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Old 2007-09-09, 01:06   Link #241
aohige
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Join Date: Jul 2006
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zero Shinohara View Post
And I actually didn't think Hokkaido would be that far away from the mainland, but guess I was wrong. If I have the chance to go, flying would probably be out of the question for money reasons ( and you bet losing 8 hours of your day is more acceptable than losing quality merchandise! ), so I'd be taking the train like you said. And perhaps it's more enjoyable for the scenery? I've never been on a train, so if you can't even see crap because it's going too fast, then let me know.
Hokkaido isn't far from the mainland.
Simply, the mainland is very long, and both major areas Kanto and Kansai (Where Tokyo and Osaka are) are in the middle of the island. So to get to Hokkaido, you have to basically travel halfway across Japan to get to the northern edge of the mainland, then to the Hokkaido island.

As for the scenery, yes, you can see the whole thing as you travel.
There are some very nice spots for scenery, but like I said, most of Japan looks pretty much the same, so hours after hours of it can get pretty darn boring. Bring a PSP or a Nintendo DS. There are plenty of great games to purchase over there.. and as for DS, I don't believe there's a regional protection, so you can kill your boredome effectively. I usually download some anime on a PSP to watch for a long train ride... god, I can't wait till I get my paws on those new iPod touch!

Quote:
How about english? Can you >survive< without knowing how to speak or read japanese or you're better off bringing some knowledge of it with you? I'm aware that most places nowadays have tourist guides in many languages, but I'm not 100% sure if your average otaku will survive without being able to say "One Akano daimakura purizu" to the store clerk. Hopefully that won't be the case - I'm learning the basics little by little and hope to get there with a rough understanding of the language. Reading or writing will probably be a problem, since I'm not focusing on those.
Depends on where you go.
There are thousands... no, tens perhaps hundreds of thousands of foreigners in Tokyo that don't speak a lick of Japanese. Every major train stations have directions in english, as well as annoucements. So if you're traveling inside Tokyo, language bar shouldn't be too much of an issue. You'll see cocasian turists from both the Americas and Europe pretty much everwhere you go in Tokyo.
Even outside of major cities, the train stations are named with english writings, so as long as you have a good railroad guide, you can always find yourself back without too much issues. However, unfortunately asking for directions without knowing Japanese is gonna be pretty rough outside of major cities.

As for shopping... well, if you can't speak Japanese, don't expect to be able to ask specifics. Just bring the item to the counter, and pay for it.
If the clerk asks something you don't understand, just express that you don't understand him, and he wouldn't try to pursue the question. (usually stuff like "do you want a book cover with that?" or "would you like me to heat that food for you?" yadayada.)
Even though Japan is a very homogenious nation, turism are pretty large industry, so you usually won't come across merchants that haven't had any experience with foreigners without knowledge of Japanese. Most people have very little fluency in English, so don't expect to be able to have much of a conversation with them. But the transaction should be fine in most cases.

One thing to keep in mind when ordering things...
Japanese fast food restaurants, unlike the ones in US, aren't usually "make it the way you like it".
They come with whatever is on it, so if you have stuff you don't like on a sandwich for example... simply don't order it.
They most likely won't understand american accented "plain, no onions, just lettuce and cheese" anyways.
That being said, food is generally very good in Japan, compared to majority of US. At least, that's my opinion.
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Last edited by aohige; 2007-09-09 at 01:16.
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Old 2007-09-09, 09:32   Link #242
WanderingKnight
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Quote:
They come with whatever is on it, so if you have stuff you don't like on a sandwich for example... simply don't order it.
They most likely won't understand american accented "plain, no onions, just lettuce and cheese" anyways.
Makes me remember my own country. Ask them to remove the (really small amount of) onions and you'll have to wait another half an hour for the damn burger. I hate fast food shops anyways, and eating in McDonald's while being in Japan feels like a sin to me.
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Old 2007-09-09, 14:01   Link #243
Vexx
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There's a phrase for americans that go to foreign countries and stay at Howard Johnsons or the Hilton and eat at McDonalds and KFC and complain about the toilet/bath being down the hall ..... but I won't repeat it here.

I always wonder why they bother traveling at all....
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Old 2007-09-09, 21:55   Link #244
Risaa
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I agree that it's rather pointless eating your home country's food while traveling (just *traveling*!! Not even staying for long!). However, I think you should try the fast food anyways.... you're going to find flavors you can't find anywhere else.

I remember being at a McDonalds in Korea some years ago... The college student I was with was majoring in English and wanted to eat at an "American" restaurant....

