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Anthony Joh

Anthony Joh has been a world traveler since birth, having lived in Canada, USA, Thailand and eventually settling in Japan.

Sado: Island of Gold and the Crested Ibis

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Sado is an island of sprawling rice fields, uncrowded beaches, and sightseeing spots that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. From the gold mines to the ibis conservation center, Sado offers experiences unlike any others in Japan.

The car ferry to Sado Island (佐渡) runs along Route 350, a highway that passes over the ocean, through Sado Island, and back over the ocean again to mainland Japan. The two and a half hour boat ride can make you forget that Sado is still considered a city of Niigata Prefecture.

The island itself is the sixth largest in Japan, but a reliable bus system operates throughout the island so that even those without a car will be able to hit all the major sightseeing spots . A weekend trip isn’t nearly enough time to see everything, but it’s plenty to schedule a journey to two of the most popular spots on Sado: the gold mine Sado Kinzan and the crested ibis conservation center Toki Forest Park.

Sado Kinzan – An Island Gold Mine

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A gold mine that opened in 1601 and continued operations for over 300 years, Sado Kinzan has a long, fascinating past. At the same time it was the pride of Japan, once under control of the Tokugawa Shogunate and providing gold to cast koban coins, it was also involved in such practices as shipping the nation’s homeless to work in the mines.

For those curious about the working conditions, Sohdayukoh, one of at least five Sado Kinzan mines open to the public, displays scenes from the daily lives of the miners, as acted out by robots. The robots may give the tour the vibe of a Disney attraction, but the course is packed with information about the day-to-day operations in the mines during the Edo period.

On exiting the Sohdayukoh mine, visitors can go to the gold mine museum to see historical exhibits detailing the koban (gold coin) casting process and displays with authentic Sado koban.

In addition, visitors are welcome to try picking up a very heavy bar of gold. Those who are able to pick up the gold bar and pull it out of the hole in its display win a gift card, which is small consolation for not being able to keep the bar of gold.

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Just outside the gift shop, not too far from the museum, a food stall sells gold-flecked vanilla ice-cream and coffee, the perfect close to a tour of the gold mines.

Toki Forest Park – Saving the Japanese Crested Ibis

Possibly one of the most famous sightseeing spots on Sado, Toki Forest Park is a crested ibis conservation center just 20 minutes by bus from Ryotsu Port. Before even going to Toki Forest Park, you will undoubtedly see this ibis, red-headed with white or pink feathers, in murals and as the inspiration for souvenirs at both Niigata Port and Ryotsu Port.

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All Japanese crested ibises born in Japan officially went extinct in 2003, but thanks to the efforts of the Toki Forest Park’s Sado Japanese Ibis Conservation Center and the crested ibises sent from China, these beautiful birds are gradually being released again into the wild on Sado. Japanese crested ibises, called toki (朱鷺) in Japanese, often make national news when an egg hatches or when one flies to mainland Japan.

The Toki Forest Park gives the public the chance to learn about the history of crested ibis conservation and, of course, view the rare crested ibis up close. Several varieties of ibises are kept at the park, with a crested ibis family housed in a large, grassy enclosure being the main attraction. When the ibises are feeling brave, they will walk mere centimeters away from the windows on their enclosure, much to the delight of the visitors.

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Sado is an island of sprawling rice fields, uncrowded beaches, and sightseeing spots that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. From the gold mines to the ibis conservation center, Sado offers experiences unlike any others in Japan. Have you had the chance to visit Sado?

Directions to and around Sado Island, Niigata Prefecture

The easiest way from Tokyo to Sado is to take the MAX Toki Shinkansen (bullet train) to Niigata Station. From Niigata Station, take a bus to Niigata Port. From Niigata port, you can take a high-speed jet foil boat (about 12000 yen roundtrip) or a low-speed car ferry (about 5000 yen roundtrip in second class) to Ryotsu Port on Sado Island.

The main mode of transportation on Sado is car, but the island also has a reliable bus system (with cheap day passes) and bicycles for rental.
See the Sado Tourism Association’s website for more details about access and transportation.

Sado Kinzan (Gold Mine)

Ride Niigata Kotsu Sado’s Honsen Line bus (“Main” line, yellow) from Ryotsu Port Terminal to the Aikawa stop. From Aikawa, take a taxi (5 minutes) to Sado Kinzan or switch to the Nanaura Kaigan Line (“Nanaura Coast” line, blue) and then get off at the Sado Kinzan stop. The trip takes about 1 hour from Ryotsu Port to Sado Kinzan by bus.
See website for car access details.
Sado Kinzan Official Website

Toki Forest Park (Japanese Crested Ibis Conservation Center)
See website for bus and car access details.
Toki Forest Park Official Website

Official Sado Tourism Website

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GPod 20: Best Podcasts About Japan

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After a short break Anthony Joh is back on the air with another episode of the GPod. On this show he reviews some of the other great podcasts about Japan.

