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TofuQueen
Post #582695
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Crazy Cat Lady
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4:12 am, Jan 3 2013
Posts: 1842


Greetings, I am posting in the hope of getting some CURRENT Japan travel information, as I *may* be visiting Japan for a couple of weeks towards the end of August.

Yes, there is a LOT of information about traveling to Japan on the internet; I've already read a lot and plan on reading more. However, a lot of the information is several years old, which doesn't matter much for some topics but does for others. (If anyone knows a recently updated and reasonably comprehensive site about visiting Japan I'd love to know of it!)

For example...what is the current internet situation in Japan, for visitors? The most recent info. I've found was from 2011 and a lot can change in that time... I want to be able to stay in touch while I'm there but not sure what the best option will be - the 2011 info. says that free wireless is hard to find & often requires passwords to be re-entered over & over, and that most hotels have wired access only, but I have no idea if that's still the case. confused

And of course the standard stuff about places to visit - keeping in mind that I'll be traveling with my 6-year-old son, so anything "nightlife" or non-kid friendly is right out - would be welcome as well. laugh

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"[English] not only borrows words from other languages; it has on occasion chased other languages down dark alley-ways, clubbed them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary."
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HontouRakuda
Post #582700
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4:30 am, Jan 3 2013
Posts: 91


One thing you should check into getting is the JR pass. Just depends on where you are traveling and how long. You can only get that outside of Japan btw.
As for the internet that is still true. Best thing is either a hotel that offers internet or going to manga-kissaten (manga cafes) which offer internet to those who pay. Similar to a internet cafe in America but you pay an admission fee. I can help with more detail information if I know where you want to go.

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TofuQueen
Post #582704
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5:07 am, Jan 3 2013
Posts: 1842


HontouRakuda, thanks for the info. At this point plans are still *very* hazy, as this only came up as a real possibility about a week ago (though I've been interested in visiting Japan for many years now).

General plan - arrive in Tokyo, meet up with my sister (who will be there on business, and knows her way around a bit from prior trips) for a few days, and then venture out beyond Tokyo. I'd love to travel (generally) north by train, stopping here & there, just to see as much of the country as I can (without having it all become a blur). Then either fly or take a direct train back to Tokyo & head home...

I'm not too snobby to enjoy some touristy stuff, but I'm really more interested in seeing non-tourist Japan, and I'd definitely be on a budget. As far as straying from the "tourist path", I do know some Japanese & will be cramming like crazy if this trip actually solidifies! I've heard of the JR Pass, and also something called a "Seishun 18" pass that also sounds good - if the trip works out, I'll definitely be getting one (or both?).

As far as internet stuff, I'm living in the dark ages here <g> with only a desktop (no laptop, tablet, cell phone, etc.) so I was thinking of maybe picking up a cheap netbook for the trip so I'd have internet access (if the hotels have it), have some videos etc. available to entertain my son, and have it not be a huge deal if it got stolen or broken.

________________
"[English] not only borrows words from other languages; it has on occasion chased other languages down dark alley-ways, clubbed them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary."
-James Nicoll, can.general, March 21, 1992
tgirl
Post #582779 - Reply to (#582695) by TofuQueen
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hoo ha
Member

8:43 pm, Jan 3 2013
Posts: 226


Going in August? Make sure to bring some mosquito/bug repellent. smile

For wi-fi connection, like Hontou said, there are only a few places you can go for wi-fi. At the same time, those wi-fi connections are hard to get into. That's why a manga cafe or the hotel internet is your best bet to using the net. I'm not exactly sure why Japan isn't really into wi-fi, however, one thing I know is that internet usage on the Japanese cell phone is widely popular so that may be one of the factors. (Internet data = $$$ for companies like DoCoMo)

Whatever laptop/notebook you're bringing, just make sure to bring an internet cable with you just in case the hotel doesn't have one in the room. Also, I highly recommend you bring a plug power converter (for any of your electronics), because Japan runs on 100 watts. Especially, if you're coming from North America, where the electricity runs beyond 100 watts.

You seem to be one of those, who like to travel beyond the touristy path, but I think even some of the touristy stuff can be okay.

I would recommend to anyone to spend some time in Tokyo if it's their first time visit, and particularly with little kids, that's no problem. Tokyo, itself, is filled with a lot of places to take young ones. My experience is from 2004, as that's the most time I've ever spent in Tokyo so things have definitely changed from that time. (I know you're looking for "current", but I'd still like to provide some advice if you don't mind. ^^; )

Just whatever you do, avoid any open-public game arcade places, because those tend to have cigarette smoke in them. If there's an arcade inside the hotel or a mall, then, that's fine as you won't encounter any smoke. Also, Japan sometimes has a tendency to not be able to separate the smoking sections from non-smoking, but this is very rare outside of the arcades. Some restaurants/arcades may have a "non-smoking" sign within the same room, but you'll still smell the smoke from the non-smoking section. I learned this the hard way in Guam, since that island is popular with Japanese tourists. I didn't understand that until I actually went to Japan. X____X

