Monday, 18 September 2017

Artistic Manhole Covers in Osaka

The word 'manhole' may sound like a mismatch, but if they had called it 'womanhole' then it would be the sexist word ever. Think about it.

Here's a post to show you three artistic manholes covers that I found in Japan.

Look at this one in the small town of Aikawa in Osaka where our Airbnb was:

The Japanese words said not to park vehicles on top of the manhole cover because there's a fire hydrant underneath. 

The Osaka Castle is depicted beautifully in this one:

The Japanese words say the same thing as the one above.

This is another one with a temple: 

I can't identify which temple is this. Do comment if you know the answer.

Since we're on the topic of metal art on the ground, here's a metal plate on the ground which shows the direction:

Found this in the Gion district in Kyoto.

I wish I had found more manhole covers in Japan, but my trip was only 9 days long.

If I return to Japan, rest assured I'll be looking for more manhole covers. In fact these three have inspired me to look for other unique manholes covers whenever I travel. Hopefully I'll find more.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Getting from Kansai International Airport to Osaka City by Bus

The most economical way to get from Kansai International Airport to Osaka city is by bus.

The counter to purchase your ticket is at the arrival hall:

The counter accepts payment via credit card, which is a good thing if you want to ensure the existing cash (JPY) in your wallet (which you've converted before coming to Japan) will last you the whole trip. 

A one-way ticket from Kansai International Airport to the city costs JPY 1,550:

My first purchase in Japan was a bus ticket.

You may also buy your ticket at the machines outside the arrival hall where the buses are:

See the two staff standing there ... they're ready to assist anyone buy tickets from the machines, especially since all the instructions are in Japanese.

Airport buses also run from Kansai International Airport to other parts of the Kansai region like Kyoto, Kobe and Nara, all information is available in the Kansai Airport Transportation Enterprise website.

We joined the queue together with the other nihon jin:

Hidden in the photo: Staff collecting our luggage and lining them up so that the luggage can be placed in the belly of the bus immediately when it arrives.

While waiting for the bus, I went gallivanting to snap photos of the airport. Here are two photos:

The square shaped grey colloured airport building looks like the movie set of Ultraman, you know the one where Ultraman will fight the monster amidst the square shaped, grey buildings.

The bus ride to Osaka city took about an hour.

Along the way I saw the harbour, fishing boats, factories ... all so clean and well organised. I didn't take many photos because it's difficult to snap photos from a moving bus, but here's one:

Later I found out it's the Umeda Sky Building. Pardon the glass reflection.

Soon we arrived at the first stop where we got off, i.e. Hotel New Hankyu:

I saw this nice waiting area for travellers going to the airport:

Osaka has two airports: Kansai International Airport and Osaka International Airport.

Hotel New Hankyu links to the Umeda Station which is an integral part of the major transportation hub in Osaka city. From Umeda Station subway lines run to all parts of Osaka city and the Kansai region.

From Umeda Station we took the subway (not the sandwich) to get to our Airbnb in Aikawa.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Fridge Magnets from Japan

Today I would like to share with you the fridge magnets that I bought from Japan when I was there in June.

First, the flags ...

Left: Japan flag (JPY 300)
Right: Rising Sun flag (JPY 450)

Before I went to Japan I was hoping to find a magnet map of Japan, and I was delighted when I found this pretty one in Dotonrobi, Osaka:

Price: JPY 540 

The blue map of Japan certainly compliments the map of Hokkaido given to me earlier by a friend ...

Since my sister collects food shaped magnets, I bought her this:

Looks like a real shrimp sushi. Price: JPY 1,188

I also bought a 2-way magnet of pretty geishas for Celia:

A single magnet with two different images. Price: JPY 400

Since we're on the topic of fridge magnets, here are two photos of pretty magnets I found in the shops:

Sunday, 10 September 2017

How to Eat Out on a Budget in Japan

Eating out in Japan is not cheap.

Just to give you an idea on the cost of eating out in Japan, let me share with you some of the meals I had when I was there in June.

A dinner of udon, 2 pieces of tonkatsu and a drink like this in the Dotonbori area in Osaka costs around JPY 1,500 (sorry I didn't jot down the exact figure).

