international travel adventures part 2 – tokyo

Well… I last left off hoping for the best… hoping I would make it to Tokyo alive. :)

Well the flight from San Francisco to Tokyo wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be.  I slept the first half of the flight and then proceeded to work on my Policy & Strategy homework throughout the rest.  Oh yes, I totally lucked out and had 2 seats to myself!

An update on Typhoon Chaba… wellll, the whole plane felt like they were going to die on our landing. It was very windy and everyone was shrieking over the wild dips our plane was doing – dancing in the wind, one might say. Anyways we eventually landed.  I ended up getting to Tokyo about 2.5 hours later than I was supposed to – and just had my fingers crossed that Erik would still be waiting for me, and we could transfer smoothly to the hotel.

Completely unlike me, I didn’t prepare at all for arrival in Tokyo… I looked into everything else other than where we were staying our first few nights and how we would get from Narita Airport to the hotel.  Once I realized how late my arrival was going to be, I started to worry – I didn’t even know the name of the hotel for the immigration form – ha ha ridiculous.

Next thing I started freaking out about? My cell phone wasn’t working.  Even though Lonely Planet had told me that only 3G phones work in Japan, I completely forgot. So there I am in the baggage area (without my 3G on my iPhone on) – freaking out. How would I survive in Tokyo without a phone and without fluent Japanese?

Anyways made it to arrivals to see Erik patiently waiting.  In no time at all we were outside in the pouring rain waiting for the shuttle to Shinjuku station.  While in line, I made friends with a lovely man named Morris.  He proceeded to sit with us on the bus – he’s an inventor!! Polish-born, raised in Toronto, immigrated to Japan, has properties in Texas and Los Angeles. Bizarre.  Anyways he’s invented three cool things: a blood pressure thing, a cosmetics case, and a bicycle pump.  He also rents apartments to foreigners in Tokyo.  Very well-rounded man who kept us entertained and laughing on our hour-ish journey to Shinjuku station.

Upon arrival, we all said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.  At this point in my journey, I had no idea that elevators existed at subway stations, so an exhausted little girl carried her suitcases (yes, please note the “s”) down flights and flights and flights of stairs.  We bought tickets for the Keio New Line (130 yen) and headed to Hatagaya – the area where we would be staying.

Our hotel is called the Sakura Hotel… conveniently located and very used to foreigners.  For the small price of about $100 CDN, we got a double bed (yes – one), a blowdryer, brekkie in the morning (coffee/tea and toast) and a room with the dimensions of 6 feet by 8 feet (maybe 10 feet if we’re including the bathroom.

Our Room at the Sakura Hotel - Tokyo


The original plans were to meet up with Marta and Rui for dinner, but with everyone’s flight connections and exhaustion calling – it just never worked out. Fast to sleep around 11pm, ready to start the next day.

We were up a little after 7am on Day 2 and made it downstairs before breakfast was over.  We took the Keio New Line to Shinjuku – and decided to explore.  Shinjuku’s east side is known for their red-light district and Erik was desperate to see it.  We started off exploring the Tokyo Metropolitan Government offices, the Shinjuku-Gyoen (park) and then headed east to the massage parlours and mafia.  The area was extremely sketch – their were many pictures of men you could “rent,” suspicious looking people, and rather abandoned and dirty.  Good times, I tell ya! After substantially scarred, we wanted to go to Yo-Yogi to see a rockabilly band we heard about and Harajuku for some shopping.  We got lost about four thousand times trying to get to Yo-Yogi (much to do with us walking and not knowing which direction we were heading in).  After going forwards, backwards, etc, we finally decide to get back on the train – and head to Meiji-jingumae station.

Me in Shinjuku

From there we walked through the Harajuku area (and saw harajuku girls!!)  to shop. I found a splendid pair of white flats at TopShop on sale for 2600 yen (from 8900 yen)  – lovely, and you’d never find them in Canada. ;)  We walked through Takeshita-dori (teenybopper everything) to Yo-Yogi Koen (park) to see the Japanese rockabilly cats play up a storm.  They play every Sunday afternoon as long as it’s not raining and quite the sight to see.  We headed through the park to Meiji-Jingu, Toyko’s Shinto shrine.  This weekend was the shrine’s 90th anniversary so many festivities were occurring and the journey to the shrine was very entertaining. Picture “rock the bus” but with a shrine…

"Rock the Shrine" at Meiji-Jingu

We walked back to Meiji-jingumae station to train to Shinjuku station where we would meet Marta and Rui.  They were at Starbucks at Shinjuku.  You know how many Starbucks are at Tokyo’s largest hub which transports 3.6 million customers per day? I’d say in the double digits.  It took a VERY long time to find Marta and Rui – but finally, success.

A quick chat and we were back to our hotel for a quick change – as tonight was Halloween!!  I rocked the ‘80’s spandex and neon, while Erik dazzled himself in a horrifying ugly mask. The plan was to meet up with a bunch of others from JCI in Roppongi.  Roppongi is the touristy area where all the foreigners hang out – and it has quite the night life! Anyways, this would all be fine – other than I got lost. And I mean really lost. After a lot of $$$ worth of international text messages and about 1.5 hours of Jean-Simon trying to find Jill in the Las Vegas of Tokyo… I was found. :)

About 8 of us headed to a Japanese restaurant for eats and drinks.  It wasn’t too late of a night as the subway ends at midnight and cabs are quite expensive in Tokyo. We made it back to the hotel a little after midnight completely soaking wet (yes, raining again) and ready for bed.  Marta and Rui, and Jean-Simon and Patrick, all wanted to go to the Tsukiji Market in the morning.  Going to Tsukiji Market meant a 6am wakeup call – fabulous.

Signing off [I would say that in Japanese, but I really have no clue].