Sunday, March 28, 2010


Here are a few things to consider if you are traveling to Tokyo.


Not many stores accept credit cards - I found nearly every store I shopped in accepted credit cards. The only places that didn't were small eateries. Having said that, just remember that you will be charged a fee by your bank for purchasing in a foreign currency. Take some cash as well of course. If you live in Australia, you will get a better exchange rate at home before you leave.

Tokyo is an expensive city - I did not think Tokyo was expensive at all. Most things were comparable to Australian prices, but many things were cheaper as well. Eating out is really cheap. We ate at cafes for breakfast, as hotel meals are always expensive. Eateries are everywhere, so you will never go hungry. Also, you can always buys snacks at vending machines. Convenience stores are plentiful too, and they sell some quite nice food, such as sushi and some lovely desserts. I found a nice meal dinning out was actually cheaper compared to Australia.

Magazines and books are cheap. I love Japanese magazines, but to buy online costs 3 times as much. Some women's magazines only cost 650 yen and they usually come with a very nice free gift, such as a bag or cosmetics.

The cost of clothes varies, but expect to pay the same as Australian fashion stores. Uniqlo and Gap had fashion for all the family at inexpensive prices. We bought alot of clothes there. Quality makeup like Shiseido costs alot less than here, and there are many unique Japanese cosmetic brands you will have never seen before. The range of cosmetics is enormous.

Beautiful Japanese fabric is also inexpensive, and the range is so much more than on the internet. Beads, especially Swarovski crystals were very reasonable, and the variety was mind boggling. Beautiful Japanese paper was also very cheap. Craft items were cheaper and much nicer than in Australia. I bought alot of craft items!

Transport is very cheap if you use the railways. Train services are extensive, and trains come every 4 minutes on some lines. We never had to use a taxi, as the train system was so fantastic to use. Peak hour was the same as Australia. We caught a bus from Narita Airport directly to our hotel.

Our hotel, the Tokyu Excel in Shibuya was very reasonable, considering it was only metres from the famous Shibuya crossing and right next to the Shibuya train station. Our room was quite spacious for a family of 4. Search on the net to compare prices on different booking websites. We used Hotel There are lots of cheap accommodation options, if you need to economise though.

Then there are always the 100 yen stores, where a bargin can always be found.

My husband bought a cymbal for his drum kit, and it was maybe half the price compared to Australia. Musos will definitely love Tokyo.
And don't forget the impeccable service you will receive in shops and eateries. You can't put a price on that!

It is difficult to use the train system.

We found it quite easy to navigate the train system. It does pay to do some research on the net before hand. Google your destination on maps, and locate the nearest train station. Then Google the station and you should be able to find which line it is on. There are many different lines and several different train companies, but all signs are in English also, and each train line is colour coded. The most common line in Tokyo is the Yamanote line, which is colour coded green. To purchase a ticket, simply use a ticket machine, which is also in English. It has a touch screen, so select how many passengers, and whether they are adults or children. If you don't know how much the fare is to your destination, just purchase the cheapest ticket, and this will get you through the gate and onto the train. When you reach your destination station, find a fare adjustment machine and insert your ticket. The machine will tell you whether you need to add any more money to top up your ticket so that you can exit the station. Really, once you have used the railways once, you will have the hang of it straight away.

And of course, the Japanese railway system runs like clockwork. It can be crowded at peak hour, but no more so than Sydney or Melbourne. And all the passengers alight and disembark in a very orderly fashion. Any by the way, the train stations have some fabulous shopping too!

The Japanese eat mainly sushi.
The Japanese do love their sushi, but they also love many other cuisines. The variety of food is enormous. There are lots of French patisseries and bakeries, with so many delectable offerings and good coffee. You can always get sanwiches and rolls if you are travelling with children. There are lots of chainstore cafes such as Starbucks and Excellsior. There are lots of yummy noodle and rice eateries, which are very economical. The Tokyu Food Show in the basement of the Tokyu Department store which we frequented, had stalls of every type of food ever invented. Lots of Japanese, but other Asian food as well. There were also stalls selling roasted vegetables and yakatori. The depachika food basements in department stores are fantastic. You can buy your meal and then take it back to your hotel and relax. Convenience stores such as 7 Eleven, sell reasonable food, and we usually bought a dessert there each night. Vending machines are literally everywhere, so you can always get a snack or drink on the run. Then there is always McDonalds and KFC if you are desperate, but why would you eat there when there are so many other tantalising options? Really, there were eateries and take aways everywhere. Most food places stay open until 10 or 11pm, but usually only accept cash. YUM YUM YUM

It is difficult to find international ATMs
This is also untrue. International ATMs can be found at: Citibank, 7 Eleven and post offices.
Once again, do some research on the internet, and get addresses and maps of these ATMs and take the print outs with you. I did a print out of each town I planned to visit. Every town has at least one of these. Just remember you will be charged a fee to withdraw cash in a foreign currency.

