Japan – Day 1

After 11 days in Taiwan, we awoke early to grab a taxi and head for the airport to catch our flights to Japan.  Two of us were on ANA (All Nippon Airways / Air Japan), our host from Taiwan was flying on China Air, and our host’s childhood friend had booked on…Vanilla Air.  Seriously, that’s a real airline.

The flight attendants on our ANA flight were very helpful and polite.  Their English was also very good, which helped us a lot.  Surprisingly, ANA served a meal for our ❤ hour flight.  When I used to fly to Mexico from Detroit on a longer flight I never got a meal but then I was flying via an American airline so I guess that’s to be expected.


I chose the fish and everything was pretty good, considering it was airline food. 🙂

When we arrived at Narita, there was literally no immigration line (win!) and our bags arrived on the carousel fairly quickly so we were able to get started much sooner than we thought.  We had a list of things to accomplish before leaving the airport including:

  • Check 1 suitcase into baggage storage since it was filled with souvenirs (read: pineapple cakes and tea for our family and friends back home) so we wouldn’t have to lug it around Japan
  • Find an guidebook to Tokyo in English since we inadvertently left ours at home
  • Exchange our Japan Rail vouchers for the Japan Rail passes
  • Get SUICA cards for the Tokyo metro
  • Find an ATM to get some cash

We were able to accomplish all of these things in under an hour (yes!) and also had time to find a Starbucks and grab a coffee before boarding the Narita Express train to Shibuya.  We plumped for the Green passes (i.e. first class) since our 6’4″ German friend could use the additional room (not that I mind for myself 😉 so we were able to sit in the plush leather chairs on the train.


It was a nice way to travel to our stop at Shibuya Station.  We decided to stay in apartment rentals (Air BnB) during this trip and were given directions to the first apartment we would be staying in and the directions were spot on.  It took us about 5 minutes to get from the station to the apartment, which wasn’t bad at all.  We’re fortunate that the place is centrally located and takes us no more than 5-10 minutes to get to the station and to the Shibuya scramble crossing.

The apartment itself is small but as expected it uses space well.  As my German companion remarked, it seems like we are in an Ikea advertisement – except the furnishings are much higher quality. 🙂

One interesting feature of the apartment is that the bathroom has a window into the kitchen and living area, which was a little unexpected.


Here is the view from the bathroom sink area into the living room.


So, yeah, apparently this is a thing – extreme open concept.  Fortunately, there is a shade that can be rolled down to offer a bit of privacy but it is a bit different for sure. 😉

The bathroom itself has a tub I wish I could take home with me since its sides are high enough that one can really soak in it.


I know this is typical for Japan but I really want one – why don’t we have this in the US?!  This is awesome!

The apartment has sliding divider walls, one of which was apparently used to divide the 2 bedrooms.  The apartment owner slid back the divider between the 2 rooms so that 3 futons could be laid out so we’re all sleeping in the same room now (1 will be on the couch).  At least we’re all like family so it’s ok. 🙂


After our time in Taiwan on the good-for-your-back (yeah, right) hard mattresses, these futons are incredibly comfortable – soft and supportive.  Again, when America decided to make “futons” we really messed it up – we should have just done the real deal because these are super comfy!

After settling in a little, we decided to head out into the rainy night to check out our neighborhood and find something to eat.  We took a wrong turn somewhere and, instead of a Ramen shop, we ended up at a Yakiniku place.


It was pretty cool, though why I was the one who knew how to use the grill to cook meat was a bit disturbing since I’m a vegetarian, after all.  We just had a little to eat (and by “we” I mean the 3 guys – I just had a beer) and then we ventured out to check out the famous Shibuya scramble crossing.


It was just as bright and packed with people as I had heard.  Even in the rain, the energy of the place was amazing.


We finally had good directions to a highly-rated Ramen place (Ichiran).  We had to wait in line a bit and then we were in for a surprise: ramen is ordered via vending machine.  I kid you not: you select which ramen you want from a machine, pay there, then you get some tickets with your order info.  We waited to be seated and then there was yet another shock: instead of tables, each person sits at a barstool with dividers on the bar between him and the people sitting next to him.  There is a curtain ahead of him where he can give his order info tickets to a person behind the curtain whose face he cannot see.  Then that person closes the curtain and disappears.  A short time later, the curtain opens and, ta da! Ramen!


I have to say that this Ramen was really good.  I’ve had a lot of Ramen in the bay area and nothing compares to the flavor of the broth and the noodles.  It was the perfect thing to have on such a cold rainy night…or any night, for that matter.

After savoring the meal, we ventured out into the cold wet weather again to explore a bit more off the main scramble crossing.


Umbrellas were everywhere!  As a friend of mine suggested, I bought an umbrella at a convenience store here and she was right: it’s cheap and works well. 🙂

We also found the karaoke bar, Karaoke-kan, that was featured in the film Lost in Translation.  It’s the building with the bright blue sign in the photo below.  We’ll definitely be going.


After wandering around for miles we had reached our saturation point and decided to head back to get some sleep for our first full day in Tokyo.  Day 2 post will be coming up.

2 thoughts on “Japan – Day 1

  1. Pingback: Japan – Day 5 | A Change of Pace

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