Less than 48 hours ago, we landed in Tokyo’s Narita airport, flew to Seoul, and have now done the reverse. I believe that is a new record of country hopping in such a short period for us. Today was day 1 of a 13-day trip through Japan. When we landed, I insisted we rent a pocket wifi so that we could always have access to data (and more importantly Google maps) so that we could navigate our way around. I’d read that Japan’s residents spoke little English and that touring this country wasn’t something you could do by just “winging it,” which was exactly what we were doing. Tim insisted we didn’t need the security blanket that having data would provide, and besides, we weren’t returning to this airport to return the rental anyways. So, after purchasing train tickets to downtown, off we went.
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We made our way to the train platform, and after some debate and hesitation, I told Tim I thought this was our train based on the sign (which was in English and had our stop listed), and so we hopped on. No sooner than the train pulled away from the station did we realize it was the wrong one. This sent me into an agitated panic of imagining us being tossed off the train and landing in God-knows-where Japan as soon as they discovered we were on there without the right tickets. This fear was driven by flashbacks of seeing people thrown off of trains in France.
Here, it turns out, that we simply only had to pay the difference for the tickets and get off at a different station, buy new tickets for the subway, and we were back on track. However, I was still in a funk about the stress of it all and emerging onto the Tokyo streets where everything seemed to be written in idiograms- sans functioning map to guide us to the hotel stressed me out further. Usually Tim is the bad traveler and when he pointed out that I was stressing while he was calm. I said I was just picking up his slack. Meanwhile we wandered around searching for our hotel. After stopping a couple of times to ask for directions, Tim successfully managed to find the hotel so I could stop worrying.
Checked-in, we set out for lunch. We tried to ask the front desk clerk her favorite lunch spot, but all she could manage was to circle a few options on their printed list of neighborhood restaurants. We left not believing for a second any of them were her “favorites.” We read that in Japanese culture if someone doesn’t have an answer, they will tell you anything just to answer (even if it is wrong). I resolved to not ask anyone for directions in that case as it could very well send us on a wild goose chase.
We finally found a restaurant spot selling ramen. It isn’t like the ramen back home. It comes in a large bowl and your options are ramen with slices of pork belly, pork belly with spinach, pork belly with a hard-boiled egg soaked in soy sauce, pork belly with sheets of nori (the dried seaweed), or ramen with all- of-the-above. Unsure of what we would like, we went with the everything option.
Whether it was residual jet-lag or a ramen stupor, we tired out shortly after eating (even after our coffee) and called it a day, not even working up the energy to go out again for dinner.