Our first few days in Japan were not too action packed since the wedding was right around the corner and Mariko and I needed to keep our energy up before that big day. We did have lots to cover before the wedding and so….
The flight from Vancouver to Tokyo was smooth, uneventful, and passed by very quickly. We took ANA (All Nippon Airways) to Haneda airport which was less than 9 hours in total. Mariko and I played games and watched movies for most of the flight. I learned she was really good at tetris and she beat me mercilessly until I gave up in a bout of frustration.
When we arrived, Marikos mother was waiting for us at the airport to help us pick up our luggage before taking the train to Kita Senjuu in Adachi. This helped us tremendously so we did not have to lug everything around with us. Once we reached our stop, we stepped outside and it was almost freezing cold with the wind chill, and we were seriously considering taking a taxi but luckily the bus came within a few minutes to take us home.
After a short walk from our stop, we arrived at Marikos home, which was a huge relief since we were cold, tired, and grumpgry (grumpy + hungry) We stepped into the house and said, “Tadaima!” Which meant, “I’m home!” And we proceeded to settle in our new home for the year.
Kyoko – San, Mariko’s mother, prepared us a delicious meal of Curry Katsu on rice, assorted sashimi, and freshly cut strawberries for dessert! Afterwards we all chatted for a bit before taking a nice long sleep after a long day.
On the second day, we woke up fairly early so that we could go to the temple to meet the wedding planner and try on our wedding outfits.
After a warm, home cooked breakfast, we got changed and walked to Rokucho station, took the Tsukuba Express to Shinokachimachi and then transferred to Oedo Line to get to our final stop, Iidabashi. Thankfully Kyoko – San was there to help us find the temple since Japan’s transit system can be daunting for unaccustomed visitors.
Our destination was Tokyo Daijingu, the shrine where our traditional Japanese wedding would be held. It was busy with tourists and locals alike who were offering there prayers in hopes for improving their love lives.
We went inside and were greeted warmly at the waiting area and were escorted to the second floor where we were fitted for our wedding attire. Mariko tried on several kimonos and wedding dresses which took over an hour, while my fittings barely took 5 minutes.
After the fittings, we were given a tour of the shrine, the reception area, banquet room, and we discussed the wedding itinerary with our planner. It’s amazing that throughout this whole process, there were a handful of weddings going on at the same time. There were also several couples in the ‘Sales room’ that were planning there wedding in desks beside us. I heard that there were up to 8 weddings on a single day, depending, of course, on the day itself, since Japanese are superstitious about numbers and dates. About an hour later, we wrapped up, and decided to head to Akihabara to get our phone plans and mobile data.
Akihabara is the Electronic Mecca of Tokyo and was our next destination to acquire our new phone plans. It was only a few stops away from our closest station so we got there quickly. We decided to go with Freetel which uses DoComo as their provider.
One big word of advice: BRING AN UNLOCKED PHONE!!!! My note 3 was locked to Rogers and therefore I could not even use the new plan I bought, while Mariko, with her brand Iphone 6s, was able to access the network right away. Our plan was extremely cheap compared to Canadian plans, and provided cheap data albeit expensive voice calls. Of course in this day and age, one can make calls using so many different applications such as Whatsapp, Line, and more. The contract could be cancelled at any time and the only thing we had to buy were the Sim cards which were 3000 yen (around 35 dollars Canadian)
While we were waiting for our Sim cards to be prepared, we decided to go to Uniqlo, Japan’s go to clothing store for basic necessities. Foreigners don’t have to pay tax, and everything is reasonably priced and pretty good quality. We bought 4 shirts, and 4 pants for under 10,000 yen (around 115$)
We picked up our Sim cards and decided to grab a bite before heading home. After wandering around for a few minutes, we walked into a random ramen joint and ordered some noodles and gyoza. It was pretty good, and it made me really sleepy so we decided to head back home and get a good night’s rest.
I woke up early as I usually do and was feeling restless, so I decided to go for a walk. I put on my new uniqlo ‘easy pants’ and threw on a sweater and was on my way out the door. I was confident that I would be able to find my way around without getting hopelessly lost…. or so I thought.
Everything was going swimmingly in the beginning, I traversed around the neighborhood through the inner roads and marked my bearings by looking at tall buildings and remembering their logos. It looked like it was garbage cleaning day since there were dozens of senior citizens picking up garbage all throughout the streets.
I continued to walk father and father away from home, admiring my surroundings and wondering in amazement what a Gaijin like me was doing wandering around. I passed by a baseball field where there was an exhibition game going on between two teams, a grass tennis court with young kids being mentored by their teacher, and countless men, women, and children on bikes zipping around me quickly as if they were running late for an appointment.
After walking for about 30 minutes, I ended up away from the neighborhood and onto the streets of Adachi. After I reached the local Audi dealer, I decided to turn back, but take a different route home. This was a bad idea..
After about 5 minutes I lost my bearings and had no idea where I was. Unfortunately I had no data or GPS and was hopelessly lost and was not sure where I was going. I made it to the baseball field that I passed earlier but was still confused where to go next. I gathered my courage and asked a local where to find Higashi Rokucho (my area) but all I got was a puzzled look, a bow and apology.
Thankfully, after walking around with no direction for a while longer, I saw a car (one pictured above) that helped me find my bearings. It was a Lancia Delta Integrale that I recognized from the day before while we were walking to the station. From that point I knew exactly where I was and I gleefully began to jog back home with a skip to my step.
The rest of the day was pretty uneventful, we visited Mariko’s grandpa at the local hospital nearby and later that evening had Okonomiyaki, a kind of make-you-own Japanese pancake on a central grill thingy, and then just hung out at home and did some more wedding planning!
To be continued…..