I’m at SFO airport awaiting the boarding to Japan. Getting ready to travel, especially internationally and for a long trip is always such a pain UNTIL I get to the airport. It is then I am excited.
The pain part is packing, getting the house in order, locked, making sure the plants are watered and fish are fed. Making sure everything is turned off, doors are locked and everything in order for the return. I don’t sleep very well the night before, especially when I have an early flight and then I’m anxious to get to the airport because you never know when you’ll have major delays with the traffic, lines at check-in and security. No matter how many times I travel I always leave too early. It never takes me more than an hour from when I leave my house until I’m past security but I still get anxious.
And so here I am, an hour early for my flight. One thing I’ve noticed is the amount of Chinese travelers have increased. I can usually tell the difference between Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Thai but not the other countries. The Chinese often aren’t sure what to do and can hold up lines. Going through security many of them stand at the conveyer belt putting their stuff back on instead of taking the entire basket to the benches and doing it there. This holds things up.
I’m very glad I have a non-stop flight to Japan this year. Last year I had to fly to LA and then to Japan and it didn’t work out well. I bought two separate tickets because it was much cheaper but that is something you’re really not supposed to do. This meant I had to collect my things and check in all over again at LAX. On the flight from LAX to HND we were flying over Oregon and about to start crossing the Pacific Ocean when I realized the land was on the wrong side. Sure enough an announcement came from the captain that we were going back to LA because the backup system for crossing the ocean wouldn’t turn on and this was a requirement. We were already three hours into the flight! So we went back to LA and had to wait half a day for another plane and crew to be ready. This meant I missed seeing my buddy Brandon in Tokyo since I didn’t arrive until midnight when I was supposed to arrive at 2:00 PM.
I’m meeting Brandon again this year when I arrive and we’ll go drinking in Tokyo for two nights and one day. It gives me much more peace of mind that this flight is non-stop so fingers crossed there are no issues.
The time is now 9:08 AM and boarding starts at 9:55. I think I’ll end this post now, have a little walk around and then just people watch while listening to music until we board.
I’ll be spending two weeks in Japan and the adventure begins!
I’m four hours into the flight to Tokyo. It took a while to get off the tarmac and the first meal was served just after takeoff. There are some seniors in front of me and it took them a while to decide whether they wanted the chicken or noodles. The flight attendant mentioned the chicken was the better choice; I had already chosen the noodles.
As for the airplane itself it is an updated version with some things better and some worse. The windows now have a tint function which is fabulous. The food was served on a plastic tray you could buy at the 100 yen shop with the plastic silverware included. I had noodles, somethings which resembled cous cous and a piece of bread. I was delighted with the ice cream however which wasn’t bad at all.
For entertainment I first read the first hundred pages of Haruku Mirakami’s book Men without Women. It wasn’t what I expected but then again I haven’t read Mirakami.
We are now on the part of the flight that resembles nighttime even though it is day. All the windows were automatically darkened to the highest setting and many have fallen asleep. I tried to sleep but only managed 30 minutes or so of disrupted sleep. I started watching The Death of Stalin and that isn’t what I had expected either. It was interesting but I lost interest halfway through even though I thought I should watch the whole thing just to kill time.
As I write this I have my monitor set on the darkest setting but it is very hard to see. The issue is that the next setting is too bright and this one too dark. I’ve chosen the darker option.
I forgot to mention that in the movie selection they had Ready Player One which is the movie I played Apple to rent last night; I should have waited. I’m considering watching it again so I can get a few screenshots of it. It is set in none other than my hometown of Columbus, Ohio but in a very futuristic setting where everyone pretty much lives in a virtual world called The Oasis. Being from Ohio you can see the skyscraper that went up when I was a kid and resembles something like a giant took a bite out of the top. I don’t know the name of the building. In fact, I only know the names of two skyscrapers in Columbus: The Levec (spelling?) Tower and The Nationwide building.
Ready Player One is a movie that inspires me and might not be too far off from what our future looks like. Living in a virtual world you can be anything you want to be, go anywhere you want to go, it really is an amazing thing but the problem is it is better than reality.
I’m trying to get into an excited state about my Tokyo trip but at the moment I cannot; I just want this flight to be over. I had forgotten what it is like to sit in one seat for so long and so I’m trying not to drink too much water. I’m sitting in the window seat and I really don’t want to boether the two people I’d have to disturb in order to get to the bathroom.
Perhpas I’ll get excited about this trip once we land. I have filled out the immigration and customs forms which have changed a bit since last year. They now ask if your carrying anything that another asked you to bring. Well my wife asked me to bring a lot of stuff and one friend asked for some sleeping pills. However, if I check the ‘yes’ box I’ll get asked a lot of other questions and could raise a red flag at immigration which I really do not want to do. So, in this case it is best to check no since the items I”ve been asked to bring are plastic plates to give as a gift for a friend who recently had a baby and those sleeping pills for Kazuko who must be having trouble sleeping. It must be difficult going from a high flying social status, studying abroad, going to one of the best schools and being popular to being a housewife and stuck at home all day with two children. It’s like a miniture version of Princess Makiko’s situation.
