Spring Break rolled around quickly this year and I hadnâ€™t really decided on a location as things had been rather hectic lately.After speaking to my friend Noah we made a list of places we wanted to see and Japan came up on both of our lists.Lucky for us, the flight prices were great.Seriously, there were flights for as low as $700 and the Yen was almost equal to the US dollar, we knew we had made the right choice.That and neither of us had been to Asia before, so time to check off another continent!Cha-ching!
Our flight was at 8:30AM with a layover in Seattle for 2.
Random Green Guy in Window
5 hours which was not my first choice but the layover made sense if we wanted to keep a low price though we would have a non stop flight on the way home.The flight there was pretty uneventful though we almost didnâ€™t make it there thanks to a problem at JFK.For some reason their system couldnâ€™t read Noahâ€™s passport and kept putting asterisks in his name when he scanned it; weird!This kept happening and nobody was on the floor.It took 45 minutes for anyone to help and then we got a lecture on being early for flights though we had been there two hours early.Long story short, we took the Dad lecture so he wouldnâ€™t mess up our luggage and send it to Europe, finished up with security and hopped onto the plane.
The ride to Seattle was smooth sailing though having flown through there before I knew at times you have to go from one area and exit security and then go to another check point for security again.It turns out I was stressed for nothing.I thought it was a domestic flight but it ended up landing in the international S Wing which gave us plenty of time.
Crow in a Tree
So, we decided to wander around the airport to waste time and stand for awhile as we still had a 10 hour flight to Tokyo.The food in the airport is great btw, I really enjoyed the burrito and it was cheap!Thanks Seattle!We also came to realize that Korean Air has really nice uniforms for their staff.Very polished and pretty, especially the hair accessories!One day I will go there for the LotteBuilding and the KBS Drama Set, but for now it was on to Japan via Delta.
Finally, we boarded the plane and off we went for the final leg.
View From the Hotel
The first two hours were fine and the meal was pretty decent and the liquor free.Who knew?!?I even watched a movie which is rare for me!But then by the fourth hour, I was starting to feel like a caged animal!Seriously, I am a very hyper person and this was not boding well for me!Traveling for 19 hours was not suiting me at all.I tried to sleep but we had seat kickers behind us and when I would get comfortable I would get the seat kick or my butt would fall asleep waking me up.I even tried standing up as we were near the exit bulkhead area which was nice for legroom, but that didnâ€™t help much either.If you havenâ€™t traveled 19 hours before, it is pure HELL!I was so happy to land, you have no idea.Though, the ice cream and final meal of breakfast (American style or Japanese style) was great even though it was 4:00PM in Tokyo.Well, to be fair it was 4:30AM back home, so breakfast was welcome!
It was nice to be on our feet again and we were more than okay waiting to get through customs as we would be able to stretch our legs.
Spring Fruit. Oranges?
It actually didnâ€™t take that long as I would find out many times throughout the trip, the Japanese are very efficient and almost everything runs smoothly because of it.I did find it a little odd that when we got to the window that they took a picture of us and then got a copy of our fingerprints.I have heard they do that for people visiting the US as well, but it just felt strange as I have never had that happen before.In Europe they are more relaxed.I mean in Amsterdam, the guy cracked a few jokes, stamped my passport and told me to enjoy my stay.I guess I am more laid back but I can understand security even if my photo looked more like a mug shot due to the 19 hour flight.
After customs we were off to get our luggage which was at the carousel by the time we got through customs and then we headed off to the ATM.We had decided before coming to Japan that we wanted to buy the JR Rail Pass that is available only to visitors to the country not to citizens.
At first I was skeptical as it was about $311.00 for a 7 day pass which I thought was crazy.It turns out this pass is well worth it if you plan on traveling at all.A one way ticket to Kyoto alone almost paid for the pass.If you plan on traveling extensively, you canâ€™t beat this deal, travel is expensive within Japan.We were heading to a few cities outside of Tokyo and even within Tokyo, it can be used on certain lines for free.You have to go through a special line, flash your pass and onto the train you go.I would advise that you book a seat for longer journeys at a JR station which are available in most subways if you plan on taking a bullet train.That way you will be guaranteed a seat by your traveling partner and it is less of a hassle.I think the only train we were not allowed to book on the JR line was the Nozomi as it is the fastest train, which is no big deal as it is only about 8-10 minutes faster than the one beneath it.
