Travel

Japan Travel Thread

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CallAParamedic wrote:
Dec 5th, 2018 12:28 am

Three of those four points are very true about saving money and so are very good advice.

However, as regards the temperature in Osaka being "warmer in the south" the difference in latitude between Osaka and Tokyo is negligible and Osaka will also be cold at NYs.
[Very certain - as I've had 20 years in Japan, and of that 9 months total living in Kyoto Prefecture and regularly in Osaka on weekends over 2 winter periods.]
I found it to be 3 or 4 degrees warmer in Osaka vs Tokyo when I visited. I agree that It's not much but better than nothing I guess?

But yes still cold. A warm destination in Japan would be Okinawa.
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CallAParamedic wrote:
Dec 4th, 2018 10:19 pm
Ok - thassalottaquestions!! Smiling Face With Open Mouth And Smiling Eyes

Tokyo: Tokyo is best thought of as a group of smaller cities in a loop on the Yamanote line.
Then I'd pick an area [e.g. Ueno] and spend the day in that area [e.g. Ueno Zoo and various museums there].

So to answer your first question, depending on your interests, you could easily spend a week enjoying Tokyo [Akihabara, Asakusa, Ginza, etc]
Especially if you combined it with great day trips as well, such as Hakone, Yokohama, Fuji, Kamakura...

For onsen, there are many choices as days trips, again to Hakone, as well as Chiba, Saitama, and farther out of course...

As far as having one month and the decision re how long in both Japan and Korea versus all Japan, I have been to Korea many times and think it would be cool to do both.
I'd recommend a split such as 20 days Japan : 10 days Korea.

In that case with 20 days you'd be able to hit many Honshu highlights like Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Hiroshima etc., as well as make a trip to incredible Kagoshima, party city Fukuoka, and perhaps Nagasaki on Kyushu. That would be one trip East to West, easily accessible by train, and not requiring Shinkansen [but still optional] if you wanted to save money ...

In Korea, in addition to Seoul, I'd strongly recommend "Korea's Kyoto", Gyeong-ju, and seafood in Busan and Jeju Island.

If you were to make your way south in Japan, there are cheap jetfoils [Beetle] between Fukuoka and Busan, S Korea or cheap flights between Kagoshima [KOJ] and Seoul.

RE sakura, there is about a 6 week spread for blooming periods from Okinawa to Hokkaido, which feature in nightly weather reports during season. It's roughly late-March in the southern islands and late-April or early-May in Hokkaido.

Finally, regarding the time to avoid travel, it depends on your reasons for avoidance - weather, closure of public services, crowds...???

I believe the work break you're referring to Golden Week. It's the last week of April/first week of May, and several one-day national holidays are strung together combined with perhaps 2 or 3 paid holiday leave days to take 9 days off. It's true that many places get busy and prices go up during this time.

There's also Silver Week, which depending on the days the national holidays fall on [so not guaranteed every year], permits Japanese to do similar in September.

New Year's is generally a week holiday and many businesses and services [banks, post office, etc.] close.

Weather-wise if depends on when and where - hot in humid in the East during summer, cold and snowy in the West in winter.

Have a great trip!

Awesome. Thanks for the long reply. I'll print out your post so i can have it on my desk whenever i do decide to start booking things in the year ahead. One last thing, what budget would you suggest for spending money? Not flights or hotels. I know it differs from person to person, but something vague like $100 a day for food + some tourist shopping or experiences? Im good with 7/11 meals, as well as $500 steak (as a one off experience, not every day lol), so a generic guesstimate would be nice.
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Buggy166 wrote:
Dec 5th, 2018 3:03 pm
Awesome. Thanks for the long reply. I'll print out your post so i can have it on my desk whenever i do decide to start booking things in the year ahead. One last thing, what budget would you suggest for spending money? Not flights or hotels. I know it differs from person to person, but something vague like $100 a day for food + some tourist shopping or experiences? Im good with 7/11 meals, as well as $500 steak (as a one off experience, not every day lol), so a generic guesstimate would be nice.
You're welcome. Glad it will come in handy. I have a hard time answering with just a sentence or two...

