Posts Tagged Narita Airport

November 15, 2006 part 2 – Goodbye Japan

After a busy morning, I had lunch with The Penpal and her family at their house. They wanted to come to the airport with me to see me off.

We took the shinkansen from Mishima to Tokyo, switched to Yamanote Line briefly (which is not fun with giant suitcases), and took the Keisei Skyliner from Nippori to the airport. The Skyliner is cheaper than the Narita Express, but the Express is much more convenient if you have large bags.

Check-in went smoothly, leaving enough time to sit and chat before I went through security. Over the past few years, I have gone from being the overseas friend to gaijin boyfriend to gaijin fiancee, and eventually part of the family. I’m really going to miss my future in-laws and I’m excited about showing them around Canada in the future.

I told them that in Canada there is a lot more crying at the airport when someone leaves. The Penpal’s father told me that Japanese people cry too, they just hold it until they get home. He gave me a handshake (not a bow), I hugged The Penpal’s mother, then hugged my wonderful fiancee before going through security. I will always remember seeing them waving goodbye as I took the escalator down to the immigration area.

At immigration, I had to turn in my gaijin card and they cancelled my visas and remaining re-entry stamps. I had dutifully carried my gaijin card everywhere for the past 3 years, so it was strange to leave it behind permanently. My 3 year adventure was over, and it was a fantastic experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. Good bye Japan, and thanks for the memories!

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April 6, 2006 – Farewell to my parents

Today was my parents’ last day in Japan. Even though their hotel was within throwing distance of Numazu station, The Penpal’s father had insisted on driving us to Mishima station to save us bringing large suitcases on the short train ride from Numazu to Mishima.

My parents said their goodbyes to The Penpal’s parents, and then to their future daughter in law. My mother and The Penpal’s mother had become good friends in the short time together, despite their language barrier. The Penpal’s father actually looked a bit emotional when we walked into the station. I’m very happy that the families get along so well! There’s a long way to go before The Penpal and I get married, and it’s nice to have the support of two families who seem to like each other.

We took the shinkansen from Mishima to Tokyo, ate an early dinner at the station, and then took the Narita Express to the airport. On the train ride, my parents gave me a handful of unspent yen as a gift. It also saved them changing it back into dollars when they got home. I got them checked in at the airport, and watched them go down the escalator into the international departure area. It had been a fun visit and I was sad to see them go. I was also unsure when I was going to see them again as I was considering whether I wanted to leave Japan at the end of the year or stay longer.

On the way home I stopped in Akihabara and used the money from my parents to buy myself and Ipod Nano to replace my broken down and obsolete portable CD player. Thanks mom and dad!

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March 25, 2006 part 1 – My parents return to Japan

Today my parents returned to Japan for their second ever visit. The first time they came was in June 2004 when I was living in Kawasaki. My sister also came that time and we spent two weeks traveling around Tokyo, Yokohama, Kyoto, and Hiroshima. They also spent a day with my then girlfriend and her family in Numazu.

This time my sister is staying at home. My parents and I have a schedule that includes Kyoto, Nara, Himeji, Tokyo, and a lot more time with my now fiancee and her family. I’m really looking forward to it!

I am now getting to be proficient at traveling to Narita airport, having done so 8 times before. I took the slowest (cheapest) trains, using the long ride to read books. Lately my train reading has been the John Rebus novels by Ian Rankin. I got hooked thanks to the free library in Hello House, and have been a big fan ever since.

I usually get to the airport just as the flight is scheduled to land, which leaves time for people to get through immigration and customs. This time I was surprised to find my parents already waiting inside the terminal because their flight had landed early. They had their suitcases and were ready to leave the airport. I was so happy to see them in person! We talk regularly, but it’s not the same as being able to give someone a hug.

The last time I had seen my parents is when I flew home suddenly last fall when my sister was sick. When you don’t see someone for 6 months, they really look different!

Learning from their last visit to Japan, we activated their JR rail passes right at the airport. When you buy the rail pass, you are given a voucher than can be exchanged in Japan for your pass. The 7 days (or 14 or 21) starts from that point. You can only exchange the voucher for tickets at major stations, and I didn’t want to have to worry about finding a place to do so in Shizuoka.

After getting the passes taken care of, we boarded the Narita Express for Tokyo, and then took the shinkansen to Mishima. We were met at the station by The Penpal and her family in both of their cars. It was the first time for them to see my parents since they were in Japan two years ago, and also the first time since The Penpal and I got engaged. We loaded up the cars and went out to Gomi Hatten for dinner.

Big Soup

Gomi Hatten (Japanese Website) is a noodle shop / Chinese restaurant with huge portion sizes. If you leave hungry you have literally done something wrong. My parents were tired from their flight and were probably not in the mood for giant steaming bowls of soup, but they were happy to be on the ground and with family.

I’m really happy that my parents are here! I missed them a lot and I’m really looking forward to a few weeks of sightseeing!

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January 7, 2006 – Welcome UPS!

Disclaimer: UPS is a nickname for my friend. This post is in no way associated with United Parcel Service.

After correctly considering the effects of the international date line, my friend UPS was scheduled to arrive in Japan today for a short visit. I took the local train (the cheapest option) from Numazu to Narita airport. The last time I picked up friends or family from the airport, I lived in Kawasaki, which was a lot closer. The trip from Numazu took me almost 4 hours!

I got to the airport early, which was fortunate because UPS’s flight arrived an hour early. This must be an absolute first in aviation history. UPS greeted me at the airport with a case of Moosehead beer! The last time I had Moosehead is when a group of friends visited in 2004 and we drank some very expensive imported Moosehead in Tokyo. Visitors to Japan: drink local beer, it’s way cheaper.

We took the Narita Express from the airport to Tokyo station, the shinkansen from Tokyo to Mishima, and then the Tokaido line from Mishima to Numazu. This trip took only 2 hours, but it seemed faster as UPS and I spent the time catching up on news from home and discussing our plans for his 4 days in Japan. For only a few days, we have a pretty packed agenda! I also learned that it’s pretty much impossible to talk about recent movies with someone from Canada, because most of the big movies come to Japan several months after they are released in North America. I was behind on everything.

We dropped off UPS’s luggage at my apartment, he had a quick shower, and we went out to an izakaya with some of my coworkers. UPS is one of the most outgoing and fun people I know, so he instantly got along with the English teachers. After we got home, we watched some videos that the fraternity guys from Canada recorded for me during their annual Christmas bottle exchange. It’s good to see that nothing changes there.

It’s going to be a fun 4 days!


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August 20, 2005 part 1 – Getting there is not half the fun

This morning instead of getting ready for work, I finished packing my suitcase to fly home to visit my sick sister. My suitcase is the maximum size for Air Canada, and was completely loaded with clothes and last minute souvenirs. In addition, I also had my trusty Canada flag backpack loaded up to keep me entertained on my 3 train rides and two flights. To save time, I skipped breakfast and instead picked up a sandwich at 7-11 across from my apartment to eat on the train.

Japan in August is hot and humid. Unbelievably humid. I have been in less humid saunas. Usually I take my bike to the train station, but there was no safe way to bring my giant suitcase with me on the bike. I did consider trying, but thought that wiping out on a narrow road filled with traffic would probably not help my chances of getting to the airport on time.

The walk to the station with my large wheeled suitcase and fully loaded backpack took me about 20 minutes. By the end of the walk I had sweated through the back of my shirt. I loaded my giant bag onto the train for the short ride to Mishima, ignoring any dirty looks from other passengers. At Mishima station I rolled my giant bag from the main platform through the station towards the shinkansen platform. Fortunately this walk was completely inside and air conditioned. From Mishima to Tokyo I had the giant suitcase jammed between my legs and the seat in front of me. Usually I regret that I am not a very tall person. This was not one of those times.

Once I arrived at Tokyo station, I had to once again drag my mammoth suitcase through crazy crowds of people, past all the souvenir stands, and then down to the lowest level in order to catch the Narita Express. Fortunately the Narita Express is designed for travelers, and has ample storage space at the ends of the cars for luggage.

Train travel in Japan is quick, efficient, and convenient, unless you are bringing a large suitcase. When I came to Japan, NOVA was smart enough to get all of the teacher’s suitcases delivered to their new residences. The last time I went back to Canada, I did bring my suitcase, however it was not a horrible humid day like today.

By the time I got to Narita Airport I was sweaty, cranky, and exhausted. I was much happier and lighter when I was finally able to check my bag. Getting through security and immigration was quick and easy, and my flight left on time.

The first 2-3 hours of the flight was TERRIBLE. Our flight experienced non stop turbulence which got so bad that it occasionally shut down the in flight entertainment system. I rarely get motion sickness, but several people on the flight were not so lucky. The only thing worse than choppy air is the sounds and smells of other passengers barfing in a crowded, enclosed space.

The pilot did come on the PA several times to apologize and explain that the skies were quite busy, which prevented our flight from adjusting altitude. After about 3 hours of bouncing around, the air finally gave us a break and we enjoyed the remaining 7 hours in relative calm.

I was very happy to finally get on the ground in Vancouver. Whoever says getting there is half the fun is an idiot.

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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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July 8, 2004 – The family leaves

Today I took my family to Narita Airport and sent them back to Canada. It was sad to see them go. I have been lucky to host two different groups of visitors in the past few months, and now I will have to return to my regular life of teaching English.

A big thank you to my family for taking the time and expense to come and see me!

(2014 Update) Before visiting me in Japan, my parents idea of international travel was driving to the USA. In the 10 years since they flew around the world to visit me in Japan, they have been to Bosnia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ireland, Israel, and Jamaica with plans for more travel in the future. They also returned to Japan in 2006, but that’s a story for a later date. I’m not taking all the credit for their jet setting ways, but I think I helped.

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June 27, 2004 – My family arrives in Japan

A mere 19 days after I dropped off my University friends at Narita airport, I was once again taking the cheap trains to pick up visitors. This time I would be picking up my parents and sister.

My parents would have never considered traveling to Japan if I wasn’t living here. In fact, they have never traveled outside of North America before. My parents are in their mid 50s and live in a small town west of Winnipeg. My father is an air traffic controller – he was in the Canadian Forces for 27 years, retired, and then started doing the same job as a civilian. He is one of the friendliest people I know and has no issues starting a conversation with complete strangers. My mother is a teacher’s assistant at an elementary school. She specializes in helping hearing impaired and deaf students. My sister  is a University student who lives in Winnipeg. She is in her early 20s, short, and very smart. However, she will believe almost everything I tell her, a fact that I occasionally abuse for comedic effect.

When I picked up my friends from the airport, I ended up having to wait a long time for them to clear customs and immigration after their flight landed. I had considered arriving about an hour after my family’s flight landed, but was worried that if they somehow got through early, they would be worried that they couldn’t find me. I got to the airport exactly when their flight arrived, and ended up having to wait about 90 minutes for them to show up.

At this point it had been 9 months since I had seen my family. My sister looked mostly the same, but my parents looked older. They all commented on how skinny I looked, since I had probably dropped about 5kg (12lbs) since moving to Japan.

We got tickets for the Narita Express and were on our way to Shinjuku from the airport. Just like my first train ride into Tokyo, and my friends after that, my family was amazed at the size and density of the city. Everyone always gets excited, and then they realize they are only in Chiba and things are only going to get busier.

We made a brief stop in Shinjuku to look at the skyline. The largest city my family had ever been to was Toronto. Tokyo is like stacking a few Torontos on top of each other. I taught them all how to use the train ticket gates, and we headed off for Noborito.

I couldn’t get the same guest room in Hello House East that my friends had, however I got a bigger, nicer room in Hello House West for my parents. They were impressed with the room (and the price), but were a little concerned about sleeping on futons on the floor. My sister was going to stay in my room on my futon, and I would sleep on my foldy floor couch. After giving them all of the key information on Hello House (where the bathrooms and coin operated showers were located), we decided to head out and get some food.

My dad can be pretty adventurous with food, but my mom and sister aren’t as much. To ease them into their Japan experience, we ate at a Spaghetti restaurant near Mukogaokayuen station. We walked from Hello House, and my family enjoyed looking at all of the different businesses along the way. Everyone ordered fairly non-threatening spaghetti (no squid ink sauce for anyone), and we had our first meal as a family in 9 months.

I really missed my family and was happy they came to visit me! It’s going to be a great few weeks!

(2014 update) My dad told me later that he had brought two apples to eat on the plane. He finished one, and kept the other in his carry on luggage. When the customs staff asked if he was carrying any fruits or vegetables, he pulled out the apple. The customs staff told him that he would have to dispose of the apple before he could enter the arrivals lounge. He considered arguing or eating the apple in front of the customs staff, but instead tossed the apple in a nearby garbage bin.

