Sunday, October 16, 2016
Postcard from Japan: Thursday, Oct. 13,2016
The WiFi I purchased on board the JAL flight ran out and so did my ability to cope with the long flight (ended up being 15 hours), the incredibly dry hot air, my clogged sinuses, and sitting sitting sitting in the dark because everyone closed their portal blinds at about 4 hours into the flight even though there was daylight the entire flight. (We were flying against the rotation of the earth and the sun never set.) My window seat was on the port side (left side looking toward the front of the plane) so I was always looking south and sometimes west.
I wasn’t sure where we were flying over but the land below became more snow covered and then mountainous. I wasn’t certain if it was Nebraska or North Dakota and then the Rocky Mountains or if we were actually much farther north. Finally, I decided we had to be flying along the coast of Alaska because of the snow on the black barren mountains (I kept hoping that the plane would not crash there because no one would ever find us….), and the expanse of unending water off to the west.
Finally, we were over blue ocean extending out to the horizon.
The entire time I was not able to sleep. This was so incredibly frustrating. There was an empty seat between me and the young Japanese woman on the aisle which helped, but she fell asleep 10 minutes after take-off from Chicago--- I was soooooo envious. She continued to be able to fall asleep and stay asleep throughout the entire flight. Urggg (however you spell frustration). (By the time I actually got to go to sleep at my mother-in-law’s, I’d gone without sleep for 30 hours or so.)
I tried to take a picture of us crossing from the Pacific Ocean to the coast of Japan and land, but it was so hazy with dark clouds that you can barely see the waves on the shore (off to the left). Much, much farther north is where the tsunami hit and devastated Fukushima Prefecture (5 years ago?).
I felt like I was sleep walking in getting off the plane and following everyone to the Immigration and Customs lines. The officials are all very professional, formal and courteous. The immigration official greeted me with “Konicha wa,” (Hello) and the Customs officials wore white gloves and hats with their uniforms. Finally, I was out into the Arrivals section and greeting Forde Sakuoka. (Forde is my age, mid-60s, and born and raised in Hawaii of Japanese-American parents. He came to Japan in 1975 to teach English and eventually taught at the same YMCA at which my mother-in-law had taught where they became fast friends. He’s visited her every Sunday for decades and brings food, lots of conversation and gossip, and help with a variety of things.)
Forde and I took the limousine bus across Tokyo to the Hotel Metropolitan in Ikebukuro (a very nice hotel with a gorgeous lobby in which everyone seems to traverse as it’s the shortest way to the train and subway station). Then we walked to the train station across the street and stood in a packed car of people, holding on to hand holds above us as the train departed. Narimasu is the first stop on the Semi-Express of the Tobu Tojyo Line (10 minutes out of Ikebukuro--- it felt like it was a lot longer ride since I’m still sleep walking). From the train, we walked to an elevator that took us down to the first floor, around the corner and up the street, turning left and walking a long block to my mother-in-law’s apartment building on the corner of an intersection. (So, lots and lots of walking. Even with an amazingly huge, complex and finely tuned mass transit system, there is a lot of walking that’s done. Fortunately, there are now elevators and ramps for those who find it difficult or impossible to use the stairs or the escalators.)
So, I'm finally at my mother-in-law's and desperate to sleep. More "tomorrow."