I will say though that for most of the restaurants I've been to in Japan, and not just Tokyo, I have not encountered any restaurants with smoking sections. Most of the restaurants have been smoking free environments. smile Can't say the same for any restaurants in rural areas though so be prepared. Contradicting that though, experiencing a restaurant in a Tokyo area labeled suburb or somewhere outside of Tokyo is something I would definitely take a jump on. The prices should be a bit cheaper and the taishou (boss)/chefs really will take pride in their work. So, consider yourself fortunate if you take the train out of Tokyo. ^___^

In terms of what kind of restaurants to go to, I recommend to try a ramen restaurant out. The ones with those ramen picture signs out in the front. All you have to do is press the button with whatever ramen you want, get a piece of paper, go inside and wait for your order. Your sister would know what I'm talking about here. Japanese ramen chefs really take their work seriously for every bowl of noodle. If you can see the kitchen from the dining area (which is really small), you can tell.... (Maybe, carrying a portable cleanable fork may come in handy for your son, since he wouldn't be use to chopsticks(?).)

I would not recommend eating sushi in Tokyo despite it's the cultural delicacy that turned international mainstream. The prices are obviously enormously high. Try to find affordable sushi outside of Tokyo, if you can.

Other tidbits...

+ Highly highly recommend to visit a combini (convenient store). Any of them would do. Am/Pm, Lawson's, and even 7-11. You can get anything you want/need as well as see how different it is in these stores compared to the West.

+ Carry with you a small plastic bag wherever you go in Japan. Public garbage cans can be pretty hard to find in certain areas. (Despite the country's clean appearance, you can still find litter in Japan if you know where to look...)

+ If you need something quick to eat or to drink, do not be afraid to use one of the million vending machines in Japan. They can be anywhere in any random place. Since you know some Japanese (and hopefully be able to read katakana, at least), then this shouldn't be too much of a problem. ^__0 If you cannot read katakana, then I recommend you start learning it now. Japan borrows a lot of Western words such as トイレー (toilet = bathroom/restroom), チョコレット (chocolate, but "choco" is mostly used), and ハンバーガー (hamburger). Knowing some kanji will help too, but as a tourist, it's not necessary. A lot of places in Tokyo will have English writing, and of course, the train stations have English language options. biggrin

+ Respect the Japanese train public rules and you'll have a pleasant trip. Don't talk loudly. No eating/drinking. Keep your cell phone on vibration or silent. So forth...

+ Avoid taking the taxis unless it's necessary (or a short distance). Taxi fares can get pretty high. Also, some taxi drivers are not going to be familiar with certain routes, as they prefer their comfort areas, so keep an address and a map of your destination with you. You may have to show the taxi driver where you want to go, specifically.

+ When paying for a restaurant bill, you pay at the front. You do not wait at your table for a waiter/waitress to pick up your tab. Also, although I'm aware that Japan is becoming a bit "looser" with credit cards these days, most stores/restaurants will still prefer cash. (I think this will be more apparent when you get to places outside of Tokyo. Do not give the local small businesses credit/debit cards.)

As for this....

Quote from TofuQueen
And of course the standard stuff about places to visit - keeping in mind that I'll be traveling with my 6-year-old son, so anything "nightlife" or non-kid friendly is right out - would be welcome as well.


For you + your six year old:

1) If you're that crazy for cats, and your family isn't allergic to any, then I recommend a trip to Cats Livin (YT link). As of now though, this place isn't called Cats Livin, and has been transformed into a cat cafe (link) called "Nyanda Cafe" (literally "What, a meowing cafe!?" - More accurately: "What, a cat cafe!?"). It's a relief to me because I liked this place, but it makes more sense for it to be a cafe instead of paying a 600 yen fee just to see cats roam around. This place is located on Odaiba, which is itself, a semi-unique touristy place.

2) Odaiba, as you must've learned in travel guides, is a huge shopping-entertainment complex on an island. You do not have to visit here for the shopping (Venus Fort), but there is this huge ferris wheel and a car-themed entertainment area that your son may enjoy (link). Yes, the place is literally called "Palette Town". Not sure if this is related to Poke'mon, but you can tell your son in a cute way that Pikachu came from here as a small joke. wink

Nearby the whole shopping-entertainment complex is a sea-maritime museum, that would seem fun/educational to kids as young as your son. However, when I was there, everything was mostly in Japanese except for the pamphlet they gave you. In another location on Odaiba island is a mini replica of the Statue of Liberty, but she's kind of hard to see behind a bunch of trees.

As far as a I remember, there are two onsens on Odaiba. One for humans and the other one for dogs. Take your son to see the dog onsen. They do allow visitors to peek inside just to see how it works.

3) Do you like Studio Ghibli? Did your son watch "My Neighbor Totoro", yet? In another part of the Tokyo area, there is the Studio Ghibli museum which is great for all fans and kid-friendly to boot. (link) The mini-film in the Ghibli theater will always be in Japanese, but that's alright. (I got stuck with a Japanese dub of a Pixar animated short on my visit. dead Remember, Ghibli and Pixar are on very friendly terms with each other...) What's also good about this place is that this museum is located in a park. You can ride a duck-like paddle boat in the nearby lake, take your son for a hearty walk, watch some locals play baseball, and etc.