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June 7, 2004 – Departure

Today my friends all returned to Canada. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, the terrible travel agent booked Flounder on a flight leaving Narita airport at 2:00pm for Chicago, while Code Red, Hippie and Green were on a 4:00pm flight to Chicago. Hippie lost his ticket, so we decided to all get to the airport early so he could fill out some paperwork at United Airlines and get a replacement.

The guys had spent nearly all of the money that they brought with them from Canada, so we decided to take the less expensive, slower route to the airport. We took the Odakyu line from Noborito to Shinjuku, Yamanote line to Nippori, then Keisei line to the airport. This route takes twice as long as the Narita Express, but only costs half as much. Taking giant suitcases on busy trains is never a fun experience.

On the Keisei line we were seated next to a father and his young son. The young boy kept staring at our group, especially Flounder. Flounder turned to him and said “hi”, which caused the boy to hide behind his father for the rest of the train ride.

When we arrived at the airport, we all went directly to the United Airlines departure area. Hippie explained his situation and paid to get a replacement for his lost ticket. When talking to the staff, they looked up the tickets for the other members of the group. It turns out that the travel agent had moved Code Red, Hippie and Green to the 2:00pm flight without telling them. If Hippie hadn’t lost his ticket then he, Code Red and Green might have all missed their flight home! I wish I knew the name of the travel agent so I could publicly shame them here.

Everyone got checked in, and I said goodbye to my friends before they went through the security gate. The past 17 days had been a lot of fun, but I was ready to get back to my regular life in Japan. Also, my liver needed to recover from the never ending deluge of inexpensive beer.

I left the airport to start the two hour trip back to Hello House and proceeded to have one of the laziest, most relaxing days I had experienced in a long time.

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May 21, 2004 pt1 – Narita Airport

I'm not this short - I was crouching down

I’m not this short – I was crouching down. From left to right: Flounder, Green, me, Hippie, Code Red.

My friends finally arrived today! I woke up early to tidy and vacuum my room. Before I left I pulled out my bright yellow Delta Upsilon Manitoba shirt and headed off to Narita airport on the slow trains. This involved taking the Odakyu line from Noborito to Shinjuku, the Yamanote line to Nippori, and the Keisei line to the airport.

After 2 hours in transit I arrived at Narita Terminal 2 about 20 minutes before the guys flight arrived. I left the train station in the basement of the airport, went through a security check, and then wandered around the terminal. The guys were flying a terrible flight from Winnipeg through Chicago to Narita Airport on United. In the arrivals area I couldn’t find their flight listed at all. After looking around at the signs I realized that United lands at Narita Terminal 1, so I was in the wrong terminal.

There were signs for a bus to terminal 1, but since I was more familiar with trains in Japan I bought a ticket and went back to the train platform. On the platform I learned that the next train between Terminal 2 and Terminal 1 was in 30 minutes. I tried to go back into the airport, but the train gate closed on me. I then attempted to use all of my Japanese skills to explain my situation to the train staff. Fortunately they understood and took pity on me. I walked away with a refund and directions to the bus which leaves every few minutes between the terminals.

Thanks to the incredibly slow lines in immigrations and customs I had to wait about an hour before my friends actually came into the arrival area. The entire time I had people staring at my bright yellow DU shirt. The shirt was very bright, but it did make me extremely easy to find in the crowd. After exchanging greetings and manly hugs, the guys showed me the souvenirs they brought from Canada; a case of Kraft Dinner and a 12 of Moosehead beer. I am so Canadian.

While the guys took turns exchanging money and cashing in travelers cheques, I was approached by an unlicensed taxi driver who offered to drive us to Kawasaki. I know he was unlicensed because no taxi drivers are allowed to solicit business in the airport terminal. I expect that our cab ride from Narita to Hello House would have been extremely expensive. I finally got him to leave and we bought tickets for the Narita Express.

Just like when I arrived months earlier, we changed trains in Shinjuku during rush hour. I took the group outside to get their first look at the Shinjuku skyline and mobs of people. If you ever bring people to Japan I recommend doing this. We changed to the Odakyu line and traveled the rest of the way to Hello House incident free. The Team Awesome Sauce adventure was about to begin!

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