On costs:

Being back in Canada I'm suffering from reverse price shock.
Canada is really expensive compared to Japan - groceries, Japanese and Korean restaurants, and restaurants in general.
[Not to mention other consumables...]

Some reasons include:
1. tipping [Canada 10 - 20%] -> there's no tipping in Japan and Korea as a general rule.
2. Japanese sales tax is national only and set at 8% [increasing to 10% in April 2019...]
3. wages are lower as well, with minimum wage varying by prefecture between Y762 - 985/hr.
4. deflationary economy where consumers are _very_ price sensitive.
5. economies of scale with a population 3.5x Canada's

So right there, compared to an average of around 30% with tax and tip here, you'll only need to add 8% to the price of your meal.

As a result, $100 daily would be hard to spend for good food [but of course easy for Kobe/Miyazki Beef, gourmet sushi at two meals a day, etc.]

Of course, I live[d] in Kyushu most of my time there and outside of Tokyo/Osaka/Nagoya/big cities food is cheaper, but generally speaking:

Many places have set breakfasts, with a choice of Japanese or Western, between Y500 - 900
" " " lunches, between Y700 - 1800
" " " dinners for between Y900 - 2000.
Draft [J: nama] beer is typically Y500 - 900
Ramen/Udon is typically Y500 - 900
Combini [7/11, etc.,] meals are Y350 - 800
Kaiten sushi have plates Y100 - 500 each, with a lot of good sushi between 2 - 300.

As far as $500 steak goes, you can easily find a very good teppanyaki Kobe/Miyazaki beef restaurant with a great lunch for Y4 - 6000 or dinner for Y5500 - 9000.
So around $100 would cover that no problem, and you can spend the $400 on other things.

Exchange rates are currently around Y84 - 85 / $1 CAD, but I always keep it simple and calculate it at Y100 since over 20 years it has varied from something like 75 to 110 and it makes calculations easy. I can think to myself "Is this worth a looney / x loonies?"

Speaking of loonies, $ stores there are called Y100 [Hyaku en] stores, have great selections, and unlike the trend here, the majority of the goods are still actually Y100 or a buck.

Re tourist shopping, Japan offers tax rebates for purchases at stores that show the specific sign, with a minimum purchase, etc.
You'll have to check out the current specifics yourself, but bring your passport with you whenever you're shopping [in a money belt if you like, though Japan is really quite safe] and show it.
A good idea is to consider electronics and pick up something in Akihabara.
You can get the tax refunded, be duty free coming back to Canada, and [generally] find better prices than here.

So, to sum up, you can eat very well for $50/day, get Uniqlo, Mujirushi [Muji here], etc., for super cheap and have a great time.
You'll gain weight for sure!

Finally, if you liked this and the previous response to your questions, please Upvote⬆
Last edited by CallAParamedic on Dec 5th, 2018 11:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Finally, if you found this response helpful, please Upvote⬆
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Oct 12, 2007
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CallAParamedic wrote:
Dec 4th, 2018 4:54 am
Hey,
RFDs newbie...
I've been living for the better part of 20 years in Japan [fluent in Japanese, hold permanent residency, own a home there, etc.], though I'm back in Canada most of the time now.
I've travelled through Hokkaido, most of Honshu [Tokyo and south...], all of Shikoku, all of Kyushu, and most of the Nansei Shoto Islands
trailing down to Okinawa, as well as most of the Okinawa Island group. Also travelled to most of Asia [60+ countries...]
I'm not a travel agent or selling anything, just offering advice if you have any 'general' questions.
Mind you, some of the info may be from my last visit to a certain area, which may have been in 1997 or 2004 or what-have-you, so YMMV.
Cheers
Any tips on Cherry Blossom viewing? Aiming for April 4th arrival.
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Dec 3, 2018
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Global, man
Whoaness wrote:
Dec 5th, 2018 11:25 pm
Any tips on Cherry Blossom viewing? Aiming for April 4th arrival.
RE hanami [cherry blossom viewing] , there is about a 6 week spread for blooming periods from Okinawa to Hokkaido, which feature in nightly weather reports during season.
It's roughly late-March in the southern islands and late-April or early-May in Hokkaido.

