Japan Trip Day 1


USA: November 6, 2003: Thursday
Japan: November 7, 2003: Friday

        • Went to the airport: Tampa, Florida.
        • Got through security and check-in.
        • Took a plane from Tampa to Chicago (Chicago/Ohare).
        • Took another plane from Chicago to Japan (Tokyo/Narita).
        • Took a bus to my sister Patricia’s apartment in Higashimatsuyama.


Technically speaking, this day was more than just one day, and a lot of it was spent on the airplane. It wasn’t terribly exciting, but it was interesting. I had never been out of the country before, and now it was my first time. See my passport photo? I look excited, eh?

We flew United from Tampa to Chicago. For those of you who don’t know, my sister Patricia bought my ticket as a gift, because she wanted me to be able to see where she was living in Japan while she was teaching English over there. It was quite an extravagant gift, but without her purchasing the ticket and my mother coming with me to cover living expenses and provide some moral support, I could not have gone. I fear traveling alone because I hate being lost (and I GET lost easily), so I owe my trip to these two family members. (Also, my pal Jeaux was nice enough to drive me to Tampa from Gainesville, and to drive my mother and me to the airport. Thanks Jeaux.)

I had an amusing thing happen at the Chicago airport while we were waiting to connect. I was waiting for my mother to get out of the restroom, and people kept coming in and standing behind me, assuming for no reason that I was in line to use a stall. They kept getting confused and standing around and sometimes indicating to me that there were open ones. I don’t know why me standing there made them think I must be the front of a line to use the bathroom, but that was the only convenient place to stand (I tried a few others). It was really silly. Anyway, my mother got a salad at the airport, and we got on the Chicago plane.

It wasn’t a particularly comfortable flight. I was next to an uptight Japanese man who got really upset that my foot touched the jacket in his lap once in our close quarters. We were seated in the middle section of an airbus, and it had a nice little video system and earphones and stuff, but overall it was just not easy to relax and very difficult to sleep (I only did so brokenly for about an hour or two during the twelve-hour flight). But I must say one thing was fantastic. . . .

THE FOOD! I will never complain about airline food again. It had been arranged for me to get special vegetarian meals for my flight, and so I was always served first. My first lunch was a salad, veggies, rice, a little package of tiny rye bread slices, and a cookie. The cookie was labeled “Now & Zen.” (The whole meal was vegan. I think they just make it vegan when you ask for vegetarian since that does the job for both.) I later got a snack that was an unidentifiable yellow potato thing with peas in it. It was excellent! The only bad thing was that my final meal ended up being a potato and onion salad and a cinnamon roll. Onions make me gag and I’m allergic to cinnamon . . . but luckily my mother likes those things, so I traded her and she ordered the pasta dish that was available off the regular menu. At one point she also had Chinese noodles, and tried to get the hang of chopsticks since we’d be in for a week of using them. She did pretty well, though the woman she was looking at to copy her eating style probably thought she was strange.

I spent much of the flight drawing pictures for my Ivy calendar and listening to the announcements getting made in English and Japanese. They showed the movie Finding Nemo, which was weird because I’d been telling my mother she needed to see it, but since she fell asleep and wouldn’t wake up for the movie, I sulked and wouldn’t watch it either. My mom and I entertained each other with conversation some of the time that one or both of us weren’t asleep, and finally we arrived in Japan.

We had to stand in a HUGE line to get checked in for being allowed to be in the country, and then we unfortunately got held up by the fact that one of our bags had been left in Chicago! We made arrangements to have it delivered to my sister’s apartment, but that is like two hours away from the airport, so we were a little stressed about the possibility of missing the delivery since we were definitely planning to be out and about a lot of the next day. The bag that was lost was the least “essential” bag, but it contained the gifts we had brought for people we were supposed to see, so it was depressing.

Arrived at Narita!

Finally we got to go out into the lobby and meet my sister. She’d been worried since it took so long! She snapped our picture (above) and we did our hugging and greeting, and then had to hurry out to a bus platform. We got drinks and boarded the bus with our luggage, and my mom had a nice nap on the long bus ride (though for some of it she was awake). Patricia began to give us excited details about what we could do on our trip, even suggesting attending a Sumo wrestling event. (“Wanna see some fat guys?” she asked, then cautioned us that close-up seats might be fun but they were expensive and you also run the risk of getting “sat on.”)

There was a little drama with the taxi (the driver didn’t have change, and so we couldn’t pay him everything the ride cost, but it didn’t really matter), but we got to my sister’s apartment all right. We climbed stairs, took off our shoes, and brought our luggage inside.

Cultural Note:

In Japanese houses, you
take off your shoes at
a special entranceway
called the genkan.
If there’s a step up,
that generally indicates
that you should take off
your shoes to enter.


My sister’s apartment was little, but very beautiful. There was a nice wood floor hallway which led to her bedroom, and the bedroom had tatami floors, plus there were glass doors that led out to her patio. To the left of the hallway, there was a toilet in its own room, a bathing room, and a little washing machine.


Cultural Note:

Japanese bathrooms don’t
seem to include both a toilet
and a bathtub. Also, the
shower is normally separate
from the bathtub, because you
wash yourself and then soak if
you choose to do so.


To the right in the hallway, she had a lovely little kitchen. A low table, all kinds of food and a fridge, the trash receptacles, a sink, a microwave, and a stove. And then, going deeper into the house (also connected to her bedroom, it was all like a big circle), she had a small living room, with a low couch, a Japanese-style table with cushions to sit on, a television, and her computer desk. That’s about it.


Cultural Note:

The Japanese have burnable
and non-burnable trash pickups,
plus god knows how many
specific types of recycling.
Recycling and separating is
compulsory, and if you miss
a certain trash day, you’re stuck
with it until next time!


My mom was a bit stressed out by the trip and so she decided she would smoke in Japan even though she hadn’t wanted to, so Patricia and I went in search of cigarettes. As a result I got to see some of her town right away; we walked around her neighborhood and went to a 7-11 (yup, they have them there). But none of the convenience stores were selling them. So we ended up getting them out of a vending machine. We came back, and I shared my leftover Halloween candy, and we all went to bed. I slept on the futon, and Patricia and my mom slept on an inflatable mattress. The futon was comfortable; I was out like a light soon after lying down.

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