Tag Archives: Travel

The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo — Ep01

30 Jun , 2015,
Edric
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Shit happens; it always does! All hail Murphy! Yes, it happened to me as well. How bad was it?

Fortunately, I have been through an entire week without bathing thanks to the Army. Powder, mints and always remember to keep your toothbrush with you at all times.

Still, it’s really not a great feeling when you’re sweating from head to toe and your baggage (with your change of clothing) that was supposed to arrive on the same flight is delayed by 2 days. Imagine the same stinking clothing that went through everyone at the airport, cramped public transport and whatever. Then, imagine sleeping in it for 2 nights straight.

Not to mention they’d already made me pay an additional SGD 200 for extra baggage.

While I am appreciative of the effort put in by the staff at Narita Airport to locate my bag, I am still horrified that Scoot was unable to tell me where my luggage was. It could have been in Singapore or Taiwan or on the wrong flight!

Having the opportunity to serve my conscription in aviation logistics allows me to shed further insights as to the cause of the blunder.

One, Scoot should have been honest with me that my luggage had been offloaded* in Singapore. That would assure me that my luggage is accounted for and it is in safe hands.

Two, despite me sending an email to their agent in Singapore, I haven’t heard even a single squeak on their end. Only their agent in Japan contacted me to deliver the luggage.

Three, I have the hunch they did not bother to expedite my luggage; causing the 2 days delay.

While it is common for anyone to be unhappy about their precious necessities being offloaded. I believe that they would be infuriated should their belongings be unaccounted for. So don’t ever Scoot off without a proper explanation!

*Offload — In aviation logistics, it means that an item on board the plane has been taken off because the pilot has deem that the aircraft is too heavy. Usually the last baggage that gets loaded onto the aircraft gets taken off should such an event occur.

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

Journey to the East

29 Jun , 2015,
Edric
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Studying Japanese in Japan sounds cool and is most Otaku’s wet dream. But is it easy to live the Tokyo dream?

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Ticket to Shinagawa cost ¥1500.

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The trip from Narita International Airport to Tokyo takes about an hour.

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Getting bored >.<

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Making the transit at Shinagawa Station is an alternative to Tokyo Station.

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Housing in Japan is really small by most standards and the rent; not very appealing.

Now, if only my luggage wasn’t offloaded by Scoot e.e;;

Find out more about The Mysterious Circumstances of an Irregular Otaku in Tokyo by following The Neo Tokyo Project and Edric on Facebook.

Feasting on a Budget — Japan

1 Aug , 2014,
Edric
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Let’s face the harsh reality of how small our dollar is as compared to the Japanese Yen. For a S$1,000 I could only get about ¥81,000 and that is how I got by 14 days from Osaka to Tokyo with Minakami in between (buying a Nintendo 3DS, 5 kg worth of books, games and souvenirs). That’s slightly more than ¥5,784 per day.

If the plan is to dine at an Okonomiyake restaurant spending almost a thousand Yen in Osaka for lunch, you are not likely to last a week in Japan without spending the next week living on cup ramen. Especially when lunch is one of the best time to get a really good deal!

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Okonomiyake is a local specialty in Osaka.

There are many ways to feast in Japan without blowing a hole in your pocket and that comes with careful planning, information gathering, web research like japan-guide.com and reading this article.

There are several types of shops in Japan offering food a lower prices and restaurants found on top of expensive looking shopping malls often charge a premium for a similar dish just a street away. The question is how far, or how low, you are willing to look for your next meal. When you want to min-max your budget to get as much Otaku goodies as your luggage can carry.

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A Singapore restaurant found at a dining area on top of a shopping center.

Gyudon 「牛丼」 

Gyudon is one of the most economical meals anyone will find hard to miss. There are Gyudon chains everywhere at every corner in major cities. So, there is no excuse not to find one unless you’re in rural Minakami.

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There are three food chains (YoshinoyaSukiya and Matsuya) vying against each other to be the king of budget Gyudon. There are others, but these are the big three and it is really hard not to find any of them. All three chains offer the standard size for ¥300  or below. Some of their outlets open 24-7. If you’re really hungry in the middle of the night and sick of convenience store food, you might consider checking out the local friendly Gyudon store. On a side note, Gyudon chains are often packed during lunch and dinner times, while empty during late mornings and after hours.

