Ikea Japan

If you’re a gaijin living in Japan, going to shop at Ikea should be on your to do list, in the first week of your arrival in Japan. Why? Simply because you will be able to find a lot of product and furniture that you might need to comfortably live in Japan at a price that will not kill your wallet on the spot.

Ikea was introduced in Japan in 1974, the company launched a franchising deal in 1974, only to beat a retreat in 1986. The exact reasons of the retreat are not clear but it is mostly said that it was because the japanese housing market really did not match the company products.  The Ikea CEO said; ” He attributed IKEA’s failure two decades ago to the fact that the company was not ready for the demanding Japanese market — and that Japanese customers were not ready for the do-it-yourself style that defines IKEA.”

20 years past and extensive reasearch were done by the Ikea corporation, to first understand the Japanese life style and also the Japanese needs.

So with all that the first modern Ikea store was open in Funabashi in 2006 followed by the seconde one in Yokohama also in 2006 and 3 other location in 2008: Kobe port island, shin-Misato Saitama and Tsuruhama. All stores are a massive 40,000 m2 which in Japan is incredibly big for a store.

IKEA in Kobe

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The best Japanese dictionary App

The best Japanese dictionary App
I did a post about must have applications for iPhone and iTouch back a month ago and a recent version on GaijinPot, but someone pointed out to me that there was a dictionary App out there that was killing all Japanese dictionary out there! And he was right!!!


The App is called Kotoba and the best thing about it is that it is free!! Yes you don’t get that a lot especially for a dictionary app as complete as that one! You heard me right FREE.

Since this App blew me away I did the first ever Gaijinlife youtube video click here for it:

So in this video I will walk you trough Kotoba showing you this App sweet features.
I really hope you will like the video. Dont be shy and tell me what you think about this first video.

Probably tomorrow or at the latest Wednesday I will have a post and video dedicated on the best Tokyo App ever

TokyoTeleport and the TokyoTeleport plus!

Be sure to check it out!

Yugo

Tokyo Teleport for iPhone and iTouch

I recently posted a version of  my iPhone and iTouch must have app’s for Japan on the website GaijinPot

(post available here)

So not long after I got contacted by the guy’s from:

http://hoodhottravel.com/

Hood Hot Travel are the brains behind wonderful App like : China Taxi Guide, Chef Tour and the new baby” Tokyo Teleport and the plus version”. So they go me really exited about their famous ‘‘new baby”. I had to test it out. They gently and kindly gave me a copy of the 2 version so I could  check out, try it and review it.

So here we go!

Tokyo Teleport and Tokyo Teleport plus are the new kid’s on the block, in the Japan iPhone and iTouch app scene.

But don’t be fouled by the therm kid, because they are here to whip some big boy’s out of the game!

Since I started living and working in Japan or even when I just went on a trip to foreign land, I would have loved to have the budget to bring on my personal guide. You know not just a pre-made tour that suites 1/2 of  your interest and 1/2 makes you want to kill your self. A real guide that knows all and all that I like. One that let’s me see and experience what I want.

Take a hold to your self because now with the technology and the wonderful invention that is the iPhone or iTouch you can!

And Tokyo Teleport is just that! You now own your  personal tour guide, and I could even say much more than that. It Is a video tourist guide that not only tells you where to go it literally show’s you.

Ok Now let’s go in those App in more details:

First we need to determine which one is the one for you

pretty easy if you are in Tokyo or going to Tokyo you need the plus version ( I will get into the plus version a bit further in the post)

If you are not in Tokyo but you’re a fan of this wonderful city and want to learn more interesting stuff the TokyoTeleport version is the one for you.

TokyoTeleport

In this version you will be able to learn more about Tokyo, how will you do that simple:

The app features includes:
More than 50 venue reviews
Over 150 high-quality photos
20+ TokyoTV Travel Videos
5 HoodHot Maps

With all those tools you will be able to enjoy the heart beat of the megapolis that is Tokyo!

I must say for having played with this App for a week now it is wonderfully constructed and the idea behind it is mind-blowing. It is a really simple App to use and anyone can understand it in a heartbeat. The videos are addictive and if you love Tokyo or Japan you will literally fall in love with this app. The quality of the videos and the App is wonderful, but if you are going or are in Tokyo you would need to get the big brother version.

That version is called the TokyoTeleport plus

Personally I think all the fun starts in the plus version of course I live in Tokyo so for me it does come handy.