4) Come across any giant display of toy capsule machines (Gachapons) (link), and let your son choose from one of them. This would be the cheapest coolest souvenir to take home.

5) Semi-off the beaten path, but highly worth the end result if you get here --> Ice Cream City in Sunshine City, Ikebukuro. (link) You can take the train to this place with a few stop-overs. I've never been here, but if I was to ever visit Tokyo again, this would definitely be the one place I would try to get to. You have to pay to get in, but this would be the only place to find the most unique flavored ice cream in the world. A good level of katakana reading ability will help you here (other than the pictures on each tube of ice cream). Your son loves ice cream, right?

6) Avoid Tokyo DisneyLand if you've been to the Disney parks many times. Tokyo DisneySea is worth a visit on any good day, but if you're strap for cash and want to save, then definitely avoid Disney altogether. You could probably ride the Disney monorail over to the entrance area and look at some of the stores as a way to say you were almost there.

7) I would definitely not recommend Akihabara for a six year old. Especially, if you want to avoid highly populated touristic areas. This place is a given. (You can find some of the same crazy electronic stores outside of Tokyo.)

8) Asakusa is one of the most popular/crowded temples to visit in Japan filled with shops. Good for older tourists. Not sure for a six year old. You might just want to visit one of those small local shrines outside of Tokyo when you get that chance.

9) The other two tourist traps, Tokyo Tower and the recently built Tokyo Sky Tree, are the same to me. I prefer Tokyo Tower in an aesthetic sense. It's quite alright to skip either of these if you're not crazy about observational towers. You won't be missing much as you can still see the city skyline from one of the many bridges. Plus, you save money too.

10) Take some advantage of the many other parks that Tokyo has to offer that your son can play in. There's even a ninja park that you have to pay to get in, but it's good exercise. Edit: Speaking of ninja, there are several ninja theme parks in Japan, but as far as I recall, they're all far from Tokyo...

That's all I can think of at the top of my head. I'm sure your sister would know better. ^^; Hehe...

Last edited by tgirl at 9:37 pm, Jan 3

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TofuQueen
Post #582852
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Crazy Cat Lady
Member

7:47 am, Jan 4 2013
Posts: 1842


Wow tgirl, amazing reply, thanks!!! biggrin biggrin biggrin

I hadn't thought about bug repellent, is that something I really need to bring or could I buy it there? (Would prefer to travel as lightly as possible - considering planning to buy some clothes there for my son as needed, instead of trying to bring everything...can't plan to do that for myself as I'm 5'10" and would probably have a lot of trouble finding clothes in my size!)

If I do take a netbook, I will be sure to take a cat-5 cable too. (^_^)

I'm old enough to remember when smoking was a lot more prevalent in the US, but I appreciate the reminders about smoking sections etc. I'll have to remember to talk to my son about it so he won't make rude comments (even if they can't understand the words - which they might anyway - the tone would probably give him away...he really dislikes smoking and tends to say so...loudly...).

Food is going to be interesting, because we are vegetarian (no beef, pork, chicken, fish, seafood, etc.). I'm prepared to relax the "rules" a bit if necessary, and I know that bonito is used in a lot of foods that may not obviously contain meat (soup broth, etc.). I'll need to learn & practice what to say to explain what we do & don't eat. Fortunately it's not an allergy or religious rule, so not a huge deal if we end up eating something that's not vegetarian. I haven't had much *real* Japanese food but have tried some recipes and some convenience foods from the local "Asian grocery" stores (we both really like the packets of umeboshi chazuke over rice, yummy!).

I'm pretty good with hiragana; for some reason katakana has been a lot harder; I know a *few* kanji & hope to learn more. Sounds like it's time to focus on the katakana.

Those are great tips (carry a plastic bag, etc.), for things I hadn't thought about, & great info about places to go in Tokyo! I was thinking maybe an aquarium would be fun, and also one of the big department stores with the food area in the lower level and a park on the roof. I was joking with my mom that if we end up out in the countryside somewhere, I'd need to stop & ask where all the public parks are so my son can spend some time running around! laugh From what I've seen/read/heard, Japan is relatively kid-friendly, as long as the kid is relatively well-behaved; my son is high-energy but very happy & friendly.

When it gets closer to the actual trip, if it ends up working out, then I'll do more direct planning with my sis. She mostly goes on her own for business, I think, and her daughter is 13 now so I'm not sure how much she knows about kid stuff in Tokyo but I'm sure she'll have some ideas & suggestions.

Oh, another question - laundry! Some places say there are coin laundries all over, and other places say they're hard to find. We'll definitely be doing some laundry there, how hard is it to find a coin laundry?? laugh

________________
"[English] not only borrows words from other languages; it has on occasion chased other languages down dark alley-ways, clubbed them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary."
-James Nicoll, can.general, March 21, 1992
tgirl
Post #582997 - Reply to (#582852) by TofuQueen
user avatar
hoo ha
Member

8:38 am, Jan 5 2013
Posts: 226


Breaking up the response in parts. ^_^ Sorry, but I can't help but make this a very long reply.

