More from Harajuku Omotesando Super Yosakoi 2018

Both my tech and me overheated, so I ducked into one of my pubs to get out of the ⛅ Here are the pics.

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Apple Pay for London Transit

[](UK Travel Tips: Giffgaff for Cellular and Apple Pay for Transit)

Apple Pay for Transit

The challenge of driving on the opposite side of the road was one thing when we were out on the motorways and around Stratford-Upon-Avon, but driving in London was insane, what with the traffic, squirrely little roads, trying to match Google Maps directions with difficult to find street signs, and more. We were happy to return our rental car right after arriving and planned to use London’s famed public transit system—the London Tube!—for the rest of the trip.

Relying on public transit systems as a tourist is often quite stressful, between the confusion of trying to figure out routes and figuring out the local payment systems and policies. Luckily, both Google Maps and Apple’s Maps did a good job of providing detailed directions that included walking routes when switching from a bus to the Tube, for instance. But payments were still a worry because there are all sorts of variables based on zones, time of day, age, and more.

The advice we’d been given by tech-savvy friends who had been to London recently was to just use Apple Pay. When you do that, TfL’s system tracks your usage throughout the day and charges you the lowest appropriate fare—taking into account daily caps that make the final amounts cheaper than day or week passes. (An alternative would have been to buy one of TfL’s contactless Oyster cards, add money to it, and then get it refunded when we left the country. Our friends did that for their young children, who didn’t have iPhones. Also, we could have used contactless credit cards, which are still rare in the US, if we’d had them.)

The physical process of paying with Apple Pay is brilliant—most of the time. There’s a yellow payment pad on gates in the Tube stations and at the front of buses. You invoke Apple Pay, authenticate, and then touch your device to the pad. (You’re supposed to be able to touch your device to the pad to invoke Apple Pay and then authenticate, but that didn’t work the one time I tried it.) The gates then open, or a light turns green, indicating you can proceed. For the Tube, you have to touch in when you enter the station and touch out when you leave; for buses, you just touch in when you board and don’t need to touch out.

If you want to use Apple Pay for public transit in London, there are a few quirks to keep in mind:

• Use a supported credit card. Our debit cards from our local credit union had no currency conversion fees, so we thought we’d use them with Apple Pay. However, it turned out that US debit cards generally aren’t accepted in the UK, so we had to set Apple Pay to use a different credit card. Make sure you have a few credit cards loaded into Apple Pay to be safe.

• Use the same device each time. To avoid higher fares for seemingly incomplete journeys and to take advantage of the daily capping, you have to touch in and touch out with the same device for all your trips in a day. In other words, settle on your iPhone or your Apple Watch, and don’t switch. We only used our iPhones because I’ve had more trouble in general with Apple Pay payments registering from the Apple Watch. (Although I’m sad that I didn’t try it one day when we had little travel planned.)

• Be patient and try again if necessary. We had a non-trivial number of failures, where Tristan and I would get through the gates, for instance, but the system would reject Tonya’s payment. Some of that was user error, as we all figured out how to use Apple Pay more fluidly, but other failures had no obvious cause. It might have been related to all three of us using the same credit card in too quick succession, but sometimes everything worked as expected. Apart from suffering dirty looks from other commuters who we were blocking, there was no problem with waiting briefly or trying another gate—it always worked in the end.

Regular readers know I enjoy a good contactless payment travel story. While not as frictionless as the Japan system(s), this seems workable for a visit.

Apple Pay & Suica when traveling to Japan

How to Use Suica with Apple Pay when Traveling to Japan – Mason Simon

Suica is one of the main transit payment cards in Japan. It has a cute and fun design and works in lots of places aside from train stations. Apple supports using your Suica via Apple Pay, and has a great support article on how to set that up. Unfortunately, it didn’t work for me.

I live in USA and traveled to Tokyo recently. I used an iPhone X (supported) and followed all the steps in the support article, including setting my device region to Japan. But when I went to add a new card to Apple Pay, I never received the prompt to add a Suica.

