Unlike last year, my vacation to Japan started a bit earlier this year, August 3rd thanks to my parents taking my brothers and I to Comerica Park in Detroit, MI for a Tiger game. This is the third time I have been to the park. It was a lot of fun hanging out with everyone, even though we got absolutely soaked
Anyway, I knew that going to this game presented a risk cause sleep would be hard to come by during the course of my trip; I have never slept well on planes. Thankfully I got about 5hrs ahead of the trip.
The first part of the journey was from Detroit to Toronto via my first ever “turbo-prop” plane ride.
I will say this, these planes are LOUD!!! And it seems like the positioning of the emergency exit is not the smartest location, as I told the flight attendant “there is a giant whirling propeller outside the exit!!”. Anyway, aside from a bit of nervousness, the trip was uneventful. We arrived in Toronto in good time.
While waiting for the plane I had a great chance to meet a Serbian immigrant by the name of Pete. He was on his to the “former Yugoslovoia” which is now 10 different countries. Beautiful area, the Balkands, but a lot of fighting and politics over the past 20yrs has heavily divided it. Thankfully, I had been paying attention to the news of late and we had a good conversation about American foreign policy and the fate of Slobodan Milošević who is being tried for war crimes.
It is at this point of the trip that things began to slide south. First, Air Canada, I love your plane and Toronto is a wonderful airport but, DO NOT DELAY A 12hr FLIGHT FOR 2HRS BECAUSE YOU CANT GET THE TV SYSTEM WORKING!!! Especially after we board a flight already delayed 2hrs.
I am not joking, this problem delayed our departure from Toronto by 2.5hrs!!! It totally destroyed any chance I had of hanging out with Mami in Fussa for the festival. Though, perhaps it was a blessing in disguise. The delay allowed me to avoid rush-hour and forced me to actually go to bed 🙂
The flight to Tokyo was smooth and uneventful, if not a bit longer then I remember. Unfortunately, my goal of working on my Windows Phone 7 app was dismissed because MPNS (Microsoft Push Notification Service) requires Internet even if you are using a local service reference.
Upon landing in Narita, I was amazed at how well the experience last year prepared me for things. Last year, because of a mix-up in arrivals, it took the better part of 4hrs to get through Customs and Immigration, this year, about 30m total. After that I exchanged my money, when down and got my Rail pass. Bit of a snag here, I had to delay the start of the pass for one day to ensure I could cover the Shinkansen from Osaka to Tokyo on the 11th.
But again, this might have been a blessing in disguise. Because the reliance on JR trains was removed for the night, I was able to take the Skyliner line from Narita to Ueno.
Ueno, is much farther north then Tokyo and I had made it a point to limit my travel due to the three bags I was carrying. So, as I rode I knew I would have a tough go of it, working down the Yamanote to Tokyo, and then Maronouchi and Hibiya subway lines. But I caught a break. The Hibiya line connects to Ueno!!
Once I learned this, and having studied the Tokyo subway maps in detail prior to departure, I jumped at the chance. It was some extra walking at Ueno station, but instead of changing trains and going through “The Maw” I was able to circumvent the whole process and get there quite fast.
And as I came up to street level from Higashi-Ginza, my photographic memory immediately kicked on, and I recognized EXACTLY where I was and I knew where the hotel was in relation. At this point, my body was beginning to really complain. I did sleep, somewhat, on the plane, but certainly not comfortably. I made it to the hotel and up to my room and was greeted with awesomeness: being a Platinum Marriott member (still) I am always treated like royalty at Marriott hotels, especially the really nice ones.
After arriving, I immediately took inventory and reorganized things for tomorrow’s trip to Hiroshima. Only had a couple things explode, but I knew they might so they were isolated from everything else. Spent the remainder of the evening playing with my Trophy tinkering with the settings to make the phone work properly.
At present, I am debating, internally, if a prepaid cell might be a better choice for right now. With voice calls costing $2/min and sending txt messages not all that much cheaper, it very well might be the best option, even if it is unexpected. Unfortunately, my Japanese language skills are not quite good enough to where I would be comfortable buying a cell phone here. In my experience, while many Japanese can speak English, they don’t speak it well and certainly the people in the small shops don’t speak it with enough confidence to where I would be willing to buy a cell.
This matter will be worked on today. Tomorrow’s entry will show me meeting my friend Mari in Osaka as I make my way to the Hiroshima Sheraton.