Resolution: preparing to leave Japan

A guide to my preliminary stages of leaving Japan

Sorry for my long hiatus, when uprooting your life (after taking quite a while to establish it), it is quite a stressful time and writing and blogging (even though I do love doing it) did fall be the wayside. But I’m Back!

Anyway, when preparing to leave Japan, one does need a checklist or an escape list that one needs to go through and I thought that for people in a similar situation, it may be helpful to go through my provisional one.



Money means everything and nothing and this is the case when preparing to leave.

The main money worries that I am facing is an income in the UK (i.e. I need to find a job). But not being able to walk into a job upon my return does not mean that my money issues are just starting- I still have bills that I am paying (a credit card for example- hint for those leaving the UK, pay off your credit card before leaving) and I will be facing bills after I set up a new place to live.

After establishing myself, there are further bills to consider: rent, council tax, water rates, gas, electricity, food, and internet- these are the essentials. Following this, there is gym membership, insurance, buying a car etc- all of which I need to do seemingly yesterday but without the cash to do it.

Once I have set all of this up, even if it means getting a job that I need and do not necessarily want, I then will start to think of longer term ideas and plans- which again require money.

The leaving checklist

Photo by Content Pixie on

Once I have learnt just how much I have to do once I arrive- let’s consider leaving Japan. Now remember: just because you can jump on a plane and leave doesn’t mean things won’t follow you if unprepared. Starting from the top: apartment.


Firstly is your apartment company leased or self leased? Did it come furnished or all self furnished and what about utilities? These are the first questions that you need to ask. If your answers were mostly company provided- rejoice your life is suddenly much easier. Here’s a quick OMG please help me guide:

Company provided
  • Inform the company (if not already) of your intention to resign (if not already done so)
  • ask the company if you will need to pay a termination fee for the apartment or utilities
  • be prepared to pay the final bills on move out day in cash
  • Ask the company about the provided furnishings: are they to say for the next person or are you to get rid of them?
  • Ask about leaving anything for the new person e.g. rice cooker, cleaning supplies etc
  • get rid of things early that are not wanted
  • Contact the housing company about your intention to move- there may be a contract cancellation fee (usually 30,000 JPY) and a closing fee and cleaning fee (an extra 20,000 JPY+)
  • Contact the utilities companies (there may be a cancellation fee in addition to the final bills)
  • Internet: there may be 2 companies to contact if you have fibre. You will need to contact the line holder (e.g. NTT) and the ISP (e.g. AU) to cancel. There may be termination fees for both contracts.
  • Find out how to get rid of everything that you do not want to keep- follow local garbage regulations- if you do this wrong, you will be fined!
  • Clean the apartment to perfection to reduce the change of getting charged an extra cleaning fee
Apartment advice
  • Hold a “sayonara” sale either on Facebook or on other apps to help provide a little extra money for your journey back
  • Sell things to a second-hand store e.g. Hard-off (for electronics), book-off (for books, CDs, and DVDs), Off-House (for anything household) or another thrift store.
  • If all else fails, try giving things away to friends, colleagues, acquaintances etc.
  • If that fails, bin it!
  • Regarding apartment cleanliness: would you be happy to move back in if you walked in now? No, get back to cleaning! Yes, go for a walk and ask the question again? No, clean and yes move on.

Finally, ask your company the following questions:

  • When is my last work day?
  • What items do I need to return?
  • How much vacation time do I have and how/ when can I use it?
  • Is there anything that I should focus on during these last months?*

*The usual resignation period is 3 months notice. Contract termination must be at least 1 month prior- unless other arrangements have been made (severance package etc).

City hall

City halls or 市役所 are at the heart of every Japanese town and city that there is a lot you must do there. Firstly, you must give your moving notification at least 1 month before moving (I’ve not yet done this), additionally you must cancel your “my number”, your health insurance, your pension plan and find out how much tax you owe. Finally, you need to get the forms to appoint a tax representative. To put it another way:

  • Moving out notification
  • cancellation of health insurance
  • cancellation of pension plan (KEEP THE BLUE BOOK)
  • appoint a tax representative (a native who you trust or a tax lawyer)
  • cancel your “my-number”
  • find out how much tax you owe- if possible
  • get extra paperwork to apply for a police certificate (better to have it…)

Got it?

Note on tax, if you’re staying in Japan for 1 year or less, your tax rate is set at 20%, if you stay longer than 1 year, your tax rate is set at 8%. Please set up a way to pay- it will follow you no matter where you go.

A police certificate is proof that you were very good during your stay in Japan. If you are looking to go into a job which requires the handling of certain data, it is a very good thing to get before you leave.


Now you have some idea of what you need to do- what about sending things back? Japan post have a few different options and to keep costs down, start ASAP!

The most cost effective way to ship thing back to your country is via surface mail i.e. ship. A typical box will set you back 5000 JPY and takes at least 2 months to get there- but during your move out process, it’s nice to have the extra space.

If you have the money, or need to have these things back with you, a typical box via airmail will set you back 13,000 JPY- this is for the cost effective solution. If you want it to send a lot back, it may be cheaper (depending on how much you want to send back) to get a company ship everything back to you. Typical prices are 4000 USD+ and while there are many options, please do some careful research and do it ASAP.


Fun fact: even though airplane is spelt aeroplane in British English, Airport is still airport not Aeroport (like in French).

Moving on, you need to book your trip back and I highly suggest you do it sooner rather than later. Even though there is little evidence to suggest that you get a better price, it does allow one to plan one’s life that bit more.

Please get the best flight you can! I say this because even though there are some extremely cheap flights to the UK- they have downsides e.g. 35 hours journey time or self transfers (think arriving at London City and the next flight leaving from Heathrow) or airline companies which offer no baggage etc.

Once checked in there is security and immigration. When leaving, Japanese immigration officials will ask are you sure you want to leave? This will be asked multiple times before the visa is cancelled- at thing point Japan has washed its hands of you.

