Sunday, December 6, 2015

2015 Christmas Special: End-of-Year Christmas Winter Vacation to Japan in December 2015 ~ Section 1

Dear bloggers, first of all, may I take this opportunity to wish a Season's Greetings to all of you! Please accept my most sincere apologies for not featuring any posts for the past few months as I had been busy with the preparations and revisions for my major GCE 'A' Level H1 subject examinations. Nevertheless, do allow me to warmly welcome you to this year's Christmas special vacation report, which is my special year-end winter vacation to Japan in December 2015. This is the official Christmas surprise that you all have been anticipating. This 2015 Christmas special surprise will be divided into a total of five segments.

This will be the first segment of this year's Christmas special report, and will cover two main focus topics, not counting the opening sequences to help begin this report. They will mainly be the long overnight flight to Tokyo (Narita) and the railway journey to the Onsen Ryokan Koizumiya Yuzawa. While all the vacation videos featured in this winter special trip report can also be accessed via my YouTube channel, please take note that for safety reasons, it is forbidden to publish any comments on these videos. Violations of this policy may result in the removal of the posted comments and / or other consequences.

Part 1 ~ The Opening Sequences

A few weeks after completing all my GCE 'A' Level Higher 1 (H1) subject examinations, my parents decided to bring us on a special end-of-year winter vacation to Japan as a reward for working hard academically, with plans to stay in Yuzawa, Niigata, and Yokohama. I was very excited, as every vacation to Japan would mean something very special to me. At the same time, I was also looking forward to seeing more snow in Yuzawa, Niigata, and hoped that it would be better than in Hakuba, Nagano, where we stayed at in December 2014.

On the very afternoon of Friday (4 December), we woke up relatively late past 12 noon after having a well-earned good night's rest. The very first thing we did was to pack the remaining parts of our baggage, having prepared most of our baggage in preparation for the trip a few weeks in advance. I also ensured that I had packed extra electronic device battery chargers to ensure that my electronics were well-charged for each upcoming day during the vacation. My parents had also arranged for a MaxiCab to come and transport us to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 at 8.30 p.m. later that evening.

For the overnight in-bound trip to Tokyo (Narita), we would be flying with Singapore Airlines on flight SQ 638 bound for Tokyo (Narita), which would be scheduled to depart Singapore Changi Airport at 11.55 p.m., and arrive at Narita International Airport at 7.30 a.m. the next morning. Once our baggage had been packed, we ensured that they were properly laid out in the living room so that the cab driver and housekeeper could help with the baggage once our pre-arranged MaxiCab to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 arrived. Later that night, our pre-arranged MaxiCab to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 ultimately arrived at our house front gate at 8.25 p.m..

The driver, who was a Chinese gentleman, got out and helped load our baggage into the cab boot while we hopped on board for the evening road trip to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3. Once everything was loaded in the MaxiCab, we left the familiar area of our home at 8.30 p.m. for a short 25-minute road journey across the Tampines Expressway to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3. Upon arriving at the departures and drop-off area at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 at 8.50 p.m., the MaxiCab driver helped my parents to unload our baggage, my younger brother and I went to retrieve three baggage trolleys.

Loading our baggage onto the baggage trolleys, we paid our MaxiCab fare and thanked the MaxiCab driver for his services before heading to the departures and check-in hall, where we proceeded to the Singapore Airlines Business Class check-in counters to check in for Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 bound for Tokyo (Narita). Arriving at the Singapore Airlines Business Class check-in counters at 8.55 p.m., we went to the nearest Singapore Airlines Business Class check-in counter to check ourselves in for Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 bound for Tokyo (Narita), with the entire check-in process taking approximately five minutes.

Singapore Airlines (Japanese: シンガポール航空; Traditional Chinese: 新加坡航空公司) is the flag carrier and largest airline of the Republic of Singapore. Headquartered at Airline House at 25 Airline Road, Singapore, the airline has its largest and sole hub at Singapore Changi Airport, and offers at least 60 destinations across Asia, Africa, Oceania and the Americas, making it one of the very few airlines worldwide to offer destinations in all six inhabited continents, using a wide-body fleet consisting of Airbus A330s, Airbus A380s and Boeing 777s. The airline plays a key role in the Kangaroo Route between Australia and the United Kingdom via the Eastern Hemisphere.

The airline is noted for being the first carrier in the world to operate the Airbus A380, with a total of 19 aircraft in its fleet today, and is one of the seven airlines in the world to be rated as five stars by Skytrax, having won the 'Airline of the Year' award in 2004, 2007 and 2008. Singapore Airlines was also notable for operating the world's longest non-stop flights from Singapore to Newark and Los Angeles, using five Airbus A340-500s. However, these were terminated following the retirement of the five Airbus A340-500s in late 2013 due to rising fuel costs and falling consumer demand.

However, from 2018, with the delivery of the Airbus A350-900/ULR XWBs, the airline may consider re-opening long non-stop routes to the United States. Singapore Airlines has long been a member of Star Alliance since 1 April 2000, and maintains codeshare agreements with most Star Alliance members, with its frequent-flyer program being known as KrisFlyer. The airline also owns a full-service subsidiary airline, SilkAir, which normally offers regional destinations in Asia, and a low-cost subsidiary, Scoot, which offers destinations to Asia and Oceania at lower passenger prices.

The departures and drop-off area located at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 at night

Overlooking Terminal 2 from the departures and drop-off area at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 at night

The overall view of the departures and check-in hall at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 at night

Finally arriving at the Singapore Airlines First & Business Class check-in counters in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

A Star Wars-themed booth show located near the passport control area in the departures and check-in hall in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 late at night

After completing the check-in process for Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 bound for Tokyo (Narita) at the Singapore Airlines Business Class check-in counter, we finally received both our boarding passes and Silver Kris Lounge invitation passes at nine o' clock. The Business Class check-in agent informed us that tonight, Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 bound for Tokyo (Narita) would be scheduled to depart at 11.55 p.m. from Gate No. B5. Boarding was also to commence at 11.25 p.m., approximately half an hour before the scheduled departure timing.

With that, we promptly thanked the check-in agent for her kind and warm services, and went to the passport control area to clear the immigration process via the thumbprint checkpoint. Clearing the passport control area smoothly, we were finally in the main airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 at 9.05 p.m.. Given that we still had plenty of time left before our overnight flight to Tokyo (Narita), we decided to proceed to the Silver Kris Lounge to charge up our electronic devices and for some light treats and beverages first.

My boarding pass for the in-bound overnight segment between Singapore and Tokyo (Narita)

The interior of the main airside in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 late at night

The departure flight information screens in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

Walking past some duty-free shops on the way to the Silver Kris Lounge in the main airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

The escalators leading to the Silver Kris Lounge in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

Finally arriving at the main entrance to the Silver Kris Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

After walking through the main airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 for about five minutes, we finally arrived at the main entrance to the Silver Kris Lounge at 9.10 p.m.. The lounge receptionist then came to check our boarding passes and lounge invitation passes before allowing us to enter the main lounge area. Entering the main lounge area itself, we found a good seating area overlooking Concourse A and took out our electronic devies for our own entertainment purposes. We also went to get some beverages and light bites from the self-service food and beverage corners at the same time.

At some point in time, I went to a nearby currency exchange counter to change some of my currencies into Japanese yen. There, I changed S$2,230, B$11, RM100 and US$50, along with the remainder of my Hong Kong dollars, receiving ¥249,000 in return. This then raised the amount of Japanese yen from ¥200,000 left from June 2015 to ¥449,000. Heading back to the Silver Kris Lounge for more bites, I did some draft work for the report on my blog and sat back to enjoy my light desserts and hot cocoa with a glass and can of Coca-cola Light.

Finally entering the main lounge area in the Silver Kris Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

The interior of the Silver Kris Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 late at night

A platter of potato chips and a piece of opera cake for myself in the Silver Kris Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

A platter of sautéed tofu and mushrooms for myself in the Silver Kris Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

A glass of white wine for myself in the Silver Kris Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

The main entrance to the Silver Kris Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 late at night

Walking down the escalators to the main airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 from the Silver Kris Lounge to a nearby currency exchange counter

The currency exchange counter located near Concourse A in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 late at night

The overall view of the tarmac near Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 while plane-spotting

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER, registered 9V-SVE, resting at Gate No. A1 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 after arriving from her regional afternoon journey from the Republic of India as Singapore Airlines flight SQ 421 from Mumbai

Overlooking the main tarmac area at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 late at night

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER, registered 9V-SVO, being serviced at Gate No. B1 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 in preparation for her long overnight journey to Hokkaido, Japan, as Singapore Airlines flight SQ 660 bound for Sapporo (Chitose)

Overlooking the departure transit mall in the main airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 from the airline lounge level

A mug of hot cocoa and glass of Coca-cola Light with two pieces of opera cake for myself

The view of the Silver Kris Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 from our seating area late at night

Writing out the first segment of the 2015 Christmas special report on my blog in the Silver Kris Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

Reading through the most hilarious sentence in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" via iBooks, where Harry's Uncle Vernon throws a temper tantrum at the breakfast table after Harry tells Dudley to say 'please' to obtain more bacon as a form of manners ー "WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU," thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, "ABOUT SAYING THE 'M' WORD IN OUR HOUSE?!"

