Smile! An Android App in English or Japanese

December 30th, 2012

Here’s a fun Android app you should check out. A friend of mine designed it, and it’s free to download through Google Play.

Smile Android App

If you have a better idea for some text or description of the app, please leave your comments below in this post! Feel free to leave a review too.

Smile! is an age guessing game in English or Japanese. Try and guess the ages of real people. See how old everyone thinks you are. Great as an ice-breaker at parties.

What’s new in Japan [Breaking News!]

December 29th, 2012

Some cool and interesting thing have been happening in Japan! Check this stuff out.

  • Japan Launching Ambitious Asteroid-Sampling Mission in 2014 []
  • Kyoto resident becomes world’s oldest-ever man at age 115. [Japan Times]
  • Working in Japan Without a Degree – It Is Possible! [Huffington Post]
  • House Hunting in … Japan [NY Times]

Hello Kitty Gift Ideas

December 10th, 2012

If you’re looking for something special to give for Valentines, Mothers Day, or Christmas with some Japanese flair but you’ve run out of ideas, I suggest using the famous Hello Kitty as your backup plan! You can find tons of Hello Kitty items in Japan, they even have many Hello Kitty stores, and you can find things like Hello Kitty jewelry online along with other items. Here’s the link to check out!

Hello Kitty Jewelry and Stuff

Hello Kitty Jewelry is always a popular choice!

Visiting Tokyo (Travel Guide)

December 1st, 2012

To begin, here’s a wonderful site to help you navigate the train lines in Tokyo:

JR Train Map:

Tokyo Metro Map:

Akihabara Japan

Points of interest according to station/area:

Akihabara (via Yamanote, Sobu, and Hibiya lines)

Famous for having one of the largest electronic shopping areas, it is also the birthplace of maid cafes (where young ladies dressed as maids serve guests food and play games or sing songs).

Akiba Town Guide:

Large eclectic shop found in Akihabara and other areas throughout Tokyo:
Don Quijote

Ryogoku (via Sobu line and Oedo line)

Famous area for Sumo and history in Japan.  You can visit the sumo stadium, sumo museum as well as the edo history museum (usually very easy to spot random sumo walking or biking around the area).

Tokyo Dome City (Suidobashi station via Sobu line and Mita line)

Amusement park (with rollercoasters) games and restaurants.

Tokyo (via Yamanote, Chuo, Marunouchi and Tozai lines)

Great area where you can find the Imperial Palace (near Otemachi station via Tozai line)

Fountain park and restaurant nearby and a great shopping/dining area in Marunouchi (across from Tokyo station).

Also home to Tokyo’s Cotton Club for fine dining, well mixed drinks and fantastic live Jazz shows.

Asakusa (via Ginza line or Asakusa line)

More traditional area with Sensoji Temple (with the large red lantern).  There are rows of stalls selling traditional gifts and food. Usually has entertainment or a festival happening.

You can take a boat cruise from Asakusa to the lovely Hamarikyu gardens right in the middle of the city and continue on to Odaiba island.

Odaiba is more of a tourist area with large shopping malls but it also has the giant and unusual Fuji building, quiet beach and an old fort at the end of the beach by Rainbow bridge.  At night you can have drinks on the deck of some restaurants and get a beautiful view of the water, Rainbow bridge and traditional Japanese floating restaurants (lit up boats called yakatabune)

Odaiba Aqua City:
Venus Fort:

There is also a futuristic floating bar that goes around Tokyo Bay:

From Odaiba, it’s very easy to reach Ginza (via Ginza, Marunouchi and Hibiya lines)

Famous for designer shops and the Sony Building, where you can play with Sony products, dance on the musical stairs and check out the various attractions they have every season.

Heading West from Odaiba you will find Roppongi (via Hibiya line and Oedo line)

Roppongi Hills and Tokyo MidTown are great shopping and dining areas.  Roppongi Hills has an observation area

Roppongi has a lot of foreign clubs and bars that I recommend avoiding due to the types who tend to hang around there.  Lots of women looking to get a man with money and a lot of hostess clubs/massage parlours looking for men with money as well.

Tokyo MidTown has the Suntory museum of art, fantastic restaurants, Fuji Gallery and nice architecture/art pieces.  Also famous for winter decorations and events

Continuing west, you’ll hit Daimon (via Oedo line and Asakusa line) and Hamamatsucho (via Yamanote line and Keihin Tohoku line)

It’s a short walk to Tokyo Tower, Pokemon Center, and Zojoji  Temple.  Near Tokyo Tower, there are many nice cafes and restaurants as well.

