Tokyo’s Incredible Underground Flood Defence Systems

For those who, like me, are amazed at how a city like Tokyo is able to stand where it is, and surviving to many natural disasters, here is one great video that might interest you! Enjoy!

Guest Post: WARNING! The 9 Most Common Tourist Traps in Tokyo!

Today I bring to you a Guest Post by an avid reader of my blog, Claire, from Traveltio!

She's a world traveler, having been to 3 continents, 16 countries, and 38 cities!

She writes about her experiences and adventures in her blog at, so if you are an avid traveler as well, I recommend you to read her enthusiastic articles!

This time, she offered to write a post about Tokyo! More particularly, the most common traps a tourist can face in this giant city!

Please enjoy!


You’ve been to North and South America, wandered your way through Europe and even managed to hop on a few ships around the Caribbean, but there’s just one destination you’ve been dying to visit: Tokyo.

The food, the culture and the bustle of the city have called your name for years, and the pull has been strong, even if you don’t speak the language. But you’ve finally done it — you’ve booked a flight, downloaded a great app to help you get around despite the language barrier, and even learned all the things you shouldn’t do as a visitor in Japan. 

But while you’re dying to get out there and experience all the country has to offer, you don’t want your whole trip to center around the tourist zones. You want to see the sights, but also experience life like a local and maybe even save some money along the way.

And I have good news for you: I’ve put together a list of the nine biggest tourist traps in Tokyo to help you do just that.

1.     Exchanging money at the airport (or other major transportation hubs)

It may seem like the easiest option to just exchange some money as soon as you arrive in Japan, but doing so at airports and major train stations can cost you a lot of money without you realizing it. These areas often have ridiculously high exchange rates and fees, and they often deal with people who don’t know any better.

Do some research into good places in the city to exchange some money (not people on the street who will offer to do it for you), and change some out before you leave your home country so you already have some money on hand when you arrive.

2.     Visiting a cat cafe

It may be tempting to visit a cat cafe while you’re in Tokyo — where else can you play with cats while sipping a coffee or beer? — but these places are big tourist traps. They often overcharge for whatever drinks and snacks they offer, and they aren’t always the cleanest spots either.

Many of the cafe owners also don’t take great care of their cats (too many animals kept in cages and in a small place), so while the novelty of it may interest you, it’s typically better to not support them.

3.     Staying on the ground floor

Aside from being one of the largest cities in the world population-wise, Tokyo is also a pretty expensive place (as most cities are). Real estate in the city can be pretty pricey, with businesses getting sucked into paying more for prime locations, like on street level.

For this reason, a lot of these establishments charge more money for their goods and services (they have to in order to cover their costs), so try venturing upstairs, and you’ll likely find places with slightly lower prices.

4.     Venturing out in Roppongi

It’s been one of the main nightlife centers in the city for years, but venturing out in Roppongi takes some preparation and know-how. You can certainly find a number of great bars and clubs in the area, but if you aren’t careful, you can wind up somewhere you don’t want to be.

The area isn’t all bad — in fact it’s a great center for office, entertainment shopping and dining real estate. But there have been numerous tales of spiked drinks, stolen money and less-than-ideal situations.

5.     Taking a taxi

Public transportation in any new city can be a bit overwhelming, especially in one as busy as Tokyo. But if you rely on taxis to get you everywhere you need to go, you may be unpleasantly surprised at how expensive they can be.

Public transport is the fastest and easiest way to get around the city, just be sure to avoid the morning rush hour times (7:30-9 a.m.) if possible. You can even buy a prepaid transport card that works for the trains, subways and buses. 

6.     Only trying out the Michelin-starred restaurants

Japan may be home to a surprisingly large number of Michelin-starred fine dining options (or maybe that part isn’t so surprising), but if you only head to those spots, you’ll be spending a pretty penny on food every day. That’s not to say you should check out one or two, but don’t discount the street food you can find in Tokyo!

I’ve heard all the same stories about street food experiences gone wrong (and even lived a few of them, unfortunately), but the street food in Tokyo is some of the best around. When in doubt, ask a local — they’ll be more than happy to point out their favorite stops for ramen and yakitori.

7.     Paying international roaming fees

Most people travelling outside their home country don’t realize there’s another way to use their phones without being tethered to wifi or paying exorbitant roaming charges. But take it from someone who’s been all over the world and back — there’s a much simpler, and cheaper, way to go.

