Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Trippin': Tokyo, Japan - Day 1 [Travel Tuesday]

Note: My first Travel Tuesday post has to be about Japan. It's my favorite country aside from my own, the Philippines, and I can't wait to go back there. It's a hard country to travel to (visas, astronomical travel expenses, it goes on and on), and I feel very lucky to have been able to go there. It only seemed right to me to look back on that trip -- my favorite to date -- for my first travel entry. These are my thoughts from way back in 2007. Here we go.

Freezing in Tokyo

Greetings from Tokyo!
March 27, 2007 at 2:25am.

Tokyo time, 3:25am.

So far, I've:
Had Japanese talking to me like I was one of them only to say "ok" when they find out I'm a foreigner.
Eaten a meal where I had no idea what it was that I ate, but it was delicious.  
Giggled with Kaye and Erika over the tons of cute boys here.
Bought Pocky.
Warmed myself up with hot chocolate from McD's.
Gotten tricked by a vending machine.
Walked around for two hours, totally lost.
Stalked a cashier named Kobayashi at an AM/PM store.
Seen porn, like, everywhere.
Shivered uncontrollably in the super cold (for us Pinoys) weather.

I'm so tired, but it's been so fun.
Time for bed.


Current Mood: cold cold
Current Music:Sound from my Tokyo Dome Hotel room TV - CNN

March 26 to 29, 2007. Japan was every bit as amazing as I thought it would be. It was the first time I went to a country that I didn't want to leave, and actually felt homesick for. Now I need to take Japanese language lessons and think of a way to live there for a year at the most. 

Tokyo is so dynamic! It has character in every nook and cranny. It's rich with tradition, but at the same time, it's so modern, clean, and colorful. It felt like a pretty safe city, and we didn't feel wary venturing out by ourselves - even at night. I wasn't prepared for the very cold climate however. It was less than 10C there, and us Filipinos are used to 25 to 30C temperature, with our coldest being 15C! I brought jackets, sure, but they were flimsy ones that I had to layer to get warm. That was fine though, I was able to adjust to that. The major booboo I made was not bringing sneakers. I wore my peep-toe flats because it's such a hassle taking my shoes off at the airport for the security checks, and I brought heels because we were told to attend the conference in business attire. Because I already had two pairs of shoes, I decided to forego sneakers. I thought, hey, it's summer here and I'm not wearing any hot footwear for the airport, plus it's spring there, it'll be nippy, but doable. Hell no. I was so used to going around humid and balmy Southeast Asia that I forgot it was totally different in the Northeast. My toes got cold, and flats are not at all helpful in catching trains. I'll get to that later. 

The Japanese are so nice. They'll help you out when they can, they're very polite and really quiet, plus they're so cool-looking. The only problem is communicating with them - the language barrier can be a bit hard to hurdle at times. Still, I didn't feel as lost as when I was in Taiwan, and I didn't feel any attitude like in Singapore. They're just that approachable I guess.

The company also makes a trip memorable, and I was lucky that I went on the trip with my co-journalists Edu (Manila Bulletin), Lowenz (Inquirer Online), Kaye (Speed), and Armin (Gadgets) plus our hosts from Epson Philippines Alex and Erika. They're a pretty good set of people - nobody was difficult or anything, which was great. Lowenz is my friend and ex-officemate too, so we go way back, and Kaye and I have been travel buddies for several trips already. 

I have to stop myself now, because I can go on and on about Japan for days. It's no wonder that I'm only posting about the trip now, because I've really been overwhelmed by the pictures, the stories, and the whole experience. I'll have to post this entry in parts, because it's going to be extremely and insanely long. There, I gave you fair warning! This trip was my best one ever, and I hope I can go back to Japan some day soon. 

Alrighty, let's get to the kwento!

Start of Day 1

First time on Japan Airlines. I was so excited to be going to Japan that I didn't mind the lack of movies and in-flight entertainment. I just read the magazines and listened to my Walkman.

Spicy Japanese nuts and crackers were the snack! I love these things. I ordered the JAL signature drink, Sky Time Yuzu, which tasted like a weird citrusy soda. I liked it.

Shrimp salad, soba noodles with soba sauce, a bread roll, butter, kikkoman sauce, beef with veggies, and ube dessert. This meal was so yummy! And check out the cute, tiny sauce containers - I took them home because they'll make great bento items. 

We rode this bus from Narita to Tokyo. The trip lasted an hour. Most of us opted for window seats, so a Japanese guy sat beside me. He was asking me in Japanese if the seat was taken (I think), but when I shook my head no, he gingerly said "O-keh". Oh yeah we were told over the speakers that "using mobile phones is not allowed on the bus because it annoys the other passengers".

