Flying to Japan, I took only two major planning steps previous to arrival: itinerary for accommodations and ordering a Japan Rail Pass to get from A to B (I’ll describe this process at a later point. Particularly when it’s worth and when not). So it doesn’t come as a surprise that my Japanese knowledge was limited to hello and thank you as I could not discipline myself to learn essential phrases beforehand.

I arrived in the early morning after a 10 hour flight from Copenhagen on which I could not sleep at all. Consequently I was pretty tired at arrival, combined with standard confusion when it’s all bright and warm when it should be the middle of the night instead – it’s 7 hour time difference between Japan and central Europe. I arrived at Tokyo Narita International Airport, probably the airport with most foreign tourists arriving in Japan. Thus it took quite a while until I was done with customs, immigration and baggage claim.

The moment I stepped out into the arrival hall this scary but at the same time immensely refreshing feeling of being lost kicked in. I cannot remember the last time I’ve been travelling to a country where I could not at least make out what the signs are saying. When you are from Europe and speak several different languages you can normally always derive words from common Latin or Germanic language roots. But in this case it felt like I would finally get a full lost in translation experience which I haven’t had since the days I travelled as a child with my parents. And yes, the essentials are next to always written in English in addition to Japanese, at least at places where tourists are expected to end up.

Boat cruise

Ticket for boat cruise on a channel in Tokyo – that’s at least what I asked for.

When I for instance bought a boat cruise ticket I couldn’t make out afterwards when the cruise was about to start and based on the ticket itself I am not sure if it is indicating at all where I am heading to. BUT that’s exactly what I wanted. Let’s call it safe adventure because even if you would do everything wrong and end up at the opposite place you were supposed to, you are still in Japan, one of the safest countries in the world (if we ignore natural catastrophes).

Japan Rail Pass

Japan Rail Pass

But back to the airport… I collected my Japan Rail Pass which would give me the power to board almost all trains in Japan for free in the next two weeks. And wow did I get to love the Japanese train system. I’ve been riding ICEs in Germany, TGV in France, trains in Switzerland and many other countries but damn Japan wins it all. As a remark, if you do not critically need the pass right away from the airport collect it at another JR office and not at the airport. Naturally it’s a highly demanded piece of paper so you stand in queue with lots of other tourists. In my case it took 90 minutes until I received my pass. But then it was time to board the Narita Express train to Tokyo, or Tōkyō as it’s written in Japan, full with high anticipation of what would happen next.

NEX - Tokyo Bound

NEX – Tokyo Bound

NEX - Narita Express Train

NEX – Narita Express Train

On the NEX passing rice fields

On the NEX passing rice fields