Monday, December 26, 2011

COSTCO in Kyoto

COSTCO Japan Warehouse has opened in Yawata, Kyoto!
Operation time is 10.00am to 8.00pm daily.

Address: 〒614-8294,5 Kinmeidai Kita, Yawata-Shi, Kyoto.
Phone no:  075-971-3700
     Source: COSTCO Japan

If you're taking public transport, the nearest train station is Matsuiyamate Station. Then take either one of Keihan Bus No.16A , 16C, 30 or 620 to Minoyama Syougakkou (美濃山小学校) bus stop. Expect traffic congestion 1.5 to 2km towards the warehouse due to people queuing up for parking.

Membership costs 4200yen yearly. If you're registered as member, your spouse would get a free membership. Members can bring in children and up to 2 guests into the warehouse.

They do sell Japanese groceries like soy sauce and canned goods but most of their stuff are imported and in American portion sizes. We're talking about fruit juice in containers normally used to bottle cooking oil in Asia. And you have to buy them in 2s! And don't get me started on their pastries. They're delicious of course, but they're huge! Based on the expiration date, they only last for a couple of days. We're staying in Japan under a scholarship so we don't have the luxury of having a family size refrigerator. What we did was we went to COSTCO in the morning. Therefore we could have their bread, pizza and pastries for lunch, tea AND dinner. Or we won't have enough space to store all the food at the end of the day.

They also have non-perishables like toys, clothes, electrical items brought in from America. But I seriously didn't expect they would also sell Swarovski pendants there (costs around 6000yen each). If you can't go to the States, I suppose going to COSTCO Japan is enough. I even overheard some Japanese parents looking at the Disney themed children book collection and complained that they're of no use to them since the books are all in English :p

No plastic bag is given. Large reusable COSTCO grocery bag can be purchased at 158yen. Some people just use cardboard boxes available at the warehouse. And do bring enough cash for your purchase since they only accept cash or American Express credit card.

Front view/entrance of COSTCO Kyoto Yawata Warehouse
Inside the warehouse
Customers queuing at the cashier
The 60yen refillable soft drink is a MUST BUY. Where else can you get this kind of bargain :)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

TOHO Cinema Mama's Club Theater

This just HAD to be shared!

TOHO Cinema has special screenings for parents with babies/toddlers where the kids can join the parents in the cinema. "Oh, I can't do that. What if my baby makes a fuss and cry during the movie? Then other people in the cinema would hush us and scold us for disturbing them..." you say? Well, that's the whole point of this special service. Parents won't have to worry about their kids making noise during the movie because every other people in the cinema would understand. Plus, they have their own noisy kids to worry about :p

TOHO Cinema would normally do the screening on a weekday, and only once for a particular movie. But hey, it's better than nothing right? Here's the link to TOHO Cinema Mama's Club Theater. And here's the schedule for Kyoto's TOHO Cinema Nijo Mama's Club Theater so you can plan ahead.

Now, if only they would provide child care service for the parents to enjoy the movies by themselves... ;p

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Tenugui as decorative wall hangings

I don't really get why traditional Japanese crafts like pottery or kimono costs so much. Honestly, I don't even find them interesting or artistic. However, I loooooove when they merge Japanese art with modern technique or when they draw Japanese patterns on a modern product like those 和風 (wafuu - Japanese style) Disney Japan merchandise.

An example of wafuu Disney merchandise
My current favorite Japanese craft is tenugui. More precisely art tenugui. Tenugui is actually Japanese cotton handkerchief. But its use has evolved to be washcloth, dishcloth, headband, gift wrapper, souvenir and even as decoration.

This Maiko in autumn design is great as a memento of your stay in Japan
Kyoto's famous sites - the Kiyomizu Temple (left) and Toji Temple (right)
This booklet art tenugui has won the 2007 Japanese Good Design Award

I am selling these decorative tenugui here: Beautiful Tenugui Facebook Page
I started the page for Malaysians, hence all the prices are quoted in Ringgit Malaysia. But I can also serve customers from other countries. I've added the International Shop tab at the page and as an introduction, we don't charge for postage.
Do check it out :)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Special night light up at Kiyomizu Temple

Kyoto has hundreds of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines. Excuse my lack of cultural intelligence but personally I think they're all more or less the same in design, landscape, what tourists get to see/do etc. So I make it a point to visit only those that were gazetted as a world heritage site by UNESCO. And at the top of that list is Kiyomizu Temple.

Coming to Kyoto and did not visit Kiyomizu Temple is like going to Mecca and did not visit the Holy Mosque :p The temple is considered one of Japan's national treasure. It was established in year 778, that was even before Kyoto became the capital of Japan .

Visiting the temple during the day is great, but it's even better if you can catch the special night openings. You can check the schedule at their website. We caught the final day for Kiyomizu Temple's 2011 Autumn light up. There were sooooooo many people. The line for tickets goes all the way down, blocking the entrance to the souvenir shops in front of the temple. But as always, the Japanese are very efficient in making sure the queue moves in no time.

There are stairs EVERYWHERE within the temple site since it is located on a hill so baby strollers are not recommended. Strollers are OK to push your baby up the slopes heading towards the entrance but not to bring inside the temple. They do provide a stroller parking area. With the crowd and not enough lighting to see your way, I highly recommend using a baby carrier instead.

View of Kyoto skyline from the temple. On the right is Kyoto Tower.
What's special about autumn in Japan is that you get to see multiple colors of leaves on one tree. They're not just brown... they're red, orange, yellow... nice!
The famous Kiyomizu Stage. Those huge 12-meter high pillars underneath were assembled without using a single nail! Glad I knew that AFTER my visit. There must have been hundreds of people on the stage at the same time that we were on it!
Visiting this pond alone is worth the 400yen you had to pay to get in (200yen for children 6 years and above). The reflection of the red trees and lights and the temple... It was breath taking!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Piccoli Children Library

Piccoli is the children section of Kyoto University of Art and Design library and is located near the front entrance of the university. There's no problem pushing your child in a baby stroller to get there. You can leave the stroller at the library entrance.

Operating Hours
Thursday, Friday, Saturday  10.30am - 6.00pm
Sunday and Public Holiday  10.30am - 5.00pm

Getting there
You can take the City bus No.3, No.5, No.65 or No.204 and get down at Kamihatecho Kyotozokeigeidaimae (right in front of the university).
Nearest train station is Chayama Station on the Eizan Line. Then, a 15 minutes walk from the station to the library.

The library staff are very friendly but I'm not sure whether they can speak English or not. The library dedicated two full book racks to English/Foreign children books and have 17,000 books in total. However, the library has been open since 1978 so expect a lot of old titles in their collection. Members of the public can borrow the library books at no charge. You can borrow a maximum of 5 books within a period of 2 weeks.

Apart from that, the library is very active in hosting children related activities.
  • Book Club: discussing/introducing children picture books (in Japanese), once a month on Thursday, 3.30pm - 4.00pm
  • Children Workshop: making stuff from things found around us, every Saturday 1.30pm - 4.00pm
  • Movie Show: once a month on Sunday or Public Holiday, 10.45am onward
  • Toddlers Club: playing wooden toys and puzzles for children 0-1 year old, twice a month on Friday 10.30am - 12.00pm
  • Computer Projects: learn to design/make things using the computer for elementary school children, reservation needed, every Saturday 11.00am - 11.45am

Their book collection is great but I don't think I'll be bringing my 3 year old toddler there. Not enough entertainment for children that age. Children up to 1.5 years old would be okay. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

Keihan Railway Special Train - Thomas the Tank Engine No.2011

My 3 year old boy looooove Thomas & Friends. Since Thomas Land is a bit too far for a daily trip from Kyoto, we took him for a Thomas-filled day on Keihan Railway instead.

We bought the 1-day Thomas pass from Keihan Demachiyanagi Station which costs 850yen per adult. Children 1 to 6 years old are free, just like the regular train fares for kids. But they gave a special big-sized Thomas ticket for kids as a token. You can get the tickets from the train station's information counter. The attendant at Demachiyanagi Station can speak English. The ticket covers a round trip from Demachiyanagi Station to Hirakatashi Station, as well as unlimited ride on the Katano Line.

Every station along the Katano Line are decorated with pictures of a particular Thomas & Friends character. Starting with Percy at Hirakatashi Station and ended with Thomas at Kisaichi Station. Yes, they made you go all the way for the main character :p But for us it was well worth the trip. Even though the attraction is simply big pictures of the characters on the station walls, it was enough to get my son and a few other Japanese kids with their familes excited. Personally, I see nothing interesting surrounding the stations so you don't really have to get out from the platform area. But some stations do put wall panels of Thomas & Friends outside the ticket gate, as well as remembrance stamp, so it's better to get the 1-day Thomas pass to enjoy those.

The train itself is actually a normal passenger train that goes along the line so regular passengers, not only fans of Thomas, would ride it as well. What makes it special is that the train was heavily decorated with Thomas & Friends characters inside and out! You could also hear voices of the characters played as announcement inside the train. There would only be one or two Thomas decorated train in hour. You can get the special train schedule at Hirakatashi Station. What we did was, we just hop on a regular train and went on to visit the next station first to take pictures and just went along the line until we caught up with the Thomas train.

The train design running on Katano Line is called Type 10000. Another one, the Type 700 runs on the Ootsu Line. It seems that these special Thomas trains are yearly attraction done by Keihan Railway, where they would change the train/station design every year. Here's the link for Thomas the Tank Engine No.2011 on Keihan Railway website. The site is in Japanese only.

