Thursday, September 2, 2010

August 4th to 5th, 2010: April’s Trip from Victoria to Sapporo

I left on August 4th with a 10:00 am flight from Victoria to Vancouver. As usual I had problems going through security, this time in Victoria. I was frisked and my bag was searched and it turned out I accidentally packed my small scissors in my carry on; these were confiscated and I was rebuked for my error. I then had 3.5 hours to wait in the Vancouver airport where I had lunch and admired the large fish tank and stream they have in the middle of the international departures area. There are also some boutiques to look in. All in all I’m glad I left myself extra time because my flight from Victoria to Vancouver was late leaving and arriving. It turned out though that my flight from Vancouver to Tokyo was late leaving too. It is about nine hours from Vancouver to Tokyo and I have never flown that far alone. I took sleeping pills and tried to sleep but only managed ten minutes of sleep, which is better than usual for me. I watched some TV shows and a Canadian Film Board film on vagrants with carts in North Vancouver called “Carts of Darkness.” It was quite interesting and well done. The selection of movies, TV shows, and music has really improved on international travel. The emergency row seats cost more to book on Air Canada now but they are so worth it. I will never fly without them again. Leg room.
On arriving in Tokyo I had to fill out a landing/immigration card and had to stand in line to go through immigration. There are separate lines for foreigners. There were really long line-ups but they were pretty efficiently at moving people through. I thought that they wanted to scan my eyes after my fingers on their fancy machine (something was lost in translation) so I put my eyes up really close to the screen much to the amazement of the immigration fellow. He looked at me with disbelief and motioned for me to move back (turns out it was a picture of my whole face that they were taking). As I moved me face back I noticed the webcam picture of me go from being must eyes to my whole face and felt like an idiot. This was just the beginning of my feelings of being a yokel in Japan.

I then went to collect my suitcase that made it. I stood in line for ANA only to be ushered to another place by a helpful staff person where I could actually check in. They have plenty of staff for everything in Japan and you are never left for long wondering if you are in the right/wrong place. I checked into my ANA flight and had a while to wait after I found my gate which was in the same Terminal that I landed in. Bill flew JAL so he had to change terminals for his flight from Tokyo to Sapporo. I marvelled at the fancy Japanese toilets with all of their buttons and the diagram that they had translated into English of how to use it. They had something called a “flushing noise” that I assumed was to flush the toilet (and just a bad translation). When I pressed it instead of the toilet flushing a strange canned flushing sound emitted from the toilet and nothing happened. This would be only the first of several manufactured flushing noises I would hear on my travels in Japan. Turns out that Japanese women are very shy about anyone hearing any noise they might make in the bathroom so they have this “flushing sound” to cover it. I guess maybe they used to actually flush the toilet so now they have this noise instead because it saves water (this was the sort of explanation in one of the translations in one bathroom I was in- I say sort of because often when Japanese is translated into English something is lost and it sounds like beat poetry).

While waiting for my ANA flight I had something to eat at the airport which was called a “Naan Pizza”. It was like a thin crust pizza with cheese, tomato sauce, and some mystery meat that I removed. I also had a Coca Cola. Their formula in Japan is better than ours at home, less sugar, but still not as good as the stuff in French Polynesia. The flight from Tokyo to Sapporo was delayed as well but after an hour and a half flight I made it there. I was very tired on the flight and doing the nod a bit. They gave us a tea to drink. At the Chitose airport I collected my suitcase and had to figure out how to buy a train ticket from there to Sapporo, which I eventually did. A nice fellow who worked there told me which platform and the train came in about twenty minutes or so and I crawled on exhausted for the half hour trip. I accidentally got on a green/reserved car so I was eventually asked to move by a train person even though the car was virtually empty. When I made it to the Sapporo train station Bill had told me to go out the west exit so I looked for this and when I emerged Bill was standing there waiting to usher me to the Chisun Inn (even though I was about an hour late from all the flight delays- lucky I built in a lot of extra time between my flights), which was only a five minute walk from the station. It was hot and humid even though it was 10:00 pm when I arrived. I felt ill when I arrived likely from exhaustion and the excitement but it was so nice to see Bill again.

The room was shockingly small, closet sized, but I had the best sleep that night that I had had in weeks. The other rooms we had were not quite as small but the rooms we had at the Chisun was very cheap and was a business room so they are apparently smaller than other hotel rooms (and therefore cheaper). In general though things are just a lot smaller in Japan. They provide pajamas to you to wear at almost every hotel in Japan as well as toothbrushes, razors, shampoo, conditioner, soap, and other items. The bathroom was so small that I could touch the walls with my arms spanned. A combination of melatonin to cure jet lag and help me adjust and sleeping pills to help me get a good sleep produced a strange hallucinogenic effect on me (or maybe it was exhaustion) and Bill had a time settling me down to sleep but when I did I slept like a log (and had no memory really of my hallucinations the next day). I also figured out how to call internationally from my hotel room to let my parents know that I made it. I don’t; really remember any of my conversation. What a trip! I think Bill had it better staying over in Tokyo and tackling the Tokyo to Sapporo trip fresh the next day. The way I did it though got me onto Japan time really fast I was up the next day fresh and ready to go and suffered very little jet lag though I went 17 hours into the future.

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