MangoVine
Adventures in East Asia

Arriving in Narita - Tokyo - Shinjujku

Arriving in Japan's Narita airport was a "polite" experience not surprisingly. There were extra checks and forms to fill in because of the recent swine flu outbreak, and since 2007, Japan have upped their requirements for entry by scanning fingerprints and taking your portrait. I find entering a country through immigration control to be an mildly anxious experience sometimes (What if?) but I was much more relaxed by the polite and friendly Japanese attendants bowing and guiding the way from the plane to the passport countrol desks.

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We're through to the exit without a problem and avoid the initial ticket desk for express trains to Tokyo and go downstairs to get a combination Suica card and NEX train ticket. We were advised to get the Suica card - it operates like London's Oyster card and Hong Kong's Octopus card, in that we use it to swipe through the metro gates in Tokyo and can top it up with credit when it runs out. Very convenient.

The NEX ticket is needed to get from Narita airport to Tokyo and buying the pair together apparently gets the ticket at half price (1,500 JPY). Altogether, the combo cost us 3,500 JPY each, so the Suica card costs us 2,000 JPY and there is 1,500 JPY credit loaded on. 500 JPY is a deposit for the card, which can be refunded by returning it.

We wait for the hourly JR line train with our NEX ticket and pass through Tokyo and Shibuya stations before stopping at Shinjuku. Luckily, our hotel is just around the corner - a short walk to the Hotel Sunroute Shinjuku, though we didn't bump into Jackie Chan or Daniel Wu selling chestnuts (Shinjuku Incident).

When we were checking for places to live, we were keen to spend some time in a traditional ryokan thinking it would be cheaper than a normal hotel. However, we did get a good 40% off deal at Sunroute, which is more of a modern business hotel than traditional. Ryokans that were cheaper and still available seemed to us to have alot of compromises on comfort and convenience and for a decent ryokan experience, we'd have to pay alot more.

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As a culture as gadget-obsessed as Japan (wouldn't want it any other way, now that we're here!), we didn't come across anything out of the ordinary before we got to the hotel. However, our room toilet had the bidet and shower facilities we'd heard about before. We obviously haven't lived as neither of us had previously had the "wondrous" experience of washing our behinds with warm jets of water straight after our use. That is, after Linh was first a little unsettled by the strength of the pressure and moving away, allowed the jet of water to shoot straight up at the ceiling like a fountain (and splashing me) before working out how to switch it off.

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It's already early evening when we get to the hotel so we spend the rest of it exploring the neighborhood, stopping first at a local sushi place that sold plates for as little as 150JPY each (around £1). It's a nice experience, as there are three chefs in the middle of the small conveyor belt, and as customers come and go, they all raise their voices to say something that sounds like a traditional greeting. Throughout our meal, they were constantly making up plates of fresh sushi for the belt as well as creating custom orders. Each chef had a huge bowl of wasabi and when customers wanted some, they unnervingly scooped up a portion with their fingers and wipe the lump onto the customer's plate.

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We walked around a few of the arcades and toy shops in Shinjuku, which ended up being really similar to the ones in Hong Kong. Capsule stations dispensing toys were everywhere too, selling more or less the same as Hong Kong ones. I think I was expecting to be really impressed by arcades here (the price of everything is slightly higher however), but should have seen this coming. There were quite a few pachinko palours though, which I've never been to before.

Our final destination this evening was the double-malled Lumines (1 and 2), on top of Shinjuku station, which was smaller than we thought (at the moment, we're used to Hong Kong's shopping centres which seem to go on forever once you're inside them). The place was full of clothes shops, although we did come across a fantastic place full of funky products on the 5th floor of Lumines 2. I think it's called "Village Vanguard" judging by the small sign outside. I'm sure we'll see alot cooler stuff once we put in some "proper" shopping time, but at least this place stocked the samurai sword umbrella.

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Its an umbrella that I've featured on my other blog One Inch Punch and its a typical product that I would see online and add to One Inch Punch, but would never see in real life. It's good to finally meet it and this will hopefully happen more often in the next two weeks.

I'm still a little hungry before we get back to the hotel, so I got some takeaway KFC. Apologies for the non-indigenous meal, but at least it had a box with Japanese type on it.

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This entry posted in : Food. Japan. Tourism.

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30/05/09  at  07:37 AM
MangoVine--love your posts and adventures in Kowloon, HK, Vietnam, and now Japan. Thanks for sharing!
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30/05/09  at  08:08 AM
Hi David, thanks for reading!
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