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After a short break, Anthony Joh is back on the air with another episode of the GPod.

On this show he recaps some of the most popular articles that have been posted to the GaijinPot Blog.

In the second part of the show he reviews some of the other great podcasts about Japan. Podcasts are a convenient method to learn more about the realities of living in Japan.

Audio Podcasts

Just Japan
The Just Japan podcast is produced by Kevin O’Shea, a popular YouTuber who lives in Kobe, Japan. Kevin has been living in Japan for a number of years now after moving here from South Korea. On his show he shares his insights into life in Japan as well as interviews with other long time expats.

A Short History of Japan
If you are interested in the history of Japan then A Short History of Japan podcast is a must listen. Narrator Cameron Foster does a masterful job of weaving a compelling tale of some of the best and most important bits of Japanese history. If you like history of just good story telling then check out this podcast.

Japan Eats
Although this podcast is not as active as it used to be, the past shows still provide an entertaining listen about the food of Japan. Hosted by the trio of Ken Worsley, Garrett DeOrio and Christopher Pellegrini, Japan Eats covers a wide range of food related topics.

Let’s Talk Japan
Hosted by Nick Harling, Let’s Talk Japan is a twice-monthly, interview-format podcast covering a range of Japan-related topics; including traditional arts & culture, internationalization, English language education, and current events.

Tokyo Cheapo
This podcast helps break the myth that Tokyo is crazy expensive. Hosted by Chris Kirkland, each show covers tips on saving money but it goes beyond that. From festivals, to food, to trips around Japan, the Tokyo Cheapo podcast is a great listen for anyone interested in living in Japan.

Tokyo Podcast
Before there was the GPod there was Tokyo Podcast. Started by Anthony Joh when he first came to Japan the interview style podcast covers 50 shows with a wide range of topics. The show is not being updated anymore as Anthony now hosts the GPod but many of the shows are still relevant today and it’s fun to hear about Anthony’s first days in Japan.

Video Podcasts

Bad Communication
The Bad Communication podcast is a weekly video podcast hosted by the trio of Alex Kobayashi, Andrew Hawkins and Hiroki Matsuuchi the show is a lighthearted look at top stories in Japan.

Two and a Half Oyajis
Hosted by two well known gaijin oyajis, this video podcast is a weekly live video podcast. The hosts are long time Japan residents Hikosaemon and Gimmeaflakeman who bring you their take on the latest news and current events happening in Japan.

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Join us every week on the GPod for a new interview with a fascinating guest about life in Japan.

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GPod 19: Anime Addicts Anonymous Podcast

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Mitsugi and Chiaki from the Anime Addicts Anonymous Podcast are on the GPod to discuss their top five landmark films that have helped define the world of anime.

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The genre of anime films have exploded in popularity around the world recently and to help us understand this phenomenon Anthony has invited Mitsugi and Chiaki from the Anime Addicts Anonymous Podcast to discuss their top five landmark films that have helped define the world of anime.

Akira
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
Release Date: July 16th, 1988

akira

A film that was so influential it helped create an anime distribution system in America, Akira is considered a forerunner of the second wave of anime fandom that began in the early 1990s and has since gained a massive cult following.

Akira not only influenced much of the art in the anime and manga world but is also been cited as a major influence on live-action films ranging from The Matrix to Chronicle.

Spirited Away
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Release Date: July 20th, 2001

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Spirited Away was the first anime film to win an Oscar and has been heralded by critics and fans as one of the greatest animated films of all time.

Directed by Studio Ghibli co-founder Hayao Miyazaki, Spirited Away has been analyzed as Hayao’s social commentary on the Japanese society during the bubble economy of the 1990s.

Redline
Director: Takeshi Koike
Release Date: August 14th, 2009

redline

A landmark in what is achievable with hand drawn animation, Redline is a visually stunning film that took 7 years to produce and used over 100,000 hand-made drawings.

Grave of the Fireflies
Director: Isao Takahata
Release Date: April 16th, 1988

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Released alongside the famed, My Neighbor Totoro as a theatrical double feature, Grave of the Fireflies suffered commercially as audiences turned away from the start anti-war message in the film.

While the film might have not been commercially successful it received nearly universal acclaim from critics who have touted it as one of the greatest films of all time.

