So as I outlined before, last year Ryan and I embarked on a trip to the Land of the Rising Sun, he an already quite seasoned international traveller and me heading overseas for the very first time in my entire life. (In other words, together he, Terrance and Yuko pretty much made all the arrangements, while I stared like a lost little puppy in the background).
Anyway, the 30th of September finally arrived, and Ryan and I met each other at Cape Town International, eager for our adventure to begin – even if the first leg was to be an agonizingly long 9hr 45min flight from Cape Town to Dubai aboard an Emirates Boeing 777-300ER.
First mistake though. Security immediately relieved me of my shampoo because the bottle was too big. Rookie error on my part for sure. That said, surprisingly, my small set of screwdrivers passed the screening with no mention at all!
Anyway, amazingly, I managed my first ever overseas flight reasonably well, ingesting movie after movie, enjoying the surprisingly good airline food, sleeping, and playing the odd two player game over the in-flight entertainment system against Ryan.
(Ryan however didn’t have quite as good a flight as me – but he blames part of that for the fact that I took rather more of his personal space than what a thin person normlly would!)
Dubai’s International Airport was my first real taste of the size of what a real international juggernaut airport is like, and needless to say there was quite a lot for me to take in – not that I had all that long to do this mind you – first time around, we only had about an hour to kill before the next 9hr 35min flight kicked off!
(Oh, and in case you were wondering, there was no way in hell my little set of screwdrivers were getting through the screening this time around though – all Ryan could do was literally face palm in disbelief at this horribly incompetent flier that his brother was turning out to be!)
The second leg of our journey was much the same for me as the first, long, boring but not particularly uncomfortable and I was more than entertained from start to finish. Ryan however again suffered a bit, but to be fair, I hadn’t shrunk after a mere 10 hours or so, meaning that I was still stealing a fair chunk of his allotted personal space!
(Seriously, he must have hated me for the segments where we were forced to fly or sit next to one another – which in hindsight I think was pretty much all of the time!)
Eventually we were given the signal that we were approaching Japan’s Tokyo Narita International Airport, and after filling in the necessary declaration forms, we sat back, enjoyed a smooth landing, and then more or less breezed through customs – before at long last finally being reunited with an excited Mr. Brown himself!
Surprisingly, we were still relatively fresh after our long flights, and with Terrance leading the way (his reasonably decent Japanese proving invaluable to us now), we made a few stops around the massive airport complex in order to collect the few pre-booked odds and ends (like our mobile data sim and portable modem), before being shuttled around by bus and then on board a fancy looking train – possibly the KEISEI Electric Railway’s Skyliner, but I can’t really remember because a) it was dark, b) it had been a long flight, and c) it was a YEAR ago – heading out of Tokyo and into Yokohama where we were going to be based for the first leg of our three part trip.
(Of course, this late in the evening already it was dark, and thus not much to see, but already just the sheer scale of Tokyo and its surrounds compared to our own minuscule Cape Town kept me absolutely captivated from start to finish of our train ride!)
In Yokohama at last, Terrance treated us to a short taxi ride to the Super Hotel Yokohama, which proved to be our first real taste of how the whole politeness thing of Japan works. The taxi experience itself was pretty cool – doors open automatically, we are not permitted to stow our own luggage as this is considered rude, and everything is precise, cordial and proper – i.e. about as completely opposite of minibus taxi experience as what you can get.
Locating the Super Hotel Yokohama proved to be relatively easy – checking in slightly less so. However, Terrance persevered, and together with our e-mail printouts and one or two phone calls for a language assist, he gained us access to our rooms for the night – our very first taste of just how cramped living space in Japan really is!
(Ryan and I shared this room. I’m pretty much standing by the door for this shot – on my right is the door to the bathroom… capsule.
Yes, the toilet is very cool and very electronic – but it is very small and in the end, my big bottom’s personal nemesis for pretty much the entirety of our Japanese adventure!)
Amazingly, after all our travelling and despite the lateness of the night, Ryan and I were so pumped that we immediately wanted to head out for a stroll in the middle of the night – something unthinkably dangerous to do in South Africa mind you – a request which Terrance was most happy to accede to.
After all, this was his wonderland to show off – and thus, our trip to Japan had finally officially begun! :)
(P.S. I slept like a log that evening once we had eventually got to bed – after spending who knows how long trundling along the city streets and taking in all the late night sights!)