Thursday, 27 January 2011

Cheap Restaurants in Tokyo - It is possible to eat cheaply and well in Tokyo !

In Tokyo it is very easy to find simple, tasty food for low cost.

As a visitor you are naturally going to feel drawn to what you are used to and as in other major cities, familiarity is often accompanied by higher prices. For those who are less fearful of new places and cultures, there are an amazing array of inexpensive restaurants, bars and cafes.

Communication will always be a problem, as small restaurant owners rarely speak fluent English. Many restaurants can still function admirably when faced with a language barrier.

The restaurants to look for are those with pictures and examples of their signature dishes on the outside of their restaurants. Some have 3D versions, some have dozens of 10x8 images. If you see these restaurants, take time to study the cuisine and find one that looks appealing. Simply walk in and ask for a table to suit your party (a simple process of how many seats you require). Appoint one member of your party to communicate with the waiting staff. All this party member has to do is take the waiter to the pictures and point slowly to each meal that you require ... simple and usually welcomed by the waiting staff, who must struggle with less organised patrons.

The meal above cost just £8 for two meals and two teas. It was filling and tasty. Be aware that these restaurants are often a bit smoky, so there is always that to consider.

Condomania - It's trendy in Tokyo to Wear Rubber

Condomania - It's trendy in Tokyo to Wear Rubber

We were initially shocked, but gradually gained respect to the concept of making a condom shop very trendy in the heart of Tokyo.

Here's the website link, translated by Google - Take a look at the gift sets ;-)

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Tokyo Dome and LaQua Spa Centre in Tokyo

Tokyo Dome and LaQua Centre in Tokyo

A few hundred yards from SUIDOBASHI ST. Station in Tokyo is a Spa / Shopping / Entertainment Centre that is well worth a visit when you are in Tokyo.

The Tokyo Dome houses baseball, other sports, exhibitions and pop concerts. It has a huge capacity and while we were there we witnessed the end of a concert, where thousands of hyperactive fans turned out into the surrounding walkways, resembling a sea of excited heads (see picture below).

The complex spreads outwards from the Dome to include the LaQua Spa and Shopping / Eating Centre, also an entertainment centre that includes rides and fun experiences for kids and adults alike.

Nearby is the Tokyo Dome Hotel, one of the premier hotels in Tokyo. In the surrounding areas are pleasant 3 star hotels that offer a great central location to explore this bustling area of Tokyo.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

From the Large City Temples to the Local Community Shrines, Roman Catholicism could learn a lot from how Buddhism and Shinto have made themselves accessible to the public.

From the Large City Temples to the Local Community Shrines, Roman Catholicism could learn a lot from how Buddhism and Shinto have made themselves accessible to the public.

As a lapsed Catholic, visiting Japan has helped to clarify why my formal religious beliefs have waned over the years. The first thing that any visitor will notice when landing in Tokyo is that religious belief is absolutely ingrained in every element of life and access to a shrine is possibly easier than finding a newsagents. As far as I could see, each local community has there own small shrine, with major shrines and temples speckled around the city. These shrines are so accessible that stopping off and asking for a nice life each day seems like no effort at all. In our time here, we have seen many shrines and temples and each one has had visitors. The small ones have a steady flow throughout the day, the larger are focal points for coach parties and they are busy at all times.

Good fortune is married to a life long dedication to good behaviour, cementing the public's need to have hope in their futures with their responsibility towards family, fellow man and the world around them.

In the UK we used to be able to visit a church whenever we needed peaceful reflection, spiritual guidance or forgivness from sin ... Today, you are more likely to be confronted by a lock church door and a sign showing the regular weekly formal worship times. What we need is a shrine on each church grounds, open all of the time and available to us whenever we need to remember our place in the scheme of things and the supporting strength that the Roman Catholic church provides.

Roman Catholicism has all of the ritual, the strength of belief and massive support structure of Buddhism and Shinto, it simply lacks common accessibility for its flock.

Sadly, at the moment, I feel that I'm only welcome to a UK church if I have a tenner in my pocket.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Where can you find a Cash Machine / Dispenser in Tokyo ?

Where can you find a Cash Machine / Dispenser in Tokyo ?

