Review: game center at Aeon, Nabari

Omikuji, a raffle tickets arcade game

I went shopping, like many do on their day off, and after buying my weeks produce, I suddenly discovered that the Aeon supermarket was more of an Aeon mall- which sells a large variety of products. The embarrassing thing about this is that I have lived in Nabari for quite a length of time and I had never noticed this before…..never mind.

On discovery of this, I ascended the building and on the 3 rd flood (UK 2nd floor) I discovered the gaming centre. Unlike the Sega gaming center, it offered a variety of games, prizes and seemed to attract more people to it.

The first “strange” game I discovered was the raffle ticket style claw machine. First thing to note, because getting a prize is not guaranteed, the claw is extremely strong. Secondly, you must open each ticket to check if you have won. Finally, is it 100 JPY for 2 plays- which is an exceptionally cheap price.

I spent 200 JPY (4 plays) and the results were:

2 winning tickets and an example losing ticket

2 winning tickets which were marked C賞 and numerous tickets marked はずれ. Winning tickets went from C to special (C, B, A, and special) and the rarity increases as the prize improves. I won twice and came away with Disney erasers, so I am quite happy with that.

In addition to this game, they have numerous UFO machines with official products including Anpanman, Disney, Doraimon etc.- which attracted the attention on children, and strange adults alike.

There was a small selection of more adult machines including pachinko and slots (only 10 in total). This game center is definitively more catered towards children rather than adults but was still extremely bit of fun and not too expensive as long as you keep a strict budget.

Anpanman

The other game strange game on offer was a ping-pong ball drop, if it entered the Takoyaki cooker with the colored spot, you can choose with prize you want of the corresponding color. I did not win as it is mostly down to change.

Please do checkout this arcade, or similar ones located around Japan.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Taiyaki Warashibe たい焼きわらしべ伊賀上野店

Got to have a treat or 2

When exploring Iga, I came across this little slice of heaven located opposite city hall. Warashibe Taiyaki is an extremely small store but its’ merchandice is fantastic.

Taiyaki are small pancake like treats in the shape of a fish often with runny center. Some of the flavors they offer at this store are red bean paste (あん), Chocolate cream (チョコクリーム), and green tea (抹茶). For those that are looking for an additional treat, they also have たい焼きアイス takiyaki ice-cream as well.

Taiyaki- green tea flavored

Each taiyaki is sold separately, with the taiyaki being 170 JPY (other flavors are about 20 yen either way) and the Taiyaki ice-cream is 360 JPY- all prices include tax.

I definitely recommend this shop and if you visit Iga, please do check it out.

For telephone orders (you will have to pick it up yourself), please call 0595-24-8818.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

What’s on: Iga and Nabari

When you live in another country, occasionally it seems as if there is nothing going on. But I would like to quell that idea and give you an idea of local events going on in Nabari and Iga.

The information on local events comes from the regional free newspaper “You!”. There are quite a few events in the area but I’ll cherry pick a few.

On November 17th (Sunday) the rainbow group will be performing a concert starting at 14:30 at Yamato Fuji Hall. The group has hosted a charity concert every year since the 2011 disaster and precedes go to support these groups. For more information, or booking, please call 090-6911-9818 (Japan).

On Saturday the 16th, Nabari High school tea ceremony club will be hosting a free event at Nabari library (booking is not required). The event will be taking place in the tatami room and starts an 1330.

On November 16th from 1530 to 1830, Nabari kindergarten are hosting a winter illumination event. Participation is free.

Classically trained Ayaka Tanimoto is taking part in an Opera in Nabari at ads Hall in Masasaki-cho (a 15 minute walk from Nabari station). Doors open at 1400 and tickets are 3,000 JPY for adults and 1,000 JPY for high school students and younger and are limited to 80. For more information call (Nabari) 64-3478.

Finally, the asd Hall are hosting the 10th Cancer awareness event which offers to give further information on cancer, types and diagnosis. This is to be hosted on Thursday the 28th from 1430 to 1630.

There are a lot more events happening, and if you are interested please check out some of the listed events.

I hope you enjoyed reading and happy exploring.

Review: Seria

A review of the 100 yen store Seria.

A brilliant 100 JPY store

Seria is a national 100 JPY store with locations from Kyuushu to Hokkaido that offers a extremely wide range of products. Each store is set up specifically for that location so there is a slight variation in products offered at each store.

They are very proud of a number of things ranging from products that are produced in Japan (which is 国産 in Japanese), listening to customers’ feedback about what products they would like, and offering their own branded products which increases quality and allowing them to be sold.

Interestingly, Seria comes from Italian which means “beginning” , which just like this post, where we shall begin.

