14/06/2018 marks the first day I’m travelling alone to Japan for my summer internship. I had a long list of the essentials ready a few days ago so after making sure that everything was ready, I set off. After checking in my luggage and going through the security check, I sat down and started reading a book that I had recently bought. About an hour before my gate opened, I went to Gate 43 to meet my best friend, Jason, as he was also travelling back to China on the same day. We had a short chat and I reached for my bag once again to make sure that I have my Japanese Yen with me. “I might have left something.” “Is that something important?” “Very important.” I started calling my housemates to check my room for the money and luckily, one of them picked up. To my surprise, I actually left my money at home (what a blunder, Abel). “Can you bring the money to the airport for me?” “You have to pay for my Uber I tell you (thicc Malaysian accent).” Heartbroken, I agreed. To make the matter even worse, I was not allowed to go out of the boarding area. Apparently, if you want to exit the boarding area at Manchester International Airport, you have to be escorted outside by the staff in charge of your flight and get a new boarding pass. I knew I could survive without the money, but I definitely won’t be able to survive if I missed my flight (my parents will definitely kill me). While I had my credit cards with me, my mum had deactivated my Malaysia phone number months ago so I won’t be able to use them without the code sent to my phone (yet another blunder). Left with no choice, I chose to board the plane. While I was on the plane, I figured out I still had some money left in the saving account that I had set up to pay for my rent. What a relief.
While landing in Tokyo Haneda International Airport, I experienced yet another traumatic event. As I was looking out of the window the whole time, I could tell that right after my plane had touched the ground, the side of the track got closer and closer to me. My plane was skidding. Although the whole event didn’t last for more than 5 seconds, I could see my life flashing before my eyes. That’s how scary it was. I suspect that the wheels at the front weren’t properly aligned when they were being retracted so this might have caused the brief skidding moment right after touching the ground. Pretty sure I was going to be on the headlines if the pilots handling my flight weren’t proficient enough.
Hit by a big loss (mostly due to the exchange rates), I’ve also learnt important lessons, and these lessons may come in handy in the future. First, if you are travelling to Tokyo, don’t turn all the money that you’re going to spend into Japanese Yen. Having some Yen is okay but since there are many ATMs that accept foreign Visa or MasterCard debit card, you can always withdraw cash by using your debit card. Local banks often compete with each other for lower exchange rate so you can rest assured that you won’t be ripped off if you withdraw money using a foreign debit card. In fact, I’ve received around 3.5% more Yen by withdrawing money through local ATMs (I was using a Natwest debit card with British Pound in my account, the rate may differ depending on your bank company or currency) than buying them from a store in the UK that offered me the best exchange rate. Just keep in mind that your bank may charge you on transaction fee but it’s normally only around £2-5 per withdrawal. Also, only ATMs with Visa or Mastercard logo can be used. They are available in the crowded area such as the airports and also the convenience stores. Only when you’re travelling to the rural area then you’re better off with more Yen since this type of ATM is more uncommon there.
I was never the kind of person who is very well-organized and yet I have never really faced any problem with it. This time when I tried to be organized and made a list of things that I have to prepare before coming over to Japan, I made a blunder. I guess it’s safe to say that sometimes we just have to be ourselves. Blindly following what the other people do can sometimes be catastrophic. In fact, I was so confident that my Yen was in my bag that I did not even bother checking for it until the very last minute.
This sums up my journey and things I’ve learnt during my first day in Japan. In my next blog post, I’ll talk about ways to travel around Tokyo and also my experience staying there. Till then, take care.