Review: Axtos gym

A good gym for the price?

I will say I am a member of Axtos gym under the anytime plan with insurance. The reason why I say this is that it costs me just over 10,000 JPY a month to go (and I may have been quite bad in the last month…). But is Axtos worth it?

Axtos offers several levels of membership from daytime (mornings), anytime, professional, to evenings and weekends only. It is a strange system, but the most basic package is 7000 JPY (for daytime), and each additional time that you can go, increases the price. Insurance is an extra 500 JPY a month- but you do get a discount card for quite a few places across Japan.

Axtos in Nabari has a swimming pool, free weights, cardio equipment, Sauna, and general weight training equipment. But there is one VERY importance difference compared to western gyms- etiquette.

You arrive to the gym in whatever footwear you desire, then take them off, put them into a shoe locker and go to the changing room. You only put on your training shoes once you enter the exercise area- want to do yoga or use the mats? Take off your shoes. Forgot something in the locker room? Take off your shoes.

This is a classic example of inside and outside culture in Japan but more likely at Axtos is for hygiene reasons.

The last bit of etiquette is that you are expected to clean any equipment you use (and clean well). This is one policy I wish all gyms in the UK followed so strictly.

Do I enjoy going? Yes, I love it (I’m known as the foreigner who goes to Axtos). Do I think there could be more equipment and weights- definitely? Why haven’t I gone? Lazy/ I did not go with an injured foot (didn’t stop working out without the gym though). Is it the best gym in the world and 100% worth the money- I’ll use the German word Jein (yes and no). Why haven’t I changed gym then?

Nabari doesn’t have much choice and it is the best and most convenient gym in this area.

Overall, (this will sound strange) I would continue to go even if there was another gym. All the staff are professional, I have had some brilliant conversations with people- and seeing a 60-year-old do full on yoga when you cannot touch your toes is humbling. DO I wish it was cheaper, of course but the price ensures that I go (ignoring the last month).

My one word of caution, Japanese only. But if you do have a Japanese friend who’s a member and they refer you, you’ll get a 1000 JPY gift card- it’s a little something at least!

When will I go back? I’m there now- go health month!

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Day light robbery: the price of fruit in Japan

Fruit glorious fruit…

When an apple is more expensive than a beer, you’ve got problems

Whenever you come to Japan, you are slightly confused with the currency. You have thoughts like, “well how much is that in pounds/dollars/euros? If it’s about £1.5/$1 per ¥100…” etc ad nauseum.

But when you get down to it, fruit can be astronomically expensive. I recently saw a 80g punnet of blueberries for 250 JPY, or how about a singular apple for 300JPY, or what about strawberries for 450 JPY.

With these sorts of prices, it is no wonder that I am an advocate for frozen fruit, its much better value and it won’t spoil if you forget about it.

So once we have established a good part of your monthly budget is needed if you want fresh fruit, we will look into the world of the gift box.

Part of Japanese culture is to give gifts when visiting someone’s house, or give gifts at any special occasion, like the West. A popular gift is fresh fruit. The problem with this is the expense. A very nice-looking gift box with 2 watermelons will cost you ¥10,000. That is about $100, for 2 watermelons. The alarming thing is these gift sets sell in the thousands.

But this is not the crème de la crème of fruit, for that we must travel to the fruit auctions in Yubari, Hokkaido where 2 Melons sold for (deep breath) ¥5,000,000 or $50,000. For the Japanese there is a reason for this, the type of melon can only be produced by approved farmers, the specific grade for the melon is the 1% of the 1% of the 1% of melons grown etc.

However, I cannot see any justification for such a melon.

Taking this into account, some fruit can be bought for no money; bananas and grapes for example. But difference in pricing from prefecture to prefecture and even from store to store is crazy.

My advice is to go to a drug store if you want fruit, it won’t break the bank but you usually need to eat it quick.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

How2 eat healthy without breaking the bank

Not a millionaire? Don’t worry here’s some advice

Food shopping in Japan can seem expensive at times- no matter where you shop but here’s some advice I have found during my tenue in Japan.