Ghost in the Shell
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Release Date: 1995

ghost

Ghost in the Shell was one of the first anime films to use a mix of traditional cell animation with modern computer graphics. The film strived for a high level of realism with the animation director pointing out that in the tank battle scene the bullets create sparks when hitting metal, but do not spark when a bullet strikes stone.

It is a film that has defined the cyperpunk genre in anime and critical attention has been paid to the film’s focus on sexuality and gender identity.

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Gakuten Student Art Exhibition

An offshoot of the popular Design Festa art exhibition, Gakuten is an international art festival that is open to any student enrolled in an educational institution.

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GPod 18: Teaching English in Japan

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In this show we talk about the negatives and positives of teaching English in Japan at a large and small eikaiwa school.

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Much has been written about teaching English in Japan, some of it positive and some of it negative. However the fact remains that it is the main entry point for a large number of foreigners choosing to work in Japan.

On this episode of the GPod, Anthony Joh talks to Wesley Christenson who first came to Japan through a teaching program by the large Eikaiwa company, Aeon. Wes talks about the challenges and benefits of working in a large company and ultimately why he chose to leave Aeon for a role in a smaller language school.

Now working at Kids Duo, Wes is excited about the opportunities that the school offers. Even though he took a pay cut to work at Kids Duo, the teacher friendly environment is something he greatly appreciates.

Take the GaijinPot User Survey for a chance to win 2 Business Class Tickets on Turkish Airlines!

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Stop Annoying Email Message Alerts From SoftBank

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Do you hate the annoying email alert message from SoftBank that shows up every time you get a message?

Follow this simple guide to learn how to turn off the alert and keep your phone spam free.

Fast mobile internet is one of the great things about living in Japan. Decades before the mobile internet took over the world Japan was a technology leader with camera phones, streaming video, mobile email and more. Unfortunately the jump to smart phones caught many Japanese companies off guard and now the latest high tech phones are coming from American and Korean companies.

One legacy of the early Japanese mobile internet boom is the use of email rather than SMS for communicating between mobile users. Previous 2G phones in Japan were not able to send SMS messages to someone on a different network and as a result every mobile phone came with a carrier specific email address such as, docomo.ne.jp, ezweb.ne.jp, i.softbank.jp.

If you are a smart phone user then chances are you’ll never need to use the carrier email but annoyingly you will still receive a full screen email alert message every time you receive an email.

SoftBank Annoying Alert

This can be incredibly annoying when your carrier email address gets picked up by a spam bot and suddenly you get flooded with emails. Fortunately there is an easy way to turn off the alert and protect yourself from unwanted spam.

1. Log into your SoftBank account by visiting My SoftBank on your phone. You will then be prompted to enter your phone number and password.

My SoftBank

2. Once logged in scroll down the page and tap the email icon to access your email settings.

My SoftBank

3. Scroll down until you see the Eメール(i) options and tap the blue button that says 次へ (next).

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4. Here you are presented with your email options. To make it harder for spammers to add you change your email address to something complex. A simple email like john@i.softbank.jp is much easier for spammers to guess than john_i29384@i.softbank.jp.

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4. To turn off the email alert tap the “Newly arriving e-mail notification setting” and change it to “Not Send”

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Done! No more annoying email alerts from SoftBank.

Thanks to Reddit user mkthree for the tip.

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What Is The True Cost Of Living In Japan?

From the big cities to the countryside, in this article we break down what it costs to live in Japan.

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GPod 17: An American Piano

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An American Piano is based on the true story of a young Japanese girl who played the piano for POWs during WWII and how it affected their lives.

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The film “An American Piano” is based on the extraordinary true story of a young Japanese girl, Youko Koshida, who played the piano for Prisoners of War during World War II and how it affected their lives.

War is only possible when the enemy is dehumanised. “An American Piano” is a story of humanity, compassion and the universality of music in helping to heal the rifts between wartime rivals.

On this episode of the GPod Anthony Joh talks to director Paul Leeming and Writer/Producer Hamish Downie about their film and the challenges and opportunities of being filmmakers in Japan.

We are also joined by Sarah Feinerman from Design Festa who joins us to talk about their new student art initiative called Gakuten. An offshoot of the popular Design Festa art exhibition, Gakuten is an international art festival open to students.

Gakuten is open to any student enrolled in an educational institution. Click here to register your booth.

gakuten

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GPod 16: WHILL type-A Personal Mobility Device

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On this show Anthony is joined by WHILL engineer Atushi Mizushima and brand evangelist Julia Olson to talk about the impact the WHILL type-A is having on wheelchair users and the public’s perception of people in wheelchairs.