Udon + 2 sticks tonkatsu + drink = Approximately JPY 1,500

This shabu shabu that we had for dinner in one of the restaurants in Shinjuku, Tokyo costs JPY 2,680 per person:

Shabu shabu buffet dinner (JPY 2,680 per person)

Takoyaki from the famous Hanadako in Umeda Station:

Left: JPY 420, Right: JPY 520. 
Totally worth the price as it was so delicious. After tasting Hanadako's takoyaki, all other takoyaki pale in comparison.

Okonomiyaki from one of the eateries in the Dotonbori area in Osaka:

Okonomiyaki (JPY 500)

From one of the cafes in Umeda Station, Osaka:

A set of sandwich + matcha latte = JPY 680


Tough luck if you hope to find street stalls in Japan that are common in South East Asia, because you ain't gonna find any.

So where to find cheap food in Japan?

Answer: They can be found at convenience stores like Family Mart, Lawson and 7-Eleven. You can also find cheaper food at supermarkets like Fresco which slash their food prices by 30% or more after certain time in the evening in order to clear the stock.

You may ask staff at these convenient stores to heat up your food. Some of the bigger outlets even have tables and chairs where you can sit and enjoy your hot meal.

Here are examples of food that I bought from Family Mart and Fresco and their prices.

From FamilyMart:

Fried noodles (JPY 360)

From FamilyMart:

Steamed rice + salmon + fried egg + preserved vegetables = JPY 430

From Fresco:

Fried rice: JPY 298 (after 30% discount)
Salad: JPY 198 (after 30% discount)
Can't remember the price of the cherry tomatoes

Another cheaper alternative is to buy ramen like this:

Ramen (JPY 450)

... that is ordered through ticket machines like this:

All instructions on this machine are in Japanese. So if you can't read Japanese (like me!) make sure you observe how the locals do it, or ask for help.

And to end this blog post, let me share with you the price of banana and watermelon in Japan:

Banana and watermelon have to be imported to Japan thus the exhorbitant prices. Now I understand why my Japanese colleague eat lots of banana when he was in KL.

For a person like myself coming from South East Asia where banana and watermelon are considered cheap fruits, I couldn't help but exclaim that food in Japan is indeed expensive.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Fridge Magnets from Celia

An avid traveller, Celia did a month long trip to Europe in May this year and she got me a few fridge magnets. They arrived in the post on 28 July 2017.

People magnets are my favourite, also map and flag magnets too.

Apart from the people magnets, Celia also got me these:

Gonna put these under Transport and Animal. I'm a sucker for displaying and storing my magnets according to themes.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Wages of a Part Time Restaurant Staff in Tokyo

If you're wondering why things are relatively expensive in Japan, take a look at what a part time kitchen staff/floor staff earns in Japan:

Photo was taken from one of the notice boards at Shinjuku station in Tokyo.

The pay of JPY1,050 per hour is equivalent to the wages of a full time assistant manager or manager in Malaysia! Do the math and you'll know what I mean.

However this rate of wages for a kitchen staff/floor staff is justified due to the high cost of living in Japan. Imagine if their wages is low, people won't be able to survive.

So if a part time restaurant helper already earns this much, I wonder how much a manager earns in Japan? Probably equivalent to the wages of a CEO in Malaysia? Just kidding ... but who knows.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The Most Expensive Train Ride of My Life - Kyoto to Tokyo on the Shinkansen

While planning for my trip to Japan, I had decided to take the bullet rain (Shinkansen) from Kyoto to Tokyo for the sake of experiencing it.

The Shinkansen is one of the most efficient and safest trains in the world with no fatal accidents in its history.

Just to give you an idea of why it's called a bullet train, the 450km journey between Kyoto and Tokyo can be completed in approximately 2 hours. That's how fast it moves.

But safety, efficiency and speed comes with a price, and that's why this ride has become the most expensive train ride of my life.

So how much did the ride cost?

A whopping JPY13,080 for the 2 hour journey!

(JPY13,080 is equivalent to approximately MYR500 which could have bought me a return ticket from Kuala Lumpur to Bali or someplace else).

