In the words of Adrian Cronauer (Look it up, kids) It is Oh-Six-Hundred Hours… What does the Oh stand for? ‘Oh my G-d it’s early!’
I am now sitting comfortably in the Maple Leaf Lounge at Toronto Pearson International Airport, and there is plenty of time to sit and wait before boarding the plane for the first leg of my trip to Tokyo, Japan. ‘Today’ is going to be a very long day of travel that will end at 6:00pm tomorrow, albeit in a very different time zone. By my calculations though I should be checked into my hotel in twenty-five hours… one train, two planes, and two automobiles later.
I have already been yelled at once this morning. The woman in the Security line behind me, seeing that I had two carry-on bags and a lot of electronics, asked if she could go ahead of me. I politely declined, only to be given an earful. However those of you who know me realize that this is not my first time traveling with a lot of gear, and I have it down to a science.
For the record, I was through Security Theatre in about ninety seconds. The middle-aged woman who yelled at me was walked back through the metal detector three times before she realized that she had to take off her huge metal belt buckle; she then had her bags x-rayed twice before being searched by hand, revealing two bottles of moderately priced scotch that would not be making the trip with her. For future reference, should it ever come up again, that’s why I don’t let people go through in front of me.
I didn’t get nearly enough sleep last night… last-minute packing, and the dogs asked to go out around 3:00am. Nonetheless the first leg of my trip (Toronto to Vancouver… a little over five hours) will not be a restful one… I have work to do that I need to transmit when I arrive in Vancouver. The plane is an Airbus 320, and following the breakfast I will pull out my laptop and work on my deliverables.
I have a two hour layover in Vancouver, followed by a ten hour (plus) flight over the Pacific. That flight will be on an Airbus 330, and the Executive Class pod seats will allow me to lie down flat for several hours after dinner. I don’t remember how many meals they serve on the flight, but I expect to sleep through a lot of it. As excited as I am to be heading to Japan, I am still going to be exhausted.
The fact that I land at 2:20pm local time does not fool me one bit… That will be 3:20am where I woke up this morning. I understand I will still be more than two hours away from my hotel. Ouch. I’ll be exhausted by the time I get to the hotel in Shinagawa-ku (Tokyo), but hopefully not too much so… I am meeting with my boss at the hotel.
Hopefully I will get a good night’s sleep… but either way I am starting work the next morning. I cannot remember how bad the jetlag was when I got to Hong Kong, but this should be about the same. I do recall though that I got up the following morning and went to work, so this shouldn’t be any different. The only real difference is that heading to Hong Kong I flew direct over the North Pole, and this trip I am flying over the Pacific (a first for my by the way) through Vancouver.
We are 20 minutes out from Vancouver. I had my meal, I reviewed my documents to submit. I even napped for an hour.
After being delayed on the ground for over an hour we got out of Toronto at 9:30. A lot of the passengers were complaining, but the FA explained to us that there was a mechanical issue discovered that they needed to fix. I understand people not wanting to be late, but personally I would prefer being late to taking off and having a wing fall off the plane. All the while I was exchanging tweets with @AirCanada, who is quite responsive most of the time. Maybe it’s because I’m usually a reasonable passenger.
The FA and I got off to a rough start, but that was fixed very early on. As we boarded there were two managers and a union shop steward overseeing the boarding process. I don’t understand why union reps feel the need to wear tags identifying themselves, but there it was. He helped me get my bags stowed and then apologized for being short with me. We had a couple of nice conversations during the flight.
One thing is certain, I will not be dehydrated from this flight. I brought one of my plastic reusable glasses with me (Thanks Joel) and had them refill it six times. I don’t think I have ever visited the head so many times in one flight. However drinking a lot of water is part of my weight management plan, and frankly it is not tough. Can you imagine though… I have not had anything to drink except water since Labour Day weekend, and yes that includes no coffee.
The map display says we are eighteen kilometers out of Vancouver so I’ll shut down… more later.!
We are three hours out of Tokyo-Narita, and I am a bit restless. Maybe restless is the wrong word… I am perfectly calm, perfectly comfortable. I am neither hungry nor sleepy (although it is 11:30pm where I woke up ‘this morning.’ I have gotten a few hours of sleep along the way so that would probably explain it. Oddly enough though I slept better on the Airbus 320 flying from Toronto to Vancouver than I have in my pod on the Airbus 330. Weird, but I guess it helped that I didn’t get enough sleep prior to the early morning drive to the airport.
