Japan, Day 1: Narita to Tsujiki, Ginza

The hotel I’m booked into for tonight is built on fish. Perhaps that’s why it’s got one painted on the side. I’m not joking, it’s right on the edge of the Tsujiki fish market. The next door neighbour is a sushi restaurant. So is the next one. Across the road is a little temple. Everything else… sushi. It’s like my ass landed in a pile of Christmas. If Christmas was made of fish.

Tokyu Stay Hotel

Coming over on the flight, I was sat beside a woman who spoke no language I knew or recognised, mostly because she only communicated in grunts. She didn’t look too happy. Just prior to landing we were given landing cards to fill in and she tapped my arm and made the international sign for ‘can I borrow your pen’. I gave it to her, but it turned out she wanted me to fill in her card. We’d both been given Japanese ones, since the Dutch purser on our flight had a bad case of the “all look same“.

I’d asked him for an English one for myself and did the same for the woman next to me. She had shown me her passport, mumbled “Claudia” and tried to give me the pen and card to copy the details from her passport. “Lima, Peru”, it said. Perhaps she couldn’t write.

I wondered briefly whether she was related to Gimmeabreakman, a Peruvian-American J-vlogger on YouTube, who lives in Nagoya. Oddly, she never said a word in Spanish. In the end, I told the crew she was having issues and wasn’t communicating and got them to fill in her card for her. I wonder what she was going to Tokyo for. Nanny? Slavery? Who knows. A story I’ll never know.


All hail Japanese efficiency. From touch down to customs (finger prints, photo, lots of konichiwas, arigatos gozaimases and sumimasens) to getting my luggage from the belt took about 20 minutes. From Narita I took the N’EX train into Tokyo Station (cheap rate for foreigners), grabbed myself a Pasmo card (equivalent of the British Oyster card), jumped on the Maronouchi line to Ginza and from there the Hibiya line to Tsujiki station. My hotel was just around the corner from Exit 1.

It sounds like a smooth ride and it was, but it felt like climbing Mt Everest what with the jetlag fogging my brain and the subtropical weather. 30 celcius? Wasn’t it supposed to get cooler this week?

Just before I left I found out from Dave Powell’s ShootTokyo blog that the Tokyo Photo fair is on this weekend. Today would have been the only day for me to squeeze in a visit, but by the time I was settled in my hotel it was 3.30pm, the fair closed at 6 and I didn’t feel like making the trek back to Tokyo Station. Shame, I would have enjoyed looking at lots of vintage and rare Leica’s I can’t afford to buy.


So instead I doused myself in mosquito repellent (no Dengue for me, thanks), scouted the area around the hotel (see “Christmas, pile”) and ended up scoffing a bowl of rice topped with various sorts of tuna. No pictures, it actually wasn’t the best looking plate. But the guy next door wore a fetching head scarf.

I’ve got the alarm set for 3.30am. Which is when the queue for the tuna auction starts. Bring me more fish….

Things that struck me this first day:

  1. The seats on the N’EX train can be turned around so that they always face the right way.
  2. The train is cleaned before you’re allowed to board.
  3. I’ve already started copying the bowing and the handing over documents, money, etc with two hands rather than one.
  4. All the Japanese little old ladies and gents remind me, physically, as well as how they’re dressed – must be some kind of old fashioned Asian thing – of my grandparents and thus how much I miss them.
  5. I’ve already lost count of the times I’ve heard, and said, ‘Sumimasen’.

Previously >