Quick note, don’t forget that you may have to stay at a hotel for a few nights and that you still need to travel to the airport- budgeting is key!

Finally, healthy living

Just because I’m leaving does not mean that any current resolutions/ plans have stopped- it just means that I have to be more aware of everything I do and be aware how much time I have to do it in.

2020 is a leap year which has given me an extra day in Japan and I simply cannot waste it. Simply put, a usual New Year’s Resolution puts pressure on one to start on 1/1 and while may fail (doing too much too soon), you have to realize that it is a marathon (not the chocolate bar) not a race.

But there is still a lot I want to do before I leave, so perhaps time management has become even more important than before- including making time for blog posts (and I do have a lot to post). What I am trying to say here: life does continue even though are leaving. You still need to clean, to cook, to work, to live: it does not matter the eventual outcome- life continues regardless.

Thank you for being so patient with me. As always: thank you for reading and happy exploring.


Review: cycle pro shop reco

A review of Cycle pro shop reco based in Nabari

When I say the bike I have is not designed for what strain I regularly put it under, I am unfortunately not joking. The bike I own is referred to as a ママチャリ or mothers chariot and it is extreamly common in Japan.

The bike has only 6 gears, front and rear brake pads, a basket on the front handle bars and a place to strap something down behind the rider. The bike is designed in such a way that you must sit up straight to ride it and the handle bars curve inwards in a loop shape- got all of that? Now ride for 30+ km in mountainous terrain and off-road- that is what I put this poor thing under.

Recently, I discovered I had a rear puncture and even though I could have bought everything I needed to repair the bike, it would have been a bit expensive. What is a person to do in this situation? Enter cycle pro shop reco based in Nabari.

This bike shop offers everything you could wish for from trikes for toddlers to the latest racing bikes- it covers every cycling need- including repairs. There are 2 prices on the website one for basic bikes and one for sports bikes and luckily basic bike repair prices are extremely cheap!

A further cherry on top as the shop’s location- it is just a 2-minute walk from Nabari train station- you can’t get much better than that!

My bike went in for puncture repair and not only was this done extremely quickly, but the repairman also re-oiled everything (something I had been too lazy to do), not only had he re-secured the bike stand (something I had completely missed), but he also realigned my brakes all for the cost of a puncture repair 800 JPY.

Don’t worry I tested his work by immediately going for a 25 km bike rider (post to come) and it all works brilliantly.

The repairman’s wife was extremely helpful as well. Imagine the inside of this shop covered in English terms and posters and the wife turns around and says: I cannot understand a single word of this, but she did have some good recommendations about where I should go to next.

She did say that an hour by bike is a bit far- which I don’t agree with. But then again, I am a bit mad at times.


The important question: will I be getting a bike designed for what I put it under? Yes- but not in Japan. The costs for such a bike are about the same in Japan and the UK- and you get what you pay for! But, it is currently low on my priority list- no matter how much I would like one.

If you visit Nabari, they also offer rental bikes for day trips, and they do have some visitors’ information available and a fantastic range of bikes- but this is a Japanese only shop- but not by desire they just had no need to use English.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring!

Please check out their website for their full offerings and pricing at:

What’s on: World Masters Games

Image from

If you have been looking at your available vaction time in 2020 and have come to realise that attending the Tokyo Olympics will remain a dream, don’t worry Japan still has your back!

In 2021, the World Masters Games will take place in the Kansai region. This event will start on the 14th of May 2021 and will finish on the 30th of May 2021.

What is it?

The world masters games is the largest international multi-sports event which is open to anyone of “masters” age or 25 years old and older. Anyone can enter any even if it is NOT a world championship for that sport.

There are currently 59 events to take place in 35 locations in the 9 prefectures of the Kansai region, which is said to be the cultural heart of Japan.

What is the point?

Like any sporting event, the main 3 winners (first, second, and third) get a “beautifully crafted custom designed medals” and also and more importantly, the IMGA (the International Masters Games Association) state that “the real prize is exploring beautiful new locations, playing the sports you love and making lifelong friends!”

In other words, this is the Olympics that anyone can take part in.

How to take part?

The athlete is responsible for travel expenses, personal expenses, accommodation, spending money and participation fees. Included in the participation fees are “world class venues, officials and equipment in a number of sports” or everything you need to peform!

You may be wondering- why am I promoting this? As it is the start of 2020, many people will be looking to start a new challenge (or resolution) and many people become disheartened that they have no way to show how far they have come- and this is the perfect ‘measuring stick’ to show exactely that.

2021 is far enough away to become good at a new sport but close enough to be something to motivate you to get there.


There is a base entry fee which will allow entry in up to 5 disciplines. From the 6th onward, there is a fee of 2000 JPY per discipline. Additionally, some sports will require an additional fee for either more specialized equipment or for World Championship entry.

The base entry fee for overseas participants is 24,000 JPY which includes a Kansai travel pass and for domestic participants (including foreign nationals living in Japan) is 15,000 including a Kansai travel pass.

The 2 quick notes I’ll add on are: there is limited insurance coverage during the event for participants and all events will conform to World Anti-doping code.

What’s on?

Early entry opens on the 6th of January 2020 and will close on the 31st of January 2020. General entry opens on the 1st of Febuary 2020.