One last view of the Silver Kris Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 before we departed for Gate No. B5

Part 2(a) ~ The Flight To Tokyo (Narita)

Airline: Singapore Airlines
Flight No.: SQ 638
From: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN / WSSS), Singapore
To: Tokyo, Narita International Airport (NRT / RJAA), Narita, Chiba, Japan
Aircraft: Boeing 777-312/ER
Registration No.: 9V-SWW
Class: Business Class
Seat No.: 21K
Date: Friday, 4 December 2015

After spending approximately 1 hour 30 minutes of having some refreshments and using our electronic devices inside the Silver Kris Lounge at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3, the clock was finally showing 10.40 p.m.. Though boarding for Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 bound for Tokyo (Narita) would commence in 45 minutes' time, we decided to pack away our belongings and leave the Silver Kris Lounge for Gate No. B5 as we wanted to explore some duty-free shops on the way. The entire walk from the Silver Kris Lounge to Gate No. B5 in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 took not more than approximately 25 minutes, stopping at some duty-free shops along the way.

Soon enough, we finally arrived at the main entrance to Gates No. B5 and B6 at 11.05 p.m., which was in time for boarding for Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 bound for Tokyo (Narita) to commence in 20 minutes' time. With a simple rapid and hassle-free security check, we were in the passenger waiting area at Gate No. B5 at 11.10 p.m.. Looking at the number of waiting travellers in the passenger waiting area at Gate No. B5, I could see that Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 bound for Tokyo (Narita) would be relatively close to being filled to the brim for tonight.

Tonight, Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 bound for Tokyo (Narita) would be operated using a Boeing 777-300/ER aircraft, registered 9V-SWW and powered using two powerful General Electric GE90-115B engines. 9V-SWW was delivered as a brand new aircraft to Singapore Airlines on 24 March 2014 as the 22nd Boeing 777-300/ER and the 80th Boeing 777 for the airline, as part of Singapore Airlines' additional orders for eight Boeing 777-300/ERs in its fleet expansion programme. The overall delivery would make the aircraft approximately 1.7 years old today.

The Boeing 777-300/ER is the fourth marketing version and sub-series of the entire Boeing 777 family in passenger service today. Though similar in appearance to the existing Boeing 777-300, this aircraft is notable for sporting raked wingtips and powered exclusively by two General Electric GE90-115B engines, which are some of the most powerful jet engines on the planet. The aircraft is also notable for saving more fuel than most four-engined aircraft, such as the Airbus A340 and Boeing 747, and being capable of flying much longer ranges than the older existing Boeing 777 models.

Since its introduction with Air France, which took delivery of F-GSQA on 29 April 2004, the Boeing 777-300/ER has become increasingly popular among many major carriers. As such, most major airlines have placed orders for the Boeing 777-300/ER over the normal Boeing 777-300 to replace older aircraft, like the four-engine Boeing 747-400. The aircraft's direct competitor from Airbus is the Airbus A340-600, with the future Airbus A350-1000 XWB also competing with the Boeing 777-300/ER from mid-2017, using two Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines.

Walking down the escalators to the main airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 from the Silver Kris Lounge to proceed to Gate No. B5

Walking past some duty-free shops between the transit mall and Concourse A in the main airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

Walking past more duty-free shops located near Concourse B in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 on the way to Gate No. B5

Walking across Concourse B to Gates No. B5 and B6

Finally arriving at the entrance to Gates No. B5 and B6 in Concourse B in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

The passenger waiting area in Gate No. B5 with waiting passengers for Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 bound for Tokyo (Narita)

Our aircraft for tonight, 9V-SWW, being serviced at Gate No. B5 in preparation for her long overnight journey to Japan as Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 bound for Tokyo (Narita)

A close-up of 9V-SWW being serviced at Gate No. B5 in preparation for her long overnight journey to Japan as Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 bound for Tokyo (Narita)

A Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-312, registered 9V-SYF, being serviced at Gate No. B6 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 in preparation for her long overnight journey to the Commonwealth of Australia as Singapore Airlines flight SQ 237 bound for Melbourne

A close-up of 9V-SYF being serviced at Gate No. B6 in preparation for her long overnight journey to the Commonwealth of Australia as Singapore Airlines flight SQ 237 bound for Melbourne

After spending just five minutes of anticipated waiting in the passenger waiting area at Gate No. B5, the first boarding announcements for Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 bound for Tokyo (Narita) were finally made at 11.15 p.m., which was approximately 10 minutes ahead of schedule. The First & Business Class passengers, along with the KrisFlyer club members and passengers needing special assistance, were called out to board the aircraft first. As we were among the first passengers being called out to board, we rolled up with our belongings behind some other departing passengers for the boarding process to progress.

Walking through the jet bridge to Door A, we were finally on board 9V-SWW at 11.20 p.m., which was just in good time for an 11.55 p.m. departure. At the front entrance, two cheery flight attendants warmly welcomed us on board, and showed us the directions to our seats in the Business Class cabin. Bypassing the First Class cabin, we stowed our belongings in their respective storage spaces before settling into our assigned Seats No. 19K, 20K, 21K and 22K for the long overnight trip of 6 hours 35 minutes to Tokyo (Narita).

The Business Class seats we would be using for the long overnight flight to Tokyo (Narita) would be the newer long-haul version of Business Class seats. These seats can recline up to 132º for a relaxed mode, and can be folded into a completely lie-flat bed to allow lie-flat rest during longer range flights. These new seats were introduced on 9 July 2013 and were first featured on Singapore Airlines' newer batch of eight Boeing 777-300/ERs, and will also be introduced on the upcoming Airbus A350 XWBs from mid-2016.

Though I was looking forward to a different type of folding bed seats due to its massive size, my parents felt that this was rather unusual and slightly bonkers since they were normally accustomed to long-haul Business Class seats that are capable of reclining fully into a bed without the need for the seat to be folded. Soon enough, the flight attendants went about their normal pre-flight routines of distributing free newspapers, pre-departure beverages and in-flight dining menus to all the First & Business Class passengers.

Soon enough, one of the flight stewardesses who addressed us by surnames informed us that she heard about our pre-ordered meals via the 'Book The Cook' service a week before the flight. Positively noticing that I was to have the char-grilled soya-flavoured beef served with vegetables simmered in mirin and shimeji mushroom rice by Chef Yoshihiro Murata as the main course, I was relieved that my main supper course order was available on board. At the same time, the flight stewardess took my orders for the in-flight breakfast before the arrival into Narita International Airport.

I opted to take a glass of champagne and orange juice while settling in for the long red-eye flight of 6 hours 35 minutes bound for Tokyo (Narita). As for the in-flight breakfast later on, I opted to have the American breakfast of cheese omelette with herbs, pan-fried bacon, roma tomato, sautéed mushrooms and potatoes. Upon taking my order down, she went back into the galley, and returned to my seat with my requested pre-departure beverages. I also opted to purchase a Boeing 777-300/ER exclusive aircraft model from KrisShop via a coupon.

The view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin from my seat during the boarding process at Gate No. B5 in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

A view of my seat, 21K, during the boarding process at Gate No. B5 in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

The view of the aircraft wing while awaiting pushback from Gate No. B5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

My usual pre-departure glasses of champagne and orange juice

The rear view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin during the boarding process at Gate No. B5 in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

The cover page for the in-flight dining menu for the segment between Singapore and Tokyo (Narita)

Reviewing the in-flight dining menu for the segment between Singapore and Tokyo (Narita)

Reviewing the wine list for the segment between Singapore and Tokyo (Narita)

Awaiting pushback from Gate No. B5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

At precisely 11.55 p.m. sharp, all the aircraft doors were closed, and we finally pushed back from Gate No. B5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3, as scheduled. With the safety briefing information video being shown on our personal front video screens, we commenced our long taxi to our assigned runway near Terminal 2 in preparation for the overnight take-off to Tokyo (Narita), also crossing the East Coast Parkway between Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3 and the future Terminal 4 en route, taking about 20 minutes in total.

It was not that long until we reached our assigned runway for departure to Tokyo (Narita). Soon enough, the two powerful General Electric GE90-115B engines spooled into action, and the aircraft finally lifted off from Singapore Changi Airport at 12.15 a.m. for its long overnight flight time of 6 hours 05 minutes over the South China Sea to the ultra-modern metropolis of the Greater Tokyo Area in Japan. We then climbed into the pitch-black night sky for a long overnight flight of 6 hours 05 minutes over the South China Sea to the ultra-modern capital city of The Land of the Rising Sun.

