5 November 2012

V in Japan - Day 2

Day 2 – Narita Airport, K’s House Tokyo and Harajuku

  • Date: October 14
  • Weather: hot and sunny
  • Mood: Trying to keep up appearances, but friggin' tired

Arriving in Narita

Next morning (local time), we landed in Narita.

We went through Immigration (which went quite smoothly considering the enormous line), customs and luggage stuff.

When we walked towards the train area we spotted the JR office and went there to activate our JR passes and book a seat on the Narita Express to Tokyo. We waited in line (less smooth than the previous line), but got our passes activated in the end. We learned how to do this JR-pass thing (Go to the “white-backed ticket” counter at the entry/exit of the station, flash the JR pass and get a friendly “Dôzo” to move along) and went down to the railway.

When arriving on the platform, we immediately went to the first shop we saw to try some local drinks and snacks. Francis tried the Kirin beer, Steven some iced tea (not ice tea, just "iced" tea, as we noticed) and I got some peach drink (not bad). Steven also got some snack that looked like salami but tasted like fish (kind of weird taste).

When the train arrived, we hopped on and took off for Tokyo.

Us checking our first local drinks and snacks. The one on the right is mine.

K's House Tokyo

Once we arrived in Tokyo, we checked our printout of directions to go to our hostel (K’s House Tokyo Oasis). We had to puzzle the correct directions together, because it was formulated quite confusingly. But we got there in the end, by train and subway AND without walking or taking a train in the wrong direction! Hooray! (*Achievement Unlocked – Finding your way in the Tokyo Subway*.)

We checked into the hostel and got a map of the environment from the cleric, marked with all sorts of interesting places (places to eat or drink, stores, banks, landmarks, etc). We looked at the map and decided to go to a local chain of restaurants (Sukiya).

After dropping off our luggage, we walked to the Sukiya store and ordered a beef bowl (which is rice with beef slices and onion on top of it). This was the first time I used chop sticks. It took some time getting used to it, but I finished it in the end! (*Achievement unlocked – Eating with chop sticks*).

Notice the environment map behind my plate of food.

Harajuku Failure

After eating, we already felt quite tired from the trip, but we still decided to "spot freaks and fashionista's" in Harajuku (Harajuku is famous for its fashion, both in the positive as the extreme meaning). We went to the district, but ended up walking through the streets with shops and hardly spotted fashionista's or freaks.

Only afterwards we realized our mistake, due to us being deadly tired. What was the problem? We forgot to check the details in our guide. The freaks apparently don’t gather in the shopping area, but in a nearby park (*facepalm, no achievement this time*).

After checking the Harajuku area for a while, we decided to head back.

Once back at K’s House, Francis went straight to bed and started sleeping like a log (he was sick a few days before the trip and felt incredibly tired due to the trip and medication he still had to take). Steven and I didn't really want to go to bed already, so we chatted for a while with the other guests in the lounge room (an Israeli & French Girl and a Japanese elder man nicknamed Miya-chan).

Here's Steven with Miya-chan.

We told the Israeli girl that the Japanese subway costs a lot. We noticed (even with us being tired) that the subway is owned by 2 different private companies (that are not part of JR) and is thus quite expensive if you use it a lot. She explained that the JR railways go to most places all around Tokyo and you should only use the subways to get from your hotel to the nearest JR station to save your expenses. That was a helpful tip, honestly.

Together with the Israeli girl, we checked out the 7/11 across the street (literally, like 20 meters from the hostel; useful that it was this close by). We checked the shop, got us some instant noodles, payed and afterwards laughed with the cashier that bowed ridiculously low (nearly 90°).

Back at the hostel, we ate the noodles, drank a beer with Miya-chan and went to bed ourselves.

Tips for traveling in Japan

  • The JR pass is one of the cheaper ways to travel through Japan. You can order it from anywhere in the world and you can activate the ticket in the JR office in the airport. With the pass you can travel through most of Japan (safe a few local lines). The passes come in 7-days, 14-days and 21-days.
  • In the railway station, go to the JR office to reserve your place for your desired train (any time, any destination). When going to the train, search for the “white-backed ticket” counter. Sometimes this in a separate office, next to the other check-in counters. When passing, show the JR pass to the person in the office. If all is okay, you'll get a friendly dôzo and you can move on.
  • The subways in Tokyo are owned by different companies. Both which are not part of JR. But since the JR railways runs throughout most local areas of Tokyo, you can keep the subway usage to the minimum (from your hotel/hostel to the nearest JR railway station and back) and make use of your JR pass.
  • If you don't understand Japanese characters, ensure you have an English variant of the Japanese Subway net. Some smaller stations don't mention the English/Romaji names. Just search a detailed one on the net, there are plenty of them.

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