Your mobile phone won't work in Japan.
I can only speak for my particular mobile phone, but I had no problems using my Australian phone. I am with Telstra 3G with international roaming. The only thing to remember is the prefixes. To call my husband in Japan on his Australian mobile, I needed to add the prefix +61 and then drop the first digit of his phone number. Or, I could also add the prefix 001161 and then his phone number as normal. The 61 prefix denotes an Australian phone number, even though the phone was being used in Japan. To call home to Australia, I could use the same prefixes. We just put our international phone number directly into our address books to avoid confusion. So you do not need to rent a Japanese phone at all.


Not many Japanese speak English. I found this to be true. Do a little research before you leave, and write down translations for common phrases that you would use, such as "Good Morning", "Thank you", "How much does this cost?" (I used that one alot!)

I had 3 pages of common phrases, and I had never spoken Japanese in my life, but everyone seemed to understand me. I also took a little phrase book and this was quite useful, as I could then just point to phrases and not have to speak them. You would be surprised at how fast you can pick up a language in just a week, but when English is not spoken, then you have to learn fast. Not many signs are in English either, so I printed out all of my desired destinations, and if I got lost, I could then show the print out to ask for directions. Japanese are very helpful, and will go out of their way to get you to your destination. Also, it's alot of fun to learn another language, and it's amazing how far hand guestures can get you. We are all from the same global village after all.

Japanese people are all polite. This is definitely true. I never once encountered bad service or rude people. The Japanese have impecable manners and everything is done with a certain etiquette. You will experience the same high service at a high end store or a 7 Eleven. Meeting such beautiful people was definitely the highlight of my trip.

Japanese love to wrap things. I have to say, that the Japanese aren't exactly ecologically conscious when it comes to shopping. No one seemed to use the ugly old green supermarket bags as we do in Australia. Every purchase, whether it be cheap or expensive, is wrapped to perfection in beautiful paper with stickers and then usually placed in an expensive cardboard bag with more stickers. I didn't like to say not to wrap my purchases, as the shop assistants did it with such care and pride. Many many of my purchases were gifts, so it saved me the effort. And I also kept most of the beautiful bags to reuse as gift bags, as they were too nice to throw out. Our purchases from Peach John lingerie store were wrapped in tissue paper with stickers, then placed in a lovely carrier bag with a fragrant peach scented sachet! Wow! One purchase of some cakes to take back to the hotel, were placed in a cardboard box with an ice pack, then wrapped in plastic before being placed in a carrier bag. They just think of everything. So keep your shopping bags as nice souvenirs or reuse them.

All Japanese women are gorgeous. This is also true. Japanese ladies are very well groomed, with immaculate hair and make up and stylish trendy clothes. I don't know how they do it. Needless to say, cosmetics and fashion is big business in Japan.

It is difficult to find destinations in Japan due to their address system.
This is partly true, as their addresses are in no particular order. So street numbers do not necessarily go in numerical order as they do in Australia. I actually found it very easy to find my desired destinations because I found everything on Google maps, or on the shop's website and then printed it out to take with me. I also printed out a photo of the particular shop or building to assist with locating it. Simple!
Japan is a very safe country.
As a tourist, I do agree with this. We never once felt in danger walking around Tokyo. I walked around Shibuya alone at night, but as there are so many people out and about, I felt completely safe. We were never accosted by anyone wanting to sell us a copy Rolex or handbag, as we did in Hong Kong. And no one stared at us because we were foreigners either. Once again, Japanese are very respectful people.

So now I come to the end of my Japanese holiday musings. In conclusion, Japan was everything I had imagined and so much more. I definitely want to visit again. There is so much to see and do, and meeting people of another culture is one of the great joys in life. Even though we are different, we have so much in common. So, what are you waiting for? Get on the internet and book your flight to Tokyo now!! I can assure you, you won't regret it. Japan is a truly magical place, and if you are into crafting, fashion, make up, shoes, music, techno stuff, toys, food kawaii and zakka you will truly be in heaven.......


Here are my top shopping picks.
CRAFT : Yuzawaya
FABRIC: Okadaya
ZAKKA: Timeless Comfort and Natural Plenty
COSMETICS: Too numerous to mention! Cosmetics shops are everywhere.
SOUVENIRS: Tokyu Hands
FOOD: Tokyu Food Show
PAPER PRODUCTS: Itoya -Ginza branch
TOYS: Kiddyland
HOMEWARES: Loft, Franc Franc and MUJI


Japanese stickers
Japanese paper
craft kits
books and magazines
Japanese biscuits and chocolates
hand towels
Nintendo DS games
greeting cards
paper art to frame
and so much more....

Friday, March 19, 2010


Sadly, I have come to the last day of our holiday. Naturally, I shopped up until the last moment we had before heading off to the airport. A few metres from our hotel, Tokyu Excel, was the Tokyu Department store, which I did not discover until the hour before we left. From memory, the top floor of the store is devoted to all things traditional Japanese. All the stuff I love ! We just had time to do a quick scan around the floor, which was quite extensive.
There were many beautiful kimonos and accessories for sale.