*SNORKS* We ended up having bulgogi burgers with tea! The Lotteria fast-food chain is better than foreign McDonalds IMO..... Man, I need to try the kimchi burger next time I'm over there. XD
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Last edited by Risaa; 2007-09-10 at 12:03. Reason: if all the raindrops were typos and lawlipops.... o what a rain that would be :D
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Old 2007-09-09, 22:53   Link #245
Terrestrial Dream
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Risaa View Post
I agree that it's rather pointless eating your home country's food while traveling (just *traveling*!! Not even staying for long!). However, I think you should try the fast food anyways.... you're going to find flavors you can't find anywhere else.

I remember being at a McDonalds in Korea some years ago... The college student I was with was majoring in English and wanted to eat at an "American" restaurant....

*SNORKS* We ended up having bulgolgi burgers with tea! The Lotteria fast-food chain is better than foreign McDonalds IMO..... Man, I need to try the kimchi burger next time I'm over there. XD
OMG kimichi burger and bulgogi burger that's awesome. I really need to try some of those some day. This is going off topic but is Lotte Japanese company or Korean company? Anyhow is there lot of difference between lotteria in Japan and Korea?
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Old 2007-09-09, 23:22   Link #246
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well, when traveling in southeast asia and other countries, you do have to be careful where you eat. usually american restaurant types are safe. I was a bit sick in singapore, but it probably started when I was in indonesia earlier. Of course, you need to try all varieties of the local foods, just be smart about picking which shops the best you can.

however, eating at KFC in different countries is going to be one of my hobbies. In indonesia the menu has been localized. they server sweet sambal (indonesian hotsauce) that is very famous. as well as all kinds of other local foods and soups. In singapore they asked me if I wanted a side of 'whipped potatos,' that caught me off guard a bit, crikey.

So on the next trip to japan, we are definately going to a KFC.
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Old 2007-09-10, 00:03   Link #247
Vexx
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That is true.... even in all-American Hawaii, McD's offered burgers with pineapple and laced with soy sauce.

And in Texas, Burger King actually tanked when they first arrived because they didn't offer a burger with mustard .... only "commie mayo"
They ended up introducing a "Mustard Whopper" (talk about poor market analysis ).

I'll modify my diatribe a bit.... but really, are you actually traveling if you spend all your time in your familiar icons?
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Old 2007-09-10, 00:41   Link #248
aohige
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Originally Posted by hyperlion View Post
OMG kimichi burger and bulgogi burger that's awesome. I really need to try some of those some day. This is going off topic but is Lotte Japanese company or Korean company? Anyhow is there lot of difference between lotteria in Japan and Korea?
Lotte Japan originated in Japan, so technically it would be considered a Japanese corporation.
However, the founder of the company is 1st generation zainichi Korean, and the company's major market is both South Korea and Japan.
So you can consider it either a Japanese or Korean company, it doesn't really matter, you would be correct in both aspects.

As for Lotteria... I have no idea how diffrent it is between Japanese and Korean ones.
I would think it's pretty similar, but I have never been to a Korean Lotteria, so I wouldn't know.
IMO, Lotteria's sweets are excellent, and it's probablay due to the fact that it's head corporation is a snack company.
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Old 2007-09-10, 02:26   Link #249
Risaa
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Off-topic, but if you ever get a chance to, go to Lotte World. Aiyaa, it's so much fun. I still have all my Lotte World phone accessories and keychains and prizes. *ahem* But of course, it's not really Korea.
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Old 2007-09-10, 06:20   Link #250
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If you absolutely have to eat a burger while in Japan, seek out Freshness Burger. Tasty and, as the name implies, fresh
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Old 2007-09-10, 09:04   Link #251
Zero Shinohara
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@aohige:

Wow, thanks for all the info. Well-deserverd cookies sent your way.

Personally, I wouldn't plan on vising Japan without having a basic understanding of the language and actually be able to communicate to a certain extent. I mean, it's not like I wouldn't mind being made fun of by the people around me, but the thought of pointing and saying "Kore Kudasai" and not knowing how say anything else isn't really pleasant At least I can say I'm american

And well, if you actually want to know something... when fast-food is concerned, Florida is NOT a part of the US. I don't eat any vegetables, but I'd rather spend 3 minutes picking everything out of my order than have them taking 5 times that to actually >make it< special. It's not that their burgers are already done, it's just that those guys don't seem to be able to follow directions. Seriously, watch your back if you ever visit a McDonalds or a Burger King down here. 9 out of 10 times, they either forget something from your order, misinterpreted your order or forgot about you as a whole. "I would like a double cheeseburger please!", and you find two cheeseburgers in your bag. Quite disturbing.

Although I probably won't have a lot of trouble with food anyway. Tell me where I can buy some Melonbread and I'll be set for an entire month :P Besides, considerign my mom is a desperate, overly protective woman, she would never forgive me if I ate something in a shady place... so for that I can probably use a credit card and treat me to some good food .