Finally pushing back from Gate No. B5 at Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 3

The safety briefing information video reminding passengers that on-board smoking and tampering with, disabling or destroying lavatory smoke detectors is forbidden at all times by Singapore law

Taxiing along the tarmac to our assigned runway located away from Terminal 3

The view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin from my seat during the taxi to our assigned runway for departure

Taxiing along the tarmac between Terminal 3 and the East Coast Parkway flyover on the way to our assigned runway for departure

Crossing the East Coast Parkway on the way to our assigned runway for departure

Bypassing the future Terminal 4 on the way to our assigned runway for departure

Finally approaching our assigned runway for departure to Tokyo (Narita)

Singapore Airlines Flight SQ 638 ~ Late Night Departure From Singapore Changi Airport

Finally climbing into the pitch black night sky for the long overnight flight to Tokyo (Narita)

All the seatbelt signs were switched off at 12.25 a.m., which was approximately 10 minutes after taking off from Singapore Changi Airport. While the flight attendants sprung into action to commence the in-flight service for the night, I paid a visit to the lavatory and took out my electronic devices for my own entertainment purposes. I also called a flight attendant to help make my seat into a bed so that I could get some sleep later on, which she managed to do effectively, allowing me to enjoy my seat in my own lounging position.

Once the flight attendant had folded up my seat into a bed, she asked me what I wanted to commence late night in-flight supper service. I promptly requested for a glass of Iced Milo with a glass of 2013 Balthasar Ress Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau, Germany white wine to accompany my main 'Book the Cook' supper course. With that, she took note of my orders and went back to the galley to fetch the table linen for the premium class passengers. Soon enough, she re-appeared at my seat with my Iced Milo with a small bowl of warm mixed nuts at 12.50 a.m..

Setting up my dining table with the linen, the cutlery and plates were also put in the style of a restaurant, which I quite like since during all my past Business Class flight experiences, I noticed that airlines often used meal trays, even for their premium class passengers. The flight attendant then re-appeared with my glass of 2013 Balthasar Ress Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau, Germany white wine, allowing me to enjoy my in-flight supper appetisers while waiting for my main 'Book the Cook' course to arrive at my dining table.

The view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin from my seat shortly after the seatbelt signs were switched off

A warning sign in the lavatory that indicates that smoking on board and / or tampering with, disabling or destroying smoke detectors in the lavatories is a criminal offence under Singapore law and civil aviation regulations

A view of my seat, 21K, during cruising altitude over the West Malaysian Straits

The flight route indication map indicating our cruising altitude over the West Malaysian Straits

A view of my seat, 21K, in its converted full lie-flat bed position during cruising altitude between the West Malaysian Straits

The rear view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin during cruising altitude over the West Malaysian Straits

The view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin from my seat shortly before the in-flight late night supper service commenced

A glass of Iced Milo and a small bowl of warm mixed nuts for myself

A glass of 2013 Balthasar Ress Riesling Kabinett, Rheingau, Germany white wine to accompany my main course later on

The view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin from my seat shortly before the in-flight supper main courses were served to the premium class passengers

My dining table set up for the main in-flight late night supper course

After spending approximately 25 minutes of enjoying my first in-flight supper appetisers and using my laptop for entertainment purposes, the flight stewardess ultimately re-appeared at my seat again at 1.15 a.m.. This time, she had my main 'Book the Cook' course, which was the char-grilled soya-flavoured beef served with vegetables simmered in mirin and shimeji mushroom rice. With my main in-flight supper course delivered to my seat, I quickly tucked into my supper to be well-rested for the night, with the first bite from the beef.

The beef tasted quite tender, and was cooked the way I liked it, with the carrots, tofu and celery being the perfect accompaniments. The shimeji mushroom rice also tasted quite refreshing with its vapour evoking a fragrant smell and taste. It was then that this would be one of the best beef dishes I have ever had in-flight in Business Class. Once I was finished with my main in-flight supper course, the flight stewardess came back to my seat to collect my used plate and cutlery and asked me whether there was anything else I wanted.

I then requested for another glass of Iced Milo to finish off this sumptuous in-flight supper service. Taking down my request, she proceeded back to the galley, eventually returning with my Iced Milo in just a few minutes. Sipping down my Iced Milo with a few gulps, the flight stewardess collected back my glass, and left me to enjoy my own personal comforts for the rest of the flight. Since I was feeling relatively sleepy, I decided to get some sleep before waking up to the in-flight breakfast service later on.

My main supper course: Char-grilled soya-flavoured beef served with vegetables simmered in mirin and shimeji mushroom rice by Chef Yoshihiro Murata, which I ordered via Singapore Airlines' "Book The Cook" service online

My main in-flight supper course plate shortly after I had finished off my main supper course

Another glass of Iced Milo for myself to end of the in-flight late night supper service

The flight route indication map indicating our cruising altitude between Vietnam and Brunei

The rear view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin during cruising altitude between Vietnam and Brunei

A view of my seat, 21K, in its converted full lie-flat bed position during cruising altitude between Vietnam and Brunei

The view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin from my seat with the cabin lights dimmed to allow the passengers to get some sleep

Part 2(b) ~ The Early Morning Arrival Into Narita International Airport

After getting a short shut-eye of approximately 1 hour 30 minutes, I finally woke up at 3.15 a.m., by which, the aircraft was already cruising somewhere between the straits of Taiwan and the Philippines. Soon enough, an air steward appeared by my seat and presented me with a KrisShop gift bag, as I had ordered a purchase of a Boeing 777-300/ER Herpa Wings Scale 1:500 exclusive aircraft model. Receiving my Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER Herpa Wings Scale 1:500 exclusive aircraft model, which cost me S$59, I paid the steward S$100 in cash, thus receiving S$41 in return.

Soon enough, a stewardess appeared at my seat to ask me what I wanted to revive myself for the in-flight breakfast later on. I requested for a cup of Iced Milo to start off with, to which, the stewardess proceeded back to the galley to get my requested drink. She then returned to my seat with my Iced Milo, together with a packet of honey and oatmeal biscuits as a light snack, which I managed to consume under five minutes. Dawn was beginning to break as the aircraft cruised across the Taiwan Straits close to Okinawa.

I was then left to use my own electronic devices quietly as everyone was still sleeping. By 4.50 a.m., most of the passengers were slowly beginning to wake up after the cabin lights were illuminated again for the in-flight breakfast service to commence. A flight stewardess then re-appeared by my seat to ask me what I wanted to commence the in-flight breakfast service. I opted for a glass of fresh orange juice and another glass of Iced Milo to freshen myself up for breakfast later on.

Heading back to the galley, the stewardess brought my requested beverages one by one, allowing me to consume each drink within less than five minutes. My dining table was laid with linen and cutlery at the same time. For the first breakfast course, the flight attendants provided bowls of assorted fresh fruits for passengers to revive themselves in preparation for their main breakfast dishes later on. Most of the fruits, like the grapes and melon slices, were very refreshing to get me kickstarted for breakfast.

As for the Singapore Airlines Herpa Wings Scale 1:500 exclusive aircraft model I had just purchased from KrisShop, it was, as follows:

1) Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-312/ER Herpa Scale 1:500 (524858)

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-312/ER Herpa Scale 1:500 (524858)

My newly-purchased Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER Herpa Wings Scale 1:500 exclusive aircraft model from KrisShop, with each model costing S$59

A glass of Iced Milo with a packet of honey & oatmeal biscuits to freshen up before the in-flight breakfast service

Writing out the first segment of the 2015 Christmas special report on my blog in the flight

Reading through the most hilarious sentence in "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" via iBooks, where Harry's Uncle Vernon throws a temper tantrum at the breakfast table after Harry tells Dudley to say 'please' to obtain more bacon as a form of manners ー "WHAT HAVE I TOLD YOU," thundered his uncle, spraying spit over the table, "ABOUT SAYING THE 'M' WORD IN OUR HOUSE?!"

The flight route indication map indicating our cruising altitude between the Philippines and Taiwan

Cruising over the South China Sea between the Philippines and Taiwan

The flight route indication map indicating our cruising altitude over the Ryukyu Islands in the East China Sea

The first lights of dawn breaking over the East China Sea between Taiwan and Okinawa

A view of my seat, 21K, in its normal lounge position during cruising altitude between Taiwan and Okinawa

The rear view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin shortly after the cabin lights were illuminated for the passengers to gradually awaken

A glass of orange juice to revive myself for the morning

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-312/ER Herpa Scale 1:500 (524858)

The first lights of dawn breaking over the Pacific Ocean near the Satsuma Peninsula in Kagoshima Prefecture

Another glass of Iced Milo for myself

My dining table being set up for the in-flight breakfast service to commence later on

The lights of the breaking dawn over the Pacific Ocean near Shikoku and Kyushu

A bowl of fresh fruits as the starter for the in-flight breakfast service

The flight route indication map indicating our cruising altitude between Shikoku and the Kii Peninsula

The first lights of the morning sun shining over the Pacific Ocean near the Kii Peninsula

After spending approximately 2 hours 20 minutes of entertaining myself and enjoying the in-flight breakfast appetisers, the flight stewardess finally re-appeared at my seat at 5.35 a.m.. This time, she had my main course, which was the American breakfast of cheese omelette with herbs, pan-fried bacon, roma tomato, sautéed mushrooms and potatoes, in her hands. With my main breakfast course delivered to my dining table, I promptly tucked into it. The omelette was steaming fresh on the inside, which made me feel refreshed to commence the day.

