Machida: Little Tokyo

Machida, Japan but I like to call it little Tokyo. It's the shopping hub for our area and boy is it busy. Being only three train stops from us, when ever Haden and I want to get out of the house Machida is where we head.

One of my favorite places to go is the 100 Yen store. It is my all time favorite place to shop here in Japan. Five floors of pure shopping excitement. You can find anything and everything. Since shopping here in Japan is so expensive the 100 Yen store stays within our budget and everything is 100 yen or the equivalent of a dollar back home. Besides that there is a little side street that is filled with restaurants and food stands. Haden and I have made the goal to eat on the economy once a week so when we are in Machida lunch is always on the to-do list. Beef bowls, tempura or noodles there are always plenty to choose from. The hard part is choosing what to eat. Of course we have the obstacle of Japanese kanji so taking the risk and choosing random meals makes it that much more fun. The first time we went to Machida Haden and I discovered that there is a Japanese Walmart. They call it Seiyu but everything inside is Walmart brand. We also discovered a 7 story electronics store. It makes Best Buy look lousy. This place has everything. They even sell quality computer components for those who like to build computers. Its colorful and full gadgets that don't even exist in the states.

There is so much to do and see in Machida that every time we go we discover something new and interesting plus it's fun to walk around and immerse ourselves into the culture.

Trains, Trains & More Trains

Name of our train line

In the United States we rely on cars and trucks to get us from point A to point B. That is everyday living to us but in Japan modes of transportation are completely different. Not only by car or bus but for the majority of Japanese citizens the everyday commute involves one or multiple train rides. That said Haden and I had to reevaluate our mode of transportation and adapt to the Japanese style of travel. For two first timers taking the train would prove to be both challenging as well as an adventure in its self. The only way to really conquer the train riding lifestyle is to completely go for it. I have to admit it I was nervous the first time. Figuring out how to buy a ticket, where to put it in the turnstile and deciphering which train to take can be completely overwhelming for someone who is used to hoping in her Saturn and leaving a trail of dust. As for Haden well he was all about diving into the experience.

We know that our station is Sobudai-Mae, located a short walk from Camp Zama, and that becomes our starting point for all of our traveling. Our first ride would end us in the busy little town of Machida, one of the best shopping areas near us. There is just so much to remember when it comes to taking the train. A big one is knowing which train to get on so that you make it to your final destination. Haden and I have learned that the train you take is dependent on what direction you are traveling. For us to make it to Machida we travel North East, so getting on the right train means you take a train that stops at your destination. The key feature is that each train is named for its final stop. The train we take to Machida is the Shinjuku and for our return trip the train is Hon Atsugi. However we have to be careful when getting on a train because Japan offers multiple trains services that determine how fast you get to a destination and what stops it makes. For instance we take the "Local", which stops at every station on the line but there are trains that are designated as "Express" or "Rapid Express" which only stop at certain larger stations on the line. One thing we keep in mind is that when traveling farther distances the "Express" and "Rapid Express" will shorten our travel time. To give you a little perspective taking the "Local" takes two hours to get to Tokyo but if you take the "Rapid Express" it only takes you 30 minutes.
Map of Odakyu Train Line
There are plenty of rules and courtesies when you are actually on the train. For instance talking on your cellphone is prohibited and you are required to put your phone on silent or manner mode as they call it here. You also can't listen to your music loudly and talking is OK but in what we would call our six inch voice. Other things include giving up your seat to elders or women with small children. One thing that came to a surprise to Haden and I was how quiet the trains are. So quiet in fact people take naps without interruption. And as a shout out to my mother they have some very nice butt warming seats.

The pricing of a ticket depends on how far you're traveling but the type of train has no affect. For example from Sobudai-Mae station to Machida it costs 180 yen one way so 360 yen round trip. This comes out to be about 4 dollars for one person. There are several ways to purchase a ticket. You can either purchase your ticket for the exact amount from the departure station or purchase a cheaper ticket from the departure stations and pay the difference at the arrival station. Since people travel so much on the train system the companies offer train pass cards. For us there are two choices either the Pasmo Card or the Suica Card. Haden and I do quite a bit of traveling so we use the Suica Card for easy payment and faster travel. You generally put yen on the card and it deducts it every time you arrive at your final destination. To use the card its as easy as swiping it against the turnstile scanner and off you go.

Since our first tip on the train system our confidence has strengthened and we find that hoping on a train is just as easy as getting in our car. For us its a very economical way to travel and see Japan. With each trip we learn something new that makes it easier for our next trip and the fact that the trains are always on time it makes it very reliable.

No Place Like Home:Tour of Our TLF

Home is where the heart is and right now that is our TLF at Camp Zama.  Its nothing great but it gives us a place to sleep, relax and cook the occasional meal.  Its no more than a hotel room with a little kitchen but it serves a purpose until we have a house. I thought it would be fun to take you on a tour of our temporary home.

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Hello From Japan

How you order ramen

Well hey everyone and greetings from Japan.  Man, it has been an eventful two weeks, Haden and I moved to a new country and boy is it different from the USA.  Let me start by saying one thing, Japan is CLEAN.  No trash or funky hot garbage smell, just clean.  We both need to work on our Japanese speaking skills, you don't realize how much you need to communicate until you simply can't do it.  This is the start of our little adventure or maybe more accurately BIG ADVENTURE.  We have already experienced a little Japanese culture, number one favorite for me, the food.  Not like anything I have ever had also it's nice to have actual real Japanese food.  Even better is how you order it.  There are these little shops that either serve ramen or rice bowls, when you order you put your yen in little machines, pick out your dish and give the ticket to the cook behind the counter.  Of course since Haden and I don't speak a lick of Japanese or read the characters its always a random selection.  Haden got lucky one day and ordered a beef bowl with kimchi.  I would have to say Haden's experience with it was a good one since it wasn't exactly what he wanted to order.  Number two would have to be the train system.  Riding on the trains is an adventure in it's self.  Sometime you are not sure if you are on the right train or even going in the right direction you just risk it and enjoy the ride. It will be exciting to find out what other simple adventures await for us. Next goal eat sushi.