Sunday, January 4, 2015

Japan Trip 2014 - Part One - First Impressions

So, I will like to start off the posts with recollections of my trip to Japan. Just as an aside, this series of posts will be mostly text only, as I plan to share most of my photos on my instagram and facebook pages. I may throw in a few images here and there just so you all don't get bored, but not a bunch. I hope you don't mind.

This is so way overdue! I hope anyone is even remotely interested anymore!

I actually wrote a bunch of stuff before but Blogger deleted my original draft, which really made me upset since I wrote like a whole page of stuff, but no use crying over spilled milk right?

My whole trip became reality when my boyfriend got accepted to Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan for CUNY's Study Abroad program. He would be there for 5 weeks starting July 3rd, when he left NY, and ending August 7th. After his program was over, I planned to meet him in Tokyo for our 12 day vacation! We planned very diligently for months leading up to our embarkment, and let me just say, I don't regret any of it. Now to the saga...

I. Takeoff

My trip to Japan on August 8th 2014 was the first time in my whole life that I have traveled abroad alone. It was huge. It took a lot to convince my parents to let me go, seeing as I am their only child and making this long trip on my own was pretty scary for everyone. I did my best to be as prepared as possible and assured my parents (especially my Mom) that everything would be okay. I'm here writing this now so that would mean that everything panned out safely, right?

That morning, my parents dropped me off at JFK airport where I would board my first flight to San Francisco, then connect to my second flight to Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan! I rode with United Airlines, but word to the not travel to Asia on United - and I will get to why in a moment. But first, my first flight was okay, a little cramped but not unbearable for the 5 hour trip. My second flight however, was nightmarish.

Firstly, on a 10 hour international flight, they did not offer personal TVs on the back of the seats, where as my domestic flight provided them. That was strike one. It's 2014, that is not acceptable. Those amenities are not a luxury anymore, they are standards. I became alarmed, because I did not know how I was going to occupy myself for 10 hours alone on a flight across the barren Pacific Ocean.

The whole time, I was alarmed. The seats were super cramped. Yes it was Economy, but I think the plane model I was on was very old, meaning that leg room upgrades that you find on newer planes just weren't there. The only way you can get OK seats on a United flight is to purchase Economy plus seats, which I refused. BIG MISTAKE. I was uncomfortable the entire flight. I had trouble sleeping, and my legs hurt like crazy. I was stuck in the corner by the window next to this standoffish young Singaporean couple, who gave me dirty looks when I had to get up to use the bathroom or did any other human movement. They didn't even let me open the window because they claimed the light was bothering their friend who was sitting in front of me asleep. SAY WHAT NOW? Frankly, I did not like them at all. I was already nervous about flying alone and they didn't help. On top of the fact that I really missed my boyfriend a lot, being that I didn't see him for over a month, and I was scared of something happening to the plane, and all that other mess that comes with the fear of flying. It wasn't a good combo.

II. Arrival in Tokyo!

But all was well and I was SO relieved when we finally landed safely in Narita. I was concerned because there was a Typhoon making landfall the same day I was landing, but thankfully I was not affected by it in the least. I got off the plane and headed to luggage pick up and customs, and there I was in Narita Terminal!

My boyfriend was meeting me there to take me back to the hotel and when I saw him, I was so tired...but so happy and excited to see him! He had already dropped his stuff at our hotel, the Remm Akihabara Hotel, in you guessed it, Akihabara! I picked up my pocket WiFi router (company is called Pupuru, which offered a great and inexpensive way to stay on the web without the need of a throw away phone! I connected my smartphone and used services like Line and Google Talk to contact friends and family back home.)

We took the Keisei Skyliner from the Airport, and then transferred to the JR Subway Line to Akihabara station, which our hotel was two steps from. The hotel was fantastic. It was clean, the staff were sweet and attentive (as was everyone in Japan, but I will get to that later), our room was small, but it was good enough for what we paid. We didn't spend much time in the hotel room anyway!

I was so happy to finally be in Japan, and it felt like a dream that I never wanted to end.

III. Akihabara, the Otaku Capital

Akihabara was indeed the land of dreams for any Anime/Manga fan out there. Figure and memorabilia shops everywhere you look, arcades at every turn, maids handing out flyers for the dozens of Maid Cafe's littering the area (the most popular being Maidoremin, which played its repetitive theme song from speakers on the street every day and night), huge posters of 2-D kawaii girls everywhere, it was unreal! Oh and of course boobs and butts, lots of boobs and butts, 2-D boobs and butts (and if you want to count the 3-D boobs and butts on the figures.) Boobs and butts are great and all, but we grew tired of seeing them everywhere really quick! But no matter, Akiba was our home away from home and we adored it.

That first night, we ate a meal at Moss Burger, ordered explicitly in Japanese by my now quite near fluently speaking boyfriend. I was impressed by how much he had learned and I admit, a little jealous of it as I had forgotten a big chunk of the Japanese I had learned in college, but I tried not to let it get to me. I was happy for him, since I knew how hard he worked to get to the level he was at.

I loved Moss Burger, their special sauce was tasty, no need for ketchup really! I will miss the place dearly.

After Moss Burger, we hit up a couple area arcades to scope out gaming prospects. We are both avid rhythm gamers, from DDR to Jubeat and Sound Voltex Booth (a game that I fell HARD for while in Japan, as it is not widely available in America), so seeing multiples of our favorite games lined up and waiting for us was so exciting. We would spend many a night in the arcades as the days progressed, let me say that now.