Furthermore, the pan-fried bacon, mushrooms and potatoes were also steaming fresh and tender as the good accompaniments for the breakfast. Upon finishing my main breakfast course, the flight attendant collected my used plates and cutlery, also asking me whether I wanted any drinks. Since I was feeling stuffed to the brim already, I politely declined and was left to my own electronic devices until the descent into Narita International Airport. I also went to the lavatories to brush my teeth in preparation for the arrival into Narita International Airport.

My main breakfast course: American breakfast of cheese omelette with herbs, pan-fried bacon, roma tomato, sautéed mushrooms and potatoes

My main in-flight breakfast course plate shortly after I had finished off my main in-flight breakfast

The flight route indication map indicating our cruising altitude over the Chita and Izu Peninsulas

The morning sun shining brightly over the Pacific Ocean close to the Izu Peninsula in Shizuoka Prefecture

The rear view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin during cruising altitude between the Izu and Boso Peninsulas

A view of my seat, 21K, during cruising altitude between the Izu and Boso Peninsulas

The view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin from my seat shortly before the seatbelt signs were illuminated again for the descent into Narita International Airport

The flight route indication map indicating our cruising altitude over the Boso Peninsula near Chiba Prefecture

The morning sun shining brightly over the Pacific Ocean near the Boso Peninsula as the aircraft gets nearer to Chiba Prefecture

In accordance with the Japanese Standard Timing, the seatbelt signs were illuminated once again at 7.05 a.m., which was approximately 15 minutes in preparation for the descent into Narita International Airport. Knowing that we had very limited time left prior to our arrival into Tokyo, we promptly stowed away all our belongings in their respective storage spaces and buckled up our seatbelts in preparation for the descent into Narita International Airport, with headphones for in-flight use being collected by the flight attendants at the same time.

The first lights of the winter sun were already shining brightly over the Boso Peninsula as the aircraft began to make one final approach for descent into Narita International Airport. After a relatively long overnight flight duration of 6 hours 05 minutes over the South China Sea from the island city-state of the Republic of Singapore near the Malaysian Straits, we finally touched down in Narita International Airport at 7.20 a.m., approximately 10 minutes ahead of schedule, also taxiing the South Wing of Narita International Airport Terminal 1.

Narita International Airport (成田国際空港) is a major Japanese international airport serving the modern metropolis of the Greater Tokyo Area in Japan. Situated in the suburban city of Narita, Chiba, it is the central international airport serving the Greater Tokyo Area, and the overall second-busiest airport in Japan in terms of the number of travellers passing through the airport annually. The airport serves as the main and largest international hub for Japan's two largest airlines, All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines. It is also a major Asian hub for many United States carriers, such as Delta Air Lines and United Airlines.

The airport was opened for passenger service on 20 May 1978 to cope with the increasing tourist arrivals into Tokyo and relieve overcrowding at the older Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport). Since that date, Narita International Airport has long been handling most of the international flights coming to and from Greater Tokyo. However, from 21 October 2010, Haneda Airport became more open to international flights during the late night hours when Narita International Airport is closed, resulting in competition arising between these two airports, though it is expected that more travellers would use Haneda Airport in future.

The airport is accessible from Greater Tokyo via the Narita Express service by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and Rapid trains via the Yokosuka and Sobu Main Lines, both of which are covered and free of extra charges under the Japan Rail Pass. Keisei Electric Railway also operates the Skyliner limited express service, which connects to Keisei Ueno Station in 44 minutes at 160 km/h (100 mph), making it the fastest and cheapest option to reach downtown Tokyo. Some commuter trains via the Narita Sky Access Line offer direct service to the Toei Asakusa Line and Keihin Kyuko Line, making it possible to reach Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport) by train.

The view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin from my seat shortly after the seatbelt signs were illuminated in preparation for the descent into Narita International Airport

The flight route indication map indicating that we are getting closer to Narita International Airport

The morning sun shining brightly over the Pacific Ocean near the Boso Peninsula as the aircraft commences its final approach into Narita International Airport

Cruising over the Boso Peninsula near the suburban city of Isumi as the aircraft commences its final approach into Narita International Airport

Cruising over the suburban city of Mobara on a bright winter's morning as the aircraft commences its final approach into Narita International Airport

Cruising over the suburban city of Narita as the aircraft commences its final approach into Narita International Airport

A beautiful early morning view of Mount Fuji as the aircraft makes its final approach into Narita International Airport

Singapore Airlines Flight 638 ~ Early Morning Landing In Narita International Airport

An All Nippon Airways Boeing 767-381/ER, registered JA619A, resting at Gate No. 46 at the South Wing of Terminal 1 at Narita International Airport after arriving from her long overnight journey from the Republic of the Union of Myanmar (Burma) as All Nippon Airways flight NH 814 from Yangon

The view of the Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER New Long-haul Business Class cabin from my seat shortly after docking onto our assigned arrival gate, Gate No. 45, at the South Wing of Terminal 1 at Narita International Airport

After taxiing along the main airport tarmac to the South Wing of Terminal 1 located at Narita International Airport for approximately five minutes, we ultimately docked onto our assigned arrival gate, Gate No. 45, at 7.25 a.m.. Once the seatbelt signs were turned off, we promptly unbuckled our seatbelts and retrieved our belongings from their respective storage spaces in preparation for the disembarkation process to commence. We then checked around our seating areas to see that nothing had been left behind, especially in the seat pockets.

Once the aircraft doors were opened, we rolled up behind some other passengers with our belongings to disembark from the aircraft via the frontmost exit door closest to us. As we disembarked from the aircraft with our belongings, the flight attendants thanked us for our patronage with Singapore Airlines and wished us a pleasant end-of-year vacation in Japan. After that, we then walked across the jet bridge to the passageway leading to the arrivals and immigration checkpoints in the South Wing of Terminal 1.

For every airline that I fly on for each segment, the airline shall receive an airline grade for each individual route I have flown on. This scoring system helps me to determine whether this airline is worth flying on for that particular route in the present and future. The scoring system is divided into five categories, which are the seat, food, service, aircraft cleanliness and legroom space, with each segment weighing 20 points. To be eligible for a pass, the airline must gain an overall score of at least 45%, meaning at least a 'D' grade.

Grades 'A+' and 'A' denote quality passing grades, whereas Grades 'B' and 'C' are mainly denoting acceptable passing grades. Grade 'D' will also denote borderline passing grades. However, anything attaining Grades 'E' and below are considered below passing grades, with 'U' being classified as ungraded. The airline scoring system shall be as follows, as of 1 December 2015, with some slight changes to the system:

A+: 85% or above (Airline has an excellent rating and performance)
A: 75% ~ 84% (Airline has a very good rating and performance)
B: 60% ~ 74% (Airline has a good rating and performance)
C: 50% ~ 59% (Airline has a satisfactory rating and performance)
D: 45% ~ 49% (Airline has a adequate rating and performance)
E: 35% ~ 44% (Airline has a fair rating and performance)
S: 20% ~ 34% (Airline has a poor rating and performance)
U: Below 20% (Airline has failed to meet the pre-requisite for the minimum grade)

Singapore Airlines Flight 638 Score Report

Seat: 18 / 20
Food: 17 / 20
Service: 16 / 20
Aircraft cleanliness: 17 / 20
Legroom space: 17 / 20
Total: 85 / 100
Grade: A+ (Quality Pass)

In the final analysis, Singapore Airlines has managed to attain an overall score of 85% for the in-bound flight from Singapore to Tokyo (Narita), meaning that they have successfully obtained an 'A+' grade, which is the highest airline grade that can ever be given. The new long-haul Business Class seats were acceptable for long overnight trips, with the in-flight service gradually getting better. The food was refreshing, showing that Singapore Airlines has shown improvement in many aspects, particularly in their dining caterings and the type of seats used for this relatively long red-eye flight.

Alongside the seats, the in-flight meal service has shown some improvements as for the aircraft with long-haul cabin products, Singapore Airlines did not use meal trays to serve their meals for their First & Business Class passengers. Personally, I prefer the fact that Singapore Airlines did not utilise any kind of meal trays to serve meals for their premium class passengers. The airline should continue to keep up their good efforts so that it can have the potential to be on par with other airlines I have flown with, like Cathay Pacific.

Part 3 ~ The Journey To The Onsen Ryokan Koizumiya Yuzawa

Shortly after disembarking from Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 from Singapore at Gate No. 45, we walked across the passageway linking to the immigrations and arrivals area. Feeling the cold air upon disembarking from the aircraft, the entire walk linking from Gate No. 45 to the immigration checkpoints took approximately no more than 10 minutes. Soon enough, we finally arrived at the immigration checkpoints at 7.40 a.m., eventually heading to the foreign visitors section after hearing directions from an immigration staff. The immigration area was not at all crowded that morning, allowing us to clear the process in five minutes.

