Customs is a pretty easy experience, you just fill in a short form on the plane and that’s it, for short stays no visa is needed just your passport. After collecting our belongings we dashed straight to the toilets to change and freshen up, given it was 20*C outside.
We now had to find the way to our AirBnB in Shinjuku, so we headed towards the Narita Express ticket office. The train was a lot cheaper than getting a taxi as this airport is quite a bit out of the centre, but a lot faster than a bus. This was our first experience of how organised and pleasant the trains are. They are quickly cleaned as the arrive in the station and there’s guides to queue and everyone has an allocated seat with more than enough leg room. The train took about an hour and a half to reach Shinjuku Station (this route also passes through the main Tokyo Station and Harujuku).
Thankfully our AirBnB hosts provided us with idiot proof instructions to find our way out of the station (it is huge, 4 large entrance/exit areas, shops, multiple train lines etc) and to our apartment.
As soon as we step outside the station we are greeted with the (polite) hustle and bustle of Shinjuku, I didn’t know where to look. All the buildings are huge, similar to New York, and lights and signs everywhere. On the road in front of us so maintenance work was taking place and it was cordoned off with Hello Kitty fencing… this place was exactly how I’d hoped it would be, kawaii!
It was about a mile walk between Shinjuku Station and our AirBnb which was situated across from the Park Hyatt Hotel (where Lost In Translation was filmed). Given the heat, the fact we’d barely slept in 24 hours and all the travelling we’d done we had to stop for a break or lugging our cases at a little Hawaiian themed cafe for a drink en route. This was our first experience of the language barrier, there was no English menus nor English speaking staff, so it was just a case of pointing at pictures. Luckily the red concoction I chose was a strawberry slushy, so far so good.
Exhausted, we finally arrive at the apartment, it was bloody adorable. Trading shoes for slippers on the doorstep as per Japanese tradition, we look around our home for the week. On the table was a note from our hosts wishing us a nice stay with two origami cranes and some Japanese biscuits.
The apartment was just a small studio, but had everything we needed amenity wise, ideal for the fact we wouldn’t be doing much more than sleeping in it anyway. It also came with a pocket wifi, which is a lifesaver in Tokyo. Public wifi isn’t too common, so having a little device, no bigger than a portable charger in your bag giving you signal is a god send. We let everyone at home know we’ve made it in one piece then doze off on the bed…
A couple of hours later we force ourselves into the shower and out of the apartment with the mission to find bento boxes to eat in the Shinjuku-gyoen (a park). Now this didn’t quite go according to plan… Many places online recommend Bento boxes from these big department store food floors – given we tried to do this after lunch time and in smaller shops this was a bit of a fail.
We did manage to find some small dishes to take away along with some Dango ( a glutonous rice treat, you may recognise from your emojis). Once we reached the park shortly before 5pm we were really confused as to why everyone seemed to be leaving… turns out it shut at 5, due to it getting dark not long after (something again we came to learn as the day went on).
We decided to delve into all the streets of Shinjuku to slowly head back in the direction of our AirBnb, this quickly became very overwhelming. Once the sun goes down all the lights come on and the place just filled us with awe.