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EMD's Japan Trip Report, 3/05

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After a yr. of planning, my son (14 yrs) and I set out on a 2 wk. trip to the Tokyo and Kyoto areas. This was my first pleasure trip abroad since I backpacked through Europe after college. I’ve never traveled for more than 3 days (and only in the U.S.) alone w/my son. I’ve never been on a plane for over 8 hrs.

DAY 1: Sat., 3/12

Slept fitfully last night. Tried to go to sleep by the counting method; instead of sheep I was counting the number of ziplock bags I had used packing. As the alarm rang I was dreaming that my son woke up on Sat. and decided he was not going w/me, and I ended up driving to the airport alone.

1st flight uneventful, to Minneapolis. The flight to Narita didn’t seem long. We left MN at 1 p.m. on a NWA 747. We had primo coach (FF) seats, 63A and 63C, two seats alone together in the rear of the plane, with an huge amt. of space btwn. 63A and the window, thanks to RKKWAN’s suggestion. I did planning re the trains for which we needed to get reservations and we watched episodes of “24” on our DVD player. No sleep at all. The two guys behind us acted and smelled funny, ala Cheech and Chong. They laughed and cursed the first hr. and then passed out. More on them later.

The food was decent, but they do not offer much in the way of fluids. One drink after takeoff, w/meals, and they went through the cabin w/H2O only one other time.

We arrived at 4:30 p.m. on Sun., awake for 20 hrs. The plane went way out to a remote area where other 747s were parked (I later heard the area referred to as “the graveyard”). They unloaded us and we got on buses to the terminal. Problem was that not everyone could fit on the buses, so we waited 25 min. til more buses showed up. In the terminal, we got in customs line for 80 min. We got our bags and just outside of the baggage area was the famous TIC office! I stopped to get directions to the ATM, cell rental, and JR office. We hit the ATM- no problems using it, as it had English. We stopped at the phones, but no English there so I decided we would deal w/that on Mon. Last stop was the JR office and by this time (7 p.m.) they were closing. But I got in in time, activated our passes and got reservations for trains we thought we might need for the next 2 wks. The JR lady was patient and spoke very good English. One surprise was that we weren’t able to get the first few choices for the day and time we wanted to go from Tokyo to Kyoto. JR lady said that was because we were going to Kyoto on a Sat. in spring. We ended up w/reservations on the day we wanted, but hrs. earlier. I vowed that we would get reservations before leaving the U.S. on the eki system next time.

Got the 7:30 pm limo bus. Cheech and Chong got on the bus, as they were also at the Westin. I kidded them about following us. The hotel was impressive and gorgeous at 9 p.m. I felt like throwing myself down and kissing the ground, but instead I barely made it to the rm. and collapsed.

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