Whew. Finally at the hotel!
The plane landed a little behind schedule, at about 7:10pm local time (which, incidentally, is an hour behind Sydney time). Unfortunately slightly after sunset, so I don’t have any cool photos of Tokyo from the air. We grabbed our luggage just fine, and got through customs just fine, and headed over to the JR office to get our exchange orders changed for rail passes. (These are probably a good idea for anyone thinking of traveling to Japan – you can only buy them before you leave Australia, though.) We eventually picked a starting date, which is something we’ve been pondering over for a while, since we have fourteen-day passes, but we’ll be in Japan for sixteen days, and the woman talked us into buying a pre-paid Suica card for the remaining two days.
She also booked us in for a Narita Express train, which would take us from Narita to where we could catch a train for Machida, which is where our hotel is for this part of the journey. We’ll be spending five days here, before moving on to Osaka – James will probably post a map. Machida is a city that basically got absorbed by Greater Tokyo over the years. It’s still listed as “Machida-shi” (Machida City) on the maps, but for all intents and purposes, it’s part of Tokyo.
Anyway, we’re booking the train to Yokohama, where we’d change to the Yokohama line which’d take us to Machida. Curiously, the 8:06pm service we were expecting to be on the timetable was missing – only the 8:44pm was there, a wait of about an hour. “Ok” we went, and she booked us seats – but when we arrived on the platform at shortly before 8:06, there was the previous train. “Oh well” we went, and let it go. We sat on the platform for a while leafing through the brochures I grabbed, and eventually our train arrived. It was quite impressive, with comfy chairs and folding tables and luggage racks – almost like a plane on wheels. Only with more leg room.
The Japanese rail system is seriously impressive – we could set our watches by the timetable. In any case, after about ninety minutes, we arrived at Yokohama station at 10:16 – right on time. And just in time to see the 10:16 Yokohama line train to Machida pull out of the station.
We’re a little worried at this point, as the Yokohama line is the only train to Machida, but according to the timetable, the next train is at 11:26 – a really long wait, and way too late to make it to our scheduled check-in at the hotel, but after I made a vague attempt to let the hotel know we’d be late in my terrible Japanese (which I don’t think she really understood) we settled down to wait.
At about 11pm, I happened to glance at the timetable again. Turns out I’d been reading the weekday timetable, but today’s Saturday – and on Saturday, the 10:16 service is the last one. Suddenly we’ve gone from being really-late-but-able-to-get-there to stranded-on-a-station-platform-all-night. So we scramble off to find the taxi rank – and it was positively ginormous. Literally five lanes wide and packed ten or fifteen cars deep. And they’re pretty cool – the driver can open the boot and rear-passenger-side door without even leaving his seat.
Yeah, we knew it was going to be expensive. Thing is, catching a bus to Machida – a half-hours’ train ride – would have involved so much stumbling around attempting to ask people which bus and how much it’d cost, whereas catching a taxi basically involved me just going “Machida, onegai shimasu” and shoving the hotel map into his hands. So he sets off, driving down tiny Japanese streets and break-neck speed, and over huge elevated highways, and I’m just sitting there with this huge grin on my face going “Wow, this is Japan. We’re actually in another country!” Meanwhile, James can see the speedometer – he tells me the driver crossed 120 km/h at one point, and averaged 20 km/h over the limit the rest of the time.
He gets us to Machida station within half an hour. Then he asks another taxi driver for more directions to the hotel, and the reply he recieved is worryingly long, considering we’re expecting the hotel to just be a few blocks away. Things look bleak until James happened to spot the hotel’s neon sign looming over nearby buildings, and we’re finally there, only ten minutes past our intended check-in time. We’re on the twelfth floor – the view from up here is pretty impressive – I’ll take a photo when it’s daytime.
James wanted something for dinner, and we needed a two-pin power convertor, so we headed down to the nearest Seven-Eleven. Had a poke around the nearby streets too – the more streets I see, the more excited I am just to be here. We bought a cup ramen each, but we couldn’t find a convertor. The Seven-Eleven was full of stuff you wouldn’t find in Australia, like a rack of manga and various odd snacks. We also bumped into about twenty vending machines, and saw a ramen shop across the road that might be good for lunch or dinner one day.
I’ve (ahem) “modified” my three-pin power convertor to fit into a two-pin socket, so now we have power. I also discovered the reason the camera wouldn’t talk to the computer is because I was using the USB cable that had come with my wall-socket-USB-charger-thing. As in, it was a power-only cable, not a power-and-data cable. Whoops. Enjoy shiny photo. More to follow. I took a hundred and sixty-four of them.
It’s hot and humid here, but I saw quite a few people around with towels draped over their necks and shoulders, so I didn’t feel the slightest bit odd doing the same. Quite a few women around wearing yukatas as well. Even though it took us over four hours between landing and getting to the hotel, I’m absolutely thrilled to be here – imagine how much fun it’ll be without late-night transport to stress about. We may even be able to get by on my extremely limited Japanese, my phrasebook, and James’ phone translation app thing. Tomorrow’s planned to be a restful day, but we’ll see what happens. Maybe visit somewhere nearby.
Now it’s off to bed. Cause it’s 2am. James says he’ll blog sometime too. =)
Today’s photo count: one hundred and sixty-four