Tokyo Journal 2003: Day One

January 20th, 2003

Sorry for the delayed update, I’ve been sick. But I have rectified the haircut issue!

12/26 – 9:50 AM

Because of security “enhancements” at the airport, I wanted to arrive with time to spare. Tales of security line horrors and my own experiences had given me a thrill of Orwellian fear as I packed. Is this pen too weapon-like? Will my medications be so numerous as to arouse suspicion? What will I do without a nail clipper for 15 hours? This last is no joke – I feel naked without one. As I mentioned once to an apoplectic knife-owner, there’s nothing I’ve ever needed a knife for that my nail clipper couldn�t handle…and it’s true! Plus, I really hate when my nails are dirty.

So, we left *really* early and watched the dawn rise over New York City. Kind of a nice way to say goodbye to my home. (Oddly, that’s what I’m missing most right now – my house. I love my house, my bed, my couch. It’s been a few hours and I miss them already.)

We arrived with plenty of time, so the minor delays of checking in and security were to laugh at. We sat down, had breakfast…I *finally* had my coffee, so I once again had a personality. Now we sit and wait our flight, while suffering from nervous stomachs. I’m a joy to travel with…not. Between my asthma, allergies and slight claustrophobia and tendency towards insomnia, I’m difficult at the best of times. As you can imagine, the prospect of 14 hours in the plane was very appealing, also not. I cannot imagine a flight to Australia!

11AM

We’re on the plane and it’s very much like a teeny little slice of hell. Smarmy Xmas carols are being interspersed with Lite FM-type music, extra lite. Pattie’s dying, I’m laughing hysterically. So far we’ve heard:

Johnny Mathis
Crosby, Stills, Nash
Paul McCartney
Simon & Garfunkel
John Lennon
Beach Boys

If Dante were alive today, he�d have begun his Inferno in an airport, instead of a dark wood…

They keep making us eat on this flight, which wouldn’t be bad, if the food wasn’t so godawful. For lunch I ate P’s pretentious lemon cookie, with all hand-rolled, organic ingredients. We napped and they woke us to feed us again, too bad they’ve never heard of protein.

I’m reading Dashiell Hammett’s the Maltese Falcon. The writing is so over-adjectival that if I received it as a submission for the Fanfic Revolution, I’d probably have rejected it.

Well, that blew – now I’m reading a Charlie Chan mystery, which is better right off the bat. The characters are more engaging, for one thing.

Our seatmate for the flight was a total fashion victim. She wasn’t very nice, but I didn’t want to kill her or anything until she spent the whole landing blocking the view out the window while she attacked her split ends with a determination and spirit that would have made her teachers proud.

As we landed, our usual horrible travel karma kicked in. Our friend Emi wasn�t there to meet us! We waited about an hour, but no one showed. I assumed, rightly, that Emi was at the wrong terminal (we had a “code-share” flight, meaning that while it said it was one airline, it was actually a totally different one. As it happened, by the time Emi showed up at our terminal, we had already left.

Now, our bad travel karma works in two ways – one, we usually are surrounded by sports teams in hotels, or drug dealers, or other people who roam the halls until the small hours making A LOT of noise. Or, if there’s a choice to be made, we make the wrong one…if there’s an easy way and a hard way…well, you get the idea. :-) And the hotel never has my reservation.

We had a choice of a bus that went directly to the hotel, or the subway. On the assumption that the subway would be less money (it wasn’t – it was more) we chose that. The Narita Express takes you as far as Shinjuku, then you get on a crowded commuter train to Ikebukuro. We sat down on the Express, but apparently had non-reserved seats and were in a reserved car. The conductor tried to tell us how much it would cost to stay there, but we were so sleep- and protein-deprived that we couldn’t get it and we just moved to a second-class car.

At Shinjuku, we found the right platform. We just couldn’t figure out the right train. (More on the trains later.) Eventually, after P went and acted blonde at a conductor, we got the right train and found the hotel with no fuss. At the hotel, of course, the reservation was wrong. :-) (You thought I was kidding about that, I know. But I’m not – it’s *always* like that.) After a slight delay we got a room which was room-like and we sort of sagged with relief.

Next time: Night on the Town

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