Well, I’ll be in Tokyo in five hours. I’ll go through immigration and then have to go exchange currency since my wife didn’t leave me any yen. I’ll then go take the train and wonder if my Suica card is outdated again. I’ll board the train with my large suitcase and can only hope the train isn’t too crowded. I’ll make my way to Ikebukuro, drop off my bag and then Brandon wants me to meet him back in Shinjuku where he is attending Mitsuki’s ballet performance. We’ll want to hit up a restaurant and whisky bar. Just typing that last sentence gave me a brief flicker of excitement but then I realize I still have five hours in this cramped space. I would like to sleep but think I cannot.
So, I’ll wrap up this post, perhaps read some more of the Murakami book and then watch Ready Player One again.
In trying to kill some more time I’ve decided not to end the post. I opened my phone to change the song since it seemed stuck on Titanic’s “Party in Third Class” and put on some trance. I connected to the United Wifi on my phone and opened up the app which connected. I just realized I have Club passes right there in my phone. I wish I had known that when I spent two hours at SFO waiting for the flight. It isn’t that the general United Club is very exciting but it might have been nice to get a pastry or coffee. I reallly cannot believe those passes are right there in the app now. I think we’ll use them on the way back. Those two aren’t expired but there will be four of us as I’ll be with my family. I gave my wife the paper passes I had which all seem expired. We’ve used expired before as the Club attendants really don’t look at them but in Japan they are always sticklers for the rules. I bet a million dollars they’ll tell us they cannot be used, since of course the attendants at the Haneda United Club will be Japanese. Being a foreigner I’ll give it a try though and if worse comes to worse I’ll have my wife and son use them and then hope they just let our youngest in for free. Perhaps they’ll take pity on me and not want to break up the family? Fat chance, it is Japan after all.
I forgot to mention I saw an advertisement for Mobile Passport which lets you speed up USA immigration by answering the questions on your phone. I read the rules and unfortunately we cannot use it since my wife isn’t an American citizen. That is too bad as I was hoping to impress my family with my tech and travel knowledge but it won’t work this time. Bummer.
Well, I think I’ve run out of things to write about and can kill no more time with this activity. Boy do I hate being in such a small space for so long.
There is now two and a half hours left of the flight. After I finished my last entry I decided to try the in-flight wifi. I won’t make that mistake again. It took about 10 tries to finally complete the transaction to get internet access. That should have been a warning sign. I finally got access and it took about 20 minutes to get connected. When it connected I opened my e-mail and it took an hour to download seven messages with two attachments.
And so, during this ordeal I decided to watch the new Tomb Raider. I’ve been a fan since the first Tomb Raider game came out for PC which was in my college days back in the late ’90s. I loved that game and was thrilled when the movie came out with Angelina Jolie. It was a great movie. But unfortunately the sequels never match up and my description of this new version would be this: Laura gets beat up for the majority of the movie and can’t seem to stop finding herself hanging off the edge of cliffs. Furthermore, her father, the bad guys and her completely destroy a very ancient :43tomb which should have been preserved, reasearched and filled with archeologists. But no, they run around, shoot things and destroy what should be a World Heritage site. Very disappointing.
After the movie I had to decide whether to bother the people next to me so I could go pee. There were three hours left in the flight at that point and although I could have held it I didn’t want to wait four hours because it will take time to get off the plane and to the restroom. I did bother them and went to the closest bathroom. It was locked and as I checked the one across the aisle an Indian woman got to it before me. So I waited for the first one but someone must be taking a serious dump, joining the mile-high club, or just wants to stand. The Indian woman came out and last I checked that person was still in there! Hurry up people, there are limited facilities on an aircraft!
So with just over two hours left I imaigne they’ll turn the lights on here soon and serve the next meal. I could eat. Looking at my watch on SFO time I see the time is 6:43 PM. Hard to believe the day there is ending while my day will just be beginning. It looks like we’ll get in much earlier than expected, 1:17 PM instead of 1:55 PM which is great news. More time to get to Ikebukuro and perhpas even take a shower, use the onsen and grab a sauna before I go meet Brandon. I’m slowly getting excitied to be back in Japan again!
I forgot to mention, I didn’t have too many e-mails when I checked in with work so I can relax about that.
I’m excited to get on the train, hear the sights and sounds of Japan and look at such a great mass of humanity moving here and there. It is like going back in time for me to a previous chapter in my life. I want to drink the Pocari Sweat, try the Zero something or other drink that I’ve seen on forums and grab some great food and drinks with my buddy who is a part of the current chapter in my life. Two chapters overlapping. He wants to drink whisky but we have to be careful because I do not want to feel terrible the following day. It will be interesting to go to these new whisky places but I’m also looking forward to going to my old standby the Hub. Since he wants to meet, eat and drink in Shinjuku I imagine we could stop for one or two at the Hub in Takadanobaba which is where my alumni Waseda is. That hub is the best because there is a greater chance you could actually meet people since they are likely to be students. I met people last time and hopefully will again. What day is today? Wednesday. Ok, so maybe it won’t be too busy but students are known to go out on weekdays.
I wonder if they would speak with old geezers like us. How strange to think that I frequented that bar over 15 years ago and now am over 40 years old. Life really does go quickly and I wonder what happened to my old classmates?
Are we there yet?