Good Vending!

On April Fool’s Day 2011 we woke from our hangovers to a glorious day in Tokyo.

Breakfast in the garden

Parks, pandas and plastic foods were on the menu for us April fools.

After breakfast in our host’s beautiful Japanese garden, we headed to Ueno Park. Ueno Park is a large park in the North-East of Tokyo. It has four museums, some temples, a few shrines and a zoo in it. Preeeeeetty busy.

It’s also a sakura hotspot. We were still a bit early for the cherry blossom, most of the trees were just budding, but there were a few spectacular early bloomers. We’d originally planned our holiday at this time because of the cherry blossom usually hitting in the 1st week of April. We are super sakura chasers.

early blossoming sakura in Ueno

Ueno Zoo had re-opened the day we went there, so there was a bit of hubbub going on there as people were happy to see the pandas back in action. Japan LOVES pandas. A lot of the area near Ueno park is littered with panda imagery.

One of the temples in Ueno park had a long avenue of food stalls, apparently an old tradition dating back to times when temple-goers would eat on their way back from their visit. An exciting collection of unidentifiable things on sticks, most for around 100Y (just under £1). At this point we were still a bit shy and didn’t have the confidence to buy any of the things.

Instead, we availed ourselves of the shy-person’s gift – the vending machine order system.

A quick note on vending machines.

arrogant vending machine

They are EVERYWHERE. Honestly, they pop up more frequently than every 100metres, sometimes three in a row, offering slightly different selections of drinks with names like “Calpis” and “Pocari Sweat”. They are amazing – they sell drinks (hot and cold), beer and cigarettes. Many Japanese use their mobile phones to pay for things in vending machines using some sort of chip technology. They can also use their phones as their Pasmo (Oyster card equivalent). They just hold their phone against some bit and the payment comes direct from a digitally set up account. It is brilliant. That’s also how they can ensure vending machines that sell booze/fags, do so only to adults.

It’s very tough to get thirsty in Japan. Vending machines pop up in shrines, temples and even on mountains. Convenience is a key element of Japanese life.  I wish we could have them in this country, but people would vandalise or rob them. Remember when we used to have chocolate vending machines in tube stations? God, I love vending machines.This particular vending process is slightly different.

The machine has a button
for each thing on the menu. You choose what you want, press the button, put the money in and the machine gives you a ticket. You then hand that ticket over to the person on the counter who  makes your order up fresh. I had a matcha ice cream and Luke had a banana and chocolate crepe.

I wish I'd taken this in colour because the octopus was an almost neon pillar box red.

Not far from Ueno Park is Ameyoko Market. This market sold black market American goods during the war and is now still the best place to get specialist foreign imports, especially American candy. It sells everything for good, negotiable prices – the opposite of the Ginza department stores. Clothes, accessories, seafood, candy, electronics – it has a bit of a Delboy vibe.

After our stroll through Ameyoko market we decided to walk to Asakusa, one of the most famous temples in Tokyo, which I’ll tell you all about in the next post – this one is already so full of photos.

the amount of dried squid I saw made my brain twitch at the idea of how much squid is still left in the sea

Luke enjoying a hot can of Rainbow Boss coffee.


I Made A Video

For my band’s (The Kitchen Quartet) cover of Ivor Cutler’s song “Everybody Got”

No food produce was harmed in the making of this video. But I did eat the eggs after.

Electric (conserving) Town!

As you can see from this Tokyo Metro map, Tokyo is a mega city. Like London, but perhaps even more distinctly, Tokyo is a massive metropolis made up of several small cities, each with their own identity, all smooshed together.

On our 1st full day in Tokyo we planned to do what everyone should do when they visit Tokyo – go to the Tsukiji fish market but due to the earthquake the tuna auction was not open to tourists and due to our late night sake fun-times, we were not up early enough to make it anyway. Armed with our Pasmos, JR passes and loads of Yen, we set out to visit Akihabara.

Akihabara Electric Town is famous for electronics and manga/anime shops. Luke had a request to buy a specific camera (a Nikon Coolpix) if if was available for a certain price. The 1st place we went had it, we bought it and the guy did an enormo bow at the end of the transaction. I like this type of capitalism.

Now, our host had declared Tokyo a “ghost town” but this photo shows what that means to a Tokyoite. It means there’s still bloody LOADS of people around.

Due to all the electricity conservation – all the shop signs and adverts were off everywhere. In a place like Akihabara, it resulted in a weird vibe. A bit like a nightclub in the daytime.

