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Old 10-21-2003, 11:30 PM   #1
PhilJ
 
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Traveling to Japan

I will be traveling to Japan in the coming months for a week or two for business. One week may be devoted to vacation, I don't know yet.

I know some of you out there (Peters #1 and #2, for instance) live or have lived in Japan, and I'm wondering, aside from aikido, what can I do to make my trip easier or more convenient? I will be staying around Narita, and I have never traveled outside the US before.

I'm not familiar with the geography, and would like to become more 'in touch' with proper business etiquette. PM me if necessary.

My aikido-training-related questions will come later.

Thanks!

*Phil

Phillip Johnson
Enso Aikido Dojo, Burnsville, MN
An Aikido Bukou Dojo
http://www.aikidobukou.com
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Old 10-22-2003, 12:35 AM   #2
PeterR
 
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Re: Traveling to Japan

Relax and enjoy. Most of the signs around Narita will be in English and if you manage to put a san behind a persons name it really doesn't matter (and it does get mixed up) whether you call them by the first or family name. Just avoid the need to tell people what its like back home - that always comes across wrong.

Personally speaking if I was just there on business I would take one day and travel to Niko - avoid Tokyo as much as possible.

If you were in Kansai I could help you more with training.
Quote:
Phillip Johnson (PhilJ) wrote:
I will be traveling to Japan in the coming months for a week or two for business. One week may be devoted to vacation, I don't know yet.

I know some of you out there (Peters #1 and #2, for instance) live or have lived in Japan, and I'm wondering, aside from aikido, what can I do to make my trip easier or more convenient? I will be staying around Narita, and I have never traveled outside the US before.

I'm not familiar with the geography, and would like to become more 'in touch' with proper business etiquette. PM me if necessary.

My aikido-training-related questions will come later.

Thanks!

*Phil

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 10-22-2003, 01:23 AM   #3
batemanb
 
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Phil,

I lived in Tokyo for about 2 years (and I've spent a bit of time in and around Burnsville:-)).

To get from Narita into Tokyo takes about an hour and a half on the Narita Express, which runs to Tokyo Station, Shinjuku and Ofuna. It costs about 3000 yen one way to Tokyo, and all seats are reserved, i.e. must be booked. There is another train that runs to Ueno (Skyliner?), but I have never used it and I don't know how long it takes, or how much it costs.

I agree with Peter, Nikko is a beautiful place to visit. You will probably need to take the Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Utsunomiya, changing here on to the Nikko line. More info here:

http://www.kanayahotel.co.jp/nikko/t...by-train-e.htm

Beware that it is quite a walk from Nikko Station to the Shrine, you may wish to take a taxi, especially if it's raining.

Kamakura, to the south of Tokyo is also quite nice to visit. Info on getting there can be found here:

http://www.tourism.metro.tokyo.jp/en.../go_train.html

The Daibutsu (Great Buddha) is an obvious choice for visitors. Maybe not so well known, to us foreigners at least is Zeniarai Benzaiten, a lovely small temple located inside a volcanic crater, the entrance carved through the side of the mountain. If you find your way there and explore inside, you may even find the white snake, really.

http://www.tourism.metro.tokyo.jp/en...akura/map.html

If you are after electrical goods, then Akihabara is worth a stroll, if only to be blinded by the sheer volume of goods available.

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/RTG/RI/kan...akihabara.html

Personally, I always bought my stuff at Yodobashi Camera in Shinjuku, quite often, their prices were better than Akihabara, or close enough that it didn't warrant me travelling the extra time and distance to Akihabara for what little saving there may have been. Yodobashi also do a loyalty card, buy your first item and sign up for the card, then buy everything else using the card, you will be able to redeem the points immediately, saving a few yen. If you want to buy a few items, talk to the staff, they'll sort out the best way of buying it so that you can maximize the points discounts. Don't forget your passport, you may be able to get the tax knocked off too. They don't have an English site, but more info can be found here:

http://www.yodobashi.com/enjoy/store2.jsp?oid=849604

All the red squares belong to them, just behind Lumine1 in the heart of Shinjuku. You should be able to ask anyone where they are.

The JNTO website offers a lot more info, have a poke around here:

http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/spn/

I can recommend some good restaurants around Shinjuku, but finding them is a different matter. If you have any other questions, feel free to PM me, or e-mail me directly.

Regards

Bryan

Last edited by batemanb : 10-22-2003 at 01:27 AM.

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Old 10-22-2003, 01:36 AM   #4
PhilJ
 
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Wow, this is GREAT! Thank you!! Any more ideas? (I'm definitely interested in picking up a gadget or two -- what does it cost me in tax to fly the toys home with me?)

