A Travellerspoint blog

Arrive home

I woke up in the crew bunk after the breakfast service and downed a hot meal standing in the galley.

I was quite impressed by Air New Zealand’s Boeing 787. It was a much nicer experience than the two Air India 787s which I flew on. The décor was nice, entertainment excellent and very quiet even down the back. All that helps distract me from thinking about how narrow the seats were. Even the meals catered out of Narita were excellent and generous (sometimes they can be quite light).

I landed at 0820 and was in the office by 0930 to do nearly a full day’s work. I felt good all day, slept well that night and woke at 0630 on Tuesday ready for work again. I credit this to the good sleep en route complemented by the low cabin altitude of the 787.

Some parting thoughts about Tokyo

1. It is a walking city. Even with the metro, there are plenty of steps and walking distances. Often anything around 1-2 stops away is easier on foot than metro.

2. Even in a big built up city, people cycle a lot within their individual neighbourhoods.

3. For a rich nation, locals still undertake hard manual hard labour eg. in construction sites (albeit with good mechanisation). It is quite unlike countries in SE Asia where labourers are imported.

4. Japan isn’t as expensive as I had imagined. I spent on average JPY4200 per day excluding accommodation. This is helped by the fact that there aren’t many sights for which I had to pay to visit.

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Leaving Japan ... for real, finally


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Dai and I spent a couple of hours together at Aeon mall where we grabbed lunch from the supermarket and some groceries to take back to New Zealand. After lunch, it was time for him to rest before the night flight home.

I wandered around Narita a little, taking shelter away from the rain in various places.

Late afternoon, I returned to the room and we made our way to the airport in the crew bus. I was introduced to the Captain who would (if necessary) grant me their crew-rest seat for take-off and landing.

But fourth time lucky, I got on the flight without any special intervention. I had a bad seat in between people but I was just pleased to have a seat, any seat to get home. The crew were nice enough to give me a spare bunk and I managed to get just under 5 hours sleep (assisted with a sleeping pill) after dinner.

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Leaving Japan ... Take 3


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large_5550_14320012666244.jpgQuiet Narita village before the fair started.
I had breakfast in town. I had done most of what I wanted in Narita [Narita-travel-guide-283388] so spent the morning in bed checking commercial flights back to Auckland and also attending to emails, admin and bills. There weren’t any real viable flight alternatives.

I checked out just before 1100, once again, leaving my pack at reception. I wandered around Narita’s old town. There was a drumming fair on which was quite good to watch for a while. The alleyways were busier today; not as much live seafood as I remember but there were eels being gutted. They pin/nail the eel’s head against a board and gut it, splay it before cutting them up and putting skewers through them for the grill.

I thought I would spend the rest of my available time at Hana Noyu spa again before heading to the airport. Only in Japan can you get female bathhouse attendants in a spa filled with dozens of naked men. Oh, by the way, anyone with tattoos aren’t allowed in most Japanese bathhouses due to the connotation it has with organised crime.

Once again, there was no room for me on the flight. While I was still at the check-in area, my friend Dai who worked up on the AKL-NRT flight showed up. I was meant to stay with him tonight and save on accommodation (even though I had insurance paying for this). He had injured himself during turbulence on the flight up and needed light treatment. We made our way to his hotel and grabbed dinner together with another crew member.

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Leaving Japan ... Take 2


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large_5550_14320009178292.jpgScenes from Narita-san Temple.After a breakfast of pastries, I checked-out and left my bag at the hotel reception.

I began my exploration of the Narita [Narita-travel-guide-283388] area by walking to Narita-san, the temple nearby. It was actually a very nice temple for something that was so accessible and un-promoted. I remember the alleyway from about 15 years ago where there were lots of live seafood. Perhaps, being still early in the morning, none of these were seen.

I continued by foot to Aeon Mall some 20 minutes away. It was a great mall but there wasn’t anything that I needed or wanted. I hopped on the circle-route bus to another mall which turned out to be less interesting. Lunch in the basement was good enough.

Malls are much the same anywhere and I thought I’d use my time more productively by looking for accommodation in the highly likely scenario that I couldn’t fly again tonight.large_5550_14320009342340.jpgScenes from Narita-san Temple.I hopped back on the circle-route bus to Narita town and tried various hotels on both sides of the railway track.

There wasn’t much choice but the Richmond and the APA had a handful of rooms left.

At the airport later, I was told by 1715 that I wasn’t on. There were a couple of seats left but my priority was low and others would have precedence over me. I stood by in case there were families or groups that didn’t want to be split up. As it turned out, a family of four put their two kids on the flight home while the adults remained.

Back in Narita town, the Richmond’s available rooms had been snapped up and APA only had smoking rooms left. I took it. It was tiny compared to Richmond and also costlier.

I wasn’t too upset about not getting on the flight for two consecutive days. Narita was a nice play to have a day or two to explore. If it hadn’t been for work on Monday, I would have left the region to explore further afield until the flights cleared. As it turned out, it was the end of the New Zealand school holidays but Japan isn’t the kind of place Kiwi families holiday in.

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Leaving Japan ... Take 1


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large_5550_143200075720.jpgFinally I have good weather which gives me a glimpse of Mount Fuji.
I woke early this morning without an alarm. The sun was out way before 0600 I reckon. It’s nice to wake naturally, with assistance from sunlight from the outside. This wasn’t the case in wet gloomy Tokyo with natural light further obscured by neighbouring buildings.

I made the most of the onsen once more before being treated to a large breakfast. There was no reason to stay much longer even though the check-out time was 1100. I hopped on the 0940 bus from outside the hotel. Along the way, I caught glimpses of beautiful Mt Fuji against the glorious blue sky, both of which hadn’t featured yesterday. I took some desperate snaps as views of the lake and Fuji were meant to be one of Hakone’s highlights.

I reached Shinjuku station around midday. Again, it was hard to find my way around the multiple stations but I worked it out more easily this time.large_5550_14320007593550.jpgBedding of the homeless in Tokyo.I had to get to Narita Airport [Narita-Airport-travel-guide-1362024] but with plenty of time at hand, the cheapest way was with a change at Nippori for about one-third the price of the non-stop service.

With limited funds and trying to avoid further withdrawals, I made use of the Nippori stop to grab lunch from the convenience store and do things leisurely and carefully to ensure I didn’t hop on the express train or the wrong train.

Despite the dilly-dally I got to Narita [Narita-travel-guide-283388] Airport at 1500 for an 1830 departure. I had a standby ticket and for the first time ever and after many years, I was left behind outstation due to the flight being overbooked. Being Japan, passengers had all checked-in rather early and by 1700 (some 90 minutes prior to departure), they had confirmed that there were no seats left.

I took the train to Narita town centre and started looking for hotels in the station area. First up was Mercure (full), second was Center (only smoking room), third was the Comfort (full) but fourth time lucky I got a huge beautiful room at the Richmond for only JPY12300 walk-in.

After a cheap dinner, I went for a soak at Hana Noyu a cheap but beautiful onsen one bus-stop away from Narita town.

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