Friday, August 23, 2013

Tokyo: The Trip There

Over the past week I was fortunate enough to be able to take a trip to Tokyo, Japan. Now, many of us have seen Tokyo on the television or the interwebs at some point in our life ... Yet still I feel it's necessary to give you a few fun facts. First Tokyo, as it stands today, isn't just one city; it's actually a "metropolitan prefecture." This means that it is comprised of many self-governing cities all connecting into one giant city comprised of 23 wards. Just how big is it? Well, with over 39 million people it is the most populated city on the planet. This is part 1 of the story of my time in this wonderfully diverse city.


I set out from Naha International Airport at around 7:30 PM after receiving a ride from my lovely girlfriend (THANK YOU!).  I breezed through check in and security in less than 5 minutes. Heck, I didn't even have to take out my ID or get patted down in an unholy way like I always do with American TSA! The airline I chose (Air Asia) is generally a pretty cheap way to fly between Okinawa and mainland Japan. Though, I don't ever recall Having ever been on one of their flights that hadn't been delayed; an unfortunate side effect of flying on small airlines. Well, with the usual delay of about 30 minutes I was starting to become worried about catching the train once I arrived at the airport in Tokyo.

      ^bored I the lobby^

My hotel was going to be about a 20 minute ride from the airport, which when multiplied by the price of taking a cab would be an outrageous amount of money. The last time I took a cab it cost me ¥1,000 (about $10 USD) to get out of the airport and by the time I got to my hotel (a five minute ride) it cost me ¥2,500 (roughly $26 USD)! Needless to say I didn`t want this to happen and I would be cutting it close.

        ^leaving on a jet plane^

Finally the moment arrived to board the plane. We, the sleepy passengers, walked in 3 file lines out onto the tarmac. I thought it would be kind of weird of me to snap a shot of the plane, so I did it quickly and stealthily. Though after hearing the sound of shutters closing all around me I realized it was a rather common practice here in Japan. People were even posing in front of the plane before boarding.


Once we entered the plane I was taken slightly aback due to a foggy white substance pouring into the plane cabin. I soon noticed it was an on-board humidifier meant to keep passengers hydrated during the ride. A brilliant idea! I was lucky enough to get an aisle seat near the back leaving me near the rear exit and of course the lavatory. My seatmates were an Okinawan couple going to Tokyo on a trip. From the looks of it they were rather newly married. They cuddled like two high-schoolers who hadn't seen each other for TWO periods. 10 minutes after the seat belt sign had been turned off they needed to use the bathroom, together. Now, I don't believe they entered the same lavatory (major props to them if they did) they made this same trip several more times through out the two hour flight. Each time they would tap me on the shoulder and give me a "I gotta go look." It doesn't matter what language one speaks we can all recognize that look Finally we entered Tokyo's airspace and made our decent into the city.

    ^ humidifier action^

 We exited the plane, jumped on a bus and were shuttled to the main domestic terminal. All I can say is thank goodness I didn't check any bags. While the others were waiting to collect their bags I had a mission to complete. I bolted toward the basement train station. Myself and about 10 other passengers were running through the halls, down escalators and eventually into the train station as fast as our weary traveler legs could carry us. After arriving I quickly purchased a ticket (about $1.50USD), went through the gate, down another set of stairs and onto the platform with only a few minutes to spare. As myself and the other plane passengers stepped foot on the platform we each breathed a heavy sigh of relief. The train arrived exactly on time (such efficiency!) and since the airport is the last stop each of us were able to get our own seat. If you know how crowded public transportation usually is you'll recognize how much of a treat these opportunities are. It's like playing musical chairs and everyone wins a nice tasty cake at the end.

     ^just in time^

I made it to my stop and I was consumed with three thoughts: getting food, finding my hotel and why did Tokyo smell like hot dogs. Outside of the station I located a hot dog stand answering my malodious question. 

     ^Them crazy eyes and the smell of      hotdogs^

Soon I found my hotel, the Center Hotel Narita. It had a cozy little room near the station that offered complimentary breakfast, air conditioning, and a typical hard-as-a-rock bed. 

    ^Center Hotel Narita^

The front desk clerk was kind and once he realized I hail from Okinawa he showed a very excited side of his personality. He told me it was his dream to travel there with his family one day. Following check-in I consumed an all too classy meal consisting of convenience store sandwiches and two tall cans of Chuhi. After which it was time to hit the hay and prepare for the next days journey toward Kamakura and of course destiny.

    ^Bed time at last!^

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