Becca Anglesey, August 16, 2018
Destination: Tokyo, Japan, via Osaka
Program: Honors Japan: Construction of Japanese Identity – A Comparative Look at National Narratives in Japan and U.S. (Exploration Seminar)
As I write this I am sitting in a cute little Airbnb bedroom in Osaka, Japan. What an adventure it was to get here!
We left Stanwood, WA, at 7:30am on Monday August 20th. My boyfriend, Dan, is also on this trip with me and his parents offered to drive us to the airport, so we stayed our last night out at their house (and with our cats!) to make the process a bit easier. The drive to SeaTac was long, but oddly traffic wasn’t that bad for Seattle. What was bad was all the wildfire smoke that was just choking the life out of the city! I was glad to be getting away from the poor air quality.
We arrived at the airport before 10am for a 1pm flight. The counter for our airline (ANA) wasn’t even open yet! I don’t think I have ever been so early for a flight before, but I can’t say that I’m upset about it. I’m usually the person scrambling to get to the gate on time, so this was a nice change. We watched as the staff set up the counter for the day, putting up signs and even placing flowers on the counter. Once they were ready to take bags the whole crew lined up in front of us and bowed. Everyone was so friendly, and the check-in procedures were so smooth! We made sure to compliment them on the service before leaving the counter.
Security was alright, since both Dan and I have TSAPrecheck, but they still pulled him aside for extra screening. They thought his neck pillow was suspicious… hmm. After that getting to our gate was a breeze. We ate some food and chilled in the ANA lounge, where there was free snacks and drinks. We finally boarded our plane for a non-stop flight to Tokyo/Narita and we left smoky Seattle behind. We couldn’t even see Mt. Rainer as we left.
The experience flying with ANA as opposed to an American domestic line can’t even be compared. We were in premium economy seats, which we decided to get because the flight is so long, and Dan is very, very tall and he needed the extra leg room. It was completely worth every penny. The seats were fairly comfortable with a decent amount of leg room and bin space. We were given pillows, blankets, and even a pair of slippers to wear during the flight! The service was exceptional, and the food was delicious, which is unusual for airline food. I will for sure be flying with ANA again and I recommend it to anyone flying to Asia.
The real adventure started once we landed. We had to go through immigration and customs. I don’t know why, but every country I go to seems to think it is okay for the immigration room to be a thousand degrees. Several flights had landed at the same time and we all filed in tight lines to be processed, but it was incredibly hot with no air moving through the room whatsoever. We stood in line for about 30 minutes, which isn’t bad for immigration really, but I was a sweaty droopy mess by the time we got through it. After that customs was a breeze and we set off into the airport once again with our bags.
The first thing we had to find was our pocket wifi, which we had reserved online in advance. In Japan here is no free public wifi and we didn’t want to pay for pricey international plans for our phones, so the pocket wifi is a must have. However, no one could tell us where to pick them up! The company we reserved them through wasn’t with the other wifi rental counters and we had no idea what to do. Finally, we found some visitor information staff that helped us find out that our devices would be on the fifth floor, which was a major relief. I never would have suspected if someone hadn’t been able to tell me.
We also purchased Japan Rail passes for the next week, which is another must have in Japan. You can get just about anywhere on the train. Dan and I got our tickets to Osaka, which is where we will be doing some fun stuff before our program starts. We had to rush to get to the Narita Express from the airport to Shinegawa to connect to the bullet train. This was a bit hard for me. I’m not the most fit person in the world. I had two knee braces on, a heavy backpack, and two suitcases to lug about (one carryon, one full size). We had also been travelling for about 15 hours at that point and I was super tired. We had to board at the front of the train all the way down the platform and there were textured tiles on the platform that prevented the wheels on our suitcases from working very effectively. I had dropped my ticket in the rush and I hastily bent down to pick it up, but I forgot how heavy my backpack was and I toppled right over. I fell right onto my left knee. It hurt, but I couldn’t really stop. I popped back up and we rushed to get on the train just in time.
This first train ride went by in a bit of a blur. Dan and I didn’t do much but stare out the window for an hour. Once we got to Shinegawa, it was another race to our bullet train to Osaka. It got harder and harder to push my bags along and Dan had to help me a lot, for which I feel both grateful and guilty. Being in Japan for a month means that you need your stuff to make it. We packed relatively light, considering that we would be there for 32 days, but there are still essential things a person needs. We had originally planned on storing our large bags with a company until the 26th and living out of our carry-ons in Osaka, but we were so rushed to get to our trains that there was no time to sort that out. We didn’t even have time to buy any food. So, in the end all of our luggage came with us to Osaka.
On the bullet train I ended up falling asleep for a bit. It was so hot, and I was hungry and exhausted. We made it to Osaka station and switched trains once again to get to our final destination. Once we stepped outside the station I immediately began to sweat. I knew it would be hot and humid in Japan, but I was not at all prepared for the reality of it. Dan and I walked about four blocks to our Airbnb with our bags and we were both completely soaked by the time we got to the place.
Dan heroically got our bags inside, but it was a compete oven in the little house. Every room had an air conditioner, but they weren’t on and there were no instructions on how to turn them on. Dan had to mess with them for about an hour and a half to get them to work. I actually started to cry once he got one working. I was drenched in my own sweat, starving, in pain, and exhausted. We had been travelling for nearly 24 hours at this point.
Dan was so frustrated with the air conditioning situation and I couldn’t blame him. He had taken off his shirt and I could see the sweat rolling down his back, and on top of all the hard work he did getting us to our accommodations he also took care of me. He ran out to a 7-11 and got us some food and water so we wouldn’t die. I don’t know what I would have done without him there. I’m a grown woman, and I can usually take care of myself, but I was so overwhelmed that I could barely function. After eating a wonderful meal of katsu and rice balls, we finally went to bed. We will have to use separate rooms though, because the beds are tiny and there is no way we could both fit in one.
And here I sit after finally getting some rest. I feel much better, but I definitely learned some valuable lessons this time around. I am unused to travel like this, but I hope to do it more in the future and what I have learned over the last 36 hours should be very useful for the next trip. For today, however, we plan to rest and get used to the time difference. Japan is 16 hours ahead of Seattle, but I think we can manage. We will need to be fully recharged for the rest of our adventures in Osaka!