Monthly Archive: April 2015
I’m in Japan, and settled, and quite pleased with myself. On the other hand, just about everything that could go wrong did indeed go wrong, and pretty much all of it was thanks to the those crazy French and all their strikes! This is the second time in a year I’ve been held up badly because of French strikes, the last time meaning we spent the night on a train in Gare de l’Est. In fairness, it was a sleeper train so not uncomfortable! I’d planned out my first day in Japan so well. I’d even made a video I was going to edit with all the bits I was going to film once I arrived at 10:50 the next day. Yeahhhh...that wasn’t to be. The sinking feeling began when we sat on the runway at London City Airport for a good half-hour after takeoff time. The first leg of our journey was to Rome, and I only had an hour to make my connection as it was, so I wasn’t too happy. Eventually, the pilot came on the tannoy and told us that as we were meant to be flying over French airspace, the French air traffic control strike meant we weren’t going anywhere. Urgh! There were some pleasant assurances from the copilot that they’d know various flights were delayed in Rome, so they’d probably hold ours. They didn’t, of course. By the time we landed, our flight to Tokyo had already gone. It was just me and a Japanese guy at the counter after that. At first they wanted us to just go to a hotel and get the plane 24 hours later. Then they suggested we could go via Shanghai and arrive at 9:30pm. Eventually, two counters and numerous phone calls later, Turkish Airlines agreed to take us via Istanbul to arrive in Narita at 6:30. Well, an 8-hour delay was a whole lot better than a 24-hour one, and there was a chance my estate agent would stay a little late for me, so we agreed for that one. Our bags would be transferred, they said, and we just had to hang around. Of course, that meant most of my plans for my first day were out of the window, and there were a couple of things I really wanted to get done before Friday, so things became a big rush. At the Turkish Airlines counter, they told us they’d confirm our bags had been transferred when we got on the plane. So after chatting with the guy in the same position as me for a bit, we went our separate ways with about four hours to kill until our flight that evening. Had a few Euros so got a snack. Not fine Italian cuisine, but welcome nonetheless. When the plane to Istanbul came, I asked about my bag. When the attendant began with ‘Actually...’ my heart sank. Yeah – Alitalia hadn’t sent our baggage over. But there was still 20 minutes until the deadline! Silver lining #1!! Okay, let’s inject some positivity! On the plus side, the food on Turkish airlines is really good! Plus there was a good selection of films even on a relatively short hop. I watched Whiplash: have written a review here. Being in Istanbul without having planned it was pretty weird, but I was just glad to be on my way. I’d emailed my estate agent to ask if the office was open a little later today, but at that point it was about 1am in Japan so I couldn’t get a response. Still, there’s a lot to see in Istanbul airport, so even if I couldn’t buy anything, it wasn’t unpleasant. The final, longest leg of the flight was over to Tokyo. There was a fellow Brit on the seats in front, so I chatted with him quite a bit before watching Nightcrawler. My thoughts on that are here. I was going to watch more films – I usually watch around 5 on long-haul journeys – but it struck me that if I was unlikely to have my luggage in Tokyo, I wouldn’t be able to put my heavy hand luggage inside it to wheel along, so it would probably be better to finish The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and leave the book behind. It’s quite a thick book so better not to have to carry it! Silver lining #2!! While the plane from Rome was crowded, the connecting flight from Istanbul was very late, local time (1am) and relatively empty. I got a whole row to myself, and so did all the people around me! So between Nightcrawler, getting quite a lot of sleep (so much easier when you can stretch out over a row) and reading, the time passed quite pleasantly, and I finished the book about half an hour before landing. Review here! Upon arrival in Narita, passport control was quiet but still took a while as I was getting my Resident’s Card, which has in the last few years replaced the far better-named ‘Alien Registration Card’. By the time I got to the luggage carousels, all the flight’s bags had appeared, and as expected, mine