Day 1: From Portland to Tokyo

My adventure begins!

It’s nearly 7:00 a.m. and I’m all packed and ready to go. Since I will be going to different cities almost every day by train and I don’t want to haul around a big suitcase, my goal was to travel light — one carry-on bag and my laptop bag. Mission accomplished. Let’s just hope I can find a laundromat type place about halfway through the trip.

Packed and ready to go

The Flight

Jeff gave me a ride to the airport, and I caught a quick flight up to Seattle. After killing some time there, it was aboard Delta flight 155 to Tokyo-Narita. My nest for the next 11 hours was well worth the frequent flyer miles it took to get it.

Seat 3A

The lie-flat bed wasn’t quite long enough for me (even an extra inch or two probably would have let me lie down without pushing my feet against the end), but it was nice to be able to (mostly) lie down during portions of the flight. I could also leave the seat almost-but-not-quite flat, in which case my feet weren’t pushing against the end, but in that configuration the foot compartment was a little more cramped and my feet didn’t really fit.

The flight to Japan is not short. The first hour or so was taken up by the meal service, which started with an appetizer then soup and salad course. I ordered the beef tenderloin for my main course, and a fruit and cheese plate for dessert.

Soup and salad course on flight Main course on flight Desert course on flight

The rest of the flight I went back and forth between reading and trying to get some sleep. I never actually fell asleep but I did feel like I got some rest. Enough to get me through what would eventually be having been awake for nearly 24 hours.

Eventually we were almost to Japan, and they served what was essentially breakfast (which didn’t really make a ton of sense because it was nearly midnight from where we departed and nearly 4:00 p.m. in Japan. But I guess the idea was they had served dinner about nine hours ago, so breakfast is the logical choice nine hours later after you’ve been [potentially] sleeping for a while).

Then we landed. The line for immigration took about 30 minutes to get through, then customs was only a couple minutes.

Welcome to Japan

Tokyo-Narita Airport

My first order of business was to exchange my Japan Rail Pass exchange order for an actual rail pass. I found the Japan Rail office and got in line. It was a slow-moving line in a hot room. Eventually (maybe about an hour later?) I had my rail pass and a reservation on the train to Tokyo. My rail pass gets me free passage on the Narita Express (a.k.a. N’EX), so that’s the train I took to Tokyo. I found my way down to the train platform and waited for the 6:48 p.m. N’EX to arrive.

As expected, we departed right on time. Here’s the train:

N'EX train N'EX Green Class car

That’s one of the “Green Class” (what we’d call first class) cars, which my Green Class rail pass gets me. It was very comfortable with tons of legroom, even if the person in the seat in front of you reclines all the way.

The N’EX made one quick stop at the other Narita airport terminal station, then it’s nonstop to Tokyo Station, which is just about an hour away at 80 mph.

My hotel is in the Komagome part of Tokyo, so from Tokyo Station I had to transfer to a Yamanote line train. That’s a local transit train loop around Tokyo (more on that tomorrow). I made my way up several levels and found the right platform, and the train was there in a couple minutes. About 15 minutes later I was at Komagome Station. My hotel (part of a hotel chain operated by the rail company) is co-located with the station, and helpfully there were signs (in English) as soon as I got off the train pointing me toward the hotel.

I checked in to the hotel (the staff person on duty spoke just enough English to facilitate the process, which was good enough for me!) on Saturday, 10/19 at around 8:30 p.m. local time. For reference, my flight took off from Seattle on Friday, 10/18 at 2:00 p.m. Japan is 16 hours ahead of the west coast, and the rest of that time was transit time!

Hotel Mets Komagome

The hotel room is, of course, small. It’s meant for one person. But size aside, it’s one of the nicest hotel rooms I’ve stayed in, despite only costing the equivalent of $120/night (which is especially impressive given that it’s in Tokyo and very convenient from a train station. On the whole, hotels seem to be less expensive here than in the States). Traveling for work I stay in more expensive hotels that don’t measure up to this one.

Standing at entrance to room Room

The room is very clean and modern. The bathroom lives up to the stereotype of bathrooms in Japanese western-style hotels: the whole thing seems to be a “module” that Toto manufactures. The toilet comes with instructions. The shower has the best water pressure of any shower I’ve ever used, and that was with it not turned up all the way. A portion of the mirror is heated, so it doesn’t fog up from the shower steam. That’s a nice touch.

Bathroom Toilet controls Toilet instructions

And the room comes with pajamas to use during your stay.


That’s it for getting to Tokyo! Two random pictures I took before bed for the record: some Yen notes and my Japan Rail Pass.

Some Yen notes Japan Rail Pass

Day 2 →