Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tokyo Diary (Day 1)

Wake up was at 6:00 am this morning in order to catch the Express Bus to Incheon Airport. I left just in time to catch the bus. Other sleepy eyed people got on the bus, as the sun was not yet in the sky.

At Incheon Airport I joined a long line of Flight JAL950 passengers. Looking around I found that I was one of about two other westerners in line. Check-in went okay, except I didn't really understand the gals instructions and ran around the area for a little bit before I found my.

Leaving for an International Flight at Incheon airport was a little mind boggling.
  • Step 1: Check in and get your ticket.
  • Step 2: Go through security check point (if you wear boots, take them off... I wore boots)
  • Step 3: Go through an immigration desk (they check your passport and give it a stamp, it seems my visa was already set up for multiple entries in and out of Korea.)
  • Step 4: Find your way to the gate. This meant taking about 3 flights of escalators, a mini-train, and another 2 flights of escalators.
Airports ~

The plane ride itself was enjoyable. This was a huge plane and I got to sit on that bubble part in the front. You know the upstairs part. It felt like our own private cabin. Flight time wasn't very long but they gave us a little meal anyways.

I believe this to be a Bento with rice and eel in it. Accompanying the meal was a snack pack with rice crisps inside. It was satisfying.

Arrival in Japan:
Getting off the plane it was time to go through an exit procedure in the airport. I have to say that the more you travel the more tedious these procedures start to feel.

Exit procedure at Narita airport:

  • Walk through the terminal for a long time, doing so by riding those moving sidewalk things. I rode on about 4 or 5 of these to get to the end. But there were real orchids lining the hallway and this ambient music on the over head, as if Brian Eno himself wrote the score.
  • Enter Immigration: You had to fill out an exit immigration card stating your name and time of stay. You show this to an inspector, who also takes your fingerprints and a picture.
  • Walla! You are now free to get your luggage, but still can't leave yet.
  • After picking up your luggage you have to show another form. This one just to state whether you brought in valuable goods or other such things.
  • Presto! You are on your way~

Luggage pick up terminal:

Ticket purchasing floor to ride the subway.

Sign inside the bathroom. This was above an auto-hand dryer that looked like it could have been a trash can. So I guess some people mistake it for one and put trash in it. Haha... I guess when someone comes to dry their hands the trash blows at them.

Vending machine.
Train Ride to Tokyo:
By now I was getting tired, thirsty and hungry, which are probably the 3 emergency signs of any traveler. So I needed to get on my way to my hotel. But first I had to take the train to Tokyo station. This was an Express train that had nice seats and places for your luggage.

The train ride was something special because the view was a wonder to behold. Narita Airport must be out in the countryside because as you start the journey you see farmland and traditional architectures houses. Alongside these were small patches of bamboo forests. I was in heaven watching the scene. Mostly because it looked just like something out of a Miyazaki film.

But as we approached Tokyo more and more the countryside image faded away into that of a city. Towering apartment complexes and department stores started to shade over the skyline.

Hotel Check-In:
Once I figured out which side of the platform to stand on at Tokyo station, I finally made it to Bakurocho and to my hotel.

My room (sorry no pictures at the moment) is small. In fact it is smaller than my house, which is not that big. Yet it has all one could ask for. And it is located in a decent area, which seems like a quiet place before you get to the bigger parts of Tokyo.
Walk around the neighborhood:
After taking a moment in my hotel room to hook up my laptop to the internet, and refresh myself it was time to go out. At this point I was really hungry and didn't really know what to eat. Also I wanted to get to a LAWSON store to buy the Ghibli museum ticket.

A look down the street where my hotel is located.

Found this place to eat, which had curry and rice dishes. And yes to order you had to use a vending type machine. Put in your money and then press the button of the meal you wanted. Sorry I was too shy to take a picture of it. Thanks Kim for the pointer! I had a curry dinner which was only ¥450. (Came with Miso soup)

Graffiti on the way to a LAWSON.
Kimono store.
Buying the Ghibli Museum Ticket:
Finding the LAWSON store was easy and it was only located 10 minutes walking from my hotel. However using the Loppi machine (only in Japanese) was difficult. Despite the fact that I had a printed guide with me, I got stuck at one point where it asked for a code. What code?

So I got the old man behind the counter to help me out. This guy had a balding head with white hair crowned around the bald spot. I used the little Japanese I know to ask for help. We went to the machine where he proceeded to touch the buttons and work it out. It seems though that he too was new to it. So after a few tries I finally got a printed receipt, which I took to the counter to transform into a real ticket.

Scheduled visit is tomorrow at 12pm! Yippeee! It wasn't so hard...see. haha
The rest:
I was really enjoying walking around my neighborhood and stopped in a convenience store to buy some ramen and crackers, in case I got hungry. At this point I was starting to get some coins in my purse.

But as excited as I was to be there seeing everything my mind and body was feeling quite fatigued. So I headed back to the hotel.

Along the way I couldn't help but reflect on how I still felt like I was in Korea. I know this probably sounds strange, but many aspects of Japan (so far) feel similar to Korea. However it is definitely a duel relationship because there are many differences of course. For one, there are actual sidewalks next to the street. In Korea it is just a huge area where cars can park or motorcycles can drive there. And of course there are the major differences such as the people, language and culture. I will try to write more on these similarities and differences as they become more clear to me.

For the ending of my Day 1 post I would like to show a series of pictures from the view of my hotel window, as the scene turns to dark.


  1. I'm so happy you got your Miyazaki Ticket! I think that will be one of the first things I do as well.

    Take plenty of pictures!(if they allow it)

  2. while visiting the G museum in the Kichijouji area, make shure:
    - to take a stroll through the nearby Inokashira park
    - visit the shopping area north of the station. besides modern department stores, starbucks etc there are a number of small shops/restaurants along narrow walkways - genuinely japanese! you won t see them in many other places.

  3. OH JOY.....your adventure sounds incredible! THANK YOU so much for sharing it all w/us!
    Please save some of those interesting coins for me....especially the ones with hole in the middle!

    Curious Momz asks: Can one request/recv. a "western" type lunch/snack on JAL?

    AND.....did you hear much there re: the inauguration today?
    It's of course making all TV channels into a HISTORY CHANNEL here today!
    Very exciting & moving.
    Can you believe, even your sister Puja called me in tears after his speech?!!


  4. Thanks everyone.
    I read about the area near the museum and will likely take a look around.

    So far I haven't seen much about Obama here, but did so back in Korea. I will keep my eyes and ears out.

    I need to watch it on CNN now via internet so to get the feeling.

    It is certainly amazing and also intriguing to experience while abroad.


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