Japan 2010 – Day 3

Woke up around 11am. P made breakfast and it was delicious.

After breakfast, P and S sent me off at the train station near their home. I made my way back to the hotel to unload the clothes I bought the day before and set off to Harajuku park.

It was a Sunday and there’s a lot of people here at this huge park. Very different from the parks in Singapore.

You can hear people practicing their music in less crowded areas. Kids playing football. Teens making dance videos. A large group of old people playing ukuleles.

I headed down to Roppongi next, to check out an exhibition at the Mori Art Museum. I’m not into arty stuff. I just enjoy looking at things.

Last event of the day was to check out a matsuri at Asakusa. It’s crowded. Lots of stalls along the way. I bought lots of food here and brought them back to my hotel room for dinner. It was too much so I kept the remaining food for breakfast for the next day.

Japan 2010 – Day 2

A week before my arrival in Japan, P-san and S-san, a wedded couple from my FFXI’s dynamis LS asked if I wanted to meet them.

Of course I do!

And today, Saturday, we arranged to meet up at Akihabara station.

Our first destination was a maid cafe which I wanted to go. S felt very shy going in while P seemed comfortable with it. We had drinks and conversed. S is a web developer like me too, and P is a fashion designer.

They brought me to shop for clothes around Harajuku. After hours of walking, we had stopped to rest at a coffee restaurant to decide where to go next.

We went to Tokyo Tower, followed by dinner at an okonomiyaki restaurant and then just as we were about to go our seperate ways at the train station, they invited me to stay over at their home!

It was a nice 3 floor mansion(?), advanced toilet, and even a small TV in the bathroom.

I was the first to go to sleep that night, in a nice warm futon for the first time.

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.

Did Chan Brothers Travel just try to cheat me?

My Japan trip is coming soon and one of the things I had to prepare is a JR Pass. It’s basically a pass that allows me to travel on all JR trains and bullet trains for free (except NOZOMI bullet train).

This is going to help save a lot especially when I’m planning to travel all the way down to Kyushu, stopping at Nagoya, Kyoto, Oosaka along the way.

So I went to Chan Brothers Travel office because I’ve bought a 7-day pass from them 3 years ago.

There, they told me they don’t sell 14-day passes, but are able to sell me two 7-day passes.

From the JR Pass website, a 7-day pass costs 28,300 yen, a 14-day one costs 45,100 yen.

A huge difference of 11,500 yen between both if you compare it with two 7-day passes (56,600 yen).

I said I’ll check first and that makes it the wisest decision I’ve made today.

I looked up for other distributors on the JR Pass website and called up H.I.S. International Travel to find out if they sell any 14-day JR Passes. A guy picked up the call and answered yes to my question. I went down there to get it.

I received the exchange order for the pass and this is how it looks like:

And I remembered this is how it looks like 3 years ago when I first got it from Chan Brothers.

14 is written.


I suppose they ran out of 1s and 4s and can only write 7s for me.

Anyway, I’m open to any reasonable explanations.

Second visit to Japan

It’s going to happen in about 18 days from this post.
And I haven’t even changed all the money yet because of the poor exchange rates.

Originally planned to go for 10 days, from 6 Nov to 16 Nov. But if I can get my extra 2 days of leave approved, I’m going to spend 2 weeks there! I don’t care if I have to pay extra for the change of dates for my plane tickets. I’m even going to tap into my savings just for this trip.

At first I was anxious, scared, wanted to change my mind.

But after seeing some photos other people took on their visit to Japan, I’ve got the sudden urge to just teleport there right now! Too bad I can’t.

This time, I will be meeting up with a lot of people there whom I’ve met through Final Fantasy XI. Mostly linkshell friends from TeamKANICAN. The only linkshell I felt most at home with!