*Phil

Phillip Johnson
Enso Aikido Dojo, Burnsville, MN
An Aikido Bukou Dojo
http://www.aikidobukou.com
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Old 10-22-2003, 09:23 AM   #5
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Are you thinking about travelling outside of the Kanto area (near Tokyo) at all? If you are, then I'd think about getting a JR (Japan Rail) Pass:

http://www.japanrailpass.net/eng/en01.shtml

Since it only costs 28,300 yen for 7 days' worth of travel on all Japan Rail transportation (outside of the "reserved" seats on the shinkansen), it would pretty much pay for itself if you take the shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Kyoto and back. If you're just planning on staying around Narita the entire week, though, it may not be worth it...

-- Jun

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Old 10-22-2003, 04:39 PM   #6
Nick Simpson
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I agree with Jun, if your planning on doing some travelling then the JR rail pass is an excellent way to do it. If you do decide to travel a little farther afield then I would reccomend both Kyoto and Kumamoto. Kumamoto is the city where Miyamoto Musashi died and its fairly easy to find his grave site which is in a beautiful park btw and a mueseum dedicated to him with much of his art work and possessions in it, apart from that Kumamoto is a lovely place generally.

Nikko is definately well worth the trip, theres a famous saying " See Nikko and die. ", in my opinion it lives up to that.

Tokyo is full of cool places to visit such as Sengaku Ji The temple of the 47 ronin and the Imperial sword mueseum houses some of the finest swords in the world, Ueno art mueseum is cool too. You have to see the size of the carp in the imperial palace's moat to believe them though! Have fun!

They're all screaming about the rock n roll, but I would say that it's getting old. - REFUSED.
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Old 10-23-2003, 01:03 AM   #7
batemanb
 
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I agree with Jun, the JR pass is excellent value for money, if you are travelling around. You buy a voucher at home in the US, you will need to exchange it in Japan, but this can only be done at special offices, these are all documented when you get the voucher. There is an office at Narita, although I can't remember if you can use it on the Narita Express (it's been a couple of years since I used one), my memory says yes but I'm not 100%? If you make a trip down to Kyoto or Nara, you won't be able to use it on the Nozomi Shinkansen, only the Hikari or Kodama, but it will get you to Nikko. And remember, it's only valid on JR trains.

Regards

Bryan

A difficult problem is easily solved by asking yourself the question, "Just how would the Lone Ranger handle this?"
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Old 10-25-2003, 04:54 PM   #8
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Phillip, one good thing to keep in mind is the Koban - Japanese police box. These are identified by red flashing lights and sometimes the word 'KOBAN' over the door. They exist pretty much solely to give directions to poor lost people!

If you need to find something, if you're lost, or if you just want to see a map to clarify in your own mind where you are look for one of these. The police officer inside may not speak English but will usually be able to help you (via sign language and maps) to find where you need to be.

Oh, and the word for 'map' is 'chizu'. Good one to know.

-drin

PS. Bryan's info above was spot on. Speaking of Yodobashi Camera, you can sometimes find them in the 'Wing' department stores attached to Keikyu railway stations. They're usually on the 7th or 8th floor.
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Old 10-30-2003, 08:51 PM   #9
Abasan
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Ermm.. about this Koban thingey. I tried it once when looking for something. The policemen were nice and all and even understood english.

But fat load of good it'll do you. Cause you surely won't be able to make head or tails of their map. My advice - get an english map of japan from your own country before you go.

Btw, some roads have no name. and the numbering is all perverse.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 10-30-2003, 09:44 PM   #10
Adrian Smith
 
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Quote:
ahmad abas (Abasan) wrote:
Ermm.. about this Koban thingey. I tried it once when looking for something. The policemen were nice and all and even understood english.

But fat load of good it'll do you. Cause you surely won't be able to make head or tails of their map. My advice - get an english map of japan from your own country before you go.
To each their own - I live in Yokosuka, south of Tokyo, and finding a Koban has saved my butt a few times traveling around the country. I had no problem with the maps.

-Adrian
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Old 10-31-2003, 01:34 AM   #11
Abasan
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Well, i guess some are luckier then most. I had my experience in shinjuku. Still, better be prepared for the worst i think.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 10-31-2003, 02:41 AM   #12
PeterR
 
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The boys in the Koban are invariably helpfull but I of course send in my horrendously cute Japanese fluent kid. Works like a charm.

Fireman are helpful also.

Peter Rehse Shodokan Aikido
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Old 10-31-2003, 09:58 AM   #13
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I'll pipe up and say that I've gotten good directions from a local police officers in a kouban (in Ryougoku) myself.

As for carrying around a map of Japan with street names and all in English, I wonder if anything like that (outside of something that only shows extremely large roads/intersections) exists. The "map" that the officer at the kouban that I visited when I was looking for a place was a pretty darned large book (that reminded me of the Thomas Guide maps of Los Angeles). Even he had a tough time finding the address I was looking for, too...

