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How to ride the subway in Tokyo

tokyo_metro   Hi all!  Well, I am back.  I had to deal with many issues and it took a while for me to post a new blog. Well, here I am now.

Today, I want to talk a little about how to take a subway in Tokyo. If you know how to take a subway, most likely, you can go almost anywhere in Tokyo.

I was born in Tokyo, I so I do not have much anxiety taking subways, but even Japanese people who are from outside of Tokyo always tell me taking a subway in Tokyo is too complied.

Well,  it must be very complicated because Tokyo is such a big city, and there are 13 different subway lines running through the city of Tokyo.

Each subway line has its own “hub” stations which are connected with other subway lines, as well as to many different trains on the grounds which is owned by many private train companies, such as JR East, Tobu Railway Company, and Tokyu Railway. The entire map looks like this!

 

a8751e3db1a23b715150b23775309b7b   Shocking right? Well do not worry,  I will tell you how to take a subway step by step.     GET A SUBWAY MAP! Since subway system in Tokyo is too complicated, I recommend you to download subway map or obtain subway map at train station nearby you.

You can download subway map HERE!

BUT A TICKET

You buy ticket at the ticket vending machine at at the airport.  It is usually situated next to ticket gates.  It usually look like this.

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Ok, do you notice that you see the map above the machines?  The map will tell you the fare to your destination.

In Tokyo, subway are varies depend on the destination.  You need to buy the right fare to ride subways in Japan?

Do you think you can fake it?  NO I will tell you later why you can’t.

So how can you choose the right fare of the ticket.

Here is the screen of the vending machine.

subwaymachine

The machine will give you a choice to display in English or Japanese.  You choose English, and the rest follow the instruction of the screen,  Then you are good to go.

TICKET GATE

In order for you to get to the subway station, you need to get through ticket gates.  You insert the ticket yo purchased in the machine, and if there is not anything wrong, they will let you in.

The thing is you need to get through the gate at your destination to get out from the subway station.  I you did not pay the right fare, you are going to be stopped by the machine, and will be asked to pay the right are by the staff at the station, whose office is locate right next to the ticket gates on the way out.

The gate looks like this.

Tokyo-Metro-Entrance-Gates

 I guess you see the pink booth.  They are the customer service, as well as, where you will fix your are, if your are is short.

So now you are about to take a subway.  You may lost or wander in the subway platform, because it is so large.  I recommend you to follow the direction boards.  It look like this.

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Or like this… CA250188

 

You will get where you need to get to.   GETTING ON THE SUBWAY CAR Ok, you get to the platform, which look like this…

 

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SUBWAYS IN JAPAN IS SUPER PUNCTUAL If you know the timetable of the subway, you cal always get to your destination on time.  All the trans including subways, trains on the grounds and Bullet Trains are all punctual. You can also see how soon your train will come by checking the display above you.

 

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You do not have to worry about running late, because 99% of all time time.

But just in case, PLEASE CLICK HERE FOR TOKYO SUBWAYS PLANNERS AND FARE FINDER.

 

STAND ON LINE BEFORE WHILE WAITING FOR YOUR TRAIN

You NEED to stand on line to wait for you to board on the train.  The line looks like this

(courtesy of Omiya Express)

As you saw on the Youtube video,  people will be on line while waiting.  When the trains comes, you will let the passenger out first, then you get in later.  This rule applies all the time, and as you saw on  Youtube, the rules are strictly  enforced.

 

BE AWARE OF “LADIES ONLY”  CARDS. There are some “Ladies only” cards among all the cars connected.

 

flower line WomensCar_KeioLine

 

For prevent women from groper, in Japan, Ladies only cares are available during the rush hours in subways of Tokyo. Gus, do not get in there, you will be in trouble.

 

 

NO CELL PHONE PLEASE!

Lastly, it is strictly  prohibited to use cell phone either in the car or in the platform of subways in Japan.  This rule is extended to most of the public transportation, maybe except taxis.

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TURN OFF YOUR MUSIC

In all the public transportation system, it is important to mind others privacy and secure peach.  Tuen off your music in the train car please.

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NO GROPING! (LOL)

Groping is a serious offense under the criminal law of Japan.

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OK, You got it? Now you can ride Tokyo subways like a pro.

I hope you will enjoy the ride with world’s safest, cleanest and most convenient subway.

I hope you have a good day, and Bon Voyage!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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United vs. Delta: Which is better when you fly from NYC to Tokyo?

There are two airlines of the United States which have flights directly from NYC to Tokyo.

There are two other airlines that fly directly from JFK to Tokyo, which are Japan Airlines and All Nippon Airways (ANA.)  But here this time, I would like to have a comparison of our own, two of the three major airlines.