Take a look at the ticket for the most expensive train ride of my life:

We purchased our tickets from the ticket counter at Kyoto Station because we wanted to pay using our credit cards so that we don't have to touch our cash. Money exchange bureaus are difficult to find in Japan, you know ...

Tickets can also be purchased from the ticket vending machines:

We bought non-reserved seats because it's cheaper compared to reserve ones.

[Tip: Since it was a weekday and low season in Japan (we went in June 2017), purchasing non-reserved seats poses a low risk of not finding a seat on the train. However if it's the peak season, perhaps it's better to get a reserved seat or risk standing throughout the journey.]

After purchasing our tickets, we made our way to the turnstills that leads to the Shinkansen tracks:

After inserting our tickets into the turnstills and collecting them back, we made our way to the platform to wait for the train.

Non-reserved seats are in Cars 1 - 3:

Soon the train arrived and I started to get excited:

The type of train was the Nozomi 226:

The train interiors were bright and clean:

The seats were wide and comfortable, even better than airplane seats.

Just like on an airplane, the Shinkansen also had stewardesses who went around selling food:

Prior to the trip I had read that food sold on the Shinkansen is nothing to shout about. So I had pre-packed a ginger pork burger from McDonald's for lunch:

A most delicious burger, cannot be found in Malaysia of course.

I had also bought a can of Kirin Ichiban to accompany my burger:

Japanese beers are just so delicious!

After wolfing down the burger and beer and cleared the rubbish, I started dozing off. The ride was smooth and almost noiseless - would put anyone to sleep after that burger and beer.

Soon I woke up with a start and realised that I had fallen asleep on the middle aged guy seated on my right.

Interestingly he didn't push me away, said or did anything when I fell asleep on his shoulder. So it's true that Japanese people do fall asleep on each others shoulder in the subway.

After about 2 hours, we arrived at Tokyo Station.

The cleaning crew were already waiting when we arrived. In typical Japanese style they thanked us one by one as we alighted from the train.

I stayed back a few minutes to watch them clean the train in 7 minutes. Watch this video to see how they do it.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Osaka Umeda Catholic Church

I attended Sunday Mass at the Osaka Umeda Catholic Church when I was in the city last month.

The church is located right smack at a road junction, beside Hearton Hotel. In this photo, it looks like the mighty hotel is embracing the church:

At the entrance are two stone tablets inscribed with the name of the church:

The main entrance:

Step inside the main entrance and you'll find yourself in the lobby where the parish office is located as well as a bookshop:

The bookshop was closed when I was there.

Unlike other churches where Mass is usually held on the ground floor, Mass at the Osaka Umeda Catholic Church is celebrated on the Third Floor.

You may use the lift or the stairs to get to the Third Floor.

Climbing a flight of stairs would be a good workout before Mass.

This is where Mass is held:

The pews, altar, tabernacle and overall look and feel is modern and contemporary.

Masses are celebrated in Japanese, English, Spanish and Indonesian at the Osaka Umeda Catholic Church and here are the Mass times:

I attended the English language Mass at 9.00am.

Most of the congregation were Filipinos and other expats. I suppose the locals would attend their native Japanese language Mass.

Towards the end of Mass, the commentator welcomed all visitors and asked each one of us to stand up and introduce ourselves. Such a warm welcome indeed.

Getting to the Osaka Umeda Catholic Church
Ride the subway to Nakatsu station (Midosuji line) and take Exit 4.

Once you come out from Exit 4, immediately turn left and walk about 70m till you see a 7-Eleven at the corner on your right. Turn right at this corner and walk for about 80m. You'll see the Osaka Umeda Catholic Church on your left.

Tough luck if you need to ask for directions as a majority of locals wouldn't know where the church is. I went to the 7-Eleven to ask for directions and the staff didn't know where's the church which I later found out was a mere 80m down the road from their outlet!

Tip: If you find difficulties looking for the church, try asking for directions to Hearton Hotel instead and you're bound to find the church as both buildings are located side by side which you can see from the photo above. More locals would probably know where the hotel is compared to a Catholic church because Catholicism is not a major religion in Japan.

Happy worshiping!

Note: All information and Mass times are correct at posting time.

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