One step forward towards Japan...
Gold Coast Travel Blog› entry 1 of 15 › view all entries
April 8th, 2010 – by: LostInSpace2010
First of all I would like to say a big THANK YOU to all Travel Buddies here and especially Ivar (Airportman) who kindly answered my numerous questions and helped me to gather valuable information as it was my first trip to Japan and I was traveling mostly on my own without much help of travel agents.
My long awaited journey to Japan finally started on 8th of April 2010 from my home in Sydney at 4am in the morning. To be honest I was up packing until 2am and then it was somewhat two hours of balancing in the twilight when my alarm clock started beeping like crazy... So I jumped out of the bed and quickly dressed up, checked up all the papers for the flight and also my *homework* for Japan.I got a few books/travel guides and maps and notes that I wrote down with routs based on the recommendations of Travel Buddies here, so I was ready and clearly anticipating.
I arrived at the airport 5.30am for my flight to Gold Coast (at 7.05am). I know it sounds complicated but that was the cheapest possible JetStar ticket to get to Japan from Sydney - flying via Gold Coast. One and a half hour flight was the most bumpiest thing I have ever experienced... No matter how many times the pilot apologized for the cloudy weather and turbulence because of it - it didn't make us feel better. It was the feeling like you've been put into some wild shaker with no way out. When I left the plane at 8.25am I was feeling broken into thousand pieces. Well, somehow it effected my judgment and I made a mistake by going through customs before checking into my next flight. And yes...I had to go back, and check into my next flight and go through customs once again. Thank goodness I had time between the flights so I wasn't late. I had surprisingly good 10 hours flight from Gold Coast to Narita airport in Japan. On the plane I had two empty seats around me so I was able to stretch my legs whenever I needed to. The bad part of the flight was when it became really really cold but I put on a jumper and it made me feel a little bit better but it was still freezing.
The plane touched down at Narita 7pm and I quickly went through the customs as I only had one small backpack (almost empty) and only 4kg carry bag with all my stuff for my 7 days trip.
I went down the Terminal to get my ordinary Japan Rail Pass which could be used on any JR line or bus (with some exceptions) and also booked for free a couple tickets for my next days trips. So I got the ticket for Narita Express train at 7.49pm to Tokyo Station and arrived at Tokyo Station at 8.51pm where I switched to Yamanote Line and got to Hamamatsucho Station. The last one was a quick ride, I was able to get a seat and was seriously wishing to get to the hotel as soon as possible. There were lots of people on the train and a few were even standing. Suddenly I realized that I'm somewhat a target of a few curious stares, the girl in front of me was actually snapping pictures of me on her cell phone... It was flattering in a way and at the same time made me feel tad bit embarrassed as I knew that I looked quite horrible with my appearance beaten up by the past sleepless nights and must be squashed and wrinkled face with panda eyes after 16 hours of being on the road (just imagine it for a moment)... The other thing - I got upset as why is it the girl taking my picture? Huh? Am I looking that old that I'm genderless now and became just a piece of outside world or an artefact? Oh, geez!...
Back to the story, so I got outta train and spent about half an hour trying to find the right exit... Don't be surprised, signs could be quite tricky and frankly speaking I was lost in the countless ways of train station labyrinth... On the other hand, I found out that I'm not that good at reading maps anyway. I have to say that I tried to ask people around and even train station staff but it was useless. Most of them didn't know even basic English but that's not what surprised me - I showed them map with Japanese writings of the places and the place I needed to get to but it didn't help at all. Finally I was able to find one station officer lady who showed me the way out and after another 10-something minutes I got out of the station (Of course, with a little clueless detour within the station in the opposite direction to World Trade Centre building... which was closed at that hour. Heh, why I'm not surprised at myself?... =)).
Now guys, you can start laughing at poor stoopid clueless woman and read on. What happened next is that I instantly realized that the weather was very cold outside (let's say about +7C which is far beyond my cold tolerance) and my jumper and raincoat were at no help at all... I was shivering like some thrown on the street kitten, I bet it was pretty miserable picture, I'm tellin' ya! I grabbed the first guy on the street (I know what you are thinking right now but trust me that thought never crossed my frozen mind) and I showed that guy my map with the huge name of the hotel, he said that I am not too far from it (that's what he thought...) and said that once I turn left at the first traffic light I would be there... Well, as you can guess - it didn't work. I turned left and...nothing. I was walking almost empty streets in the darkness and suddenly saw an old-ish guy smoking near parking lot so of course I attacked him straight away! No, he didn't know English at all and he didn't stop smoking but he was looking at the map with the look like he had to solve the problem no matter what. After a few minutes he finally broke up that meaningful silence because he recognized something on the map and got all lighten up and excited, so he showed me the way but it looked like I had to turn a couple times more, much more than the first guy near the train station told me... Highly spirited up I decided to follow his directions. I crossed a couple streets and saw a fashionably dressed lady walking fast with two pretty puppies in cute fluffy jumpers. Just to make sure I'm on the right way I grabbed her from behind. Surprisingly she spoke understandable English and she clearly got the writings on the map and told me that I'm on the right way (thanks to the heavy smoking guy!). I crossed the road, passed a tiny convenience store (with the catchy name *am/pm*) and finally saw my Promised Land - *Tokyo Grand Hotel*, there was also *Jonathan's* restaurant with "take away" option opposite the hotel but I wasn't hungry.
I bet Ivar (AirportMan) has never imagined that you could get so excitingly lost on the simple way from the train station to Tokyo Grand Hotel. To be honest - it is a simple zig-zag way, as it is when you know where to go =). I booked the hotel using Ivar's recommendations (and eternally grateful for that!) at http://travel.rakuten.co.jp/en/, Tokyo Grand Hotel is quite simple but affordable especially considering it's location - 5 minutes from Tokyo Tower and many other attractions and as you can see - within a walking distance from *Hamamatsucho* JR train station which makes your travel to any desirable place easy.
I finally did it! I was at the hotel, I was really tired but happy-happy-happy that I reached my destination! As I said before, Tokyo Grand Hotel is quite small but cosy. At the reception I had to fill-in the form, gave my passport for a copy and (yet again, stupid me) I told them that my mother will arrive separately tomorrow morning and if they need her details too since the room I booked was for two people... For the next 5 minutes I was trying to explain all of that numerous times to the reception guy but he was unable to understand a thing... I swear I was hearing his brains' working squeaking and creaking trying to comprehend what I was saying... Poor guy, he even brought some electronic gadget for translation and I realized that I got trapped like forever... I caught myself on a thought that I have to relax and forget about it, so I told him - never mind and quickly ran away towards my savior - elevator. Receptionist was so happy because I dropped the question that he started sparkling, that was a relief!
I got a room on 11th floor with the view on Tokyo Tower! I was delighted. When I unpacked my things I remembered that I had to find computer with internet access since I had to tell my relatives that I'm ok and also do some things for my work. Tired but goal oriented I grabbed the keys and appeared in front of another reception guy. He understood two words - computer+internet and gave me the directions (in Japanese of course) to the near-by hotel called *Celestine* which had it for a 100 yen per 15 minutes. It was ok with me but the thought of going out of the hotel again, getting cold and trying to find another hotel made my motivation quickly disappear...
That's how my first day ended. I went to sleep wearing my woolen jumper covered by two blankets for some indestructible comfort. It wasn't cold though, it was just me - shaken up by the long, long travel...
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