HUB AIRPORT United Airline’s hub airports are JFK and Newark International Airport. But for the flight to Narita Airport, Tokyo, they fly from Newark. So if you live in Manhattan and Jersey, taking United should be more convenient, location wise.

As for Delta, their hub airport for long haul flights is JFK.  The airport’s accessibility is pretty good if you like in 5 boroughs.

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JFK Terminal 4

For your information, just in case, you need to transfer between  JFK and Newark, there is a shuttle bus service available for your convenient.

AIRCRAFT United Airlines flys with Boeing 777-200.  Average age of United‘s 777 is 11-13 years old.

Classes of services are United Business First, which is the airline’s Business class.  Coach class cabin is divided into two classes by United Economy Plus and Economy Class. Economy Plus seats have ore leg space then Economy Class. But the in-flight meal is the same.  Here is a seat configuration of the aircract.

 

CLICK HERE for UA 79 seat configuration.

 

As for Delta, the aircraft they use for Tokyo bound is Boeing 747-400. Average of their 747 are about 20 years.

They can still fly 747 because, the airline use its privilege to have another hub in Narita Airport, where they pool many aircraft to make  connections to other Asian destinations, such as, Seoul, Beijing, Manila, Singapore, Bangkok and Hong Kong.

United Airlines does the same at Narita to connect their flights from Main Land U. S., Guam,  Honolulu, Hawaii to other destinations in Asia.

As for maintenance of aged 747, Delta is depending on Narita Airport. Narita is famous for having a state of art maintenance system for aircraft, to fix any isses that caused their rather 747’s. Delta operate Tokyo flight with three classes, Business Elite, Economy Cmnfort, and Economy Class.

 

CLICK HERE for DL 172 seat configuration.

 

Delta pre- flight instruction video

(Courtesy of Delta)

 

SERVICE On both Delta and United Airlines service to Tokyo, Narita, they will serve Lunch, Snack and about 2 hours prior to arrival, they serve light breakfast.

All non beverages are free in all classes.  Alcohols are free in Business Class and in Coach class Alcoholic drinks are available for purchase.

 

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Delta In-flight meal from Guam to Narita

MILEAGE PROGRAM United Airlines‘ Mileage Program is called United Mileage Plus.  You can be awarded for free travel as low as 10,000 miles. I am a member of this program, and I like it, because it is easy to earn miles not only by flying, but also from staying at associated hotel all over the world, by using credit cards and car rentals, etc.

The mileage will not be expires as long as there is at least one transaction on your account. So it is easy to keep it.  I also think United let passengers to earn miles with less restriction, and their minimum mileage for free travel is very low.

You can also earn mileage from Airlines that participate Star Alliance.  Star Alliance is the largest airline alliance of  the world, and some of the members are Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, ANA All Nippon Airways, Lufthansa and Air Canada. So that makes it easier for you to earn miles.

 

 

As for Delta Airlines, their mileage program is called Delta Skymiles.  You can earn miles by staying at associated hotels and by spending money on Credit Card partners, such as, Delta American Express Card.

With Delta, there s no blackout dates. many seats are available for fewer miles.  But you have to spend little more miles to get free ticket to Tokyo.

As Delta is participated in and also a core member of world airline alliance, Skyteam.  Skyteam is consists of 20 airlines from all over the world, such as Air France, KLM, Kenya Airways, Korean Airlines, and newly added Garuda Indonesia. You can earn miles by flying those airlines for Delta‘s free airline ticket.

 

 

PRICE I have an impression that United is always providing cheaper fares to Tokyo from the U. S. overall, but it may vary.  As I check the price, sometimes Delta has better deal on connecting flights via LAX.

The average of round trip is around $1,200 on low to shoulder season, and for peak season, it will go up around up to $1,500.

I usually compare price by checking webpages, such as, Google flights, TripAdvisor, and Kayak. For the flight from the U. S., especially for Trans Pacific flights,

I have a feeling that Google flights have better deal and more choice. It is simply fun to play with airfare search engines period.   Well, I hope the information I provided today will be a use for your next trip to Tokyo, and further to other Asia regions.

Have a good one everybody and Von voyage!

Can’t Wait to Travel to Japan? Japan Week at Grand Central Station this weekend

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You wanna go to Japan? But can’t go now?

No Problem, let’s go to JAPAN WEEK this weekend at Vanderbilt Hall Grand Central Station. March 6th-8th, 2014

Japan Week, a public-private partnership organized by the Japan Tourism Agency and Japan National Tourism Organization, supported by the General Consulate of Japan in New York, that promotes Japanese culture, cuisine, and tourism, announces that its 2014 program will spotlight unique features of Japanese culture from the last 100 years to the present.