-- Jun

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Old 11-03-2003, 11:11 PM   #14
Abasan
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I remembered trying to find the Ki Society hombu in Tokyo. I had just enough japanese to understand it was a brown building, but i've been to and fro-ing in front of it looking extremely lost until I found this priest. Who spoke no english. But somehow managed to send me in the right direction.

When lost - look for God.

Draw strength from stillness. Learn to act without acting. And never underestimate a samurai cat.
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Old 11-04-2003, 02:29 PM   #15
GreggSmith
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Travel to Japan

You can look at this website:

http://www.imabariculture.ch

They run personalized tours around the island of Shokaku.
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Old 11-04-2003, 02:34 PM   #16
GreggSmith
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Travel to Japan

You can look at this website:

http://www.imabariculture.ch

They run personalized tours around the island of Shokaku.
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Old 11-23-2003, 05:02 AM   #17
Alan Lomax
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Phillip,

I'm sorry this is in so long after you originally posted your question, but I just stumbled across it. All the other advice is great. Not knowing your situation a bit more, all of our advice will be vary limited.

Here are a couple of things to ponder. What do you want to do when you get here? What are you expecting? Are you traveling alone on business? What do you want to have accomplished when you trip is over?

Here are a few things I didn't see mentioned that may or may not be of interest. Evening recreation after the day's business. More than likely the good folks you are coming here to do business with will take care of making sure you have some directions to go and very likely somebody to go with. If that is not in the cards, head to the nearest train station, act and look as if you are lost (that shouldn't be difficult under your circumstances), approach the most attractive ladies you see to ask for help finding whatever it may be you wish to find. I say this only if you are not accompanied. If you are accompanied do all of the afore mentioned but go ahead and ask just about anybody. It may take going around to a few different folks but a bit of persistence will pay off.

I didn't see anybody mention Hinodecho or Sakuracho, down near Yokohama. Two entertaining areas for the lonely traveler. You won't need a great command of Japanese to get the gist there. Yokohama has a great selection of interesting places to go and things to see.

If your out on your own and you want to see a wide variety of food and drink in a lively atmosphere, just wave down a cab and say "Hizakaya". For a bit more personal drink, if you feel you want company, conversation (eh) and pour your drink, light your cigarette close attention, just tell the taxi driver "Snack Bar or Rakucho". On the way from Narita to Tokyo there is a stop on the train called Chiba, there are a great variety of these places in the Chiba area.

Just food for thought anyway.

Regards

Alan Lomax
Doumukai Aikido
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Old 12-01-2003, 11:40 PM   #18
PhilJ
 
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Very good ideas, thanks everyone.

Now my next question. It seems appropriate to do a little iaito and/or katana shopping.

Could I ask for some help with this from you experts?

1. What shops are decent and fair?

2. Can anyone send me a 'primer' on iaito/katana quality, evaluation, etc.?

You guys are the best. Thanks!!!

Phillip Johnson
Enso Aikido Dojo, Burnsville, MN
An Aikido Bukou Dojo
http://www.aikidobukou.com
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Old 12-02-2003, 02:22 PM   #19
Nick Simpson
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I am in no way an expert Philip, but I have looked into buying a sword from japan before and this is what I found: Swordsmiths are only licensed to make something like 2 long swords or 3 short swords a month, this raises the cost considerably and a decent blade in a shira-saya(wooden scabbard)can cost around $7000 last time I checked. The Kosharae (Think I butchered that spelling) the fittings such as a tsuba, saya, handle etc are also really expensive and can cost upto $10000 depending upon materials.

I dont know any individual swordsmiths but I do know that several of the large department stores in Tokyo (and other cities indeed) do sell some swords and fittings. I saw a fully fitted katana going for $4000.

Also its hard to know what your buying unless you are an experianced/qaulified sword appraisor and know what to look for in a good blade. My advice is to find someone knowledgeable in such things and ask them, maybe try and contact a sword smith or a dealer before you go and ask for a appointment with them and perhaps they can sort you out.

If you do buy a shinken then Im not sure about how you take it out of the country but I do know they take it very seriously, it should come with its respective license and you will probably have to do some paperwork and fill in forms etc. I was stopped at customs when I explained my large parcel contained several bokken to the nice policemen, a friend of mine with a replica katana was taken to a side by armed police until a sword appraisor arrived and validated that he wasnt tyring to smuggle a shinken out of the country. Then the weapons were placed in the hold (as they should be)and were supposed to pick them up back in the uk, except my bokken were lost. After I complained enough they managed to track them down and sent them to me but I dread to think what might have happened with a shinken lost in the post.

An Iaito should be much easier to find, I saw several shops that sold "kitchen steel " swords (stainless steel replica's) but they were of a very high qaulity and much cheaper than a real shinken, they also had some nice Iaito I believe.

Im sorry I dont have any adresses for you, but its been 3 years since I was there.

They're all screaming about the rock n roll, but I would say that it's getting old. - REFUSED.
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