Posts Tagged ‘holiday’

2018 and 2019 staff holiday Excel planner and one page Excel calendar

Tuesday, January 17th, 2017

It is only January 2017, but I’ve already had my first request for a 2018 staff holiday calendars (I know some people have holiday years that overlap calendar years). So here are the staff holiday planning spreadsheets for both 2018 and 2019. Also I’ve uploaded the 2018/2019 one page excel calendars.

Staff holiday planner

First up are my free spreadsheet that can help you track staff leave/holiday, training, sick days, maternity/paternity, offsite days, etc.

2018 2019 staff holiday planner

They come set up with formulas that can automatically track the total number of holiday days remaining (columns C&D) for each employee. If you don’t want to use this simply delete those columns.

The default formula subtracts 1 or 0.5 from the remaining holiday if the employee cells contain the words ‘holiday’ or ‘half. You can copy and paste (ctrl-c, ctrl-v) the coloured tags (holiday, half, training, etc) from the top left into the staff planning cells and the totals are automatically updated.

Note that the formulas measure the tags from the very start column (which is the year before) to the very end column (which is the year after). If you want it to be fixed to the calendar year then you’ll have to tweak the formulas.

See the old 2012 planner for some customisation examples.

The week numbers are based on ISO 8601, and the top and left parts of the staff planner are frozen so you can always see them – this makes navigation easy. You can download them from here:

Download 2018 staff holiday planner spreadsheet – 12kb
Download 2019 staff holiday planner spreadsheet – 12kb

You’ll need to use a relatively modern spreadsheet package such as Excel 2007 or LibreOffice (which is free) to view the whole calendar. This is because the staff holiday planner has over 365 columns and some old spreadsheet package such as Excel 97 don’t support that many columns. One workaround if you are forced to use Excel 97 at work is for you to use LibreOffice at home to split the spreadsheet into 2, one part for H1, and one for H2.

One page Excel calendar

In these Excel spreadsheets you’ll get the whole year on a single page. You should be able to print it onto a single sheet of A4 paper if you wanted to.

2018 2019 one page excel calendar

You can load the XLS using any version of Microsoft Excel from 97 onwards, or using the free OpenOffice or LibreOffice.

2018 one page Excel calendar – 4kb
2019 one page Excel calendar – 4kb

The one page Excel spreadsheet calendars and the staff holiday planners are zipped up. If your OS won’t automatically open the zip files you can download the free 7-Zip to unzip them for you.

Staying in the Akihabara Washington Hotel, Tokyo

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

During a recent visit to Tokyo I stayed at the Akihabara Washington Hotel for 8 nights. Here are my photos and a small amount of information about the hotel.

The hotel is in Akihabara on the East side of central Tokyo. It is a three minute walk from the JR Yamanote line – this is the line that circles central Tokyo and goes to many of the main places of interest. Also from Akihabara station is the Chuo Sobu line, which can get you to Shinjuku in a more direct way than the Yamanote line.

akihabara washington hotel tokyo 1

This is what the double room looked like from the inside. The decoration is modern and functional. There is a free LAN internet connection if your bring your laptop.

akihabara washington hotel tokyo 2

In the bathroom they had one of those heated mirrors that prevents steam from forming on the central part of it after you have had a bath or shower.

akihabara washington hotel tokyo 3

The TV is compact – it needs to be as the room is quite small.

akihabara washington hotel tokyo 4

And the fridge is even smaller. It is only one carton deep, however you can still cram a fair bit in. Here I’ve got several drinks, sushi, rice balls and yogurt squeezed inside. Instead of a traditional hanging ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign, the one here is magnetic, so it sticks on the door.

akihabara washington hotel tokyo 5

In the hotel room was a pamphlet advertising a special ‘train set’ room which they have in the hotel. The English text says ‘Railway Diorama & Railway View’. As well as getting a train set in your room, you also get a good view of the train tracks which run near the station! I’ve no idea what this room costs, but if you are into that kind of thing this could be the hotel for you!