All you have to do is install a local SIM card when you arrive in your destination, and you can share those vacation photos, call your friends and search for the best sushi restaurant on the go without stressing over how much each text or GB of data is costing you. Just unlock your phone, buy a local SIM at a convenience store, and you’re all set!

8.     Spending money and time at Tokyo Tower

While the landmark was modeled after the Eiffel Tower in Paris and can be an okay viewing point to see the city from, it’s turned into quite the tourist trap since the 1980s. You’ll wind up spending more money than necessary for a less than stellar view.

Instead, head to the Mori Tower and its 52nd floor observation deck, the Tokyo City View. You’ll get an open-air, 360-degree view of the city, and on a clear day you can even see Mount Fuji off in the distance and still get Tokyo Tower in your photos.

9.     Shopping in Asakusa

Asakusa is a popular tourist spot for anyone visiting Tokyo, mostly due to the Asakusa Kannon Temple (also called Senso-ji). While the temple is beautiful and definitely worth a visit, lingering in the area to eat and shop can be a mistake.

Shopping in this district is notoriously pricey, and you’ll be better off finding souvenirs for family and friends at smaller, mom-and-pop stores dotted along alleys and quiet streets. Plus, you’ll be supporting smaller local business too!

Now that you’ve done some research and read up on what to experience and what to avoid while you’re in the Land of the Rising Sun, all that’s left is to pack a bag and get out there! Embrace the culture and don’t be afraid to try new things — and don’t forget to take a million picture while you’re there!

Win a Round-Trip Ticket to Japan with Wasabi!

Yup, that's right, you read well!

Wasabi is a new and innovative Japanese language service launched by Dan LCC., a company situated in Nagasaki which provides online Japanese learning!

Wasabi goes with the motto "Spice Up Your Studies", and has the goal of connecting the Japanese elderly who are eager to be with others with Japanese learners who are eager to study with native speakers.

Facing an ever growing aging population and with people leaving the countryside to live in the city, Wasabi allows the elderly people who live away from the lights to become more active, fighting their isolation, and at the same times, it allows foreign people to have the unique chance to practice their Japanese with them through Skype, at a reasonable price.

Please watch the video below to have a few more details!

Honestly, I think it is an excellent idea, and with very good prospects of success.

You can participate as well!

And there is more!

As this is a new service which launched recently, Dan LCC. is making a Japanese Speech Contest available to all, either you have a membership at Wasabi or not!

With absolutely no entrance fee, you can show your Japanese ability to the world filming yourself in a 4-6 minute video, and have a chance of winning a round-trip ticket to Japan! How great is that?

Don't let this great opportunity escape!

More info:

How to: Learn Japanese Fast

Yes, I know how much in a rush you are. I was as well!

But I have good news. It's simple to learn Japanese fast.

I must warn you that it is not instant, and it will mostly depend on your effort, but if you put that effort on the right direction, then you are going to save a lot of time.

I'm not a Japanese language master or some kind of expert in communicating in this language, but my study of it has allowed me to, among other things:

- Have Japanese friends and speak 100% in Japanese;
- Watch anime and drama without subtitles;
- Study in a Japanese College;
- Play in a Japanese orchestra;
- Work in a Japanese company;
- Be involved in a variety of situations where Japanese was needed;
- Reply by accident in Japanese when spoken to in English or Portuguese;

While not being a pro at all, this has its own value, so I thought I might share my experience with you.

Here's how I did it:

If you're a follower of my blog, you should have an idea that I'm Portuguese and that I also studied in Japan. To be precise, I started my study of the Japanese language in Portugal, in a short beginner course with a Japanese teacher that took place in my university. This is an important point. With a Japanese teacher. Because Japanese teachers not only know the language by instinct, they can always share the culture with you and teach you a lot of things foreigners can't.

During the course itself, which was 30 hours long, I was able to completely memorize hiragana, katakana, understand the basic aspects of grammar and have a glimpse at a few kanji.

I quickly decided I wanted to continue, so I enrolled in another course, also with a Japanese teacher. This time, it was a private course, which I attended for about two years. It may seem too long, and well, it is. But I had class only once a week and it was really at my own pace which also has its advantages though. I was in a quite tough time in my university course so I couldn't use as much time as I wanted in the Japanese course.

At this point, I had the grammar more or less consolidated and I was able to have an easy conversation.