Shinagawa (via Yamanote line and Keihin Tohoku line)

Generally a business area, there are great shops and restaurants including the Singapore Seafood restaurant

The Prince Hotel in Shinagawa has a nice, small aquarium and theatre –also has lovely illumination at night.

After Shinagawa, there is Ebisu (via Yamanote line)

This area is one of the best for dining and Ebisu Gardens is a very nice area for dining and shopping.  There is also a beer museum located there.

Very close to Ebisu, you’ll find the famous areas of Shibuya, Harajuku, and Shinjuku.
Shibuya (via Yamanote line, Ginza line, Hanzomon line and Fukutoshin line)

This is where you will find the famous scramble crossing from every movie about Japan.  Very busy area at any time, it’s very lively and exciting at night.   Lots of shopping and dining, it’s a great place to experience the true hustle and bustle of Tokyo.

Harajuku (via Yamanote line) or Meiji Jingu Mae (via Chiyoda line and Fukutoshin line)

Harajuku is the place to see the fun and colourful youth of Tokyo dress up and parade down the famous Takeshita street.  Though hectic on the weekend, it’s the best time to visit and see the most eccentric costumes around.

Also very close to Meiji Jingu Shrine, it’s a wonderful contrast to Takeshita street.

A five minute walk from the shrine will take you to Omotesando, a tree lined street with rows of high-end shops and cafes.  Omotesando Hills is an interesting building complex of shops and restaurants.   Check out the small side streets to discover interesting shops, salons and private galleries.

Finally… Shinjuku (via Yamanote line, Chuo line, Marunouchi line and Oedo line)

Shinjuku has rows of shopping malls (like Marui, Isetan, Odakyu and Keio), Japanese Izakaya restaurants (great food and inexpensive), Karaoke places and more.

The south exit will lead you to Takashimaya shopping mall and southern terrace area with lovely displays and decorations.

The West exit is surrounded by large shops and has Mosaic Street which is a small street going uphill with beautiful lights, displays and decorations.  Also has a few cute little shops along the way.

The East exit is where the younger crowd hangs out near Studio Alta (mostly shopping for young girls) but heading down the main road, you will hit all of the major shopping malls in a row.

Very close to Studio Alta, you can access the Kabukicho area.  I don’t recommend going there at night as some people can be shady and love tourists, but if you would like to see Tokyo’s darker nightlife, in terms of pachinko parlours and hostess clubs, it’s worth a peak.

Japanese Sword Museum
It’s a 10 minute walk from Hatsudai Station along the Keio train line that leaves Shinjuku Station.

Great Restaurants

Kaiten Zushi – Shibuya

A great conveyor belt sushi place in Shibuya that offers a deal where you promise to eat at least five plates within 20 minutes or so and if you can finish within that time, you are welcome to stay longer to eat more plates.   This is one of the more popular sushi restaurants, so they have a time limit for people so they don’t just sit there taking up space.

EN Izakaya – Shibuya 

Japan is famous for their izakaya, which is a Japanese pub. There are many different dishes for snacking on and the drinks are usually cheaper than most places. This is one of the nicer izakaya that I’ve been to.

La Rochelle – Shibuya

Certainly not for budget eating, it’s fine French dining from the famous chef Hiroyuki Sakai. I’m not sure if you know him, but he was one of the “Iron Chef Japan” chefs.  Great service, presentation and it’s located on the 32nd floor of Cross Tower above Shibuya.

Lockup – Shibuya

Jail/medical themed restaurant that has waitresses dressed as nurses, guys in prisoner and monster outfits in a dungeon-like setting. Guests sit in jail cells for their dining experience and can order a variety of strange dishes including drinks served in test tubes.

*on the map, I marked two areas that Lockup could be at. I’m sorry, I can’t remember which intersection it is exactly –but it’s one of those two.

Ginza Lion – Ginza

A chain of beer halls that started in Ginza in the late 1800’s, Ginza Lion serves a variety of dishes and drinks.  When you travel around Ginza, you’ll find several in the area.

Kudan Kaikan

Historical hotel and restaurant that may interest you:

Ninja Restaurant – Akasaka

A ninja-themed restaurant the entire experience is like none other.

Going to graduate school? Get help with your personal statement

November 20th, 2012

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See the page in Japanese at