June 2014 - Vikingess Voyages

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Rakuten Travel Hotel Training: Karuizawa Prince Hotel

4:01:00 PM

Two of my dōkis (coworkers) who worked as porters during our Hotel Training
As some of you might know I received my department placement results at Rakuten in the end of May, and it turns out I will be working for Rakuten Travel in the years to come. Considering how much I love traveling I was quite happy with that result (also, Rakuten Travel is one of the most international departments in our company). Right now we are going through another month of training at Rakuten Travel, and last weekend we had our Hotel Training at Karuizawa Prince Hotel. The goal with this training was to experience a hotel from the inside to see and learn more about the hotel's omotenashi - Japanese hospitality.
The entrance hall at Prince Hotel's Karuizawa West building
We discovered many ways that the hotel is trying to present their guests with omotenashi during our stay at the hotel. One example is the welcome message that was prepared for us in our cottage. In Japan the Teru Teru Bozu doll is believed to bring good weather, so it is not uncommon that it is used as decoration. When we entered our cottage we found a cute Teru Teru Bozu doll left as decoration at the table in our common room with the welcome message. Apparently the hotel receives a lot of good feedback regarding this small doll, and a lot of guests even take the doll with them home as a souvenir.
A cute Teru Teru Bozu doll that is believed to bring you good weather
Below is a picture of the inside of the cottage we stayed at. While Karuizawa Prince Hotel has four main buildings with regular hotel rooms they also offers cottages that can be rented for people who want to stay together in bigger groups. The cottage our group stayed at had a common room and four bedrooms with a total of 8 beds, so it was possible for us to hang out in the common room after work was done.

The common room of our cottage
As mentioned our main purpose of going to Karuizawa was to experience a hotel from the inside and to take part in their daily routines. This year Rakuten Travel accepted 24 New Grads (among them 4 foreigners), and for the Hotel Training we were divided into 4 groups all with different schedules and roles for the 2 days the training lasted. Our tasks involved working in a restaurant or banquet hall for the first day and working as a porter or maid for the second.
Group meeting in the hotel's New York restaurant
Task 1: Restaurant Training
On the first day I had the chance to work in one of Prince Hotel's restaurants. The hotel actually has 4 restaurants in total: Japanese style (washoku), two of Western style (A French style restaurant and the one on the picture above called New York) and a Chinese restaurant called Tori. Me and two of my dōkis were assigned to the Chinese restaurant called Tori, and for the working hours at the restaurant we got to dress up in this cute green uniform:
Ready for work
The Chinese restaurant at Hotel Prince where we worked
Right outside the window there was a small pond with 

The restaurant had gotten a large number of reservations for the evening and I was a bit nervous about having to deal with the guests directly. But for most of the time I ended up helping with bringing empty dishes to the kitchen and delivering plates with food to the real waiters working in the restaurants. It is difficult to remember the name of the Chinese dishes so it was probably for the better that this part of the job was left to the experts.! The supervisor of the restaurant, Ikeda-san, was very friendly and helped me and my dokis understanding more about the services of the restaurant.

Day 2: Hotel Room Training
On the second day we were supposed to help cleaning hotel rooms, but apparently this day the maids didn't have that much work for us so instead of the cleaning my group had the honor of being shown around the great resort area by Seino-san, who supervises reservations at the hotel.

Karuizawa is a popular tourist destination and a lot of people visit the place just to go shopping in the many outlets situated right by the station. Karuizawa Prince Hotel is situated only a couple of minutes away from the shopping outlet, and it also has its own popular facilities such as a golf court and a ski resort. Since they also have machines for creating artificial snow you can actually enjoy the Koyou (紅葉 - red leaf) season while skiing at the resort in November!

During the winter people can go skiing in the hotel's own ski resort
The hotel has some large halls where they arrange weddings, and hundreds of couples are wed at the resort every year
View from inside The Prince Karuizawa
The French style restaurant at The Prince Karuizawa
Seino-san showed us the four main buildings of Prince Hotel, and he also showed us some of the special facilities the hotel has to offer. The part of the hotel that was most interesting to see was the dog hotel, where owners can stay with their beloved pet. Apparently the hotel staff has to refer to the dog as Wanchansama (ワンちゃん様), which is really hard to translate into meaningful English but it would probably be something like "our honorable guest Little Mr. Doggie" and use keigo (extremely polite Japanese) when talking about the dog to its owner.
The dog hotel cottages
The inside of one of the dog hotel cottages

Special items presented to the guests at the dog hotel. Even includes a dog poop mat to the left!

Sunday was the last day of our training, so after all groups were done with their work we left for Tokyo by bus in the afternoon. Some groups apparently had to fulfill more demanding tasks than others, so I was really lucky that I was in a group that got to experience both working at a restaurant and getting a tour of the hotel resort area. All in all I think it was a good experience to see the hotel from the inside, and get to see how hard the staff works behind the scene to satisfy their guests. If I get the chance I definitely want to come back to the resort in November for the nice skiing-kouyou combination!
But now it’s back to regular work again of course. On Monday we will get our next placement results, so I’ll finally know the specific content of my future work. Looking forward to that!

