National Health Insurance Premium


July 12, 2017

All residents in Japan can (required to?) obtain national health insurance, whereas you only pay 30% of all medical fees. It’s a benefit from the government, so it’s pretty simple.

Your premiums differ depending on your prior year’s income. How do they know? There’s a form they mail your registered address around February/March, and you have to fill it up to say how much you’ve earned. As students, we pay the minimum amount, which is around JPY1,300 yen.

Now, what if you forgot to fill up this form?

They charge you the maximum amount, which is around JPY4,500 yen. Oopsie.

But Japan is nice – they know that they have highly unaware, blissful foreigners who don’t even read the mail from the ward office (basically your location’s government office). So you can just go to your ward, and have it corrected. No late charges, no interest, no nothing. But you’ll have to pay your arrears, I think.

This is how I had mine updated – I’m in Koto Ward. (to know your ward, look at your address. The one with -ku on it is the name of your ward. In my case, TIEC is in Koto-ku, so Koto Ward it is)

 

How to get there

At Tozai Line, Toyocho station, take exit 1. Turn right and walk for around 5-10 minutes (300 meters ish)
At the Ward Office

The entrance is in the second floor, and an information center (with English speakers) is at the entrance.

At the entrance (second floor), go to station 8. In front of the section is a number queue machine. Take a number.

She’ll basically ask you if you worked last year (I think that’s what she said), so I simply said I am a student. She then asked if at worked part time (baito in Japanese) and I said no. She then filled up a tax declaration form, told me to pay a couple of slips (the insurance slips) then made me go up the fifth floor to submit the tax declaration form.

This is the form she filled up. She just asked for my Residence ID and did everything.

I went up to fifth floor, took a queue number (again), and once in the counter, filled up my address, name, birthday and phone number. Oh, and I had to write “student” in one of the boxes.

I was also asked for a hanko (seal), and since I don’t have one, we settled for a fingerprint. He processed some stuff in his computer, returned my tax declaration form, then told me to go home.

Done in 30 minutes!

Of course, the part that took longer was the lady in Station 8. The thing is, she was asking me to pay the three slips which is around JPY14k. So I was confused – was it because I was late in those months? I’m supposed to pay JPY1.4k per month, so imagine having to pay JPY14k for three months! So I kept on saying no, I’m a student!!! She then took an iPad, called a translator from somewhere online, then explained that those are for the whole year. Whew!

Zurich, baby!

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May 2, 2017

As the last part of our touristic programme, we stopped at Zurich and had about an hour to explore by foot. The city was quiet, not crowded, and as with St. Gallen, expensive.

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I can hear Taylor Swift’s Blank Space in my head. Hello, next victim.
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It seems that the chairs outside the restaurants/cafes are indeed a thing in Europe. These, in particular, are worth sharing. These have fur in them. Fur.
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Where are we meeting? At the restaurant. Can you imagine how much time and effort it took to name this place?

The Swiss Alps’ Santis

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May 2, 2017

To kick off the the conference’s touristic programme, our bus went to the mountain near St. Gallen – Mt. Santis! Probably the most beautify alpine mountain I’ve ever seen (and that includes Mt. Fuji)

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Our bus went up a semi-deserted road and passed through these beautiful houses surrounded by snow.
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We then took the cable car up to the top of the mountain.
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Hello, Swiss Alps!

Abbey of St. Gallen

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May 1, 2017

An abbey and a church that is more than a thousand years old, this is one of the key landmarks of St. Gallen. The city started by a man named Gallus, who tripped on a root on his way from the famous lake nearby and deemed such tripping as a sign that he should live there.

It was a pretty nice walk, and I loved the feel of the place. It’s like a peaceful, original version of the 5th Avenue in Manhattan.

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I started walking from were I was staying, and the entire neighborhood looked like they were part of a grand theme.
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I was walking across the old city, and there were plenty of cafes. Oh, and it had plenty of snow. It wasn’t snowing when I was there. It was raining. and I was freezing. 😦
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Then voila! The beacon of chocolate shines bright to my tired eyes!
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I stayed in the cafe for at least an hour, enjoying the famed Swiss chocolate and some pastries. I think I paid CHF15ish. Tsk tsk. That’s pretty steep.
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After my coffee, I decided to spend the rest of the time inside the church (where it is warm)
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The church was pretty huge, of course.
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and here’s the abbey right outside.

Schiphol Airport

May 1, 2017

With the exception of the offloading issue, this European airport is a delight. I so loved ING’s campaign of ____, here I come. I initially saw this, not knowing it was a campaign. But it was so fitting. The next week was filled with culture shock!

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On my way back, I saw it again. This time, with Tokyo, here I come! Which I found funny ‘coz I AM going to Tokyo.

