With my journey in Hong Kong over, I embarked on my next destination: Japan! But first I had to get to the airport.
I left my friends apartment in Tin Hau before 6am to hop on the MTR. Little did I know that I would have to wait for it to open and in that brief moment I saw the entrance gated off, I thought to myself “How the #%&* am I going to get to Central Station? Will I need to take a cab there? Do I go back to my friends apartment and wait?” Those questions and what felt like a million others flooded my brain as I walked toward another entrance. I was greeted by a locked gate there too, but this time I read the sign and saw that it opened in 10 minutes. This set my mind at ease and I was able to wait patiently, with my three bags, for the MTR to open and subsequently hop on the train and head to the airport. Once again, it was very simple to make my way through Hong Kong and to the airport which I had forgotten how spacious it was since I was rushing through trying to get my bags the last time I was there. It is beautifully constructed, with a ceiling that seemed to stretch forever and made me feel very small in comparison.
After a smooth check-in, a quick stop at a gift shop, and a bite to eat I was on my way to Japan. After sitting on flights for 15.5 & 13.5 hours this quick trip of less than five hours was nothing to me. Going to Japan had been a dream of mine ever since I was young and I owe it all to anime. I grew up watching shows like Sailor Moon, Ronin Warriors, Cardcaptor Sakura, Gundam Wing, and DragonBall Z so this trip had been a long time coming. I knew it wouldn’t be anything like those shows, but being where they were created was what I had been wanting to do for quite some time.
After a friendly exchange with the airport security guard checking my bag, I mean this literally he was very nice and curious about what I there to see and do. I realize it was typical screening stuff but it did not feel like an interrogation (like the ones I’ve faced when re-entering the USA). I gathered my bags, looked around the baggage claim area and saw that I was one of the last ones left from my flight – which is what I like since I like to be last off the plane because I have to wait for my bags anyway so I might as well relax! I walked through the double doors and what was the first thing I saw? A poster of DragonBall Z characters and some Hayao Miyazaki characters, like Totoro, all welcoming me to Japan! How cool is that? Too cool, if you ask me. I determined it to be a great omen for the rest of my trip.
Once through the doors, I looked around to see how I was going to get to my hotel and eventually meet up with my friend who was flying in at the same time but at Narita, the other major airport on the other side of the city. I knew my final destination and the general way how to get there – or at least I thought I did. All of my research was done online but when I stood and looked up at the most complicated metro system I have ever seen, I froze. Luckily there was a nice female employee who asked where I was going and then directed me how to get there and what I needed to pay. I made my way through the turnstile and down to the platform for the Keikyu Line. Once the train arrived I hopped on and I looked up at the map – no English. Internally, I panicked but calmed myself because I knew the name of the station I needed.
I moved out of the way as passengers boarded and took their seats all the while I was doing two things: listening for my stop and taking in the Japanese urban scenery. It wasn’t until two stops before my final stop that I looked directly above me and saw a digital screen that flashed both Japanese AND English for the station name…Oh well. Sure enough, I made my transfer easily and found my way to my final destination: Tameike-sanno station in Akasaka. I found my exit and made my way to my hotel. I had used Google Maps to find my way, but nothing can prepare you for actually being there. I made my way through an alley and onto the street the hotel was on but I took a wrong turn and then had to find WiFi and pinpoint the hotel which was literally a block away.
Let me tell you, finally finding that hotel and being able to put my bags down felt AMAZING! I was sweating from carrying my bags and I just needed a rest. About an hour or so later, my friend arrived and we hit up the 7-Eleven for some late night/cheap eats. I grabbed a juice, some chips, and a microwaveable burger. I put my items on the counter and the cashier spoke to me in Japanese. I told her one of the few Japanese phrases I knew: “I don’t understand”, and shrugged. She then continued in Japanese but this time pointed to the microwave. I shook my head, since we had one back in our room, said “Arigato!” and we walked back to our hotel.
Back at the hotel, we went to the vending machine to see about the famed Japanese vending machines that carried beer – something unheard of in the USA. We were not disappointed:
After eating, and drinking, we walked around the neighborhood a bit to give ourselves a better feel for our surroundings. Walking around we were treated to bright neon lights and a city brimming with life as tons of people were on the sidewalks making their way and the street was filled with cars. A truly amazing sight, and the beginning of an awesome journey.