Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sayonara Sale in Kyoto

We're leaving soon and that means a Sayonara Sale! We posted on craigslist, Kansai Flea Market and the bulletin board in the Kyoto International Center in Higashiyama.
Here is what we have.

metal rack: Y1500 (166cm tall X 56cm wide)
Toaster: Y500

Nice desk chair Y3000

Sony 29" TV Y3000 (75cm W 57cm H X 50cm D) PROBABLY NOT DIGITALLY COMPATIBLE

another table or desk- about the same size as above but not nearly as nice: Y2000
pair of chairs- Y2000
rear bike child seat Y1000

three drawer metal shelves Y1500 60cm wide X 80 tall

Lots of small things: pots and pans, dishes, cutlery, electric heater (1000), phone, and more.
We live in North West Kyoto- everything available by July 10- some things sooner. Must go by July 17th (Gion Matsuri)
I can help with delivery in the Kyoto area for an extra fee.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Kid-friendly restaurants- Sweets of Ninja

Our kids like ninjas. They liked the ninja village in Koga. They like watching the Nintaro ninja anime (NHK education channel just after 6). And so when we found out there was a ninja themed restaurant in town, we wanted to give it a try. There are two restaurants and a ninja labyrinth. The basement is a restaurant with different course meals. Apparently they come with a little ninja magic performance. We went to the all you can eat "Sweets of Ninja" part. The staff are all dressed up and the decor is cool- like an old house with bamboo everywhere. For regular food they have Karage chicken, different kinds of spaghetti, curry rice, pilaf, french fries and salad bar. The focus, though, is on the sweets- with various cakes, crepes, waffles and ice cream. The kids were in heaven. They were very interested in the gift shop too- complete with grappling hooks.
They have a maze that you can go to as well. You have to wait by the outside door and they will show you in. You get a lamp and you need to try to find kanji scrolls to make a bingo before going out. When we were there the woman at the front had very good English.
It is a little hard to find. Here is one way to find it. From the north, head down Shinkyogoku (one block east of Teramachi) until you see the KFC turn right and then go right at your first chance. Here is a map.
The info:
The course meals are from Y2800 per person- probably not as kid friendly.
The buffet is Y1580 for adults (100 more on weekends.)
Kids 7-12 Y850
Kids 3-6 Y420
under 3 are free
Maze- Y300- but Y50 off if you eat there.
There are other branches in Tokyo and New York. Maybe we'll have to try the New York one sometimes.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shipping things back home

Well, our time is drawing to a close and this means sending things back to the USA in our case. I thought it might be useful to share some of the things we have found.
Option 1: the post office
If you don't have a lot of stuff the post office is a good option. They have a very good English site and several different shipping options. Here is their rate schedule. If you are sending a lot of books, using a special mail bag might be a good option. Be sure to pack carefully though if you use the boat route- I had some minor damage from a breaking box on an earlier package. This can only be done at the central post office near the station or the Sakyo post office.
Option 2: shipping companies
These are usually based on the cubic meter and go by boat. Good for larger amounts of things. You can often choose to send it to your door, or for a cheaper route they can send it to a port near you. This does not mean that it has to be near an Ocean. I sent stuff to Detroit before. Here are some basic prices to the USA for your reference.
A friend used Economove. They quoted me about 75,000 JPY to the east coast of the USA door to port. They give you a big box to send things in.
We have use Japan Luggage Express before and were pretty happy with it. They quoted me about 60,000 to the east coast USA. For this one you don't get one big box, they just add up the dimensions of your packages (one cubic meter is a lot!).
I had another recommendation for Kuroneko Yamato, the ubiquitous takkyubin. (Sorry the information is only in Japanese) For door to door service they have about .7 cubic meter for 75,000 to the west coast, New York of Chicago or and 110,000 for the rest of the USA. From what I hear this is a very nice option.
Anyway- I hope this helps. This time I think we will go the regular post office route.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fantasy Kids Resort- Rokujizo

We recently took a rainy day and went to Fantasy Kids Resort near the Rokujizo station (subway, Keihan and JR-the subway is the closest). This is a bigger and better Yu Kids Island bouncy inflatable play area bonanza. They have several big inflatable bouncy things with slides and what not, but that is not all: ball pits, indoor sand box (advertised as sanitized), manga collections, picture book library, mega sized blocks, play structures, houses, and more. One highlight for J was a photo studio where you can dress up in all kinds of fancy clothes and take photos (using your own camera). There is no extra fee for this, though if you want to print out hard copies you can do so for a fee. S particularly loved the electric cars that even 3 year olds can drive on their own- but all three had fun on those. At the end we also discovered that all the video games there were included in the entrance fee. They had the taiko drumming game, a Gundam shooting game, driving games and several others. I wish we'd discovered that earlier. Afterward we checked out the food court for dinner. Not a great selection, but they had McDonalds, ramen, curry and some others.

