2015 Trip to Japan : Day 1

My short trip to Japan this May 2015 was all thanks to my mum getting an award that she’ll have to received in Japan. So she pulled my dad and me along. There had been issues about whether my brother is going or not but in the end, nope.

So I started finding out all the different rates different airlines had for going to Japan and ANA turns out to be the cheapest. ARGH. ANA. It costed me 2 tries before someone answered and I checked if the plane had reclining seats. She said yes. I fist-plumped. This time, ANA will be different!

So I’m all done with plane tickets. Now for hotels. Hmm. I don’t know about you but I find searching for a hotel room big enough to hold 3 persons at 2 months prior is a very difficult task. And the rates are through the roof.

So I tried Airbnb. No harm right? Easily, I got an apartment at Yoyogi that’s only about 3 mins walking distance from the station at about $687 for 5D4N. Now, about that, I always mentally times 2 the walking timing as that’s usually how long I take. The house looked good and very clean in the pictures so I had a good feeling.

After all that’s done, I need to start planning my itinerary. And it’s getting increasingly difficult as my parents kept on adding stuff in. First they said they wanna go to Mount Fuji. Okay… I can arrange that. That’ll take a day… Yokohama will take a day… My mum’s business will take half a day…

Then all of a sudden they said they wanted to try a crab meal. Okay.. Not that bad, I can still arranged that. Then they said Yakiniku. Fine. Then they said they want to try strawberry picking. WHAT? I scrambled to arrange and rearrange and again and again as stuff kept on being added in.

And all that had to change again after we’ve decided to meet up with Auntie Von’s family for dinner on the first day.

It’s through a tough battle that I finally am able to confirmed everything. Phew.

Day 1 : Singapore to Narita (12th May)

We checked in at 3am with our brother driving us to the airport and roam around a bit before we boarded the plane.

Scenary
I rarely take any pictures during flight but here you go.

About the reclining seats? That’s a lie. It’s still reclining forward instead of backwards. That’s it. I’m swearing off this airline.

We had a very shaky and bumpy landing which I guess was due to strong winds. My mum’s colleague flight was unable to land in Narita due to weather and can only land in Hokkaido, forcing her to take a train back to Tokyo in order for her to be in time for the meeting. We were very blessed in that we were able land safely.

Customs was a torture as always, with their snaking queue. I got questioned about the address about where we were staying by the officer and I had to explained with my bumbling Japanese about Airbnb.

The ending : Something like a rental house.
Now you know. If you wrote a real address on your immigration slip, just answer ” Rental house” if asked in Japan.

After that, I rushed over to the JR Tickets office as I had seen snaking queues on my previous trip and I would very much like to avoid that. Amazingly, there was hardly a crowd.

Tip : Please head over there if you want to get your JR Railway pass (but first buy them online or in your own country and exchanged them here) or your 3-Day Kanto Pass (buy-on-the-spot is available) which we were getting.

Approached by a staff, I said we wanted to get the Kanto Pass and she asked for our passport. Showed all 3 of them and she wrote something on a slip before giving it to us and guide us to the queue.

Info : If you are exchanging your JR Railway pass, you’re required to fill in a form before queuing up.

As there was only 1 person in the queue, we soon got our turn.

Kanto Pass
Our Kanto Passes.

Please do not remove the tickets pasted as that will rendered it useless. We set the activation date on the 14th May and proceed to the Keisei Skyliner counter to get tickets to Nippori.

Tip : Sorry about the missing pictures but here’s how the counter looks like : Here.
There are 2 ways of getting to the city from Narita : N’EX (Narita’s Express) and Keisei Skyliner. The train you want to use depends on where you want to go and also the price. So do some research or use Hyperdia.

I had used N’EX the previous time so I’m quite excited to be on the Skyliner.

Tip : There will be 2 kinds of train stopping so do not mixed the trains up. One of them is the normal train which take a longer time.

Keisei skyliner
Keisei Skyliner – Took it from the web.

If you’ve realised, I’m quite poor at taking pictures. As in I hardly take relevant pictures.

Inner
Inside.

Mum with tickets
Mum with tickets.

It was a short 1hr+ ride before we reached Nippori. We shopped a bit looking for food, Onigiris and Warabi-mochi, as we were hungry before transferring to Yamanote Line to get to Yoyogi.