Then we got off at this bus terminal in Tokyo and took a cab to our hotel. The cabs are weird there. Some can only seat two passengers, while others only seat three at a time. Here in the Philippines we seat uh, five, if the cab driver says it's okay.

It was already past 9pm when we checked in at the Tokyo Dome Hotel in Korakuen. This hotel is now my favorite! The rooms are smaller than normal, but it's Japan, and they value space over there. It outranks my former favorite, Singapore's The Oriental by a few notches because it was just so homey and bright - two of my requirements to be able to sleep at night. It is also situated in the middle of Tokyo's JR Yamanote train line, so getting to places is easy, and it's located in the middle of Tokyo Dome City, which has the Tokyo Dome (Japan's sports stadium) and La Qua (a mall and amusement park) so there are things to do as soon as you go out of the hotel.

We stepped out of our hotel before 10pm to have dinner. Most restaurants in the vicinity were closed, but luckily, some tiny ramen houses were still open. We were surprised to find a ticket machine inside. You put in your money, push the button with the picture of your order, and a ticket comes out, which you give to the waiter. Neat, huh. The only problem was that we didn't know what kind of dishes were on the pictures. We ordered anyway. 

Lowenz, Alex, Edu.

Julls, Kaye, Erika, Armin.

By this time Kaye, Erika, and I were giggling over the cute Japanese boys we saw everywhere. It started with the bellboy at our hotel, who would be a movie star if he was in the Philippines. Then we found the restaurant waiter really cute too. This shot was taken by Lowenz, who was pretending to take a picture of us, but in reality, was attempting to get a picture of the guy (the one with long hair in blue, standing at the back). It's a bad angle, but hey, we'll take what we can get. 

Here's my mysterious dish! As far as I could tell, it was rice topped with salty, shredded pork mixed with nori and spring onions. It was so good I couldn't care less what it was made of.

The restaurant. 

The cold cold cold Tokyo streets.

We stopped to get supplies at AM PM, this convenience store near our hotel. This is where we saw Cute Boy Number 3, who was the store cashier. I whispered "Ang cute niya!" (He's so cute!) to the others while the guy was trying to sign language 504 yen to me, so Lowenz suddenly said, "Hi. What's your name?" Kaye, Erika, and I were horrified! The guy was confused at first and said "Me?" while pointing to his Japanese name tag. Then he grinned and said "Kobayashi." We said hi, then we left. 

This was the first vending machine that we saw. They have vendos every few steps in Tokyo. 

Our lovely hotel.

My horoscope!

These are what I bought at AM PM: A big bottle of water because the hotel surprisingly didn't have complimentary ones, plus Strawberry and Mango-Mousse Milk Pocky. I will never pronounce Pocky the correct way (listen here) when I'm here in the Philippines because it sounds dirty, haha. [Note to Non-Pinoys: the real pronunciation of it sounds like a word in Filipino that we try not to say in public.] I'll pronounce it "pah-keeh" like everyone else, and then just say "poh-keeh" when I'm... in front of Japanese so I don't look stupid.

Erika, Kaye, Lowenz, and I decided to go out again soon after we stashed away the stuff we bought. It was so late, but in Lowenz's words, "we should maximize our time here". Word!

We were freezing already after walking just a few blocks. Good thing McD's was still open, so we all got hot chocolate to keep us warm.

We decided to go back and walk the other way. That was when we ran into Alex, who was brave enough to venture out on his own. 

We walked past the Philippine Travel Cafe. Shame it was closed.

Then, we got lost. This always seems to happen to me, in every country I go to!

We passed yet another vendo, and we were really getting curious about that peculiar-looking can of Mountain Dew, so we pooled our coins and got one. Out came... a normal-looking can of Mountain Dew. Beware of vendos. They're tricky machines, I tell you. 

This tree was pretty.

Still lost. We've been walking for two whole hours, and no Tokyo Dome Hotel was in sight.

We stopped by Sunkus, another convenience store, to rest. Kaye and I sat by the sidewalk outside, freezing our butts off, while Erika looked through the stuff inside. Lowenz and Alex spent some time browsing through some, uh, interesting magazines. After all, where else in the world can they do that while standing in the middle of a convenience store? Only in Japan, folks.

We finally found a guy eating inside a Yoshinoya. Erika went in and asked him for directions. He was so nice he actually left his table and went outside to look for a street map. Though the map was in Japanese and he talked in Japanese, we understood his directions, amazingly. We were so lost our hotel wasn't on the map anymore!

We finally saw our beloved AM PM store! Lowenz and Alex stalked Kobayashi for a minute, poor guy. Us girls were too shy to have our pics taken with him though, which is silly because he doesn't know us anyway. After the guys looked at some stuff, we went straight to our hotel rooms and crashed. It was exhausting, but it was so much fun.

End of day 1

No comments:

Post a Comment