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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Japan trip - day seven - Tokyo

Woke up at 8:30am to have breakfast at 9am. Then remembered that the hotel served breakfast till 11am, and check-out was at 10am, so decided to sleep in till 9:30am. After checking out, walked opposite to the hotel's annex for breakfast.

It was a "continental" breakfast consisting of toast, Japanese soup and coffee or tea, 320 yen with unlimited refills of any item. Surprisingly, waitress spoke English fluently and without a Japanese accent. (Later, I asked her if she was Japanese, to which she said yes, and she chuckled when I complimented her English.)
Toast and tea

Just when finishing breakfast, saw that a group of office workers were gathering outside the adjacent building. Apparently, there was a fire drill. An old man from the fire department led the drill, issuing instructions and other pointers. Some of the office workers even had a chance to try their hand at using a fire extinguisher, something we certainly don't practise in Singapore. Later, another fire department official led another session, though I couldn't tell what it was.
Fire drill at building next to Sakura Hotel Ikebukuro in Tokyo

Stayed till 11:30am, then took the train to Shinjuku. Still had about two hours to kill before taking the Narita Express to the airport. So walked around the shops outside to see if anything caught my eye for last minute gifts. Also took the opportunity to take some photos of Shinjuku in the daytime.

First, deposited my luggage and some items from my backpack in a locker at the train station, then went out. Weather was warm enough to be without a jacket, but I brought it along just in case. Sky also looked cloudy, but guess I'll be out of Tokyo before it rains.
Shinjuku at daytime in TokyoShinjuku bus terminal in Tokyo

Happened to walk past a Bic Camera and an ad caught my eye: a Sony Ericsson "Bravia" phone. Never having heard of one before, I went in to see what it was. Apparently, it's a phone that lets you watch TV as well, but since the menus are all in Japanese, I couldn't try this out. It also had a five-megapixel camera, but picture quality was soft even under bright light, so that was a disappointment. Also saw a Sharp solar phone, which could be useful for me in Singapore if I weren't indoors almost all the time and since work forces me to hardly see the sun.

Then, since I still had some free time, I went to Uniqlo to see if there was anything suitable, but looking at the prices, I think I can get the same items in Singapore for about the same price.

Returned to the JR Shinjuku train station at 1:50pm. Collected my luggage, repacked some items, then went to board the Narita Express. Slept on the two-hour ride.

Then, at Narita station, I did a stupid thing by tossing my train ticket into the recycling bin before exiting. Luckily, I could reach in and retrieve it!

The counter for United Airlines featured its Easy Check-In system. I've often wondered why Changi Airport doesn't have this, and after today, I'm glad it doesn't. Easy Check-In, the automated kiosk system that allows passengers to check-in themselves rather than through the counter assistant, was basically useless. It frustrated passengers who weren't used to dealing with it. And since passengers on international flights almost always luggage to check-in, you still need to have a counter assistance check it in for you. In the end, Easy Check-In wasn't so easy and took as much time to check-in, if not longer.

I thought of browsing the airport mall for a while, but it was already about 4:15pm and boarding time was at 5pm. So I went into the immigration area. And then, this moment reminded me of what George Clooney's character had said in the movie, "Up In The Air".

First, I waited for a while behind a young American guy (probably his first time flying international) who struggled to get his passport and boarding pass out, before I just passed him by. Then, when going through the X-rays, I stayed away from groups and old people and made a beeline for the shortest queue with -- you guessed it -- Asians. It helped my ease of passage too that I had already put my wallet, handphone and key in my jacket, so I wasn't held up at the X-ray unnecessarily.

Then it was time for a snack. I hadn't eaten anything since breakfast, which I finished at 11am, and dinner would probably be served two hours into the flight. I bought a sushi handroll and chocolate milk, the latter which, at airport prices, cost an outrageous 400 yen for something poured from a packet. But what to do? I hadn't bothered to buy food from outside the airport.

So then it was 5pm, time to say farewell to Japan. Tried to sleep on the plane when I could, but found myself not able to enter into deep sleep, somehow just couldn't find the right position (woke up with a cramped neck) nor that quiet moment. Anyway, also watched "The Men Who Stare at Goats" and the ending of "When Harry Met Sally".

There was a medical emergency on the plane. A young Japanese woman apparently had complained of shortness of breath. Flight attendants gave her one oxygen tank, then moved her to an empty aisle (after asking the other passengers there to change seats). Later, I saw her being given another oxygen tank, while attendants asked for doctors or nurses to assist. I saw a Caucasian woman helping, assumed she's a doctor, based on her "take charge" manner. Later, I also heard a Singaporean couple who offered their asthmatic medication say that this woman had advised against giving any drugs in case of further complications. Anyway, when disembarking, I saw the woman sitting upright without any oxygen tank. Guess she was feeling better, otherwise a medical crew would've helped her off the plane before the rest of us could leave.

Bought a bottle of Bailey's from the duty free store, then had a cup of tea (which came out bitter even though I asked for it to be sweeter) at Killiney Kopitiam while updating this blog entry. Figured I might as well make use of Changi Airport's free wireless service while I could, hehe.

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