Ride the Yamanote line, in any direction

A bank transfer (furikomi)

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Some time ago I moved to a new share house, and I have to make a furikomi (bank transfer) to pay my monthly rent. I didn’t know how that works, and didn’t know that I can actually do it without having  bank account in Japan.

The steps here are for a bank transfer without having a Japanese bank account. It’s only needed to take cash to one of those big ATMs.

For my case I decided to go to Mizuho Bank, no particular reason, it was just on my way to the school. Luckily, Mizuho has an English option. However, knowing Katakana is necessary. There is a charge for this though, Mizuho charged me something like 1.12% for the transfer. Whether is fair or not is something that I haven’t decided yet.

Needed Data (from my landlord, the transferee):

Bank / 銀行名 (ぎんこうめい) (ginkoumei): The bank name of the transferee.

Branch / 支店 (してん) (shiten): It is name and/or a number.

Account Number: 口座番号 (こうざばんごう) (kouza bangou)

Account Type:

普通預金 (ふつうよきん) (futsuu yokin) (Ordinary) or

当座預金 (とおざよきん) (tooza yokin) (Checking)  or

貯蓄預金 (ちょちくよきん) (Savings).

Account Name: The name of the transferee’s bank account.

1. Tap on the ‘English’ button.



2. Select ‘Transfer’


3. Confirm the Date of the transfer.

As well as other warnings. Notice that the Date is presented in Japanese format: DD/MM/YY. The Year as well corresponds to the Japanese Calendar.

4. Select ‘Transfer using Cash’


5. Tap on ‘Select Payee’, or ‘Transfer Card’ if there is one at hand.

‘Select Payee’ means that all the recipient’s data has to be manually entered. A ‘Transfer Card’ contains all this data.

After submitting all the Payee’s data, it’s possible to issue a Transfer Card.


If we have a ‘Transfer Card’, we can skip Steps 6-10.


6. Select Payee’s Financial Institution.


There are three pages presenting all the Japanese institutions. On top, of course is the Mizuho and its affiliates.

The complete name of the Payee’s bank might not be presented as it is, if it’s got more affiliates, which is my landlord’s case. I had to pay close attention to the screens.

7. Enter and select the Payee’s Branch.


I knew my landlord’s Account Branch and Number; I entered the Branch name in Katakana and its number automatically popped up.

8. Select the Payee’s account type.


9. Enter the Payee’s account number.


10. Confirm the entered data.


At this point is also possible to issue a ‘Transfer Card’, which can be used for further transactions (Step 5).

11. Enter your name in Katakana.


12. Enter your (Japanese) telephone number.


13. Enter the amount to transfer (in Yen).


14. Confirm the entered data. Insert the cash.


And that’s it! Next month’s rent is paid.


Mitake-san: a break from the city

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The closest thing to a sport that I like to do is hiking. Last year I went for the second time to Mount Takao (the first time in 2011) and when we reached the summit we saw a lot of people (totally expected, since it was a Saturday) and imagined Mount Fuji, since we couldn’t see it (also expected, since it was clouded).

Some days ago I decided to go to Mount Mitake, which it is not so far from Tokyo and didn’t look that difficult. In fact, next to Takao san, this one is an actual hike. Takao san is smaller (599 m) and its main trail is even paved, so that baby carts and high heels are not unusual. Admittedly, I was little confused, I saw somewhere that Mitake san’s difficulty was “easy to moderate” and “not recommended from December to March”.

The street from the Mitake train station to the cable car station.

We wanted to take the train at 8:19 from Shinjuku Station but I also wanted to make sandwiches, so we took the train at 9:09 and arrived shortly before 10:30 at the village of Mitake. Leaving the station we entered to the information center where we picked up a trail map. In the village we saw a group of drummers and then we started heading to the cable car station.


Walking next to the Tama River from the Mitake Station to the suspension bridge. When we reached the bridge, we crossed to the left side and started the ascent to the cable car station.

What people commonly do is taking a bus from the train station to the cable car station. We didn’t. Passed 11am, we started walking on the street, which is narrow and interesting, although less appealing than walking along the river. When we reached a suspension bridge we turned left and started the ascent to the cable car station, something like 30 minutes ahead.

Cable car station


Gate right after the cable car station

Passing the cable car station we continued on a paved path surrounded by green nature all the way to the summit of Mitake san. Near the summit there is a village with an information center and some souvenir shops. Actually, while going up we saw some cars going up and down on the same paved way. Once at the summit (929 m) we headed to the beautiful Musashi-Mitake Shrine and took some rest.

