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Yoyogi Park is a huge and lively park in Tokyo. It is free to enter, so you get all kinds of people there.
It is close to Harajuku station, so you can see the famous Japanese kids who where gothic clothes, 'cosply' people who base their fashion on Japanese animation characters and the famous rockabillies (Japanese rock and roll dancers with Elvis quiffs). A lot of aspiring musicians perform at the side of the park as well.
It is best to visit the park on weekends as this is when the fashion kids are away from school.
The atmosphere in the park used to be a lot better 5 years ago, but now it is full of tourists. As such, the fashion kids have become shy and have moved to other areas of Tokyo.
If you are not familiar with Tokyo, I recommend exploring the crowded Harajuku area first, move to the tranquil Meiji Shrine and then go to Yoyogi Park for a picnic.
Shinjuku Gyoen is one of the largest parks in Tokyo and, in my opinion, the best. It used to have links with the Japanese royal family but it is now open to the public with an admission charge of 200 yen.
The garden has three styles: English Landscape, French formal and Japanese classical.
The English landscape garden looks somewhat like Greenwich Park in London and is popular with families having picnics during spring and autumn. It does get quite crowded as it is the first area that you come to as you enter the main entrance gate. It has a nice view of Tokyo Tower. The French formal part also gets crowded.
My recommendation is to venture further into the Japanese classical section. The garden fuses old (bonsai trees and a traditional Japanese lake) with modern (the stunning views of the Shinjuku skyscrapers). This area is less crowded than the other parts and the most peaceful.
The place is packed in spring when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. I recommend visiting the park during this time as the atmosphere is truly magical. The skies are filled with the faint pink of the cherry blossoms whilst the ground is filled with locals eating sushi from their bento boxes.
The park is huge at 3.5 km, so you could easily spend a day exporing the various parts. You can get there by getting off at Shinjuku-gyoemmae Station and it is about 5 mins on foot from here.
I said to a colleague at work the other day that my life is utter nonsense. My parents worked hard all of their lives so that I could get a good education and get a good job. I'm killing myself in my good job to pay for my kids' education so that they can get good jobs to pay for their kids' education. And so the wheel has come full circle. My colleague suggested I read "Rich Dad, Poor Dad".
I did and I was astounded. It turns out people have already realised that this way of living is nonsense and they've chosen a better course. The phrase that stood out for me was something along the lines of: "Why try to climb the ladder? Why not own the ladder?"
This book gives you the basics of finances, stuff that we don't learn in school. It offers some good food for thought. My only criticisms are that it doesn't go into enough detail about how we can accumulate money-generating assets. Some of the right-wing views also shocked me, but maybe I am too soft.
An excellent buy. The only problem I have now is that I want to jump off the ladder I'm on to try and own another ladder somewhere else.
This is the best airline I've flown with. The staff are polite, the food is good and gadgets on the plane actually work!
The first time I flew with them, we were asked to move because a pregnant woman want our seats with more leg space. The air host was very polite about it and we had no problems. The next thing we know, he comes back to us with two glasses of champagne to thank us for being so kind. That is called value-added customer service and the other airlines should take note.
The seats are comfortable and, unlike Virgin, all of the entertainment systems seemed to be working. The food was surprisingly delicious.
The service is fantastic from the check-in desk at the airport, to the air hosts and hostesses who say goodbye to you when you leave the plane.
If only all airlines could be like this.
If you want to stand out from the crowd and be different, then don't go to TM Lewin.
Some of the designs of the shirts are striking and they do stand out. The problem is if that you're in an office and five other people are wearing the same loud shirt as you, you'd look a bit silly. This is the reality. TM Lewin is a paradoxical victim of its own success: it tries to be different, but yet it is so popular that everyone buys the shirts and looks the same.
The quality of the shirts used to be better and it has gone down over the years.
If you have a small neck like me, you'll struggle to find a shirt your size. Where the neck is OK, the shirt may be too baggy and you will have excess baggage at the rear.
The shirts are too expensive for what they are. You're much better off waiting for the sales and going to the high-end suit and shirt shops. The prices are the same as a normal-priced TM Lewin shirt and in my opinion, the quality is much better.
Ede & Ravenscroft is London's oldest tailor and robe maker, founded in 1689. They have three shops in London and the other shops are located in Oxford, Edinburgh and Cambridge.
I bought a suit there 10 years ago and it is still in perfect condition. Even today, people comment on how good the cut is. I also have three shirts that I bought from there and again, they are of amazing quality.
I find a lot of the higher-end suit shops in London somewhat snobbish, but the service in Ede & Ravenscroft for me has always been spectacular. They take an interest in what is best for you and they really do go out of their way to find something that will, excuse the pun, suit you.
The suits are expensive, but if you buy one, it will last. You can buy a cheap suit somewhere else, but you will probably have to replace it after a few years. The shirts in the sales are very reasonably-priced.
My advice is to buy a fairly conservative suit from Ede & Ravenscroft that will not go out of fashion. It will be with you for many years to come.
If you have a small child and you don't want to spend hours walking through a crowded high street, then one part of Lakeside is perfect for you.
There is a great part of Lakeside that has self-standing shops. It has a large Toys R Us near to a mammoth-sized Mothercare. The car parks are usually busy but you can always get a spot. There is also a good Habitat and a European furniture shop in the same area called IVLA and this has a stylish restaurant. The food isn't amazing, but it's good for a quick meal. Ikea is very close too.
We are not such big fans of the shopping mall though, which is on the other side. I can't really say why. It's just not us and the queues for the parking are sometimes ridiculous.
We much prefer to drive a few more miles down the road and go to Bluewater. Bluewater is crowded, but the queues are nothing compared to the Lakeside mall.
