I’m gonna be honest here – I have been negligent of my blog. It’s a sad thing because I actually paid good money for this self-hosted site so I’d have somewhere in the interwebzz to store my life’s adventures for anyone to see lol. But at least it didn’t take me another year to write about my most recent trip. I’ll try to get posts out at least once a week from now on, and here’s C and I’s first day in Japan! 🙂
I am subscribed to a lot of airline newsletters because I’m always on the lookout for cheap flights. When I got the email from Jetstar during the wee hours of the morning, I could not be more thankful that I work the night shift. As I mentioned before, Japan wasn’t really up there on my travel bucket list, and I was eyeing flights to Taipei for C and I’s anniversary. In my head, Taiwan is relatively cheaper than Japan. I don’t know where I got that idea from but I’ll let you guys know if it’s true after my Taipei trip this year (woot). Going back, though, since C was asleep and I was supposedly at work, I threw caution to the wind and booked the two of us night time flights for our anniversary. I personally like red eye flights. I am of the opinion that flying during daytime is such a waste since you can spend those precious hours sightseeing instead. It also helps that red eye flights are also cheaper.
I booked the flights 4 months prior to the trip, knowing I had an expired passport and a bank account that I wasn’t sure would pass the visa application. As it turns out, DFA is fully booked months in advance and I was only able to get my passport mid-April, roughly two months before our trip. I had heard a number of horror stories where passport renewal took longer than it should have and at that point, I was just glad that I got mine in time. Once I got my passport, I tried to reign in my excitement until I got my visa. C and I decided to process ours together and he kept procrastinating whenever I nag him to give me his requirements. Long story short, we ended up going to a travel agency (we went for Discovery Tours since it was the nearest to the office I work in, and also had the cheapest handling fee among all the agencies accredited by the Japanese embassy) A WEEK before our trip. You have no idea how nerve-wracking that is.
Obviously, we got approved single entry visas on time, and I finally got a head start on packing! We landed at around 6 in the morning but it took us about an hour to get through immigration and claim our luggage. There are money changer VENDING MACHINES in the airport. I swear – Japan is the testament to how efficient a country can get. The train station for Terminal 2 & 3 is at Terminal 2 which is 700+ meters away from Terminal 3. There is a covered walkway where the path is marked at how far before you get there. Amazing. (This may seem like so much praise for an airport but I come from a place where our airports are chaotic AF)
I booked an Airbnb room instead of a hotel because hotels in Tokyo are way over our budget and the rooms look like it’s going to make me claustrophobic. We took the Skyliner train out of the airport and upon seeing the prices (2470 yen/person for a one-way ticket), I initially thought how much it sucked that we didn’t get JR passes. As it turns out, the airport train is a separate one (I’m not sure how it works), because we were in the same car as a group of six loud obnoxious tourists who boarded the train without buying tickets and an inspector came to make them buy tickets.
We later found out that there are different kinds of airport trains. The cheaper one does not have reserved seating and looks similar to a metro rail. C and I still went for the more expensive one because we don’t mind paying for comfort (imagine having to find a seat while you have your luggage with you). It’s also faster than the other one since it stops at more stations.
We had about forty minutes before the train arrived which we spent utilizing the free train station wifi. There are wifi spots all over the city and you just have to register your email. It will disconnect you after thirty minutes but you can reconnect four more times within the same day. This proved to be handy! Although an alternative option would be to rent pocket wifis (they have rental stalls you would not miss in the airport) if your hotel/accommodation would not provide you one. Luckily, our Airbnb host included a pocket wifi for our use.
There’s space for your luggage near the train door, but since there was enough leg space to put our luggage with us, we figured out that it would be more convenient to just have it with us. A common theme in all our train rides is the both of us trying to fight the urge to nod off. The train ran so smoothly it was lulling us to sleep. Haha!
Our apartment is 5 minutes from Ayase Station/Chiyoda Line. Our host provided photos of how to get there which was convenient for someone like me who has the tendency to get lost in neighborhoods easily. There are so many stores below the station (vending machines aside) that it’s fairly easy to buy whatever. There were also a lot of small restaurants you can eat in around the station. But at that moment, our main priority was to get settled in the apartment and freshen up.
