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Old 04-29-2013, 01:20 AM   #1
Anduril
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Default Advice? Short Trip to Japan

So in a little more than a week I'll be off on a group study program to Japan for a month, more specifically Tokyo. There were a couple things that I've either been wondering about or couldn't find the answer to.

Hopefully I can get some of them answered here.
  • For 3 pronged charging devices (read: laptops), what would be the best way to convert to 2 prongs? From what I see it looks like all the plug ins will be 2 prongs only.
  • This seems to be the best options I've found in terms of a cellular option as a visitor. Cellular isn't entirely a must, but to have data for maps and emergencies would be handy. The price is a little bit hard to accept though....
  • This one is a more generic travel one...I'm predicting that I will be hoarding souvenirs upon souvenirs as I have a close extended family+friends and whatnot. Seeing as I will only have the one piece of main luggage to carry on, what have people done other than perform the Tetris/Brute Strength method?

If there is anything else that you guys might have as a generic or specific suggestion, by all means go ahead!

Last edited by Anduril; 04-29-2013 at 01:23 AM.
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Old 04-29-2013, 02:53 AM   #2
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Resident CP Tokyo (Yokohama, actually, but I work in Tokyo) resident.
To answer your questions:
1) Buy a travel plug adaptor before you leave Canada. The voltage is 100W - 10 less than Canada, and would only affect the running of precision devices (like clocks). Otherwise you can plug everything in and not fear it exploding.
2) Not sure why you're balking at that price. It's not that bad for unlimited use. And if you balk at the price of that, you're going to be doing a lot of price balking in the month you're here (Japan's kind of expensive). The only other option would be to get a phone from Softbank, AU or NttDocomo when you arrive at the airport.
3) Umm, if you have 2 suitcases, pack everything in that. For souvenirs there are a lot of small/thin/pretty things to buy - stick to them and you should be fine.

Where will you be studying in Tokyo? Lots to do in the city so hope you have a good month.
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Old 04-29-2013, 07:09 AM   #3
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Japan is amazing. I want to go back.
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Old 04-29-2013, 08:27 AM   #4
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I think Commodore has it pretty much covered.

You could buy a suitcase for a reasonable price here for souvenirs. Luckily there are direct flights from Calgary to Narita now (unlike when I moved here) so it's not so bad. You don't have to drag 2 heavy suitcases across Vancouver airport anymore to switch flights.

Tokyo can be pricey so you'll need to budget if you're staying for a month.
A good option for meals is sometimes to go to a supermarket/grocery store. They usually have a selection of bento (lunch boxes) that are under 500 yen each. And they're good quality.

Have fun, there's a lot to see in Tokyo! Don't panic if you get temporarily lost from time to time. Most of the signs in stations in Tokyo have English on them so you should be able to figure it out.
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Old 04-29-2013, 09:48 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheCommodoreAfro View Post
Resident CP Tokyo (Yokohama, actually, but I work in Tokyo) resident.
To answer your questions:
1) Buy a travel plug adaptor before you leave Canada. The voltage is 100W - 10 less than Canada, and would only affect the running of precision devices (like clocks). Otherwise you can plug everything in and not fear it exploding.
2) Not sure why you're balking at that price. It's not that bad for unlimited use. And if you balk at the price of that, you're going to be doing a lot of price balking in the month you're here (Japan's kind of expensive). The only other option would be to get a phone from Softbank, AU or NttDocomo when you arrive at the airport.
3) Umm, if you have 2 suitcases, pack everything in that. For souvenirs there are a lot of small/thin/pretty things to buy - stick to them and you should be fine.

Where will you be studying in Tokyo? Lots to do in the city so hope you have a good month.
2) Probably because I have a spoiled misconception that using a prepaid or something to that extent would be cheaper than a regular line.
3) You know what? I have no idea why I thought I would only be bringing one piece... Scratch that question then.

Going to be studying at Senshu University. Already starting to lament at the fact that it'll only be a month without having some anything.
Thanks for the help!

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I think Commodore has it pretty much covered.

You could buy a suitcase for a reasonable price here for souvenirs. Luckily there are direct flights from Calgary to Narita now (unlike when I moved here) so it's not so bad. You don't have to drag 2 heavy suitcases across Vancouver airport anymore to switch flights.

Tokyo can be pricey so you'll need to budget if you're staying for a month.
A good option for meals is sometimes to go to a supermarket/grocery store. They usually have a selection of bento (lunch boxes) that are under 500 yen each. And they're good quality.

Have fun, there's a lot to see in Tokyo! Don't panic if you get temporarily lost from time to time. Most of the signs in stations in Tokyo have English on them so you should be able to figure it out.
Unfortunately/fortunately I'll be making a quick stop at Seoul for a week after so a bit of luggage dragging at some point. Thanks for the heads up about the bento. Hopefully my grade school level Japanese will be used more often than not in those cases.

