Saturday, April 05, 2008

In the Land of the Rising Sun

I must say, this e-ticket business deeply appeals to my inner nerd.

At 11:00 on Wednesday BA sent me an email telling me that online check in had opened. By 11:10, The Builder and I were checked in, our seats had been selected and I had printed out the boarding passes. Tokyo – here we come!

We had originally decided to take the train to Manchester and stay on Wednesday night in an airport hotel. Then I realised that if we took the car and parked it in the (prepaid) shuttle car park it would cost about £2 less in total. SO that’s what we did.

The advantage of having checked in online is that we didn’t have to leave quite so early. We left at 6:30, leaving Marlo sat in the sunshine in the garden. There’s a complicated rota of Marlo feeding for the next three weeks – Tammy, Taffa and Frayle are rostered on. We got to the car park, triple checked that we had actually locked the car this time, and made our way to the airport. Checked our bags through to Tokyo and went through domestic security and off we went.

To Heathrow.

To Terminal Five!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Actually, Terminal Five is beautiful – as airport terminals go. It’s beautifully light and airy. It’s glass and metal and white and clean and shiny. There are LOTS of shops – very expensive shops – and lots of eating places. We had lunch in the terminal pub – a lovely eating experience. The food was fabulous. Then we went to board our plane. Except – we couldn’t. The gates onto the boarding tube were locked shut. Very shut. They weren’t going to open for anyone. Not us, not the flight crew, not the pilots, not the engineers, not anyone. Eventually, however, they relented and let us on. But not before several people had been and complained to the desk staff. Not sure quite what they wre supposed to do about it!

It wasn’t a bad flight. The entertainment system wouldn’t work, but that was ok. We ate a second lunch, read our books and had a bit of a doze. Woke up a bit later to find that the entertainment system had also woken up. I watched a documentary about snow leopards, then read some more of my book, then, finally, finally – we arrived. The Japanese immigration officer let us in – foreign nationals have to be finger printed and have their photo taken – the customs doggies were uninterested in us, the customs man let my packet of dried mango in. We’re in Japan!

My phone, as predicted, will not work. Nor will The Builder’s

Finding the platform was a bit of a trial. There seemed to be no signs. Eventually, The Builder asked a policeman who showed us where to go. The policeman bowed and saluted when I said thank you! We got to Tokyo station and commenced looking for the shinkansen, bullet train. But which shinkansen did we want? I don’t know where the train that passes through Nagoya actually goes :-s Nor could I find any ticket machines. I gave in and asked the ticket seller. All sorted.

The shinkansen are fast. Very fast. But you don’t notice because they are also very stable. Takes 1.45 hours to get from Tokyo to Nagoya. Austin was due to meet us at the shinkansen turnstiles. He wasn’t there. This didn’t unduly worry us. Sometimes people are late. But when he still wasn’t there 20 minutes later, I was a bit disconcerted. No phone, so can’t send a text message. Can’t see any pay phones anywhere. I wonder if the station is wireless enabled. Was just starting up the laptop, when Austin appeared. I still don’t know if the station is wireless enabled!

We took another train, two stations past Gifu, which is where I thought he lived, and then went in his car to Motosu, which is where he actually lives. He has a small apartment which has no furniture :-S It does have beautiful floors, though. Shiny wooden floors except in the lounge room which has woven straw mats, called tatami mats. Means we can’t wear our house shoes, which I had brought specially, because they don’t have soft soles. Oh well. Socks it is. He has a couple of low chair thingies and sleep mats. Oh – and a television!

We went to a huge shopping mall and had tempura prawns and miso soup and rice and tempura vegetables (anyone who has visited Austin is likely to recognise this menu!) and wandered around and looked at the shops. All the shops have names written in roman letters. It’s very disconcerting. You could be almost anywhere, apart from the Japanese characters you also see dotted about. But there are many signs also in English. You could understand it in Tokyo where there are many English speaking tourists. But Gifu-ken is nowhere near the Japanese tourist track. It seems it’s just something they do. Odd.

We visited the local supermarket where they have a fabulous, fabulous fish selection and seafood counter and some very odd looking beef (not hung after butchering, and very, very marbled). We were not there for that, though. We were after wine and something for Austin to drink. But not snacks. Influenced by my usual budget airline activities, and by my recollection that long haul meals often leave me hungry, I had laid in lots of snacky things. Biscuits, mixed seeds, tiny cheese profiterole things, the dried mango. BA, however, provides good food in good quantity and I hadn’t been at all hungry. The snacks have moved to Austin’s kitchen.

We spent a pleasant evening talking to Austin and stayed awake until 11-ish. Then we slept, and slept remarkable well, on sleeping mats on Austin’s tatami floor. It’s nearly lunchtime – and I’m still in my jammies, propped up against the wall on the sleeping mat. I suppose I ought to get up and get dressed. The boys are dressed. Austin has gone to borrow a vcr. HE has also written us a self introduction in Japanese so we can introduce ourselves to Kaori this evening. It seems we’re going on the raz tonight. I wonder if we should lay in more wine, just in case (we seem to have drunk the lot we bought yesterday. At least, The Builder and I drank it. Austin doesn’t drink wine)

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