Quote from TofuQueen
Wow tgirl, amazing reply, thanks!!! biggrin biggrin biggrin

I hadn't thought about bug repellent, is that something I really need to bring or could I buy it there? (Would prefer to travel as lightly as possible - considering planning to buy some clothes there for my son as needed, instead of trying to bring everything...can't plan to do that for myself as I'm 5'10" and would probably have a lot of trouble finding clothes in my size!)

If I do take a netbook, I will be sure to take a cat-5 cable too. (^_^)

You're welcome! smile

I'm sure you can buy bug repellent in one of the convenient stores over there (example link). I'm just not sure how effective they are compared to the Western brands we're use to. It probably would be cheaper if you bought one before going on your trip (i.e. at Target, Walgreens, etc). A travel-sized bottle would do. Whether you get a repellent or not, you might also want to get a travel size mosquito/insect bite gel/cream with aloe vera in it. smile Better be safe than sorry, eh?

If you're planning on buying clothes in Japan, choose/plan wisely as to where you want to go exactly. Much like in any metropolitan area, ignore any high-end malls and stores if you want to save money. There may be some affordable stores to go to in Japan for clothing. Uniqlo comes to mind as a store suitable for anyone who wants good deals, but I'm not sure about the sizes since Uniqlo caters more towards petite sized people. (The Uniqlo stores in the West are slightly different in that aspect.) More importantly, a lot of the Japanese clothing stores should carry clothes that are tailored for Japanese sizes. Even the Western stores like the Gap and Old Navy are aimed more towards the Asian customer base over there.

If it's for your son, then it shouldn't be a problem to buy him some clothing over there. ^__^ Example link of the kid section (click) of the Japanese Old Navy site. The sweatshirts are 1690 円 (yen). That converts to $19.35 USD. The t-shirts should be cheaper when they're in season. Not sure about the pants/shorts though. Just be prepared to shell out a lot of money. Japanese loooove to shop and aren't afraid of the high prices. @_@

If you want to buy any clothing for yourself, don't be deterred by the sizes in Japan. You may get lucky so don't give up. Japan is filled with different shaped/sized people. I don't believe all of them are petite.

Additional notes to the aforementioned:
1) You definitely want to brush up a little on the size conversion before shopping in Japan. The Japanese size numbers are completely different from the West. This site (link) is a sample of what to expect.

2) It's easier to think 100 yen = $1.00 USD in your head, and that should help you on justifying any purchase in Japan. (Current conversion rate: 88.16 yen = $1 USD. The dollar is always going to be higher.) If you see an apple in a Japanese super market that costs 5400 yen, then yes, that apple is a ridiculous amount of $5.40 USD without the need for full conversion. You may not want to know how much a Japanese melon costs... It's much worse. >_>

In my two trips to Japan, not once have I gone clothing shopping in that country. >D The prices for a lot of things there are just too high for me. laugh

And a cat-5 cable = Good! biggrin

Quote from TofuQueen
I'm old enough to remember when smoking was a lot more prevalent in the US, but I appreciate the reminders about smoking sections etc. I'll have to remember to talk to my son about it so he won't make rude comments (even if they can't understand the words - which they might anyway - the tone would probably give him away...he really dislikes smoking and tends to say so...loudly...).

Don't worry if your son starts saying something weird. He's a child visiting a foreign country. Most of the locals (older people) will not understand what he's saying. I saw an American Disney Cast Member curse at an innocent Japanese family in Tokyo DisneySea, and they didn't understand a single thing he was saying. (-__- *sighs* Wanted to slap him.)

In terms of smoking, Japan use to be very prevalent with smoking. Especially, in the 90s. If you've read manga with people smoking in the same room as family members, that's (sadly) how the norm is for some Japanese families. In recent years though, through the Japanese news, I've noticed a lot more people have come to awareness of the dangers of smoking and second-hand smoking. The Japanese anti-smoking campaign has ramped up a little, but not sure how effective it is right now. You won't have to worry about anybody littering the street with cigarette butts in Japan. They're very well-manned in terms of stamping on the butts and taking them back inside their buildings. biggrin

Well, if you come across Japanese smokers in the street with your son, treat the situation like you would at home. Either walk quickly past them, walk far away, or go across the street. If you come across a Japanese restaurant with a divided smoking/non-smoking section, and the ventilation is poor, common sense would tell you not to eat there. ^__0 Just my 2 cents.


Quote
Food is going to be interesting, because we are vegetarian (no beef, pork, chicken, fish, seafood, etc.). I'm prepared to relax the "rules" a bit if necessary, and I know that bonito is used in a lot of foods that may not obviously contain meat (soup broth, etc.). I'll need to learn & practice what to say to explain what we do & don't eat. Fortunately it's not an allergy or religious rule, so not a huge deal if we end up eating something that's not vegetarian. I haven't had much *real* Japanese food but have tried some recipes and some convenience foods from the local "Asian grocery" stores (we both really like the packets of umeboshi chazuke over rice, yummy!).