Upon clearing the immigration checkpoints smoothly, I promptly proceeded to check which baggage belt our bulkier check-in baggage would be arriving at. According to the baggage belt information screens, all check-in baggage from Singapore Airlines flight SQ 638 from Singapore would be scheduled to arrive at Belt No. B6. Without wating anymore time, we quickly took the escalators down to the baggage claiming hall and retrieved three baggage trolleys before proceeding to Belt No. B6 to claim our bulkier check-in baggage.

A final look at 9V-SWW at Gate No. 45 before making our way to the arrivals and immigration checkpoints in the South Wing of Terminal 1 at Narita International Airport

Walking along the automated passageways leading to the arrivals and immigration checkpoints in the South Wing of Terminal 1 at Narita International Airport

After claiming our baggage from Belt No. B6 and loading them on the baggage trolleys, we were ultimately in the arrivals and meeting hall of the South Wing of Terminal 1 at 7.45 a.m.. Since it was still early to go to the Europcar Rent-a-Car counter, we took the elevator up to the fourth floor, where the departures and check-in hall was located and headed to the post office in the Central Wing of Terminal 1 to get our Internet Pocket Wi-Fi routers to be used for the duration of our vacation in Japan.

Arriving at the post office by 7.55 a.m., we noticed that the post office would only be open from 8.30 a.m. onwards, so we had some hot beverages from Starbucks Coffee nearby as we waited for the post office to begin its business hours. Upon finishing off our drinks and sorting out our belongings, the post office was finally opened at 8.30 a.m.. Retrieving our Internet Pocket Wi-Fi routers, my mum taught us on how to use the routers whenever we had to go out. With our Internet Pocket Wi-Fi routers, we took the elevator to the first floor, before eventually proceeding to the Europcar Rent-a-Car counter in the North Wing.

Upon reaching the Europcar Rent-a-Car counter located in the North Wing arrivals area of Terminal 1 at Narita International Airport, we promptly showed our international car driving licences to the receptionist, who then checked our travel documents and passports. The entire car rental process took not more than approximately 15 minutes. My parents also knew that instead of following them directly to Yuzawa in the car, I would be riding on the railways the moment we had arrived in Japan.

The interior of the arrivals and meeting hall in the South Wing of Terminal 1 at Narita International Airport on a bright winter's morning

The Central Wing located between the North and South Wings on the fourth floor at Narita International Airport on a bright winter's morning

The interior of the arrivals and meeting hall in the North Wing of Terminal 1 at Narita International Airport on a bright winter's morning

After completing the car rental process at the Europcar Rent-a-Car counter located in the North Wing arrivals and meeting hall of Narita International Airport Terminal 1, we finally received our rental car keys at nine o' clock. Since it was time for me to head to Yuzawa with the railways, my parents promised to meet me at Echigo-yuzawa Station and warned me to take care at all times during my railway trips. With that, I took the escalator down to Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station, eventually reaching there by 9.10 a.m..

In the station concourse itself, I proceeded to the JR East Travel Service Center to get my Japan Rail Pass Exchange Voucher exchanged for a 7-day Green-type Japan Rail Pass. Entering the JR East Travel Service Center, there were many foreigners waiting to purchase their tickets to access the Greater Tokyo Area. Once my turn came, I filled up the necessary exchange application forms and went to the nearest counter to have my Japan Rail Pass exchange voucher exchanged, with the entire exhange process taking 15 minutes.

Narita Airport Station (成田空港駅) is an underground interchange railway station located in Narita International Airport in the suburban city of Narita, Chiba, Japan. It is located directly below the passenger building of Terminal 1 at Narita International Airport, and is operated jointly by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and Keisei Electric Railway. The station serves as the eastern terminus for the Narita Line (Airport Branch Line), especially for the Narita Express trains, and the Keisei Main Line and Keisei Narita Airport Line (Narita Sky Access Line), including the Skyliner trains.

As of 14 March 2015, there is an island platform serving two tracks for the JR Line trains, with two joined island platforms serving five tracks for the Keisei Line trains. From 17 July 2010, the Keisei Line platforms and concourse became segregated, with one platform for the Keisei Main Line and another platform for the Narita Sky Access Line. In view of the separate fare circumstances, passengers not using the Narita Sky Access Line must pass through a second ticketing gate to access the Keisei Main Line platforms.

The interior of the arrivals and meeting hall in the North Wing of Terminal 1 at Narita International Airport on a bright winter's morning as I begin to make my way to Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

Finally arriving at the main station concourse at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

The JR East Travel Service Center located in the main station concourse at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station during the early morning rush hour

After completing the necessary exchange requirement forms at the JR East Travel Service Center, I finally received my one-week Green-type Japan Rail Pass at 9.25 a.m., with the activation dates from today until Friday (11 December). Since I was scheduled to travel to Yuzawa by train instead of road, I also made my Green Car (first class) seat reservations. For the in-bound trip to Yuzawa, I would catch the Limited Express Narita Express No. 12 bound for Ofuna & Ikebukuro, which would expected to depart Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station at 10.15 a.m., and arrive at Tokyo Station at 11.14 a.m..

Upon arrival at Tokyo, I would have a brief layover of about 25 minutes before catching the Shinkansen TOKI Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, which would be scheduled to depart Tokyo Station at 11.52 a.m., and arrive at Echigo-yuzawa Station at 1.12 p.m.. Grabbing my belongings, I proceeded to the JR Line ticketing gates, where I immediately showed my Japan Rail Pass to the ticketing officer at the staffed ticketing gate. I then went to check the departure information board to see which platform the Limited Express Narita Express No. 12 bound for Ofuna & Ikebukuro would depart from.

According to the departure information screens, the Limited Express Narita Express No. 12 bound for Ofuna & Ikebukuro would be scheduled to depart at 10.15 a.m. from Track No. 1. Without wasting anymore time, I quickly took the escalators down to Tracks No. 1 and 2 in preparation for the first leg of my rail journey to Yuzawa via Tokyo to commence, eventually arriving at the JR Line platforms by 9.35 a.m.. I then sorted out my belongings and spotted some trains while waiting for my train to Tokyo to arrive.

The Narita Express (成田エクスプレス) is a limited express train service operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) between Narita International Airport and the Greater Tokyo Area in Japan. It is the fastest train service between Narita International Airport and the Greater Tokyo Area, with service frequencies approximately every half an hour through the day across 27 daily return workings. It takes approximately one hour to reach Narita International Airport from Tokyo Station, with some services making additional stops at Chiba, Yotsukaido, Sakura and Narita Stations during the early morning and late evening hours. The service is capable of reaching a maximum top speed of 130 km/h (80 mph).

The service commenced operations on 19 March 1991, using 253 series EMUs at a speed of 130 km/h (80 mph). These sets were frequently coupled together to form as either nine or 12 cars between Tokyo Station and Narita International Airport. From 1 October 2009, E259 series sets were introduced on these services at a speed of 130 km/h (80 mph), displacing the earlier 253 series EMUs used on these services by 30 June 2010. Like the earlier 253 series EMUs, these sets are frequently coupled together to form as 12 cars between Tokyo Station and Narita International Airport.

Green private compartments were available on services operated by the earlier 253 series EMUs, but these were phased out by 30 June 2010, as this is not a feature on the newer E259 series sets. All seats are reserved and non-smoking, with the Narita Express service free of charge with the Japan Rail Pass. However, on the afternoon of 11 March 2011, all Narita Express services were suspended following the Great East Japan Tsunami. They were partially restored from 4 April 2011, with the pre-earthquake and tsunami timetable finally re-instated on 3 September 2011.

The main station concourse at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station during the early afternoon rush hour

The JR Line ticketing gates at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station during the early afternoon rush hour

Finally arriving at Tracks No. 1 and 2 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

A 12-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 10 bound for Yokohama & Shinjuku, on Track No. 1 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

An 8-car Keisei AE series EMU, operating as the Keisei Airport Limited Express "Skyliner" No. 8 bound for Ueno via the Narita Sky Access Line, on Track No. 5 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

The logo of the 12-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 10 bound for Yokohama & Shinjuku, on Track No. 1 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

A 15-car E217 series EMU, operating as the 9.59 a.m. Sobu Main Line "Rapid Service" bound for Zushi via the Yokosuka Line, on Track No. 2 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

Tracks No. 1 and 2 serving the JR Line trains to Narita, Chiba, and the Greater Tokyo Area at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station during the early afternoon rush hour

Track No. 1 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station shortly before the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ofuna & Ikebukuro arrived at the station

After spending close to 25 minutes of anticipated waiting on Tracks No. 1 and 2, a 12-car E259 series EMU finally arrived at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station at 9.58 a.m. on Track No. 1. The train had initially arrived from Ofuna as the Limited Express Narita Express No. 13 bound for Narita International Airport, and was to undergo an extensive cleaning process before eventually becoming the Limited Express Narita Express No. 12 bound for Ofuna & Ikebukuro. It took approximately 10 minutes for the entire train interior to be cleaned.

