I wrote this post about my on-the-fly experience in Japan a couple weeks ago. In light of recent events, I encourage those able to support the Japanese to do so in any way you see appropriate.
Over my few years of frugal flying, you will notice how much I have come to deeply respect and appreciate Asian culture.
My first trip to Asia was on a United Mileage Plus ticket to Singapore via Tokyo.
After a 10-hour flight from Seattle to Tokyo, my heart rate was through the roof, palms sweaty — I was so excited to be somewhere so new. I was scheduled to depart Tokyo Narita in a couple hours. When I climbed down the stairway from the remote gate and saw the Japanese air field workers hustling around and the welcome staff smiling, I said, “Screw my connecting flight. I’m staying the night.”
“Yokoso” — Welcome to Japan! I rearranged my flights to depart the next day, purchased my surprisingly expensive round-trip Narita Express ticket into central Tokyo, and I was off.
The Shinkansen Bullet train was pulling out of Tokyo Station as I was coming in. “Holy crap, this is cool!” I thought. With carry-on baggage in tow, I began wandering the streets of Tokyo, attempting to find a place to rest my head for the night. What surprised me the most was the lack of English lettering. Second was the lack of Japanese people who spoke English. Thinking back now, what did I expect? I was in Japan. “Get over yourself, Andrew,” I thought. “The world is so much bigger than America.”
I ended up back at the train station hotel, donned my tiny kimono and slippers and dozed off to sleep, excited about my full day of exploring one of the world’s most amazing cities.
Don’t let a language barrier stop you. Embrace and appreciate the difference!
Tokyo can be an expensive city. I’d recommend redeeming hotel points to keep costs down. If you’re looking for an authentic experience, bed and breakfast inns can be reasonably priced and an authentic cultural experience. The opening of Haneda Airport to International commercial travel will significantly reduce the costs of getting into downtown Tokyo as Narita is a good hour outside of the city.
Tokyo Metro Website
Japan Rail East Map (How intense is this map? Both Haneda and Narita Airports are serviced via train.)