In “The Arizona Chronicles”, I alluded to a trip I took to Tokyo, Japan and now I think it would make for a good series while I am between escapades.
It was 2012 and my old friend, Mat O’Donnell, had announced that he was going to return to Japan. Mat loves Japanese culture and even studied the language in college as a part of his major. He had taken a tour to Japan back in 2010 and gushed about how amazing it had been and vowed to one day return. Two years later that vow came to fruition and Mat planned to go back to Japan in style.
Mat was going to take advantage of the 5 week paid sabbatical offered by his company and top it off with a few weeks of vacation so that he could enjoy Japan properly. Once again, he was going to take the Tokyo Maximum Tour offered by Destination Japan, but he was also lining up a number of other things before the tour, including a climb to the top of Mt Fuji.
Mat had invited me to join up with him for the tour portion, but I had declined. The tour took place in September which is always a very ugly month of work for me at my current place of employment. So I always felt that asking for time off would be an impossibility. Not long after Mat had made the announcement of his impending tour, I learned that he had somehow, and miraculously, talked our friend, David Sundberg, into joining him for the entire duration of his journey.
So now two good friends of mine were going to be going on a fabulous adventure and that’s when something clicked in my head. I realized that it wasn’t right that I should miss out on opportunities like these, so I talked to my supervisor, who agreed that I shouldn’t miss out on what could be a once in a lifetime opportunity. We worked out a deal where things could be reasonably covered while I was absent for two weeks. I messaged Mat and let him know that I would be able to meet up with him and Dave as part of the Tokyo Maximum Tour. I could hear the glee in his FB post when he said he would make sure I had the time of my life.
Things progressed quickly after that. Despite the fact that only 7 people signed up for the tour, Destination Japan decided to go ahead with it. The company also allowed Mat, Dave, and myself to share a room (at a discount) which was a big thumbs up. I found a bank in Omaha where I could exchange my dollars for yen at a good exchange rate, arranged a flight to Los Angeles, and had Destination Japan arrange a flight from LAX to Tokyo at a reasonable price.
The hardest part about preparing for the trip was working to get my body adjusted to Tokyo time. I stayed up for nearly 48 hours straight by cleaning, exercising, playing video games, and sheer force of will in order to acclimate myself. I caught my early morning flight to LA and snatched a little sleep on the way. About 1pm I met our tour guide, Yukie, and two other tourists, Gavin and Mike, and we headed to the Singapore Airlines counter to get our boarding passes for our flight.
We flew to Tokyo on a double decker plane and I got a window seat on the upper deck (woo hoo!). The trip from LA to Tokyo means that the plane is fighting the Gulfstream the entire way, resulting in an 11.5 hour flight. I had hoped to catch a good long nap on the flight, but excitement kept me revved up and I only managed to catch snippets of sleep here and there.
Singapore Airlines was a very comfortable way to travel. I found that they try to make things as pleasant as possible on international flights. Although I was flying coach, it was the equivalent of flying first class on a lot of domestic flights. I freely admit I would like to travel business class on an international flight at some point so I can experience the seat that turns into a bed. They had a large variety of movies to choose from and I watched The Avengers and read the mystery novel, The Magic Bullet.
Another thing I learned was that airlines apparently use food to distract the passengers on these long flights. After we were in the air for about 90 minutes, supper was served. I had the traditional Japanese dinner which was pretty good, though I mistook the soy sauce for my noodles as a cup of broth and drank it. At some point during the flight, I was offered an apple and just before touchdown they offered a “snack” which was really another meal that I declined.
After sitting for over 12 hours, I was grateful to walk around and stretch my limbs. My companions and I quickly retrieved our luggage and made it through customs before hopping on the bus which began our 90 minute ride from Narita International Airport to Hotel Tokyo Metropolitan in Ikebukuro.
My jaw dropped when I entered the hotel lobby. This was easily a 4 or 5 star hotel, complete with bellboys and elegantly dressed personnel. I found that Mat and Dave already had my key, so Yukie took all of us up to our floor (a high one, which I prefer). My room was at the end of the hall. I knocked on the door which was opened by Mat, adorned in his Chopper hat (from One Piece, a popular manga and anime series).
Mat and Dave quickly filled me in on their adventures and we chatted for about an hour before we were all ready to hit the hay. Especially me, as I was about ready to collapse. I jokingly asked Dave for a bedtime story who replied, “No!” Mat supplied one, instead.
“Once upon a time there were three guys trying to sleep only one of them wouldn’t shut up so I smothered him. The End!”
Ah! Good times! Within minutes, I was in the land of Nod, dreaming of the adventures which would begin later in the morning.