Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Friday, February 13, 2009
The Romance Car will set you back Yen 2020 from Shinjuku to Hakone Yumoto, there are approximately two trains per hours. A “free pass” is available to non-residents for Yen 5000 (38 Euros) for 2 days or Yen 5500 (42 Euros) for three days. The company site gives detailed information in English: http://www.odakyu.jp/english/rc/index.html
The classic tourist itinerary from Hakone Yumoto includes the Hakone Tozan train from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora (Yens 390 one-way), then the Hakone-Tozan train to Sounzan (早雲山), and the cable-car (Hakone Ropeway, 箱根ロープウェイ) to Togendai (桃源台) (Yen 1330 (10 Euros) one way, Yen 2340 (18 Euros) return).
Although the trains and cable cars are pleasant, the most convenient way to reach Moto-Hakone is the bus : 40 mintes from Hakone Yumoto (Yen 930 (7 Euros) one way).
Summer should be avoided, as Mount-Fuji will certainly be hidden by the mist. Official Japanese holidays will bring great crowds, so Hakone is also better avoided at that date: golden week from April 28th to May 5th and New years holidays around January 1st.
This map provided by the Japanese tourism Information Bureau is very convenient: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/map/009_Hakone.html
The « Secret Japan » site gives many useful tips on hot springs in the region: http://www.secret-japan.com/forum/hakone-(kanagawa-ken)-t18.html
The official Hakone site lists 17 onsen hot springs. (http://www.hakone.or.jp/english/midokoro/onsen.html)
The woodprint shown here is issues from the “53 stages of Tokaido” (東海道五十三次) series from Utagawa Hiroshige (歌川広重)
You may want to continue reading and organizing your trip with those stories about “Classic Hotels”, “Onsens” and the “Izu Peninsula”.
Friday, December 26, 2008
A couple feeds on mutual respect. However, in this case, there is strong temptation to establish a hierarchy between the two countries: Europeans will look down on the chaotic planning and architecture of Japanese cities, the sometimes inefficient relentless Japanese way of working, and the specificities of local politics. Japanese people will despise train strikes, dirty streets and indifferent service in restaurants. However, this is very dangerous for the couple: even if one is aware of his country limitations, nobody likes to be taught a lesson from a foreigner. And any attempt to put a hierarchy between the countries will immediately be understood as an attempt to create the same order inside the couple. One should be especially wary on information about the partner’s country in internet forums, blogs and expatriate sites: some western sites gather some very debatable information on life in Japan, with doubtful shortcuts being commonplace. One common mistake made is to describe a marginal behavior, which can be shocking in any country, as the norm.
A couple is made of affection between spouses, but it is also the choice of a common lifestyle that is acceptable to both partners. In this case, there are several challenges: the choice of a home country will mean at least one spouse will be far away from family, the country culture and products, and very likely, this will also decrease career opportunities. Internet allows for free communications and access to the origin country news, but this is not everything. You need to have been an expatriate to understand this strong need for a special meal you are used to since childhood: despite the outstanding Japanese food, after one year in Tokyo, I would have happily exchanged a diamond for a good “saucisson lyonnais”, the sausage from my home town. I believe it is important to speak with one’s partner of the life envisioned for the future before taking any hard commitment. Settling abroad is never insignificant, and very often, the spouse living in his or her home country will not be aware of the difficulties, especially if he or she never experienced living in another country. A decent compromise is probably to settle in one country, but to keep open the possibility of coming back to the other country if circumstances are appropriate. This will reduce the pressure for the expatriate partner to ‘integrate at all costs’, and so increase the rate of success. Settling abroad is of course easier if the expatriate spouse has an interest in the host country.
A trip back to see the family may cost more than 1000 Euros for the spouse with a far-off family. Imported products and books may be hard to find and very expensive. A simple Japanese magazine may cost between 10 and 15 Euros in a Japanese shop in Paris, and it will be impossible to find it in other French cities. Japanese people settling in France, even from modest origin, are used to clean and safe street, and to an excellent quality of service. They will adapt better to pleasant downtown districts than to plebeian suburbs. The other way round, a European person settling in Tokyo will feel better at ease in a pleasant district with large avenues and parks. This is why money will go a long way in a successful expatriation. Also, many young adults are living at their parent’s place and use their whole salary (often around 1500 Euros monthly) as pure pocket money. If they settle with their spouse in Europe, their standard of living will certainly erode significantly. I could not recommend enough building estimates of the couple budget, and the way of life that could be achieved (housing location and size, holidays...), before taking any hard commitment.