That's going to be a bit tricky, as the Japanese tend to love both seafood and meat. I live near a Mitsuwa and also a small Japanese mart so I can see what latest stuff is in their food sections. ^^; Umeboshi and bonito flakes are good samples of the quintessential small Japanese dishes and condiments. Once you get to Japan though, you'll have to get use to the main dishes.

It's not completely impossible to find non-meat/seafood Japanese food. Due to the time, I'm not going to be able to provide links to all of these so you'll have to Google on them at your own leisure. >_<

+ There are meatless Japanese noodle dishes/bowls such as: udon (kitsune, tanuki, wakame, chikara, etc.), somen, and soba. Avoid the traditional popular Nabeyaki udon as that comes with seafood.

+ 98% of ramen contains some form of meat or seafood. If you can by-pass this, this is definitely one cultural experience that you shouldn't miss out on. However, it's quite alright at the same time. Do not force yourself to eat them. There are traditionally four types of ramen: shio (salt), tonkotsu (pork), shouyu (soy sauce), and miso. There are even ramen that come with corn and there may even be a complete vegetarian ramen out there somewhere (if you're lucky)...

+ Cabbage gyoza (dumplings). The other gyoza flavors are meat/seafood ones, so hence, cabbage. ^^;

+ You may be able to eat sushi (--- the inexpensive ones). Not the ones with the raw fish inside, but the other kinds like maki rolls. That also includes inari sushi (link).

+ Vegetable curry. Japanese love curry, that usually comes with a breaded pork, but I'm sure there's a curry establishment that offers a vegetable only one. Your family might need to do some research before hand on that.

+ A complete vegetarian okonomiyaki (- looks almost like a pancake, but it's not). Okonomiyaki can contain any kind of ingredient, but I'm sure a veggie one isn't out of the picture.

+ Onigiri - definitely HAS vegetarian properties depending on the flavor you pick. The most meat it would have would be salmon.

+ If you're that desperate, go into a Japanese fast food establishment and order a salad. ^^;

Be aware of food names like "yakiniku" (Korean BBQ style beef), "niku" (meat), "gyuu" (beef), "donburi" (rice bowl with meat/seafood on it), and "tori" (bird - refers mostly to chicken like "yakitori"). If you want to memorize the basic kanji for these when looking at a Japanese menu: 肉 (niku), 牛 (gyuu), 丼 (don), and 鳥 (tori). For fish, it's "sakana" and the kanji is 魚. Seafood is "kaisen", but the kanji is a little more complicated so I won't put it down.

If you are planning on being flexible with some of the non-vegetarian dishes, then I definitely would encourage you to try one of the things above. Some dishes contain very few meat, such as ramen, so you may be okay with that. (And I actually encourage you to stay away from both Western and Japanese fast food establishments if possible. roll A salad would be an exception, I suppose.)

Edit: I forgot to mention one thing, the Japanese food companies love MSG. They put it in some seasonings, instant ramen bowls, etc. In restaurants, I don't think this is an issue but in frozen foods and instant food, this is very apparent. (I don't like MSG, but I put up with it as long as I don't eat too much...)

Quote from TofuQueen
I'm pretty good with hiragana; for some reason katakana has been a lot harder; I know a *few* kanji & hope to learn more. Sounds like it's time to focus on the katakana.

I see. Hiragana is easier to learn for a lot of people, but it's only one half of the coin. Now that I know you're good with hiragana, I highly recommend that you work on your katakana at your own pace. You'll definitely be relying on that more in Japan than hiragana (which is more useful in reading Japanese sentences). Katakana is highly used on store fronts and menus. Of course, sometimes trying to read the "English" out of katakana words can be tricky too so don't push yourself too much over it. As for kanji, I just gave you a few to try out in the food section so that's a start.

When I first went to Japan, I knew no Japanese, but that's quite alright. Since I was part of a tour group, I didn't have to worry about talking/reading anything since we can get stuff in our preferred languages. In my second time trip, I was (poorly) self-teaching myself Japanese at that time so what I knew then was enough to read a little bit of the remote control in my hotel room and some building names. laugh
(As of now, I've taken an year and a half semester of Japanese, but it's definitely not enough.)

The point I'm making is, you don't have to learn everything in a short period of time. Just knowing even a little bit of Japanese is enough. Don't try to cram all the joyo kanji into your head. It's alright to not be perfect on your katakana. Just have fun when you get there. Don't be afraid to ask questions in English. bigrazz (I self-taught myself hiragana and katakana in one week on a cruise ship. If I could do it, you can definitely succeed in katakana!)


Quote
Those are great tips (carry a plastic bag, etc.), for things I hadn't thought about, & great info about places to go in Tokyo! I was thinking maybe an aquarium would be fun, and also one of the big department stores with the food area in the lower level and a park on the roof. I was joking with my mom that if we end up out in the countryside somewhere, I'd need to stop & ask where all the public parks are so my son can spend some time running around! laugh From what I've seen/read/heard, Japan is relatively kid-friendly, as long as the kid is relatively well-behaved; my son is high-energy but very happy & friendly.

