Archive for the ‘Knowledgebase’ Category

There are several methods that you can take in relation to getting your hands on some otaku goods in Japan. While most foreigners only know to go to Akihabara or Den Den town, there is actually several other ways that stock these goods for your pleasure. While I will not go into the specifics of all the different methods of buying otaku goods in this blog, I will show you a couple different stores that specialise in these particular items.

First up is Mandarake. Mandarake specialises in hard to find items and second hand figures and manga. Unlike the second option which will follow, Mandarake has a very large range of otaku goods and an even larger range of second hand manga in varying conditions and quality. Mandarake is also a really great store if you don’t mind picking up second hand figurings for 1/6th of the value of which most are still in their original boxes. You can also go here if you wish to sell your goods, obviously the price you get won’t be very high. The quality of most of hte second hand goods in this store is quite good as most collectors will generally keep there figures in very good condition. Definitely take a look in Mandarake if you want to get your hands on something thats really hard to find, or if you just want to save a few thousand yen for the same product. Product selection in Mandrake is second to none of which I highly recommend. Stores are located in most major cities, for further information visit the website.

Secondly Animate is another very popular stop for anime and otaku aficionados, unlike Mandarake they only specialise in new goods and manga. There selection is quite vast and everything is brand new. Animate usually stocks more posters and stationary that is all anime related. They cater to a slightly different market than Mandarake but together with Mandarake go hand in hand for those who are really seeking some serious otaku gear.


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Best Access Point: Hankyu Nishinomia Kitaguchi Station, 5 minutes walk to the building.
Floor 1 – Specialty stores, desserts
Floor 2 – Specialty stores
Floor 3 – Specialty Stores
Floor 4 – Restaurants and Food Court
Floor 5 – Toho Cinemas
Hankyu Department store spans several floors.

The Nishinomiya Gardens shopping complex is quite vast with its array of specialty stores. Although I have never heard of more than 3/4 of the stores located in this shopping complex it is well worth a visit. The shopping mall itself is located between Kobe and Osaka and although Hankyu railway is not part of most tourists JR Rail passes its definitely worth coming to especially if you are female.

The usual stores include Hankyu Department store (where you would go to buy your designer labels, Mont Blanc, Chanel, Elizabeth Arden etcetera. While in here I ended up buying my very first Mont Blanc Pen, and its pretty cool. If you leave this department store there are three floors of specialty stores, one entire level dedicated to food and a Toho cinemas on the fifth floor. If you have the patience you can wait in line at some of the food outlets of whom are apparently famous and have queues 20 minutes deep. I on the other hand do not have the patience to wait in a line that long just for a waffle.

All in all the shopping complex is definitely worth a visit if you’ve got some time. Best bet – visit here during sales to get yourself some nice bargains

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In Australia we have LAN Cafe’s or Lan Centres, in Japan they have Media Cafes. Japanese Media Cafes put Australia to shame, like most things in Japan. There are several media cafes throughout Japan but Media Cafe Popeye is one of the more upmarket and nicer cafes that aren’t as seedy. The basic concept of a media cafe is this: the full range of media and entertainment that you rent by the hour including: a huge assortment of Japanese manga (unfortunately not in English) which you can read in very comfortable well lit rooms or your own cubicle, computers with extremely fast Japanese Fibre optic internet, pool tables, electronic dart boards, movies are just some of the entertainment you get. The cost is usually 600 or so yen per hour and gets cheaper with time. One of the best features about Media Cafe Popeye is once you pay you get unlimited access to all of the activities in the centre which also includes a huge assortment of drinks, ice cream, and if your lucky some food. These cafes are great to kill time or to watch a movie or two on your private booth. One thing to make sure is that your booth is clean as there is a lot of adult videos that you can watch in the booths, so if you use your imagination you can think what some people do in these ‘private dark booths’. There is also a shower if you want to stay there for a long time and the people are pretty friendly, however there is limited English spoken but even still a good place to come with some friends to play billiards or darts relatively cheaply!

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The Seishun 18 Special Train ticket is a special JR Ticket that can be used throughout Japan apart from Hokkaido (a seperate ticket can be bought for these areas) during holiday periods. It is only available for purchase and use during holiday periods of the year. The ticket costs 11500 for 5 days however these 5 days do not have to be consecutive, and can be used all on the same day (5 individuals sharing the 5 days all on same day) or any combination. Practically It allows 5 full days using JR local trains and whether or not they are used all on the same day or by the same person doesn’t really matter.

Seishun means youth and thus the ticket was made for those looking to save money. It costs about 14000 yen from Tokyo to Osaka and about 2 hours with a Shinkansen, with the Seishun it will only cost you 2300 yen. It is highly noticeable that this is a great way to save money for those who have more than enough time on their hands. Having a JR Rail pass however is not cheaper but is will allow you more time saving and convenient travel allowing you to get off along the way. The JR rail pass is not recommended though if you are staying in Japan for extended periods of time and intend to have some down time between travelling as the ticket is for consecutive travel only. The Seishun ticket has many great advantages other than price, but most noticeably it allows the user JR Travel-like abilities in the fact that you can keep getting off trains and getting back until midnight on the day that it was stamped. This is not allowed when buying one way tickets to destinations and getting off will incur you the fee of having to buy a new ticket from where you got off. I have used this ticket on several occasions where I have had more time than money to get between main destination points within Japan. I highly recommend it for those studying in Japan or others who are here for reasons other than staying for a couple weeks only of which I suggest buying a JR Rail pass.

