Posts Tagged airport security

December 20, 2004 pt2 – Back in North America


After a 12+ hour flight from Tokyo, my plane landed in Minneapolis / St. Paul International airport. I got off the plane and then went through another round immigration and security checks, and moving my suitcase from one conveyor belt to another. I still don’t understand the purpose of moving my suitcase from one side of a room to the other.

After escaping the security zone, Rob (the Winnipegger who sat next to me on the flight), and I decided to grab some lunch at Pizza Hut. In all of my travel plans I hadn’t considered the need for US currency. At the cash register I asked the Pizza Hut cashier if I could pay with Canadian dollars or Japanese Yen. She thought I was just being a jerk and was not amused. Thankfully my Canadian credit card worked, and I was able to “enjoy” a lunch of extremely greasy pizza. Seriously, after eating Japanese food for over a year I couldn’t believe how greasy the pizza was.

Rob and I explored the huge airport together. Just as we were getting ready to go to our gate, I noticed that I no longer had my sister’s extremely heavy ancient laptop. We returned to Pizza Hut and couldn’t find it. Fortunately someone had turned it into security. Unattended bags in an airport are no joke, and I am happy that I wasn’t detained and that the laptop wasn’t exploded or anything.

Our departure ended up being delayed by freezing rain, so we got to Winnipeg an hour late. We left Japan at 5:00pm on December 20, and landed in Winnipeg at 4:00pm on December 20, an hour before we left. Yes friends, time travel is possible. After landing in the past, we got sniffed by a police dog, and again went through immigration and customs. Thanks to a 2 litre bottle of shochu, I was over my limit for alcohol. The customs officer had the Christmas spirit, and let me bring my Christmas spirits through without having to pay extra.

It was great to see my family again! It had been six months since they left Japan, and I really missed them. On the way out of Winnipeg we stopped at Olive Garden for dinner. I did my best to avoid falling asleep at the table as I stuffed myself with breadsticks, salad and pasta. Since I was no longer used to heavy North American food, the oversauced pasta sat like a brick in my stomach.

The ride to Portage la Prairie was a typical, terrible winter drive. The road is flat with no wind breaks, so any amount of wind and snow provides for dangerous conditions with low visibility. I was happy that my dad was driving, and I slept in the back seat.

Despite the cold weather, it really is great to be home!

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December 20, 2004 pt1 – Leaving Japan

This is the first part of my returning home for Christmas story. All together, my Monday lasted 39 hours due to traveling across time zones.

I started my journey by walking 20 minutes to Numazu station while dragging my giant suitcase, wearing an overstuffed backpack, and carrying my sister’s incredibly heavy antique laptop. From Numazu I took the Tokaido line to Mishima where I switched to the Shinkansen bound for Tokyo. I managed to get all of my stuff through busy Tokyo station towards the Narita express platform, stopping to buy a few last minute souvenirs and Christmas presents. Yes, I bought even more stuff to carry.

I arrived at the airport at 1:00pm Japan time. and went to the baggage check. I bought most of my Christmas presents in Asakusa, so they were all very nicely wrapped. Airport security does not like wrapped Christmas presents, so all of my presents had to go through the x-ray scanner. I was also asked to turn the laptop. Since the battery is dead, it only lasts about 5 seconds before shutting off. This meant that the laptop got scanned and swabbed for bomb residue. The whole experience was time consuming and a bit annoying, but the airport staff was polite the entire time and managed to repack my suitcase EXACTLY the same way that it was before.

After getting rid of my bags, I got to wait in line to get my boarding pass. I then went though security and got to wait in line at immigration. Who knew what a major airport would be so busy before Christmas…

Eventually I got through all of the lines, and got on my plane. The first two hours of the flight were incredibly turbulent. I don’t think I have ever been on a flight so rough before. The captain kept apologizing and told us that the skies were busy, so we were not cleared to switch altitudes. At least the movies weren’t bad – they showed “I, Robot”, “Shark Tale”, and “Elf”. I think I managed to sleep for a few hours but can’t be sure.

Near the end of the flight I started talking to the guy sitting next to me who was named Rob. It turns out that he was in my intermediate Japanese class in University and was also returning to Winnipeg for Christmas. Unlike me, he managed to get into the JET program. We exchanged some stories about our experiences in Japan. Out of all of the flights home and all of the seats in the plane, I happened to sit next to I guy I knew from school. Sometimes it really is a small world.

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