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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Running around Tokyo

So you would think after living here for a total of 3 years, getting around the city is that much easier. WRONG. Japan changes so quickly that it's incredibly hard to keep up. For example, they have at least 30 new songs released per month!  I don't know what the actual numbers are compared to the US, but that seems high to me.  Japanese people don't like old; it is rare to see a car older than 5 years on the streets. That mostly has to do with the fact that it would cost them much more to maintain an old car with a safety check than to just dump it and get a new one which is what most people end up doing.

So this morning, I needed to get out of the house when Owen did so we could avoid having to return the key etc.  Although I could have slept in much more, who am I to demand overstaying my welcome? I was just very grateful that I had a nice, warm place to lay my head down and hot running water to bathe (even though it was with the same clothes!).  So I resistingly got up at 7:30AM and got ready by 8AM.  We had a quick breakfast and headed out. It was nice to go out to work with Owen all dressed up in his suit! It's funny because I think it was the first time I ever saw Owen in a suit! Back when we used to work together, t-shirts and shorts were the norm and occasionally he'd throw on some slacks...actually I am not sure if I ever remember him wearing jeans? hmmm...funny that we're adults now, we have to dress up. We were only 21-23 back young.

Just to get out to Owen's place cost me about $10.00 one way. I suppose it's cheap considering if I had to pay for a place to stay but I really didn't want to spend all my money just on transportation.  So since I had an early start today, I decided I would by the 都区内パス tokunai pass; free pass for the main city routes for Y730 ($8.50). 

My first stop was to go to TCAT (Tokyo City Air Terminal) except the train people didn't know what station it was!  So I had to walk around to the police station.  They finally told me that it was at the Suitengumae Station 水天宮前 on the 半蔵門線Hazomon Subway Line (purple). I remember my dad always stopping here although the name of the station did not sound familiar at all! It's nice if you have a lot of luggage.  I was always under the impression that it was a check-in counter in the city, but actually come to think of it, I don't remember seeing the check-in counters. I did see buses that went either to Haneda or to Narita though...I believe it's just a stop to get to the airport. I went here because last night when I was trying to purchase a SIM card, the guy at the information counter told me that there is a 'Nokia' store that was housed at TCAT where I could buy a SIM card. So I paid Y160 one way to get there. Save your money if you find yourself in the same situation as me, there is no NOKIA store there!  It closed! According to one of the shop ladies at TCAT, the store moved to Tokyo station, the station that I just came from!  So, I went back. Went back to Tokyo station to find the store only to be told that the store had closed and left the country. Instead the lady suggested that I go to Softbank one of the leading cellular phone companies in Japan that rents SIM cards. 

Went to the Soft Bank store at Tokyo station and the guy couldn't help me either. I was told that only at Narita do they rent SIM cards. I guess maybe I should have gone through Narita! No, I think it's just a realization that I am too reliant on accessibility.  I should thank myself! I just saved myself $30.00 communiting to and from Narita airport into the city and a Y105 per day rental if I took the SIM card. The last two times I was in Japan, I rented a SIM card and it was convenient to meet up with friends.  But, I'm not here for just a few days but a month! That would be an extra expense that I really shouldn't indulge in.  So, I guess I'll just have to rely on email or old fashion telephones though it's more challenging to find a pay phone now that everyone (even 70-80 year old grandmas and grandpas) sport a cell phone. Please keep in mind that if you are ever in need of a SIM card here in Japan, be warned that it can only be done at Narita airport! I have done my research!  I also found that you can actually have rental phones (rates are about $8.00 a day) delivered to you (for a fee) but the SIM card, you would need to go to the airport to pick up.  If you take the slow train (at least an hour) from Tokyo, it is about $14.00 one way and you will need to pay to ride the train just to pick it up though I wonder if you could try to convince them to come down to the platform; now that's a thought! Then you can take the ride but not have to exit and pay for the ride back! Anyway, hopefully they will make it more accessible to foreigners but you know how the Japanese feel about us outsiders, so I wouldn't hold your breath.  For more information on phone and 3G SIM card rental, please visit the Softbank website; at the time of this writing, they were the only company that rented SIM cards.

My next stop on the agenda was finding an internet cafe! I have not been successful on accessing my wi-fi here. Unlike the previous countries, the Japanese know their tech and have locked down most of the networks. Or, you can pay for it if you go to a cafe. I wish everything I touched turned into gold because it seems everything I touch has a pricetag! I walked back and forth all around Tokyo station in search of one. Tokyo station is one of the main stations in Tokyo so most lines will stop and intersect here.  Even if the line does not connect, you can easily access it through the underground walkways.  I must have walked over a mile as I kept on receiving conflicting information. Everyone seemed to not know what was happening around them only what they were doing.  I must have asked at least 5-7 people today and no one knew what I was talking about; it was not even a 'hmmm....maybe....' type of answer. 

