Pocket Wifi

Pocket Wifi has got to be one of those things that you would consider a life-saver.

Previously, I did a blog post on apps that require data and how you could use those apps without being afraid of coming home to a ridiculously expensive cell phone bill.

Interestingly, a country that is known for its cutting-edge technology, wasn’t so wifi friendly. Especially when it came to free wifi at places of businesses. We rented a pocket wifi device at the airport, and this helped us traverse through unknown territory.

A few things you need to remember when renting a pocket wifi:

  • Have a credit card. Although, your debit card has a Visa logo, it doesn’t work as a credit card. The company we rented our pocket wifi’s from required this.
  • There is a mobile wifi router rental agreement that you have to sign, so plan to take a few minutes at the rental booth. We had to run to our train station because we didn’t realize how long the process would be. I would at least plan for 30 minutes – 1 hour. Especially when traveling with a group.
  • Keep your passport handy for they will need it to identify you.
  • Don’t lose anything. They give you a small bag that will house the charger and the pocket wifi.
  • Don’t forget to return at the same kiosk (we rented ours in the arrival terminal of the airport.) My brothers remembered to return their’s since they took the train back to the airport the same way we arrived, however, my husband and I decided to take the limousine bus back to the airport which drops you off directly at the departure terminal. Because of that, we completely forgot to return our pocket wifi until we were near our gate, and had to mail it back. They charge a fee to your card, for not returning it on the date you said you would, but upon receiving the pocket wifi they refunded the fee.

A few things to remember when using the pocket wifi:

  • Don’t upload videos using the pocket wifi because you will drain, not only the battery, but also the ability to keep your speed connection at 4G. I made this mistake and had to deal with 3G for the entire trip..which isn’t so bad, but when you’ve gotten so used to 4G…there’s no going back.
  • If you have a long day planned, keep the charger with you and have a standby battery pack. Unfortunately, with constant use, it goes for eight hours but very hardly anything longer than that. We almost didn’t have a way to find our way back to our hotel at 11:30pm. Thank goodness for taxi cabs.

I hope our experiences with the pocket wifi will help you on your next journey. Happy Travels!

Tieks, Please!

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Traveling @tieks. #nihonfamadventures

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For many years, I’ve seen those Dr. Scholls foldable flats in stores like Walmart and Target. I always wanted a pair, but never bought one (because of lack of color choices..it only came in the safest and most boring color…black!)  I have been one of those helpless victims who have gone barefoot because of excruciating pain resulting from the desire to be tall and five inch heels. Yes, I was one of those. I refused to wear anything but heels, and only wore sneakers to the gym. Nothing else.

Then, I got older and wiser, and discovered tieks. Tieks are handmade shoes crafted with Italian leather that are foldable and come in an assortment of colors. Any color you can possibly imagine. The soles are teal colored and provide a decent, but not the best for my flat footed friends, shock absorption to your feet.

The shoes do well on light rain, rough terrain, and long walks. If you are looking for a good pair of ballet flats that are convenient to carry, I highly suggest investing in a pair of tieks. They are functional, comfortable, and fashionable.

Five Star Rating below:

Overall: ****

Comfort: ****

Style: *****

Convenience: *****

Travel Friendly: *****

Rain: **

Mud: **

Top 10 Things to do in Tokyo, Japan

If I had to narrow down the top ten things to do in Tokyo, here it is:

  1. Ooeda Onsen Monogatari Hot Springs. If I could spend a whole day there, I would’ve. There is an entrance fee of ¥1,980 (about $20.) This fee includes a yukata and basic services such as foot bath and indoor/open air baths. There was so many services to choose from. A few of those services were feet therapy (little fishies eating your dead skin), massages, facials, sand bath, and rock slab bath. These services have an extra fee, but I think the money you spend is definitely worth it. I splurged on 15 minutes of fish feet therapy and 40 minutes on a body massage. The experience of wearing a yukata and indulging in a Japanese pastime is worth the trip to Ooeda Onsen. Also, there are food shops inside for you to eat from and enjoy.
  2. Shibuya Crossing. If you’ve watched Lost in Translation or the Amazing Race Season 9, then you know what Shibuya Crossing is all about. Take the train to Shibuya and exit from Hachiko Exit. From there you will see the Hachi Statue and the Crossing in action. Soak in everything in its fast paced-ness. I enjoyed my view from the L’OCCITANE Cafe.
  3. Hachi Statue. Since you’re already in Shibuya and exiting from Hachiko Exit. You might as well stop by and pay a visit to the Hachi Statue. Any dog lover would. I just love the story of Hachi and his loyalty to his Master, that I HAD to stop by and have several pictures taken with him.
  4. Genki Sushi. Also in Shibuya, Genki Sushi is a place that will amaze you in technology and in nourishment. You order thru a tablet and your sushi or nigiri will be delivered to you through a conveyor belt. Not only is it efficient and delicious, it is also economical. A plate starts at ¥120 (about $1.)
  5. Visit a Park. There is Shinjuku Gyoen or Yoyogi Park. I personally visited Shinjuku Garden and loved it! It wasn’t even in full bloom yet but just seeing the traditional Japanese Garden, Ume trees, and people just lounging and reading their books in the benches; or eating their onigiri in the grass; or painting a picture, is worth a trip to the park.
  6. Sake Tasting. Just as there is Wine Tasting, there is Sake Tasting. What’s a visit to Japan without having some Sake?
  7. Tsukiji Fish Market. I would highly suggest hiring a guide if you don’t have a friend who can take you around and know the ins and outs of the place. Many foreigners travel there and snap pictures but don’t know where to buy good sushi, or where to buy the best tuna croquette.
  8. Shopping. If you want to buy a good camera or electronic item, Akihabara is the place to go. If you want to buy high end fashion, Ginza is where you should be. If you want to buy good deals, Don Quijote is one place not to miss. I found myself shopping for Tokyo Bananas and other Japanese snacks at Odaiba Diver City Mall, the Tokyo Skytree, and at the airport.
  9. Dipping Ramen. I have never had dipping ramen until this trip. You squeeze a lime in your noodles, which is in a separate bowl from the broth. Dip your noodles in the broth and eat it while you slurp some of the broth goodness.
  10. Tokyo SkyTree or Tokyo Tower. Now, if you had to choose between an old landmark or a new one, which would you choose? Also, if you could choose to go 333 meters or 350 meters above, which would you choose? Of course, I opted for Tokyo Skytree which is the newer landmark and goes from 350 meters to 450 meters above.

Now, if you have extra time in your schedule, I would also recommend going to a museum. There are several. One that I visited was the Edo-Tokyo Museum. A good look into the history of Edo and the evolution of Tokyo.

And, it goes without saying, but Japan is also home to one of the branch offices of Jehovah’s Witnesses which is located in Ebina. This is just a train ride away and is worth a visit if you are in town.

All the things above is not listed in any particular order, I would recommend doing things by each borough or ward in Tokyo. So much to do and so little time is often the dilemma. Plan your day wisely by deciding which ward to visit and spend a day there. If you wish to visit more than one ward a day, choose to visit wards that are near each other or something you will pass by on the way back to your hotel. Happy Travels!

The Takeaway…Japan

I do apologize for the week and a half long silence. I have been traveling and spending time with family and friends. One place I recently visited was Japan. The land of the rising sun. Yes, the sun was visible for most of our visit, however, we did have some clouds and a few showers. Japan is an interesting country in many more ways than one. The food, the culture, the technology, and the fashion is reasons enough to visit. In this trip, I explored Tokyo and Hakone. Tokyo is one the world’s most populated cities, and has 23 wards or boroughs. We stayed in Shinjuku. Shinjuku alone is a great place to wander off in. Within Shinjuku, there is the Gyoen National Park, the Metropolitan Government Building, Don Quijote, and lots of good restaurants and street vendors. Of course, a visit to Tokyo is not complete unless you also explore Shibuya, Ginza, Roppongi, Odaiba, and other parts of the city that make Tokyo noteworthy.

The city is fast paced and clean. Yes, CLEAN. I’ve been to other cities such as San Francisco, Rome, Manila, New York, etc. But no city ever felt as clean as Tokyo. The air was clean, the sidewalks and grass were free of litter, and no noise pollution either. It was like the perfect city.

Also, they give such great service and NEVER expect a tip. How can you go wrong with that?

If you haven’t visited Japan yet, I highly recommend it. I’ve been to Hokkaido, Nagoya, Osaka, and now Tokyo. Japan is definitely a country you would want to put in your travel bucket list.

Making a Dinner Reservation…Overseas

With today’s technology and sites like opentable.com, you barely ever need to speak to a human being to reserve a table for two at a nice and fancy restaurant. However, the challenge arises when you try to make a reservation for two at a small (as in 10 seater small) sushi joint in Japan and the only way to do this is to call on the 1st business day of every month to reserve for the following month (ex call on Feb 2 for reservations in March.) And may I add that this sushi joint is extremely popular that President Obama himself had to have a piece of it.

How to overcome this obstacle? You can either:

A) Have friends who speak the language and call for you. I had two friends doing this for me. One lived in Texas, the other in Tokyo. Or…

B) Use Visa Concierge. This service is free and usually comes with all major credit cards that have the Visa logo. They have agents all over the world that can make reservations for dinner, opera shows, concerts, etc.

If I can relive this experience again, I would go with option B and call Visa Concierge at least 3 months before scheduled departure. Yes, it can be beneficial to have friends that come from all walks of life and speak various languages, however, it does get old for EVERYONE to be glued to their phone, calling a restaurant, only to always get the busy signal. Not cool! Save yourself time, stress, and friends by going with Option B.