JP2015- Day 0: Arrival Day & Atami

My Japan trip started on March 8 and because it is an early morning flight and my family is away, I had to camp (yet again) at the airport. Seriously though, I can count the times that I didn’t camp at the airport because of the flight schedule. I’m used to sleeping on the airport floors though.

I was on CEB, Flight 5J5054. Check-in and boarding went exactly as promised. Actually, before this flight, I stalked its flight history and saw that it is early or on-time most of the time. Indeed, we left a little behind the schedule but arrived a little earlier at NRT. I didn’t have proper sleep this time not to mention that I didn’t avail an in-flight meal so to avoid the hunger, I slept during the whole flight. #streetwisetips

SO… I woke up and we are only an hour away to Narita!

After a fast lining up at the immigration and claiming my baggage, I’m off to my journey… TO FIND LUNCH! I was in Terminal 2 and I got  lost in NRT finding the ‘4F Food Court’ because apparently its floor is like a mezzanine. It is not connected to the escalators and elevators that you used going up from the arrivals area to the departures area. You have to pass by the check-in counters to go up. So before finding a place to eat, I searched for the post office to get my pocket WiFi.  The post office is at the 3rd floor and if you are facing the check-in counters from the departures entrance, it is at your left side. It has this sign- 〒

I had this lunch set at UCC for JPY1200. I discovered that this is expensive.

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First meal in Japan: Curry!

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If you go deeper in this floor by going near the viewing deck, there is a 7-11 konbini (convenience store) where you can buy bento meals that are definitely cheaper than that. Konbinis were my best friends in Japan. I have read that there is a cheaper option for bento meals at bento shops though, but unfortunately I cannot find my way to one.

Afterwards, I went down the floors to get to the train tracks and have my JR Pass exchange order exchanged for an actual JR Pass at the ticketing office which is at the left side coming from the entrance of the train station from the airport.

The staff at the ticketing office is very helpful and she get me reserved tickets from NRT to Atami.

This reserved ticket has an English translation but for the rest of my Japan trip I wasn’t able to get an English one again. I missed the Narita Express train to Shinagawa for only about, 2 mins so I have to wait 50mins for the next one. :/ I practically stayed for 2 hours in the airport.

I arrived at Atami station at 15:14 (as you may know, public transpo in Japan is always on the dot) and was wondering how to exit the station when my host father tapped my back. The first thing that I saw when I went out the station is a foot bath. Atami is an onsen town indeed.

So I met with my host family and we went around Atami first before heading to their home. We went to Heiwa-dori, just in front of the station to check out Atami’s specialties.

Afterwards we get in the car to search for sakura. We passed by this kanketsusen (geyser) which is just along the road! When you take off the lid you will see a strainer, that my host family said can be used to put egg on for steaming. There are even kitchen tongs in water on the side. So it is like a public egg steaming place lol. There are 7 kanketsusen in Atami and there is a map and sign on each of it telling its history.

We also passed by the Atami plum garden with ume (plum) trees that are still blooming I think.

We then parked at a supermarket to go out and continue our search for sakura. We went to the Itokawa Promenade, where the river is lined with sakura trees. Unfortunately, the flowers have already fallen. Talk about early blooming sakura!

We went back to the supermarket sad and proceeded to our grocery shopping. First things first— Japanese supermarkets are my kind of heaven! My host mother asked me what I would like for dinner and I got ecstatic instantly— I said NABEMONO! Trying out legit nabemono with a Japanese family is one of the things on my bucketlist. I was so happy she cheerfully obliged! She asked me if I know shabu-shabu.

So here are my finds in the supermarket:

The famous Japanese beef that is of super high quality. Just look at that marbling! You can never find something like that in typical supermarkets in the PH.

Ginger? Nope! There are potatoes. HOW COME?!

Brussels sprouts! First time to see it.

PORTABLE BIDET! I have no words. This is very useful.

The appliance section has an opening day sale, too bad this was my first day so I was hesitant to spend money. If only I would have known I had more than enough money, I would have bought this toilet seat. LOLJK

We were on the way to their house when we passed by this line of sakura trees along the beach!

