April 2014 - Vikingess Voyages

Monday, April 28, 2014

Japan's Largest Uniqlo: Okachimachi

8:00:00 PM

On Friday Japan's casual fashion brand Uniqlo (which stands for unique clothing) opened up a new store in Okachimachi. In addition to being the brand's newest this store also boosts of being Japan's largest.

The great thing about Uniqlo is that you can find high quality clothes sold at cheap prices. I simply can't survive the Japanese winter without Uniqlo's heat tech products for instance, they're a real lifesaver for me. In Japan people are often willing to pay a lot extra just because a product has brand value. I still don't get why anyone would pay 10.000 yen for a sweater made of polyester when shops like Uniqlo sell sweaters made of pure merino at about a fourth of the price. But then again, I'm not really that into fashion (In fact, I can't believe I'm writing this post at all, haha..)

Various Uniqlo T-shirts
I really wonder how the conditions for Uniqlo's workers are though? Considering how cheap they're able to sell their products I wouldn't be surprised if the workers in their factories don't receive much payment at all.. When it comes to Western brands there is usually a lot of pressure from the public in Western countries if it is discovered that their workers aren't treated well. But I've never noticed similar movements from the public here in Japan (perhaps I haven't payed enough attention though)..

Anyway, Uniqlo is the place to go if you want cheap fashion that actually holds high quality as well. I would choose them over H&M any day, especially since they have a lot of nice formal clothes I can use at work.
Nippon Omiyage
Lately Uniqlo has also started selling souvenir T-shirts with Japanese motives on. If you're visiting Japan and want to bring home a T-shirt with some fancy kanji (Chinese characters) or random Japanese words on them you could always check out Uniqlo's collection. 

But to be honest, I guess the real reason why I wanted to write a blogpost about Uniqlo was that I found their range of "same is lame" T-shirts quite amusing. So amusing (/ridiculous) that I couldn't resist writing about them. I really like Uniqlo's clothes because their design is simple and the quality is high compared to their prices. But who am I kidding? I'm not really going to be seen as a "unique" & "trend setting" person because I choose to wear their products.. I mean, Uniqlo is Japan's most popular apparel retailer so there are obviously a whole bunch of people out there wearing the exact same clothes as me. These mass produced "same is lame" T-shirts aren't exactly gonna make me or anybody else stand out in the crowd, quite the contrary. 
Try to be unique and different with a mass produced Uniqlo T-shirt.
I personally think that people with talent don't need fashion (nor does anybody else for that matter), and that rather than hiding behind fancy clothes people should strive to improve themselves.

Anyway, I think I've been blabbering more than enough.. Time to do something productive instead.!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Running in Tokyo with RunKeeper!

9:00:00 PM

I recently started working out using an iPhone application called RunKeeper, a smart device that uses GPS to track you while you're out running. With this application you can get detailed feedback about your run; you see how fast you've been running, the route you've used and a lot of other details. I used to dislike running quite a lot (I'm more into dancing and martial arts), but thanks to this application (and my boyfriend, who enjoys running a lot more than I do..) I've started to at least get the motivation to go running once a week. It's not that much, but still a lot more than nothing I suppose.

Running is also a nice way to rediscover your city! Or in my case, since I'm still quite new to Tokyo, a way to discover new areas of the city. Tokyo is certainly a massive concrete jungle, but the metropolis also boosts of some wonderful parks, temples and shrines that are within reach if you decide to go out for a jog. My favorites so far includes the Ueno Koen park and the Imperial Palace, but there are of course many other options out there as well.
Having a break by the Imperial Palace with my boyfriend.
The Imperial Palace is a popular place among joggers in Tokyo
Ueno Koen is the place I visit most often, both because it is closer to home but also because there are so much to see both during daytime and during the night. The Bentendo temple is pretty nice to look at during the day, but absolutely marvelous during night when its light is reflected in the pond (no wonder why so many couples come here to hang out in the evening).

I then use RunKeeper to keep track on how fast I'm running. Once in a while the application provides me with audio feedback on how far I've been running and my pace. This makes it easier to keep on running even during the latter part of the run when my motivation is low. I've included some screenshots of the application below:

Bentensan in Ueno Koen
You can find RunKeeper in the iTunes App Store.

Other related blogposts:
Jogging around the Imperial Palace

Random Tokyo Picture: A cute statue outside Korakuen Station

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Recommended Hotels in Tokyo

Royal Park Hotel The Shiodome
Royal Park Hotel The Shiodome
Bunka Hostel Tokyo
Bunka Hostel
Sotetsu Fresa Inn Nihombashi-Ningyocho
Sotetsu Fresa Inn Nihombashi
Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu Hotel
Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu Hotel

Monday, April 21, 2014

Benefits for Rakuten Employees: The Rakuten Cafeteria (楽天食堂)

9:10:00 PM
One of the many benefits you receive as a Rakuten employee is the chance to enjoy free breakfast and lunch in one of Rakuten's two cafeterias every day. Since work usually starts at 9:30 (exempt for Tuesdays with the morning Asakai at 8:00) it is advisable to get to the office at around 8:30 for a nice breakfast before work (if you like washoku).
During breakfast
Not that many people there during breakfast, but it sure gets crowded later during lunch hours

The breakfast menu usually doesn't change that much day by day, but the cafeteria offers quite a wide variety of dishes for lunch. I personally think the food is pretty delicious (I'm not the right person to ask about taste though, I'm generally not very picky about my food as long as it is healthy)! You get to choose between 5 main items that change every day, and in addition to that you have some optional small dishes to choose from as well.
Example of lunch
Fish, potatoes and eggplant
The food is quite healthy, you do for instance always get the opportunity to have fresh vegetables and/or salad with your main dish. In addition to the main dish we also get a small dessert (usually jelly or yogurt).

