asia,  japan,  travel

Winging my way to Tokyo – Day 0

It was with a mixture of excitement and sadness that I headed off to O’Hare airport. While I was eager for a chance to visit Japan again, it would also mark the beginning of a six-week separation from my husband. D was kind enough to go with me 3 stops over to catch the Pace bus that goes all the way to the airport. While it is possible to take the El all the way, it would have required going south all the way downtown, changing lines and then going back northwest to the airport. In the end, the bus got me there in good time, about an hour, and I quickly headed in and was through security relatively speedily. In search of an ATM and currency exchange place, I wandered up and down the concourse, much to the chagrin of my aching shoulders (a laptop, GRE textbook and camera are certainly weighty after awhile). I finally located them and got out cash to exchange into Japanese Yen. I suppose I was a trifle disappointed with my stash of cash in the end (I seem to remember when 100 Yen roughly equalled a dollar—now it’s about 73 yen). Soon enough, I boarded the plane and was wedged in against a window along with the rest of the transcontinentally-bound sardines. A little disappointed to find a lack of individual screens—call me spoiled, but I’d sort of come to expect them on long-haul flights these days. I suppose that’s what you get for going with the cheapest flight!

Away we were, and the in-flight movies kept me entertained, less so the math review sections of my GRE study guide. Ratios and probabilities just aren’t as compelling as gratuitous explosions and romantic peril—what a sorry academic I am! I didn’t sleep as much as I usually do on long flights…perhaps I was thinking I should stay awake to try and get some work done, which usually resulted me staring off in a kind of stupor. Roughly twelve hours or so passed, with a surprising amount of turbulence, and we were soon landing at Narita airport.

There is some nerdy part of me that appreciates the sort of clinical efficiency and tidiness for which the Japanese are known. I was through customs (where they took two index fingerprints bizarrely) with relative ease and picked up my bags. Signage directed me to the Keisei ticket booth, and I quickly bought a ticket for the limited express train to Ueno station. Luckily, I was able to catch it in time, and I was soon trundling off into Tokyo. It was a fairly long train ride (perhaps about an hour and a half in the end), and it grew dark alarmingly early. I rolled into Ueno station around 6 pm, and it was already fully dark. I managed to eventually figure out where I was going from various posted maps and the somewhat convoluted hotel directions. The Oak Hotel was a 5-10 minute walk away from Ueno station. The front desk was friendly (and spoke English), and I was soon up in my cute little private room. Tiny tatami-matted room with a futon, however it does come equipped with a small mini fridge, TV and even a tiny hot plate for boiling water, as well as an ensuite bathroom.

Hungry and tired, I succumbed to the pangs of my stomach and a lack of desire of trying to figure out Japanese menus, and grabbed a quick burger at the McDonalds around the corner from the hotel. I know, I didn’t fly 5000 miles to eat McDonalds…it will likely be the last time as it was actually fairly pricey for a double cheeseburger meal (¥620), roughly about $7.50. I did grab a few groceries and supplies (water, yoghurt, etc.) at a nearby mini-mart to have for breakfast in an attempt to keep costs down and not eat out for every meal, if at all possible, before crawling into bed and calling it a night.

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