Lunch Deals 

Screenshot 2014-06-26 07.48.49NTPEK“You should eat as much as you can for lunch. It will have to last until dinner.”

Restaurants often put forth lunch deals at tempting prices. Take Saizeriya for example. This Italian restaurant chain has been feeding the Italian craze (with a Japanese twist) at an affordable price tag of ¥500 (including tax). That comes with a free flow of water and miso soup.

However, Saizeriya is not the only restaurant out there offering a budget lunch menu. Many restaurants offer lunch deals from ¥600 to around ¥1000. If stretching every single yen in your pocket is your kind of hobby, lunch will be the best time to start food hunting.

Supermarkets 「スーパー」
In late 2011, Ben-To, a fighting anime inspired by the mad rush to grab food going at half-price. While the anime had over exaggerated the necessity to the point of a fighting match for a packet of cold food. The reality (less the fighting scenes) is not far from the scene depicted on the anime.

Bentos are not the only food that are affordable at Super Markets.

Bentos are not the only food that are affordable at Super Markets.

At the supermarket next to my hotel at Ikebukuro, Tokyo. It opens 24-7 and the discount man only works at 11pm. No later, no earlier. Other supermarkets start as early as 6 or 7pm. Nightly, a throng of people, salary man, house wives and average Joes will crowd around the cooked food section. Eyeing their next meal while they wait for the discount man to do his work. Pasting discount stickers on each packet. The moment the sticker is slapped on the packet it is almost immediately snapped up if someone wants it for dinner.

However, what drives people to supermarkets to grab their dinner is a matter of money. The price of pre-cooked meals at supermarkets range between ¥300-500 for a rice bowl or a set meal. Side dishes range between ¥90 – 500 depending on the quantity. Chicken yakitori sell for about ¥100 per stick and ¥93 for a piece of korokke (of any favor). There are gyoza and karage among other side dishes.

Working back the equation once the half-price sticker is on the package, a simple Katsudon which normally sells for ¥350 goes down to ¥175. The supermarket gives a 20% discount for some dishes . At others, they would stick stickers stating the precise amount they would shave off the original amount. With a ¥500 coin, this goes into a lot of food and an packet of Milk Tea which retails for 93 yen per 1 liter packet. Put in 200-300 yen more and you could have Sashimi for dinner.

If you are worried about getting souvenirs for many people and Kit Kat comes to mind, try the supermarkets. They sell Kit Kats in bulk. But, they don’t carry exotic favors like wasabi or chili, should you need them to torture your friends’ taste buds back home.

There is always a supermarket somewhere. Even in rural Minakami, there was one right down the street from the Ryokan we stayed in.

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Supermarkets have microwave oven and boiled water if you’re wondering where to heat up your food or cook your instant ramen. Unlike supermarkets back home, you have to pack your own groceries or even purchase your own plastic bags.

Convenience Stores 「コンビニ」 

Sometimes Murphy strikes and that is when you head down to the convenience stores.
Convenience Stores are open 24-7 rain or shine. Unlike other countries, they are as well stocked as supermarkets (maybe more).

They sell Bentos, instant Ramen, surgical mask to limited edition anime Kuji (only at Family Mart). Prices are reasonable, and the selection is surprisingly huge considering its limited floor space. While microwave ovens are common place at all convenience stores, some offer tables and chairs for customers to enjoy their meals.

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A selection from a 7-11 Convenience Store in Osaka.

There is a huge variety of bentos for sale at convenience stores. Mostly comfort food, fusion western cuisine to salads for the health conscious eater. The only difference between a convenience store and a supermarket is the lack discounts. Between an expensive izakaya and a posh restaurant, the convenience stores gets my vote for budget.

Convenience stores near hotels and tourist attraction have a habit of placing English speaking staff, mainly foreign students studying in Japan. Don’t be surprised to meet a non-Japanese staff at the counter. They speak English!

Off the Beaten Path

“When in Rome do as the Romans do.”

We all know that in Singapore locals pay about S$2-4 for a plate of chicken rice. And we jest at tourist for paying S$12 per plate. However, everyday, tourists still patronize these restaurants when you could get them at hawker centers. They don’t know where to find S$2 Chicken Rice. It’s not on the ‘tourist’ map.