One lady at the information desk told me to go to Kanda station. When I asked her which exit (some stations that are really big, if you don't exit from the appropriate exit, you will be walking the entire perimeter of the building which is probably equivalent to 2-3 blocks as in the case of Shinjuku or Tokyo station). She said she didn't know because she had only seen a billboard advertisement when she was riding the train.  Well good to know that she is always keeping her eyes open to help others lost in Tokyo!  Then to be sure (I didn't want to go there and be given the wrong information again), I checked with another information desk. The girl gave me very specific directions to a manga/internet cafe. She seemed more confident in her instructions so I screwed Kanda and went back the entire way that I came to go where she directed.  But when I got there, I forgot what she told me! ha! I asked around and everyone was doubtful that there was anything like that since I was in a large business district with mainly offices.  Confused, I stopped a British guy (no I didn't know he was British by looking at him, only after talking with him), and he said that he didn't know either but I may want to check Kanda station because it's a fairly small station. It was a good thing I had the pass because I didn't mind going to the next station just to check it out; it made me feel that I was getting my money's worth on the pass!

Before that though, I needed to take a rest and have something to eat. It was already 3 hours since I left the house with Owen that morning. I thought I would eat the bread that I got from the girl last night but didn't really know where to stop. It was lunchtime so there were a lot of specials for the business and office workers in the area. Many were tempting but I decided that lunch today would need to be under Y500. I saw a few good places but thought I would go find what I need to find first and come back. But then, I stumbled upon a menu where curry rice was only Y390! Wow, this would leave me with Y110 extra! I contemplated for a few and then went in. I was excited that I can finally put my things down and rest my feet. I thought my new boots were comfortable but after excessive walking, it takes a toll. You can imagine my look of shock when I walked in and there were no chairs! Everyone was standing. It was a fast-food, self-service type of
eatery. I've seen them before but don't think I've ever been to eat in one before. I wasn't sure if I felt more uncomfortable as the ony female there or if all the other men felt uncomfortable with me there.  I wasn't sure what protocol was so I just stood to the side and watched. I bravely took out my camera too!  It was a quick lunch and I was almost done but realized, I didn't know what to do with my plate! The guy next to me had left but there was no plate left behind. But I looked around and didn't see any dirty dishes so where did he leave his dirty dishes?  I only had three bites left but slowed down so I could wait for someone to finish before me.  The other guy next to me turned around and dropped it where we picked up our food. Okay.  I was done and was on my way.

I exited out of the station and walked around but could not find anything! I stopped at a video arcade center thinking *maybe* they'd have 'gaming' as I saw a young boy walk straight in and go upstairs...when I asked the guy there he said they didn't have computers but was so nice to walk out of his store (I couldn't believe he just left) and walked a good 100m in an effort to try to point out where I could find it. The place that he thought it would be, it wasn't there (see how some things change so quickly here!) so he pointed in another direction and said he didn't know but maybe there may be something there.  I looked around the streets at the individual signs and my eyes fell about the karaoke sign...surprise? somehow, I always spot them out!  When I looked down, right beneath, there was a sign that read 'Net Cafe'. That was it! I quickly made my way there and here I am!
It's quite expensive here.  Y490/hour (what happened to $0.50 a minute like in the Philippines?!) or if you got 3 hours, it comes out to about $12.00.  I opted for the 3 hour just so that I can get everything done.  Since I have no wi-fi, I need to look everything up at once.  I also saw on their rates that they had a shower and 5 hours resting was Y1350 - that was a steal!  So it is good to remember!  If you ever need a place to stay, try to find an internet cafe...I thought they had something like this!

Now my time is up and I still need to stop at the post office to sort my bank account and call the hotel that my dad and I will be staying at to see if they received my bag.  I was too lazy to bring my bag to the hotel tomorrow so I asked that it get delivered there. I guess I need to stop there and see if they will let me get into it so I can get some clothes out though the only warm clothes I have, I'm wearing!  Luckily the weather today is considerably warm (warmer than Taiwan) so I've survived.  Owen also said he had an extra ticket for Invictus tonight so asked if I wanted to come along! Free? Of course! I also got that pass so even most of my transportation will be free!

Still have lots of people to see but my dad comes in tomorrow so it will be pretty mellow. I bet we'll go to his cousins' house and they will get really drunk and I will have to escort my dad home. At least my dad can enjoy himself and drink as much as he likes; I'm not strict like my mom!

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