The point here is conversation. You need to talk. Make Japanese friends, be it in your country, in Japan, or online. If you study the grammar and don't talk, it is not and will never be enough. Or rather, you might even learn more by talking that by looking at books. You get vocabulary naturally, you force yourself to speak in Japanese to face some kind of situation, and that makes it the best study.

And another point. If you like anime or Japanese drama, watch it as much as you can and get used to the accent. It's vital. First things first, you need to learn how to speak simple words in a simple way, and make sure what you want to say is understood by who you are talking to. So nothing better than getting the accent right and memorizing a few lines.

Returning to the Japanese friends topic, before going to japan, I already had a few Japanese friends. It's good not only to practice your Japanese, but also to learn about Japan and you can even hang out with them should you go to Japan.

In my case, as I didn't have Japanese people in my surroundings, I decided to search for friends online. There are various websites where you can do it, some better than others, so it's up to you to choose.

And here comes the most important part. If you are learning Japanese, you should be interested in going to Japan, I guess. If you can, just go. Japan is, by far, the best place to learn Japanese. If you can't go as soon as you'd wish, make preparations. Study in advance. Buy a dictionary, a grammar book. Download an app. Search the internet. Don't wait for things to happen. Be it for a short or for a long period of time, you can make the most of that time.

When in Japan, speak with Japanese people. Many foreigners tend to hang out among foreigners, which is their choice, but won't help their Japanese at all. Why not enroll in a Japanese school and stay with a Japanes host family? It's a great experience, I can guarantee that to you ;-)

This is my method. Of course there are others. If you were looking for an "instant-noodle" Japanese learning recipe, too bad. It doesn't exist. However, if you start studying today, you'll be one day closer to achieving your goal ;-)

Any questions, comments, etc., just send me an email or leave a comment below!

Anime: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (時をかける少女)

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (時をかける少女, Toki o Kakeru Shōjo, lit. The Girl you controls time) is a 2006 Japanese-animated science fiction romance film directed by Hosoda Mamoru (細田 守) and written by Okudera Satoko (奥寺 佐渡子).

The film shares the basic premise of a young girl, Konno Makoto, who gains the power of time travel, fact that she learns from her aunt Yoshiyama Kazuko. Makoto begins using the time-leaps frivolously to fix problems, but things don't do so smooth as she predicts...

The Girl Who Leapt Through Time was released on July 15, 2006 and won numerous awards, including the Japan Academy Prize for Animation of the Year.

I'm going to have to write a personal note on this one.

Recently I've been longing for summer, for the big clouds, the cicadas, the heat, that time of the year when you feel you can do a lot of things.

After asking for advice on an "anime where you can feel summer", I was suggested to watch this one. (As a personal suggestion, you can watch Summer Wars as well.) And after watching it, it instantly became one of my favorite anime works ever.

First of all, the animation and design quality is great, and the concept of the anime is fantastic.

It made me think about time, about the things that are precious for me, and how I must cherish the time I spend (and the time I don't spend) with them.

Just go ahead and watch it. It's a very nice, fun, and unique work of art.

Deep Kyoto: Walks - An Anthology by Michael Lambe and Ted Taylor

Today I'm talking to you about a very special e-book!

Deep Kyoto: Walks is an anthology of 18 meditative walks about Japan's ancient capital by renowned Kyoto experts. More than a guide book, it is a rich and varied account of life lived in Kyoto by those who call it home.

To those coming to Japan, Kyoto is definitely a must-go place, as it is maybe one of the places more "Japan-like". I've been there myself twice and will definitely go back again. On my second trip, last year, I rented a bicycle next to my hotel, and just rode all around the city. It was great! Great weather (it was late summer) and great places to visit. Everything in great company :)

So when I read this book, I remembered those times. It's almost a year since I've been there, and I already feel so nostalgic about it. It's a city with a great atmosphere, as if it had it's own invisible-aura-power-thing. You just have to go there to understand it.

Anyway, I loved this book. Each chapter's author has a quite unique way of expressing their feelings, and, every time, in their own way, I felt I was transported into the city, and could almost separate myself from the real place where I was reading the book.

As most of the Japanese people do, I read it on my way to work, everyday, in the train (and on my way back home, if I'm not too tired). I must confess I'm not like most Tokyo inhabitants, who read their books and use their smartphones even in a hell-like packed train. I like to read it with space, with time, with silence. That's why it takes me a lot of time to finish xD

Reading this book just made my wish to live in the Japanese countryside a lot stronger. I've had enough of the noise of the city.