We arrived at their house and was loving the legit Japanese home feel. Their house was pretty big and I love the Japanese minimalism at their house! Didn’t take pics to protect the privacy of my host family. There was of course, a genkan where you leave your shoes. This custom is not alien to me as an Asian but in the Philippines, we do not really have a dedicated place like this to leave our shoes/ slippers. We just leave them by the door and let it get scattered. If I get a huge place I will make it a must to have this in my house.

The room that they gave me is a TRADITIONAL TATAMI ROOM and I was so ecstatic when they showed it to me. I made a mistake of using slippers on the tatami room though, oops! The room has a futon with its own heater, a chabudai table and a zabuton pillow. They even provided me with cup noodles, bottled water and an airpot. Am I in a ryokan? Such hospitality!

So apparently my host father already has a plan for dinner tonight and that is to go to a kaitenzushi (conveyor belt sushi)! To be honest, I had a little traumatic experience from eating sushi here in the Philippines so I was a bit hesitant to go, but well, off to a new experience!

This was my first time to try a kaitenzushi and I was excited and nervous at the same time. What if I didn’t like the food? How am I going to pretend that I liked it? We went to Hamazushi in nearby Ito-shi. Ito is a very popular fishing town, so I am hoping for the best. The place was packed and we had to line up for a few minutes before we got seated.

So here’s what the table looked like. Each table has a small touch screen for ordering and on your side is the conveyor belt where you can grab anything you want, except those plates on a black thing that looks like a bowl, which is for orders made using the screen. Unless it is your order of course. On the table are hashi (chopsticks), togarashi (red spice), pickled ginger, green tea powder and a lot of soy sauce.

I was really surprised that I REALLY LOVED THE FOOD. The picture above shows all the plates we had and for sure, I had one of the two sushi from 90% of those plates. My host family made me try a lot of sushi, whether the seafood is boiled or raw. But it might be the basic ones though because I asked to give me the basics. I didn’t try the natto one! It will take time for me to appreciate the taste of natto.

The sushi was so good that I actually tried this scary looking raw squid:

And I liked it! It was salty but it is crunchy and doesn’t really taste like you are drinking seawater. The leaf that is wrapped around it is very tasty too! I was so glad I tried legit sushi from a fisherman town which erased all my bad memories of trying out bad sushi in the Philippines.

We ate a lot and I was soooo full! ONAKA IPPAI! I really thought that I’m gonna lose weight in Japan because of all the walking and the food. (I lost weight in the UK within 4 days because of all the walking and healthy food. I always had sandwich with a lot of veggies for lunch!) But I was wrong! Indeed, I gained a few pounds because apparently, Japanese are also fond of eating a lot and the serving is usually huge compared to Filipino eateries, which I didn’t expect from an Asian country.

Upon returning to their house, they made me try on a yukata!

I can’t stop fangirling over the kotatsu upon seeing it the first time so I can’t help but do this.

This is a casual kimono and not used for formal ocassions.

Next Japanese house ‘cultural exploration’ is the… OFURO! I think this is my favorite part of the house. So, Japanese houses usually have their toilet and bathroom on separate rooms. The toilet is just a small stall where the bathroom is a pretty huge one with first, a ‘dressing room’ with a sink and another room inside it which has the shower and the ofuro (bathtub).

Their shower is pretty low compared to what we are used to because you do not stand while showering, you have to sit on a little chair in the bathroom. I really think that is nice and uses water for efficiently. We usually do that in our house when we feel like it. My host family was very kind to give me this bath salt from different famous onsen places in Japan! My host father called it ‘onsen powder’. :p

The Japanese bathtub is deeper compared to western bathtubs, and I LOVE IT! It is not as long the western ones so you cannot really bend our backs, so you have to be in sitting position too. I am short though so I can tried to bend and wow, the water can reach my nose! When sitting, it can reach my chin. The bath has an ‘onsen feature’ too which when you turn on, the bath will be smoking! I realized that the trick is that they make the edges of the bath cold so when made to be in contact with hot water, it smokes. Such detail! So fun that in my host family’s bathroom, they have written instructions written both in Japanese and English. Not sure if it’s just for their guest bathroom though because they also have another bathroom upstairs.

And that was my first day in Japan! I was so happy that my host family was very eager to show-off the Japanese culture to me and I experienced a lot in just a day!

Oops! Missed my post about preparing for this trip? Read about that here!