Upon completion of the entire cleaning process, the train-cleaning signs were finally taken out at 10.07 a.m., allowing the passengers to board the train bound for Ofuna & Ikebukuro. With that instant, I quickly boarded the train via Car No. 12, which was the Green Car (first class) coach bound for Shinjuku, and settled down into my assigned Seat No. 4A for the short early afternoon trip of approximately one hour to the busy and lively hustle and bustle of downtown Tokyo. The seat next to me, 4B, would also stay empty for the entire trip.

With the clock striking exactly 10.15 a.m. sharp, the train doors were closed, and the Limited Express Narita Express No. 12 finally pulled out of Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station for its routine early afternoon trip to the ultra-modern metropolis of the Greater Tokyo Area. Cars No. 1 to 6 would be bound for Ofuna, with Cars No. 7 to 12 being bound for Ikebukuro. I was then on my way for a short afternoon trip of just one hour to the ultra-modern busy and lively hustle and bustle of the national capital city of Japan.

E259系 特急成田エクスプレス12号 大船・池袋行き 成田空港駅に入線シーン

The logo of the 12-car E259 series EMU, now operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ofuna & Ikebukuro, on Track No. 1 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

Getting ready to board the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ofuna & Ikebukuro on Track No. 1 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

The 12-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ofuna & Ikebukuro, on Track No. 1 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

Tracks No. 1 and 2 serving the JR Line trains at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station during the early afternoon rush hour

An 8-car Keisei AE series EMU, operating as the Keisei Airport Limited Express "Skyliner" No. 17 bound for Narita International Airport from Ueno, arriving at the Narita Airport (Terminal 1) terminal station on Track No. 5

The LED destination panel of the 12-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ofuna & Ikebukuro, on Track No. 1 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

The rear view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 6-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ikebukuro, during the boarding process on Track No. 1 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

The front view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 6-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ikebukuro, during the boarding process on Track No. 1 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

A view of my seat, 4A, during the boarding process on Track No. 1 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

The view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 6-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ikebukuro, from my seat during the boarding process on Track No. 1 at Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

My newly-purchased Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-300/ER Herpa Wings Scale 1:500 exclusive aircraft model from KrisShop for the in-bound segment between Singapore and Tokyo (Narita)

Awaiting departure from Narita Airport (Terminal 1) Station

E259系 特急成田エクスプレス12号 大船・池袋行き 成田空港 (発車) ~ 成田 (通過)

Bypassing some housing areas in the suburban city of Narita

Bypassing an open green field in the suburban town of Shisui

Passing through Shisui Station

Bypassing an open farming field near the suburban city of Sakura

Passing through Sakura Station

Bypassing some housing areas in the suburban city of Sakura

A view of my seat, 4A, between Sakura and Chiba Stations

The rear view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 6-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ikebukuro, between Sakura and Chiba Stations

The front view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 6-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ikebukuro, between Sakura and Chiba Stations

The view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 6-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ikebukuro, from my seat between Sakura and Chiba Stations

Bypassing some housing areas in the suburban city of Yotsukaido

My Green Car (first class) limited express ticket for the segment between Narita International Airport and Tokyo

Bypassing some high-rise housing apartment blocks in downtown Wakaba-ku, Chiba

Passing through Chiba Station

Bypassing some housing areas in downtown Inage-ku, Chiba

The rear view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 6-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ikebukuro, between Chiba and Funabashi Stations

The front view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 6-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ikebukuro, between Chiba and Funabashi Stations

A view of my seat, 4A, between Chiba and Funabashi Stations

The view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 6-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ikebukuro, from my seat between Chiba and Funabashi Stations

Passing through Funabashi Station

Bypassing some housing areas in the suburban city of Funabashi

E259系 特急成田エクスプレス12号 大船・池袋行き 西船橋 (通過) ~ 東京 (到着)

After a short early afternoon trip of approximately one hour from Narita International Airport, I finally arrived at Tokyo Station at 11.14 a.m. on Track No. 1 located at the Sobu Main Line underground platforms. Checking to see that I had not left anything behind, I alighted from the train and took the escalators up to the JR Line concourse. I then walked across the busy station concourse to the Tohoku, Joetsu & Hokuriku Shinkansen interchange ticketing gates, arriving there by 11.20 a.m. and showed my Japan Rail Pass at the staffed Tohoku, Joetsu & Hokuriku Shinkansen ticketing gate.

In the Tohoku, Joetsu & Hokuriku Shinkansen concourse, I headed to check the departure information screens to see which platform number the Shinkansen TOKI Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata would depart from. According to the departure information screens in the Tohoku, Joetsu & Hokuriku Shinkansen concourse, the Shinkansen TOKI Superexpress No. 321 would be scheduled to depart at 11.52 a.m. from Track No. 22. Though it was still early, I took the escalators up to Tracks No. 22 and 23 in preparation for my continuing trip to Yuzawa at 11.25 a.m..

TOKI (とき) is a high-speed train service operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) between Tokyo and Niigata via the Joetsu Shinkansen line in Japan. It is the currently faster train service operating on the Joetsu Shinkansen line, and is the only high-speed train service that is capable of going as far as Niigata from Tokyo, with the fastest service taking 1 hour 37 minutes between Tokyo and Niigata. The service is capable of reaching a maximum top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph).

The service commenced operations on 15 November 1982, in conjunction with the opening of the Joetsu Shinkansen line, using 200 series sets at a maximum top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph), until they were retired from passenger service on 15 March 2013. From 15 July 1994, E1 series sets were introduced on these services as Max TOKI at a top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph), until they were retired from passenger service on 28 September 2012. The service was temporarily abolished from 1 October 1997 with the introduction of TANIGAWA services, substituted by ASAHI services until 30 November 2002.

From 1 December 2002, with the discontinuation of ASAHI services, the TOKI service was used once again for limited-stop services between Tokyo and Niigata. E4 series sets were also introduced on these services as Max TOKI at a top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph), with two sets coupled together to form as 16 cars for some services. 10-car E2 series sets were also used temporarily on certain services, until they were removed from Joetsu Shinkansen services temporarily from the start of the revised timetable 13 March 2004.

From 26 January 2013, E2 series sets were re-introduced on these services at a maximum top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph), replacing the remaining 200 series sets previously used on these services by 15 March 2013. From April 2014, the E4 series sets began to receive a new livery identical to the former E1 series sets, with a pink stripe to evoke the local crested ibis of Niigata Prefecture. The remaining sets are expected to completely receive the new livery by 2016. There are no extra charges required for the TOKI service with the Japan Rail Pass.

The Joetsu Shinkansen (上越新幹線) is a major Japanese high-speed Shinkansen railway line linking between the ultra-modern metropolis of Tokyo with the port city of Niigata in the Shin'etsu region of Japan. Operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East) and despite its name, the line bears no relation with the city of Joetsu located in Niigata Prefecture and measures approximately 269.5 kilometres (167.5 miles) in length, taking approximately 1 hour 37 minutes between Tokyo and Niigata with the fastest train services. The line has a maximum top speed of 240 km/h (150 mph).

As of 14 March 2015, the 8-car E4 series and 10-car E2 series sets operate on the various TOKI and TANIGAWA services on the line, with the 8-car E4 series sets being classified as Max TOKI and Max TANIGAWA, with some services forming coupled as 16 cars. A small branch line spurring off as far as Gala-yuzawa Station from Echigo-yuzawa Station is only available during the winter season between mid-December and April, with a majority of the TANIGAWA and Max TANIGAWA services taking tourists to and from Gala-yuzawa Station throughout the winter months.

Tokyo Station (東京駅) is a large major interchange railway terminal complex located in the centre of the Marunouchi business district in downtown Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo. It is the central railway terminal serving the ultra-modern lively hustle and bustle of downtown Tokyo, the busiest railway terminal nationwide and the fifth-busiest railway terminal in Eastern Japan, with more than 4,000 trains departing and arriving at the station daily. The station serves as the main starting point for most of Japan's national high-speed Shinkansen trains. Having undergone a major renovation process since 2007, the renovations were finally completed by late 2012 with the re-opening of the former Marunouchi station infrastructure.

Other than serving as a nationwide terminus for most Shinkansen trains, the station serves as the terminus for the Chuo Main Line, Keiyo Line, Sobu Main Line, Tokaido Main Line, Ueno-Tokyo Line (Tohoku • Takasaki • Joban Line) and Yokosuka Line. Tokyo Station also serves as a major transfer point for the Keihin-Tohoku Negishi Line, Yamanote Line and the Tokyo Metro Marunouchi Line. The station serves as a starting point for most limited express trains bound for the Boso and Izu Peninsulas, with the Narita Express service connecting to Narita International Airport also serving the station. A Daimaru Department Store is located directly above the railway terminal complex.

