Flying Jet Star – you get what you paid for… unfortunately.

June 3, 2017

Well, we get what we paid for.

I think this is my fourth time flying jet star – but first for international.

I understand why the seats are extremely cramped. I understand that there are no food nor drinks. What I don’t understand is why they had to spray aerosol an hour before landing across the entire aisle (over the cabin, straight, continuous pray from the front to the back, both sides). Not once, twice! Are they trying to save time for landing? Are they trying to cover up some bad smell?

#whyjetstar

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Tokyo to Kansai Region

For some unexpected reasons, I had to go to Kyoto in July, then Osaka the next week. The easiest solution? A two to three hour ride in the Shinkansen (bullet train). How much is a ride? ~JPY13,000 one way to Kyoto. That’s the end of my plans to ride the Shinkansen. Time to bring the cheap accountant out.

What are my options? Shinkansen, normal train, bus and plane.

  • Shinkansen is JPY13,000 one way, around 2-3 hours.
  • Normal train takes around eight hours, the cheapest I found was JPY9,000.
  • Bus ranges from JPY5,000 to 14,000 depending on the type of bus. The sleeper, high end bus is of course the most expensive. You can do the overnight one, to make the eight-nine hour travel less useless.
  • Plane can be as low as JPY4,000 (Jetstar, Peach, Vanilla) to JPY20,000 (ANA), and less than an hour.
    • However, one should include the travel time to/from the airport and the cost.
    • Based on this, plane rides can only go as low as JPY6,000 and takes around four hours
      • JPY4,000 plane
      • JPY1,000 ticket to Narita
      • JPY1,000 to Osaka from Kansai airport. It’s JPY3,500 from Kansai Airport to Kyoto, though there’s a JPY1,700 option with multiple transfers

It’s a no brainer – it has to be a bus if I’m going to Kyoto, but I have flexibility between flying and using the bus to Osaka.

Willer Bus

I used Willer Bus, and lucked out. They had a sale! I paid JPY5000 for this bus, at probably around 50% discount. The meet up point is about a block away from Kyobashi Station of Ginza line – they do provide a google map accessible link in their email.

I was a bit disappointed with this bus station. It’s clean and good, I was just spoiled with the overall transport system of Japan. 

We left at 21:12ish, then arrived 5:48 the next day.

The entire seat inclines (yes, the entire seat). It’s a decent imitation of a lazy boy. I’ll give it a 7/10 in imitating the lazy boy.

Going back, I took a different bus (because this one is not on sale anymore), and that was a painful trip. The seat reclines a lot, yes, but it’s pretty narrow and, well, basically the pains we had to go through with a normal long bus rides. I don’t wanna go through it again. T.T

So for my Osaka trip, I just booked flights. Maybe next time I’ll still book flights for Kyoto trips, or hopefully, have my company pay for my Shinkansen tickets.

 

Up The River

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July 15, 2017

A trek alongside the river and falls of Mt. Kawanori is just the thing to do in summer. As a training hike for Mt. Fuji, my friend and I decided to go up Mt. Kawanori, which, based on the blogs, requires a 6-7 hour hike overall.

Our Actual Itinerary

  • 5:15 leave home
  • 6:46 take rapid line to Okutama station in Shinjuku. This is the earliest train.
  • 8:21 arrive at Okutama station, the last stop. Take a bus going to Kawanoribashi (Bashi is Bridge). This bus is right in front of the station. Take note though, a lot of people take this bus so if you are willing to stand, the  just go in. This will take less than 10 minutes.
  • 8:45 start hike. We ate a quick snack, took some photos, applied sun screen etc. Take note, somewhere on the hike, you’ll have to choose between going straight to the summit (the tourist way) or pass through the falls (the hiking way). We took the right turn to the falls.
  • 10:00ish we arrived at the Falls
  • 12:00ish summit. We stayed for a quick 20 minute lunch, and photo ops, then went down. Some of our friends who walk fast got there 40 minutes before us.
  • 15:30ish at the station
  • 15:45ish back at Okutama to take the rapid line to Shinjuku

How Much?

  • Train from Shinjuku – JPY 1080 (1hr)
  • Bus to jump off – JPY260 (or 280?)

We had a side trip, but I figure the return trip should be more or less the same.

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On the first hour of the hike, there’s plenty of these bridges. You really are just following the flow of the river. 
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The source of the river? This HUGE falls. I don’t even remember it’s name, but it was pretty big. It was also a less than five minute walk from the main trail to the summit.
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After passing through the falls, the trail is pretty generic. But it’s all OPEN fields. OPEN. Meaning there are no corners for you to crouch and do your business, if you know what I mean. So what did we do? We did it out in the open.
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Finally, I see the end!
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dum dum dum dum!!! Here’s the summit marker.
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And unfortunately, this is all the “view” we got to see. The summit is surrounded by trees. T.T

Archery in the Forest

July 23, 2017

An archery range nestled in the mountains, this archery experience is way better than the traditional Japanese one I had and the archery lessons in the middle of the city.

So, what to do?

Step 1. Reserve a spot online here. If I remember correctly, they only have two slots during the day, with each slot accommodating four people.

Step 2. Go to… Huh. I don’t know. Ok, I’m stopping the tips part, coz I just remembered a friend organized this for us. Basically it took us one hour to get there. I suggest you work your google maps skills.

How much?

I’m a student, and a first time guest. I was charged a JPY2,500 flat rate. My friend was a second user and he was charged JPY500/hour.

 

Everything is done by an old couple – mainly by the husband.
You first get a lesson, then they send you to a course off the forest. Each person gets five arrows – if you lose one, you pay JPY500. This is my only hit that was not even in the board. 😦

 

Chinese Visa

June 21, 2017

Since I’m going to Beijing for an exchange and Filipinos need visa to go almost everywhere, I had to apply for my Chinese visa.

Planning

Accomplish the online form (just google Chinese visa application form, there’s one site applicable to all countries). You’ll have to tick which type of visa. In my case, they refused a tourist visa (which was recommended by Peking University). They (the consular) wanted a short, non business visa. Guess who wins?

Fortunately, the type of visa you selected in your application form can be changed manually, so it’s pretty convenient.

Prepare your requirements:

  • Photocopy of invitation letter
  • Photocopy of resident’s ID

Yup, that’s it.

Consular Office

The Tokyo visa service center is about 15 minutes walk from Toranomon station, Ginza line. Go in the building (it’s in the 8th floor), fall in line at the counter, and they’ll tell you what to do. At this time (July 2017), there’s a Tully’s Coffee at the ground.

It’s like the US visa, they have a quick “interview” then you are told whether the visa will be granted, and told when to go back. Regular processing is around 4 days, and payment is made when claiming the passport. I need to pay JPY9,400 (If i remember correctly).
So after my entire offboarding story when I was in Netherlands transiting in Xiamen, China, I’m now going back, this time armed with an actual visa! 😀

Flying Xiamen Airlines

April 30, 2017

Leg 1: Narita to Xiamen

I don’t like long lines in Japan. Why? Because this is Japan. Except for themeparks, the Japanese just DON’T DO long lines. Unfortunately, Xiamen Airlines is Chinese, so wait I must.

Everything went smoothly afterwards.

Leg 2. Xiamen to Amsterdam

Once we got off Xiamen, we had to go through their immigration. Even if you are just transferring, you still have to pass through them.

We had to go through the entire check in again, but since we were the only flight in Xiamen at that point (we had the airport to ourselves!), it went quite smoothly. Everything was on time.

Oh, unfortunately they don’t have slippers, eyecovers or toothbrushes up the plane. And as most airlines, their earplugs suck.

Leg 3. Amsterdam to Zurich

I LOVE the Schiphol (Amsterdam) Airport. They have a pretty cool and automated conveyor belt for the security check which facilitates the process. The guy handling it was pretty cool, even asking me to say hi to Manny Pacquiao (it weirded me out how he figured out I was a Filipino. In hindsight, he probably saw my passport).

Their internet is also free and fast. Plus we can access google, facebook, etc. (I never thought I’d miss them so much until I went to China.)

We had to pass through immigration here, and not in Switzerland. Apparently with the entire EU thingy, flights across member countries count like a domestic flight.

We used KLM lines, and they’ve got really good sandwiches. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they’ve got the best sandwiches, but I can’t recall a single sandwich that is as good. Or maybe it’s the European bread. Hmm.

Zurich Airport.

I lost my hair clip in the plane! I immediately went back, but they apparently were done cleaning when I did and there’s nothing they could do! Ugh!

Oh, and no free wifi! You need a phone number (which I don’t have) to register.

And this concludes my 30 hour-ish trip. I left my unit at 10am, Tokyo time, and arrived at Zurich around 4pm Tokyo time. Yep, that’s a loooong flight.


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!