An opportunity made itself available to me earlier this year, to travel in Japan with Robb & Elissa during their October trip. Culminating with multiple days at Tokyo Disneyland/DisneySea.
Japan, and in particular, Tokyo Disneyland / Tokyo DisneySea have long been bucket-list things for me.
If I’m being completely honest, the TOP of my “bucket-list”, but I never dreamed I would have the opportunity due to my Spouse’s aversion to traveling outside of North America (as well as his physical limitations that would prevent a trip of this magnitude. Nevermind the amount of walking involved and the dealing with crowds. . no way could he handle the minimum 15 hours of Travel time it would take to get to Tokyo from Texas).
So when the opportunity presented itself, tho I immediately wanted to jump at it? I needed to consider. But the universe wanted it to happen:
1) my Father, out of the blue, cashed in a CD and sent me some $$ (the same day!), which was more than enough to cover all expenses for the tip, as well as enough spending money to really enjoy.
2) my Spouse, tho he knew he couldn’t possibly come along (see above physical limitations), said he knew that visiting Tokyo Disney was a dream of mine, and that this was the time to go for it. Especially him knowing I’m as big a fan of Halloween things as I am a Disney fan. He wasn’t thrilled with the idea of being home alone for 2 ½ weeks, but encouraged me to go for it.
3) my passport was still valid for just over 6 months until after the end of the trip.
So who am I to say “no” to the Universe when it’s so obvious that I should say yes? So I quickly accepted the opportunity, despite having never been out of North America, and started to get myself psyched up for Japan. In October. With Parks (Universal & Disney in particular) set up for Halloween goodness!
I took over 8500 pictures, and tho I’ve been back for a couple of weeks now, I’ve just now started to go thru them. I promise I won’t post all of them, LOL (I take multiples to try and get a good one). I’ll also try my best to stay on top of this TR, and update at least every few days.
My *huge* thanks to Robb & Elissa, for allowing me to join along with them on this October adventure. And it was wonderful to spend time with friends I knew, as well as new friends I made, during this absolutely once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
I really do hope all these folks truly get how appreciative I am for this trip, and for the time spent with every one of them. It was absolutely life changing getting to experience the Culture, the Beauty, and the Halloween Decorations in Japan.
I was open to trying many, many new things as we made our way across Japan (and other than two things, most things I tried were incredible – even the Horse Sashimi).
And tho I had absolutely no shame in using my “trainers” – much to the amusement of the Tokyo locals early in the trip. . by the 2nd week during the Gyoza & Yakisoba making class, I was able to use chopsticks – if not exactly as intended, at least well enough to not embarrass myself. So see? It really was life changing
Will try to get 1st day of travel and arrival in Japan up by end of weekend!
looking forwards to sharing my photos & experiences with the fine folks at TPR! bert
my "trainers". . that my favorite local Sushi restaurant gifted to me, when they found out I was about to be spending 16 days in Japan.
(after making fun of me that I was going to starve, since I always use a fork when at this particular restaurant).
By the back end of the trip, wasn't using them anymore.
and, yes, I've been to the Sushi place since I got back. they were SUPER impressed that i gained weight while in Japan (LOL), and that I was able to make it thru a meal without needing the fork they brought me anyways.
the majority of the things I brought back, once I finally got around to unpacking the other day. some of these were gifts for folks, but most of it are things purchased for me/us.
Last edited by bert425 on Wed Feb 19, 2020 5:06 pm.
after months of planning, it was finally the day to fly - Friday, 10/4. So I was up at an insanely early hour (2:30 am), to be ready to head to the airport for my morning flight.
it was going to be a heck of a travel day, but was hoping to be able to nap on the plane - something that turned out to be something I'm not really able to do. Even as tired as I already was, since I hadn't slept much anyways, being so excited for my trip.
my day was going to be a 4 1/2 hour flight from Austin to Seattle, then an 11 1/2 hour flight from Seattle to Tokyo.
I had booked my flight months earlier, and tho I had paid the extra ~$150 for the upgrade to "comfort plus" - which would have given me ~3" of extra leg room for the longer flight to Japan?
Delta had changed planes for the longer flight back in June, and the new plane type didn't offer the "comfort plus" upgrade area - so instead they had bumped me to "Premium Select", a fantastic deal that included many more perks (reclining larger seat with a footrest, and plated hot meals, as well as some other things) for no additional charge as I had already paid for the initial upgrade.
So I was ready to go!
the Austin airport was pretty dead this early, so had baggage checked and thru security in less than 10 minutes. Helped immensely by my ticket being flagged "Premium Select" which let me bypass the long luggage drop off lines.
I even totally forgot to take off my belt at security, but that didn't slow me down at all (I didn't realize until I was going thru the metal detectors, and TSA didn't say anything. . . so I guess I was starting off the trip with some good Mojo).
It was so early none of the coffee shops were even open yet, so had to wait a bit to let me get some, hence looking a little sleepy.
the Delta gates are in the newest terminal they built at Austin-Bergstrom Intl. airport, and as we usually fly Southwest (other side of the terminals), this was all new to me.
it was cool to see the amount of artwork, and Austin specific displays up in the Terminal.
dead this early. very cool with the Austin businesses only in the Terminal - tho would have been nice to have a Starbucks. . Ruta Maya Coffeehouse is a nice local alternative.
The new terminal area does look like a big box warehouse store, when it's this early and so dead tho.
Once I had upgraded for the longer flight, Delta started sending me offers for an upgrade for this 1st flight. I had not planned to upgrade, but once the option for "Comfort +" dropped below $70, I went ahead and did it, figuring it would be a longish flight, so might as well. Besides, I got to board early, and even tho only a few extra inches of leg room? I would treat myself .. I was on an adventure.
Here I am on my 1st flight ( 4 1/2 hours) from Austin to Seattle.
my good trip mojo continued, and I had the entire row to myself for this flight, and spent a good amount of time reading and chatting with the Stewardess. (didn't watch any movies, as the earphones they gave me weren't really comfortable - but at least they were free for this section).
as were the drinks - which I hadn't realized.
I'm not a big drinker, but I do love me a decent Bloody Mary. I didn't partake in any of the "snacks" offered on this flight other than a banana and a pack of nuts, but I did have several drinks.
(tho really, for a 4 1/2 hour flight, it's absurd that they aren't serving any kind of "meal". . . packs of cheeze nips seemed to be the offering for the majority of the plane).
we arrived about 20 minutes earlier than intended in Seattle, and I had ~ 2 hour layover. But consider me shocked when I deplaned at S16, and discovered the gate for my connecting flight, S15, was actually right next door!
that's never happened to me before on a trip.
this was starting out well.
I called home, spoke to spouse, got a Vanilla Mocha (Starbucks, yay!), and hung out in the area reading until it was time to board for my flight to Japan.
things were going so smoothly thus far.
and now on board the 2nd, and much longer, flight to head to Japan!
since they had bumped me to Premium Select, my larger seat (that reclined and had the footrest), also came stocked with a goodie bag that included a sleep mask, toothbrush, earplugs, comb, etc), as well as a pillow, blanket, nice full set of headphones (for movie watching), and some other additional "perks"
such as champagne upon being seated. . . how Bougie!
seriously, this kind of spoiled me for any future long flights!
they even gave some slippers, which I did end up putting on as soon as those around me took off their shoes and slipped into them.
I felt a bit out of place, like I was somewhere I wasn't supposed to be.. but man, could I get used to this kind of treatment! LOL
the Steward came by to pick up the Champagne glasses and handed out menus , to show what we'd be served during the long flight.
It turned out I can't sleep on a plane, even as tired as I may have been - I was simply too excited. if I HAD tried to sleep? it wouldn't have mattered, as they kept coming by and offering food/drinks, and even waking folks up to serve them meals. So Delta just kept me full, fat, and happy for the long flight.
