Japan 2010 – Day 1

November 5th 2010.

Woke up at 2:30am to prepare for my flight which is at 5:35am.

Feeling confident that this trip will be fine this time thanks to my experience from a previous trip 3 years ago, I set off anxiously to the airport.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have slept that night. Because throughout the flight, I couldn’t sleep. But good thing is they now have little TV screens on the back of each seat so I was able to kill time by watching some movies on my flight there.

Arriving at the Narita airport, after going through customs, there’s one more stop where you need to open up your luggage for checking. This is where the first embarassing thing happened to me. I forgot the 3-digit number to unlock my suitcase.

I know it’s a familiar number but I got nervous and ended up mixing up the numbers in my head.

And when I finally got it opened, sometime during when the officer went through the stuff in my luggage, the numbers were adjusted again and I didn’t have the chance to memorize it. And because the numbers were shifted, I couldn’t close it!

Then his colleague suggested using this tape machine to help me secure the suitcase until I can get back to my hotel. But he wasn’t able to operate the machine and couldn’t get my suitcase tied up. So I had to carry my suitcase out the customs area and figure out the number outside.

I finally figured out the number after like 10 minutes of struggle.

Next task is to search around for the SoftBank outlet to collect the SIM card I rented online. After inserting the card into my iPhone, I looked at them and they seemed busy with something else. I thought that was it and so I walked away, but not too far away from the outlet.

The guy who attended to me came to tell me that the procedures weren’t over yet.

After signing some papers and testing to make sure the card works, I went to get my Keisei Skyliner ticket to Ueno, where my hotel is.

I totally forgot I had a fixed seat. And out of all the empty seats I randomly chose, I picked one which was assigned to someone else. The guy who showed me the ticket was kind enough to tell me to stay while he went to another seat in front.

After checking in at the hotel, which is located in a quiet alley, I discover that there’s no lift. I have to carry my suitcase up to the second floor. A suitcase which I know will get many times heavier once I get my shopping done.

Fortunately, for flights between Japan and Singapore on Delta, I could check in 2 baggages for free.

This time, I came with only 1 set of clothes, and was going to buy a few more at the Uniqlo here since it’s cheaper than Singapore’s.

My hotel room is a lot smaller than the one I had last trip, 3 years ago. A huge bed where one side is softer than the other.

On the table was an ADSL modem, with it’s power plug unplugged. Considering how old the place is, I thought this is what’s given to guests to get online. I plugged in the power, plugged in my own ethernet cable, no connection. ( It wasn’t until 2 days later, that I noticed another ethernet cable lying around on the table. Plugged that cable in and I’m online. orz )

I quickly unpacked some of my stuff and prepared to go to Akihabara for shopping, dinner and some phototaking.

Walking from the hotel to Ueno station takes less than 10 minutes. I’m so happy I booked at a good location.

Collected my 14 day JR pass at Ueno station’s helpdesk.

Navigating my way from the station’s helpdesk to the Yamamoto track happened so natural to me, it felt like I’ve been living in Japan for a long time.

At Akihabara, I spent 3 hours walking around various shops buying manga and CDs. Then I went to search for a nice place to have my first dinner in Japan. I found this ramen restaurant at UDX building and went in.

First thing I noticed was the ticket vending machine where you select what you want to eat and pay for it right there. I selected negi ramen and a cup of beer.

I sat at a corner, failing to realize it’s a smoking zone but fortunately, there weren’t any smokers around.

A girl tended to me and I handed her my tickets. She then gave me a piece of paper and a pencil, said something very fast which caught me off guard.

If I don’t pay 100% attention to someone speaking to me in Japanese, I instantly fail to understand what was said to me.

I started reading the piece of paper and realized it’s for me to select how I want my ramen done. There were many properties with various options for me to choose. I think what I circled was thin, slightly “spongy” noodles.

They were delicious. And probably because of the mood, even the beer felt good.

After dinner, I headed down to Shibuya and bought coffee from the Starbucks there. The second floor of this Starbucks has a good view of the cross junction in front of it where it’s always very crowded. Too bad it was crowded so I decided to just walk around the area.

In the middle of my walk, I got an unexpected phonecall from an old FFXI friend, L. He just happened to meet Z in-game so Z gave him my local rented phone number.

Along the streets, you could see some people bringing their own audio equipment and setting up their instruments in front of closed stores, for a mini-live performance.