Things to NOT do in Tokyo [July 3 2012]

So you want to know what NOT to do in Tokyo?

There are a number of things that we can talk about her but for the sake of today’s post let’s talk about three things that I think are definite No-No’s when traveling to Tokyo. Without further delay let’s get right into it!

Do NOT try to imitate the fashions.

When traveling to Tokyo (or any part of Japan as far as I am concerned) it can be tempting to dress the way you see people dress in photos and on blogs. These elaborate and at times wacky outfits are fantastic, don’t get me wrong, but when traveling to Tokyo I would say that they are something to avoid. The reason for this? Well it’s simple. The odds are you are coming to Tokyo from another country, you spent a lot of money on this trip. Enjoy it. Fashion is great. I am a huge advocate of getting out there, expressing yourself and being who you are or even creating a you that you’ve always wanted. I just personally believe that comfort will ensure that you have a better time on a trip like this.

Do NOT go to Tokyo without a plan. 

There is so much going on in Tokyo that you might think it is incredible unnecessary to make a plan but the fact is there is a good chance that if you don’t make a plan you will find yourself missing out. You don’t necessarily have to follow the plan as if it were law but it will give you a direction to move and therefore give you the opportunity to see more. Also be sure to plan to eat. Find a few places where you might want to try in the area you are visiting and list them so when you want some food you know where they are and what they offer.  It is not uncommon for you to get so excited that you pass by a place to eat and realize that it was your only place to eat and now it is packed solid.

Do NOT rush through Tokyo. 

When I say this I am talking from the moment you get out of the plane to the moment you try and get on a train. Tokyo is much easier to get around for the English speaker than people might think BUT you have to be patient and take time to see what is around you. It is not uncommon to find English on signs at stations and airports but you may have to step back a moment and wait for them to change to your language. Also consider that there are sometimes English maps where you can check information but you will again need to take a second look for them (they are not hard to find) and then at times you may have to do a matching game with the kanji and English words so you can get on the right train. It’s not hard but it does require patience. Yes people around you will be rushing and traveling quickly, they live in Tokyo they know what they are doing, but just take a slow pace and enjoy yourself.

Do NOT just travel to say you have been places. 

I will be talking more specifically about travel in another post but it is important to make sure you are traveling to do things that actually interest you. If you are not interested on going up to the tallest tower in Tokyo don’t do it. If you don’t have any interest in seeing the buildings in Shibuya because you live in a city, don’t do it. See the things you want to see and do the things you want to do. Stay away from the travel guide books and just enjoy doing things you enjoy.

I hope that this post helps those of you who are interested in traveling to Tokyo. Please stay tuned for more information about Tokyo in the near future.

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“Why so selfish?” – Sharing the Exact Location of Some Sites [January 23 2013]

Part of doing what I do is answering questions from viewers, readers and those who follow my travels on one of the many social media sites where I post information. There are many questions that I receive over and over again but the one that I seem to be asked the most can be boiled down to “how do I get there”. To be completely honest I love being asked this question. It shows me that there are people out there who want to get out and enjoy their time on this island not only seeing the typical locations that everyone goes to but also the not so typical ones. I started visiting so many locations and receiving so many requests for directions that I finally made a map with every location I visit marked out. Well, almost every location.

It’s probably fair to say that 98% of the locations that I have covered are marked on my map. Of course as someone who is operating with the goal of helping people enjoy their time on Okinawa it only makes sense that I would be happy to share the locations with those who are interested in visiting them. For the other 2% there are 3 reasons that the location can’t be found on my map.

The first is because I simply forgot to mark it. It’s true, I’m only human, and from time to time between editing videos, posting blogs and working on other projects I can find myself falling behind in some areas. This is usually fixed once someone asks how to get to a location and I realize it’s not on my map. A few clicks later it has been added and the link sent to the person who requested it.

The second it because I honestly have no idea where I was at the time. As you may be able to tell from some of my videos I end up in some strange, and at times sticky, locations. There have been many cases where I see something interesting out of the corner of my eye quickly take my camera out to shoot it and then move on with my journey. Once getting home and going over the footage and try to recall where I was I realize that I was somewhere on a mountain or in a village and can’t pinpoint exactly where. Of course this could be all resolved with a good high quality GPS device but that is not currently part of my arsenal although I will be happy to take donations.

The third and final reason that you won’t find a location on my map is because I do not feel that sharing that exact location is the responsible thing to do. I am sure that this requires a bit more clarification for some of my readers so here goes. Doing what I do comes with a certain amount of responsibility which personally I feel is too often lacking in today’s day and age. As far as I am concerned is this means not only showing respect for the location and the people that might end up in the shot but it also means being considerate of those who live in the surrounding area.

