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SOLO JAPAN II 14.-28.3.2004.
introduction | departure day
day one | two | three | four | five | six | seven | eight | nine | ten | eleven | twelve | thirteen | fourteen | fifteen
conclusion of my trip | photo gallery II
Sunday, 14th of March 2004
Narita Airport -> Tokyo

Day One :
Back in Tokyo

Touchdown to Japan!

After a meal I don't know should it be called a breakfast, dinner or a late snack because of the time difference, the plane was preparing for landing.

The view I saw from the far window was not surprisingly very different from the view in Finland. It was early spring in Japan, meaning the dominating colour was brown. Not a very stimulating colour and I was already thinking did I make a mistake by taking the risk of visiting Japan so early.

The plane landed safely after a short delay. I grabbed my stuff and proceeded to the airport terminal, which was surprisingly quiet.

New landing permission sticker

At the first checkpoint I was again stamped as a "temporary visitor". A part of the embarkment card that I filled in the airplane was attached to the passport, but this time around the inspector also placed a sticker code in my passport in addition of a normal stamp. At the second checkpoint my luggage wasn't checked like they did previously (must be the short hair I had this time).

When I entered the arrival lobby, I was surprised to notice it was near dead quiet! Like, where is everybody? Hibernating or something? Where is that power stream of humans I had to dive into the last time I was here? Very strange.

Taking advantage of the JR Pass right away

I visited a JR Pass exchange office so that I could use my JR Pass right away (and almost forgot my passport there). I went to the terminal for the NEX train and got on board it once the cleaners did their job their first (a very typical procedure for trains in the departure and arrival stations in Japan).

The scenery between Narita airport and Tokyo was rather uninspiring and I was still a bit disappointed there wasn't that "in your face" welcome at the airport. The train was also half empty.

Moving around Tokyo

After arriving at Tokyo Station 12:10pm sharp, I decided to visit Shinjuku, where I would visit a Yodobashi Camera department store and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office building.

To my surprise, I moved like a fish in water to the Yamamote line and got off at Shinjuku. Oh, the beauty of this railway system! Looks like I haven't forgotten the basic survival instincts I learned from the previous trip. Feels good. ^^

I found the camera department store and bought a wide angle extension lens for the Sony CSC-F717 digital camera I borrowed from my father. It cost about 200 euros (26,460 yen), but it was still cheaper than it would have cost back in Finland (and most internet shops). The disappointing thing however were the memory sticks, which actually were more expensive than in Finland. So I decided not to waste any money and hoped the 128MB and 32MB memory sticks I had with me would be enough.

The big picture of Tokyo

I then advanced to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office building which was a short walk away from the camera store. The building itself was big, but the main reason I went there was the observation floors that have a good view of Tokyo.

There was no admission fee(!) and the view was impressive: small concrete houses going far as the human eye could see before disappearing into the smog in the horizon. I used the extension lens right away to get some photos of the view (although later I noticed they were blurry due to a wrong setting in the camera).

Vending machines in restaurants

I left the building and wandered around the area for a moment, viewing tall office buildings before returning to the station for something to eat. I picked a small ramen restaurant and walked to the counter, presuming I could make the order there, but it turned out not to be the case.

Instead the waiter pointed to a vending machine next to the entrance door. With the vending machine I should choose the meal I wanted by inserting the amount of money needed and then pressing the corresponding button to get a receipt. This receipt I would then give to the waiter, who will then prepare the food printed on it.

A very functional system! I just wonder how the hell did I avoid this the previous time I was in Japan!

The beauty of Tokyo streets

After my quick lunch, I got stuck wandering around Shinjuku station. Not because I was lost, but because I wanted to stop and admire the kimonos so many women were wearing. Ah yes, the blend of traditional and modern Japan, this is what I really like (I was later told that this time of year many students graduate, so this might have been the reason for an unusually high kimono rate in the streets).

One of the most spectacular combinations came from a woman maybe in her fifteens, who had her short hair dyed blue and was wearing a bright yellow kimono, fantastically fresh looking! Unfortunately I was a bit too shy to take photos and noticed them every time too late to get a decent shot anyway.

