Travel tips, stories, and adventures from around the world.

Month: September 2018

Walking Tokyo Series: Rainbow Bridge

Walking Tokyo gives an intimate glimpse into the daily lives of Tokyoites. Read our notes from the 5 mile (~2 hour) walk across Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge. Join us as we walk Tokyo!

TL;DRWe’re walking Tokyo (this time over Rainbow Bridge) to practice for next year’s Yamathon! Let us know in the comments if there’s anywhere in Tokyo that you’re curious about or if you’d like to join us! Thanks @noellechun for coming along this time! It was awesome catching up!

Rainbow Bridge?! Why?!@

Why Rainbow Bridge you ask? Why not?! Check out our first post to learn more about why we love to walk the cities we live in. This week we’re posting our weekend adventures with our friend from Hawaii, @noellechun! She was an awesome sport as we navigated and adventured around Odaiba. We ended up in Ginza with the intent of eating a GIANT cream puff, but didn’t realize we needed to reserve that thing a week in advance. Our spirits weren’t crushed though, since we still ate a ton of amazing food at the Taste of Tokyo event – and ended the night with some Cremia🍦!

Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge

Our Route

Walking Tokyo: Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge Route

Walking Tokyo: Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge Route

Walking Tokyo: Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge Statistics

Walking Tokyo: Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge Route

Walking Tokyo: Odaiba and Rainbow Bridge Statistics

 

Statistics

  • Odaiba to Rainbow Bridge – 4.92 miles
  • ~2.5 hours
  • Odaiba is pretty flat, but the bridge had a steady uphill on one side (as all bridges do 😂)
  • If you’re afraid of heights – this is NOT the walk for you.
  • Sunset views on both Odaiba Beach and the bridge are amazing.
  • On Rainbow Bridge, you pick North or Southside to walk on. North gives nice views of Tokyo’s skyline and a glimpse of the setting sun until you hit the turn in the bridge. The South path has nicer views after that.
  • Coming from Odaiba, there are two places to choose which side you want to walk on: once at the very beginning and again (you can switch sides) before the bridge turns.
  • Not much to see on the walk from Ariake Station area to Odaiba Kaihinkoen Station area, so hopping on the Yurikamome line is an option.
  • Neighborhoods we passed through: Odaiba, Shibaura Island
  • #FromPineapples difficulty: 🍍🍍 (of 5)
  • #FromPineapples things to see: 🍍🍍 (of 5)

Neighborhood Notes

  • There’s always something going on in Odaiba on the weekends and this Sunday was no exception! There were three outdoor festivals and a tourism expo:
    • Fiesta Mexicana – Mexican food, drinks and performances on the West Side of Odaiba near Daiba Station.
    • Mercari Flea Market – Similar to the Swap Meet at Aloha Staidum, there were tons of people selling their stuff on the cheap! This was in the West Promenade area near Diver City.
    • Tokyo Ajiwai Festival (Taste of Tokyo) – Food vendors from all over Japan as well as vendors representing various countries and ethnicities in the world! On the Southeast side of Odaiba, near the Ariake and Kokusai-tenjijo Stations (right in front of Tokyo Big Sight)
    • In Tokyo Big Sight, there was Tourism Expo Japan (we didn’t get a chance to check this one out)
  • To get to Rainbow Bridge from Odaiba, walk through Odaiba beach which was reminiscent of Ala Moana Beach at sunset – complete with standup paddle boarders (okay, there was one guy) and hula dancers. Lots of folks relaxing and just hanging out.
  • From the North side of the bridge, you can see both Tokyo Tower and (way off in the distance) Tokyo Skytree.
  • The pedestrian path on Rainbow Bridge is suspended below the cars, so you can’t see above you except in the lookout areas.
  • We walked through Shibaura Island and it was quite fancy looking. A quieter area, but the buildings were noticeably nicer than the area directly off the bridge.
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Learning Japanese – My Monthly Syllabus for Self-Study

So, how am I learning Japanese? SLOWLY. Haha. 2x/week Skype classes via iTalki, at least 1x/week language exchange meetup and apps (Anki, HelloTalk, VoiceTra and Google Translate). Practice makes…super far from perfect, but kind of slowly getting there!

TL;DRSo, how am I learning Japanese? SLOWLY. Haha. 2x/week Skype classes via iTalki, language exchange meetups at least once a week and apps (Anki, HelloTalk, VoiceTra and Google Translate). Practice makes…super far from perfect, but any progress is still progress!

The Starting Line

I can’t believe it, but we’ve been in Japan for nearly FIVE months now. FIVE MONTHS! If I’m being completely honest, I didn’t start studying or taking any classes until July, though. The first few months were dedicated to finding an apartment, then we spent a week on a Cruise through Alaksa and another week back in Hawaii for work before coming back and feeling out of sorts. My first order of business upon our return was to take classes and figure out what my new normal would be like here.