Now, there are some people out there who believe that this is incredibly selfish of me. In fact the title of this posts is an abbreviated form of someone’s very real comment left on one of my videos. Unfortunately the poster removed the comment before I was able to ask him or her if they would like if someone gave out directions to their very crowded neighborhood via the internet. One might then ask why make a video at the location at all. The answer is because you can do like I did and find it on your own I just don’t want to be responsible for sending unknown numbers of people to some locations. It’s not impossible. In fact I can remember a time when the only way you knew where to go is if you saw an add for it on a tourist location or website. There was no site like OkiNinjaKitty or Map It! Okinawa to refer to. Even now, if it hasn’t been covered by the very small community of us who go out and “discover” these things some people would never know about them.

Regardless how many people are grateful or how many think I am selfish I will continue to do what I do making blogs and videos for those who want to watch. As it stands I have one heck of a large video collection featuring videos of and about Okinawa and I intend to improve on that as time passes. For those who do support the channel and blog thank you for your support and I hope to earn your continued support in the future.

Taste of Home: Ice Hockey [November 1 2012]

Did you know that you can play ice hockey here in Okinawa? I spoke with Blake who plays with the Okinawa Sniperz. He gave me all the information you need to know if you want to get involved with playing ice hockey here in Okinawa. Here’s the interview.
ONK: Is this a league or simply a group of people who get together with a common interest?
Blake: It is not technically a league though there are 5 teams that play here on Okinawa in addition to a youth team.  We are the Okinawa Sniperz and the other teams are all Japanese, of which one is for females attending Ryukyu University.  We usually play 1-2 games a month against these teams, and once a year the rink puts on a Haebaru Town hockey tournament.
ONK:  Are there any requirements? (i.e. you must be 18 to play, can women play, is certain gear required)
Blake: To come out and skate you will need full gear even though we are primarily a no checking group, there is contact.  There is no age/gender/skill requirements though if you are under 18 years old you must wear a full face mask.  If you are above 18 it is up to you.
ONK:  Other than personal gear is there any cost involved? (i.e. Membership fees, cost to skate at rink)
Blake: Everytime you skate you must pay 2,500¥. Additionally if you are not SOFA status you are required to pay an annual insurance fee prior to stepping on the ice for the first time.  This fee is roughly 2,000¥.
ONK:  Is there a POC or email contact I can include if people are interested in more information?
Blake: Please use myself as the POC.  Blake Ferngren and my email.
ONK:  How would you describe the experience playing with this group? Competitive? Fun? Learning experience?
Blake: We are a team comprised of all skill levels and ages.  During games we of course are competitive but on our regular Monday night practices it’s a just a bunch of people that love to play hockey.  We divide whoever shows up in half and play pick up hockey for roughly 90 minutes.

 

What I have done to prep for Tokyo [June 13 2012]

As most of you know from watching my videos, reading my blog and following me on Facebook I am taking a trip to Tokyo here in the next few weeks. This trip is going to be a lot of fun because not only am I going on a trip but I am going to be meeting my mom there who I have not spent time with one on one for over 20 years. Of course this is incredibly exciting to me and so I want to ensure that everything goes as well as possible which means that there has been a lot of preparation to ensure that everything goes well.

This is not my first trip to Tokyo and therefore it is important to me personally to try and improve on the last trip that I took. I would not say that my first trip to Tokyo was a failure but there were a number of things that I could have done better to make a better overall trip. This involved myself as well as my hubby Rusty sitting down and talking about what we think didn’t do right and therefore making the odds of this trip being good would be better. In this post I am going to go over the things that we talked about and therefore hopefully you can find yourself having a better experience if you want to go to Tokyo.

The first thing that we did was determine what it was that we were going to Tokyo for. What is it that is going to be the main focus of our trip when we arrive in Tokyo? For us this was really simple. My mother and I both very much love Disney and therefore it was a no brainier that we would be spending most of our time in Disneyland and Disney Sea. Once this decision was made, which was a quick one, we had to determine where we wanted to stay. For us this was again a no brainer. My mother is a member of the Disney Vacation Club  and as we were spending time in Tokyo Disney it was perfect to stay in one of the resident hotels. Once that was done it was time to book a flight. Of course this is something that you could can do by taking a number of routes. Here in Okinawa there are various places where you can get flights booked. If you have access to the military bases there are travel agents there who can assist you or if you can find travel agents out in town as well. If you are like me you like to stay away from the travel agencies and go ahead and find a flight on your own. This is the best way to get the best rate on a flight. For me I found myself finding an airline which was just string flights from Okinawa. This allowed me to get a stellar flight for a great price. Of course with some of the discount airlines you might find yourself having to make adjustments. For me the adjustment I needed to make was flying out a day early. If course this required me to find a hotel room for the day but luckily the flight was so inexpensive that I was capable of saving $100+ even after booking the flights and hotel.