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They had plenty of food, and since I’m a Diners card holder, I was able to maximize the benefits of having that credit card.

Schiphol Airport has plenty of shops and stalls to choose from. I thought that I bought a cheap set of perfume at EUR50 for two bottles, but my classmate said they weren’t cheap. But my fellow flier bought one bottle at CHF90 in Zurich Airport. Well, it’s all relative.

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Seeing this reminded me that I AM in the land of tulips! Oh, I wish I could have gone out!

and just some quick comments about Zurich airport – they have plenty of Toblerones! Well, as expected from the motherland of Toblerone:

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Huge toblerone. My boot for scale.

RoboSquare

April 1, 2017

The things one finds in tripadvisor. This one was not on my list, but I had so much free time I had to scroll for ideas. One that interested me was the FREE robot show. So off I went.

The Robosquare is in now way cutting edge technology. But it’s pretty good for those who are out for a stroll. 🙂

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TIEC Life

A year back, the first place I went to here in Tokyo is my new home – the Tokyo International Exchange Center. They welcomed me with open arms and gave me the best place I’ve lived in my entire life. A month ago, they sent me an email – they are kicking me out.

The Start of the Journey
Once I got into the compound, I went immediately to the Admin office. It’s basically the area where there are rows and rows of flags. The entrance is at the back, in a corner. There’s plenty of sign pointing to the admin office.

I got in and presented my resident’s ID and passport, I think, upon registration. I simply have to fill up a couple of forms, and since they speak English, it was pretty easy. They also give you an invoice to pay in a convenience store. You can pay it in Daily Yamazaki, which is at the ground level of building B. They then give you your keys and take you to your room.

The TIEC Layout
There are four buildings – A, B, C and D. I’ve only been in A, B (I live there) and C.

Building A is for singles, but with limited appliances and space. It’s the cheapest option, and based on my observation, has the cheapest price that does not change as much as the other 3.

Building B is also for singles. It has air conditioning, refrigerator, washing machine (from wash to dry), iron, iron board, vacuum cleaner, bed, mattress, all sheets (for JPY7,000 annual lease, you get a bed mat, sheet, fleece layer, futon, futon cover, pillow covers, and futon), cabinets, stove, table (study table and circular), lamps, and air conditioning. Basically, what you need to bring from wherever you are from are clothes, cooking tools and utensils (should you plan to cook), and other personal items/consumables.

Building C and D are for couples. I don’t know much, all I know is that it’s extremely big. More than twice the size of a B room, and yet only with around 50% price premium.

Money Matters
You have to pay:
1. Rent – automatic deduction from your bank account. Prices have been increasing (2016 & 2017) for B, C, D and E. The 2017 increase was around 15%. But if you’ve signed a contract, then don’t worry. Price changes don’t affect current contracts.
2. Electricity – there’s a daily charge of, er, JPY50 if think? Or JPY30? You precharge your account in a machine in the Admin area.
3. Telephone – there’s a daily charge of JPY10, I think. Precharging is the same with Electricity.

Regarding daily charges, I believe you need to pay them regardless. When I missed paying for the telephone, I had a negative amount in my account!

I paid around JPY10,000 per month for electricity WHEN I used the heater daily. It can go way lower otherwise (around JPY3,000 or 4,000 a month, probably). I also cooked almost every night.

Food

  • Daily Yamazaki. The most convenient one, there’s a convenience store that sells food right in Building B.
  • Maruetsu. There’s one right next to the Daiba-Kaihinkouen station of Yurikamome line. It’s way cheaper than a convenience store. For example, a liter of milk is JPY180 in Maruetsu, JPY250 in Daily Yamazaki.
  • Green Market. Every couple of days (Monday, Wednesday (?) and Thursday (?), around 7pm to 8:30pm, Sunday around 3pm). I’ve been here a year, I still don’t have their schedule memorized with certainty. It’s way cheaper – for example, one (head?) of garlic at JPY150 in Maruetsu. JPY150 in the green market gets you three.
  • Coop. A service I’ve never tried, they cook food and deliver it to you daily.

Utensils, Equipment and the Like  (update: August 28, 2017)

What about the utensils? Pots? Any equipment needed?

Technically, the only items you need to purchase are cooking tools (other than stove) and utensils. You can also purchase other things if you want – like a fan (to save on electricity), a sofa (to, er, sit on? because the two chairs provided are not comfy enough?), a piano (there’s a music room btw, it has a piano on it), or anything else. For these items, where can you go other than the specialty places or taking them from home?

