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Japan 2010: Day 00~01

November 17, 2010

in Japan,Travel

As many of you know, Derek (a.k.a. “my boyfriend”) and I went on a two-week vacation in Japan from 11/1~11/15. We wanted to go to many places, do many things and eat as much food as possible while we were there. I was a bit worried with all the planning and going to the places even I’ve never been to, but it turned out to be the most awesome trip I’ve ever experienced!!

There’s simply too much to write in one post, so I’ll write a post for each day. I know it’s got nothing to do with bento but if you’re interested in going to Japan and have questions, just ask me in the comment section.

Here goes…

Day 00: 11/01/2010 (Mon) JFK New York

As soon as we got on the airplane, we changed into pajamas. The flight from NYC to Japan was about 13~14 hours so I wanted to get comfortable and play Okami-den on my DS. Okami-den isn’t out yet in the U.S. but it’s out in Japan so I bought it online.

Day 00

Chibi Amaterasu is painfully adorable! I've never been so excited to go on a 14 hours flight in my life!

Day 00

Derek played Professor Layton and the Unwound Future. Another great game for a long flight.

The meals were “meh.” Salty, sweet and dry. Typical in-flight meal.

Day 00

Appetizer: Shrimp cocktail, Salad: Seasonal green salad with cucumbers, Chicken breast with mango barbecue sauce, sweet potatoes and beans

Day 00

Appetizer: Shrimp cocktail, Salad: Seasonal green salad with cucumbers, Entrees: Sliced beef with Hoisin sauce, stir fried vegetables and fried rice

As for Okami-den, I don’t want to spoil it, so I’m just going to say that I played it for about 5 and a half hour straight until I got the red light on my DS. :)

Day 00

Red light in less than 6 hours? Really?? Arrrrgh!

Without my DS, there was only one thing to do.

Day 00

FSFTW! (Free Sake For The Win)

TIPS & NOTES: Alcohol beverage on airplane
Depending on how long the flight is almost all airlines serve wine and beer for FREE on international flights. You can check the airline company’s website usually under “in-flight meal” or “food/dining” for details. It also said it on the menu for the in-flight meal on the airplane. We used Delta and they even had small bottles of sake for free. (I’m pretty sure it’s because it was a flight to Japan) I’ve also flown JAL and ANA in past and they both served alcohol for free. I thought I’d mention it because surprisingly not that many people know this. ;)

Day 00

In case you're wondering, I didn't chug it.

Just remember, it’s not a good idea to get drunk on an airplane (especially on the way to the travel destination) because it makes you dehydrated and it may bother people around you, BUT if the flight is longer than 10 hours it helps pass time and it’ll definitely help you go to sleep. Just like any other beer commercial says, drink responsibly.

I took a nap for a couple of hours (thanks to the bottle of sake) but the half of my butt fell asleep and couldn’t sleep anymore… so I just played around with Derek, killing time until we landed in Japan.

Day 00

"Please do not disturb my friend. He is dead tired." (said with a thick Austrian accent)

***

Day 01: 11/02/2010 (Tue) Narita airport – > Tokyo station -> Nerima

We arrived at Narita airport around 5:00 pm in Japan time. We picked up our suitcases, our rental cellphone at the postoffice at the airport, exchanged some U.S. dollars to Japanese yen at the airport bank. We had two suitcases and one big suitcase which had another small suitcase inside. We took them to a delivery service desk at the airport and arranged to have them delivered to my brother’s place the next day. One suitcase costs about 1690 yen (about $20) to deliver to anywhere in Tokyo. Also it costs only 2110 yen (about $25) to Kyushu or Hokkaido. If it’s in Tokyo or nearby prefectures, they can deliver them by noon next day. This was the first time I used this service but I highly recommend this to anyone who’s traveling to Japan with big suitcases especially if you want to hit the city right away or the shuttle bus service won’t stop at your hotel. And remember, in Japan you don’t even have to tip the delivery guy!

*I’ll write about the rental phone service we used once we get the bill and check if everything looked good.

TIPS & NOTES: Delivery service at Narita airport
There are four delivery services available at Narita Airport (their desks are next to each other) and the price is about the same. I used ANA skyporter because I have an ANA mileage card. You can find more info about delivery services at Narita airport on the website.

Day 01

Me in pajamas with tons of luggage at Narita. Hooray for the delivery service!! I'll never drag my suitcases around the busy stations in Tokyo ever again!

Even after we arrived at Narita airport, we didn’t really feel like we were in Japan… until we went to the bathroom.

Day 01

Multi-purpose bathroom at Narita airport. Each room was equipped with a diaper changing table, a western style toilet, a urinal, a pull-out step for changing clothes and two sinks.

Day 01

Other view of the multi-purpose bathroom

Day 01

That's the door to the bathroom (opened and closed with huge red and green buttons on the right), but people can't really see you if you're just doing your business.

