I landed at LAX early in the morning on a short flight from Vegas (LAS). My experience at LAX has always been pretty good. Most seem to complain about it vigorously so maybe my expectations are just lower in general. Sure it sucks to have to exit the terminal and board a bus to move between terminals. It’s hard to really explain how far behind most U.S. international hubs are versus their first world Asian counterparts. Of course American innovation is pretty far behind in a lot of areas when it comes to transportation.
When I got to the Tom Bradley international terminal, I was pleased to get to use the Star Alliance First Class lounge. Previously I was able to use the OneWorld First Class lounge and I have to say that Star Alliance wasn’t quite at the same level although similar enough to be fine. The level of service and food and decor was on par with what I’d expect in the US for an international lounge. It was a nice quiet place to wait until it was time to board. I have to admit I was SUPER excited waiting to board this flight. I’d heard for a long time about the legendary ANA customer service and on board experience and adding that excitement to the chance to see a country like Japan really put me on Cloud 9!
I always find arrival for the first time in a new country to be particularly taxing. Getting the hang of a new culture and usually a massive international airport is a real challenge. In the case of Tokyo Narita, I have to say it was the most pleasant and efficient major airport I’ve ever visited. I got off the plane and got through customs in less than 15 minutes and then my bag came out almost immediately (oh I wish more airports could figure out how to do that!).
Upon leaving the customs area, I found my pre-booked limo bus stop pretty easily. Before walking outside, though, I found a handy automated machine that took US dollars and converted and exchange to Yen! So much easier than most countries where you have to go to a counter and deal with actually humans. So right off the bat I knew Japan was an efficient country, just by how well the airport is run. (A side note on the limo bus. I could only get the JR Rail pass for 7 days and my trip was for 8 days. I didn’t want to pay for 14 days! Thus I took the limo bus to the hotel and used the JR Rail Pass to catch the Narita express on the way back. I would definitely recommend the Narita Express over the limo bus. Although the limo bus was clean, luxurious and comfortable.)
I had a short wait at the bus stop for the Limo bus and then boarded it for an hour long trip to the city. Yes, it takes an hour to get from Narita to Tokyo! So plan accordingly. Even on the Narita Express, it takes just as long. It’s just a good distance away but no big deal if you’re prepared for it. Many airports are far from the cities they serve. Washington Dulles (IAD), Shanghai’s Pudong (PVR) and Chicago O’hare (ORD) come to mind as some of the more extreme examples.
The limo bus let me out at the Shinjuku Highway Bus Terminal. From there it’s actually not a long distance from my hotel but with 3 bags I decided it best to take a taxi. This was the first of many tries using taxis in Japan. I’ll say a few things about the taxis in that country. First, they are universally clean and neatly kept. A far cry from taxis you see in most other countries. In some cases, the taxi drivers literally wear white gloves. Now, the downsides are large. First, the language barrier is extreme. In some cases even showing them the address in Japanese isn’t enough. Attempting to show them on maps doesn’t work. I can’t tell you how many times I found it a challenge to talk to a taxi driver in Japan. The upside about many other countries is that you can use Uber or Lyft. In my opinion, ride-share services are amazingly helpful at removing language barriers. In Japan, I did not see much of a presence for either service which means navigating the labyrinth and massive subway system (more on that later), walking, busing, or braving the taxi services. Also, taxis in Tokyo are very expensive in my opinion. Subways are certainly more reasonable if you can figure them out!
View this post on Instagram
Serene walk through the #shinjukugyoen last month in #japan . #naturephotography #nature #park #moments #cities #lawoftravel #wanderlust #worldtraveller #instatravel #travel #solotravel #travelphotography #theworldguru #photooftheday #love #instagood #instafollow #followback #tokyo #protectedspecies #asian #travelasia #tokyoghoul #shinjuku #asia