Good day, my name is Joel. At this point in time I am living abroad in Japan. On this Blog I intend to share my stories and travel experiences. And what better way to start this, than to tell you of my arrival and why I am an idiot.
After a 16 hour flight I landed at Tokyo’s Narita Airport, jumped some bureaucratic hoops and proceeded to the Baggage claim, where to my surprise I found my bag vibrating. Paranoid Bastard that I am, I immediately thought someone planted a bomb on my bag at a transfer stop. The likelihood of that actually happening was, of course pretty low, after all what kind of idiot would build a vibrating bomb? So I convinced myself to continue to Customs. This being the first time I had flown anywhere on my own, I wasn’t sure whether or not I was allowed to dig through my bag before clearing Customs to find out what the hell was vibrating in there, so I lined up with my creepily oscillating bag, while completely freaking out about how I was going to explain that to the Customs-guy. I don’t know whether he didn’t notice, or he thought I had some manner of adult toy in there and decided not to ask questions that would be awkward for both of us, either way he didn’t lose a single word about it. After I got through I found out it was just my electric razor that somehow got turned on in transportation. Having that behind me I found myself immediately faced with the next problem: The Tokyo metro system.
What? How the hell do I get to Shinjuku?
So after a couple of minutes of confused staring at that map, I figured out a route that might work and went to the ticket counter, where I was informed that they don’t sell tickets for the route I wanted at that particular counter. They did however point me in the direction of the Ticket Vending machine. Turns out Tokyo’s metro system works by zones and train lines, so you have to look up the stations you want to go to on a big table and buy a ticket with the price indicated on it. Of course, since I had to make multiple transfers to get to my destination, this meant a couple more minutes of confused staring. However all my staring turned out to be in vain, because the Ticket Vending Machine only takes cash and I hadn’t exchanged any money yet. So out of the train station and back to the airport I went, to a currency exchange counter I had seen there. Once I had exchanged all the cash I was carrying (which wasn’t a lot, I was really counting on my credit card for the first couple of days), I tried my luck with a different ticket counter. For a minor service fee the lady at this counter handed me a ticket that would take me to my destination. So back to the train station I went and hopped on the train, asking if I was in the right place every opportunity I got, because at this point I was highly doubtful of my ability to navigate the metro system. Turns out though, once you know which trains you need to take where, it’s relatively easy to figure out the transfers, because there are plenty of english signs, telling you where you need to go.
So I got to my destination Shinjuku without too many problems, and followed the directions I had gotten beforehand to the Office where I would sign the contract and pay the rent for my accommodation. Very glad I had those directions, because I highly doubt I would have found it with just the address to go on. They had plenty of english speaking staff, so signing the Contract was no problem at all. You’d think from here on it would be smooth sailing, I thought the same. I was wrong.
When it came to paying the first months rent, both cards I had with me refused to work. I had exchanged some money at the airport but of course that was nowhere near enough to pay a month’s rent. The office staff informed me, that sometimes cards that didn’t work with them worked just fine with the local ATM’s, so I tried my cards with the ATM at the post office and a Convenience store. Neither worked. Faced with the possibility of being stranded in a foreign country without any money, I called my bank back home to find out what was going on. They informed me that one card had always had problems with foreign use and the other one had failed to work, because paying the safety deposit and then the rent with it would send it just above the limit I had set for it. As for why it didn’t work at the ATM, turns out I’m some sort of massive Idiot. Because the two cards are attached to the same Account, I had sort of assumed, they used the same PIN. Since I had never before used that card for anything that would require using its PIN, I only found out that was wrong, when I was already in Japan.
The phone operator couldn’t help me over the phone, for safety reasons, when changing the PIN or such I needed to show up in person, which was slightly problematic, considering I was on the other side of the planet. Since the plan was to stay in Japan for at least a year, I had given up my old apartment back home and stored all my stuff with my family, so I called them, hoping they could look at my documents and tell me the Code. Of course with different time zones, they were at work, so getting my rent paid that way was going to take time. However time was a bit short, because the office was nearing closing time. They weren’t accepting a regular remittance, saying a foreign transfer was going to be too slow. I made a couple of other calls and the issue was going to be resolved one way or another, but whether or not it would be resolved before the office closed, was unknown and completely out of my hands. While I had enough cash available to buy some food, it would not be enough to get a hotel room, so if the office closed before I had paid my rent I would have no place to spend the night.
With my fate being handled somewhere else I had enough time on my hands to:
- Freak out a bit
- Calm down
- get comfortable with the inevitable
- look up a nice nearby Park in which I could nap on a park bench
- get bored
With me being pretty calm by then and able to take it all with a bit of gallows humour, it was half an hour before closing time, when finally the call came: my rent was paid. I didn’t have to spend my first night in Japan on a park bench. I think at that point the office workers were cheering for me as well. With that behind me all that was left to do was to get to my apartment. Which of course involved another train ride.
God damn it.
Because this ride didn’t involve any transfers, getting the right ticket was much easier than last time so after being awake for roughly 32 hours I finally arrived at my new home and was able to sleep. At least with staying awake so long I went to bed in the evening and woke up fresh as a daisy around 10 a.m no Jet-lag at all.
So to summarize:
If you are going to Japan, or anywhere really
- Make sure your appliances aren’t going to turn on randomly. Maybe take out the batteries
- Figure out how you are going to get where you need to be before you arrive
- Make sure your cash cards will actually work. Might wanna exchange some money back home as well. Most banks will charge a fee for withdrawals in foreign countries.
I hope reading about my personal failures amused you or reminded you of things you need to check before you travel somewhere yourself.
Next time I will probably write about properly navigating the metro system.
Have A Nice Day