Luke saw a girl promoting something while wearing big cartoony animal gloves. He regrets not buying them. TOP TIP! Buy anything you think you really want at the time. You will not regret it.

We then headed off to the Imperial Palace. We thought we found it but it turned out it was just a very clean car park. As we’d ended up quite close to Ginza we decided to have lunch there.

Ginza is the luxury shopping district of Tokyo. There are department stores where they’ll use liquid nitrogen to keep your box of fruit fresh, so I hear. We didn’t have the funds to see if that was true as most things in the Ginza stores are maxi pricey.

It had started to rain so we dashed into a store basement where we found ourselves in a food hall. We sat down at a Japanese curry place and had a reasonably priced lunch without being able to read the menu. The exchange went a bit like this “curry?” (curry in Japanese is kare) “curry” “two?” “two”. I think it cost us about £15 for both of us.

The rain had eased as we made our way back to the Imperial Palace.  Tokyo has this incredible ability to switch rapidly between buzzing, urban metropolis to calm, ancient serenity.

The Imperial Palace East Gardens (free to the public) really illuminate that juxtaposition.

In the evening we met with a load of K’s friends in an Izakaya in Omotesando.

Having some people you know when visiting Japan can make the whole experience approx 98675 times more brilliant.It may even be worth attempting to find a pen pal in Tokyo who can show you around and order all the best stuff for you.

the fish shape is just a garnish.

In the izakaya we sat back and said “we’ll have anything” and we let the locals order for us. An izakaya is a sort of Japanese tapas bar, they serve beers (in this one the beers were poured by machines! argh! the future!) and small dishes. One thing I love about dining in Japan is how to get service. Instead of the European custom of embarrassingly attempting to get your server’s eye you just shout “SUMIMASEN!” It’s awesome.

After some takowasabi (spicy raw octopus), other mystery foods and many beers we headed off to a swish bar in Shibuya which was full of Gaijin ex-pats. It seems this is where all the westerners had been hiding – we still hadn’t seen any out on the streets of Tokyo.

Another example of the electricity saving in this night photo of Shibuya, which usually is bright enough to induce migraines. A few expensive cocktails down and then we were a drunken bunch swerving over east Tokyo looking for some place to drink. I remember some place called the Enjoybar in Ebisu, another called the Absinthebar and then a taxi back home with our constantly amiable host (who again had work the next day – she is INCREDIBLE) long after the trains had stopped for the night.

Nadia-san Hits Tokyo Town.

The shinkansen is really the Rolls Royce of train travel.

You can get a reservation (you might as well if you have a JR Pass) up to the few minutes before the train arrives. Your ticket will show your reservation and the platform has lines painted on it to show you where to stand to get on the train at the exact place to find your seats.

Inside it is spacious and sort of calm. It has a feeling a bit like being on a plane. There’s loads of leg room but not many places for big luggage. You could easily store a small suitcase in the space between you and the next seat, though. There’s a vending machine somewhere on the train and also a trolley service. Some trains even have a smoking carriage, which to my smoke-ban British sensibilities seems CRAZY. My favourite bit was the person whose job seemingly is to walk through each carriage, turn to face all the passengers (remember the seats all face the direction of travel) and do a bow before going off to bow at the next carriage. I loved that person.

I wanted to test the claim that the bullet trains are so punctual one could set one’s watch by them. So at each station I looked at the board on the platform to see what time it was due to leave and every single time the train left within 15 seconds of that time. AMAZING.

The train goes very, very fast. The scenery tends to be very developed the whole way. I think much of Japan is developed because of its geology. As far as I can tell, long island = mountains in the middle = building most of the stuff around the edges.

This is a typical view from the train. The green net thing is a golf driving range. As space is at such a premium in Japan you’ll often see these golf ranges on top of buildings. Crazy fun.

We hurtled towards Tokyo with our milk and instructions to meet our host at the “statue of a dog” at Shibuya station.

We arrived into Tokyo, and headed straight for Shibuya on the JR Yamanote line (so no need to buy any further tickets). The only evidence of the country’s largest ever earthquake and impending nuclear doom was the lack of gaijin, and a few train services which were cancelled “due to earthquake”. A considerably better excuse than “signal failure” (I’m looking at you, TfL.)

Shibuya crossing is one of the most famous images of Japan/Tokyo. A buzzing, bright, flashing example of the mega-tropolis that is Tokyo.

Due to the earthquake and the power station troubles, electricity conservation was being strictly adhered to in Tokyo. When we arrived, this is what Shibuya looked like:

Obviously it was in the day time but none of the screens were on and all the advertising lights were off.

