First Impressions in Tokyo

Today I am writing our first real post!

We decided that instead of writing the first few posts together, we would write our own so that we can start filling out our blog faster and give you a reason to visit. Please bear in mind that this is the first time that either of us has done anything like this, so please give us feedback on what you have enjoyed and what you would like to see in the future.

Since getting married, we have tried to travel internationally at least twice a year, which we have been pretty successful at so far (7 trips in 4 years of marriage). In the last year, we have travelled to both Japan and Italy. Because they are fresher in our memory, most of our initial posts will be about these trips. Because I like chronology, I decided to start by writing about our first day in Japan and what you might expect.

 

Travelling Through Time

My wife and I live in British Columbia, Canada, and Vancouver International is the airport that we fly out of for International flights. Fortunately, living on the West Coast means we are a lot closer to Japan than people living on the East Coast. This is also nice since it means that we could get a direct flight to Tokyo’s Narita Airport (which isn’t actually in Tokyo, but more on that later). We left April 5th at 13:25 and landed at 15:15 local time. So after a long 2 hour flight, the first thing that we noticed is the time change. Tokyo is 16 hours ahead of Vancouver so we landed close to the same time we took off, but a day ahead. The time change wasn’t any more difficult to adapt to than travelling to Europe, but it always messed with our minds a bit when we thought about it.

Once we landed, navigating the airport was simple and English was common on the signs. Before long we were at the back of a line waiting to go through customs. We were politely greeted by airport staff, and honestly, I think this airport had the friendliest staff I have ever met at an airport, they actually seemed happy at their jobs. We did not experience any of the stress that we have had before going through customs in some other countries (*cough* Cuba). And suddenly, there we were again, turned loose in a country where we don’t speak the language or know anybody (not entirely true as we met up with my cousin and his wife later).

Ok, so we’re here…

Now that we were free, we had one stop to make after the washrooms. Before leaving Canada, we had booked a personal Wi-Fi device through Ninja Wi-Fi. If you are travelling to Japan, this is probably the easiest way to ensure that you stay connected while you travel the country. There are a number of providers but Ninja was a flawless experience for us and our device kept us connected at times when my cousin’s didn’t. Our connection slowed down a bit when we were in rural areas, but to be honest, I never expected to have any Wi-Fi in those places.

I’m not sure if Ninja has multiple kiosks in the airport, but we were told in our order confirmation to pick up our device in the North Wing of Terminal 1. After just a bit of wandering, we found Ninja Wi-Fi amidst some other Wi-Fi providers at the far end of our terminal. In retrospect, if we had known we would be starting this blog, we would have taken pictures and written down better directions. Next time. But all I can say is the kiosk exists and it wasn’t too difficult to find; we had our device within 20 minutes.

Wait we’re not in Tokyo?

When you land at Narita, you are actually in Narita, how ‘bout that! To get to Tokyo from the airport, we took the train which is easy to find. We had ordered the JR pass while planning our vacation as they need time to physically mail it to your home address before you go to Japan. I highly recommend the JR pass if you want to visit multiple cities, it was actually worth the money. However, because we were in Japan a bit longer than 2 weeks, our options for train passes were not ideal as we had the choice of 2 weeks or 3 weeks. I’m a bit cheap so I opted for the 2 weeks and we just bought our train tickets for the first few days. Even if you have the JR pass, you will need to buy train tickets occasionally when riding trains operated by lines other than JR, but JR is great for travel between cities and even includes some ferries.

JR Pass.jpg

The train station is where we made our first mistake.

When you get down to the train station, it can be a bit overwhelming. This is when I make another recommendation. Don’t visit without getting a Passmo card! This is a little credit card type thing that you pre-load with cash (oh right, bring some cash!) and use to purchase train tickets. But that’s not all, the Passmo card can also be used at some vending machines and at most arcades and pachinko parlors if you are so inclined. However, the greatest benefit of the Passmo card in my opinion is that when buying train tickets at the machine (which does have the option of operating in English btw), you only need to scan your Passmo card as you pass through the gates, and again when leaving your destination. No more navigating screens on the ticket machines and buying tickets at every station! Plus, the Passmo card can be returned for a refund at the end of your visit so there really is no reason not to get one. The Passmo card can be purchased at the machine where you buy train tickets at the station and requires a deposit of 500 yen, which you can get back when returning your card to a ticket office.Passmo

Earlier I mentioned that we made our first mistake, and it certainly wasn’t getting our Passmo’s. We scanned our cards and walked down the stairs to the express line to Tokyo. Once we got down we saw signs saying we needed a ticket on the train and that they will check for them, which they do. So we found a machine at the gate and bought tickets for about 200 yen each. Then we waited for the train which came shortly, and we got on. An employee came to check our tickets and he kindly informed us we bought the wrong tickets. Fortunately, the train employees are also extremely friendly and helpful and he showed us to the ticket counter where we bought our tickets for about 1600 yen each and got back on the train. The train was clean and comfortable, and within an hour, we were scanning our Passmo’s to get out of the station in Tokyo where our cards were charged 1600 yen… So apparently buying a ticket and scanning your Passmo was not right. It wasn’t a huge mistake but we still aren’t sure how we could have avoided it at the time, but that’s why I’m writing this now! When you go through the gate in Narita, buy a ticket at the ticket counter and have them let you through to the train rather than scanning your Passmo, because you do need a ticket. Maybe there is a way to do it with just the Passmo, but it is probably easier to just do this part without it.

We made it!

Once in Tokyo, we used google maps to get directions to our hotel. Google maps told us what platform to be on and at what time in order to get us to Akihabara where we had booked a hotel. We checked in to Hotel MyStays Ochanomizu which I will review another day. We rested for a little bit before meeting up with my cousin and his wife to go for dinner in Akihabara. We found a little sushi restaurant, which I don’t remember the name of, and honestly wouldn’t recommend even if I did. The food wasn’t so bad, but it was expensive and certainly not the best sushi we had on our trip but it met our criteria of being gluten and dairy free. However, the restaurant did have a nice atmosphere and did a great job of reminding us that we weren’t in Canada anymore.

Sushi

After dinner we were all exhausted, and returned to our hotel for the night.

 

Well, this is my first real post. Please let me know if there is anything you would like further information about by using the contact page or email us at randrwander@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

 

-Ried

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