When it comes to booking a hotel there are some more tips that I can offer. The important thing here is again do your research. One of the things that I have found myself doing is using Yahoo rather than using Google. There are tons of resources online where you can find information  regarding hotels. Booking is also really simple and can in most cases be done in English so don’t fear. Of course if you are to go this route make sure that everything is printed out and that you have all of your information readily accessible to ensure you are ready to go during check in.

Now that all of this is taken care of it’s time to start thinking about the other more in depth elements of your trip. Planning what you want to do is extremely important when traveling to Tokyo. Although I am a huge fan of just going with the flow you can find yourself missing out quite a bit if you do this during your time in the city. I often compare Tokyo not to traveling to a city in fact but rather like traveling to a state. You wouldn’t just go to Massachusetts and say “let’s walk around and see what happens”. For this reason it is important in my opinion to ensure that you know where you want to go and what you want to do. This will ensure that you also have a plan on how to get yourself to those places and therefore you will loose less time than if you were to try and figure out how to get from here to there with the train system. To make sure that you can do this I always advise to have a map of the trains and subways. Of course these are available in the stations but it is also good to ensure that you can look closely before you get to the point where you need to buy a ticket. It is also helpful to look at these maps and such before you get to the station so maybe over lunch or before you leave the hotel for the day. I found this extremely helpful when I had gone to Tokyo the first time. Of course there is a good chance that I looked like a looser but I was never lost so that’s a plus. Let me talk for a moment about the planning. Having been to Tokyo before I had an idea of what it would be like but my mother having never been to Tokyo it was different hearing what she had wanted to do and what I had experienced would be possible during the trip. My mom being an avid Travel Channel viewer she had plans of seeing Tokyo the way that you see it in the travel shows. She had seen Samantha Brown travel as well as Andrew Zimmerman and had wanted to do a number of the things that they do when they do their shows in Tokyo. Of course this was something we could have definitely accomplished but at the same time there was no focus. She had wanted to try street food and go to a theme restaurant and so from what I had experienced in the past it was important to make a plan on what exactly she wanted out of the trip. Street food was not something that I had seen in Tokyo during the time that I was there so I honestly am not sure where we would go to get something like that but nonetheless there were other areas that I could cover. The theme restaurant that my mother had experienced was the one which was on an episode of Bizarre foods. This one in particular was one that had some . . . . . questionable items on the menu. In fact I am not sure that I would want to go there myself and certainly not with my mom. I talked to her about it too and she agreed that she would like to go to a place a little more. . . cute rather than something scary and gross for a lack of a better word. The simplest answer for this in my opinion is going to a Maid Cafe. I searched around for a few and finally found one that was popular and touristy which means it has information online and english menu so that was very helpful. The other thing that my mom wanted to do was try something strange and interesting so I am planning on heading to Sunshine City and Ice Cream City. Here they have a variety of different ice creams that are unimaginable like chicken wing and squid ink. This is a must do during our trip and therefore another place that we wanted to make sure we put on the itinerary. The final part of the trip is going to be spent at Disney so that is extremely simple to plan especially because we will be just a 10 minute walk from the park itself. I could make an entire post just talking about Disney travel tips and tricks which I might end up doing for you in the near future but nonetheless this part of the trip is very planned out also. Everything from finding exactly what they serve at various locations to making sure that we can get on all the rides we want to it’s going to be a lot of fun but took a lot of planning.

There are also so many other things that I have done to try and accommodate for my mom and ensure that this trip is one of the best ever. I was going to write more about that in this post but I think that to be honest it will be better if I go ahead and just post different posts to make it a bit more comprehensive and readable. So keep an eye on the blog and VLOG for more information about traveling to Tokyo.

High expectations the reason for bad travel reviews? [June 14 2012]

I have been doing a lot of research recently for my Tokyo trip. I am not looking for a great deal of information but just a few things that would make the trip easy like if the hotel has a laundry service so nothing big. During my research I ended up spending time some time reading reviews which I found were interesting and at times surprising.