akihabara washington hotel tokyo 6

Here’s the view out of the window. This room was on one of the upper floors.

akihabara washington hotel tokyo 7

Here is the ground floor lobby which just contains the lifts. The reception is on the 2nd or 3rd floor. In the lift you have to press your room key to the card reader panel and then it takes you to the correct floor. You can’t access any floors other than the common floors, and the one you have a key for.

akihabara washington hotel tokyo 8

And finally here is a view of the hotel building from the front at night.

akihabara washington hotel tokyo 9

If you want to compare prices for this hotel you can look at the Akihabara Washington Hotel on HotelsCombined.com*.

Can you walk across Tokyo in a day?

Friday, January 21st, 2011

Once you’ve seen all the main tourist sites in Tokyo what can you do next? Why not try walking across the city! I recently did two walks across central Tokyo, one from Akihabara to Shinjuku, and one from Shiba area (Hamamatsucho station) to Shibuya. Both these walks are from East to West from one side of the Yamanote loop train line to the other. This map shows very roughly where I went and you can click on it for a (slightly) bigger version.

walking across tokyo map small

Akihabara to Shinjuku walk

Akihabara was my starting point as that is where my hotel was (Akihabara Washington Hotel). Akihabara is the electronics and manga district of Tokyo and is full of brightly lit shops, and geeky looking customers!

akihabara shinjuku walk 1

I headed South, walking along the canal (there are quite a few canals in Tokyo if you look for them).

akihabara shinjuku walk 2

It didn’t take long for me to reach the musical instrument area with many shops selling guitars and sheet music.

akihabara shinjuku walk 3

Beyond the musical instrument area is a second hand book street (lots of themed areas on this walk).

akihabara shinjuku walk 4

I went throught the North part of the Imperial Palace park and exited on the West side near to where many embassies are.

akihabara shinjuku walk 5

Then the walk was largely in a straight line along Shinjuku-dori, the bright lights of Shinjuku becoming visable in the distance.

akihabara shinjuku walk 6

And here is the end, Shinjuku, famous for its nightlife, shops, and restaurants.

akihabara shinjuku walk 7

In total this walk took about two and half hours at a leisurly pace. It shows that central Tokyo is quite walkable if you can be bothered.

Shiba to Shibuya walk

My second walk was again from East to West. This time I started at Hamamatsucho station in the Shiba area and walked to Shibuya. Again both areas are on the Yamanote JR line which loops central Tokyo. The first major sight on the walk was the Tokyo Tower.

shiba shibuya walk 1

Next I ended up following a not very glamerous looking expressway that was going towards Roppongi Hills.

shiba shibuya walk 2

Once the slightly scruffy looking area was out of the way I could see the new tower buildings that make up the Roppongi Hills complex.

shiba shibuya walk 3

You can go up to the top of this tall tower (Mori Tower) to get a good view across Tokyo. The rounded building to the left is the TV Asahi building which you can also visit.

shiba shibuya walk 4

After passing Roppongi Hills I continued following the raised expressway.

shiba shibuya walk 5

Going through a dark tunnel (but not as dark as the photo makes it look).

shiba shibuya walk 6

Before finally reaching Shibuya – one of Tokyo’s main shopping areas.

shiba shibuya walk 7

This walk only took a bit over one and a half hours.

If you are looking for a new way to discover Tokyo walking across it is very good for discovering how all the areas are linked. You don’t realise how close some of these areas are if you go everywhere by train.

Viewing Mount Fuji

Friday, January 14th, 2011

Mount Fuji (known as Fuji-san) makes one of Japan’s classic and most famous images. It can however be notoriously difficult to view as clouds and mists often obscure it (see the film Cherry Blossoms for an example).

visiting mount fuji japan 01

Winter can be a good time to view it as the air tends to be clearer. I went at the end of December. Your best bet for seeing it is to go on a clear, dry day. There are webcams positioned at various places looking towards Mount Fuji. They can give you a good indication in advance of what the view will look like.