If you're aiming for a 4 April arrival, you're best to consider arriving in or travelling to the East [aka South], especially southern Kyushu [Kagoshima, Miyazaki] and Okinawa.
If you're doing this particulary for hanami and planning to be in the Tokyo to Osaka areas, you'd be better served travelling in late April.
Overall, mid- to late-April would likely serve you best.

Finally, if you found this response helpful, please Upvote⬆
Finally, if you found this response helpful, please Upvote⬆
Deal Guru
Aug 26, 2002
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Whoaness wrote:
Dec 5th, 2018 11:25 pm
Any tips on Cherry Blossom viewing? Aiming for April 4th arrival.
Which region will you be visiting? Last March, we were in Tokyo for the last few days of our trip in the second last week of March and the cherry blossom was getting to full bloom. If we had stayed one more week (the last week of March) we probably would have seen the peak of the bloom for the Tokyo area. But other regions further south had already past their peak at that point. Of course, things may be different from season to season but April 4 is probably a good time to catch some cherry blossom.
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CallAParamedic wrote:
Dec 5th, 2018 11:36 pm
RE hanami [cherry blossom viewing] , there is about a 6 week spread for blooming periods from Okinawa to Hokkaido, which feature in nightly weather reports during season.
It's roughly late-March in the southern islands and late-April or early-May in Hokkaido.

If you're aiming for a 4 April arrival, you're best to consider arriving in or travelling to the East [aka South], especially southern Kyushu [Kagoshima, Miyazaki] and Okinawa.
If you're doing this particulary for hanami and planning to be in the Tokyo to Osaka areas, you'd be better served travelling in late April.
Overall, mid- to late-April would likely serve you best.

Finally, if you found this response helpful, please Upvote⬆
Is it really? I saw websites saying early April is when places like Tokyo start blooming. How long do they go full bloom? We actually moved up following this website: https://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php?CI=1
rvs007 wrote:
Dec 5th, 2018 11:42 pm
Which region will you be visiting? Last March, we were in Tokyo for the last few days of our trip in the second last week of March and the cherry blossom was getting to full bloom. If we had stayed one more week (the last week of March) we probably would have seen the peak of the bloom for the Tokyo area. But other regions further south had already past their peak at that point. Of course, things may be different from season to season but April 4 is probably a good time to catch some cherry blossom.
We're hoping for that. It varies city to city too, so not sure which city to go to for good stuff.
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Dec 3, 2018
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Global, man
Whoaness wrote:
Dec 6th, 2018 1:10 am
Is it really? I saw websites saying early April is when places like Tokyo start blooming. How long do they go full bloom? We actually moved up following this website: https://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php?CI=1

We're hoping for that. It varies city to city too, so not sure which city to go to for good stuff.
As I wrote, I'm looking at things from a 20-year perspective, and with global warming, the hanami has gotten earlier over the years, that's true.
This site looks useful: https://www.kyuhoshi.com/japan-cherry-blossom-forecast/
YMMV
Finally, if you found this response helpful, please Upvote⬆
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Aug 26, 2002
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Whoaness wrote:
Dec 6th, 2018 1:10 am
Is it really? I saw websites saying early April is when places like Tokyo start blooming. How long do they go full bloom? We actually moved up following this website: https://www.jnto.go.jp/sakura/eng/index.php?CI=1
I think compared with the average sakura season, last year's hanami in Tokyo was considered early. My wife has always wanted to see the cherry blossom and being there only until the second last week of March, we didn't expect to see much (we thought it would be too early). So it was an unexpected but a pleasant surprise the bloom was well under way when we arrived in Tokyo. I think being there in the first week of April, you'll definitely see cherry blossom. Whether you'll hit the full bloom sweetspot will be YMMV as CallAParamedic puts it.
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Oct 3, 2011
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OTTAWA
fortunes have been won and lost predicting the exact full bloom over the years.