Yep, I'm certain your son will be really happy in Japan.

An aquarium is definitely a good place to visit. Maybe, the Shinagawa Aquarium? (link - English vers.) Considering they have an English version of the site, then, it's possible they'll have English names underneath the exhibits.

And if you do end up in the countryside (within Tokyo-ben lingo), simply ask, "Yuuen wa doko desu ka?" ("Yuuen" pronounced exactly like "U.N." for United Nations, while stressing on the "u" a little more.) Or if you don't want "yuuen", just simply say "playground", but say the "r" with an "l" sound and the "l" as a "lay" sound. So, you're basically saying "pu-lay-goo-ran-doh". If that's still too complicated, then say "paaku" (park). As long as you're asking the question to a nice local and not a right-wing Japanese person, I think you should be okay. ^______^ However, I can't say what would happen for a response. Useful terms: "Migi" (right) and "Hidari" (left)


Quote
When it gets closer to the actual trip, if it ends up working out, then I'll do more direct planning with my sis. She mostly goes on her own for business, I think, and her daughter is 13 now so I'm not sure how much she knows about kid stuff in Tokyo but I'm sure she'll have some ideas & suggestions.

Oh, another question - laundry! Some places say there are coin laundries all over, and other places say they're hard to find. We'll definitely be doing some laundry there, how hard is it to find a coin laundry?? laugh


Hopefully, your sister's daughter can be of some help. ^_^

Within Tokyo, this shouldn't be too hard. Look for the katakana words "コインランド リー" (coin laundry). Just going on Google alone, I found many results (examples: 1, 2 - second link requires katakana reading to find it). Another way to find a good one is to ask your hotel concierge where the nearest coin laundry is to your hotel. Some hotels offer laundry services, but I'm sure they aren't cheap.

Take your time in replying back! This is longer than I expected. @_@




Last edited by tgirl at 8:52 am, Jan 5

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TofuQueen
Post #583227
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Crazy Cat Lady
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9:34 am, Jan 7 2013
Posts: 1842


Hey, long is good, lots of good info! biggrin

Quote
If you're planning on buying clothes in Japan, choose/plan wisely as to where you want to go exactly.

Well, I've pretty much given up on any idea of buying clothes in Japan for myself, unless it's an emergency. Looks like kids' clothes are pretty expensive too so I'll just plant to try to take everything we'll need - shopping for clothes might be kind of fun for me, but my son would *not* be into it! laugh

I've heard about the crazy prices for fruit...and also that if you can find a shoutenkai (sp? neighborhood shopping street is what I mean...), you can find small shops selling fruit that is smaller & less pretty, but much more reasonably priced.

Food-wise, I think most (all?) ramen is made with a meat or fish based broth. I'd prefer to avoid it, but that much I can handle. I've tried making onigiri, okonomiyaki, dango, daifuku, curry rice, and some other foods at home; they turned out pretty well but I don't know how they're "supposed to" be (except for daifuku) so...? none And of course we've had tofu and rice...guess we can get by on that for a while, right?? laugh

I know enough Japanese to ask basic questions and understand basic answers (I think?? Never tested that, lol...) plus a lot of random vocabulary picked up from watching a lot of dramas. (Don't worry, I'm not thinking that Japan is exactly like the dramas! <g>) I've been working on learning Japanese for hmmmm must be about 8 years now, off & on, but just self-study, nothing formal, and when "real life" gets busy there are big gaps where I haven't done much at all. no

Quote
And if you do end up in the countryside (within Tokyo-ben lingo), simply ask, "Yuuen wa doko desu ka?" ("Yuuen" pronounced exactly like "U.N." for United Nations, while stressing on the "u" a little more.)


I thought park was "kouen"...? I definitely will plan to look up & learn the Japanese words for the places we want to go, though. Some things will just not happen this trip - I'd love to see Takarazuka, but my son would probably not be too interested - and I do want to allow plenty of time for just wandering around (don't want to be rushing from place to place all the time). A couple of weeks ago I bought a Japanese/English picture dictionary and it's kind of comical how many terms on some pages (clothing for example, or some sports) are totally Engrish. But yeah, I definitely need to work on my katakana!

Really appreciate the information from someone who's been there recently, it's a big help. I'm really REALLY hoping this trip works out, but the flight alone costs a lot of money & then have to figure in missing work, food & lodging, etc. so I'm just not sure I'll be able to do it. sad

________________
"[English] not only borrows words from other languages; it has on occasion chased other languages down dark alley-ways, clubbed them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary."
-James Nicoll, can.general, March 21, 1992
ns2np5
Post #583384
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Member

9:53 pm, Jan 8 2013
Posts: 65


Hi, I travelled to Japan last October and used this website to plan my itinerary. It's very helpful in picking out the places that might interest you the most. Then I'd suggest you to use Google Maps to enter your destination so you can pretty much estimate the time and the fares. This helped a lot in planning my budget.

This page might give you some info on the vegetarian cafes in Tokyo.

For buying clothes, you might consider going to Uniqlo in the weekends, since they have many items for sale during that time.

