Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Japan (Mar 2013): Day 1 Singapore to Tokyo

As mentioned before, this trip was made possible due to my winning a Japan photo contest which provided me with a 4 day trip to Tokyo (and Aizu Wakamatsu), and I chose to extend a further 8 more days on my own for this trip.    

Day 1 brief schedule:
2355 (13/3) - 0720 (14/3): Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to Tokyo.
0845 - about 1045: Narita Express (N'EX) train from Narita Airport to Shinjuku station
1150 - 1330: Took a stroll around Shinjuku Gyoen
1410: Check-in hotel (Keio Plaza Hotel at Shinjuku, Tokyo), bought lunch back to room to eat, then fell asleep while watching TV
1910: Woke up, went out to buy some dinner back to the room.  

200yen Shinjuku Gyoen admission ticket
298yen A packet of 3 face masks, just in case the smog returns again
1262yen Groceries from convenience store (2 Van Houten Cocoa drink @ 116yen each, 1 Pudding @ 110yen, Katsudon @ 450yen, Koala Choc biscuits @ 105yen, Potato chips @ 113yen, Bottle of mineral water @ 105yen, Bottle of Pocari Sweat @ 147yen)
398yen Fried Rice from convenience store.

My flight from Singapore to Tokyo was originally supposed to be a JAL flight departing nearly 2am on 14/3 from Singapore. However, during the evening on 13/3, I happened to be checking the status of the flight on the Changi Airport website online and found out that my JAL flight was cancelled due to strong wind at Tokyo.  And thus start a mad panic for me since I have yet to encounter flight cancellation before.  I then went to the JAL website to double check my JAL flight's status, and yeah, it was indeed cancelled.

My next course of action is to try to contact the JAL office, but it took me nearly 40 mins (2 calls) before my call was finally connected to a JAL staff.  She was then able to put me on a SQ (Singapore Airlines) flight which departs at 11pm + on 13/3...which is about 2hrs EARLIER than my original JAL flight.  
At that time, I had mixed feelings, on one hand I was happy to be able to get a flight to Tokyo without causing delays to my itinerary, however my problem was that I have yet to finish packing my luggage and I will have to bring my luggage to take the train from my home on the western end of Singapore to Changi Airport on the eastern end of Singapore during peak hour!

So, I just stuffed my clothes and other items into my luggage, managed to zip the bag, barely able to wait for the hubby to return home from work to say bye to him, and off I dashed out of the house.

Anyway, I finally managed to arrive at the airport...where I had to first go to Terminal 1 to collect some sort of document from the JAL counter, and then go to Terminal 3 for check in at the SQ counter.  After finally managed to complete my check in procedures, I was then able to breathe more freely and sit down and eat a late dinner.

The flight was nice and comfy since I got a seat on 1 of the front rows in economy class so I had lots of leg room. It was halfway through the flight then I realised that the plane is actually an A380!  :)  There were ALOT of shows on the in-flight entertainment, I think I watched Running Man,  Restoration King, Deadliest Catch, and some other variety shows...the flight time passed by quickly and I didn't sleep at all (which explains why I slept so much later that day)

Supper on flight: Warm Turkey and Cheese Panini
Breakfast on flight: Grilled Teriyaki Salmon with rice.

Finally arrived at Narita Airport and was welcomed by Mayumi-san whom have been communicating with me via email for the past couple of weeks in regards to the logistics of this trip. She is the person who have been by my side for the first 4 days of the trip to help translate Japanese to English for me.  Extremely grateful to her for all the help she rendered me during this trip.  :)

We first headed for the JR counter to get my Suica+N'EX (Narita Express) package, and was surprised to find out that I was given extra credits on my Suica card as part of the prize from the contest. This card managed to last me through the first 8 days of the trip. :p Not just transportation allowance, later on I was also given 30,000yen worth of meal vouchers, which I subsequently used for my many crab meals and I think I still have some vouchers left for my Japan trips in future. 

We took the 0845am Narita Express train from Narita Airport to Shinjuku. Was supposed to arrive at Shinjuku earlier but the train was delayed slightly due to the weather as it was raining and pretty windy.  Since I had a fun time chatting with Mayumi-san during the train ride and the train was pretty comfy, so I didn't mind the slight delay.

It was a short 5 mins walk (well, 5mins for the Japanese = 10mins for me and my short legs) from Shinjuku station to the Keio Plaza hotel. Since it was too early for check in, therefore I left my luggage at the hotel, said goodbye to Mayumi-san, and then I decided to go check out Shinjuku Gyoen to see if there's any early Sakura blooms. I was told that it would take about 15mins to walk from the hotel to the park, but from my previous experiences during my past Japan trips, I had to mentally double the duration given by the Japanese (since they walk much faster than what we are used to) to get the correct duration appropriate for my walking speed.  And I was correct. It took me about 30mins to walk to the park.  Haha. 

Had a leisurely stroll around the HUGE park and was very pleasantly surprised to find a few Sakura trees already blooming nicely.  Be reminded that it was only 14 March so it is really extremely early for Sakura season so I wasn't really expecting to see any Sakura on this trip so you can guess my excitement upon seeing my first Sakura tree.  (Later on, I would realise that Sakura season for Tokyo this year was 2 weeks earlier than normal, and that I will be seeing much more Sakura trees in days to come).

Not long after entering Shinjuku Gyoen, I saw a group of Malaysians taking photo with a tree near the park entrance. A kind Japanese ojisan was helping them to take a photo with a tree with white flowers. 

About 30mins later, I finally saw my first Sakura tree!  It was there where I met 2 nice gentlemen whom helped me to take a photo with the sakura tree. I initially heard them chatting in mandarin so I guessed they were probably from China due to their accents. But after chatting more with them, I found out that 1 of them is actually a Canadian and the other guy is a native Japanese!  Their Mandarin is so good!

The first Sakura tree I saw.

It was getting pretty windy and cold (and I was hungry and tired as well due to not sleeping on the plane) so I decided to just leave Shinjuku gyoen after walking 1 round at the park...and on my way out, I chanced upon the group of Malaysians again! We ended up chatting and walking towards Shinjuku station together since we were heading for the same direction.  Took a group photo with them just before saying goodbye to them at Shinjuku station. 

It was nearly 2pm by the time I arrived back at the hotel. Was able to get my room and loved the room and the view.  Would have liked to enjoy the view more but my stomach's growling by then so I went to the convenience store at 2nd level of the hotel to buy Katsudon back to the room to eat. 

My room for 3 nights

View from my room on the 38th floor
View from my room
I love how they have separate containers for the rice and the pork + egg gravy. 

Did some channel surfing on the TV (ended up at a channel that teaches maths), and then eventually dozed off. Haha.

Woke up in the evening around 7pm to go out and look for food. I wanted to go to the other side of Shinjuku station, but after spending nearly 30mins wandering around Shinjuku station getting lost, I gave up and went back to the convenience store to buy fried rice to eat in my room.  Haha.


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  3. Nice article! I really like your flowers pictures (^.^)