Saturday, January 10, 2015

Japan is Cash-based

English: Japanese 500 yen note series C - back...
English: Japanese 500 yen note series C - back thumb|front image (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Iwakura 500JPY
Iwakura 500JPY (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I am almost putting 2014 as the year, everytime...

Before I forget, if going to Japan, make sure that you have a working debit or credit card, one that works in Japan. And for those who shun away from card use, make sure you are carrying USD or JPY.

Train ticket purchase is easily done using JPY bills and coins, and eating in restaurants also by cash, and in some cases, cards - however, do take note that it is reported that cards aren't always recognized.

So when that happens, be sure - have cash - always.

Till then!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Osaka, Japan: December 2014

English: Escalator Tunnel, Umeda Sky Building,...
English: Escalator Tunnel, Umeda Sky Building, Osaka Polski: Tunel ze schodami ruchomymi na Umeda Sky Building w Osace (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Osaka Castle in Chuo-ku, Osaka, Osaka...
English: Osaka Castle in Chuo-ku, Osaka, Osaka prefecture, Japan 日本語: 大阪城, 大阪府大阪市中央区 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Colored leaves in Minoo Mountains, Os...
English: Colored leaves in Minoo Mountains, Osaka, Japan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Umeda Sky building 02
Umeda Sky building 02 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Former Head Quarter of 4th Division o...
English: Former Head Quarter of 4th Division of Imperial Army Japan, Osaka Castle Park, Osaka City, Japan 日本語: 大阪城公園内にある旧第四師団司令部庁舎 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Plum Garden, Osaka Castle Park
Plum Garden, Osaka Castle Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
West Japan Railway Limited Express train "...
West Japan Railway Limited Express train "Haruka" (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Aerial Photograph of Kansai International Airp...
Aerial Photograph of Kansai International Airport at JAPAN in 2007. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Kansai Re...
Kansai International Airport, Osaka, Kansai Region. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Osaka Castle in Chuo-ku, Osaka, Osaka...
English: Osaka Castle in Chuo-ku, Osaka, Osaka prefecture, Japan 日本語: 大阪城, 大阪府大阪市中央区 Camera: Sony DSLR-A700 Lens: Sony SAL1680Z (Carl Zeiss) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Minoh falls in Minoh, Osaka, Japan 日本...
English: Minoh falls in Minoh, Osaka, Japan 日本語: 箕面滝(大阪府箕面市) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Umeda Sky Building, Osaka, Japan -- by jpatokal
Umeda Sky Building, Osaka, Japan -- by jpatokal (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is just to chronicle our family holiday in Osaka, Japan, December 2014.

It is winter, and trees usually drop and lose their leaves. But not all, especially in Japan. Post-autumn leaves still cling mightily to their branches, and the difference colors of orange, red, light green and yellow green - well, they are as refreshing to the sight in the midst of the barren clusters.

And too bad, we didn't get to see the cherry (sakura) blossoms. It is winter!

Minoh (Minoo) Park

Nonetheless, our trek to the mountain of Minoh (Minoo) is worth all the trouble: braving the chilling wind, the steep walk especially after the 1st half of the 45-min walk or so, and the seemingly deserted areas. There are inidividuals and couples you would meet now and then, already returning, and some passing us by, as we took a slow walk to the famous fall at the mountain top, and lots of pictures along the way. The fall was just refreshing, and it was worth all the effort, even though the mountain sides are grey and barren, and the trees just have a brown frame, but still, it was beautiful and rejuvenating. Just make sure you are fit, so you can enjoy the walk up and down. The air is cool and so nice to breathe in! And the sound and splash of water as they hit the surface is just a regenerating tonic.

Umeda Sky Building

We also braved the heights when we went to Umeda Sky Building. That was a structure, but the orchard below it is also a garden of trees having multi-coloured leaves even in winter. And we just walked our way to that attraction.

Osaka Castle Park

Osaka Castle Park is one more place that you get chilled around 2pm onwards. And it was just too bad that at the time we decided to wait for the lights, so we can see how the lighting decoration gives life to the dark night in Osaka Castle, there was a show in another place within the castle area where people flocked and thronged, so the lights were never turned on!