Quote:
Makes me remember my own country. Ask them to remove the (really small amount of) onions and you'll have to wait another half an hour for the damn burger. I hate fast food shops anyways, and eating in McDonald's while being in Japan feels like a sin to me.
My thoughts exactly. I mean, I already eat at McDonalds a couple of times a month, why the hell would I travel to the other side of the world to do the same? I'd rather have Melonpan all along. <- Highly influenced by anime, isn't he?
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Old 2007-09-10, 11:42   Link #252
Vexx
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@Zero: of course, you're now discussing the average stupidity level of a basic employee or their unfamiliarity with English or their level of "I don't care"

You reminded me of the time I watched three employees and their Manager at a Taco Bell try and fail to give me proper change when the registers crashed (despite me telling them several times what the proper amount was). They decided to close for the day while I was leaving....

@chatter: a kimchi burger sounds great.... I'll have to look up what bulgolgi is... O.o (sounds like a part of a biological cell)

Just to stay on topic: Japanese politics is interesting this week.... Abe "Bush-lite" may have stuck his cahoneys out too far by threatening to resign if the Parliament doesn't re-authorize his 'probably unconstitutional' refueling missions to support Bush's war. Considering the beating his party took in the last elections (in which *normally* the prime minister resigns after his party takes such a loss), this may have been a poor tactical move on his part
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Old 2007-09-10, 12:08   Link #253
Risaa
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Vexx View Post
@chatter: a kimchi burger sounds great.... I'll have to look up what bulgolgi is... O.o (sounds like a part of a biological cell)
And the cause of this confusion probably stems from my unintentional adding of an extra "l" in there... At least I went back and edited my post with a clever corny typo line to make up for it. The real thing, with only one "l".

This discussion reminds me of when I would go to McD's to get something for my WoW-obsessed friend, exactly "two double cheeseburgers with only ketchup and cheese and $1 fries". Because I'd never do that for free (without a tip ne), I always got a hot fudge sundae out of the trip.

OK, sorry I went off-topic again. But... I *am* leaving for Japan in less than two weeks now. Planning to bring lots of little trinkety Las Vegas souvenirs, and I've got the fuzzy dice covered already.
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Old 2007-09-10, 14:14   Link #254
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The amazing thing about Tokyo is that it is actually possible to live on a shoestring without too much discomfort.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zero Shinohara
Not sure if 5 grand would be enough for that, but if I remember correctly, 1 dollar was worth roughly 156 yen yesterday. Take out 2000 to pay for the flight ticket and I should have roughly 460000 Yen left at the end. What can one do with this? I'll survive sleeping under a bridge, but I refuse to eat food from the garbage. What's left will be used to buy anime stuff, of course.
Don't sleep under a bridge! Starting from around 1,190 yen (US$10.40), you could literally sleep in a manga cafe (they even have common shower rooms!) or watch DVDs or read mangas the whole night (no fansubs though, haha). I stayed in one (Cafe J New New New in Shinjuku) after missing the last train back to my ryokan, and it turned out to be an interesting experience. It even had a free-flow of soft drinks available! And the guy from the counter was from China! I was so glad to be able to communicate with someone because I was feeling rather lost and anxious that night, as you can imagine.

And you can make a meal out of a couple of onigiri (those triangular riceballs, although they come in other shapes too) from any convenience store. They only cost between 100 to 200 yen (US$0.90 to US$1.80) each at most. I found, to my surprise, that the cheapest places to eat reasonably good food are actually located inside the major train stations. Between 300 to 500 yen (US$2.60 to US$4.35) for a bowl of soba, ramen or curry rice.

I'm not recommending that you take the above advice for your whole trip, but if you really do (please don't ), I think you'd find public transportation to be your single biggest cost. It's not actually that cheap to travel by subway or rail, or so I found. Maybe there were day saver plans I could have used, but I wasn't aware of any.
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Old 2007-09-10, 15:07   Link #255
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How's the weather at Tokyo? Does it rain/snow much there? Hows the climate during the seasons?
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Old 2007-09-10, 16:22   Link #256
Vexx
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Japan has four seasons!!! That makes it unique in the world!

(okay, everyone can stop laughing now --- for the unaware that is a classic japanese misconception)

In Tokyo specifically.... it runs pretty hot in the summer (late 90F+), and gets thunderstorms in the late springtime and late summer. It usually snows a bit in winter but last winter is the first time anyone recalls that it did NOT snow in Tokyo. Its a coastal town so they get tropical storms on occasion. It is hotter than the surrounding areas on average due to the "urban concrete island" effect.

