3 Must-Read iBooks About Japan

Apple announced today an overhaul of its iBooks offerings. While we're still waiting for that Japanese 101 textbook to appear online, here are three great iBooks about Japan that you can buy right now for your iPhone or iPad (or iPod Touch):

Tokyo Vice
Id419968301Editor's note: For adults only.

Publisher's blurb: Jake Adelstein is the only American journalist ever to have been admitted to the insular Tokyo Metropolitan Police Press Club, where for twelve years he covered the dark side of Japan: extortion, murder, human trafficking, fiscal corruption, and of course, the yakuza.

But when his final scoop exposed a scandal that reverberated all the way from the neon soaked streets of Tokyo to the polished Halls of the FBI and resulted in a death threat for him and his family, Adelstein decided to step down. Then, he fought back. In Tokyo Vice he delivers an unprecedented look at Japanese culture and searing memoir about his rise from cub reporter to seasoned journalist with a price on his head.

Blake says: The occasional self-indulgence aside (really? Do we need to know about your sex life, Jake?), the book is the best example of a gritty life intertwined with the yakuza. 

Continue reading “3 Must-Read iBooks About Japan”

Guide: iPad Data Plans for Japan

iPads are great for travel. You can watch movies on the plane, read tour guides, or even check your email from almost anywhere in the world. If you want to take your iPad to Japan, here's how:

15063-620x-ipad-japanYou should have a WiFi + 3G model
Free WiFi isn't very popular in Japan, so if you want to really enjoy your iPad abroad you need a model with 3G included. 

Don't go over your limit
Once you go over your data limit, prices get insanely expensive very quickly.  There are specific guides for both carriers below.

Save data, use sparingly
You don't get very much data for your money. Here are some tips for what you should and should not do:

Continue reading “Guide: iPad Data Plans for Japan”

Things to Do: Hokkaido – Day Trips to Ski Areas Under $100

The Hokkaido branch of JR is offering cheap one-day trips for skiing, snowboarding and hot springs in Japan's northern winter wonderland. For about $75 you can get an inclusive trip of train pass, one-day lift pass, and ski/board rental for some of the world's best snow.

Ice_hotel-in-hokkaido-island-of-japan-05Or for as little as $85 you can get a day at an outdoor hot springs, in the snow, with a buffet lunch.

Some trips also involve a bus trip to the particular destination, but that's also included in the price.

Your options include:

Niseko Hirafu with view of Mt. Yotei: 6,200 yen
(special note: we just covered Niseko!)
Sahoro with view of Tokachi plain: 10,300 yen
Tomamu with 16 courses: 9,100 yen
Furano with courses for all levels: 5,750 yen
Teine, just 40 minutes from Sapporo: 5,850 yen

Continue reading “Things to Do: Hokkaido – Day Trips to Ski Areas Under $100”

Things to Do: Shinjuku – Sushi Making Class in Tokyo

The Tokyo Sushi Academy, whose eight-week, $5,000 sushi master class we covered last week, also offers a one-day class. That class is also heavily discounted this spring, so read on if you want to take a $130 class for just $40.

Sushi_chef_01For 3,000 yen, you'll spend the day learning nigiri sushi, gunkan, and temaki (hand rolls). That means you'll be a decent sushi chef at the end of the day!

There's a good reason to pay attention in class: you'll be making your own dinner! Once you sit down to eat, though, the Sushi Academy will throw in some green tea for free.

The 70% discount only applies for classes on February 18 and March 17, so hit the link below to sign up for those dates.

via Tokyo Sushi Academy

Not in the mood to cook your own food?

It's much easier to eat cheaply in Japan than you think. How does dinner for $7 and a $3 beer sound? Read the Konnichiwhoa Guide for how to find the best restaurants in Tokyo!

Flight Deal: $299 from Los Angeles or Four Corners areas (Contest)

Travel agency IACE is holding a lottery for flights to Japan for $299 if you're from southern California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico or Hawaii. 

Japan-airlines-stewardessEntering the lottery is free. 5 winners will be chosen on January 28, and the winner will get a roundtrip to Japan for just $299.

The entry deadline is January 27. If you're not lucky enough to win one of the five golden tickets, visit Konnichiwhoa's guide to picking good flights for advice on getting a cheap ticket any time, or check our latest flight deals for cheap tickets to Japan.

Fill out IACE's form here.

via Twitter (Japanese)

A special note about Japanese-language links

As a former and current expat in Japan, I read Japanese fairly well and I use that to bring you the best flight deals in both Japanese and English. I can't teach you Japanese, but I do recommend brushing up a tiny bit to improve your travel. Why not learn the best English keywords for Japan travel or 10 easy kanji?

5 Ways to Save Money in Japan

Congratulations on completing your first Japanese lesson! You deserve a reward for that.