If money were an object, why not stay in a hostel? They're cheap, and you can do laundry and have wi-fi access (at least the ones where I stayed, did) there. And the staff can speak English. smile

TofuQueen
Post #583431
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Crazy Cat Lady
Member

8:14 am, Jan 9 2013
Posts: 1842


ns2np5, thanks for the links, they look really interesting & useful! eyes

I'm kind of torn between trying to plan things out ahead of time - knowing that at some point the plans *will* go awry & have to be adjusted - and just having a general idea of what we want to do & being more flexible. I'll probably figure out some mix of planned/unplanned as the dates get closer.

Good to know about Uniqlo having weekend sales. At this point I'm planning to try to take all the clothes we'll need but I may guess wrong! laugh

I'm iffy on hostels as I'll have my 6-year-old son with me; just seems like it might be a lot more comfortable if we had our own room & that's not (usually) the case in hostels as far as I know. (For one thing, he is an EARLY riser, & I'd feel bad if he woke up others...) *IF* the whole trip works out, my sis has invited us to stay with her in her usual hotel for the first few days (we'll probably only overlap for a few days, & I'd like to stay for a couple of weeks if I'm going to travel that far!) but I'll need to figure out where to go from there.

________________
"[English] not only borrows words from other languages; it has on occasion chased other languages down dark alley-ways, clubbed them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary."
-James Nicoll, can.general, March 21, 1992
tgirl
Post #583471 - Reply to (#583227) by TofuQueen
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hoo ha
Member

9:01 pm, Jan 9 2013
Posts: 226


Quote from TofuQueen
Hey, long is good, lots of good info! biggrin

Well, I've pretty much given up on any idea of buying clothes in Japan for myself, unless it's an emergency. Looks like kids' clothes are pretty expensive too so I'll just plant to try to take everything we'll need - shopping for clothes might be kind of fun for me, but my son would *not* be into it! laugh

I've heard about the crazy prices for fruit...and also that if you can find a shoutenkai (sp? neighborhood shopping street is what I mean...), you can find small shops selling fruit that is smaller & less pretty, but much more reasonably priced.

True. ^_^

And double true. >D Kids as young as your son would definitely find clothing shopping to be a bore. Haha... I know I was when I was that age.

It's "shoutengai". Hiragana: しょうてんがい   Kanji: 商店街
I think your son might like this one: link biggrin Hah..
These kinds of places should be good. I forgot all about these. I'm sure you'll be able to find plenty of items for cheap prices. Not just fruit and small restaurants. (Thinking about it, you might be able to find sushi in one of these places for a more affordable price too.) There are plenty of shoutengais to choose from so you're never limited to just the tourist trap ones. If you can't decide on one, just look at traveler blogs. Even CNN did a shoutengai article two years ago: link

Quote
Food-wise, I think most (all?) ramen is made with a meat or fish based broth. I'd prefer to avoid it, but that much I can handle. I've tried making onigiri, okonomiyaki, dango, daifuku, curry rice, and some other foods at home; they turned out pretty well but I don't know how they're "supposed to" be (except for daifuku) so...? none And of course we've had tofu and rice...guess we can get by on that for a while, right?? laugh

Yes, that's true that a lot of ramen is made with that kind of broth, but for the actual meat in it, it's very minimal. (For miso ramen, for example, just contains a few slices of it.) However, if you want to avoid it, that's quite alright. Go for udon instead. Again, as my last post shows, udon bowls can contain no meat in it.

biggrin I see. You tried to make your own. Well, that's great. When you get to Japan, if you do, then you can do a comparison. As for tofu and rice, those are common staples, but you'll have to check the menu first to make sure there are strictly main tofu/rice dishes available. Tofu is usually served as a side dish or an appetizer. Rice goes in a small side bowl and in sushi. So, I wish you good luck if you can actually get by simply on those alone. laugh On the flip side, Korean food is more focused on tofu than Japanese food. Luckily for you, there are Korean restaurants in Japan so consider that as an alternative.

Quote
I know enough Japanese to ask basic questions and understand basic answers (I think?? Never tested that, lol...) plus a lot of random vocabulary picked up from watching a lot of dramas. (Don't worry, I'm not thinking that Japan is exactly like the dramas! <g>) I've been working on learning Japanese for hmmmm must be about 8 years now, off & on, but just self-study, nothing formal, and when "real life" gets busy there are big gaps where I haven't done much at all. no

Well, that's good enough. smile As I said before, don't get crazy over using it or trying to learn a lot of it in a short period of time. Most Japanese will always see you first as a foreigner so they don't expect much from you. (I'm Asian so I don't actually have that luxury. =__=; It gets a little annoying that people assume you're like them. I.e.: a small Japanese boy spoke to me in Hokkaido and I didn't know what to say back to him.)

Learn Japanese at your own pace and at your own time. ^-^ Taking classes do help, but self-studying with the right tools help as well. (And katakana will surely save you in some cases.)

