Tablet for Travel?

March 20, 2013 · 0 comments

Back when I started travelling in 2009, netbooks were all the rage. Small and portable computers running a full (albeit outdated) OS at a throwaway price made them great for travelling with. But shortly after tablets became more affordable and the netbooks started to die.

It's not too hard to dig out why when tablets like the Xperia™ Tablet do as much as a regular computer does (and more) as well as being easier to operate, faster processing (think start up and shut down times) and generally much nicer screens for watching movies and the like on.

About the only thing tablets lack is a physical keyboard if you have a need to do a lot of typing (i.e. writing a blog), but even then there are optional ones for virtually all the tablet platforms out there. I came across this infographic which shows just how much use tablets got in 2012, it's worth looking at if you don't have a tablet but are considering buying one.

Of course the main driver of using a tablet is communicaiton and internet use. Especially if you are travelling. What better way to hook up to your family at home when you've got something with built in access to the internet (the vast majority of computers need wifi remember). Another big use I get out of my tablet is learning languages. There is no need for a phrase book or awkward unsearchable bi-lingual dictionary when you've got a translation app on something like the Xperia™ Tablet. They also use very little power for reading and their size makes them idea to hold without stressing your eyes like a phone would.

I gave up travelling with a netbook a while ago, frustrated with the screen and lack of power and dated OS. A tablet is certainly a better option these days.

Tablet Sony - Infographic

Xperia™ Tablet

This was a Sponsored Post


It seems almost a lifetime ago now, when I was working in Fukushima in a regular job when mother nature rudely interrupted my course in life and set me in a new direction. Maybe I should have taken advantage of living more because a lot of people, over 15,000 lost their life within close proximity of me on the same day. One day a regular Japanese landscape, with homes, schools, shops, gas stations, and the like. The next: acres of land swept away with the water.

While I briefly saw the damage a year ago, I was being driven around my my (then) girlfriends parents so didn’t really get to take any decent photos or follow my own path. This year however, I retuned in Sendai and rented a car for the day to have a look at the damage and see what progress has been made. Please note, most of these photos were taken off the coast of Miyagi prefecture not Fukushima, which is a bit more north, but still hit just as bad.


The basic tsunami defence system, and an evacuation sign


A boat where a building used to be


This shows the new sea defences and the old swept landcape


Manhole shows previous land level


The old entrance to someones house

tsunami damage of swept houses in japan

Former houses


I guess these were found during the clean up


The only house remaining in acres

tsunami-serious damage-building-photo

Inside another single building which stood up among all others

As you can see, it has mostly been cleaned up now, but no reconstruction can be seen anywhere. New defence barriers are in place, but other than that nothing. The waste has just been moved elsewhere. Japan is in a difficult situation on what to do here. I mean, who would want to live here knowing what happened? The amount of people that died. For a country without much flat land to build on, it’s quite a dilemma. I have no before photos so I can’t directly compare, but it seems like this area will remain abandoned for now.

People argue from 2 perspectives – one is to leave it and keep it as a reminder to how powerful mother nature is. The other is to build over it and show strength in community and the ability to move on. Pretty much everyone wanted it all cleared up though, which is seems like it has been now. Of course there is still a lot of people who no longer have jobs or a place to live which they earnt themselves. I am unaware of the figures of people still living in shelters/halls but I don’t think it is that great now.

Finally I’d like to end this post on a photo of the outside of the building I took a photo from inside above. It is one of the few new things in this area. A sakura (cherry blossom) tree. Because this was one of the few remaining buildings standing in the area, it only seems appropriate to use it as a symbol of hope. There is nothing more Japanese than sakura so it seemed appropriate to plant it next to this building. It hasn’t grown yet, let alone bloomed (cherry blossom only blooms once a year and for a week) but hopefully it will lead this area on to new beginnings.

Hope Sakura tree next to tsunami victim building

Sakura tree being grown next to surviving building


This is a guest post from M Zahid.

It is said that travelling is among the top most stressful experiences, so advance preparation is the best way to avoid some of the stress.
If you have a pet, as soon as you know the dates that you will be away, arrange the kennel or shelter, the longer you leave it the less likely they are to have vacancies. Finding somewhere else that is suitable could be inconvenient and costly.

If you are getting a house sitter, confirm they are available for the dates.

Look up on the internet some of the top travel sites, like www.travelwkly.com to see what there is to do around your destination, consider at least some of the things that you intend to do. For instance, if a long walking tour is planned, you may need to pack a good pair of walking shoes. If you have a particular hobby, check if there is anything to do with your hobby at your destination. For instance, if you are into gardening there may be a flower show near your destination, on one of the days you are there. Check for any special events that may be taking place, often you can buy the tickets on line assuring your admittance.

Whilst abroad, other Banks ATM’s can be expensive to use so check if your Bank or affiliates of your Bank have ATM’s at your destination. ATM charges cost travelers millions of dollars each year. Also check if there is an ATM at your destination airport, getting cash in the local currency at the first opportunity could save in the long term, as often exchange rates vary greatly.

