Arriving in Tokyo

On 22 March 2018, I took a red eye Scoot flight to Tokyo to rendezvous with my friend Wei Chiang who was studying there, and travel to Kyoto and Osaka, before heading back to Tokyo for a couple of days. It would be a 13-day trip.

My plane arrived at Narita airport at around 11am, slightly ahead of schedule. This was my first time travelling without a check-in bag, only a carry-on bag, my new Cotopaxi Allpa. Because I could simply breeze through customs and immigration without having to wait at the baggage conveyor belt, I was the first tourist out of Arrivals.

After freshening up in the toilets, I tried to figure out the cheapest option for a 4G SIM card for me., so I could rely on Google Maps and do a bit of Instagram. There were counters with SIM card and pocket wi-fi rental services. After browsing the various options, the best deal seemed to be a Y4500 14-day plan that provided 500 MB/day โ€” plenty for mainly Google Maps and a bit of Instagram. The SIM card came with instructions for installation and worked out of the box. While it was the most convenient option, I think the possibly cheaper option would be to buy a SIM card yourself at a BIC Camera outlet in town, or at the one in the airport, and set it up yourself.

There are a few ways from Narita Airport into Tokyo, but one of the cheapest ways is to take the Keisei Tokyo Shuttle line, a bus. It is easy to obtain a one-way ticket at the airport; just queue up at their counter outside Arrivals. At the same counter, you can also get a Tokyo Subway pass (discounted) for 24 hours, 48 hours, or 72 hours with your Keisei Tokyo Shuttle ticket, which makes your arrival in Tokyo supremely convenient as you can start using the trains to get around right away. I did find out later that this subway pass does not cover JR lines, but it’s sufficient for travelling within Tokyo. I bought for a later timing so that I had time to eat a quick lunch in the airport. Food prices in the airport, unlike in some other airports, aren’t marked up and cost as the same as the same versions in the city. I chose to eat at Yoshinoya, a franchise which serves affordable gyudon (my bowl was 590 yen), which was served swiftly despite the crowdedness.

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Gyudon with spring onion and a raw egg at Yoshinoya (590 yen).

After I arrived in Tokyo and took the train for a few stops, I managed to find my accommodations for the next two nights, a capsule hostel called Oakhostel Cabin. This was my first time sleeping in a capsule, so it was a novel experience I was looking forward to. The capsule was surprisingly spacious (except for a big useless TV blocking the top of the cabin). There was actually a provided 4G phone (restricted use, with some preinstalled apps like Maps) that I could use during my stay. This would be a great option for travellers who haven’t had time to get a SIM card. However, other than a short bar in the locker, there were very few places to hang laundry. They expect you to pay to use their washing machine and dryer. But as someone who doesn’t like to pay for laundry, I just washed in the sink and let it dry on a hook outside my capsule.

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I went to Kagari ramen for dinner. It is good to arrive as early as possible (10 minutes before popular places) to get a seat without waiting too long. I planned to arrive just as it opened, but I missed the entrance and was late for opening by about five minutes. By then, a short queue had already formed, and I missed being in the first batch of customers. But after about 20 minutes, I was in. The chef and his assistant put a lot of care in preparing the bowls of ramen, and after all the anticipation, it was truly magnificent. I sniffed a whiff of the fragrance emanating from the bowl, catching hints of ginger and horseradish that had been garnished. The broth was incredibly thick and rich with umami and chicken flavour. The chicken breasts were soft and broke easily, as if they had been sous vide.

This was the first tori ramen I’ve ever tasted, and so far it’s been the best.

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Tori paitan ramen at Kagari.
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‘Soba’ was what ramen used to be called. I got the tori paitan ramen with soy soft-boiled egg and extra noodles (1170 yen in total).

After dinner, I spent some time wandering Yurakucho, unsure if I wanted to get some yakitori, or how to order from a Japanese menu. But after much hesitation, I approached a restaurant only to be told they were full, so I went back for an early rest.

Sleep in the capsule was pretty sound, but any noise will travel easily throughout the compound and disturb. I was guilty of making some noise myself when I turned and my knees banged into the walls.

I woke up early the next morning, ready to head out to Tsukiji Market for some sushi breakfast and street snacks.

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