Yokohama, Landmark Tower

My last post was about Yokohama’s China town which was amazing, but that’s not all Yokohama has to offer! Yokohama also has a shopping center in a red brick warehouse, a huge amusement park with a marine life aquarium, two different types of noodle museums, but my biggest recommendation is Yokohama landmark tower!

There are three reasons you might want to visit Yokohama’s Landmark Tower. It has the five-star Royal Park Hotel, the adjoining Landmark Plaza that is full of shopping and dining, and the Sky Garden.

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The Yokohama Landmark Tower is 273 meters tall and right at the top, there is a Sky Garden. The Sky Garden is on the 69th-floor and gives you a full 360 view of Yokohama. You would think that standing in an elevator for 69 floors and having to wait for people to get in and out at there desired floors would be an absolute nightmare but no! The Landmark Tower’s elevator is an attraction in itself! It is the fastest elevator in Japan and the second fastest in the world. Beaten in 2004 by the Taipei 101. 

The Landmark Tower climbs 69 floors in 39 seconds and gets up to 45.0 km/h! That might not seem like a lot but in an elevator, it is very unnerving.

The top deck of the Landmark tower is a really chill place to look at the cityscape and enjoy a coffee, coffee float, beer, and nachos. You can have your caricature painted in any cartoon style you want, and on clear days you can even see Mount Fuji which is over 51 miles away! It costs 1000 Yen (about £6.50) and you can stay up there all day if you want. I went when it was practically empty, but I think this was because it was quite a cloudy day.

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This marks my final day in Yokohama but I will definitely be back! A two-day visit simply wasn’t enough to see and do it all.

Exploring Asia’s biggest China Town | Yokohama

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Yokohama has many things to see and do and at the center of it all is China Town. Yokohama has the largest China Town in all of Asia! That’s one hell of a brag! The reason for this is when Yokohama opened its ports to foreign trade in 1859, a lot of Chinese workers and seamen stayed and settled down here.

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One of the main reasons I recommend going here is the food! There is amazing street food everywhere you look! Crepes, steamed buns, ramen, and the sheer amount of authentic Chinese restaurants is breathtaking!

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I ate at the Chojo Hanten restaurant which made the best vegetarian alternatives! I found the restaurant using Happycow. Happycow is an amazing website dedicated to helping vegans and vegetarians find places to eat. I have mentioned Happycow a few times in my blog here and if you are vegetarian or vegan I highly recommend you check it out.

Yokohama really comes alive when the sun goes down. China Town and the surrounding port really light up with decorations and modern art installations. I am currently planning my next visit.

Even though the Chinese New Year celebrations are over, it does not mean that China Town is any less of a must visit location! The town is bustling every day with Chinese restaurants, businesses, and shops! You will be sure to find something that grabs your attention. Check out www.booking.com for the latest offers!

Ginza and Shimbashi

Ginza

So on my day off, I decided that I was going to explore Ginza. It’s been a recommendation of my housemate for weeks so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s one of Tokyo’s top shopping districts and I was super surprised at how western it is. It’s like the Paris of Japan. So many shops and cafes I was there for literally hours!

Apparently, it was built on a swamp and it’s where silver coins were minted in 1612 but after a fire in the 1800s that pretty much wiped out the whole city, the Japanese government decided to modernize. So now it has a huge collection of shops, restaurants, and bars. The best time to go is during the weekend because the giant street that runs right through the shopping district is closed to cars.

I have been to Paris and Italy but I have never seen so many designer shops and shops without price tags on the items if you know what I mean. It’s not all retail though, just down the street a five-minute walk away is a place called Shimbashi there are lots of things to see.

The Giant Ghibli Clock

Or the Nitele Big Clock. It’s like a huge steampunk cuckoo clock. Built from over twenty-seven tonnes of copper and steel, thirty feet high and over sixty feet in width. It springs to life a few times a day. Little characters move around. blacksmiths hammering stuff, a guy spinning a wheel and cannons moving around. It took six years to complete and is thought to be inspired by the film Howl’s Moving Castle as they were both made at the same time although nothing is confirmed. It’s amazing to watch!

Ghibli clock

Caretta Shiodome winter illumination

Every year the Shiodome mall puts on a light show and time the lights with music from Disney movies. Now I’m not a crazy massive fan of Disney and haven’t been since I was ten years old but it’s pretty good. When I was there it was playing songs from the movie Beauty and the Beast.

Caretta Shiodome winter illumination

food

It’s no surprise that given Ginza is so big and so full of shops and attractions (and being part of Japan) you would think that there is going to be one or two “nice restaurants” well you’d be right! Anything you could think of! French, Italian, Indian, you name it Ginza has the best version of it. But For me, every time I go to that area I always eat at the same place. Freoles! It’s a burrito place just inside the main doors of the Shiodome on level one.

