Sunday (日曜日) 24th March - Arrival
I had forgotten how loud a Boeing 747 is. And I had never got around to buying those noise-reducing headphones. Oh well, just another 11 hours to go – or was it 11 ½ hours from Frankfurt to Tokyo?
Not a bad seat nr. 33H. Economy of course. Aisle, with nobody behind me. Ever scrutinised that queue at the departure gate? Who will be sitting next to you? I bet everybody does it. Well I was lucky this time. Two younger generation open-minded young Japanese, willing to correct my efforts at their language in exchange for English tips. That made the flight really quite fun. The girl had been granted 7 days leave from her firm, so in her short stay in Germany she had fitted in the Römer at Frankfurt, The Cathedral in Köln, another cathedral in Aachen, and then Rothenburg ob der Tauber…pretty good going if you ask me. I had a different sort of holiday planned. Not so much travelling around as meeting people and staying put for a while in a few locations.
You know those eye pad things with which are meant to tell you it’s night? Well my neighbour put a sort of cotton sack over her heat instead. Never seen this version.
Why does one get so philosophical on long journeys? As the plane windows catch the evening sun I am reminded of George Herberts’s words:
“….The Sun arising in the East. Though he give light, and th'East perfume; If they should offer to contest With thy arising, they presume….”
Well, I thought, I am leaving Christianity behind me now for two weeks and heading for that quixotic archipelago, Japan.
Lufthansa delivers us all safely to Tokyo Haneda airport the next day. This is my second trip to Japan, and it feels a lot easier this time. Once through the passport scrutiny and the fingerprinting it doesn’t take long before some helpful airport guides have directed to me to the currency exchange. I then charge my Suica Card up (Tokyo’s “Oyster card”),
and pick up a pocket wi-fi unit.
The latter proves to be a godsend for my two weeks in Japan, providing fast reliable internet at all times. I was fascinated by this bewildering vending machine at the airport.....toys?
That same evening I find myself in a crazy Rahmen bar in Yokohama., “teaching” English to Riku and Yui, who are studying chemistry at a Tokyo university.
I think we concentrated more on soup slurping than any particular language skills.
The end of my first day finds me on the sofa in the welcoming ambience of my host family. We watch a costume drama on TV – no, not Jane Austin, but similar machinations and rivalries between women at the Shogun’s court. An Edo Costume drama. Very HD.