Musashi-Mitake Shrine

At the shrine, already 1pm, we had to decide. Choices were: going back down to Mitake train station, do a short hike to Mount Hinode, or hike to Mount Otake. We took the third choice. However, getting to Otake san would also mean choosing one of three or four trails; we took the trail which passes over the Rock Garden.

Stairs right behind the shrine

After passing some (whom I want to fool, a lot of) stairs we went through a valley and near a gorge watching nothing but nature, no paved path, no concrete around. And we were mesmerized by a monumental forest of endless tall trees. Soon we saw an abandoned hut and some meters ahead the path branched: one path passing Mount Kami-takaiwa and the other passing the Rock Garden.

The Rock Garden. Those white spots were snow.

The Rock Garden is not disappointing at all. Although I didn’t have expectations, walking next to the creek and stepping on rocks covered by moss while listening the water running is hard not only to describe, but also to capture in a photography. It was good that we charged positiveness, since after the Rock Garden, passing the Asashiro-no-taki waterfall, we went over a narrow path on a steep slope with snow on one side.

The Asashiro-no-taki waterfall, at the end of the Rock Garden

After the steep slope, our path merged other two trails which also lead to Otake san. By the way, we saw on the way some signs warning about bears. We also met people (with children, what a way to use their energy) often carrying jingle bells, which we thought were to warn the bears. I still don’t know if there are bears, but being winter, I thought that they might be sleeping.

The path on the steep slope with snow on one side and a gorge on the other

We continued until we reached yet another hut and then we climbed (like, using feet and arms) getting closer to Otake san’s summit. First we met a friendly elder man who told us that there is a nice clear view. Then we met a well-geared girl who wished us luck. Our gear was obviously not as good.

Summit of Mount Otake (sometimes spelled Ohtake or Odake)

When finally reached the summit (1265 m) took some pictures and ate our well deserved delicious sandwiches. They were delicious. Our surprise, was that we saw Fuji san, majestic and clear.

Fuji san

Around 4pm we decided to continue, we needed to head all the way down to the village of Okutama to take the train back to Tokyo.

We started the descent which yet again turned to ascent until, again with legs and arms we reached the summit of Mount Nokogiri (1109 m). We took just a picture and continued the descent, we didn’t want to walk in darkness.

Summit of Mount Nokogiri

The darkness reached us though. First when we walked through a valley and later on we even shout “civilization” when we saw (or thought we did) Okutama through the forest. After walking some 20 minutes with our mobiles’ flash lights, we reached a nice pagoda and we went down on some endless stairs, passed a small hill with the Atago Srhine and over a bridge we arrived to Okutama shortly before 7pm.

Getting closer to Okotama, in darkness.

Our eyes (and muscles) got all excited as we saw the Onsen logo, but stoically accepted that it was closed that day. We entered to a small local diner, ate some Karaage and took the train back to Tokyo.


Tokyo Marathon

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The Tokyo Marathon was established in 2007 and it is one of the majors worldwide. The subscription is not based on ‘first come, first served’. Actually, the subscribers go into a raffle to decide who would participate.

Just before the Marathon started. People aligned in Shinjuku to cheer up the athletes.

Brides on the run, Captain America, Mario and Luigi, Pikachu, Ultraman, Samurais, and lots of other costumes as well as uniforms that the norm dictates, ran the 42 kilometers.


Last Sunday I woke up a little earlier and went to Shinjuku with my friend to see the elite participants as well as amateurs some meters after the starting point.


Then we moved to Big Sight to see the elite runners approaching the end in just 2 hours plus some minutes. We stayed for one hour or something, watching and cheering up the athletes.

Björk? No, those are two athletes from Thailand.

As usual, the order in the organization was admirable and almost annoying, for instance, as we tried to take a picture while crossing the street and some friendly police men kindly invited us to not stop in the middle of the closed street.


Athletes queuing for the toilet

The toilets for the athletes were at some points not enough for all of those who needed to use them. Some of them politely held the line. Some others continued. We only saw one person breaking the line (a foreigner).

One elite runner approaching the end point in front of Big Sight

In front of the Big Sight there were stands for food. But since I didn’t run a single meter, I was not hungry enough and I felt I didn’t deserve any of the carb-rich food from the stalls. I only had an alcohol free beer.



The Ultraman rally

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This Winter there was an Ultraman rally which I started to notice on January in the Shinanomachi Station. It actually was a Stamp Rally, organized by JR East and Tsubaraya Productions, from January 13th til February 27th.


