Fight or Flight

And so ends our journey, dear readers.

After giving myself a day to recover, I am writing up what will likely be the final post for the Japanese semester blog. A rather strange thing for me to type, but, indeed, it is over.

It has been a bit strange to think about the fact that it is over. Being back here for a bit seems normal, but the idea of it being a permanent end to my time at Wakeijuku has yet to really settle in. It was really the best.

But, well, on to the main course of our story, yes?

Sunday morning, I woke up ready to get the journey started. I scrubbed the room clean (at least, as close to Japanese standards as Americanly possible) for several hours, and then took my two enormous suitcases (alongside a backpack that weighed a good 50 pounds) and set off. My farewell committee was made up of several Japanese students (three of which I believe I spoke to once, and they knew absolutely no English for said conversation) and Mr. Watanabe. A hug preceded by “Come here you big lug” was the final Watanabe exchange. I took my suitcases, went outside, had three more farewells as they continuously followed me up the road, and finally we were off.

It was around 110 degrees that day, which would make the journey quite fun. It would be around an hour and a half commute to make my way to the airport, tugging along two massive suitcases behind me. Truly I was shaking with anticipation for the endless fun that would await me during this hour and a half.

As I stumbled my way down the hill I had to climb every day (which, I was thrilled to realize I would never have to go through that herculean task ever again), I was suddenly approached by a Japanese couple, both holding babies, and they asked if I needed any help in English. We had a good ten minute conversation discussing my time in Tokyo. I had five more people ask me if I needed help over the span of ten minutes. Japan is the best.

Eventually, I somehow made it to my station without killing someone with my suitcases, and rode my usual train for two stops. At the next junction, I had to carry my suitcases up 30 stairs…my arms are still reeling from this journey two days later. But, well, we got through it. Trying not to melt from the heat, I waited for the next train arrived probably looking like I just went swimming due to my sweat. Not ideal.

I took the next train for around 10 minutes to my last stop, which was the connecting station to the airport. I had to take a special bullet train to the airport, called, fittingingly, the Narita Airport Express. It was an extra $25 to take this train straight to my terminal. I didn’t argue.

It was more spacious than the other bullet train I had taken previously, but without the airport service carts moving up and down the aisles. It took around forty minutes to get to the airport. I sat next to a very large man who told me he was from India and was excited to go home. He then proceeded to belch at a very loud decibel, sneezed almost directly on me, and slept until our arrival. Thank you for boosting my day sir.

We eventually arrived at the airport and I had to begin the great process known as “TSA Bumblings”. The airport was absolutely massive and somewhat difficult to navigate, and this was only the international section of it. I made my way through the baggage drop-off and entered the security check. I went through the first time without a hitch, only to realize I didn’t drop off my Japanese Health Insurance card at the postbox. So I had to leave security, drop the card off, and go back through. Except, of course, that line closed directly after I left, so I had to head through a whole different security section, restarting the process. I took out what I believed were all of my electronics, set my backpack down, and waited for it to go through the scanner.

Only for it to be sent to the “DETECTED MATERIAL” lane.

Oh great.

“EXCUSE ME, SIR?!” The woman at the counter yelled nervously. “THIS YOURS??”

“Yes, that’s my bag.” I said, not entirely sure if I wanted to claim it at that point.

I walked over to the counter where she did an additional scan, only to remember I forgot to take my tablet out. That was mildly embarrassing. And, of course, since I didn’t remember to take out the tablet, I had to go through security again without it this time.

So, three security checks later, and Japan was certain that I was not carrying anything hazardous while still being a complete buffoon.

Customs, amusingly, was far easier. A twenty minute queue where I had to fill out a single form. They did not note the fact my visa had vanished in an unfortunate rinse cycle assault. So I went through without a hitch.

As for the plane ride itself? Surprisingly not as bad as I expected. Maybe because I knew what to expect out of it this time. It was twelve straight hours to DC. Some advice for you potential travelers reading this: make good use of the movie options on the airplane. Every movie you get through on the plane is two less hours you will be riding on it. Six movies later, and you are good to go.

Food was, unsurprisingly, rather abysmal on the flight, but that’s nothing out of the ordinary really. I had two girls from Japan sitting next to me who asked for clarification at every instruction the pilot gave in English. They also did not understand my explanations. But they weren’t kicking my chair, so I’m not complaining.

We did, of course, have a baby sit diagonal to me who screamed for almost twelve hours straight. I didn’t expect anything less at this point.

After landing, I had to pick up my baggage and once again and go through a much faster security and customs check. I waited by the lane designated for our baggage for a good ten minutes or so. Suddenly a worker walks up to me, stares in confusion, and says, “What the heck are you waiting for, boy.”

I was rather confused myself. “Baggage from the flight from Narita?” I said as more of a question than a statement.

“Ain’t here boy.”

So we all awkwardly move to the neighboring lane marked for Switzerland, which, apparently, was the actual lane for baggage from Japan. It was strange. But our bags arrived and it was off to customs and security.

Customs took about two minutes. The man barely even glanced at my passport, which was a little disappointing being I spent several minutes in line making sure I had all the forms necessary to get through and he didn’t need any of them. Security was four lines of people. The man in the far left lane was absolutely massive. Quite possibly the most intimidating man I have ever seen, likely able to beat most professional boxers with his eyes closed.

“This lane’s open, but only the strong are allowed in.” He stated to the room.

I entered his lane, set my bags down, and asked with a chuckle, “Think I’m strong enough?”

He paused for a moment, then said, “Well son, every branch needs twigs.”

Thanks.

The flight to Rochester was pretty smooth by comparison. An hour and a half flight compared to a twelve hour one was over in what felt like a couple minutes. Our pilot was a bit of a maniac, however.

“Weather in Rochester is 82 today. Clear skies all around. Don’t believe me? Then Google the weather.”

At one point over the intercom he announced, “We are about to experience some turbulence. OH YEAH!” I wondered when Kenny Loggins was going to appear to serenade this man’s Top Gun performance.

But, eventually I arrived. I met my parents at the bottom of the escalator leading out of the flights area, had an excellent reunion, and then went out for the best thing a person could have after four months straight of sticky rice: a cheeseburger.

It’s nice to be back in the US. It hasn’t sank in yet that my times in Japan are over, but it was certainly great the entire time it lasted.

Phrase of the Day: Hikoki (Hee-koh-kee) means “Airplane”.

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