And still, we could see no western people. Our blond-haired Dutch friend would be incredibly easy to spot.

We had a bit of time to kill so we wandered over to the Starbucks (you can see in the shiny photo) to get a coffee.

Not as easy as you’d imagine! Japanese love their coffee cold, so you have to specify ‘hot’ if you want a hot coffee. All the sugars are liquid sucrose sachets because of this. Small differences, but so weird. And then the whole place was a crazy, cacophonous melee & our first encounter with the high pitch that Japanese ladies vocally favour.

Coffees in hand we went to find the “dog statue” where we were to meet our host. I found a mural on a wall with some dogs on it and assumed that was it. Within a few minutes my face obviously giving off a “not sure if this is right” vibe, some lovely girls approached us and asked if we needed any help. I said something along the lines of us being ok, but then I said (literally, this is exactly what I said) “something about a dog?” to which they went “ahhh” and took us around a corner to where there was a big statue of a dog. The Hachiko dog, in fact.

Helpful, lovely people!

Our friend arrives, we have some mega hugs, and she decides we should hang around and wait for the rush hour to calm down before heading home. A short walk from where we were stood waiting for her is a teeny street I think called Nonbei Yokocho. It is lined with the dwttyest bars I’ve ever seen.

We went to a bar that could seat 4 people. I think this is the one. Katie seemed to know the bartender, who spoke very good English. But she’s so gregarious it sometimes seems she knows everyone on the Earth. We had a few Asahis in this tiny bar and the chat was mostly about the exodus of Westerners from Tokyo, now termed ‘flyjin‘. I loved this tiny bar. If we weren’t with Katie we would never have a)found it b)had the confidence to go in. It felt like Japanese people may have been drinking beer in this tiny booze den for hundreds of years. Another place I had this cozy, local feeling in was the Bar Al Campanile in Venice which doesn’t even have chairs but does serve a killer spritz.

Katie gave us a Pasmo each and handed me a moleskin with useful stuff in.

The useful stuff included a quick guide for use in case of quake/tsunami/fallout. Note the important last step.

The drinking of beer was very much a “survival technique” employed by us during our time in quake-hit Tokyo.

We headed to Katie’s amazing Tokyo home, stopping at a shop to get some things for dinner where we bumped into her dad doing the same thing. Only Katie & her dad were still in Japan as her mother & sister had flown home to escape the quake/nuclear problems (pah! flyjin!). Fresh fruit and veg were thin on the ground in the shop (figuratively, I mean – they were actually displayed hygienically in boxes) and instant ramen was looking sparse as well as there being no milk.

Papa Katie made us dinner before we headed out for a “nightcap” at a sake bar up the road.

Now, I don’t remember taking these photos, but evidently I did.

We tried a variety of sakes and I do remember enjoying a cloudy one.

Also, I remember they gave us free nibbles.

Then, I think we bought a Crunky each from the shop on the way home at approx 3am. 24 hour convenience shops FTW.

And then, as we stumbled into our bedroom, another reminder of the curious situation we found ourselves in – some face masks left for us in case of emergency.


We pulled into Shin-Osaka station and alighted at about 7pm, a little while after rush hour. It was still very busy.

The furthest east I’d been before this trip was Baghdad. 

That’s about 4000 miles from Japan, and about 3000 miles from London. Japan is very literally the Far East. Having been in transit for about a day and having crossed about 9 different time zones I was feeling pretty discombobulated already. Add to that being in Japan – a country that feels like it could be another planet, and I was feeling VERY discombobulated.*

What I’m trying to say is that is took us 45 minutes to find the right exit out of the station. I had printed out a map from the hostel we were staying in and eventually we managed to find our way to it. It was a 20/25 minute walk from Shin-Osaka station in the dark, so we felt pretty pleased about how we were dealing well with everything despite not being able to understand ANYTHING. When you travel in Europe (or any place that has Latin or Germanic-based languages), you can figure out what things mean as you can read the text. Not in Japan!  A typical exchange when trying to find directions: “What does it say?” “It says house with eyebrows on top, next to wiggly squiggle with legs coming out of it.”

We found ourselves here, the lovely Caminoro hostel in the area of Mikuni. It is run by a couple who have THE CUTEST BABY ON EARTH. They speak excellent English (and Spanish!), and are marvellously friendly & helpful.

We were jet lagged and exhausted so just went straight to bed. We booked the private Japanese style tatami mat room. Hey – we’re in Japan, why the hell would you not choose all the mega Japanese options?

