I just got back from Japan yesterday and am excited to share some fun highlights from our trip! We went to Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Kyoto all in 10 days. I definitely wish we had a bit more time to spend in each place, but I think we got a little glimpse of a lot of different sides of Japan.
Our flight to Narita was about 10 hours and relatively bearable. We flew the Japanese airline, ANA, which is sooo much better compared to American airlines. The flight attendants are nice; you get pillows, blankets, and headphones for free; and my favorite part: the food looks like food and is something you’d actually want to eat! When I flew to Tokyo in 2012 with my parents on United, this was our “breakfast”:
United’s interpretation of “breakfast.” Is that a sausage or a finger?
Compare that to what M and I got on ANA:
Salmon, soba, fruit. That’s what real food looks like. The first few hours of our flight were the most entertaining. I got to watch Mockingjay, Pt 1 and eat my first airplane meal that actually tasted halfway decent.
Two more movies later, I had a headache and my butt started to feel sore from sitting for so long. After one of the bumpiest landings I’ve experienced in awhile, we were in Tokyo! Well, Narita is technically ~50 miles from Tokyo, but close enough… (I learned after this that Haneda is actually closer to Tokyo. Oh well.)
We breezed through immigration and customs and then wandered about looking for the post office where we needed to pick up our mobile wifi rental. Neither M or my Japanese is any good — which is understandable for M since he’s literally never studied Japanese. As for me, I studied Japanese in high school and my mother is Japanese so I always feel bad for my inability to speak and understand. After the fifth time running around the giant terminal in Narita, I finally got up the nerve to ask for directions. This is how it went:
Me: Er, excuse me? Where is this? *points at post office on map”
Woman: Blah blah blah to the right.
Me: uhh ok! Thank you very much!
Turns out I still remember what “right” is in Japanese! Hooray. We got to the post office and I was again flummoxed by the fact that I had no idea what the words for “mobile wifi router” and “pick up” were in Japanese. So I just said “Eigo?” (“English?”) to the postal worker and fortunately he understood and took pity on me and helped get our mifi. Phew! Baby steps…
Japan travel pro-tip #1: Rent a mifi. It is so useful for getting around and looking things up. Also, the internet is so fast in Japan compared to the US. It’s amazing.
We then redeemed our Japan Rail Pass vouchers at the JR ticket office which took another 30 minutes of wandering around and struggling to understand and be understood. By the end of it we were given the proper tickets to get to Shibuya station and I was sweaty and exhausted. We hopped on the Narita Express (NEX) train and got off at Shibuya. I immediately felt like a fish swimming upstream. There were so many people headed towards us, there was practically no way to cut across the crowd without bumping into at least five people at a time and completely stopping the flow of foot traffic. We managed to stumble into the correct metro station and after standing staring at the ticket machines, baffled by the number of buttons and options, we somehow managed to get tickets. We took the metro a couple stops to Yutenji station which was thankfully much more peaceful than Shibuya. After getting off the subway, we started wandering towards our Airbnb.
At this point we had been traveling for about 18 hours straight and were grumpy and exhausted so naturally, there was a flash of lightning and the rumble of thunder right when we got off the train. It started pouring rain when we got good and lost. Fortunately, I somehow managed not to give up completely and even took a photo of the street we were walking on in the rain. There’s something about the street lights at night in Japan that is so magical.
Our Airbnb host Ai was really sweet and offered to show us around and take us out to dinner. We went to Jack pot Oysters which was a tiny hole in the wall that was BYOB and every small table was equipped with a gas grill so you could cook any variety of shellfish. I tried conch for the first time and maybe the last — a bit slimy and bitter for my tastes — in addition to a ton of really fresh oysters, scallops, and clams.
Next up in Japan 2015 Recap: Bento Breakfasts, Shibuya, and Harajuku