To get to Kawaguchiko station (near Mount Fuji) from Shinjuku station in Tokyo you have two main options.

1. Get the Chuo Line and then the Fujikyuko Line trains which will cost between ¥2390 and ¥3800 depending on whether you get the Chuo line rapid service (1hr 40mins + 50mins) or the Chuo line limited express (1hr + 50mins).

2. Or you can go for the Chuo Highway Bus which will get you there direct from Shinjuku in 1hr 50mins for ¥1700.

If you want to climb Mount Fuji (which you can only do in Summer) you’ll have either get a shuttle bus/taxi from Kawaguchiko station or the Chuo Highway Bus can take you all the way from Shinjuku to the Kawaguchiko 5th station.

The information we got from the tourist office estimates that it would take you about 5 hours on the way up, and 3 hours on the way down. You can also get a piece of paper from the Tokyo Tourist Information Centers which shows you all the transport options between Tokyo and Mount Fuji.

We got the bus from Shinjuju. We were able to see Mount Fuji after we had travelled about 20 minutes from Shinjuku. Once got to Kawaguchiko station we got the Retro Bus to the Mount Kachi Kachi Ropeway. We bought a discounted ticket from here which let us go on the cable car, and on the Ensoleille sightseeing boat.

visiting mount fuji japan retro bus 02

The cable car takes only a few minutes to get you to the top of the (small) mountain. On the way up Mount Fuji is not visible at all as it is obscured by Mount Kachi Kachi.

visiting mount fuji japan cable car 08

However once at the top Mount Fuji is clear to see from the various viewing areas.

visiting mount fuji japan 04

Even today which was a bright sunny day, there was still a ring of mist around Fuji.

visiting mount fuji japan 05

There is a bell you can ring and some kind of mascot at the top (not sure who he is).

visiting mount fuji japan 06

visiting mount fuji japan 07

Then we got the cable car back down the mountain and made the short walk to the lake.

visiting mount fuji japan cable car 03

visiting mount fuji japan 09

To finish off our Mount Fuji viewing we got on the Ensoleille sightseeing boat for a 20 minute sail on Kawaguchiko lake.

visiting mount fuji japan boat 10

The view from the lake is considered to be one of the classic Mount Fuji views.

visiting mount fuji japan 11

Riding on Tokyo’s Toden Arakawa tram line

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

If you want to see something ‘non-touristy’ in Tokyo then taking a ride on the Toden Arakawa tram line is worth considering. At one time Tokyo used to have many of these streetcar lines, but now only two remain. The Tokyu Setagaya line is the other one. That one only has 10 stops, but the Toden Arakawa line has 30.

tokyo toden arakawa tram 03

The best way to see the area covered by this line is to go to one end, and then ride all the way to the other, getting off at any stops that seem interesting. The complete journey would take about 50 minutes if you did it non-stop. You can buy a day pass for ¥400 for adults and ¥200 for children.

tokyo toden arakawa tram 02

Toden Arakawa Line street cars

The trams cars are similar to the ones they have in Hiroshima with a mix of seating and standing room.

tokyo toden arakawa tram 04

tokyo toden arakawa tram 05

Toden Arakawa Line route

The demographic of the people in this area is very different to central Tokyo. A lot of elderly people live here, and there are lots of hospitals and health care facilities. I don’t know whether the elderly moved here to be near these facilities or whether the facilities were built here because of the elderly people.

tokyo toden arakawa tram 17

There are some interesting roads with traditional shops selling traditional items catered for the local residents. They don’t get many tourists in this part of Tokyo so you won’t find all the usual touristy shops.

tokyo toden arakawa tram 18

tokyo toden arakawa tram 16

And at Minowabashi there is an old style covered shopping arcade – known as a shotengai in Japan. They have these in most towns and cities through Japan, but not in central Tokyo. This is one of the few covered shopping areas in the Tokyo area.

