I’m Big in Japan: The Arrival (2005 May 6 - 7)

4 minute read

One thing I neglected to mention about preparing for the trip was the issue of exchanging currency. Over the years, plenty of sites and people have stated that Japan is still largely a cash oriented society. Combine that with the low rate of muggings over there, and I wanted to have plenty of yen in my pocket before leaving. We decided on a rough daily budget of what to spend on food, trains, and other daily needs, multiplied by twelve, and then tacked on some extra for souvenirs, etc. Ended up exchanging $3000US into yen via our local Bank of America branch.

May 6 was finally here, and we were all packed and ready to go. Guide books, yen, passports, travel documents, Wordtank, camera, tripod… we seemed well prepared for the trip. Our flight was departing Logan at 9AM, but we wanted to get there two hours in advance just in case. We missed the 5:30AM Braintree Logan Express but were fortunate to find out that they were adding another bus at 5:45AM. Hopped on that one and found ourselves at the airport at 6:15AM; just a wee bit early for our 9AM flight. Grabbed a few breakfast nibbles from Starbucks (because it was the only thing open) and tried to check in for the flight.

It was a good thing we got there early; Jm’s name has a hyphen in it, but her ticket lacked it. Since the name on the ticket did not precisely match her passport, the airline is required by law to give us a rough time. We managed to get things squared away without much bother and eventually boarded the plane. Roughly two hours later, we were in O’Hare to make our connection; I had never been through O’Hare before and found it unique. It had a Disney vibe to it with a giant dinosaur skeleton, neon lights, and plenty of tired people standing in long lines. Our layover was just under two hours, but I really don’t remember it feeling that long.

Boarded the plane for Narita and settled in for the long flight. Luck kept smiling on us; on a fairly packed two level 747, we managed to score the two seat row letting us have a bit of room to stretch without worrying about other people. Took a nap before the lunch service came around; lunch consisted of a tiny piece of chicken, rice, and some decent sides. Wasn’t half bad for flight food. Spent the next few hours reading through Catcher in the Rye before they started showing Spanglish. I was pleasantly surprised by the film; it turned out to be a sappy but amusing film with a suitably low key performance from Adam Sandler.

Caught some more sleep to try to adjust the body to Tokyo time before we arrived; woke up and watched National Treasure and Starsky & Hutch. Both films were exactly what I expected them to be, but they managed to be entertaining enough to chew up a few hours. Dinner was soon served and was purported to be beef; pressboard would have been a more accurate description. Fortunately, a snack pack passed out later removed the sour taste left by dinner. Somewhere in all of this, they also showed Because of Winn Dixie; I slept through most of it but don’t recall where it fell in the film rotation. My memory has also faded a bit with time, and I can’t recall what other books I read during the flight. I know I had at least one book by Murakami Haruki, but I can’t remember which one.

We (finally!) touched down in Nartia Saturday, 3:15PM and cleared customs quickly; didn’t seem to be too many flights arriving at that time. Found the 3:50PM bus to take us to our hotel and settled in for what turned out to be nearly a two hour ride into Tokyo. Normally, long bus/car rides put me to sleep, but I was determined to soak up as much of the scenery along the way. Spent the ride staring wide-eyed out the window before arriving at the Keio Plaza around 5:30PM.

While our internal clocks had adjusted to Tokyo time, our stomachs hadn’t quite caught up yet, so there was no need for dinner. The room was nice but sported twin beds, something we didn’t quite expect. We spent the rest of the night planning out our “free” days and watching the wonders of Japanese television. I also briefly explored the wonders of our toilet; it had two different bottom washing devices. After giving both a try thanks to the pressboard beef, I believe one of them is geared more for the female bits. It is certainly an interesting experience though I don’t think I would utilize such a feature much.

Sleep soon overcame us, and we drifted off to awake to the first day of our Japanese adventure.

The city outside Keio Plaza More city Even more city Yes... double beds Notice I already have the remote in hand The loo The toilet recommended a place called America Town


Daniel Zelter on

If you lost a few pounds, you’d be a dead ringer for Steve Carell.

Luis Cruz on


I don’t see it, but OK. It will be interesting to see if that opinion holds when I post some better pictures near the end of the trip.