Monday, June 27, 2016

Driving in Japan: Finding Mapcode, Using GPS, Avoiding / Calculating Toll Fee

We survived our first self-drive trip in Japan! So we hope to share with you what we have learnt from this self-drive trip!

When you are doing self-drive trip in Japan, you can use the built-in navigation system / GPS provided by the car rental company, or Google Maps on your smartphone. We used both to make sure that we would not get lost in Japan! (But we still got lost whenever I was behind the wheel... sigh...)

In Singapore, we key in the 6-digit postal code into GPS to get to our destination. In Japan, we can use either telephone number or Mapcode.

How to Find Mapcode マップコード
Mapcode is a navigation system that is location-specific. Why do we need Mapcode? Why can't we just stick to telephone number? Well, imagine that you are going to a cape, there is no telephone number!

In fact, I spent quite some time to do some homework before we set off to Okinawa, because I had to compile a list of Mapcode of the places that we were driving to. So the next question is, how do we find the Mapcode?

Step 1:
Enter the Japanese name of the destination or the address in Japanese. If you only know the English name, search online for the official website or other websites, then copy and paste the Japanese name or address. Click 検索.

Step 2:
When there is more than one search result, choose the correct destination by checking the telephone number / address / location on the map on the right. Click the green icon 地図. Do take down the telephone number just in case the Mapcode does not work on the GPS.

Step 3:
Click "便利ツール" on the top right hand corner, then on the drop-down menu, click the last item "地図 URL".

Step 4:
Here it is, the Mapcode of your destination!

My practice is to compile the list consisting of the name of the place, Mapcode, and telephone number (if any), and I printed 2 hard copies to bring along, and saved 1 soft copy on Google Drive.

We used Mapcode most of the time during our Okinawa trip, and the Mapcode is really accurate!

How to Use GPS in Japanese Rental Car

We got English-language GPS from OTS Rent-a-Car. The type of GPS used by other car rental companies may be different, but they are generally similar in terms of operation. Here is our step-by-step guide on how to use GPS in Japanese rental car.

Step 1:
Click "DEST".

Step 2:
Click "Search by Phone Number"

Or click "down" and "Search by MAPCODE".

Step 3:
Key in telephone number or Mapcode, and click "Done".

Step 4:
Verify the destination marked by +, you can check by looking at the location on the map, or you can check the address if you understand Japanese. Then click "Go here now".

Step 5:
At the bottom left corner, you will see information on the distance, toll fee (if any) and time taken to reach the destination. Click "Start Navigation".

One thing I like about this GPS is that it is naggy! It reminds us to turn left or right 3 times before we make a turn. It alerts us once at about 700 m away, reminds us at about 300 m away, and when we are within 100 m to the turn, it would remind us "Shortly after, turn left / right". Only a blur driver like me would still miss a turn and drive an extra mile!

How to Choose a Route to Avoid Toll Fee

If you feel that our ERP is expensive, you would be shocked to see the toll fee in Japan! We spent 900+ yen (~SGD12) to get from the north to the south of Okinawa which is about 53 km! And it is considered as "cheap" in Japan!

To choose the route avoid toll fee, on Step 5 above, before you press "Start Navigation", choose "5ルート表示", then these 5 options will be shown:
標準 (Standard)
距離優先 (Shortest distance)
主要道路優先 (Using main roads)
有料回避 (Avoid toll fee)
他ルート (Others)

Choose 有料回避 to avoid toll fee. We tried that once, we saved some money, but it took more time to reach our destination, because we drove at 50 km per hour (yes, that's the speed limit at Okinawa) and had to stop at many many traffic lights. So you have to consider the time taken and the amount of money saved.

How to Calculate Toll Fee for Expressways

If you can understand Japanese, you can use Navitime to calculate the toll fee.

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Monday, June 20, 2016

KidsSTOP: Ocean's Buddies

[Media Invite]

It has been a while since the children visited KidsSTOP (read our previous experience here), but the moment the children entered KidsSTOP, they seemed to have known the place inside out!

There is a new exhibit Ocean's Buddies, which is a marine conservation project that aims to educate young children on the marine life and how they can do their part to protect the environment.

The highlight is a visually virtual ocean floor projected onto a giant wall.

During the Marine Conservation activity that takes place daily at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the educator shared with the children about why we should not throw rubbish into the sea. The children then chose the colouring sheet of their choice, and used Pilot FriXon pens to colour. 

Magic happened when the children placed their colouring sheet under this machine!

Their sea creatures came alive! They were transformed into 3-dimensional form and joined the other sea creatures on the wall! Look at Pei Pei's creation indicated by the red arrow!

Oh, so what is so special about the Pilot FriXon pens that the children used? The ink will disappear when it is subjected to heat. So the colouring sheet can be recycled and re-used up to 5 times! This is a great idea to demonstrate how we can recycle and re-use materials!

The wall mural illustrates how a polluted sea traps and suffocates marine life. It aims to educate children that as harmless as littering may seem, the collective damage can cause serious harm to marine life.

The children had a great time at KidsSTOP, where they couldn't stop playing and learning!

Address: 21 Jurong Town Hall Singapore 609433
Operating hours:
Weekdays - 1st session 12 - 3 p.m., 2nd session 4 - 7 p.m.
Weekends - 1st session 10 a.m. - 2 p.m., 2nd session 3 - 7 p.m.
Marine Conservation activity: daily 10 - 10.30 a.m., 4 - 4.30 p.m.
Admission charges: see here for details

Disclaimer: We were invited to KidsSTOP. No monetary compensation was received. All opinions and all photos are mine.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Masak Masak 2016 + Celebrating Radio: Sound from the Past @ National Museum of Singapore

Time flies, it is our third time visiting Masak Masak at National Museum of Singapore! Read our experience in 2014 and 2015, and you can tell why we are determined to be there again! The theme for this year is Baby Block Meets a Meet Friend, and again, the children had great fun!

It never fails to excite the children even before we step into the museum! 

What a pity that it started raining after the children played for a few minutes. But no worries, the interactive exhibit inside the museum Let's Play is interesting too! It is a life-sized and three dimensional Snakes & Ladders and Ludo. Our two little human tokens were happy to run around and play on the slide with the giant dices!

Do you know that we can use bikes to blow balloons and draw pictures?

Our overaged toddlers were amazed by the giant shape sorter that lighted up when they placed the shapes correctly.

What animals do you see?

At Celebrating Radio: Sound from the Past, we had the opportunity to see the old radio, vinyl records and jukebox!

The children were radio DJ of the day at the broadcasting studio.

Look at their design of vinyl record album cover!

We always love to visit museums with interactive activities that cater to children's interest and have educational purposes!

National Museum of Singapore
Address: 93 Stamford Road Singapore 178897
Opening Hours: Daily 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. (last admission at 6.30 p.m.)
Singapore citizens and permanent residents, children of 6 years of age and below (all nationalities) - free
Foreign visitors (adult) - SGD10
Foreign visitors (Concessions for Students & Seniors aged 60 years and above and Persons with Disabilities) - SGD5

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