An umbrella is hardly ever a bad idea (rain or shine).

edit: @aohige below me here ... I was going to say Tokyo's weather reminded me of the weather in Houston, TX but I wasn't sure how that would be taken...

Last edited by Vexx; 2007-09-10 at 19:29.
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Old 2007-09-10, 19:22   Link #257
aohige
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The biggest thing to keep in mind is the humidity.
Japanese summer climate isn't that hot, especially if you come from places like Texas and Florida... it's the insane humidity that will get to you. It feels a lot hotter than what the temparature reading says.

And you will be cramped into a train full of people, with not even an inch between you and hundreds of others. Although AC is on full blast, it's still very unpleasant when the humidity is off the scales.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Zero Shinohara View Post
Although I probably won't have a lot of trouble with food anyway. Tell me where I can buy some Melonbread and I'll be set for an entire month :P Besides, considerign my mom is a desperate, overly protective woman, she would never forgive me if I ate something in a shady place... so for that I can probably use a credit card and treat me to some good food .

My thoughts exactly. I mean, I already eat at McDonalds a couple of times a month, why the hell would I travel to the other side of the world to do the same? I'd rather have Melonpan all along. <- Highly influenced by anime, isn't he?
If you just want melonpan, you don't even need to leave the US, actually.
Melonpan is exactly the same as the Mexican sweet bread conchas.
If you're in anywhere in the southern part of United States, you can find them in most bakery in the mexican bread section.
They look the same, same shape, same taste, everything.
Many Japanese who learn about conchas suspect Mexico is where Japanese melonpan actually originate from.
I didn't know about it until I bought a melonpan for my mexican friend visiting Japan, and he told me "oh, this is conchas".
Later day, I visited stores in Texas to buy them myself... and sure enough, it was exactly melonpan.

And yes, I would like to feed Shana-chan a conchas and see her reaction.
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Old 2007-09-11, 00:27   Link #258
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But what else would Patty think with Konata as her primary source on Japanese culture?

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Old 2007-09-11, 03:35   Link #259
Abbott
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Driving in Japan isn't too bad. The narrow roads are a non-issue because Japanese drivers can fit their cars through pretty much anything. If you find yourself head on with someone on a narrow road, you just pull to the side and stop, then let them do the work. But after a while you'll get used to it anyway.

The public transport system is as good as where it's based. Sure, in some areas it's great, but once you start getting off the popular travel routes it becomes a pain. There's also a serious lack of carriages on trains. Jammed in like a can of sardines is an understatement. Oh, and don't get me started on the stupidly high prices. Either be prepared to pay hugely inflated prices for fast trains, or spend 4 times as long on local trains. For example, Tokyo to Kyoto on Shinkansen; about 3 hours, 14000 yen. On local train, 12 hours, 8000 yen, 6 changes, no seat unless you're lucky. In Tokyo you can get a subway day pass for 700 yen, but be prepared to walk a lot, since the subway stations tend to be nowhere near the centre of districts.

As for the time of year to come, avoid Summer and early May. Summer is stupidly hot and humid to the point of being uncomfortable. Early May is Golden Week. And Winter is snowy, but you might like that.

Tokyo can be a cheap place to stay. There's some really good hostels for as little as 2000 yen a night.

And I just noticed stuff about food. Melon bread can be bought all over the place, but I think it's pretty over-rated. The only nice Melon bread I've ever had is from a place in Asakusa, Tokyo. Then again, you may like it already. I'm just more of a fan of the savery breads. As for eating in places where you can use a credit card, those are usually tourist traps. Basically, if a place takes credit cards, avoid it. The best way to decide where to eat in Japan? Look and see if you can see any Japanese people in the place. The more, the better it'll be. There's no such thing as a shady place, and if you're willing to be adventurous you can find some awesome places.

Last edited by Abbott; 2007-09-11 at 03:48.
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Old 2007-09-11, 03:55   Link #260
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Have to say, I find the Tokyo Metro to be a far more convenient form of transport getting around central Tokyo than the JR. The JR has a lack of coverage inside the Yamanote loop, which is exactly where the Metro has the most coverage.

The Ginza and Marunouchi lines could do with more cars (being the oldest 2 Metro lines) but 10 carriages (200 metre long platforms!) on most lines isn't bad by world standards. It's just that Tokyo is so densely populated.

I personally love Choix buns in Japan. "Cozy Corner", a bakery chain in Tokyo sells some lovely ones.

Do avoid August especially - humid and 35c in Tokyo made me very sick!

My personal preference for food is the fast-food chains such as Matsuya and Fujiya. Very cheap and what's good for foreigners is that you get a food ticket from a vending machine, eliminating the need to communicate! How I loved the curry-soba meal at Fujiya...
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