Saturday, 24 May 2014

BLOG -- My trip to Japan -- PRELUDE (plane ride + to the hotel + timeline of each day in Japan)

So here is the Prelude of my adventure to Japan. After that will be my adventure in Japan, broken into parts. How many parts, you ask? As many parts as it takes.

Overall, it was an immensely enjoyable trip and I would totally go back. There's just so much charm and beauty there. In a way, there is a lot of juxtaposition in Japan, where some aspects are on extreme ends of the spectrum. An example would be the moments of pure relaxation vs. moments of intense rush-rush. It was... really interesting and cool.

Anywho, on with the Prelude.

Well, I'll make this briefish. This was my 2nd time ever at the airport -- 1st time ever to actually take a flight -- so I was super-confused about the whole process of checking in my luggage and whatnot. Even though I've now been through it, I'm sure that I will still be just as confused the next time.

We ("we" being my sister, my sister's fiance, and I) arrived at the airport at 10:30 AM, for a 2:00 PM flight.

The plane ride to Japan was 13 hours long. I had planned on sleeping through most of it, to adjust to the time zone (Japan's time zone is 13 hours ahead of Ontario's time zone -- meaning 2:00 PM in Ontario would be 3:00 AM in Japan). But... the flight I was on had a bunch of free movies available for viewing -- some that I was interested in viewing. I ended up alternating between watching movies and taking short naps between them.

Here are the movies I watched:

Frozen: Really enjoyed it. Olaf is so cute, and the music's really nice. I want to own the movie, lol.

Monsters University: This was okay.

World War Z: I couldn't really hear the dialogue that well, but at least I finally watched it.

Dallas Buyers Club: Even though I watched it, I ended up falling asleep multiple times (I blame it on the long flight + warm temperature on the plane), so I'll see if I can watch this again on the way back to Canada.

So we reached Japan at 4:30 PM (Japanese time). I'll skip the whole picking up the luggage, picking up a Wi-Fi Router (really handy to have if you want Wi-Fi available to you at all times), buying a Narita Express ticket to Shinjuku, and the hour-ish long ride on Narita Express.

When we reached Shinjuku station, we were a little lost. We were trying to find a machine to purchase a Suica pass, but all we found were either ticket machines or fare adjustment machines. The Suica pass is this really handy prepaid card that you can use in most of the transit lines in Tokyo. You can also use it and to make purchases at some convenience stores and vending machines!

In case you are unfamiliar with Japanese transit: in Japan, you pay by how far you travel. This means that at a ticket machine, you'd want to input your exact destination and pay that amount. You may also need to input the exact time, but I'm not sure since I've never used one of those machines. If you are unsure about your end destination, you can always purchase a ticket for the very next station. Then when you do get off at your desired destination, you can pay the difference at the fare adjustment machine.

After what felt like an hour, we found one machine that sold Suica passes. We each got a card and loaded up 10,000 yen. That sounds like a lot, but it's better to be safe than sorry when it comes to transit. Don't really want to be stuck out in the middle of nowhere with no yen and zero balance on your Suica card. At the end of our trip, we'll be able to hand in our Suica card and get the rest of the balance back (minus a small charge).

At 9:15 PM (almost 4 hours after arriving to Japan!), we reached our hotel. We were staying in Hotel Sunroute Higashi Shinjuku. Here are a couple props to the hotel:

-Free Wi-Fi in the rooms: I don't know if this is standard for all hotels in Japan, but yay! That means I won't have to rely on the Wi-Fi router all the time.

-As accomodating as possible: So the flight agency we went through did a bad job of booking the rooms for us. We had specified wanting NON-SMOKING rooms, and got verbal confirmation about it (which was later rephrased when we e-mailed the flight agency about it), but when we checked in, the hotel told us that we were booked for SMOKING rooms. After some checking, the hotel offered to move us to NON-SMOKING rooms in the next 5 days. I'm just glad they didn't say that they couldn't do anything about it, implying that we'd have to suck it up.

The only one drawback for this hotel that I could think of (but this is kinda standard for all hotels, from what I hear), is that the rooms are pretty cramped. There is very little room to place your luggages -- just enough space to walk around.

After settling ourselves somewhat, my sister and I headed to a 7-11 across the hotel and bought dinner. Yes, you heard me right. We bought dinner at a 7-11 (they are also called 7 & i Holdings in Japan). In Japan, 7-11s carry various meals and snacks and it is recommended if you are looking for a decent, cost-effective meal (my thanks to my friend who gave me this tip!).