The room was pretty dwtty. It had a little table with two chairs (are they chairs? they don’t have legs), a small dresser and all the bedding in the corner. So we transformed our little room from a living space to a sleeping space and it was lovely. I find sleeping on a futon very comfortable and I had such a wonderful sleep.

In the morning we were given a little map of the area and told places we could get breakfast.

We ventured out to the covered shopping street that we were staying on. This was properly Osakan and not touristy in any way. Though this was TERRIFYING it was also a pure thrill of feeling being thrown in at the deep end.

We found a tiny cafe type place and pointed at some photos of toast and coffee on a menu. Toast in Japan is about an inch thick. Why do they do so many things better than we do? We felt smug with ourselves for having got this far, then freaked out about how we were supposed to pay. TOP TIP: In Japan, the usual thing is to ask for the bill and then go up to a counter near the door to pay after they give you the bill.

TOP TIP: DO NOT TIP! Tipping is not a thing in Japan. If you leave a tip the staff are likely to run after you with it shouting ‘you forgot your change!’ The only place you might tip is in a Ryokan.

After totally smashing the getting breakfast thing we thought we might take a quick trip into central Osaka to have a quick look before heading to the station to catch the bullet train to Tokyo. We went to the nearest subway station. We spent 15 minutes looking at the tube map which had zero romanji on it, and poking the ticket machine which was also 100% in Japanese. Then we gave up and went back to the hostel to collect our stuff.

Me & Luke 1,  Japan 1.

There was no evidence of the enormous tragedy that was ongoing to the North except that my friend asked us to buy milk and bring it to Tokyo as it was difficult to buy there. Imagine not being able to buy milk in London. The entire country would collapse without all those cups of tea. (I’ll explain the dog thing in the next blog).

The walk back to Shin-Osaka station was much easier in the daylight and we got there in time for the bustling lunchtime trade. We reserved some seats on the 13.40 to Tokyo and embarked on the overwhelming act of choosing which place to have lunch at as there are about 40 different small restaurants in Shin-Osaka station. I tweeted asking what we should have and immediately  Josie Long & Chris Coltrane shouted the word “TAKOYAKI” at me.

typical plastic food outside a restaurant

Many, many restaurants in Japan have plastic food models of the dishes they serve displayed outside the restaurant. They are INCREDIBLY realistic. Very helpful if you can’t read a menu, and they let you know what type of cuisine the restaurant deals with.

I found us a takoyaki restaurant (in Japan, restaurants tend to specialise in one type of food. eg. ramen shop, sushi place etc). The prices seemed pretty reasonable so I opted for a set meal which included a beer, and Luke pointed at one which didn’t have a picture of a beer on it.

It’s possible we ordered too much. I don’t know what a sensible portion is. I do know that these delicious octopus dumplings have driven me wild with cravings ever since. Meg Prosser described them as “profiteroles of the sea” and they really are tremendously lovely. I am saving up to buy this from the Japan Centre. If you feel like generously donating to the Nadia Kamil Takoyaki Fund, please feel free. As a reward I will make you takoyaki whilst wearing the colour of your choice. What a deal!

The 1st thing they gave us when we sat down in the restaurant were some hot towels. In Japan you will often see this. It’s customary to wash your hands before your meal. Don’t save them at the side til the end like we did. We must’ve looked like right fannies. Fannies with filthy fingers they must’ve thought us.

A second successful meal and we left to find our platform to await the shinkansen to Tokyo.

*discombobulated twice in one blog? Oh yes, team, get on board.

To Nippon! (via Doha)

We spent March 27th doing a photoshoot on our roof with the autumnally inclined Idil Sukan, where I got to spit on Luke (like this) quite a bit and Idil snaffled many lemon bars that I had made. We then had a Pizza Express dinner before packing for our trip. The taxi was coming to pick us up at 4am. There was obviously no way I would get any sleep because I was pumped full of Pocky based excitement.

We arrived to a sleepy Heathrow Terminal 4 & checked in. It was only at this moment that I relaxed about the flights. I’d bought them online from and had convinced myself it was all a scam & when we got to the airport the check-in staff would look at me with pity and amusement before telling me I just paid some bloke in Hull £1200 for nothing. IT WAS  OK, GUYS! Turns out you can buy mega flights without actually receiving anything in the post. Isn’t the future cool?

