Tokyo – Arriving in Japan

I’m already since a few days in Japan and made it also to Tokyo. So I already survived the first few miles on Japanese streets :-). However, I would like to see much more than just this huge city. I will therefor continue soon towards south and towards the mountains. The volcano Fuji-san will be on my way. But first I had to get here which was a little adventure for itself.

Seattle – LA – Narita
After arriving in Bellingham with the ferry, I took the train to Seattle and first brought my bicycle to REI for maintenance. And there was kind of a lot to do including a new chain, rear cassette and some new tires. So far so easy. I also got a cardboard box at REI for transporting my bike at the plane. However, I had to bring this box somehow to my hostel at the other end of Seattle. At the end, I walked there. Cycling with this huge box wasn’t possible… Unfortunately, that was just the beginning. When I tried to take the pedals on my bike, I couldn’t do it. I guess they used a lot of power at REI to mount them… I had to go to a bike shop the next day to take them off. Luckily I had enough time for stuff like that… Because I couldn’t transport all my luggage and the boxed bike at the same time in the light rail train (and a taxi was too expensive), I brought the boxed bike to the airport the day before leaving and stored it there. I followed with the rest the next day. The open question at the airport is always, how much extra do I have to pay for the bicycle. I learned in the mean time, that the most important thing is to reduce the number of bags. That’s why I had only two including the bike box. This time, I had to pay with Alaska and Singapore Airlines 170 USD but only because the weight was a bit reduced. Otherwise I would have to pay double… And that would have been huge and almost half of what I paid for the ticket…
My first destination was Los Angeles, the place where my cycling journey in North America started. There I had to change terminal and had to ask several times… After arriving at the right terminal, getting the boarding pass and going through security, I had to recognize, that there is almost no food available except some over priced hot dogs and sandwiches. Oh well. My flight to Japan was in a Airbus 380 and I think there was more space available than normal. At least I enjoyed it. The flight itself was pretty uneventful and we arrived in the evening in Narita outside of Tokyo. Immigration was pretty easy and I got the permission to stay in Japan for 90 days. More than I’m planning to. The next thing is always to get the box out of the airport. One option was to build the bike together immediately and cycling from the airport. However, that takes some time and I was too tired. Because I had booked a hostel in the area, I chose the expensive option and took a taxi: 3’500 yen for around 20 minutes. Luckily I had printed out the plan of the hostel and gave this one to the taxi driver. He didn’t speak a word of English. He had so search for a while but finally found it. And then I just wanted to do one thing: sleeping.

I had a whole room for myself and slept pretty well therefor. Next topic was to get some food and cash. Cash you get in Japan with foreign cards at the Post office or at 7i shops (Seven Eleven), where you also get food. Foreign cards are not supported at normal ATMs. Getting cash was pretty simple because the machine supports also English. Getting food was already more difficult because it’s not just another language, it’s also another writing system. Therefor, I had no clue what I’m buying except when there was a picture on it… The next with was paying. More or less for everything here in Japan, there are rules how to do it. I was a bit nervous but it worked out fine even if I did not understand one word they were telling or asking me. Just always smile and bow. Or that’s at least what I did…;-)
For lunch Yama, the owner of the hostel, took me to Sushi. We drove there with his car and this was a good training for me to drive on the other side. My brain was protesting the whole time… And the Sushi was really good and cheap (around 10 USD). In the afternoon, I finally completed my bike. Everything was still there. The only thing was, not some spoke are damaged probably from an incident with the chain just before Whittier in Alaska. I hope they will keep for a while…
I planned to start cycling the next day but it was just raining once and this heavily. I stayed for another night therefor and had with Yama Japanese Curry. And I got a map (Touring Mapple). It’s one of the best maps here but most is still in Japanese. I therefor also got a local SIM card for my smartphone. This way I can use Google Maps on the way. Those two combined should help me find the way. Otherwise it could be very difficult because most street names are of course also written in Japanese. So it’s not so easy to figure out where you are without a GPS. Normally I would ask people but that’s the next problem: Most people don’t speak or understand English. Somehow it will work. It always did.

Narita – Tokyo
On the next day, my adventure Japan did really start. I got my bicycle ready, said good bye to Yama (Doumo-arigato!) and left. Yama showed me the preferred path on the map. As expected, I couldn’t read the signs and I just followed the street numbers because they are using also Arabic numbers. However, I still checked it on Google Maps. This way it seems to work pretty well. The streets are pretty narrow but the car drivers are driving careful. Much more than e.g. in the US. Only the trucks with their size are a bit of a problem. The navigation was still pretty exhausting and I wanted to have something simple for lunch therefor and ended up at McDonalds… But even McDonalds is different here: The Big Mac looked smaller to me (at least from a cyclists point of view) and you don’t get ketchup by default (you get it, if you are asking for it though).
I kept going and reached after some time Tokyo. An American in Seward Alaska told me a while ago, that I shouldn’t be cycling in Tokyo. However, He has never been there and I have to say: I’m very much positively surprised! It’s very calm in this city and car drivers are paying attention to cyclist. Actually the worst ones are the cyclists here. They drive in all directions everywhere…
What was also impressive on the way to Tokyo: I did not see one western face. I’m not even sure if there were other Asian people except Japanese. Very different to e.g. Europe. It’s a little bit different in Tokyo but still, I more or less see only western people in the hostel area.

I want to continue south towards Fuji in the next few days. I’m just preparing myself for that at the moment and also enjoy at least a bit Tokyo. Tomorrow, we want to go to the fish market in the morning will see how that works out. Seems to be very busy.

All the best from Tokyo,


PS: Enjoy also the pictures in the Gallery!

About Stefan

I'm a telecommunication engineer by profession and like to discover the world by bike. I think, that it is the perfect speed to move but still be in touch with the world and the people which live there. And I'm very happy, that my wife Susanna is joining me now on those adventures. If you are interested in other journeys we did so far, please also check my website Stefan, Switzerland

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