From the moment my flight left Tampa at 7am Saturday morning the 10th, to the moment I stepped off the bus and into the blinding mountaintop sunlight at the entrance to APU, I logged exactly 44hrs of travel. Mind you, it needn’t have taken that long. My travel agent got a little carried away with the flight scheduling and took me on a minor jaunt to Osaka when I could have flown directly to Oita from Tokyo. However, spending the night in Osaka was a mini adventure in itself.
Flying to Tokyo from the East Coast of the US takes about 14hrs, depending on your airport of departure. If you’ve got the money, I highly recommend you fly first class. You’ll be seated in an electronically adjustable recliner that can be customized to your personal reclination needs in 8 different places. How do I know? I had 13.5hrs to stare at the one just across the velvet rope from my rock hard seat in the first row of coach.
During the flight you are actually fed quite well, two full meals and a light snack in between. You are, after all, wasting a day of your life tumbling through the stratosphere in a metal tube. They’d better feed you! Once you land in Tokyo you go through Customs. Customs Declarations in Japan is as simple as saying “I have nothing to declare.” So long as you don’t burst out laughing or drop an assault rifle from your coat while you say this, they wave you right through without delay. Narita Airport, the main port of entry for international flights, has English on every sign. So navigation is easy for non-Japanese speakers. Additionally virtually all employees speak English, or at least enough to help you through whichever action they’re involved in.
After Tokyo I flew onto Osaka where I spent the night in the cheapest hotel available after some negotiation with the hotel concierge at the airport. The conversation went something like this:
Me (in Japanese): Can you speak English?
Hotel Girl (in Japanese): A little…
(in Japanese culture, this basically means no…)
Me (in Japanese): Riiiiiiight, Japanese it is then…
So 5 minutes of broken Japanese later I had a reservation for a $62 room at the Hotel Crevette, and a van on the way to pick me up. Not too shabby. The hotel itself was a time warp back to the 70’s in every possible way, from the furniture…
…to the most excellent analog electronics, complete with toggle switches and turn dials.
Also, despite my Japanese culture studies in college, I was unprepared for this night-time possibility.
Indeed I was quite sore after so many hours of travel, but the hours that the service was available made me pause to question its true ramifications. Ultimately it was with great reluctance that I decided against it and lost the opportunity to make use of this artifact:
Seriously people, when was the last time you saw one of those in regular use?
The following morning I slowly repacked my bag, bid goodbye to the stunning vista outside my hotel room window, and boarded a plane to Oita, my last flight. All in all, while a long journey, it certainly wasn’t boring. And I can promise that should any of you choose to visit me, not only will you be able to do it without knowing Japanese, I think you’ll enjoy it too.