A visitor to Tokyo will soon notice that finding a cash machine that recognises Visa cards can be difficult. There are lots of these machines, you just need to know where to look for them. One of the most popular and commonly accessible shops in Tokyo is the 7 Eleven store. These shops stock everything from daily requirements, such as washing powder, toothpaste, sushi packed lunches and even european wines at reasonable prices. But more importantly to the European traveller, they have cash points that serve Visa cards. They are usually positioned in an out of the way corner, but these machines are always well stocked and can dispense cash in larger amounts that the Post Offices, which are often limited to 10,000 Yen. We successfully managed to withdraw as much as 40'000 Yen, which I think is the limited daily amount stipulated by our bank, back in the UK.

I hope this helps :-)

Comparing Tokyo to London ...

It's no secret that I consider myself to be from London. Although only living there for the first 12 years of my life, I have drawn my strengths from the life experiences that I gained in those first important years. I also love cities, any cities. This visit to Tokyo is the first time that I have ever been surprised by a city. I thought that I had seen just about anything that a city could present to me ... but this one stumped me !

It's not that Tokyo is so clean, it's probably a little better than average, but no great shakes. The thing that knocked me over was the respect ... for life, for property, for personal space ... just about everything is given absolute respect in Tokyo.

As my case in point I present to you this picture of a lovely classical staircase, located a little outside of jazz club area in Tokyo. The picture is nice, but only becomes amazing when I tell you that it is secluded and OPEN TO THE PUBLIC 24 hours, without coverage from a CCTV !

In London this would have been spray painted long ago and now be covered by 24hour security to prevent the homeless from building a cardboard living room in it.

This is not weird ... It's the way things should be !

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Smoking in Tokyo ... Becoming a thing of the past

Tokyo has strict rules regarding smoking in public places. There does seem to be an acceptance that people will want to smoke out in the open, so to cater for this there are designated smoking areas all around the heavily congested city zones.

Restaurants have their own rules. Some will be all non-smoking, others will have non-smoking areas. Our experience is that most restaurants that allow smoking will send non-smokers away smelling like a fireplace. So if you want a smoke free experience, the more expensive restaurants will be for you.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Jazz Clubs in Tokyo - My Recommendation. IMHO the Best Jazz Club in Tokyo with Online Booking and Directions to find it.

Tokyo is a big city. It can be difficult for an outsider to find those warm and welcoming atmospheric surrounding from which to really experience the Japanese spirit. Viewing Japanese entertainment can be a very successful way to get closer to the heart of Japan.

You may be a seasoned Jazz fan or it may be your first time, but visiting a quality Jazz Club in Tokyo is a must for anyone wanting to expand their holiday experience.

We would recommend this Jazz Club to anyone visiting Tokyo from the West. It is a wonderful 'Basement' style club with both tables and bench bar seating. The audience is small enough to really interact with the stage and the locals are very friendly and will make you feel at home.

B-Flat Jazz Club.
6-6-4, Sakae Bldg B1,
Akasaka, Minato-ku.

Tel: 03-5563-2563 for Details
Web: - Use Google Chrome for a Good Translation

The website has a projected schedule for the month ahead and it is very easy to book your seat online, using the email address supplied on the site. You simply write to them asking if it would be possible to reserve a number of seats (You could mention that "Colin Hall San" had recommended the Bflat Club to you) and they will respond with a reservation confirmation ... You pay at the door, depending on the particular tarif for the occasion ... It's very easy.

Finding the Bflat club can be a bit tricky, as it is not on the main road, but tucked back on a minor road. Use these coordinates on Google Earth and you will be able to visualise where to look for this superb jazz club in Tokyo (  35°40'13.31"N  -  139°44'15.07"E )

Monday, 3 January 2011

Arrived home safely today. Very Long Flight from Tokyo to Amsterdam (No Magic Mushrooms this time) and on to Heathrow.

