It is Sunday, September 04, 2005, and we are finally here in Japan, after a travelling experience that can only be described as "epic". Let me start nearly at the beginning: rewind, if you will, to Tuesday, August 30. It is 17:30 or so, and I have just come home from work. I look around the house, and realise, despite Lyani's best efforts, we still have to pack up, give away, or dispose of a large quantity of stuff. So we put our noses to the grindstone, and work in the house like crazy for a few hours, break for a quick supper and an episode of "The X-Files" (I have managed to turn Lyani into a fan--though I half-suspect that she watches just because of Agent Mulder), and continue packing / tossing / arranging until about 01:00. We had to wake up early in the morning to be at the Post Office when it opened at 08:00 in order to mail two boxes to Japan and one to my parents in Staunton.
This was a point of no return of sorts: from this moment on, everything would have to either go with us to Japan in our luggage, be given away, or thrown away. In a way, this allowed us to be more ruthless than we had ever had to be before. Anything that we really did not need, had to be discarded! My co-workers benefited from this take-no-prisoners approach, as I took several large boxes to work with me and sent out an email announcing that I had Free Stuff, and copious amounts of it. The vultures descended rapidly, and most of the trinkets were picked clean by mid-day.
I headed home at about 14:30 after finishing up everything at work. Lyani had re-enacted the Labours of Hercules, but the apartment still needed work. I prepared some furniture for a colleague who was picking it up at 15:00, then took down curtains, towel hooks, and everything else we had affixed to the walls in our two years in the apartment. After my colleague picked up the furniture, I ran to the bank to deposit all the spoils of our last minute furniture and CD fire sale, and then back to work to turn in my keys, ID badge, etc. Then it was back to the apartment for more work, mostly carrying bags and boxes to the dumpster for me. Lyani and I got everything out of the apartment by about 17:30, then turned in our keys to the rental office and left Fox and Hounds Apartments behind us for good (thank goodness!).
We drove to a friend of Lyani's house to drop off a few things that we had promised her, then headed to the airport to check-in to the hotel where we would stay the night. But if you thought that our long day was now at an end, you would be quite mistaken. You see, we still had to sell our car! So after unloading our luggage, it was off to Immke Honda on the other side of town, where the used car department took our Civic off our hands in record time. I was quite sad to part with the car, as it had treated me quite well for the two years I had owned it. Chris White (a co-worker of mine) and his wife Michelle picked us up from the dealer and gave us a ride back to the airport. After a bit of packing, we had a bite of supper and then went to sleep at around midnight.
But not for long, since we had to wake up at 04:20 in time to shower and get to the airport by 05:00, an hour and fifteen minutes before our flight. We took off from Port Columbus at 06:15 in a tiny little Air Canada Jazz turboprop, and touched down in Toronto about an hour and a half later. We had a five hour wait before our flight to Tokyo, so we grabbed some breakfast--a savory scrambled egg platter for me involving bacon, sausage, and toast in addition to the eponymous eggs (despite all the slander I have heaped on the Canucks over the years, let it never be said that they do not know what a good breakfast is!). After breakfast, I read the paper while Lyani napped for a few hours, then we headed over to the international departures terminal to board Air Canada flight number 1 to Tokyo.
Let me tell you, if you have ever complained that a trans-Atlantic flight to Europe is long, you flat-out did not know what a long flight is! Ours took 13 and a half grueling hours, and after about 10 of those, we were both considering jumping out and swimming the rest of the way--at least it would not be boring and uncomfortable. And there would always be a chance to get eaten by sharks, a huge bonus in my book! At least there was in-flight entertainment. They showed three movies, one of which we had already seen. The other two were "That Thing You Do", an entertaining movie about a one-hit wonder band from the Sixties, and "Ms. Congeniality 2", which you should never see. If I had a choice between drilling through my skull with a concrete bit and watching "Ms. Congeniality 2", I would take the drilling--it would be far less painful. Of course, given the choice between drooling into my lap midway through a thirteen hour flight and watching the movie, you all know what I chose. Hey, I am not proud of myself! Luckily, after "MC2", as I will call it from now on, they showed the Nova about the Mars rovers, and then an episode of Star Trek (the original series). It is the one where Team Flower Power takes over the Enterprise and flies it into Romulan space, looking for the mysterious planet, Eden.
After Star Trek ended, it was almost time to land. We touched down at Narita International Airport at 15:30, Japanese Standard Time, to clear, sunny weather. For any of you who have not flown to Tokyo via Narita (which I have to assume is most of you), Narita was built about 60 kilometres from Tokyo. So even though you have landed at the Tokyo airport, you still have an hour-long train ride before you are in Tokyo. Well, since we had two suitcases and two shoulder bags apiece, we decided to take the bus, instead of the train, because there was a bus that went directly to Yokohama (which is where our new apartment is) and would take our luggage under the bus so we would not have to worry about it. Lyani called the landlady to tell her that we were on our way, then we boarded the bus for the Yokohama City Air Terminal.
During the bus ride through the Japanese countryside, all these things that I loved about Japan during my last stay came flooding back. How clean the bus was, the fact that it arrived promptly one minute before the departure time and left just as promptly a minute later, the smoothly paved roads beneath us (something that we had completely forgotten about as Ohio residents, where the roads were apparently last paved when Nixon was still insisting that he was not, in fact, a crook). The Japanese architecture: thick, sturdy, functional, with beautifully clean lines. The lush, semi-tropical vegetation whizzing by on both sides of the road.
Of course, at some point during this appreciation of my surroundings, I fell fast asleep, and when I woke up, we were entering Yokohama, and I had more scenery to enjoy, albeit of a more man-made variety. If you have ever been to Los Angeles, you have seen the elevated highways coming together in huge, knotted interchanges. In Japan, this same phenomenon is a thing of beauty. The huge, white concrete bridges twist and turn, diving under each other like Oriental dragons in a New Years parade. It was getting onto 19:00 by this time, and starting to get dusky. This made the appearance of the Yokohama ferris wheel all the more impressive. You see, there is a giant, 10-storey ferris wheel on the southern shore of the Port of Yokohama, put there, no doubt, to warn sailors of impending landfall. And at night, the whole thing is lighted up in quite spectacular fashion.
So we drew closer and closer to the giant ferris wheel, until we finally arrived at the Yokohama City Air Terminal, which, contrary to its name, is not an airfield of any sort. It is just the bus station that offers service to the Narita International Airport. After getting off the bus and re-claiming our luggage, I stood guard over our things while Lyani went inside the bus station to find the luggage lockers. She emerged a few minutes later, victorious, so we locked two of our bags in lockers and went out to the taxi stand on the other side of the bus station. Lyani gave the taxi driver the address of our apartment (which he did not recognise completely--he knew how to get to the neighbourhood, just not the apartment itself), and we set off. Needless to say, it required a good 15 minutes of circling about in our immediate neighbourhood before locating the apartment.
Lyani met the landlady while I stood guard over our luggage (a common theme of this trip) and learned that our apartment was on the fifth floor. So I carted the luggage up five flights of stairs (what, you thought there would be an elevator?) while the landlady showed Lyani how to work all of the various appliances (more on this in a later entry). The landlady departed at about 20:00, and our trip was finally over! We collapsed into bed, too tired to even consider supper, and fell promptly asleep.