Alrighty. It’s already quite late by Japan time – and two hours later by Sydney time – so it’s probably quite time for bed. Let’s see if I can hammer out the travel day post right quick. Don’t really want to start already a post behind on day one. (Though there’s always the option of just not blogging live, and doing it all when I get back home, but I’ve tried that, and it just makes things weird. Plus, people have told me they’re following along.) Aaaand this rambling isn’t helping me do this quickly. On with the show!
So, today I flew to Japan! My first time visiting another country five times. (I mean, I’ve entered Qatar more than five times, but I’ve only taken four trips there, so I count that as four.) As previously mentioned, I’m flying ANA for this trip – All Nippon Airways. I’d been wanting to fly one of the Japanese airlines for a while, mainly to see how the service (and the meals) differ from Qantas, but it’s always been more expensive. Not this time.
Dad drove me to the airport. Both dad and mum were going to come, but mum had a bit of a sore throat and didn’t want to pass anything to me on the very first day of my trip. Dad dropped me at the departures drop-off and went to park. I’d done the online check-in last night, so it should have just been a matter of dropping off my bag, answering the usual “is there anything hazardous in there?” security question, and moving on, but for some reason the queue was quite long and moving quite slowly, so I was still standing there when dad came in to find me. Made it to the front eventually, said goodbye to dad, and headed through emigration. Long queues in there too.
Made it through that, ran the duty free gauntlet, stopped at the newsagent to pick up my usual Readers’ Digest, then headed to my gate, which turned out to be at the furthest end of that leg of the terminal. The gates each had a long bench with a row of power points, so I decided to go charge my phone, since it was (rather concerningly) already running flat, but I had to try about seven of them before I found one that actually worked. Had about an hours’ wait until my gate actually opened.
Soon, we boarded. I’ve paid for an exit row seat for both legs – for this one I was on the aisle on the left-hand side. Much leg room, though the galley and toilets were right there. Actually, ANA sent me one of those offers where you could bid for a cheap upgrade to Premium Economy, but aside from the fact that I thought I’d bought the cheapest, and thus non-upgradeable, ticket, even Premium Economy doesn’t have the leg room of an exit row seat, so no thanks.
Since I’d gone with a daytime flight (takeoff was at 12:30pm), I settled in to watch some movies. I was hoping to catch some recent films that I’d missed in the cinema, but the catalogue wasn’t as comprehensive as I had expected, even among the Japanese films. Still, there was enough to occupy my time. First I wanted a new live-action adaptation of Whisper of the Heart which came out last year – Studio Ghibli did an anime version of it back in 1995. The film actually felt more like a sequel, being primarily set ten years later, with the story being about the main characters working to fulfil their dreams. The Ghibi film was based on a manga, and knowing how liberal Miyazaki tends to be when adapting works, I’ve got no idea how close either movie is to the manga.
Also watched The Woman King (film about the Agojie, the all-female warrior unit that protected the West African kingdom of Dahomey during the 17th to 19th centuries – quite riveting) and then Samaritan (kid living on the bad side of the poverty line reckon his neighbour Sylvester Stallone is actually a superhero named Samaritan who was believed to have been killed by his twin and nemesis, who was cleverly named Nemesis, twenty-five years ago – good movie, but the twist was kinda obvious). Had a bit of time left, so I started re-watching Encanto, but barely hit the middle of the movie before landing.
In the midst of that, they fed us lunch and a snack that somehow substituted for dinner. Lunch for me was ginger pork and a bunch of sides, though I neglected to photograph the menu (which was a single laminated card that was handed to every person – so much for anti-covid measures) so I don’t recall the specifics. Dessert was a Splice that felt like it had been frozen in dry ice – I had to scrape the surface off it with my teeth so that my lips and tongue wouldn’t stick to it. “Dinner” was a cheese sandwich – a fancy cheese sandwich, mind, “cheese and spring onion with tomato relish” – and fruit. The plane had those digital window shades, and after lunch, they dimmed them right down, so even though it was full daylight outside, it looked like a 70s film with the “nighttime” filter on.
Eventually, we came in to land, and it was a pretty rough landing. Actually almost felt like we only came down on two wheels the first time – the nose and rear left wheel – and started heeling over, but perhaps it wasn’t quite so dramatic as it felt to me. Maybe we were landing crab-wise because it was windy, and that’s just what it feels like from inside. Either way, we then came down with a crash that had everything in the galley rattling.
After a long taxi, we pulled up to the terminal. Once again at the furthest gate from the main concourse. Landed at Haneda Airport this time – fortunately not breaking the pattern of arriving at the same airport I departed last time. Japan’s current entry procedures require a quarantine screening (which to pass requires either proof of three vaccinations, or a recent PCR test), but if you fill out a form online ahead of time (as I did last month), you get to skip that, and you also get a bunch of QR codes for immigration and customs (so I think I actually didn’t need to fill out the paper cards I was given on the plane).
Luggage took a fair while to show up. I bought an AirTag for this trip just in case my suitcase decided to go walkabout again, but the network lost track of it almost immediately after I’d dropped it off in Sydney. Fortunately, when I connected to the wifi at Haneda, it was there in the building with me. Grabbed it when it showed, headed through customs, and walked to the Keikyu train station. (Side note, in 2020, the international terminal at Haneda was renamed to “Terminal 3”, probably to avoid the issue I had with reading my ticket on my first visit to Haneda and going “Does that say Terminal I or Terminal 1?”)
My first hotel for this trip is a Toyoko Inn (of course) – it’s near Sakuragicho Station, which is one stop to the south of Yokohama Station, then a bit of a stroll along a pedestrian overpass. Unfortunately, I don’t have internet on my phone today (I’ve got a 16-day SIM for an 18-day trip, so I’ll be activating it tomorrow), and while I’d carefully looked at where my hotel is on Google Maps, I’d neglected to actually screenshot the route, so I had to navigate by memory and compass.
Managed to get here without issue, though, and got all checked in. I’m on the eleventh floor here, though the only view out my window is the external stairs of the adjacent building. Aaaaall the way down. Since I’m level with the top floor of said adjacent building, I do get some sky, though.
Time for bed. Jumping right into activities tomorrow. Unfortunately, rain is forecast for tomorrow – 100% chance. And for much of the rest of the week, though fortunately with not quite so high a probability. This is not awesome, since (as per usual), nearly everything I’ve stuck on the itinerary is outdoors. Not tomorrow’s activity, fortunately. What’s tomorrow’s activity? Well, you’ll find out tomorrow. Actually, I’ve already mentioned it in the blog. Hint, hint.
Today’s photo count: Uh, just fifty-three. I don’t think that’s the record lowest… but it could be. I did, to be fair, spend much of the day sitting in the same seat, and much of the remainder walking through secure areas.
Today’s step count: 4967 steps, for 3.3km. Almost entirely inside airport terminals. It’s not showing me climbing any stairs, though.
Today’s stamp count: Zero – I did see the Haneda Airport stamp machine, and thought of giving it another go, but I’d packed my stamp book deep inside my suitcase, and didn’t really want to go to the trouble of getting it out, especially considering I’ll be coming back when I depart. Knowing me, I’ll probably forget by then, though.