The moment we stepped inside our room, C exclaimed that I always end up booking ‘hipster-ish places’. The room looked exactly as advertised which was something I’m glad about. Kensuke waited for us to arrive and handed us the house manual since the buttons for AC and the rest of the appliances are in Japanese. It turned out to be useful and we had such a pleasant stay. If you’re planning to use Airbnb for the first time, here’s some credits for you!
Have I mentioned that it was drizzling when we arrived? All this time, I had in mind that the weather would be summer, so I packed skirts and summer dresses. When we arrived it was 20 degrees out (compared to Philippine summer at 35-40 degrees), and I felt like the wind is seeping through my flesh up to my bones. I ended up taking a shower and wearing the same lace sleeved dress I wore for our flight as it’s the only item of clothing I had that even had sleeves on. *shivers*
So. Many. Vending. Machines. They even have vending machines for cigarettes within designated smoking areas (there are signs that say you can’t smoke while walking) but you need an ID for that to work.
C and I walked within the vicinity of the station and found this place. C was enticed by photos of ramen outside, but we can’t be sure because everything except for the price is written in Japanese. An accommodating lady assisted us in ordering without speaking in English (ever since my trip to Vietnam, I have been versed in tourist sign language lol), and C had what we could only hope for is ramen. I had a set meal of some sort with a small bowl of noodles, rice, and three pieces of gyoza. C’s face said it all when he took his first sip of actual Japanese noodles and I knew we made the right decision. This lunch cost less than 1000 yen (for the both of us), which is why I feel sad at the fact that I don’t know how I’d ever eat expensive Japanese cuisine back home again.
I had a loose itinerary, and by that, I meant that I relied on the cute infographics I saw over at Facebook entitled ’10 things to do in..’. Haha! I would link you guys but I can’t exactly remember where I saw it, but I’d update this post for the link if I ever chance upon it again. No trip with me would be complete without stepping inside at least one museum. Since we were located on the Chiyoda line I decided to head over to a place where there wouldn’t be any train changes, and Nezu Museum was 10+ stations away. Interestingly, there is a Nezu Station but this museum was apparently nearer to Omotesando Station. So off to the station we went!
What I liked the most about being in this neighborhood is all the low-rise buildings, and their common ‘slanted’ (for lack of a better term, you can see in the photos how the top floors of the buildings are smaller, resembling pyramids without the pointed top) architecture. When we went to the business district (by accident) and the Shinjuku-Shibuya-Harajuku area, there was such a shift in the environment. Everything felt fast-paced and although it’s spacious, it felt a bit claustrophobic.
Nothing remarkable about this train ride aside from the fact that it was another battle I had lost to sleep. Haha! C usually stays awake whenever I fall asleep while traveling so he can make sure we get off where we should, but this time, we were both on the losing side. Zzzz
Picture taking is not allowed inside the museum, but it was surprisingly filled with 90% Japanese people instead of tourists. I must say though that with the location of the museum (more about this later), museum visitors are mostly well-dressed people within the late 20s onwards age group. This could also be attributed to the fact that we went on a Thursday, but you never know right. It’s just a weird observation.
The floor to ceiling glass walls and the mostly open floor plan guaranteed that the inside of the museum seemed more spacious. I literally told C I basically wanted a house version of this building. Haha!
They have an expansive garden outside, but thanks to the gloomy weather and the rain threatening to make an appearance at any minute, the bulk of the visitors stayed indoors.
One look at the museum cafe and I told C we are not having overpriced coffee. Haha!
C bought brand new walking shoes before our trip because he knew I enjoyed walking everywhere and he would undoubtedly be suffering if he’s not in comfortable footwear. He actually wanted to just wait for me instead of accompanying me in the garden, which I’m okay with, but he ended up going after me. 😛
Here’s your reward for being an awesome travel buddy (even though we argued so much because of my affinity for walking to places, I’m sorry :*).
