Trip Start Sep 23, 2005
Trip End Sep 16, 2006

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Flag of Japan  ,
Wednesday, September 21, 2005

One day down, a whole bunch more to go. Dad & I arrived in Japan after a long day of travel. Up at 5:30 am, and across the street from the airport hotel to stand in line at the United Airlines counter. We were some of the lucky ones - the 7:40 flight to Chicago was delayed until 10. I can't imagine being up and at the airport that early to find out you were stuck there an extra 4 hours. We got through check-in without any hassles, and we were surprised by the help we got placing our luggage on the baggage conveyor belt. (Did I mention my insanely heavy suitcases?) As we approached the customs line-up, Dad detoured into the duty-free shop to buy his carton of cigarettes for the trip. While I waited, I emptied my pockets, remembering past airport moments of beeping when I walked through the metal detectors. What I didn't count on, however, was that when I got through, they would want to look through my carry-on bag. I didn't mind, in fact, I'd rather they looked through any bags they thought looked suspicious, but when the lady insisted my sewing kit scissors were a threat to the airplane security, I couldn't help but roll my eyes. Let's hope I have no sewing emergencies before I hit a 100 yen store. Waiting for the plane was uneventful, and boarding was too. The flight to San Francisco was about 2.5 hrs, and I managed to get some sleep while Dad browsed the sky-mall magazine. When we landed in San Fran, he'd picked out a bunch of stuff he wanted to buy. Thankfully, he forgot the magazine on the plane.

At the airport, we had almost 2 hours before our next flight, so we headed over to the food kiosk for breakfast. We each had a bagel & cream cheese, not realizing it would most likely be my last for the next year. We walked the mile or so to the international terminal, stopping once again at duty-free, but this time, I walked out with the purchase - sort of. I bought myself some clinique make-up remover and they wouldn't let me have it until boarding. I guess they're worried about the massive numbers of people trying to screw the system with their duty free makeup remover products. Waiting to board the Japan bound flight, we people watched and tried to figure out how full the flight would be. Dad managed to talk one of the air flight attendants into changing our seats - we got updated to Economy Plus, (an extra 5 inches of leg room between rows) and we got a row of 3 seats for ourselves. Thank god, because it was a 10.5 hr flight. I made good use of the seats, as a tossed and turned through 1 cheesy movie, one good movie that I'd already seen, and one terrible movie. The airplane food was to be expected, terrible, and after 4 cans of pepsi, the bathroom experience was about the same. I think it might have been my first time brushing my teeth on the airplane, but it needed to be done. By the time we arrived at Narita airport, Dad & I had been traveling for nearly 24 hrs, and we still had to make it to the hotel.

We thought the walk in San Fran was long, and we were wrong. 2.5 miles or so walking behind many tired old co-passengers, and we arrived at the Japanese customs desks and a line up of nearly 200 people. I didn't count, and I didn't have to. The sign we passed only 2 minutes into the line let us know we had a 45 minute wait ahead of us. Standing with our carry on luggage, sweating in the heat and humidity, the line up was not a pleasant experience. After 10 hours on a plane, the collection of body odors in line up left something to be desired, and the escalating length brought a police-style guard to the front of the line to make sure everyone had their customs form filled out properly. He thankfully moved the line along faster than it was moving otherwise, and by the time we got through, we had cooled down. Our luggage was already off the baggage racks and waiting for us, so it was easy to put it onto a stroller and walk through the baggage claim desks. By the time we finally crossed over to Japanese territory (outside of the international terminal), our traveling time had surpassed 24 hours and we were both cranky and disoriented. For some unexplained reason, I decided to not take a taxi, and made Dad wait with me to take the hotel courtesy bus to the hotel. Unfortunately, the first Hilton bus that showed up was for air flight crew only. The second was for crew and passengers from Korean Air. By the time a bus arrived that we could take, another 45 minutes had passed, and the bus was long overdue. Ahead of us were a Korean tour group, and although we tried to by-pass them at the hotel front doors, they beat us into the check-in line and once again, we had to wait. As the front desk clerks whisked through the tour group, we patiently waited for our turn, and thankfully, were upgraded to a deluxe room for our Narita stay. The deluxe room, as it was described to us, had 10 square feet more space than the regular rooms, and was only an additional 17 dollars a night. Dad decided to splurge. For the record, the regular rooms are 25 square feet. Total.

The tiniest little Japanese girl helped us with our luggage. She put it all onto a luggage cart, and tried her hardest to maneuver the beast of a thing around the corner and into the elevator. Feeling sorry for her, Dad helped her push the cart to our room, and we each grabbed a suitcase after we'd gotten inside. By the time the girl had explained the rooms intricate light and heat operations, neither of us had the energy to unpack. Wanting nothing more than to sleep, we forced ourselves to stay awake long enough so that I could take a quick shower and we could eat dinner. Too tired to leave the hotel (and not to mention scared of getting lost in Japan) we ventured into the Japanese style restaurant. Given the choice of restaurant or sushi bar, I chose the bar, where we spent a half hour alone with the sushi chef eating to our hearts content. I think we amused the man as he patiently explained what each of the items in the window were and prepared our selections for us. When I tried to ask if we'd ordered enough for 2, our first language mishap was apparent when he called not only one, but two hostesses/waitresses in to try and figure out what we'd asked. Dad made things simple by ordering a side dish of rice, and we left it at that. We drudged our way back to our room, and into bed we went. Dad was out like a light instantly. I read about a page of my book and was likewise, and all by 7:30 pm.
Dad was up at 3:30, and went back to sleep around 4. I slept through the night except for a minute or two when he came into the room after a venture down to the lobby. At the door to our hotel room is a slot with the instructions to "please insert room key". When dad took the key out and headed downstairs, the power to the room was disconnected. By inserting the key back into the slot, the power came back on, and it came on with a vengeance. Every light in the room came on at full brightness around 4 in the morning, just long enough to wake me up and for Dad to rush around turning them each off again. I rolled back over and was out until 8:30 that morning, and Dad was up shortly afterwords at 9.

So much more to share, but I'm tired of typing, and have to be up early tomorrow morning to leave for Hiroshima. Maybe there will be internet on the train tomorrow, or else I'll catch everyone up later.

By the way, I got ahold of Mariko & she sounds good. She and her boyfriend are going on a vacation to Okinawa next week and we'll get together sometime afterwords!
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jiriz on

Hilton rooms
25 square feet is about 6' x 4' - a coffin size. Two people sleeping there would have lie on top of each other.

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