IV. The Glorious Japanese Rail System

First off, let me start by saying that this is not accounting for rush hour travel experience in Tokyo, as we usually did not ride the train at that time, so I have nothing to say about crowds there. From what we did experience though, Japan is by far the most efficient rail service in the entire world. I really won't dispute that. The trains are super clean, always on time, lack problems or abrupt service changes, and look great in upholding the most current railway technology.

In case you didn't already know that the NYC Subway system is a piece of garbage, Tokyo's rail system set that in stone. I could not believe how amazing it was. People even stand on line to enter the train instead of bum rushing in front of people like they do in NYC! The trains are always quiet, and everyone does their best not to disturb each other. They even make announcements to refrain from talking on the phone or at least not loudly, and keeping your phone on vibrate if and whenever possible. There was never loud music, yelling and screaming, or loud talking. It was god-like. I couldn't be more pleased and I didn't want to leave such superior service and atmosphere. We rode the train all around every single day and only faced a service problem once. ONCE!

MTA, take notes.

The system is also pay your way, so you pay only for the distance you are going instead of one fare. I believe it's a great way to save money when you are traveling short distances! You obtain a Suica card at your nearest fare machine in the station, and use that to load your money to ride the trains. You can also use the card to purchase snacks and items from vending machines!

V. The Kindness and Courtesy of the Japanese People

I'm not trying to sugar-coat or be biased, but never in my life have I been treated with such high levels of service. Every establishment you enter in Japan, you are very enthusiastically welcomed by the staff, you are serviced most highly (staff always welcoming help, but not in an "in your face" kind of way), and everything is speedy and efficient - from waiting on lines to check out, receiving a meal you purchased, just about anything.

Account One - The Post Office

So one day we needed to make a trip to the post office nearby Tokyo Station. My boyfriend needed to mail some stuff home. We were nervous at first because we didn't know what to expect, and I was nervous, because in America I have had some of my worst experiences in the post office, from long lines, rude staff, and disgruntled customers taking out their frustration on me... you name it. So there we were in the place. We were welcomed quite courteously as usual and walked into the bright, clean and welcoming space. We went to the counter because we needed to buy a box. The lady at the clerk, who spoke both Japanese and English, got a box for us, and provided us with tape and scissors to pack the stuff we brought.

Gold Star number one.

And the stars kept racking up. She helped us in filling out the correct slips. Led us to the counter to get a shipping price estimate, and get this - so the post office was cash only, we didn't have a lot of cash at the time and the only place we could have drawn money using international cards was either Citibank or 7-11. A man from the clerk left his post to escort my boyfriend to the ATM at 7-11! Literally left the post office to take him there. WHAT? Such a high level of service is unheard of in NYC. Then after he came back, the man closed up and taped the box for us and had it shipped off, said shipment arriving stateside in 2 days. WOW. Yes, shipping was pricey, but for that level of service, it's worth it.

Account Two - Shop Girls

Shopping in Japan is fun, but also very tiring. I will make a separate post dedicated to my shopping experience and tips, but I really want to take the time here to mention my wonderful first experience in the Metamorphose temps de Fille shop in MaruiOne Shinjuku.

I have to say, of all the shops in Marui One, the Meta shop girls were the sweetest and most attentive of them all. There were two shop girls on the floor the day we visited. They were encouraging regardless of the fact that I wasn't even wearing lolita fashion at the time (regrettable, but I was there in the summer, and it was just way too hot and unbearable to do so sadly). The print that peaked my interest at the time was their Secret Library print.

This version of the JSK wasn't available in the store at the time, at least not initially. This is the only one I wanted. The shop girls courteously tried to get em to purchase one of the other cuts or colorways, but I insisted upon this one. 

Determined to get me this dress, the shop girls began calling other Meta shops all over Japan in hopes that it could be shipped to the Marui One shop in time for me to buy. Sadly, in the amount of time it would take to successfully arrive, it was too close to when we would be leaving, or clashed with our other plans. So after a 20 minute run around, done so graciously by the shop girls, they decided to sell me their last remaining stock item of this JSK that they had in the back! Originally they had told me it couldn't be sold because it was the last one they had of the cut in store and it was meant to be a display item, but they just decided to sell it to me! I wonder if my boyfriend's enthusiastic and my try-hard Japanese helped. It seemed to get us somewhere in most situations very well, as would be expected. I guess since we were both so obviously foreign, us being able to speak Japanese, and not just basically, really impressed a lot of the native folk. My boyfriend is still much more skilled than I am currently. 

All in all, they were just the sweetest, and I managed to obtain a dress that I now adore. I walked into many of the lolita shops blindly, not knowing what prints I was looking for or what was out there because at the time I had not been keeping up with Lolita fashion like I used to. But it was fun in that sense because everything was so new to me!

There were many other accounts of kindness and courtesy from the Japanese people, I don't want to try and recollect them all, or we will be here forever (both you, the readers, and I the writer!), but just know, many, if not all of my first impressions in Japan were positive!

Part Two - Shopping and Dining Experience - Coming Soon!


  1. It's great that you had such nice experiences with the people in Japan, though that flight does sound awful!

    1. Yes I absolutely did! At least the flight home wasn't so bad, I forgot to mention! I guess because I was able to travel back with my boyfriend and not be alone!