We finally arrived at Fukuoka late Monday night, and it’s already been an adventure. I’m photographing almost everything along the way… while Chris is somewhat like Mark, moving along and skipping the “scenic stuff” to reach wherever it is we have to go.
We work well as a team, however. He’s better at understanding the responses, but hesitates to initiate the conversations. I can do that part, but can’t understand the answers – so, we work out pretty well.
I’m a bit concerned about when Manigeh, our fourth in the party, arrives in Tokyo Narita airport, post-customs, and through the door to … Tokyo! Well, it’s not exactly Tokyo as few airports are in the midst of a city. Hong Kong used to be, but then the main airport got moved to the northern area. Luckily, most Information booths have English-speaking, and VERY helpful people manning the booths. Most of the signs are in both English and Japanese, too.
We arrived Narita Airport early (good wind?) at 4 pm, so that helped us if we wanted to catch the Nozomi (express) Shinkansen to Fukuoka. We elected not to as we thought the train left at 5:30 pm, though it really leaves at 6:30 pm. We would have had plenty of time to get on the train.
We asked about a Youth Hostel in Tokyo, and we were given a
paper with two locations. We bought a phone card (Y500 for local calls in Japan) and called the first youth hostel – Tokyo Sumidagawa (Sumida River in Tokyo!) Youth Hostel in Asakusabashi. It was about an hour train ride from NRT on a local line. Thank goodness for good Japanese maps to find the hostel, as the addressing system in Tokyo is archaic, based on areas (chome), and the numbers do not necessarily go consecutively, or along the entire street. More like labeled in order of a matrix vs a sequence path.
Arriving at NRT, though was similar to walking into the “More Dry” end of the drying cycle. Still humid, but definitely warm. Muggy is a good word. So, our search for the hostel left me quite sweaty and wet from moving the suitcases and backpacks.
Word of warning: the Japanese train stations in Tokyo and many locations are NOT handicap friendly – so, be prepared to lug that suitcase around A whole HEAP! UP and down stairs!!! Luckily, the only suitcase that was heavy was mine, and not Amy’s. Chris travels VERY lightly, and carried the extra bag of goodies and food we had.
Two handles on the suitcase really helps, as Amy’s suitcase for some strange reason does not have a side handle, and it was a bit long for her to carry long-ways down. We will solve this while in Fukuoka – a strap with a handle, perhaps.
We had three minor mishaps: 1) missed Kurume station, and had to round back when we discovered this at the end of the line at 7:56 pm; 2) lost my glasses at Hakata station, perhaps while running in the thunderstorm while going from Starbucks next door (for wifi!) back to the train station, and 3) no wifi at Hakata station, and couldn’t get the address or next train info to reach our friends, the Niiyamas. We tried to call the Niiyamas, but apparently were missing one number in their phone # in both entries! Lost about an hour’s time there. We were to arrive around 6:15 pm, but arrived at 9:17 pm instead. That’s what happens when all of us fall asleep during a train ride!
By the time we got dinner, and showered, it was almost midnight. My eyes were crossing, but I saw the glass spots that Midori pulled from the Internet. I was wondering if they were glass sales places versus workshops / studios! Went to bed at 1 am …
Just got up and it’s 7 am. That’s good. The youth hostel and staying at the Niiyama’s was a good way to break into this vagabonding thing… Youth hostel: Y3600 / night, no reservations, but closes doors at 11:30 pm, check out between 6-10 am. Private rooms available, vs dormitory setup. Common room, lobby has internet pcs, though there is FON funky wifi (worked sometimes, depending on who you logged in as). Shinkansen is not cheap – certainly NOT the Nozomi express! It cost us Y22,320 each for Reserved Express (vs a discount of Y1310 each for Unreserved)
to go from Tokyo Station to Hakata, where the Shinkansen ends, and an additional Y1000 to reach Kurume station, where Hiro picked us up. About five hours on the Shinkansen, and normally 30-40 mins on the Tsubame Express.
We did well for our first day in Japan. The flight on JAL was beautiful, and we happened to have plenty of legroom as we sat at the bulkhead. The pop up TVs with games, movies and TV, complete with game remotes in the armrest, and the popup foldable tables entertained Amy the whole plane ride.
She fell asleep finally at the last two hours, go figure. It was the equivalent of our midnight, though it was 4 pm locally, so that was about right.
The lunch and dinner served confirms the reputation of JAL as one of the best in airplane food service. The flight attendants were assembled in a cluster about an hour before boarding, it was like a bevy of birds! It looked like a pep rally there, but on a very quiet scale. In the plane, these ladies are wonderfully polite, service-oriented, and efficient! When I asked for decaff
coffee, it arrived within minutes, not at the end of their service! We sat right behind the Business class, where their seats can lie down almost horizontally, had large tray tables, and plenty of legroom. Ahead of them in the B777 was the First Class, and those seats can not only fully recline, but each seat’s back becomes like a cocoon shell around the sleeper when horizontal! So, coool. I wish I took pictures of the seats…
So, that’s been our trip so far…
Since I unlocked the iPhone the day before we left, and cancelled the AT&T service before the plane took off, we will now take the unlocked phone and get local cell service. I brought a spare pair of glasses. Will get another spare made while in Hong Kong – where they can make glasses in two hours, with or without prescriptions!
Need to bring the following while in Japan: 1) toilet tissues (tissues in packets), 2) handkerchief to wipe hands after washing (no paper towels usually in rest rooms)
Currency exchange – can get some at NRT. We exchanged $120 (it was all the cash we found on us). That amount go us through the trains, youth hostel, and dinner/snacks to the next morning. We stopped at the Bank of Tokyo for exchange money, but they couldn’t do it with my VISA card! The very helpful teller then printed me a list of banks and locations that exchanged money from various credit cards! She indicated the easiest one was the 7-11 equivalent at the corner across the street from the bank! The ATM there gives in Y1000 and Y10,000 up to Y50,000. I think it may give more, but I didn’t need that much yet. The 7-11 stores are nearly as popular to find as in the US. I don’t know the exchange rate at these machines, but at least it was really easy to get funds.
Now to breakfast…