Well, I've just arrived here at the Park Hyatt Tokyo, thank goodness. The hotel will have to wait for another post, however, because we've got a lot of travel to catch up on!
The Japanese Airlines flight was, in a word, lovely. A fertile army of flight attendants kept the whole thing running smoothly. While I was in economy class, the economy cabin was not even half full, meaning I had an entire row to myself.
One thing that struck me was that the plane interior was lot very warmly, as opposed to the cool greys you usually get in the US and elsewhere:
I managed to sleep about as well as I ever do in these situations. The fact that I had an entire rows worth of blankets and pillows certainly helped.
About two hours before arrival breakfast was served:
And at last we arrived in Tokyo- 45 minutes early, too (around 4am). Haneda is everything I would have imagined a Tokyo airport to be, sleek and modern looking.
Immigration and customs was a breeze, thankfully, and soon I arrived at a very sleepy terminal. Luckily, the currency exchange was open at that hour, since I'd neglected to change any money in LA or San Francisco so as to take advantage of the more favorable exchange rates on this side of the Atlantic (I'd say I gained about ¥1000/$10 versus if I'd exchanged in the US).
While the currency exchange was open, nothing else was, as the trains and monorail didn't start operation until 5am or so.
Eventually everything opened up and the place started coming to life.
There were several options for getting to where I needed to go, but I opted for the monorail because A) it was the cheapest (¥500 total, or a little under $5) and B) what's the point of traveling to Tokyo if you can't ride a freakin' monorail?
The tickets are interesting- while it looks like a piece of paper the back is a matte black, presumably magnetic material the ticket information is printed on.
The sun was finally up (insert "Land of the Rising Sun" joke here) and I got my first real look at Tokyo.
Luckily there was a lot of signage everywhere, and much of it with English translations too.
The first monorail was at 5:17am and arrived, of course, exactly on time.
The inside of the monorail was quite comfortable- not at all unlike a metro or subway. One major difference is that there weren't any doors between cars, meaning you could look all the way down in both directions, which is kind of neat.
Pretty much everyone was headed to the same place as me, Hamamatsucho station, so I just followed the crowd.
Next it was the Yamanote line, a traditional metro, which was included in my ¥500 monorail ticket.
I made it to the platform at 5:39am, and the train was at 5:41am, so my timing was good.
The train was like any other metro type train, the main difference being it was very quiet. Announcements warned everyone not to talk on the phone. Part of it was cultural respect, but part of it was also probably that it was very early on Monday morning and no one was in a chatty mood.
Between Tamachi and Shinagawa I had my first "Lost in Translation" moment- I'd this far been spoiled by the precedence of English signage and announcements. But the train came to an unscheduled stop, and the driver made a rather long announcement in Japanese. Nobody much looked worried, and I'm sure he was just apologizing for the delay, but I was struck by that momentary terror of not knowing the language and being at an informational disadvantage. And so after a few minutes, the train continued on, accompanied by another long announcement saying what I do not know.
And so I arrived at my destination, Shinjuku:
From here I went on on foot for the final kilometer to the hotel.
Luckily I had Google Maps to direct me; unluckily Google Maps sometimes seem to have no better idea of where I was than I did:
(There was no elevator. I was waking on the sidewalk.
But I made it to the Park Tower which, in fairness, is rather hard to miss:
Next time: venturing inside the tower to the Park Hyatt Tokyo!