Another thing to know is that you can only buy the pass in your own country as they do not sell them in Japan.
Blooming Tree Near the Imperial Palace
We had to buy it in Midtown at an agency in NYC.When you get to Japan, you can go to a JR Office and they will exchange your receipt to the actual pass and stamp it for the first day you intend to use it, which is what we did.I would advise doing this at Narita as the people in the office spoke English, which made it very helpful.In many of the other JR Offices they did not so much.She also booked us a train ticket for the subway to Tokyo.
Yes as I was warned, it is a long trip from Narita to Tokyo.I had no idea!It seriously took about an hour and a half by subway. To take a taxi would cost about $200.00 USD, though there are bus services and the Narita Express for $30.00 which isnâ€™t so bad.Our subway ticket cost us $13.
00.We were thrown off once we got onto the train as it was rush hour and very quiet.Nobody spoke at all and there was no pushing which is odd for someone who lives in NYC.
Still we were both pretty happy when we got to our stop as we had been sitting on our butts for almost 24 hours.We were staying at the Shinagawa Prince Hotel which is right across the street from the Shinagawa Subway Station.The hotel is a huge complex with an aquarium, movie theatre, bowling alley, etc.There are a couple hotels at the complex one newer one older.We were in the older one as we had booked a cheap room. It took us over 30 minutes to find the entrance as it is not clearly marked, which sucks!When we did find it, it was this tiny lettering that blended in with the building.I donâ€™t quite get it, but we found it, so all was not lost.
My first impression of the room is, â€ścrap that is tiny!â€ťSeriously, it is the smallest room I have ever seen and I live in NYC!Though it did run through my mind that a room this size would go for about $1800.
00 a month in Manhattan, which is pathetic.Still it was clean just very narrow and a little older than the other hotel.It was fine though, just cramped.
Now this might be strange, but I canâ€™t continue without discussing how amazing the Japanese are when it comes to toilets.Oh man!These things had more buttons than the Space Shuttle each one more glorious than the next.But the thing that blew my mind was that the seat was heated.Yes, heated!It was simply put, amazing!By the end of the trip, I will say it loud and proud.America is severely lacking in its toilet procedures.We are living in the dark ages.If I ever move into house, I am investing in one of these babies.Just know, it was amazing!
After exploring our hotel room, we went back on the street to check out our surroundings.
This Was Like a Snowball But With Red Bean Paste.
It was very busy with tourists everywhere.We were hungry, but everything was American franchise food which frankly sucked!We passed a 7-11 and decided to get some ramen and Japanese mochi balls because we had heard the 7-11 was a good place to get cheap eats.An odd thing was that the noodles I bought taste strangely liked warm butter popcorn with octopus and shrimp, not a good combo.My friend Noah said that it made the room reek; I didnâ€™t buy that kind again.
A side note, there are 7-11s, AM/PMs and Lawsonâ€™s everywhere.It is really scary, but the good part is that they actually have good pre-made food unlike their American counterparts.The place was crawling with people buying various Japanese delights.7-11 would soon become our biggest savior on this trip for late night food and breakfast.
After our stop, we walked around the neighborhood some more but unfortunately it was around 10:00PM and everything was closing up for the night.
The Colonel Doesn't Quite Fit in in Japan
Not that we could do much anyway as we were about to pass out as neither of us had really slept on the plane.It worked out because we were getting up early anyway to head out to Kyoto as we didnâ€™t want to go straight there after our long flight.You donâ€™t know how small a room is when you are sleeping so it all worked out though I really like the robes they provided in the room, though remember you must wear it the correct way which is left over right, otherwise you are officially dead, which after our long day, wouldnâ€™t have been far off.