The nitty gritty:
Good for ages 2 to 12- better for 3-8ish but with the added video games- even older kids could have fun.
Open 10-7, 7 days a week.
Near Rokujizo subway station- end of the Tozai line (about 30 min from Karasuma Oike).
See map here. Take the subway exit 3- head toward the river (the opposite direction from the giant big Ito-Yokado supermarket.) Look for the big mall- the Kintetsu Momo mall on the opposite side of the river. Fantasy Kids Resort is in the annex on the far side of the mall.
Requires a family membership Y315 per year.
Three payment options:
Play all day: Y990
After 4pm: Y660
Pay by the hour: Y420 first hour Y210 per half hour after
We did the after 4 package. The kids might have lasted longer, but I don't think we would've.
You get a point card and the fourth visit is free for up to 4 people. They also gave us a coupon for one free person when we left.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

buying on and paying at a conbini

I've mentioned buying toys and books on So here are some instructions for paying at a convenience store.
First of all, you should know that you can get most of the info in English if you look for the "Display this information in English" link on the right of the page. This can be a little tricky to spot, but it is there. Search for what you want and then put it in your cart and checkout. Go through the steps and input your address etc. When it comes to the payment method, choose pay at a convenience store. NOTE: If it is a non-amazon (or marketplace) seller then you can't use this option.
First, you will get an order confirmation email. The next is probably the "payment number." Scroll down until you see your email address, a long number and the amount due. Write down the long number and take it to any convenience store. In my experience Lawson's red kiosks are the easiest to use, but for us Family Mart is closest. Here are some instructions for Family Mart.
Here is the machine:

Just touch the screen to begin. This is the section for paying on Amazon on the first page:

Go to the next page by pushing on the down arrow. Look for the Amazon logo

The first page you need to input your payment number.

On the next page you need to enter 888 for some reason.
Then push the confirm button "確認” (A good Kanji to learn by the way) on the bottom left.
The machine prints out a ticket that you then take to the counter to pay.
I hope this helps. As soon as you pay they send your package- we have got ours the very next day sometimes.
Here is a useful post from Surviving in Japan about vocab for ordering online.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


To help foster an appreciation of the glorious history around us we have encouraged a fascination with ... NINJAS! Of course the Lego Ninjago series helps encourage this fascination too. We've checked out wikipedia, the library and got a book. Now we needed to visit the place where it all began- Iga and Koka. These were rival ninja towns between Kyoto and Nagoya- they are each about a day trip away. It might be tough to do both in a day unless you get out really early in the day- never our strong point. We chose to hit the closest- Koka. The selling point for us was the ninja obstacle course at Ninjutsu mura. It was a blast! Highly recommended. We went to the throwing star range (Y300 for 8 stars). Got a tour of a ninja hideout with secret passages and traps. The kids all did the obstacle course-climbing castle walls, sneaking along walls, escaping down wells, and crossing moats (Okay I did too- hey, it looked too fun). Accomplishing these feats earned them each their ninja licenses. It was a bit confusing at first, in part because the ninja village is designed so that you can never get a sense of the entire place to confuse enemies. Plus all the signs are in Japanese. I would recommend just exploring and seeing what you find. The guided tour of the obstacle course was called "Ninja Dojo" and they announced it over the loudspeaker. If you hear something over the loudspeaker go to the gift shop area to meet the group and just do what everyone else does. The ninja hideout house (Karakuri ninja yashiki) was also with a guided tour- the house is just uphill from the gift shop to the left of the giant hand statue. They do regular tours there so just look for a group.
The gift shop was a major draw too. E got a throwing star, J got a ninja Hello Kitty, and S got a squeaky sword.
The nitty-gritty:
Adults Y1000
Elementary: Y700
Below: Y500
Rental ninja outfits for the day: Adults Y1000 kids Y600. Available opposite the gift shop. We didn't do this, but it would have been fun for the kids- maybe next time.
Call from the Koka station (JR Kusatsu line) for a free shuttle. Cabs would work too.
Ninjamura: 0748-88-5000

English language books

Our son E loves to read but it is hard to keep him in books. We brought some with us, but those went fast. So we had to find new ones. We live close to the central library, which is good for rainy days too. They have English versions of the Harry Potter books and selections from the classics: Treasure Island, Arabian Nights, King Arthur and oddly, Roald Dahl's BFG. They can also order other English books from other branches. There are also several bookstores that have good English selections. Junkudo in BAL on Kawaramachi just south of Sanjo has perhaps the best selection, but the other big stores have several English books as well. We have also been to the bookstore in Aeon Mall south of the station. As always Amazon is a good option too. We got some good "One Piece" mangas via Amazon.
There are some used choices as well-the YWCA (west of the palace) has a book exchange that has some young adult books. We've also trawled Green eBooks (on Marutamachi east of the Kamogawa) for the few young adult novels they had. Their inventory changes and they might have more on other occasions.
Finally a good option is to exchange among friends. We do this with our friends and it multiplies the number of books each of us have.