I hate to drop the bomb to those who insist on consulting the holy map. But, they are the yellow brick road to tourist traps. I suggest ditching that piece of paper! Okay, not totally trashing it but bring it out only when you’re lost getting back to the hotel. Flaunting the map around is also not the wisest fashion in Tokyo when you ‘re announcing to the world that you’re a tourist. I’ll rather be lost than to be led by the nose.

There are several tell tale signs about the district, whether it is for tourist or locals. The biggest give away are the maps found near junctions and train stations. Tourist maps are illustrated with green backgrounds and landmarks are written in both English and Japanese. Local maps however, are in shades of blue and contains directions only in Japanese.

The other subtle give away are drink prices on vending machines.

After all, an average Japanese don’t earn more than you and me, they have bills to pay and things they want to buy and families to raise. If they are able to get by day to day on that tight budget, they must be doing something right; while we’re doing everything proper to burst our budget.

Ikebukuro and “Otome Road”

25 Jul , 2014,
Edric
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At the doorstep of Sunshine City Prince Hotel is Otome Road, often referred as Fujoshi Street, is one of the most well stocked and up-to-date in BL content. When I went down in April, this little street had expended to the neighboring shopping and food district, right up to the doorstep of Ikebukuro Station.

Walking along the street towards Sunshine City and Otome Road are stylishly dressed male promoters, some with long blond dyed hair line the street. Like girls dressed in fluffy maid outfits in Akihabara who would only become chatty with guys, Ikemen at Ikebukuro, would only devout their attention on girls.

Most Anime related shops at Ikebukuro are generally skewered towards the Otome market.

Animate

DPP_0407If you are in the hunt for unique off the shelve merchandize. You should never give Animate a miss. Anywhere Otakus would congregate, Animate will be there. But the two sitting in Ikebukuro which are different from the rest around Japan.

Along Otome Road is ACOS, the Animate that marks the start of Otome Road. Right across from Sunshine City, this Animate sells everything for the girls and girls only. Even its café sitting on the 6th floor of the building spots either a yaoish or reverse harem theme. Often polarized from the Moe Moe Kyun Kyun fluff at Akihabara.

ACOS do not only stock up on keychains, folders and other character goods, but also delicate an entire floor to Cosplay. It is a one stop center for the casual Cosplayer to buy off the shelf costumes (sadly no armor), wigs, costume accessories and prop weapons.

IMG_2560NTPEKLocated a few streets away, in a recently furbished building is Animate’s Flagship store. This is the biggest Animate around with multiple floors dedicated to merchandizes and character goods for both guys and girls. From food products like instant curry, tapestry, cups to Manga, Doujinshi for girls to digital media.

Animate is probably the most convenient retailer to purchase anime related music without rummaging through shelves after shelves or records.

The combination of convenience and variety at a convenient location makes both Animates at Ikebukuro a must go to place to end your shopping in Japan. Just remember leave some yen for Tokyo Banana if you promised anyone back home.

Comic Toranoana Shop B

Until recently, Shop B was Shop A. Stocking an inventory of male oriented Hentai. But, with companies wasting no time in capturing the women’s market. It takes little logic to see why one of the biggest retailers in doujinshi should not delicate at least one of it’s many shops for the ladies.

There is no better place to plug that shop in other than Ikebukuro. Located opposite Ikebukuro Station, Shop B now host an inventory of doujishi of stacking men on top of other men, reverse harem, Boys’ Love and shoujo manga. This is the holy grail of yaoi content. If you’re looking for copies of Eren x Levi, Tiger X Bunny or Uta Prince you missed at Doujin Events, this is the place to be.

What happened to Shop A?

Well they got evicted by Shop B, kicked a couple streets, down the road, into a dingy looking building. It now occupies two floors. One solely for the high moral reader who prefer less skin and the other for those who prefer less clothing.

Lashinbang

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The Japanese got to love second retailers and by the end of the first week in Japan, we start to see why. Second-hand retailers holds a major advantage over others mainly because of their unique inventory, cheaper prices and the wild chance to find an out of production antique. Random loot from UFO machines, Gachapon and Kuji often end up on the shelves at second hand retailers, most of the time, they still smell new.

We cannot help to leave Lashinbang out from the fun when they recently expanded their shop last year to hold more products for the ladies.

Situated between ACOS and K-Books on Otome Road, Lashinbang operates a second-hand shop selling a mixture of figures, games and character goods. On their ground floor units every corner is stocked up for the ladies.

