Showing posts with label shijo kawaramachi. Show all posts
Showing posts with label shijo kawaramachi. Show all posts

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

The search for new spectacles

A week ago, I dropped my spectacles while sightseeing on my bicycle.
The signboard I saw along the streets before I lost my spectacles -_-
I was cycling on the Kyoto streets one Saturday. My spirits were high and the weather was great. I passed this huge signboard that says "Your good times are just beginning" and I truly believed that only good things would happen on that day. 

And then it started to pour.

I put on my new raincoat from the 100 Yen shop and kept cycling, spirits undampened. Cycling in the rain in a raincoat (I had not worn one since I was a child) was to me a very novel experience. So I was really enjoying it.  As the raindrops on my spectacles hindered my vision,  I removed them for safety reasons. Having nowhere else to put them, I placed them in my bicycle basket.  That was the worst decision I made that day.

I realised that my spectacles were gone after about 20 minutes of cycling. I immediately retraced my route, half expecting to see them lying in the middle of the road as the wheels of a truck ran over them.  Twice, I retraced the route but there was no trace of them.

After that hapless day, I embarked on a week-long operation to search for new spectacles.  When I entered the shops to enquire about the prices, I was often asked about the whereabouts of my old spectacles.

Now, there are 2 Japanese verbs for "drop", depending on whether someone drops the object or the object drops by itself.   In my case, the spectacles dropped from my bicycle without me realising.  But in my broken Japanese, I somehow managed to make all the shop assistants think that I dropped my spectacles and broke the lens while cycling.  They were all very sympathetic.  I was exasperated, more from the fact that I had made little improvement in Japanese though, rather than from having lost my spectacles.

Price range
On the right, a JINS outlet in OPA, a shopping mall at Shijo Kawaramachi.
A second outlet can be found in the Daimaru nearby.

Anyway, I checked with a few people and gathered that a pair of spectacles cost about 10000 Yen (SGD 160).  Prices for the spectacles frame usually start from 5000 Yen and you pay about 5000 Yen more for the lens.  However, I guess I was still considered lucky because it was the summer sale! With the summer sale, I could get a pair of spectacles at half the price!

Recommended shop for spectacles

Upon the recommendation from a friend, I checked out JINS, a shop selling really trendy and affordable spectacles. There I got a new pair of spectacles, complete with lens at 3990 Yen (about SGD 64).  The "standard operating procedure" for buying spectacles at JINS goes like this :
    A wide selection of colourful light-weight plastic frames at JINS.
    You can also find metal frames here.
    You choose the spectacles you like and bring it to the counter.
  2. Next, it is the eye check.  You will be asked to wait for your turn at the seating area that flanked both sides of the counter.  During the eye check, I was asked if I could read Japanese. I was then asked to read Japanese alphabets from a chart.  I believe a different chart will be used for people who do not speak Japanese.
  3. After the eye check is done, you make payment at the counter. During that time, you will be asked to choose the colour of the spectacle case that you like. I chose fuchsia. Other colours include brown, white, turquoise, gold and silver etc.
  4. After payment, you will be asked to wait at the seating area for your spectacles. I waited about 15 minutes.
  5. And after getting your spectacles, the staff will make sure they fit nicely on your ears and nose before packing them into the case.  A warranty card is included in the spectacle case.
My new blue plastic spectacles.
I was really happy with the service and the prices offered by JINS.  It was a pleasant surprise to be able to get my new spectacles on the spot too.  I think the prices of spectacles in Japan are comparable to and perhaps even cheaper than in Singapore, especially during the summer sale.
However, if you are looking for Japan-made frames, I am not sure if you may be able to find it in JINS though.  I believe most of their spectacles are not made here. 
Well, I sure hope that my good times are really beginning with these new spectacles!

Getting around in Kyoto

Transport in Japan is expensive.The standard cost of a bus ride on the Kyoto city bus is 220 Yen (SGD 3.50). The subway costs about the same, starting from 210 Yen.  I met 2 Singaporeans visiting Kyoto through a Taiwanese school mate and they had an interesting perspective.  "In order not to feel the pinch, just pretend that you were riding in a taxi all the time".

When I arrived in Kyoto, I was determined to find an apartment near my school so that I didn't have to incur unnecessary transport costs. I could of course invest in a bicycle like everyone else living here but I had no confidence riding a bicycle then.