But back to the book.

I've read it in Kindle app, which has an amazing feature of highlighting text, so I've compiled some of my favorite parts of the book to introduce to you! Hope you like it!


"This book then is part tribute to Japan’s ancient capital, but also a call to revive that lost art of strolling, of walking for its own sake. It’s only natural. We are after all walking beasts and have been so since we stepped out of the trees. What better exercise than to stretch your legs? And when you feel burdened by life’s concerns, get outside and walk them off. Let the air on your face refresh you. Feel your legs moving, your blood pumping and know you are alive. See the faces and lives of those who walk around you with their own myriad worries, hopes and dreams. You are not alone. Yes, walking is good therapy. It won’t cure you, but it will help. So whether in Kyoto or any other city, always take the time for a stroll around the block. Walking will expand your limited horizons of here and there, to the living breathing streets around you — until they too become your home. Walking will expand your limited ideas of self to embrace your wider community. Walking will help you to slow down and enjoy this moment now, wherever you happen to be."

"A walk in Kyoto will inevitably bring new discoveries. It is always a delight to come across a new café tucked into some quiet neighborhood."

"When I stepped outside again around midnight, hundreds of unguarded stalls, all filled to the brim with precious pottery, bordered the expanse of Gojō. The sense of trust that people can have for each other here can be so uplifting."

"One can never be satisfied by cherry blossom. Legendary haiku poet Matsuo Bashō famously wrote “Even in Kyoto… I yearn for Kyoto”. I might add, even when I see the cherry blossom, I yearn for cherry blossom."

"I love this shrine and feel that sitting here, in the quiet of this forest, the soul of ancient Japan whispers to me."

"Now the rain has set in and I’m getting wet, so I say goodbye. No response. As I am walking away, to my back, he shouts in English, loud and clear, “Goodbye!”"

"My eyes take in the green. My ears fill with birdsong. The mountain’s humidity wraps me gently. Just a few minutes before, I was dashing up the slope of Ginkaku-ji on my bicycle, but now I feel like I’m in a different world completely. It’s as if the rustle of my jacket and the sound of my footfalls have generated my presence here. An odd reverberation."

"Hōnen-in is not a tourist place to see things per se, but a space to feel, to sense the magic of shadows and light, man entwined with nature, the ‘now’ connected to all time. My brother visited once and was amazed at the ‘quality of the silence’ and noted that silence is not simply the absence of noise. There’s a vibration to silence that one can sense. Maybe it’s the spirit of Hōnen himself."

"One of the greatest summer joys is to climb the gate, find a comfy spot to sit down on the east side facing the mountains and watch the billowing summer clouds slowly drift by as in a dream."

"So, intending to stay a year, I stayed 18. I came with a suitcase and I left with a wife, two children, and more stuff than you can cram into a shipping container."

"We like to think of ourselves as in control of our lives, but there are moments when you realise you’re just an indistinguishable droplet in the great stream of existence. There’s a certain inevitability about it all, and perhaps the best we can do is help others to enjoy or endure the ride."

"As Donald Richie noted, you can never tire of living in Japan for, no matter how long you have lived there, each day brings the unexpected. And invariably the unexpected proves enriching."

"A subtle irony dawns on me: how the introduction of certain man-made elements such as a building, veranda and garden (as well as impeccable siting) can heighten one’s awareness of nature in some ways even more than if one were sitting alone in a forest, removed from any kind of man-made form. Why is that?"

"Max laments the loss of the vibe the street had when he and Ryotaro first busked there twenty years ago. “Back then it was friendly. There weren’t any chains, no convenience stores, none of the big karaoke places, or the people out on the street trying to pull you in. You know the sleazy places. They were sleazy but they weren’t organized sleazy. It was a really different atmosphere. And you never saw fights. Now there’s a police box on Kiyamachi. That’s not good either."

"It seems that people staring at their smart phones while walking the streets of Kyoto deny themselves something precious and real."

"As posters on city buses note: “Nihon ni Kyoto ga atte yokkata. Thank goodness Japan has Kyoto.”   I agree."


Once again, I really recommend you to read this book!
My deep thanks to Mr. Michael Lambe for the opportunity to read it and share my review!

You can find out more about it here: