Summer Cabins and Camping in the Noto

Guest post by Ginny Middleton, a second-year JET living in the Noto.

Thinking of a great way to spend a relaxing weekend by the beach?

Come up to the Noto and rent a cabin with some friends – you’re guaranteed a fantastic time!!

Click here for information about camping in Suzu, Togi, and Wajima.
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Get to Know a Ken: Hiroshima

This is a guest post by Gail Meadows, a Hiroshima JET, as part of the effort to build inter-prefectural awareness. Read on!

When most JETs think of Hiroshima, two places spring immediately to mind: the Atomic Bomb Dome, and Miyajima, the island world famous for its “floating” torii gate, which you all have no doubt seen featured countless times as a symbol of Japan.

Of course these places should be at the top of your travel itinerary when you visit Hiroshima — what stay in Japan would be complete without petting Miyajima’s tame deer? — but I’ll also recommend some other parts of Hiroshima-ken near and dear to my heart.

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Online Japanese Train Schedules – Hyperdia

Hyperdia is a very convenient tool when it comes to living or traveling in Japan.  It is a database of train schedules around Japan (in English, Japanese, and Chinese), and is also aware of some planes and buses (such as shuttle buses that might connect you from an airport to a train station).  It really shines when it comes to train travel, though.

Choose Your Destination!

Type in your starting train station and your destination.  You can also choose a specific date and time, if you’re trip planning.  By default, Hyperdia assumes that you’ll be departing on the date and time that you select, but you can also opt for Hyperdia to give you a schedule based on your arrival time (which is great if you have to make it to a meeting by a specific time, but have no idea how long it will take to get there).

Narrowing the Travel Details

If you’d like, you can further detail your trip by clicking the tiny blue “Search options” link.  Here, you can provide specific stations you’d like to pass through (maybe you’d like to pass through Himeji on your way to Hiroshima).  You can also sort your itinerary suggestions by cost, travel time, or number of train transfers.  Or, if you’d like to limit your methods of travel you can narrow that down (you might not want to spend money on a plane or bullet train on your way to Hiroshima).  Narrowing travel options is very important if you’re using a JR Pass or if you’re using a discount pass, like the Seishun Juhachi Kippu (Youth 18 Ticket).

Understanding the Search Results

Once you’ve got the details sorted, click the “Search” button, and your Search Results will automatically generated.  By default, your fastest method of getting somewhere will be displayed first.  This isn’t always the best option, so be sure to look through your other choices.  Sometimes you can save a lot of money if you take a slightly slower route, or you may be able to save a lot of unnecessary transfers.

The search results display the total travel time, number of transfers, cost, and distance traveled at the top of each route listing.  It also displays the departure and arrival time of each train (for those unfamiliar with Japan, trains are usually very exact with their arrival and departure times).   If there is an option to reserve a seat on a particular train, and option will be displayed for you to choose the “unreserved seat” to save a few hundred yen (and risk standing the whole time you’re on that train) or a “green seat” where you can ride in the lap of luxury for a few thousand yen extra.

You can  click the “train timetable” link below each train and see where and when each train will stop.  Also, you can click the “interval timetable” to see which trains travel the same portion of the route (and when they depart).

For Commuters

An interesting feature for those who the same route daily is the “commuting ticket” link at the far right of the top route listing.  Click it, and if a commuter ticket is available for a portion of the route, it will display the cost of a commuter’s ticket for 1 month, 3 months, or 6 months.

To give you an idea of potential savings, if you ride from Nonoichi to Kanazawa station, it typically costs ¥190 per trip.  The 1 month ticket is ¥5,670 (or, the cost of riding 30 times in a month).  The 3 month ticket is the equivalent of riding 29 times a month.   The 6 month ticket is the equivalent of riding 24 times a month.  If you ride round-trip more than 15 times a month, any of those commuter tickets are a good deal.  Just don’t lose it!

For Travelers

If you read Japanese, you can click on the “map”, “hotel”, or “rent-a-car” options next to your final destination for extra travel help.  If not, I recommend using a hotel website, like Welcome Inn Reservations Center to go ahead and find a place to stay.  Train stations are natural landmarks in Japan, and if a hotel is near the train station, they’ll advertise it proudly.

Good luck with your travels!

P.S.  Hyperdia recently got a facelift, but if you like the classic look better (or find it easier to use), you can still use it.  Click the “classic view” on the first page before you enter your departure and destination points!

Guest House Pongyi

Need a place to stay in Kanazawa? Tatami time-share is great, of course, but what if you have friends or family coming with you? I recommend Guest House Pongyi, a charming hostel located in the heart of Kanazawa.

Guest House Pongyi

Guest House Pongyi

Guest House Pongyi (ゲストハウスポンギー) is nestled into the buildings by the Kuratawa Canal. The atmosphere of Pongyi is lovely. The building was once the house of a merchant, which lends a nostalgic feel to the place.

For only 2600 per night, you can stay in the male or female dormitory (4 bunks each; if you’re booking a group, you can ask to be placed together, depending on availibility), or, for 6000 yen per night, you can stay in a tatami room (sleeps 4). (The price drops to 10,000 yen per for this room if you book four people at once). One hundred yen of your fees will be donated to help poor children in Asia.

My friends and I rented out the whole men's dorm together since it was open.

My friends and I rented out the whole men's dorm together since it was open.

