Arrival at the Airport
Exchange your Japan Railpass Order. Since I arrived pretty early, I exchanged my pass on the lower ground level. I think there are other counters open during normal office hours.
Going to Khaosan Tokyo Kabuki: I was staying in the Asakusa area and the best way to get to my hostel is to take the Keisei train. Take the Keisei Limited EXPRESS – just a little bit more expensive but less stops. Choose convenience over money on this one!
It was quite easy to navigate around with my wheeled luggage. The lifts are working in the subway stations, although I believe these are primarily for the pregnant or elderly.
The subway is PHENOMENAL. It seems like there is a subway option every two or three blocks. There are two subway systems in Tokyo (subway means underground).
The map is already too much for me to figure out. So I was undecided if I will buy transportation passes for my Tokyo leg. Most discussions discourage the use of these as they will only be the best option if you really have to hop from one area to another. If you plan your itinerary carefully, the passes may not be worth its price. I will refer you to the very helpful Japan guide for more details.
The lower right portion of this map shows the lines covered by the Toei/Asakusa Line and the Tokyo Metro Line/ Ginza Line. Note that this is just the subway map. There are other railway operators, as outlined by the gray line.
I bought a Pasmo card loaded with JPY 2,000. The Pasmo card serves as a pass in the two subways – it excludes the JR loop. It does not give you any discount. It is just for convenience so you don’t have to buy or load your card every time you ride.
If you buy a one-way-ticket ride but you decide to get off at another stop which costs more, just find the Fare Adjustment machine to adjust your ticket. Don’t get scared of it, it has an English translation and you’ll figure out using it. Charge it to experience, charge it to adventure! (Actually, tinatamad lang ako mag-discuss in detail, hehehe).
|Fare Adjustment machines|
|The train follow the exact time. Not a minute in advance, not a minute late.|
I realized there wasn’t much of a difference riding the MRT here and riding the metro of first world countries. If everyone needs to be somewhere at some time, they will squeeze their way.
Take pics of the maps. Some proper names are a mouthful, even if you understand some Japanese. I prefer to take pics of the area maps in my camera then just view and zoom as I navigate around. For train maps, I use the standard map. Paninindigan ko maging turista! Alternatively, I think there are some mobile phone apps that you can install that can help find the best option to reach one station from another. But where’s the fun in that?!?!
|Shibuya Area Map|
Toilets, more fun in Japan!
This is one of the fun things in Japan.
Here’s an up close shot of the Japanese toilet navigation panel.
And don't fret, there's a translated guide beside the toilet.
You can flush toilet paper in the bowl! The toilet paper dissolves into water. (Makes me wonder what other countries have flushable toilet paper?) You can flush toilet paper in Japan, but not the Philippines.
I have a separate post on my Japanese food experience here. Watch and observe, you'll have to return your own tray in fast food restaurants.
There are vending machines all over. Pricey. But you won't go completely hungry or thirsty.
The grocery shopping basket carts have long handles and wheels, so you can drag them around.
They charge you for the plastic bag. So bring your own shopping bag. And you will put the items in the bag yourself, there are no bagboys in the supermarket. There's an area where everyone puts their bought goods in the plastic (where I took this picture).
No cheapo souvenirs!!!
I didn’t find any cheap souvenirs. There are no generic “I Love Japan!” keychains around. The souvenirs are a work of Japanese craftsmanship, I believe. A freakin’ small nailcutter has so much detail that it costs at least JPY 500.
The famous pasalubong would be a pack of Green Kitkat. It is not found anywhere. I could not find it in the city supermarkets nor in all the convenience stores all over Tokyo. I found it in Callbee in Kyoto (now the Kyoto series would be different).
Callbee has a dark Kitkat version as well. But hold on to your Yen ‘til you reach the airport. There are “Cherry Blossoms” and “Mount Fuji” options.
Now if it is your dream to be a Kenshin-like warrior, you can go for a Katana! Hopefully, you won’t broke after buying one. The katana prices are astronomical. I'll get a Daoshu/ broadsword in China someday instead.