To be completely honest I read only the English comments because I wasn’t into translating. During the time that I was reading I started to see a pattern and that pattern is that basically I think people have high expectations when traveling to another country and in some cases feel that that country should accommodate to what is part of your particular culture or it simply is not up to good standards. This is best illustrated in the example of bedding. Now here in Japan it is most common for people to sleep using futon. Futon can be closely compared to a long thin mat that is rolled out on the floor and from there a sleepy person would sleep upon it like a bed because. . . . it is a bed. If you were to go to home shops you might also see the same type of thing where the futon is rolled out on a raised level which looks similar to a bed or in some cases a mattress is used although it is usually firm. Knowing this you might only assume that it is natural for the beds in Japan to have a similar build where they are firm. Unfortunately there are a great deal of people traveling to Japan who don’t seem to know this and therefore feel extremely disappointed or even distraught about the fact that the beds are firm or “feel as if you are sleeping on the floor”. The comments that I had read were absolutely relentless stating things like “Japanese obviously hate Americans” just for the feel of the bed. It actually makes me wonder if these people had ever traveled to another country ever before. My thought is no and the reason that I say this is supported by something else that I found myself reading during my research and that was that no one spoke English and “staff was extremely unhelpful because of it”. Wow. This is always one of the things that surprise me the most when I hear it from people who travel to countries which do not have English as a primary language. Of course English may be available from time to time, however, just because a hotel has “english speaking staff” for example does not mean that everyone on staff at all times speaks English. Truthfully I do not feel as if there is a lot of explaining for me to do in order to try and help others understand that when traveling to Japan it might not be possible to communicate in English but I suppose that there are some out there who just feel this way and that saddens me. In fact the reason that I am most sad about this is because the way that these comments are made almost make it seem as if these families were traveling to Tokyo and going to certain destinations and then having no assistance whatsoever. It seems like they are made to figure out everything on their own and fend for themselves which I do not think is the case. What I can do is explain what I have experienced in the time that I have been here. I have been in Japan for approximately  6 years now but my language skills are not the best especially because Okinawa is not the best place to learn Japanese but I will get into that during a different post. Regardless my lack of language skills I have never encountered a problem doing anything here in Japan be it Tokyo, Osaka or Okinawa. I Have also take a number of steps to ensure that I do not run into problems. I have a great survival vocabulary and when I do not know I have taken time to make accommodations for ahead of time. Anyone can do this and I encourage anyone going to any country to do something similar.

There were other things that I had read about and just thought was amazing that people were not considering these things when they left on a trip to Japan. I suppose some people are just never satisfied. Thanks for reading.

Typhoon season pushes on [June 15 2012]

Currently a category 2 the storm is expected to hit us in 96 hours at a category 3.

It’s Friday and a quick check to the weather forecast this morning shows that the typhoon season is showing no mercy this year. We are already into our 2nd storm of the year. This is Guchol and although the storm is still very much south of us the projections say that it is expected to hit us here in approximately 96 hours which. The storm is currently a category 2 (as of 2:16pm Friday June 15 2012) and is projected to come at us as a category 3 if it does not pick up any speed in the coming days.

This is an interesting storm because not only is it scheduled to hit us head on which is something we tend to have the ability to avoid but it is going to be coming at us from a different angel than we are used to. Of course this does not seem as though it would cause any more problems however at times when a storm comes from this way it could mean that there is slightly more damage because of the direction of the winds. Either way Okinawa will be ok. As I have said before Okinawa is built for typhoons although when a storm does come from this direction you start to see some things moved around like you wouldn’t necessarily expect because of the change in direction.

I will be posting more as I hear more information and as I see more. Thanks for reading.

Fan Mail Friday: “Did you lose weight when you came to Japan” [June 15 2012]

Today was Fan Mail Friday and that means that I take time to answer your questions and comment on some of the comments that you had made. There were a number of great comments that I received and I would encourage you to go over to the video link in the beginning of the post but in this post I would like to talk a little bit about one question that I received.

A person asked:

Did you lose weight when you came to Japan because of the change in diet?

The short answer to this is no.

Before I came to Okinawa I was a full time dancer and dance teacher. This meant that I was dancing at least 6 to 8 hours a day. During that time I was also eating a very healthy diet with limited processed foods. When I came here the type of diet that I had didn’t change much therefore no I didn’t lose weight when I first came to Japan.

My personal opinion of this is that I don’t think that this is necessarily something that is going to happen unless you are actively trying to lose weight and change your diet. The facts are that Japan’s diet is full of fresh foods and natural foods but this doesn’t mean that there are not boxed and preserved foods. If you were to indulge in these foods you would find yourself gaining weight where as if you were to stick to the more fresh foods you might see yourself losing weight. There is also the matter of rice. . . . . No matter how hard you try if you are eating rice three times a day you are going to find yourself not only not losing weight but you are going to find yourself gaining weight. This is especially the case if you are eating rice into the night. I understand that this is something that Japanese people do from time to time or dare I say often but for some reason it does not affect them like it affects us. This is in my opinion one of the reasons that people gain weight (and there are numbers who do) when they come here.

Long story short I think that it all comes down to your will power. If you can’t avoid McDonalds in the US you are not going to be ale to avoid it here. . . . . and yes we have it with a number of there places.