We woke up at 3:30 AM, CST and headed out to O’Hare to catch the 6:30 flight to LAX. The flight was pretty full, with many passengers jockeying for better seats. I was struck at how difficult it would be to be a flight attendant- you can never really give people what they want, just an approximation of what they want. Or maybe you do have what they want which is a whole can of Diet Coke but you’re only allowed to give them 2.5 ounces of Diet Coke. Everyone around us seemed surprised at how small the seats were on the plane. This isn’t that hard, folks. The first 3.5 hours of the 10th anniversary Comedy Bang Bang episode made this flight feel short. I didn’t sleep so I could sleep on the Tokyo flight.
We had about an hour in LAX to shovel down breakfast before hopping on the flight to Narita. I had a middle seat and Lani had an aisle. The passengers were cosmopolitan- English, Japanese, Spanish, and German could be heard bouncing around the cabin. I couldn’t sleep on the plane (I suspect because I was hungry) so I listened to Reply All on the in-flight entertainment system. It wasn’t bad for a podcast with the seemingly sole purpose of elucidating odd tweets.
We watched Bohemian Rhapsody after about 6 hours- I always expected this movie to be anathema to my tastes but enough family members have goaded me into seeing it that I finally gave it a shot. Throw it on the pile with Whiplash and La La Land; music-related movies that people who know me think I will like but I struggle to find value in. Sorry, it’s my blog folks!
By the time we arrived at Narita my eyes were bloodshot and my face was grey and ashen. I got varied mileage out of my Japanese skills in the airport- I had a nice chat with the immigration officer about where we were staying in Tokyo but the customs officer quickly pivoted to English when I couldn’t answer all of his questions in Japanese. Probably for the best.
We had about a 45-minute wait outside Narita at the Limo Bus stop. Everywhere I’ve been so far is extremely clean and organized- clearly marked bus lanes corresponded with buses arriving at five-minute intervals. Only obese Americans standing around near us managed to fuck this system up by trying to skip the line and give their bags to the attendant despite constant refrains of “next bus. Next bus.”
The bus ride was silent and tranquil. Five minutes outside of Narita you start to see rice paddies and small farms. The dividing walls are lined with shrubbery trimmed into perfect squares and rectangles. Eventually you pass through an industrial district - hard to tell if it was abandoned or thriving because we arrived on a national holiday - and into the heart of Tokyo.
It is hard to convey the close proximity of buildings in Tokyo. Apartment buildings seem to hug each other, like they were constructed in each other’s shadow. The deeper we got into Tokyo the tighter the buildings were intertwined. We arrived at Hotel Okura around 6 PM- a full 24 hours after we left Chicago.
A doorman took our bags and as we entered the lobby, every employee stopped working to greet us. Two women in kimonos saluted us with deep bows as we entered the elevator, escorted by a bellhop. The bellhop took us all the way into our room and explained everything to us from the AC to the “safety box”. We had planned to venture out into Roppongi for dinner but 26 hours in, the likelihood of us leaving the room was slim. We ordered room service (elaborately presented Tempura and beef with rice) and watched professional table tennis on tv. We even caught a little SpongeBob overdubbed in Japanese.
I am a little uncomfortable with the formality of the service here- I feel like I am not adequately equipped to respond in kind when someone provides great service, which pretty much everyone does.
At Narita airport we thought the escalator was broken because it wasn’t moving- turns out it starts moving when you step onto it. Why aren’t all escalators like this?!
I have been in Japan less than 12 hours and I already want to live here.