Sunday, December 19, 2010

Things I forgot I loved about Japan

So I'm on vacation in Japan, just got here yesterday. I'm planning to spend the next few days in Kansai, then just under a week in Kyushu, then just under another week in Okinawa. I'm pretty excited now that I'm actually here!

Since I didn't get in until 7:30pm last night, there wasn't much time to do anything, but here's a recap of what's gone on so far:
  • Flight: 11hr,45min flight from SEA to KIX on which a child screamed at the top of her lungs the *entire time*. Yes, there always seems to be one, doesn't there? Thank heavens for small mercies, at least she wasn't in my aisle. My question is, why would anyone expect a child to sit for such a long time without bringing toys/entertainment/extra food? In addition, this is not the first flight where parents have decided to simply ignore the problem rather than deal with it. When I walked by, each time she was climbing all over everyone in that row, screaming all the while, while the parents were blissfully staring off into space. :-\ On the other hand, this meant for a productive flight for me, since sleeping was not an option. I got through the entire New Yorker, Scientific American, and Rough Guide sections on Kyushu, Okinawa, and Kansai. Also got through all the brochures the travel agent provided and made a good stab at the Eye Witness travel book too. Reviewed some common Japanese phrases.
  • Customs: When you get off the plane, first you go through immigration, then you go through customs after collecting your luggage (which arrives instantaneously, amazing!). Both customs and immigration officers were lovely - very respectful, courteous, and polite. I'm not sure if they did this when I came last time, but they now take your photo and two index fingerprints. Interesting. Also, what's with people not filling out their customs/immigrations forms? That's the first thing they told us to do when we boarded our flight! Getting up to the front of the line with blank forms is *not* ok, people!
  • Immigration: The immigration officer asked me why I came to Japan. When I said, 'for tourism', he said, 'Oh really?!', in a very surprised voice. I wondered if I was in the wrong line up, so I asked if I did something wrong, and he said no, nothing wrong. Then he proceeded to ask if what I wrote on the customs form was true (not bringing any illicit materials into the country etc), showed me some pictures of illegal items and asked if I possessed any (I didn't), and then proceeded to remove everything from my luggage, apologetically. At least he put everything back, albeit not in my clever packing fashion that left half the bag empty. :(
  • Dinner: Since I was now running late (flight came in 15 mins late, delay for the baggage check), I missed the train I was supposed to catch to Kyoto. I had planned to meet Kenzo at Kyoto and from there go on to see the light display at Arashimaya, but it would be over by the time we got there so we decided to have dinner instead. We went to a delicious tonkatsu place, where great pains were taken to provide an English menu and explain all the sauces in English. :) It was so yummy, but in my jetlagged haze I didn't take any pics. Sorry.
  • Afterwards: We met Angelica and came back to their apartment, which is great! I managed to stay up til 12pm talking about tech and robots with them and then slept until 7am. Hopefully the worst of the jetlag is over! :D
Here are a few little things I forgot I loved about Japan (it's all about the little things, isn't it?):
  • Very polite officials. No one was rude when people didn't have their forms done correctly, and they were nice about checking my bag. No endless rigamarole about why I was coming, and very straightforward questions with no tricks or trying to get a rise out of you.
  • The train staff bow to the train car when entering or exiting it. I love that!
  • Trains. Have I mentioned how much I love trains? :D
  • In general, people show such concern for your welfare - like the JR staff who wanted to make sure I really wanted to activate my pass that day and was going to get the most out of it, or the waitress who went out of her way to make sure I understood what was going on (although I could have managed in Japanese, really!).
  • Vending machines.
  • City view at night (especially as seen from a fast-moving train).
  • Fast internets (thanks Kenzo & Angelica)!
That's it so far, but I'm sure I'll think of tonnes more. Will try to keep the blog up to date during my trip, but likely will have to add the pictures retroactively, as I did on my France trip. Today it's on to Osaka to see what I can see. Mata ne!

No comments: