So we did arrive in Tokyo. And were in good spirits.
Before we could take the train from the airport to Tokyo Station, we had to pick up our Japan Rail Pass. This pass entitles you to use a number of trains for free for a week and you can only purchase it outside of Japan. The way this works, however, is that you only purchase a voucher at a travel agent. The actual pass needs to be issued in Japan.
Okay – no big deal. We found a Japan Rail agency at the airport and got in line to get our passes. A long line. While waiting, I filled in the forms that we were required to provide on top of the vouchers. This was already very confusing to me. What the heck? Why do I need to do this?
But fine: I was waiting in line and there was even a long table which I could use to fill in information that we had already provided when we bought the passes in Singapore. When I was done I looked up – and the line had virtually not moved.
There were four counters, and these were apparently all serving tourists who wanted to get their Rail Pass. And the process to do this seemed to take forever. Time passed and got more and more annoyed. What for the love of Godzilla are they doing? And if it is so complicated, why can’t the automate it? And why can’t this be done anyhow smarter and more efficiently? This is Japan, for crying out loud? Shouldn’t this be exceptionally great and fast?
Here’s what I realized: it looks like Japan is amazingly advanced. For the 1980s.
Eventually, I was at the top of the line and the next counter would have been mine. I was watching with disgust how the agents were serving two customers at the counters next to me. Not only did they seem to move in slow-motion, they also engaged in time consuming chitchat with the customers. Don’t get me wrong: nothing against being friendly and showing a customer he or she is valued. But if you do this when you have 40 people waiting in line right under your nose, in my book you disrespect all of those.
Then a Japanese couple sneaked in from the other side and cut into the line, virtually taking the next counter that would have been mind. It was clear they had to address some issue with tickets or passes they had obtained earlier, but this is when my patience had finally worn out. With a loud, annoyed voice I was saying:
Leo: How long will this take? I’ve had a long flight and I’m waiting here for 45 minutes just to get a stupid pass!
Oh, yes: you don’t do shit like this in Japan! So people tend to react a little shocked.
The husband explained to me that they had forgotten a passport earlier when they got their tickets and his wife said:
Wife: I am sorry. Please don’t be angry.
Leo: Look, I am not upset with you…
Alright, alright. That’s the other thing: Japanese are embarrassed when a visitor is unhappy and angry and they want to make it right. A minute later another counter opened up and I finally got my JR passes and also our tickets and reservations to Tokyo station. Took only 2 minutes to serve the unfriendly, very tall barbarian.
See? – it can be done.
(I mean seriously: they only check your voucher, give you another piece of paper with the green pass stuck on it and a starting date and that’s it. Why. Does. This. Take. So. Long.)
An eventless train ride took us to Tokyo station. To get to the Hilton we had to continue to Shinjuku, but I first had to quickly pass by Hotel Ryumeikan that we had originally booked but cancelled and which is close to Tokyo station. I had a portable wireless router shipped there from eConnect as our internet life line during the trip and needed to pick it up now.
Finding the correct exit from the station was not that difficult. Getting there was cumbersome. Tokyo station is busy, of course, and we hit it when evening commuters increasingly rushed in. The main problem, however, is that there are many floors and not so many escalators or elevators or ramps.
We had two large suitcases, a stroller, a diaper bag and camera bags.
If you have to haul all this shit a few times, even if it’s only a few steps, you get annoyed real quick. Then, I had Lamia and Oskar waiting while I left to find the hotel and pick up the device. Looking at the route description from the hotel, which is really nearby the station, I got the suspicion that Japanese are also not world class in making maps. I had to call the reception and it took two members of the staff until I finally understood where and how far I had to go. But they were nice enough about it and had kept the package for me. Looks also like nice place, so I once more repeat my recommendation for Hotel Ryumeikan if you want to stay close to Tokyo station.
Back with Lamia and Oskar, we now were looking for the rapid train to Shinjuku. More steps. More climbs. Man, I started to hate Tokyo! Sometimes we were lucky and there was at least an escalator. Sometimes we were not. I tried to convince myself it would be as bad in Paris or Berlin or other big European cities. But such a shitty situation at a main station of a metropolis? Not so sure…
Then we were at Shinjuku. You’ve guessed it: more stairs, no elevators, rarely escalators. Sigh.
When we finally had tracked down the bus stop for the Hilton shuttle, I was in a pretty bad mood. I had carried all our stuff up and down more stairs than I cared to count. After a long flight, the wait for the JR pass, the train ride to Tokyo station and everything else I was tired and beat.
Other than me, despite his fever Oskar was in an excellent mood, cheering while riding the shuttle to the Hilton…
The fever… right. We had to check on that once we’re in the hotel…