Day 1 - we arrived at Narita Airport Tokyo, but we had to “wait just half an hour” (anyone who has seen the recent 30 Rock episode will get this reference) because the Singapore Airline A380 we were on could not navigate the ice on the airport runway and did not have enough power to pull itself to a gate. So there we were, just waiting anxiously to step foot in Tokyo! And no – it wasn’t really 30min.
we were in there for a good 30min!
Finally our plane was pulled and we stepped foot into Narita Airport. For a major airport in a city that never sleeps like Tokyo, it felt quite small. Maybe we were just in a small section of it, I dunno.
AL had his first experience with Japanese toilets and had to learn the hard way that to flush a toilet, you needed to wave your hand in front of the sensor. We all lol-ed at his experience, knowing all too well that we all would have to come in contact with some high tech Japanese toilets in the very near future.
Once we cleared immigration and collected our luggage, we set off to do some errands that will prepare us for our trip - we all had to exchange our Japan Railway (JR) Passes, AL and I had to pick up our local Softbank SIM card, while MZ and SK had to withdraw money for them to use this trip.
All that done, we made use of our JR passes to book a seat on the Narita Express which would take up on an express train ride into the heart of Tokyo, where our hotel is located.
We caught the Narita express, soon learning that the express trains and Shinkansens in Japan is just like a low budget airline but more comfortable - you have carriages of food + drinks which you can buy from at same prices you get normally, bigger seats, more leg room as well as a cup holder + table to eat. This shall be a good trip judging by the train comfort since we have a lot of train rides to come.
Off the Narita Express, we had to book all the shinkansens we were going to take - this ensured we got a seat in these shinkansens as well as reserved seating so that we all would be sitting down together as opposed to with randoms.
Once that was all done, we had to catch a Tokyo loop line train to Shinjuku where our hotel was located. Once we got to Shinjuku, we had to walk towards the hotel, feeling the coldness of Japan streets for the first time, sorta. It turned out that our hotel was about a 15min walk from Shinjuku – we had to lug our luggage to our hotel. Some of us (*cough *cough SK) decided NOT to bring anything and only used up 7kg of 20kg allowance – and it was a gold decision since we had to lug our luggage for quite sometime. Maybe I should pack lighter next time.
On the way we encountered the first of many (SO VERY MANY) vending machines in Japan. Mark my words.
Once we got to the hotel and successfully checked in for the first time in our trip – we realized it was a tick past lunch time and that was why we were so hungry. We decided to troll the streets of Shinjuku for our first meal in Japan – and we found the area of Shinjuku where there was quite a bit of food. We finally decided to settle in this shop that sold things by weight (200g, 300g, 400g, 500g).
I initially thought that they were selling steak – but then the prices were hovering about $10 for 400g so I had a bad feeling it wasn’t steak. But the adventure side of us decided “yep, we need to eat things that we had no idea what it was”. SO we walked in and then found out that the weights referred to how much udon you wanted. It was a those udons where you get a bowl of udon without soup, together with a bowl of hot soup where you dip in the udon into. Mmm yum!! I think that was a good and brave(ish) decision for our first meal in Tokyo!
After lunch we decided to venture to the Electrical town of Tokyo at Akihabara!
Such a wonderful place – it was full of bright lights and shops that sold anything related to electrical stuff. Sooo fancy! There were a lot of shops with those claw machines where u pay ¥100-500 to get a chance to grab a prize and win. Some of us tried it, and yes, we did all fail. After walking from end to end at Akihabara, we decided to finally have dinner – where we chose a busy street at Akihabara and this little Japanese place which served udon ramen and sukiyaki – it was a perfect hot dinner for a chilly night in Tokyo!
After dinner – we decided to venture back towards Shinjuku where our hotel was – and ran into a ¥100 store! Win! We all realized we could slowly do our souvenir shopping from the start of the tour, well some of us did! I manage to nab some green tea and an egg slicer (and a bunch of other stuff too!) for ¥100 each!
To cap off our first night in Tokyo – someone suggested that we have drinks at a nearby bar – which turned out to be a bar that also sold yam chips.
It was an extraordinary night – one of us was quite tired from all the lack of sleep and flying and just finishing clerkship 2 days ago that said person got quite grumpy and the first night ended in an odd vibe. But not to worry! We are due for the best sushi in Tokyo at the Tokyo fish markets tomorrow!