Wednesday, 25 May 2011

New pages!

Hey guys - I'm not sure if you will notice, but I have added some new pages to this blog!

We have the old "Help Japan" page, full of information about volunteering and donating to help the earthquake/tsunami victims. I added an "About Me" page for a lovely bit of self-indulgence, although it's more about my journey and how I came to be teaching English in Japan. The latest addition is "Live, Work and Teach in Japan" - a comprehensive FAQ in which I try to answer questions from imaginary people. The questions are based on things I've seen often asked in forums, as well as things that various people have asked me in the past. I hope that it's helpful!

Just look up and click the buttons on the bar... click "Home" to return to the main blog. I'm sure you could have worked that out for yourselves, but hey.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Golden Week: Yokohama, Nikko and exploring Tochigi-ken

Since the big earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant incidents, tourists have been avoiding anywhere north of Tokyo like the plague. Perhaps it's the media's fault; their addiction to sensationalism overriding any pangs of guilt for causing unecessary panic. Perhaps it's down to the embassies advising against non-essential travel to anywhere north of the capital. Perhaps people are generally just keeping on the safe side, and don't know what to expect.
Well, I visited Yokohama, the second largest city in Japan, a few train stops before Tokyo (from Hamamatsu) and then I visited Nikko, a three hour train ride north of there. Neither were disaster zones, and even the "blackouts" didn't extend to more than a slightly inconvenient train schedule and a few escalators turned off. It seems that some places are making only a token effort to close down electricity, perhaps turning off one or two lights while most things go on as normal. Nikko is in Tochigi prefecture; the prefecture just next to (south-west of) Fukushima. Does this strike fear into your hearts? I'll tell you about it, and you can decide what you think.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Hamanako Pal-Pal, Hamamatsu Flower Park and Toyohashi Zoo

Recently, I've been checking out some of the Hamamatsu area's attractions. 

Hamanako Pal-Pal
A 45 minute bus ride from Hamamatsu station (platform 1, all buses except 37 I think) - take the stop after Flower Park. Pal-Pal is Hamamatsu's version of a theme park. 1000 entry, which leads you into a spherical plaza of shops, arcades and restaurants. After paying for overpriced curry and melon Fanta, we realised that entry into the main park was through one of two tiny doors. Not very intuitive or well organised!Click here for the official website.
Still, actually going on rides was an extra cost. We paid 800 for the big blue rollercoaster, which - to be honest - is pretty damn good. It feels like a modern wonder, out of place in this old park reminiscent of British seaside towns or travelling fairs. But for 800円 a pop on top of the entrance fee, I wasn't keen to reconfirm the experience.