About Carole Ann Goldsmith

Latest Posts by Carole Ann Goldsmith

Koreastay: Home-Stay Program for Korean Life & Culture Experience

For travelers to Korea wanting to get a first-hand experience of Korean life and culture there is no better way than enjoying a home-stay with a Korean family.  ‘Koreastay’ is a home-stay program certified by Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) which offers international visitors to Korea a special opportunity to experience life with a Korean family.

‘Koreastay’ host families are carefully selected after undergoing strict assessment of such criteria as residential environment, guestroom and house cleanliness, service and convenience.
A home-stay experience allows visitors the chance to experience the authentic Korean way of life including Korean family meals and various traditional customs and cultural activities like family traditions and Korean games etc.

‘Koreastay’ is a great way to start your trip to Korea while immersing yourself in Korean life and culture.  Most host families are located in major cities, close to tourist areas and provide some home cooked meals and various travel information.

Starting from US$30 per night rates vary depending on host and location.  By visiting the ‘Koreastay’ webpage on the official KTO website http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/koreastay you can search information on home-stay accommodation by city or region and the suitability of accommodation, reviews and much more. Make your next visit to Korea a real cultural experience rather than staying in a hotel.  You may be surprised what you can discover by staying at home with a Korean family and how much more fulfilling your journey to Korea can be.

Seoul’s Changing of the Guards

March 27, 2012 by  


5 Great Places to Stay on a Budget in Tokyo

March 27, 2012 by  

Finding budget accommodation in Tokyo is easy if you know how and where it is.
Listed below are some of the places I have stayed at in Tokyo and these range from the very low cost to  convenient and medium cost business hotels.
Tokyo and surrounding areas Great Tokyo web-sites – what to do, transport, attractions and fun in Tokyo.

Tokyo Backpackers Hotel – New Koyo Hotel is an inexpensive hotel for Tokyo Rooms small, but OK, common bathroom – usage set times for men and for women, fun place for young and young at heart). Free wi fi if you have your own equipment,  hotel computers available near kitchen for guest’s use. Single rooms Y 2300 per night (Japanese/Western) Semi Double Rooms are Y4000yen per night (for a total of 2 people ) – price includes tax and service charge.

Check out the other hotels on your walk to the station
There are quite a few cheap hotels nearby on the walk to the station, so go to the area and check them out. You can get some great bargains for Y2,500 – Y3,500 a night around that location. Ask the hotel staff if you can check out the rooms.

Other budget accommodation in the centre of Tokyo

Tokyo Central Youth Hostel (formerly Tokyo International Youth Hostel) - This new youth hostel opened in April 2011 and is located in the center of Tokyo. Only one minute walk from the west exit  of JR Iidabashi Station on the JR Sobu Line. Located on the 18th floor of the building, you get a great view of Tokyo and its sky scrapers. I stayed at this Youth Hostel when it was the Tokyo International Youth Hostel and it was run very professionally like a business hotel. Rooms are dormitory style with bunk beds, sheets included, visitor’s tax added, male/female rooms (not coed) Y 3360.00 (per night, per bed).  Private Room 3 beds, Sheets included 10080.00 JPY (per night, per room)

Supermarket on the first floor of the building and lots of cheap to medium priced restaurants located in the main street  – head out the front of the building, turn left and cross the street at the first traffic lights on your right. Head down the street and look for the coin in the slot restaurants – they are a real bargain.

The Yoyogi YH is in the National Youth Center and is next to Yoyogi Park and Meiji Shrine. All the rooms are single rooms at this YH. Price is Y 3000 per night and Y 600 for non YH members.

Toyoko Inn & Toyoko Inn chain provides comfortable business hotel rooms with en suite bath rooms and located across Japan. Prices are around Y7,400 single – Y9000 double in major cities and around Y5,500 single, $7500 double in country areas. Quiet rooms, very clean and well run, free breakfast, TV, internet connection in room, computers in foyer, very easy to book.  Cleaning done at hotels from 10.00 AM to 3:00 PM . Become member for Y1500 and when you stay 10 nights at any Toyoko Inn, you get one night free, also discounts on first Monday and Sundays if Toyoko Inn member

Toyoko Inn Ikebukuro Kita Guchi No 1. I recommend and have stayed here. Located around ten minute’s walk from Ikebukuro Station in Tokyo and the Narita Express (to and from Narita Airport) leaves from this station. Tell the staff your estimated arrival time, when you make your booking and I suggest that you call from airport to confirm your new arrival time if that differs from what you booked on line. Also there is a great salad shop and supermarket nearby. Cheaper accommodation available in the next street Great location. See map on the above website on how to get to hotel.
Many restaurants in the streets surrounding Ikebukuro Station.

