After months of delay, MJ and I finally set off for Japan. Our last trips were in Autumn and I was hoping to return in Winter to see some snow but due to year end events, he couldn’t take any leave in December. We eventually ended up having heading to Tokyo in Spring. Our next few posts will cover our individual takes on the trip.
We took the 5.45 am Delta airlines flight from Singapore to Narita Airport. My past experience with Delta was tolerable and the tickets were a steal at SGD$600 each. In fear of the tourist crowds this time of the year, we booked our tickets back in January. The next week, Japan Airlines went bankrupt so if not for our haste we could have flew JAL at $500 instead.
We arrived at Singapore Airport Terminal 2 hours in advance of our flight. The airport was pretty deserted at this hour. Check-in was a breeze. We had some snacks at a refreshment counter at the airport. The coffee machine was broken so I had to settle for toast and soy milk. The bread was awful.
We waited for another hour inside the departure area and later inside the plane. The passengers took forever to board. No doubt because of the stringent security checks. The flight was connecting to America. MJ along with most other passengers was asked to take off his shoes, thankfully I was spared. Didn’t seem like our flight was to reach Narita early.
Food was served an hour after takeoff, the odd hours of the flight made it impossible to catch any sleep. It doesn’t help that I’m a really light sleeper. MJ concussed the moment he sat down and missed the safety video. Delta has the most interesting airline safety video I’ve ever seen. It’s filmed in a Mockumentary style similar to Collegehumor videos.
The in-flight food this time round was awful. MJ had noodles so I tried the scrambled eggs. It turned out to be more scrambled than eggs.
We watched Kaiji on board the plane. I was reluctant to watch it at first but this salary man was watching it in the seat in front of mine and it looked kind of interesting. Turned out to be a really silly movie.
The time eventually came to fill up the alien registration forms. The only pen MJ had was in orange. The only pen I had could only take photos. I told him it’d never pass through customs.
The plane landed neither late nor early. Yet strangely enough, there was no free lanes for us. We ended up having to take a shuttle bus to customs. It dropped us at the basement of the terminal.
Sure enough the orange declaration forms did not go well with the customs and we ended up having to refill them. Leaving us at the end of the queue. At this point another flight from China landed. While we were in queue, a family from Taiwan cut their way in front of us. Not at all unexpected.
The customs took forever to clear, the Chinese family got stuck at the gate because they all insisted on doing it at the same time. The friendly airport staff opened another lane for us. 40 minutes after landing, we finally stepped out into the lobby at 2.15 pm.
At my advice, we bought Limousine bus tickets for Tokyo Dome. A much more convenient way to travel instead of lugging luggage through the trains. It also guaranteed us sitting for the ride ahead.
A two way trip costs 6000 yen and includes a pass for 2 days unlimited travel on Metro lines. A one way trip on the Skyliner to Tokyo station would already cost about 2000 yen. When the bus is filled with 75% Japanese, you know you’ve made the right decision.
We had an hour to kill before the next bus arrived so we squeezed in a quick lunch at the airport cafeteria. Having already tried their Pasta and Curry before, I decided to have the Curry Udon this time round.
It was palatable. At 980 yen, it is pretty much equivalent to what you’d get in Singapore at the same price. MJ had some sort of noodles as well.
After lunch, we stepped outside for some relatively fresher Japanese air. Clear skies ahead, a rich blue. The temperature was about 11 degrees.
We were incredibly thirsty since the lazy attendants on the flight hardly made their rounds this time round. I didn’t get any drinks at the cafeteria either so I took the opportunity to get a drink from the nearby vending machine.
Dozed off on the bus. The ride was smooth and the seats were comfortably heated. Upon awakening, I realized that we were still on the highway! A car had gotten into an accident on the narrow road making passing a most difficult task. The little signboard vans eventually made their way to the site to ease the traffic though.
What would had been a 1 hour journey took us twice the time. It didn’t help that Tokyo Dome was the last stop on the path so the bus lopped pass many roads around the area. Protected inside the cosy bus, we got a nice view of the streets once we got off the highway though.
We dropped off at Tokyo Dome Hotel. The place was packed with young girls queuing to enter the hall. Probably a Johnny’s concert.
The hotel we were staying at near Tokyo Dome, the Hotel Wing International existed on a side street. It was notorious for being difficult to find. I roughly knew where it was but after about 10 minutes of walking and still no sight of the hotel we decided to ask a police box. Embarrassingly, we were just across the road from it.
We quickly checked in and dropped off our luggage into our room before heading to our next destination. Because we booked the rooms months in advance, we managed to get non-smoking rooms as requested. Smokey rooms are a common problem in many hotels in Japan.
Back at Tokyo Dome, the crowds of young girls were no longer in sight so the concert must have started.
Most of the day was spent actually getting to Japan. By the time we departed Suidobashi station it was already dark. We took the JR over to Harajuku. MJ urgently needed to get something from one of the stores there.
I entered a shop specializing in punk and Visual Kei styled clothing. The attendant was very fascinated that I was from Singapore. She asked if I knew Greenday. She went to their concert when they visited Tokyo.
The purpose in visiting Harajuku was for MJ to visit a concert ticket reseller. He couldn’t get tickets ahead of time. He wanted 2nd row tickets, which were ridiculously priced at more than SGD$700 a pair. Despite me arguing that none of this money is actually making its way to Morning Musume, he bought them.
After passing through the packed street, we did a quick rounds of the buildings around Harajuku. Zara, Gap and various other brands that you could easily get at Singapore at the same cost. We weren’t quite sure what we wanted to buy at this point so we didn’t get anything yet.
We had to get some diner eventually and with everywhere else in Harajuku was packed by this hour, we settled for a meal at Lotteria. Interestingly, there are single seating seats next to the counter. Awesome for fashionable people wishing to be seen.
I had the Tama Teri burger (eggs and teriyaki beef). MJ managed to order his food by pointing at the first picture on the menu. I tried the melon soda, awful. MJ complained that his cola was salty. Tried a little, it was the sweetener. Apparently this was the first time he drank diet Pepsi.
After diner, we walked a little more around the outer streets of Harajuku. Most of the shops were closing though. At one of the shops, there were cones between two pillars. They were probably there to prevent people from swerving through and colliding with other people.
We decided to make our way back to our hotel. Back at Suidobasi station, some shady people had set up carts outside the station to sell Johnny’s goods after the concert.
We took a turn and a crowd had gathered at the next corner. Girls from this afternoon had gathered outside the carpark. They awaited for a last glimpse of their idols leaving in taxis.
I wanted to stock up on drinks and snacks so we turned into LaQua, the shopping mall of Tokyo Dome on our way back. Everything else had closed except the supermarket so we picked up some stuff there before heading back to the hotel.
With the exception that the bathroom dispensers gave out Kao instead of Shiseido soaps, the amenities for the hotel were better than my last. The temperature controls were better with the choice of many different ventilation and heating functions. The rooms was also slightly larger. My room faced the front street of the hotel and though not a good idea the windows could be opened.
In addition to some apple tea and milk from Hokkaido (both of which cost about 100 yen a carton), I got this instant Tarako Spaghetti from the supermarket. What’s interesting is that unlike conventional cup noodles, the water can be drained out through a filter on the other end of the cup.
That night, AKB48 appeared on a variety show. They seem to be getting lots of coverage these days. Soon after the show, passed out on what was the most comfortable bed yet.Planning your holiday? We recommend visiting Agoda for a full list of hotels with early bird specials.