Saving more money on your trip to Japan is always welcome. With that in mind, here are five of my best ways to shave the most money off the cost of a trip:

1. Save on the hotel. 
The hotel costs add up the quickest since your nightly rate is multiplied by however long you stay in Japan. Even in Tokyo, it’s possible to find cheap hotels or student hostels. You’ll feel like a backpacker, but it’s a great way to go cheaply.

Check Konnichiwhoa’s cheap Hotel Deals to see if there’s anything cheap for the time you want to go.

If there isn’t, try our favorite reservation sites. The JNTO is particularly good for hostels and the like.

My personal record is 2,800 yen per night. The room was tiny and the bath was shared, but it was great for a college trip.

2. Save on the flight. 
You can knock off several hundred dollars in one fell swoop if you book your flight cleverly. 

Like we mentioned on the Planning page, Japanese travel agencies will have what are called ‘deep-discount’ tickets that airlines themselves don’t publicize. They’ll acquire fewer frequent flier miles but they’ll be cheaper than the airlines’ own prices and they’ll frequently go on sale.

3. Save on trains with (or without!) a JR Pass.
The JR Pass is an unlimited-use train pass that lasts 1, 2 or 3 weeks. There’s a simple test for whether or not you need one:

If you are traveling out of Tokyo on a bullet train, you should get a JR Pass. It’s a complicated process, so pick one up in your home country before you leave.

4. Eat and shop at low-cost places.
Need sushi? A conveyor belt sushi shop could have you in and out, stuffed full of good sushi, for about $15. 

Need a quick snack? Try Lawson 100, the discount version of the popular convenience store that lowers prices because of deflation

Need a beer? Try a standing bar, where you could pay as little as $3 for a full draft Japanese beer because the bar can save money on space.

Need cheap tourist activities? Skimp on the expensive national museums and do temples instead. They’re much cheaper and very often free. Besides, the museums often have lots of Western art, and you came to Japan to see Japan

Avoid department stores – Japanese full retail price is often much more expensive than the same store overseas. I once saw my own $12 t-shirt on the rack at Tokyo’s only Banana Republic. It was selling for $86. That’s an extreme case, but you get the point. 

If you want Japanese fashion, shop at Uniqlo

5. Extreme saving: the Seishun Ju-hachi Kippu
The Seishun Ju-hachi Kippu, also known as the Seishun 18 Ticket, is a massive student discount that’s only available in July, August and December (to line up with various national holidays). For 11,500 yen (roughly $140) you get five days of unlimited travel that does not allow fast trains, so you travel much slower. That’s the price you pay for the crazy discount.

Here’s a quick comparison for a trip from Tokyo to Kyoto:

Bullet Train
Time: 2 hours
Price: 13,000 yen (one way) 

Seishun 18
Time: 9 hours
Price: 2,300 yen (one day of the pass) 

You can also split up the pass and give five people one day of unlimited travel. There are also regional passes that have similar offers to get around smaller areas of Japan, such as the northern Hokkaido island. 

If you’re seriously considering a Seishun 18, read the Wikitravel page for the ticket for full details.

Skiing in Japan: The best ski areas in Hokkaido

It's looking like an amazing ski season is underway in Hokkaido. Niseko, an area in northwest Japan 500 miles away from Fukushima, is having great snowfall and is doing good business with Asian tourists. 

Suite_Livingroom_2Japan's snow is legendary. Even regular slopes are comparable to the best untouched wilderness in North America. Last year, the ski season went all the way to mid-May. This season, December's fresh snowfall was the best it's been since 1964. 

What's better, even during crowded holiday periods there are no waits for lifts and resorts keep their Japanese roots despite a constant influx of tourists from major Asian cities like Hong Kong and Singapore.

Continue reading “Skiing in Japan: The best ski areas in Hokkaido”

Things to Do: Shinjuku – How to become a sushi master in 8 weeks

Become a sushi master with a $5,000 discount! The Tokyo Sushi Academy is giving a discount of 420,000 yen ($5,400) off its eight-week master course right now.

Blog2863wideaYou'll spend the months of February and March learning cooking techniques, sushi knives, and about each kind of sushi fish in particular.

Even with the discount, it's still not cheap. You'll pay a total of about $6,000 for registration, food costs, knives, and a uniform. 

But if you want to go from zero to hero in sushi, you'd be hard-pressed to find better. Across eight weeks, you'll get to learn things like:

Continue reading “Things to Do: Shinjuku – How to become a sushi master in 8 weeks”

Flight Deal: Los Angeles to Tokyo, $500

Malaysia Airlines is running a big deal this spring with a flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo roundtrip for $500!

Malaysia-airlinesThe discounted flights are available from March 24 to May 31, so you'd be going on the tail end of the famous cherry blossom season. The weather should be fantastic.

You can book on any site you like for this one so long as you keep the search restricted to Malaysia Air. 

This rate is temporarily low because Malaysia is changing up its flights. Its Kuala Lumpur to Los Angeles route now goes through Tokyo instead of Taiwan, so the cheap fares are customary for new routes.

If you do book this flight, do you know how to pack your suitcase?

via The Flight Deal