Saturday, May 14, 2011

Japan: Day 01 and 02

Hello everyone.

I know it’s been a few days, but getting online has been harder than I thought it would be.  It’s very frustrating, but I think once I get to Tokyo it will be a different story.  The trip has been good so far, however, it’s also been disastrous.

I bought a book before I left, a compilation of stories written by women travelers to get me excited for my trip.  All the stories in the book are funny recounts of mishaps and disasters, and how traveling never goes the way you think it will.  It turns out reading that book was a blessing in disguise, because this trip has been anything but smooth so far.  In fact, I would say that it’s been a disaster.

Once we had checked in and settled down to our gate in Philadelphia, Mr. Westberg met up with us to try and hook us up with some sweet, first class seats.  Unfortunately the man at the gate was a complete jerk.  And not just because he denied us our first class seat, either.  Once Mr. Westberg left us at the gate he proceeded to have a tantrum because the speaker gave too much feedback and threw the microphone at his desk, and then made a girl cry over seating mix-ups.  We’re sitting right next to him when he tells the poor girl that she just completely wasted his time and to get over it.

Maybe he was just having a bad day?

                  Mike, Dave and I about ready to leave for our flight!

The flight to Toronto was short but pleasant, with clear views and friendly staff (thank god), and the layover wasn’t so bad either.  The plane we took to Narita was huge (HUGE), and we ended up sitting next to a very nice man from Iran, who told us funny stories about the old, rickety planes from his country.  We taught him how to play war and talked about the situation in Japan at the moment.  He was only transferring in Narita to head to China.

The flight was very long, but we were served three full meals and had a large selection of movies to watch, including newer films that I hadn’t watched yet.  I managed to fit about four movies in before the end of our flight.

13 hours is a long plane ride, and getting up and walking around and stretching was a saver.  The Iranian man next to us didn’t get up once, which amazed me, but I couldn’t stand sitting for more than four hours.  The only disappointment up until that point was that it was foggy outside by the time we got close to Japan.  And by foggy I mean fog so think you couldn't make anything out past the wing tip.

The scary part of the flight came at the end.  We had started our decent, the wheels had been deployed, and I watched the screen in front of me count down the miles until we reached the airport.  I’m not kidding when I say that I still couldn’t see anything.  The screen said 15 miles from landing, then 10, then 5, and one mile from landing the plane suddenly jerked up and started flying incredibly fast at an angle very unnatural for a plane.  Up and up and up we went, and my stomach flipped and I grabbed onto Mike’s hand as hard as I could and prayed that we weren’t crashing or going to die.  It turns out there was a plane on the runway, and the pilot had to pull up just as we were about to land.  It took us much longer to make the turn and go in the second time.  And I couldn’t see the ground until seconds before we landed.  One moment we were enveloped in fog, and the next, we were down.

Transferring from the plain to the train didn’t take too long, but both the Philadelphia plane and the Toronto plane had been delayed, so we didn’t get on the train until about 7pm.  It was a total of four hours down to Osaka, and we had to transfer at Tokyo, where a woman working the entrance get very impatient trying to explain to Dave what she needed to let him through.  And when I got onto the second train it was small, much smaller than the first one.  I bumped into a lot of people walking down the isle, and I had to shove my large suitcase up in between the seats.  Everyone stared.  It was so embarrassing, I just hid behind my luggage as best I could, haha.

We had to take two more trains before we reached our destination, and by then it was way pasted 11pm.  I had forgotten to bring the directions to the hostel, but I could remember the landmarks.  We were tired and hungry at this point, having been over 24 hours since we’d last slept, and Mike and Dave were getting cranky.  It started to rain and moods were sour, but I was determined to be like the women in the book I’d read, telling myself over and over that this was just an adventure, and I’d be laughing about it tomorrow.  I tried my best to remain in high spirits, smiling and laughing as the boys brooded and snapped behind me.  I made a wrong turn, but quickly corrected myself.  We got to the hostel after about 20 minuets after arriving.

It was closed.

The gates were down, it was pouring.  We were soaked.  I looked around.  It couldn’t be!  I had sent the owner an email only a few days ago telling him we would be late.  He had told me not to worry, to just enjoy my ride in and he would see me when we arrived.

The gates were closed, but there was a door to the side, and I reached for it and it opened.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  He had waited for us after all.