After dinner, watching a bit of TV, and checking my e-mail, I crashed at 11 PM.

Since I didn't realize it would happen (as I've mentioned in earlier blogs, this is my first time out of Canada), my cell phone got hit with roaming charges for the first day (yuck!). After that, I put my phone on Flight Mode and turned on Wi-Fi.

And that was my first day in Japan! Exciting! (Well, not really -- not until we reached the hotel and went to 7-11).

Now I'll briefly summarize each day and that will be it for this blog. The next blog entries will go something like this:

-the areas we hit (probably 2-3 entries)
-food + spending (should be 1 entry but it might be 2 -- I'm just thinking of a way to cram a bunch of similar photos together)
-an entry on miscellaneous thoughts
-extra entry that's mainly just for me (not telling you what it is) ;)

I should note that this next section is more for me to keep track of my days. This may not be interesting to you.

I should also mention that when planning out our itinerary for the day, we always kept in mind to get back to the hotel before 5 PM on weekdays. This was to avoid the rush hour, which I heard could be very squishy and dangerous. You can check out this person's blog for a couple tips if you ever go to Japan and find yourself caught in the rush hour.


This was more or less covered above, but I will go through it for consistency's sake.
8 AM -- Woke up
10:30 AM -- Reached Pearson Airport
1:30 PM -- Boarded the plane
2:15 PM - 3:30 AM (4:30 PM Japan time zone -- switching to this time zone) -- Flight to Japan
4:30 PM - 6 PM -- Picked up luggage + Wi-Fi router + buying N'EX Express ticket
6:15 PM - 8 PM -- Transit to Shinjuku JR station via N'EX Express
8 PM - 9:15 PM -- Finding a Suica pass machine + transit to Higashi-Shinjuku (to the hotel)
9:15 PM - 10 PM -- Checking into the hotel
10 PM -- Dinner from 7-11
11 PM -- CRASH

6 AM -- Woke up
8 AM -- Breakfast at McDonald's
9 AM - 9:45 AM -- Transit to Asakusa
9:45 AM - 1:30 PM -- Nakamise Shopping Street + Sensoji Temple + Chingodo (Tanuki Shrine)
1:30 PM - 3 PM -- Don Quijote department store
3 PM - 3:20 PM -- Drum Museum
3:20 - 3:45 PM -- Back to the hotel (bumming around until 5 PM)
5 PM - 7 PM -- Dinner at Artnia
7 PM - 7:10 PM -- Back to the hotel (bumming around)

4 AM -- Woke up
9:15 AM - 10 AM -- Transit to Ikebukuro
10 AM - 10:30 AM -- Breakfast at Lotteria
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM -- Uniqlo clothing store
12:00 PM - 2:30 PM -- Animate nerd store
2:30 PM - 4:20 PM -- Lunch at TGIFriday
4:20 PM - 4:55 PM -- Back to the hotel (bumming around until 6 PM)
6 PM - 7 PM -- Roaming around in Shinjuku
7 PM - 9 PM -- Dinner at the Capcom Bar
9 PM - 9:30 PM -- Back to the hotel (bumming around)

5 AM -- Woke up
9:30 AM - 10 AM -- Transit to Akihabara
10 AM - 11 AM -- Lunch at Gundam Cafe
11 AM - 4 PM -- Kotobukiya nerd store + Super Potato Retro kan used video game store + Mandarake Complex nerd store + Gachapon Kaikan capsule machine store
4 PM - 4:30 PM -- Walking to Kikanbo spicy ramen place (ordering was through a ticket machine that was completely in Japanese, so we didn't eat there in the end)
4:30 PM - 5:05 PM -- Back to the hotel (bumming around until 5:45 PM)
5:45 PM - 7:15 PM -- Dinner at Bamiyan Restaurant
7:30 PM - 7:45 PM -- Walking to Shinjuku
7:45 PM - 8:45 PM -- Calico Cat Cafe (had over 10 cats)
8:45 PM - 9:00 PM -- Back to the hotel

4:45 AM -- Woke up
10:30 AM - 10:45 AM -- Transit to Meguro
11 AM - 12 PM -- Meguro Parasitological Museum
12 PM - 12:15 PM -- Take-Out Snack at Ganko Danko (sells takoyaki)
12:15 PM - 12:30 PM -- Transit to Shibuya
12:30 PM - 1 PM -- Eating takoyaki
1 PM - 2 PM -- Seibu food hall
2 PM - 6:15 PM -- Shibuya 109 clothing emporium
6:15 PM - 6:40 PM -- Back to the hotel 
7 PM - 8 PM -- Roaming around Shinjuku (looking for Lotteria)
8 PM - 9 PM -- Dinner at KFC
9 PM - 9:15 PM -- Back to the hotel
11:30 PM -- CRASHED

