Friday 6 January 2023
It’s been a long couple of days. We checked out of our hotel in Los Angeles at 9 am on Thursday and reached our hotel in Tokyo at 8 pm on Friday. Not all that time was real time. Some of it was made up of crossing time zones. For the second time in my life I crossed the International Date Line and lost a whole day. I think – its all very confusing!
Anyway, back to Thursday. I wake up to some good news; an email from Southwest Airlines offering an equivalent of $300 per person in points as compensation for cancelling our flight to San Diego last week. Exactly what a foreigner is supposed to do with $300 of domestic airline points minutes before leaving the country is another question. I guess that’s $600 in points for daughter no 2. She has purchased Taylor Swift tickets in Las Vegas for her birthday. Happy Birthday daughter no 2!
We check out, drop our hire car and catch a shuttle to the airport to check in for our flight to Tokyo. There are six check-in desks open; two are for economy passengers. It takes a very long time for plebs to check in. An hour into the queue, one of the two economy check-in ladies closes up and leaves. We finally make the front of the queue for the last remaining check-in desk. Then it’s through security and pretty much straight to the gate ready to board, stopping briefly to admire the elevator (I’ve been in the US too long) which has an old fashioned silent movie projected onto it.
Flight to Tokyo
The flight to Tokyo is 12 hours, almost all over water. The world has a lot of water! We have been seated apart, but I spot that there are two vacant bulkhead seats. Together and extra legroom. Win, win. So I ask if we can move. The air hostess says yes. So I get a comfy seat for the 12 hour flight to Tokyo. The old man refuses to move. So I get two comfy seats.
12 hours, one book, two movies, 3 glasses of wine, a beer and a nap later we land at Narita Airport, which is theoretically in Tokyo. The arrivals process is handled with the sort of efficiency you’d expect from the Japanese. There are several stages to the process, all of which can be accelerated by entering data onto the Visit Japan Web site in advance. First, quarantine, which we can bypass by displaying a code on our phone. We sail straight through to immigration and then customs, both facilitated by displaying a QR code with landing card and customs card pre-filled.
We were due to land at 5.30. By 5.45 we are on a shuttle bus to Tokyo. As I mentioned earlier, Narita may be theoretically in Tokyo. In reality, it’s a 50 mile two hour bus ride into the city. And Japan is still very insistent on masks. I’d forgotten how much I hate wearing masks.
Mitsui Garden Hotel
After a short taxi ride from the bus terminal, we reach our home for the next 5 nights; the Mitsui Garden Hotel Jingu-Gaien. It’s very nice, with all sorts of gadgets in the room and a balcony overlooking the Olympic Park.
By the time we arrive, we’ve been travelling for (I think) 18 hours, so we don’t do much. Just buy some beer and crisps at the local 7-11, admire the view and check out some of our room’s gadgets. To be honest, the toilet is a bit much. I can deal with the heated seat but the jets of warm water spraying up as I spray down are disconcerting. I quite like that the room temperature, lights, TV and Lord only knows what else are controlled by my bedside iPad.
Once I’ve finished playing with gadgets and the old man’s crushed that all important candy, it’s time for bed so we are rested ready for parkrun in the morning.