Tokyo 2010: Appendix

## All Tokyo 2009/2010 Posts

* Prelude
* Getting There
* Grappling With Technology
* Shibuya + Akihabara
* Engrossed
* Cat Room Chamamo
* Harajuku + Ikebukuro
* Akihabara Revisited + Marunouchi
* Tokyo DisneySea
* Fukubukuro
* A Scattered Final Day
* 26 Hour Party People
* Finale

## Photos/Videos

Available on Flickr.

## Survival Guide

I would not have been able to survive in Tokyo without the following:

TimeOut Guidebooks – extremely polished and well written (Pokemon Center location inaccuracy aside), TimeOut Tokyo City Guide this was our life blood for neighborhood specific maps, subway navigation, general information, critical phrases in Japanese, and address information. Doesn’t cover everything, but covers the major points. Available at most major bookstores.

iPhone ApplicationsHuman Japanese ($10) provides a fantastic introduction to the language, including sentence structure, hiragana/katakana guides, vocabulary lists, and cultural interludes. codefromtokyo’s Japanese ($20) provides a well organized (sometimes redundant) dictionary, including phrases and stroke ordering for kanji. It also includes quick look charts for katakana/hiragana, word list functionality, and JLPT study guides. Both are worth carrying on your iPhone/iPod Touch. – recommended to me a day or two into the trip by longtime friend Andy Livy, provides learning goals for most languages and topics through a mostly flash-based learning management system. Lots of social networking integration and good tools means this helped me get the syllabary comprehension a little better very quickly. Wish I had known about this before I left.

Citibank ATMs – while I am not a Citibank customer, they are notable because (a) their Tokyo ATMs are open 24/7, unlike many others and (b) they take American ATM cards, unlike nearly every other ATM around Tokyo. Even our hotel ATM wouldn’t take our card. Find a nearby location, because you may need it in a pinch. While lots of places in Japan take cards, many still don’t. Cash remains king.

Suica – the contactless smart card used by JR Railways (and vending machines and lots of convenience stores), Suica made it painless to ride JR’s trains around everywhere. Foreigners can get a Suica/NEX package deal that represents substantial savings. Look for the blue signage near most train turnstiles – English screens are available if you press the “ENGLISH” button in the top right.

Airport Limousine – the last thing you may want to do when you arrive late at night is try to navigate the train system. Airport Limousine is more than likely going to be able to take you directly to your hotel, for about the same cost as a one-way NEX ticket. Ticket counters are on the first floor of Narita Airport and hard to miss.

Skype – so long as you have a good internet connection available to you, Skype remains the best way to deal with international calling. A number of calls home ended up costing us about $1.50. Load up before you go.

Friends – a thousand thank yous to John Scanlan, Richard Whittaker, Richard Bannister, Andy Livy, Ryan Bayne, and anyone else who sent recommendations and cultural advice my way over the last two weeks.

Endured Narrated

Tokyo 2010: 26 Hour Party People

A blow-by-blow description of what is necessary to get from Shinagawa, Japan to Jersey City, New Jersey:

1/3 11:30 AM JST (1/2 9:30 PM EST) – checked out of the Prince Sakura Tower Tokyo. Discovered that the Airport Limousine bus would not be running due to a marathon. Directed to use the train system instead.

1/3 11:50 AM JST (1/2 9:50 PM EST) – with two heavy suitcases in tow, departed Shinagawa Station on the JR Yamanote, bound for Tokyo Station.

1/3 12:15 PM JST (1/2 10:15 PM EST) – arrived at Tokyo Station. Purchased two Narita Express (“NEX”) train tickets. Proceeded to platform.


1/3 12:33 PM JST (1/2 10:33 PM EST) – boarded NEX.

1/3 1:27 PM JST (1/2 11:27 PM EST) – arrived at Narita Airport. Queued up at Air Canada ticket counter.

1/3 2:00 PM JST (1/3 12:00 AM EST) – ticket counter opens. I am told I should check my coat since I may not be allowed to bring it onto the plane to Newark. Despite both suitcases being full, I manage to do so.

1/3 2:20 PM JST (1/3 12:20 AM EST) – while going through security, I am forced to throw out my can of FFXIII “Elixer” soda. The only reason I had it with me was because, as a duty free item, I was supposed to have it with me in case Customs wanted to see it. I discard it, sadly. I am happy to note that Japanese airport security does not force you to remove your shoes.

1/3 2:30 PM JST (1/3 12:30 AM EST) – we pass through Japanese immigration and customs. I am not asked to show my duty free items, meaning I’m not needlessly carrying an extra bag full of things.

1/3 2:40 PM JST (1/3 12:40 AM EST) – I purchase a new set of headphones at “DUTY FREE AKIHABARA”, having misplaced my regular iPhone earbuds. An hour later, I would find them again.

1/3 2:50 PM JST (1/3 12:50 AM EST) – we settle down to eat at one of the three restaurants in the terminal. I have a cheeseburger; it is acceptable. I am fascinated by gum syrup.

Waiting At Narita

1/3 4:25 PM JST (1/3 2:25 AM EST) – we begin boarding for our flight. We are in row 42 out of 44, troubling for someone who needs to catch a connecting flight less than two hours after landing (4:45 PM EST). Our legroom is less than ideal, and I miss being in an exit row.

1/3 5:10 PM JST (1/3 3:10 AM EST) – we take off. Watching a video about Toronto arrivals, I learn that I have to clear US customs while in Toronto, rather than in Newark – which includes claiming my baggage and then re-checking it post customs. Again, troubling given the amount of time we have for the connection, never mind the unknown additional security.

1/3 8:10 PM JST (1/3 6:10 AM EST) – I begin to get scattered amounts of sleep, in two to three hour pockets. I am frequently interrupted by food service.


15000 Miles?

1/3 2:30 PM EST (1/4 4:30 AM JST) – the pilot announces that we are being asked to hold in the air for an extra 15 minutes, which means we probably won’t reach the gate until 3:30. I notice that the in-flight map says we’ve gone 15,000 miles, which would mean we had been traveling over 1000MPH on average. You would think a navigation system could deal with the international date line and the fact that we’re now in the past, but seemingly not.

1/3 3:45 PM EST (1/4 5:45 AM JST) – we deboard and speed walk towards immigration.

1/3 3:55 PM EST (1/4 5:55 AM JST) – we arrive at the US connections baggage claim. I notice that our flight is delayed by two hours to 6:45 PM, thus replacing the fear of not making the connection with the frustration of not getting home when we had intended.

1/3 4:15 PM EST (1/4 6:15 AM JST) – our luggage finally appears. I withdraw my coat and replace it with the bag of goods I had needlessly been carrying. We clear customs without incident.

1/3 4:25 PM EST (1/4 6:25 AM JST) – we go through another regular security screening. This time, the shoes come off.

"Enhanced Search"

1/3 4:30 PM EST (1/4 6:30 AM JST) – on the way to the gate, we see two large gender-separated lines. The one additional measure that has seemingly been added post-Christmas scare, the “Enhanced Search” is an individual bag check and pat down. I am asked to turn on each electronic device once (phone, Kindle, PSP). I am asked to undo my belt, to lift the soles of my shoes, to spread my legs and grab the table. I am asked how the David Foster Wallace book (Broom Of The system) I am reading is. (I am unclear whether that was a security test, small talk, or a sincere question from the guard.)


1/3 4:50 PM EST (1/4 6:50 AM JST) – I finally clear the screening, having been in a longer line than Katie and opting to go to the bathroom before queueing. It is noted that had our flight been on time, we would have missed it.

1/3 5:00 PM EST (1/4 7:00 AM JST) – we spring for an hour of Boingo wifi. Twitter updates are quickly sent, email is checked.

1/3 6:00 PM EST (1/4 8:00 AM JST) – flight is pushed back again, this time to 7:45. I get in line at Tim Horton’s and buy a 10-pack of Timbits. They make me feel much better.

1/3 7:30 PM EST (1/4 9:30 AM JST) – an announcement informs us that the plane has arrived, albeit at a different gate, and it will be here shortly. We remain incredulous.

1/3 7:45 PM EST (1/4 9:45 AM JST) – flight is pushed back to 8:00. The crew heads down to inspect the plane.

1/3 8:05 PM EST (1/4 10:05 AM JST) – we board. We are in the last row. The pilot informs us that the plane picked up a lot of ice on the way in, so we have to stop at the central de-icing station before we can take off.

1/3 8:35 PM EST (1/4 10:35 AM JST) – we take off, having been de-iced. We are offered free headsets and free drinks (including wine/beer/cocktails) as an apology from Air Canada.

1/3 10:10 PM EST (1/4 12:10 PM JST) – having just passed the 24 hour travel mark, we touch down in Newark. The pilot informs us that we are being held on the tarmac for 15-20, though, because our gate is not available. There is a collective groan. During this time, we learn that Terminal C at Newark is shut down due to a security situation. I am happy to be traveling to terminal A.

1/3 10:45 PM EST (1/4 12:45 PM JST) – we deboard.

Baggage Claim at EWR

1/3 11:05 PM EST (1/4 1:05 PM JST) – our luggage appears. We get in the taxi line, doing that wonderful NYC thing where you avoid having a conversation with the illegal limo hacks trying to prey on unsuspecting tourists. A man behind me tells one of them off, to which the driver gets defensive, saying he’s just “trying to do us a favor” since it is cold out. I laugh, while mentally noting that it is about 40 degrees colder than it was in Japan.

1/3 11:30 PM EST (1/4 1:30 PM JST) – we arrive at our apartment building. We collect our mail, unlock the door, begin unpacking, and invite over Bruce and Alanna to exchange gifts and catch up.

It has been exactly 26 hours of physical time passing since we left the hotel.

Found Happened

Tokyo 2010: Odd Remainders

There’s this expectation most Americans have that there are many strange things that you will encounter in Japan. This is not untrue. An abridged list of these things, some of which have been mentioned previously in passing:

Snuggle Bear UFO Catcher

UFO Catchers filled with Snuggle Bear dolls.

Chelsea Hotel?

The Chelsea Hotel, in Shibuya.

Bloodtype Bath

Bloodtype Bath, previously mentioned, currently available at RanKing RanQueen in Shibuya.


Hiphopsicles, which “makes eight funky-fresh ice cubes”. Available at KIDDYLAND.

Tamagotchi Doughnuts

The Tamagotchi Store, which appeared to be selling Tamagotchi Doughnuts, in Harajuku.

Poetic Nail Clippers

A giant pair of nail clippers in our hotel room, with text that reads:

I want to sing with
a romantic scene.
It perfectly fits
my private time.

The Greatest Sign, Possibly Ever

A fountain, labeled as having “Naturally Pure Hudson River Water”, at Tokyo DisneySea.

Obligatory Japanese Toilet Picture

And yes, our hotel room did feature a Toto Washlet toilet, in its own room separate from the bath and shower. With “front and rear cleansing options” and a heated seat, it makes American toilets pale in comparison. I wish we could get one in our apartment.