Nippon Travelogue Part One: The Longest Several Days

I’ve been meaning to write all this down for a while, so your Satellite Show is as good a place as any. The best, even. Plus it will eventually force me to upload the rest of the pictures to Flickr, because the world is demanding several hundred more pictures of DisneySea.     

So here we go, our honeymoon to Japan.  

Everyone knows how exhausting a wedding can be. The rehearsal day was pretty nerve racking itself, and then we didn’t sleep that much the night before, and then we had to get up at the crack of doom dawn to get ready, and then the ceremony itself, and then we went to Disneyland the next day, and then we still didn’t get much sleep the next night, and then we had to get up at an even worse hour to make the drive to Los Angeles to drop off our car and then drive to LAX, and then and then…

I figure we probably got no more than eight solid hours of sleep in that three day period. So it was a great relief to finally just relax in the terminal and not have to worry about anything for the next thirteen hours.         

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Um…?

This did not fill us with confidence! Luckily the plane trip did not offer any other obvious signs of massive failure. However, I had no idea that the international terminal would be so BARREN. We don’t fly much, so we’re used to terminals being filled with Taco Bells and bars. This place had exactly one place that served actual sustenance in the form of food but nothing vegetarian for the wife to eat, so we staved off starvation with potato chips and coconut juice boxes.

Now, Chels has never been thrilled about flying, so the prospect of twelve hours on a plane made her a little nervous. So of course she had to review the safety pamphlet, you know, just in case.        

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Also, um…?

But we all felt much better after eating and especially after the free sake.         

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Kampai!

Much better.        

Like I said, we don’t fly much, so our individual monitors with on demand movies was an awesome discovery, even more so when we found the channel that mapped our progress and gave us the current speed, temperature, distance, and estimated time of arrival. Facts are fun! At least for the first five hours. Beyond then it’s watching that damn timer slowly click away, or maybe we can try to watch Bolt again for the third damn time.        

This was also our first international flight, and I sort of had a vague idea of what to do when we stepped off the plane. Customs, some other check in, no need to claim any baggage, should be easy enough but not so much when you’re running on maybe ten hours of sleep in a four day period. Oh, and after several sakes. We eventually worked our way through to the main lobby of Narita airport, and now I only had two things to do: find the Japan Rail ticket office so that we can get into Tokyo on the Narita Express, and also find the Narita Express itself before the time printed on our tickets. This is one the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.        

I used to describe severe exhaustion as “Vegas tired” which was coined from several road trips. Now, I say “Japan tired.” As in, “I’m Japan tired so I can’t remember what the ticket counter person just said to me thirty seconds ago.” Plus, it didn’t help that most of everything was in Japanese. What’s the deal with that? Am I right folks?

So I somehow manage make it to the ticket office and buy what we need, and then there was the question of where the hell the train was. Nothing made sense, even the English signs. I find a platform, but I see across the way there are several other platforms. WHICH PLATFORM IS THE CORRECT ONE?       

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What’s a train again?

I try and study the grid of the train schedule, but it might as well have been in some other language, which it was, and I’ve only got ten minutes to figure this out. Right about now is where I start to have panic attack. My brain, she no work. Mouth goes dry, eyes can’t focus. Sheer terror! I do the only thing I can think of. I show the tickets to the one guy who looks like he works there and say, “Uh………um………Narita Express?”        

He looks at the tickets and points down near my feet at the tile with the number nine printed on it.

“Hai! Car number nine! Next train!”        

I had somehow managed to wander to the exact spot we needed to be at. Japanese train stations, man, how do they fucking work?        

So we board the train and find our seats, and try to relax as much as possible because we know what’s coming: Tokyo Station (pictures not available yet), one of the busiest train stations in the world. (We will be visiting the actual busiest in Shinjuku in just a few days.) Sure enough, we step off the Narita Express into a maelstrom of humans scrambling in every direction. Thankfully, navigating Japanese train stations is quite easy because everything is color coordinated. Look up, find a sign for the Keiyo Line and see that it’s red. Look down, find the red line on the ground and follow that, up the stairs, down the hall, across this giant room, up some more stairs, through the lobby, down some other stairs, down another hall, up yet another flight of stairs, down another hall, some more stairs, across some other giant room, down a final set of stairs to the platform. What I’m saying is that Tokyo Station is freaking huge. And all the while we had to fight our way through exactly one million Japanese locals. Of course, it was much easier once Chels told me to move to the left since I’m used to travelling on the right. Baka gaijin.        

So we find the line to take us to the Disneyland resort area, and I have a fifty fifty chance of choosing the correct direction. I figure we can always get off and turn around, but I again somehow managed to pick the right one. We got off at Maihama Station, where I’ll buy our park tickets before proceeding to our hotel room. But here I come to realize that I DO NOT KNOW HOW TO LEAVE THE TRAIN STATION. The tricky thing about the Japanese train system is that you have to check out with your ticket, but I never checked in. The Narita Express tickets aren’t working, and neither is our prepaid Suica cards. I must have looked obviously bewildered because a very nice Japanese woman came up and asked if I needed help. I sure did, lots of it. She didn’t have much luck at first with the machines but she directed me to a window where they just waved us through. It was just that easy. Look, give us a break. We were Japan tired.        

Finally after, oh, seventeen hours of driving, waiting, flying, waiting, training, walking, and monorailing, we arrive in our room and promptly go to sleep. Only to wake up the next morning and go an extremely busy theme park.        

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Ahhhhhhh.

No time for relaxing, Dr. Jones. To be continued.

About Tim

Tim Bennett works for a publisher of science and technology, amongst other things.
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1 Response to Nippon Travelogue Part One: The Longest Several Days

  1. Clint says:

    That safety card picture really does look disturbingly like it could be a page from “Felching for Pedophiles”.

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