tokyo toden arakawa tram 15

It isn’t all old people though. I found a the modern looking Waseda University. At the time I visited I saw prospective students visiting the campus to look around (it was the summer holidays).

tokyo toden arakawa tram 07

And there are other signs of younger people too. I can’t imagine any of the grannies around here riding this bike.

tokyo toden arakawa tram 08

I passed some cool looking statues as well. This one looks like he is guarding a football.

tokyo toden arakawa tram 10

This next statue and the building in the following photo were in the university grounds too.

tokyo toden arakawa tram 11

tokyo toden arakawa tram 13

This church style building is another one belonging to the university.

tokyo toden arakawa tram 09

And finally back to the tram for the journey back to Otsuka.

tokyo toden arakawa tram 14

Access to the Toden Arakawa Line

To reach the tram line from central Tokyo you can take the JR Yamanote line and get off at Otsuka station. From Otsuka you can buy your Toden Arakawa Line tickets.

Who are North Korea’s 13 Twitter friends?

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

In the past few months North Korea has embraced social media, first creating a YouTube channel, and in August a Twitter account with the name @uriminzok, which roughly means ‘our people’ in Korean.

uriminzok following wide

uriminzok followingNorth Korea has since been busy and has already racked up 457 tweets for its 10,334 followers. Pyongyang is however being very selective over who it chooses to follow. As of today it has followed only 13 other accounts. Who are these 13 accounts that North Korea has deemed worthy of following? You might be surprised by the answer.


1. @noaheverett

noaheverettNoah Everett is the creator of TwitPic, the service that makes photo sharing on Twitter easy.

North Korea has become a regular user of TwitPic to share photos from around North Korea, as well as political cartoons. To date they have shared 30 photos using the service.

Perhaps that is why they have befriended the TwitPic creator.


2. @TwitPic

twitpicAs if to confirm their love of TwitPic, North Korea are also following the official TwitPic account. Presumably to keep up to date with the lastest TwitPic features, and API updates.

Sidenote: North Korea are also heavy users of TinyUrl on their Twitter account but haven’t become friends with them yet.


3. @ljwalters

ljwaltersDespite only having 4 Tweets with a combined total of 12 words, ljwalters has managed to get 50 followers including the North Korean account.

ljwalters 12 tweeted words reveal a Happy Birthday message to ‘Peter’ and the fact that he/she is reading ‘Outliers’. Still this was enough to grab the attention of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, and mark ljwalters as one of the chosen 13.


4. @RadioactiveHair

radioactivehairRadioactiveHair is a Twitter user who follows 93, and has 16 followers. This user’s 168 tweets reveal a possible like of ‘Rap’ music. In September this user sent a message to North Korea’s @uriminzok account expressing admiration for Kim Jong Il. They are now Twitter friends.


5. @comandantmarcus

comandantmarcuscomandantmarcus runs a socialist website on tumblr where he lists ideas for housing, transport, music, alcohol and more. Perhaps the DPRK were inspired by his thoughts, which prompted them to follow him.


6. @_chinpingpong

 chinpingpongIt is harder to understand why North Korea is following _chinpingpong. This user is a very regular tweeter with 9,414 tweets and 191 followers.

Recent tweet topics include Inception, music, and The Big Bang Theory (the TV show). This account doesn’t look like an obvious one for Kim Jong Il and the DPRK to follow. But that changed after _chinpingpong retweeted one of @uriminzok messages. North Korea then decided to follow this user.


7. @JimmyDushku

jimmydushkuJimmyDushku is another committed tweeter with 2,649 tweets to his name. He is tweeting about life and the news. One of his tweets caught my eye: “Only way things would go better would be if I got my N. Korean visa”.

Perhaps this is the reason for North Korea’s interest in Jimmy. Maybe they want to ensure that his visa is successfully obtained, and that he has a good time when he visits.


