We got up at 5.30am, to get the the airport at 6.50am. Our flight was at 8.30am, which didn’t leave too much time at Incheon Airport to enjoy any of the sights. And by not too much time, we literally had to go hell for leather in the airport, so we didn’t even see any of the airport lounges we were planning on seeing. In fact, we had a rather heated discussion about setting the same expectations around how early we needed to be at the airport. In reality, it took about 45 minutes minutes to check in, then another 45 minutes to get through security, then another 10 minutes to get food, and we had to abandon our coffees being made, just to get to the gate on time. So we won’t do that again.
We made our way back to Narita Airport in Tokyo, and decided to stay in North Tokyo. We’ve never stayed near Ikebukuro, which so happens to have the second busiest train station in Tokyo, after Shinjuku Station. I didn’t even realise. Since we didn’t have a Japan Rail Pass any more, we purchased a special foreigner ticket on the Narita Express, which was half price for $15 into Tokyo, compared to the normal $30.
At Ikebukuro we stored our luggage in the coin lockers (which were good for 24 hours, beat that South Korea), and then headed north towards Omiya and a train museum to pass the time.
If you’re spending any time in Tokyo, and hate carrying spare change, get an Icoca card. They cost 2000 yen, and are used instead of cash. And they automatically figure out how much you owe at railway stations, so no stress there any more. And they work for trains, buses, trams, cafes, convenience stores, they’re super useful.
At Omiya, we went to a massive train museum that had 30 old trains on display. You could go inside them, have a look, and see the history of trains in Japan through to the Shinkansen or bullet train. After our rough start to the morning, Kathryn wasn’t really in the mood for a train museum, but she went, and she was a trooper about it, so that was really nice.
We headed back towards our hotel in a small suburb called Akabane. I thought it would be a bit of a dive as our hotel was located in the dodgy area, which in all honesty, just means Gambling Parlours, and Girl Bars, but is totally safe.
We went searching for beers and pizza as my way of saying thanks to Kathryn for being such an awesome traveller, and we found this fake Italian place under the railway station. It was great, had a pizza, salad, raw vegetables and dip, and a couple of drinks for $30 which was OK.
Turns out Akabane has all the charm of a small quiet Tokyo suburb, but with all the normal shops you’d expect, just without a lot of people. Which makes it a really lovely place to walk around at night, since there aren’t so many people, that you’re bum cheek to bum cheek with people, which was something that happened to Kathryn earlier on in the day. If you’re after your personal space, I’m not sure Asia is the place to be for you.