Firstly, buy what you can at drug stores. Drug stores offer a reduced range of groceries but there is no difference in quality. I regularly shop at Cosmos (コスモス) and Kirindo- both drug stores offer fresh and frozen ingredients. I can buy a weeks’ worth of groceries for about 3000 JPY- or 7000 JPY at a supermarket.

Next, don’t forget frozen fruit and veg. At Kirindo, they offer a good range of fresh fruit and veg (I have bought a whole pineapple for 100 JPY) but if you’re not going to use it immediately buy frozen. Frozen fruit and veg cooks and taste the same as fresh but usually its cheaper per portion- very much so in the case of fruit.

This is a strange tip but go Japanese. Imported food is expensive no-matter where you buy it from, and this does include making foreign foods from scratch. Follow the expression: as in Rome, do as the Romans do. Does that mean eat Natto and Umeboshi if you detest them- no. Eat what Japanese produced foods you can- they are much cheaper. You can buy tofu for 30 JPY and soba for 18 JPY- which is the protein and carb component of a meal- you just need your greens and you good to go.

Like the look of that bento in the convenience store- forget about it. I was looking at the bentos recently and most of them were overpriced and have too many calories- there was a special bento for the rugby season with 1200 Kcals for just 600 JPY. If you must eat out- try the のり弁当 (nori bento)- it is usually the right size for a meal and has the right number of calories for people either losing or maintaining (bulking on the other hand, look elsewhere).

The final note I have on this topic is to have a general meal plan at the very least. DO I always know what I am going to eat in the evenings- NO! However, I have enough fresh and frozen ingredients to cover all eventualities and if I get back from work very late, a light snack of a kiwi or 2 is enough before sleep.

Healthy living has become much more mainstream in recent years and ignorance on this topic, in the eyes of many, is no longer inexcusable.

Very last thing (I swear), for vegans or vegetarians living or wanting to live in Japan, as a rule of thumb, forget about eating out. All meals (it seems like) contains some sort of animal product or fish/meat. You could just order rice, but it would have been made in a kitchen with cross-contamination and animal products galore- I cannot think of 1 restaurant in Nabari or Iga that is vegetarian (which together is a good size of Mie).

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

EDIT: I have since done further research on this and there is one in Nabari: “Be Happy! Chikyushoku”- I have somewhere new to check out!!!!!!

Kintetsu limited express trains

The first class experience without the usual first class cost

There is also an additional treat coming next year, the debut of a new limited express train but what’s all the type about?

If you are travelling from Nagoya to Osaka, there are several options for you to choose from. There is the classic choice- the shinkansen on the JR line. While it is an experience I recommend doing at least once, there is a rarer choice (at least for visitors to Japan) the Kintetsu line.

The Kintetsu railway is a more local service that services trains in the Tokai region specifically everywhere from Nagoya, Osaka and Mie-prefecture to Nara, Kyoto with further destinations as well.

On this service there are local trains (sometimes ワンマン電車 or one-man trains) that stop at every station, express trains that skip smaller stop, semi-express that skips further and finally the crème de la crème the limited express. Limited express trains can skip up to 20 stations in between trips and it is mostly used for trips and foe getting to place in style.

As highlighted in the photo above, there is a base train fare that everyone pays- 2360 JPY (going from Nagoya to Osaka) and an additional limited express fair which is 1900 JPY which is normally 4260 JPY one way. Furthermore, there is the Ise-liner ( a different model of limited express trains) that offers seats for an additional 300 JPY, the luxury car.

The question remains, why do so many people take limited express trains if there is an additional cost when Japanese trains are so fast anyways?

One reason is convenience. The Kintetsu line from Ise-Nakagawa (one of the main connection/ transfer points) is skipped completely on longer distance trains from Nagoya. Additionally, trains to Kyoto usually require a transfer in Yamato-Yagi (another connection hub) which is again skipped.