8. @DaveP18

davep18DaveP18 only has 13 tweets, but two of them reference uriminzok. Other tweets reference Tiger Woods, the App Store, and Vladimir Putin. Seems that was good enough for Pyongyang.


9. @________T__

        t  ________T__ (if that is his real name) only has two tweets in his account. The first is a retweet of a tweet from uriminzok. The second is thanking uriminzok for following him. “It is an honour” he says.


10. @eduardo_89

eduardo 89eduardo_89 is a student from Mexico living in Berlin who is interested in politics, economics, history, architecture, and photography (it says this on his website).

The link between him and North Korea seems to have started on September 14th when he sent a tweet to uriminzok asking how to get a visa to visit. uriminzok tweeted back the advice that this can be arranged at the embassy or consulate mission to the DPRK and that “Pyongyang always welcome you”.

They have been mutual followers ever since.

Sidenote: If you want to visit North Korea there is nothing stopping you. The government run tours of selected sites, and as long as you are happy to be followed by their guides 24/7 and do what they say, you should have no problems. Wikipedia has an article about tourism in North Korea here.


11. @khomeninja

khomeninjakhomeninja tweets about Obama, Palin, and politics. Maybe Pyongyang appreciates the political opinions offered by this user’s 173 tweets.


12. @olakrez

olakrezolakrez has produced 23 tweets so far and is mostly tweeting about what he/she is doing. Nothing North Korea related until a welcome message to uriminzok was posted on September 2nd.

uriminzok returned the favour by following olakrez.


13. @qwertyvn

qwertyvnqwertyvn lists their location as Vietnam, and sends uriminzok a message announcing that their countries are friends on September 3rd. And according to Twitter they are! qwertyvn has only had time to post three messages but two of them reference North Korea’s official Twitter account.


Conclusions

Can we learn anything about North Korea’s secretive regime from who it is following? I don’t think so. I’d guess that when they set up their Twitter account, they just followed the first bunch of people who tweeted messages to them or about them. Maybe at some point they’ll clean up the list and follow a different group of people who better reflect the political opinions of the DPRK.

If you want to be updated by Twitter when new posts appear on reviewmylife you can follow me at @reviewmylifeuk.

Prince Hotels at Shinagawa and Shinjuku in Tokyo

Monday, October 4th, 2010

In the past year I’ve stayed at two different Prince Hotels in Tokyo. The Shinagawa Prince Hotel, and the Shinjuku Prince Hotel.

Shinagawa Prince Hotel

The Shinagawa Prince Hotel is right across the road from Shinagawa Station. A number of lines are accessible from here including the Yamanote Line which loops around central Tokyo stopping at many of the major stops. There isn’t much else of significance in the area, so if you stay at this hotel you will have to take the train to wherever you want to go.

prince hotel shinagawa 25

The hotel is part of a large complex containing several towers, an aquarium, cinema, restaurants and shops. I was staying in the main tower, and had booked a room on a ‘high floor’. That was defined by Expedia as being on the 28th floor and above.

The reception was very smart, and large. It needs to be to handle the thousands of guests who can stay here.

prince hotel shinagawa 28

The check-in was smooth and we were allocated a room on the 35th floor. There are express lifts for different floor levels so that it doesn’t take long to reach your room.

prince hotel shinagawa 27

Here’s the part of the room with a large bed, table and chair. Also note the size of the window. It goes from near the floor to the ceiling.

prince hotel shinagawa 01

Here is the bed from the other side. Very comfortable by the way!

prince hotel shinagawa 03

Both this Prince Hotel, and the Shinjuku Prince Hotel had a system (green linen service) whereby if you opted not to have your sheets and towels changed every day they’d give you vouchers to spend in the hotel shop. You just need to fill in a form, and tell reception.

