This article is a post I originally made on Facebook about our first day in Japan which took place on April 2-3, 2016. On the 1 year anniversary of our trip I decided to repost it here on my blog. The original post has been edited/cleaned up a bit but its spirit remains.
I woke up at 6:30am so I could run 10 kilometers before we had to head to the airport. I wanted to get some exercise so I could close the circles on my Apple Watch before I had to sit on my ass for the 11+ hour flight.
Elsie and I got to the airport about an hour and a half before the flight and blew through screening. Boarding started about 45 minutes before the plane was scheduled to leave and was also a piece of cake. It was one of the most orderly boardings I had ever been a part of.
The plane was a 747 and I did not realize how old those damn things were. It looked like it had been built in the 70s and by now had the grimiest seats I had ever sat in. There were also no screens in the seats so you had to use your own phone or tablet to watch films/TV using United's Wi-Fi which, of course, I could never get working for the entirety of the flight. Never change United. Next time I am flying ANA.
The flight itself was just as rough as the plane. Some of my travel companions managed to get some shuteye but I could not. I have never been good about sleeping on planes. I spent about five hours reading Leviathan Wakes to pass the time before switching over to listening to podcasts on my iPhone and playing video games on my 3DS. We did get fed twice during flight but it was nothing to write home about except for the delicious green tea gelato. It even came with its own little spoon inside the lid!
Once we landed at Narita International Airport getting through customs was painless. The airport was well organized with enough signage in English that it was almost impossible to get lost. The line for customs was insanely long but it moved quick and I didn't even have to speak a word to the customs agent.
Once through customs we made our way to the JR East Travel Service Center to pick up our JR passes. We would be using these for the majority of our train rides during the trip including the Shinkansens (bullet trains) between major cities like Tokyo and Kyoto. We were in line for about an hour before we got our passes because there were only two agents available. However, once we got to the front of the line it was quick and painless. The agents there also helped us pick out the trains we should take to get to Kyoto, our first destination.
Our first train was from Narita International Airport to Shinagawa in Tokyo which took a little over an hour and was very comfortable. The seats on the train were much larger than I was expecting and the interior was a hundred times cleaner than anything I had been on before. I also had my first truly quintessential Japanese experience on this train. I had pulled out my iPhone gimbal to take some video when a woman in one of the seats in front of me saw it. She proceeded to exclaim "Sugoi! Sugoi!" (which is an exclamation akin to awesome or cool) and take a large number of pictures of me showing her how the gimbal worked. I now live forever on some Japanese social network.
Once we got to Shinagawa we transferred to our second train, a Shinkansen that would take us to Kyoto Station in about two and a half hours. This train was definitely a lot older than the previous train but it was still very nice. At this point it had been over 19 hours since we had left our apartments so everyone was pretty much running on empty.
We finally arrived at Kyoto Station around 8pm JST and after a 20 minute walk we arrived at our Airbnb. We were all quite hungry from our travels so we headed out for a little walk around Kyoto to get our bearings and some grub. Our first meal in Japan was, appropriately enough, a place where you didn't have to speak Japanese because your order was placed via a ticketing machine. We just sat down at a table, the waitress came by, collected our tickets and then brought us our food.
After eating we headed home around 10pm and settled in for the night thus ended our first day in Japan.#Japan#Japan2016