Buying a Seishun ticket can be easily accomplished during the designated allotted sale periods which can be found on the JR website or easier on WikiTravel (Wikitravel also has a great in depth article on these tickets). You pretty much have to go up to a ticketing counter and say Seishun Ju-Hachi, it might take a little bit of repeating slowly and some good sign language if you don’t know any Japanese or they might get you straight away. It is possible to buy though for foreigners and everyone alike regardless if you are youth or not.

Using the ticket is as simple as going to the manned ticketing gate and presenting the ticket to get a stamp on it. The ticket can have up to 5 stamps representing the days, if two people are using the ticket you will thus get two stamps at the same time. If 5 people are using it you will get all 5 stamps at the same time. From this it is pretty easy to see that if five people travel from Osaka to Tokyo it will take them over 6 hours using this ticket changing several times however it will only cost 5 people 11500 yen, whereas if they all bought one way Shinkansen tickets they would be up for something in the vicinity of 60000+ yen for this one way journey.

There are several good articles on the internet about this ticket and I feel that I should explain to people the other options for travel within Japan. This is by far the cheapest way to get by on land and because of this, this is my number 1 best land travel tip within Japan. Remember check when your travelling around Japan, that it is in a Seishun 18 sale period (the holiday periods in Japan) and get yourself one of these tickets. You will not only save money but you can also get off at some off-the-beaten-track stations that you wouldn’t have normally gotten off at. Happy Journey’s!

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So our time to climb Mt Fuji was nearing and I have decided to provide a blog specific to what I had discovered, or what I had researched on the climb. Blogs containing information on my particular climb will come later but for now this is a preparation blog.

There are several different internet sites out there that have very good information on the necessities of what you need on Mt Fuji, some are more useful than others while others are a bit out of date. But in all fairness climbing Mt Fuji now is probably still the same as when they had written their blogs.

Packing List

The items I purchased or took out of my ski gear from when I went to Hokkaido are as follows (in no particular order of importance, you’ll just need to decide for yourself it its necessary for you or not.

  • LED Headlamp capable of 10 meter range which took Triple AAA batteries and lasted about 6 hours. This will come in handy if you wish view the sunrise and need to climb the last few stations throughout the night.
  • First Aid kit packed with all the essentials that one might need, including sanitising hand gel (There is no running water on Mt Fuji), blister cream and patches and the usual first aid kit items.
  • Sun screen (this is definitely necessary no matter how sun resistant you are because you will be in direct contact with the sun.
  • A hat or cap (same reason as above – but to protect your head)
  • a Good pair of hiking boots that have ankle support and decent grip.
  • A inner layer sock to protect me from new hiking boot blisters (These are very thin and can picked up from any good outdoor goods stores)
  • a good pair of outdoor trekking socks (relatively thick)
  • 1 x thermal leggings (to put on when your at the 8th station about to do a night time climb)
  • 1 x thermal shirt (as above)
  • water/wind proof free moving pants
  • a thin merino wool jacket for the top
  • a rain/wind shell for 8th station upwards
  • a beanie for the top
  • sunglasses so the sun rays don’t bounce into your eyes
  • a decent sized backpack
  • one camel pouch 2 Litres (water on the mountain is expensive and the more your bring up the less you have to buy)
  • one DSLR camera to capture the moments
  • one HD Video camera to record the moments in HD
  • one notepad and pen to take notes
  • Cash (Cards are not accepted on Mt Fuji and practically anything you might need you’ll need cash for)
  • plenty of high energy foods, muesli bars, rice snacks etcetera (again the more you bring up the less you need to spend up there)
  • decent fast acting pain medication (Ibuprofen, Paracetamol – Don’t bring Aspirin as it thins your blood)
  • a couple bottled oxygen incase of some altitude sickness.
  • a spare change of shirt/socks/pants or whatever your using to soak up the sweat from the climb (useful so that your clothes won’t be drenched while waiting for the sun in 0 degrees at the top.
  • (a walking stick – I didn’t bring one as I plan to buy one on the mountain and get it stamped at every station along the way) – although from other blogs a proper walking stick with shock absorbing capabilities comes in handy.
  • Some decent winter gloves for the top
  • a thin glove so you don’t get blisters from the walking stick if you buy a wooden one on the mountain.
  • a roll of toilet paper
  • a fast drying towel to wipe off your sweat and keep your dry incase it rains.
  • snacks if you can fit them in your bag
  • some water proof bags to keep your things dry if your backpack is not fully waterproof

Although this list may not be all encompassing and I might of forgotten something: everyone is different and what you need and what I brought could vary greatly. Make sure you do further research if you wish to undertake this climb.

