Monday, September 15, 2008

Tokyo Adventure Begins!

So my flight out of Manila got delayed, meaning i got into Tokyo later. I was supposed to arrive at 8PM and ended up landing around 9PM. This wouldn't be a problem, except the hotel I'm staying at states the latest check-in will be 10PM. So I had that hurdle to face eventually. I did email the hotel to tell them I was arriving later and the innskeeper, Kayo said to call when i got to Ueno Station. More on that later.

Back at the airport, I went through immigrations where the lady had to call over 2 different people to say something i couldn't understand except blah blah blah Philippines blah blah American blah blah quarantine... finally she let me through. Went to get my bags and then through customs. I'm not sure if Immigration Lady wrote some secret squiggle in my passport, but Customs Dude totally grills me on what I'm doing in Japan and what was I doing in the Philippines. He has me open my bag and he rifles through it. Disappoint to find nothing but clothes, he has me empty my pockets. Then he makes me turn on my phone. Then he turns me around and pats me down. Then he asks me to put my left foot in and my left foot out and shake it all about. ok, that last part didn't happen, but I was fearing a full ccavity search after being told to turn around for the pat down. Finally I make it out into the "Real World".

I follow signs for the trains and find the line I need to take to get to my hotel. Unfortunately, it isn't clear to me how much i need to pay, so I ask an ticket window attendant if she speaks English. She convincingly tells me yes and I explain my problem. She asks where I'm going and I tell her. Then she tells me I need to take the train to Ueno station and transfer to the Hibiya Line. All of this I already knew, I just needed to know how much money to put on my ticket and if I can buy it from her. She repeats, more loudly to take the train to Ueno Station and transfer to the Hibiya Line. I ask again How Much? and she repeats, louder still, totake the train to Ueno and transfer. finally some kind nondescript Japanese woman asks if i need help and explains the map to me. There are 2 prices, one for adult and one for children. I pt my Yen in the machine and get a really tiny ticket.

I head down to the platform just in time to hear, "The next train arriving is an Express Line to Ueno Station." Finally a break. At 9:40, I hop on the train and find that there are no seats left available. No problem. It's an express, right, I'll be off the train in no time. Looking at the map as the train pulls into the first stop, I realize it's the first stop after the airport. Must be one of the stops on the express, right? Next stop is the stop after the first stop. By the time the train pulls into the 4 stop on the map, I've finally figured out this is no express train. A little over an hour and 20 stops later, I reach Ueno Station.

Now to find the Hibiya Line and make my transfer. This is the point of my story where I realize I don't read squiggles. I swear, I came up the only set of stairs into a part of that station that had no english. none. I walk around and around and can't find anysigns to point me which way to go. Luckily, there are still plenty of people milling about, even though it's close to 11PM on a Sunday. An nice man points me to a set of semi-hidden stairs. Once I reached the bottom of said stairs, there was a sign in english pointing me to the Hibiya line.

At this point, I'm ready to bag finding my hotel and try to find a coffin hotel for the night somewhere around the Ueno Station. So I searched out a pay phone so I could call Kayo back and tell her my plan. She answers the phone in Japanese. Apparently there's more than just squiggles i don't understand around here. I say "Kayo?" She replies "Brain? Brain Yu?" I don't have the heart to correct her as a smile crosses
my lips. she says she was worried about me and glad i called. she asked where i was and said she would still be waiting. There goes the coffin hotel idea. Now that I knew how to read the map, I bought my ticket and went to the platform. Got on the train and got off at the Minowa Station.

Now I knew i had to get to exit #3 and follow the directions to the hotel that I had printed off the internet. Unfortunately, when I exited the platform, I only saw signs for exits 1 & 2. I figured once I got upstairs, I could find exit 3. Wrong. When I got upstairs, I was on street level exiting from Exit #2. I head back down and ask the security guard how to get to Exit #3. He points up the stairs and to the right. So I head up the stairs and to the right. I head to street level and start walking. It's drizzling now. I know I'm looking for a McDonald's so I keep my eyes peeled. After about 4 blocks and no McDonalds, I pop into a 7-11 and ask for directions. The cashier doesn't speak English, so I show him the address. He pulls out a map and draws 2 circles. The Bigger One is the hotel, the Smaller one is the 7-11. he opens the register and pulls a coin out and then walks around the counter and to the copy machine. The man makes me a free copy of his map. He orients the map for me and points out the front door.

He's totally pointing in the way i came from. 4 blocks back in the rain the way i had just come and about 4 more in the correct direction I finally see the McDonalds. I turn down the street and keep my eyes peeled for the next landmark in the directions - a noodle house across the street from a flower shop. Should be easy enough, right? No. It's about midnight. NOTHING is open except 7-11's and McDonalds. I walk down the sreet looking for what could be a noodle house facade only to be thwarted by the fact that every storefront has big metal shutters down in front of their windows.

I keep walking until i see another 7-11 and i pop in to ask for directions again. This cashier speaks english and says i'm 2 blocks too far. I head back the other way, totally drenched now. Then I stop and turn around and go back into the 7-11. I buy a $5 umbrella. Slightly less wetter now, I head back in search of the hotel. I turn down the second street and see no hotel. just closed shopfronts. i keep circling the block and finally find the hotel. Kayo is waiting for me and asks if I had any problems finding it. I tell her all the landmarks are closed and she says that's why they don't normally allow for check-in after 10PM!

anyways, I'm here and ready for Tokyo. Tomorrow I plan on searching out a Street Fighter IV machine. I have a pocket full of Yen and plan on showing Nippon how we hadouken in the States!

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