I was dark inside.  Empty.  The tables were shoved close together and no one sat at the desk.  The door had been unlocked, but we had eventually broken in.  I was quiet and disserted.  I grabbed Mikes phone to call the number I’d written down, but it just rang and rang inside the building.  No one was there, and with it pouring outside, we weren’t about to go back the way we’d come.

At this point I almost lost it.  With Mike and Dave making comments about me being stubborn and about how this trip already sucked, I had to duck into the bathroom to stop myself from breaking down in front of them.

This is not how I’d imagined it!  Hiro was supposed to be waiting, we had traveled for almost 48 hours straight and all I wanted to do was crash in a bed and sleep until 10am.  And I felt awful that I had talked the guys into coming.  We’d just arrived and they were already having a crappy time.  My upbeat ‘this is an adventure!’ feeling was not shared by my travel companions.

I refused, however, to let it ruin my trip.  I wasn’t going to snap back or be upset or get angry, and I absolutely refused to admit that I was having a terrible day.  I went back out to the guys and we agreed that at least we were out of the rain, and we weren’t on the streets.  I was a little worried that the police might show up and arrest us for breaking and entering, but I wasn’t about to head out and find another hotel at 12:30.  We settled in to a night of sleeping on the kitchen tables.

A few minuets went by, and we could hear people passing by outside.  Every noise I heard I braced myself for the police, until finally, the door opened, and in walked a Japanese girl.  She saw us and froze.

I immediately jumped up and smiled, and hoped she spoke some English, because I sure as heck didn’t know enough Japanese to explain what the three of us were doing.  “Hi, my name in Alisa and we have reservations.  I’d sent Hiro an email telling him we were going to be late, but we got here and no one was here!  The door was open so we came in to get out of the rain, I’m so sorry!”

She smiled, and nodded, and then spoke, in English, thank God.  She called Hiro to explain the situation and he sent someone over to set us up.  We apologized, they apologized, and I thanked the girl, who introduced herself as Izumi, over and over again.  We would finally get a bed to sleep in.

Once we got settled in I couldn’t sleep.  I was wired.  It had been too long since I’d slept, It had been too long since I’d eaten, and I was shaken up from the events that had lead up to us finally being able to lie down.

There was also a cat out the window who wouldn’t stop yowling every two hours or so.  I got about four hours of sleep before I woke up at 6:45 smelly and still pretty damp and in dire need of a shower.  So I got up and cleaned myself off and got dressed for the day.

I ended up feeling much better after my shower, and am very thankful that the book set me up to have a more positive attitude about our situation.  :D

Tomorrow: Day 3 and 4.


  1. oh man rough start but it'll turn around for sure in the next couple days. you all WILL look back and laugh about sleeping on the kitchen tables, haha. stay spirited and keep adventuring! thanks for updating. -nova

  2. Wow sensi rough start! Hope it gets better as things progress! Take in the sights, enjoy the company and new experiences because it goes by so fast!
    ~With love,
    Ali Westberg <3
    P.S missed you at class and sensi stephen is doing an O.K job but it's not the same :)

  3. If I were there with you, I would've hugged you.

  4. Hi Sensei Alisa,
    We hope you are having a good time in Japan! Please post lots of pictures! We wish you were here for our belt test on Friday!

    Austin,Owen and Nate Sharpless

  5. Sensei Alisa.

    HAVE A FUN TIME :::)))

    J S T

  6. Hi honey,
    You're actually living your life dream!!!
    The ups and downs will come and go, even on your waited-so-long-to-go-to-Japan trip!!!! (guess what I found today... the picture of you when you were 6 years old dressed up in an authentic kimono with chopsticks in your Japanese hair-do! If I knew how, I'd upload it onto this site)! I'm sure it'll all be up hill from here, and I hope you have the greatest of all times!! Some things are just meant to be, and this trip to Japan is one of them for you! Remember what I've always said, "Life's an adventure!"..., and I'm so thrilled that you're getting to experience this one!! I'm so proud of you for making this dream become a reality!! Your Uncle Bill, Aunt Pat, Auntie Stella and I are all so excited to get to share this adventure with you from afar! Have fun, be safe, give Mike and Dave a hug for me, and... I hope you DID take a picture of sleeping on the kitchen tables!!!!
    Love, (Sensei) Mom ^_^

  7. Alisa!

    You need more adventurous travelers with you! Do you remember where I slept my first night in Damascus? This is what makes for great stories! Have a great time!