Lunch + yogurt for dessert
Healthy salad
If you are tired after work and don't want to go out of your way to get a healthy dinner you could always stop by one of Rakuten's cafeterias. A dinner at the cafeteria usually costs around 380-400 yen, so there is really no need for you to cook your own food at all..
Of course, with such a huge company as Rakuten just one cafeteria isn't quite enough to serve all the employees, and so there are two different Rakuten cafeterias, one in each tower. If you enter the company through the Business/Engineering New Grads group you'll probably find yourself in the cafeteria in Tower 2 most of the time during your initial training period. Still, there is not that much difference between the two cafeterias (I haven't really used the cafeteria in Tower 1 more than once though, so I can't say for sure). The only significant difference I've noticed so far is that the cafeteria in tower 1 has a Tully's Coffee and the one in tower 2 has a regular Rakuten Cafe. 
Rakuten Coffee
So far the food at the cafeteria has been great! Thanks to the variety I don't think I'll get tired of the food here anytime soon. Besides, less time cooking means more time doing other things, so it's not a bad idea to eat at the cafeteria as much as possible... ^^

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Hiking in Tokyo: Sakura viewing (花見) at Mount Takao (高尾山)

11:23:00 AM
Outside Takaosanguchi Station (高尾山口)
For people who want to get out of Tokyo to experience both Japanese nature and culture at once there is one particular place where you can find what you are looking for: The sacred Mount Takao (Takaosan in Japanese). 

It only takes about an hour to get to the mountain from Shinjuku station, and it is fairly simple to get to the top. In fact, the hardest thing is probably not the hike itself but rather to find the right place to go in order to catch the train from inside the labyrinthian Shinjuku station, a place that could easily be characterised as every tourist's worst nightmare. You'll probably be fine once you get on the right train though. You just have to make sure to change trains at Takao Station, because the place you'd want to get of at is the Takaosanguchi Station. 
For those who aren't interested in hiking to the top of Takaosan it is also possible to ride a chairlift instead. But this is not really a hard hike, as the mountain is only 599 m high. 
Sakura trees and view from Mt Takao
This time we visited Takaosan mainly to enjoy the sight of the sakura, Japanese cherry blossoms. The sakura-season has more or less come to an end in Tokyo, but because of the colder temperature in the mountain we could still experience the sakura in Takaosan along with other pretty flowers as well.
You can buy dango sweets at Mt Takao
Takaosan is a popular place also among Japanese visitors all year around, as it is considered a sacred mountain. Many people come to visit the shrines, and of course this has led to a lot of hanbai (selling) going on in certain areas of the mountain as well.
On the way up to a shrine in Takaosan. Notice the pretty sakura! ^^
Typical traditional Japanese buildings at Takaosan
In Takaosan you can also find a temple dating back to 744 called the Yakuo-in Yuki-ji. This temple offers various events throughout the year, and you can also try vegetarian food cooked in a style called shojin-ryori if you call them and reserve in advance. I've added their link at the bottom of this post for those interested.
A statue outside Yakuo-in Yuki-ji
People praying at the shrine
Japan takes pride in its four seasons, and there are different things to see depending on the time of the year you visit. Here are some photos I took at Takaosan of the pretty sakura flowers:
People doing hanami on Takaosan
A variety of flowers in bloom
Once you get back down to the station area you can enjoy some of the local restaurant and the atmosphere of traditional Japanese architecture. In the picture below you can see a man making soba.
A restaurant where you can see how your soba is made

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Recommended Sakura View Hotels in Tokyo

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo
Hotel Chinzanso
→ review
Centurion Classic Akasaka
Hotel New Otani Tokyo

The Prince Sakura Tower Tokyo
The Prince Sakura Tower Tokyo

Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa
Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa


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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Cherry Blossoms and Jogging in Tokyo: The Imperial Palace (皇居)

10:04:00 PM
If you want to go running during the daytime the area around the Imperial Palace might be a good choice though. The distance around the palace is around 5 km, and there are a lot to see along the way. The area around the palace is a great place to go jogging around April, as the Cherry Blossoms (known in Japanese as sakura) are blooming in this season.

Although Tokyo is a giant and (if I may say so,) slightly overcrowded city there are some green lungs in the city center where you can get a little bit closer to the nature. Tokyo does for instance have some really pretty parks such as Ueno Kōen and Yoyogi Kōen. These are especially popular around April, when people come to enjoy hanami (cherry blossom viewing) with family and friends. If you want to go jogging then these places can also be good options, or at least during the evening when it is not that crowded.
There are always a lot of people jogging around the Imperial Palace, so if you just want to take a stroll you should make sure you're not in their way. Sometimes they even have running events here, and you can for instance pass by the palace as part of the Tokyo Marathon.
Statue of Wake no Kiyomaro outside the Imperial Palace
Flowers and bamboo leaves

For those interested in visiting the Imperial Palace whether it is to go jogging or just to enjoy the sight of the historical buildings in the area you can easily find it by taking the metro to Tokyo Station. I've included a map for reference below:

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Recommended Hotels in Tokyo

Royal Park Hotel The Shiodome
Royal Park Hotel The Shiodome
Bunka Hostel Tokyo
Bunka Hostel
Sotetsu Fresa Inn Nihombashi-Ningyocho
Sotetsu Fresa Inn Nihombashi
Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu Hotel
Ryokan Asakusa Shigetsu Hotel

About Me

Adventures ofAnette

A modern day shield-maiden who loves to explore the unbeaten paths of the world. From her base in Tokyo, Anette takes on both rural and urban challenges, and goes by the motto "No challenge too big, no adventure too small"!
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