Archive for the ‘Insight’ Category
People ask me a fair bit about going to Japan so I thought I’d whack all the information I know into a post – using my recent snowboarding trip to Hakuba as an example.
Please use these prices as a guide only! Can’t help if things change here and there.
Mobile Phone access
I got two data only SIM cards this year – one for myself and one for my wife. Makes it much easier to communicate if required (Coverage on the mountains is typically pretty good – go with a DoCoMo sim) – Had them delivered directly to my accomodation in Hakuba. They need about 2 days to get it there, so book it prior to leaving. Great for using Google Maps – Using this in Tokyo you can actually select the Public Transport option and it will route you on the Tokyo subway system. Very handy!
No need for voice/sms access as we just used iMessage/Facetime/Skype/etc.
Few things to note if you change SIM on an iPhone – Beware that your iMessage/Facetime account is sometimes activated via your Aussie mobile number. You can go into your “Settings” – “Messages” and change the “You can be Reached by iMessage at:” and “Start New Conversations from:” – I had my Gmail and iCloud accounts so I just selected these as well. The Japanese SIM is data only you cannot get any SMS verification etc – This also stopped me from using WhatsApp as I couldn’t register the phone…it detected a new mobile network, and no way to verify!
If you have roaming on your normal sim card and use a Pocket Wifi – You’d probably get around that problem.
4100yen for 1GB that lasts 30 days. (Sim card)
As of April 2014 there will be a direct flight from Melbourne – which will be awesome!
Don’t forget even though JetStar flights start cheap, they add up when you add all the crap onto them, especially if you are going to be lugging all your board gear up. All my boarding gear for a week inc my usual gadgets, came in at a touch under 20kg. If you take into account the booze and food consumed on the flight (and I went a bit nuts on the flight up) costs can add up – I spent about $100 on food and (mostly) grog.
If you can find a Qantas or Singapore Airlines flight (find a A380 flight, with a couple of hours stopover in Singapore – Arriving at Narita early morning) that would probably be preferred. Then you can spend the day looking around Tokyo and grab the Nagano Shinkansen to Hakuba.
$1300-1600 per person – Make sure you factor in extra weight you might need for your gear. Also don’t forget travel insurance – This year we had some huge snowfalls which closed roads and shutdown airports!
$800-$900 per person if you can find a Jetstar sale flying in the right months..
The past two trips I have jumped on the Hakubus – It connects with Jetstar flights and usually leaves around 830-9PM from Narita Terminal 2. It’s a long bus ride to Hakuba – around 5 hours (with 2 rest stops) – Can be a long day if you have spent the whole day flying already…
Next time I would look at getting into Tokyo earlier in the day and then jumping on a Shinkansen to Nagano and then connecting Bus to Hakuba.
Depending on which Shinkansen you get, it will take around 1:30-2hrs – The bus from Nagano to Hakuba is usually around an hour.
Nagano Snow Shuttle (Hakubus) – 9900yen per person
Nagano/Hakuba Bus – 1500yen per person (or 4500yen for 4 people)
Asama Nagano Shinkansen – 7700yen per person (add 3000yen if you want a reserved seat on a green car)
If you are staying in Hakuba – I recommend staying at Snowlines Lodge. Stephen and Sarasa are awesome hosts and provide great value accommodation in a very decent location. Happo-One is about 15 minutes if you want to walk, or walk 50m out the front door to their very own bus stop…then its only a 2 minute bus ride! There is a Lawson convenience store about 80m down the road, and Echoland is also just a short stroll up the road…Not to mention the liquor store that you have to pass with a massive selection of Sake – and spirits at prices that will shock any Australian…so cheap.
They have a cozy bar that opens at 4PM, excellent breakfasts and spacious rooms. Can’t wait to get back there soon!
500yen tap beers
1000yen bacon/eggs breakfasts
6500-10000yen per night depending on room.
free transfers to/from hakuba happo bus terminal
Nearly all resorts have a coupon/discount ticket that includes a 900yen lunch voucher. You can print these out or your accomodation will be able to give them to you. The Snownavi Website is probably the best one-stop place to get all the discount coupons for all the major Hakuba resorts. There is a whole load of useful info there as well.
5000yen per person – Happo-one lift ticket inc. 900yen lunch (with coupon)
12500yen per person – 3-day Hakuba Valley all resort pass
Hakuba Links/FB Pages/etc
Hakuba Tourism Website – Check out their Essentials Guide
Hakuba Happo 【Official English Page】 白馬八方尾根 – Happo-one FB Page – Has daily updates on conditions, etc
白馬岩岳 Hakuba Iwatake – In Japanese, but you can figure out the snow reports.
Japan-guide.com – There is a WEALTH of info on this website – Be sure to have a good look through!
I used this service last year and it saved me carrying my board bag on the bus/shinkansen/tokyo metro. Give 2-3 days and you can have your board bag delivered direct to the airport for when you depart. We had Snowlines arrange this for us and take care of everything, worked out really well.
This year because of the heavy snowfalls – the roads were closed. I had to get my bag into the bus cargo hold from Hakuba to Nagano (Which was PACKED! Lucky we even got on! – 5 of us) – Once we got to Nagano, it was a quick shuffle to get onto the Shinkansen (We only took up about 5 rows of overhead storage – no one really cared though!). On arrival to Tokyo – getting the board bags around the metro system was a pain in the arse. Hugging the bag, making sure not to whack anyone, going up and down stairs – really gives you a workout. Then getting it to the hotel, and then back to a storage the next day (So we didn’t have to lug it around all day) was just a big pain in the butt.
I stored my board bag at the JR East Baggage Services desk at Tokyo Station near the Maranuchi North entrance. For my smaller bags I just used the lockers right near that entrance within the station.
~2500yen – Takuhaibin/Ta-Q-Bin Courier Service – 165cm Dakine board bag loaded with about 15kg of gear.
300-400yen – Tokyo Station Lockers
500yen – JR East Baggage Services storage. They only operate from 730am to 830PM so not sure if they store overnight.
Tokyo Subway/Narita Express (NeX)
Use the machines! Don’t waste your time lining up at the ticket desks. They all have an “ENGLISH” button on them and you should be able to work out what you need.
To get around the Tokyo subway system – it can be a bit confusing as there are a few different companies – Tokyo Metro, JR East, Toei – I find it much easier to just buy an IC card – Suica or Pasmo – Much like Melbourne’s Myki (Just not slow and shit) – load it up and off you go without having to worry.
Most vending machines and some stores can use these cards too.
To get back to Narita from Tokyo Station – Use the Narita Express (NeX) – They leave leave pretty frequently from this station. Timetables linked below.
Pasmo – 1000 yen – 500yen deposit for card, 500yen for travelling. Top it up at the machines as required.
NeX Ticket – 2740yen per person (Low season is 200yen cheaper – JR East Fares & Charges page for more details)
This is pretty much up to personal preference. I like Happo-One which is the largest one in the Hakuba valley and have also been to Iwatake, Goryu/Hakuba47 (Which are connected at the top..2 for the price of 1) – however there is a huge range to choose from so go explore!
Here’s a list of what you have access to..The furthest out is Cortina which is about a 45 mins bus ride away..Which also apparently gets a bit more snowfall too.
Thats about all I can think about adding for the moment.. Hope you find this useful! Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below. If I think of anything else I will add it as I go.
Here’s some shots from my first VicDrift event. Lots of throwaways as I like the car in each shot to be sharp (most of the time anyway) and at slower shutter speeds it gets a bit spray and pray. A forgiving part of digital I guess. I’m not worried too much about framing each shot, I do try to place the subject in the general quarter of the frame that I’m wanting but typically I’ll just crop it the way I want after.
Full set is here, a few extra details on some images shown below.
Canon 5DmkII | Canon 400mm(ƒ/2.8) | ƒ/5 | ISO 50 | 1/125s
I’ve known Jarrod from JRM Photography for awhile now and he had his beast 400mm 2.8 II out there.
Canon 5DmkII | Canon 400mm(ƒ/2.8) | ƒ/10 | ISO 50 | 1/60s
Gave it a crack and I can see why its the mother of motorsport lenses. Would love to try this lens panning from a further distance. Super sharp shots!
Canon 5DmkII | Canon 24-70mm (ƒ/2.8) | ƒ/9 | ISO 50 | 1/60s
Threw on the 24-70 for a bit of a wider view and catch both cars in frame. Could have probably cropped it a bit better now that I look at it.
Freight Forwarding. A few people have asked me about this and my experiences with it so this post is to go over the in’s and out’s of how I buy stuff and ship it over from the USA.
I use a company called Shipito and it’s so damned easy to use. You sign up for an account there – I haven’t got a Virtual Mailbox yet (I think I will soon though) and just use the Individual Package option. (The difference between them is you pay $8.50 per individual package, or you can pay $10/month or $50/year as a subscription, and only get charged $2.50 per package)
Once you pay them, you get a US postage address. Time to run off and find some things to buy. My example is below.
I bought a few goodies from a US online store called Surf The Earth Snowboards. They had free shipping within the US which is good to look out for. I entered in my US postage address and paid with my credit card for the goods (with this specific shop I had to do verify my CC because my Billing address was in Australia, and Shipping address was USA – Not hard a quick phonecall to my CC company and that was sorted). Once the item arrives at Shipito‘s warehouse you get an email to notify you.
Now the best bit here, is that they TAKE PHOTOS of your package! I didn’t realise this but thought it was pretty cool.
At this stage, you fill in some Customs information (Value, Gift, etc) and pick a shipping method. They have heaps – DHL, TNT, FedEX, USPS – All with the prices there for you and insurance options. Since they have already measured out and weighed the package – the proper costs are all there.
So for my goods, it cost $54.92USD to ship down. (Saving of about $20 bucks over other shipping methods direct to Australia..and that is just shipping! Be sure to read below for total costs saved)
Once the appropriate information has been entered – Your item is ready to be shipped and goes into a queue to be mailed out!
If you have multiple packages (With the virtual mailbox option) you can combine postage as well to save more cash.
Overall, awesome little service that I believe is worth using if you like buying goods from the US. If they have free shipping within the US, even better – as the delivery rates provided are typically cheaper (due to volume discounts) than most stores.
So how much did I save exactly by using this?
Camera gear – Retail for $978AUD. They are $798 USD ($759 AUD)
Accessories I bought retail here for a combined total of $140AUD. They were $94USD ($89 AUD)
Shipping cost me (inc. fees) $63.42USD ($60 AUD)
So if I bought in Australia = $1118 AUD
What it cost me from the US, Shipped = $908 AUD
So $200 bucks saved including the fact I had to pay for shipping+fees. Can’t complain!
My wife has been into the whole body sculpting thing for awhile now and I finally decided to check out a competition, she went earlier in the morning (There to support a competitor) and I decided to head out around lunchtime. Unfortunately only just saw the end of the Men’s comp’s so most of the set is from of the Women categories.
Some very passionate and dedicated individuals at this event and it had a great atmosphere. Congratulations to all the competitors!
Photo wise its a pretty ‘warm’ stage colour temp wise. Had to watch those highlights as all the bronze/tan that the competitors had really blew out at times. I rarely strayed away from ISO800 the 70-200 2.8 IS. Worked with an aperture range of about 3.5 to 5 with a decent shutter speed anywhere from 1/250 to 1/400. Good to freeze this stuff to really show that muscle definition and get that sharpness. Colour temp was brought down a LOT on these shots to make it look a little more natural. Slight adjustments in saturation and vibrance too.
As I was just sitting in the crowd (in the first couple of rows) there’s a few shots with some judges heads in the way – Not much I can do about that, and since these are happy snaps it didn’t bother me that much. There are some tight crops giving some odd sizes that I normally wouldn’t do, but I felt it was important in selected images to isolate the subject.