DAY 6: SUNDAY MAY 18, 2014 (SUNNY)
6 AM -- Woke up
11:30 AM -- Changing to NON-SMOKING rooms (yay!)
12:30 PM - 2 PM -- Lunch at Artnia
2:30 PM - 3 PM -- Transit to Ikebukuro
3 PM - 7 PM -- Animate + Namco Namjatown (just to find it) + J-World theme park
7 PM - 8 PM -- Dinner at Lotteria
8 PM - 8:20 PM -- Back to the hotel

DAY 7: MONDAY MAY 19, 2014 (SUNNY)
4:15 AM -- Woke up
9:45 AM - 11 AM -- Transit to Odaiba
11 AM - 1:30 PM -- Roaming the Gundam area + Gundam Front theme park
1:45 PM - 2:45 PM -- Lunch at Maidreamin'
2:45 PM - 4 PM -- Transit to Shinjuku-Sanchome
4 PM - 5 PM -- Disk Union used music store
5 PM - 6 PM -- Isetan department store
6 PM - 6:15 PM -- Back to hotel (bumming around until 7:45 PM)
7:45 PM - 8:45 PM -- Dinner at Royal Host (restaurant attached to the hotel)
10:45 PM -- CRASHED

4:30 AM -- Woke up
10 AM - 10:30 AM -- Transit to Akihabara
10:45 AM - 12 PM -- Yodabashi Camera electronic + figure store
12 PM - 12:45 PM -- Lunch at McDonald's
12:45 PM - 3:30 PM -- Club Sega (I won a toy from the crane games, yes!!)
3:30 PM - 3:45 PM -- Taito Music Station
3:45 PM - 4:30 PM -- Back to the hotel (bumming around until 8 PM)
7 PM -- Dinner from 7-11
9:45 PM -- CRASHED

6:15 AM -- Woke up
9:45 AM - 10:20 PM -- Transit to Shibuya
11 AM - 12 PM -- Lunch at Sushi no Midori
12 PM - 1 PM -- Trying to look for Karaoke-kan
1:30 PM - 2:30 PM -- Karaoke-kan
2:30 PM - 3 PM -- Club Sega arcade
3 PM - 4 PM -- Snack at Kamakura Soup with Noodles
4 PM - 4:30 PM -- Transit to Harajuku (to find a store for my boss)
4:30 PM - 5 PM -- Transit to Shinjuku-Sanchome
5 PM - 5:45 PM -- Dinner from the basement food hall at Isetan
5:45 PM - 6 PM -- Back to the hotel

5:20 AM -- Woke up
9:45 AM - 10:20 AM -- Transit to Shibuya
11 AM - 11:45 AM -- Lunch at Miami Garden
11:45 AM - 2:45 PM -- Karaoke-kan (yes, I spent 3 hours in there!!)
2:45 PM - 3:10 PM -- Back to the hotel (bumming around until 6:30 PM)
6:30 PM - 6:45 PM -- Dinner from 7-11
9:45 PM -- CRASHED

DAY 11: FRIDAY MAY 23, 2014 (CLOUDY)
5:30 AM -- Woke up
8:45 AM - 9:15 AM -- Checked out the newly launched One Piece campaign at 7-11
11 AM -- Checked out of the hotel
11:20 AM - 12:40 PM -- Transit to Shinjuku JR station + ticket to N'EX Express
12:40 PM - 2 PM -- Transit to Narita Airport Terminal 1
2 PM - 3 PM -- Returning Wi-Fi router + Checking in luggage
3:30 PM - 5:05 PM -- Last-minute shoppings at the airport
5:05 PM - 5:50 PM -- Boarded the airplane
5:50 PM - 5 AM (4 PM Toronto time zone) -- Flight to Toronto
4 PM - 5:30 PM -- Picking up luggage + waiting for a taxi
5:30 PM - 6 PM -- Taxi ride back to my sister and her fiance's place
1:45 AM -- CRASHED

If you've read this far, thanks for reading!! The next entry will be part 1 of the places I visited in Japan. I will see if I can post a bit more frequently since I've got a lot of blogs to write about Japan. It will depend on how I fare with my second love: Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn... (I finally get to re-subscribe, yay!!) <3

Till next time! (Which should be soon-ish, I hope!)

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