Check out the new Toyoko Inn new hotel openings too for great opening specials:

Three Day JR pass for Tokyo and Kanto Region

December 19, 2011 by  


If you are a tourist in Japan and want to travel in Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto region for only three days, then this may be the best pass for you – particularly if you want to use the Shinkansen (bullet trains).

The JR Kanto Area Pass is new and was launched on December 1 2011 . It is a discounted pass for unlimited rides on JR trains in Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto area.

Valid for three days, the pass is available for rides using reserved seats on ordinary cars on Shinkansen, limited express and other trains.  Visit popular tourist destinations such as Mount Fuji, Izu and Karuizawa with this pass. Check out the link below for more details and where to buy it in Tokyo.

Cost is Y8000 (adults) Y4000 (children) for three days travel. Here’s a link for more information.

Sailing on a Junk on Halong Bay

October 16, 2011 by  


How to Travel Japan on a Budget


For everything you need to know about travelling Japan, see The Japan National Tourist Organisation’s (JNTO’s) website http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/

There is a wealth of information about many places to visit, with details how to travel there, budget and other accommodation, transport and cultural tips. Also check out http://www.youtube.com/visitjapan to see all the famous people and tourists visiting Japan since the earthquake and Tsunami. Please check the map of Japan http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/maps/index.html to see where the cities and tourist attractions are located. Click on the particular city that you are interested in and a summary will appear with a link to detailed page and tourist. For example, click on Hiroshima and then click on Miyajima. Then at the bottom of the Miyajima pop up, page click on Detailed page and information on the tourist attractions at Miyajima will appear as follows: http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/location/regional/hiroshima/miyajima.html

JNTO- Accommodation Search http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/accomodations/This is an excellent site and you can check out budget accommodation , Youth Hostels and Japanese inns, plus more expensive accommmodation.
Budget Accommodation across Japan http://www.seekjapan.jp/budget-accommodation Great site with budget accommodation across Japan.
Japan Youth Hostels http://www.jyh.or.jp/english/
one night  around Y 2,500 – Y4,000 per bed
(share room, bunk beds, tatami mat rooms, singles, doubles, family room – around Y5,000) can be a little noisy at times, most with a curfew time at night,  and country hostels are usually quieter than city ones.

Toyoko Inn chain http://www.toyoko-inn.com/e_hotel/00078/index.html has economical priced hotellocated around Japan. Prices range from Y7,400 single – Y9000 double in Tokyo and around Y5,500 single, $7500 double in country areas. These are comfortable business hotels, very clean and well run with free breakfast, TV, internet connection in room, computers in foyer and very easy to book Toyoko Inn hotels around Japan. Cleaning hotel from 10.00 AM. Become member for Y1500, stay 10 nights and get one night free, early check in, also discounts on first Monday and Sundays for members. Check out their web booking discounts.

Travel – Check out JNTO travel planner and lots of tips on traveling from the airports and around Japan. http://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/arrange/transportation/

Traveling in the Kansai Region – Kansai Pass


Cheap overnight busses http://willerexpress.com/bus/pc/3/top/;jsessionid=47EBAD121565E7A5E4543FAF18A9042F.ap34bus2

Happy Traveling and more tips to come on an E Book on How to travel Japan on a Budget – out soon on Amazon

Budget Travel in Japan’s Kansai Region


Most tourists whom I meet while traveling Japan, have a two or three week Japan Rail Pass (JR Pass) that they use to speed around the country on the Shinkansen, or bullet train, as widely known. The traditional JR Pass, that enables you to travel across Japan on all JR lines (except on the Nozomi Shinkansen) is really handy and economical if you are travelling from say Osaka to Tokyo and then up north to Hokkaido. A day or so there and you are off again on the Shinkansen, to travel back to Osaka, Kyoto and then down to Kyushu. It is really great value if you are travelling long distances every day, as the JR Pass covers consecutive days of travel.