In this version in addition to the TokyoTV segments and all the features from Tokyo Teleport, Tokyo Teleport Plus incorporates a detailed guide of the city, including offline HoodHot Maps, suggestions based on the time of day and GPS, WalkCasts that walk you through Tokyo’s streets to the front door of over 50 venues, and detailed guides that explain the best way to experience the awesome things featured on the show.

Since I got this app I did rediscovered new parts of Tokyo, Yes I’m not kidding! There were a lot of places that I have eared about but never really had the chance to check out. Seeing the videos motivated me to actually go there and experienced it my self.

Can you imagine that! It is what I was talking about, your personal tour guide! You got to love it! I do!!!

With its GPS enable feature you get venues close to you and according to the time it is.

Tokyo Teleport Plus is packed full of content, with over two hours of TokyoTV and WalkCast footage showcasing Tokyo’s hottest venues.
Here are some of the features that you will have on the Plus version:
Over 150 Venue Reviews
More than 500 high-quality photos
50 TokyoTV Travel Videos
45 WalkCast Videos
15 HoodHot Maps for Offline Mapping
GPS Teleport Tab – location specific suggestion machine

Here you can check out these video’s from The Hoodhottravel team

For me the 2 App get 10 out of 10 and are a must buy

I love all the functions in the two versions and I truly which I had more time to really go everywhere the plus version could bring me but for that i will take me more time, I guess it  will be over it around next year. But everywhere I when was so cool and I loved it!

I’m going to leave you with pictures of This super App

An interview with Dan from Japanese Castle Explorer

Ok everyone today Im having an interview with a good twitter friend of mine! His name his Daniel O’Grady his is the owner, webmaster writer of the wonderful website Japanese Castle Explorer website.

If you never took a look at his website please after reading this go check it out!

http://www.japanese-castle-explorer.com/index.html

you can also follow him on twitter @jcexplorer

http://twitter.com/jcexplorer

Here is Dan getting it done with a real ninja (yes they do exist hihihi)

Ok let’s get this started!

Hello Dan how are you today!?

I am great and really happy about your interview today!

It is my pleasure.


When did you first came too Japan?

I came to Japan in 2001 more precisely in August

What made you decide to come to Japan?

Way back when, I was doing some martial arts (Karate & Iai-do) and at the same time my interests in other aspects of Japanese culture were developing. Nothing to deep but I started to notice things like bonsai, ukiyo-e, samurai, castles… Anyway one day my sister showed me in the newspaper that there were some job offerings teaching English in Japan. And fortunately, due to Nova’s we’ll-take-anyone policy, I was on my way.

How could you say your living experiance in japan changed your life?

The short answer is, completely.

It’s difficult to answer further because I don’t have my alternate life to compare it to….. but, some of the obvious things are, I met my wife, had kids. Kinda massive.

What do you love about japan?

Castles, chicken-katsu-curry-cheese-mix, the ability to travel around with relative ease.

What don’t you like in japan?

So rigid. And what is the deal with the megaphones?

Will you ever leave?

Yes. Unless Japan is the island from Lost.

Now about your website
When did you start the  Japanese Castle Explorer?

Hmmm… early 2000’s

Why did you start the site?

I have an I.T background, I like Japanese castles. Another big factor was that I needed something to occupy myself. And that it did, but it also put me on the road to learning something.

Where was your passion for castles born?

Taiko by Yoshikawa Eiji! This book is about the life & times (mid-late 1500’s) of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of Japan’s three unifier. There are plenty of descriptions of some of Japan’s most important castles, ranging from “overnight-built” forts to the nation’s most lavish.


Where do you want Japanese Castle Explorer to be in 5 years?


Hmmm… somewhere between facebook, wikipedia & youtube. Too ambitious?

Are you the only one behind the JCE?

Yes, I programmed the site, took the pictures(most), shot & hosted the video(just one & probably shouldn’t admit to it), researched the castles & wrote all the descriptions.

Dan future ride! kidding but as he told me the day he saw that car in japan he was like a kid in a candy store!

Ever wonder about Japan’s crown jewels

I was recently reading a book about Japan history and I found some really nice information about the Imperial jewels.

It did motivate me to share it with you so after a bit more research I came up with this:

No visit to any capital  in the world is complete without seeing the country’s crown jewels. A famous example would be the Tower of London and its wonderful treasures! Kept safe behind tick glass casings, they intrigue and fascinate visitors who admire those golden treasures that make up a nation’s objects of royalty.

