Getting up at 4 AM this morning was only made easier by the fact that I did not manage to get any sleep last night. This seems to be a recurring problem of mine: I have a really difficult time sleeping before a travel day. Usually it’s not so bad, but when you are about to embark on a 21 hour journey just to get to your destination, having had a good night’s sleep helps.
Heading to the airport, I was really worried. Worried about traveling alone – even though I’ve done it before and have been to Japan 5 times. Worried about my back, both for today’s travel day and every day that will follow in Japan. [Because those posts haven’t been written yet, let me explain quickly: I threw my back out in August and learned that I actually herniated a disk. Lots of chiropractor visits, massages, stretching, and reclining later, I was doing fine. Except that a few days ago, I decided to go on a really long walk… and to run part of it… and I hurt myself again.] I was just worried and anxious in general… and I had to keep telling myself that once I land, this will all seem foolish.
So, this is my journey today: Austin to LAX, LAX to Narita, Narita to Tokyo, Tokyo to my hotel. 20 hours of flights, plus over an hour of trains to the hotel.
The first flight went well, even though the seats were ridiculously uncomfortable. The sunrise was amazing, going from this red grow to golden flares. Then the clouds came, and made everything funky. The clouds transformed themselves from peach fuzziness to giving the impression of flying through water. It was pretty cool. I kept shooting the sky on my phone, and made this little movie while eating breakfast in LA. I have to say, that must have been my first video editing experience devoid of cursing.
In LAX I searched the airport for some (somewhat) private floorspace so I could stretch. My back was really hurting, with a weird pain extending to my right ankle. I have to admit, I made a lot of wincing faces walking to my gate, and even had to stop walking a few times to breath through the pain. Not fun. Not fun either was the total lack of space anywhere to stretch. I had to just do it in public… which felt awkward. But not as awkward as trying to stretch while wearing jeans. What I am grateful for is having had the presence of mind to pack my sarong in my carry on, so I could stretch on top of it. Because let me tell you. I don’t think they know what a vacuum is at LAX.
The flight to Tokyo though was fine. The seats were comfortable. The plane was new, with fancy dimming windows and electrical outlets. They fed us well, although weirdly (breakfast was a ham and cheese sandwich with ice cream, lunch was scrambled eggs). I nearly finished my book. I watched some movies. Now even though I hadn’t slept at all the night before, for some reason I was not feeling tired. I knew that I had to sleep though, so I took some motion sickness medication (it always puts me to sleep), put my eye mask on, and forced myself to sleep. I think that I may have gotten in 5 hours of sleep?
We landed on time and safely. Customs took a long time, but went well. I was out in the amount of time I had anticipated, and had a little bit of time before my train left. I took that opportunity to activate my Japan Rail Pass, and to book my train ticket for Nagano.
The train into town was super easy: I even treated myself to the fasted train and saved myself the extra 30 minutes. I was surprised at how empty the train was – to top things off, no one else in my wagon went as far as I went. I had the whole thing to myself!
Finally, I made it to my hotel. My good old hotel, my “usual” spot for Tokyo. It was really nice to already know where I was going, and what to expect. Even though it is located in one of Tokyo’s worst neighborhood (because of the Yakuza – honestly this place is really, really safe – safer than so many other places in the world!), it is relatively convenient and quite affordable.
Here is my room: it’s slightly bigger than a closet but has a lot of storage. Rooms in Japan are calculated in terms of the number of tatami mats they can hold (all mats are roughly the same size): this one holds 3. It’s big enough for me. And brings me back memories from my first trip to Japan: I stayed in a room just like this one back in 2005!
The rest of today’s adventures will be blogged under tomorrow’s date, since landing in Japan resulted in losing a day. See you in the next post!