8 Days in Japan - Day 1 in Tokyo

Jun 19, 2017 -

Day 1 in Nihonbashi, Chūō, Tokyo, Japan

Key Highlights

- Exchanged USD to JPY at a 7 Bank ATM
- Activated JR passes at Haneda Airport
- Metro and Walked to Hostel at Nihonbashi Muromachi Bay Hotel
- Ate Dinner at Ginza Noodles Clam Ramen at the Coredo Shopping Mall

It was Thursday night and I was rushing to the Los Angeles airport at 9:00 PM to catch my 1:00 AM flight. This would be my first experience in a foreign country in just over a year. My last international trip was ten days in Australia. We had planned a 9 days 8 nights vacation eating fest in Japan. This post documents our arrival and first night in Japan.

The flight to Japan was not direct as we had a 7 hour layover in Shanghai Pudong Airport. When we finally arrived at Haneda airport it was already two days later and nighttime. Aside from using the restroom in the airport, the first thing we did was to find the nearest 7 Bank or 7-11 ATM. The 7-11 ATMs don't charge my Capital One 360 bank account any fees. The best thing about them is that they will translate fairly close to the latest foreign exchange rate. After the ATM, we went to activate our Japan Rail passes in a nearby information center. We took the first metro rail out to our hostel. The reason why we chose this location was because it was fairly close to the famous Tsukiji fish market, Shibuya crossing, and metro stop.

Knowing my first day in Japan could've been my last, I thanked her in Japanese and then headed towards the direction she pointed. 

What you will notice in Japan is that the street signs mean nothing to foreigners. They are hard to read and it is even more difficult to figure out what street you are on and what the building address is. The street lighting at night was extremely dim. It made hauling our luggage difficult. All the while, I was trying to navigate us via Google Maps to our hostel. After walking back and forth for about ten minutes, I was at a loss.

Hostel Bay Hotel Entrance
It was time for me to go into a Lawson (common convenience store in Japan) and ask for directions. I had heard the Japanese were extremely helpful. Here was my chance to put my broken Japanese to the test and see if the rumors of helpful Japanese were true.

"Konnichiwa, kore (pointed to the hostel name) doko desu ka?" (hi, where is this?), I said to the lady working the register. She started firing off a bunch of Japanese, which I had no idea what she meant. She saw my puzzled face and started to walk outside of the shop and pointed in the direction of the hostel. All I could see was pitch black in the direction she pointed. I replied in English, "That way?". She nodded. Knowing my first day in Japan could've been my last, I thanked her in Japanese and then headed towards the direction she pointed.

We arrived in front of the Nihonbashi Muromachi Bay Hotel, the entrance was clearly labeled Bay Hotel. We had to enter two automatic sliding doors before getting to the lobby. One thing about Japanese hostels is that most of them make you take off your shoes. Call it an Asian thing or whatever.

We proceeded to take off our shoes and to the left of us there were lockers with keys. The idea was to swap out your shoes for the slippers in the lockers. We locked our shoes in the lockers and then took the key to the receptionist and told him that we were checking in. He then asked for our passports. When everything was said and done, I had a towel, toiletries, my room and locker key, and was on my way to the second floor where I would be staying for the duration of my visit.

A view of 4 Hostel Pods at the Nihonbashi Muromachi Bay Hotel
My room key let me into the men's locker room. Luckily enough, my carry-on was able to fit in the luggage locker. The hostels we stayed at in Japan had sleeping pods, which were individual rectangular shaped sleeping areas. Japanese hostels are extremely clean because they typically make you check out at 10:00 AM and spend the entire day until 3:00 PM cleaning. You aren't allowed back to the hostel during that time.

Finally it was time for the first meal of the day. Again we asked in broken Japanese, where was the nearest restaurant. He said down the street. We used Yelp and was able to find a tempura place, but found out that it was about to close. Then we went to a Japanese shopping mall nearby called Coredo. It must have had at least four floors and was connected to the subway. Our first meal of the day was ramen with clam at Ginza Noodles Clam Ramen.

Clam Ramen from Ginza Noodles Clam Ramen at the Coredo Floor 2
After dinner, it was getting pretty late, so we headed back through the dim lit streets of Nihonbashi and knocked out in our sleeping pods.

8 Days in Japan - Day 2 in Tokyo
8 Days in Japan - Day 3 in Tokyo
8 Days in Japan - Day 4 in Hakone
8 Days in Japan - Day 5 in Kyoto
8 Days in Japan - Day 6 in Kyoto/Nara
8 Days in Japan - Day 7 in Yamazaki/Osaka
8 Days in Japan - Day 8 in Tokyo

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