Firstly the range of products is immense. They offer seasonal items from Halloween, summer camping supplies, Valentines/ White’s day crafts in a specially designed display to attract the eye and help encourage patrons- which seems to be a rather un-Japanese marketing strategy.

Next their range extends from storage and stationary products to kitchen supplies and food items. There is a good selection and the quality in the multitude of items I have bought has always been brilliant and I have not yet had any problems.

For those of you who love character products including main western and Japanese characters: including Disney, Anpanman, Doraimon, the yellow tick-tacks that love bananas, Snoopy etc, all for 100 JPY. These products are smaller and usually only offer a singular item (1 fork for example) rather than a set.

There is also a health and make-up which sells basic necessitates such as shampoo, eye liner, lipstick, toothpaste, toothbrushes etc. Of course, they also offer a wide range of masks as well.

In regards to their food products, they have a basic range- from oil and seasoning to snacks and crisps.

The only thing to note is that due to consumption tax increase, food items are 108 JPY and non-food is 110 JPY.

If you get chance please check it out, you may find something you’ll love.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

The long walk

My journey from Iga-Kambe station to Ueno shi station.

The long winding journey that I cannot recommend enough

Saturday the start of the weekend and the start of my free time. As discussed, November’s theme is exploration and trying something new- and what about checking out my door step a bit further.

The journey started as a laid back one- a train journey from Nabari to Iga-kanbe station which was just a short 10-minute journey.

Upon arrival at Iga-Kambe, I exited the journey and headed straight out of the station and kept walking. Iga-kanbe is a small sleepy community with winding roads, with traditional Japanese houses scattered across the landscape. Cutting through this is the Kizu river and once I crossed it, my real journey began.

Kizu river near Iga-Kanbe station

Crossing the bridge gives a fantastic view of the river and the vast farming expanse ahead. The water was perfectly clear, fish can be seen swimming- even in November and you feel like you are in the middle of no-where even with the road behind. Just seen in the picture is a vast bamboo forest- teaming with life (it was a bit noisy). I followed the pylons into the distance.

A short bridge, and a different world

Looking back gives you an idea of how few people seem to use the bridge and be in the area- a perfect start for a hike from the edge of Iga to its’ heart. Once I continued walking, whilst being deafened by toe roar of the river to my right, and enjoying the mirror effect of the water, I took a right and found a small path with a rice paddy sandwiched between 2 railways.

An island of peace, between the Igatetsudo line and the Kintetsu line


 This path, even with trains coming and going, felt almost like being on an isolated island without another soul for miles. There was a delicious smell of rice being released while the thud, thud of my footsteps- along with nature- was my only music for the day.

Memorials to the deceased

The path came to an abrupt ending and a Buddhist temple greeted me.  来迎寺 (or raikou-ji) temple is a popular place of worship for locals and services still get a high turnout. The temple has a extremely large grave yard and more impressively, a mountain of memorial stones (pictured above).

Walking through the stone tori gate, and following the Japanese tradition of bowing, the previous carefree atmosphere was replaced by a reverent one- even the wind seemed silent. Stones crunched below my feet while I looked around. A statue of a Buddhist monk seemed to watch my movements while I walked around the court-yard, enjoying the peace and quite of the temple.

After leaving, I turned right and walked through the small community surrounding Hido station.

Hido is very much in the countryside and fields surround each settlement built in the traditional Japanese style, and in the modern-traditional Japanese design (see house in picture), with housewives rushing around while men stand and chat.

Children ran around weaving in and out of buildings and in the middle of this was a sacred stone hidden behind a small stone tori gate. The kanji was a bit too faded to see but the pond was a welcomed sight. I was something a bit different to see and to discover. Additionally, large paper dotted around- giving it an almost festive atmosphere.

An island of stone

I decided to explore the local area and while following route 422, I look a left and walked in isolation while ensuring I remained alive dodging Japanese drivers until I came across 城之越遺跡- or the Shironokoshi castle ruins. I have seen the ruins advertised on many occasions (a sign advertising it cam be seen while riding on the Iga-tetsudo line) and I finally went- initial thoughts not too bad.

The entrance to the ruins

There is nothing remaining of the building that once was located here, but it has been turned into a park- showing you what once stood there and why it was important for the local area. Additionally, there is a small museum located on the site in the car park as well. However, I cannot review the museum as it is closed on weekends. If you are interested, adult entry is 200 JPY.

The archaeologists who excavated the site have marked the load-bearing pillars of the castle with marble cylinders to give observers an idea of the scale of the castle- which is a small Japanese castle. The castle would have been similar to the one in Nisshin-shi, Aichi-ken. The rest of the site is now gardens, with each species of tree labelled- not a bad place for a picnic or drawing but not much else.

