All the way back in the autumn of 2015, Dan and Lee – two of my oldest friends come work colleagues – asked if I would like to join them on a trip to Japan. All three of us are big fans of videogaming, anime and manga, and Japanese culture at large. For myself it has been somewhere that I have wanted to visit since I was about 6 years old, and I have a cousin and close uni-friend both living in Japan, married to a Japanese wife, and teaching English. This decision was an absolute no-brainer.
So the saving began in earnest. I was very hands off for the booking process, as the thrill of visiting Japan was enough for me. I didn’t need a fancy hotel or any inclusives, I just needed a flight to Japan and somewhere to rest my head that was reasonably close to the trains. Thus was it left in Dan’s capable hands.
April 16th finally arrived, and vibrating with a barely contained excitement, we made our way to London Heathrow for our flights, via Istanbul, with Turkish Airlines. For the most part, the flights were good; the meals were surprisingly enjoyable, the seats spacious enough, and the in-flight entertainment was not lacking (I managed to watch all seven Star Wars films across those flights and more besides). The only qualm I had was when I brushed my teeth on the morning of landing in Narita and was accused of smoking in the toilets – her reasoning was that I was in there a while and it smelled of smoke. Had I actually been vaping in the toilet (which I wasn’t), it would have smelled of maple syrup and pancakes. But I digress. They were rude, accusatory, and it was only when I asked them to produce any form of evidence that they eventually backed down.
That evening, we touched down in Narita, purchased tickets for the Keisei Skyliner into Tokyo, and picked up a portable WiFi hotspot – a device that would prove invaluable over the week. We found the Tokyo metro surprisingly straightforward to navigate and soon arrived in the town of Ayase, Adachi, on the outskirts of Tokyo. It took us about an hour of wandering around (Japan has a very… unique way of dealing with street addresses…) but we eventually found the Ayase Kokusai Hotel, checked in, freshened up and then went on a self guided orientation tour for food.
It was during this time that I decided that it would have been a wise idea to learn some basic Japanese before arriving in the country, but we eventually settled on having a Japanese McDonald’s (a McTeriyaki burger, of all things), which was astonishingly enjoyable and cheap, before retiring back to our rooms.
It had turned out that the room that Dan and I were sharing was a lot smaller than we had anticipated, so I opted to go Japanese style and sleep on the floor for the duration of the stay – something I thoroughly enjoyed and did my back the world of good. We connected to the hotel WiFi, let friends and family know that we had arrived safely, got overly excited at how fancy the toilets were (those jokes about Japanese toilets with heated seats and wash facilities? No joke), made a plan for the next day, then fell asleep.