A Travellerspoint blog

Day 3

Tokyo - OMG We're here

sunny 6 °C
View Japan 2023 on nattybats's travel map.

Location: In the air somewhere outside of Manila
Time: 10am Philippine time
Last night's bed score: 4/5

4.30am wake up calls suck. Neither Em nor I have had anywhere near enough sleep but we're awake just before the 4.30am wake up call. We slowly start getting ourselves organised - showered, dressed, repacked - and at 5am promptly our 'to go' breakfast arrives. It's plentiful. Sadly the coffee is undrinkable but we'll fix that problem in Tokyo!

I call down to reception at 5.20am and a bellboy is sent up for our luggage. Escorted downstairs to a different 7 series BMW. This driver likes to use the centre of the road - doesn't matter if he's technically in a lane or not, centre of the road it is. Even with his apparently limited English, his smiles are warm and he grins broadly when we say salamat as we leave. He even went and got a trolley and carefully stacked our bags on it.

Phillipine Airlines check in is again efficient and friendly, and surprisingly so is immigration and security. Once more I'm reminded of how glad I am E suggested I do Japan instead of my original plan of the US.

Can't be bothered going to the lounge and after a recce Em reports there's no coffee shops. Such is. We sit around for a couple of hours but I'm pleased that we're at least through. The flight is fully booked and they're asking passengers to check in their carry on luggage to reduce the strain on the overhead locker availability. Doesn't include us...but then our names get called. What a butt clenching moment that was. But it's all good. The helpful staff explain that the seat we were booked in is unserviceable so they've moved us back a row.

Boarding opens right on time and we head to the plane just behind the numerous assisted passengers. The inside of the cabin feels huge. Shes a 777-300 ER with a 2-3-2 configuration in Business Class. And Business Class is EMPTY! Theres 8 of us in a cabin built for 24. So I'm sure that helps to make it feel even roomier. The FA's on this flight are warm and welcoming and have our vote as the friendliest yet. PAL is definitely not Emirates or Qantas but you do get exceptionally friendly service and it's not a budget meal service either.

We're given the menus and we can choose a Japanese bento or a Western meal. No prizes to the audience for what we choose. When it comes out it's plentiful and delicious. Delicious miso, amazing salmon, a red bean cake (Dorayaki) - normally I don't like red bean paste but this is actually really nice. There's no way known I'm getting through all of it - somehow Em does and then has strawberry ice cream for dessert!


We're due in Haneda at 1400 Tokyo time. I'll buy us Suica cards at the airport but probably won't get the JR passes changed to tickets until tomorrow - I've read the queue can take up to an hour to get through. Due to my levels of anxiety last week I've gone with the safe option and we're being taken to the hotel by private car. Could be my first chance to bust out my nihon-go if they don't speak English! But never fear, we'll get there, I've also printed out the name of the Pullman in Japanese :)
We'll be back later once we're settled in the airport.

1900ish Tokyo Time
Location: Pullman Tamachi Tokyo

We made it! No plane crashes, no sharks, no dramas and no clouds around Fuji-san. What a way to be welcomed to Japan – multiple clear views of that iconic volcano. The only word that comes to mind as you come into Tokyo is vast. Tokyo is flat and vast.

Interesting landing – it was so sudden that it launched all the unused blankets from business class towards the seats in front of them – in unison, which was impressive. Taxi up to the airport and we’re told to wait. People with an international transfer, especially those going on to I guess the US (Delta, Hawaiian airlines, and United) were to come up first so they could go through quarantine and immigration.

The moment I knew I’d over guessed how useful my Japanese would be was when an immigration official came on board and spewed forth a looooong Japanese speech. I got the word Kudasai out of it – please. Oh boy will this be fun.

Off the plane and down the long hallway towards a bunch of helpful, mostly English speaking Japanese folk trying to literally herd cats. If you had a QR code on your phone for Quarantine or a print out (which we did), you could fast track through that with a pink slip. No pink slip, then through the laborious procedure of the health check. We’re given a pink slip and we check with a gentleman further down the line and we’re good to head to Immigration. There were some people that were obviously not listening and even some very patient officials ended up being quite snappy with them as they were standing in the middle of a place where people had to walk through.

