Quick Takes – February 14th, 2019

Hello everyone, welcome to Quick Takes, your weekly news summary for everything about Japan travel.

  • Queen Ashinoko reigns over Hakone lake: Lake Ashinoko in Hakone is well known for its scenery, and the pirate themed cruise ships. Within the current fleet of three ships, the oldest one, Vasa, started service since 1991. It’s going to retire, and its successor was launched on the fourth of this month. Queen Ashinoko will replace Vasa by April 2019.
  • [Off the beaten track] Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Garden: Tokyo, while not as old as the other capitals of the world, is bursting with history just the same. After all, it had been the headquarter city of the Tokugawa Shogunate since the 17th Century. Thus, you can always find historical buildings and gardens everywhere. One of them is the Kyu-Iwasaki-tei Garden. Built by Iwasaki Hisaya, one of the sons of Mitsubishi’s founder, Iwasaki Yatarō, it used to be the house of the Iwasaki family. It boasts a mix of British architect designed Western style house, traditional Japanese house, and a Billards House in the form of a Swiss Chalet. This article had a detailed tour of the grounds, which is quite magnificent. It should be a nice change of pace to visit, an escape from the hustle and bustle of the ultra-modern style of Tokyo.
  • Mobile device charger on a vending machine?: Nowadays, with mobile devices being prevalent, there’s always a need for a quick charge for your phone or tablet. To help with this need, vending machine provider Dydo is testing a phone charger on their vending machines, for free (for now). Since February 8th, Dydo vending machines at ten locations in Tokyo had the chargers mounted. It can deliver a 5V quick charge to one phone for 5 minutes at a time. During the test period, charging will be free, though no info at the moment for how much a charge session will cost in the future.
  • Hankyu Railway updates their tourist-oriented Express train: Hankyu had announced this week of an update to their “Specially equip train” Kyo-train, which runs from Umeda in Osaka to Kawaramachi in Kyoto. The original train is already quite lavishly furnished, and the new train will have further updates to the decor to “please the senses”. And the new Kyo-train will continue to be an express service that does not charge extras. I had ridden on the current Kyo-train on November last year, and it was a quite pleasant ride, highly recommend. The new train should keep its high standards when it starts service by March 23rd.
  • A tour of the luxurious Twilight Express Mizukaze: Luxury rail travel is catching on in Japan, and Twilight Express Mizukaze is one of the best around. With a price tag from 500K yen up to 1.2 million yen per head (around USD4500-10K) for a round trip around the San’in-Sanyo route, it is not for everyone. That said, JR West had hosted a guided tour for media earlier this month. In this report of the tour, you can feast on the photos of the luxurious cabins and onboard facilities… and maybe start saving for it? 😛

That’s it for this week! And a heads-up, the second installment of the Momiji trip report should be available within this week. Also coming up, a special on ticket reservation sites for JR West. See you next week!