On the first step off the plane and into ‘Japanese territory,’ I was immediately greeted by this Japanese woman, one of the airport staff, with a huge smile, a warm welcome in Japanese and a bow (just like when I visited Nagoya!) This is one of the reasons I love Japan! How they make you feel welcome and fuzzy inside immediately! Made me compare them with CebPac stewardesses or FAs. I will always be grateful to CebPac for introducing low flight fares but their FAs can do better. I thought before that I was the only one who experienced the ‘coldness’ of CebPac FAs – you know the type – smiles that don’t quite reach their eyes, mumbled greetings, piercing eyes and half-hearted service, as if wishing they were anywhere but in front of you serving coffee (which by the way is the whole point of FAs, customer service). When I shared this with my friends, they too felt it! And not just on one instance. To their defense though, not all CebPac staff are like that. The CebPac ladies in the counters, I like. Most of the time they are quite nice. But the CebPac FAs, quite different. Again, not saying that this only happens in CebPac because I also experienced the too ‘cold’ FAs on Cathay Pacific. But as I told my friends, we can’t expect too much of good service and warm smiles since we only paid so cheap! =)
Arriving at the Narita airport, I first had my money exchanged. Contrary to popular belief, the exchange rate at the airport was the best in my experience. Y119 for each US$ as compared to the Philippine airport and Mizuho Bank rate (where I also had some money exchanged & received cute Hello Kitty postcards! They even gave a set to each of my friends!) which was Y114 only but as always, the worst was at Travelex at a super low of Y110. So mental note to myself: better to exchange US$ at the Narita airport upon arrival for better rates and ultimately, less hassle later on.
We bought round trip tickets for the Narita express train (Y4,000) with reserved seats. Tickets come with a short instruction card. Basically, make sure you ride the correct car number and take the seat reserved for you indicated in the ticket. Upon departure, since they just give you a generic ticket, you’ll have to drop by the Narita express office so that they’ll give you a new set of tickets with the car and seat number.
Since we still hadn’t worn our warmers yet and were just wearing our coats, we were a bit freezing while waiting for the train. So finally, when the train arrived, we welcomed the heated train. We took our seats, tried to enjoy the view since it’s a 45 minute smooth ride but eventually we fell asleep.
Then as we were looking for our way to our apartment, we had our first ‘lost’ experience – we rode the train going the wrong way! Haha! Note that Tokyo has one of the most – if not the most – complicated railway systems which are not all interconnected. So anyway, instead of wasting our trip to Akihabara station where we went down at, we had our first Tokyo meal consisting of yummy ramen (Y780) and hot green tea. Perfect to fill up our tummies and warm our bodies! As with most ramen shops, we had to choose our meal and pay through this small machine. Since it was a small shop, we had to sit by twos. I love how the Japanese usually speak to you in Japanese – it makes the trip so much more authentic.
With full tummies and warmed a bit, we set again towards our goal of finding our apartment. Tip: Maps are going to be your best friend during these times. Haha! Finally finding our apartment, we settled in, put on our warmers and after a few minutes, started our Tokyo adventure! First stop was the Tokyo Tower since it was the nearest.
We wanted to make the most of our time so we scheduled our itinerary around the areas that we would be visiting. From our apartment, we walked to Tokyo Tower and first passed through the Zojo-Ji Temple which was surrounded by bits of garden and nature here and there.
We passed by these little statues, which looked like children. Some of them were covered in coats or scarves. Not sure what they are but my theory is that they’re children who died, perhaps? Not sure so don’t quote me on that.
Next, taking the Shimbashi train (Y140), we went towards the Hama-rikyu Garden but we lost track of time.. the garden was closed! Haha! Fail! Then we walked towards the Ginza area and looked for Komehyo but then again, it was closed! Fail 2! This one was a mystery to us because they really were supposed to be open. So anyway, we just went in Uniqlo (where my friends shopped while I sat down because a) my feet were killing me and b) I try to minimize shopping for clothes). I just bought water for Y110. Haha!
We saw a nearby grocery store – and when I say nearby, it was still a 10 minute walk since we had to go around the train station – and was hoping we could buy some goodies but it turned out to be a specialty store. So, we just ended up buying a light snack. Mine was a chicken sandwich with a bottle of milk tea (Y252) which I forgot to take a photo of. It was self-checkout and we just ate outside of the store. I love how my friends are cowboys! Hehe.
We ended up in this hole-in-the-wall restaurant. Since it was a bit late, there was only one man there but the place was really nice and cozy. We ordered their teriyaki squid, a platter of various yakitori and the most gorgeous sashimi I have ever laid eyes on. The four of us split the bill and ended up with Y830 each. Not bad because the yakitori were really good and the sashimi was oh-so-fantastic! Melts in your mouth level!
Afterward, we shopped at this store I always see in different areas of Japan, Matsumoto KiYoshi, which sells so much cosmetics and beauty products. Rows and rows and rows of products for any health and beauty aficionado. I ended up buying, as my initial haul since it was just my first day, two pouches of Bifesta Make up Remover (which I swear by because it’s gentle, water based and does the job) (Y665 each with free pump bottles), two Make up Remover Wipes (Y284 each) and one 7-piece Lulu Face Mask pouch (Y300) for a total of Y2,198. Note that we were able to get the discounted rate which is given for sales of more than Y5,000 because me and a friend combined our products.