As always, thanks for reading my blog!
I’ve added some links that hopefully can be of interest:

For more information about Karuizawa Prince Hotel, please visit the following pages:

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Friday, June 20, 2014

Hiking in Tochigi: Sandogoya Onsen, Mt. Chausu and Mt. Asahi

11:02:00 AM
Japan has a lot to offer when it comes to nature and outdoor activities, and for people who like to go hiking there are many places worth a visit. If you're staying in Tokyo there are many mountains in the vicinity of the city so it is not even necessary to travel that far to find great hiking spots. This weekend I went to Nasu in Tochigi Prefecture, a place known for its onsen, ski resorts and sake. We rented a car in the morning and drove all the way from Tokyo, a trip that took around three hours. The air was a lot dryer than in Tokyo, and the temperature was slightly lower. It was just perfect! From the parking spot we walked for around 4 hours or so until we reached our ryokan.
Green forest and cloudy mountain
Although we still are in the middle of the rainy season there are various reasons why mid-June might be a good time to go hiking in Japan. Most people who like to visit the mountains during the summer season have not gotten their plans ready yet, and the risk of getting wet makes many people avoid going to the mountain during this period. This was however quite fortunate for me and my friends, because the number of travelers staying at the same ryokan (traditional Japanese hotel) as us was low.
We stayed at a ryokan called Tabakoya, which means Tobacco Inn. Ironically it is not allowed to smoke inside the ryokan (not that I'm complaining or anything. This ryokan is not listed with any online travel agencies so it's truly a hidden gem (although they have an outdated Japanese HP).
Traditional Japanese dinner at the ryokan
The best thing about the ryokan we stayed at was their outdoor hot spring (Sandogoya Onsen - 三斗小屋温泉)
In the evening both men and women could use the onsen together, and for me this was my first time trying out the onsen in konyoku style. Even when bathing with the opposite sex one of the people using the onsen actually wears any bathing suit, so it was a slightly strange experience. Luckily it was completely dark, so even with just a small towel to cover your private parts it is still sort of doable.
Besides being almost completely naked in the same onsen as a bunch of strangers the experience was actually really nice. The sky was not clouded so we could enjoy the sight of the starry night from the warm hot spring. 

View from the rotenburo onsen
The second day it was time for the real hike to begin. We passed by some interesting sights on the way, such as the source of the onsen used at the ryokan we had stayed at. 

源泉, the onsen source
Pretty landscape
My hiking team
 On our way to Mt. Chausu we also climed Mt. Asahidake. I took a picture of this cute stone tori on the top of the mountain. You can actually see Mt. Chausu in the background too.!
Top of Mt. Asahidake (朝日岳)

Taking a break on the way to Mt. Chausu
A torii on Mt. Chausu
Mt. Chausu is actually an inactive volcano, and indeed it is a very popular place to visit too. You can actually reach Mt. Chausu from a cable car if you’re too lazy to climb it. We passed by a lot of normal tourist while walking around the crater of the volcano.
A lot of tourists were also visiting Mt. Chausu

Mt. Chausu seen from below
The weekend in Nasu was really great! If I have the chance I will definitely go visiting this place again. Words cannot describe how good it is to get out of Tokyo after a busy week at work..

Other pages:
Japan: The Official Guide. Nasu Area
The Japan Guide: How to get to Nasu-Shiobara
Tabakoya's Homepage

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Recommended Hotels close to Nasu / Shiobara

Hotel Epinard Nasu
Hotel Epinard Nasu
Island Hotel & Resort Nasu
Island Hotel & Resort Nasu
Scotch Court Hotel
Scotch Court Hotel

This page contains affiliate links, and if you follow a link and make a hotel reservation through these links you help support this blog without any additional cost to you. Thank you so much for your kind support!

Monday, June 9, 2014

How to: Grow your own Avocado Tree at Home

10:24:00 PM

Lately I've found myself (yet another) new hobby; growing avocado plants from avocado seeds.! It is actually very simple, all you need is an avocado, an empty jar or something else you can use as a flowerpot and three toothpicks.
Avocado seed ready to be removed
First you remove the avocado seed from the cut avocado. The avocado seed is shaped like an egg, so it is relatively easy to figure out where the top is. Stick the three toothpicks into the avocado seed so that the toothpicks can hold the upper part of the avocado seed above water (see the picture). 
Avocado seed that has started to sprout
In order to make the seed grow faster you could remove the peel from its bottom half. This will make it easier for the seed to absorb water. 
The roots of this avocado tree is getting quite long
For more information about transplanting your new avocado tree you can have a look at the following youtube video by Wisconsin Garden:

Some of my current avocado seeds. Only one of them has gotten really big though.
Thanks for reading this blogpost, and good luck with growing your own avocado plants!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

第15回Fuku Musume 同窓会 reunion in Osaka!

12:17:00 PM
A couple of years ago I had the honour of being elected as a Fuku Musume (福娘) for the annual Toka-Ebisu festival at the Imamiya Ebisu Shrine in Osaka. Although new Fuku Musume are elected every year we still have the chance to come back to the shrine to participate in the Toka Ebisu festival. In addition the Fuku Musume Association also holds annual alumni meetings where previous Fuku Musume also have the chance to participate.
For me this was actually the first time to attend this event even though it has been a couple of years since I first participated in the Toka Ebisu festival. During the festival we are usually very busy so it is not that easy to get to know other fellow Fuku Musume that easily, so this was a nice opportunity to get to know some of the other girls a little bit more.
Premium Yebisu
As some of you might know, Ebisu is the Japanese god for fortune in business, happiness and beer. So it was not a surprise that we got served Premium Yebisu along with our food.. We spent some nice hours in good company with delicious food and fun games, and I'm very happy that I had the chance to take part in the event.

Although the Toka Ebisu Festival is mainly a big event in Kansai there are more and more previous Fuku Musume that for various reasons live in other parts of Japan. As a result the Imamiya Fuku Musume Association recently started up a new group in Tokyo that also are holding annual alumni meetings. I'm looking forward to this years' event that is going to be held in Tokyo in July!

Recommended Hotels in Osaka

Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel
Osaka Marriott Miyako Hotel
Superhotel Lohas Honmachi
Superhotel Lohas Honmachi
Khaosan World Namba
Khaosan World Namba
The St. Regis Osaka Hotel
The St. Regis Osaka Hotel

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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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