Saturday, June 14, 2014

Travel to Japan : Stay Connected with Mobile Wi-Fi

If you want to stay connected in Japan, there are 3 choices available for you. The first one is activate your data roaming using your own sim card; the second one is buy new prepaid sim card in Japan; and the last one is rent a mobile wifi. The last choice is the cheapest way if you're travelling on budget with group of friends. 

When I went to Japan last November, I travelled in group of 6 people and we decided to rent a mobile wifi. I booked the router through Japan Wireless. They offer 4 types of routers with different speeds and coverages. I chose to rent their cheapest choice, pocket wifi by EM Mobile with 21Mbps speed and it can be shared up to 5 devices.

The cost to rent this router for 9 days is 4,700 JPY (incl. tax) and 500 JPY shipping fees will be added. The package consist of one router (the mobile wifi itself), one extra battery, a charger, an instruction to use the router and a big envelope to return everything once the rent period is over.

They offer 2 choices of pick up method, you can collect the package by yourself at the airport or they can send the package to hostel/hotel where you'll stay in Japan. To minimize any errors during shipping process, I decided to pick up the package itself at the post office in Kansai Airport. 

Let me sum everything in step-by-step process :)

1) Open Japan Wireless website
2) Choose the type of router that you want to rent
3) Fill the order form 
4) Pay the rent fee with credit card
5) Once the payment made, they'll sent a confirmation letter to your e-mail (don't forget to print out the letter)
6) Pick up the router at the airport or reception desk at your hostel/hotel 
7) Stay connected anywhere in Japan! :)
8) At the end of your rental period, put the routers (along with the extra battery and its charger) in the envelope that Japan Wireless has provided and drop it into any postbox in Japan.

So simple and easy right? 

I didn't face any trouble with the connection while using this router. It's quite steady and the speed was as fast as their promise. But, to outsmart the battery problem I had to turn on-turn off the router all day long because the total use of the router battery and its extra are just around 8 hours. Another obstacle that you'll face if you decided to rent mobile wifi is you have to stay in group with the person who carriers the routers. If you decide to go on your own separate way, you'll lose the connection. You won't face these 2 problems if you use your own sim-card or buy a new prepaid sim data card in Japan. The bottom line is you have to pay extra for more convenience service :)

Japan Wireless also sell prepaid sim data card for 4,250 JPY (plus 500 JPY shipping fee). You can use this card in Japan for 30 days with 1 GB data usage limit. But it's important to be noticed that this sim card is for internet data use only, you can't making or receiving any phone call. 

Oh, you have one last option too: rely on free-wifi service in Japan! Limited area though. Well, the choice is yours! :)

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Travel to Japan: Kyoto (Transportation, Accommodation, Attractions)

If I have to choose, which city that I want to explore more during my trip to Japan last year, I undoubtedly pick Kyoto. Tokyo has offered me so many things, but it's too bustling and everything moved too fast. I felt like I have to walk in lightning speed and made me feel guilty to spend a leisure time just to enjoy a cup of coffee. I love Osaka, but I was quite satisfied with my 1.5 days experience while I was there. For Kyoto, the city is so peaceful yet still lively. Fresh air, quiet street, green trees, street food galore on my way to shrines/temples, amazing views of Japanese heritage places have made me fell in love with this city. I only had 2 days to explore and already tried my best to see everything but.. yes I need another 2 or 3 days to satisfy my wanderlust soul.


You can explore Kyoto with city bus or subway. I used my ICOCA card to ride the train in Kyoto. Kyoto station is the biggest train/subway station. You can ride train/subway for going around or take the shinkansen to go to another city from this station.

Kyoto station is also the end/beginning point for most city buses that cover many tourist attractions. The flat rate for the city bus is 220 JPY per ride, so if you want to ride the bus all day long, I recommend you to buy Kyoto City Bus One Day Pass. You can buy this card at tourist information center inside Kyoto Station for 500 JPY. Two Day Pass is also available for 1,200 JPY. But it's important to note that you'll need to pay extra for long distance journey (non-flat routes). Buses with black numbers on white fields is long distance buses.

How to ride city bus in Kyoto?
1) Board from the rear door and exited from the front.
2) There's a display in front of the bus that will tell you the next stop, when you see your stop press the red button near you.
3) Pay when you get off, put your money (exact change) into the slot. If you use the city bus pass, the first time you use it, simply put the card into the card slot and you'll see that the date will be printed on the back of the card. For the second use and after you just have to show the card with the printed date to the bus driver.