Whatever your opinion on couples that do not want to wed, immigration laws are such that it is often compulsory to get married to be able to live together. In certain cases, only the Shengen tourism visa (3 months of stay every 6 months) is available for a non-married spouse visiting Europe. And this is not the only reason to get married: the expatriate partner will feel more secure moving to another country with the couple having an official status. Also, unmarried couples are exceptional in Japan, where less than 5 percent of children are born out of wedlock. Wedding will be an almost compulsory step, and it may come slightly sooner than ideally wished. Japanese families will however not easily accept a wedding if the man is still a student, as they consider he does not yet have a job to sustain a family. Most Japanese ladies will also wish to work for a few years in Japan after they graduate before getting married and maybe following their husband in his country. Also, it seems to be easier for families to accept their children’s chosen ones when they are in their late twenties or early thirties, as this may be seen as one of the last opportunities to “marry on schedule”. This is not actually specific to international couples.
Terrifying letters on one side, absurd grammar on the other side, Japanese and some European languages (especially French) are amongst the most complex to learn. Some international couples communicate in English, others in Japanese or their mother European language, if one of them learnt it at university. The truth is that learning a new language as a young adult why having a full-time job is difficult for most people. This is however compulsory, as only reasonable abilities in the spouse language will allow a good communication with the families, and speaking the language of the country of residence will help with integration. As it is often hard to start working on a list of “Kanjis” back from work at 10pm, a 3 to 6 months sabbatical to learn the spouse language in the country may be a good idea.
Some people explain the difficulties of international couples by complex cultural differences due to the gap between Christian and pagan philosophy. This may be true, but the more mundane differences between the ways of life are also important. In the couple’s home, shoes can be either worn (European style) or taken off (Japanese style). The bath can be in the morning (European style) or before sleeping (Japanese style). Young Japanese ladies usually spend the last weeks of their pregnancy in their parent’s home, whereas they would stay in their marital home in Europe. Women usually manage the couple money in Japan, whereas this is more a shared decision in Europe. Holidays are short and luxurious in Japan, whereas in Europe they are longer and often just mean going to a relative’s house in the countryside. Grocery is bought everyday in Japan, every week in Europe. Good beef meat does not include fat in Europe, whereas it does in Japan. Also, Japanese people do not like surprises, and will appreciate that a schedule is established and respected. So the couple will have to decide on all those lifestyle topics of varying importance, with the good solution probably a compromise between the ways of life of the two origin countries. It is probably better to discuss the most important items before moving together.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
The temples are at the end of Nikko main street, on the hill just the other side of the river. From Nikko station, you should turn right and walk around 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can board the bus from platform 1 or 2 up to Shinkyo station (神橋) (Y190, 1.60 Euro).
You can make the trip more pleasant by boarding the limited express « Tobu Spacia » which will allow you a VIP crossing of Tokyo’s never-ending northern suburbs (1h50, Y2720, 22.60 Euro). You may have to change trains at Shimoimaichi (下今市). The trip is more pleasant and the seats more comfortable than in the standard service from the Tobu line (東武伊勢崎線快速, 2h04, Y1320 11 Euro departure every hour).
Travelers with a generous budget may want to spend the night in the « Classic Hotel »Nikko Kaneya (日光金谷ホテル). The others may also stay at the nearby Kinugawa-Onsen (鬼怒川温泉) hot springs popular resort, a few minutes train away(from 20 to 30 minutes, train change in Shimoimaichi, Y300, 2.5 Euros).
The town also has a JR station, with a less convenient service (45 minutes from Utsunomiya宇都宮)
The Nikko Tourist Association site (http://www.nikko-jp.org/english/) offers detailed information in English.