Playing with the sand at the side of the road

Japan 2017 Redux: Day 9 "Beef bowl 420 (yen)"

Day 9 (Last): 2017-05-06 Saturday

I don’t even have this day counted as a “day” in my notes, because it starts at 6am and involves going straight to the airport from our base in Nakamurabashi, a place that’s quickly become like home.

Hopefully it doesn’t get taken down, but check out this video for an idea of the local area. It’s exactly the kind of small, cozy streets with bustling activity that you’d expect from an inner suburb of Tokyo.

The artificial birdsong at the station is clearer than ever this morning, and unsurprisingly it’s very quiet early on a Saturday. The last order of business was topping up my Pasmo IC card with just enough money to get me the short hop to Ikebukuro, as that’s the last I’ll need to use it (for at least 4 years and counting…)

06:13 - 06:27 Seibu-Ikebukuro Line Nakamurabashi - Ikebukuro

06:43 - 08:10 Narita Express 5 Ikebukuro - Narita T2

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It might have felt like a hassle to have to also reserve the return journey on the Narita Express all those 9 days ago, but bleary-eyed at Ikebukuro Station, I’m very thankful to past me for holding out.

Once again, the Narita Express was very empty, and didn’t even massively fill up at Tokyo Station. I checked the latest timetable on the JR site, and it seems that you can’t even get to the airport from Ikebukuro this early any more! As if you needed a reason to—always check the times yourself. Remember, these times are from 2017, which in more ways than one feels like a lifetime ago now.

The only order of business before going through security was to package up the Wi-Fi hotspot I’d rented for the trip, and handily post it at the postbox in the airport building. Note that there aren’t any postboxes after security, so it’s important to do this first, lest you need to pay international shipping at home!

It isn't the most flattering image of gyuudon, but it was very good!
It isn't the most flattering image of gyuudon, but it was very good!

A constant problem I’d encountered was with coins. Every note broken in a store generated tens and tens of coins, the most annoying being those ¥1 coins that are absolutely useless for pretty much every situation. Unless you keep a constant eye and try to add up all of your shrapnel for everything you buy, you will end up with a mountain of useless money.

I tell you this as an aside because the beef bowl from Yoshinoya at the airport, pictured above, added up to exactly the number of coins I had remaining in my wallet, which is nothing short of a miracle. Now that I look closer, it was also ¥420 (nice?).

As as aside to the aside, paying ~£2.87 for a decent meal in an international airport is bonkers, and I still miss these prices to this day.

11:00 - 15:20 EEST Finnair AY 74 Narita T2 - Helsinki T2 1h 50m layover

17:10 - 18:20 BST Finnair AY 5909 (BA 799) Helsinki T2 - Heathrow T3

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Rice paddies near Narita's coast
Rice paddies near Narita's coast

The trip to and from Heathrow is always brutal. While we had a red-eye coach on the way there, on the way back we use the mode that’s only marginally better from Heathrow—Piccadilly Line to King’s Cross, then the Cambridge Express back home to collapse into bed.