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There has been a lot written about how Japan has lost it’s technological edge and that it’s not as internationally competitive compared to American or Korean companies as it used to be.

While this may be true for the established Japanese tech giants, the same can’t be said for Japanese startups. The start up scene in Japan is alive and growing with small innovative companies pushing the boundaries of what technology and the human spirit can do.

One such company is WHILL, makers of the WHILL type-A personal mobility device which is a radical new design of the traditional powered wheelchair. On this show Anthony is joined by WHILL engineer Atushi Mizushima and brand evangelist Julia Olson to talk about the impact the WHILL type-A is having on the people who use wheelchairs and the public’s perception of people in wheelchairs.

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GPod Random Pick of the Week!

A talented illustrator, Hama-house draws unique speed-sketches of daily life in Japan.

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GPod 15: Let’s Talk About Sumo!

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More than just two big guys in diapers, sumo is considered by many to be Japan’s unofficial national sport. With a long history, complex rituals and spectacular matches, sumo is a fascinating journey into the heart and soul of Japan.


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Dating back over 2000 years, sumo is as much a sport of Japan as it is part of the culture of Japan. With many rituals and customs, the sport of sumo has it’s origins in the Shinto religion.

A sumo match consists of two wrestlers (rikishi) who fight in a ring called the dohyou and the winner is the one who pushes his opponent out of the ring or causes his opponent to touch the ground.

While these rules may sound simple sumo is a vastly complex and entraining sport. To help understand this sport we are joined by Jason Harris who runs a popular YouTube channel dedicated to all things sumo.

Anthony is also pleased to support the Knights in White Lycra and their charity ride to raise money for the recovery work in Minamisanriku. The riders are Tokyo-based salarymen who plan to ride the 465 kms from Tokyo to Minamisanriku, in less than four days. None of them cycle for a living, a few need to shed some weight and a rather greater number have long said good-bye to their youth!

To find out more information about their ride and lend your support visit their Facebook page.

Michael Gakuran makes a return appearance on the GPod to tell us his experience in running the Tokyo Marathon. Not only was this Michael’s first time running the Tokyo Marathon but it was his first time running any marathon. He talks us through the gruelling five and half hour run and offers some training tips for anyone who wants to run next year.

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GPod 14: 42 Japanese Language Learning Hacks

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We continue our Japanese Language Series with Olly Richards, a polyglot who speaks seven languages. Olly joins the GPod to talk about his list of 42 Insane Japanese Language Learning Hacks!


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We continue our Japanese Language Series with Olly Richards, a polyglot who speaks seven languages. Olly joins the GPod to talk about his list of 42 Insane Japanese Language Learning Hacks!

Olly asked some of the top languages learners from around the web to send in their best language learning tips and curated the answers into his list. We don’t have time to cover all 42 but Olly is going to talk about his top five tips for learning Japanese.

  • You must enjoy the learning process.
  • Use full sentences in your flashcards.
  • Write in Japanese and have it corrected by a native speaker.
  • Find ways to start talking as soon as possible.
  • Think in patterns.

For the full list of 42 Insane Japanese Language Learning Hacks visit I Will Teach You A Language.

We introduce a new study series on GaijinPot Study. Written by Olly this series will help you kickstart your Japanese studies in six simple steps. If you are ready to start learning Japanese head over to the GP Study section and Kickstart Your Japanese Study.

We are also joined by Ryoko Takei who is a Tokyo based opera singer and runs a website dedicated to promoting Japanese culture through her music. For anyone who likes to learn through song, or if you’re a fan of Japanese opera visit Foster Japanese Songs for more information.

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Kickstart Your Japanese Study

Follow the steps laid out in these six articles and your approach to studying Japanese will undergo a transformation, bringing you one step closer to fluency!

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How to get from Haneda Airport to Tokyo

haneda Image © Hideyuki KAMON

Since Haneda Airport opened an international terminal in 2010, more international passengers are arriving and departing from this airport. It is Japan’s busiest airport and with its close proximity to Tokyo it is growing as an important gateway to Japan.

Since Haneda Airport opened an international terminal in 2010, more and more international passengers are arriving and departing from this airport.

One of the main benefits of Haneda Airport is it’s close proximity to Tokyo compared to Narita Airport. From Haneda Airport to downtown Tokyo, there are 4 main transportation options; Tokyo Monorail, Keikyu line, limousine busses, and taxis.

Tokyo Monorail

The easiest way to travel from Haneda Airport to Tokyo is via the Tokyo Monorail Haneda Airport Line (東京モノレール羽田空港線).