Kyoto is of course a must for all tourists visiting Japan because of the history and sheer volume of beautiful places to visit. But be warned: it is a typical modern Japanese concrete city with nice things in it and it can be a nightmare if you go peak season.
The train station looks like something out of Star Wars and you look at the skyline and see a fusion of old beautiful with modern teaming concrete. I suppose the contrast works well once you are in a peaceful traditional Japanese garden sipping green tea.
The gold temple, silver temple and Philosophers' Walk are excellent. Gion is great to see the geisha, but foreigners have been warned to respect them - I think there were a few problems with foreign males touching their expensive kimonos.
I much prefer Nara which is very close by. This is everyone's typical image of traditional Japan: gorgeous countryside with fantastic temples. The pace is much slower here and they even have deer roaming the streets.
I am sick and tired of seeing brainless heroines in films. Are there any leading ladies for whom women can aspire towards these days?
It seems that most films follow this formula of having a stupid lead character who can't even walk properly in heels whose answer to eternal happiness is to find a man. Maybe part of the psychology behind these films is to make us feel like we are better than these stupid people. But of course we're not. We're wasting our hard-earned money to go and see this dribble.
Is this what women are like these days? Am I right in thinking that most, if not all, of these characters are created by men?
I don't see why we should put up with such nonsense. It's a shame that there are few films that reflect the reality: women are hard working, intelligent and have a brain. Please can someone make a film that shows women in a good light?
This is my favourite airport in the UK because it is so efficient. It is designed for busy business people who do not have a lot of time to waste, so you never have endless queues to go through the check-in counter or security checks.
The restaurants and shops are sufficient, but you will not be hanging around the departure lounge area for long if your flight is on time. There is an EAT in the main entrance area and a decent restaurant in the departure lounge.
The staff are surprisingly friendly for an airport.
We used to live close to the airport, so we regularly used the parking at the airport. It was fantastic and not that expensive. You hop off the plane and you car is about a 2 minute walk from the entrance. None of this nonsense of taking a packed bus to a car park miles away.
All of this efficiency does come at a premium, but it is worth it.
We absolutely hate going here, but you can find some bargains if you have the patience to look.
There are two main problems: the staff and the over-piling of stock.
The staff do not care about their jobs and it's as though they're doing you a favour if you ask them to get something for you. They are rude and aggressive.
The stores themselves are a complete mess. It's impossible to find what you are looking for because there is just too much stuff and then you have to ask one of the staff members who then gets annoyed because you asked them to do their job. The aisles are a nightmare and you certainly cannot push a pushchair through most of them.
The changing rooms are difficult to find and they're always locked. This means that you have to ask one of the staff members who gets annoyed with you again because you have disturbed them yet again.
Sometimes I can't blame the staff as they're usually trying to stop people stealing things.
Can you see the problem? The business model is based on something where you need excellent customer service. But it's not there.
You can get some cheap things, but we've lost the patience to look for them, as most of their staff seemed to have done.
This is a story about a couple who lived in a busy place where their only choice of supermarkets comprised a Marks & Spencer food hall in a railway station, a Tesco Express and a Waitrose. Needless to say, the couple were always short of money.
They had to go to Waitrose for their weekly shopping. They loved the Waitrose own-brand food and the quality of the fruit and veg was always great.
However, this poor couple became even poorer.
They used to weep when they saw the prices of things like Heinz baked beans or Campbell's soup. They were a lot more expensive than at Asda or Morrisons. But why so expensive? The prestige of shopping at Waitrose? Was it to cover the ground rent for the shop?
Don't get me wrong, Waitrose is great if you can afford it. But for those who can't, like we (the poor couple) were, I suggest you buy the fruit and veg and maybe a few own-brand items at Waitrose and then go to a cheaper supermarket for brand-named tinned items etc.
I bought this for the gym. I was fed up with carrying around massive players when I was jogging on the machine and I didn't want to mess around looking for songs. With this I just press play and run. Simple.
The main difference between this model and the classic version is that you can't see the tunes you want to play. You press play and the tunes you download will be played on a loop. It's not good for someone who likes to pick their tunes, but it's not designed for these people. It's designed for someone who wants a light player and is perfect for someone who does sports.
I used to have the first ever iPod, but that packed in. I loved it, but I found that I kept listening to the same tracks in the same order. This is why the shuffle is great for me as I just press play and that's it. I listen to the same stuff that I listened to before but I don't have the excessive weight in my pocket.
Very happy with this purchase.
John Lewis is streets ahead of other department stores. Why? Because they're efficient.
We have ordered lots of items from them using their free delivery service and they've always arrived on time. The quality of the items is exceptional too.
The things are expensive, but they last. We usually wait for the sales and buy things on-line if we are making a big purchase.
We did have a problem once and the staff were excellent at solving it. We had a baptism list, but unfortunately one of the items was out of stock. They said it would take a few weeks for them to deliver the gift to us. I said that we did not have that time as we were moving. They refunded our friend who ordered the gift. To my surprise, I received an email a few weeks later apologising for the situation and offering to send me the gift at my new address. They did all of this at their own expense.
This is why they beat their competitors. We'd always go back to them because they add value to their service.
Sing and sign is an excellent way for your baby to interact with others and also to learn the art of communication through hand genstures and songs.
We had to leave our classes after one term because we moved out of the area. We were really sad when this happened as our daughter loved the classes. We still sing some of the songs to her now with the gestures and she does remember a few.
They also do bookings for birthday parties where the singing teacher can come to your house to conduct a party there for your child and friends. We wanted to do this too as you receive a Jessy the cat as a gift. Jessy was one of the characters used for the songs.
We really miss the teacher who was always enthusiastic an a fantastic singer. She really made the atmosphere for the children.
We really miss this.