Tokyo in 4 Days – Day 2 – Spring is coming

To be honest, we (almost) had nothing on our itinerary. This was just going to be a “do-whatever-we-want-to-do” trip, except for one or two which Hannah wanted to visit. One of these is a store with 7 floors of anything you can put your hands on (to do creative work, I mean) – Tokyu Hands in Shibuya.

Before that, we stopped for breakfast at one of my favorite “fast food” restaurants in Japan (if you can call it that). Sukiya is a competitor to Yoshinoya in terms of affordable and delicious Japanese food (you can already get a nice set meal for 600 JPY).

Sukiya for brunch!

 

Hannah’s Sukiyaki-don and a big bowl of miso soup!

We walked down the street to Tokyu Hands and took our sweet time looking at colored pencils, art materials, different kinds of pens and paper, and other cool things. I had to stop by the Gunpla section to look for a model my brother wants (RG Wing Zero).

Right most Gundam at the back – Wing Zero is out of stock! 🙁

We realized we hadn’t taken any photo until we reached the top floor!

Tokyu Hands is really a must-visit for creative people. There’s a lot of things you can buy that’s not really available outside Japan (or if they are, for a hefty price).  I wanted to get some colored pencils but I know I’ll only be slacking so I decided not to. Next time, when I do get the passion to draw and make art again – I will definitely buy some good stuff!

We spent over an hour inside Tokyu Hands, so we were tired when we got out. I spotted a Doutor coffee shop nearby so we stopped over for some coffee and a mille crepe cake.

Another mandatory group photo…

 

This is a mille crepe cake, if you didn’t know what it looked like. Just layers of crepe and cream!

Our itinerary as mentioned was sort of blank, so while I was browsing through Instagram – I saw a post from a friend living in Japan of pictures of plum blossoms, almost in full bloom! We couldn’t hope for cherry blossoms at the time of our visit, so this was like an unexpected surprise. We had to go! This was at Shinjuku Gyoen. On the way to the train station, we stopped by a few stores to look for bargain deals – and snagged a few at Bershka.

Bershka’s cool interiors (and Mhealler)

It was a very windy walk to Shinjuku Gyoen from the nearest train station. But the moment we got there, we were just taking photos non-stop! Hannah and I got our old “photographer” hats on and just shot away!

Hello there white ones!

Pink ones too!

Spring was on its way!

Of course, we had to take some “model” shots – which was a lot of fun to do! If only I could show you blooper pics, which is around 90% of the shots.

Mhealler’s throw-that-jacket-behind-your-back pose

Hannah’s look-fierce-while-fixing-your-hair pose

My “I-need-to-go-to-the-toilet” pose

Photo shoots are tiring! We realized after this that we can’t be models! After laughing so much, we got so tired that we spent a good 30 minutes lying under a tree in the park.

Obviously, Mhealler is not done posing for the camera

Tired but happy!

My view while lying down!

As the sun was about to set, it was also time for us to go to our next destination. We had a really good time in Shinjuku Gyoen – it’s a very nice place to relax, maybe read a book on the weekend – I was thinking scenarios in my head for when I will live in Tokyo (wishful thinking). Anyhow, after all the day dreaming, we wiped the grass of our behinds and headed off to Harajuku!

It was already dark when we got to Takeshita street in Harajuku. The place was packed. We just walked around the area until I stumbled upon my favorite ramen shop in Tokyo! Yokohama style Ramen!

The busy street of Takeshita

3,000 yen bags, anyone?

At the other end of Takeshita street (the one without the JR Station), sits my favorite ramen place in all of Tokyo. On my first time in Tokyo, our Airbnb host brought us to a ramen place in Ikebukuro where I had my first “authentic” ramen moment. It was the best broth my tongue tasted and I have been craving for that taste ever since. We didn’t go to Ikebukuro this time, but we stumbled upon a branch of the same ramen place in Harajuku! What luck!

For me, still the best ramen in the world. So far.

I couldn’t read the kanji, so I took a photo of the front of the store and asked my Japanese friend to read the name to me. This is for me to search for it next time, wherever in Japan I may be.

After eating, we didn’t go back to Takeshita street, but explored the alleys near this ramen place, and we ended up in Omotesando!

This was our route in Harajuku/Omotesando.

After Omotesando, we found our way back to the other end of Takeshita street and had a crepe. We were already so tired at this point.

Which one to order? They all look good!

While walking back to the train station, we passed by Daiso and did a shopping spree of gifts to bring back home (omiyage) as everything was for 100 yen!  Our feet were at the point of giving up already and the nearest train station was a JR station, which is not covered by our Tokyo Metro All Day pass. We didn’t want to walk any further so we took the JR train back to Shibuya!

When we got home, we slept for an hour. At around 10 PM, we decided to go out because it’s such a waste to be sleeping in Tokyo! After walking around our neighborhood, we stumbled upon another chicken place that served drinks!

My favorite part of traveling, walking wherever our feet will take us!

Mhealler’s high ball!

I also had a big high ball, Hannah got a small one!

We had a few more drinks after these photos. In short, we went home buzzed enough to get a good night’s sleep! It was indeed a long day, by the time I was about to sleep, I had already forgotten what we did in the morning!

Check out the rest of our trip here!

Tokyo in 4 Days – Itinerary

Tokyo is for me, what New York is for others. It’s my ideal city! There’s so many things to do, that you can’t possibly fit it all in a month! But, given the circumstances of a working adult, where you can’t really leave work that long, we have to settle with shorter trips. I am sharing with you my 4-Day Tokyo itinerary which my friends and I used just this February.

We took the 12:50 AM flight from Manila, arriving in Narita at around 7AM. Our flight back was at 7:30 PM on the fourth day, so we were able to utilize these days for activities.  It’s important to book flights that do not take up most of the day especially on short trips.

Time Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Day 4
7:00 AM Arrive in Narita Airbnb (preps) Airbnb (preps) Pack up
10:00 AM Brunch in Nihonbashi Shibuya (Breakfast at Sukiya, Tokyu Hands, Dotour Coffee) Meiji Jingu Airbnb Check-out
12:00 NN Shibuya (Hachiko, Shibuya Crossing) Akihabara (Lunch at another Ramen place)
2:00 PM Sangenjaya (Check in to Airbnb) Shinjukugyoen (plum blossoms) Tsukiji Market (late lunch) Shopping at BIC Camera; Anime coffee shop
4:00 PM Sangenjaya area Harajuku Takeshita Street Sensjo-ji Temple Travel to Narita Airport
6:00 PM Dinner Ramen Dinner Asakusa Shopping Dinner at the airport
8:00 PM Tokyo Tower Omotesando Shibuya Shopping Fly back to Manila
10:00 PM Home Drinks in Sangenjaya Don Quijote (Sangenjaya)

Ready to roam Tokyo!

I will post the details of each day in the next posts.

Travel Expense Tracker for Groups

Have you ever had a hard time tracking your travel budget and expenses, especially when you travel in groups? I have created a very simple Travel Expense Tracker that automatically does this for you.

The tracker is saved on Google Sheets so you and your travel buddies can access and update this at the same time.

Sheet 1 Travel Buddies

On this sheet, you just need to input the name of your travel buddies, as well as your budget for the trip. As of the moment, I have limited the number of travel buddies to a maximum of 20 people. You can also input your travel destination and travel dates (for labeling purposes).

TET 1

Sheet 2Expenses

This is where you will input your specific expenses, who paid for those expenses, and the amount involved per expense. The expense column is a free field so you can input whatever you want. The Paid By column is limited to the names you’ve entered in Sheet 1 – Travel Buddies. This sheet also shows a snapshot of your total expense as a reference.

TET 2

Sheet 3 – Summary

The last sheet is basically a report that shows the allocated expense for each travel buddy (note that this tool allocates all expenses EQUALLY). This also shows the receivable/payable amount based on the payments made by each person vs. their allocated expenses. Lastly, it also shows the remaining budget per person. This will vary depending on the initial budget set for each person.

TET 3

In the above example – Ron owes 17.75, and needs to pay Maggie for 11.25, with the balance of 6.5 to John. Keith will also pay 1.75 to John. 

Because this is on Google Sheets – you can easily access this on your smartphones (iOS & Android have standalone Google Sheets apps).

You can purchase the Travel Expense Tracker for 100 PHP only (~2 USD). This will help me fund my hosting services for this blog! 🙂 Payment will be done via PayPal. Once payment is confirmed, I will create a copy of the tracker and give you Edit access via Google Sheets (this will also allow you to share this with your travel buddies).




If you have any questions on the tool, feel free to leave your comments below and I will assist you the best way I can!

Japan Tourist Visa Application for Filipinos

The application for a Japan Tourist Visa is not as difficult as let’s say, applying for a US Visa.  Everything is coursed through an agency, and there’s no need for personal appearance (with the Embassy).  Japan has relaxed the requirements for Filipinos to encourage tourists to visit their country. Traveling to Japan is at its most affordable today, with the rise of cheap airfares from low-budget airlines all year long. If you are worrying about the visa application – don’t!