After a couple of pleasant calls with Apple support, it sounded like the problem was that I had an Apple Music subscription, which locked my iTunes account to USA. I tried canceling that, but you have to wait for the thing to expire, and my trip would be over by then.

Luckily, there is another way.

(Via Mason Simon)

Read on for the scoop. This is one of the best write-ups I’ve seen & the one I wish was around when I moved here.

This movie about a 1300-year-old family business is the most sublime thing you’ll see today

This movie about a 1300-year-old family business is the most sublime thing you’ll see today:

Built in 718 AD, Hōshi is the second oldest ryokan (hotel or inn) in the world and, with 46 consecutive generations of the same family running it, is hands down the longest running known family business in history. But, after 1300 years of tradition, change is in the air. The Hōshi ryokan, in Komatsu, Japan, is a beautiful space that has a beautiful story, told well, in this short video by filmmaker Fritz Schumann.

(Via Boing Boing)

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The Rise of Veganism in Tokyo – Plus Where to Eat & Shop

I’m not vegan but many of my friends are. Thus …

The Rise of Veganism in Tokyo – Plus Where to Eat & Shop:

Although it has gotten off to a slow start, veganism is finally starting to pick up in Tokyo – could this be the year it makes it into Japan’s mainstream?

The vegetarian and vegan store and restaurant search site Happy Cow now lists more than 300 restaurants and shops in Tokyo as “veg friendly”; there are a number of thriving Tokyo based online and offline vegan communities; and the city plays host to several successful vegan food-focused festivals throughout the year. Documentaries on veganism-related issues can now be watched on Netflix Japan, and recently the word “vegan” has even been uttered a few times on mainstream TV. But given the country’s reputation as a place where healthy diets featuring a lot of vegetables date back centuries, why did it take so long for Japan to catch up with the rest of the world?

Why Veganism Has Been Slow to Catch on in Japan

Up until recently there were not many Japan-specific resources available about veganism and the effects of animal agriculture on humans, animals, and the environment. Many Japanese vegans and vegetarians I have spoken to over the years only realized that cutting out animal products was an option after traveling overseas for work or study abroad programs.

Nadia McKechnie, the organizer of the Tokyo Vegan MeetUp believes that making Japan-specific information accessible is one of the reasons that veganism has grown in Japan over the last few years. After introducing Japanese organizer, Saori Kondo, to the group, membership almost tripled to 6,000-plus members. MeetUp information is now available in both English and Japanese, and there is also always a Japanese and English-speaking representative at events.

Homegrown activists are also starting to take the movement into their own hands and pushing for change by sharing information with those who may not go searching for it themselves. For Animals Japan – founded by husband and wife activist duo Ryuji and Lauren [they prefer to be identified just by their first names] and based in Yokohama – is a bilingual vegan outreach group that shows videos of the reality of animal-based food production in public places (you can often find the group showing footage on laptops and iPads outside Sakuragicho Station), and then engages with passers-by in conversation to encourage them to make more compassionate food choices.

According to Lauren, “Most people seem to have no idea how their food is made. It is a real shock for them [when they see the footage].” Ryuji added that “Japanese people assume everything is clean and orderly” so they do not realize that they are supporting the type of inhumane, unhygienic conditions that are “industry norms” in modern factory farming (which is how the majority of meat, dairy, and eggs are produced in Japan).

How the Japan Vegan Movement is Growing

With interest in veganism growing, the next logical step is for vegan options to expand to match demand. One individual focusing on making vegan options more accessible in Japan is Haruko Kawano of Vege Project, who started by negotiating with her university cafeteria at Kyoto University to offer a vegan lunch option. She explains that if there are more vegan options available, then people are more likely to choose to eat vegan, so she now advocates for vegan options at a number of institutions and restaurants across Japan. Haruko said that sometimes people “don’t care, [and] some laugh at us,” but with awareness of veganism in Japan growing, and the influx of foreign visitors over recent years, it is becoming harder to ignore the demand for vegan options.