But out of all those majestic nations that have preserve the kingship lineage or that still preserve some kind of historical ties to royalty, one exception prevail Japan! There were never a visit in Japan that could have brought you to even think  about seeing the relics of the emperor of Japan. You could still see from a far distance, the place holding those wonderful object  but you will never even set a foot in the vicinity of the building.

Don’t be worry if I sound harsh, not even the emperor him self has seeing those object at lest not since the 12th century. Object that should be presented to him on is enthronement lay unseen and undistributed for 1000s of years, wrapped in many layers of cloths to be then stored in boxes.

Even if those items have not seeing the light for so long they have  played an incredibly important role in Japan. They are symbols of the power of the emperor of Japan; the mirror, the jewels and the famous sword.

Maybe one day we will have the chance to finally see them back as a wonderful token of Japanese history.

Found this wonderful picture of the Tokyo Imperial palace

Hoped you liked this funny historical fact about the Imperial Jewels of Japan

Chronicle of a young woman in Japan

Chronicle of a young woman in Japan

Ok in this post I had an interview with a friend of mind, she used to live in Japan and I really wanted her to share a little bit of her experiences living there. She is also managing and writing for the mecha genki bento blog

http://mechagenkibento.blogspot.com/

And why not follow her on twitter! Here is her page:

http://twitter.com/mecha_genki

Let’s get this interview started!

Hello Nichola how are you?

I am really good today! how about you Yugo?

Hihihihi Super great


How’d you first get interested in Japan?

The year before I started high school I had to decide what language I was going to study (we had to study a language for the first two years at my high school).  Making such a big decision when you are 12 is a bit hard!  We had the choice of Japanese, German, French or Maori.  I was tossing up between Japanese and German.  My Dad phoned his cousin who had also studied Japanese at school.  He is a lawyer, and at the time I also wanted to be a lawyer.  He said having Japanese had been useful for having Japanese clients, so I decided to do Japanese (I did not end up being a lawyer though!).  After studying Japanese for two compulsory years, I figured I might as well continue on because I’d put in that much effort already, which was the same reason I kept studying it right up until my second year at university).


When did you first go to Japan?

My first trip to Japan was in 6th form (when I was 16).  My high school did an exchange with our sister school in Matsuyama, Ehime.  We had two weeks in Matsuyama and then another week going to Beppu, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Nara and Tokyo.  30 girls between 14 and 18, with just two teachers!


Where have you been in Japan?

Matsuyama, Uchiko, Beppu, Hiroshima, Miyajima, Kurashiki, Matsue, Okayama, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, Koyasan, Hakone, Himeji, Yokohama, Tokyo.


What was it like living in Japan?

AWESOME!!!!  I lived in Osaka and taught English by video conferencing (it looked a bit like a call centre).  There were about 450 on the English team, and about 750 altogether in my building, working three shifts (it was 24hrs and we had six languages).
The whole move was so easy because the company I worked for (NOVA) arranged all your visas and stuff.  They rented apartments to teachers (which they charged you wayyyyy more than market rents, but that is another story, and I figured the ease of it made it all even out in the end).
The week I started there was about 30 of us, the same started the week before and the week after.  I have heard stories of some people going and being stuck in a small town, having to be friends with people just for the sake of it and not really enjoying it.  I was lucky there were so many of us – I lived in the same city for university but I can imagine it would be a bit like going away to university.
I worked one early shift (7:30am – 3pm) and four lates (3pm – 10:40pm).  Life was very easy because you pretty much had the whole day free. I could get up and go to a gym class and then be back home by 8:30 and still have almost a whole day before work!  Because I can speak Japanese things were quite easy, and Osaka is such a big city that you can always get food from home/watch English tv/buy NZ wine etc.  Day to-day living is very cheap in Japan and I used to ride my bike everywhere (one day I even rode to Hyogo prefecture!!).  Ignorance is bliss in some ways too because it always seemed like the really important stuff was translated into English, so if there was anything I couldn’t understand I didn’t really mind.
My first flat was with two girls from work, and then I moved to another flat with a Japanese girl.  Quite often my friend Amy and I would have what we called “I can’t believe we’re in Japan” moments where just the coolest stuff would happen and we couldn’t believe we were experiencing it.  Sometimes we used to sit on the 15th floor break room at work and look down at Osaka (we were the tallest building for miles) and just stare.


What do you think is the best thing about Japan?

