My first “smooth” airport experience 

As I glanced outside the tinted window of the 747 jetliner, it occurred to me how lucky I am. Not only was I headed across an ocean to a country people only dream of seeing, Air Canada was nice enough to upgrade me to first class. So there I sat, writing and casually sipping a bottomless glass of champaign while fergie’s song glamorous played over and over in my head. 

While on the first leg of the journey, from Denver to Vancouver, I had the pleasure of meeting a long time resident of Longmont, Colorado who moved from Singapore in her late 20s. Though her story was interesting, I’m thankful not to have been in her shoes at the time. She was traveling with her family to soul, South Korea but her husband didn’t make it on the flight due to an issue with his boarding pass. Frantically, she was trying to coordinate with flight attendants in broken English about her options of reconnecting with him. Evidently her cellphone wasn’t working and she looked like she was about to have a complete breakdown. I know from personal experience how nerve racking and anxiety inducing situations like that can become. 

When we finally landed in Narita, the first thing that occurred to me what’s how efficient and clean this city is. Getting off the fight, my family and I were greeted by customs guards who proceeded to check my passport and declarations form before taking my photo and fingerprints. Despite the extra security measures, their system was so well thought out that we managed to get off the plane, grab our luggage, go though customs, and get on a train headed toward our hotel all in a matter of 15 minutes. For a city with a population of around 18 billion, efficiency is key I suppose.  

The train we took to the hotel was clean and equipped with free wifi. Since the airport was the first stop on the metro line, there was a little old man who went into the cabin before us and cleaned before flipping all the chairs around by hand to face in the correct direction. It stuck me how much pride he took in his work.  Every movement he made was done with precision and grace. Later, I came to realize that this is a cultural norm.  Though I have always heard the people of Japan were respectful and dedicated to their jobs,  I didn’t understand that it was to such and extreme degree. Watching even garbage men perform their daily duties here is an oddly humbling experience. 

Tokyo Bound

In exactly 4 days I will be packing up the necessities and preparing to embark on another adventure. Unlike the rest of my travels though, this time I will be headed into uncharted territory. The majority of my travels have led me to  Europe, but this time I will he headed to  Japan.  This will mark my first introduction to Asia and the mysteries that the region has to offer. Though I am a little intimated by the potential culture shock, this feeling is overridden by genuine curiosity and excitement.

In the last few days, I’ve finally had time to start research on both cultural expectations and geographic context for all the things that I hope to see.  Our trip will start in Tokyo before heading to see a local department in the town of Nakahara and finally riding the Japan Rail trains down to Kyoto, Osaka, and Nara. Though this itinerary is pretty flexible, it is always good to set out with general idea of where we will be headed.

Even preparing for this trip has been educational. For the Japan Rail train passes, we had to order them ahead of time. Evidently they ate not actually sold in Japan since they are a promotional experiment set up by the government to help tourists and boost the economy. They must be picked up out of the country. Only visitors to the region can get them for either 1 ,7, or 14 days. While I was visiting Boulder, Colorado one day, my father sent me an address of an independent British travel company office off Pearl Street and instructed me to pick up the tickets. I walked into a brand new, yet nearly abandoned officebuilbing and took an elevator to the top floor. After giving the receptionist our last name she handed me three, antique looking, paper tickets with japanese lettering and barcodes printed on the font. I was expecting something comparable to a DC metro card. Instead, the tickets that were handed to me stirred up memories of the train tickets seen in popular children’s anime, Spirited Away.

I try my best to remain openminded and look forward to the known. I live by the philosophy that the best stories come from experiences where you walk into a situation without any preconceived notions or expectations. No matter what I might encounter, I’ll do my best to take on life one step at a time. As always, I hope to share my experiences and adventures though this blog.