The list of events and locations have not been finalized but the current list, as printed in the Asahi newspaper on the 30/12/19, are listed below. Please note, dates are not listed- for further information, please check out the official website at:

Please note, I have not listed all events

Tottori Prefecture
Tottori CityArchery (indoor and outdoor)
Kurayoshi CityGround golf
Yurihama cycling (track and road race)
Yonago CityJyudo
Okayama Prefecture
Okayama Cityclay shooting
Hyogo Prefecture
Tando, Yabu, HyogoForest orienteering
Shiso CityProfessional cannoing
Kasai CityTennis
Himeji CityTaekwondo
Miki CityTennis and baseball
Kobe CityBasket ball, swimming, baseball etc
Amagasaki CitySwimming
Minami-Awaji Cityvolleyball
Fukui Prefecture
Takahama Citylife saving
Osaka Prefecture
Osaka CityClosing ceremony
Higashi-Osaka Cityrugby
Sakai CitySoccer/ football
Kishiwada City BMX
Senann City Swimming
Wakayama Prefecture
Wakayama CityVolley ball, sailing etc
Kainan CityShooting- rifle
Tanabe CityLong distance relay race
Kamifukuda TownHalf marathon
Tokushima Prefecture
Naruto CityGolf and weight lifting
Tokushima CityBowling and golf
Ishii CityBowling
Awa City and Kamiyama-choGolf
Naka Citycanoeing
Minami Citytriathlon
Shiga prefecture
Nagahama City and Maibara Cityhockey
Hikone Citytrack- 10 km road race
Higashiomi City and Moriyama Citybaseball
Kusatsu CitySoft ball
Otsu CityCanoeing and boating
Kyoto Prefecture
Kyotango CityCanoeing
Fukuchiyama CitySoft tennis
Kyotanba TownGate ball
Nantan City triathlon
Kyoto CityOpening ceremony, Track and field, Karate etc
Uji CityFrisbee, Handball
Kyotanabe CityHandball
Wazuka TownMountain biking
Nara Prefecture
Katsuragi City and Kashiba CityTug-of-war

Are there any events that you would like to take part in?

Thank you for reading and happy exploring and training!

Olympic torch relay

This month the Tokyo Olympic Torch relay timetable had been released. The relay will go to all 47 prefectures, starting in Fukushima-cho on March 26th and Finish in Shinjuku, Tokyo on July 24th- an event which will last 121 days and see 858 villages, towns, cities, and wards.

Additionally, it will visit several world heritage sites throughout Japan including Mt. Fuji (富士山), and Himeji Castle (姫路城).

The following article is a list of where the torch will be day-by-day and I highly recommend planning an Olympic trip to at least feature part of this country-wide relay!

Please note, due to the length of some place names I have romanised the Japanese with the following rules:

  • If the place name starts with a direction, I have placed a hyphen between the direction and rest of the name
  • I have ignored the kanji “町” meaning town and the kanji “市” meaning city except in cases where the Prefecture shares a name with a city. I have translated “村” as village but this doesn’t need to be included.
  • For Tokyo wards, some include the ending “ku/(区)” and others do not.
  • Place names in bold are the prefectural capital.
Fukushima Prefecture (福島県)
3/26Naraha, Hirono, Iwaki, Kawauchi Village, Tomioka, Okuma, Katsurao, Namie
3/27Soma, Shinchi, Iitate, Kawamata, Fukushima City, Inawashiro, Kikatake
3/28Minami-Aizu, Shimogo, Shirakawa, Sukagawa, Tamura, Motomiya, Koriyama
Tochigi Prefecture (栃木県)
3/29Ashikawa, Moka, Kaminokawa, Tochigi, Oyama, Sano, Natsu-Kasasuyama
3/30Utsunomiya, Kanuma, Nikko, Mibu, Mashiko, Nasushiobara, Sakura, Nasu
Gunma Prefecture (群馬県)
3/31Maebashi, Isesaki, Kiryu, Ueno Village, Ota, Oizumi, Tatabayashi
4/1Takasaki, Tomioka, Fujioka, Naganohara, Kawaba, Numata, Kusatsu, Shibuhara
Nagano Prefecture (長野県)
4/2Nagano City, Hakuba Village, Nozawa-Onsen Village, ueda, Yamanouchi, Saku, Karuizawa
4/3Matsumoto, Azumino, Omachi, Suwa, Ina, Nagiso, Iida
Gifu Prefecture (岐阜県)
4/4Takayama, Gujo, Yaotsu, Tajimi, Nakatsugawa
4/5Gifu City, Hashima, Ogaki, Sekigahara, Kakamigahara, Gero
Aichi Prefecture (愛知県)
4/6Nagoya, Kiyosu, Inazawa, Ichinomiya, Inuyama, Kasugai, seto
4/7Toyota, Obu, Okazaki, Kariya, Anjo, Toyokawa, Hanada, Toyohashi
Mie Prefecture (三重県)
4/8Yokkaiichi, Suzuka, Kamiyama, Tsu, Toba, Ise
4/9Iga, Nabari, Matsusaka, Taiki, Kihoku, Kumano
Wakayama Prefecture (和歌山県)
4/10Wakayama City, Kainan, Arida, Gobo, Tanabe, Shirahama, Kushimoto, Nachikatsuura, Shingu
4/11Hashimoto, Koya, Katsuragi, Kinokawa, Iwade, Wakayama City
Nara prefecture (奈良県)
4/12Kashihara, Asuka Village, Tenri, Tawaramoto, Sakurai, Totsukawa, Gose, Gojyo, Katsuragi
4/13Nara City, Ikoma, Uda, Yamato-Koriyama, Ikarugi, Yoshino, Yamato-Takada, Kashiba, Koryo, Kawai
Osaka Prefecture (大阪府)
4/14Suita, Ibaraki, Minoh, Ikeda, Toyonaka, Hirakata, Kadoma, Higashi-Osaka, Sakai
4/15Habikino, Washiwara, Taishi, Kishiwada, Izumi, Kaizuka, Izumisano, Fujiidera, Osaka City
Tokushima Prefecture (徳島県)
4/16Ishii, Yoshinogawa, Awa, Kamiyama, Mima, Tsurugi, Higashi-Miyoshi, Miyoshi, Naruto, Kamiita, Itano, Aizumi, Kita-jima, Matsushige
4/17Komatsushima, Anan, Katsuura, Naka, Minami, Kamikatsu, Mugi, Kaiyo, Sangochi Village, Tokushima City
Kagawa Prefecture (香川県)
4/18Tadotsu, Zentsuji, Kotohira, Naoshima, Manno, Marugame, Utazu
4/19Takamatsu, Miki, Sanuki, Higashi-Kagawa, Shodoshima, Tonosho, Ayagawa, Sakaide
Kochi Prefecture (高知県)
4/20Shimanto City, Shinmanto Town, Yusuhara, Susaki, Tosa, Ino, Kochi City, Sukumo, Tosashimizu
4/21Nahari, Aki, Kitagawa Village, Konan, Tanu, Kami, Yasuda, Nankoku, Toyo, Kochi City, Muroto
Ehime Prefecture (愛媛県)
4/22Kumakogen, Toon, Kamijima, Imabari, Saijo, Niihama (Chuo and Shikoku), Masaki, Matsuyame
4/23Seiyo, Kihoku, Matsuno, Ozu, Uchiko, Iyo, Ainan, Tobe, Yawatahama, Ikata, Uwajima
Oita Prefecture (大分県)
4/24Hita, Nakatsu, Usa, Bungotakada, Himeshima Village, Kunisaki, Kitsuki, Hiji, Beppu
4/25Oita, Bungo-Ono, Usuki, Tsukumi, Saeki, Takata, Yufu, Kokone, Kusu
Miyazaki Prefecture (宮崎県)
4/26Miyazaki City, Saito, Takanabe, Hyuga, Nobeoka, Takachiho
4/27Ebino, Kobayashi, Miyakonojo, Mimata, Kushima, Nichinan, Miyazaki
Kogoshima Prefecture (鹿児島県)
4/28Kagoshima City, Aira, Kirishima, Minami-Osumi, Amami, Kanoya, Shibushi
4/29Ibusuki, Minami-Kyushu, Isa, Hioki, Satsumasendai
Okinawa Prefecture (沖縄県)
5/2Nago, Motobu, Ishigaki, Uruma, Okinawa City, Ginowa, Naha
5/3Itoman, Nanjo, Miyakojima, Chatan, Zamami Village, Urasoe, Tomigusuku
Okinawan names are NOT used
Kumato prefecture (熊本県)
5/6Yatsushiro, Uto, Amakusa, Minamata, Hitoyoshi
5/7Kumamoto City, Tamana, Nagomi, Yamaga, Kikochi, Aso, Aso Village, Mashiki
Nagasaki Prefecture (長崎県)
5/8Nagasaki City, Omura, Isahaya, Shinkamiguto, Goto, Iki, Unzen, Shimabara, Minami-Shimabara
5/9Sasebo, Saza, Hirado, Matsuura, Tsushima, Goto, Saikai, Togitsu, Nagayo
Saga prefecture (佐賀県)
5/10Karatsu, Genkai, Imari, Arita, Takeo, Shiroishi, Ureshino, Kashima, Tara
5/11Tako, Ogi, Kanzaki, Yoshinogari, Kamimine, Miyaki, Tosu, Kiyama, Saga, Omachi, Kohoku
Fukuoka Prefecture (福岡県)
5/12Dazaifu, Toho Village, Asakura, Kasuga, Kurume, Itoshima, Chikugo, Omuta, Shime, Fukuoka City
5/13Kita-kyushu, Fukutsu, Nakama, Munakata, Miyawaka, Kaisen, Iizuka, Soeda, Tagawa, Chikujyo
Yamaguchi Prefecture (山口県)
5/14Yamaguchi City, Hofu, Shunan, Kudamatsu, Hikari, Yanai, Iwakuni
5/15Hagi, Nagato, Mine, Shimonoseki, San’yo-Onoda, Ube
Shimane prefecture (島根県)
5/16Onan, Kawamoto, Gotsu, Hamada, Masuda, Chibu Village, Tsuwano
5/17Matsue, Yasugi, Okinoshima, Okizumo, Unnan, Izumo, Oda
Hiroshima Prefecture (広島県)
5/18Hiroshima City, Saka, Kure, Higashi-Hiroshima, Shobara, Miyoshi
5/19Fukuyama, Fuchu, Onomichi, Mihara, Kaita, Hatsukaichi
Okayama Prefecture (岡山県)
5/20Okayama City, Kurashiki, Soja, Kibichuo, Takahashi, Ibara
5/21Tsuyama, Nagi, Mimasaka, Akaiwa, Maniwa, Tamano
Tottori Prefecture (鳥取県)
5/22Kurayoshi, Daisen, Hoki, Kofu, Hino, Nichinan, Nanbu, Hiyoshi Village, Yonago, Sakaiminato