All that is in place of what once lay here

I continued on wards, climbing a small hill while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. Along the way I was not just dodging cars, but dragon flies and praying mantises as well.

A little friend


The small winding road from the castle ruins to Uebayashi station was a long walk up a hill with the road being boarded by bamboo on both sides. On this small mountainous road, large construction vehicles seemed to enjoy speeding along.

Dragon flies fly in the rich blue sky

The shade gave a blessed relief from the hot sum overhead- it was only 20 degrees, but when walking for hours, even warm weather can feel overbearing.

The long, winding road

Just beyond this section, was a small lake and a muddy road disappearing into the distance. I had a choice- continue along the nice road or take a change to discover something new. I took a change and it paid off.

I was somewhat aware of the crystal-clear lakes near Uebayashi station- they are exceptionally hard to miss on the train, and I have always wanted to explore this area- and I got my chance.

The ninja train at Uebayashi

The lake appeared while walking along a tiny road, framed with rice fields and, strangely, electrified fences- which are quite an uncommon sight in Japan; especially for a rice field. By chance the pink ninja train was coming along, and the results of which you can see. The mirror effect of the water was an exceptionally nice thing to see.

The middle of no-where, or so it seem

Continuing along the path, the framed path suddenly opened up and gave way to some beautiful scenery. Iga is located within a valley and it is a fact that is often forgotten by note just myself- but residents of Iga as well. But as you can see by the sun’s position, I was starting to run out of time and at this point I had barely started my journey.

I started wondering again, at a slightly faster pace- my goal was to get to 四十九駅 (literally Station 19) before nightfall as this station marks the beginning of urban Iga city. I spent some time just wondering by acres upon acres of farmland, enjoying the sound of cicadas, the buzzing of dragon flies, and the thud of my footsteps. There were many people that I came across on my journey- all of whom greeted me with an almost customary nod of the head and a こんにちは!- which I responded enthusiastically to.

Once I had crossed 比自岐川 (Hijiki river), and entered a small village surrounding 丸山城跡 (The Maruyama castle ruins). The village is isolated, exceptionally quite and almost idyllic in its setting. The ruins are located on top of a hill behind the village and was quite a climb.

The path up to the ruins was quite a challenging climb- in trainers (I’ve not yet got hiking boots…),  but the smell of mud, was prevalent as was the sounds of leaves ruffling. It was a very nice climb, and it is one I recommend anyone who is physically able to do so. There is parking in the vicinity (for about 5 cars)and the climb is up a steep muddy hill.

After scaling, and descending I was really running out of time. I therefore decided to walk along route 422 to see more of the Kizu river (木津川)- which I have seen hints of on the train and that was all. This was another decision that I am very happy to say was a good one.

Kizu river, further down-stream

 Ignoring the fact time was running out fast (look at the sun), the river was beautiful. There were several storks along the banks (in November I have to add), massive sandy ‘beaches’ along the way. The entire area is a wildlife protection area and the area has certainly benefited from it. I made several stops along the way, at another Buddhist temple and at a shrine as well- but I’ll save those for another day. That was Inako (依那古) and I followed route 422 until crossing over to see the highlight of Iga- the nature.

Rural Japan

When people ask: “What is Japan like?”, this is the picture that comes to mind. I have lived in 2 places in Japan- both of which are semi-rural so this is my image of Japan. Not Tokyo (shinjyuku/ Akihabara), nor any other major city.

What I especially like is the field of flowers in the foreground which sets the perfect tone.

It was starting to get dark and after visiting another shrine near Idamichi station (猪田道駅), my goal of getting to 四十九駅 before dark was looking bleak. The road from Idamichi to Shijukyu was perilous and there was no footpath. After trying to follow the main road to Shijuku station, I gave up after fearing for my life. I crossed the train tracks and want the rural way to urban Iga- which gave way to my last photo of the day: a beautiful photo of dusk.

A close up of clouds in the sky

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Dusk, the final frontier

This area is just rice fields as long as the eye can see, and it is beautiful.

After this, my only goal was to get to 上野市駅 (Ueno-shi station), which was a 40-minute walk away at this point. The walk at this point was through housing estates (a more western style), which quickly followed to an extremely Japanese housing estate of yester-year. Finally, after visiting Iga for quite a length of time, Iga gave the impression of being a city. The walk to the station was through typical inter-city housing, department stores and shops and restaurants galore. Iga may be rural but inner-city Iga gives the impression of a much larger city than it actually is.