In Japan, there are precious few opportunities to eat like you would at home, at least not without breaking the bank and Even then there will be a Japanese twist on it but here at Freoles I can confirm that if you want an uncompromised and not so expensive Burrito, Freoles is your place. (Vegetarian options as well)

Burrito

Just want to add that I’m a big fan of Christmas lights and am always super bummed they get taken down the moment Christmas is over. Well, not in Japan!

Here they aren’t “Christmas lights” they are “winter lights” so they stay up a lot longer than the rest of the world.

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Japanese christmas lights

 

If you come to Japan I highly recommend you check out Ginza and Shimbashi.

Things I wish I knew before I moved to Japan

Cat

When I moved to Japan I thought I had packed everything but the kitchen sink… And the cat. Arriving in Japan made me realize that I was not prepared at all.

Clothes

If you’re planning an extended stay in Japan prepare for all seasons. Japan isn’t like the UK where winter is a bit cold and muggy, and spring is a bit muggy and cold, and fall is a combination of both. Japan has seasons. Real seasons! Summer is very hot (like 38′ at night hot.) Winter is very cold.  You can set your watch by it! When the weatherman says Summer starts on this day or there is going to be rain at 3pm today, that isn’t an estimate, he’s telling you the day the weather will change for summer or the time the rain will happen. This might be nothing new to some of my readers in America or India but to us Brits if someone had told us particular weather was going to happen and it DID we would probably burn them at the stake. Needless to say, my insulated T-shirts killed me in the summer and now 5 layers deep and I’m still shivering.

Drugs

No, not that kind. I mean Paracetamol, Oxymetazoline, Codeine, or just anything stronger than the weakest Ibuprofen you have ever taken in your life. Some shops don’t even know what Paracetamol is and the shops that do stock it will tell you its actually called Tylenol and its about 200-300mg per tablet. And there is six in each pack. So to take a normal UK dose you would need to take four-five tabs. Oh! And that will be 1,210 Yen (£8.37). You can buy sixteen 500mg tablets at Boots for twenty-five pence. It really doesn’t cost much to come prepared. And if you have a penchant for the stronger analgesic don’t even think about it. Co-Codamol, Codeine, Zapain, Solpadiene, Solpadiene-Max, Co-dydramol, Tramadol, whatever you want to call our little Poppy friend in drug form is completely illegal without a prescription.

Speaking of things that are illegal, this goes out to all my Vaping buddies. E-cig liquid with nicotine in it is also not available. Its legal to have, but not to sell. So make sure you stock up. Apparently, a merchant made Nicotine cig liquid in Kyoto once and was arrested for his troubles. The Tobacco industry pretty much runs Japan so if its bad for business its bad for Japan. But that doesn’t make any sense! Because there is a vape cafe or a vape shop on almost every corner in the big cities. Its super popular here. Almost as if Japan has seen the rest of the world vaping and wondered why they can’t! But because its Japan and people don’t tend to uproar or protest for a healthier option they just get on with smoking real cigarettes and vape at the same time.

Money

If you are on a Working Holiday Visa coming from the UK you are told to have either £1,500 and a return ticket or £2500 to last until you get a job. However, unless you go to the ward office the moment you touch down to get your residency card, have your bank application sent off the same day, have your application approved that month, apply for a job the moment you receive your bank card and get the job within the second month, work all month and then finally get paid in the third month and live in absolute squalor in the meantime, £1,500 will not last you! In fact, £2,500 won’t last you if eating every day is a thing you like to do. Tokyo is like London when it comes to prices, and the Pound to Yen at the moment is like bringing a Dollar to a Pound fight. My advice would be to bring as much money as you possibly can, have a backup credit card or two, grab either an N26 or a Revolt card to allow free withdrawals from ATM machines, (seriously wish I knew about this before I came) and get a teaching profile up as soon as possible! I recommend either hello-sensei.com or eigopass.com. This will not supply you with any kind of real wage for a few weeks and you can’t rely on it to pay your bills. However, a few thousand Yen every other day for chatting to some guy or girl to help him or her with there conversational English will help. Unless you’re a woman… You could probably turn teaching English into an empire. More on that in a later blog.

Buying cheap

Again, Japan (specifically Tokyo) is an expensive place to live but it does have really cheap stores. I didn’t discover these until my second month but there are a few places like. Can do, Seria, Daiso, Lawson store 100 (not to be confused with Natural Lawson which is one of the most expensive places to buy food.) That sell clothes, food, containers, plates, cutlery, the list goes on!

