Wednesday, 10 February 2016

My Japan Trip 2015/2016: Day 1 - Heathrow Airport, Zurich Airport, Narita Airport and HARAJUKU!

IMG_0459

I'm finally ready to start blogging about my trip to Japan. I returned on the 15th January but since then I've been sorting my business out, it was my birthday on the 4th February, I traded at an event on 6th February and I've been sorting out all my photos and editing them all! I wanted to edit them all to keep track of everything before I started posting. Over the course of these posts I'll document my trip, activities, sights, food and drink, purchases and give as much information and tips that I think will be useful!

So far I've been uploading my photos to Facebook but by being more in-depth in these posts, I almost feel like I'm reliving the experience again. *0* Needless to say, my trip was absolutely wonderful, breathtaking and I look forward to going again! For those who don't know, I went from 29th December 2015 to 14th January 2016, for just over two weeks. I went on my own and I stayed with a Japanese woman and her daughter for a sort-of homestay (more on that later).

After spending a couple of days preparing and packing luggage, I left for the longest and furthest trip of my life so far on 29th December 2015 at pretty much exactly midnight! I got a National Express coach to Heathrow Airport. Even though East Midlands Airport is closest to me, it's easiest and cheapest to fly to Japan from London, I think. It cost about £45 for an open return to Heathrow Airport from Derby. I chose my set departure time but for coming back home, I could pick whatever coach I wanted, just in case there were any delays or problems getting back. It took about 5 hours to get to Heathrow Airport.

The last time I went to an airport was last year to go to Belfast. It was East Midlands, so even though I expected Heathrow to be far bigger and scarier, checking in and getting through security was straightforward. I arrived about 3 hours before my flight was to depart, so I first got a green tea at Costa, read over some Japanese language print outs I'd brought with me, then checked in, waved goodbye to my luggage (with my fingers crossed I'd see it again at Narita!) and made my way through security.

I flew with Swiss Air to Zurich first, my flight was at 8.50am. I absolutely recommend Swiss Air 100% and would fly with them again!

IMG_0359
You always have to take cloud photos when you're on an airplane!

I had to go through security again at Zurich and it turned out I had to get a little shuttle train to another part of the airport, which was pretty fun! Again, very straightforward to go through security but I didn't find the shops in Zurich Airport nearly as interesting as Heathrow. The overall look and feel of Zurich Airport is nicer though! All black and chrome, shiny floors and metal parts, very sleek looking!

IMG_0424
We flew over some mountains! We actually flew over Moscow and Siberia, but I think it was dark when we went over Siberia.

As we started flying into Japan, I saw something that instantly hit me with 'Holy shit I'm in Japan'...

IMG_0425
Can you see, just to the centre left of the horizon? It's Mount Fuji! It was a lot clearer in real life but it literally took my breath away. For a second, I thought 'No, it must be another mountain' but it couldn't be!

IMG_0428
Fuji-sannnn~

I had been saving and planning for over a year, and finally it was here, I was in Japan! The flight landed around 9.30am on 30th December 2015. Due to the time difference, you technically lose half a day, but you get it back when returning home! I loved this flight as I was able to sleep on the coach to the airport and then the long haul flight, then I arrived in Japan in the morning ready for a full day of activities (well, half a day by the time I got to central Tokyo). However, if you're not great at sleeping on public transport, it might be worth it travelling a day earlier and arriving in the afternoon or evening so you can have a full nights sleep in Japan first.

I went through to the baggage claim, which is always an 'experience'...you want your luggage to be put out first, you start thinking every suitcase is yours, and as more and more people take their luggage, you wonder if you're ever going to see your luggage again and start praying! Thankfully my suitcase was there, and I went through customs and immigration. A Japanese customs employee asked me why I was coming to Japan, and for a second I panicked - why was I coming again?! I couldn't tell her 'shopping' hahaha! It's one of those situations where even though you're not guilty of anything, you suddenly feel like they're judging you! I eventually said 'travel' in Japanese, she asked me if I had friends in Japan. I said yes and she said my Japanese was very good and I could proceed. I was super nervous, and I already knew that Japanese people will compliment your Japanese even if it is very basic haha. There were some instances where I was literally following a conversation/some information being told to me, saying 'Yes' and 'Okay' in Japanese, and they'd say "Your Japanese is very good!" haha.

