Tokyo Apartments Rent Blog - Rent

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Photos by Marcellus Nealy

As wonderful as Tokyo is, it’s nice to get away for a day and visit other places. I am sure you are aware, each town in Japan has it own unique characteristics.  From Tokyo there are many place you can reach by train that are close enough to visit for a day trip.  In a previous article we paid a visit to Kamakura.  Today let’s take look at another place in the Shonan area, Enoshima.
Enoshima is a small island and only has about a 4km circumference.   It is connected to the mainland by a bridge.  The whole island is dedicated to Benaiten, the goddess of everything that flows, including, water, the wind, words, creative energy, money and music.  It is a very popular place for tourists because there is a lot to do and see there.
Enoshima Shrine is one of the main attractions.  It is made up of three separate shrines, which are located on the island.  They are HetsunomiyaJinja (Shrine at the Edge), OkutsunomiyaJinja (Shrine of the deep), and NakatsunomiyaJinja (Shrine in the center).  Each of the shrines that make up the entire complex offer something unique.  For example, Hetsunomiya is the first shrine tourists see when they arrive to Enoshima.  It is dedicated to the Shinto goddess of the sea, Tagitsuhime.  The shrine also houses a statue of Benaiten naked and playing a lute.  This representation of the goddess is said to very unusual.  The other two shrines each have equally intriguing stories.  The beauty of the architecture and décor makes them worth a visit.
Another thing you must see when you go to the island is the Iwaya Caves.  There are two separate but adjoining caves.  One cave is about 150 meters long.  It is the enshrining place of the Munaka trio of goddesses and Amaterasu, the sun goddess.  The second cave, which is 56 meters long, is home to the Dragon God, who protects the fishermen.  At the end of the corridor you can see the dragon peering through the darkness at the back of the cave.
Another attraction that can be found on the island is the Samuel Cocking Garden, which, as the name suggests, was once the property of British merchant Samuel Cocking.  The beautiful park features a magnificent display of flowers and the Sea Candle, an observation tower from which you can get a full view of the island. 
If you have children or if you are interested in marine life then you can visit the spectacular Enoshima Aquarium.  They are particularly proud of their Sagami Bay Zone because it features a giant school of sardines as well as a large host of aquatic life that can found in the area.  They also have exotic jellyfish, penguins, and dolphins that put on shows daily.  The aquarium is not actually on the island.  It is located just before the bridge that connects the island with the mainland.
Finally, for the ultimate in luxurious decadence let me suggest the Enoshima Island Spa.  It offers aromatherapy massage, shiatsu, natural hot springs that are both the traditional naked kind and a separate bathing suit area.  They also have a sauna, indoor and outdoor heated pools, oxygen therapy capsules and much more.  A visit to the spa alone can be a whole day experience.
There are so many more attractions on the island that I couldn’t list here such as shrines, shops, restaurants and more.  Enoshima is a great place to relax, have fun, eat well and enjoy being in Japan.   It really is the perfect day trip.

Photos by Marcellus Nealy

Super markets in Tokyo are moderately priced and fairly ubiquitous.  They have most of the basic things anyone would need to prepare a meal.  However, sometimes the basics aren’t enough.  Once in a while it’s nice to be able to have some of the comfort foods we grew up with or ingredients that normally don’t fall within the radar of Japanese cuisine.  Things like vanilla wafers, falafel, basmati rice, pecans and dill pickles might never be seen on the shelves of the local food market. Luckily, there are ways to get what you need.

In Hiroo, for example, there is National Azabu Super Market.  They have a variety of things that you might find in your hometown supermarket.  In fact, National Azabu is one of the best international markets in Tokyo.  That is probably why many folks who work at the neighboring embassies shop there.  You can find fresh produce, cuts of meat, poultry, and dry goods that are just not available on local shelves.  Be prepared to pay for the privilege.  Import markets tend to be a lot more expensive than the regular super market.  Shipping costs and customs tax are very much reflected in the price.  For those who just have to make a turkey and pumpkin pie for the holidays, no price is too much to pay.

Other international supermarkets are Meidi-ya Store, which has shops at various locations across Tokyo including Roppongi, Hiroo, and Marunouchi.  Another well-known international shop is Kinokuniya. They have locations across Tokyo but the truly international store is located in Aoyama.  There is also Nissin World Delicatessen in Higashi Azabu, which many might argue is actually the best place to go for international foods.  One of the big selling points of Nissin is that if they don’t have what you are looking for in stock then they will try to get it for you.  Of course you would have to wait for the order to come in and the item would have to be something reasonable.  You may have a tough time getting them to stock wild Beluga caviar, Sassafrasor Chocopologie by Knipschildt.  

You can also visit Costco if you have a car or don’t mind taking the train. They are at various locations in the suburbs of Tokyo.  For a 1000 yen per box they will deliver frozen or packaged food right to your doorstep.  Just like in the states they specialize in bulk.  It’s the perfect place to shop if you are having a western style BBQ but you don’t want to spend a crazy amount of cash for quality meat.