As soon as you arrive find your closest supermarket! Don’t rely on that oh so convenient 7/11 just down the street. You will find the exact same items and more for half the price in a supermarket.

Japanese

Don’t think that just because you are coming to Japan that you will pick up the language just by listening to people speaking Japanese, you won’t. You will end up getting here and feel like you’re being talked over in some sort of crazy alien arithmetic. Start studying now! When you’re here the last thing you are going to want to do is to sit inside studying. Download audio tapes, download apps, buy a book or sixteen. I highly recommend starting with Duolingo to get you started with Hiragana. When you know Hiragana you can start to actually learn the language as Hiragana is the most basic form of Japanese. Yea it’s a tough language.

Travel

It’s by rail or by bus. Nothing else! Taxis in Japan are for people who work in Japan and have money to burn. There is Uber but trust me you will order ONCE. 8,000 Yen (£55) lighter just to go down the street and you will never order one again. And don’t listen to anyone that says Japan Taxi is cheaper. Yea they are, about £5 cheaper. My advice would be to pick up a Suica or a Pasmo card from the airport machines. Top it up with a good amount of money, walk to the second closest train station and get off at the second closest station to your house. For me, I have found that each train station is about five to ten-minute walk from each other so not staying on the line for the whole journey will save you thousands of Yen per month.

Just a few things I wish I knew before I came to Japan and wanted to let others know to come better prepared than I did.

Welcome to Japan

MANBOO

The problem with the taxi option is that I have taken three taxis since I have been in Japan and all of them cost me north of 50 quid. The first two where Uber, until I was told Uber in Japan, isn’t the same as it is the UK. Uber in Japan is used by businessmen and CEOs that require a “professional driver” so I was told to use Japan Taxi which to be fair, was a bit cheaper (by about 1000 yen-about seven odd quid), so not much of a change really.

The problem with the second option was that hotels in Tokyo can be on the very, very! VERY! expensive side. I could get a love hotel for six to twelve hours but I was a bit weirded out by it at the time. As for just staying up and partying all night, well, although I am a binge drinking English man, bars typically close at 3am here and the trains don’t start until 6 giving me 3 hours homeless time. And then I discovered ManBoo.

Manboo is an internet cafe with three room options, you have your standard room with internet access, a tv room with a comfy recline-able chair, and a room with both Internet access, A TV and a bed. Now, when I say “room” and “bed” I use the terms very loosely. By room, I mean cubicle much like a typical office style cubicle that reaches a bit further up, say about 6ft with a lockable door, and when I say bed, I mean a bit of a thinner landing mat you would typically see in gym class, or a martial arts school.

The lobby area is more like a library with rows upon rows of every manga you can think of and you can take the books and comics to your room and chill out in private with your favorite manga and help yourself to unlimited free soft drinks, coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Cheap food is also available from vending machines and I don’t mean your typical packets of crisps and chocolate bar type of vending machines, I mean real food vending machines, noodles, pasta, fried chicken, chips, dumplings etc.

I booked for twelve hours in the highest price room, TV, internet, bed, the works. I didn’t need twelve hours but I wanted to experience as much as I could of this strange place and maybe get some sleep. How wrong and naive I was.

Sleep was not a possibility. As you might expect a cubicle within a massive room filled with computer equipment and TVs was about the temperature of your average sized server room. The aircon did very little to help, especially as my cubicle was on the top floor and elevated towards the ceiling meaning that heat could easily get in but not out. The people inside the cubicle next to mine were (and I’m just going off the grunting, knocking, moving and giggling) having a very good time, and just when I thought it was over, it would start up again ten-fifteen minutes later. So either there was a pair of newlyweds with the stamina of Rambo on bull shark steroids or these places are frequented by a particular worker, and it makes sense!

A cheap room that you can pay for by the hour, with a mat, no questions asked, is the perfect place to engage in questionable nighttime activities. This kind of made me wonder, what went on in MY room before I got here… on my easily wiped down crash mat… noticing that the room wasn’t what I would call clean…

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the night chilling by the free drinks bar or bolt upright careful not to touch anything, watching Japanese TV (which is a whole blog post by itself). Needless to say, I will not be staying in an internet cafe again anytime soon.

Internet cafes have a use (for all kinds of people) and I am sure there are lots of people that would just like to book a room where they can play games, read manga, watch TV and have free drinks all night. In my teens I would be happy to say I was one of those people, however, my view of internet cafes in Japan is that they are now more of a sex den than a nerds paradise.

Check out some of my horror story’s of Living in a Japanese share house.

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