5/23Tottori City, Chizu, Wakasa, Yazu, Iwami, Yurihama, Misasa, Hokuei, Kotoura
Hyogo prefecture (兵庫県)
5/24Toyooka, Asago, Shiso, Kato, Ono, Kakogawa, Himeji
5/25Kobe, Akashi, Minami-Awaji, Nishi-Nomiya, Amagasaki, Sanda
Kyoto Prefecture (京都府)
5/26Kyotango, Miyazu, Maizuru, Ayabe, Fukuchiyama, Nagaokakyo
5/27Uji, Ujitawara, Joyo, Kizugawa, Seika, Kyotanabe, Yawata, Kumiyama, Kyoto City
Shiga Prefecture (滋賀県)
5/28Takashima, Moriyama, Yasu, Omihachiman, Ryuo, Konan, Ritto, Kusatsu, Otsu
5/29Koka, Hino, Higashi-Omi, Aisho, Toyosa, Kora, Taga, Hikone, Maibara, Nagahama
Fukui Prefecture (福井県)
5/30Takahama, Oi, Obama, Wakasa, Mihame, Tsuruga, Minami-Echizen, Echizen, Sabae
5/31Echizen, Ikeda, Ono, Katsuyama, Eiheiji, Awara, Sakai, Fukui City
Ishikawa Prefecture (石川県)
6/1Kaga, Komatsu, Nomi, Kawakita, Hakusan, Nonoichi, Uchinada, Kahoku, Tsubata, Kanagawa
6/2Wajima, Noto, Anamizu, Suzu, Shika, Hakui, Hodatsu-shimizu, Nakamoto, Nanao
Toyama Prefecture (富山県)
6/3Oyabe, Nanto, Tonami, Imizu, Himi, Takaoka
6/4Asahi, Nyusen, Kurobe, Uozu, Namerikawa, Kamiichi, Funabashi Village, Tateyama, Toyama
Niigata Prefecture (新潟県)
6/5Itoigawa, Joetsu, Kashiwazaki, Sado, Tokamachi, Minami-Uonuma
6/6Nagaoka, Sanjo, Tsubame, Yahiko Village, Niigata City, Shibata, Aga, Murakami
Yamagata prefecture (山形県)
6/7Nishi-kawa, Sagae, Kahoku, Shirataka, Nagai, Takahata, Yonezawa, Nan’yo, Kaminoyama, Yamagata City
6/8Tendo, Higashine, Murayama, Obanazawa, Shinjo, Tsuruoka, Yuzasakata
Akita Prefecture (秋田県)
6/9Yuzawa, Yokote, Yurihonjo, Misata, Daisen, Semboku, Akita City
6/10Katagami, Hachirogata, Ogata Village, Noshiro, Odate, Oga, Kazuno
Aomori prefecture (青森県)
6/11Hirosaki, Nishimeya Village, Hirakawa, Kuruishi, Tsugaru, Goshogawara, Imabetsu, Aomori City
6/12Mutsu, Towada, Misawa, Oirase, Hashikami, Hachinohe
Hokkaido [prefecture] (北海道)
6/14Hakodate, nemuro, Hokuto, Nanae, Kushiro, Toyako, Muroran, Obihiro, Shiraoi
6/15Tomakomai, Furano, Mukawa, Asahikawa, Atsuma, Abira, Chitose, Wakkanai, Sapporo
Please note, Sapporo is the prefectural capital. There are sub-prefectures and sub-prefectural capitals in Hokkaido.
Iwate prefecture (岩手県)
6/17Shizukushi, Takizawa, Hachimantai, Iwate Town, Ichinoke, Ninoke, Hirono, Fundai Village, Noda Village, Kuji
6/18Iwaizumi, Tanohata Village, Miyako, Yameda, Otsuchi, Kamaishi, Oyunato, Rikuzentakata
6/19Ichinoseki, Hiraizumi, Oshu, Kamegasaki, Kita-Kami, Hanamaki, Tono, Shiwa, Yahaba, Morioka
Miyagi Prefecture (宮城県)
6/20Kesennuma, Minami-Sanriku, Ishinomaki, Ongawa
6/21Higashi-Matsushima, Matsushima, Shiogama, Shichigahama, Tagajo, Ohira Village, Rifu
6/22Yamamoto, Watari, Iwanuma, Natori, Sendai
Shizuoka Prefecture (静岡県)
6/24Kosai, Hamamatsu, Iwata, Fukuroi, Kakegawa, Shimada, Shizuoka City,
6/25Makinohara, Fujieda, Yaizu, Shizuoka City, Fuji, Nagaizumi, Mishima, Numazu
6/26Ito, Shimoda, Izunokuni, Susono, Oyama, Gotemba, Izu, Fujinomiya
Yamanashi prefecture (山梨県)
6/27Nanbu, Minobu, Hayakawa, Fujikawa, Ichikawa-misato, Chuo, Showa [city], Kai, Minami-Arupusu [Southern Alps], Hokuto, Nirasaki, Kofu
6/28Fuefuki, Yamanashi, Mt. Fuji, Koshu, Uenohara, Otsuki, Tsuru, Nishi-Katsura, Oshino Village, Fujikawa-guchiko, Narusawa Village, Fujiyoshida
Kanagawa Prefecture (神奈川県)
6/29Hakone, Isehara, Odawara, Oiso, Hiratsuka, Chigasaki, Fujisawa
6/30Miura, Yokosuka, Kamakura, Ebina, Atsugi, Sagamihara
7/1Kawasahi, Yokohama
Chiba Prefecture (千葉県)
7/2Kisarazu, Kimitsu, Futtsu, Minami-Boso, Isumi, Ichinomiya, Susa, Sammu
7/3Choshi, Asahi, Katori, Shibayama, Narita, Narashino, Chiba City
7/4Urayasu, Funabashi, Kamagaya, Kashiwa, Abiko, Matsudo
Ibaraki Prefecture (茨城県)
7/5Kashima, Hitachinaha, Oarai, Daigo, Hitachi, Hitachiota, Kasama, Mito
7/6Koga, Bando, Joso, Ushiku, Ryugasaki, Namegata, Tsuchiura, Tsukuba
Saitama Prefecture (埼玉県)
7/7Kawaguchi, Warabi, Toda, Wako, Asaka, Niiza, Hidaka, Sayama, Fujimi, Miyoshi, Fujimino, Tokorozawa
7/8Soka, Yashino, Misato, Yoshikawa, koshigaya, Chichibu, Minano, Nagatoro, Kasukabe, Sugito, Miyashiro, Kuki, Kazu, Gyoda, Kumagaya
7/9Kawagoe, Tsurugashima, Sakado, Honjo, Fukaya, Ranzan, Higashi-Matsuyama, Namerikawa, Konosu, Kitamoto, Okegawa, Ageo, Saitama City
Tokyo Metropolis (東京都)
7/10Setagaya, Komae, Inagi, Machida
7/11Tama, Hino, Akishima, Hachioji
7/12Hinohara, Okutama, Hinode, Ome, mizuho
7/13Hamura, Akiruno, Fussa, Musashi-Murayama, Tachikawa
7/14Kunitachi, Kokubunji, Kodaira, Higashi-Yamamoto, Higashi-Murayama
7/15Kiyose, Higashi-Kurume, Nishi-Tokyo, Kogamei, Fuchu
7/16Chofu, Miyake Village, Kozushima Village, Niijima Village (Niijima and Shikinejima), Toshima Village, Oshima
7/17Mikurajima Village, Hachijo, Aogashima Village, Ogasawa Village (Chichijima and Hahajima), Mitaka, Musashino
7/18Suginami, Nakano, Nerima
7/19Toshima, Itabashi, Kita, Adachi
7/20Katsushika, Edogawa, Sumida, Arakawa
7/21Taito, Bunkyo, Chiyoda, Chuo
7/22Koto, Ota, Shunagawa
7/23Meguro, Shibuya, Minato
There is no prefectural capital as Tokyo is the capital of Tokyo. Ward or “区” meaning special district in Japanese just translates to city in each official English translation. Every place from the 18th is a ward in Japanese. Finally, Chiyoda could be considered the “capital” of Tokyo if such a thing were to exist.

I hope that this information is useful in planning your Olympic trip to Japan.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Recommendation: Hard-off

Firstly- Hi eveyone I’m back!! On the 16th of December, while updating my laptop, the update broke my laptop and it is stuck in boot-loop (it still is) and I was left with a rather bad phone to try and type on.

I did try to post during this time but what once would take an hour, took over 2 days to research and type, so this post is still to come, along with several others.

So what to do? My first thought was to back up and restore my laptop and while all files and everything else still works, I could not open the recovery options. Additionally, my back-up hard-disk would not work and finally, there was no recovery save on the hard drive.

At this point, I decided to buy a Windows 10 OS disk to wipe my laptop and reinstall windows. The problem with this is that it costs 20,000 JPY and that was unacceptable. I then decided to look at buying a new laptop and this is what I decided to do.

Hard-off is a second-hand electronics store that offers laptops, PCs, Macs, new and old games and hardware (Xboxes, PS4s, Switches, Femicons, N64 etc) at a very reasonable price. I had bought a half decent laptop with 500 GB HDD, 4Gb (dual core), windows10 (32 bit) etc for 16,500 JPY including tax. The cheapest new notebook at a similar spec costs at least 60,000 JPY- but anyway I am very happy with my purchase.

My recommendation, therefore, is to go to hard-off for all your technology needs. If you are wondering/ worrying about buying something used in Japan, please don’t worry- a used product is like new in any other country.

Thank you for your patience during my period of silence.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Happy 100th post

Nabari Dam

This blog has now 100 posts- many pictures and many details about my life in Japan. So let’s celebrate a little! This post is going to look at Nabari Dam in a bit more detail, a HOW2: for Place names and a product review as well. I hope you enjoy this 100th post and happy reading.

Additionally, on the homepage, there are 2 new sections:

  • A pictures in Japan section
  • A western calendar to Japanese era conversion page

Let’s start the post!

Full Review: 青蓮寺ダム Shorenji dam aka Nabari Dam

A nice, pretty picture of the dam

I have previously talked about Nabari lake and I have mentioned Nabari Dam in passing but now well look at it in a bit more detail.

Nabari Dam was constructed in response to the Ise typhoon disaster in 昭和34年 or 1959. Nabari experiences wide spread damage and thus the dams construction was finished in 昭和45年7月 or July 1970.

The Dam is 275 m long, 82 m tall which allowed the formation of lake with an area of 1.04 km 2 containing over 27 million m 3 of water- which is quite a bit.

Around the dam, there are signs which highlight the 5 main advantages of this dam:

  • safety: the dam allows Nabari and other cities down stream (Osaka, Nara) to remain safe in extreme weather
  • ecosystem: the dam provides a constant stream of water supporting life downstream
  • household use: allows a water supply to Nabari and other areas (from drinking water to bath water)
  • agricultural use: allows water to be used for rice farming within the Iga area comprising of 1,150 ha at 1.72m3/s
  • electricity generation: green electricity is generated

The slight problem with the dam is the road that was constructed along its’ top.

There is a single carriage way which requires cars to move the the side to allow them to pass. There is a lovely video of on my social media pages.

Along the lake side there are many parks, tennis courts and picnic spots and just above the dam is the viewing spot which is also known as the famous sakura viewing point- somewhere to go in April.

The views are spectacular and are well worth a visit for those in the area. With the amount of thing available (from sports, to eateries, to hikes, photo opportunities etc) I would definitely recommend a visit. Think of this place as a trip to a national park or just a larger park: plenty to do (including an Italian restaurant that is always booked nearby), plenty to enjoy and plenty of places to relax.

Just remember: take only photos and leave only footprints.

HOW2: Japanese place name ~ヶ丘

One thing that you need to be aware of with place names is the ending ~ヶ丘 or ~gaoka meaning “one hill”. Examples of this around Nabari are 梅ヶ丘、つつじヶ丘、桔梗が丘 etc. There are many examples across Japan but with the ending, you should expect extremely steep hills, that even cars struggle to climb.

The kanji is quite strange. ” ヶ ” is an ichi-dan counter used as a suffix to count objects and ” 丘 ” means hill- in such combinations as 丘上-きゅうじょう meaning hill top or 丘疹-きゅうしん meaning pimple (there are other combinations out there).

Near the Top of Tsutsuji-gaoka or つつじヶ丘

This was a fantastic view of Tsutsuji-gaoka just before my arrival at the dam. What you cannot see in this picture is the extremely tall hill that it is built on. Additionally, each settlement that can be seen in the distance is an entire other area- either Nabari city or small settlements surrounding it. The name should definitively be it’s warning when cycling or walking. You could argue that it should be つつじ山 instead.

The reason that you must be aware of its name is simple put: google maps. Google maps do not show you how steep the hill you climb are when using the app (they do during the planning stages on desktop).

Product review:

A vege bowl- with meat

The last product made me smile when I found it and that was a simple salad. In Japan vege salads refer to salads being made up of more vegetables than normal- which is a weird phrase now that I think about it. But to the rest of the world, a veg salad is (or at least should be) a vegetarian salad. My favourite was a salad bowl with massive shrimp on it stating vege salad.

The salad was extremely good- all crispy fresh veg, a nice mix of oats and rice and a sort-of miso dressing (extremely Japanese) but went well never the less.

Strangely enough, there was no problem with this product- even with the Japenglish. Check them out in Aeon supermarkets.

Thank you for reading and here’s to many more blog posts to come.

Short: Recommendations


On the back of culture day whihc took place on the 4th of November, many museums in the Tokai region (from Gifu, to Osaka, Kobe, Kyoto. Aichi, Mie etc) are offering free entry to many museums.

Free entry is offered on the 16/11/19 and 17/11/19. Please do check out a local museum and discover somethng new.

Sweat treat

This product is quite a cakey doughnut with a lemon glaze. They were found at Kirindo. The product was good and a nice treat but also had an artificial aftertaste which was rather poor.

Would I recommend this product? Not really- there is not much taste, its’ a bit too artificial and high in calories.

Aeon Mall Nabari

Aeon is currently celebrating the anniversary of its opening and are offering many products (from food, to electrical goods, to clothing) at a special, reduced price.

People from Iga, Nabari and Nara-ken will visit this mall due to its’ range of products.

Ise Shrine on the 22 and 23 of November

The emperor is going to visit Ise Shrine on the 22 and 23 of November. There is not much on the emperors current itinerary. But, please go check it out if you get the change.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring

Matsusaka: the beginning

Matsusaka City- 松阪市

It occurred to me that I have spent a lot of time looking into the Iga and Nabari areas and I have seemingly ignored the rest of the Mie. So I decided to explore somewhere I have passed while changing trains but never looked around and I got to say I’ll be back. But on with the review.

I arrived at Matsusaka train station on the Kintetsu line and I headed out of the JR exit and headed out into the wide world. My first point of call was 継松寺 or Keisho-ji temple.

When entering the grounds of Keisho-ji, it as if you have entered another world. The temple is well maintained, with a candle burning in the middle to allow people to buy incense and offer prayers for the dead, but there was no-one there. I was alone while visiting this large, historic center with the world passing all around me.

I ascended the wooden staircase to make an offering and pray and the temple is fantastic.

The rope hangs down attached to a gong to allow the gods to know you are there. But for visitors, there is so much old art, shrines, artifacts to look at that will grab you and make you appreciate them.

The best thing about this temple was its’ construction. So many temples in Japan feature concert staircases or use more modern building techniques but the main temple rejoices in old-world construction techniques. The other building are what you usually see- a mix on traditional and modern architecture.

The next stop on my journey was Matsusaka visitors center- which surprisingly a good stopping point. The staff do have some limited English but if you can (like always) please speak to them in Japanese. The center functions as the Matsusaka museum and information center which has an entire floor dedicated to the history and importance of Matsusaka- which is extremely interesting and worth the price of entry (it’s free). There is also a film about key events and people from it’s history and, more importantly, it has subtitles in English and Japanese and is worth a watch.

The gift shop offers 名物 or famous products from Matsusaka which ranges from flavored green teas (I may have bought a few), traditional お土産 or souvenirs which are usually a sweat treat for people to enjoy, and of course they have 松阪牛肉 or Matsusaka beef- of of the 3 greats of Japanese beef.

Surprisingly, the beef theme continued at the museum of history and folklore. The museum, which I was going to visit on my next trip was only 80 (that’s eighty- 8 0) JPY- it was a price I could not resist and indeed I did not. The current special exhibition is on Matsusaka beef and the museum features this quite heavily.

First note, the price- it’s exceptionally cheap which is brilliant. But there was a downside, the special exbition took center stage. The museum can be split into two parts: general history and the exhibition. Put it this way: I learnt more about the history of Matsusaka from the brochure with the ticket than I did at the museum. General history and information on the city is almost overlooked. The musum is keen to highlight the famous products that are prodiced here- rather than the history and culture surrounding it.

I did learn that the city had a thriving cotton trade and is one of the green tea centers of Japan along with its’ beef. I do recommend checking it out, but please wait until the next exhibition. It’ll make it a more enjoyable visit.

Now the main reason for my trip the castle. Matsusaka castle (ruins) is one of the 100 famous castles and the second one located in Mie-prefecture. To see the first check out: Iga castle.

I will not go into the history of Matsusaka castle (your safe for now) instead please enjoy the following photos:

After seeing the ruins of the castle [built in Tensho (天正)16年 or 1588 and originally consisted of the 本丸 (castle walls), 天守 (inner keep), 二の丸 (outer citadel ) and 石垣 (stone walls)] I continued onward to the former Ozu residence which for non-Japanese speakers is just a portal back to Japanese life during the Edo period (江戸時代). Interestingly enough, the Japanese just states “built after 1700”, which is extremely descriptive.

THe building is over 1000 meters squared, and has many different rooms of many functions along with small gardens dotted around- which is typical of Edo construction (for the wealthy of that time at least). It was an interesting side-note to my first official tour of Matsusaka and for 160 JPY it is worth the price. But if you are not interested in Japanese history, please don’t waste your time.

There was also a leaflet in “American” as they called it. I was not amused. The last thing of note I saw (which was closed but did make me chuckle) was a cafe called “Merry England”- which offer conversation in English as a selling point.

That was my first quick trip to Matsusaka, the next will be a 集印の観光旅行 or a shrine stamp tour of Matsusaka.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

The overview:

  • Keishou-ji temple

    Price: free

  • Matsusaka Visitors Centre

    Price: free entry. Be aware of the gift shop (I spent a lot)

  • Matsusaka Museum of History and folklore

    Price: 80 JPY

  • Matsusaka Castle ruins

    Price: free

  • Former Ozu Residence

    price: 160 JPY

Iga, the ninja journey

A journey around the heart of Iga

City hall with that sign….

As I live in the area, some of the nuances that tourists seem to love are a bit lost on me. Nevertheless, I was a tourist but 5 years ago when I visited the city as a foreign exchange student. But, new age I hope comes experience and today, we’ll look at my journey through Iga city.

Firstly, here’s a bit of cute- which was advertisement for the ninja costumes you can rent while touring the ninja city (mostly popular with young children and families).

Who’s a cute dog?