Ken, the one who rented the apartment to us, will be meeting us at Yoyogi’s station before bringing us to the apartment. We reached about 4.30pm and I safely identified Ken… Okay, it’s more like he found us but we were the only ones with luggage so it’s really not all that hard.

It’s a plus that he can walk us to the apartment as Auntie Von, who also used Airbnb, had to figure her way over to the apartment she rented. We researched the way via Google maps Street View when she was over at my house which helps a lot according to her.

The walk to the apartment yield a couple of surprises.
1. There are a lot of restaurants that lined the way and a couple of them are Yakiniku resturant! I am kinda regretting my reservation I did days prior.
2. It was really a 3mins walk.

They had 2 elevators, one of which goes up to 7th floor and another starts from the 8th floor onwards. Our apartment is on the 8th floor. I only noticed it on our 2nd day when we entered the wrong lift.

And when he opened the door and showed us the room, we were really happy to find that it was exactly how the pictures were, clean and spacious. He then guides us through all the dos and dont’s and all that before leaving. This apartment is ours for the next 4 days!

Genkan
The Genkan.

Entryway
What you’ll see standing from the Genkan.

Toliet
The door on the left hand side of the previous picture is this.

Bathroom
A very spacious bathroom, don’t you think?

Inner part of the bathroom
Inner part of the bathroom.

Nope, none of us used the bathtub. But this is the place where we dried our clothes. There’s a control panel which you can set to dryer mode for 4 ~ 6 hrs, depending on the amount of clothes. We often washes our clothes at night and let it dry overnight, resulting in a very little amount of clothes that need washing when we returned to Singapore.

Living room
Living room, entered through the right from the Genkan.

Sofa bed
It’s a sofa bed where I slept. Argh. Not a very comfortable bed if I must say..

Kitchen
The tiny kitchen that faced the sofa.

Room
A room next to the sofa where my parents slept.

Pocket wi-fi was provided but uncharged so we plug it in before heading out. We were going to meet Auntie Von at Shinjuku where she was staying for dinner. They picked すしざんまい, a Sushi restaurant and send us a link that had picture directions so it was rather easy find. It was only after that I found out that this is a chain and thus was everywhere. Really. I saw one of these at every single place I went.

In the directions, there was a line ” In front of Godzilla ” which puzzled me. Godzilla? Turns out, there was really one.

Can you spot it?
Spot it?

No?

How about now?
How about now?

Mum’s colleague was staying at this hotel.

We spotted the shop and Matthew came out to get us. We then had our dinner together. After dinner, we wanted to walk around but it started drizzling. It was also then I went to Taito Arcade and wanted to UFO a Sogeking figurine. Spend ¥3000 and got nothing. The staff working here was the worst I had even seen and they allowed nothing. They can’t moved the position for you nor allowed you to take one of the boxes away when it was all the norm at all the other arcade I had been to.

It also marked the only time I stepped into an Arcade this entire trip.

We then parted ways with Auntie Von and went our way as it started raining heavily. After a quick look around, we went back to get much need rest.

And that’s Day 1!

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Trip to Japan : Day 1

So after my review on the the ANA Planes, it's time to get started on what follows after.

Trip to Japan : The beginning

It begins on a Monday, in my house. I have to say, I was very successful in curbing my excitement. I woke up, cleaned up and immediately dive into the internet, slurping up my breakfast as I do so.

After the initial 3 hours of watching mindless Japan variety shows, my friends started to get excited through Line.

" STOP IT. If I get excited now, I will most likely unable to last till midnight!! "

That earned some laughter. But it got me to climbed up from my chair and started to check if I did get everything I need into my luggage. After which I checked my mail which says ANA had auto-checked me in. So all I need to do now is to endure the few hours till midnight.

It gets easier as time goes by. I showered. Rechecked my luggage. Eat. Watch TV. Eat. Rechecked my luggage. Yes, it's like groundhog day within a few hours.

But then KK arrived at my doorstep with her luggage. I ninja jumped. IT'S FINALLY HERE. THE TIME HAS COME. (Which doesn't sound good if you happen to be in a horror / thriller film.)

We groundhog day again to checked our luggage together before settling in to watch 2 variety shows before my dad arrives at the doorstep to whisked us off to the airport. Can't help but sing and be sarcastic on the way over because I am bouncing with excitement. Met up with BP in the airport. Everything then flew by. We quickly got into the line to check our luggage in and received our air tickets in about less then 15 minutes (thanks to the auto-check in ANA did). We then got our white cards to fill in on the plane and we are set!