I went through to arrivals in Narita Airport. The first thing I had to do was pick up my Pocket WiFi at the post office in the airport. I asked where the post office was and got directed by a police officer, then picked up my Pocket WiFi. I had pre-ordered it about two weeks before I left for Japan, from Global Advanced Communications, who I recommend for Pocket WiFi! It was about £40 to hire it for just over two weeks. You can pick it up at the airport post office, or it can be delivered to your hotel or accommodation, or picked up at a convenience store. They give you a pre-paid envelope to post it back before you leave. You can do this whenever you like, but I think the best way is to post it back at the airport, so you can make use of the WiFi as long as possible. There are post boxes everywhere in Japan including Narita Airport.

IMG_0446
My Pocket WiFi! I got my boyfriend to buy it for me as part of my Christmas gift. I was actually thinking about doing without it before that, but now I can absolutely tell you I don't know how I would've dealt without it. There were so many times I needed Google Maps, to be able to communicate and other things. I know many convenience stores and coffee shops have free WiFi in Japan but I think I would've been in a bit of trouble more than once if I didn't have my Pocket WiFi with me.

After I picked up my Pocket WiFi, the next thing I had to do was get a Pasmo or Suica card, which is a electronic travel card you top up with money, a bit like an Oyster card in London. It doesn't matter which one you get, they both work pretty much everywhere. I chose a Pasmo card solely on the fact it was silver and pink rather than green and white like a Suica card haha.

IMG_0453
I ended up taking way too long to get a Pasmo card. After asking where I could get one, I was told to go downstairs to where you get trains into central Tokyo. I had to get the elevators, go down a long corridor and get the Pasmo card, then go all the way back because the coaches into central Tokyo were on the ground level. Then, as I went to purchase my coach ticket, I realised I could've got my Pasmo card at the same counter... So, a word of advice: If you're getting a train into central Tokyo, you can go downstairs to the basement level and get your Pasmo/Suica card, then catch the teain. However, if you're getting a coach into central Tokyo, then you only need to go to the Keisei or Access Narita ticket counter on the ground level, where you can purchase both your Pasmo/Suica (I'll use Pasmo from now on, but I mean either one) and bus ticket at the same time.

I got the coach into Tokyo because it takes about the same time as the train, if not quicker, you don't need to worry about your luggage as the driver stores it in the luggage compartment under the coach, and it's a lot cheaper than the train. The train costs around £18 but the coach only cost about £6. Also bear in mind I am using the conversion rate that was used when I was in Japan. The rate was a bit better than it is now, meaning things were slightly cheaper than if you were to go now. The rate was around ¥170 to £1.

IMG_0448
Whilst waiting for the coach, I came across my first vending machines in Japan!

IMG_0452
The view at the bus stop.

The coach ride was very pleasant, quiet and peaceful. I saw Tokyo Skytree glittering away as we came into Tokyo, which was another great moment for me! The coach dropped me off about 3 minutes away from the Yaesu North Exit of Tokyo Station. From there, you can get many trains to many other parts of Tokyo. I was very fortunate - I was staying in Harajuku so I was able to get the Yamanote line straight there, and check out Harajuku straight away!

Before I left for Japan, I was constantly worrying about not being able to understand as much Japanese as I wanted to, and not being able to get around as easy. I'm happy to say that I felt very proud when I could understand the train announcements in Japanese. Yes, the words 'Tokyo', 'Harajuku' and such are the same, you just have to listen out for them, and yes, the announcements are in English afterwards but it was nice being able to understand the other parts in Japanese, and feeling more interactive with the culture and language rather than if I turned up not understanding a lick of Japanese.

 IMG_0455
After I arrived at Harajuku, I was immediately greeted by cute make-up billboards! Yes, this was definitely Harajuku, or just generally Japan for that matter!

IMG_0458
Before leaving, I actually said to my boyfriend 'I know Japan is not as stereotypical as everyone thinks. I know they won't have Kyary Pamyu Pamyu round every corner!' - how wrong I was! ;-) Actually, I think this was the only Kyary advert I saw during my entire trip.

IMG_0459
The world-famous Harajuku train station! To be honest, I didn't realise this very well known entrance is the Omotesando exit, I thought it was the Takeshita Dori exit because of how renowned it is. I exited through this part because it's the only part of Harajuku Station with an elevator.

IMG_0461
After I arrived in Harajuku, the lady I was staying with, Hiromi, was meeting me at the station. Whilst I waited for her, I saw the famous Takeshita Dori entrance! This was a moment where I thought 'I've seen this monument so many times in photographs, and now I'm here standing in front of it!'! As I was staying in Harajuku, it became my home and I walked past or through Takeshita Dori every day I was in Tokyo. *0*

Info on my accommodation: As I mentioned before, I stayed with a woman, Hiromi, and her daughter, Ayaka, in Harajuku whilst I was in Tokyo. I found her on a homestay website. Due to many things, my stay with her was definitely a homestay experience. She took care of me, we ate meals together (she is a nursing student at the moment and was on a winter break), watched TV together and more; I got to enjoy many authentic Japanese experiences I wouldn't have had by staying in a hostel or hotel. She was so friendly and accommodating, I really recommend staying with her if you are interested in a homestay experience. Here is her homestay profile.