Some basic rules for climbing Mt Fuji that might come in handy are:

  1. Stay on the marked paths
  2. Don’t climb faster than your capable of (Don’t Push yourself)
  3. Acclimatise to the low levels of oxygen in the air by taking your time and resting as you get higher.
  4. Wait at the 5th station for a good 30 minutes or more to get yourself use to the low oxygen levels.
  5. Always climb with someone else who can lend a hand for when its needed.
  6. Keep yourself hydrated
  7. Keep your energy levels up to stay alert to falling rocks and other potential dangers.
  8. Only climb during the official climbing season of July-Aug unless you are a professional winter climber.
  9. Prepare for all weather conditions including sunny, rainy, thunderstorms as the can change drastically
  10. Give way to those who wish to pass you
  11. Make sure your prepared with enough cash for anything that might happen.
  12. Make sure your travel insurances covers the actual activity of climbing Mt Fuji as a Helivac is supposedly extremely expensive.
  13. Remember that climbing a mountain is exactly that ‘climbing a mountain’ don’t act immature or accidents might happen.
  14. If you are really feeling sick, take a break until your recover and if you don’t recover descent immediately.
  15. Many people climb being unprepared and don’t make it to the top or worse: have an accident. This rule is simple Be Prepared (having more than what you need in this situation is always better than getting a skin graze or cut, it getting infected and your stuck without a medical Kit.
  16. Don’t rush up the mountain, take your time and really take in what your actually accomplishing. If you cant remember the actual feat of Climbing Mt Fuji at the end of the day – what was the point in climbing in the first place.
  17. Do not climb in Jeans, wear lose fitting pants to help movability.
  18. Always respect your surroundings: whether its on a trail or whether your sleeping next to someone at a hut.
  19. Do not be stingy with the sunscreen
  20. Take as many photos and/or video as possible to capture this momentous occasion.
  21. Enjoy yourself! There are alot of people who would envy being in your position if they had the chance.

Some other useful information or hints that I found handy.

  • There are lockers at the 5th station so if your not staying locally during your climb you don’t have to carry all your things up the mountain with you.
  • The only medical station on the mountain is at the 8th station.
  • The weather station is the actual highest point in Japan and takes a further hour of walking when your reach the top.
  • In general using public transport is a more efficient method of getting to your designated climbing area, however driving with a group can be cheaper. Remember though Driving in Japan using the Interchanges (IC’s) are very expensive and you could end up with a larger bill than if you used the Shinkansen / buses.
  • Researching information about climbing is highly recommended as this helped me getting mentally prepared for the trip.

Some Useful websites:

A final note

I do not claim this to an all encompassing guide to climbing Mt Fuji, every route and every person is different. This is some basic information that I have prepared to give you a heads up on what might be necessary to complete this climb safely. I have read blogs of people who have climbed it on a whim and didn’t make it to the top as they were insufficiently prepared. At the same time their have been reports of people who have climbed it in sneakers and a basketball shirt. For me though if I’m going to undertake this epic task (In my eyes) I plan to make it to the top and not making it to the top will be utter failure on my part! Stay tuned for further blog updates on my Fuji climb that will start shortly and good luck to anyone who wishes to complete this climb!

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Japan is quite unlike many countries as it has a very poor exchange rate when it comes to changing Australian Dollar. To check out the approximate market rate you can go to Google and type in 1 AUD to JPY or 1 USD to JPY; the first being for Australian and the second being for US dollars. A ‘good’ rate will usually be 2 or 3 yen lower than the market rate. Exchanging Australian dollars in Japan (and by this I mean the physical bank notes of Australia) will usually get you something in the vicinity of 7-10 yen lower than the actual market rate. This may not seem like a lot but if you’r changing out 1000 Australian for example, the market rate will get you 75000 (at the time of writing) where as if you changed out the cash you’d be lucky to get 69000 yen. 6000 yen is a big loss considering you’r only doing a currency exchange.

So you might ask: So how do I get my money to Japan? Well as Japan is a widely cashed based society you can’t just walk up to any ATM in Japan to withdraw cash from your home. So there are two good options for getting money.

Firstly, arrange a good visa debit card, credit card or any bank card that has cirrus/maestro on it with low commission rates with your bank while your back home in Australia. These cards can then be used at any 7-Eleven store or any Post office in Japan. However 7-Eleven stores will only accept Visa cards and not your usual debit card or Mastercard. Post offices however will accept all of these cards as long as these fit into the 3 types i listed earlier. Using these ATM machines you will usually get an exchange rate 2-3 yen lower than the market rate which is better than 10 yen lower than the market rate. It is important to check though how much your being charged by your bank to withdraw from an international ATM.

Secondly there is another option of buying physical yen currency in Australia this is a good option to do even if it’s only for 10-20% of your money. The exchange rate in Australia is significantly better than that you would get in Japan for your AUD notes.

From my experience going to Japan over the last couple years these are the two most effective ways to use your money in Japan. All other ways I have found you lose a lot of money on the currency conversion. These two options however are just my opinion and are not meant to be used as a rule book. If you can find a better way to do it which there may be others please let me know so I can update this.

Otherwise enjoy your trip!

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