A Japanese Adventure
An online journal
Our morning started at 4am - wide eyed and crazily giddy for the day ahead. We did our final preparations, said a very sad goodbye to the cats (our god send of a cat sitter looked after them!), and packed the car to head to Manchester Airport.
I'm going to caveat this whole blog series by saying how much I LOVE to organise and plan stuff. I had a full year to plan this holiday and I was super proud of how I managed to pull it off. I am a very anxious person, so everything has to be planned meticulously or I get stressed. As you can imagine, there were however plenty of times I got stressed on this journey! Anyway I digress...
So we arrived at Manchester Airport with plenty of time before our flight, and ordered the most expensive English Breakfast we have ever had, and a can of Asahi each. Yeah its 8am, but we were on holiday! Our first flight departed at 10am, and was headed straight for Helsinki. The view that we had while preparing for landing was so beautiful! The sun was shining bright, and we were getting crazy excited for longer leg of our trip.
After killing a few hours in Helsinki airport, mainly drinking coffees and eating at Burger King, we finally boarded the HUGE plane for Narita, Tokyo. The flight ahead of us was going to be a long one, and we came prepared with books, DS's, music and travel pillows. Luckily for us, the in flight films were awesome, so that passed loads of time for us. We did try and sleep, but both completely failed at that. So by the time we arrived in Tokyo, we were absolutely exhausted! It never matters when you're on holiday though, you are always so excited that it barely matters anymore!
After spending what felt forever collecting bags, sorting customs/visas out, getting our eyeballs scanned, collecting tickets and passes, we were finally ready to board the Narita Skyliner train to take us to Nippori Station. The ride took about 45 minutes or so, and we got our first taste of the beautiful Japanese scenery. Jumping off at Nippori Station, we decided to walk to 10 minutes to our hotel in Uguisudani. Train stations are so close together in Tokyo that we could have easily hopped on a train to our closest station - but where is the fun in that?!
Once we had found and checked into our hotel, (Stress No 1. - debit cards declined and Japan HATES UK cards!) we were in desperate need of food, showers and power naps. At this point, I must point out that we had clocked around 29 hours without sleep, and in my infinite wisdom, I had made plans with my Japanese friend and her husband, to meet that evening in Asakusa for dinner and drinks. Not actually considering that we might be sleep deprived and ready to pass out at any given time, but again, nothing a two hour nap wouldn't fix!
Before going into more detail, I feel like I need to briefly talk about my previous trip to Japan. When I first visited back in 2010, I stayed with an incredible family for the three weeks that I was teaching there. They became a close family to me, and over the past 9 years, we have not only kept in touch, but my Japanese "sister" actually studied at my university in York, and I had the pleasure of watching her graduate with her family in attendance. So when we actually paid for our trip and everything was confirmed, I knew I could finally see my family after all those years. This first day in Tokyo being one of those days!
So we navigated the trains for the short journey to one of my favourite places in Japan - Asakusa. We met my wonderful Japanese sister Yukari and her husband at the station, and saying that I missed her dearly is an understatement! Joe had never met her before, and after speaking so highly about her for so long, he was desperate to meet her. Since I had last seen her, she had also got married to an absolutely lovely man, and it meant so much to finally meet him too! After all the emotional introductions and excitement, we headed off to the Sensō-ji temple to take in the sights.
We spent the rest of the evening eating and trying all the food (we tried chicken sashimi - google image it and you will understand why I was so dubious to try!), at a lovely little yakitori izakaya, which was apparently very popular with the locals - we could definitely see why! After dinner, we headed to one of our favourite spots on the entire trip - Hoppy Street. An entire magical street filled with small bars, crammed with people, where you could plonk yourself down on one of the stools and order beer and an umeshu (our usual order), and have even more food (you had to order a plate of food with every round). So after drinking copious amounts of sake and belly laughing at stories and our thick Yorkshire accents, we headed on back to the hotel for a well needed long sleep.