Where The Wind Takes Me – Day 0

Where The Wind Takes Me Series - Table of Contents

EntryNotable Places/EventsStart of DayEnd of Day
Day 0 - Apr 21-22 2024Plane (Edmonton > Tokyo)Edmonton, CanadaTokyo, Japan
Day 1 - Tue Apr 23 2024Akihabara, Sensoji, Tokyo Sky Arena, Taiwan Food FestivalTokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 2 - Wed Apr 24 2024Nezu Shrine, Tokyo National MuseumTokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 3 - Thu Apr 25 2024Akihabara, Ginza, Yurakucho, Bocchi the Rock! Exhibition (with Quintopia)Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 4 - Fri Apr 26 2024Craft Gyoza Fes, Niku Fes, Odaiba, Kameido Tenjin ShrineTokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 5 - Sat Apr 27 2024Niconico Chokaigi 2024Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 6 - Sun Apr 28 2024M3-53Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 7 - Mon Apr 29 2024Train (Tokyo > Osaka)Tokyo, JapanOsaka, Japan
Day 8 - Tue Apr 30 2024Tsurumibashi, Expo Commemorative Park, Osaka Station (with Miyu)Osaka, JapanOsaka, Japan
Day 9 - Wed May 01 2024Kyoto, Takenobu Inari Shrine, SaiinOsaka, JapanOsaka, Japan
Day 10 - Thu, May 02 2024Train (Osaka > Tokyo)Osaka, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 11 - Fri May 03 2024Reitaisai 21Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 12 - Sat May 04 2024Japan Jam 2024 (with Quintopia)Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 13 - Sun May 05 2024National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation (with Quintopia)Tokyo, JapanTokyo, Japan
Day 14 - Mon May 06 2024Haneda International Airport, Plane (Tokyo > Taipei), Liaoning Night MarketTokyo, JapanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 15 - Tue May 07 2024Taipei Main Station Underground Mall, Ximending Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 16 - Wed May 08 2024Shilin Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 17 - Thu May 09 2024Raohe Street Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 18 - Fri May 10 2024Songjiang Market, Guang Hua Digital Plaza, Shida Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 19 - Sat May 11 2024Dihua Street, Huaxi Street Night Market, Guangzhou Street Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 20 - Sun May 12 2024Gongguan Night MarketTaipei, TaiwanTaipei, Taiwan
Day 21 - Mon May 13 2024Plane (Taipei > HK), Train (HK > Guangzhou), Stayed with KelTaipei, TaiwanGuangzhou, China
Day 22 - Tue May 14 2024Zhongfu Square, Alpaca Sighting (with Kel), Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 23 - Wed May 15 2024Panyu Square, Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 24 - Thu May 16 2024Nancun Wanbo (with Kel), Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 25 - Fri May 17 2024Train (Guangzhou > Xiamen), Zhongshan RoadGuangzhou, ChinaXiamen, China
Day 26 - Sat May 18 2024Xiamen Railway StationXiamen, ChinaXiamen, China
Day 27 - Sun May 19 2024Mingfa Shopping MallXiamen, ChinaXiamen, China
Day 28 - Mon May 20 2024Train (Xiamen > Guangzhou), Stayed with KelXiamen, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 29 - Tue May 21 2024Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 30 - Wed May 22 2024Tianhe Computer Town, Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 31 - Thu May 23 2024Comic City, Shangxiajiu Square, Dinner with Kel, Stayed with KelGuangzhou, ChinaGuangzhou, China
Day 32 - Fri May 24 2024Train (Guangzhou > Hong Kong)Guangzhou, ChinaHong Kong, China

Sunday, Apr 21 2024 to Monday, Apr 22 2024 (Day 0)

Pre-trip Notes and Stuff (Written Apr 19-20)

I had a lot of trouble settling on a name for this blog series, but in the end this one kept coming to mind, so I ended up picking it as it needs to be easily remembered by me on top of being fancy and slightly pretentious (which is, by the way, just the way I like my blog series titles). I’ve said in other blog entries in the past that I am a creature of the wind, and air/wind is the alchemical/fantasy element that I am most attuned to, out of the classic air/earth/water/fire quadrinity. I love the feeling of wind blowing in my hair and face, eating at my clothes, pushing me onwards or challenging me to walk against it. I love seeing the world rush by as the wind swirls up and moves people and things from place to place. And I love setting off somewhere without a goal and finding some piece of beauty after the wind and my footsteps guide me there. The wind represents an invisible but ever-present force in the world that helps people make decisions without forcing them to do so, a guiding hand that forges fates and perhaps friendships. At least for the purposes of my idyllic dreams and my blog.

More broadly, part of wanderlust is not knowing where one is headed next, and that’s sort of the theme of my trip — I booked my first outgoing ticket, for Apr 21, on Apr 03 2024, but I didn’t book my first lodging until Apr 16 2024, and even though by today on Apr 19 I’ve finished booking the entirety of my Japan itinerary, I haven’t booked anything past that, even my flight out of Japan to China.

Part of this was due to a desire to leave my trip open-ended, sort of like I did on my USA trip, and part of this was a bit of uncertainty over certain parts of my trip, like whether I would be able to enter Singapore, which I will only find out at the border once I arrive there, or China, which I needed a visa for and only finally got in my hands on Friday, April 19.

But the other part of this was budget as well. As I have a bit over 70k (Canadian dollars) locked up in investments in preparation for the house, and 6k parked in my Scotiabank account to make that account and my travel credit card free of annual fees, I only had about $4,000 of fluid funds on top of that (plus lines of credit, which I have no intention of using), and after I withdrew and exchanged some money to bring along with me, this number is down to about $3,000. About $1,250 from last month is sitting on the card and coming off this month, about a week from today. I get paid from my work about $2,000 or so every two weeks, the first time around the 7th-10th and the second around the 25th-26th, but I also have to pay the $1,300 rent on my current apartment on the 1st, a parental tithe of $500 on the 25th, and various minor utilities totalling about $200 here and there.

I think I’ll have about $2,500 at the start of next month after rent, with a bit over $4,000 coming in over the course of the month, but then there are various subtractions from utilities and stuff, and then the credit card bill on top of that. The credit card bill next month will contain a bit under $1,000 from the move, and then the plane tickets, the lodging bookings, the food I eat that I can charge against the card instead of pay with cold, hard cash… it’s going to be pretty high, and I’m not exactly sure quite how high.

I need the credit month to roll over first, which I think is in about a week, before I can proceed with trip booking, so that anything else I pay for after that will come off on May’s credit card payment instead of April’s. I pay off my entire credit card each month, and have never had any problem with being behind on credit card payments, but this month is the perfect storm of cash locked away in various investments, the cost of the move, and the upfront cost of paying for the trip. At this current moment, I’m staring at a bank account balance of $2,976.23 and a credit card balance of $2,939.57, and while I mathematically know that everything’s okay and that this is probably the tightest and ugliest point the budget will be, since only part of the credit card balance gets paid off this month and I’ll get another three paycheck deposits before the rest of this month’s balance is due, it’s still an uneasy feeling and something that I’ll be watching closely to see if I need to activate some of my reserves, especially since I know that while on a trip, I still have base expenses of $2,000 a month for the home apartment, utilities, and parental trips, and lodging alone while on the trip is going to probably easily chew through $2,000 per month. I’m not starting from a value of zero though, and some of that is already paid off (and I have a bunch of paper money on top of that) so it should be fine.

(To clarify for any passersby who might be worried about my financial situation — what happens if I run out of money in my main RBC account that I use for my spending cash? My first recourse will be to convert about $400 in US Dollars that I have in another account into Canadian Dollars and use that to bridge any gap. This was extra cash that I had from my USA trip back in late 2021 that I never converted back to CAD since I would be losing a bit of money each time I convert currencies. My second recourse after that would be to dip into the $6,000 CAD I have in my Scotiabank account that is there purely to prevent me from having a $30 fee per month for my credit card there. I’ll eat that $30/month until I return home if needed though. So basically yes, I’m slightly stressing out over money and keeping watch like a hawk over my finances just to essentially try to avoid spending this $30 a month.)

So anyway, that was a long-winded way of saying that I can’t book too many things right now because I am trying to push some of my remaining bigger ticket items to the next credit card month as well. Therefore right now I have the Japan part of my itinerary complete, but everything after that is a black hole. I currently have some plans as to where I want to go and what I want to do, which is China for a week, Hong Kong for a week, Taiwan for a week, Malaysia for two weeks, then Singapore for a month, but the exact durations in each place are not set in stone. I could stay in Japan for an extra week or two if I want to. Or I could go to Thailand or South Korea instead somewhere in there. Or add Macau. Or cut out Taiwan or half of the Malaysia trip. Or only stay two weeks in Singapore. I could loop back to Japan at the end too because the cheapest flights back to Canada tend to be from Japan. Or I could go to Australia to meet Zian. It’s rather open-ended and fiexible, and I will have to plan everything as I go along. This is both exciting, and a bit nerve-wracking. And I think in some places, possibly all places, I might have to declare on the visitor card what my outgoing flight will be as I am coming in. I’m not certain. Oh well. I’ll figure that out.

Some goals I have are to learn how to get around new areas and countries, and try out their public transportation systems, so that I will be much more familiar with the places and be able to plan out better itineraries the next time I come by. I will also eat a lot of weird food, if I can manage to, and walk around a lot. Those are normal vacationy goals. I also have little traditions I do every trip — I will look for plushies, I will look for nice opportunities to give away my postcards, I will try to meet as many friends as possible, I will try to collect photographs of other people taking photographs (don’t ask), and at some point on my trip I will find at least one nice place to sit down and eat ice cream. I have reached out to a number of friends to see if I can schedule a meeting with them, although Ran is in Nagoya now instead of Tokyo so I don’t think I can meet up with her, and KT is back in Singapore now instead of in Hong Kong so I might meet her in the former but not the latter anymore. Huihan is in Australia but will be back in Singapore in June too, if I am not mistaken, so I will probably meet her there at some point. Zian is stuck in Australia and I doubt I’ll be going there. I’ll be meeting Quintopia in Tokyo, Miyu in Osaka, Kel in Guangzhou, and hopefully a bunch of old Singapore friends in Singapore.

Also, a collection that I’ve started hoarding over the past couple of trips involves finding event and festival and convention and other weird local CDs that might be difficult to find, and hopefully I can indulge in some of this as well. I also plan to look for and collect ephemera that I can bring home and scan, things like flyers and papers and cards, I love that sort of thing as a little microcosm of another country in a certain period of time. And I eventually WILL scan and upload all my stuff from all my past trips onto my blog. I also would like to pick up some cheap, cute, comfortable clothing to wear around the house.

Something I’ve largely slacked off on on my past two trips to Japan is to break out the video camera and use that to chronicle things, and this time I am considering doing more of this by actually hooking it up to Twitch and casually streaming some walking around for some friends in Discord and whoever else might stumble by. We will see if this becomes a thing though, since I’ve done basically no set up for it.

I will be working remotely at my job as I go, largely in the late nights or early mornings, and taking days off when I need to (for example during travel or during hectic days/nights), although my times in Asia will not coincide with regular North American working hours very well. It is a huge perk of my job that I can work remotely and thus can travel as I work though, with my supervisor’s blessing and everything, so I’m going to use that benefit as much as I can. It’s very liberating to be able to travel with no firm deadlines and still get paid while doing so. And after my past two trips (not counting the Ritsumeikan study abroad one) I know that I can balance that with blog-writing as well. I would like to spend at least two months abroad, anything less than that and I will consider it a failure. On the other side of things, four months is probably the absolute top length that I want to spend out on the road, and I don’t think I will reach anywhere close to this number. I will likely get homesick long before this, and I don’t think my supervisor will actually let me stay out that long even though he’s said that 3 months is perfectly fine.

For the Japan leg of my trip specifically, the JR Pass has priced itself out of usability since the prices rose last year, so even though I plan to visit Osaka and Kyoto for three days, I’m just using a regular Shinkansen ticket for that. It’s really stupid what they did to the JR Pass prices, since that makes it more expensive for people to access the smaller towns and cities in Japan, and so even more of the tourism that they get will be concentrated in the Tokyo and Kyoto areas and everyone else further afield will suffer.

Also, even though I switched my SIM card to an eSIM so that I can put a regular travel SIM in my phone, the Internet for my Japan leg will be coming from a portable wireless router instead, since apparently those are better for streaming if I end up deciding to do that. I haven’t decided what to do for Internet for everywhere else after Japan though. That’s another thing which I will just wing for now and see what happens. The one I used is from iVideo, and if that works well I can use a similar thing for China, HK, and Taiwan.

Trip stuff

My flight itinerary from Edmonton to Tokyo looked like this this time:

Edmonton > Calgary
Depart: Apr 21 6:30 am (MST)
Arrive: Apr 21 7:29 am (MST)
Duration: 0h 59m
Flight: WS 238

Layover: 7h 31m

Calgary > Tokyo
Depart: Apr 21 3:00 pm (MST)
Arrive: Apr 22 4:25 pm (JST)
Duration: 10h 25m
Flight: WS 80
Terminal: 1

I’m going through Calgary instead of Vancouver this time, as new flight routes have apparently been introduced from Japan to Canada since the last time I went to Tokyo. There’s a long initial layover, but that’s because the earlier connecting flight to Calgary was cheaper than the slightly later one which would have allowed for a shorter layover. And if I miss that early plane, then I can always catch the later one and still get to my connecting plane in time I guess. But it will net me a lot of time to work on my blog while waiting for the actual plane to Tokyo. And regret the things that I forgot to do at home before leaving. Did I ever turn off that stove?

That flight in to Tokyo better not be late though, since I can only pick up the WiFi router from the Japan Post Office branch in the airport during business hours, and they close at 7pm on Apr 22 (Monday). 6pm on weekends, but thankfully my plane is coming in a day after the weekend. I’ve been to Narita Airport several times already, so I can more or less visualize how everything goes once I arrive there and pick up my WiFi, the rest of it should still be somewhat familiar to me.

Flight from Edmonton to Calgary

I spent my final night in Edmonton packing and vibing out to my usual night time streamer, Nomakk, instead of sleeping. I ended up packing my travel rucksack and a shoulder/body strap tote bag, and also brought along my large pink luggage bag since I had a “one free checked bag” option for my first Westjet flight out, but I left it completely empty. I’ll have to fill that thing during the trip! I’m travelling light this time again, with only about 4 days of clothing packed into my bag.

At about 3:50 am, similar to what I did for my two previous trips to Japan, I caught an Uber from the apartment to Century Park LRT in order to catch the 4:10 am Bus 747 to the airport so that I could catch my early morning plane. Uber rides were 20% off for some reason, so that was nice because it wasn’t that far away, the trains just don’t operate that early on. The ride ended up costing $8.20 and I tipped $1.80 so it came out to an even $10.

There was a baleful gibbous moon shining down on me from above as we boarded the bus. The temperature was something like 4 degrees Celsius, but I braved it with a short-sleeved blouse on and no jacket or sweater — every country I was planning to go to has a lot warmer of a weather forecast than we had, even Japan with its 15-20 degrees Celsius temperatures currently, and I didn’t want to lug along a jacket that I wasn’t going to use.

The security people at the airport customs must have been trying to upsell their Verified Traveller program or whatever, as even though there were not many travellers passing through the gates that early on in the day, there were a lot of security staff there, and I (and others) was  pulled aside while they went through my bags with a wand, looking for what they told me was chemicals that could suggest drugs or explosives. They found none, of course, since they didn’t swab Tigey. They swabbed my laptop twice though, once at the screening table just before the security conveyor belts, and once at the end of that conveyor belt. Still, nothing else noteworthy happened there and I had plenty of time anyway, so I was happy to indulge them.

Once I passed Security, I looked for the Hudson News store that I had bought my postcards from two trips ago. It was apparently gone, with this The Shoppes At Whyte store in its place now.

I had noticed that the one outside Security in the main Departures level also was no longer there or had a different name, and according to a lady at another store, Relay, that I visited right after that, Hudson News had been bought out by a rival company.

Last trip, the Hudson News store outside Security sold Edmonton/Canada postcards, and that’s where I got mine, while the one past Security said that they didn’t have any. This time, I checked with the store under its new management again anyway and they outright said that they no longer sold postcards. Relay did though, thankfully, so I picked up six postcards, four of the top one here and two of the bottom:

They were 99 cents, $1.04 each after tax, a bit pricey for a postcard but cheap enough and worth it in the grand scheme of things. After that, I walked around the Edmonton Airport, taking pictures of the UAlberta booth there plus some random murals on the way to my gate, which was at the very far end of the departure hall:

And I got my first picture of people taking pictures at that last mural:

The Edmonton to Calgary flight was surprisingly full. I had an aisle seat as always, and as though the Edmonton airport just really, really didn’t trust me, one of the flight attendants came up to me not long before takeoff and asked to see a piece of identity for me. What. I showed it, then she asked the same for the person in the middle seat next to me, a large-boned African in fancy white priest-like robes. He also produced his, and after a while of radioing back and forth, the attendant told him that he was in the wrong seat and should have been one seat in front instead. That was apparently what had thrown them off. The person who rightfully had the middle seat came by a bit later as pretty much the last person to board the plane, with a story that he told the person sitting by the window (who had exchanged a sly thumbs-up with me when the white-robed priest left because he had been taking up a little bit more than just his own seat) about getting stuck in lines (probably those overzealous Security folks again!) and also something about being stuck in an elevator door that wouldn’t open and his wife having to run ahead to hold the plane or something. Doh.

Anyway, the plane took off, and the plane landed. The trip was only 35 minutes or so long, so the little annoyances like the USB power port not working were inconsequential, and no drinks or snacks were served on this flight. As I hadn’t slept all night, I dozed off a little while waiting for the plane at the gate, and dozed off a little on the plane itself, and this together was sufficient to tide me over until the 10.5 hour plane ride to Tokyo.

Calgary Airport and the Aspire Lounge

I enjoy nearly all the aspects of travelling, even the airports and the long waits between flights, and I recognize that these events will often form precious, rare, and lasting memories in my life, so I often go into “sponge mode” when I am travelling, becoming hyper aware and mindful and wanting to observe and record every little things to try to capture the raw emotion of a place for me to revisit later on from the safety of home.

As such, even visits to new airports are usually rather meaningful for me. This was my first ever visit to Calgary International Airport, and it’s pretty nice, though I only had access to a small segment of it. Definitely not as vibrant and interesting as Vancouver’s, but a step up from Edmonton’s for sure.

They even have a quaint little food court:

I actually found a Hudson’s News store here, so I guess only the Edmonton one got bought up (which I guess makes sense, since the “Whyte” in the store’s new name is a reference to Whyte Avenue in Edmonton).

I also found a shop that sold plushies!

However, I’m not silly enough to buy plushies from an airport. I’ve definitely never done that before. More to the point, I’m not silly enough to buy plushies on the very first layover stop of many, many planned stops on my trip. I also found another Relay store, and was happy to see that they had a slightly different collection of postcards there. I bought two of the top one and two of the bottom one here, taking my total to 15 (5 from a couple of weeks ago, 6 from Edmonton International Airport, and 4 from Calgary International Airport).

There was also a lounge here, but it only allowed access for 3 hours at a time, per use of my credit card’s perk (or per entrance fee that you could pay), and I was going to be here on the layover for around 7 and a half hours, so I ended up spending a bit over two hours first strolling around, and then sitting outside the lounge at a random charging station/table, before I finally went in.

While seated outside at the charging table, I overheard a Japanese girl holding a Zoom call or equivalent with her boyfriend over her laptop, and she commented (in English) that she was worried because her college WiFi (from Toronto) immediately connected on both her phone and laptop when she sat down here. Her boyfriend was also worried and said that maybe she was connecting to someone else’s phone or something, so I stepped in and said that they were connected to Eduroam, which is a Canada-wide wireless network at certain hub locations that most of the higher education institutions in Canada were a part of. They were thankful for that information.

I plugged a pair of earphones in after that to give them “privacy”, but I didn’t have anything to plug the other end of the earphones in to since my phone was busy charging through the USB-C port that it would have used, so I just let the other end of the earphones cord dangle uselessly below the table, and casually eavesdropped enough to know that she was likely going to be on the same plane as me to Tokyo later on too.

Anyway, I went to the airport lounge after a bit, since I had complimentary access to it thanks to my Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite Card. I love that card a lot. And I don’t know what the best airport lounges in the world are and thus what the baseline for a “good” lounge is, but this particular lounge, the Aspire International Lounge in Concourse D for international travellers, was pretty great, definitely a step up from the Vancouver one that I frequent on my wanderings out west. The entrance to the lounge is via a set of elevators tucked away down a nondescript side corridor next to a Chili’s restaurant, and looked like this once I emerged from the elevator on the second floor.

Also, although the lounge has a 3 hour time limit and also states that passengers can only come here up to 3 hours before their flight departure, I arrived and redeemed one of my six lounge vouchers 5 hours before my scheduled flight’s takeoff and was told by the guy not to worry about the time limits today when I inquired how much time I had. How nice of them! I wonder if it’s because it was a Sunday (and thus it was nice and quiet), or if they always do that (because it’s always this nice and quiet around these parts, perhaps). It did get noticeably busier in the early afternoon around when lunch got served, though.

The lounge was nice and large. with a buffet island in the middle that was serving breakfast dishes when I arrived.

It was good stuff. I really liked the potato hashbrowns, and the sausages, various eggs, and banana bread were quite nice too. They also had showers on the side:

And some fancy tables had televisions that one could watch:

But I picked a seat by the windows overlooking the peasants below, and went clacking away on my laptop for this blog instead.

I knew that the breakfast dishes would eventually be replaced by lunch ones, so I limited myself to a couple rounds of the breakfast dishes:

It was so good that I devoured a sausage and a banana bread from the second plate before I remembered to stop and take a picture of it:

I hadn’t had breakfast, nor a particularly filling dinner the day before, because I knew that free* lounge food was likely coming, though I did not know that for certain since I had never visited Calgary International Airport before. It was a gamble well chanced though, and I made sure I exercised as much of the $32 CAD admission cost to the lounge that I did not actually pay as I could.

The four breakfast pots were removed around 11:05 am, and replaced by lunch ones five minutes later:

The liquor also came out at 11 am (as a sign on the wall had indicated) but I didn’t partake, it’s not my style. I stole a skewer from the tray in the third-to-last picture above, and then helped myself to a couple more rounds of the main dishes:

Dear kami, please forgive me for being an endless black hole of a glutton. And thanks for the toilets in the lounge area, mmm.

Flight from Calgary to Tokyo

The captain of the flight crew of my flight, WS 080, the one who makes all the announcements over the speakers, was very funny. He was saying things like the flight was only going to take 9 hours and 15 minutes but would be crossing the international date line so we were basically going through a portal or something like that, and something about a single solitary tear trickling down our cheeks at the end since we would have to part with his flight attendant crew once we left the plane. Other stuff like that, and he did a shout out to a couple kids that were on the plane and headed to Tokyo Disneyland for the Make a Wish Foundation or Cancer for Kids Foundation or something like that, so perhaps his antics were due to that or perhaps not, but it was nice.

What was not nice was the actual Westjet airplane and the meal. The airplane annoyed me because, outside of the narrow sardine seats and such, there was no power socket for the (economy class) seats, just a USB charging port.. That doesn’t help things like my Steam Deck (or laptop) that require an actual charging port. Their meals were also not up to par. This was a snack that they gave:

Which was fine (the cookie was actually tasty). This was lunch/dinner:

The beef rice thing tasted pretty bad. But one thing they did right was coming around to pick up the junk fairly quickly — they were by to pick up the finished trays within 5 minutes of me (as an average eater) finishing up the meal, instead of Air Canada‘s sloooow 20-30 minute delays.

This was dinner/breakfast, near the end of the flight:

A pathetic little box of noodles and some sweets, and this one they took well over an extra 15 minutes or so to pick up the tray after I took a reasonable 10 minutes to finish the meal.

That’s it! That’s so little food. I’m glad I gorged myself on the lounge beforehand. I expect two full meals and then possibly a third breakfast/snack-style meal In comparison, as similarly-priced economy tickets from Canada to Japan via both Air Canada and Japan Airlines provide. See my previous blog entries (here, here, here, and here) for how trans-pacific meals should look like. Neither Westjet ride also provided a bottle of water which I could then take and reuse, whic I was hoping for since my other previous flight experiences across the Pacific Ocean with other companies included that, and so I had dispensed with bringing a water bottle along on this trip at all and figured that I would just pick one up along the way. But Westjet are cheapskates.

In addition, the Boeing 787-9 plane that we were on started to emit what sounded like a siren as we started our descent once we hit Tokyo — it kind of sounded like a vacuum cleaner or ventilation alarm with a slight Doppler effect and went on and off a couple times, then came on again and stayed on for the last five minutes or so of the descent. Everyone was looking around in mild alarm but the flight attendants didn’t seem to pay it any heed. When I asked them at the door during disembarkment, one of them said that that’s just how the Boeing 787-9 engines sound during descent.

Anyway, I nodded off a bit here and there but in general didn’t get much sleep. I had dozed off in the lounge earlier as well though so I wasn’t that tired. The blanket they provided me in the plane was small and also smelled faintly like milk or vomit, and the person in the middle seat was taking up a bit more room than she should have, so I was glad when we finally disembarked.

I had forgotten that there was a way to fill in a disembarkation card online but I did know that there were a couple forms (disembarkation and customs) that I had to fill in with pen, and I managed to catch the attendants giving out the forms this time, and borrowed a pen from a nice gentleman across the aisle while the plane was going down with its screaming sirens, so this time I made it out through the checkpoints without incident.

Once I had retrieved my luggage and got out, I went to the 4th floor of the airport and picked up my portable WiFi device from the post office, which was a little bit difficult to find at first but was essentially at the starting area of the middle wing of the 4th floor of the airport. The “You Are Here” maps on the eastern or southern wing or whatever I started on did not show a map of the middle or western wing though so I had to overhear someone asking for directions to learn where to go.

My Lodging

After that, I went back down to the Narita Airport basement level where the train station was, and managed to top up my Pasmo card, buy a Keisei Skyliner special ticket, and hop on one of those trains down to Nippori Station to change trains. You’d think I know this by now since it’s my third trip to Japan, but it’s always confusing, and while there is only one Keisei Skyliner that goes from the airport to Nippori, there’s a version that stops at only two stops along the way and another one that stops at five stops, and they share the same schedule, price, and even more or less travel time, but the five stops one runs only once an hour, with the two stops one runs two times per hour in between the five stops one.

Of course there are a variety of other ways to get to the main Tokyo region from the airport, at least three other trains serve the station I think, but after taking the regular train the last time I was here and having it take almost an hour and a half, I felt that the Skyliner was very worth it for me this time, especially since it was late afternoon by then, since it only took about 45 minutes to get to the same place.

The lodging I had picked this time was this little booking.com place on Jujo Shopping Street, and although it’s closer to Jujo Station, Google Maps pointed me to another nearby station called Higashi-Jujo (East Jujo) instead since it was directly connected to Nippori Station, whereas the other station would have involved another train transfer. However, the route from Higashi-Jujo Station to Jujo Shopping Street was weird, involving going up and down a bunch of little streets until I reached the actual shopping street.

I wandered around the shopping street a bit after actually settling in and found that it actually was a pretty good one, with a nice mix of all the usual chain stores (drug stores, dollar stores, convenience stores), together with random Japanese, Indian and Chinese restaurants, bars, izayaki, several vendors that sold things like croquettes or bento boxes, three or four small independent-ish supermarkets and grocers, a fancy cafe with an English name and some sweet breakfasts that I should go try, a pachinko parlour, an independent second-hand music and DVD store, another second-hand clothes store, and more. I could spend three days here easily, and this shopping street will definitely cover all my dinner needs for the entire week and still have leftover food vendors afterwards that I wasn’t able to get to, even on an “eat once at any particular place only” policy.

The actual lodging was above one of the shops, like the shop itself was the ground floor level of the house, and there were small rooms on the 2nd to 4th floor and a small kitchen on the 5th floor. The Booking.com page didn’t actually list which shop the owner had though, only a building number that corresponded to a few shops in the same block, so I had to page the person on the booking app once I arrived so that he could let me in and give me a little tour. At any rate it turned out to be this shop:

There’s a little door on the right there that I could use, except between 11 am and 6 pm when the main shop itself would be open. At those times, the owner, whose name was Allen, said, there would be things blocking the front of that little door but I could come in or go out using a door inside the shop itself.

It was a very narrow but tall house, there was a flight of stairs leading up all the way to the fifth floor, one narrow landing at a time.

My room itself was on the third floor, and boy it was tiny:

It’s a bit smaller than I like, but as a base of operations it’s not terrible, even the lack of a table and chair I can work around easily, my main beef with it is that the only real place to work and type on my laptop at is on the bottom bunk bed, and there the illumination from the ceiling light is obscured by the top bunk frame. Plus I can’t fully sit up straight in there. There’s an unfolding “table” but it’s basically a small serving tray with legs that are maybe one foot long at most. It’s otherwise comfortable and warm though. I’ll probably talk to Allen about it and see if we can come to some sort of arrangement.

Anyway, there’s a toilet on each floor, the third floor one looks like this:

There are two rooms on the third floor and two on the fourth, plus some private quarters for the owner and his wife and dog on the second level. The stairs end on the fifth level in a little attic-like corner of the house where there’s a sink, a washing machine, a microwave, a hot water flask, and a fridge turned the wrong way for some reason.

Apparenetly the laundry machine here will cost me 300 yen to use, but since I’ll be here for 7 days, he said he’d throw in one complimentary use. Probably around day 4, we agreed. I might use it a second time just before I leave though, or just wait until I get to Osaka before doing laundry that first night. I’m pretty sure that Osaka place is a “real” service apartment that I will have just to myself.

The second floor has a shared bathroom, and this one I really liked. It’s actually one of the better bathrooms I’ve seen in my various lodgings in Japan, though by no means the best one.

The towels they provided were basically rectangular face towels though, not full-length bath towels, and there was a dead mosquito in a box that I was supposed to use to store my belongings in while using the bathroom, but other than that the room was warm, the water flow and temperature was great, and there were a lot of different shampoos and soaps for me to try, which I like.

I went out to grab some random food from some of the shops in the shopping street that were still open at this point, then came back to have a really nice, refreshing shower and then clambered to the top bunk of my double-decker bed (where there wasn’t a mattress) to eat there. I basically bought two bento boxes from two different shops, plus a bottle of my favourite bottled tea that I found in a Lawson convenience store.

After that, I settled in to the bottom bunk and promptly fell asleep for the night. I could hear occasional noises by passesrby going by the shop if they were loud, but nothing that prevented me from falling asleep. The room was small, and a bit pricey at slightly over 9000 yen a night, but it was cozy, and part of this was probably paying for the location too. And I wanted to experience living in a house above a shop. Tigey was curled up comfortably next to me on the mattress, which had a slight curve on both edges since the mattress was a little larger than the bunk bed itself. This worked out since it meant that Tigey (and my phone and glasses) wouldn’t fall off the bed at night. We’re back in Tokyo again, Tigey!

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