It was a journey 4 years in the making. After the end of our escapades in Japan (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), my friends, Mat O’Donnell and David Sundberg, and I decided we would one day return to experience it anew. With Mat’s impending wedding in November, it was decided that the adventure would take place in August 2016.
After months of planning and preparation, the day finally arrived to begin our return to the Land of the Rising Sun.
It takes a lot of time to get to Japan and I mean a LOT of time. On August 16, Dave and I awoke at 2:30am. Our first flight of the day would leave at 6:20am.
My good friend, Jeff Bevirt, picked Dave and I from my home and drove us to Eppley Airfield where we met Dave’s niece, Amy Joy, who would also be joining us on the excursion.
We would be using United Airlines. This was my first time utilizing their services and it was pretty good all the way around. When we arrived at the nearly empty airport, a friendly desk agent took our passports and quickly checked us in and checked in Dave’s suitcase. Using the “gussie” system of packing, I would be checking no luggage so I’d have one less thing to worry about.
United likes to board early and we started getting on board nearly an hour before our flight started. I happen to think this is a good business practice as if everyone manages to get onboard early, we can leave a little early which is exactly what happened.
After a brief flight, our little group laid over in Denver for an hour, where we scarfed a quick breakfast from McDonald’s (oh, how I hate to rush a meal) and boarded another plane set to take us to Los Angeles.
At LAX, I made my only miscalculation of the trip. I decided to change my dollars over to yen while I was there. I got a pretty good deal, but would learn that I should have waited until I reached Narita International Airport in Japan as they give you a much better deal. My dough would have netted me an extra 15,000 yen had I waited. So take my advice, if you go to Japan, always exchange your money at Narita.
We waited through a 2.5 hour layover at LAX before finally beginning the long haul of the trip. I love to fly, but 12 hours is an awfully long time to be on a plane. They do their best to distract one with a wide variety of entertainment from movies to music to TV shows. To pass the time, I read a new Sherlock Holmes pastiche, began a new Nero Wolfe novel, watched a little TV as well as the films Money Monster and Insomnia.
There was something profound about this trip, especially as I was taking it in the daytime and could look out the window. There’s something deep about looking down on the majesty of the Pacific Ocean and seeing nothing but blue as far as the eye can see. We also went from day to night to day in a flash as we crossed over to the other side of the planet. And there was something about flying over the edge of Alaska that put a smile on my face as I looked down upon it.
The food wasn’t too bad on the flight. United prides itself on its 3 course meals and served us a lunch of teriyaki chicken, rice, vegetable medley, and salad with southwestern rice. For dessert, they served us a wonderful vanilla bean gelato which was some of best ice cream-type food I have ever eaten. Before touchdown, they served a breakfast of Udon noodles, though Dave had to be a rebel and order the scrambled eggs.
As I said the journey was long and I only napped for about an hour as excitement fueled my body. Upon arriving at Narita, we waited for Mat who was delayed as everybody on the planet decided to land at Narita at the same time he did. This slowed down his going through customs and immigration which my little group blew through in about 15 minutes.
We collected our resident expert, then got our J-Rail passes so we could travel through Japan. Then we hopped on the Narita Express for a 90 minute journey to Shinjuku to arrive at the first house we would stay at through Air BnB where we met Mat’s friend, Mauricio, and his girlfriend, Allison, who would be joining us on a part of the adventure.
Despite being beyond the point of exhaustion our little group went out to dinner at a place called Pronto’s which is a bar/restaurant. I normally don’t like to eat late, but one thing I appreciate about Japan is that we share a similar size appetite as all servings in Japan are small. I had some juicy fried chicken with a splash of lemon. After dinner we stopped at a mini-mart to get some things for breakfast. I grabbed an orange juice and some of the famed pancakewiches of Japan.
I passed out and I mean passed out on my tatami mat to end this day’s adventures.