Arriving IN Tokyo

With this post, I guess we should start at the relative beginning: our journey to Tokyo. Following an exhausting night of (over-)packing, the flight was the relaxing part of actually getting to Tokyo. In fact, it was so relaxing that I was knocked out for half of it but, of course, I did not miss a single meal (I have to admit that I have a thing for airplane food – it’s just so nice to have all those little components spread out in front of you so that you can plan out your culinary adventure as you please, and this time, shockingly, adventurous it was). Somewhere in between all that, the duck took an airport selfie (and by that, I mean several, but I’ll keep the rest for later).

Airport duck

Okay, great, we were on a plane. Let’s get to the vaguely more exciting stuff. A few hours after this stunning masterpiece was captured we were finally there; we had reached… well, when, in the last post, I mentioned that “we flew into Tokyo,” I lied. In fact, we arrived at Narita Airport, which feels (just in terms of position) like the slightly unpopular baby brother of Haneda Airport and its convenient location pretty much in Tokyo. For many years Narita Airport was the international airport of Tokyo. So, I guess the relatively freshly re-opened option to fly to Haneda Airport spoiled me a bit. Anyway, back to the story: there we were at Narita Airport, daydreaming of being in Tokyo… And that was where our previous internet research, in between all the panicked packing, came in handy:

Reaching central Tokyo from Narita Airport

Doing some accidental research, we found this helpful article on cheap transport options on Tokyo Cheapo. Everybody who knows the duck and me also knows that we are stingy; we’re frugal fellows, cheap chums, economic expenditure experts, you get the gist. So we clearly took only two options, the cheapest of the cheap, into consideration: Tokyo Shuttle and The Access Narita.
Both give you the chance to browse their website in English to look up their timetables and find out where and how to board the bus at each location, namely Narita Airport, Tokyo Station, and Ginza (and in the case of Tokyo Shuttle, even two extra locations). Without a reservation, both services cost 1,000 yen for a single journey, though Tokyo Shuttle gives you the option of paying only 900 yen by reserving a ticket. Our stingy little hearts got very excited by the prospect of saving 100 yen (that’s a small Grape Fanta at McDonald’s, excluding tax!). However, we could not be sure that our flight would not be delayed. The mere possibility of missing the bus, thus losing those 900 yen (or so we assumed since we could not find any info on that on the website), made us opt for the “purchase on the day” option. See, we are cheap, but only if it’s a guaranteed win for us. So we were back at comparing the two services. That was when we found this post that did exactly that.
In the end, it came down to deciding between more legroom (oh, how we need that extra space for our short legs) and a shorter walk to Tokyo Station with The Access Narita and the possibility of on-board Wi-Fi (on certain buses marked in the timetable) and no explicit mention of a 20 kg weight limit for checked baggage (which we definitely did not meet; when I mentioned we over-packed, I meant it literally… by about 6 kg) with Tokyo Shuttle. Going by that, Tokyo Shuttle should have been our first choice because Wi-Fi is wonderful, and being able to take your luggage with you, too. However, I downloaded both timetables and location maps anyway and decided to choose spontaneously at the airport. Spending all that time on researching how to save money just to postpone making a decision sure had not been a waste of valuable time that I could have spent packing, adding some more of those lovely kgs to my nearly bursting suitcase.
Flash forward to the duck and me at Narita Airport, trying to navigate our 100 kg bags to the bus stop, still not sure which service to take… until our laziness made our decision for us: we could just not be bothered to go to a counter to get our Tokyo Shuttle tickets, especially since we had just missed a bus with guaranteed Wi-Fi. Instead, we searched for went to the closest bus stop (for both services, actually) where we were greeted by a friendly employee who informed us that we would have to pay cash for the next bus (of course we would love to pay with our beautiful 1,000 yen bill that we have saved up from our last trip just for this occasion), waited for five minutes and then boarded The Access Narita bus. I did feel bad for the poor employee, though, who had to heave this monster of a bag into the trunk, and do recommend making sure that your bag is okay to be loaded on the bus if you are considering either bus service!
Well, there we sat, listening to the bus announcement, realizing with a breath of relief that we had safely transported our 1,000 kg of luggage through the airports without being stopped while the bus slowly made its way to Tokyo. Then we realized, *gasp*, that there was Wi-Fi on that bus! Now we could spend the little breaks between taking excited touristy photos of the road (“OMG! We’re almost in Tokyo! Look at those Japanese street signs and the Japanese cars with Japanese number plates and the Japanese buildings and the Japanese Disney Resort!”) attempting to wrap our heads around the maze called Tokyo Station where we were headed.

OMG, look! We're going to Tokyo!

After a relaxing hour and a bit, we finally arrived in central Tokyo and were incredibly grateful to our past selves for choosing the service that stopped closer to the station. Now we only had to tackle Tokyo Station with our 100,000 kg baggage (but that is a different adventure).
In conclusion, traveling into Tokyo from Narita Airport (cheaply) is just as convenient as traveling from London Stansted Airport to, say, King’s Cross once you have gotten over the fear of maybe having to communicate in Japanese if you get lost or have a question (which, mostly, you don’t, really). From what I’ve read and seen, I can say that either bus service is convenient and reliable. And if it’s really down to the question of “on-board toilet or guaranteed Wi-Fi?” there’s truly nothing you have to worry about when you have reached this last leg of your journey to Tokyo.

Well, this has been a rather long post. The next one will be a bit lighter again. Thanks for staying awake through all those words (I hope)!

Now have a good rest; you’ve earned it (and so did we after transporting our million-kilo bags)!

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