Well, we made it to Japan.
For those who don't already know that I was going to Japan, I'm here for two weeks with my mother and my brother David. The timing is so we can attend Nippon2007
AKA Worldcon, but we are also going to be spending several days in Tokyo and Kyoto, before and after the con respectively.
So I made the decision to stay up Friday night before my early morning Saturday flight, first from Raleigh to Chicago, where I would meet my mom and brother, and then from Chicago to O'Hare. Staying up was to get a head start on the jetlag and it seems to have worked pretty well. (Brief side note: I really hate the Chicago airport. Least favorite I've ever been to. :P)
First leg was ordinary, then had a 4 1/2 hour layover waiting for our flight to Tokyo, but I met up with my family pretty quickly, so the time passed faster than it would have if I'd been alone. Then the flight. Ugh. 13 hours in the air. The seats are actually more comfortable than most normal domestic flights and they have lots of movies and such to watch, but thirteen hours in that cramped space is still not what I'd call fun. Just the price we have to pay I guess. Better than spending a week on a boat or something. Fortunately I managed to sleep through about half of it, which was the plan, of course, and the reason I stayed up the night before.
We arrived at the Tokyo airport and made our way through customs without too much trouble. The airport was pretty crowded, and we were starting to see some Japanese flavor, stores, vending machines, etc., but still, airports are airports. We picked up our G-Phones (American Cell-phones don't work here), our Japanese rail passes, and then exchanged our currency.
For the first night, we chose to stay at a hotel near the airport, so we left the terminal to catch our hotel shuttle. We arrived mid-afternoon and the weather was overcast, but hot and humid. Ahh... feels just like home. ;)
Most of the locals we've come across so far speak English pretty well, but it's occasionally tricky to recognize when they are speaking Japanese and when they are speaking accented English. Our shuttle driver had to say "Holiday Inn" three or four times before we realized what he was saying.
I didn't manage to learn much Japanese, but I've been trying to use what I know. Which basically amounts to pointing at things that I know the word for and saying the word. For example, pointing to a plane and saying "hikooki" (plane). I get laughed at a lot.
We arrived at our hotel, the Holiday Inn Tobu-Narita, and got all checked in. It's a western-style hotel, so aside from the wacky robot toilet/bidet and the tea-maker instead of the coffee-maker, the biggest differences from American hotels are the contents of the vending machines and the programs on the television.
After settling in a little, my mom and brother were on a mission to find beer, and I went along. They had beer in the hotel lounge and I had some sake. Mmmm... I likes me some sake.
There, we discussed where to go for dinner. We had a choice of a more western-style restaurant and buffet or the "Chinese Bamboo Garden." We chose the latter and had "Sour and Pepper Soup" (Much like Hot and Sour Soup, but with some kind of sesame oil too,) Shanghai fried noodles, and sauteed pork with cabbage in garlic and sweet bean paste. Everything was good but the pork was especially tasty. I haven't really tasted anything quite like it before, and it was very good.
Then we browsed all the Japanese-y stuff they had at the gift shop and I bought some ice cream from a vending machine. It was a box full of individually wrapped bite-size chocolate ice-cream nuggets. Pretty tasty.
By then, we were ready to crash, so we went to bed. My brother and I were a little better-rested than my mom, so we got up about 5:30 AM and walked around the hotel a little. Not much to walk to, but it's sometimes fun to check out the "ordinary" stuff in addition to the touristy stuff. It was hot and humid already, so we just checked out the hotel grounds and took some pictures.
In a little bit here, we're going to go have breakfast at the hotel restaurant, and then the plan for the rest of the day is to take the shuttle back to the airport and leave our luggage there while we walk to a nearby temple. Around lunch time we'll be catching the train into Tokyo proper. We're staying in a more traditional Japanese hotel in Ginza for the next two nights, so we'll be checking in there and figuring out something to do this afternoon. I'm sure we won't have trouble thinking of something. ;)Continue to part 2