JR distributed (for free) some leaflets at the JR Stations. Those leaflets had empty squares to collect stamps of different characters/figures of the Ultraman-verse.


There was also a lottery with limited prizes. The stamps were available at some participant stations, mostly from JR, although also from the Monorail which links to the Haneda Airport. There were posters and arrows indicating where to find the stamp stand. Sometimes they were hard to find, like at Shibuya, Tokyo, and Oji stations.

It took me two days to complete the stamps. Yeah! I participated! Although I didn’t get any prize.

The Tokunai Pass ad

In order to visit most of the stations I purchased a Tokunai Pass, which would allow me to get to most of the participant stations. To reach the Monorail stations I had to purchase a Monorail Pass. I noticed that it was possible to cheat, but I didn’t want to go through the embarrassment of getting caught.

My leaflet

On my first day, I hit the southern part of the Yamanote Line (from Shinjuku to Akihabara), the Western and some of the central stations of the Chuo/Sobu Line, the Southern stations on the Keihin-Tohoku Line, the Monorail stations and the Shin-Nihombashi Station.

On my second day, I went North and Northeast, where I noticed that my Tokunai pass was not valid anymore. I also noticed that I am not that familiar with this area of Greater Tokyo. With some tricks I managed to reach the participant stations on the Keiyo and Joban Lines (until Toride).

People queuing at one stamp stand

It was funny to see the lines of adult and children collecting stamps. Also meeting again and again the same persons on some stations.


At the Hamamatsucho station there was a shop where I purchased some figures. I like the retro look that they have. Also, someone asked me to buy them.

Exploring Neighborhoods: Yanaka

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My computer was not behaving friendly and I had some things to do which prevented me to post.

Yanaka Ginza

Once again, in darkness, I went to explore a nice area in this cityverse, Yanaka, in the Taito Ward. Near the Sendagi Metro Station I found the Yanaka Ginza street, the shopping street of this neighborhood, famous for still keeping the Shitamachi atmosphere.


Along the street there are shops for tea, souvenirs, and specially for food. There is a particular Yakitori place with a long queue where they politely ask to not take pictures.

A Souvenir shop

Yanaka Ginza finishes on some stairs which lead to the Nippori station. Right before reaching the station and turning right comes the even more intense old style atmosphere. Traditional shops, restaurants and wooden houses on traditional alleys which in fact look like a film set.

An old alley with some old restaurants.

All the wood constructions made me think that the people there should really be cautious with regard to fire danger.

Old wooden house

At a certain point I turned left and reached the Yanaka Cemetery, which covers a huge area and has a certain charm if strolled at night, like I did. In the distance the illuminated Sky Tree made me remember that Yanaka is still in Tokyo.

A Swing in the Yanaka Cemetery
Yanaka Cemetery

After a long walk I reached the Ueno Park, and the more crowded Ueno Station.

Matsuri in Chichibu

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Attending a Matsuri is a plus when visiting Japan. It is during when there is plenty of Matsuris. The one in Chichibu however takes place in early December. And at night. It is particularly famous for the floats, which are shown at a big parade while fireworks illuminate the skies during two hours.

Chichibu is a small city not so far from Tokyo, already in the Saitama prefecture. Also, there is not enough accommodation to host that many visitors. So, usually the visitors hurry to take the last train to get home.

Besides the floats and the fireworks, there are lots of food stalls (yatai) scattered around. With luck, one can even get a Kebab.

I made a video this time. And took advantage to practice some Japanese, supervised by our Sensei.

Note: click on the ‘CC’ icon to enable subtitles.


Field trip

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The entrance of the NHK Studio Park

The Arc Academy doesn’t limit our lessons to the classroom, last month we even had a field trip (my first one since elementary school! and this time I didn’t even asked for permission), and it was no more no less to the NHK Studio Park in Shibuya.

My classmates interacting with some touch screens.

Like the disciplined group that we are, we came punctually to the Harajuku Station where we met up with the homeroom teacher and other groups. We walked all the way to the Yoyogi Park and just some meters ahead we were welcome at the Studios.

Screens showing actual live airing shows of NHK.

t was just a tour through the areas where visitors are allowed to enter; of course, we wouldn’t want interrupt people who were actually working. There was a suggested path and arrows to follow. At some parts we were kindly invited to not take pictures and in some others we could even participate, like making our own news show. None of my classmates did it. Neither I did. It was however inspiring seeing children visitors telling the weather forecast.

Some children anchoring a (Mock) News show
The child anchor reading his prompter.

There are some editing and animation rooms, and there were also their corresponding waiting lists. Later on, a hall exhibited posters of some acclaimed shows with some memorabilia and even a small recreation of nature documentaries.

Poster and costume from an acclaimed production.

The teachers made a good job keeping us interested in the beginning and giving us freedom afterwards. Of course, I wish I could’ve seen more of the production process, but I guess first I need to improve my Japanese to at least be able to express what exactly I’d like to see or experience in such an iconic place.

The animation section.

Tokyo International Film Festival

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The Tokyo International Film Festival took place from October 22nd-31st. In 2011 I had the chance to attend to some screenings. This year, however, I made use of my status as student and enjoyed quite some screenings at reduced price.

P1030858The TIFF is one of the approved A-class film festivals, at the same level of Berlin, Cannes or Venice. It’s a good chance to catch world premieres and to spot film stars. In atmosphere is different to, let’s say Karlovy Vary and Berlin, two festivals which I had the chance to visit. Being Tokyo a huge metropolis where the amount of events is just overwhelming,  the TIFF may not be in everyone’s agenda.

There seem to be less glamour than, let’s say, the Berlinale. For instance, there’s a red carpet on the opening evening of the festival, and not before the premieres of the films in competition.

The format of the screenings is slightly different too. There may be a stage greeting from the film crew before the film begins. There is usually a Q&A after the film finishes. Sometimes, after the Q&A there may be a photo-call for the press. All this in front of the audience! At some world premieres (specially of the Japanese films), the host kindly asks the audience to not take pictures during the official photo-call, as it’s a press reserved privilege.

Besides the Official Competition Selection, there are other sections like Asian Future, Special Screenings, Panorama, World Focus, and three sections dedicated to Japanese cinema. There are also some special retrospectives (this time there was one of Orson Welles and other of Gundam) and some parallel co-hosted events (Latin Beat, Korean Week, China Week…).

The main venues are in Roppongi HIlls. Most of the world premieres take place at the TOHO Cinemas in this complex and some of the glamourous events occur at the 49th Floor. Some other events are hosted at some cinemas in Shinjuku too. The festival offers a shuttle bus to transport people from Roppongi to Shinjuku.

The Roppongi Hills arena also hosts some live music concerts; like the photo-calls, some of this musical events aren’t allowed to be photographed by the audience.

A nice touch are the five food trucks parked at the arena, from well known restaurants (and chefs) at a reasonable price. Not only that, a discount is received by showing a screening ticket.

I managed to see the following films in competition:

And also:

The tickets aren’t that hard to get, except for Japanese premieres.

A visual, musical and culinary experience at an affordable price.

Here a small video I made with live music from a lovely Brazilian/Japanese lady accompanied by two great musicians. I apologize for not getting their names! Also for the potato quality. My computer has been behaving very bad in the last weeks.


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It looks like here in Japan is easy to adopt foreign cultural elements, specially if they are marketable. Valentines, Christmas, Halloween are examples of this.

There is the Obon celebration in August, a Buddhist celebration where the spirits of the ancestors come to visit. Halloween doesn’t necessarily makes sense. However, during all October there’s pumpkin decorations all around.

The Halloween celebration takes place the whole month of October, and one of the highlights is a parade in Kawasaki, which doesn’t need to be on the actual day of Halloween celebration. There are similar events in other areas, like in Roppongi.

I cannot tell how this is every year. This year, October 31st happened to be on a weekend. Saturday night to make it even more attractive. The place to be is either Roppongi or Shibuya, if one wants to, well, celebrate Halloween. And lots of people do it. With lots, I mean, a really, lots of people.


Of course a costume is needed and whereas there is a lot of creative people to create their own, including make up (after all is similar to cosplaying), it’s easier to go to 100-Yen shops or any essential Don Quijote shop to buy a whole outfit. On the last days of the month, some costumes get a considerable discount.


The Shibuya crossing was packed in such a way that at some times it was not even necessary to walk, the flow of people would drag you at any direction, perhaps the wrong one. And the crowd just continued all over the Inokashira Dori. Police men took care that the flow wouldn’t go beyond the white stripes.The actual police men were hard to distinguish among the police disguised people. Because in Halloween it’s not mandatory to dress as someone scary, actually, sexy seems to be more important than scary.

After gathering with friends, one can go to a bar or Izakaya or Karaoke. After the last train departs, going to a club is a good choice. At this point in time, however, the prices may be higher than before midnight.


While waiting for the first train, usually around 4:30 am, one can sit or lay on the street. Or go to a coffee shop to wait.P1030995

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