I ended up spending time watching a lot of movies, some good (Toy Story 4, the Wandering Earth, Ask Dr. Ruth), some Decent (Curse of La Llorna, Godzilla, Fyre Fraud), and some terrible (The Dead Don't Die, a few others I gave up on and don't recall)
this was the 1st meal service.
i had the Sauteed Shrimp from the Japanese menu - which I started eating before I remembered to take a pic (which is why some shrimp are gone).
it may, or may not, have been due to the continuation of the Bloody Mary drinking from the earlier flight. . . LOL
and they didn't even offer me chopsticks, so I happily used the fork provided. It was really impressive how good it was for "airline food"
In between meals, the Stewards came by with snacks, ice cream, lots of drinks, and other things to much on.
This is the later meal service, about an hour before we landed - Truffle, leek, and Mushroom Fritatta.
starting our descent, and leaning over to get a pic out the window of Japan.
I'm not on the ground yet, but really can't believe I'm here.
but exiting the plane, going towards Customs & Immigration, I'm greeted by Mario.
who confirms. Yes, I AM here in Japan!
Immigration and Customs were a breeze.
Despite a full plane, and a lot of folks coming thru from other planes, the fabled Japanese efficiency was on display. I think I waited *maybe* 10 minutes to get thru Immigration and grab my checked luggage. and Customs was even quicker than that.
before I knew it, I was out of the main terminal, and almost to the Bus Ticket Counter, where I would buy my ticket to get to the Hotel Meetup point.
I had been following along with Robb & Elissa on their flight, and knew they were landing just ~20 minutes after my flight. With my nervousness about my 1st time in a new Country, and with Elissa's blessing, I waited for them just outside of Customs so that I could tag along with them to the Hotel in Tokyo that would be base-camp for the 1st few days of the trip.
The airport has a lot of things under construction, but no impact to how quickly and efficient everything is running. I'd assume much of the construction are improvements for the upcoming 2020 Olympics.
here I am with the mascot logos for the Tokyo Games.
and before I knew it? here came the Alveys!
it was such a relief to be with such seasoned Japan travellers, so I could just do what they did, to ensure I got the correct bus ticket to make it to the hotel.
I'm sure I would have eventually figured it out (Elissa had provided really good instructions), but i was so dang giddy about being in Japan (and at this point having been up over 20 hours), that it was a true godsend to be able to meet up at the airport to book the hour+ bus to get from Narita airport to the Hotel.
and of course, Shellie Mae was with them - which I knew from Robb's twitter posts from earlier that day, showing their travels thru the airports.
from the Bus pick up area, even the waiting spot at the Airport is lovely with a nice water feature.
settled in at my window seat, and in awe of how nice everything is.
the bus was unlike most buses I'd been on in America.
very roomy, impeccably clean, with a restroom
it offered free Wi-Fi too, but I didn't spend much time online (only to check in at home and relay I was on way to hotel). . mainly I took *way* too many pictures of Japan, thru the bus window on the way to Tokyo.
the rolling Countryside looked very much like some places in America - tho the "solar farm" with tons of panels is not something one often sees in the States
tho some areas really did remind me of the views I had last seen while in Hawaii many years ago.
Starting to come into the more populated / city areas, these sound barriers started appearing on the side of the highway. Including some wonderful signs shushing folks due to sleeping children in surrounding buildings (at least I assume that's what they were trying to get across. . maybe no honking?).
Tho didn't hear a single honking horn the whole bus trip.. or, come to think of it, the whole time I was in Japan. i don't even know if the cars have usable horns, since everyone was so polite even while driving that there wasn't any honking.
it's not a bullet train, but it's the first train I've seen in Japan, as we were coming into the more urban areas. so took a few pics of it.
train, with some really interesting architecture behind it in that building.
and what's that I see up there on the right?
why it's the 1st (of MANY MANY) Ferris Wheels I would see while in Japan. and I would ride a lot of them too, but not this one. . .
didn't stop me from taking pictures of it while passing it tho.
at first I thought this was Tokyo Tower - which is something I actually never made it to see during the trip (guess I have to go back now, right??).
but it's actually the Tokyo SkyTree - another structure I personally didn't make it to. Although I did see it a few times.
