I traveled to Japan in May of 2005, as a friend of mine was interested in checking out a couple colleges in Tokyo. Being that this was going to be my first trip overseas I wanted to make it well worth it and decided to stay a month. I contacted a Japanese real estate agent, so that I could lease an apartment for a month. This ended up being cheaper for us than staying at a hotel, as it also allowed us to prepare meals at the apartment. We stayed in Ikebukuro, Tokyo and we were very fortunate to stay just across the street from a Seiyu grocery store. Which had sushi and baked goods prepared daily, as well as a top floor that contained various household supplies. Even before we left we felt that we had a great location for the apartment.
Seiyu in Ikebukuro
We flew there on Japan Airlines leaving from LAX, which took about 12 hours to arrive in Tokyo. When we arrived it was about 11:30PM and we were pretty exhausted from traveling, especially myself, as I can’t sleep on airplanes. (just can’t get comfortable ;p) After making it through immigration, we were tasked with purchasing a ticket on the Narita Express, which I have to say was relatively easy thanks to the English menus. Next up was just waiting for the train to arrive and making sure we got off at Tokyo station.
After arriving at Tokyo station we purchased tickets to get ourselves to Ikebukuro station. Now my real estate agent gave us very basic directions to the apartment, which was basically look for this gas station and make a left, then walk two blocks until you see a Family Mart. We of course had the address as well, but for us this worked out, being that street signs, if there are any, are primarily in Japanese. (minus major roads) After lugging around our massive luggage for about an hour, we finally happened upon the apartment. To be fair it was our first time in Japan and it was night time, so cut us a break on turning a 15 minute walk into an hour! ^_~
The apartment has two double glass automatic sliding doors and I go up to pass through the first one, only to find out it is locked. I look to my right and see a keypad on the wall and look to my friend to say, “She didn’t give me a pass code”. At this point I’m ready to just crash on the street, as I know I won’t be able to talk to my real estate agent until the morning. At that moment I see that someone was leaving the apartment and the thought crossed my mind to quickly go in after she walks out, but then I would be stuck between the two doors for who knows how long waiting for someone else to leave or come back. After about another 15 minutes someone returns to the apartment and swipes something in front of the keypad, which causes the door to unlock. It was the key to the apartment, it had a microchip built into it! This information would have been helpful to have beforehand and my real estate agent did apologize, but at that moment we were just thrilled to finally get inside and up to our apartment.
The apartment itself wasn’t anything super fancy, just a studio apartment really. It did have a fancy Japanese style toilet seat with all the bells and whistles. (seat warmer, seat automatically puts itself down, a bidet) My friend goes into use the bathroom and all of a sudden I hear a yell from the bathroom and my friend comes out with a wet shirt! He was playing around with the buttons and got surprised when the bidet turned on and got up only to get soaked!
Japanese toilet seat. Features faucet on top of toilet.
After that we both just crashed right away. We had to pay the real estate agent an extra $100 for the month to have a futon, so I got the bed and my friend used the futon. That was our first night in Japan and I hope it was at least enjoyable for you to read. I’ll continually be updating the blog with various past travel experiences and hopefully in time present experiences.