For the journey from Tokyo to Kyoto I used the Willer Express night bus, super great value for budget travelers. But it's a bit sad if I missed the chance to experience the super fast bullet train, since I should go to Kansai (Osaka) for my flight back home, so I took the shortest route of Shinkansen (Nozomi): Kyoto-Osaka (14 mins journey - 1,420 JPY). Tricky way to check another thing on my bucket list :p


Since Kyoto Station is the center hub for everything, it's a wise move to find a place to stay around this station. Luckily, I found the newly opened place called Piece Hostel. It's a modern and simple hostel in white building with minimalist touch and color. Kyoto Station is just 5 mins distance walking from the hostel. Everything is clean and neat. Free wifi, towel, toiletries, and you can buy a cup of coffee from their mini cafe inside the hostel. They also served several kinds of bread for breakfast, plus potato salad, rice, and miso soup! If I have a chance to go back to Kyoto again, I surely will stay in Piece Hostel :)

I stayed in this room! All these pictures are courtesy of Piece Hostel :)


Day 1 in Kyoto : Ginkakuji Temple - Path of Philosophy - Heian Shrine Torii Gate - Kiyomizudera Temple - Gion 

Ginkakuji Temple or the Silver Pavilion is a Zen temple established in 1482. It's located near Higashiyama mountains on eastern Kyoto. This complex consists of the pavilion itself, several temple buildings, an unique dry sand garden called Ginsyadan, and one calming yet pretty moss garden. You can walk slowly along the circular route from the grounds to the hill. 

The Silver Pavilion was originally called Kannon-den. It's two storied with a traditional Japanese residential architecture style on the first floor and Chinese temple style on the second floor. There's a bronze phoenix on the roof that constantly facing east as a guard of Ginkakuji. 

On our way to this temple there are many food stores that offered a lot of matcha (green tea) snacks and dessert :9

Admission: 500 JPY
Directions: Take bus no 100 from Kyoto Station and get off at Ginkakuji-mae or bus no 5/17 and alight at Ginkakuji-michi (40 mins journey)

From Ginkakuji temple, I took a walk along Path of Philosophy for about 30-40 minutes. There are also more small temples and shrines along the way. Beside that, I also found some restaurants and pretty cafes. The path is ended at Nanzenji Temple, but I skipped this part and continued my journey to Heian Shrine Torii Gate. 

I filled my tummy with some snacks at 711 nearby the gate. I couldn't resist to buy one bottle of bubble milk tea just because the packaging was too cute! I'm a fan of Marie the cat from Disney and I didn't think twice once I saw her faces on the label ^^

Just before the sun went down, I took a bus from the shelter near the torii gate and rushed to Kiyomizudera Temple. It's a long way road from the bus stop to reach the temple gate, but don't worry, your eyes and taste buds will be spoiled by snack stores that offer many samples of their products! :)

Kiyomizudera or Pure Water Temple is the most popular temple in Kyoto during cherry blossom and autumn season. The temple is famous for its wooden stage, 13 meters above the hillside. There's also a waterfall called Otowa Waterfull inside the complex. Visitors can take a cup and drink from one of 3 streams. Each stream is believed will give a benefit that different from others : longevity, success at education, and good love life. But it's not a wise decision to drink from all streams because is considered as a greedy act. When I was there, several parts of this complex was being renovated but I still can enjoyed most parts of this temple.

Admission: 300 JPY
Directions: I took a bus no 100 from a bus shelter near Heian Shrine Torii Gate, you can also catch the same bus or take bus no 206 from Kyoto Station (15 minutes journey)

The first word that popped on my head when I heard "Gion" is geisha. Yes, Gion is an area or district in Kyoto that famous for its geisha. This area is filled with restaurants and tea houses (ochaya) where guests are entertained by geisha and maiko. Almost all constructions within this area are build with Japanese wooden style. Nowadays, you need lots of luck and persistance to see geisha walked around in Gion district. You're lucky enough if you're able to see maiko. I didn't see both :(

My battery was drained out once I arrived in Gion so I didn't take any picture while I was there. I took another city bus (no 100/206) from Gion to go back to Kyoto Station.  

Day 2 in Kyoto: Fushimi Inari-Arashiyama-Ginkakuji Temple

Shrine with countless torii gates: Fushimi Inari! This shrine is located on southern Kyoto and consists of thousands bright red torii gates that will lead you to Mount Inari. You need around 2-3 hours for the round trip from the shrine on the ground to the mountain. I skipped the hiking part ^^v  

There are many foxes statues inside because it's believed that they are the messenger of Inari. 

