I went to Hakone while back. It was some holiday, ah yes, the autumn equinox, so we had a three day weekend… for the second week in a row… if it weren’t for the insane work hours, I could love working in Japan!

We could go to Hakone in about 2 hours from Tokyo on a ‘not so expensive’ train. For 5500 yen we could get the ‘Hakone free pass’ and use all the trains, boats, ropeways, and whatever in Hakone as we wanted for three days. You can buy the Hakone free pass anywhere on Odakyu-line, so you can get it at Shinjuku if you are coming from Tokyo. If you have more money, you can also take the Hakone ‘romance car’ ロマンスカー and get there faster. The train is not at all romantic; I think this is another case of katakana gone wrong.

Hakone is famous for onsens, or hot spring baths as they are usually referred to in English. Hakone is also known for wooden boxes that are like puzzles to get open. I wonder if the box thing has anything to do with the fact that the first character in Hakone (箱根) means ‘box’…

On the way to Hakone, you can stop at Odawara castle. The area outside the castle has actually be converted into a mini-zoo, and apparently there once was an amusement park for children there. Entering the castle will give you a quick history lesson about the area and the role of the castle.

Once getting to Hakone, a definite tourist spot is Owakudani、 also known as 地獄谷, hells valley. The place is steaming with geothermal fumes… and reeks of sulfur. It stinks, but, this is the stuff that creates so many onsen in the area, so we must be thankful. Heh.

At Owakudani, and about every store around the area… you can purchase black eggs. These eggs are boiled in the onsen like waters, and this turns their shells black. It is said that if you eat one of these eggs then it will increase your life span seven years. Bonus!

Anyway, there were many cool things in Hakone, the springs, the rope way, the second steepest train ride in the world… it doesn’t feel steep when you are riding it though. For more information about ‘the Hakone trip’, check out JNTO’s site.

Riding the ropeway was interesting. I expected it to be a little bit more raw… however it was more organized than the subways. I was very impressed. The view was great, and on a clear day you can see Mount Fuji.

Rent. Jail.

I have -really- started to look for an apartment now.

I gotta move! I can’t go on living with my host family forever. I have to move on! I have to spread my wings! I have to be free!

Not that my host family is bad, they’re great! But what is a grown man (okay… so I’m only 23.) doing still living with a family? Eating their food… Having his laundry done… Being introduced to people… Having to only pay 50,000 yen a month for rent… Geh. I need to stop talking.


Japanese apartments usually look like this.

Just kidding. This is a restaurant in Shibuya called Lock Up. You should go there, monsters run around while you are eating. It is in other places in Japan too.

As you may have heard, renting in Japan is not easy. First off you need a guarantor (保証人). In my case, my company will hook me up. Then, you need to pay something like 6 months rent up front, never to return, when you first rent an apartment.

These apartments don’t come with jack. They usually have an air conditioner/heater…. a toilet… and a stove… but that’s it. Everything else you have to buy.

Not only that but they are small…

Usually the bathroom and shower are together, or you can get them separate. The kitchens are ultra small, and usually there is some guy in the living/bed/study room playing on the computer all day.

Another option is a Monthly Mansion. Smaller, for about twice the price. They do not include all of the shikikin, reikin, and finders fee that the regular previously mentioned chintai’ regular apartments do though.

Also monthly mansions usually include everything, all the way down to a television. However, they are freaking expensive. An average apartment in Tokyo should cost you about US 800 a month if you look. A monthly mansion should cost about US 1200 or something a month. Not including electricity and all of that.

Anyway. There are some links to help you look for a place to live over here. Check it out.

MiniMini was very helpful for me when I went to their office. Also Hello-Monthly is a good place for monthly mansions.

Good luck!

Singapore: I’m back.

I case anyone didn’t notice… I was in Singapore last month. My internet connection was weak, and the amount of free time I had was pitiful, so I didn’t get around to updating the site. My bad. Anyway, here’s Singapore.

Singapore is very interesting country. I’m sleepy so I’m not going to try to say anything profound here… these are just a few of my observations.

As for Asia, I have only been to Japan, Korea (1 week), Singapore (1 month), and Malaysia (just an island resort for a day) so I am really only comparing Singapore with my experiences in Japan here…

One of the things I will remember most about Singapore is it’s diversity. There are Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, and lots of ‘other’ foreigners there. In Japan I always feel like an outsider, no matter how long I have been in the country it seems. In Singapore however I never felt out of place (except for the time I went to the Indian bar/dance club, but that’s another story). It is easy to blend in, and feel at home even. It also helps that most everyone seems to speak English.

There is even a street in Singapore in which there is a Indian Hindu temple, a Muslim Mosque, and a Buddhist temple all in the same area. They seem to get along peacefully too. It’s beautiful!

I had a lot of interesting food in Singapore as well. ChiliCrab, Pepper Crab, Prawns everywhere… Chinese food, Indian food, Indonesian food… I even had ‘black duck soup’, which I hear is Chinese. The duck was… black… I hear they look like small chickens or something.

This pepper crab could eat your freakin’ arm.

I also had the chance to try many fruits that I never knew existed. Jack Fruit, Ranbutan, and the deathly stinky Durian for example. Durian is so stinky, it is illegal to carry it inside of a taxi or airplane I have heard. Yet some how, people enjoy eating it… I guess it’s something like sardines.

The city was very clean, and really seems to be more organized than Tokyo. Though I’m sure that it is easier to manage a country of that size, Singapore still gets props for organization. This next picture has nothing to do with the organization in Singapore, but it sure is colorful…

Singapore is also famous for their rules. Remember the thing about the American getting caned for vandalism? Singapore has huge fines in place for gum chewing (or is it just the sale of?), driving with a cell phone, and jay walking. Huge fines. Huge. A taxi driver was telling that if you are caught speeding twice, your license is history. If you are interested in the details, hit the web.

Anyway. I’m sleepy.