Monday, October 20, 2008

Discounted Nozomi ticket

If you don't want to travel on the slower and less frequent Hikari between Tokyo and Kyot or Osaka with a Japan Railpass, or if you're unable to purchase a JR Pass, buying a discunted Shinkansen ticket valid on the Nozomi, sold at ticket shops, or 'Kin-ken-ya' in Japanese would be an optimal solution.

Yet please note that you can't use this kind of discount tickets during the New Year's holiday, the Golden Week and the Obon periods.

After you purchase this type of ticket, you need to have a seat reservation made on it at any JR ticket counter.

As for the convenience of Nozomi train, refer to the Japan Railpass page.

Normal Tokyo - Kyoto Nozomi one way reservation ticket: 13,520 yen

1) Discounted ticket for the same conditions sold in Tokyo: 12,600 yen
2) In Kyoto: 12,850 yen

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1) In Tokyo (Ticket prices and whereabouts of the shops)

Daikokuya Yurakucho Branch:

yurakucho map

In Shimbashi:
shimbashi station map

In Shinjuku:
shinjuku station west side aerial map

There are a lot of them also in Shibuya, Ikebukuro etc.

2) In Kyoto:

There is a ticket shop 'Tokai' very close to Kyoto Station.

way to ticket shop tokai in kyoto

You'll see the Kyoto Tower in front before you cross the street.

Cross the intersection diagonally.

The shop is located on the second floor of this building.

I have seen a lot of ticket shops on the Shijo Street also in Kyoto.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

English - Japanese point it sheet

When you find yourself difficult to be understood in English in Japan, you might find the following sheet of some help.

point it sheet 1
point it sheet 2


Monday, October 6, 2008

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport arrival guide

Suvarnabhumi Airport

I've been addicted to visiting Thailand in the last 6 years because of Thai smiles, tasty food, the holiday atmosphere, reasonable prices etc. It never makes me dull.

This time I feature the arrival navigation at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport. Have flown into there several times myself.

TG Boeing747-400

After disembarkation, walk toward immigration via travelators.

Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok
Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok

Then clear Thai immigration.

Thai immigration at arrival hall
You need to be finger-printed, and have your photo taken. Depending on the officer, you may be asked to show the proof of onward air ticket within the 30 day window in case you enter the kingdom on a visa waiver program.

Then collect your luggage.

Suvarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok

Then get out of the airside. A kind of a mess.

Suvarnabhumi Airport
Suvarnabhumi Airport
Suvarnabhumi Airport

Get Thai currency via an ATM or a money changer. There are a lot of banks at the arrival area, and the rate is uniform in the airport.

Those who catch a taxi should proceed to outside on the same level to the taxi rank. At the counter, tell the clerk where you're headed, then s/he will give you a paper with the taxi number and your destination. Don't lose the stub of the paper in case you need to make a complaint to the taxi association, e.g. taxi driver not using the meter. Insist the driver use the meter, otherwise get off it and take another one.

Those who plan to take the limousine bus should go dwonstairs to the ground level. You can get to Sukhumvit, Silom, Khao San Road and the main station areas on the bus.
It costs 150 baht each way. Go to the bus counter, tell the clerk where you're going and purchase the ticket and take a seat until the correct bus will show up.

Have a nice stay.


Mt Koya


Mt Koya is a generic name of the mountains in Wakayama Prefecture with the altitudes approx. 1,000 meters.

Kukai studied the Tantric Buddhism from Eka, his master, at Senryuji Temple (not sure what this temple is called in Chinese) in Xi'an, China.

After he returned to Japan, he founded the Koyasan-Shingonshu, a Buddhism religeous sect. Its headquarters is the Kongobuji Temple. Mt Koya was donated to Kukai by Emperor Saga in 816. Thereafter monasteries and temples are built for monks to pray so that Buddha would protect general people from diseases etc with his almighty power. Also the monks educated their apparentices there. These establishments were female-free until 1872.

1) Okunoin

It's a cemetery where Kukai, imperial families, feudal lords and business leaders in modern times sleep.

2) Kongobuji Temple
It used to be a name of Mt Koya as a whole, but what is currently called Kongobuji Temple was merged from two temples.

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--Access to Koyasan--

Take the Nankai Koya Line from Osaka Namba to Koyasan with a transfer or two en route. The connection works mostly every 30 minutes, and the whole trip takes 1.5 hours to 2 hours. In case you take the limited express Koya from Namba to Gokurakubashi, it incurs a 760-yen limited express surcharge. The total base fare from Namba to Koyasan is 1,230 yen.

Express train between Namba and Hashimoto

Local train between Hashimoto and Gokurakubashi

Limited express 'Koya' between Namba and Gokurakubashi

Cable Car between Gokurakubashi and Koyasan

Koyasan Station

You might want to purchase the Kansai Thru Pass for a trip to Koyasan from Osaka. It is very likely to pay for itself.

Kansai Thru Pass info

jorudan, for train schedule and fare search


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Visit to Himeji Castle

En route to Kyushu, I paid a visit to Himeji Castle. It was a fabulous castle in many respects, as people point out.

Be warned that a renovation work in the castle will start in autumn, 2009, and the tower will be scaffolded from spring, 2010.

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This castle is one of the only remaining 12 ones in Japan that were constructed in and before the Edo Period (1603 - 1867). It's one of the so called 'national treasure four castles', along with Inuyama, Matsumoto and Hikone.
It's often refered to as the best castle in Japan.

The fact that this castle wasn't demolished nor was it attcked in the wars so far at all has enabled many of its large and small towers and turrets to be designated as national treasures. Also it was put on the World helitage list in 1993 because of the aformentioned reason.

The widely accepted theory is that Sadanori Akamatsu had the castle built in 1346, in the Nanbokucho Period, or the South and North courts Period. The current Himeji Municipal Government adopts this theory.

It's definitely a must visit when you come to Japan. You might allow three to four hours to complete this tour from the station.

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You could walk to the castle from Himeji Station, yet the bus is cheap and comfortable mode of transport. The castle is the second stop, and it costs only 100 yen each way.

Take this type of bus.

The Moat in the entrance area.

Admission fee:
Adult: 600 yen
Child: 200 yen

In summer the authrity recommends you to take a bottled drink with you to avoid dehydration. Indeed I drank quite a lot of water while I went up.
Gentle gradients and steep upward stairs continues once you have entered the premises. A Japanese elderly man on a package tour told me that the visit there would definitely be a good memory to the nether world...

The Shinto altar on the top floor.

View from the top floor of the tower.

Overall it was a great visit for me. I felt the magnificence the castle has stepped in the last seven centuries. I'm now motivated to study the Japanese history much more, together with improving my English proficiency (This is currently my first priority.).

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JR Himeji Station is now under renovation, and it's very confusing as to how to get out of the premises correctly. I accidentally exited from the other exit, even though I had used this station several times before.

The structure of Himeji Station may have changed a little since because all the tracks have been elevated since last December.

This isn't the correct exit.

Walk toward the central exit.

This is the correct exit.