I tried to put all the requirements and necessary links here – so that you don’t need to check out different sources anymore.

  1. Of course, you need your Philippine Passport. Make sure you have more than 6 months from date of expiry, otherwise, it’s best to renew your passport before applying for a visa. Also, make sure the laminated photo on your passport is not broken or folded.
  2. Download the application form and fill it up.  You can leave the fields for guarantor/inviter blank if you are going as a tourist. But, you need to indicate where you are staying (hotel/hostel or Airbnb accommodation). If you are staying in several places throughout your visit, you can just indicate the first place on the form.
  3. Photo – 4.5cm x 4.5cm with white background, pasted on the application form. You can visit a nearby ID studio (e.g., Kodak) and tell them you need a photo for Japan visa application.
  4. Birth certificate of applicant from NSO. This needs to be issued within the past 6 months. If you don’t have one – you can have it delivered to your doorstep by ordering it online (via ecensus.com.ph)! No need to go through the long lines at NSO for this. It normally takes 3 days to get this so make this your first priority before completing the rest of the other requirements. Note: if you already have a used Japanese visa on your passport, you don’t need to submit this anymore.
  5. If married, you also need to submit your marriage certificate. You can also get it from ecensus.com.ph. As with the birth certificate, this is not required if you already have a used Japanese visa.
  6. You need to submit your daily schedule/itinerary for the duration of your trip in Japan. Suffice to say, you need to plan your trip ahead, including accommodations, etc. If you need a reference, here are my past Tokyo and Osaka/Kyoto itineraries.
  7. Bank certificate – to show you have sufficient money to fund your travel. To be safe, I suggest having an ending balance of more or less 100,000 pesos. There’s no exact rule as to how much money you need to have but it wouldn’t hurt to have more (borrow from your parents/friends for a while).
  8. Latest income tax return (Form 2316) original and photocopy. Again, this is to prove your financial capacity to travel (as well as prove that you are generating enough income in the Philippines, and you’re really just visiting for travel and not for work).

If you’ve completed your requirements, you only need to submit these to an accredited agency (see full list here). It normally takes around 3-5 business days to process your visa. The agency will also connect with you in case there are additional clarifications/requirements needed. Fees vary depending on the agency.  I used Discovery Tour for both of my applications and they charge 800 pesos for tourist visa.

Some applicants are granted multiple entry on the first try – but most (including myself) start out with a single-entry visa. On the second application, that’s when they usually grant you a multiple-entry visa. This is not within the control of the agency, rather, a decision of the embassy, so don’t stress your agency contacts on this.

That’s it – I hope you’ll find this post useful. If you have any questions, let me know via the comments below.  Please also feel free to share to your friends who are planning to visit Japan for the first time!

TORIAEZU – Japanese Phrases for First Time Travelers!

I’m going to start off my series of Japan Travel posts with some essential Japanese phrases that would be good for you to know (and hopefully use), when you are traveling to Japan.  I am not an expert in Japanese, but I have on-and-off studied Japanese formally and by myself since high school (more self study than formal study).  This guide is not supposed to teach you the exact grammatical or native way of speaking, but enough for you to be understood by the person you are talking to.

In this age of the Internet and Google Translate, you can actually do away with learning some Japanese words – BUT – nothing beats the experience of immersing yourself by speaking some of these basic phrases and getting surprised reactions from the locals.  I’m sure they’d appreciate the effort you’ve put into learning the language, and it shows the level of your interest in their culture.

Greetings

  • Good morning (use this early in the morning up to around 10 am) – Ohayou Gozaimasu! (pronounced: o-ha-yo-o go-za-i-mas)
  • Good day (use this around 11 am until right before sunset) – Konnichiwa! (pronounced: ko-n-ni-chi-wa)
  • Good evening (use this at night) – Konbanwa! (pronounced: ko-m-ba-n-wa)
  • Thank you – Doumo Arigatou Gozaimasu! (pronounced: do-o-mo a-ri-ga-to-o go-za-i-mas)
  • Excuse me (calling the attention of a person); Sorry/Excuse me (passing through and disturbing people) – Sumimasen (pronounced: smi-ma-se-n)
  • That’s OK/That’s fine, or I’m/We’re OK – Daijoubu desu (pronounced: da-i-jo-o-bu des)

 

