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.


  • 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.

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.

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!

Sanrio Puroland


March 2017

There’s plenty of themeparks in Japan. Honestly. Considering how little space they have, I wonder why. Hmmm. Actually, it’s probably because they have too little space. Rather than have the little ones go run and explore, they have these compact little places where people can have “fun”. But I digress.

This post is about three months delayed, so in terms of logistics, just google Sanrio Puroland.

Quick tips:

  • If you are willing to come after 4pm, the price is lower. Careful though, it closes around 6pm.
  • There’s an online discount, so visit their site. Again, google is your friend here. But I’ll try to make it easier for you: http://en.puroland.jp/coupon/
  • This is a family affair. But if you really love Hello Kitty and the gang, go and explore.
  • If you are only after a gift shop (like me who needs to buy a gift), there’s none outside. You have to buy the ticket and actually go inside. The thing is, even the store itself is already an experience.

They have shows throughout the day, I think I managed to catch the main one:

The moment you get off the station, it’s Hello Kitty world for you. Look at the toilet, elevator and street signs:

and finally I see the themepark! It’s not over the top – it’s plain, good, old cute.
The GIFT SHOP. Child for scale.
I only managed to get into one ride. It was pretty nice…
…and really girly.
My favorite though is the building at night. Bye bye, Hello Kitty world!

One Piece Tower

January 14, 2017

It seems that Japan has a themepark for everything. Hey, I’m not complaining. Imagine my surprise when I was just scanning japanican when I saw the One Piece themepark in Tokyo? Of course I scheduled a trip within the week!

It’s around JPY2,000 for the day, and it’s located right at Tokyo Tower. I mean it. Look for Tokyo Tower and go inside. It’s right inside. Unfortunately, this might be seasonal. So don’t expect it to be there forever.

Hello, One Piece!
We started off with the cafe. We didn’t realize there’s a restaurant right next to it so we settled with the One Piece themed snacks and drinks for lunch.
This was Chopper’s something. Honestly? The food wasn’t good… it’s really the ambience you’re after.
Our first game! It’s a very simple one – you bet on a race. And well, most loses. As expected of Nami-san!
One of the rides has the “inside” of the ship. Of course I took a peek at all closets! Only the girls had their clothes in the closet though. I was hoping to see Zoro’s. Tsk tsk
My favorite game! You use Wii (I think) and attack like Zoro! (but only with one sword!!!)
Come on, Hawkeye. Far too strong!
Obviously I’m a big fan of Zoro!
AND Ace! Oh, Ace. T.T
Will I get the power of this devil fruit? Nah, I think this is one of the fake ones. Shame, SMILE!
If only having real abs is as easy as drawing them…
My FAVORITE PART! THE LIVE SHOW! Honestly, I don’t know how they got the perfect characters! Nami with the big boobs, Robin with the unrealistically small waist, dorky Luffy, and… well, the others weren’t as prominently acted out…




Schengen Visa in Less Than 24 Hours

April 15, 2017

Since I’m going to a symposium in Switzerland, I applied for a visa at the Swiss Embassy in Tokyo. There’s not much to read about it – probably because the Japanese don’t need visa to go to Europe.

How to Prepare

1. Go to their website to fill up the online application. Then print it out.

2. Prepare the documents. I printed out the list in the site and checked them one by one. Oh, you’ll have to present your actual resident’s ID, but I included a copy just to be safe.

3. Go to the embassy!

Yes, it’s cherry blossom season so of course there’s sakura near the embassy

At the Embassy

They only open from 9am to 12noon, so prepare accordingly.

1. Get off at Hiro-o Station of Hibiya line, take exit 3. Once you go out, turn right. After the conbini, there’s a small street at the right. Turn right and just follow the road.

2. Ring the bell at the embassy. They speak Japanese and English, of course. The room is fairly small, proceed to the counters on the left. Honestly, it’ll take a special snowflake to get lost here. I was the only person then, so thankfully no lines whatsoever. They say it might be because the Japanese don’t need a visa to go to EU, but then again they don’t need a visa to go to US but the lines at US embassy is loooong. But I digress.

3. They’ll take your papers and ask you whether you wanna pick it up or have it mailed. Of course I chose to have it mailed. So I paid the JPY600 fee. You’ll then be asked to write your address in an envelope they will provide.

4. Wait while they check your documents.

5. They’ll call you to take your picture and prints. This is done via a machine booth in the middle of the room.

6. Go home.
I went to the embassy on Thursday, April 14, 10am. I received the mail on Friday, April 15, 12:30pm. It easily is the fastest processing I’ve had in my life. Thank you, Swiss Embassy!

Cooking At Home

My dinner for the past six months is mainly this:

  1. Chicken marinated in vinegar, salt and pepper, fried in oil/butter
  2. Broccoli strained with hot water
  3. Fried potatoes
  4. Fried water spinach (usually fried after the chicken)

I don’t know how to cook the others. The ingredients here are different to what I’m used to. 😦