  1. Daiso. Yep, go for that hundred yen store. There’s one in Diver City (6th floor) and another in Venus Fort (basement, I think). If you can buy it in a hundred yen shop, for goodness’ sake, don’t buy it anywhere else.
  2. TIEC Flea Market. Go to Facebook and look for the TIEC Flea Market Group. This is the group for people who don’t really care about the money – they really would just want to dispose of their stuff because you have to pay money to dispose of things. Sometimes they do charge prices though, and the free ones gets claimed FAST. Better hurry.
  3. Amazon. If Daiso fails to deliver and you are just unlucky with the TIEC Flea Market, then Amazon will be there to the rescue! It’s actually cheaper sometimes to buy here than anywhere else, and it’s FAR TOO CONVENIENT. I so love Amazon. Rakuten is a stronger competitor, but well, I already paid my student’s premium access to Amazon so I’m staying put.
  4. Other shops in Odaiba. Just explore! There’s Nitori (home furnitures?) in Venus Fort, and other various shops all over. I’m very happy with the first three though, so I never had to buy from others.

Life in TIEC
The daily life is pretty simple. You have your own mailbox, and there’s a communal delivery box where people can leave things for you. You have your own unit, and you basically are there alone… forever. :p What are the other facilities?

  • Lounge. There’s a lounge area in every floor, just in case you and your friends wanna hang out and chat.
  • Training room. There’s three treadmills, four cycling machines, weights, etc. You need to register for a training before you get access, so do it once you get in. It’s open around 6am to 12mn, so it’s a pretty good deal.
  • Gym. Yes, you get a gym for free. Just register to reserve a time spot in Admin. There’s a limit of 4 hours a week per team (because you also write the name and room number of who you’re playing with). They have a basketball court, table tennis area, soccer area, a net for badminton (or whatever needs a net), etc.
  • Guest house. This is a dorm, not an apartment. Hence, the room is only for YOU. If you have other people coming in, family members can be accommodated at the guest house, at a fee. I don’t remember the rate, but it’s a pretty good deal if you compare to a hotel.
  • Music room. Never been there, but I peeked and there’s a grand piano inside!
  • Barbecue Area. Guess what this area is for.

Leaving TIEC
Short term. If you are coming back but will be out for a couple of days, you send them and email to let them know. I don’t think this is critical, but it doesn’t take more than 5 minutes so why not.
Long term. You’ll still pay rent, so think about it carefully. No special procedures, though I’m not sure how it’ll work if longer than a month. I was gone for almost two months (coming back for around a day every two weeks), and there’s nothing special I had to do.
Exit. At least a month’s notice is needed, and you personally have to go to Admin to sign some papers and reserve your spot for the final inspection. It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes.

So. That’s it, I think. Did I miss anything? Just ask!

Coffee at Tonagi Hostel

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March 31, 2017

One of the cutest ways I’ve been served coffee – they have this press thing (that I keep on seeing being sold in Starbucks but I cant figure out how) and a hourglass! I even think that it’s coffee grounds inside that hourglass! Basically they serve you the entire thing, then say until it’s done before I drink it.  (oh, it’s ~JPY350)

Now, I don’t think it tasted differently, but it is still the most adorable way I’ve been served coffee. ❤

Uchinonakamichi Seaside Park

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April 1, 2017

This is simply gonna be a collection of flower pics. You’ve been warned.

Well, let’s start with:

How to get there:

At Yoshizuka station, go to platform 1. Get off at Kashii station, take the escalator to platform 4. The train to Saitozaki does not look like a normal JR train (it was printed with Kyushu). Get off at Uminonakamichi. Right outside the station is the entrance – I’ll be impressed if you manage to get lost.

Overall fare is JPy460 I think.

Quick Tips:

  • Check the season. It’s all seasonal in Japan, so you’d better look up the website (or the latest sns tags) to see what the place looks like.
  • Rent the bike. It’s a big, big place. It’s around JPY100 per hour, I think.
  • If you have time, make it a picnic. It’s a pretty peaceful place. 🙂
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I am a bit too early – the sakura is only starting to bloom. 😦 But look at the bright yellow flowers on the right, and the white flowers underneath the trees! Ah, so pretty.

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The main attraction is, of course, the nemophilia. I bet this has nothing on Hitachi Seaside Park, but this one has sakura blossoms in its midst.

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See the bridge on the prior picture? This is the view from that bridge. 
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Next stop? Flower museum. They also have a rose garden, but it’s not the season of roses – so there were no flowers in that garden. 
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Lavender!
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I don’t know what this is, but the color contrast is easily my favorite.
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I went to the entrance last >.<
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Oh, and it’s a SEASIDE PARK. Of course, the sea has to be in its side! :p
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It looks good, I know, but you won’t like it. Too hot!