Remember the window? Here is the view from it. This is looking North East from the main tower. The Tokyo Tower is visible on the left hand side of the photo. One of the best things about these Prince Hotels is the large window, and view it gives. It is definitely worth getting a room on a high floor.

prince hotel shinagawa 06

On the above photo you can see the busy Shinagawa Station. It has loads of different tracks leading to it, and there are trains constantly going in and out of the station.

prince hotel shinagawa 05

Back to the inside, here is the TV which is by the window.

prince hotel shinagawa 07

Instead of having a traditional ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign the Shinagawa Prince hotel had a ‘Do Not Disturb’ button. A nice touch and something that I wish the Toyoko Inn hotel chain would do.

prince hotel shinagawa 23

This is the bathroom, it is fairly standard for hotels in Japan. The fittings looked quite new and the shower pressure was good.

prince hotel shinagawa 08

prince hotel shinagawa 09

Here’s the view from the window at night. Loads of tall towers with their twinkling red lights are visible across Tokyo.

prince hotel shinagawa 13

On the left is a photo of the main tower, our room was near the top :) And on the right is the entrance to the hotel.

prince hotel shinagawa 24

In the hotel complex are Japanese and Italian restaurants, as well as clothes shops and a convenience store right on the doorstep of your room. The restaurants aren’t the cheapest in Tokyo, but if you want a bigger selection you’ll have to travel, as there aren’t many other restaurants in this area.

Shinjuku Prince Hotel

The Shinjuku Prince Hotel is a 6 to 7 minute walk from Shinjuku station and is right opposite the Kabukicho nightlife area. Like the Prince Hotel at Shinagawa the inside is very smart, and the rooms have a giant window. The main difference between the two is the view you get. Again we paid for a room on a high floor which for this hotel meant a 20th floor room (this hotel isn’t as tall as the other one).

prince shinjuku 1

The above photo is looking East towards Kabukicho, and the one below is looking South East over Shinjuku.

prince shinjuku 2

Here is a final photo of the view at night. The giant red sign is for a pachinko parlour which was across the street.

prince shinjuku 5

Other facilities

Both hotels put a free copy of the Daily Yomiuri (English language Japanese news) paper outside our room each day.

And both hotels had very expensive breakfasts available. But fortunately each of them had an empty fridge in the room, perfect if you want to buy some milk and cereal for breakfast.

You won’t find a coin laundry in either hotel which is a bit of a pain, as the nearest coin laundry to each is about 20 minutes walk away.

In conclusion

Both hotels are great if you want a comfortable room with a Tokyo view. Both are also very convenient for access to the Yamanote Subway line. I’d recommend paying extra for the high floor – make sure you get the high floor before booking if that is what you want.

Book a room at the Prince Hotel Shinagawa (on HotelsCombined.com)

Book a room at the Prince Hotel Shinjuku (on HotelsCombined.com)

Search for other Tokyo hotels… (on HotelsCombined.com)

Toyoko Inn Kagoshima and Nagasaki

Friday, September 24th, 2010

I recently stayed in two different Toyoko Inn (東横イン) hotels in Kagoshima and Nagasaki in Japan. Toyoko Inn is a massive hotel chain; there are often multiple Toyoko Inn hotels in each city. Below is the outside of the Nagasaki Toyoko Inn.

toyoko inn nagasaki 6

Toyoko Inn is a budget business chain. The rooms are comfortable, but nothing special. One thing you’ll notice if you stay in multiple locations is how similar all Toyoko Inn hotels are to each other. They look almost identical on the outside, the receptions look the same, and so do the rooms. If you want to stay somewhere unique this isn’t the place.