Last edited by Anduril; 04-29-2013 at 09:52 AM.
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Old 04-29-2013, 09:56 AM   #6
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Tokyo can most definitely be done on the cheap. I found it comparable to Calgary in terms of day-to-day cost of living, and you can most certainly find great deals on food, electronics and entertainment. As someone said earlier, grocery stores are a great way to get a tasty meal on the dime. They always have pre-wrapped delights (gyoza for example), and is usually better than most places that serve them fresh in Canada lol.

As for suitcases - I call it the "pinch" method. Only bring clothes that you know you can throw out / give away at the end of your trip. Before you leave, just rid yourself of crappy clothes that are on the brink anyways, and then you usually have significant space to haul back goods. I usually always buy a second backpack / duffle bag coming home from Japan, as I do bring back quite a bit of stuff.

The other method is to bring a suitcase or backpack, and then use an oversized duffle bag to carry it in afterwards. You can put all of your gifts/souvenirs in your protected case/bag, and then stuff clothes around it in the duffle bag. Great way to protect your gifts, bring more things home, and still squeeze well onto the aircraft.

ALSO - Stay out of Roppongi, Ginza, Shinjuku and Harajuku if you're on a budget. Stick to places like Ueno, Asakusa and the surrounding suburbs if you want cheap food. My favourite place for the best balance of prices / shopping is Ikebukuro, especially for the nightlife.

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Old 04-29-2013, 12:04 PM   #7
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Old 04-29-2013, 12:18 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozy_Flame View Post
Tokyo can most definitely be done on the cheap. I found it comparable to Calgary in terms of day-to-day cost of living, and you can most certainly find great deals on food, electronics and entertainment. As someone said earlier, grocery stores are a great way to get a tasty meal on the dime. They always have pre-wrapped delights (gyoza for example), and is usually better than most places that serve them fresh in Canada lol.

As for suitcases - I call it the "pinch" method. Only bring clothes that you know you can throw out / give away at the end of your trip. Before you leave, just rid yourself of crappy clothes that are on the brink anyways, and then you usually have significant space to haul back goods. I usually always buy a second backpack / duffle bag coming home from Japan, as I do bring back quite a bit of stuff.

The other method is to bring a suitcase or backpack, and then use an oversized duffle bag to carry it in afterwards. You can put all of your gifts/souvenirs in your protected case/bag, and then stuff clothes around it in the duffle bag. Great way to protect your gifts, bring more things home, and still squeeze well onto the aircraft.

ALSO - Stay out of Roppongi, Ginza, Shinjuku and Harajuku if you're on a budget. Stick to places like Ueno, Asakusa and the surrounding suburbs if you want cheap food. My favourite place for the best balance of prices / shopping is Ikebukuro, especially for the nightlife.
No, you definitely want to see all those areas. The Canadian dollar is very high right now, and the priceness of Japan is overated. Keep in mind that tipping in Japan is considered rude and on par with begging. So if you have to pay $7 for a drink, that's the total. Even relatively expensive bars, aren't as expensive when you factor in the no tipping. I found even in places like Shinjuku prices weren't all that out of control.

The only place I found truly expensive was the Hyatt bar, located on the 50th floor in downtown Tokyo. We paid $15-25/drink, but that included live piano, a guy who would pull your chair in and out for you as you sat, and the best view in the city....and once again no tip. If you have an extra big of cash to splurge with, I'd highly recommend this. It was like stepping into a scene from the 50s.

In Japan, everyone is extremely proud of their work. No one ever does a bad job. So even whole in the wall restaurants will all have extremely good food. Even cheap noodle places will give you the best service and present you with food that is above average by North American standards.
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Old 04-29-2013, 01:25 PM   #9
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Of course you want to see those areas, but you can find some great finds outside of these areas too. Remember, Tokyo isn't defined by the tourist / Gaijin hangouts that Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide recommend.

First time I went, it was about 100 yen to $1 Canadian in 2007. Two years later I went back and it was 75 yen. Last year it was about 82. I would recommend to the OP to monitor the exchange rate at the most general levels of prudence.

I do agree about the pride thing. You'll never see a happier group of McDonald's employees when you order. All smiles and sincere politeness in every they do. A simple microcosm of the larger Japanese population really.
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Old 04-29-2013, 01:37 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozy_Flame View Post
Of course you want to see those areas, but you can find some great finds outside of these areas too. Remember, Tokyo isn't defined by the tourist / Gaijin hangouts that Trip Advisor, Lonely Planet and the Rough Guide recommend.

First time I went, it was about 100 yen to $1 Canadian in 2007. Two years later I went back and it was 75 yen. Last year it was about 82. I would recommend to the OP to monitor the exchange rate at the most general levels of prudence.

