Monday, October 24, 2011

Tokyo, Day 2 – The Narita Express and Exploring Shinjuku

We walked through a hall and checked if we really had everything we took with us on the plane. I think I checked my bag at least three times, I was so afraid to forget something (when I looked under our chairs in the plane, one of the stewardesses asked if I had lost something)! Then, we finally entered the airport.

Welcome to Narita Airport!
My first picture in Tokyo! I was sooo happy!

We went up an escalator and walked through a couple of halls, after which we arrived at passport control and immigration. It was so hot there! We both wore warm clothes, since the weather at home wasn’t exactly warm and to save some room in our suitcases (it wasn’t hot in the plane either). We had to stand in line with our passports and immigration forms ready. We had to fill in the forms during the flight, luckily. We had to walk to a desk, where they looked at your passport and forms. They also needed our fingerprints and picture (no big smiles, haha). After that, we could finally walk down some stairs and pick up our suitcases.
I was so afraid they would’ve lost one of them (or both)! I was really relieved when I saw two black suitcases with red/orange straps around them come towards us. I quickly dragged them off the belt and put them on the cart.

All the suitcases are safe
All of our suitcases! My dad looks a little tired, which wasn’t surprising.

We showed our passports one more time and then we walked into a big hall, where we could buy tickets for the train. Narita Airport isn’t really close to Tokyo (it’s not like you walk out of the door and you get out at Harajuku), but we had looked this up already, so we knew we had to go either by train or by bus. The buses wouldn’t start driving until 3 pm, but since it was 9 am, we had decided to take the Narita Express that would ride to Shinjuku, where our hotel was.

Narita Express Tickets
Our tickets for reserved seats! The train rode via Narita, Chiba and Shibuya Station to Shinjuku Station.

We took the escalator down to the train station. Luckily, we didn’t have to walk very far. We had flown through different timezones and sleeping seemed impossible, so we were quite tired (at that moment, it was around 2 am in our own timezone). But the fact that we were there gave us so much energy!

Do I spot a Starbucks already?
Walking to the trainstation and our first encounter with signs filled with Japanese signs.

After taking our suitcases off the cart, leaving the cart behind and taking another escalator down, we finally arrived at the train station, where the train was already waiting for us.

Waiting for the train
Even though there were quite some people on the station, the train was really quiet! We were almost alone in our coupé.

We had to wait a while before we could get in. They were probably cleaning or something.

Suitcases? Check!
‘Look, all of our suitcases are here!’

We put our suitcases above our heads and sat down, only partially realizing how far away from home we were. Then the train started driving.
The view out of the window was really great. First, we rode through the countryside for a while, passing forests and villages. It was interesting to see how much it ressembled our own country and was so different at the same time.

Japan's Countryside
In the countryside, the houses seemed nice and pretty spacious, but the closer we got to the city, the smaller and packed everything became.

There were telephone poles and wires everywhere! But even though it seemed like a really complex system, my father was right: it looked like it works fine. I don’t know how to describe it otherwise. On our way, we also saw a hanging monorail!
Then, after passing Shibuya Station and we arrived at Shinjuku Station, where we got out. We were standing in a bit of an abandoned part and we didn’t really know where we were supposed to go (a French woman asked me something, probably if this was the right way. But I had no idea either), so we just followed the few people walking around. Finally, we got out in a big, crowded hall. There were multiple signs, directing us to different exits (there’s not only north, east, south and west, but also northeast, southwest, etc.), so we got a bit confused and ended up asking a man behind a desk for help. He didn’t understand our pronunciation of the name of our hotel, so we showed him a map and he was able to help us.
After dragging up our suitcases up some stairs we were finally above the ground again, in a sunfilled, crowded street. After looking at the map again, we understood where to go and we went on our way. Then, we finally found our hotel.

Sunroute Plaza
Hotel Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku!

The hotel was really big and tall and its colour was quite noticeable and bright. I had looked up the street and the hotel in Google Maps already and I recognised almost everything!

14 stories high
I think our hotel looked really awesome!

