While I’d like to revisit Australia, United States, and Canada in the near future, Japan is the only country I won’t mind going back to every 2 years. All though I haven’t been there for exactly 3 years (which broke my previous rule), Japan should be just as tourist-friendly, tidy, lively, and all-in-1 as the day I left.
At the time, I was a full-time masters student and went with 8 classmates and 2 assistant professors to this 9-day trip as part of an elective course.
On the morning of Day 1, I carried a mini duffle bag as my carry-on and a small carry-on-able suitcase as my check-in. Under one of the professors’ advice, we all used small suitcases because of the frequent use of trains, shinkansen, and train lockers. As we were on the 10:40am Japan Airlines flight, most of us arrived 2 hours early. After checking in with our passports, crossing into airside, eating breakfast, and being joined by the 3 latecomers, we boarded the B767. Of the 9 students, I was the only male, so it was good.
Just outside the arrival gate of Narita International Airport, Tokyo’s tourist-friendly nature was clearly evident with a neatly decorated SoftBank telecom shop. We rented 2 iPhones; one for the professors and the other for the 9 of us, which probably wasn’t enough. Then we took the Narita Express (NEX) train from Narita to Shinjuku station, where the speed was somewhere between regular trains and bullet trains. The sun was starting to set, but if you looked out the window, you could see how the view gradually transitioned from vegetation to sparse buildings (similar to suburban Canada) to high-rises.
So we arrived at Shinjuku station and started walking to our first of 4 hotels, Shinjuku Washington. Probably during this walk or during the next few walks, I found myself counting to see if anyone had gone missing. I was the only guy after all. So we arrived at the hotel and put our baggages into the room before meeting outside the lobby for dinner. This was the only time I was late, because I was shocked with how small the room was. It was literally the size of a minivan, washroom included.
The cramped nature of Shinjuku didn’t end there. We had dinner in a nearby newly-opened eating district, just northwest of the main Shinjuku crossing. We chose a small restaurant in the pub alley which got even smaller after going upstairs via the low and narrow staircase. The 11 of us had to sit in 2 square meters of space, eating little sweet meat sticks and drinking rice wine. It was a fun and relaxing night.