I would have loved one of these little wooden temples, but as it turned out, we were 17 kg overweight with excess baggage.

This man appeared to sit here all day making brooms by hand, There were other craftspeople exhibiting their skills also.

And then I found the chirimen and doll section. I just had to buy one.

So don't forget to visit this department store if you are travelling through Shibuya. But, make sure you allow enough time to browse all the sections. This store also has a small branch of the Itoya paper store. It's next to the Shibuya train station, so you can't miss it.


Who wouldn't love this place????


Monday, March 15, 2010

Shibuya - "Irrashaimase!"

Shibuya is known as the party central of tokyo and is were all the trendy young tokyoites hangout. the centre of where you'll find all the action is "Centre-Gai" of just look for the Shibuya 109 building! which looks like this:

the first impression of 109 i had was a tiny japanese girl, one of the shop assistants, standing on a stool with a mega phone shouting "Irrashaimase!"(which means welcome , into a shop) in a really high pitch voice! whilst other shop assistants were dancing to the loud pumping Lady GaGa music! And i think the bright lights would give anyone a seizure! (So make sure you take some headache tablets!)

But i do highly reccomend it to young people as the clothes are at good prices. Shibuya 109 is also known as 'ichi-maru-kyu' which means "1-0-9" in japanese.

This is "Centre-Gai" one of the main action areas, also if you can see in the distance it's singer BENI on the billboard for department store 0I0I(maru city) i think shes a spokesperson for the stores.

This is Chiara a very popular shop in shibuya 109 which sells bling deco for your phone, ipod, camera or in this case your dressing table! it also sells phone charms, purses and hair accsessories. It's on the 5th floor.

It's BENI again! this was playing on a tv screen at Shibuya crossing. I hope this blog was interesting and helpful, I highly reccommend Shibuya, its overwhelming at first but its a great and exciting place to visit and all the people are very helpful!
I personally LOVED! Shibuya, all I can say is 'Irrashaimase!' :)

Friday, March 12, 2010


The Ghibli Museum is the sweetest little museum you are ever likely to see. Studio Ghibli has produced lovely animations such as: My Neighbour Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service, Spirited Away and Ponyo. Adults and children alike would love to spend a day in this museum, which depicts the history of animation and the Ghibli films. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed inside, so all these pics are outdoors.

To get there, catch the train to Mitaka station, and then travel on the Cat Bus directly to the museum. There are lots of helpful attendants at the bus stop and museum to guide you.
The gardens of the museum.

The museum is adjacent to a park, which would look lovely in springtime.

A cute little birdhouse someone has thoughtfully placed in this tree.

I think this garden is supposed to represent one from one of their films.

This cute little man seemed to be the gardener.

A little about the museum... The museum is set out with lots of little interesting rooms to explore. There is a huge hall which has interactive displays of the history of animation, which is very interesting. There is a cinema which plays a short animation, exclusive to the museum, projected from a huge old style movie projector. The film we saw was only in Japanese, but there wasn't alot of dialogue, so it was easy to follow. The story was of an elderly couple living in the country who had a group of sumo wrestling mice living secretly in the house. Each night the mice would walk into the woods to compete in a sumo match with big rats, who always beat them. When the couple discover their tennants, they decide to help them by fattening them up with a huge feast. They then attend the sumo match after they have put on some bulk to cheer them on, and of course, the mice win for the first time. It was hilarious, and the whole audience had big smiles on their faces.

In fact, you couldn't help but feel happy in this museum. There were many displays showing how the animations are produced. Most of the films backgrounds are hand drawn with pencils and watercolours, which are truly beautiful. Then there are lifesized dioramas of the house where the founding animator lived, set out as the actual rooms of his house. There was a restaurant, but there was a long queue, so we ate at the cafe. Of course, the gift shop was wonderful too - stacked to the rafters with Ghibli mechandise, which everyone was feverishly buying (including me) It sold lots of soft toys of all the characters, plus stationary, some lovely cards from the films and many other nicknacks.

The Bus Stop.

The Cat Bus. Don't worry, it's not as embarrasing as it looks to travel in !

I purchased these adorable softies. The mouse in the centre is from the sumo film we saw, and is exclusive to the museum shop.

Some very cute stationary.

How wonderful are these post cards? I'm going to frame them.

The museum only allows 200 guests per day, and if you are a tourist, you must purchase your ticket before you arrive in your home country. In Australia, you can purchase your tickets from JTB over the internet. Also, ensure you buy your tickets several months in advance, as it is extremely popular. And, you must bring your passport along to verify your identity. Do not miss this museum if you travel to Tokyo. You will leave with an uplifted attitude and a warm fuzzy feeling in your heart ! And happily, the souvenir shop accepts credit cards, which is just as well because I don't think anyone could leave without a big bag full of goodies. Highly recommended, even if you don't have children. Ghilbli Museum is sure to enchant you.

A card featuring a stained glass window of Totoro. And, who doesn't just love Totoro?