We went inside to ask if we could leave our suitcases behind. We couldn’t check in until 2 pm, so we wanted to explore the area a bit, but preferably without our suitcases. =) Luckily, we weren’t the only ones who had this plan, since we saw a lot of other suitcases standing. After giving our suitcases off and receiving a number, we left the hotel and decided to go right.

Hotel picture
Taking pictures of the surroundings.

The street was so lively! There were many people walking around and cars and trucks drove by (they drove left, so strange. ^^). Then, we encountered our first…
drinks vending machine!

Vending machines!
My ‘Oh-my-God-we-found-a-drinks-vending-machine!’-look. ^^

Of course we had to buy a drink immediately! We took a sports/energy drink and walked further, passing a crossover where we took some pictures of a subway train passing by. We saw a sign at a shop, saying ‘Book-off’ and we decided to take a look. It was a shop filled with manga! Shelves filled with books everywhere! It was so funny and amazing to find two incredibly Japanese things right after each other!

I might find some manga around here...
I’ve seen them do this in every bookshop: all standing to the side, reading! It’s so cute! I look around suspiciously somehow though.

I walked around and saw at least three of my favorite series in an instant, like Fullmetal Alchemist and Death Note. I also noticed how cheap all the mangas were: I pay around 11 euros/15 dollars for a Fullmetal Alchemist manga, here one book was 2,50 euros/3,45 dollar! One side note, all the words were in Japanese of course. XD The shop also had a lot of CDs and without even really looking around, I found two CDs of my favourite band: Sound Horizon! I couldn’t help but smile at the fact I had found so many super Japanese things already! Vending machines, manga, Sound Horizon… It couldn’t be a coincidence!
We left the store and followed the street, passing more vending machines (I swear, you don’t need to look for them. They are everywhere!), shops (multiple Family Marts: small supermarkets),the Yoyogi subwaystation and multiple restaurants. Now here’s a really cool thing about a lot of restaurants: they have their food displayed in their shopwindow. Not real food, but fake! This way, you can look at all the dishes they offer and you can choose the one you like the most! Very handy if the people in the restaurant don’t speak English.

Fake food
Almost every restaurant in Tokyo used fake food in their shop window! It was so cool and it made us hungry everytime!

Speaking of English: if you ever go to Tokyo, be prepared! The Japanese barely speak English. I didn’t expect them to be absolutely fluent, but I’ll admit that I didn’t expect them to barely know any English words. I knew even more Japanse words than they knew English ones! XD We managed to tell what we wanted by using our hands a lot and pointing at food also helps. ^^

Shinjuku Street
A tiny glimpse of one of the streets of Shinjuku. It had such a pleasant and welcoming vibe.

After passing a restaurant where they made some kind of little fried balls (we didn’t know what it was, but went to eat there some other day) and decided to slowly walk back to where we started. Suddenly, we passed a SEGA hall filled with machines where you could play games, try to win things and… Purikura machines!

In it to win it?
Some of the many machines in the hall. I especially loved the big white stuffed things with facial expressions on them.

We saw Halloween-related things everywhere. Apparently, Halloween is a big thing in Tokyo and Japan.
It wasn’t time to check in yet, so we decided to go eat somewhere. Since we had just arrived and were still a bit dazed from everything, we decided to just go to McDonald’s and order two burgers. This was quite adventurous too: no English-speaking staff. Luckily, they had a paper lying on the counter with all the different drinks and menus on them, so we could just point at what we wanted. When a staffmember asked ‘Take away?’ (Hey, English!) we didn’t even understand him! We really had to get used to their different pronunciation of English words, but it didn’t take us long. ^^
After eating, it was finally almost time to check in, so we went back to the hotel and sat on a couch for 45 minutes, when we could finally check in.
Our room number was 1452, the fourteenth floor! The highest one! We had asked for a high floor, so it was really cool!

Welcome to your room
My dad looking out the window.

