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.