Midnight adventure in Tokyo

Expected to land at 10:30PM that Sunday. Flight was full! Because I checked in really late, I was seated at the last row, which meant that as we arrived, I was also one of the last to get out of the plane.

Knowing how daunting the queue at the immigration check is, I had to walk fast and past the crowd. Was way ahead most people when I arrived at the check, but the queue was already super lengthy. Took me more than half an hour to get past it.

By the time I reached the luggage carousel, the airport staff had placed my bag on the floor, among many others (because there were too many bags!). Saved my time. I grabbed everything, declared nothing and ran to the train station.

Why was I in a rush? Nobody was picking me up at the airport this time. I was trying to board the last train to Tawaramachi, where my hotel was located. To be able to reach the station in time from Haneda Airport, I needed to board the 11:30PM train to Shinagawa, before making transfers twice.

Route to Tawaramachi

Hyperdia tells you the best route to use in reaching your destination in Japan.

Above was supposed to be my route. I’d googled it the night before and memorized. Managed to get on the 11:30PM train to Shinagawa, but things didn’t go as planned.

mistake? From Shinagawa, I took the JR Yamanote line to Ueno, which arrived at Shinagawa much later, as opposed to the train on the JR Keihin-Tohoku-Negishi line as per the schedule above. GAH. Should have printed the route and timetable!


Okay, my bad.

Already behind schedule by the time I reached Ueno. Unfortunately, the escalators heading toward the Tokyo Metro Ginza line (where I’m supposed to be on, next) had been shut. Where do I go now?

At that time I was alone, with my four-wheeled bag, walking past homeless men sleeping in cardboard boxes. Tempted to ask for directions from one of the homeless men who was still setting up his ‘home’. Then figured that may not be a good idea. He seemed to want to ignore me anyway.

A lady passed by. “Shita”, she said, telling me to go to the floor below. Went down the stairs to see that the entrance to the Ginza line had also been shut. It was almost half past midnight. Safe to assume that the line was already closed!

You know what? Screw trains. I proceeded with my contingency plan – cabs.

Outside the Ueno station, I hailed a black cab and told him that I wanted to go to the Tawaramachi station. Shortly after, the cab dropped me off at a junction near the station. The roads and walkways surrounding it were empty.

I looked up at a map nearby to figure out where I was exactly. I’d seen the hotel location the night before, online. While trying to recall my memory, I took my sweet time trying to figure out which way to go.

The same cab driver took a turn and from his cab, he noticed that I was still looking at the map. He stopped at the corner and rolled down the window.

“Daijoubu desuka?”

Told him that I was fine, because I just needed some space to locate myself and the hotel. He asked for the name of the hotel, but as I feared, he’d never heard of it. I handed him the address, but it confused him.

The cab driver (who was donning a suit, like most of the cab drivers in Tokyo) got out of the cab and with the hotel’s address in hand, walked back and forth while looking at the roads, trying to figure out where it was. Then he got into his car again. Not sure whether he tracked the address using GPS or whether he made a call, but after a short while he told me he’d figured it out and pointed the way out to me. I was supposed to walk straight and the hotel should then be visible on the right side.

That was so considerate of him! I said thanks over and over again, bowing and all and followed his direction. Crossed the massive road to realize… that the hotel was really right in front of me, 100 or so meters away -_-‘

Check-in was a breeze. So excited to reach the hotel from the airport on my own, like an adrenaline rush! The trip to the hotel felt like such an adventure – albeit a reckless one. As soon as I reached my room, I called Reza to tell him the story. He wasn’t a fair bit amused, saying that elsewhere, I wouldn’t have met such nice people or been so lucky.

“You only survived because it’s Japan”

“Exactly, I wouldn’t do this elsewhere”

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  • Avatar
    March 22, 2013 at 8:05 AM

    I totally agree with Reza’s statement! I have never felt unsafe when walking in the streets of Japan, no matter what time it is. My friend who studies at Tokyo Institute of Technology used to return home around midnight and had to walk a good 500m home, and has never encountered any disturbance. 🙂

    • Avatar
      March 23, 2013 at 8:51 PM

      Likewise 🙂 I really love Japan for that. Thanks for sharing, WaWa 🙂

  • Avatar
    azreen chan
    March 22, 2013 at 9:18 AM

    But Haruki Murakami makes Japan a bit gloomy and daunting >.<

    • Avatar
      March 23, 2013 at 8:50 PM

      LOL but it’s really not!

  • Avatar
    March 22, 2013 at 5:10 PM

    i’m looking fwd to my first trip to kyoto and tokyo in april. i’ve been reading your blog for tips. you’re doing a great job.

    • Avatar
      March 23, 2013 at 8:50 PM

      Thanks Fiza. Appreciate the feedback 🙂

  • Avatar
    April 21, 2013 at 11:17 AM

    I was in Tokyo last year and had the same problem like urs. Missed the last train. A local actually waited for me to get a cab tho she herself already had a ride n made her driver waited also -_- .Japanese r very helpful I was a bit culture-shocked. Lol.

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