Turning Japanese Again, Flying to Japan

I slept like crap.

And it wasn’t because I slept on the couch at Aunt Brenda and Uncle Mike’s last night. I’m certain it’s because of stress. Kind of ironic to have this crop up the night before I leave on vacation, eh?

It’s because I’m not traveling alone. But I’m not just Jen’s travel companion, I’m Jen’s legal guardian for the next two weeks (I’ve got the documents to prove it). I’m responsible for her safety, her well-being, and certainly to some extent, her life. I have to make sure that all is taken care of so there’s little concern about what will happen or where we will go.

The Kyoto guest house worries me a bit. The map I have isn’t horribly clear. I’ll have the chance to review the map when we get to Chris’ place later “today”. But there’s also the cell phone that I supposedly reserved, but never received confirmation on. I hope we can get that, because it will be very handy for communication. That, and I’d hate to get charged for something I never got to use.

Getting to Chris’ is actually the least of my worries. Even though Chris was generous in sending me a “refresher” map to guide me around Yotsukaido (Chris won’t be meeting us when we get there — he’ll already be off to Toyohashi), I’m pretty sure of my memory of the area. Then it’s just a matter of catching the correct trains on Saturday to get us to Tokyo, then to Toyohashi, on time so we can catch a shuttle bus.

I think once I’m in Toyohashi, I can relax a bit.

Although I was awake before 6:00 this morning, I didn’t rise until 6:30. I proceeded to shower and dress, while Brenda made us all breakfast. Maggie (the dalmatian) was going insane — she knew something was up because of the activity and the bags being packed. Fried eggs, sausages, hashbrowns, and cheese bread toast.

Then it was off to the airport. Brenda drove, Mike ran shotgun, while Jen and I sat in the back. It was a quiet ride up. There seemed to be a lot of anxiety in the car. Not that I noticed — I was telling myself over and over that this wasn’t a big deal, and being responsible for more than just myself was not a problem.

Sooner or later, I hope to start believing it.

Security was an issue. Normally, I breeze through it. Every so often, they ask to turn on my camera or start my Minidisc player. But this time, I’m carrying wedding presents for Chris and Kaz from friends back home. I had packed a few of them in my carry-on. And that’s what they wanted to look at.

Specifically, it was the juicer that Karen and Mark were sending. It had never dawned on me that it could be a problem. It was extremely light, so I figured it was plastic. But what about blades, or some moving part? I hadn’t actually seen the juicer — Karen and Mark had already wrapped it. But security wanted to. I had to open it.

My hands were shaking. I couldn’t let them confiscate it. I needed to take this, and had no-one else who could get it from me. For a moment, I forgot about Jen.

I realized quickly why security wanted to see this thing. Although it had no moving parts or “sharp” edges, the outline on the x-ray machine really must’ve set off some alarms. It’s shaped like a tripod: three legs that rise not quite vertically, in a slight curve, towards a central node. The node rises from the union of the three legs to a roughly egg-shaped and -sized pod. The pod has the grooves common with hand-operated juicers. The whole thing is one-piece aluminium. And thankfully, not a threat.

With that, we headed to the gate to wait for our plane to arrive, deboard, restock, and for us to get on. While we left a little late, our arrival in Vancouver should be roughly on time.


We’ve about five hours to go before we land at Narita. So far, we’ve had lunch (ravioli), watched one movie (“Master and Commander”) and are most of the way through a second (the classic “Roman Holiday”, with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn). I fell asleep not far into the second movie, owning to what I can only describe as sudden, inescapable exhaustion.

But it’s what I needed. Earlier, I was stressed out. I wasn’t rested, I wasn’t ready. I wasn’t looking forward to arriving in Japan. You could almost say I was scared.

Not now. I’m looking forward to it. I think the nap was all I needed. I’m awake, alert, and eager. This is going to be fun. Best part is, the usual headwind going in this direction isn’t as strong, so we’re moving at a faster clip than usual, arriving about a half hour earlier. This is a good thing.

I’m not sure if Jen is excited or terrified. Apparently, she was talking her head off yesterday, repeatedly saying she wasn’t excited. (Riiiiight.) Jen’s been pretty quiet, though. Her usual half-giddiness is almost non-existent, and hasn’t said much since we left the house earlier this morning. She claims she’ll be excited once we get there. We’ll see.

A little under five hours to go…


Our flight arrived even earlier than predicted, which was fine with me. It was good to get off the plane — my back was beginning to give me some trouble, and my feet were dying to be used. Sitting down for nine and a half hours really isn’t my cup of tea.

We came in at a different point in the airport than I had come into last year — a completely separate building for Terminal 2. (This is a really flipping huge airport.) We even had to take a short shuttle ride from one building to the next.

Immigration was about the same as last year, but a little quicker. This time, I didn’t have to explain myself to the clerk. I had the immigration form filled out correctly, so there was no questions about what I was doing. Jen passed through with equally as little trouble.

Customs was a little more trouble than I would have liked (the clerk wanted to look at a few too many things in my duffle bag), but we passed through again without much affair.

And before we knew it, we were in Japan. There were three things I needed to do before we left for Yotsukaido: Get more money from the Post Office ATM, pick up the rented cell phone, and pick up our rail passes.

The Post Office was easy — I vaguely knew were it was. The desk for G-Call (the company we were renting the cell phone from) was a little harder to find. The information desk didn’t quite understand, so we ended up on the third floor before being directed to the first floor. But we found the place. The clerk spoke just enough English to understand most of what I was asking, but not enough for me to understand him.

It’s amazing what you can communicate with hand gestures.

Cell phone in hand, we then went to the JR Office to get our passes. Took a little while (the people in front of us were very good at monopolizing time), which was fine, as we’d missed the 16:04 train to Yotsukaido, anyway. As soon as we’d done that, Jen promptly proceeded to lose her mind.

Jen had spotted a couple of the infamous Japanese vending machines while we were running the quick errands. Now she was in full vending machine glory. She had to personally inspect each and every machine in sight. She kept apologizing for the exuberant (if perhaps a bit odd) behaviour. No big deal as far as I was concerned — it was all a good laugh for me.

I went through the same thing last year.

Jen immediately bought a can of hot tea, which she found to her surprise (and partial dismay) to be actually hot. (It was very warm, but not discomforting.) Can in hand, we headed off in search of a train.

The JR platform was, in stereotypical Japanese fashion, spotless. Jen was thoroughly fascinated by this. But no more so with the continued abdunance of vending machines. By the time we got on the train at 17:04, she had four cans, one of which was mine.

The trip to Yotsukaido was fairly easy. Upon arrival, we headed over to the Yotsukaido ALS school (where Chris works) to grab a key for his apartment. After a quick conversation with his coworkers, Jen and I were off to the apartment.

Chris called while Jen was showering. He suggested I call Tony and make arrangements to get together with him the following day for our trip down to Toyohashi. Made sense to me. So while Jen dried and dressed, Tony and I worked out a couple of details for tomorrow.

The next order of business? Food. We needed food. Luckily, I know where the Mos Burger is around here, thanks to Kaz showing me the first night I came to Japan. Jen had a hamburger.

Hey, at least it wasn’t McDonald’s!

Home again (following a quick run to 7-11 for green tea ice cream), we settled down for a well-deserved rest. Not counting a couple of cat naps on the plane, we haven’t slept in almost 24 hours. Hopefully, jet lag won’t be a big deal this time around.

It’s good to be back.