Furthermore, all limited express trains have reserved seating (which you must follow) so you have a granted comfortable seat that will take you to your destination at a quicker pace than the express trains.

Finally, there are the ammonites. All limited express trains have outlets to charge your laptop or mobile device, all have toilets (western style), places to wash your hands, vending machines and for the smokers a place to smoke all while watching the world rush past some beautiful landscapes.

While I spend my life on trains and I enjoy catching all types of trains, the limited express is a special treat that always feels like the start of an adventure- I can’t ride it everyday but I’ll always enjoy riding them when I can.

There is one last temptation offered, Kintetsu railways usually offer discounts if purchased online with the added benefit of collection points to use in the future and even get free rides. But there is a dark side to point collection, more to come on this later.

I hope you enjoyed reading and happy exploring.

For more information or booking, please check out the site below (not sponsored)

https://www.kintetsu.co.jp/foreign/english/about/limited_express/

“It’s cheap for Japan”

But is it though? A quick exploration of pricing in Japan

Money, Money, Money- not so funny after all…

Anyone who has either been to Japan or who lives here has heard about pricing in Japan. Many visitors either think Japan is extremely cheap or extremely expensive. Let’s look at that in more detail.

For the purposes of this article, please note the following conversions at time of writing:

  • 1 USD is 108 JPY
  • 1 EUR is 120 JPY
  • 1 GBP is 135 JPY

When you come to Japan, there are many things that you want to see and do and like anyone who has done their research you know exactly what you are going to do.

Upon arrival in Nagoya/Tokyo, you buy an IC card and load it with 5000 yen (500 JPY for the IC card and 4500 to charge it) to prepaiur you for your week there. You travel around the city and each stop costs around 150 yen one way- you make 10 one way trips a day. You see a vending machine and all the drinks are 100 yen so you buy a coke and a bottle of water. You try different foods dotted around town which totals 2000 yen. Next you decide to visit the sites, tickets cost usually 1000 yen each and you visit 3 sites. Finally, you decide to go to a cheap restaurant and get a set menu with rice, miso, and tonkatsu for about 1000 yen.

I have followed the itinerary above and using the total costs, it comes to 7,700 a day. This is a standard amount, and being in Japan for 7 days would cost 53,900 spending money with no gifts. Now this can be done so much cheaper, but this is an average. That 53,900 JPY is 498 USD, 398 GBP, or 447 EUR- which is not too bad as a holiday budget but let’s look at individual items a bit closer.

Instead of travelling to Japan, you live here instead, and you go to the supermarket to buy food, a common every day thing.

You decide to buy rice for 1000 yen, fresh fruit and veg- which sets you back 2000 yen and tofu for 50 yen a pack. That’s a weekly total of about 4000 yen (plus extras).

Which is 37 USD, 30 GBP, or 33 EUR- which is extremely cheap. To sum up so far, food in Japan is quite cheap- which is brilliant but now- technology, how does that fare?

Let’s look at technology to see how that fares.

If you were to come to Japan with your laptop and you realise that you have forgotten your HDMI cable, buying one from the shop would cost you 3000 JPY. Or you realise that you have forgotten your laptop and you go to a second hand store and buy an ‘ok’ one for about 40,000 JPY.

The HDMI cable is 27 USD, 25 EUR, or 22 GBP and that second-hand laptop is 372 USD, 335 EUR or 297GBP (and I’m talking about a 120 Gb, 2Gb ram note book)- which I’m sure that you’ll agree with me is expensive. Or how about you come to Japan and buy 2 switch games for 9000 JPY each (this is not the most expensive games either). That’ll cost you 167 USD, 150 EUR, or 133 GBP and considering in the UK, games are about 40 GBP each, that’s extremelyexpensive.

Finally a word of warning, Japan may be the country of technology and of robots but buying a piece of that will cost you. Food and drink may be cheap but buying lots of it does mount up.

SO that HDMI cable for 3000 JPY is cheap for Japan, it’s just not cheap for anyone else.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

%d bloggers like this: