Day 4 - 30th July 2001
Getting lost on the trains

[ <<< Back to day 3 || Tokyo index || On to day 5 >>> ]

I woke up at 10, and quickly stuffed all my things into my rucksack, and then decided that I'd book my hotel in Tokyo, so that I'd know where I was going when I arrived there. I called one of the hotels in my travel guide that seemed to be at a reasonable price (you can pay over 100 pounds per night in Tokyo if you're not careful!) but they didn't have any rooms available. The fourth one I called, the Keihin Hotel, in Shinagawa, had a room so I booked a night there. They told me to call if I was planning to arrive later than 10pm. The people I spoke to all spoke English, but some of them very poorly. Most of the time I had to speak slowly for them to understand, but I managed to get my point across eventually.

I checked out of my hotel, and got a taxi to Hong Kong station, where I could catch the airport express (it saved me the hassle of dragging my stuff on the crowded tube trains). Once I got to Hong Kong station I noticed that they had an in-town check in service which meant that I could check in my luggage here, and not have to take it to the airport. I did this, then took the train to the airport and hung around for a couple of hours waiting for my flight to start boarding.

The flight went without any problems, except it took longer than expected, and I arrived at Tokyo Narita airport at 9:30pm. I phoned the hotel to say I'd probably be late. Then I boarded the rapid train to the centre of Tokyo. Silly me. The so called 'rapid' train turned out to be one of the slowest ways to get into town, stopping at every station along the way, and taking a sleep-inducing 90 minutes. One I arrived at Tokyo station the map showed that I needed to change to get to Shinagawa. I was confronted with a myriad of different lines, three different types of train, and nothing that gave me any clue as to where I had to go. There was no staff around at this time, and nearly all the notices were in Japanese text. After walking around for a while looking confused, I stopped a guy entering the station and asked him where I should be going. He didn't know either, but between us we managed to find the right platform. It seems it's not just tourists who are confused by the rail system here.

The main problem is that there are so man ways to get around, there's the subway, the JR line, and several independent private lines. Tickets are not transferable, and each company has a different map, which often have sketchy details of routes on other systems. Those afraid of machines would have problems here, as there are no ticket offices at most stations. You must work out your fare using the tables on the wall, and then buy your ticket from the machine.

Anyway, I eventually made it to my hotel and checked in, at about 1:30am. The hotel is a small, local one with about 30 rooms. The rooms are tiny, and have the smallest bathroom imaginable. On the other hand, it's quite reasonable for Tokyo, at around 75 quid a night (yep, that's reasonable!) and it has good air conditioning, which is definately a nececity here. After checking in, I popped into a local convenience store to get a sandwich, containing some strange meat I couldn't quite identify (it was quite nice though) and got to bed around 2am.

[ <<< Back to day 3 || Tokyo index || On to day 5 >>> ]