The ying of Harajuku ...

Realizing I still had bucket loads of time before going to the ryokan (Japanese style inn), I decided to visit Harajuku (via Yamamote line again) in order to see cosplayers. Cosplayers are teenagers dressed up in bizarre costumes, usually replicating some Japanese rock band's or anime character's outfit.

Well, there were plenty of them and it was a scene worth seeing, but to my disappointment there were even more tourists than cosplayers buzzing around taking photos of them, which was probably a bit annoying for both sides. So after a few photos I took myself, I went to inspect a large torii-gate close by.

... and the yang of Harajuku

The torii-gate actually led to the Meiji-Shrine, built in 1920 in honour of the Emperor Meiji and Empress Shoken (it was bombed during WWII and rebuilt in 1958). Seeing the shrine itself was nice enough, but the real treat came when a Japanese wedding group entered the shrine for a wedding photo.

The bride's white kimono was beautiful and I took along with other curious tourists dozens of photos of her. When she removed her white cap after the wedding photo was taken, it revealed the most stunning looking hairstyle that made the tourist crowd gasp in amazement.

Returning to ryokan Kangetsu

I left the shrine feeling very pleased I came to Japan and decided to head for ryokan Kangetsu, the same accommodation I stayed at during my first nights in Tokyo. Getting on the Yamamote line again, I got off at Gotanda station and changed to the Tokyu Ikegami Line for Chidoricho station.

I actually realized at the Chidoricho station that it wasn't a part of the JR line, so I couldn't use my JR Pass since there wasn't a manned gate and I didn't have a ticket to get through the gates, so I actually had to jump over it while no one was watching. Sumimasen! ^^;

I found the ryokan easily as the area was familiar to me. After paying for my reservation, I was escorted to my room. My room was yet again great. It isn't a big room, but I really like the tatami floor and futon bed.

I checked my e-mails from the public computer and used the free massage chair, which really felt great after a tiring flight and busy day. Then I took a bath in the public bathroom or furo. The bath water was not far from burning hot, but it was still relaxing after getting used to it. What a splendid way to slow down the evening.

A good start for the vacation

Overall, the first day of my trip was good. Despite the fact that I didn't experience the same kind of culture shock like the first time, all the elements I love about Tokyo were still here. Incredible city.

After watching some television, I wrapped myself inside the futon and fell asleep with a familiar good feeling of being in Japan again.

back to top | proceed to day two!

 

Photo copyright Ude
In addition to the classic stamp, the inspector put these stickers in my passport too.

Photo copyright Ude
Car drivers waiting for their passengers at the Narita arrival lobby. Unfortunately my name wasn't on any of their signs.

Photo copyright Ude
Tokyo Metropolis as far as the eye can stretch ... view from the Tokyo Metropolitan Government office building.

Photo copyright Ude
At a small restaurant somewhere in the Shinjuku station.

Photo copyright Ude
Cosplayers at Harajuku. What scares me is that I know who these guys are dressed up as and what album era is in question.

Photo copyright Ude
Right next to the cosplayers' hangout area was the entrance path to the Meiji shrine.

Photo copyright Ude
Posing for a shinto-style wedding family photo at the Meiji Shrine.

Photo copyright Ude
At the gates of ryokan Kangetsu, what a great place!

LINKS TO SERVICES, PLACES, ETC. MENTIONED TODAY:
Narita international airport - Biggest international airport in Japan close to Tokyo.
Japan rail pass - With this I could use almost any JR train for free for the next 14 days (including most shinkansen trains!).
Yodobashi Camera - One of the biggest electronic device chain stores in Japan.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government Office - Excellent place to visit for a wide view of Tokyo ... for free!
Meiji Jingu - Official site for the shrine close to Harajuku
Ryokan Kangetsu - My favourite accommodation choice in Tokyo!

 

 

 

Copyright 2003-2019 © , second edition. Latest minor update 4th of May 2010 (fixed and deleted broken links)