I recently travelled to Tokyo by myself, to start an exciting trip through Japan. Little did I know how exciting even the start of that trip should be.
I arrived at Narita airport with a delay in the evening of March 27th (at around 9:30 PM) and managed to catch the last train to town, which, according to my host, was going to take me almost directly to my destination.
I managed to buy a SIM card just before the train left and some delicious 7/11 snack (rice with mayonnaise and fish) and made myself comfortable on the train.
Something was Wrong
Well, so much for the plan…
I realized something was wrong at the first stop.
It was not the stop I was told it would be…
Feeling a little bit uncomfortable and tired, I tried to check my current destination on my Citymapper app.
That was the next shock.
My internet did not work…
The newly purchased card did not want to cooperate with me. I decided to stay calm and asked a fellow passenger if he could tell me where we were. He was equally confused but managed to get his phone to work. At least.
After another 30 minutes we had finally discovered where we were and it didn’t look too good for my part.
I was basically on the other side of Tokyo.
But since “go with the flow” was my mantra for this trip, I told myself to calm down and just see where this train will lead me.
Now here is a fun fact about the night train I took from the airport:
It changed the color of the line it was on, as well as its direction…
By the time I realised this strange circumstance, the previously helpful guy had turned into an annoying companion, who stimulated my reflex to punch him, by constantly bragging about his AWESOME and IMMACULATE internet connection.
But he was my only hope. So I asked him, if he could check how much a taxi would be from his station, to where I wanted to go.
He checked. It was about 100€. So well, I abandoned that idea.
At one point he even offered me to stay at his hotel room. I had to pull myself together, to not burst out laughing. Definitely NOT.
After about an hour of sitting on the train, I discovered that there was WiFi in some of the stations.
But only always for about 30 seconds most.
So after about another 1,5 hours I had figured out where I was exactly and at what station I should be changing trains.
Lost in Shimbashi
When that station finally arrived, I believe it was Shimbashi, I went out and tried to find my way.
Apparently the last trains were approaching as more and more people were running through the massive station.
I was completely lost.
Now thankfully, in the subway stations in Tokyo there are lots of station officers, who are there to guide people and answer questions.
I asked the first officer for help.
He pointed me in a direction and I followed.
After 5 unsuccessful minutes, I asked the next officer for help.
He pointed me back into the direction I came from.
So I went back again.
The third officer finally told me a complete new way.
That way lead me through an abandoned underground with some already closed shops. It was a bit scary.
All of a sudden I turned a corner and saw lots of people running in each direction.
It was clear to me that they were trying to catch the last train on which ever line they were on. And since I was in the same position, I hectically tried to figure out which way was my way.
It was impossible to figure it out. So I just decided to go towards what felt better. I went right.
Because all those people were running next to me and seemed to not notice me at all, even though I felt like an alien, with my suitcase, I started to feel the urge to do the same.
And so I ran.
Not sure where to, but I felt a bit more like I had blended in.
It was really obscure and I had to stop a few times to look around and giggle for myself.
After about 3 minutes, I found another officer.
When I told him where I had to go (Meguro), he looked shocked and said I had to hurry, because “last train”. Well, I was aware of that…
I needed the direction, and after another minute, he understood and pointed me in the right direction.
When I finally found a train that seemed to be on the right line going my way, I relaxed a little bit.
After another two stops, it was around 1:20 AM, the train stopped and there was an announcement in Japanese.
Unfortunately my Japanese knowledge did not cover this complex announcement.
However, since everyone started leaving the train, I faced my greatest fear at that moment: The train had stopped and would not go any further.
Defeated, tired and actually hungry, I left the train, found another officer, asked for a taxi stand and embarked to the streets.
Again I followed a few slightly worn out looking business men and finally found the taxi stand.
I jumped into the car and greeted the taxi driver, like he was an old friend. I was so relieved. Finally I was save and on my way! And actually the ride was not too expensive. After all, I was actually pretty close.
Last Problem: The Address
When we arrived at the address I saw the real problem: There were no obvious numbers on the houses.
By this time it was already 1:45 AM and I had no way of contacting my host.
It was a nice and warm night and the area felt safe.
So for a few brave moments I was considering just sleeping outside, or leaving my bag somewhere and just walking around, till it felt decent again, to ring at some stranger’s doorbell. I knew I was close, but there was no way of determining the accurate location of her place.
I felt like a real adventurer. Finally some critical experience. Something to talk about. Ha!
This lasted for about 5 minutes, and then I realised my miserable situation and felt a lump in my throat.
I needed a solution. And I was determined to find one.
About 7 minutes later it showed itself in the form of a middle aged man, who seemed to be taking his regular night walk (nothing weird about a residential area and a man in running gear, including gloves, in the middle of the night… ).
I swallowed my pride and went straight into his direction and said an ambitious “Excuse me!”.
He looked a bit surprised, but again, nothing seems to be strange in Tokyo, not even a German girl, with a suitcase, in a residential area, in the middle of the night.
I asked him for help, and after it was clear he could not determine the address either, I asked if I could use his phone and call the host.
He looked a bit startled, but realised I was not gonna run away with his phone after all.
So we called my host and seconds later she opened a door opposite of where we had guessed her place to be.
When she saw me, she threw herself around me and almost cried, like a mother, who finally found her lost child again.
I was a bit surprised about so much emotionality, but equally relieved to finally be there.
So after a hug and a hello, we thanked the stranger, and I finally went inside my accommodation and fell asleep minutes later.
A day later I found out that I had not activated my sim card correctly, which was super easy.
Had I done that, I would not have had any difficulties, but also this post would have never existed. 🙂