Not much was open so we opted for breakfast in the place that had the most satisfying pun in the title that was also open. (My favourite breakfast ever was from Armadillo in Gatwick North – I dream of it still. But tragically, no Armadillo in HT4.) Step forward “Dining St Restaurant”.

What a lovely light fitting

A few eggs down and we were on our way to board a Qatar Airways flight to Doha. I’d spent AGES looking up flights and the airlines we could’ve chosen. I opted for QA as their reviews were the best and I’ve never been to Doha so I can tick that one off the list. Also, they had a WINE LIST. In ECONOMY. I was sold. 

I’ve never flown long haul before and I actually love flying so this was a real treat for me. I also love being given food at regular intervals, watching films and cramped spaces – so a long haul flight is almost enough to make me sick with joy.

In our little bags they gave us (with sleeping mask, toothbrush etc.) they had these stickers -> the missing one is “please wake me for meals” because THERE IS NO WAY I AM MISSING ANY MEALS.

The food was actually pretty good and I watched a couple of films after waving goodbye to Blighty out of my little window. We landed in Doha for an 8hr stopover.

Doha - you can just about see Doha City rising up behind the plane

If we’d been in fancy-pants class, I think we would’ve been taken to a hotel in Doha for those 8 hours.  As plebs in economy we opted to stay in the airport & pay the $40 to use the Oryx Lounge. This lounge included unlimited food & drink, including boozy drinks –  it was quite hard to find a member of staff to get you a boozy drink. When I did find one, they made my gin and tonic equal parts gin and tonic using a full mini can of tonic. They also had showers and free wi-fi. It was pretty good. It was basically like being at home, but with a butler to get you boozy drinks and international business people hanging around.

The second leg of the flight was a code-share with ANA. This meant Japanese food AS WELL as Western food offered on the menu and wonderful, wonderful Japanese flight staff.

This was where we first started seeing people wearing face masks (it’s apparently common in Japan – for hay fever, colds etc). I think we were the only gaijin on the flight, and there were plenty of seats free. Our first experience of the gaijin exodus of Japan.

We landed on the amazing man-made island that is Kansai International Airport. We had our thumb prints electronically scanned (THE FUTURE, ARGH) and got through immigration fairly easily, particularly as there was LITERALLY NO ONE ELSE in the non-Japanese queue. It was pretty weird. We felt very self-conscious and knew that people were surprised but also pleased to see we’d not been deterred from coming to Japan despite the terrible disasters. Though when we told the woman on the desk we were headed to Tokyo she did a ‘best of luck!’ type face at us. At that point the foreign office were still advising against travel to Tokyo, but you know what? Your ‘advice’ can’t stop me, Foreign Office – even if it does invalidate my travel insurance.

Gliding through the shiny airport we found the JR office where we could pick up our JR passes.

It was fairly simple and the dude was super nice. He sorted out our passes, reserved seats on the next train to Shin-Osaka and gave us directions to the correct platform. He then stood up and did a big thank-you bow.

We found the platform where 3 things blew our minds. 1. Pocky in the kiosk. We bought it. 2. The train was there waiting with a red rope across the doors and a guy cleaning it – including the windows. And doing a bloody good job of it. I don’t think I have EVER seen a British train being cleaned. 3. The seats on the train all magically turned around to face the direction of travel. AMAZING.

The cleaning guy stood in the door, waited for an announcement, bowed and took away the rope. We chugged off the island towards Osaka with the sun setting behind us.


Brave Explorers

We booked our flights on January 30th 2011. Departing from London for Osaka on March 28th & leaving Japan on April 11th.

I spent the next weeks feverishly researching our trip, booking ryokans and hostels, buying our rail passes and generally being too excited to sleep, repeatedly muttering “we’re going to Japan!” into my boyfriend’s ear. He wasn’t so keen on that.

Then on March 11th, with 17 days to go, the most powerful known earthquake ever to have hit Japan, and one of the five most powerful earthquakes in the world since modern record-keeping began in 1900 struck off the east coast of central Japan. If that doesn’t sound bad enough, it was officially an “undersea megathrust earthquake” which sounds Bond-villain level of evil. The quake was so mega it shifted the whole island a few metres east and altered the the Earth’s axis by a few inches. The resulting Tsunami reached heights over 40m and travelled as far as 6miles inland.

Due to clever planning and building regulations, the earthquake itself caused surprisingly limited damage (for the biggest quake ever, you know). However, the size of the tsunami was unprecedented and it caused devastating damage across great swathes of the east coast of Japan. Around 20,000 people were killed or remain missing. Entire towns were washed away. It was the greatest disaster to hit Japan since WWII.