At the restaurant

  • When entering, you will be greeted Irasshaimase, nan-mei sama desu ka?” or “Welcome, for how many people?”. You can answer:
    • One person – Hitori desu (pronounced: shto-ri des)
    • Two persons – Futari desu (pronounced: f-tari des)
    • Three persons – Sannin desu (pronounced: sa-n-nin des)
    • Four persons – Yonnin desu (pronounced: yo-n-nin des)
    • Five – Gonnin desu (pronounced: go-n-nin desu)
    • and so on – for more than 5 people, click here!
  • Ask for an English menu by saying Eigo no menyuu ga arimasu ka?” (pronounced: e-i-go no me-n-yuu ga a-ri-mas ka)
  • It’s easier to point to your order on the menu and say: Kore o kudasai” (pronounced: ko-re wo ku-da-sa-i). You can insert a counter by saying Kore o xxx desu“. Replace xxx with the below (example: Kore o hitotsu kudasai, One of this please)
    • One – hitotsu (pronounced: shto-tsu)
    • Two – futatsu (pronounced: f-ta-tsu)
    • Three – mittsu (pronounced: mi-t-tsu)
    • Four – yottsu (pronounced: yo-t-tsu)
    • Five – itsutsu (pronounced: i-tsu-tsu)
    • For counting more than 5 – click here and refer to Hitotsu system.
  • Here are some of the usual food/drinks you (a typical Filipino) would order. Use these instead of Kore in the above pattern, or add ga arimasu ka? to ask if they have these.
    • Rice – gohan (pronounced: go-ha-n); or you can be specific by saying White Rice – shiro-gohan (pronounced: shi-ro go-ha-n)
    • Water – mizu (pronounced mi-zu)
    • Coke/Cola – koora (pronounced koo-ra)
    • Beer – biiru (pronounced bii-ru)
    • Coffee – koohii (pronounced koo-hii)
  • After ordering, say “That’s all” – Ijou desu (pronounced: i-jo-o des)
  • To order something “for now” and you plan to order more later, say Toriaezu (pronounced: to-ri-a-e-zu) before ordering (e.g., Toriaezu koohii o kudasai).
  • To ask how much something costs – while pointing to it, say Ikura desu ka? (pronounced: i-ku-ra des-ka)
  • When asking for the bill:
    • Excuse me (call the attention of the waiter) – Sumimasen
    • Please give us the bill/check – O-kaikei onegai shimasu. (pronounced: o-ka-i-ke-i o-ne-ga-i shi-mas)
  • Give your compliments by saying “It was delicious” – Oishikatta desu (pronounced: o-i-shi-ka-t-ta des), and of course, say ‘Thank You’ (Doumo Arigatou Gozaimasu).

 

Asking for directions

  • As you are causing an inconvenience to the person you are asking directions to, start with saying Sumimasen in calling someone’s attention
  • And then ask “Where is xxx?” by saying xxx wa doko desu ka?” (pronounced: xxx wa do-ko des ka?).  Just make sure you pronounce the name of the place in a Japanese way (be as syllabic as you can). Keep some of these in mind:
    • Train station – eki (pronounced: e-ki)
    • Bank – ginkou (pronounced: gi-n-ko-o)
    • Police outpost – kouban (pronounced: ko-o-ba-n)
    • Convenient store – konbini (pronounced: ko-m-bi-ni)
    • Department store – depaato (pronounced: de-pa-a-to)
    • Pharmacy or drug store – yakkyoku (pronounced: ya-k-kyo-ku)
    • Hospital – byouin (pronounced: byo-o-i-n)
    • Bus stop – basu tei (pronounced: ba-su-te-e)
  • Some common words for directions. You don’t need to understand everything the person is saying – just make sure to catch these words!
    • Straight – massugu (pronounced: ma-s-su-gu)
    • Right – migi (pronounced: mi-gi)
    • Left – hidari (pronounced: hi-da-ri)
    • Next – tsugi (pronounced: tsu-gi)
  • Don’t forget to say thanks – you should know this by now.

Finally, if someone talks to you in straight Japanese (because you attempted to talk in Japanese, and you don’t understand what they are saying – you can just say, Wakarimasen (pronounced: wa-ka-ri-ma-se-n) or “I don’t understand”.  They will know you are not really fluent, and will try to speak some English words mixed with Japanese words. When all else fails – Google Translate! It’s not always accurate but it can help on most occasions. Just construct your English sentences in a simple manner before getting it translated.

There is a lot of tutorial on the net on basic Japanese words, but I wanted to put this together for friends who are visiting Japan this year (especially after the recent airline sale), to make the experience more fun for them.

If you have any questions or have anything other phrases you think are essential to be added here, let me know via the comments below! I’m sure you will, but I’ll say it anyway – Enjoy Japan!