An ATM Machine

An ATM Machine

Let your Bank and any Credit Cards know where and when you are going. Often when these institutions see transactions from abroad, they immediately suspect fraud and block further transactions. Letting them know in advance can avoid embarrassment and expensive long distant phone calls.
Remember that when you arrive at your destination, you will be tired and disoriented, so try and work out what you may do on your first day. It may be relax by the pool, walk on the beach, go to a nearby restaurant, almost anything, but with that planned in advance it will be one less stress on arrival.

About three days before your departure cancel any deliveries to your house for the period that you are away. Newspapers and mail piling up on your doorstep could attract the attention of burglars.

Ensure you have the numbers for the airline and your hotel in both your phone and your baggage.

Finally, mark a packet “Going Home” to put in your baggage. You will be placing in this your house keys, car keys, phone chip, cash for tolls, car park ticket and anything else you think relevant. There are few things worse than arriving at your home airport exhausted, then having to rummage through your baggage for some piece of trivia.


Ginza Used Camera Fair

February 22, 2013 · 0 comments

Ginza camera fair

This means awesome cameras for sale here

In Ginza, one of the most expensive places in Tokyo and more famous for its line up of world famous jewellery stores and high end shopping amongst others, there is an annual used camera fair event in the top floor of the Matsuya building (a department store, almost opposite the Apple store, so it’s easy to find). I luckily found out about it a week before so aligned my dental appointment (also in Ginza – there are a lot of dentists there for some reason) with the opening date the 20th Feb to go along and see what was the big deal all about.

Being a camera geek helped too. If you’re not interested in camera’s then give this one a miss. There isn’t much else to see here. It was like walking around a camera museum. Not much digital in sight, in fact one stall only sold film rolls (which make memory cards look cheap if you haven’t looked at the price tags of them in a while).

Old cameras

Gold and leather camera sir?

The above photo shows a nice example of what is available. What are they? I have no idea. They just look cool. The cheapest one (on the right) is about £800 though. Double that for the middle one, and double again for the one on the left. I think my brand new Olympus OM-D EM-5 cost that a year ago, which had state of the art technology and it can take more than 36 photos at a time too. It’s a huge amount to drop on a 30+ year old camera in my opinion, but I respect those who do.

old video cameras

Some video cameras were there too

Despite Japan having a huge history in optics from companies like I don’t know, Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Minolta, Fujifilm, Sigma, Pentax, Tokina, Hoya, and the more recent electronics companies taking over digital like Sony, Panasonic and even casio, the fair featured a lot of German made glass, from the likes of Leica, Carl Zeiss, Schneider and Rollei amongst all the vintage ware. Of course the Japanese companies were well represented, but not as much as you may expect from a Japanese based event.

In terms of bargains… Well there isn’t too much to speak of unfortunately. Other decent second hand shops (I recommend MAP camera in Shibuya) have similar prices if you can find what you are after. This event is more for the rare bits and pieces. Those sort of things will take up all your money so you’ll need to fund your next adventure with a Halifax Loan in order to make use out of your new purchase, or at least use the money to get to Tokyo to hunt down these items. That’s assuming it’s not going to sit in a air tight glass cabinet for your viewing pleasure :-)

Anyway, the fair ends on the 25th and should return again next year. So if you’re a カメラおたく in Tokyo, then you better get down there quick. Here’s some more shots from the fair to whet your appetite:

Rollei in Japan

Rollei Glass


Camera geek stuff

Moveable extension things


Camera lenses




A Belated Happy New Year

January 8, 2013 · 1 comment

Where on earth did 2012 go? At least the Mayan’s were wrong (apparently). Although I didn’t get much travelling done it was a busy year for me. After a 7 year long gap year (really!), I finished my bachelor of science degree. I got engaged, married and emigrated to Japan, and also had 4 different jobs this year too, as well as attempting to upkeep this blog.

Japanese Dessert Lucky Bag

Japanese Dessert Lucky Bag

So we enter the 13th year of the millenium. It’s time to reflect, re-evaluate and move on with life, as we all do every year. Unfortunately I’ve broken my 3 year long new year celebration on different continents continuity this year, by returning to Asia (Japan) where I brought in the new year 2 years ago. Last year was Europe (London), so at least I’m in a different continent to last year, so that still counts, right?

This year I don’t have a major plan, but I’m going to continue learning Japanese, develop a new website which is not travel focused, and try to travel as much as possible around Japan, although I don’t think I can get to many other countries, there is so much to see in Japan I don’t think this blog’s content will suffer because of my lack of flying this year.

I’ve also got myself a phone (iPhone 5, yay!) which actually works with the internet here in Japan (they make it unbelievably difficult to use your own phone here as a foreigner), and have started using Instagram, you can follow my photos of life in Japan here on there, feel free to follow me too if you’re using the app! I spent my new year holiday with my wife’s family in Sendai and rented a car for a day to look at the tsunami aftermath, I took a few videos too so I’ll do a post on that soon, but here is a sneak peak photo anyway.

Building standing after tsunami

Tsunami Japan

Don’t worry I’m not going to make a habit of posting instagram photos on this blog, just I felt this one suited a teaser shot well.

Here’s to 2013, Kampai!

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