A bleary-eyed 5am start. We creep out of the ryokan and find out taxi waiting – love that Japanese punctuality, but it means we’re very early for our train and nothing’s even open at the station yet. I have to settle for a can of warm coffee from a vending machine – the stuff is so sweet and milky, I don’t know how people stomach it. We get onto the bullet train and watch out the window as the sun rises. Toward the end of the journey we spy the iconic Mount Fuji in the distance.
We now need to get the Narita Express train to the airport, but find red alarm messages all over the announcement board. A Japanese man who speaks good English tells us the trains are delayed – I thought this was unheard of in Japan and it’s disastrous timing as we’re already cutting it fine to make our flight. We wait tensely on the platform, wondering why loads of local trains are coming through – surely the airport is a bit more important a destination. The train finally shows up half an hour late, giving us leeway of exactly ten minutes before our last check-in time. It’s the most tense train ride I’ve ever had and every time the train slows down I feel sick and think we’re going to miss our flight. When the train finally pulls in we dash to check-in, and luckily there are more last-minute stragglers too which makes me relax a little. We check in our cases but find we’re 10kg over the baggage limit, oops, so some quick re-organisation is required. We get to the gate and sit down for about 2 minutes before the plane boards – the fastest time I’ve ever spent in an airport without a doubt. Still a bit jittery and tense from the rush to get the flight, so we don’t sleep much, but the rest of the journey otherwise goes without a hitch. When we finally arrive home we’ve been travelling for almost exactly 24 hours.
Trundling back into London, I already miss Tokyo’s cleanliness, efficiency and friendliness. Usually I come back to London feeling that I already live in the best city in the world, but Tokyo has definitely challenged that idea – if I could learn a bit of Japanese I’d have no problem moving there tomorrow. I will definitely be returning in a few years to see more of the country.