After we changed into a regular clothes, we hopped on a Narita Express and headed straight to the city to hang out with my sister-in-law and her brother. There are couple of ways to get to the city from Narita Airport. Narita Express and Keisei Skyliner and a bus. We used Narita Express on the way into the city and used Keisei Skyliner on the way back to the airport. So I’m going to compare two transportation.

TIPS & NOTES: Comparison between two transportation from Narita airport to Tokyo station
Narita Express (<- click to go to the website)
Fare: 2940 yen to Tokyo station in an ordinary car.
Time duration: 56 minutes to Tokyo station.
Pros: It’s owned by JR, so if you have a JR Rail Pass and plan on issuing it (start using it) at the airport, you can use it for Narita Express too. Also you can get to/catch it at other major stations such Shinagawa, Shibuya, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro and other stations in Tokyo without transferring.
Cons: Costs a bit more than Skyliner.

Keisei Skyliner (and other liners) (<- click to go to the website)
Fare: 2550 yen from Narita airport to Nippori (1200 yen for the fare + 1200 yen for liner fare) and 150 yen from Nippori to Tokyo station on JR Yamanote line. (transfer required)
Time duration: 36 minutes to Nippori station on JR Yamanote line, then transfer to JR Yamanote line and it’s 11 minutes to Tokyo station.
Pros: It’s a bit cheaper than Narita Express. Also there are different kinds of “liners” (i.e. Cityliner) which takes slightly longer but even cheaper. Also two cars out of 8 of Skyliner used to permit smoking but now all cars are non-smoking cars!
Cons: You have to get to Ueno or Nippori station by JR Yamanote line to catch a Skyliner. The JR Yamanote line can be VERY crowded depending on the time, so if you have a lot of luggage and and you have to travel during rush hours, AVOID the Yamanote line at all cost. I’ve made this mistake before and I will NEVER repeat it again…

There are also other ways to get to/from Narita airport. For more info, check out access to/from Narita airport on the website.

Here are some photos from Narita Express.

Day 01

"Please do not leave chocolate or other items that melt easily around the wall heater." Oh Japan, you're the only one who cares so much about my chocolate.

Day 01

The floor was so clean we could've eaten off of it.

Day 01

Narita Express comes with a Dude holder.

Once we arrived at Tokyo station, we transferred a couple of times to get to Nerima area where my brother lives.

Day 01

Tommy Lee Jones is HUGE in Japan

Day 01

"IT'S ME, JUICY!"

Day 01

Nerima station

We met up with my sister-in-law and her brother at a yakitori place near my brother’s place in Nerima, and the very first feast in Japan began! Derek will do more detailed review on the food, so I’ll just post some photos of what I ate and drank.

Nerima-no Takuan (yakitori place) in Nerima, Tokyo
I ate: yakitori, fried stuff (don’t remember what), various sashimi, tofu thing, fried rice thing, etc…
I drank : a glass of barley shochu, a couple of glasses of potato shochu, and a couple of glasses of wine

Day 01

Totally forgot to take a photo of the outside of the place but here is their business card.

This was a very nice izakaya (Japanese tapas)/yakitori place. My sister-in-law’s brother has already ordered bunch of food when we got there, so I really don’t know what we ate… but we did take pictures!

Day 01

Assorted sashimi

Day 01

Assorted karaage (deep fried food)

Day 01

Tofu with eringi mushroom and scallion in soup

Day 01

Takuan salad (seafood salad)

Day 01

Grilled chicken thigh with salt

All we remember was the food was really good and the service was also very nice, and everyone was friendly. This place might not be for tourists because of its location and they only accept cash. Also the employees there are less likely to speak English, but if you have a Japanese speaking friend who lives near Nerima, you should definitely check it out!

After we finished up the first place, we headed to the second bar for the night.

Hyoutan (Thai style izakaya and restaurant) in Nerima, Tokyo (*their website is in Japanese)
I ate: barbecue chicken, summer roll
I drank: a couple of glasses of Thai whiskey, Thai beer (I think)

Day 01

A hole in the wall izakaya. It's a hidden gem!

Day 01

It's a family style izakaya. It made me feel like I was in my friend's house, eating their mom's homecooked meals. They're super cheap too!

Day 01

Their summer rolls were big and delicious.

This place was a lot smaller compared to the first place but they had authentic Thai food and Thai beer. The owner and the waitress were very friendly. There were a couple of customers in there when we got there. A guy in a suit with long hair, a guy who looked like Ken Watanabe (from the movie “Inception”), and an older guy in a suit and mustache. But within a couple of minutes, we were all like old drinking buddies.

The guy in a suit was a system engineer, but we just called him “musician” because of his hair. He told us that he doesn’t get to meet girls because of his job. I told him that he should come to NYC because NYC girls like a smart and nerdy boy. Musician, I told you I’d put you on my blog, so there you go!

Day 01

"Musician" and Thai whiskey Hong Thong

It turned out that Ken Watanabe look-alike used to live in Brooklyn! He studied films in NYC, and now he’s a producer at Tambourine Producers, inc. (the site is in Japanese) in Tokyo. What a small world, huh?