Japan is the land of extremes – to me that is it’s best point and worst point.  There are just so many things to do, everything is just so different, you could be in Osaka 100 years and always find something to do.  I used to love just riding my bike around all day and exploring new neighborhoods  because it isn’t like suburbia here. It’s like so many villages together.
People are so friendly and helpful  – every time I’ve been to Tokyo I only have to open a map and people have rushed up to help!
Going to the doctor used to amaze me – it seemed the smaller your problem the better the treatment – once I had an insect bite that went yuck.  I went to the doctor but didn’t see a GP like at home, it was a proper dermatologist who gave me this amazing cream.  Another time Amy had an eye infection and I went with her to see this proper eye doctor!
You can drink in public too.  That is pretty cool!


What do you think is the worst thing about Japan?

Sometimes Japan isn’t flexible and there seem to be rules that can’t be broken for no reason.  People don’t think outside the square sometimes, and if there are two ways of doing something you can often guarantee it will be the long way! My gym used to shut two random days each month for “cleaning”.  ATMs used to shut on weekends, even though they are automated! (not sure if this is still the case).


How’d you get into bento-ing?

After I joined weight watchers I was googling healthy lunch ideas and thought I’d see about bento ideas, because I bought a Hello Kitty bento when I went to Japan at high school.  I was expecting just boring normal stuff – I had no idea about what bento are like nowadays!  I like cooking and baking, and needed a new hobby (cupcakes aren’t weight watchers friendly), so pretty much just decided to start making bento.  Then I got onto twitter and started making bento friends and started getting inspired by them all.  My friend Sarah then suggested I make a blog to keep track of them all.   I live by myself so it’s hard to buy lots of ingredients and use them up before they go off, but I’ve learnt that all it takes is a little thought, and making things and freezing where possible.  I can’t wait until I go to Japan in July and can buy lots more bento goods!


When is the next time you will go to Japan?
July this year! I can NOT wait! I’m going with my friend and her husband for just under a week, and then I have just over a week by myself.

Hope you liked this post, hoped it will show you a little bit more insight into the life of foreigners in Japan!

Yugo

Manga Cafe’s 漫画喫茶 and Internet Cafe’s ネットカフェ

Manga Cafe’s 漫画喫茶 and Internet Cafe’s ネットカフェ

Internet and Manga cafe’s are everywhere in Japan.

They are now part of the modern Japanese culture. The internet cafe’s are the newest version of the original manga cafe. Manga Cafe’s or in Japanese mangakissa 漫画喫茶 made their debut in post world war 2. Back then, most people could not afford to buy manga’s or for the most fortunate ones the space restriction that many Japanese home have made it difficult to store those comic book.

But what exactly is a Maga or internet cafe?

Pretty easy! It’s a place where you can kick back and enjoy a good Manga ( japanese comic book) or surf the web.

Mostly like everything Japanese there is a bit more to it!  A lot of Japanese people go in those cafe only to relax and enjoy some good reading.  But there is a hole sub culture behind those cafe’s!

In Japanese it is mostly refered as netto kafe nanmin ネットカフェ難民 which literally mean Net cafe refugees.  In recent year in major cities like Tokyo, the price of living as sky rocketed, leaving many people with employment homeless. In august, 2007 the Health Ministry of Japan stated in a new conference that Around 5,400 people with no fixed address spend their nights at 24-hour Internet cafe’s across Japan, of whom 27 percent are in their 20s. Since then the government has being reluctant to release new numbers but the number of those refugee as most definitely sky rocketed!

Photo by Ryosuke Kawasaki

You must wonder why!? Why those homeless business man or woman would live there and not at the hotel or even a hostel?

Internet cafe’s are cheap usually 400yen an hour, plus the normally offer packages for long time periods. You can have a variety of different room types like: normal chairs, non-smoking seat, sofa, massage chair, party room, internet seat, pair seat, zashiki (a tatami), reclining seat and they even have some small futon rooms too. Then you have the other interesting aspect for those homeless business man the free stuff. In all manga and internet cafe’s you have a variety of free drinks and snakes all included in you basic prices. They also offer sheep convinces type food.

Photo by Ryosuke Kawasaki

You can also have access in your room or inside the cafe to movies,DVDs players, shower room, darts, magazines, PC class, music CDs, nail salon, pool table, newspapers, CATV/CS broadcast, table tennis, slot machine, tanning bed, mahjong and many more depending of the location.  All those services under 1400 or 1600yen a night which is way cheaper than a really crappy capsule hotel or anything in the cheap range.