If you prefer to do you shopping on the Internet then you are in luck.  Since 1988 the foreign buyers club has specialized in direct-to-consumer import of international foods, health and beauty products, over the counter medicines, and other things you might be missing from home.  They sell both individual items and bulk.  If they have what you are looking for in stock you can get it right away.

Although Tokyo has a wealth of foods and some of the cleanest and well-stocked supermarkets in the world it’s nice to have a taste of home sometimes.  With all the choices listed above, home doesn’t have to feel too far away.

National Azabu

Meidi-ya Store


Nissin World Delicatessen

Costco Japan

Foreign Buyer’s Club

Photos by Marcellus Nealy

There is an old saying which goes, when in Rome do as the Romans do.  Well, that saying can be applied to anywhere.  So, when in Japan do as the Japanese do and celebrate the arrival of spring with a hanami party.  Hanami, or flower viewing, is the traditional custom of sitting under a cherry tree and enjoying the soft elegant beauty of cherry blossoms.  The practice itself is said to have started during the Nara period sometime between 710 and 794 when people would marvel at the beauty of plum blossoms.  For whatever, during the Heian period, from 794 to 1185, public interest shifted from plum flowers to cherry blossoms.  It was Emperor Saga who first came up with the idea of having a feast and getting drunk under the cherry tree.  Since then, the tradition has lived on to this day.
A typical hanami party consists of gathering a group of family and friends, bringing food and alcohol, and having a picnic in the park underneath the falling blossoms. The practice is so widely spread that when the flowers are in maximum bloom it can be difficult to find an open patch of land to lay your blanket.  So if you decide to indulge in the simple joy of picnicking under the warm cascade of petals it’s a good idea to go prepared.  Here are a few tips that can help.
1. Stake out a good location.The most popular places to have a hanami party are Ueno Park, which has 1000 cherry trees, Shinjuku Gyoen, which is one of Tokyo’s largest parks, and Yoyogi Koen in Harajuku.  Other popular hanami spots are Chidorigafuchi in Kudanshita, Sumida Park in Asakusa, Inokashira Park in Kichijouji, and Aoyama Cemetery in Nogizaka.  All of these places, even the cemetery, will be packed to the gills.  If you like squeezing in with a billion other people then your hanami this year will surely be a spectacle. If, however, you prefer a quiet and more intimate environment then it might be a good idea to check out cherry blossoms in some of the less traveled neighborhoods.  Cherry trees are everywhere around the city so just after they start to bloom take an afternoon to look for places that are more residential or off the main roads.
2. Get there early, I mean really early.  Getting a good spot under the perfect tree is a lot like getting good seats at a concert.  It requires that you go early and stake your claim to the spot you want before someone else comes along to claim it.  It’s hard to say how early is early enough but I guarantee you that if you show up at 6 am there will already be few squatters in the park with their blankets and thermoses of hot tea.
3.  This one is directly related to number 1 and 2.  Try to find a spot that has easy access to a public restroom.  After all the beer and soda you will be so happy you did.
4.  Bring plenty of food and drinks.  I know this one goes without saying but you’d be surprised how quickly supplies run out during a daylong picnic.  Once they do, you will have to step over countless blankets and bags of chip just to get to the edge of the vast picnic area so you can sprint to the convenient store for more beer.
5.  Bring garbage bags.  It is very important that you clean up after yourself when the party is over.  People who come to Tokyo marvel at how clean the city is.  Well, it doesn’t get that way by magic.  Everyone does their part to help keep it clean by picking up after themselves.  Make sure that you bring enough garbage bags to separate the burnable trash from the non-burnable as well as bottles and cans from all the rest.  There is a trash deposit area in the major hanami spots.  It’s a good idea to locate those before the park gets too crowded.  If you are in a not so popular park then be sure to take your trash with you when you leave.
6.  Bring a jacket.  Spring weather is unpredictable.  It might be nice and warm on the day of your hanami or it might be super chilly.  It’s best to be prepared by bringing a warm jacket or sweater.
Hanami parties are a great way to enjoy spring and participate in one of Japan’s oldest and most beloved tradition.  Have fun.
Photo by Marcellus Nealy

