>If you’re following from my other blog, you’d know how anguished I was to make the decision to go and leave my dad, still unconscious in the Cardiac CCU.
My flight to Japan left at 9.45am. So at 6.30am, my mum, sister and brother picked me, Gillian and Trinity up to go to the hospital to see my dad. After we’d seen him, said our silent ‘see-ya later!’, we went to the airport, breakfasted there while I changed another $1000 into Japanese yen. The exchange rate was poor and I got far less than what I’d gotten before.
Finally, it was time to leave. Said our goodbyes and hugs and then we’re through the glass walls heading to Immigration. I turned to look. Mum was still waving. I felt another glob of doubt – was it a mistake to go? But no time to think, passports asked for, given, returned and it was time to pass through immigration and move on.
The flight was okay. Trin nursed non-stop practically while Gillian was making the fullest use of the inflight entertainment system! The food on board was not fantastic but I was hungry.
We landed at Narita at 1750pm. It was dark outside already. I had my first experience of the wonder-loo at the airport – the multi-function toilet bowl that could mask sounds of agonised groaning of the constipated (kidding!), shoot a warm spray of water to clean the privates and warm air to blow dry!
I switched on my phone and saw a flurry of messages. My aunt from Shanghai asking about dad. My cousins. Concerned friends. A heartening one from mum who says dad has been taken off the ventilator which is a good sign. And one from KH who said he would be waiting for us in the arrival lobby! Yippee! The original plan was for him to take the limo bus into the Maihama area and get into the hotel first. But he decided to take a tour of the Narita temple area instead while waiting for my plane to get in, then return to the airport to meet us.
Immigration was a breeze. Carrying Trin meant a quick pass to a counter with no queue, so we passed through very very quickly. We only checked in one large haversack, so we picked that up and went on leaving the crowds behind.
Exiting the arrival area, we had a joyful reunion with KH and the rest of the kids who already had a headstart into the Japanese experience with a ticketing machine for ramen! We headed down to the train station and bought our N’EX+Suica combination. The N’EX works as a train ticket directly to Tokyo city while the Suica was like our Easi-link stored-value MRT card. The kids did not have Suica since it would involve filling in lots of forms etc, so forget it. NEX was half price for the bigger kids and free for Owain and Trin.
The NEX was a smooth and easy ride into Tokyo station. It was comfortable and clean with reserved seating with the tickets. My first glimpses of Japan were of neon streaking past, porch lights left on, bridges spanning huge rivers and then, as the train drew nearer Tokyo station, densely packed housing running just next to the tracks and overhead expressways.
At Tokyo station, we stopped to figure out where and how to go. We had to take the Keiyo line to Kasai Rinkai Koen station. What I read was all coming to life – the throngs of people in the station, each purposefully striding in different directions, the fashionably dressed women (even the tiny toddlers were stylish – girls wearing elegant boots and tailored woollen coats with fur cuffs – no sneakers and jeans in sight!), the brightly lit and coloured stores selling food, newsstands selling snacks, drinks, tidbits, cigarettes, sweets and stacks of eye-popping magazines, manga and soft porn. The array was bewildering. The energy was vibrant. Welcome to Tokyo!
We used the loo and while waiting for us outside, an old man carrying a plastic bag full of mandarin oranges distributed one each to my children. Huh??? A little Japanese girl around Trin’s age was fascinated by Trin and didn’t want to leave even when her mother gently urged her on. I think they said hello in some baby language.
Finally we got our bearings and hiked off to the Keiyo line which took about 15 to 20 min alone. There were escalators and travellators but it still took us about that long to make the connection. It was not hard to find the way though – everything was clearly sign-posted in English and romanji. And the lines were colour-coded, so we just followed the signs for the red circle.
Taking the Keiyo line is also not a problem. The NE’X tickets got us that far into Kasai Rinkai Koen. On the train, a Japanese couple struck up a conversation with Gillian, smiling and saying in halting English: Your bag looks heavy!
When we arrived at Kasai Rinkai Koen, it was another 1.2km trek into the residential area where the hotel was. It was chilly but not very cold. I was exhilarated by the cold air – it just reinforced the newness of the whole journey.
I knew my way to the hotel since I’d studied the map well before we left. But once we were out of the station, we bumped into the kind couple on the train again. They asked where we were going and nodded when we told them. They gestured and told us to follow them. So we tramped companionably with them all the way. The gentleman could speak some English and when we said we were from Singapore, he smiled and said: Beautiful country!
Gratified to hear it but I don’t think Singapore is exactly what I would call ‘beautiful’!
They walked us all the way to the doorstep of the hotel, out of their usual route home. We thanked them profusely in English and in Japanese which delighted the lady even more. I’d read that Tokyo-ites can be immensely helpful and will go out of their way to help and show you the right way to go, so this is again, another big experience come to life.
Once at the hotel, it was more like a small motel, we split into two rooms (each room is a triple room that cost about 9400yen a night, with its own bathroom). The rooms were small but not overly so. We had space for a double bed, a sofa which converts to a single bed and a coffee table. No wardrobe though, but this is more than what I would expect from Tokyo hotels already size-wise. We also had a TV and the only English channel played Planet of the Apes – the Charlton Heston version!!
We were all tired from the commute from the airport and I was especially so since had less than a couple of hours of sleep the night before. So we all just crashed and slept like logs!