EDIT: HMMMM. . looking at this pic, is it possible I have both Tokyo Tower *AND* Tokyo Skytree in one picture?
that certainly looks like the Toyko Tower color scheme just to the right of the window bar. . . and I know they aren't that far away from each other.
Better shot of the immense Tokyo Skytree from the bus window.
and we passed another giant Ferris Wheel before we got into Tokyo city proper. This one was impressive too, tho I do believe some of the other Ferris Wheels (that I actually rode during the trip) are larger.
Coming off the highway, to drop some folks off at the hotel stop before ours, there were some lovely canals and waterways.
attempted to get some pics of the tugs moving some barges thru the window.
some of the high-rises on the outer side of Tokyo. . we are headed in that direction for our Hotel, the Shinagawa Prince Hotel, which very much reminded me of a Vegas hotel complex - big, with lots of restaurants/activities (including an aquarium, indoor golf range, and a huge Pachinko parlor next door), and right across the street from the Shinagawa train station.
some of the many rails that criss cross, and snake thruout the city of Tokyo.
it's super impressive how all of this is managed and maintained without tons of incidents/accidents every day.
at the hotel, before checking in, I went for a potty break in the lobby bathroom.
as I noted at the time, I'm not so sure about using a toilet with a warning label on the lid!
so I was wary, with a capitol W. . so many buttons! LOL
but(t) after using these bidet style toilets just once? I am in love with them and absolutely would welcome one into my house. In fact, I'd prefer one, I liked them that much.
up in the room, and just in time to check out the sunset over Tokyo!
this was the view from my room at the 1st Hotel.
looking to the right.
looking to the left
Looking straight out over Tokyo.
Beautiful sunset. . . and way off in the distance, in the clouds, is (I believe) Mt. Fuji.
although I had been up at this point over 24 hours, Elissa had offered to take those of us who had arrived already over to the Shinagawa Station to give a "newbie" tour of the station, and to get us set for our Rail Passes (which would be needed for the Shinkansen Bullet Trains).
So after relaxing for a little bit in the room, I headed down to meet in the lobby and we went over to Shinagawa Station.
it was a Saturday night, but it wasn't super crowded. (it wasn't empty tho either!), and I really appreciated the opportunity to get my feet wet in a more ideal situation than a morning or evening rush hour.
I took a lot of pics of the station to help myself with orientation, and how to get back to the hotel, since we'd be here for 5 nights.
just posting a handful to give a feel of the place. It's by no means a "small" station, but we ended up in several (such as Tokyo station) that absolutely dwarfed this one. . so the Shinagawa Station was a great "starter" station for a Japan newbie such as myself)
these are the doors we wanted to exit to go towards the Shinagawa Prince Hotel.
and this is the exit we wanted (the West Exit)
it was a very eye opening orientation tour, and I really appreciated Elissa taking the time to show us around the station, as well as pointing out several shops, interesting things near the hotel.
including McDonald's - where I had my 1st proper food in Japan. I got the fillet-O-Ebi (which was similar to Fillet o fish, but of pressed shrimp. . and was OH so good), and learned that "set" means "meal". . something that came in super useful thruout the trip.
I only got to eat at McDonald's once more during the trip, but that was to get a Happy Meal so I could bring back a "hello kitty" toy for a friend. Yeah. .that's why I ate at McDonald's again.
one of the things she mentioned was how great the 7-11's are (and all convenience stores) in Japan, in terms of carrying a wide variety of really good food options. Including Sushi.
This was not "Supermarket Sushi" in any way/shape/form, but really nicely done Onigiri, in many flavor options - and priced super reasonable. (I think they were under $2 American each). they were all good, as were any of the hot food options I tried during the trip.
most convenience stores also seemed to carry full aisles of bread/cake/donut options. Tho I did quickly discover that the Japanese Palate doesn't seem to favor super sweet things. .so the donuts and cakes tended more towards a bread pudding flavor than a sweet donut that Americans are used to (ie: nothing even close to a glazed Krispy Kreme in terms of sweetness).
this is something I picked up on a whim while stocking up on snacks for the room (we had a fridge), and yes, it looks like a hot dog bun dipped in chocolate.
