A couple of weeks ago my sister and I left on our dream trip to Japan and this is the first entry of my travel diary, written from notes I made whilst I was away and some added information I know now! I’ll be posting about the whole trip over the next couple of weeks, I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as we enjoyed being there!
Monday 5th November 2012
It’s finally here! After 4 months of waiting, we’re off to Japan!
We left the house full of fear and excitement at 3:15am after saving our sleep for the long flight ahead. We had a good breakfast at Aberdeen Airport before leaving on our 5:40am flights to Frankfurt. I’d forgotten how shaky these little two by two planes were! I don’t like 😦
Arrived in Frankfurt airport at 8:25am (local) to be greeted by lots of lovely designer shops including Hermes, Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana and Mulberry. After a wee browse, we had some paninis for lunch at The Bar before getting on a wee train which took us from one terminal to the next, ready to board our next flight.
What a difference this plane is! It’s a massive Airbus A380-800, with two aisles and seats in three then four then three. I’ve never been on a plane this big before and I was really excited by the touch-screen tvs, blankets and pillows that awaited me in my seat!
We left Frankfurt at 1:25pm for our 12 hour flight to Narita airport in Japan. This flight was lush compared to the last one! A nice wee gin & tonic with pretzels to start off with helped and the whole trip was pretty perfect with great in-flight meals and entertainment.
I watched an episode of Sherlock and the films The Lucky One and Total Recall, but also regularly checked the exterior cameras and flight info. I tried to sleep but only managed to snatch about 20 mins during the whole trip.
Tuesday 6th November 2012
We were just away to land in Narita Airport at 8:35am and I was watching us land from the tail camera. I could see that we were over the runway and only a few feet from landing when the nose went up and it took off again! The pilot said something about wind chill and that we had to go round again. I was very glad when we landed a couple of minutes later!
The first thing we did after getting our cases was hit the tourist information at the airport. The lady was really helpful but it’s handy to know what you need information on before you get there.
We picked up a few leaflets but we really just wanted to know how to get to Shinjuku which is the area of Tokyo which would be our home for the next 9 days.
She advised us to get a JR travel pass which gave us a ticket to Shinjuku today and our return journey to the airport in 10 days time on the NEX (Narita Express). It also gave us 1500yen (£12) on a Suica card (after deduction of a 500yen deposit).
A Suica card is a pre-paid way of buying most tickets for the train or metro. You put it in the machines at the station and it deducts your fare from the balance on the card. We went to the ticket office to buy the travel pass, which all in cost 5500yen, which is about £44.
We were told which platform to go to luckily, and when we got there we saw that the information boards above told us the time, destination and number of carriages in English as well as Japanese. The train doors open automatically where there are these markings on the platform and most trains have information including their final destination on the side.
The train to Shinjuku was really spacious, we sat with our cases in front of us although there is a bit for putting your cases where you lock it in with a combination code, but this seemed pretty complicated for our tired brains!
OK, so we arrived at Shinjuku Station in one piece (well done us!) but then we couldn’t get out of it! The place is a total maze, full of hundreds of other people all very determined to get where they’re going. We had some maps with us and there are station maps on the walls but every exit has barriers and once you leave you can’t get back in without paying so double check your plan.
Here’s a handy map I’ve found since my return. You’ll see that there’s a Central East Gate and an East Gate and a South East Gate and an East Exit! This map would’ve made things much easier!
Our hotel has a complimentary bus service to Shinjuku Station so we found the bus stop for that, but it was only available at set times so we set about walking there. We couldn’t find any lifts or escalators so we began humphing our cases up a big flight of stairs before a nice lady and a businessman helped us get to the top!
The whole journey to the hotel was like this, upstairs, downstairs, hauling cases and getting very moody before we heard a familiar sound. We turned around to find a One Direction van playing “What Makes You Beautiful”! We looked at each other and burst out laughing, we were so happy to have something familiar in such a different place.
On the plus side, we saw some of the area during our walk, lots of big skyscrapers, cute things and scary crows!
We continued the slog through Shinjuku Park and it started to rain but by this point I was so glad of a break so we put our brollies and hoods up and took some pictures.
We continued through the park and then we saw it, our hotel was right across the road! Hurrah!
We had a sleep and a shower and went in search of a local shop to get some supplies in. There was one just up the road and we stocked up on some food and other bits and bobs. We’re both vegetarians and struggled to find much we could eat there. In Japan there is no symbol for vegetarian food so we had to try to find some text we recognised or guess by looking at the product or pictures on packaging. (PS Red Cup Noodles are not vegetarian but everything else is).
My evening meal consisted of corn and butter noodles (just the same as a pot noodle really!), the thickest cut bread I’ve ever seen (about 4 slices in a bag) and a cream waffle, all with a well earned cup of tea!
The view from our hotel at night reminds me of Ghostbusters in this light for some reason!