And so my most important criterion to my housing agent was to find a place within 20 minutes' walk from my school so that I could walk to school everyday.  It was fortunate that they found me an apartment 700m from school, about 10 minutes' walk. 

To save on transport costs, I started to walk to places I wanted to go instead of getting on public transport.  My threshold for what was considered "far" was raised.  Any place within a hour of walking was considered "near" by my new standard.
A bicycle shop near my university.

When I started to get engaged in volunteer work, I began to realise that transport costs were depleting my budget.  The venues for those activities were too far for walking.  The transport costs on an activity day would cost me more than 1000 Yen (SGD 16).  

At first, I bought 1-day bus passes for unlimited travelling on the Kyoto city bus. That costs 500 Yen each. However, the transport costs for a month of volunteering activities were still quite high. Eventually, I started to seriously consider a bicycle.

Getting a bicycle

There are many shops in Kyoto selling used bicycles.  The shops in areas where there are universities tend to sell their used bicycles at higher prices, from around 6000 Yen (SGD 100). There are some cheap  department stores like "Kohnan" which sell new bicycles from about 8000 Yen.  The internet, notably has some pretty good offers for new foldable bicycles costing slightly more than 9000 Yen.

A friend also pointed me to the message boards at the Kyoto City International Foundation to check out the items for sale. There, I found someone who was willing to sell his bicycle for 1000 Yen but you must first justify to him why he should sell his bicycle to you.

I also heard about school mates who managed to get cheap second-hand bicycles at only around 3000 Yen.  So I started to ask around in school with the hope of buying an even cheaper used bicycle from overseas students who were returning home.  Eventually, I found someone who offered to give me her bicycle as she was returning to America.

Soon after I got a bicycle, my quality of life improved tremendously. I no longer had to walk the distance back from the supermarkets with the heavy groceries. I was also able to explore more places in Kyoto, which also meant I could seek out places where the bargains were.

Used bicycles in tip-top condition for sale at Toji flea market.
Recently, I went to a flea market at Toji Temple, cycling almost 1.5 hours to get there.  I discovered bicycles going for less than 3000 Yen at the flea market.

My neighbour quipped that I should get another bicycle since  it is so cheap. It was very tempting indeed, considering that they all came in many different bright colours and were in tip-top condition. I would have loved to get the one in fuchsia to match my wallet and laptop.

A bicycle crossing right beside a zebra crossing for pedestrians.
The bicycle is indeed the best and cheapest way to travel around Kyoto.  Kyoto streets are easy to navigate due to the grid layout of the city.  The walking paths are usually shared between the pedestrians and cyclists.  On some sidewalks, a path for bicycles is clearly marked out. 

The only grouse most people have is probably the challenge of finding parking for bicycles.  There are many people who park illegally in parks or sidewalks.  They would then risk getting their bicycles removed and being slapped with a 2300 Yen handling fee. Taking the advice from friends, I usually pretend to be a patron of a pachinko outlet or a restaurant and park my bicycle there for free, like everyone else.

With a bicycle, anywhere within 1.5 hours of cycling could be considered "near" by my new standard. As temperature soared in summer, cycling could be pretty torturous.  I also found out that discounted bus and train tickets could be purchased in downtown Kyoto. So on days when I did not feel like cycling, I would use such tickets.  

A shop along Shijo Kawaramachi selling discounted train and bus tickets. On the right is a diagram showing the price of the discounted Hankyu Railway tickets for use on normal days, non-peak hours and on weekends.
The 1-day bus pass, and the discounted
 tickets for off-peak travel on the Kyoto City Bus.
Discounted tickets for public transport

The discounted bus tickets have to be bought in bulk so it is really for people living in Kyoto. You pay 2000 Yen for 13 tickets which means that each ticket costs only about 150 Yen instead of 220 Yen.  However, the catch is you can only travel between non-peak hours from 10am to 4pm, and you cannot travel on Sundays.  If you do not want such restrictions, you can pay 5000 Yen for 26 tickets and each ticket will cost 190 Yen.

The shops selling such tickets also sells JR train passes and sightseeing passes for tourists. They even sell movie tickets at lower prices.  I went to Osaka on the private Hankyu Railway at only 300 Yen on a Sunday, using the discounted Hankyu tickets. 

If you are coming to Kyoto, you know that there are always cheaper options available for travelling around here.