On my way back home from Pittsburgh to Taipei, my flight from Denver to Tokyo was delayed for two and a half hours. United Airlines customer service in Denver told me that the plane from Tokyo to Taipei might wait for me and the other 10 people that were on the same boat as I was. As soon as I landed in Tokyo, I rushed to the temporary desk that United/ANA set up and gave the staff my boarding pass, hoping miraculously the plane waited around. When the nice Japanese customer service lady came back with a huge deck of documents instead of one single boarding pass, I knew I was going to stay overnight in Japan.
I starred for a second at this hologram of a Narita customer service woman extending whatever nice and polite welcome message that I did not understand, and walked toward “domestic/arrival” instead of the international connection security check point.
But really, come to think of it, it was really not bad at all. I was stuck, but I was in Tokyo. It could have been worse. Everything from food voucher to airport shuttle was nicely arranged. After figuring out which forms I needed to fill out for arrival, I got a entry stamp of Japan in my passport!
By the time I checked in at Hotel Nikko Narita it was after 7 p.m. It was such a relief to finally get a hold of my family who were going to pick me up. Now I could wash up, get changed, and start my little food adventure.
Traveling back home, I did not pack much toiletry. I though, great, what am I gonna use to wash my face? And then the awesomeness of staying overnight in Japan sunk in. In the room I’ve got Shiseido foaming face wash, green tea fabric and room refreshener, and the Narita standard toilet! I was all set!
等到一切手續辦完進旅館房間都已經晚上七點多 (Hotel Nikko Narita)，終於有網路可以打電話回家，報告完也就鬆了一口氣，這才得以換洗然後開始旅館探險！
The dinner voucher could be used in the ground floor buffet or a Chinese restaurant upstairs. Of course I picked the buffet with Japanese food. My server was bilingual in Japanese and Mandarin. Knowing I do no understand Japanese, he was nice enough to come over and translate the restaurant reminder announcement about the end of buffet hours.
If you have been living in Northeast Asia or any metropolitans with good Japanese food selection such as LA, New York or Toronto, the food at Hotel Nikko Narita was mediocre at best. But if you are like me, living in a city where Asia food options are very limited, a layover here would be amazing! Especially the breakfast!
如果是從台灣日本等地過來住，或者從洛杉磯、紐約、多倫多這種亞洲料理發達的城市來，Hotel Nikko Narita的自助餐真的還好而已，但對我這種美國鄉下人來說，看到眼睛都亮了！特別是早餐。
The only time I had traveled in Japan prior to this layover was in 2005. I love checking out local grocery stores or markets when I travel. Probably nowhere else I’ve ever been to provided more fun than Japan in this regard. I can spend so much time in convenient stores, drug stores and supermarkets here. The Japanese have managed to design the weirdest and most unimaginable products possible to make your life easier. The packaging and taste of dessert and snack are simply amazing.
The breakfast at the lobby buffet really made my day. I had ochazuke for breakfast! Ochazuke is a Japanese dish made by pouring hot soup, dashi or green tea over rice that is topped with salted salmon, seaweed, scallions, wasabi, sesame seeds or Japanese pickles.
Don’t freak out if you would never try udon or rice topped with salmon and wasabi in a soup for breakfast. They do have bacon, sausage, scrambled eggs, yogurt, salad, and bread available.
Instead of from Narita to Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport (TPE), the rescheduled flight went from Haneda (羽田) airport to Taipei Songshan Airport (TSA), which was much closer to home. That turned my dad’s 40-minute one way trip to 20 minutes. Hadeda airport was about one hour away from Narita. The hotel shuttle dropped us off at Haneda super early! Which was great news for me. More time for my airport shopping.
The toilets at Haneda were even fancier than those at Narita. They are equipped with dryers!
Right after I found out I had to spend a night in Japan, as soon as I texted the family group of 13 in Line, the first message I got was “Buy some fries brothers (Jaga Pokkuru) for me!” Potato Farm Jaga Pokkuru is that other brand of snack fries. The more popular one. There is a limit of three boxes per person at Haneda. When I had my connection in Narita on the way back, these Potato Farm fries were completely out of stock in the entire terminal probably due to the blizzard.
Next time you see it, try it. Some of my friends in the U.S. love them. Aaron thought they taste good but his brain kept telling him that he was eating stale fries.
From door to door, it took me about 45 hours to go from Pittsburgh to Taipei. Too exhausting? If you ask my cousin who loves Japan and got three boxes of Japanese snack fries from me, she would tell you it was totally worth it.