Admission: Free
Directions: Take JR Nara line from Kyoto Station to Inari Station (5 mins journey, 140 JPY using ICOCA card)

Next stop is Arashiyama area. This area famous for the bamboo grooves/forest and the scenic train. The first option was kinda creepy for me, so I chose to experience the second one :) Arashimaya is soooooo pretty and quiet! It's just a small city, you need a half day tour to see almost everything. The most important thing is never ever ever skip the scenic train! The view will be more amazing during cherry blossom and the peak of autumn season when the leaves turn to red/yellow. 

The old looking train will take you from Torokko Saga to Torokko Kameoka Station for around 25 minutes journey. Then you can walk to Umahori Station to take the JR train back to Saga Arashiyama or straight to Kyoto Station (25 mins journey, 320 JPY). Don't forget to choose the fully open cars to enjoy the view! 

Admission: 620 JPY one way
Directions: Take JR Sagano line from Kyoto Station and alight at Saga Arashiyama Station (16 mins journey, 240 JPY). The Sagano Scenic train station is located behind the JR station. There's a tourist information center outside Saga Arashiyama station if you need any info about Arashiyama. 

The last touristy place that I visited in Kyoto was Kinkakuji Temple (Golden Pavilion). Along with Ginkakuji Temple, it's also registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site. The best time to visit this temple is in late afternoon when the sun gradually went down and the shine that touch the temple makes the golden color more shimmery. There's a pond beside the pavilion and you can see its beautiful reflection above the water.

Unlike the Silver one, Golden Pavilion is 3 storied but the golden phoenix also stands on the top as a guard of the temple. The gold foil just covers the second and third level. Each level have its own architecture style. 

Admission: 400 JPY
Directions: Take bus no 101 or 205 and get off at Kinkakuji-michi (40 minutes journey)

A friend of mine also write a story about her journey to Kyoto. She covered more stories about Arashiyama. I also followed her advice to taste a delicious japanese curry near Kinkakuji Temple. It's located exactly behind the bus stop. The owner is an old married couple with the warmest hearts :) 

Take a look here to read her stories!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Being 25 (and my newest bucket list!)

"I don't know about you, but I'm feeling 22"? x)
-Taylor Swift

Nothing's change, well at least nothing big. Surprisingly I didn't feel the quarter life blues that my friend  had warned me before, but there's a big chance it'll be coming later *awkward grin*. I'm so grateful to be surrounded by people I really care about, to be received opportunities to make my dreams come true one by one, and to be braver for being myself. I feel truly blessed in every way. Thank you God, you're the best!

Following the wish list that I wrote early last month, I succeed to get 3 over those 7 things on my list. Good friends of mine gave me the Allegiant novel and the other surprised me with a Moon doll! Even though in the end I bought the Place of Blue by myself (with a great help from a very kind japanese lady), it's worth for every JPY I spent.

Well, with a new age and (several) new dreams, I want to share 25 things on my bucket list.

1) Coffee hopping in Melbourne
2) Watch CNBLUE ZEPP tour in Japan
3) Turn my hobby (planning for a trip, create an itinerary) into my new source of fund ;p
4) Go on a mission trip (or volunteer)
5) See a broadway musical
6) Learn how to make a good coffee (plus the latte art)
7) Watching Coldplay *mega awesome* concert
8) Watch the ball drop in Times Square
9) Watch baseball game and go cray screaming for the team with their fans in Korea, Japan, or LA
10) Cherry blossom in Japan
11) Eat gelato and pasta in Italy
12) Go to CNBLUE fan signing event
13) Take my parents to xxx with me (secret mission)
14) Go to Lavender Fields and Higashimokoto Phlox Park in Hokkaido
15) Learn to create mango dessert
16) Drink butterbeer at Harry Potter World (Universal Studio)
17) Dance with local people in Barcelona
18) Culinary trip to 6 major cities in Indonesia
19) Snowy Christmas
20) Adopt a puppy
21) Able to master 2 foreign languages
22) Living in Korea for a month
23) Watch a football game in England
24) Dinner in Paris
25) Have a rock n roll day at Summer Sonic in Japan

It's a looooooong way to go and the challenging part is it's keep growing! Wish me luck!
Or is there anyone want to check a thing or two from their bucket list with me? :)