Tip: Textbook Japanese is half-half useful and useless at the same time. Learning textbook Japanese is helpful for the basic parts, but if you don't capitalize on its basic foundation, it becomes useless. Most Japanese speak and write in informal/colloquial Japanese, as you could probably tell in the dramas. Something as simple as "Kono wa enpitsu desu", that's taught in most Japanese language books, is useless. You're never ever going to hear something like this from a local. Much like in English, we don't say, "This is a pencil," when we pick it up. We say something like, "It's a pencil." Being more informal, we just say "pencil."

Quote
I thought park was "kouen"...? I definitely will plan to look up & learn the Japanese words for the places we want to go, though. Some things will just not happen this trip - I'd love to see Takarazuka, but my son would probably not be too interested - and I do want to allow plenty of time for just wandering around (don't want to be rushing from place to place all the time). A couple of weeks ago I bought a Japanese/English picture dictionary and it's kind of comical how many terms on some pages (clothing for example, or some sports) are totally Engrish. But yeah, I definitely need to work on my katakana!

Yes, park is "kouen", but if you want to be more specific, "yuuen" means "playground" and "park". smile However, it's okay to just ask a local with the word "kouen". That's the most commonly used word for "park", anyways. (That's the tricky thing with Japanese. You can have one noun that can be said in multiple ways.)

Sacrifices are a common practice in vacation trips, but don't worry. You'll always have a future shot of coming back and see things you didn't get to do on your first go. From what I understand, Takarazuka is a very old cultural-esque theater troupe so I'm sure they won't go anywhere in the next 100 years.

That's good. Should be pretty easy to learn/read for you with the picture-dictionary. Even with the katakana borrowed words, definitely pay close attention to them! ^_0

Quote
Really appreciate the information from someone who's been there recently, it's a big help. I'm really REALLY hoping this trip works out, but the flight alone costs a lot of money & then have to figure in missing work, food & lodging, etc. so I'm just not sure I'll be able to do it.


You're welcome again. ^_^ Yeah... Japan is an expensive country. Just even getting there is expensive enough. @_@ I never spent longer than four days in that country in both of my trips... If you want a semi-cheaper experience, just fly/drive to any part of the U.S. with Japanese type of shopping centers and authentically owned restaurants. It's a small part of the experience, but you won't have to worry about going thru customs, at least (unless, you're in Canada).

Wish you all the best with your planning if you do end up going. If not, set more money aside for a better trip plan. Look into good travel deals online on trusted websites. Sometimes, even Japanese airlines put up special travel packages but those aren't cheap in any way. >_<

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TofuQueen
Post #586878
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Crazy Cat Lady
Member

8:36 am, Feb 10 2013
Posts: 1842


Belated thanks again for the information!

This trip is looking more & more possible, but I can't commit to it just yet, so I haven't done any concrete planning because if I go that far & then can't go on the trip...I'll be extra sad... no Since the airfare is so expensive, if we go I want to be able to stay for a couple of weeks.

My plan right now is to make up a notebook/folder with information about various things we'd like to do (in Tokyo & beyond), and then each day we can look through & pick whatever sounds like fun for that day. I'll highlight any special info (a lot of the Tokyo zoos etc. were closed on Wednesdays, which is definitely good to know), can add my own notes, etc. & that way will have the most important information regardless of having an internet connection or not.

If I can also get a cheap/basic netbook, then I can use that for checking on maps, keeping in touch with family, etc. when I have an internet connection, and also for a few games, videos etc. for my son in case of long boring train rides or if he really just wants to hear English! laugh

My spoken Japanese is probably a pretty strange mix of whatever I've picked up from learning on my own & watching waaaay too many dramas, but I *think* I'll be able to make myself understood enough to get by. eyes

________________
"[English] not only borrows words from other languages; it has on occasion chased other languages down dark alley-ways, clubbed them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary."
-James Nicoll, can.general, March 21, 1992
HontouRakuda
Post #586892
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Member

11:10 am, Feb 10 2013
Posts: 91


Send me a private message if you ever decide to come or what you'd like to see and I can help with recomendations at that point.

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TofuQueen
Post #609823
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Crazy Cat Lady
Member

6:34 am, Aug 5 2013
Posts: 1842


Okey dokey folks, I'm now in Tokyo with my 6-year-old son, having fun & feeling a bit overwhelmed at the same time!!

So far we've spent some time around Harajuku/Shinjuku, Akihabara, Ikebukuro, and Shinagawa - our hotel is right across from the Shinagawa station.

Any suggestions for stuff that's "not to be missed"?

We tried to get tickets for the Ghibli Museum but they're completely sold out. :^(

We have three more days in Tokyo, then going to Nara for a few days, one night in Gifu, back to Tokyo for a few more days, to Kanazawa for a few days, and then back to Tokyo to catch the plane home.

We have rail passes so we can go anywhere JR goes without having to pay.

The hotel has free, always available CAT-5 internet but getting wireless is a lot more restricted, so I'm really glad I brought the CAT-5 cable. laugh

________________
"[English] not only borrows words from other languages; it has on occasion chased other languages down dark alley-ways, clubbed them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary."
-James Nicoll, can.general, March 21, 1992
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