I have arrived safely in Okazaki. I have a high-speed Ethernet connection in my room, so I am happy. Let me tell you how I got here…
The Flight Over
My flight from Raleigh to Dallas-Ft. Worth left at 6:00 a.m. I’m an international passenger, so I had to be at the airport 2 hours early. (4 a.m.!) To get there, I had to leave home at 3:30 a.m. That means I had to get up at 2:30 a.m.
I didn’t bother with sleeping. I could do that on the plane.
At 3:30 a.m., a car showed up to take me to the airport. It was a Lincoln Town Car. I wouldn’t use one every day, but it’s a great car for riding to the airport.
When I got to the airport, I realized nothing was open yet. The counters didn’t open until a little after 4 a.m. Great! That meant no lines!
Going through security was a bit of work. I unbundled all of my electronics, then did the shoe dance that they want you to do, and I still set off the detector.
It’s a good thing I went through early. I also realized that I packed way too many electronics. (Why am I taking electronics to Japan? That’s like taking baguettes to France.)
My friend Michael was on the same flight to Dallas-Ft. Worth as I was. What a coincidence! But it was nice to have a close friend on the same flight. Michael also did something noble and wonderful which I will never forget– he bumped me up to First Class. Thanks, man. That was beautiful of you.
I got an Admirals’ Club day pass through American, and when I got to DFW, I promptly went to the lounge and recovered from the 6:00 a.m. flight. I love those lounges.
Sadly, the flight to Japan wasn’t so comfy. I was in the middle section of coach on a 777, and it felt like I was flying in a cave. I got a seat over the wings, so it was pretty smooth for the most part, but the 13-plus hour flight was tiring.
I spent most of the flight trying to sleep through it.
I listened to a lot of podcasts. Thanks Leo.
There were LCD TV panels on the back of the seats that show how far away we are from Japan on a little map, and it made the flight seem longer, because it looked as if the plane just wasn’t moving, even though I knew we’re racing through the air at 500-plus miles per hour. We just had a lot of distance to cover.
Arrival in Narita
We made it to Narita on time. I wish there was an arrival lounge for Admiral’s Club members there. I could have used a few minutes to decompress before getting hit full-on with culture shock. And it is a bit of a shock after flying in a dark cave for 13-14 hours to be dumped in a land where everything is alien, including me.
At immigration, they sent me to the Japanese counters instead of the foreigner counters. I guess it was because they had more foreigners coming in than they could deal with, because I don’t look Japanese. At all. (My red hair gives me away.)
Then on to customs. My tenuous grip of Japanese helped me explain my medicine situation, so I got through without being thrown out of the country, but I had to show them my yakkan shoumei, and there was some unpacking and repacking involved.
On to Tokyo
I had to find the Keisei Skyliner, which is an express train from Narita Airport to Ueno Station in Tokyo. It’s about $10-15 cheaper than the JR Narita Express, and it’s slightly faster, too. One tip– don’t buy the first train tickets you see upstairs. Those are sold by a ticket agency who marks up the actual price. Go to the basement of Narita, where the train station is, and buy it from the company.
I made it to Ueno after an hour and a bit, and had to lug my suitcases to the hotel. Silly me, I didn’t realize that Ueno Station has elevators and escalators. So I had to carry the Suitcases of Death up and down stairs. It was tiring. That one-bag idea is looking really good now, and 2 bags just looks dumb.
For my first and only night night in Tokyo for now, I stayed at the Ueno Terminal Hotel. The room was mind-bogglingly tiny for someone used to American hotels, but the room was clean, the service was good, and everything was laid out in a way I could figure out.
My Japanese has come in handy a number of times already. The people here are very polite, and will try to help you if you try to speak slowly and clearly.
After I made it safely to my tiny business hotel in Ueno, I collapsed for a couple of hours, took a shower in a bathroom so small, it boggled my mind some more.
Then I went to Akihabara for a brief look around. (It’s only 2 stops away on the Yamanote line, so why not?) I decided not to buy anything, because I was totally jet-lagged and dazed, and also, anything I bought, I would have to carry all over the country for the next five weeks.
Off to Okazaki
I went back to my room, slept for an hour, got up, went to the hotel restaurant, ate some pizza, and passed out at 10 p.m. (First time I’ve done that in a while!) I slept in until 5 a.m., then dashed out to catch my 7:36 a.m. shinkansen to Toyohashi.
When I got to Toyohashi, I promptly took the wrong train to Okazaki, but I got there eventually anyway. The local will get you there, just in an excruciatingly slow fashion.
As soon as I got here, they gave me a Japanese language test.
I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
I know it’s important, but man, my brain is just… full or something. It’s probably the jet lag.
The room in the dorm is small, but the staff is nice.
Time for another nap, then some walking around town.