To give you an idea of my starting point – I could get around (granted we’re in Tokyo where all the signage is in English) and order at restaurants. I could have some pretty simple conversations, like – the weather, or directions, but beyond that – it was all a guess. I took 2 years in high school and 1 semester in college – but in college, I started in 101 because I wanted the easy A. My understanding of particle usage and basic grammar has been mostly forgotten. I sort of just guess which particle sounds right. Hahaha. My vocab is also super tiny and mostly useless, even for everyday conversation.

Finding a Teacher

I started off by taking a once a week part time class (the full-time classes are all in the morning or middle of the day, so they didn’t work with my schedule) – but the class was too easy. There was no homework, tests or any motivation to study between classes. When it comes to learning Japanese, I have a history of being lazy and need that forced accountability to be productive. So I stopped those classes after the first four weeks and dove head first into finding an online tutor. I figure it’d save me a commute into central Tokyo, and I could be more flexible since I’d just need to be at home.

I spent a LOT of hours reading teacher bios on iTalki, watching their videos and trying to figure out how they run their classes. After a ton of research, I decided I needed trial classes and booked 6 of them in a week. I weeded out teachers that didn’t specifically mention being able to provide curriculum and homework / tests then spent 30 min – an hour with my top picks. The results were mixed. If ya’ll are interested, I can write up the individual teacher assessments (I have a bunch of notes) and link to their bios in italki. Lmk in the comments.

The teacher I decided to go with was awesome – super strict with pronunciation, provided a clear curriculum for where we’re headed and assessed me during our initial call to figure out what my current level was (he tested me, ack!). It’s been a few weeks and while I sometimes find myself getting annoyed when I’m tongue-tied trying to pronounce san-zen-en correctly, I’m still super happy with my choice.

How I’m Learning Japanese

So – here are the various channels that I’m using to learn Japanese. I’ll check in at the end of the year with an update (for sure this will change as time goes on).

  • iTalki (Classes / Video Chat) – I have a 1 hour class on Tuesdays and a 1.5 hour class on Fridays. My Teacher: https://www.italki.com/teacher/1040742. I also met a few people on iTalki that want to just video chat to practice, so since mid-August I’ve been meeting weekly for an hour or so with a language partner (we swap languages every 10 minutes).
  • Genki I and Minna No Nihongo (Textbooks) – These are the books recommended by both my teacher and basically everyone I’ve talked to. I actually completed Genki in High School and College (HA) but that was a good 15 years ago. My memory (and my previous studying habits) are pretty much the worst. Haha. I’m going through both textbooks during my classes with my iTalki Sensei.
  • HelloTalk (App) – You post “moments” which are just like status updates and people can hop on and correct you. My only concern is that varying levels of Japanese (similar to folks correcting English) could mean you might not always get corrected, correctly. Either way, for my level, it’s 1000% better than my guesswork. The only downside is that it sometimes feels like a dating app when only guys are messaging you. LOL. I think if you’re cool with ignoring direct messages (I only use it for moments, tbh) then you’ll be fine.
  • Watch Japanese TV Shows – (wait for it…) with JAPANESE subs on. Don’t cheat with the English subs! SUUUURE you’ll pick up a few words here and there, but if you want to level up, you need to put in the work. Japanese subs which mean a ton of time spent looking up translations. Anime also doesn’t really count, since the words that they use are typically not the way people speak in real life. Reality shows have been my go-to (Terrace House, Midnight Diner, etc). I have a Netflix Japan account, but I’m pretty sure Netflix US has a bunch!
  • Anki (App) – If you’ve ever tried to learn a language, you already know about this app. However, #protip – create your own decks. While using someone’s pre-loaded 2,000 core words deck SEEMS great, for me, I learn organically. So I input phrases that I’m learning in class or with friends, plus corrected sentences from HelloTalk and phrases from shows like Terrace House and Midnight Diner. While I might not hit on every “core” word in order, it’s been much easier for me to remember things like “niku jiken” (meat incident) LOL.
  • WaniKani (webapp – I’ve just recently started using this app to learn radicals and kanji. I’ll check back in at the end of the year for a real review.
  • Read NHK Easy News – I try to read at least 1 article a day. It’s also helpful in keeping tabs on what’s going on in Japan!
  • Meetups – My goal was once a week and I’ve been surprisingly consistent so far. These focus on blocks of time (15 minutes) spent alternating between speaking English and Japanese. It’s a good place to practice actually USING Japanese with real people, in person!