We slide through the customs in a breeze with the machines and our thumbprints, waved last goodbye to my parents and started to walk around. I have to say, Changi Airport is really the best. It's 11pm and everything is open (trust me, not every airport have opening hours as long as Changi Airport).

Since most of us had our dinner early, we decided to something to eat (yes, again). And then started to arranged our stuff and took out all documents needed. Stuff like passport and air tickets.

BP & KK, no I'm not in this. Who else do you think is taking the picture?
Most of us have color coded items by coincidence so it's easy to know who's whose. Then the announcement started and we started moving. The funny thing is, even though we are in Singapore, the announcement is entirely in Japanese. Good thing we understand Japanese but what about the others who don't? Huge gap of logic there to fix it up people.

The rest is mostly in this post.

After we arrived in the Narita (NARITA!!), we just followed the crowd through a long hallway with random turns here and there and boom, reached the customs with a snake-like queue. Well, let's jump in! We easily spend 1 – 2 hours in that queue and luckily for us, we have everything ready with the white card filled in.

Here's how the customs in Japan goes :
-There's a person at the end of the queue to check if you have all of your items so get them all ready.
(Passport, White Card (Disembarkation/Embarkation Card), Visa if needed, your hand-held luggage)
-There's a few counters in which the person will tell you which is that you are to go to.
– Then you join this tiny queue of about 3 and once it's your turn, hand your passport, filled white card over to the person inside the counter.
– He / She will then ask you to look (abit to the left where the TV screen is) at the camera on top where it proceeds to take your mug shot.
– He will then staple and stamp somethings in your passport and you're ready to go!

I got through first, then KK and lastly BP. We then proceed to get our luggage and proceed to exit. At the exit, there will be another queue where police/customs officers will be checking your white card, passport and in some cases, your luggage as well (especially for people who came alone to Japan carrying a huge luggage in which they will unpack everything).

I went into a little trouble as I forgot to write down the name of my hotel but once I told him where, he jolt it down and let me go, despite the huge luggage. I figured he knows that I'm in a pack of 3 with my friends instead of traveling alone. Or that I seemed completely harmless. So out we go and all the way down to B2 to get our Suica + NEX' combo card.

BP has a Suica so she is only getting the NEX tickets which proved to be a wrong choice. You see, the combo cost ¥3500 in which the NEX ticket itself cost ¥3500. (This combo will be discontinued from April 1st which we are very lucky since we arrive at 25th March.) So if you get the combo, there's another ¥1500 worth of value inside the Suica which makes it more worthwhile.

Here's the suica card + all of our NEX tickets. The story : This picture is taken outside a toilet. Charming.
So since we have some time before the train departs, we went to Lawson to try to get the 7-fast pass as well as the One Piece show tickets (all within USJ). Here's when we reached into another wall of.. Japanese.

I asked the station staff if they know where Lawson is in English and she didn't understand. So I simply used the word "Lawson?". No can do. I tried about 3 times before my friend took over. " Lawson はどこですか? " "AH! Lawson! "

What the heck? Ain't it Lawson as well? Where exactly is the difference? There's no difference whatsoever in the pronunciation!

Moving on from the hiccup, we went to Lawson (convenience store, kinda like 7-11) and got some drinks, some onigiri before attacking the ticket-buying machine. It was a tough battle and we had to call for help from the staff to find out that we are better at it then her. Turns out the problem is that we are looking for something that is already sold out. So we got the 4 fast pass for USJ and leave it at that.

After the 6 hours+ flight, we are feeling a little peckish so we went into the foodcourt (which turns out to be opposite of Lawson) and got some Soba. BP took a non-alcoholic beer cause of our pressuring. " Beer? Now? First thing in the morning? " "Fine, I'll get the non-alcoholic one then. ". There's not much difference in taste from the real deal though.

Then we took a walk outside.


Our plane! I think….


Yes, we are lugging our luggage everywhere. KK's the blue one, mine's the triangle patterned one.


Look at the hair, it's really windy out there. And it's cold cold wind. Hence the jacket struggling.

NEX – Time to board!

We went back down to basement 2.


The subway.


Here's the train info.


Matching to make sure we won't end up in who-know-where. And look! Assigned seats! No jostling needed.


