Sunday, April 16, 2017

Hokkaido - why we plan to go there again.

We went to Hokkaido in 1998 as part of a group tour (sponsored by the Japanese Govt - Thank you JICA! - for ASEAN countries), and then returned in 2012. And then again in 2013.

For our last trip in 2016, we skipped Hokkaido reluctantly, because we brought our kid along - her first overseas trip - and we didn't want to be overly ambitious and visit like 5 or 6 cities... Actually, we covered 4 cities (not counting the brief stopover at Kyoto where we bought an eki-ben on our way to Tokyo/Shinjuku).

The other reason (or real reason) is that Kobe is quite a distance from Hokkaido.

But here are 35 reasons to visit Hokkaido at least once in your life. Or more.

Those are 35 places and things I haven't really done in Hokkaido. So it is on my list.

Monday, December 12, 2016

A comparison of Zoos - Ueno, and Singapore

First off, let me just say I'm Singaporean, and damn proud of our Zoo. And it is an award-winning zoo, so we have reasons to be proud of it.

But this is a comparison of two zoos, mainly because I have been to the Ueno Zoo recently (early Nov 2016), and returned to the Singapore Zoo recently (early Dec, 2016) and the impulse to compare and contrast was strong.

Anyway, these are just my impression, and, spoiler alert, I think the Singapore Zoo is much better generally, although there are some good points with Ueno Zoo.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Smoke Gets in Your Face (smoking in Japan)

Sorry, this is not a post on tips on smoking in Japan.

As a non-smoker in a relatively advanced society (Singapore) where smoking in public is strictly or quite rigorously controlled, it sometimes seems like a step back in time to experience second-hand smoke in Japan.

I was recently reminded of this when we were seated in the non-smoking section of a cafe, with my (not quite) 2-year-old daughter... right next to the table which was in the smoking section.

And really, there was no point complaining because a) there were no other seats/table available, and b) the cafe was really small, so there were no place in that cafe that was truly free of smoke. And this is Japan.

Not that I would have complained. If there were other seats, I might have moved, but I am not a confrontational sort.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Missing it all.

One of the reasons to visit Japan in Autumn is to catch the koyo (Autumn leaves/ autumn colours).

We left Tokyo, Japan on the 12.

Peak Koyo in Tokyo was on the 15.

We missed it by 3 days.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Japan Rail Pass - Worth it?

I wondered if there were a way to travel cheaper.

Kansai Area pass covers Kyoto-Nara-Osaka-Kobe - $80 for 4 days per adult, $55 for 2 days per adult. So for 10 days in the Kansai region - $215. per adult. If we travel by the slower Shinkansen, it would be $180. Total $400.

BUT, still need a pass in Tokyo. That 5 day pass is $241.

So total would be $640

A 14 day National Pass = $590 (when I checked in July) which includes the slower Shinkansen. Still cheaper. And more convenient.

I guess if next time we just cover Tokyo to Hokkaido, we can just use the JR East regional pass.

Travel From Haneda to Osaka by Nozomi - Green seat - 19,820 yen ($252) - $80 more than ordinary reserve seat.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Why there are no recycling bins in Nara

Recycling bins are ubiquitous in Japan.

And after you are used to them, Nara is like a wasteland for recycling bins.

But you might also have realised that trash bins are also quite scarce. Why? Here is an explanation of sorts.

But whatever the reason, the reality is, there are fewer trash bins in Japan than in most other cities.

Conversely, almost every drinks vending machine (and there are many) would have a can and bottle recycling bin right next to it for the convenience of the customer.

However, not in Nara.

Hotel Review in point form

As usual, I'll provide "+" for plus points, and "-" for negative points, and "=" for neutral points. Positive and negative points are personal and of course subjective. Review is based on one instance of stay at the hotel, so YMMV.

Features or attractions not used may not be mentioned nor rated.