The monorail runs between Haneda Airport and JR Hamamatsucho Station and has three levels of service; local, rapid and express. The different services indicate how many stops the monorail makes between the airport and Hamamatsucho Station.

Trains leave every 3 ~ 5 minutes from 5:00 am to midnight and can take as little as 20 minutes to get to Hamamatsucho Station. The price of a one way monorail ticket from Haneda international to Hamamatsucho Station is ¥470.

Keikyu Line

The Keikyū Main Line is another good option, especially for those who want to stop at a station on Toei Asakusa line. The Keikyu line travels between Haneda Airport and JR Shinagawa station in 14min.

Shinagawa station has many convenient lines such as Tokaido Shinkansen, Keihin-Tohoku line, Tokaido Main Line, Yamanote line, and Yokosuka line. Although Keikyu Line is fast, the frequency of the train is less than Tokyo Monorail. Especially in the early morning and midnight, you may have to wait long time at the platform.

Limousine Bus

The Airport Limousine bus is a convenient option as you can hop on the bus at the arrival lobby. The bus ride to Tokyo Station can take as little as 20 minutes but be warned that during rush house the travel time can be significantly longer.

The limousine bus departs every 30 to 60 minutes and costs ¥900.

Taxi

Taking a taxi from Haneda to Tokyo is not as expensive compare to a taxi from Narita but the cost can still be upwards of ¥10,000 depending on where you are going in the city.

Although taxis are pricy, it could be the only transportation option for the travelers who arrive at the airport after 11:00pm as most trains and busses into Tokyo stop operating by half past midnight.

For those who arrive late, there are two hotels in the Domestic terminal. The Haneda Excel Hotel Tokyu is available from ¥21,000 yen per night.

If you have always been curious about staying in a capsule hotel, you can do so at the First Cabin Tokyo Haneda. For only ¥4900 you can sleep in a fully equipped capsule room in the airport.

Conclusion

Haneda Aiport is Japan’s busiest airport and with its close proximity to Tokyo it is growing as an important international gateway to Japan.

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How To Get From Narita Airport To Tokyo

While Narita Airport is not as close to Tokyo as many people would like, there are a number of different options to get to the city that are suitable for a range of budgets.

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GPod 13: Intercultural Dating

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In this show we talk to Lorie and Sho about the challenges and rewards of being an intercultural couple. From punctuality to cleanliness we take a look at the extra challenge that cultural differences bring to a relationship.

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Valentines is a special day for many couples but here in Japan things are done a little differently.

While in the West you might see a long line of men buying chocolates or flowers for their special someone, here in Japan it’s the woman’s responsibility to buy a gift to give to their men.

This role reversal is just one of the unique aspects of living and dating in a new country. In this show we talk to Lorie and Sho about the challenges and rewards of being an intercultural couple.

From punctuality to cleanliness we take a look at the extra challenge that cultural differences bring to a relationship.

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How to get from Narita Airport to Tokyo

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While Narita Airport is not as close to Tokyo as many people would like, there are a number of different options to get to the city that are suitable for a range of budgets.

Choose the best one for you and enjoy your stay in Japan!

After a long flight you have finally arrived in Japan and are eager to start your trip but you might be surprised to learn that Narita Airport is not actually close to Tokyo at all.

In fact it is located in Chiba Prefecture, which is approximately 60km (37 miles) from downtown Tokyo.

The good news is that there are a number of different options for getting from Narita Airport to Tokyo depending on your time and budget.

In this article we will outline the different options so you can choose the most suitable one, which saves your time and energy for the real adventure in Tokyo!

By Bus

AIRPORT LIMOUSINE BUS
¥3,000 one way
75 – 125 minutes to Tokyo Station

The Airport Limousine Bus service operates bus service from Narita Airport to many major hotels in the greater Tokyo area. Tickets can be purchased at their ticket counter and most of the ticket staff speak English.

If you want to avoid the hustle-bustle of carrying your luggage on the train, the Airport Limousine bus is a good option. A flat rate of ¥3000 per person will take you directly from the airport to your hotel.

The downside to this service is that the bus service only goes to a certain number of hotels and if your hotel is not one of them you will still have to figure out how to get to your hotel. Your best option is to check on their website if your hotel is one that they will stop at.

Pros: easy to buy tickets, luggage storage, direct to your hotel.
Cons: pricey compared to other options, limited number of hotels.

KEISEI EXPRESS BUS
¥900 one way
90 minutes to Tokyo Station

If you are on a tight budget the Keisei Express Bus is a good option. This bus service runs every 20 minutes starting at 7:00am until 11:00pm.

Tickets can be purchased at the Keisei Bus Counter in the arrival lobby. There is one Keisei bus stop at terminal 1 and two stops at terminal 2. The bus will stop at Tokyo Station, Sukiyabashi (Ginza), and Shinonomeshako.

Check their website for a full list of timetables and prices.

Pros: inexpensive tickets, luggage storage, direct to Tokyo.
Cons: travel time is slower compared to trains, limited stops.

By Train

JR NARITA EXPRESS (N’EX)
¥1,500 one way*
60 minutes to Tokyo Station

The N’EX is a futuristic looking train that runs from Narita airport to major stations in the greater Tokyo area including, Tokyo, Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro and Shinagawa. All seats on the N’EX are reserved and tickets must be purchased at the N’EX ticket counters.

*If you hold a non-Japanese passport, N’EX offers a discounted price of a single ticket for just ¥1500. Alternatively, you can purchase a N’EX + Suica combo for ¥3500. This will give you a prepaid Suica card worth ¥2000 which covers most of the transportation in Tokyo including JR, Tokyo Metro, and buses. N’EX is great for low budget travelers.

The downside of most train travel in Japan is luggage. While the N’EX does provide a small luggage area, many city trains do not. If you are carrying a large amount of luggage or you have a large family, you might want to consider a limousine bus service as all the major train stations in Tokyo can get very crowded and confusing for the first time visitors.

Pros: discount price for foreign passport holders, runs every 30min
Cons: luggage can be a challenge, train stations are usually busy

KEISEI SKYLINER
¥2,400 one way
41 minutes to Ueno Station

Keisei Skyliner is by far the fastest transportation to get to the city. From the airport, it takes only about 40 minutes to Nippori and Ueno. If your destination is one of these two stations, Keisei Skyliner is the best option.

Even if Nippori or Ueno is not your final destination, you can always transfer to JR or metro line since Ueno station has two convenient lines; Hibiya and Ginza line. All seats are reserved for Keisei Skyliner so if you miss one, you have to buy another ticket. Being on time is very important especially for this train!

Pros: super fast transport to Tokyo, reasonable cost, runs ever 30 minutes
Cons: limited luggage storage, Ueno station will be busy

skyliner

KEISEI ELECTRIC RAILWAY

The Keisei Electric Railway offers two options; Narita Sky Access Express and Keisei Main line. Essentially the Narita Sky Access Express and Keisei Main line are the slower versions of the Keisei Skyliner. They are not as fast as Skyliner but definitely much cheaper and stop at more stations.

-Narita Sky Access Express; ¥1,200 ~ ¥1,460 one way, 59min to Nihonbashi station. Stops at Shin-Kamagaya, Higashi-Matsudo, Aoto, Nippori, Ueno, Oshiage, Asakusa, Asakusabashi, Higashinihonbashi, Ningyocho, Nihombashi, Ginza, Shimbashi, Shinagawa, Haneda Airport.

-Keisei Main Line; ¥1,000 ~ ¥1,280 one way, 71min to Ueno station. Stops at Shin-Kamagaya, Higashi-Matsudo, Aoto, Nippori, Ueno, Oshiage, Asakusa, Asakusabashi, Higashinihonbashi, Ningyocho, Nihombashi, Ginza, Shimbashi, Shinagawa, Haneda Airport.

Pros: cheapest option, multiple stops
Cons: slowest train, no luggage storage, can be busy

By Taxi

¥15,000 ~ ¥20,000
60 ~ 90 minutes

Taking a taxi anywhere in Tokyo is expensive and it is especially expensive from the airport. The convenience of a taxi is that they can take you directly to your destination, however they are the most expensive option.

There are a number of taxi services that operate from the airport and the prices and times will vary depending on your destination.

If you do decide to use a taxi service it is good to check if they have a fixed rate to go to the airport. This will usually be 20% ~ 30% cheaper than a metered rate.

Some taxi companies even offer a built in translation service in English, Chinese and Korean.

Pros: always available, direct to your destination.
Cons: very expensive.

Day Rooms and Airport Hotels

Most of the transportation options from Narita Airport stop running around midnight and will start again around 5:00am the following morning.

If your flight arrives or departs during this downtime there are a few accommodation options available to you.

A short 5 minutes by the free shuttle bus is the Narita Airport Rest Hotel. Single rooms start at ¥7200 and are good for an overnight stay.

Around Narita airport there are several cheap hotels such as APA hotel (¥2,500 per night) and the Richmond Hotels Narita (¥3,500 per night). Conveniently, most of the hotels have their own free shuttle buses from Narita airport.

If you have an extended layover at Narita Airport there is a fantastic day room facility at the airport.

Located before and after passport control, the rooms offer a bed and shower service which can be rented by the hour. The day room service starts at 7:00am until 9:00pm and located at both terminal 1 and 2.

This service is great for anyone who has a few hour layovers but doesn’t have enough time to go into Tokyo and also doesn’t want to walk around the airport the whole time.

For the full price list of day room rates visit their website.

Conclusion

While Narita Airport is not as close to Tokyo as many people would like, there are a number of different options to get to the city that are suitable for a range of budgets.

Choose the best one for you and enjoy your stay in Japan!

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How To Get From Haneda To Tokyo

Are you flying in to Haneda International Airport instead? Follow our handy guide on traveling from Haneda to Tokyo.

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GPod 12: How To Rent An Apartment In Tokyo

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One of the first major challenges that many foreigners face when moving to Japan is renting an apartment. To help us understand this process we are joined by Adam German from Real Estate Japan, who is going to guide us through the necessary steps of securing your new home in Japan.

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One of the first major challenges that many foreigners face when moving to Japan is finding a place to live. Renting an apartment in Tokyo is a complicated process filled with all sorts of historic regulations and procedures, strange acronyms, and more fees than you can possibly imagine.

To help us understand this process we are joined by Adam German from Real Estate Japan, who is going to guide us through the necessary steps of securing your new home in Japan.

How Much Does It Cost To Live In Tokyo?

One of the first things that Adam recommends is setting a realistic budget. Many real estate agents will set your rental payment at no more than 30% of your monthly income.

For example, if you want an apartment that is listed at ¥100,000/month then you have to prove you make at least ¥300,000/month.

An important note for anyone who earns their income from outside of Japan, many rental agencies will only consider the income you earn from within Japan.

Another cost to consider when renting an apartment in Tokyo is the large number of fees that you will be required to pay. This amount varies between agents but you should allot up to 6 months of monthly rent for various administrative fees.

Get All Your Paperwork Ready

Japan is a country that loves paperwork, the continued use of the fax machine is evidence of that. As we discussed in the podcast, the better you are prepared with your paperwork the faster the application process will go.

Some of the documents that you will need are:

  • Copies of your passport.
  • Copies of your residence card. (住民票 – Juminhyo)
  • Letter of employment with salary information. (在籍証明書 – zaisekishomeisho)
  • Your Japanese tax documents. (源泉徴収表 – gensenchoshuhyo)

Do You Have A Guarantor?

Having a guarantor is a very important part of Japanese culture and be prepared to hear this question A LOT, even if you’ve only been in Japan for a few days and do not know anyone. Most Japanese who need a guarantor will turn to their parents as the guarantor must be Japanese and living in Japan.

If you do not have a guarantor then you can use a guarantor company. A guarantor company is a third party insurance company that agrees to act as a guarantor. Most likely the property manager of the apartment you wish to apply for will be able to introduce their preferred guarantor company.

If you do happen to have a Japanese guarantor, they will have to prepare the following documents:

Proof of residence (住民票 – jyuminhyo)
Income statement (源泉徴収表 – gensenchuhyo)
Name stamp (印鑑証明書 – inkanshomeisho)

Be certain to give your guarantor plenty of time to get these documents ready as they will have to go to their local government office to obtain them.

Please note that your guarantor will be evaluated the same way you will be. They must show that the rent of the apartment you want to rent does not exceed 30% of their monthly income.

Learn The Lingo

So now that you have your budget and guarantor sorted out, it’s time to decide what kind of apartment do you want.

LDK is a common abbreviation used to describe the size of the apartment. It stands for Living, Dining and Kitchen, and is preceded by the number of rooms. Some examples are:

1K = one room apartment with kitchen
1DK = one room apartment with dining and kitchen area
2LDK = two room apartment with a living, dining and kitchen area

It is important to note that what we in the West would consider as a living or dining room is not the same in Japan. Typically the living, dining, kitchen area is one big room. So a 1DK is just a smaller room compared to a 1LDK.

It is no secret that many apartments in Tokyo are small. Certainly if you have the budget there are any number of sizes that you can rent but for most people new to Tokyo, be prepared to downsize dramatically.

If you are used to measuring a room in inches or centimetres, you will need to learn another unit of measurement called jo (畳). Jo is a unit of measurement based on how many tatami mats can fit in a single room.

For example, a “roku-jo” room is one that has 6 tatami mats in it. The exact size of a single tatami mat (ichi-jo) can vary from city to city so it’s best to ask your real estate agent for the exact size.

Fees, Fees And More Fees!

Besides paperwork, Japan is a land of fees. Administration fees, production fees, registration fees, doing my job fee, etc. If they can name it, they will slap a fee on it and renting an apartment is no exception.

The large number of fees associated with moving into your new apartment can be a big sticker shock for first time renters.

Some of the more common fees are:

Deposit: 2 x rent
Key Money: 1 ~ 2 x rent
Agent Fee: 1 x rent
Guarantor Fee: 1 x rent
Contract Renewal Fee: 1 x rent
Miscellaneous: ¥50,000 (insurance, cleaning, lock change, etc.)

On average you should budget to spend approximately 6 months equivalent rent in fees when you sign the rental agreement.

The No Fee UR Apartments

UR Housing, or ‘Urban Renaissance’ is a public company that offers rental housing in Tokyo without many of the usual fees associated with a traditional Japanese real estate firm.

UR housing charges no key money, agent fee, renewal fee and doesn’t require a guarantor. Additionally, they will rent out their apartments to anyone regardless of nationality.

As you can see the UR apartments offer a substantial saving compared to a regular Japanese real estate company. There are a number of real estate companies that specialize in UR apartments. Their main website can be found here.

Jiko Bukken. Ghosts stay free!

For those of you who are not superstitious then a ‘jiko bukken’ property might be perfect for you. A jiko bukken is a property where the former occupant died of unnatural causes, such as suicide, murder, fire or neglect.

By law all real estate agents must tell you that you are viewing a jiko bukken property.

Due to the superstitious nature of many Japanese people, jiko bukken properties can usually be rented at a substantial discount. As long as you don’t mind the occasional strange noise in the night, a jiko bukken might be a great way to save some money on the rent.

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Tokyo Snowpocalypse 2014!

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The Great Tokyo Snowpocalypse of 2014 has hit the city. Snarling traffic, cancelling flights and sprouting snowmen!

It was predicted to be the largest snowfall to hit Tokyo in the last 20 years!

While it started off lightly early Saturday morning by the afternoon it was coming down heavily and soon a thick layer of snow had blanketed the city.

The Japan Meteorological Agency reported that this was the largest snowfall in Tokyo since 1998. Tokyo Electric Power Company also reported about 13,300 blackouts in Tokyo as demand rose as temperatures dropped.

Both Japan Airlines and ANA cancelled domestic and international flights, leaving passengers stranded at the airport.

The best way to deal with the snow is to stay inside, crawl under the kotatsu and watch some GaijinPot videos! ;)

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Chill Out at the 2014 Sapporo Snow Festival

Every year more than two million people descend on the city of Sapporo to take part in Japan’s largest snow festival.

Featuring over two hundred ice sculptures, great food and a ton of activities for the family the Sapporo Snow Festival is a fantastic way to enjoy a day in the winter.

The 2014 Sapporo Snow Festival kicks off in Sapporo today! The festival runs from February 5 through to February 11.

Featuring more than 200 ice sculptures, live music, traditional winter foods, and a big air snowboard competition, the Sapporo Snow Festival draws people from all over the world to take part in Japan’s largest snow festival.

Odori

The Snow Festival takes place at three venues across Sapporo, but the main stage is the 12-block long Odori. It’s here on each of it’s 12 blocks that you’ll find the largest and most internationally renowned ice sculptures.

ice tower

The 6th block of the Odori is home to the Hokkaido Winter Food Park. Make your way over here to warm up over a bowl of mutton barbecue, soup curry, ramen, and a number of other Hokkaido winter favorites.

Don’t feel like eating Japanese? The International Gourmet Corner in International Square on the 11th block has you covered with specialty foods from all over the world.

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If you need to work off all that delicious food, there’s ice skating, bushwalking on skis, and the Donbei Kun Ice Slide for the kids and those who feel like kids. Best of all, the whole of the Odori is illuminated every night until 10pm. You haven’t seen the snow festival until you’ve seen it at night.

Tsudome

If you’ve got kids the Tsudome area has a variety of activities in both an indoor and outdoor venue. Inside the dome kids can enjoy “Huwa Huwa Corner” and the mini-bullet train, and you can enjoy performances put on by various groups from all over Hokkaido. You can call also shop for traditional goods at the Hokkaido Furusato Market. The thrills continue outside the dome with 3 different ice slides, snow rafting, and a number of other kid and family friendly activities.

Susukino

The third and final venue of the Sapporo Snow Festival is Susukino, home to the ice sculpting contest. In this contest you are the judge, so cast your vote for your favorite design.

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Sapporo Beer Garden

When you do finally decide to call it a day, do it right by going for dinner at the Sapporo Beer Garden. It’s the perfect way to warm up before bed after a cold day outside.

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