The 12-car E259 series EMU, operating as the Limited Express "Narita Express" No. 12 bound for Ofuna and Ikebukuro, on Track No. 1 of the Sobu Main Line & Yokosuka Line underground platforms at Tokyo Station

Tracks No. 1 and 2 of the Sobu Main Line & Yokosuka Line underground platforms at Tokyo Station serving the trains bound for Shinjuku, Yokohama and Yokosuka

The overall view of the Sobu Main Line & Yokosuka Line underground platforms at Tokyo Station

The Sobu Main Line & Yokosuka Line concourse of Tokyo Station in the early afternoon peak hours

About to take the escalators up to the main JR Line interchange concourse at Tokyo Station

Finally arriving at the Shinkansen interchange concourse at Tokyo Station

The departure information screen for Tohoku, Joetsu & Hokuriku Shinkansen trains in the Shinkansen interchange concourse at Tokyo Station

The JR Line interchange concourse of Tokyo Station during the early afternoon peak hours

The Tohoku, Joetsu & Hokuriku Shinkansen interchange ticketing gates in the JR Line interchange concourse at Tokyo Station during the early afternoon peak hours

The Tohoku, Joetsu & Hokuriku Shinkansen concourse of Tokyo Station during the early afternoon rush hour

A poster about the upcoming Hokkaido Shinkansen line, which will open for revenue passenger service on 26 March 2016, in the Tohoku, Joetsu & Hokuriku Shinkansen concourse of Tokyo Station

Finally arriving at Tracks No. 22 and 23 at Tokyo Station

The LED destination panel of a 12-car E7 Series Shinkansen Set No. F13, operating as the Shinkansen "ASAMA" Superexpress No. 609 bound for Nagano, on Track No. 22 at Tokyo Station

A 12-car E7 Series Shinkansen Set No. F13, operating as the Shinkansen "ASAMA" Superexpress No. 609 bound for Nagano, on Track No. 22 at Tokyo Station

A 16-car JR Central N700 Series Shinkansen Set No. Z7 (X7), operating as the Shinkansen "KODAMA" Superexpress No. 651 bound for Nagoya, on Track No. 14 at Tokyo Station

The logo of the 16-car JR Central N700 Series Shinkansen Set No. Z7 (X7), operating as the Shinkansen "KODAMA" Superexpress No. 651 bound for Nagoya, on Track No. 14 at Tokyo Station

The LED destination panel of the 16-car JR Central N700 Series Shinkansen Set No. Z7 (X7), operating as the Shinkansen "KODAMA" Superexpress No. 651 bound for Nagoya, on Track No. 14 at Tokyo Station

A 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J51, now operating as the Shinkansen "YAMABIKO" Superexpress No. 49 bound for Morioka, on Track No. 23 at Tokyo Station

The logo of the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J51, operating as the Shinkansen "YAMABIKO" Superexpress No. 49 bound for Morioka, on Track No. 23 at Tokyo Station

An out-of-service 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J59, which previously operated as the Shinkansen "YAMABIKO" Superexpress No. 130 bound for Tokyo from Sendai, on Track No. 22 at Tokyo Station

The logo of the out-of-service 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J59, which previously operated as the Shinkansen "YAMABIKO" Superexpress No. 130 bound for Tokyo, on Track No. 22 at Tokyo Station

A 16-car JR West 700 Series Shinkansen Set No. B1, operating as the Shinkansen "NOZOMI" Superexpress No. 310 bound for Tokyo, arriving at the Tokyo terminal station on Track No. 14

The LED destination panel of the 16-car JR West 700 Series Shinkansen Set No. B1, operating as the Shinkansen "NOZOMI" Superexpress No. 310 bound for Tokyo, on Track No. 14 at the Tokyo terminal station

The logo of the out-of-service 16-car JR West 700 Series Shinkansen Set No. B1, which previously operated as the Shinkansen "NOZOMI" Superexpress No. 310 bound for Tokyo, on Track No. 14 at Tokyo Station

Track No. 23 at Tokyo Station shortly before the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata arrived at the station

After spending approximately 15 minutes of anticipated waiting on Tracks No. 22 and 23, a 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60 finally arrived at Tokyo Station at 11.40 a.m. on Track No. 23. The train had arrived from Niigata as the Shinkansen TOKI Superexpress No. 316 bound for Tokyo earlier, and was to undergo an extensive cleaning process before it could become the Shinkansen TOKI Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata. The entire cleaning process lasted for approximately less than 10 minutes.

Upon completion of the entire cleaning process, the train doors were finally re-opened again at 11.49 a.m., thus allowing the passengers to board the train bound for Niigata. Without wasting anymore time, I promptly boarded the train via Car No. 9, which was the Green Car (first class) coach, and settled into my assigned Seat No. 2A for the early afternoon trip of 1 hour 20 minutes to the popular winter skiing and hot spring resort town of Yuzawa located further inland in the Shin'etsu region of Japan.

The seat next to me, 2A, would remain vacant for the entire early afternoon trip of 1 hour 20 minutes from Tokyo to Echigo-yuzawa. Once the clock struck exactly 11.52 a.m. sharp, all the train doors were closed, and the Shinkansen TOKI Superexpress No. 321 finally pulled out of Tokyo Station for its routine early afternoon trip of 2 hours 10 minutes to the mid-sized urban port city of Niigata located on the coast of the Sea of Japan. I was then on my way for a short early afternoon trip of 1 hour 20 minutes to the popular winter skiing and hot spring resort town of Yuzawa.

Yuzawa (湯沢町) is a major mountainous hot spring and winter ski resort town located in the Minamiuonuma District, Niigata Prefecture, Japan. It is well-known for its winter skiing resort activities and its hot springs (onsen) during the winter season between mid-December and April, with the most popular resort being Gala-yuzawa. The town is served by the Joetsu Shinkansen line via Echigo-yuzawa Station, making Yuzawa one of the easiest and closest winter resorts to be accessed from Tokyo. The town has a population of 8,197 residents, as of 1 December 2015.

E2系新幹線 J60編成 とき321号 新潟行き 東京駅に入線シーン

The 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, now operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, on Track No. 23 at Tokyo Station

The logo of the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, on Track No. 23 at Tokyo Station

The LED destination panel of the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, on Track No. 23 at Tokyo Station

Getting ready to board the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, on Track No. 23 at Tokyo Station

An out-of-service 10-car E5 Series Shinkansen Set No. U15, which previously operated as the Shinkansen "HAYABUSA" Superexpress No. 62 bound for Tokyo from Shin-aomori, on Track No. 22 at Tokyo Station

The 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, still undergoing extensive cleaning on Track No. 23 at Tokyo Station

The logo of the out-of-service 10-car E5 Series Shinkansen Set No. U15, which previously operated as the Shinkansen "HAYABUSA" Superexpress No. 62 bound for Tokyo from Shin-aomori, on Track No. 23 at Tokyo Station

The front view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, during the boarding process on Track No. 23 at Tokyo Station

The rear view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, during the boarding process on Track No. 23 at Tokyo Station

A view of my seat, 2A, during the boarding process on Track No. 23 at Tokyo Station

The overall view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, from my seat during the boarding process on Track No. 23 at Tokyo Station

Awaiting departure from Tokyo Station

E2系新幹線 J60編成 とき321号 新潟行き 東京駅から上野駅間

Making a brief stop at Ueno Station

E2系新幹線 J60編成 とき321号 新潟行き 上野駅から大宮駅間

Making a brief stop at Omiya Station

Travelling parallel to the Tohoku Shinkansen tracks shortly after departing Omiya Station

Finally diverging away from the Tohoku Shinkansen tracks

My Green Car (first class) Shinkansen ticket for the in-bound segment between Tokyo and Echigo-yuzawa

Bypassing some housing areas in the suburban city of Konosu

Bypassing some housing areas in the suburban city of Honjo

Passing through Honjo-waseda Station

The overall view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, from my seat between Honjo-waseda and Takasaki Stations

A view of my seat, 2A, between Honjo-waseda and Takasaki Stations

The rear view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, between Honjo-waseda and Takasaki Stations

The front view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, between Honjo-waseda and Takasaki Stations

Bypassing some housing areas in the suburban city of Takasaki as the train approaches Takasaki Station

Making a brief stop at Takasaki Station

About to diverge away from the Hokuriku Shinkansen tracks shortly after departing Takasaki Station

The overall view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, from my seat between Takasaki and Jomo-kogen Stations

A view of my seat, 2A, between Takasaki and Jomo-kogen Stations

The rear view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, between Takasaki and Jomo-kogen Stations

The front view of the Green Car (first class) cabin on board the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, between Takasaki and Jomo-kogen Stations

A bottle of mineral water and a box of Jagariko (じゃがりこ) potato sticks for myself purchased from the on-board trolley refreshment service

Making a brief stop at Jomo-kogen Station

E2系新幹線 J60編成 とき321号 新潟行き 上毛高原駅から越後湯沢駅間

After a short and quick early afternoon journey of 1 hour 20 minutes from the lively hustle and bustle of downtown Tokyo, I finally arrived at Echigo-yuzawa Station at 1.12 p.m. on Track No. 12. Checking to see that none of my belongings had been left behind aboard, I alighted from the train and informed my family via a mobile phone call that I had already arrived. Given that they were still somewhere close to approaching Yuzawa, they advised me that I could have lunch first while waiting for them to arrive.

