Wednesday, 25 February 2015

東京 | Tokyo (Day 0.5) - Arrival


This post has been a long time coming! What with travelling, New Year's x2 and an abundance of guests, I've been too exhausted to get my thoughts down on paper (or should I say blog) but here it is, the start of a long series of posts:

The time had finally come. The big adventure. The one we'd been waiting months for.
TOKYO.

There were a lot of reasons why we were so excited, the main two being:
- Fulfilling my childhood and teenhood dream of visiting Tokyo
- Finally being reunited with one of my best friends from home.

 Safe to say, it was always going to be a good holiday, regardless.


We got up early, checked we had everything we needed, unplugged everything, and set off on our longest journey outside of Korea so far.

I have this weird habit of taking photos of LV stores for my mum whenever I go abroad, ever since Year 9?
The flight was painless, and I think we're getting really used to short flights now. In the space of a year I've gotten on and off of planes 7 times, not including the two I'll be taking to and from Tokyo. So we ended up checking in and out pretty swiftly (not to toot our own horns).

We'd arranged, initially, to just meet up with everyone's favourite Hobbit, Ann-Marie, but as this was her first ever flight (what a way to go!) we figured it'd be nice to have some company and stuck her on a plane with our friend Mike.

However, when we arrived at the airport and found our friends, this is what we saw:
Not pictured: small hobbit on the right. (Photo stolen from Nick's Facebook)
BONUS FRIEND UNLOCKED. Tom also came to Japan! Tricksy.
So, we ate a meal together at the airport, rented a wifi egg (always a good idea), bought train tickets and drowsily headed towards our accommodation (although admittedly probably not as drowsily as the 3 people that just came off an 11 hour flight)

Despite me wanting to spend our bountiful riches on the private helicopter you can take from Narita airport to central Tokyo, we opted for the nicest (and quite possibly cheapest!) option, the N'EX.

It's a one-way train ticket from Narita to a handful of major stations in Tokyo, and only takes about an hour. For 1500¥ (about £8) when usually it's about twice the price, that's not a bad deal! The trains are very regular, and very spacious, and - what we didn't find out until the train ride was almost over - pairs of seats can be rotated 180° to make a booth for 4 people! And it doesn't affect the people sat in front or behind you. There's also enough room to recline the seats for weary travellers so basically this is the nicest train I've ever been on. I don't know if it was the time of day, luck, or just how it usually is but our carriage was also blissfully empty for most of the ride. Not that it mattered, as the N'EX ticket also gets you a reserved seat each, but it was nice to not have to worry about crowds.

We took the N'EX directly to Ikebukuro, which is where our accommodation was located. Ann-Marie had found a great-sounding ryokan which was also great value, and booked us some rooms there. Due to my lack of a sense of direction (and, more fairly, tiredness and the fact I've never been to Tokyo before :p), I managed to take us on a connecting train for about 20 mins in the wrong direction, soz.

The ryokan was easy enough to find with the directions we'd been given, and the walk only took us around 15 minutes, so it was really nice and close. There was also an abundance of bars, restaurants, and arcades all over the area, which gave me some cause for concern, but after turning down a quiet side street we found Kimi Ryokan and I was pleased to find it was almost silent and only lit by street lamps (just enough to be nice and dark for sleep, but bright enough to feel safe), despite its close proximity to all that life and noise.


(Photo stolen from Mike, I'm sad I didn't take any!)
For those that don't know, a ryokan is a traditional-style guesthouse where you sleep in tatami (woven mats) rooms on futons ('floor beds'). The rooms are sized by the mats, rather than how many people it can hold. So rather than a 'twin room' or 'single room', you can get rooms that have 4.5, 6, or 8 mats. It's really good for sharing with friends or family, as many conventional hotels don't seem to allow more than 2 people per room (maybe 3 if you're a lucky family), but an 8-tatami room can hold from 3~5 people comfortably, depending on how much kicking space you need :p

The bathroom area is shared with each floor, but they're kept spotless and there aren't too many rooms per floor. I don't think I ever really had to wait for a shower or toilet to become available. There's also a kitchen that's free for guests to use, provided they keep it clean, and a lovely little sitting area for evenings, rainy days, or meeting up with friends.

It was really nice to get a more traditional feel to our stay than a more generic hotel, and the staff were wonderful with great English to make up for where our Japanese was lacking. I would definitely recommend staying there for any kind of stay in Tokyo. It's close to a main line, good shops, excellent staff and service and incredibly comfortable.

Anyway. After checking in, dumping our bags and cooing over the fact each guest is given a yukata (a very casual kimono for lounging and wandering in, essentially the same as a dressing gown but lighter and longer) to use during their stay, we headed out to try and find some food and explore the area.

I can't quite remember what we ate (it was probably tonkotsu ramen, let's be honest) because we spent a rather unhealthy amount of time and money at the local arcade, sampling all the great games Japan has to offer.

the mech game is always a strange experience.
Hobbit sighting!
Taiko Drums are the ultimate experience in excitement, enjoyment, and heartache.

I don't really remember falling asleep. More next time!


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