Spot the difference

Below is the bedroom from one of the Kagoshima Toyoko Inn hotels, and below that is a photo from the Nagasaki Toyoko Inn.

toyoko inn kagoshima 1

toyoko inn nagasaki 1

Pretty similar, and so is the room’s desk. The top photo is Kagoshima and the bottom is Nagasaki. They have the same clock, TV, hairdryer, wall light, and collection of books.

toyoko inn kagoshima 2

toyoko inn nagasaki 2

One area where the two hotels did differ greatly was in the view from the room. Here is the view from the Kagoshima room. Not spectacular, but acceptable.

toyoko inn kagoshima 4

Here is the view from the Nagasaki room. Yes they have built a corrugated iron, multi-story carousel car park just metres from the window at the back of the hotel. This is the worst view I’ve ever had from a hotel room!

toyoko inn nagasaki 4

Here is a photo from inside the bathroom. The one on the left is Kagoshima, and the one on the right is Nagasaki. Or is it the other way round…

toyoko inn bathroom 2

Here’s a zoomed in shot showing their standard shampoo / conditioner dispenser, and the toilet control panel.

toyoko inn bathroom 1

Room access

Most hotels have a ‘Do not disturb’ sign for you to use if you want to chill in your room while you are staying there. But not Toyoko Inn; they want you to be out of your room between the hours of 10am and 4pm – unless you phone the reception to tell them you are staying in your room. You can of course do this, but it is a bit of a hassle.

Their check-in and check-out times match their ‘room no-stay’ times. Check in at 4pm and check out at 11am. Most hotels let you check in at 3pm and check out at 11am.

toyoko inn nagasaki key

If you are a business man and are only using the hotel to sleep before going to your early morning meetings then none of this will be a problem. If however you are on holiday and want to relax the Toyoko Inn chain might not be for you.

Breakfast and coin laundry

Breakfast was included. In both places there were rice balls and bread.

Each Toyoko Inn had a coin laundry with washers and dryers. Very handy if you are travelling light. Coin laundries can sometimes be a pain to find in Japan.

toyoko inn nagasaki 7

Overall

The rooms were comfortable and functional. Nothing special, but this is reflected in the average price. The policy of vacating your room between 10am and 4pm unless you phone reception isn’t great if you want a long sleep, but many people wouldn’t think of being in their room at those times anyway.

I don’t have any direct links for booking these hotels, but you can use the below links if you want to search for other hotels in either Kagoshima or Nagasaki.

Search for all hotels in Kagoshima… (on HotelsCombined.com)

Search for all hotels in Nagasaki… (on HotelsCombined.com)

Huis Ten Bosch theme park Nagasaki

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Huis Ten Bosch in Nagasaki prefecture is a place that has to be seen to be believed. It is a theme park whose theme is Holland. Here the Japanese have created an idealised version of Holland complete with windmills, red brick buildings and canals.

huis ten bosch nagasaki 01

It is about one and a half hours from JR Nagasaki on the Sea Side Liner train. The return train tickets were ¥2500 each.

huis ten bosch nagasaki 02

They have a slightly confusing ticketing system. You can pay just for entrance, or you can pay for a Toku-Toku ticket that gives you discounts to the various attractions that are in the park. The attractions (virtual reality rides, mazes, Thriller museum, children’s adventure areas) didn’t particularly interest us so we just got the entrance ticket. Was still ¥3000 each, so not cheap!

huis ten bosch nagasaki 03

The entrance to the park is impressive, and so are the buildings inside. They have spent a huge amount of money on building a fantasy version of Holland. They spent so much that they had to file for bankruptcy in 2003. That is all in the past though, and today they are open for business.

To help the Japanese understand what a Dutch person is they have some helpful cardboard cut outs near the entrance showing some ‘typical’ Dutch citizens. The one on the left has a sign on him explaining how tall Dutch people can be!

huis ten bosch nagasaki 04

The architecture and scale of the building is amazing. Below is one of the huge hotels that are on the site.

huis ten bosch nagasaki 05

There are a number of ways to get around the park. You can walk, take a boat, or hire a bike. Taking a canal boat costs ¥600 to go between the two stops (one near the entrance and one in the centre of the park).

huis ten bosch nagasaki 06

Hiring a bike, cart or tandem bike is a fun way to get around. To hire a two person cart for 3 hours cost ¥3000. If you want to hire a bike or cart you’ll have to get to the hire shop quick as they are very popular. The bike hire shop was the only place in the park where we saw a real Dutch person. There was a very tall Dutch man there looking after the bikes.

