Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How do I get there? The Easy Way to Find Your Train Route.

One of the common questions I hear fly out the mouth of my fellow gaijin is, `How do I get there?` Japan seems to have one of, if not, the best train systems in the world. You can reach just about any location in Japan by train. It is truly amazing for me to see just how detailed the train system is at times. Even some of the more remote areas of Japan have a train station!

While the system is very detailed, clean, and on time; it can be a challenge to get your head around how it works exactly. When I was visiting Japan I usually had a native with me to lead me around. It was not until I started actually living in Japan did I realize the challenge of trying to use the trains on a daily basis.

At first, I got lost often. I tried to understand things as best I could, but I would end up taking the wrong transfer or head in the wrong direction. It was pretty embarrassing sometimes. Yet, after a few months I got the hang of things. It is rare for me to get lost using the trains these days.

While I used the trail by fire method to get a handle on the train system; there are plenty of people who are either too busy or not brave enough to jump in head first. Well, I have found the best tool to find your train route in Japan. is the best resource for finding exactly `how to get there` in Japan. The link I provide is the English version. I have tried it on several spots around Japan it has given me good results every time. The best part is that it gives you several ways to get to your desired location by sorting results by: fast,low price,easy,air and bed. It will even give you routes by price and time. You know, some companies ask employees to choose the cheapest route to work.

I suggest giving this site a go. It is very useful for traveling in Japan.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Salty Chocolate in Japan

So, I was returning from work last night when I decided to make a quick stop at the local 7-11. I was just looking to pick up some milk but ran across something odd enough to catch my eye. Now, in Japan I have found some pretty strange snack food, yet a salt and chocolate candy bar may be the strangest thing yet. There are many things which fit well with chocolate. Peanut butter is always a favorite mix of mine. Yet, can salt provide a enjoyable taste with chocolate?

I was hooked by this idea and picked up a pack of salty crunch. Once I got home I showed this stuff to the gal. She laughed at me for buying such a strange item. Despite her mocking me she also wanted to give it a go. So, after dinner we decided to give salty crunch an official taste test. is it?

Well, to tell the truth the salt taste is very light. The chocolate over powers most of the salt. Only after chewing it up did I get a sensation of salt in my mouth. After two or three though, I did experience a surprise tingle which did, oddly enough, add to the chocolate a bit. A good point of this odd snack is that it does provide a rather crisp texture due to the salt additive. It is by far packing a little more crunch as compared to other crunch type of candy bars.

Would I try it again?

I am not so sure I would give it a second go round. I expected more from this little snack and it kind of let me down. The salt part seems to be just a hook to get people to buy the chocolate. The additive provide almost nothing in the way of taste. The texture can be had by other means than salt.

Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Monday, June 1, 2009

In Tokyo You Must Escape Sometimes

I have been living in Tokyo for around a year and a half now. I have learned a lot, as well as, grown up a bit too. It has had it ups and downs but I am still here standing tall. To be honest, this is my first time to live in a large city on a long term basis. While I have adjusted to the fast pace of city life pretty well, I have discovered that it is sometimes hard for me to find time to get away from everything.

Back in good old West Virginia, it was easy for me to get away from everyone and be by myself. All I had to do was jump in my car, head for the woods, and I could be all by myself for as long as I wanted. In Tokyo, running off into the woods is not an option. Never the less, I have found ways to get away from people.

One of the things I do is trek off into Yoyogi park from time to time. If you walk a bit from the entrances at Shibuya gate and Harajuku, there is a lot of out-of-the-way spots to get some peace and quiet. I like some of the trails deep in Yoyogi park. Sometimes I grab a few beers from the quick stop at Harajuku station and walk down the trails. I do not run into a lot of people on the trails. Although, I do see homeless tents set up from time to time. Oddly enough, I do not see the homeless coming out from these tents so often. I guess they just hide out in them for most of the day.

When I get lucky enough, I see something really off the wall in the less traveled parts of Yoyogi park. One time I ran up on some guy slumped over a tree with a bottle of Jack in his hand. At first, I thought he was passed. I grabbed a stick and poked him a bit. To my surprise he stirred ever so slightly. I will never forget what he said to me, `Women, drink, give me more!` This happened at 3:00 pm in the day.

There are, of course, the lovers who decide to take a romp in the park. There are many stories about this kind of behavior, yet few people can say they have actually seen or done this kind of thing. Well, I have seen this kind of playful behavior go down at Yoyogi park. You will usually never see this kind of stuff going down at the more popular parts of Yoyogi park. It almost always goes down in the less traveled sections of the park. While I have, unwillingly and unexpectedly, caught a few people having a little fun in the park, only one couple sticks out in my mind. I had wondered down an odd path I had not noticed before. It was a pleasant day and I was just floating in the wind so to speak. As I was heading around a bend in the path a heard heavy breathing of both male and female nature. I expected to have the misfortune of seeing two people making out or something. What I did see was some older gentlemen having his way with a young gal; fully butt naked. The young gal screamed and hide behind the older gentlemen as he attempted to cover himself. All I could really do was laugh and make a quick exist from the area.

So, traveling to the deeper parts of Yoyogi park is a good to get away from the normal insanity of Tokyo; while running head first into the more unseen insanity of Tokyo.