One of the most common attraction at Japanese tourist sites is remembrance stamp. Keihan Railway is currently running a Thomas & Friends Stamp Rally at Katano Line, Ootsu Line and the Michigan Paddle wheeler Cruise on Lake Biwa. If you don't wish to join the competition, bring along a notepad cause the stamps are worth collecting.

The whole activity takes about 2 hours. This attraction is highly recommendable for a cheap day outing with kindergarten-aged boys.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Kyoto's Childbirth Financial Support System

*information taken from Sakyo-ku Health Centre in November 2010

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Contraction interval when delivering Merisa

These were noted on the 8th of January 2011.

08.10am        15seconds
08.15am        15seconds
08.22am        22seconds
08.29am        19seconds
08.35am        19seconds
08.42am        32seconds
09.00am        30seconds
09.09am        24seconds
09.27am        35seconds
09.46am        35seconds
10.03am        38seconds
10.13am        21seconds
10.30am        30seconds
10.40am        32seconds
11.13am        30seconds
11.25am        34seconds
11.35am        20seconds
12.05pm        32seconds
12.24pm        42seconds
12.34pm        10seconds
12.42pm        31seconds
01.00pm        14seconds
01.05pm        25seconds
01.55pm        34seconds
02.18pm        19seconds
02.21pm        16seconds
02.36pm        32seconds
02.51pm        24seconds
02.59pm        26seconds
03.28pm        30seconds
03.41pm        24seconds
04.02pm        45seconds
04.25pm        45seconds
04.48pm        43seconds
05.25pm        20seconds
05.50pm        43seconds
06.30pm        35seconds
06.51pm        32seconds
07.21pm        40seconds
07.29pm        39seconds
07.46pm        49seconds
08.03pm        38seconds
08.29pm        45seconds
08.57pm        48seconds
09.12pm        48seconds
09.25pm        36seconds
09.33pm        51seconds
09.44pm        41seconds
09.51pm        30seconds
09.55pm        33seconds
10.00pm        27seconds
10.02pm        30seconds

We were told to only come to the hospital when the contractions are 10 minutes apart and lasted for 30 to 40 seconds.
We went to the hospital at 10.30pm. And Merisa was born at 4am, 9th of January 2011 :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Japanese mattress sizes

We've recently moved into a new apartment and being one with sinus and 花粉症 (かふんしょう, pollen allergies), I insist we sleep on beds rather than on futons on the floor.
Bed/matress/futon sizes in Japan normally comes in 3 sizes:
  • Single (S): 150x210cm
  • Semi double (SD): 170x210cm
  • Double (D): 190x210cm
When you have 2 small children co-bedding with you, it is highly recommendable that you get an SD plus an S size bed/mattress/futon. With the limited space you have in Japanese apartment, this would be the ideal combination instead getting 2 doubles (too big) or 2 singles (not enough room for 4 people)

On another note, the common size for baby futons is 70 x 120 x 6cm and play yard mat is 64 x 96 x 4cm.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Getting free stuff in Japan

When living in a developed country.. or put correctly, a country with huge population... you MUST take advantage of the marketing effort of various companies giving out free samples to potential customers. Apart from the common pocket tissues and clear files distributed in crowded areas, you might want to check out sites like where they compiled information on what's currently being given out for free. Some does require your time to fill out questionnaires or become a member of their community site, but that's such a small matter when they are giving out 2000yen coupon in return.

Another way to get free stuff is buy buying magazines. Japanese women's magazine often give out branded small bags etc. and you're only paying 600yen for it.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ebooks in Japan

Japanese are the best copycats. They would take the basic idea from other people and develop them to a whole new level until they owned the industry all together. Best example would be automobiles. But I am more interested in their new passion for ebooks. My husband bought me an Amazon Kindle last year but looking at the choices of ebooks available now in Japan, my Kindle is almost useless. Kindle can only read books in its format or pdf, while the trend of ebooks now are more interactive and colorful to a point that they are publishing children's picture books in digital format now. Platforms to be used for these ebooks are smartphones,PC and the latest favourite, tablets such as iPad, Galaxy tab etc.

And have you seen this?

It costs less than 3000yen, which I think is very reasonable. You can get them at Yodobashi Camera outlets at the magazine/books section

Japanese habit of writing everything down

One of the things that made living in Japan very troublesome/irritating is that they loooove to record stuff. Every activities must be followed by writing down your feelings about what you did/learned. I guess that's what made them good scientists but seriously, do we really need to keep the record of the exact day and date your child's tooth came out.. for EVERY tooth. The first week after giving birth to Merisa, the nurses made sure I keep records of how many times my child peed and pooped and at exactly what time.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Starbucks Sakura Cream Frappucino

My son loves it so much, he could finish one whole Grande size of it. Then he'd become hyper from all the sugar and can't stop talking :p The barista recommended their Sakura cheesecake as well but I hated it. It tasted like creamed fish.Wekk!