Full bloom lasts for a couple days before the pedals start falling off. Depending on the depth and cold of the winter, they can start peeking out 2nd week of march and as late as april... There literally is a 4 week window in which full bloom COULD happen. Last starting from the 3rd week of march into the 2nd week of april is probably the safest bet, if you are going for any length of time and traveling around the country, then you have a good chance of seeing full or near full bloom somewhere. If you are doing just 1 city, you're less likely to guess right.

Both trips I went last 2 weeks of march. First trip was full bloom in osaka right as we arrived, 2nd trip it was full bloom in himeji and osaka, and it had already happened in tokyo before we even arrived in japan. All the trees were starting to get their leaves or just finishing getting their leaves by the time we were leaving. Best to pick a time and hope. See what you see, but don't stress out about not seeing the big show. If you're early at least you get to see the plum blossoms which are nice but not as spectacular or as ubiquitously placed as the sakura trees.

Buggy166 wrote:
Dec 5th, 2018 3:03 pm
Awesome. Thanks for the long reply. I'll print out your post so i can have it on my desk whenever i do decide to start booking things in the year ahead. One last thing, what budget would you suggest for spending money? Not flights or hotels. I know it differs from person to person, but something vague like $100 a day for food + some tourist shopping or experiences? Im good with 7/11 meals, as well as $500 steak (as a one off experience, not every day lol), so a generic guesstimate would be nice.

On the topic of electronics shopping (or shopping in general), know the pricing, model numbers and specifications of the equivalent here. You may not save a lot. Nikon cameras use the same model numbers here vs there, but canon were all different. I bought a nikon slr but because nikon here doesn't honor warranty on a body sold outside north america, I had to get a significant discount to make me bite on buying. I had a price list I was constantly checking while just poking around stores. My d5600 with 2 lenses was 1200$ here, 1000 on black friday. I paid 750 after exchange. I just happened on a sale at one chain store, tax free and there was another 5% incentive for using a credit card, combined with my brim mc with 0% FT, it was a steal. The rest of the nikon line didn't have as big a discount that would make up for a lack of warranty. I believe canon also doesn't honor warranty on grey market imports as well. You'd best look up policies before you go if you have big ticket shopping in mind.

Also if you are going to a smaller city like hiroshima or nagoya and you see a deal at a chain store, it MAY be more expensive once you get to tokyo. don't think just because you are shopping in akihabara that you will get a deal. I bought my camera at yamada denki labi, it's a nationwide chain. I waffled and did not buy it in hiroshima, it would have been almost 50$ cheaper there than in tokyo where I did end up buying it. That's the difference in rent cost for the store. Every chain store in every city have has healthy tourist traffic will have at least 1 store that offers tax free shopping. As an experiment I took the train 45 minutes east out into chiba, same camera, same akihabara price, no tax free.

Don't forget your tax exemption for import is only 800$ You may not get asked exactly what you're bringing in or you can lie... but be prepared to pay the appropriate taxes when you come back. And keep your receipts.... if you don't have them, good luck claiming the sale price if you got a huge discount.
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lurkknight wrote:
Dec 6th, 2018 11:26 am
fortunes have been won and lost predicting the exact full bloom over the years.

Full bloom lasts for a couple days before the pedals start falling off. Depending on the depth and cold of the winter, they can start peeking out 2nd week of march and as late as april... There literally is a 4 week window in which full bloom COULD happen. Last starting from the 3rd week of march into the 2nd week of april is probably the safest bet, if you are going for any length of time and traveling around the country, then you have a good chance of seeing full or near full bloom somewhere. If you are doing just 1 city, you're less likely to guess right.