There will be many events, such  movies, exhibitions by Minamoto Kitchoan, Seiko Astron,   Tokyo Prefecture, NTT Docomo, Ssaaki City,   Ito En,   Sharp,  JR East and Delta Airlines.

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Ito-En Tea

 

 

They will have a SAKE BAR, where they will serve selected High Quality sake including Hakkaisan and Kikusui from Niigata. Or  Nanbu Bijin from Iwate and Chiyomusubi from Tottori.

 

If you do not have any plan, why not visit JAPAN WEEK, and discover a a little bit of Japan!

Pictures from the event last year:

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Japan Week Sake Bar

 

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Bento Box at Japan Week

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How much is my $ worth to Asian currencies?

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Asian foreign currencies

 

How much is my $ worth?  That is the question you will have when you are planning to travel.  Especially to Asia, you may not know what currencies are used in Asian, and how much are the exchange rates are.

Most of Asian countries except some exception adopts floating exchange rate system.  So the exchange rate of each currencies vary depend on the flow of foreign exchange market.

The exchange rate is very tricky. For example, in Brunei, the government has currency board arrangement policy on their currency.  Meaning Brunei government links their currency, Brunei Dollar‘s flow to Singapore Dollar. So the value of Brunei Dollars is always equal to that of Singapore Dollar.

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Sample of Brunei Dollar

 

 

 

To convert U.S. dollars to currencies overseas, I use XE.com.

 

The home page of the website looks like this.

 

I like this website better than other currency exchange site like Yahoo exchange or Google exchange, because xe.com has more function like currency historical rate tables and travel expense calculator.

Travel expense calculator page makes it easier for you to budget your travel expense. Travel expense calculator function also allows you to do the math on the fees at the exchange or credit card fees of your each spending.

You can also download apps on Android and Iphone. Ipad and Windows Phone.

So now let’s start making a plan for your next trip to Asia with Xe.com.  I know you will be a pro on foreign currency exchange anytime soon.

Von Voyage!

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Sample of Japanese Yen

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Sample of Cambodian Riel

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Sample of Thai Baht

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flight Review: Aerosvit Ukraine Airlines from Bangkok to JFK

Two years ago, when I flew from Bangkok to JFK, I chose Aerosvit Ukraine Airlines.  I was really on a budget at that time, and I was looking for a very good deal on airfare.  I found a one way ticket to JFK from Bangkok on TripAdvisor with Aerosvit Airlines, and the price was about $350 one way.

Aerosvit Airline WAS an airline of Ukraine.  They filed a bankruptcy and ceased their operation in 2013.

I was not really sure if the airline was safe to fly.  But I thought I would be an good experience, since I was going to transfer in Kiev, Ukraine, and I know it is rare that I could be in Ukraine anyway.

I still can’t believe myself being in the airport two years ago, with all those current turmoil among Russia, Ukraine, Republic of Crimea and countries surrounding that area.

So going back to the review of the airline.  It was not bad.  From Bangkok to Kiev, and Kiev to JFK, both of the flights were on time.  They aircraft was an old Boeing 767 which I think they leased or bought second hand from another airline.

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Aerosvit Coach Class Cabin View

They had decent inflight meal, including free beverages and alcohols.

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Inflight meal from Bangkok to Kiev

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Second meal from Bangkok to Kiev

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First meal from Kiev to JFK

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Second meal from Kiev to JFK

They even had an upgrade service at the check-in counter from coach class to business class for a fee of $400.

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Check In counter at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

The only bad thing about the airline was cabin crew even do not smile at at all the entire flights. They looked like this.

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Aerosvit Cabin Crew

But I must say that the service was transactional and I did not have no complaints for that airlines.

I hope they will be back to the service soon, so that I can flyer way cheaper.

During the Aerosvit flight

During the Aerosvit flight

Inside the cabin of Aerosvit

Inside the cabin of Aerosvit from Kiev to JFK

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Inside the cabin of Aerosvit from Kiev to JFK

Malaysia Airlines: Excellent Service!

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Malaysia Airlines aircraft taxing at Suvarnabhumi Bangkok International Airport.

I wanna talk about Malaysia Airlines.  Recent accident of the airline made the airline world famous, but many people, especially those who live in the U. S. do not know about the airline very well.

The airline used to fly in to Newark Airport, but the service has been terminated. The airlines’ only one destination in the U. S. is Los Angeles. They fly to Los Angeles International Airport three times a week.

Here are brief introduction about Malaysia Airlines.

