Japan March 2004

Japan 2004 Day 2: Arriving in Tokyo

Friday March 12, 2004

I was happy to see our bags arrive in Tokyo. I was worried since the last time I had seen them was on the tarmac at LAX. With a smile we made it through customs. Narita airport features a lot of English signs, so it was not as alien as I had anticipated. Thanks to my friend Jonathan’s instructions we found the booth that sells tickets on the Keisi Skyliner. The main hitch was that it was cash only. Jonathan had warned me that Japan was a very cash-oriented society and this was my first taste. After a few minutes of searching, we found a Citibank ATM machine and got some money out. I heard that not all Japanese banks take US ATM cards, and I brought some traveler’s checks just to be safe. The ATM line was short compared to the crowd at the currency exchange booth, so we will just exchange for money on Monday.

We arrived at the Skyliner platform and the lady told us to go ahead and hop on the train instead of waiting for the one we were ticketed for. She gave us some seats that were empty and when we arrived, someone was in them. Daniel and I decided to hop off at the first stop (another terminal at Narita) and just wait for our train with our seat assignments just in case we ran into another controller-type problem a la Munich. After about 20 minutes we were on the way to Tokyo. The scenery was cool – reminds me of rural California, but with a lot more people. According to Jonathan’s directions, we needed to transfer at the Nippori station to the JR Yananote line. So when the train pulls into the station, Daniel and I hop off and step into an alien world.

All the signs in the Nippori station were in Japanese. No English at all. Daniel and I looked at each other and I think both thought to ourselves my god what have we gotten into. We were able to figure out where the Yananote line was and by uttering the words Kanda to the ticket man, we were able to get a transfer ticket. So now it was left to figure out which station on a map of nothing but Chinese character symbols was our destination. We guessed at first, but after some investigation in my Lonely Planet book comparing the English map in the book to the Japanese map and Daniel’s basic understanding of some Japanese we realized we were on the wrong side. So up and down the stairs we went again and eventually we were on board the train. The good thing is that the Yananote line is a circle line around Tokyo so worst case would be that we had a hour ride to our stop instead of a 15 minute one. After some tense moments on the train, we realized we had made the right call and were going the right direction.

Arriving at the Kanda station, we found the North exit as described by Jonathan and proceeded to follow the directions given by the hotel. Along the way, a nice lady on a bike stopped us to ask if we needed help. Obviously the sight of two Americans with their suitcases and a map walking the streets of a financial district after hours was something of an oddity. We explained we were looking for the Hotel Kazusaya and she said sorry she didn’t know where it was and wished us luck. After some wandering, we were finally able to find it. At check-in the guy asked if we would be OK in the semi-double. I told him that would be fine and we proceeded to room 420.

Inside our semi-double room at the Hotel Kazusaya
Back against the wall, standing on the bed to take this photo
Winnebago like bathroom

My first impression was that of a Winnebego. It was a small room, but perfect for our needs the bed was cozy for two, but we didn’t mind. Our biological clocks were off so we weren’t tired yet. After relaxing a bit, we called Jonathan who said by the time he got there our clocks would tell us to crash. So we agreed to meet up the next day to head out to Kamakura. He suggested we walk around Ginza a bit since it was near our hotel. So off we went and walked around for a while. It didn’t take long for us to get tired and we were back at the hotel ready for bed by 9:30pm local time or 4:30 am back home.