Japan 2019 – Day 1

If you haven’t read the first post, you might wanna do that before this one.

We were all up by 6am because we had gone to bed so early, and a couple of us had woken up considerably earlier. Fortunately the sun was up pretty early (sunrise being around 5:20am) so I was actually fine with that as being an aid to getting over the jetlag.

Around 8:30am we went to 7-11 for breakfast. I had been told that they are higher quality than in the states, but honestly I was not particularly impressed. They had a little bit of sushi but nothing that looked interesting to me. It didn’t help that basically nothing was in English. I grabbed a chocolate bar for later and decided to skip breakfast, which is normal for me.

I forget which day it happened, but we decided to visit the Maxell Aqua Park (an aquarium). It was a 30 minute train ride and the place opened at 10am. Figuring out the train was a little tricky for us though…

We left a little early, knowing that we would need to buy train cards (we could get plain tickets, but why). When we got to the machine that sells them, we struggled with it until we realized that it seemed to be cash-only. We had not yet acquired any cash, figuring it would not be too important day 1 in a big city like Tokyo, but boy were we wrong.

We Googled for what to do in this situation and began to head to a hotel very nearby. There was a machine that was labeled as converting foreign currency to Japan yen. Again, after a bit of struggling we realized that that machine is also cash-only, you cannot do a regular withdrawal with a debit card. Next we look for an ATM, and tried two which rejected our cards. Uh oh.

We were panicking a bit at this point, so Jesse called a friend of his (I should also note that we realized around this time that his phone was dying, which was a little inconvenient). That friend was super helpful and we were told that 7-11s (which are all over the place here) have ATMs which accept foreign cards. So we went to a 7-11 and tried to get some cash…

Jesse tried his Venmo debit card first, with no luck. Eventually I tried my debit card, which I had pre-authorized with my bank for Japan a week prior, and got an error that I was surpassing the withdrawal limit. We eventually got 20,000 yen, a little under $200, and after some more experimentation we figured the limit was $200. Not sure how much we would need, Mikel also took our 20,000 yen and we were on our way. (Jesse left his “real” debit card back home, so he had to freeload on us.)

An hour behind “schedule” we got back to the train station and were able to buy our train cards. We realized a little bit later that the train is so cheap compared to our expectations, I think Mikel said that each direction of our ride was less than $2 (not double checking this right now but I do not think you can go a single stop on Caltrain without paying upwards of $4, and longer rides are >$10).

The train itself was fine. When it arrived, it was distressingly full, but a ton of people got off. After a couple stops we got seats. All good.

The first interestingly thing at the aquarium was the jellyfish:

Horrifying, isn’t it?

There are more pictures (and videos!) on the Google Photos album here. I will try to be fairly selective about what I post on this, but I am not curating the album photos at all so you get both extremes (nice, right?).

We also saw the tail end of a dolphin show. I thought I got some Google action-shot pictures but just like yesterday I accidentally took some videos. I have no idea how, I will have to look more carefully later. I wasn’t the only one to make the mistake though, I asked my friends for a picture of me and the same thing happened with them. Super weird.

Anyway, here is the next picture after the jellies that I thought was decent:

I don’t know what these are, but aren’t they cute?

Then here’s a pretty cool picture of the tunnel part:

That’s a big ass ray

Here’s a weird lizard:

It moved like a weirdo; I love it

There is a pretty good video of this lizard in action on the album, I recommend you go take a look (only 6s). I thought all the green here was pretty:

Isn’t this pretty?

We also saw some big rodents:

I thought these were so weird

Here I am:

There are freaking sharks behind me

After the aquarium we used Tripadvisor to figure out where we would do lunch. We decided on sushi because duh. The first result was the #1 restaurant in the region, which was cool, but it was also closed, so BOO on Tripadvisor for not defaulting to “open now” (or at least making it an opt-in option!). The second result, Kura Sushi Shinagawa Ekimae, had a rating of 4.6/5 so we went for it.

We made a brief detour so that I could catch a Volbeat – a region-locked Pokemon in Pokemon Go, which I did not realize was here when we were making plans. Big thanks to Mikel and Jesse for being patient with me. On the plus side, there were beautiful cherry blossoms:

If you like cherry blossoms, there’s a 12s video where the wind was blowing the blossoms around us and it was freaking magical. There’s also a video of Jesse demoing what we could only imagine was a water fountain, but was not particularly usable as Jesse had realized prior to us recording the thing 🙁

So, off to sushi! The place was a boat/conveyor belt style. Like this:

We ate a total of 25 plates, 13 of which were mine. That said, it was not as good as I expected, and several of those plates were repeats of the couple things I liked (and then dessert, which was fine). My friends and I chatted about it and my best guess is that the rice was way too sweet, it overpowered the fish.

We decided to head back to the Airbnb after lunch. We were all starting to feel the jet lag and as I mentioned we did not have an itinerary or anything. Back at the place, we chatted about dinner and relaxed. I wrote the post previous to this one, and most of this post during that time.

After a few hours we went to dinner at Halal Sakura, a Muslim ramen place. Unfortunately, before the food arrived someone in the restaurant started smoking and I had to leave. My friends took my food to go. We ate back at the Airbnb and my food was good. I am definitely concerned at this point though that this is going to be a recurring problem for me, and would massively discourage me from future international travel. (I did a little bit of reading about smoking in Japan. It’s pretty horrible – the Japan government owns a substantial share of the tobacco industry here so the incentives are awful. A law was passed to limit smoking leading up to the 2020 Olympics, but the law is seen as toothless.)

The plan for tomorrow is to visit Tokyo Sky Tree, the tallest building in the city, and then while we are nearby visit the Sky Tree Pokemon Center as well. We will almost certainly get more sushi, hopefully higher quality!

Fitbit step count for the day: 15,446

Next: Day 2

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