As you can imagine, it was a mega bummer for me and my holiday plans.

I spent the first few hours trying to contact my friend in Tokyo to check she and her family were all ok. I then spent the next few days watching NHK non-stop. My heart was broken for Japan. It was worse than any disaster movie I’d seen. The footage was crazy.

Then the nuclear problems started to come to the fore. There was a feeling of distrust between the public, TEPCO, the government and the press (local & international). It seemed no one trusted the energy company and the nature of a “nuclear crisis” resulted in a deeply unsettling sense of fear and uncertainty.

I learned more about nuclear power & radiation in those 17 days than I ever thought I’d know.

My friend in Tokyo relocated to Osaka with her dad. Her mother and sister flew back to Holland. At that stage we kept checking with the Foreign Office to see what their advice was (they advised avoiding Tokyo and the entire quake-affected area). As our flights were to Osaka, we figured we’d still go to Japan, but alter our plans re: Tokyo. My thinking was that Japan needed our tourist dosh and if the south was unaffected then it’d be stupid not to go.

My aunt was freaking out about us going and demanded we take iodine tablets to protect against radiation. She even offered to pay for us to go on a cheap European holiday instead. These texts document her worries & overuse of “omg” & me incorrectly counting the number of days til we were due to fly.

I’d been in touch with my friend who was now in Osaka. As the situation began to slowly stabilise she planned to head back to Tokyo. The Foreign Office was still advising against travel to Tokyo, but as I really wanted to see my friend and Tokyo – we decided that if she thought it was safe enough, we’d go with our original plan to fly to Osaka, and travel to Tokyo the next day.

We’d stocked up on kelp tablets (a natural form of iodine) to reassure our worrying family and prepared to pack for our uniquely timed trip.

If you know me & have spoken to me in the last year you’ll know that I travelled to Japan last year because I talk about it incessantly to anyone who will listen. Some friends of mine are planning to go this year so I thought I’d blog about the whole trip – one post per day of the trip.


If you are planning to visit Japan there are some things to consider.

Inside a shinkansen. So sleek & lovely.

If you want to traverse the country a bit i.e. visit more than one city, then it’s probably worth your while getting a Japan Rail Pass. We bought the 2 week option which was around £360. Shop around different sites from the UK for your pass – the price is the same in Japan but the exchange rate each company offers can vary the price you pay considerably. You can also get area passes for East/West etc.

It’s definitely worth it as you can stroll on to almost any bullet train, and reservations are free. You also get to use local JR lines, which includes lines like the Yamanote line in Tokyo (which is a sort of circle line).

If you’re used to how rubbish public transport is in the UK, then you’ll be DELIGHTED by how brilliant it is in Japan. It’s no exaggeration when they say you can set your watch by the trains. It’s almost like magic. Then you realise it’s actually just efficiency and good infrastructure.

We flew from London and to get the best deals I suggest considering departing and arriving from different airports. We flew with Qatar Airways Gatwick-Doha-Osaka, and Osaka-Doha-Heathrow. If you don’t mind a stopover you can get really reasonable fares. Consider flying to Osaka rather than Tokyo to browse all your options. Using things like Skyscanner & Kayak help in finding the best fares.

Do start your trip off with a meal in a restaurant with a pun for its name

Change your money in the UK. The rate was much better and there are hardly any Bureaux de Change in Japan. You have to change money at the Post Office and the only cash machines you can use an international card in are in Post Offices. Don’t be afraid to have loads of cash on you – the Japanese hardly use cards. They carry loads of cash and it’s super safe.

SUITCASE – if you’re travelling around and staying in ryokans then you’ll want something quite portable. The Japanese tend to travel with teeny suitcases. And if you are like me I advise you to strongly leave LOADS AND LOADS of room in your bags for all the amazing stuff you will buy.

That’s probably enough for post no’1.

2012 Brings The End

The end of the internet being BORING, that is!

I am going to officially launch my website on NEW YEAR’S DAY TWO THOUSAND AND TWELVE.

I’m talking 1.1.12

That’s right, guys.

This hero has been beavering away in the NKamil Website Workshop (it’s spookily similar to the Build-a-Bear Workshop) since the dawn of dial-up, and it’s almost ready to be revealed to you plebs.

Can you handle it? Of course you can, it’s just a website, and you are an extraordinarily capable individual.


Hold on to your brand new Christmas pants (of which I didn’t get any – thanks for nothing, Gran). This stuff’s about to get real.