Our room was really, really nice! People say rooms in big cities like Tokyo are small, but ours was quite spacious! We had two quite bigs beds, a chair, a desk, a pretty big tv, a big closet, quite some room to place our suitcases and a bathroom with bathtub and shower. The funny thing was: there was a window in the wall between the actual room and the bathroom! It looked quite funny, but I was glad there was a curtain you could place in front of it. ^^ Our view was also amazing!

Shinjuku Skyscrapers
Our view: the Shinjuku Skyscrapers! They were even more beautiful at night, with all the lights.

We quickly took my laptop out of my suitcase, so we could go on Skype. I was worried it wouldn’t work well, but within a few minutes we were talking to my mom and brother on the other side of the world. After talking for about an hour, we logged off and decided to lie down for a while. It was nice to rest after such a long day and I quickly fell asleep. After a couple of hours my dad woke me up and suggested to go out and eat something. I quickly changed clothes and we left the hotel.
Outside, we decided to go left this time. After walking a couple of hundreds of meters we arrived at a big and crowded intersection, surrounded by tall buildings and a huge orange clock on one of them. We noticed that a lot of people already slowly started to cross the street when they thought the light would switch to green, even though it was still red! This happened everywhere we came. After walking for a while, we saw a bridge going over the busy road leading to a big white building called ‘MyLord’ and we decided to cross it.

MyLord, a department store we would visit very often.

The city looked so wonderful and exactly how I had imagined it: lights everywhere and so many people! I was finally able to think: ‘We are in Tokyo!’

The crossing, as seen from the bridge. On the right you can see the huge orange clock.

We walked into the big building and looked around. There were so many incredibly cute shops! Every single one of them was perfectly styled and looked so welcoming! I also saw a little shop that sold cosmetics, where they sold Dolly Wink eyelashes.

Adorable shop
One of the many stores. They all looked cute like this one!

We looked around on every floor, including the three top floors that were entirely dedicated to restaurants. After looking at all the fake food, we decided on our first choice: a cute restaurant with a lot of wooden beams.
I ordered a plate with noodles, soup and rice with meat on it and my dad ordered a plate with small cups with all kinds of food. We sat down and immediately got ice water (during our trip, we got this in every restaurant except for one), which tasted really nice. We received our food really fast!

What's for dinner?
The food was really delicious, although I had no idea how to eat it. Luckily, our neighbours ordered the same, so I could look how they did it.

The food was really delicious, especially the meat on top of my rice. And the funny things is: at home I hate rice, but the Japanese kind is so tasty! Eating with chopsticks was quite a challenge though, but I did better than my dad. ^^ He couldn’t really handle them well.
After our delicious first Japanese meal we went back to the hotel, read for a while and finally went to sleep. Our first day (it still felt like one day) had been great!


  1. The fried balls you saw were probably "takoyaki," dough filled with octopus. Did you end up trying them? They aren't my taste but they're just so odd that I still recommend them, haha!

    I can't wait to read more!

  2. I love how there's a Book-Off by your hotel! I'm guessing from your experience that you know it's a used bookstore.

    They have one location in New York City, but I'm sure it's nothing like the ones in Japan.

  3. @ Miss Lumpy: Yes, we did eat them later! By that time, I already knew what they were (after searching on Google. XD). I was glad I learned that they were filled with octopus, otherwisae I would've been a bit shocked! XD I really like them though! =D

    @ Petrina: It was such a great store! T_T

  4. ahhh! everything looks so cute and amazingg :D haha

  5. Book-off is used books, that is why they are so cheap! Even within book-off, the prices vary depending on how well-loved the book is. If you buy from a proper book store, it will be a bit more expensive :)

    I wound up buying and shipping home nearly 30 kilos of books, hahahaha.

  6. @ HeidiFlowers: Everything WAS cute and amazing! =D

    @ Goemily: Haha, yes, I just found out! But I don't mind, I was really happy! =D
    Wow, 30 kilos? O___O

  7. I love your posts! Your so adorable and sweet, keep up the good blogging! <3

  8. Oh my, you do? Thank you so much! You're the sweet one! <3