Growing up, separately, JP and I both learned to love Japan’s culture through its anime shows and food. I must’ve watched almost ALL shows aired in ABS-CBN, GM7, and AXN — all before Animax because of an independent channel. I particularly loved animes by Clamp, a set of female manga artists who likes to create unbelievable gorgeous hair and outfits for their characters. They were also the ones who created the popular anime series, Card Captor Sakura, which led me to find my space in the Internet world. Anyway, given that our love for Japan was something JP and I both have in common, it seemed naturally fitting for us to travel there together.
This was the longest trip we’ve had, having spent a total of 6 nights exploring the metropolis on our own, getting lost on a consistent basis, making our way through the sea of people, and getting overwhelmed at the their one-stop stores, which I would say was our favourite part of the trip, but more on that in later blog posts.
On the night before our flight, JP and I slept at his place because we had to be at NAIA Terminal 3 at 3 AM. Despite the fact that our flight to Japan was scheduled to leave around half past 5 AM, the airport was still filled with sleepy and tired travelers. After having a quick breakfast and going through the frequent check-ins and immigration, JP and I immediately went to the gate to board the plane.
By 5:30 AM, we were already settled in the plane, but due to the airport traffic, we were still delayed for 30 minutes or more. Throughout the flight, I was having a hard time falling asleep. To save myself from getting bored, I kept myself busy by browsing the in-flight magazine, Smile, reading the travel writing book I got from Lonely Planet, and occasionally checking the view by the window. I also got lucky to the witness of what I can only assume is the Sierra Madre mountain region!
At Narita Airport and Choosing The Wrong Train
We arrived at Narita International Airport at around 10:40 AM. At the immigration counter, the security office asked me several times if I had any relatives living in Japan and where I’ll be staying. I can only assume that he thought I had relatives because of my Japanese-inspired name and the fact that my address wasn’t a hotel, so I had to explain to him that my parents named me after a famous Japanese artist and that I’ll be staying at an Airbnb home. He laughed and let me go.
After getting our luggage and exchanging some of my US dollars (for emergency situations), we went ahead to purchase our train tickets. At that time, mercury was in retrograde and if there’s one thing I learned during this period: Always put in some extra time when traveling. The lady and I had some miscommunication, and I ended up purchasing the wrong ticket: the cheapest but slowest train to get to Tokyo. Instead of the 40 minutes travel time, it took us. It took us two hours to get to Tokyo from Narita Airport.
Finding Our Airbnb Home
After spending two hours inside the train, I couldn’t help but look forward to the moment we arrive at our Airbnb home. Our Airbnb host, Starla, has instructed us to take the Tobu Toju line from Ikkebukuro Station and alight at Nakaitabashi. Getting around through the train stations was a breeze, but finding our place was tougher than we thought. Upon arrival at Nakaitabashi, we couldn’t contact our host (again, mercury retrograde?), and the locals can’t speak much English. They were, however, very helpful to assist us in any way they can.
Lost and starving, we found refuge in the delicious Mos Burger that was located right across the station. Fortunately, by the time we were done with our burgers, our host arrived and brought us to our home for the next 7 days. If you remember, I posted a separate review of my Airbnb home, and you can read it here.
Running on on-and-off hours of sleep, JP and I decided to take a quick nap before exploring Tokyo. Come 5 PM, we headed down to Shibuya to see its famous intersection. Shibuya is like Hong Kong’s Causeway Bay but bigger, brighter and livelier. Outside the train station, you’ll find the famous and busiest intersection. For a brief moment, you’ll witness one of Tokyo’s organized chaos in this “scramble” crossing.
To get to Shibuya: Take the JR Yamanote line to Shibuya station, Hachiko exit.
A typical scene of Scramble Crossing in Japan, but this was not taken at the famous Shibuya Crossing
At the Yoyogi Stadium
From Shibuya, we walked towards Yoyogi Park until we reached Harajuku Station, which is 2KM long, just watching people pass by and observing the beauty of the park at night. Walking all the way to Harajuku area from Shibuya Station is really exhausting, so we decided to skip Harajuku for another day and go straight to Shinjuku, for a quick dinner. We honestly had a hard time deciding where to eat because most of the Japanese restaurants didn’t have any English captions. We ended up eating at this really expensive Irish pub, lol.
Shinjuku at night
We’ve decided to head back early to get some much-needed rest. Everything was going fine until I asked JP if we’re in the right direction because the streets just look so darn different at night. He suddenly became unsure, so for the nth time, we got lost AGAIN. If you must know, I am excellent with directions, but we were always getting lost, making wrong turns throughout this trip. I don’t even believe in Mercury Retrograde, yet it was happening to us. It was funny and frustrating at the same time, but luckily, every corner of Tokyo is safe and exciting.
The Nakaitabashi neighborhood at night. It’s so quiet and empty at night but VERY SAFE.
So, that wraps up our Day One in Tokyo. Not as eventful as we hoped it to be, but we’ve got six more days to explore this beautiful city. And trust me, Tokyo was worth the wait and effort!