Taking the escalator down to the Shinkansen concourse, I showed my Green-type Japan Rail Pass at the staffed ticketing gate and went to the JR Ticket Office to make a few seat reservations. Entering the JR Ticket Office, I made two of my Green Car (first class) seat reservations to be travelling to Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport) cum meeting a school friend in Tokyo, who happened to be on her very first vacation trip to Japan, and for Narita International Airport for the next day and on Monday (7 December). I also made one luxury Gran Class seat reservation for a northbound Shinkansen train journey to Aomori for Thursday (10 December).

Upon making my necessary seat reservations, I went to search for a nearby restaurant for lunch while waiting for my family to arrive at Echigo-yuzawa Station. Soon enough, I finally stumbled upon a local Tsunan pork cafeteria, known as Koshino Hikari Pork (越ノ光ポーク), at 1.40 p.m.. Entering the cafetria itself, I promptly ordered myself a Tsunan pork tonkatsu cutlet set with a pineapple juice before settling down to enjoy my meal while waiting for my family as I was feeling hungry after the long railway trip from Narita International Airport.

Echigo-yuzawa Station (越後湯沢駅) is a railway station located in the winter skiing and hot spring resort town of Yuzawa, Niigata, Japan. Operated by East Japan Railway Company (JR East), it is the main railway station serving the town of Yuzawa, and is the gateway for tourists interested in skiing and winter activities in Niigata Prefecture. The station serves as a transfer station for the Joetsu Shinkansen and Joetsu Line, with a Shinkansen branch line spurring off to Gala-yuzawa Station also open during the winter season.

The logo of the 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, on Track No. 12 at Echigo-yuzawa Station

The 10-car E2 Series Shinkansen Set No. J60, operating as the Shinkansen "TOKI" Superexpress No. 321 bound for Niigata, on Track No. 12 at Echigo-yuzawa Station

E2系新幹線 J60編成 とき321号 新潟行き 越後湯沢駅から出発シーン

Tracks No. 11 and 12 serving the Joetsu Shinkansen trains bound for Niigata during lunchtime hours

The overall view of the Joetsu Shinkansen platforms at Echigo-yuzawa Station during lunchtime hours

The departure information screens for Joetsu Shinkansen trains departing from Tracks No. 11 and 12 at Echigo-yuzawa Station during lunchtime hours

The Shinkansen concourse leading to the JR Line interchange ticketing gates at Echigo-yuzawa Station during lunchtime hours

The JR Ticket Office in the main ticketing concourse at Echigo-yuzawa Station during lunchtime hours

The main ticketing concourse at Echigo-yuzawa Station during lunchtime hours

Finally stumbling upon a local Tsunan pork cafeteria, known as Koshino Hikari Pork (越ノ光ポーク), in the main station concourse at Echigo-yuzawa Station

A Tonkatsu deep-fried pork loin cutlet meal seat for myself

A glass of pineapple juice for myself

The interior of Koshino Hikari Pork (越ノ光ポーク) cafeteria in the main station concourse of Echigo-yuzawa Station during lunchtime hours

After having a nice and sumptuous lunch of local Tsunan pork at Koshino Hikari Pork, my family finally met me outside the cafeteria at two o' clock. Finishing my sumptuous lunch, I paid my lunch bill and followed my family around the main station concourse, since it was their turn to find a good restaurant to eat at for lunch after their long road drive from Narita International Airport. Soon enough, we finally stumbled upon a local restaurant, known as Echigo Tokamachi Kojimaya (越後十日町小嶋屋), at 2.05 p.m..

Entering the restaurant itself, we requested for a table for the four of us, and were directed to one by a waitress. Reviewing the menus, the waitress came by to take down our main meal orders. We ordered several local delicacies, such as cold soba, deep-fried freshwater prawn tempura and udon noodles. Since I was already full from my tonkatsu pork lunch set earlier, I simply had just a few pieces of assorted deep-fried tempura, while the rest of my family tucked into their well-earned lunch break.

Finally stumbling upon a local restaurant, Echigo Tokamachi Kojimaya (越後十日町小嶋屋), in the main station concourse at Echigo-yuzawa Station

Two platters of assorted deep-fried tempura to be shared among us

After having some light lunch bites at Echigo Tokamachi Kojimaya (越後十日町小嶋屋), the clock was finally showing 2.35 p.m.. Feeling stuffed to the brim already, we paid up our bill and departed the restaurant for the West Entrance of the station, where my dad parked our rented car. Since it was still too early to head to the Onsen Ryokan Koizumiya Yuzawa, we headed to a nearby 7-Eleven convenience store near Echigo-yuzawa Station to purchase a few beverages and light groceries for tonight at the Onsen Ryokan Koizumiya Yuzawa.

Upon purchasing our necessary groceries for the rest of the day, we proceeded to our silver rented Europcar, where my dad helped to load everything, including our remaining baggage, into the car boot at the rear. Once everything had been loaded into the boot of the car, we finally left the 7-Eleven convenience store located just adjacent to Echigo-yuzawa Station at three o' clock for a short and quick narrow road trip of just five minutes to the Onsen Ryokan Koizumiya Yuzawa located just further down the road near the Joetsu Shinkansen viaduct.

The main ticketing concourse at Echigo-yuzawa Station during the late afternoon hours

The exterior view of Echigo-yuzawa Station from the West Entrance during the late afternoon hours

Stopping outside a 7-Eleven convenience store near Echigo-yuzawa Station to buy some light groceries

Our rented silver Europcar car located near the 7-Eleven convenience store near Echigo-yuzawa Station

About to make a U-turn located just near the Onsen Ryokan Koizumiya Yuzawa

After a short and narrow road trip of just five minutes from Echigo-yuzawa Station, we finally arrived at the front entrance to the Onsen Ryokan Koizumiya Yuzawa at 3.05 p.m.. With my dad dropping us at the front entrance, we went to retrieve the main key from the specially-locked key container with a code, and unlocked the main entrance to the lodge. Bringing all our baggage into the main entrance area, my dad went to park the rented car just behind the lodge while we brought the baggage up to the second floor living room. The lodge had four levels, with the first floor housing the bathroom, including our own private hot spring (onsen) bath, which we could access at any time, and a boiler room.

The second floor contained a kitchen, living room, dining area and two sleeping rooms (one master bedroom and a tatami bedroom). As for the last two floors, they had some bedrooms and a huge kitchen area, but we would only be staying on the first two floors of the lodge for the duration of our stay in Yuzawa. Once my dad had arrived in the main living room area on the second floor of the lodge, we spent the remainder of the day unpacking and sorting out our attires for the upcoming days in Yuzawa, including the days when I would be out running my railway schedule.

Finally arriving at the main front entrance to the Onsen Ryokan Koizumiya Yuzawa

The living room area on the second floor at the Onsen Ryokan Koizumiya Yuzawa on a cloudy late afternoon

The master bedroom, where my parents would sleep, on the second floor at the Onsen Ryokan Koizumiya Yuzawa

The Japanese tatami-style twin bedroom, where my younger brother and I would sleep, on the second floor at the Onsen Ryokan Koizumiya Yuzawa

The view of the ski elevator leading to the ski mountain peak from the second floor living room in the Onsen Ryokan Koizumiya Yuzawa on a cloudy late afternoon

After spending some time unpacking our baggage and sorting our clothes for the upcoming days in Yuzawa, we were finally left to our own devices at four o' clock. For the rest of the evening, I simply spent the entire time uploading my videos from our first day and using my laptop, also using the private hot spring (onsen) bath for a bath. Since everyone was tired from the long journey to Narita International Airport, no one could cook anything for dinner, but my dad opted to purchase more groceries the next day.

Since I was to be travelling to Tokyo International Airport (Haneda Airport) cum meeting a schoolmate, who happened to be on her first trip to Japan, the next day, I set my mobile phone alarm to wake me up at seven o' clock the next morning. Almost everyone had gone to bed by the time the clock struck nine o' clock. Soon enough, I finally turned in by around ten o' clock to have a very well-earned good night's rest after the long overnight flight from Singapore and the long train journey from Narita International Airport to Yuzawa.

This officially brings the first segment of my 2015 Christmas special vacation report about my end-of-year winter trip to Japan in December 2015 to an official conclusion. Like every other trip report, please do feel free to comment and / or ask any questions at any time. The comment forum for every trip report featured will always be open. I shall post the remaining sections of the Christmas special report once I have selected the highest quality videos and photographs. Please do be patient as they require time and effort to have good quality.

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