And it pulls nicely into the station.


Noticed the 'do not enter' yellow tape at the entry? Because the cleaning crew's inside, making it nice and comfy for you.

Here's another thing, I have no idea why but I always get all the tourists while I'm waiting for the trains regardless of my huge luggage. Always. They would come up and ask in Japanese if the trains is going OOO and I would answer that it is. In which they would then turn back to their group and repeat my answer in languages I would perfectly understand. Not poking that balloon though. It's nice to see people take the time to learn Japanese instead of expecting people to understand them. And why spoil their experience, right?

Once the cleaning crew is done with the train, they would step out and line in front. And when everybody is ready, they would then bow before leaving. That's when you can enter and take your seats. In terms of non-assigned seats, it's best to line up in front to get the seats you want, otherwise, you won't even be left with any or random seats here and there.

These kind of airport trains, they always have a space (the white part before the windows till the door) for you to place your luggage. There's not much space however, so if you missed out, you would have to squeeze in your seats with your luggage. But the seats are wide enough I believe.


Here's how it looks like inside. The seats are also turnable so you can turn them around to face each other.


Like this! BP took this picture as we turn and face her. Me and KK.

It was took when the train is already moving for a while. All of us were so tired due to the plane's sucky seats as you can see from KK's face. Though I am reading my mag for now, we all took a nice nap on the train. You cannot believe how comfy the seats were! It really recharged us for the rest of the day.

There's a board with all the information.


Close up, if anyone's interested. We're delayed though.


And it does comes in different languages.


Drinks from Lawson with my ticket. Notice the hole? A conductor will stop by to ask for it so don't misplace it.
The conductor will bow before leaving the compartment and also after entering as well.
This reminds me, please hold on to your tickets as it's costly to have to buy another one if you lost yours. The thing to note is that, after inserting your ticket into the machine to enter the subway, it will most likely spit it out on the other side so do remember to get it back as the conductor will come during the train ride to punch a hole in it and you would need it to get out as well. (Conductor only on Shinkansen Trains, not normal subway.)

The view outside. All Japanese…
All of us slept most of the way so there's not much to talk about. We got off at Shinjuku Station, which is huge by the way and started to try to figure out how to head to our hotel.

Figuring our way… Right outside the Shinjuku station.
The hotel we are staying at is Hotel Washington Shinjuku. I would recommend to get another hotel if possible. Because the station and the hotel is really far and the underpass is a little complex to figure out. Plus the route that goes to our hotel close at… 9 ~ 10pm I think. But they gave us a non-smoking room even if we forgot to indicate it when we booked it online. Most likely cause I was making a fuss… Sorry.

We finally got here with a lot of help from BP's friend who's waiting for her there as they are meeting up for dinner sans the rest of us. We checked in and then proceed to see what our room looks like.


Entry Way…


KK and I pushed our beds together because we are scaredy cats. And sorry for the blurriness.. I think I only took 1 shot..

The funny thing is, once we step into the room, even BP's friend exclaimed at how small it is even to him being a Japanese. It's really not bigger on the inside. The space/floor you see in the picture from the bed to the edge of the photo is exactly the space we have, I just didn't take the wall in together.

There's a tiny space for you to place your luggage (In front of the last bed in the last picture).


Toilet… Even smaller..


Found a better quality picture! KK, sitting on my bed.

BP left with her friend for dinner so we, KK and me, took the time to slowly empty our luggage and rest before heading to explore Shinjuku. We didn't do much anyway but we did tick off Yoshinoya from our list of ' Fast Food to try in japan '. It's totally different from what we have here. It's all counter seats and a cup of tea is served right after you seat down. After ordering, the food will arrive in just a short while and the taste is so much better. You also pay after you finished your meal. Sometimes, you have to call the waiter over to inform them that you're leaving. So much trust.

After that, we took a walk around and it finally hit us that we are in JAPAN!!

Food In Japan :


Sorry for the empty cup but I took it after I drunk it all. It's Strawberry juice and it's delicious! A tad expensive for it's size though.


KK ordered flower tea (that's not a lychee inside!) but it taste fruity and slightly sour, very nice.

Shopping malls :

A typical mall… only covered in Japanese.

If you set a budget daily for your trip in Japan, do spend it. This is our 1st day and due to us not really daring to spend the day's budget, we missed out a lot of things that we wanted but can never find again.

That's it for part 1!