My Weekly Schedule

Here’s a pretty basic outline of what I’ve been doing every week. My weekends are Sunday/Monday, so I typically don’t schedule any daily study time on those days:

  • Tuesday – Saturday (90min/day):
    • 30 min writing practice
    • 10 min reading practice
    • 20 min grammar/notes review
    • 30 min reviewing Anki/WaniKani flashcards before bed
  • Tuesday (1 hour): iTalki Class
  • Thursday (1 hour): Skype with Language Exchange Partner
  • Friday (1.5 hours): iTalki Class
  • Sunday (2 hours): IRL Language Exchange Meetup

I’m currently struggling with finding structure beyond just switching between English and Japanese during my online language exchange sessions. If anyone has any suggestions, let me know in the comments. We usually end up just chatting about daily life and I stay within my comfort zone of vocab, which I feel may not be super productive.

Find Your Why

I think the most important thing to do before you start learning Japanese (or any language), is to figure out WHY you want to learn. Unless you’re in school every day, it’s tough to stay motivated with self-study! For me, even when I knew we were going to move here, I didn’t make the time to study much before we moved. Now that we’re here, the struggle is real. There’s a lot of motivation behind wanting to read the mail, the menu at restaurants and just being able to express myself to the people I meet.

Heck, even WITH these reasons, I sometimes find myself unmotivated! Especially when I spend a bunch of time studying and I don’t feel like I’m any better. It’s all relative though – and I just have to compare my level to that first meetup I went to last December when I swear I sat there and smile/nodded through most of the 15-minute Japanese sessions. These days, I can at least figure out the gist of what people are saying! Haha.

In any case – get to the heart of your motivation and burn that in your heart and soul – cause at the end of the day, it’s the small consistent actions that will lead to big changes over time!

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Walking Tokyo Series: Hatchōbori to Nakano

Walking Tokyo gives an intimate glimpse into the daily lives of Tokyoites. Read our notes from the 10 mile (~5 hour) walk between Hatchōbori station and Nakano station. Join us as we walk Tokyo!

TL;DRWe’re walking Tokyo to practice for next year’s Yamathon! Is there anywhere in Tokyo that you’re curious about? Let us know below and maybe we’ll walk it or message us to come join us!

Walking Tokyo?! Why?!@

One of my favorite things to do when I travel abroad is to catch public transportation because it gives you an intimate glimpse into the daily life of someone local to the area.  Having lived in a few large cities, one of the first things Sara and I do is figure out how to walk it. Similar to catching public transportation, walking a city is immersive and gives you insight into the socioeconomic structures as well as the daily lives of those who live in a particular area.

Protip: Walking a city also allows you to scope out future places to live!

When we lived in NYC, we walked almost all of lower Manhattan (below 60th – it’s also why we know it so well!) and so when we moved to Tokyo, we figured we’d do the same – but this time, we’ll try to document our strolls so that they’ll hopefully give you some ideas for your own adventures.

In addition to the route and how long it took, we’ll have snippets about places we detour to along with neighborhood notes. To kick this series off, this past weekend, we walked Hatchōbori Station (a little East of Ginza) to Nakano Station.

Hatchōbori Station to Nakano Station

Our Route

Hatchōbori Station to Nakano Station Route

Walking Tokyo: Hatchōbori Station to Nakano Station Route

Route

Walking Tokyo: Hatchōbori Station to Nakano Station Statistics

Statistics

 

Statistics

  • ~5 hours
  • A little less than 10 miles
  • A little uphill north of the palace, but overall, a pretty easy stroll – this looks a lot scarier of a walk than it really is.
  • We stopped at Lawson Station in Ichigaya to get a drink and some lemon cheese pancakes (for fuel, of course!).
  • We walked around: Yasukuni Shrine and the exterior of the Imperial Palace.
  • Neighborhoods we passed through: Tsukiji, Ginza, Chiyoda, Ichigaya, Shin-Ōkubo
  • #FromPineapples difficulty: 🍍🍍 (of 5)
  • #FromPineapples things to see: 🍍🍍🍍 (of 5)

Neighborhood Notes

  • Ginza has a lot of shopping areas. Duh, it’s obviously famous for them – but walking the area gives a very different perspective of just how many shops there are here. Narrator: there’s a lot of them!
  • Ichigaya is noticeably fancier than a lot of Tokyo neighborhoods – not quite Roppongi Hills fancy, but still very, very nice. The building facades and overall atmosphere oozes upscale.
  • Shin-Ōkubo is (in)famous for its Koreatown and it shows – everything around the station is cheese this and cheese that. From cheese dakkarubi to cheese corndogs – you’re going to encounter a ton of younger folk here – even younger than Kichijoji. If you know Sara, you’d also know she’s already been here to eat Korean food, but we’re definitely coming back to try all these チーズ (cheese) dishes.
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