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October 6, 2005 – A journey to Tokyo, Japan in Asia

Tokyo Ni Ikimasu!

Finally arrived in Tokyo around four in the afternoon after a ten-hour flight via Japan Airlines. Very surprised by the service – excellent – JAL made sure you were well-hydrated as well as well-fed (i.e., drinks, snack, drinks, lunch, drinks, dessert, drinks, snack, drinks, dinner, drinks). Each seat came with your own personal programming – you can watch select movies (American and Japanese), random TV shows, the navigation map, views from the plane, and several other features.

After the landing, I first went to the ATM to get some yen, as Japan is a cash-based society. Felt quite strange to be carrying around so much cash (note that this was needed for countryside destinations - credit cards are accepted mostly everywhere in the cities). After dropping off a large suitcase (for a short stay with family in China) at a baggage storage place near the JAL departure area (thank God for this service – really won't be too much fun lugging that around Japan on the bullet trains and metro), we went to the green ("midori") JR Station Ticket Center to exchange the exchange order for the 7-day Japan Rail Pass to be started the next day.

All this took two hours. Lacking in energy, we decided to skip Asakusa (Sensoji temple, old Edo area), Asakusabashi/Ryogoku (sumo), and Akihibara (electronics extravaganza), and headed straight for the hotel via the subway Keisei Line ($10pp versus $30pp by limousine bus + taxi). Plus it was dark already!

One thing I must say that I'm very grateful for is printing out a rough sketch of the train schedules and routes for the itinerary (via Jorudan or Hyperdia). They helped so much, else we'd be lost for sure. Before the trip, I was quite intimidated by Japan's transit system. Now, I can reassure anyone who plans to visit and use the rail system, although expansive and advanced, it's really not as hard as it sounds and looks.

Got off at the Higashi-Ginza station and wandered in the wrong direction towards Ginza (wow – so many bright flashy lights and images I must say) for around 25 minutes.

Turned around and finally got to the apartment-style hotel, Tokyu Stay Higashi-Ginza, and was I so happy to see that the place was awesome! Awesome location (by Ginza, close to Tokyo Station - the main station for transfers, and right next door to two temples and the Tsujiki Fish Market, not to mention many cheap eats [sushi, raamen, curry and rice, omochi, etc.]) with an awesome room (Internet, computer-TV-DVD all in one, high-tech bathroom, washer and dryer in one, in-room safe, A/C, microwave, water boiler, pants presser, breakfast, and several other gadgets) for an awesome price for that area. I booked TSHG for the first night somewhat last minute, and am very glad I did. Otherwise, we'd be staying in a shady part of Ueno and staying in a boxed-up room. In the end, if we had stayed in Ueno, we probably would have paid the same or more in terms of time and inconveniences, in addition to getting a bad night's sleep after a long transportation day.

Had a delicious cheap sushi dinner (yes, this is possible, especially if you're near the Tsujiki Fish Market), then crashed.

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