So you have decided to move to Tokyo or you have been here for a while.  Either way, congratulations!  You are in one of the best cities in the world.  That is no exaggeration.  I have been to almost every major city and all of the continents except Africa and Antarctica.  So far, my journeys have all led me to the same conclusion.  There is no place on earth that’s quite like Tokyo.
For starters Tokyo has the best and most efficient train and subway system in the world.  It goes everywhere, always arrives on time and is so clean you could practically lie down on the floor and take a nap without worrying about catching some sort of parasite or being bitten by vermin.  Speaking of sleeping, the train is the best place to get a quick nap between meetings or parties.  I have heard horror stories of people falling asleep on the train in other towns and waking up a few pounds light of their possessions.   It always pays to be on guard but in Tokyo, if you fall asleep on the train you will, unless you are extremely unlucky, wake up with all of your belongings and unmolested.  If your wallet falls to the floor or your cell phone slips out of your hand and onto the seat these items will magically remain where they are or find their way on your lap when you wake up.
This leads me to the next point.  Tokyo is the safest metropolis in the world.  In fact, the Huffington Post ranked it the number one safest city followed by Singapore and Dubrovnik, Croatia.  There are no real “rough parts” of town in Tokyo.  The neighborhoods Japanese people call rough, like the Sanya area near Minami Senju Station, are clean, well kept working class communities that have almost no violent crime.   You will never be mugged, attacked, or murdered in Tokyo.  While it does happen once every five years or so, the chances of it not happening are astronomically in your favor.  Since Astronomical rhymes with gastronomical let’s talk about the third reason why Tokyo is the best city in the world, food.

Michelin, the world’s foremost authority on fine dining haughtily made Tokyo the reigning champion of good eating by awarding her restaurants more stars than any other city in the world.  They made this proclamation 6 years in a row.  At present, Tokyo has more three-star restaurants than Paris, New York, or London!  Even the places in Tokyo that don’t get stars can be miles above other cities’ establishments in terms of cleanliness, freshness, nutrition, presentation and taste.  You can also find cuisine from most places in the world, China, Thailand, Korea, France, Italy, Spain, India, Morocco, Senegal, and the US.  You can find it all in this town.  The only down side is portions are smaller so if you like being a glutton then you will have to order two of everything to get your fill.
The service in Tokyo is also unmatched.  You don’t have to be in a place that serves truffles or hundred-dollar sushi to get great service.  Even at the local hamburger shop the staff is always pleasant and eager to help.  Everyone does their job with absolute professionalism.  From the sandwich maker to the master chef, from the train conductor to the old lady who cleans the toilets, you will be hard pressed to find anyone who shows their bad attitude or slacker side to the general public.
It really is the little things we take for granted that make the experience worthwhile.  Tokyo is famous for being futuristic, colorful, full of manga, architecturally inspiring, fashionable and often bizarre.  All of that is well and good but being able to experience it all in comfort, safety, and with a belly full of great food makes this city truly one of the best places to live in whole wide world.
Photos by Marcellus Nealy

I remember when I first came to Tokyo about 20 years ago.  After a month of being here I was in desperate need of a haircut.  There was no way I was going to cut my hair myself.  Somehow I managed to gather up the courage to visit the local hair salon.  As soon as I walked in the door the stylist looked at me as if I had fallen in from outer space.  I could tell she was even more freaked out than I was about the idea but there was no turning back.  My head was a mess.  I had to trust that anything she did would be far less hideous looking than anything I could have done myself.  After a lot of sign language and broken English she finally began.  When she was finished, I have to say, I did not get the results I was hoping to get.  To save you the trouble of going the same nightmare I went through and to help you maintain that glamorous look you deserve I will introduce you to some of the finest English speaking hair salons in the city.
Our first stop is Y.S./Park
A glamour conscious hair stylist named Young Soo Park established this salon in Daikanyama in 1980.   There are now five locations throughout Tokyo (Aoyama, Roppongi, Hiroo, and Omotesando).   Mr. Park has been quoted as saying, “Hair Stylists and customers both want it all!Functionality, elegance, ergonomics,design, beauty, the exceptional...I give it to them...”All of the salons have highly trained and experienced English speaking staff available to give you just the style you need to make you look your best for that special date or important meeting.  The salon also has a long history of dealing with foreign clientele so you can rest assured that your special needs will be met.   Unfortunately, their website is mostly in Japanese but if you have any questions you reach them at one of the following contacts:

10-8 sarugaku-choshibuya-ku, Tokyo 
5-8-10 minamiaoyamaminato-ku, Tokyo 
5-10-31 roppongiminato-ku, Tokyo 
5-15-25 minamiazabuminato-ku, Tokyo 
4-29-3 jingumaeshibuya-ku, Tokyo 
Our next stop will take us to the best salon for people of African descent. Room 806.
When it comes to hair care, it is notoriously difficult being black in Tokyo.  Salons need to use products and special styling techniques that are specific to black hair.  The horror stories I have heard from people who have been here for a long time or who don’t know where to go are enough to make a person study hairstyling before they get on a plane just so they don’t come over here and get their head messed up by a well meaning stylist who doesn’t have a clue.  In the old days, most people tried to make a friend who lived on one of the military bases.  That way they could ask the friend to take them to a hair salon on base.  Now there is another option.  It’s called Room 806.
Room 806 was started by an entrepreneur from New York City named Milton A Mayo Jr.   The first salon was started in his apartment.  The room number was 806.  Now they are a full service shop, which caters to visiting foreign artists and expats alike.    Room 806 is located in Roppongi.  They also have a branch called Sakura in Yokosuka.  For more information you can reach them by phone at 03-5545-4325.