Arrived home safely today. Very Long Flight from Tokyo to Amsterdam (No Magic Mushrooms this time) and on to Heathrow. Greg very kindly picked us up from the airport, braving the M25 and waiting an hour while we fought our way through Customs and Baggage Collection. A nice journey home discussing our experiences and a stop for Burgers and Hot Chocolate. Thanks Greg ;-)

We are going to develop this blog into an overall guide to Tokyo, based upon our first hand experiences and info from many sources. Any questions will be gratefully received and replied to quickly.

Many thanks for reading ;-)

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New Years Day in Tokyo City


Our final day for getting out and about - so we just went wherever luck took us.  Year 2011 - the year of the Rabbit.... this one was a store window size cut out, just one paper fold down the middle of the sheet; every window had a different style of paper cut out - a fabulous display of craftwork.

Another amazing paper cutout - thought this might be a nice touch for weddings; instead of the usual flowered archway, the bridge and groom could burst through something similar to this?

A New Years celebratory dragon

The queue for equivalent of our  'Currys' store - it wove all around the building and back towards the next building block! 

And the queue at the front for the checkouts was just about the same..

A masked statue in front of the National Theatre

The entrance to the TOEI cinema in Shibuya where we watched our second Japanese film; the cinema was on floor 7, the rest of the floors consisted of shops, food chains, amusement arcades, offices, etc.

The film we watched: Aibou (

Yasukuni Jinja shrine entrance; part of the queue leading up to the shrine where visitors were still patiently awaiting their New Year blessings.  These were people seriously taking part in their New Year traditions, not just tourists seeking photo opportunities - we did not try to get close to the inner shrine

One of the banners hanging on the outer shrine entrance

A view above the crowd through to the inner shrine where people take their blessings, and say their prayers.  I'm not sure of the significance, but arrows were being given by the shrine as thanks?

Just one of the many food stalls leading up to the shrine.  It seems that as well as celebrating traditional beliefs, the celebration of food runs parrallel.  The food stalls were a combination of delicacies such as 'a fish on a stick', the sweet variety of 'chocolate coated banana on a stick', noodles, fish dishes, shredded cabbage with pancacke, etc... the list just goes on.... The smell, chatter and general goings on were an absolute delight.  We did partake in a bowl of noodles (our first experience of eating alfresco with chopsticks!) - I think we've got the hang of it, just in time to be going home.  

New Year Eve Celebrations in Tokyo

Purely in the interest of journalism, we thought it might be a good exercise to travel around the different areas of Tokyo to experience the build up to the countdown to New Years. We're not particularly ones for standing around waiting for an event, so this sorted us fine ... and it certainly was an eye opener.

Our first port of call was to the world famous Roppongi crossroads at around 22:15hrs. At this time the crossroads looked quieter than it had been at 15:00 earlier that day. Everyone is tucked away in their restaurants, karaoke bars and clubs etc. Our informants report that the streets start to fill up at around 23:30. as the young and trendy pour out of the bars to welcome in the New Year. It should be noted (IMHO) that this area is good for young locals and tourists (there are lots of tourists in clicky groups)  who are in groups of more than 4. I'm assuming that for the more mature couples it will be a little bit under-whelming and they might like to try our next option.

Earlier in the day we visited Asakusa area of Tokyo and their was already a sense of excitement in the air. Because New Year is a religious celebration in Japan it is customary to get blessed at a shrine or temple before you begin your New Year Day celebrations. The Sensoji temple is a welcoming and deeper experience than the Roppongi celebrations.

Prior to the countdown we also visited the Hibiya and Ginza area's that a visitor might expect to be celebrating hard ... not a soul on the streets at 23:30.

Surprisingly, the subway was quiet, filled with those people returning home from a last minute shopping trip or from work. Everyone calm and certainly nobody showing the effects of drink.

We managed to finnish the tour by 23:50 and ended up at the Tokyo Dome / Aqua centre, which was hosting a super popular rock concert where 50000 screaming fans had battled to get in earlier this evening. A more muted New Year Celebration was happening in the City of Lights area, with the stage set with a singer and a small audience of 150 - 200 people awaiting the countdown ...

So in the end we celebrated with a KFC bargain bucket and a bottle of wine ... and the satisfied feeling that we are helping future tourists find the right New Years path for them.

Happy New Year everyone ... Our Last Day tomorrow, so we're starting to feel a bit low now :-(