was not there. Filled in a lost luggage form, which took quite a long time, and then just missed the Keisei Airliner. Well, to get to Nishi-Shinjuku, the Narita Express is probably a bit faster anyway, so I paid the extra 1,000-odd yen and headed there. It was already around 9:15 by the time I got to the estate agent’s. But the lovely lady there had stayed late just for me. I was so grateful! The boss was there too – and even gave me some green tea to drink. What a brilliant place! If you ever need to rent a place in Tokyo, I highly recommend Asumirai – especially as they can sort out rental from outside the country, which is a rarity. There were numerous forms to fill in, and I got to use my chop (my seal, which is Chinese and made of jade and which I’ve had since I was small, and serves as a hanko here), which was quite a thrill! I hope I get to stamp lots of other things. I need to get an ink pad, actually...Anyway, everything was explained and I got my key. But I didn’t go straight to my new home – instead I went to meet some friends on their last night in Tokyo! Silver lining #3!! If they hadn’t lost my bag, I would have had to go to my apartment first to drop off my large suitcase. I would also have had to take it across Tokyo on the train, and lug it up several flights of stairs. Knowing as I do that it has been found and will be delivered to me, this was relatively convenient! Met my friends in Akihabara, much later by then than I’d hoped, but we went for a quick drink and some beer – I got sushi, of course, because what else is so perfect for a first meal in Japan? They’d had a blast, and I met Coji who I’d been chatting with online and who is here for a year as well, so that’s another ally to do fun stuff with! Was great seeing Luke and Sai as well, and good to be welcomed by familiar faces at the start of this new adventure! Got the last train home and went to Donki for some essentials, like toilet roll and a light. The estate agent had warned me that there were no lights in the flat, but it was only the main ceiling light that didn’t work – the others did. Went to Bic Camera but it was closed, so grabbed a futon from Don Quixote and lugged it back to my flat, which actually isn’t that rare – I’ve seen a couple of people doing the same since. My sleeping patterns were still on UK time, so I wandered Shinjuku until about 4am. Kabukichou is a great place to people-watch. There are so many beautiful guys and girls in the entertainment business there, going about their strange twilight lives where appearance matters above all else! I’ll do a blog about them one day. I have to say, I’m fascinated. The next day there was a lot to do, as I had after all planned things for Friday but had the things I’d originally wanted to do on Thursday as well! First, though, I had to wait for a man to come to switch on my gas so that I could have hot water. This was the first test of my Japanese, and not knowing how to say ‘hob’, the conversation that followed was pretty confusing: Guy: Can I ask, do you have a gas hob or an electric one? Me: Yes, I just need gas, I already have electricity. Guy: So it's gas? Can I take a quick look? Me: Please. Guy: (Looks at electric hob) This is electric. Me: Oh I see! Sorry. Guy: Can you come outside for a moment so I can show you what to do if you smell a gas leak? Me: Uhhhh (stands there awkwardly before finally getting it and awkwardly putting shoes on) So that knocked my confidence just a little bit! But I had plenty to do so soldiered on. Next was the ward office, where within two weeks a new resident has to register their address and get health insurance. I could have left this, but a job I had lined up had a deadline of that day for sending bank details (which in the event was flexible, but I couldn’t know that), and I couldn’t get a bank account without registering with the ward. So that’s what I did. After that, it was off to the bank itself. I went to the Roppongi branch because they advertised English-speaking staff, and it was good to see Roppongi Hills. Had a Matcha Frappucino but hadn’t charged my laptop so didn’t stay long, and instead went back to Shin-Okubo to explore Koreatown and get some more basic furniture from Don Quixote. Sadly, I couldn’t go to the gig I wanted to because the tickets had sold out by the time I arrived, but jetlag began to set in anyway...and I’d only slept for one hour! That was my first day alone in Japan...and it’s been hectic but wonderful since then. I feel very content here and have been having a lot of fun. Long may it continue!