Meal and services on China Airlines flight to Tokyo, Japan was quite pleasant.
(At Taoyuan airport in Taiwan. Children's cultural art exhibit displayed at the terminal.)
Took NEX (Narita Express Train) from Terminal #2 directly to my destination IKEBUKURO. This was a great plus as I did not have to change the train. http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/nex/
I wished I found this link before I left for the trip because I did not know if NEX would take me to Ikebukuro directly. That was quite a concern for me travelling with luggage instead of a backpack.
http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/ticket/index.html again, this is another link I just now found but not before that would have been of a great use. I actually did not have much time to organize my tour route before I left, in fact I had a phobia to go. But everything went smoothly. On each train ride, They announce each arriving train station loud and clear in Japanese and in English. Unlike some of our light rail services in South Bay area where I find the ride unpleasant and as for the announcement? Don't even know what they announced. A big difference between services that depends in capital income from riders versus 'whatever' attitude in U.S. Everything at the train station is posted in both Japanese and in KATAKANA - Alphabetic pronunciation of the Japanese, so that you can easily read the Train name and Destination name. Always announced in both Japanese, English, and sometimes in Korean.
The Green Window: Every train station has "Green Window" for JR Pass holder. This is the window that I visit every day to make next day's reservation to ride Shinkansen to go places, especially somewhere 'far' - to different prefecture. Or when I get "lost" and in need of direction as well as for local tour information. My train ride phobia solved!
And it's true, most of the train agents speaks English. But be kind and speak slowly and watch their facial expression to confirm their understanding of what you just said. I noticed many foreign travellers to Japan have posted on their blog or at hotel 'comment' section complaining about difficulties communicating with hotel concierge, for example. But I found no difficulty at the hotel's front counter, except to watch 'foreign' guest next to me at the counter speaking English way too fast. I just spoke totally slowly to give them time to translate to respond back. I was surprised many a times at the train stations and at remote country side - found senior ladies around my age to speak fluent English to help me out in a couple of situations. Hotel staff are trained always to greet and speak in Japanese first. When they are spoken to with English, they will respond with English the best they know how with smile.
On my Day 1 in Japan after arriving to my destination to IKEBUKURO, north of Tokyo... about 11 stations away from Tokyo stations, I ventured around trying to feel my way around this highly organized underground train station. You might want to say Subways but they are not quite the same. Their real estates above ground is so densely populated here in IKEBUKURO that this train station is built underground. But the trains runs above ground most of the time - in my routes at least.
(Train station at 5 am) Click on any image to enlarge.
(then, there they come - Start of Commuter Rush Hours all the way till 11 pm ....) And be aware, all commuters are "Plugged-In" to their cell phones or smart phones and pads, etc. (Reminded me of Kingsmen movie and the new Terminator movie Genisys.) So you better take along with you a pair of ear plugs also. Receiving cell phone calls in the public is considered 'inconsiderate' and 'restricted' on the public transportation. Very cool etiquette. No one has to deal with your 'Stress' over the phone listening to your private conversation. No one has to listen to your uncivilized phrases in a tight commuting space area. When you board the train, you will hear the reminder announcement regarding setting your phone into "Manner" mode - Silent mode/Airplane mode. And silencing the clicking of the keyboards are also reminded. I think America could learn from this etiquettes in public places. It's like a total "radio silence' mode in effect during the morning Sardine train commute hours. I can see most of the people are not quite awake... so they are nodding off on the train rides. Some got their eyes closed ... likely went home late and had to wake up at 5:30 am... Everyone seems to have learned and disciplined to build this private silent wall... the silence was broken, however, in the trains but with few muffled laughters and light conversations here and there when the weekend came - Liberty!
You can ride this GREEN bus with your prepaid "SUIKA" card you purchased or if it has "JR" sign, then, you ride with your Japan Rail Pass..
Everything in Japan is just a few steps away. The don't have this American luxury of "your city is 45 miles away from the airport" and "your hotel is 15 miles away" if your destination is somewhere away from the airport.
Best actions are always in the back allies. Across the main road and a few steps to the left of neon lights are - bars and grills, noodle houses, sushi restaurants, pachinko game house, etc. My friend took me to a some kind of bar and grill. Everything is in tight space...I would not have ventured in if it were not for my friend. Up the narrow stairs and into the door is a bar. Seats about 10 customers. A stage with grand piano, drum sets, speaker and light systems.. They have jazz performances and other venues on weekends (I think that's what he said...) The bartender served us nice cold glass of beer. It went along quite well with Japanese crackers - Chili Arare and peanuts (I suppose it's Japanese bar standard) ... . And he prepared us bruschetta sort of appetizer with melted cheese. The beer helped me to relax and I had a good night sleep. Alarm clock is set for 4 am. Ready for tomorrow's adventure-Shinkansen ride to Shin-Aomori - farthest north of main Japan before transits to Hokkaido.
More pictures can be seen at: http://picasaweb.google.com/pastrydavinci