We get to Immigration which is dealt with efficiently. The staff were relatively friendly but used hand signals in favour of anything else. All good, Em and I are through it and onto baggage claim. Big, mostly empty terminal and just one carousel with our bags. Trolley grabbed, bags loaded, through customs. Gentleman was lovely.

Despite being given amazing instructions on exactly where to go and how to get a Suica card, change my JR Pass to tickets, and catch the train, I chose to give into my tiredness and anxiety and ordered a car. Not cheap, but worth it.

As we made it out of the exit gates, our driver was standing not 5 metres away from us. He has VERY broken English. This will be fun. He checks my passport against my name and gently takes the trolley from us and motions us forwards. This man is incredibly hmmmm cautious, but not in an anxious sort of way. Em’s just suggested methodical. Or considerate. But I’m not sure any of these words match. When he’d push our trolley through the door he’d wait for the entire door to open before he went through. When he turned a corner once we were in the car, he did it with great care. Speed humps, rather than being a personal challenge as they might be at home, were a testament to just how gentle this guy was.

He sits us on some seats, point towards toilets, and says he will get the car. He is kind. And gentle. And for the ride into town (in a van heated to 30 degrees C!!!) we make conversation with his broken English and my subpar Japanese and Google translate. He comments that my Japanese is good – I tell him he is too kind.

Dropped off at the Pullman, he considerately takes our bags out of the van and is careful to put them down in such a way so that they don’t fall over. It’s pretty overwhelming. We walk into the hotel, up to reception on the 2nd floor. I konnichiwa and arigato myself admirably and even throw in a deijoubu desu (it’s ok, or it doesn’t matter). The staff are suitably impressed and ask if I speak Japanese…I tell them I do, a little. All is handled efficiently and we head off to our room. Except I never quite get there.

As I’m walking past the long tables outside the coffee bar part of reception, an elderly Japanese gentleman in a wheelchair calls out to me – where are you from. For the next 20 minutes he and I swap tales about Australia and Japan. He’s visited more of Australia than I have and has visited 30 times! We use a mixture of Japanese and English. He’s a freelance design journalist and his primary school used to be on the land the Pullman is now built on. He’s fascinating. I eventually find a way to disentangle myself and we head to the room.

It's small – but lovely. We have a view of the Tamachi train station and the train line leading into town. It’s quiet. As I finish typing this up, the loudest sound is me typing!

We’re tired and have a just a few things to do tomorrow. Buy Suica cards, exchange JR pass, book Shinkansen for our major trips. Then the Yayoi Kasuma museum, the Ainu restaurant, and some general wandering around. So we decide to spend some time sorting out what we need to do tomorrow in the way of trains, and then head up to the Executive Lounge.

It’s decent. A good assortment of food, sake, and Japanese whiskey. Plenty enough for us. The delightful manger, Jordon, is a kiwi who has lived in Japan for 4.5 years. He’s fun and full of hints and tips.


We spend a leisurely hour or so up there, Em heads back to the room, and I follow shortly thereafter. I'm in the lift waiting and a Japanese gentlemen is moving quickly towards the lift so I hold the door open for him - as he gets in he apologises for making me wait. I throw out a perfectly timed deijoubu desu and he tells me that I have excellent pronunciation. I thank him and he again says how good my pronunciation is - so I tell him that his English pronunciation is excellent as well. So I think by the end of 3 weeks maybe I'll be able to speak enough to get us into and out of trouble!

It’s now 1930, Em is sleeping peacefully on the other side of the room, I’m finishing this off, chatting with the boy back home, and then crashing. First exciting day tomorrow!

Matte ne

N & E

Posted by nattybats 10:31 Archived in Japan

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Another detailed study of the trials and tribulations of international travel.
The Japanese so polite and helpful. The precise actions of your car driver were no doubt what he was instructed to perform. Wait until you see the JR staff. To us it appears comical but it assists in ensuring that everything is done correctly and on time.
Looking forward to more.

by greynomadm

You are there! It’s so exciting and what brilliant views - so exciting that you have flown in during daylight. I’m so keen to hear more and already dreaming of travelling again. Looking forward to the next entry. Enjoy

by Djssj

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