Trip to Tokyo – A First Timer’s Plans and Expectations – Day 1

Hello there, my fellow traveler!

I have never been on an intercontinental flight before. The longest trip I took by plane was from Düsseldorf to Graz or Edinburgh. That’s barely two hours, nonstop. From Düsseldorf to Tokyo, it takes six times as long.

How to survive your first 12 hour flight?
Honestly, I am super glad it’s going to be a nonstop overnight flight. Maybe there’s the chance of a good night’s sleep.
Other options included starting from Frankfurt and transferring in London or Helsinki, increasing the travel time to 16-20 hours or more. It’s definitely less comfortable and way more exhausting.

If you can, get a nonstop flight.

You’ll probably have to pay a bit more, but it’s going to be worth it.
Maybe you’re thinking about making a stopover somewhere on your way. That can be a good idea, but usually, you have to do it through a travel agency. Because one-way tickets are more expensive and you always have to pay the take-off country’s ticket prices, which are adapted to the living expenses. The travel agency can look for somewhat reasonable priced fares.
Booking tickets through a website by yourself is a bad and expensive idea in a case like this.

What to do, once boarded?
Our flight starts in Düsseldorf at 8.00pm and will arrive in Tokyo at 2.30pm So, I guess popping in a movie and wait for dinner is a good idea.

At this point I always try to wrap my head around the time difference. It’s rather interesting, when you think about it. Tokyo is seven hours early. At what time will dinner be served? A friend, who flew with the same airline with the same flight times, told me, dinner was served about two hours after take-off. So that’s like 10pm German time, right? A little late for dinner, but fine.
How to tell time while flying east across seven time zones? Sure, you can set your watch to your destination’s time. At what time is breakfast served then? By that time, you’re supposed to be completely out of sync. Will it be Japanese breakfast time, six hours into the flight? That doesn’t sound right, especially since it would only be four hours after dinner. So, super-early (like 5am) German breakfast time, when it’s already noon in Japan? Time really is relative.

What about jetlag?
It’s said that going east hits your system harder. I guess that’s true, if you’re an early bird.
Or if you arrive in the early morning. That must feel terrible. You start your journey at like 7am in Germany, travel via London and arrive in Tokyo at 6am. That’s like pulling an all-nighter. Well, I hope you didn’t sleep the night before, since you have to take a really good and long afternoon nap on the plane. Because, when you finally arrive, you have another whole day ahead of you. 
No naps and no coffee, or your jetlag just gets worse. Nope, I wouldn’t be up to that challenge. 

So, do the math. Take precautions if necessary to actually be able to adapt to the local time quickly.

For instance, buy yourself a bolster and maybe increase your chances of getting some rest. A good one, not one of those inflatable plastic ones. Don’t go cheap, you’re investing in your precious sleep. Buy one ahead of time to test it, if you’re comfortable with it or not. If you’re not happy with your purchase you’d still have time to refund it and get a different one.

I got myself a bolster by “Schlafmeister” on amazon. I’ll tell you how well that worked for me in June. 

What else is there to do? Take a book with you or your favourite portable console. Check what movies and shows will be available on your plane and perhaps have your laptop with videos you like better. There are power outlets by your seat, so bring your charging cables in your carry-on luggage, too.

I got a window seat, so I wonder if I can get a view of the night time lights of Russia (“which continues to be stupidly big”). Perhaps a twelve hour flight is a wonderful occasion to listen to Cabin Pressure again.

Arriving in Narita, there’s still lot of stuff to do, besides going though immigration and collecting your luggage, especially as a tourist.
You have to exchange your train vouchers (for your JR Pass for example, if you have one), buy a SIM Card or pick up your rental pocket-wifi. Also, while you’re at it, get yourself a SUICA, you’ll probably need one, even with Tokyo Metro Tickets (which you can get at Narita Airport, too), especially if you want to go to Odaiba or visit Ghibli Museum. Besides, they are super convenient!

Have a look at Narita Floor Map ahead of time, so you won't be too bedazzled and know where you have to go. 
For instance, we will have to pick up our pocket-wifi at the Post Office Counter. It took a bit of time, till I had found it on 4F in the Airport Mall. It's better to save time beforehand. And then it's down to B1F, because we need to go to Skyliner & Keisei Information Center to exchange our vouchers.

Instead of taking the Narita Express, we will go to Ueno Station by Keisei Skyline. Since we won’t have a JR Pass, paying about 40€ for Narita Express tickets seemed a bit expensive, especially after stumbling across Keisei Skyline and it’s special offers. They’re selling Keisei Skyliner Round-Trip plus one 72h Tokyo Subway Ticket for 5.400 Yen.
Train ride should take about 45 minutes. Plus, our final destination will be Uguisudani Station, which comes right after Ueno Station. Very convenient for us.

Also, it’s even faster than the N’EX. It says on their website, that “the N’EX takes you from Narita Airport to Tokyo Station in only 53 minutes”. 
But if we had a JR Pass, N’EX would have been the common option, because you can ride it for free, just like the Yamanote Line.

“Why don’t you get a JR Pass, then?” I hear you cry. 
Because we will be staying in Tokyo for the whole journey. There’s already plenty to do, so taking day trips to Atami, Kyoto, Hiroshima and such seemed a lot more stressful and we would get to spend less time exploring Tokyo. But there will hopefully be a next time! Then I’ll take the chance and get myself a JR Pass and travel west along the coast line, exploring more cities!

By the way, there’s also a bus that takes you from Narita Airport to Tokyo. It takes longer, of course, but it’s much cheaper. However, if you’re travelling with a lot of luggage, it might be problematic, depending on how loaded the other passengers will be as well.
As I have told you in my previous blog, we’ll be staying at a gorgeous airbnb. After arriving at our accommodation and checking it out thoroughly, it might be best to revitalise. Take a shower, brush your teeth, fix your make-up. I kind of expect to feel like having been spit out after such a long journey. I know I did after 15 hour bus trips.  Exploring the neighbourhood while feeling yucky, won’t be very pleasant.

Which is exactly what we’re going to do. There are a lot of Buddhist temples around, so I want to have a look at them. And of course, get some necessities at Daiso and 7-Eleven like snacks and drinks and what not. Daiso and/or Babu bath bombs are definitely on my shopping list.

After that it should be time for dinner. I picked out a ramen joint by the station, called Ramen Nagayama. Nothing’s written in stone, of course. And down at Ueno Station there is a vast variety of restaurants to choose from. Or if we’re way too tired, we could just heat up a 7-eleven meal at our accommodation.

Although I would be eager to go out and see lots of stuff and be way too excited… I’d also be way to tired. We should still take it somewhat slow. And that’s how I planned our first real day in Tokyo.

Stay tuned for Day 2, exploring Ueno!

Kiara Threepwood