December 12, 2009
Japan Trip Day 2: Arriving in Tokyo
Before heading to the train I got some money out of an ATM, and it was funny. There was no English and the ATM kept talking to me in Japanese. Also there was no "¥" yen sign on the ATM, but there was one of these (円), which apparently also means Yen. Haha, I could tell I was gonna be hilariously confused for at least 3/4 of this trip. :)
The amazing Japanese organization was clear already: there were areas marked at the baggage claim for people only "no carts", and soooo much bowing at the airport! I saw one group bow back and forth to each other about 5 times. It was already like being in Lost in Translation. :)
My travel document told me to find the Keisei Private Line to Aoto, then switch to Toei Asakusa Subway (which I later found out is pronounced "A-sahk-sa", not "Ah-sa-koo-sa", and is definitely not the same place as "Akasaka"!) Fortunately this was all pretty straightforward. There was not a lot of English text on my specific subway train, but occasionally the subway announcement would announce in Japanese and then English. I'd copied down lots of info from each hostel into my travel doc, so it had a rough estimate of how long the major train trips should take so I didn't have to worry about anything, really. Also, as I'd heard, if you're foreign and in Japan, people will race to help you. That was definitely the case. There were 2 dudes about my age on the train and they asked me (in English, too!) if I needed any help or if I knew how to get where I was going. Turns out they were Japanese students who are currently on exchange in Portland, Oregon, so their English was pretty darn good.
I got to Kuramae station at about 6pm, and followed the travel doc's directions that I copied from the hostel's website. It was super easy to find with the map they provided... and I was really happy to dump off all my baggage. I checked in and the girl at the desk said, "You must be very tired!" I was, and I dropped my stuff off and made my hostel bed in my new dorm room home... and then I went straight back down to the common lounge to socialize. :) There was a dude there in an SF straight-brimmed hat, and some other SF, California and Australian folks. They were heading out for dinner so I made friends with them in about 12 seconds flat, and headed out for dinner.
We wandered around Asakusa Shrine area, which was very nice and a great intro into pretty Japanese things. For "dinner" (i.e. breakfast 2 days from now, or something like that?!) we got some tasty tempura vegetables. Really good stuff. Then we wandered in the old entertainment district in Asakusa, and I got a potato croquette for like 30 cents. Japan doesn't seem that expensive so far, to be honest! We then went to a grocery store to get some "Cheese cake" (more like a cheese-y loaf thing), some chocolate sticks that were similar to Pocky, and some Sapporo.
We wandered to Asakusa Shrine with our dessert purchases and enjoyed them in the shrine area. The shrine was at the end of a long street, and it was funny/awesome to see people walking along the perpendicular street and then come to a quick stop when they were directly in sight of the shrine, turn 90 degrees towards the shrine, do a quick bow, turn back, and keep walking. I saw this about 20 times and it was awesome every single time. :)
After our dessert, we ran into a bunch of happy drunk Japanese college guys who were so excited that I was from Canada. "I've been to Texas!" the one guy said. They took our photos at the shrine and gave us all hugs (for being foreign, I think). haha.
After this evening adventure it was pushing who-knows-what-time in Pacific Time, so I hit my bed at about 11pm and was happy to have made it that far. My room smells like feet and backpackers (see post I made on the night here: Asakusa at Night), and I am so happy and psyched to be in Japan. Wahooooooo!!!!!!!!!
Arrived in Tokyo!!
"No carts allowed" signs at baggage claim
My room for 4 nights in Tokyo! I was on the top bunk straight ahead. you can see my small orange bag and my HUGE new blue backpack on the floor.
The toilets are crazy. Also, I love heated seats.
We walked by the Ban Dai headquarters and I got a photo with me and Doraemon!
Asakusa Shrine entrance
Our dinner place
I got this thing. "Tendon" is a method of preparing tempura.
One "Birru" please!!
New friends from Australia and Japan/Hawaii
Tasty dinner and green tea
Excited at the Asakusa Shrine
Good photo that the drunk Japanese dudes took of us
Shrine area is a busy market during the day time
This is the view of the shine from where we sat and had dessert.
"Fran" (like Pocky), a Sapporo Gold, and the weird cheesecake thing.