Thursday, 15 August 2013

My Trip to Japan Day 1: Arriving in Japan

Settling in to our apartment and our first evening in Yokohama

Well I've now been back in the UK for 2 weeks and, though I still experience daily pangs of regret that I'm not in Japan anymore, the worst of my post-trip blues has passed and I think I'm ready to go through my notes and photos from the trip and tell you all about it. Maybe.

I've tried to include as many useful links and as much useful information as I can about the places that I visited.

After a very early start here in Leeds, 1 bus ride, 3 train journeys and a 12hr flight we were finally in Japan. Though the journey was long it was easy and thankfully stress-free. As ever, I couldn't sleep at all on the flight (I never seem to be able to sleep while I'm travelling) but as we began our descent to Narita Airport and the fields and rooftops of Japan drew closer those long sleepless hours were forgotten and my excitement levels, which had been simmering at around 8 or 9 since we left the house, rocketed up past 10. The voice in my head was screaming, 'It's Japan! You're in Japan!'

In the airport the familiar bilingual signs and the singsong voice of the escalators made it seem even more of a reality and I fought back a few tears of joy as we made our way to immigration. The 'Welcome to Japan' sign which also says 'おかえりなさい' (welcome home) made my smile even wider and before we were even out of the airport I was practicing my Japanese by chatting to the friendly customs officer.

We took the N'EX - Narita Express from Narita Airport straight to Yokohama station. It cost ¥4180 each (one way) and took approximately 1hr 30mins.

The apartment that we were staying in is in the Daimachi area of Yokohama and, thanks to the wonders of Google Maps and Streetview, we found it easily and even lugging heavy bags with us it only took 5mins to walk from the station.

View Yokohama 2013 in a larger map

Inside the apartment was lovely. Though we were early the apartment caretaker Mori-san, who was still cleaning and preparing everything for us, kindly let us in to wait until she finished. After the last sticky part of our journey through the hot and humid streets of Yokohama we were very grateful to put down our bags and enjoy the air-conditioning.  After a quick cheery tour of the apartment and explaining how to use the various appliances she left us in a flurry of bows and 'arigatou's to unpack and settle in.

The bedroom had tatami mats, really soft comfy futons, lots of storage space and sliding doors that opened onto a long balcony.

Though the bathroom had a really excellent shower with lots of jets and different shower heads it also had a big deep bath and a tap for more traditional Japanese-style bathing.

Since the apartment was on the 10th floor we had a good view from the balcony of the surrounding area. Here you can see dark clouds rolling in before an evening rainstorm.

The whole apartment had a nice quirky lived-in feel that made us feel right at home and was pretty spacious by Japanese standards. The kitchen was well-stocked with all the crockery, glasses and cooking utensils you could need, there was a whole bookcase full of books in various languages and lots of the owner's nicknacks and personal touches around the apartment. We booked it through Airbnb and it cost us around £70 per night. If you're looking for somewhere to stay in Yokohama I would really recommend it, you can find the listing here.

The Daimachi area was a great place to stay since it has the advantages of being a quiet residential neighbourhood while being only 5mins walk from the Yokohama station area which is home to lots of depāto, restaurants and shops. We were spoiled for choice with konbini too as there were branches of Lawson, Sunkus and 7Eleven just down the road.

There were, however, a lot of steps leading the street where we stayed which often required all the energy we had left to climb them after a long day of walking and sightseeing. 

After a much needed shower, after which I still didn't quite feel I was rid of all the sweat and grime of almost 24hrs of travelling, we popped out to the nearby Lawson to buy lunch and stock up the fridge with water and mugicha after which we succumbed to tiredness and fell asleep on the sofa to the sound of Japanese daytime TV.

When we woke up the sky was dark and a rainstorm was cooling down the evening air. Armed with umbrellas that we found in the apartment we set out for a little walk in the direction of the Minato Mirai area.

There aren't many things more Japanese than sheltering from the rain under a little clear plastic umbrella.

We walked through the Minami-Saiwai area which reminded me a little of Dotonbori in Osaka. The streets were pretty lively even in the rain with lots of young couples and friends out on the town, noisy pachinko parlours, games centres, bars, fast food places and a branch of the famous Tokyo store Don Quijote.

View Yokohama 2013 in a larger map

After getting a little lost and seeing some stunning night views of Yokohama the rain stopped and we made it to the Minato Mirai area.

We didn't have time to explore the whole area but we saw the hulking Landmark Tower and the iconic ferris wheel clock at Cosmo World

View Yokohama 2013 in a larger map

On the way back to our apartment, in search of dinner and starting to feel the pull of sleep again we passed a small park. Nestled in between the busy main roads and tower blocks it was completely deserted except for hundreds of insects all singing a beautiful night chorus. It was much softer than the harsh call of cicadas that you hear during the day and made me realise why the sounds of different insects has been enjoyed in Japan since ancient times. It was like a little oasis of nature in the busy city. 

After another quick but tasty konbini meal of gyōza, shumai, rice and salad all washed down with lemon Chūhai I fell quickly to sleep on my futon content, with a full tummy and the voice in my head whispering 'You're here, you're really in Japan'.

My Trip to Japan Day 2: Exploring Yokohama, a Trip to the Supermarket and Sukiyaki for Dinner coming soon ...


This is really inspiring. I always wanted to go to Japan :(

Nice pictures, especially traditional Japanese-style bathing, i like it

Thank you for this sharing

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