Spoiler - that's EXACTLY what it was. A hot dog bun, with a squirt of Cafe Au Lait cream down the center, and then 1/2 dipped in Dark Chocolate.
it wasn't sweet, it wasn't nasty. . it just . . . . was.
I was happy I got to try it, and tho one try was enough (I didn't get another one this trip), I didn't throw any of it out. :)
back up to the room, after being up for almost 32 hours, I was starting to poop out. Especially once I ate my McDonalds, unpacked a few things, and ate the chocloate hotdog bun thing.
I knew I had to get to bed, since we were getting up in the morning to start off the full Japan adventure with a stop at La Qua to ride Thunder Dolphin - but not before taking a few pics out the window of Tokyo in the evening.
just beautiful. . the city was mesmerizing, and I had to tear myself away from the window to turn in.
but I did take a few pics of the room.
while not "large" it was a decent size, and quite comfortable.
the bathroom reminded me of a cruise ship, in that one had to step up into it - something that was true of several of the hotels we stayed in during our trip. I would guess it has something to do with the plumbing, the tub drainage, or the needed space for the toilet mechanisms. it was interesting, but I was way too tired at this point to wonder too much about it.
so with a quick shower, I hopped into bed, set the alarm to get up in the morning (to meet up with folks for the breakfast buffet) and close out my arrival day in Tokyo.
Last edited by bert425 on Sun Nov 03, 2019 5:57 pm.
Canobie Coaster wrote:Those chopstick trainers would have been a big help for me. I spent most of the trip paranoid I was going to stab my food and offend Japanese culture.
I was determined NOT to do any stabbing. Tho as bad as I was using chopsticks, was really worried that I was gonna end up hungry a lot. . LOL. but the trainers (and the sheer amount of "finger food" such as the Onigiri) put me way more at ease, and let me enjoy myself more than worry about it.
and tho it took a few times, I eventually trained myself NOT to point with the chopsticks either.
Welcome to Japan, Bert! Prince Shinagawa Hotel is a wonderful place to stay. And they have a killer breakfast buffet. Or used to, from what I remember in my past TPR visits. Did you ever get to try it? Or were there many early departures to parks etc? Great start of your trip, there. Looking forward to more.
btw, The swimming pool at the Hotel was pretty nice, too.
I'm excited to read about your experience as a first time visitor in Japan! Each new trip report that has come from this recent TPR trip has given me something new to add to the list for our next visit!
Change the scheme, Alter the mood! Electrify the boys and girls if you would be so kind!
SharkTums wrote:Great start, I always love reading first timers trip reports!
Just an FYI - it is NOT Tokyo Tower in that picture with Sky Tree, they are on opposite sides of the city.
thanks for the info, Elissa.
I had been looking at Erik's pics from Tokyo Tower, and noticed the color scheme & design looked sorta similar to that tower on the right in my Skytree pic from the bus.
Guess I'll simply have to go back again at some point to check out the true Tokyo Tower
to others who have commented: Thanks! Glad folks are enjoying the TR thus far. Lots and LOTS more to come. . . as got to do so much more than just visiting Theme Parks - the Himeji Castle was stunning. and discovering that we were in Osaka during day 2 of the LGBTQ Pride festival? yeah, that was a fun experience that I got to swing by to attend as well!
I forgot too, that I watched "Aladdin" on the flight over as well. Thought it was decent - good, but could have been great. Will Smith as the Genie kept pulling me out of the film (as in: hey, that's Will Smith as the Genie!). . but the rest of the cast was really, really good. I'd give the film a "B", and recommend it if you haven't seen it.
When my friend and I went to Japan in 2017, he loved the toilets so much that he ordered a bidet attachment kit for his home throne via Amazon while we were still on the trip. It was waiting for him when we got back to the states. A rather common story you hear from travelers to Japan.
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