs 2,520 yen.

Tickets (one way, roundtrip, and/or with Tokyo Subway ticket) can be purchased online at a discount on the Keisei Website. But, wait, there's more...more discount on Klook! (No, this is not a sponsored post.)

Photo above shows just the 24-hour Tokyo Subway Ticket and the envelope the ticket and voucher for the return Skyliner ticket comes in. I forgot to take a photo of the voucher for the return Skyliner ticket.

I bought the roundtrip ticket with 1-day Tokyo Subway Ticket (for use on all Tokyo Metro and Toei Subway lines) for 4,650 yen from Klook. Buying it on the Keisei website would have cost 4,780 yen; buying it individually from the machine at the station would have cost 5,040 yen for two Skyliner tickets (you cannot purchase a roundtrip ticket from the machine) plus 800 yen for the 24-hour Tokyo Subway Ticket.

The voucher from Klook has to be exchanged into tickets. I just showed my voucher and passport at the Keisei and Skyliner Information Center (open daily from 7am to 9pm) and I was given the Skyliner ticket going to Ueno (my choice of time and station where to get off along the Skyliner route: Nippori Station or Ueno Station), the 24-hour Tokyo Subway ticket (activated on the day of use), and a voucher for the Skyliner back to Narita (to be exchanged for the actual ticket on the day of use).

Skyliner ticket from Nippori Station to Narita Airport Terminal 2

The Klook page did say the voucher for the return Skyliner ticket (Ueno or Nippori Station to Narita Airport) can only be exchanged on the day of use. Since my flight back to Cebu departs early in the morning, I planned to take the first Skyliner. To ensure I won't waste time looking for the ticket exchange counter in Nippori Station (I was staying near Nippori), I made a visit to the station a few days ahead. Turns out the ticket exchange counter is inside and I needed to pass through the ticket gate. I just asked permission from the station staff and he let me through so I check out where the ticket exchange counter is. The person manning the counter actually allowed me to have my ticket exchanged in advance!

And the Tokyo Subway Ticket? I planned to go to Shinjuku, Ueno, Seaside Top Observatory, and Tokyo Station—places that I could go to using the Tokyo Metro or Toei Subway lines—all in one day. I used the 24-hour Tokyo Subway Ticket for five rides, the fares totalling to 1180 yen. Ah, this pass was very convenient and economical!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Pocket WiFi: Japan Wireless

Of all the Japanese portable WiFi routers I came across on my research, I chose Japan Wireless because their router's battery life is 10 hours (for Premium WiFi; 8.5 hours for Business WiFi) AND it came with a powerbank!

The router came with a powerbank and a pouch

ORDER. I placed an order for the Premium WiFi on their website (paid online and indicated Narita Airport Terminal 2 post office as the pick-up location) five days before my scheduled arrival. I received an email confirmation two days later, and the day after that the tracking number which I would need to show to the post office.

PRICE. My 17-day rental for the Japan Wireless Premium WiFi cost me 9280 yen, plus 500 yen for shipping. An average of 575 yen (about Php 270) per day. This is the average rate for rentals of 15 days or more (it would cost a bit more for shorter rental periods).

PICKUP. The Narita Airport Terminal 2 Post Office, located on the 3rd floor (Arrivals area), is open daily from 830am to 8pm. Pickup was smooth and quick. I just gave them the tracking number and showed them my passport, and they gave me my parcel. Inside the parcel was a return envelope, and a black pouch containing the router, cable, AC adapter, and powerbank.

USE. On the router is a sticker with the router name and password. Turn it on and connect. I was on the go for a minimum of 12 hours every day and never did the battery die on me. Two devices (three to four devices when my friends joined me during the second half on the trip) were connected to the router, though not in use every minute, and the router battery would still be around 20% when we got back to the hotel to call it a day. My phone's battery drains quickly and the powerbank was its lifesaver.

COVERAGE. The Premium WiFi according to the website would have 100% area coverage, but I found this is not so—I had no connection when I went hiking in Senjogahara Marshlands in Nikko and in Aokigahara in Yamanashi. Not really a problem as I was in the woods to hike, not to while away time on social media.

RETURN. Return was easy. Just put everything inside the return envelope and drop it off at any post box. For Narita Airport Terminal 2, my airport of departure, there are three post boxes on the 3rd floor (Departure floor, before entering the Security Check/Immigration) and one post box on the 1st floor (Arrival floor).

If I travel to Japan again for 15 days or more, I would definitely rent the pocket WiFi from Japan Wireless again. And no, this is not a sponsored post.