Opinion: Fiore Maede Casa Florist

Here’s a little that’ll grow on you

Occasionally when you look around your apartment, it just looks a bit empty. There’s something missing- I take it you know what I mean?

I went a little out of my way this week to Aeon Town Iga Ueno (イオンタウン伊賀上野) in Iga-city and while there I noticed a florist and immediately, I knew what was missing.

I went in and there was a good selection and the arrangements were also quite spooky- it is coming up to Halloween after all. The plants (the important bit) were looked after and the attendant was extremely friendly and happy for me to take a photo (the important bit!). Additionally, it is very reasonably priced (the most important aspect).

The chain of florists are all located in Mie Prefecture (三重県―みえけん) in three cities: Matsusaka (松阪市), Tsu (津市), and Iga (伊賀)- so there are quite clustered together.

If your close to one and you have a need for a nice plant- either indoor, outdoors or flowers for a grave, please check it out- it is definitely worth a visit.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

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/

Review: Vie de France

A little bit of a treat, at a good price

Like any good coffee addict, I need my coffee to pretend I can act like a normal human. Luckily, Vie de France has by back.

Vie de France is the quintessential Japanese French bakery- that is to say a cherry-picked French cuisine for the Japanese market. They offer a good range of baked goods, all of which are delicious, and I have yet to find a bad product.

But, I have yet to see traditional French bread here- despite its name. But it does have one advantage, they’re always by a train station so there’s always time for a treat on the go.

The bread in the picture is a cheese and apple filled bun- which is my favourite thing to get and very sweet (it goes very well with pure black coffee)- please ignore the milk coffee- DEFINITELY not mine.

If you have the time, or just need your fix, please check it out.

As always, happy exploring and enjoy that coffee.

Typhoon 101

What to do when there’s a typhoon coming your way

So you have just found out that there is a typhoon heading your way while in Japan. What do you do? Panic? Scream? Wait…why is no-one else around you panicking?

IF you are in Japan for either the rugby world cup or the Olympics, welcome to a very diverse and beautiful country. This is a what if guild, so if here, please note.

Firstly advice, it’s mostly likely nothing to worry about- I’m happy to say that the monstrous devistation you see in movies is usually played up- that’s not to say they can’t happen the same way. You need to be prepared.

Firstly, what type of typhoon is it? On the Japanese meteorological agency website (in English) there are the following categories for typhoons:

  • TY: Typhoon
  • STS: Severe Tropical Storm
  • TS: Tropical Storm
  • TD: Tropical Depression
  • LOW: Extra-tropical Low

My advice is be careful about anything over TS, the others are more than likely not to be cause for concern (they can become stronger).

Additionally, have you ever heard of “PPPPPPP”? It means:

Prior preparation and planning prevents p*** poor performace

There’s a disaster coming so what have you done about it? Do you know where the local refuge areas are? Have you prepaired anything in case it becomes a level 5 emergency? No, well let’s make a start.

The where- Refuge areas

There are different types to be aware of. The most basic is a temporary evacuation site- which is often organised by the local community. It is a good place to meet up for ‘smaller’ disasters in order to assess the situation.

Open evacuation sites are designated places by the ward or city that people will go to if the temporary one is either dangerous or inaccessible. There is often help available here and they are either in Tsumani or earthquake resistant buildings- expect to be here for around a day.

Finally, evacuation shelters- this is for the longer stay. This is used if a persons’ home is unsafe or non-existent.

Please note, in coastal areas there are more specialised Tsunami evacuation areas, please take note of what disaster is heading your way (if for some reason you do not know).

One last thing on the where, mate sure you know where the where is or in other words where is your nearest refuge area and how far do you have to travel on foot/ bike. There is no carparking at emergency facilities and there is a possibility that the roads would be unusable anyways.

The what- belongings

I would recommend preparing a bug out bag and keep it in a safe place. Inside should be 3 days of emergency food and water (think calorie mate for food) and at least 6 l of water per person (which is a lot I know). Additionally, there should be a change of clothes, toiletries , important papers (passport and residence card), a flash light, batteries, a wind up radio, mobile/cell phone charger, a knife, and money at a minimum!