Upon exit from the Ninja train station I was greeted with this cute sight- which doesn’t happen when commuting to work. These 3 are adorable and even the taxi driver (there is a taxi rank located behind me) got out and took a picture.

But onward I went, until I came to the main reason for my visit: the NINJA experience. Firstly, the downside: when I last came I only took part in the Ninja experience and museum and this is exactly the same: from the actions taken to the displays. However, this does not mean that it is not worth doing.

Firstly price: to visit Iga castle, take part in the Ninja experience and visit the lantern hall (called the だんじり会館) it is 1750 JPY- which is the combined ticket price. Buying this is easier and it does save a bit of money. But, If you only want to visit 1 or 2 of the sites, pay for a single entry- it is cheaper. Firstly, we’ll look at Iga castle.

伊賀上野城 or Iga castle has been present on the site in some form since it was built. The castle dates back to 1585 or 天正15年 when the ruling family started to build it. The site once held smaller building surrounding the castle and it was once a hive of activity.

Just north-west of the castle is the ruins of the castle hall- which served as the living spaces for the castle helpers, the attendants and everything else which the main castle would have needed including housing the kitchen area, the tax office, and other offices a head of state needs to have.

All that remains of the heart of the operation

The site of the castle office, now seems to be ignored by locals and tourists alike as just a part space. The boarders you can see marked out show where each room once stood and markers name the rooms both in English and Japanese. but still people walk on past.

In 1611 or 慶長16年 building work gor underway around the castle and 30 m 本丸 or walls were erected- which was and still is the tallest of any castle in Japan, making Iga castle one of the “100 most famous castles in Japan”, one of the reasons for a high volume of Japanese visitors.

A lovely look at the 本丸 and the wider Iga area.

The castle was once a central part of nationwide defense as there was a high risk of rebellions due to the climate at the time and after the erection of the increased defenses in 1611, on the 2nd of September 1612, the Tenshu (天守 or castle tower was destroyed in high winds. The decision to not rebuild the castle was made in 1615 at the start of Genwa 天和元年.

Fast forward to 1935, 320 years later, Katsu Kawasaki (川崎克) started restoration/ rebuilding the castle out the tensho was created out of wood- which is what can be seen today.

The castle is also known as “white phoenix” castle.

The castle is a fantastic thing to explore but it is NOT accessibility friendly. There are no lifts at all and all stair cases are extremely steep, but it is worth it. The castle has almost become a community center, showing the history and culture of Iga and of the Iga district. In addition to this, the castle hosts many artifacts from the castle era, showcasing the strange articles of war, war time documents and art and poetry created by the castles inhabitants.

There are many things I could point I which I liove when I visit but I will do but 2. Firstly, on the top floor, there are 46 individually created from many different people. Secondly, the view of Iga- take a look for yourself:

You can actually see Nara-prefecture from here.

The next stop was the ninja experience, and I got to say it was a bit of fun. Admittidaly I did end up speaking to a Japanese professor and we did have a bit of a laugh, mostly at my height and being in a tradational Japanese house. Nevertheless the tour. There are 2 types of tour on offer: with or without the ninja weapons exbition- I went for without (but I went with previously).

A ninja’s house

The attendant who guided the group around, explained that the roof was so steep by design- it made it harder for enemy ninjas to enter the property. Which bring us nicely to the first point- the fist part of this is a group guided experience and it is wheelchair friendly.

Upon entry, you must take off your shoes (it is Japan), you are guided into the living room where some ninja tricks are performed- along with the explanation of how and why. There are tours in English, but there are a lot more in Japanese.

The guildes explain quite a bit about the way of the ninja and what precaustions they took to ensure everything remained safe while ensuring that everything was done to amaze and amuse.

Following this, the tour leads onto the museum where exhibits are presented in English and Japanese which show ninja artifacts and tell you how many things were done. As this tour is designed for children and adults in 2 different languages, the explanations given are more of an overview but helpful never the less.

There is just one artifact that I will talk about in more detail: the 4 sided shrunken. What I will say is that there is no problem with the Japanese side- there is a problem with western cultural knowledge. This shuriken is known as a Manji-shriken and is written with the kanji: 卍手裏剣, see the problem. To make matters worse, the translation of 卍 or まんじ is swastika which really does evoke any positive feelings to a European’s ear.

Finally, there was but more more building which housed further information and a gift shop with some brilliant books about the history of ninja and plenty of general ninja merch including T-shirts, rubber kunai, pens, etc.

The last stop was the lantern hall- argubuly the least impressive of the 3, especially for any non-Japanese speaker. However it is from here were ninja costumes may be rented for your grand tour of Iga.

This hall houses the large lantern floats used in various festivals happening in Iga (all of which I have missed or am unable to attend….). Each display has been painstakingly created to best highlight it’s beauty and artistic style. All explanations are given in Japanese and while it can be enjoyed without, it does make the experience longer.

Upon entry, you are told that there is a 12 minute starting at the start of the hour on the second floor and to be honest, even with this, you are only going to be here for about 30 minutes to an hour.

The floats of lanterns used in festivals

At the end, there is a large gift shop with ninja anything and everything: sake, rice, chocolate, alcohol, ice cream, t-shirts etc. If you love ninja, this is not to be missed.

All in all, it was a brilliant way to spend a day. There is a lot more in Iga to explore (the main city for example) but spending a day looking more into Iga’s history was well worth itだってばよ!( BTW that was painful to write but if you don’t get that reference, do you even ninja?)

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Palika Chocolate mint sticks

As I am trying new things this month, a small sweat treat is exactly what I wanted (but not according to my diet).

In this packet, there are only 6 sticks included (the downside) but to combat this, they taste amazing. Each sticks is covered in a crunchy wafer and is filled with chocolate mint and crunchy puffs.

Now the downside, they are mostly taste and there is noting much in them. Each sticks is only 38 kcal and have 4.8g of sugar- or put put it another way, a nice flavor but nothing nutritious.

Do check them out if you get the chance, they are a tasty treat.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

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