Hiromi took me to her apartment and showed me my private room. I slept in a traditional Japanese room with tatami mats and a futon. I was given a closet, dressing table and mirror, safety deposit box and air conditioner. She has WiFi in her apartment and you can cook meals, have a shower or bath, do laundry and come and go when you please. Obviously it is more friendly than staying in a hotel or hostel so it's more of a considerate stay.

After I got changed, freshened up and started unpacking, I realised that I had only left one thing behind in England - my bag containing my make-up brushes and blusher! ;w; Thankfully, I knew I could head right into Harajuku and pick some new ones up!

IMG_0466
This was the make-up store on Takeshita Dori that I visited first. I bought powder, contour, blush and two eyeshadow brushes. I now use them as my travel brushes so I'll never forget my main brushes again!


One half of the D'or shop (source)

I didn't want a flat foundation brush, the kind that are available everywhere and that you use to 'paint' on your foundation; I like the brushes designed for buffing or stippling for better and more even coverage. I ended up in Laforet, Harajuku's department store, where there was an Etude House and I bought a densely packed foundation brush good for buffing and stippling.


Etude House in Laforet, photo taken from the Laforet official website.

After I bought some make-up brushes, I headed straight to Closet Child! My motherlandddddd~ <3 However, the most embarrassing thing happened ever whilst I was there. It's my first day in Japan, my first visit to Tokyo. My first visit to my beloved Closet Child, land of cheap second-hand Lolita clothes. I started browsing a rail full of dresses. There were tons of dresses on this one rail, too many, I personally thought. As I browsed, the whole fucking rail collapsed in a heap on the floor. All the dresses, in a heap on the floor. Anyone in the shop jumped out of their skin and immediately turned in my direction. I apologised so much and tried to help but the shop girls were like 'We're sorry, no no, it's fine'...what else could they say? 'Sorry, you'll have to pay for all of those!' So yeah, a great start to my trip but I had to think - if that was the worst thing that should happen to me throughout the trip then I'd be glad!

strawberryskies:

Check out Closet Child Harajuku on Google Maps
The first floor of Closet Child Harajuku, dedicated to Lolita fashion. (source) The second floor is dedicated to Gothic and Punk items, and the third floor is Otome and casual J-fashion.

IMG_0474
Since leaving the airport I hadn't had anything to eat, but I wasn't feeling that hungry. I knew I should eat something though so I stopped at Koi-Taco for takoyaki! They were nice but again, due to nerves and anxiety I don't think I enjoyed them as much as I could've.

IMG_0475
I had a quick look in Bodyline but I wasn't really interested in it just then. I took a photo of how packed it was on Takeshita Dori though! I think it was more busy because of the New Year holidays. I didn't realise how busy it was until I looked at this photo, then I was like '...Damn!'

IMG_0488
I travelled halfway across the world and I STILL managed to bring fucking jewellery supplies with me haha! A rogue jump ring that stowed away in my suitcase!

IMG_0486
Here are the make-up brushes and blusher I bought in Harajuku! I also got a new black liquid eyeliner because mine was running out and I meant to swap it for a new one I had back home. I got a foundation brush from Etude House in Laforet, and then the rest of the items were from D'or on Takeshita Dori.

There you have my first day in Japan! Wow, it's such a long post...I hope it has a lot of good information and links in it though. I think because it's my first day and I had to fly there, my next posts will be a bit shorter. If you've stuck with this until the end, go have yourself a drink and a snack, and stay turned for my second day in Tokyo when I went to Shibuya and Daikanyama!

4 comments:

  1. Awww I can totally feel your excitement from the post! I wish I could go to Japan again, I'm hoping to save up enough to go with my boyfriend or my mum sometime soon. The homestay sounds great - I neevr knew that was an option! I can't wait to read more about your trip. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ahh thanks a lot! I hope you can go to Japan again soon and have a blast with your mum or boyfriend! :)

      Delete
  2. First of all I wanna say you're so brave for going alone! I loved all the tiny details and thanks for the tip for homestay, I didn't heard about that option before. On december I will go alone to Europe and this post gave me encouragement for still going with the plan (I live on Mexico and never been abroad). I really want to read your next entry!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! A lot of people said I was brave but I didn't really think about it haha...I just know I wanted to go <3 Good luck going to Europe, I'm sure you'll be fine! Where are you going in Europe? Many places are lovely!

      Delete