DPP_0406On the second floor, that’s the guy’s department with stocks of generic figures, illustration books and doujinshi. It lacks the grandeur as compared to shops in Akihabara, but what choice would you have if you’re dragged by the collar to go shopping on Otome Road?

Right, if Lashinbang have doujinshi for the guys, they definitely have one for the girls. The shop is not on Otome Road, but the neighbouring shopping district. This outlet is for the bookworms. They don’t carry stock of any other products other than books.

If you cannot find what you fancy, you could always hop off to Fromagee next door.

K-Books

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Ikebukuro would not have always been the place for girls to get their Anime goods. But in 2000, after next door rivals Animate decided to make the switch to emphasize on the girls, K-Books decided to make the switch as well. Ikebukuro would have to content with Akihabara and Nakano Broadway. There is no better demographic than to target the girls market and to give them some privacy in the process.

Most retailers of Anime merchandizes rarely mix first and second hand goods together. But K-Books does just that, at least not under the same roof. Spotting five shops littered along Otome Road, this is the largest congregation of K-Books on a single road.

They sell everything from Otome merchandizes, doujinshi, digital media to Cosplay related products.

To complete the experience on Otome street, K-Books also operates the Swallowtail Butler’s Café.

 

Otome Road ends with Mandarake. In our next edition, talk about food as we dine on a tight budget from Osaka to Tokyo.

Additional Photographs by Bob

Shopping at Akihabara

6 Jun , 2014,
Edric
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Akihabara, the holy ground for Otakus; a must visit for any true blue Otaku. Akihabara is well known for anime merchandises, electronics and exotic toys. Some establishments have several outlets along the same street selling different kinds of products.

Where to start?

Mandarake

mandarake

Mandarake sells everything Otaku. Figures, consoles, old manga, music CDs, cosplay stuff. The list goes on. The only item that isn’t second are Doujin-shi (they sell second hand Doujin-shi as well).

Besides the price, Mandarake is extremely honesty about the condition of their goods. The condition is clearly stated, using a grading system and notes describing the defects, on every Doujin-shi, Nintendo DS, Games, from it’s packaging, instruction booklet to the condition of the actual product. It is possible to find something in a mint condition at Mandarake.

If you’re not convinced, when buying a new Nintendo 3DS, PlayStation Vita or something behind their glass cases, you could ask the staff to open the product to have a look. It not strange to find unopened set at second-hand price.

Mandarake at Akihabara is mostly staffed by Japanese speaking staff. They employ foreign students at their establishments, especially at Akihabara. If Nihon-go doesn’t work for you, try speaking English, slowly, clearly, and pray they start running for their Gaijin part-timer.

Start with Mandarake! Be warned, it is possible to spend an entire day rummaging their building at Akihabara for loot.

http://mandarake.co.jp

Comic Toranoana

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Manga is common in Japan, but Doujin-shi aren’t and not every establishment carry what you want. Comic Toranoana is one such establishment that specialize in helping Doujin circles sell their works to Otakus. You don’t have to rush for Comiket or other Doujin events to grab a Doujin-shi when you can buy them directly from Comic Toranoana.

Comic Toranoana have several shops along Akihabara, all of them caters for every fetish. Hentai materials are always at the highest levels. Remember to bring your passport if you want to buy anything NSFW, their staff will check for identification if they suspect you’re below 18.

Take it as a compliment if someone of the opposite gender asks for identification.

Other than Doujin-shi, they also have a collection of games, illustration books, manga.

http://www.toranoana.jp

IMG_1605NTPEKYellow Submarine

If TCG like Magic The Gathering, Weib Schwarz or Pokemon is what you seek, head down to Yellow Submarine. Not only an Otaku theme retailing figures and merchandises, they sell TCGs. TCG shops sells a lot of rare cards, prominently displayed on the cabinets.

Some outlets provide tables and chairs. If you’re really good with your Japanese, you could join their in house tournament or find someone who would gladly play a game or two with you.

On top of figures, merchandizes and TCGs, some of the outlets stock a huge range of model kits. Not only mecha, but tanks, battleships, guns, trains, including the various accessories to give them more bling.