Day 01

The guy in the front is Ken Watanabe look-a-like, Makoto-san. A producer at Tambourine Producers, inc.

I was worried that maybe we were making too much noise, but the owner thanked us for having so much fun at his place.

Day 01

Another group shot (the owner is on the left on the front)

Despite  the long flight with only a couple of hours of sleep, we had an awesome time! Everyone we met this night was very nice, funny and very very drunk. Especially, the second place was completely nuts in an awesome way.

Has anyone told you that you should never mix your alcohol?

I proved them wrong this night.

I was surprised by myself too. I was totally fine after drinking a lot of many different kinds of alcohol. I was in the happiest place I’ve ever been in with that many drinks.

We got to my brother’s place about 2:00 AM. His place is really cool. The entrance of the building has double automatic sliding door, and the second door is opened by inserting a key into the little panel outside the door. It’s  kind of like a spaceship.

One thing I love about Japanese houses is that the toilet is separated from the bathroom. Of course, he’s got one of those super high-tech toilets!

Day 01

Ta-da!

Day 01

It has a dryer too!

Day 01

Derek was fascinated by this "big" and "small" flush options.

What I loved MOST about his place was the bathroom. It’s a high-tech Japanese style bathroom which has a bath tub with a space to wash yourself outside the tub and everything can be controlled with a panel on the wall inside the bathroom or one in the kitchen. You can add hot water to the tub, boil cold water, control the temperature, anything you want with a touch of a button! I just LOVE Japanese bathtubs. They’re very spacious and deep, so you can soak your body deep into the nice hot water.

When we got home, we checked our email, took a nice hot bath and passed out on the futon.

I think it was good that we went out and stayed up late that night. I wasn’t that tired when I arrived at Narita airport but if we went straight home we’d probably just fall asleep right away and wake up in the middle of the night.

Besides, there’s no better way to start our two- week vacation in Japan than eating & drinking with family, friends and even strangers! Food and drinks bring people together. :D

Continue to day 2…

We have over 4000 photos from this trip and there’s no way I can post them all on my blog. So I’m uploading photos from our trip to flickr as I write a post for each day. If you’d like to check out random photos from Japan or us goofing around in Japan, check out my flickr collection by clicking the link below!

Japan 2010: the most awesome trip ever!

** The comments have been very buggy on wordpress, and sometimes it won’t let you leave a comment. If that happens, please email me at annathered[at]gmail.com! **

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

MiyaNo Gravatar November 18, 2010 at 8:37 pm

YAAY, I can comment!

Yeah, so… Now I remember something else about japanese bathrooms. While in hotels and (most of) people’s houses they’re so awesome and technologic, sometimes in temples they’re just some holes in the ground… I don’t remember the name for that.

And about food, I hope you like ichigo daifuku, and I hope to see that you ate one in your trip in some upcoming post D: I loooooove ichigo daifuku!

Btw, when I have kids, I’m totally gonna have their hair cut just like Musician’s. (I mean, if I have a boy). He’s not just cute, he’s got a great haircut D: (even if a lot of the men in Japan have nice haircuts).

Reply

AnnaTheRedNo Gravatar November 28, 2010 at 1:23 pm

Thank you everyone for commenting on my trip posts!

Miya, I know the type of toilet you’re talking about. My grandma’s place had the hole in the ground style! People usually keep that type of bathroom clean in their house but the ones in the public can be really dirty and gross. The worst toilet on this trip was the one at Gold Pavilion in Kyoto. We couldn’t believe how dirty it was considering it was the most famous temple in Japan!

Heidi, I completely agree with you! When I was younger, I kind of ate whatever that made me full. But as I get older, I can appreciate the freshness & goodness of each food more. Now I want to try everything I can possibly eat!
Oh, I also loooove ichigo daifuku! we didn’t get to eat ichigo daifuku while we were in Japan but I know where we can get them in NYC, so I’m going to go get them and have Derek try it soon.

Reply

Windowlicker77No Gravatar November 18, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Awesome! I’ll keep reading your updates looks like a lot of fun so far!

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xuan-erNo Gravatar November 19, 2010 at 12:45 am

that’s a really detailed update XD
the food from the izakaya really looked awesome, i am going to check the place out the next time i head to tokyo.

Reply

HeidiNo Gravatar November 19, 2010 at 2:01 am

Your blog is one of my favorites out there in the blogospere. I visit often, but I don’t comment very much.

I love everything about you guys and I love your love of food. I also love that you eat your way through a city. The food is just as important as anything else, well, that’s what I get when I read your posts anyway. Maybe I’m wrong.

Glad you had a good time in Japan and I can’t wait to see the rest of the fun. :)

Reply

MelineNo Gravatar March 6, 2011 at 3:12 am

hi anna… i’m a fan of your bento and very excited to read about your japan blog. I, myself, am going for a vacation in Japan next month.
I read in your blog that your rent a cellphone. Have you gotten the bill yet? I’m thinking to rent a cellphone too and want to know approx. how much the bill will be. thanks for your help.

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