Nerdtour 2012: Day 1, and lessons learned (the hard way)

Land ho!

I only took a couple of pictures of Chiba, just south of the airport and the first land seen when coming in to Narita.

So, okay, technically it’s Day 1 and 2, but I don’t feel like counting the day that I travelled here, although it was semi-eventful, in that I navigated the Narita airport support system as well as the Japan Rail system, at least to a small degree!

I packed a suitcase, a sport bag, and my backpack with stuff for the trip, and carried a black portfolio/notebook where I kept the papers I would need for the trip, the boarding pass, the hotel reservation information, and the form for my apartment at Sakura House. Well, everything went okay, I made it over 7000 miles without messing up, but as soon as I got through Immigration and Customs, I decided to get a train ticket for the Express to Tokyo at the main lobby level. I managed to get the ticket without using any English, and kind of mostly sort of understood most of what the ticket seller was saying. I made the mistake of going to the men’s room, and leaving the men’s room without my portfolio! Of course, I didn’t realize this until I had taken all my stuff through the ticket turnstile, all the way downstairs to the platform, and sitting down thinking, “I should look over the hotel reservation…” and realizing I had no such thing with me!

So, in a bit of a panic (the train was about 20 minutes from arriving, and I had a reserved seat), I went back upstairs (lugging everything but the portfolio) and got back to the turnstile. I managed to get the stationmaster’s attention and explained (in Japanese (that he actually understood!)) that I had left my “noto” in the “toire” upstairs. He let me get back into the airport lobby, whereupon I took all my stuff back upstairs to the arrivals lobby, went back to the men’s room, and found…

No portfolio! Okay, going to panic Defcon 3, I head back out of the men’s room, looking for something like “lost and found”. I was wandering a bit when I excitedly cornered a man in uniform, and explained what happened. Apparently it was by now well-known that some idiot foreigner had left his “noto” in the men’s room, since he pointed me to General Information, about 10 feet behind me. I staggered over there (the weight of the luggage starting to get to me) and explained yet again that I had left my portfolio behind. By this time part of my Japanese was getting a bit weak and I started using some English. Fortunately, being The International Airport of Japan, the nice girl spoke enough English to tell me that they had my portfolio!

Relief! All I had to do was let them have a copy of my passport, fill out a form with name, address, etc., and she reached under the counter and presented me with my portfolio! I realized that they must have looked in and saw the hotel page in Japanese, with my name on it and on the other forms, and knew that when the doofy-looking foreigner with that name came blathering up to them, it had to belong to him!

So, now with everything I was supposed to have with me, double and triple checked every few feet, I got back to the train entrance. There, I showed one of the train personnel my ticket and explained that I had gone back, and before I finished, she let me through the gate and back into the station! Now, with minutes to go, I raced (as well as one can race with lots of luggage) back down the escalator to the train platform, extracted the hotel paperwork from the portfolio, and securely stowed the portfolio away into the sport bag! Just as I zipped it closed, the train arrived, and I struggled aboard to stow my stuff!

The rest of the trip down to Tokyo was uneventful, and when I got to Tokyo Station my friend John had sent me a text suggesting taking a cab at Tokyo station instead of the subway to the hotel in Monzennakacho. Turned out to be good advice, as I would not have been able to make it up the stairs at the Monzennakacho subway station with all the stuff I had, and then walk to the hotel. The cab driver didn’t speak any English, but I knew enough to understand that he needed a map to the hotel. Such a map was on the hotel information page I had printed out, so he used that address and map to enter into the GPS, so it could get the right path to the hotel! I love living in the 21st Century!

Once safely checked into the hotel, I gave my friend John a text while he was at Tokyo Sky Tree, letting him know I was in, since he was in the same hotel. I told him to either knock on the door or text me, as I was going to take a short nap. Well, that “short nap” ended up being about 4 hours, as no knock on the door was going to wake me! I basically slept through dinner time, and finally woke up about 9:30. I did get hold of John, and we decided to wander out into the neighborhood that we knew, went down the street to the Eitai Bridge, where I got some shots of the Sky Tree lit up at night. That tower is the tallest free-standing tower in the world, and it definitely looks it, even 15 kilometers away! I think my pictures came out all right, for the most part.

Tokyo Sky Tree at night

It may not look like much here, but it’s 10 miles away!

After taking more pictures around the bridge, I felt like going back to the hotel, to finish sleeping. I stopped at a convenience store (called a “combini” in Japanese borrowed-word-ish) and picked up a cup of yogurt and a bottle of my favorite milk tea, intending to eat it for late night snack. Biology took over, and I managed to drink the tea before zonking out yet again. Of course, I had to wake back up at 4:45 AM, unable to get back to sleep. So, naturally I updated Facebook, checked my email, took a shower, and finally ate my “midnight snack” for breakfast.

Hmm, I wasn’t going to count that day as “Day 1” since I spent about 14 hours of it on a plane, but I suppose I will, now that I wrote up so much about it. Okay, today, Monday, the day I went down to get my apartment key and pay the rent for the month, this will be “Day 2”, which I will write up about tomorrow, “Day 3”. And since I’m actually 12 hours ahead of everyone there, it will actually be “Day 2”!!

Not such a big fan of time zones…

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