Each bed in the dorm-style rooms has its own curtain and its own light. The bathrooms have racks for drying your clothes and towels. There’s a communal bath, or you can go to a nearby onsen for showering and bathing. (My group came back rather late from our day’s excursion, so we decided on the onsen). The website has a break-down on what amenities the facility has, but, in brief, you can rent towels and yukata for cheap, and you can use the kitchen equipment, a padlocked locker for your valuables, and the internet for free. Of course, like any other bed and breakfast or hostel, how well you sleep will really depend on your bunkmates and fellow guests, so bring your friends—the more, the merrier!

Not only is the inside of the hostel nice, but the location is amazing. You can leisurely sit outside over the canal in the morning sunlight when the weather is nice. It’s only a short walk (5-10 min) from Kanazawa Station and downtown Kanazawa, and 20 minutes from Higashiyama Tea District and Kenrokuen Garden. The area also has a convenience store and several restaurants nearby.

A place to sit by the canal

A place to sit by the canal

Yokokawa Masaki, the proprietor, is wonderfully friendly. He has traveled to Brazil and Myanmar, where he lived as a Buddhist monk. The hostel reflects his personality and experiences—it is simultaneously cosmopolitan and homey, and it exudes an air of serenity. Masaki-san encourages foreigners as well as Japanese to stay in his hostel, and he loves to hear about his guests’ home countries and experiences. Travelers, be sure to bring Masaki-san a nice omiyage from your town!

Leah Zoller is a first-year CIR in Anamizu and likes the top bunk.

Access
〒920-0868 石川県金沢市六枚町2-22,076-225-7369
2-22 Rokumai-machi, Kanazawa, Ishikawa, Japan
Tel: 076-225-7369 (in Japan)
+81-76-225-7369 (from other country)
E-mail: mail@pongyi.com
English website: http://english.pongyi.com/
Japanese website: http://pongyi.com/

Parking is available across the lane for 900 yen for 24 hours..
By bus or train, get off at Kanazawa Eki, and walk for about five minutes from the East Exit. Masaki-san has posted detailed bilingual access instructions with pictures here.

Cheap Travel to Tokyo: Overnight Buses

I love shopping in Tokyo.  I love the people-watching. I love the stereotyped feeling of “Japan” that I get while just being there.  Tokyo is worth visiting more than once, and it doesn’t have to be too spendy.

I’ve used overnight buses to get to Tokyo (and Tokyo Disneyland — same price!) multiple times, and I haven’t been let down yet.

Photo: oimax

Here’s how overnight buses work:

– Go online (I like Willer Travel because they have English support, and it’s the cheapest company I’ve found). 

– Choose your boarding point and destination (You can leave from the Kanazawa Station, and get off in Shinjuku, Tokyo Disneyland, and a few other places)

– Choose your seat type ( Seats range from ¥4,400 – ¥8,500, depending on the type of seat you want and the day you’ll be traveling.  It’s all clearly explained in English on the site.)

– Check to see if your travel date is available on the website.

– Make your reservation online (you pay via credit card).

– On the day of travel, you meet at the loading place at the Kanazawa Station –the bus usually leaves at 10:00 pm.  Sleep the night on the bus. (It stops every few hours for bathroom breaks, which is good or bad, depending on how easily you can get back to sleep.) If you’re getting off in Shinjuku, you’ll be dropped off at 6:40 am at the train station.  You arrive at Tokyo Disneyland at 7:40am.

Photo: Willer Express

If you’re returning via overnight bus, make sure you’ve reserved your return ticket in advanced, and be sure where the boarding location is!  You’ll also want to be sure you have their Emergency Phone Number listed in your phone in case you’re having trouble finding where to get on the bus!

If you’re using the “standard” (cheapest) seating option, be aware that you are quite close to the person next to you. If you’re traveling with a friend, it’s fine, but if you don’t know the other person, you may want to get a seat upgrade for a larger personal bubble.

How about you? What’s your preferred method of getting to Tokyo?

Attention Kiddies: New Tokyo Night Bus Route from Nanao and Kanazawa

Winter cabin fever got you down?

I know sometimes I feel a little bit country…and sometimes I feel like I just need to get the heck out of here.

If you live in the Noto or Nanao and need your Tokyo fix, there’s a new bus route available for your night riding pleasure. Most of us are familiar with the JR highway night bus from Kanazawa station costs 7,840 for a one way ticket and 14,110 for a round-trip ticket (must be within 10 days). For those of us living further north, the drive down and parking situation makes a Tokyo trip more trouble than it’s worth.

Fortunately, starting February 20th, there is a bus that will start its route at Nanao station. It’s only going to run on Friday and Saturday nights until mid-March, when it will run daily. The bus is by a company called Maru Ichi Kankou (丸一観光). The bus’ name is Green Liner (グリーンライナー). So far, the price of a one-way ticket is either 6,000 or 5,500 yen. It seems to vary depending on the day but, I don’t see any pattern (like weekends being a different price than weekdays).

Tickets are only available online. Since the website is in Japanese only, you may need someone to help you book. The website is http://www.travel.rakuten.co.jp. Here is some information about the route offered.

Tokyo Disney 21:30 –> Tokyo Station 22:20 –> Shinjuku Station 23:00 –> Kanazawa Station 7:30 –> Nanao Station 9:00

Nanao Station 8:20 –> Kanazawa Station 10:00 –> Shinjuku Station 6:30 –> Tokyo Station 7:00 –> Tokyo Disney 7:30 

In case you don’t know about the alternate Kanazawa to Tokyo buses that are cheaper than JR, there are the following: Hokkoku Kankou’s Orion Bus (オリオンバス), that’s one-way ticket is 4,300 yen and Star Express Willer Travel’s Go Go Bus (ゴーゴーバス), that starts at Jusco (もりの里 ) shopping center and costs 4,600 yen with toilet and 4,400 without toilet.