And if you do go there, just be prepared to eat baked or grilled sweet potato.

Nakanoshima Floating Garden

Nakanoshima Floating Garden is another place that we visited, and it was also a walked after getting out of the subway train. The buds are there, and some leftover rose blooms scattered here and there, but if you reach the end, you will see and imagine how it would look like at springtime, summer or autumn. We had it all pictured in our mind!

Getting there

We had our hotel booked about 6 months earlier using, and our air tickets were purchased at about the same time using We searched for the best air tickets and the most reasonable offering we found in

Hotel - Standard space

The hotel we got was not spacious, but as many did say, that is the standard in Japan for that kind of price range. I would believe that, because if I compare the price to that of Amour Symphony in South Korea, almost the same price, 2 rooms for 3 persons each, including breakfast, we got rooms in SK that is 4x the size! Of course, the bathroom is so spacious that it is also 4x to that compared to what we got in Japan. Since it is the standard for that price range, we contented ourselves, and for good, because comparing the weather, where it is colder, but no snow, the temperature is just so cold, even more when the wind blows. You can feel that when you board a train and the door opens, the draft can get in through your clothes, and you can feel it!

Kansai International Airport

We landed in Japan via Kansai Iternational Airport, and there was one train that goes to our hotel by subway - Airport Express. While the price of train ticket is quite high, we had it all calculated long before our trip date. Sort of saying we were prepared, but then again, whatever preparation you make, nothing prepares you for the real thing!

While we did study the various train lines, we had to rely on the support of personnels at the stations. And majority of the people don't speak English, and since I or any of my family members don't speak Japanese, we deemed it even. Just learn to read the signs and catch the meaningful phrases that goes back and forth, and you should be on your way.

Train Ticket, 24-hour Store, Restaurants

It was 920yen for airport to Tengachaya, and 240yen from Tengachaya to Minami-morimachi. And from there, it was about 5 mins walk to our hotel. And the place we stayed was just at the center of any place you wanted to go, so the small space was justly compensated by the easy transit to and fro different attractions and tourist destinations. Restaurants and 24-hour stores, such as Asnas, Lawson Station and 7-11 (green and red stripe), well, they are all over the places. There is also Kohyo department store, where you can buy various commodities, and Sukiya, if you are so much into ebi. MOS burger, McDonalds, or even KFC, you can find them within the area. There is an eatery that is similar to Yoshinoya, and just like South Korea, you go to the vending machine, slot in your cash, pick you meal and you will be served. Money doesn't change hands. And you are assured that the one preparing your food isn't handling money - just food!

Currency Exchange, International ATM

Hankyu department store is also a station away, and if you need to do currency exchange, or do ATM international, it is just a walk out of Hankyu, into Yodobashi Umeda (B2, B1). Airport Limousine service bus/coach is on the other side of the road, so we did have mobility and convenience.

Airport Express Train vs Express Train

Just be careful. On our way back, we took the wrong train - Express (no Airport). As we took one trip from airport to Tengachaya the day of arrival, we assumed that the Express train we took is also going all the way to the airport. No, it did not. And we ended up in Kyoshi! We were so confident that when we confirmed with the station personell which way to go to airport, and he mentioned platform 3, we just boarded!

It was just good that the Express Train is really on express trip, and you can just feel the speed of the train going. We were delayed for about an hour, but that is still 1 hour earlier to our departure time. And we had to be careful to alight at Izumisano and tranfer to the Airport Express Train. And even when we were sure, we had to confirm with the officer at the platform that we are taking the right train.

One-Stop to Straight Flight Change

Now, our small adventure was actually rewarded, in that when we rushed to the check-in row which is already having a long queue of passengers, we were immeidately approached by two or three airport personnel, asked us about our itinerary, then told us that Vietnam Airlines is delayed, and due to that, we would be transferred to Singapore Airlines. From a one-stop flight (Kansai-Saigon-Singapore) trip, we got a straight flight from Kansai to Changi. Yahoo!

Going again?

I definitely would go back to Japan again, but not on a winter. I cannot miss the sakura blooms and the green or orange trees or the flowers - no, not again. It is just too beautiful not to be seen.