Japan – Shinjuku & Meeting Our Airbnb Host

Today was a bit of a stressful travel day which culminated in a night out drinking Japanese craft beer and (accidental) Chinese food.

Luckily we learned a little from our experiences today and (hopefully) won’t be making the same mistakes again!

The morning started off well enough.  We managed a bit of a sleep in since everything was already packed.  All we had to do was check-out of the hotel and get to the airport, which was a scant 5 minute walk away.

It was from about here that we started making mistakes.  #1 was not stopping for breakfast since we were sure we’d be well looked after on the flight over.

#2 was relying on Cathay Pacific’s QR reader for a boarding pass.  Poor Nick experienced a stressful moment when we couldn’t hook into the airport WiFi and his QR code wouldn’t come up.  Happily, I have a magic touch with electronics and managed to make it work.  At this point, I also took a screenshot of his QR code so we wouldn’t have to rely on dodgy Hong Kong WiFi.

The flight from Hong Kong to Japan was fine, except that we didn’t end up having breakfast until almost 11am.  Economy food wasn’t quite as instagram worthy as Business Class but I had the scrambled eggs and Nick had the chicken and mushroom congee.  There was yogurt and fruit salad served with it too which was just as well cause I would have eaten the airplane magazine by that point. The only other standout on the flight was that I discovered that ‘water’ in HK isn’t really just water. Scary.

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Always read your nutritional labels!

I was feeling rather narcoleptic by the end of this flight and super spaced out.  Falling asleep at the drop of a hat – despite a rather restful night’s sleep the night before! This drowsiness unfortunately persisted all the way though Narita Airport immigration and customs, but we both made it through okay.

Narita airport was not what I was expecting at all. Being Japan, I think I was expecting robot butlers to be chivying passengers to and fro but what I got was a rather oddly ‘rural’ airport feel.  There were stalls in the airport selling fruit and vegetables and lottery shops.  It was all so… rustic.  Where were the robots darn it!??!

After clearing customs, we decided we better have some lunch before jumping on a train to Shinjuku (and this turned out to be a VERY good choice as the train ride ended up taking about 2 hours).  We found a sushi vendor at the airport and purchased a bento box each.  It worked out to be about $8AUD in total which, again, wasn’t what I expected of Japan. Though unlike the absence of robots, this was a welcome surprise.

Our next hurdle was navigating the train network. This might not sound like such a big deal… but this is what we had to work with:

Japan Subway Map  Happily, despite this nightmare looking situation, we only needed to change trains once from Narita Airport to Shinjuku and then exit the line we were on to get on another line to get us to Hatsudai station, which was one station off Shinjuku.  Sounds complicated?  Both Nick and I were falling asleep at random times, and Nick was so fatigued that he was dropping things, and leaving money at counters (luckily the Japanese are SO honest and called him back to take his money!) and basically – we were a hot mess ha ha!

And once we were at Hatsudai, our host had given us a list of instructions to safely make it to his house.  It was like an urban treasure hunt for the sleep deprived. But it was actually a bit fun and despite a wrong turn (or 3) we made it safely to the Airbnb location to meet our host, ‘So’.

So was delightful and instantly won my trust and affection by making Nick and I an awesome drip-filter coffee each.  This was exactly what we needed to bring us back to life and get us chatting and animated again.  From our first impression, I am fairly sure we will get along with So just fine.

The accommodation here is small, but in a cozy way.  There is such a ‘hipster’ vibe in this part of Shinjuku, its almost like being home. The bathroom is going to take some getting used to for me as I am not even slightly familiar with using a wetroom.  It feels… wrong to let the water just spray everywhere!!

So recommended a Japanese Craft beer hall called “Gremlin” to us, so after we refreshed ourselves we headed out to find it.  Once we arrived there, Nick ordered a beer and asked for a cider for me.  The result of this was a blank look from our server.  I tried again, asking for anything that wasn’t beer.  “Uh…juice?” was the reply I got.  …Juice it was. Nick tried a brown ale from Tochi and a pale ale from Hokkaido.  My juice was great, thanks!

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Again, it was so much cheaper than I was led to believe.  Way less then a pint in Melbourne.  The place itself was incredibly hipster. There was even the ubiquitous fixie sitting against a wall.  So randomly, it was located underground, at a train station.

We also found restaurants down there but opted to eat at a restaurant which looked Japanese but turned out to be Chinese.  Shockingly, people were smoking inside right at the table. Something about that was so strange to me – I thought Japan was a bit stricter with their no-smoking laws than other Asian countries.

Anyway, I had a ramen and gyoza plate, while Nick had a sour pork and rice plate.  I really liked the tiny desserts that came with the meal which were a milky coloured firm jelly with a very delicate vanilla and amaretto flavour.  If I can find out what they are called I will update this.

After this, we walked back to So’s place and collapsed into bed (though of course, dear reader, I recorded this post for you all first!).

Tomorrow’s planned activities are a sleep in, and exploring Shinjuku proper during the day.  Look out for the next update soon!

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