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. 
Price: JPY 200

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.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Vietnamese Instant Noodles (Pho)

If you've read my blog post before, you would know that I dislike Vietnam mainly because of the many dishonest people there.

The numerous Vietnamese prostitutes who live in my apartment block in Kuala Lumpur and always screaming at the top of their voices have also increased my dislike for all things Vietnamese.

However last week a colleague visited Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam during the long Hari Raya Aidilfitri hols and he brought us each this packet of instant noodles (pho) which I like very much:

I finally found something nice about Vietnam - it's instant noodles (pho).

After opening the packet, the noodles look like luminous plastic (I'm really hoping it's not!). But after cooking it like regular instant noodles, it turned out like a regular pho, and tasty too.

I'm glad my colleague decided to bring us instant noodles instead of other Vietnamese foodstuff which would have sucked like its people.

Coincidentally another colleague had visited Hanoi in Vietnam during the long hols, but he brought us Vietnamese chocolates instead which was one of the worst I've tasted.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Enjoy Huge Savings with the Osaka Amazing Pass

If you're planning a visit to Osaka in Japan, use the Osaka Amazing Pass to enjoy huge savings.

The 4 features of this pass that I like are:

1) Free entry to 35 attractions
2) Discounts at selected attractions, retailers and eateries (terms & conditions apply)
3) Unlimited rides on the subway, new tram and bus
4) Free gifts from selected establishments (terms & conditions apply)

There are 2 types of passes, i.e. the 1-day pass and the 2-day pass.

We bought the 2-day pass which costs JPY3,300 per pass.

The 2-Day Amazing Osaka Pass.

When you purchase the pass you'll get a guidebook containing instructions on how to use the pass, attractions that you can visit for free, coupons to redeem your free gift, subway map, other benefits, etc.

The guidebook that comes with the Osaka Amazing Pass.

Read the guidebook carefully and plan your trip in order to maximise the pass.

Note that there are many attractions that you can visit for free by using the pass. The choice is entirely up to you depending on the amount of time you have and your interest.

Let me share with you the four attractions we visited and experienced for free with the 2-day pass.

1) Osaka Castle Museum (JPY600):

2) Japan Night Walk Tour (JPY1,000):

I like to follow walking tours whenever I visit a new city.

3) Cruise Ship Santa Maria Day Cruise (JPY1,600):

Visitors queuing up to enter the ship.

4) Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel (JPY800):

We had an amazing view of Osaka city from the highest point of the wheel.

We wanted to use the pass for the Tombori River Cruise. Unfortunately tickets were sold out during the two times we were there.

With the Osaka Amazing Pass I also received a free gift when we visited Hard Rock Cafe Osaka ...

... to get my City-T Guitar V+ bottle opener:

Price: JPY1,800 + JPY144 (tax) = JPY1,944 

Since Hard Rock Cafe Osaka is a participating establishment in the Osaka Amazing Pass, I received this free gift for making a purchase:

The gift was four button badges.
You'll need to present your coupon called Tokux2 Coupon (included in the guidebook) to the cashier to redeem your gift.

If we had paid individually for the four attractions, the cost would have been:

Osaka Castle Museum: JPY600
Japan Night Walk Tour: JPY1,000
Cruise Ship Santa Maria Day Cruise: JPY1,600
Tempozan Giant Ferris Wheel: JPY800
Total: JPY4,000

But we paid JPY3,300 for the 2-day pass and also used it to travel across Osaka using the subway for an uncountable number of times. In case you're not aware, subway fares in Osaka are relatively expensive (by Malaysian standards) especially if you purchase individual tickets.

Now you know what to do when you visit Osaka - get the Osaka Amazing Pass because it's a huge saver. Your pockets will be happy, trust me.

Note: All prices are correct at time of posting.

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