I do agree about the pride thing. You'll never see a happier group of McDonald's employees when you order. All smiles and sincere politeness in every they do. A simple microcosm of the larger Japanese population really.
Never once got that touristy feel in Japan. It was actually pretty weird being in a country where I was constantly surrounded only by Japanese people. I was there aobut 2 weeks and saw hardly any non-Japanese people the entire time. The only area where there was anything close to a crowd of tourists was the art museum.
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Old 04-29-2013, 02:00 PM   #11
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Assuming they still exist, the hundred yen stores (aka dollar stores) are good places to find little goofy souvenir things to bring back home. Another vote for grocery store cuisine.

I'm sure your classmates will make friends with you and be able to show you the good places to go and the odd hidden gem.

For packing tips visit onebag.com.
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Old 04-29-2013, 07:09 PM   #12
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Great stuff, really appreciated. Even now it's still feeling much like a dream that I'm actually going. Always have been on the 'Would be nice to do' list.

There's going to be a weekend where I'll be staying with a host family. Hopefully most of the general etiquette will be covered in the following meetings but something like tipping is (relatively) new for me.

Been watching the conversion rate for a while and decided to pull the trigger last week just to give a little leeway in getting my money in time. 1 CDN to 93 JPN.
Another generic question now that I think of it; where are some other places to exchange money before hand? I did mine through TD and known of the various conversion booths/stores but is there one that really vary from the others?
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Old 04-29-2013, 07:23 PM   #13
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I found outside of travel, it was comparable prices to Calgary as well. When I went, we got some sort of train pass before going to Japan and that saved a lot of money. (EDIT : not sure about hotels though, we stayed with friends)

Japan is the king of little souvenirs because in Japanese culture, I guess its manners to bring back something after you travel to relieve the guilt of leaving work to travel. Yeah, sounded weird to me too.
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Old 04-29-2013, 10:02 PM   #14
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I don't know how much of a gamer / nerd you are, but you can't go to Tokyo without a visit to Akihibara electric town . . . . Go to Super Potato - you won't be disappointed.
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Old 04-30-2013, 12:00 AM   #15
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Quote:
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I don't know how much of a gamer / nerd you are, but you can't go to Tokyo without a visit to Akihibara electric town . . . . Go to Super Potato - you won't be disappointed.
Gamer/nerd or not, a visit to Tokyo without Akihibara seems incomplete. Sugar Potato though, got it.
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Old 04-30-2013, 01:20 AM   #16
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Quote:
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Gamer/nerd or not, a visit to Tokyo without Akihibara seems incomplete. Sugar Potato though, got it.
Super potato, dumb Gaijin!!
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Old 04-30-2013, 08:23 AM   #17
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Super potato, dumb Gaijin!!
If you squint it's close enough!
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Old 04-30-2013, 08:50 AM   #18
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In terms of money, change before you get here. Banks here charge almost 10% more for switching over so do it before you leave. You can use credit cards but for the most part it is a safe, cash based society so don't worry about carrying more around than you normally would back home - it's normal for me to walk around with a few hundred in my pocket and not worry (and I feel broke if I have less than 5000 yen - $50 on me).
Most of the posters here are right - you can do it on a budget as there are a lot of options nowadays for eating/drinking on the cheap (look out for the everything including beer and food 290 yen/350 yen joints if that's your speed). If you're planning on spending even a few days in Kyoto or somewhere else invest in the JR pass as well for that part of the trip.
Senshu university is pretty damn central (almost smack in the middle between Akihabara in the east, and Shibuya in the west), but the area it's in a little more business-y (Kudan####a area) Kudan s h i t a (silly swear filter no speak Japanese) and less touristy so I suspect you'll be moving out of the neighborhood more often than not once school's out.
If you're staying close that should be a good kicking off point tho. In any event, enjoy! Should be good fun. I did my first study tour to Japan back in the nineties and I've been here ever since (minus the seven years of the "Young Guns" run which is the only period in recent memory I've lived in Calgary).
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Old 04-30-2013, 09:09 AM   #19
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Quote:
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I don't know how much of a gamer / nerd you are, but you can't go to Tokyo without a visit to Akihibara electric town . . . . Go to Super Potato - you won't be disappointed.
Yes!

Was just going to post this. I hate video games but loved this.

I forgot what the place is called, but there is a 8 story arcade in the heart of Akihibara. There you will find the original TMNT game like they had at the NE Food For Less.

They also have the original Wayne Gretzky's hockey, Street Fighter, etc...

This place is cool.

I loved Japan.

The must see thing in Tokyo is the Tsukiji fish market.
I thought Osaka was pretty cool too.
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Old 04-30-2013, 09:58 AM   #20
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Quote:
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If you're staying close that should be a good kicking off point tho. In any event, enjoy! Should be good fun. I did my first study tour to Japan back in the nineties and I've been here ever since (minus the seven years of the "Young Guns" run which is the only period in recent memory I've lived in Calgary).

Nihongo ga, dekimasu ka? Chotto wakarimasu demo jotzu janai.

(Romaji ne!)
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