But do tourists really need to start their JR Pass when they fly into Kansai International Airport (KIX) in Osaka and plan to spend a few days in the Kansai region, including Kyoto? No they don’t.

I usually fly into KIX when traveling to Japan and explore the Kansai region for a few days before scooting off to the West or East of Japan. The real secret of traveling on a budget in the Kansai region is to use the Kansai Thru Pass, a special ticket for tourists visiting Japan.    From the Kansai Thru Pass website http://www.surutto.com/conts/ticket/3dayeng/

This Pass excludes JR lines. You can travel ‘from Kyoto to Osaka, Kobe, Mt. Hiei and Himeji. Get on and off the train or bus bound for Wakayama, Nara and Koyasan as you like during the period of validity.http://www.surutto.com/conts/ticket/3dayeng/map.html and find out where and how far you can travel plus on which rail lines and buses you can use the Kansai pass.

There are two types of tickets – Adult: 3day ticket – 5000 yen, Children (Ages 7 to 12) 2day ticket – 2,500 yen and 2day ticket 3,800 yen (Adults) 1,900 yen (Children)

You can buy the ticket at Kansai International Airport KAA Travel Desk (1st Floor / 07:00 – 22:00) and many other places in Kansai as listed here. http://www.surutto.com/conts/ticket/3dayeng/map.html Make sure that you ask the staff who sell you the ticket when the Pass will expire.

For budget accommodation in the Kansai region, check out Seek Japan’s excellent budget accommodation website http://www.seekjapan.jp/budget-accommodation. Also Hotel Chuo Oasis close to the centre of Osaka is a great economical place to stay. See my blog http://japan-on-a-budget.blogspot.com/2010/10/hotel-chuo-oasis-great-place-to-stay.html

So if you are going to spend a few days in Osaka, Kyoto, Osaka, Kobe, Mt. Hiei and Himeji and explore Wakayama, Nara and Koyasan, invest in a Kansai thru pass and get moving on your discoveries. With the Pass, you receive a map that lists all the transport routes where you can travel and a little booklet with complimentary discount promotions that you can use at 350 listed major tourist facilities.

Shiraishi Island – Japan’s Hidden Paradise


Need an escape from your hectic life in the big cities? Shiraishi Island is the answer for complete relaxation and fresh sea air. Located a short ferry ride from Kazaoka in Okayama Prefecture, Shiraishi Island is Japan’s hidden paradise.  Every year when I travel to Japan for a few weeks, I usually spend a week at Shiraishi. As I board the ferry at Kazaoka, I exchange greetings with the ferry captain, who knows me by now – last April was my fifth visit.

Traveling on the ferry, you can slowly feel the accumulated city and work stress leave your body. Within 35 minutes we arrive at the island and I collect the key from the ferry office, for a pre booked room at the Island’s international villas. The ferry office manager’s son calls out ‘konnichi wa and gives me some fresh fish to cook at the villa.  I wander up the 15 minute walk to the villa, well signposted along the way, A couple riding bicycles along the island’s narrow paths, stop to say bon jour or good day. Fred and Sophie are from France and are staying at the Villa for a couple of nights.

The villa is a great place to stay with western and Japanese style rooms overlooking the sea and the neighbour’ vegetable gardens. Also the villa has a full kitchen and after weeks of eating at restaurants while traveling, cooking a meal adds to the island’s stay delight . There is a supermarket about five minutes walk from the villa to buy all of your supplies. Mrs Amano, the caretaker, a local who lives on the island, comes to collect money for the villa stay, in the late afternoon. The price per room, all with a view of the sea, is around $50 for the first night and around $45 for subsequent nights for a single supplement. For couples staying there, the price is Yen 500 less per person. Mrs Amano later brings me brocholli and onions fresh from her garden.