Huis Ten Bosch is named after one of the official residences of the Dutch Royal Family. The makers of this theme park got permission from them to build a replica here.

huis ten bosch nagasaki 07

It’ll cost you another ¥500 to visit the palace replica if you have only bought the basic entrance ticket, but it is worth it.

Inside they have tried to create royal looking rooms. And there is an attractive garden behind the palace.

huis ten bosch nagasaki 08

huis ten bosch nagasaki 09

Here is the view of the palace from the rear. Very impressive! Remember this is a theme park, not a real palace.

huis ten bosch nagasaki 10

Even with just the basic entrance ticket you can spend hours walking or cycling around the Dutch themed streets.

huis ten bosch nagasaki 11

There are shops and restaurants in the park, and other gardens, flowers, buildings and windmills to see. If it wasn’t for the thousands of Japanese people everywhere you could forget that you were in Japan.

huis ten bosch nagasaki 12

huis ten bosch nagasaki 13

In the early evening there was a small parade of floats. Nothing like the scale of a Disney parade, but worth a quick look.

huis ten bosch nagasaki 14

Also in the day we got a chance to let fish eat bits of our feet and in the evening was Japan’s entry into the Hanabi World Cup 2010.

A very cool place to go if you have seen the city of Nagasaki and want to see something different in the prefecture.

Sakurajima Volcano Kagoshima

Monday, September 13th, 2010

If you have a few days in Kagoshima then spending one in Kagoshima city, and one visiting Sakurajima Volcano makes a good itinerary. The volcano is still active, and on some days sends smoke over Kagoshima.

kagoshima japan 7

To get there take the Sakurajima Ferry. This leaves from Kagoshima Port ever 10-15 minutes for most of the day, and ever 30-60 minutes outside of peak hours. The journey to Sakurajima Port is only 15 minutes. For adults the ferry fee is ¥150 and ¥80 for children and you pay when you reach Sakurajima.

sakurajima volcano kagoshima 1

sakurajima volcano kagoshima 2

Some of Sakurajima’s sites are located in easy walking distance of the port, but for others (especially the various view points) you’ll either need your own car, or to take the sightseeing bus. There is one bus in the morning and one in the afternoon at 9:40am and 14:20pm departing from Sakurajima Port. The trip lasts two and a quarter hours. The tickets are ¥1700 for adults and ¥850 for children. This was correct as of August 2010, make sure you check the departure times, and cost before you go!

sakurajima volcano kagoshima 3

On the bus there is a guide who gives commentary, but all in Japanese. Fortunately if you can read English there is a translated text version of the talking. The guide will tell you which bit he/she is up to at regular intervals.

As the bus takes you round you can see the volcano from various angles. One of the stops is at the Yunohira Observation Point from where you can see the effect the volcano has had on the landscape.

sakurajima volcano kagoshima 4

There are two buried Torii gates along the way. Here is one of them that we stopped by.

sakurajima volcano kagoshima 5

There are plenty of volcanic rocks formed from past lava flows along the way. Here are some examples.

sakurajima volcano kagoshima 6

sakurajima volcano kagoshima 7

The bus then drops you back at the ferry port. If you want to nearby visitor centre make sure you plan it in as it closes early (I think 5pm). Between the visitor centre and the sea if the Yogan Nagisa Park Foot Spa. From here you can soak your feet in fresh natural hot spring water. It is free and you can get a good view of the bay while you relax.

sakurajima volcano kagoshima 8

sakurajima volcano kagoshima 9

There are other attractions on the island if you have more time such as the Sakurajima Dinosaur Park and several hot springs.