Malaysia Airlines is a flag carrier of Malaysia.  They have been in the business for 41 years, as of March, 2014. They are a member of Oneworld, one of the biggest airline alliances in the world.  They have a frequent flyer program called Enrich, which will you give you a free tickets as you earn miles by flying Malaysia Airlines.

Their hub airport is Kuala Lumpur International Airport, which locates 28mi from the city centre of Kuala Lumpur.

The airlines operates with First Class, Business Class and Coach Class on their A380 aircraft which is the largest commercial aircraft of the world, and with Business and Coach Class on other air crafts including one of the youngest fleet of the world Boeing 737-800.

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Female cabin crew of Malaysia Airlines wear uniform of saron kebaya design since 1986.  I have always dreamed of wearing the uniform! It always looks entertaining.

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Malaysia Airlines Cabin Crew
August 2013
flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore

I have flown with Malaysia Airlines many times. But I never felt unsafe in terms of safety before.  I am actually alive and blogging here…LOL

By the way, what Malaysian Airlines is famous for is their service. They have been rated a 5 Star Airlines on Skytrax, an UK company which runs airline and airport rating site, and have huge influence in the aviation industry.

Their rating system is divided in to 5 rankings, which are 1 Sta, 2 Star, 3 Star, 4 Star, and 5 Star.  5 Star Airlines are consider to be the best airlines in the world.

Only 7 airlines were ranked as 5 Star Airlines.  Other 6 airlines are All Nippon Airlines (Japan), Asiana Airlines (Korea), Cathay Pacific (Hong Kong), Hainan Airlines (China), Qatar Airlines (Qatar), and not but least Singapore Airlines (Singapore).

On the other hand, the only airline which was ranked as 1 Star was Air Koryo (North Korea). They recently seems to come up with a new website, but I am not sure if we actually book a flight on the website or not, since to the best of my knowledge, travel to North Korea has to be arranged and booked through North Korean authorized travel agencies.

Ok, so going back to the quality of the service of Malaysia Airlines.  I found the airline’s service to be excellent.  I believe what makes an airlines that provides a good service determined on their service in coach class.

The cabin crew are always attentive and friendly even on coach class.  they serve complementary drink (including alcohol on international flights) and meals. And the meal is always excellent.  Cabin Crew are always smiling.

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Pre Flight snack on a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore

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Coffee served after the main meal

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Main meal served on flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur

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Personal TV screen on each coach class seats.

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Enough legroom in coach class

For example, as my legs are showing, the cabin crew brought me a blanket without me asking, so that I can hide my legs.  I guess the hospitality of the cabin crew is wonderful.

Other noticeable service they provide is City Check-In system.

At Kuala Lumpur Central Station (Kuala Lumpur Sentral in Malay language), where they provide a rapid train service , called KL Ekspres which take you to the airport from the city in 28 minutes, Malaysia airlines has a airlines city check in counter. The passengers of Malaysia Airlines can check-in for their flight at the train station at minimum of 2 hours before your flight, so that they can go the airport without carrying heavy suites cases.

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City Check-In Counter at KL Sentral

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Malaysia Airlines Sales Office at KL Sentral

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Inside Malaysia Airlines Sales Office at KL Sentral

Overall, I will fly Malaysia Airlines again.  I like their service, and I like their hospitality.

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View from the window. We were making a final approach to Singapore Changi Airport.

Do I Need A Visa For The Trip To Asia?

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Immigration Counter at Narita International Airport, Chiba-Prefecture, Japan

One of the common questions people may have when traveling to overseas is if you need to get a VISA or not.

When traveling to Asia, with some exception, including China and India, for most of the Asian courtiers, you do not have to get a visa.

Also, even if you know you need to get a visa for the country you are visiting, there is a condition for this “visa free” visit.

Most of the times, for many Asian countries. you need to have a return ticket for you go back to your country, or have a ticket which will take you to a third country upon your arrival to your destination.

Some countries require you to have a valid passport with validity of at least 6 months upon your arrival to the country.

So where can you check it?

I use a website called VISA CENTRAL.

You can check if you need a visa for your trip on this website.

The website also provide information of visas of the countries you are visiting, how and where you can obtain U. S. Passports, and other detailed information regarding visas of all over the world.

Other way you can find if you need a visa for your trip or not is to ask your nearest Embassy or Consulate of the country you are visiting.

NYC has a comprehensive list of the consulates in NYC.

It would be a nightmare for you, if you have some trouble at the immigration after taking al long flight.  To avoid it, I recommend you to check visa information before you pack your bag.

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Sample of China Visa

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Sample of India Visa