After a cup of tea and a chat with Sophie and Fred who travelled in Nepal and India, I go for a cycle down to the ferry and along the waterfront. Bicycles are available free of charge while staying at the villa.
There are many walks or bicycle rides to take around the island, a stroll down to the beach will take about 5 minutes by foot. A cold beer, freshly made miso soup and yakitori while chatting with Chieko and her family at San-chan, the restaurant and accommodation on the beach, is a good way to pass the afternoon. In May, the beach is a swimmer’s delight. As I plunge in the water and do my 30 laps of the ocean, the locals keep asking me “samui desu ka” – is it cold? They don’t tend to swim until June when summer if official, but this Australian swims whenever she sees water.

Larko the dog with a million yen view
I say konnichi wa to Larko, the light tan dog who lives in style, with his friend the cat, in a waterfront house near to San-chan. On a fine day you can find Larko sunning himself on his veranda and Junko San, his owner who lives in the house next door, comes to have a chat with us.
Great walks on the island
Close to the villa, there is a walk up to the lookout, a steep climb to a 360 degrees view of this magnificent island. This is fantastic to do as the sun sets on the horizon. There is also a walk along the waterfront that leads to a picturesque walking path with cherry blossoms in full spendour in April.  Another great walk is up to the temples, passing houses with multi coloured flower boxes on display and many vegetable gardens, green and luxuriant in the very rich island soil. The temple area is alive with cherry blossoms and azaleas in April and rhododendrons in May. On this last visit, I walked around the temple area with a friend Hiro, who had come to the island for a visit for the day.

You can also visit the neighbouring islands by ferry. Mannabe is well worth a visit, with a very well preserved temple, that serves as a community centre for activities and art displays. There is also a picturesque walk along the waters edge, to the left of the ferry port. Climb the hill to the temple, turn left and climb some more steps to find exercise stations, then the pretty flower garden that overlooks the sea and the island.

The very talented Shiraishi Island’s Mrs Shinohara
In the morning as Sophie, Fred and I are enjoying our breakfast on the outside deck , we see the bonneted head of an elderly Japanese lady, just below the veranda. She introduces herself as Mrs Shinohara and gives us some beautiful paper umbrellas that she has made and we accept gratefully. As she wanders back down to the road that leads down to the beach, she points to her house and indicates that she would like us to visit.

After breakfast, I go to visit Mrs Shinohara, and she tells me she is 75 years of age. She invites me for tea and cake as I sit at her entrance and she shows me how she makes the umbrellas out of newspapers and magazines. Then she points to the characters in traditional dress that she has made for a play. The very talented, Mrs Shinohara also proudly displays the ceramic bowls and vases she has produced and the birds that she made out of paper.

Sailing around the island in style

If you feel adventurous and want to sail around the islands, Amy Chavez, an American and long time resident of Shiraishi, and her Australian partner Paul will take you on a sail. This takes place throughout the year except for July and August when they are busy with the Moo bar on the beach. Amy also takes bookings for accommodation on the Island. For details of the accommodation reservations and the sailing schedule and fee, see below.

Getting to Shiraishi Island –
The cheapest way to get there is to catch the Bus from Osaka directly to Kazaoka, from OCAT, Osaka Central Bus Terminal, Namba, The fare is around $40 one way, the bus departs from Osaka daily at 9.45 and arrives in Kazaoka at 12.15 PM. When you get off the bus, walk straight ahead for three minutes and you will see Kazaoka station. For Japan Rail Pass travellers, catch the Shinkansen to Fukuyama station and then the local train to Kazaoka.

To find the ferry terminal, turn left at the station and on your right walk though the underpass, then turn left and right across the pedestrian crossing and walk straight ahead for 30 seconds. Then turn left and you will see the ferry terminal ahead. There is a ferry to Shiraishi at around 1,20 PM if you catch the bus from Osaka and that ferry cost $8 The daily schedule for the Island’s ferries is provided when you book your accommodation.
Accommodation reservations
Reservations for the International Villa can be made by TEL +81-86-256-2535 FAX +81-86-256-2576 (inside Japan)TEL 086-256-2535 FAX 086-256-2576

Or for email reservations at the Villas, San-chan and the other accommodation places on the island plus all about the sailing trips around the island, just contact Amy Chavez on; http://dollarbooks.tripod.com/moooobar/reservations.html

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