April 5th, 2007


Last Day: Hell Is... The Flight Home

I'm going to miss Japan. The exit chimes, the (mostly) incomprehensible station announcements, the slurred announcements on the JR lines... All the little noises that made Japan are going to haunt me every time I close my eyes for a while. Leaving Japan makes Doug a sad panda, and given how hellish the flight back was, maybe I should have just skipped that part (but more on that below).

Anyway, checked out of the hotel right about checkout time (like always) and left my bags there while I wandered around Yokohama for a bit and took my last few pictures (the weather had finally broken, at least for a little bit). Wandered over to the mall connected to the Landmark Tower, got some postcards and a fridge magnet (not quite the one I would have wanted most, but a decent one), briefly considered going to the top for the view (I think it was 1000円 or so), but decided to put that off until I return. Mailed postcards, picked up luggage, and hopped the train to Ueno.

Anyway, my friend in Tokyo took me to this, er, steak place of some sort for lunch (where they give you a tray with vegetables and meat, and you cook it in front of your... Er, not seat, because you stand up... Spot? Anyway, my feet hated it, but it was the last day, and they weren't really doing that bad by then, anyway. I liked the food itself). Got some last minute omiyage at the station, caught the skyliner to Narita, and off I went.

(I managed to get out with no coins -- although I still have 15,000円 in bills for the next trip, 740円 on my Suica card, and I think I have a ~400円 on my points card for Yodobashi Camera. Assuming I ever have a reason to buy something there. Of course, I cheated by giving my friend my last 12円 -- two 1's and two 5's.)

The trip back, not to put too fine a point on it, was hell. First, there was the fact that I can't really sleep on planes (the sleep I finally got on the connection to Denver was fitful and poor), there were tons of screaming children on both planes, had a three hour layover in SFO (we were early from Narita), where some random business lady played some really annoying game on her laptop at full volume (WTF), then waited on the tarmac for three more hours waiting for them to fix our plane (did I mention the screaming children?) I was exhausted and jetlagged for the layover and the wait, so it was probably twice as bad as it would have been otherwise. So much for getting back before I left.

On the good side, I had internet in SFO, because I already had a T-Mobile account. On the bad side, my email wouldn't deliver from there. At any rate, I randomly chatted on IM, because I was really too tired to post this at that point.

My cat missed me. He wouldn't let me sleep -- head-butted me all night long! Geez. I'm happy to see you too, little fellah.

Next rock -- final thoughts on the trip.

[see photos on flickr]

Japan: Final Thoughts

I think it's safe to say that international travel changes you. Of course, all travel does (as every life experience does), but the more alien the culture you immerse yourself in, the more potential for change -- it's hard to put exactly how it changes you in words, though.

Things I learned on the trip:

I actually am a people person. I never thought I was, but the crowds never bothered me. In fact, even the thought of riding the rush hour trains didn't really bother me by the time I left -- I actually found the crowds rather calming. It's somewhat telling that the creepiest moment in Japan was walking through some part of a station somewhere in the middle of the day -- and there was nobody there. It was damned eerie, actually.

Also, somewhat related -- I don't like travelling alone. Not to say I didn't still have fun, but I prefer sharing the experience with someone -- it makes a huge difference to me. And travelling through the edges of Japan by myself was downright lonely. It would have been (a bit) even without the language barrier, but that just made it more pronounced.

It's astonishingly easy to avoid fish in Japan. I would have thought it was harder, but it really isn't.

I barely ever took off my shoes -- I thought I'd be doing it a lot more.

Japan is astonishingly tourist-friendly -- short of someplace completely inaka (like Oga), you can get around with pretty much no knowledge of Japanese at all. And in Tokyo or the major tourist attractions, it's downright trivial. Of course, it always helps to have some, depending on what you really want to do. And being able to pick out kanji is very useful for figuring out schedules and rail maps and such -- if you can't do that, you're gonna want to have good maps.

Getting around the cities is generally pretty easy. Getting around Tokyo and Yokohama is downright trivial.

I just love the trains there. They're calming. They're comfortable. They go everywhere. The buses still scare me a bit (do I pay now? Do I wait? Where the heck is this bus going again?) but the trains -- the trains are great.

I was surprised at how quickly I got comfortable there. And I stayed that way. I hated to leave. Maybe someday, if I'm looking for work again, I'll look there. Don't think I'd stay more than a couple years, depending on how quickly the inevitable annoyances piled up, but it'd be nice to do that for a while.

And for the record -- I did lose about ten pounds on the trip.

Colorado: First Thoughts

It's cold here in Colorado. Sure, the temperature outside might be about the same as it was in Japan, but don't they know they're supposed to heat the crap out of everything indoors? Geez, some people.

I need to get over this bowing thing. I bowed to the guy in the bloody drive-through, for chrissakes.

Daylight seems to come during the wrong part of the day. Mid-afternoon shouldn't be dark. Wait, it's midnight? Oh.

I'm not sure if it's the altitude, the fact I hadn't eaten for a day and a half, or maybe between the ten pounds I lost and all the light-but-nearly-constant exercise from being on my feet hours and hours a day, maybe my blood pressure has dropped a bit, but I've gotten a little light-headed a couple times since I got back. Kind of annoying. Good side, maybe I'll be able to drop some of those drugs I take for the hypertension.

I didn't see another human being between when one friend dropped me off from the airport, and another dropped off my keys and we chatted a bit (he'd been watching the cat). A span of about 24 hours without seeing a soul, it was so weird. And lonely. It's gonna be kinda rough working at home here for a while. :(