Both trips I went last 2 weeks of march. First trip was full bloom in osaka right as we arrived, 2nd trip it was full bloom in himeji and osaka, and it had already happened in tokyo before we even arrived in japan. All the trees were starting to get their leaves or just finishing getting their leaves by the time we were leaving. Best to pick a time and hope. See what you see, but don't stress out about not seeing the big show. If you're early at least you get to see the plum blossoms which are nice but not as spectacular or as ubiquitously placed as the sakura trees.





On the topic of electronics shopping (or shopping in general), know the pricing, model numbers and specifications of the equivalent here. You may not save a lot. Nikon cameras use the same model numbers here vs there, but canon were all different. I bought a nikon slr but because nikon here doesn't honor warranty on a body sold outside north america, I had to get a significant discount to make me bite on buying. I had a price list I was constantly checking while just poking around stores. My d5600 with 2 lenses was 1200$ here, 1000 on black friday. I paid 750 after exchange. I just happened on a sale at one chain store, tax free and there was another 5% incentive for using a credit card, combined with my brim mc with 0% FT, it was a steal. The rest of the nikon line didn't have as big a discount that would make up for a lack of warranty. I believe canon also doesn't honor warranty on grey market imports as well. You'd best look up policies before you go if you have big ticket shopping in mind.

Also if you are going to a smaller city like hiroshima or nagoya and you see a deal at a chain store, it MAY be more expensive once you get to tokyo. don't think just because you are shopping in akihabara that you will get a deal. I bought my camera at yamada denki labi, it's a nationwide chain. I waffled and did not buy it in hiroshima, it would have been almost 50$ cheaper there than in tokyo where I did end up buying it. That's the difference in rent cost for the store. Every chain store in every city have has healthy tourist traffic will have at least 1 store that offers tax free shopping. As an experiment I took the train 45 minutes east out into chiba, same camera, same akihabara price, no tax free.

Don't forget your tax exemption for import is only 800$ You may not get asked exactly what you're bringing in or you can lie... but be prepared to pay the appropriate taxes when you come back. And keep your receipts.... if you don't have them, good luck claiming the sale price if you got a huge discount.
makes sense. im not planning on any electronics shopping, and i still have my old 5D3 with a bunch of L lenses, so im good there for another decade or so. I spent maybe $12000 on everything back when it came out, so im not buying any new camera stuff for a good chunk of time since i budgeted that money at $1000/year in terms of use. I'm only 6 to 7 years in at this point, out of 12. Also cant say I "need" something better. If anything i might sell my 70-200mm LII because i rarely if ever use it. Claw back some savings that way.
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Oct 3, 2011
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the camera was my personal example for some context, some guys might look at buying a laptop or whatever else, those are the 2 things that come to mind though. I also didn't go with the intent of buying the camera, it just sort of evolved as an idea over the trip from hongkong and taipei first.
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I must have been out of shooting for a long time now.

5D3 is considered old Face With Tears Of Joy
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Dec 3, 2018
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Global, man
lurkknight wrote:
Dec 6th, 2018 11:26 am
fortunes have been won and lost predicting the exact full bloom over the years.

Full bloom lasts for a couple days before the pedals start falling off. Depending on the depth and cold of the winter, they can start peeking out 2nd week of march and as late as april... There literally is a 4 week window in which full bloom COULD happen. Last starting from the 3rd week of march into the 2nd week of april is probably the safest bet, if you are going for any length of time and traveling around the country, then you have a good chance of seeing full or near full bloom somewhere. If you are doing just 1 city, you're less likely to guess right.

Both trips I went last 2 weeks of march. First trip was full bloom in osaka right as we arrived, 2nd trip it was full bloom in himeji and osaka, and it had already happened in tokyo before we even arrived in japan. All the trees were starting to get their leaves or just finishing getting their leaves by the time we were leaving. Best to pick a time and hope. See what you see, but don't stress out about not seeing the big show. If you're early at least you get to see the plum blossoms which are nice but not as spectacular or as ubiquitously placed as the sakura trees.