The final stats for this walk are: 3 hours 40 walking, 16.9 km covered. Included in this is 2 breaks, multiple photos taken and random dancing while walking (I was definitely enjoying myself). For those of you that are wondering- yes there were many, many, many more photos that I took.

I hope you enjoyed my journey of exploration today- and I hope that you will also consider taking a similar walk either in Iga or wherever you may live.

As always, thank you for reading and happy exploring.

Review: Watasei, soft furnishings and clothing

A フワフワ (fluffy) place for all your needs

Futons, cushions and mats to name a few

While shopping in Aeon town in Iga, I saw a store with fluffy things outside and as winter is coming, I was in the market for a new rug- my apartment gets a bit cold.

What I cam across was a treasure-trove of a store that sells everything and everything soft. The store opens up to a sea of bedding and cushions galore in every size imaginable and even ones for any four legged friends you may have.

More importantly, it is cheap. Pricing depends on what you buy and in what size, the bigger, the more expensive which is a very logical pricing policy.

But what do they sell? They sell bedding, rugs, towels, futons, and clothing for men, women, and children. The final note on the clothing is that it’s very cheap and good quality. Forget GU, if you have a Watasei nearby, please check it out- it’s worth a look.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.


Next- a long journey

Vending machines, a return

Coca Cola: is it as healthy as you don’t expect?

How does the giant of the drink World compare to smaller vending machine companies? Let’s have a look….

“there is one coin coffee” but what about your sodas?

The first thing to note is its’ size, there are only 15 drinks offered–but it does sit next to a larger model, without the one coin coffee. But what about the drinks?

On the top line, there are 3 Aquarius’- a sports drink which is reasonably healthy (and brilliant in hot weather or while doing physical activity), 2 teas and water- not a bad start.

Next, we have the line that should be forgotten: 2 Cokes (do I really need to explain?), grape Fanta, fizzy grape juice and real gold- think of a ‘healthier’ Redbull with added vitamins.

Last row: 2 black coffees, and 4 milk coffees.

Healthy total: 8 drinks. Unhealthy total (including milk coffee): 10 or 44% are unhealth- a lower total percentage than last time. Now what about the big boy?

Please note, you can pay with 1000 JPY notes

As you can quickly see, there are quite a few unhealthy drinks available. Let’s make a start

Firstly, 2 cokes and 2 real golds, Georgia black coffee- really good coffee by the way-, Georgia milk coffee, 2 more real golds, apple juice, and the newest addition to any unhealth drinks selection- coke energy (yes this does exist, no I don’t know why). The first tally is 2 out of 10 (20%) are healthy, let’s see this improve.

The healthy row is as follows: 2 green teas, 2 mineral waters, 2 flavoured mineral waters, 2 milk coffees, and finally 2 smaller green teas. This time, the healthy tally is 8 out of 10 (80%)- much better.

Finally, the coffee row. This row has different ‘mixes’ but applying the same approach i.e. with extra calories (milk or sugar) its’ classes as unhealthy. This makes the healthy total 3 (black coffees) out of 7.

Out of 30 drinks, 13 are classed as healthy. This is a final percentage of 43%.

If we look at both vending machines: out of a total of 48 drink options, 21 are healthy which is a total of 44%- it’s a bit strange how this specific number crops up in regards to coke vending machines- I may need to look into this further.

Final note, as you would expect, most drinks offered are not the healthiest available, but all can be enjoyed at times. As a personal observation, these machines are rarely used as there is a convenience store 3 minutes away in foot- with the same selections.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

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.

Review: Club sega

A nice distraction but don’t expect to win

Club sega is your typical Japanese arcade with UFO machines (offering the chance to win figures and food), medal games (slot machines using metal tokens), music games, classical arcade games, and photo stickers.

While there is a lot, arcades like this are almost systemic in Japan. While gambolling in Japan is illegal, there is room for interpretation with pachinko, slots and arcades.

The club in Nabari is nothing special- but it doesn’t need to be. Nabari is in the 田舎(INAKA- or country side), and while there is a generalisation that such places don’t have much- it can be true for Nabari.

All-in-all, it’s a bit of fun, but make sure that it stays that way- set a budget before arrival and stick to it- I stuck to 1000 JPY (and I didn’t win anything) and while I could have spent more, you need to be aware of how much things generally cost. If I won a figure I wanted, it may have cost 5000 JPY to win but I could buy it for 1500 JPY. It’s all about what’s more important to you: winning no matter the cost (literally) or balancing a bit of fun with the change of winning.

I much prefer watching people play on YouTube while they waste their money.

If you go have fun but be warned.

Thank you for reading and happy exploring.

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.