Jasmine in Japan: Adventure Outbound Flight

The Big Day

Mia in her carrier
Mia in her carrier

Tuesday, March 5, The Big Day. It was finally time to get going and the “adventure outbound flight” could start. Mia had already traveled to Keiko’s a few days before and I was sure she would enjoy it more than her whining in the transport box seemed to suggest. I had already packed everything the evening before – a large suitcase, a backpack, a carry-on suitcase – because you have to use the 2×23 kg checked luggage. Just a Swabian. All preparations were complete: 行きましょう!

The departure was not too early, although I think that a two-hour journey to Stuttgart Airport is pretty crazy. So much for the so-called “express bus”. Of course, I couldn’t buy a bus ticket online – that would have been too easy. I didn’t have the correct fare of EUR 9.60 either. Little did I know what would await me in Japan. Anyway, after a lot of complaining and pressing some buttons, the driver let me “go along for the ride.” Apparently you only have to play dumb long enough…

My Happy Face (or not)
My Happy Face (or not)

Anyway, I arrived safely and with enough time to spare, and tried to check in my luggage, but of course that didn’t work either because the boarding pass on my smartphone somehow didn’t work (in fact, it has never worked…). So I checked in my luggage at the counter (after the usual discussion with the “machine guards”). Fortunately, it wasn’t too hectic yet.

Security (nooooo the breast forms aren’t bombs this time either). Coffee. Breakfast. Off to Frankfurt. A ridiculously short jump… At least everything went smoothly there.

So I boarded the plane, a beautiful Boeing 747, window seat, next to me a Japanese man, there was a free seat in the middle. Nice. A 12-hour flight, I had brought a bit of work for the orchestra with me. Writing program texts, and a bit of preparation for the upcoming project; all in all things that could easily be done with the meager onboard data volume.

The flight turns out to be more adventurous than planned

The plane took off and we were “airborne”. More out of habit, I sorted my documents. I probably wouldn’t need the boarding passes anymore, and the luggage tags… well, surely I would recognize my suitcases again.

Wait… MAD… shouldn’t that say HND. What. The. Fuck.

I suddenly became quite nervous. Results of a quick Google search: Indeed, MAD is not the code for Haneda, but for Madrid. Maybe it was just a simple mistake, they might accidentally have given me the wrong tags. The cabin crew thought so too. And there wasn’t much that could be gleaned from the air tags I had proactively attached to my luggage. So for now all I could do was relax, listen to music, and try to sleep. Well, I’ve never been able to sleep on a plane, after all, that’s how I met Amber. But it was quite okay.

Nevertheless, a certain restlessness remained. And when I rechecked the tags the next morning there was no doubt: my carefully assembled luggage was now in Madrid. I hadn’t actually planned such an adventure for the outbound flight…

Raiders of the lost luggage

The sea before Tokyo
The sea before Tokyo

Great. So I didn’t have any of my equipment for the round trip, while some poor beach vacationer probably didn’t have much use for a suitcase full of sweaters, either. Stupid, kind of. But luckily I was able to convince the stewards with the information from the airtags and they could arrange the luggage on board. After landing I had to do all the paperwork again – many thanks to the friendly ground staff in Haneda, with whom I discussed for over an hour whether it was a blue backpack in a red cover or a red backpack in a blue cover. Well, I couldn’t honestly be angry with her, this situation (swapped tags) was probably “uncharted territory” for almost everyone. Ultimately, I was able to get the luggage delivered to the right address.

Arrival

Amber :-)
Amber 🙂

I had already informed Amber in advance that it would probably be a bit… “complicated”.

Luckily, she had taken the day off anyway and was already waiting for me at the exit.

Welcome SUICA
Welcome SUICA

Before heading out we bought a “Welcome Suica” card – the infamous chip card with which you can pay for almost anything in Japan. However, it is currently only available to tourists in Haneda in the “Welcome” edition, which automatically expires after 28 days.

Well, TBH Amber bought the card for me; my brain was mush and my Japanese wouldn’t have been good enough for it anyway.

Then off to the Monorail! My first impression – wow! As a country gal from Tübingen, the level of automation didn’t fail to impress me; it reminded me somewhat of the “Machine Planet” in “Galaxy Express 999“. I quickly disposed of the accumulated rubbish… oh no! The trash can is only for bottles from the vending machine. So that was my first faux pas. I should learn much, much more about rubbish and its separation in the future.

Chow

After changing trains a few times, we arrived safely in Ueno. Amber gave me directions, but I felt slightly lost, and that feeling more or less lasted until the end of my stay. Despite the detailed signage, I usually had no idea where to go. Panda Bridge? Iriya Gate? To the metro??? Phew… pretty wild, I felt like an adventurer in the jungle.

My first food in Japan :-)
My first food in Japan 🙂

But I wasn’t on my own yet. I was starting to feel a bit peckish, and since it was still some time until dinner, we went to one of the many ramen fast-food restaurants at the train station. Amber guided me through the ordering process. Luckily there was a vending machine, and even though I ordered something more or less randomly, I was pretty satisfied with myself and my choice. My first impression: Eating in Japan is a safe bet, even if you have no idea what you’re doing. I struggled a bit with the very slippery noodles but eventually, I managed to finish all of the tasty soup.

I was also “finished”, and therefore we went straight “home”. An apartment in the middle of Ueno, ten minutes from the train station and only four minutes from the nearest metro station; that was extremely useful for my plans. A few instructions later (which shoes to wear at which place; which buttons to press in the toilet) and after a very nice warm cup of tea, I was knocked out standing.

Takahasi
Takahasi

After a short (or maybe longer) nap, my energy levels were recharged somewhat and we could go out for dinner. Amber had chosen a wonderful, small but nice restaurant right around the corner, and I could try seven courses of extremely delicious and exciting food there. (Not only) sushi, starters, very tasty sake, too. Unfortunately, I had forgotten my camera, so there were no pictures of it, but I didn’t want to take photos of everything. A successful start; I had almost forgotten the hassle with the luggage and the adventure of the outbound flight; especially since I received a notification that my belongings had turned up and were already on their way to me. Hurrah. Before going to bed I made some plans for the next day. I couldn’t get tickets for the Skytree at such short notice, but I wanted to settle in first anyway.