On the topic of electronics shopping (or shopping in general), know the pricing, model numbers and specifications of the equivalent here. You may not save a lot. Nikon cameras use the same model numbers here vs there, but canon were all different. I bought a nikon slr but because nikon here doesn't honor warranty on a body sold outside north america, I had to get a significant discount to make me bite on buying. I had a price list I was constantly checking while just poking around stores. My d5600 with 2 lenses was 1200$ here, 1000 on black friday. I paid 750 after exchange. I just happened on a sale at one chain store, tax free and there was another 5% incentive for using a credit card, combined with my brim mc with 0% FT, it was a steal. The rest of the nikon line didn't have as big a discount that would make up for a lack of warranty. I believe canon also doesn't honor warranty on grey market imports as well. You'd best look up policies before you go if you have big ticket shopping in mind.

Also if you are going to a smaller city like hiroshima or nagoya and you see a deal at a chain store, it MAY be more expensive once you get to tokyo. don't think just because you are shopping in akihabara that you will get a deal. I bought my camera at yamada denki labi, it's a nationwide chain. I waffled and did not buy it in hiroshima, it would have been almost 50$ cheaper there than in tokyo where I did end up buying it. That's the difference in rent cost for the store. Every chain store in every city have has healthy tourist traffic will have at least 1 store that offers tax free shopping. As an experiment I took the train 45 minutes east out into chiba, same camera, same akihabara price, no tax free.

Don't forget your tax exemption for import is only 800$ You may not get asked exactly what you're bringing in or you can lie... but be prepared to pay the appropriate taxes when you come back. And keep your receipts.... if you don't have them, good luck claiming the sale price if you got a huge discount.
Ah, yes, the ephemeral nature of hanami extends to its seasonality and unpredictableness...

As touched on in the post above, it's always important to check to see if the product has an international warranty, and if it doesn't, do the math on its dependability, cost and risk of buying it to bring back without warranty coverage versus buying it back in Canada.
I go back often enough or I'm buying for my Japanese residence, so that it hasn't been an issue for me but understandably could be for others.

This assumes you've been price watching, know the model names [which often change] and features, and have checked out some of the major Japanese electronics stores' pages prior to going to Japan to get an idea of current prices.

I always monitor http://kakaku.com/ to get a general idea of recent product info.

RE the $800 duty-free exemption, I have heard of people requesting a receipt be drawn up indicating a lower value [more easily said than done in Japan, especially at larger stores].
I'm not advocating it, only writing that I've heard of it being done. [Similar to how exporters lower the value purposely on packages mailed to Canada...]
Finally, if you found this response helpful, please Upvote⬆
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CallAParamedic wrote:
Dec 6th, 2018 8:43 pm
Ah, yes, the ephemeral nature of hanami extends to its seasonality and unpredictableness...

As touched on in the post above, it's always important to check to see if the product has an international warranty, and if it doesn't, do the math on its dependability, cost and risk of buying it to bring back without warranty coverage versus buying it back in Canada.
I go back often enough or I'm buying for my Japanese residence, so that it hasn't been an issue for me but understandably could be for others.

This assumes you've been price watching, know the model names [which often change] and features, and have checked out some of the major Japanese electronics stores' pages prior to going to Japan to get an idea of current prices.

I always monitor http://kakaku.com/ to get a general idea of recent product info.

RE the $800 duty-free exemption, I have heard of people requesting a receipt be drawn up indicating a lower value [more easily said than done in Japan, especially at larger stores].
I'm not advocating it, only writing that I've heard of it being done. [Similar to how exporters lower the value purposely on packages mailed to Canada...]
Have you been to Ikinari Steak, I was just wondering if you know the procedures in that restaurant? When I went I was so confused, I don't know Japanese, so it was pretty awkward. I don't remember what I did since it's been a year.

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