To really gain traction, the movement certainly has its challenges – food corporations will not be quick to change their ways, and traditions don’t change easily. Furthermore, Japan has an age-old group mentality that does not encourage people to ask questions or stand up against established norms. However, Japanese activist and corporate relations manager of The Humane League Japan Maho Uehara is positive about the future and the likelihood of veganism gaining a foothold: “Unlike previous generations, these days younger people have more time and the luxury to think about others – and change is in their hands.”

Vegan in Tokyo? Here’s Where to Eat, Shop, and Learn More

Interested in finding out more about veganism, or just looking for places where you can eat vegan meals or buy vegan goods in Tokyo? We’ve got you covered…

Where to Eat

A cozy and eclectic vegan bar in the heart of Nakano. Has an extensive drinks menu (try the White Russian with almond milk!) and homemade comfort food. Also hosts several DJ events each month (check out their social media for further details) and has English-speaking staff.

For HalloGallo’s contact information visit our Concierge listing.

A relaxed izakaya-style space with a great selection of vegan food and wine. A good option in the Shibuya area for dinner with friends. The owner does not speak much English but there is an English menu available.

For Kibiko’s contact information visit our Concierge listing.

Lito Rukka
A reservation-only vegan restaurant with a focus on organic and healthy “bio” meals, just a few stops from Nerima on the Toei Oedo Line. The food is more than worthy of an Instagram post, and almost too beautiful to eat! The owner speaks a little English so reservations can be made in English.

For Lito Rukka’s contact information visit our Concierge listing.

Although not completely vegan, this Thai joint in Shimokitazawa offers vegan options and the owner understands what vegans do and don’t eat. The main meals are deliciously spicy, and the desserts are a must try! (The restaurant also homes a very chilled-out cat.)

For Titchai’s contact information visit our Concierge listing.

Where to Shop

An organic, vegetarian store that is a little out of the way in Saitama, but they also have a wonderful restaurant (with vegan options) which is set among the beautiful Chichibu countryside – it’s well worth a day trip! They also supply their products to supermarkets across Tokyo, such as National Azabu and Nissin, and have an online store.

iHerb Japan
Probably the most popular option for expats. This online store sells vegan and cruelty-free products including food, supplements, personal care products, and more. Use the search option to narrow your search down to vegan items.

Fully vegan online store which sells personal care items, as well as food and ingredients. The website is in Japanese but staff can speak English so feel free to contact them. I still think their cashew cheese is the best vegan cheese option currently available in Japan!

Health store in Shinjuku that sells a variety of natural food and cooking supplies. Although not entirely vegan, they have a great vegan selection, including instant ramen, ice-cream, cheese, and more. They also have a small selection of cruelty-free toiletries and cleaning products.

Where To Learn More

Animal Advocacy Japan
An information page dedicated to sharing Japan-focused animal-related information, such as news stories, articles, petitions, and events in English. Also has links to all of the local groups and charities working on vegan-related issues in Japan.

Kurina’s Cooking
Cookery lessons for groups of three to six people in both English and Japanese. The clientele ranges from vegans to vegan-curious and from middle-aged people to kids. The focus is mainly on Japanese dishes using locally sourced and seasonal ingredients, made in the traditional way.

Vegan Japan
A Facebook community for discussion on all things vegan in Japan, from events and workshops to vegan options at restaurants and vegan finds in supermarkets and conbinis.

(Via Tokyo Weekender)

I admit my need for dropping some weight has me thinking about taking up the “Vegan Before 6” concept again.

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It’s Saint Patrick’s Day?

It’s odd experiencing a foreign “holiday” like St. Patrick’s Day. I’m not Irish, so I consider the current concept of this day as particularly American. Right or wrong, it seems to me this concept is true in many places.

I’ve experienced the day in Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Mexico City, and Brussels. They’re all interesting in their own way.

This is my third SPD in Japan, and I possessed no idea it was coming. Last week I realized I missed Valentine’s Day.

My calendar needs an upgrade.


I thought I’d picked out a sweet spot to camp out at the Japan Brewers Cup 2018 in Yokohama. Turns out it was right in front of where an audience participation magic show will take place.

I found the first lightly populated table as fast as I could before the magic happens.

UPDATE: The sad news was that they are very talented acrobats not at all interested in audience participation beyond wonder. I should have known better.