One little tidbit I forgot to mention earlier is that the only cameras we used are the ones on our mobile phones. I knew that if I had a camera with me, I’d probably spend more time snapping away ‘immortalizing the moment’ instead of enjoying it. I’m also your basic photographer who does not really do amazing things with camera settings, but if you’re halfway decent, I swear you’d have so many pretty shots in this garden. Fortunately for the both of us, there’s this orange tree that just popped in the middle of all the greens and I had C take pictures of me. With his phone. Hahaha!
The garden was on a downhill slope, and we headed back up to the museum after taking a few more shots because our stint outside gained us insect bites. I scar easily, and I still have what my fickle memory would fondly remember as ‘souvenirs from Japan’ even though it was caused by the annoying itch that would. not. go. away. Ugh, insects.
The walk to and from the station is such an interesting one, and I wish I took a lot more photos now that I’m writing about it. But mainly, the street leading to the museum is FULL OF SHOPS. And not just shops, but designer ones at that. But I’m getting ahead of myself, look at this vending machine! My first vending machine purchase in Japan is milk tea. Typical.
Here’s the Miu Miu store, which I will be using as an example as to how most of the stores look like. Not similar in architecture and interior per se, but most of them are of the same height at maybe two-three stories high, and every single store just shouts LUXURY. Simply walking down this street in my H&M dress and ALDO flats gave me the impression that I was underdressed. Most of the people you’ll bump into looks put together even when they’re not, and that’s how you know how people made of money dresses like. (I started this paragraph trying to describe the feel of this place, and I end up rambling haha)
Most of the station guides look like these. They have the list of exits, and what the landmarks/tourist spots that are there. Most of the bigger exits have another map which makes it easier to navigate the place. If you’re at a loss, approach the Fare Adjustment booth. They have a different map (with traffic lights and other landmarks) and even though they can’t converse in English, they give great directions (example: ‘straight 3 traffic lights, left, 1 traffic light, right’).
When we got back to Ayase Station, it has already started to drizzle so I bought one of those clear umbrellas I have always wanted to own (yay Japan) but couldn’t source locally. We were thinking if we should brave the rain and go back to one of the ramen bars we wanted to try near the station (con: the blue overpass, or what we will now refer to as ‘the obstacle’) or go to the Family Mart which was nearer to the apartment. Our lazy asses decided to go to Family Mart, but dinner choices were limited and having to cook instant noodles (even if it’s Japanese) didn’t seem that much appealing when authentic Japanese cuisine is readily accessible. Off to the obstacle we go.
We found both a drug store and a pachinko establishment near us, and both are things to experience. We went inside to try and play pachinko, but I’m not comfortable getting stared at (I know why I get stared at when I’m in the PH and it’s usually because of my hair.. but when you get stared at in another country where otherwise you blend in, it’s unnerving) so we left immediately. Most of the drug stores have signs that say tax-free but do not be fooled. The price tags have two prices, and you will always get billed the higher one (with tax). I have tried asking regarding the tax-free thing but the language barrier is a bitch during all those times. Meh. Just an FYI for everyone going to Japan and impatient like me. 😛
We found Kitchen Origin which is a buffet style sort of place. There are prices for everything and they weigh it at the counter. The prices are reasonable in my opinion, but I never really skimp on food (unless it’s glaringly overpriced.. like the items from Nezu Cafe) so I wouldn’t know if it’s something that would be too expensive for someone else.
C ended up with an order of karaage and a plain onigiri (is it still called onigiri if it didn’t have anything inside?) and I had one tuna onigiri, one salmon onigiri and this yummy mix of sesame seeds, potatoes, and what seems to be bacon or ham. We also bought our drinks from the vending machine and C had an oversized can of Coke (they also had a mini can, how fun JaFUN) while I had.. milk tea of course. Ha!
So that’s it for our first day in Tokyo! We had an early night in because Day 2 would be spent on the happiest place on Earth, Tokyo Disneyland!