I arrived in Japan through NaritaAirport. As usual, the customs officer had a serious face on, as he tried to be professional and aloof. But with my excitement, I just smiled at him, refusing my mood to be ruined.
My flight from JFK to Detroit to Narita went off without a hitch. I was even seated with a nice old Japanese couple with the lady who was very kind enough to wake me up when the meals came and left me the mid-flight snacks because I was sleeping. Ain't that sweet? They thought I was Japanese or half-Japanese for a second. That cracked me up. I talked to them a bit about where I'll be visiting in Japan. The old lady kept reminding me to try the food - sushi, soba noodles, and everything! She was so animated telling me about the food.
It was so, oh, kawaii~!
After I picked up my luggage, I was out of the customs area with relative ease. And just as easy enough, I found the train counter where I was to buy the train ticket for Tokyo. As most independent/solo travelers, I did an extensive research on the cheapest, easiest, hassle-free way to get to Tokyo. I decided to get the Keisei Line rather than the Keisei Sky Line (¥1920, 54 minutes) or the JR Narita Express (¥1500, 53 minutes). For ¥1000 (about $10), it would take 80 minutes to Ueno Station in Tokyo where I can transfer to the Hibiya Line to get to Minowa Station [H19] (¥160), the closest metro stop to the hostel I booked for my stay in Tokyo.
I also decided to exchange my JR Pass while I was at the airport so I wouldn't have to worry about it when I get to Tokyo.
A JapanRailPass (or JR Pass) is an economical way to travel throughout Japan in their famous 'shinkansen' or bullet trains, excluding the fastest shinkansen, Nozomi. It can be used in all JR trains, buses and I think a ferry or two in the southern part of Japan. It is available only for tourists - non-Japanese citizens and/or Japanese with a valid resident status from other countries, and can only be purchased outside of Japan through licensed Japanese travel agencies. It is cost-effective because they have a variety of passes available for those who are traveling in Japan.
I purchased a 7-day JR PASS for ¥28600 (about $250) for ordinary cars (non-reserved seats) which is valid for 7 consecutive days all over Japan.
Japan Rail Pass
Green cars which are reserved seats cost more. They also offer a 14 and 21-day pass, and regional passes such as JR East, Central,West, Kyushu, and Shikoku, and Hokkaido. For more information about JapanRailPass, visit the JapanRailPass website at http://www.japanrailpass.net
And right next door to the Japan Rail Office, I purchased a SUICA card for ¥2000 for a hassle-free commute around Tokyo's trains and subways. A SUICA IC Card is a rechargeable prepaid IC card of Japan Rail - similar to New York City's Metrocard. It can be used on all of Greater Tokyo's trains, subways, and buses that are operated by more than 10 different companies with different fare system.
BaKpaK Tokyo Hostel
It can also be used on JR trains in other selected cities and regions in Japan, such as Osaka, Nagoya, and Hiroshima to name a few, in place of the other IC cards used in their respective cities and regions.
Because I found several rental phone stores on the same floor, I also rented a mobile phone since my phone, although G3 with T-mobile and supposedly have a service in Japan as per my conversation with T-Mobile's customer service, didn't work! Iguess they were blocked by the Japanese telecommunication system. Blah! Oh well. Since I have had the same problem when I was in Korea, I didn't bother stressing over it and instead rented one. You get a lot of choices but I decided on the $6/day service with ¥0.05 per minute call and text message and email. That's roughly more than $60 but better than not being able to communicate with people I was to meet and for emergency.
In less than 30 minutes, I got my train ticket for Tokyo, my JR Pass, my SUICA card, and my Japanese cell phone. I headed to the Keisei Line platform and waited for the train to come. It was very easy to find my way around with directions and signs in English everywhere, but just to make sure, I asked two Japanese women who looked to be around my age for confirmation. The slightly older one looked to the younger one and sure enough, she spoke a bit of English and said in response to my "Keisei Line train to Tokyo Ueno Station?" with "Yes, train to Tokyo Ueno Station".Ha! That was easy enough although they were definitely hesitant on responding.
The train was on time, something Japan is famous for - the speed and on time service in everything! For the next 80 minutes, I tinkered with my new phone, figuring out how to add in my friends' cell phone numbers, what and how to send a text messages and emails, and observed people getting on and off the train at each station. Several stops later, some male students - they look to be in high school - boarded the train. Aw, they were in their school uniform and were chatting away. Their fashion and hairstyle were just like the ones in the Japanese dramas and movies I have seen. And for a second there, I touched my hair jealous on how they have nicer hair and better hairstyle than I do. Hmmp! Unfair! Then again, they have tons of hairspray on which I can never tolerate on my hair. Ha!
The train arrived in Ueno Station on time and I found my way to the next train I needed to take to get to the hostel - the Hibiya Line. It took me more than 5 minutes to get to the Hibiya Line because Ueno Station is one of the biggest train stations in Tokyo, along with Tokyo Station, Shibuya station, and Shinjuku Station. But it was easy enough, I didn't get lost and next thing I know, 4 minutes and 2 stops later, I was on the Minowa Station where I needed to get off. As I walked to the hostel, I feared I may have lost my way, but I found 2 guys obviously not Japanese walking the opposite way from me so I knew I was on the right way. Yes! But I was sweaty with the unusually warm weather in Tokyo, with my sweater on, and was dreaming of a shower and boy, was I happy to see the hostel - 7 blocks later! What a hike with my heavy bags!
BaKpaK Tokyo Hostel looked small from the outside. There was a pool table and vending machines outside. A few people were drinking and playing pool. I checked-in with no problem. There were 2 staff members at the check-in booth, both were young, friendly, and speaks English very well since one of them studied in Canada. I went up to my room, not knowing what I was getting myself into when I booked myself in a 6-bed dorm. I got the top bunk which was a challenge in itself because I was afraid I was making too much noise to those underneath me and although I'm not that tall, it was still a challenge. I was glad I was only there to sleep . The room itself was spacious but the bed bunks were cramped. I took a shower clean and spacious. A small, separate toilet wasavailable. I laid out the clothes I planned to wear the next 3 days while I am in Tokyo and tried to contact my friends to let her know I was in Tokyo. I was able to contact my friend, Niji, and we decided to meet up at Ueno Station at and also Chun, a fellow TB member, at 730am for Tsukiji Fish Market.
I originally planned to go out that night, since it was Friday night after all, but I guess I was more exhausted than I thought I was so I decided to head to 7-Eleven and buy something to eat. I did spent a lot of time there looking at the choices they have. I ate and lazed around in the lounge/TV area which was very nice. It was spacious with flat screen TV and WiFi internet connection available. One side was Japanese -style with the tatami mats, the other a round-about bench with tables. It was very comfortable and homey. I ended up staying up there longer than expected before turning in for the night.