Off to visit Ron!

So I recently came back from a trip to Japan! I left home on July 27 and arrived back in Melbourne on August 5. I had a great time checking out Tokyo, and it was awesome to visit Ron while he’s working over there. Going to write about my trip here, but with less photos than my US trip. That’s not because I didn’t take many – I managed to get over 1,500 in the week I was there! The main point of writing about it here is like a diary for myself, so I just won’t be posting as many pictures.

Anyway, my trip started at 3.30am on the Saturday morning. I had packed the night before and was all ready to go. My flight was via the Gold Coast. Unfortunately no airlines fly directly from Melbourne, so my choices were via Sydney, Gold Cost, Singapore or China. Sydney and Gold Coast were most direct, and Gold Coast worked out the cheapest with Jetstar. I drove myself to the airport, because logistically it was easier than mum dropping me off. She had offered, but 3.30am on a Saturday morning is very early to get up, and I was coming home around lunchtime on a Monday which would have been a bit tricky with work.

I was booked in at Jetport parking, and made it there easily by 4.30am. They had me at the airport about 10 minutes later, and not long after that I was checked in and through security. I grabbed a water and some raisin toast at a cafe there while I waited, and the flight left on time at 6.10am. I’d only had about 4 hours sleep, so I actually managed to sleep most of the flight to the Gold Coast. I put in my headphones and put on my sleeping mask from my Qantas flight home from the US, and dozed off for the two hour flight.

My two flights weren’t connected, so once I arrived in the Gold Coast I had to collect my luggage and check in for my next flight. Both the domestic and international terminals are under one roof, so it was quite quick and easy to get through. There are only 4 or so international gates so the queues weren’t too bad either. I had about two hours to wait after checking in and passing security. I went through to the international lounge which is pretty small! There were three cafes and a couple of shops. I settled down to a big breaky with a coffee, and read my book. It was nice to have so much time and be leisurely in the morning.

The plane left the Gold Coast on time, and was only about half full.  I was against the window, but had two seats to myself so had plenty of room to spread out and make myself comfy. All up it was a 10 hour flight, arriving in Japan at 8pm with a 1 hour time difference. I’d loaded up my tablet with Parks and Recreation and Summer Heights High, along with Pitch Perfect. I had plenty to keep myself entertained in between meals and the time went by quickly enough.

When I stepped off the plane and into the airport, it was noticeably humid. Even indoors where it was air-conditioned, the air was quite heavy. I was pleasantly surprised when I got to Japan to find that there wasn’t much of a wait for immigration. Within half an hour I was in the country and looking for a bus. The hotel Ron is staying in is in Kayabacho, and is only a 5 minute walk from the Tokyo City Air Terminal (T-CAT). There’s a bus that runs from Narita Airport to T-CAT every 10-15 minutes, and takes just over an hour to get there. There’s free wifi at the airport so I sent Ron a message to let him know I was on my way, then made my way to the bus.

The people at the bus were very polite and friendly, and spoke a little bit of English. When the bus came, they stashed my suitcase under the bus and I got on board. There was a smoking room just next to the bus stop where a group of people were puffing away indoors. Something I learned during my trip that it’s ok to smoke indoors at most places in Japan, but smoking outside is restricted to certain areas. I came up with a few potential reasons for this, although I’m not sure what the actual reason is – safety, given the number of people on the streets; environmental and aesthetic, to ensure that everyone puts their cigarette butts in a bin. Eating and drinking on the streets is not really socially acceptable in Japan so perhaps it has something to do with that as well.

The ticket collector bowed as the bus pulled out, which was a strange sight to see. This was something else that I saw a lot of throughout the week, as people bowed thanks in restaurants, bowed at cars stopping to allow them to cross the road, and conductors bowed at the train.

There wasn’t a lot to see from the bus given it was night time and it had tinted windows. It was raining quite heavily on and off which was a bit disappointing, because it hadn’t occurred to me that it might rain while I was there. Given it was summer I was expecting hot, dry days, but the actual weather was quite the opposite – hot, very humid and occasional showers.

When I arrived, Ron was waiting for me at the bus stop dressed like a local in a kimono. I was so excited to see him! He’d been at a summer fireworks festival where everyone wore traditional clothes, and came straight from there to the bus stop. He looked great! Unfortunately the fireworks ended early because of the weather, but at least he didn’t have to miss them to come and meet me.

Ron in his kimono
Ron in his kimono

We walked from the to his hotel to drop off my stuff. The room is tiny! It reminded me of the room I had in St Charles, with just enough room to wheel a suitcase down the side and leave it at the end of the bed. The bed was up against a wall, and on the other side was a small desk. The bathroom was about 2 x 2 metres – almost looking like something that belonged in a portable home! I was only staying there the first night, and we moved on Sunday. Our second room wasn’t much bigger, but it was slightly.

We spent an hour or so in Ron’s room just talking and catching up. We had so much to talk about after 3 months! About 10.30pm we left the hotel to find the rest of his workmates here were in Ropponggi doing karaoke. We caught the train there, which was easy enough. The rain had cleared, but it was still really warm and super humid. We had a bit of trouble finding the karaoke place, but thanks to Google maps we found it. The streets weren’t as busy as I was expecting (maybe the rain had scared people away?), but there was a lot happening. The area of Ropponggi we were in had lots of bars and restaurants, with bright signs and billboards flashing and making lots of noise.

The karaoke place was a tall narrow building (it turns out buildings like that are very common in Tokyo), and the room was up on the 8th floor. This was the first time I noticed that smoking indoors was allowed. The whole building was really smoky, and it reminded me of back when smoking was legal in bars and pubs in Melbourne. Given the smell of my clothes the next morning, I’m so glad smoking is banned indoors now!

Anyway, we walked into the karaoke room and there were about 20 people who all knew me through Ron and were very excited to meet me. It was quite overwhelming, and there were soooo many names to remember! We had a lot of fun, and stayed at the karaoke place til a bit after midnight. They had a special on beers, then we had a few rounds of umeshu, Japanese plum wine. It’s really nice, although quite sweet. I ended up getting a bottle duty free on my way home.

So karaoke was a lot of fun, and a good way to meet Ron’s work friends and break the ice. After that a few of us went across the road to a bar and stayed out til about 2am. Given I’d been up since 3am Melbourne time (officially 24 hours ago!) it had been a big day! And a very exciting ‘Welcome to Japan’!

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