Tuesday, August 6, 2013

To Japan and Back Again part 1

Listened to this today and remembered how much I like Fleetwood Mac: Go Your Own Way. Dedicated to Emily Brisbin. Are you reading this, pal? I miss you!

So, the trip to Japan!

Faced with the rather daunting task of getting out of the airport and to the consulate in an hour and 40 minutes, I slept pretty poorly the night before. It's one of those things where you're just running through possible scenarios and trying to figure out what to do if things go wrong: what if my plane is late coming in? what if I get off on the wrong stop? what if I forgot an important document?

The good news is, none of those things happened. I was stressing, so I was on ultra alert mode and also move-as-quickly-as-possible mode. I speed walked in front of the passengers on my plane to get to immigration near the front of the line and was through there in probably 20 minutes. Then on to the subway, where I met a fellow ESL teacher going for a visa run.

Maybe it seems weird, but I was so glad to have a traveling buddy. I felt like because I was navigating for both of us, I could focus better and make decisions, even if the only thing I did was explain the route to her. We both got to the consulate with a half hour to spare.

I thought about doing some sight-seeing in Fukuoka, but after stepping back outside into the heat, I decided against it. It was HOT. Like, drenched in sweat in two seconds hot. The humidity was out of this world. I just wanted to get to my hotel, which I did with surprisingly no trouble! I had written walking directions from the subway based on picture from a google maps walking route, and I got there...two hours before check-in.

I totally just crashed in the lobby in the aircon for that time, reading Three Musketeers and looking at old photos on my compy. Also drinking Vanilla Coke that I found at a Family Mart, SCORE. My favorite soda of all time that I can hardly ever find anymore. Once I checked in, it was bath time for sure in the great deep, barrel like Japanese style bathtub. That hotel was absolutely fantastic. It was a very small room, but had everything I would have wanted, including clothes freshener which my clothes DEFINITELY needed if I wanted to put them back in my bag without stinking up the whole thing.

I may have spent that entire evening watching a Korean drama.

Getting myself to the consulate to pick up my visa would be easy, and I had time to kill after my checkout at 10 am before the visa was ready, so I headed to one subway stop away from the consulate stop and went to Ohori park. Best decision ever. The terrible heat was mediated a lot by the great shade from the trees and the wind off the lake/pond that the park's island was on. I also found a great Japanese garden to look around in for only 120 yen. By the time I had finished my nutritious lunch of a banana and ritz bits and spoken with a Korean tourist in Korean (!! so proud of myself), it was time to pick up the visa and get myself on the shinkansen to Tokyo as soon as possible.

I was able to get on a train leaving 45 minutes later, and was on my way by 3:10.  The ride was going to take about 6 hours, which I figured I would read for most of, but surprisingly, I didn't. I couldn't stop looking out the window! The scenery was so great, and I was seeing a huge chunk on Japan as I traveled across the country from the tip in Fukuoka to about the middle in Tokyo. The mountains in Japan are a bit taller than in Korea, and varying heights, so that you can see mountains beyond mountains instead of just mountains that are more or less the same height. The valleys are also wider, so there are bigger uninterrupted swaths of city surrounds by the mountains. The mountains were especially beautiful because of the varied vegetation on them. Even from far away I could pick out the different colored greens and textures of the trees. There was one plant in particular that looked like groups of giant ferns amongst the other trees, making the mountains look like something out of a little terrarium. I realized when we passed close by that those "ferns" were actually bamboo forests. So beautiful!

Finding Hope in Tokyo station however, was not a beautiful experience. I spent probably a 20 minutes to a half hour wandering around trying to find the right exit and asking people where the store was that we were to meet by. The workers at the station either told me the store didn't exist, or pointed me in literally the opposite direction. So frustrating I finally found her after using a pay phone and calling her cell. Then I was feeling annoyed, so the movie-like reuniting I had imagined was more like classic me style: not being able to find something and feeling stressed. Oh well...the great thing was that Sister Time had begun!

Come back tomorrow for more of the adventure!

Thanks for reading!

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