Yellow Submarine also specialize in board gaming. Sadly, most of them are in Japanese. But, they sell weird dice like an extra large D20 to hurt your DM with.

http://www.yellowsubmarine.co.jp

Electronics Shops

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Other than the Otaku stuff, Akihabara is also the hardware zone in Tokyo. If you want to build your own customized PC, Gundam or your personal Dethcube, you will need to get the materials here. Laptops are expensive and often below specifications. On the other hand, peripherals, like keyboards and mice, are competitively priced.

Nothing moe here.

Traders

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Games, console, DVDs and Eroge. Traders is the place to go. They carry second-hand products. Mainly consoles and console games and gamepads. They are very honest about the condition of the products they sell. If you could master some words of Japanese, you could ask them to have a look at the product you want.

Trader’s selection of games range from localized western titles, PC games. Eroge are on the top floor.

http://www.e-trader.jp

IMG_1576NTPEKKimidore

Kimidore at Akihabara specialize in selling illustration books, A4 size folders and tapestries. Not just the normal run-of-the-mill ones, but beautifully illustrations by famous artist like Tony and CoffeeKizoku.

Kimidore is one shop you don’t want to miss if you are looking for something to fill up that empty space on your wall, or souvenir ideas for your friends back home.

It’s illustration books makes perfect coffee table books and they are not always available at second-hand shops.

If you’re an art collector, Kimidore sells paintings by famous illustrators — at a price.

Don’t miss the wall graffiti along the stairwell.

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http://ameblo.jp/kimidore-akihabara/

Mottainai Flea Market

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The Mottainai Flea market is always held outside UDX Building on selected weekends. At Akihabara, vendors sell their second figures, folders and plushies. If you’re on a mighty quest in search of epic loot at low prices, the Flea Market is the best place to start the weekend morning. They close by late afternoon or bad weather.

Check out their website to find out when they will organize their next Flea Market at Akihabara.

http://mottainai.info/fleama/schedule.php

Street Performers

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There’s no better way to end the evening than to find a cozy spot at Akihabara Station to listen to street performers singing to Anime music. They are not professionals or idols but damn, they do have good voices.

Some of them sell their own CDs. Many like Rinka, don’t, and the only payment is your appreciation and support.

Akihabara is generally for the guys, although they do carry materials fujoshi will love too. However, Ikebukuro is the true fujoshi playground and holy land of BL, and that’s coming up in our next article.

Enjoying Hokkaido Winter Wonderland by Train

9 Oct , 2012,
Edric

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If you have missed the virtual tour organized by Hokkaido Railway Company and Vivid Creations Pte Ltd, no worries. We bring you some snippets on what happened on Saturday.

Hokkaido Railways Company gave a couple of suggestions on how best to use the Hokkaido Rail Pass only available to tourist to get around the region. Both catered for people with different holiday plans.

A 7 day travel itinerary which visit various food locations, local hot spring in the middle of a lake and natural landscapes. And a shorter 5 day, which includes some winter sports under the beautiful scenery and try not to give Hakodate Illumination a miss.

Traveling by train is the safest and fastest way to get round the various tourist hotspots around Hokkaido!

Stay tuned on Hokkaido’s Facebook page. Check out other examples from JR Hokkaido on their website.

Win a Trip to Hokkaido this Winter

22 Sep , 2012,
Edric
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Ever dream about a white Christmas in a picturesque winter wonderland filled with fun, food and laughter? Well, quit dreaming, because the Hokkaido Railway Company’s gonna make one of you lucky readers’ dream a reality.

The company will be hosting a travel seminar named “Hokkaido Winter Wonderland by Train” on 6 October, and the seminar will feature speakers sharing the joys and pleasures of visiting Japan’s second most popular tourist destination.

Participants can expect a quiz, where you’ll stand a chance to win prizes, as well as a grand draw in each of two sessions, where the lucky winner will walk home with a return air ticket from Singapore to Hokkaido.

The seminar will be hosted at:

Venue:

The Regent Hotel Singapore, Royal Pavilion Ballroom II (Next to Tangling Mall)
1 Cuscaden Road, Singapore 249715

(Check out this map for directions)

Registration:

You will need to pre-register for the event on the Facebook event page.

1st Session: 11am – 1pm (doors open at 10:30am)

2nd Session: 2:30pm – 4:30pm (doors open at 2pm)

This seminar is brought to you by Hokkaido Railway Company and Vivid  Creations Pte Ltd, the organizers of Singapore’s Real Escape Game.

Don’t forget to visit Hokkaido’s Facebook page to find out more about what this state has to offer.