I woke up from my Texan respite, and started on the last leg of my journey to the land of the rising sun. Settling into my exit seat, I was excited about the extra legroom, but completely bummed by my lack of window (odd plane design) and the inconvenience of having to store everything in the overhead bins. I figured that with such a LONG (over 13hours) flight I was planning on doing ALL OF THE THINGS. I would work on my Japanese phrases (as in: Learn some.) I was going to start the rough draft of my first Adventure Blog post. I was going to plan out in detail all of the many things that I wanted to see and accomplish whilst in Tokyo.
Instead I enjoyed reading my books (the Divergent series), sleeping, and watching movies. It is very easy to convince yourself that you really do need to be watching movies all of the movies you’ve been putting off instead of being productive, especially when you are in a near sleep state and all of your words start to blend together. I think they would at least… Actually I wouldn’t know. My laptop hung out in the overhead bin for the whole flight.
Anyway, the nice thing about a long flight is that they give you wine. Not, “Would you like a tiny bottle of wine for the price of your first born?” but rather, it is right up there with a water or orange juice as a free choice to go with your meal. So I got to pretend I was a classy broad with my wine and (processed) cheese as I flew across a big ocean.
As my earlier post indicated, I eventually landed and pulled into the Narita International Terminal in one piece. Making it out of immigrations/customs soon became my travel trial #2.
Apparently my flight AND EVERY SINGLE OTHER INTERNATIONAL FLIGHT in that airport belched out their passengers at one time, causing a frustrating bureaucracy bottleneck. I liken the experience to waiting in line to get your badge for Dragon*Con (or any other conventions, I can bet.) There are some interesting characters waiting along side you. Everyone is a little bit excited, and a little bit nervous that they won’t get approval, and will miss all of the fun things that they had paid a lot of money to get to do. Also, not everyone smells his or her best. And the air conditioning appears to be broken (or possibly non-existent).
I finally make it to a numbered queue, with only 3 or 4 people in front of me. No sooner than I park my suitcase next to me, a smartly uniformed immigrations officer comes up and points to myself and two others. “You, you, you- come with me,” and motions to the ominous corner room labeled “ Waiting Room”.
I think this would be a good time to mention that at this point I am off the grid. I’ve no cell service, and I was not entirely trusting of the one rōmaji WiFi labeled “FREE WIFI!” and I neglected to get an actual phone number for my cousin (I never said I was a girl scout.) So as I make my way to what I can only imagine is going to involve rubber gloves and another 16 hours knocked off my trip, I begin to think of all the different strategies I could use to contact him were I detained for some reason. I am immediately relieved when the situation is finally made clear. The officials were trying to “speed up” the lines by opening up every available station…. And possibly terrorize incoming tourists in the process. (But that part was just a bonus, I am sure.) Admittedly, the officials were quite courteous throughout the whole process, a behavior I continued to notice throughout my whole trip. After about and hour or so of slogging though Immigration/Customs, I finally made it down to baggage claim where I quickly found my cousin (and the much needed coffee he brought with him.) For future travelers: Tall redheads make extremely efficient beacons when searching through Japanese crowds.
My first day in Japan was a drizzly one. By the time we pulled out of the parking deck, it was late afternoon and rush-hour traffic was starting to hit its peak. This meant that I got to experience the fun of Tokyo roads and traffic at their finest.
Here I shall start my list of Some of the Things I Observed About Tokyo (Road Addition):
- That previously mentioned courtesy stops the moment you are behind the wheel.
- I have never seen a more elaborate setup of blinking LED lights on the road signs. If you are prone to epileptic seizures, you would be best to avoid the roads.
- It takes a while to get used to driving on the left side of the road- even if you are just the passenger.
- I saw these bumper stickers on a lot of trucks. They are a form of crime prevention/social shaming, with the sentiment roughly, “I see what you did there.” *
(* OK, so that is my generalized interpretation. A more accurate one can be found Here.)
- Pedestrians and cyclists really don’t care, and so you had better be ready to stop the car at a moment’s notice.
- As long as you have your flashers on, the side of the road is your parking lot.
- I am not sure how everyone is able to drive around so much because gas can get freaking expensive over there (average about $6 a gallon). Plus tolls average out about $15 one way
- Despite some of these crazy road antics, there are relatively few accidents
We arrived safely into Ōme, my base of operation for the week. But before getting to the house, we go to fulfill my first (so coffee was technically my first) food request of the trip: RAMEN! And while I am sorry to say that I did not get a glorious food pic to make you all jealous over, I was so hungry and it tasted so good, that my regrets are rather small on that slight oversight.
As it was my very first day (half-day) EVER in Japan, I would like to say that after eating of the most delicious ramen, I was ready to go exploring and get in as many experiences in this amazing country as possible. That would be a really great thing for me to have done. Instead, I promptly fell asleep, overwhelmed by the collective exhaustion built up over the past couple of days. Because that is how I roll.
But that meant I woke up to a beautiful start, rearing to go, for Day 2.