As I perused the Executive Class menu’s lunch options at the beginning of the flight I was torn between the western meals and the Japanese meal. On the one hand I will be eating more than my share of Japanese food for the next few months, but on the other hand it did look good. I chose it wisely because it was honestly the best meal I have ever had on an aircraft. After the meal I broke down and had my first glass of wine since Labour Day… in fact the tea (ocha) that I had with the meal was the first sip of anything other than water in that time. I expect I will be drinking tea in Japan, but I will not be going back to sodas and juices. That’s part of my commitment to losing weight and getting healthier. (I also had the cheese plate which was sort of a no-no, but for dessert I skipped the baked goods and opted for the fruit plate)
As I mentioned earlier this is the first time I have flown over the Pacific Ocean. Our route seems to have taken us up the West Coast of North America over Anchorage, Alaska before heading west. We crossed the International Date Line a couple of hours ago, and we are currently close to… nothing. The Interactive Map System on the plane says the nearest point of reference is Petropavlovsk-Kamskatkij, which is 485 miles north of us. Our next landfall seems to be the Japanese coast… we will be over water up until the time we hit Japan.
I had a nice conversation with a man who spends a lot of time in Japan and he reinforced my impression that I am going to be amazed by everything that I see… and that my hotel room will likely be the size of a respectable closet. There is nothing I can do about that… frankly the convenience of being two minutes walk from the office trumps everything else, and as I always say as long as there is a comfortable bed and a decent shower I don’t need much more. I hope to not be spending too much time in my room anyhow… I want to explore Tokyo!
The weirdest thing about this journey is that it has never been dark. I got onto an airplane at 8:00am in Toronto, and have been traveling for nearly sixteen hours. In other words it is currently nearly midnight back home, and it has been light out the whole time. Of course they dim the cabin lights and ask people to close their shades, but if you open it up the sun is shining. Logically I knew that was going to be the case – we are chasing the sun after all – but it is still a cool effect to experience.
For the first time in the flight we are closer to Japan (Kishiro) than we are to Russia…. 510 to 550 or so. We are still 1,000 miles from Tokyo, but one step at a time, right?
One thing about the in-flight entertainment system on Air Canada is that from time to time I get to see really interesting movies that I had either missed or had never heard of before. On the first flight I watched part of The Big Wedding with Robert DeNiro, Susan Sarandon, and a few other performers whose names escape me. It was well acted, but not a movie I would recommend. On this flight so far I have seen Emperor, with Tommy Lee Jones in the part of Douglas MacArthur. It is the story of the General who investigated whether the Emperor Hirohito was complicit in war crimes after World War Two, and whether or not he should be prosecuted as such (spoiler alert: —true to history, he was not). The second was called The Company You Keep with Robert Redford, and is the fictional story of some of the people involved in criminal activism during the Viet Nam era who are discovered in their new identities in the present time. I have not disliked a Robert Redford movie in I can’t remember how long, and this one did not disappoint. Who knows? Maybe I’ll start another before we land…
I did notice something interesting… the galley served me port (Portugal), and has wines from Argentina, California, Italy, and France… but nothing Canadian. As a fan of Canadian wines and a bit of a patriot I wonder if I should take offense or say something…
I remember it taking me upwards of three hours to get my luggage and clear the airport in Buenos Aires. It took me less than 25 minutes in Tokyo. While almost everything is in Japanese, the important words are also written in English. The efficiency is incredible, and while I didn’t have extensive conversations with anyone, the Customs official was able to understand me, as were the people guiding me to the train. So far I have remembered to be as polite as possible, and apologetic that I do not speak Japanese.
The train from Narita to Tokyo (Shinagawa actually) is one of the cleanest I have ever been on, and the washroom was a shock – not only clean, but three times the size of the washrooms on a Via Rail train in Canada. While I know it is coming, so far I have not experienced the ‘everything is smaller in Japan’ that I have heard so much about. I suspect that will hit me when i get to my hotel.
I haven’t gotten any currency yet; my Visa card worked fine for the train card, although I paid 5,000 Yen for it and am not entirely sure if I will have to take out a loan to pay for it later.
Although I just noticed a 7 Eleven (for the homesick), the area we are riding through has a very noticeable pagoda to the right. The houses do indeed look Japanese, but what did I expect in Japan?
The train (Narita Express) does indeed offer WiFi… I was very happy about that until I realized that once my WEP key was entered I then had to so something else… I assume they wanted me to pay for the privilege, but who can be sure because it was all in Japanese and there was no ENGLISH button… which I expect will be my saviour throughout the trip; I may learn a few words, but I do not expect that I will pick up much of the written word…
More in the next article… I’ve checked in, I’ve had dinner, and I am ready to sleep… BOY AM I READY TO SLEEP! I’ll talk about the hotel in the next article!