More could be packed (and should be if you have a real need for it) but remember space at a shelter is at a premium and you may have to run while carrying everything you need.

The time- what to do when leaving

So, all the warning signs have proven true- DO NOT PANIC. What to do when leaving?

  • Collect emergency info from JMA/ TV/ radio to see what has been recommended (caution, standby, evacuation etc)

If leaving, please note the following

  • Turn off all gas
  • Protect yourself from falling objects internally and externally
  • Keep away from large objects that may fall on top of you.
  • Gather everyone one in one place with the bug-out bag
  • calmly go to the refuge centre (if needed)

If evacuation has not been recommended

  • fill the bathtub with water
  • have an emergency light source to had
  • keep everyone safe
  • prepare in case of evacuation

The type of warning

Finally, the type of wanrning. You may have noticed that I refer to warnings in English and not Japanese, alas in Japanese it is sightly different. But at the base level, there are: advisory, warnings, and emergency warnings. If there is an emergency warning, there will be a broadcast over the emergency warning system, updates on that ward/cities website declaring an emeergency and usually warning messages sent out by text.

No matter the level, be cautious- they are NOT sent out for the fun of it.

No matter what, please be safe and happy exploring.

For further reading, please check out the JMA website in English at:

https://www.jma.go.jp/jma/indexe.html

Nabari lake

Time for a bike ride, I have the spot to go to

Occasionally finding something to do in small town Japan is hard- you have no interest in the arcade, there is some tourist sites but you may encounter tourists, and if you go to the supermarket again, people might start to think you work there.

The answer to your problems is a bike rider, either type will do (but I do like to challenge myself with the hills!).

The next problem is where to go? If you’re in Nabari, try going to the lake, it’s a wonderful challenge.

A bit of background information, Nabari is an extremely hilly city- no matter where you go you’ll come across a hill. Going to the lake from the train station, there are 5 large hills to climb. But once you have made it- the views are wonderful.

The picture was taken at the viewing area near the start of the my journey- in front of a wonderful little café.

The entire course around the lake is 15 km and it goes into Nara-ken as well. Along the way, there are several viewing areas and picnic areas that would make a wonderful day out- and it is extremely popular with Japanese families.

On the way back, you’ll come across Nabari dam- quite an impressive piece of engineering where there is a road on top. All in all, not a bad way to spend a day (I may have broken the speed limit cycling downhill though).

As always, thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Hibiki’s bakery, Nabari

A little bread slice of happiness

A lovely baker in Nabari, Mie

As part of my work, I travel around Mie a lot and I live in Nabari city- small town Japan. One thing that many don’t realise is that small town Japan is a different world to ‘tourist’ Japan.

If you have heard of Nabari, perhaps it is because it is the big station before Yamato-Yagi on the Kintetsu line, but regardless of this, Hibiki’s bakery is a little gem located 1.5 km from the train station and down the hill from city hall- near the MOS burger.

Why am I pushing for this place? Because it is delicious, reasonably priced and the best bread I have had in Japan. Additionally, to always seems quite and I want it to stay in business!!

In addition to this, the coffee is really good and they sell fresh sandwiches, cakes, macha muffins, and so much more. If you can and you’re in the area- check it out, its worth both the time and money to get there. Don’t worry it’s not an expensive place either.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Ise City, cooks kitchen

When coming to Ise city, one thing that most forget is food. I know that this seems like a basic requirement, but it is often overlooked.

Just 700m away from Geku (外宮) is a small curry restaurant, which is unimpressive to look at on entry. With a tired Irrashai (いらっしゃい) a friendly atmosphere is open to you.

There is a reasonable selection of food items from shrimp, chicken, pork curry to plain old rice, the menu is not big but it is good.

In addition to excellent taste, prices are very good as well- 650 yen for Chicken Katsu, miso soup, salad, and rice.

The only problem is the lack of a drinks menu- but there is free water. But when in Rome (or Ise in this case)…

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.