Archive for November, 2005

Raiders of the Lost Luggage

Well, it would seem that the events of the day—which technically began yesterday at 5:15 a.m.—have finally caught up with me, and has rendered me rapidly approaching a dead-to-the-world state of being. The 14-hour trip from DFW to Osaka—coupled with the whopping 45 minutes of combined in-and-out sleep that I was afforded on the restless journey—is effectively allowing me to alleviate any jet lag one would be expected to suffer as a result of breaching the International Date Line during a direct flight.

My first evening in Japan has been quite eventful and interesting. Firstly, American Airlines managed to mishandle my luggage; whereby I made it on my plane in St. Louis for my 8:55 a.m. flight to Dallas, but my luggage did not. Thankfully, they’ve tracked it and would be able to send it to me as soon as possible. Unfortunately, “as soon as possible” in American Airlines’ vocabulary translates to “sometime on Friday morning.” This, of course, necessitated my buying a few pairs of undergarments, socks, and the necessary toiletry items to keep myself civilized for the next two days. (Tomorrow, I am going to buy an Armani suit, and will be sending the bill to American Airlines.) But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

After I unceremoniously cleared immigration and customs, and getting the shocking news about my luggage, it was then that I was faced with the decision of getting to my hotel in downtown Osaka by either taking a taxi, which would’ve cost me ¥16,000 yen (or roughly $133 USD), or using the subway system, which had a price tag of ¥1,300 yen (or roughly $10 USD). Had I had my two big pieces of luggage with me, the choice would’ve been perfectly clear on the cab ride. However, since I only had my laptop bag and a small plastic bag containing a souvenir pullover fleece emblazoned with the St. Louis Rams logo (which I’d bought on a whim at the St. Louis airport when my trip began) the choice for braving the Osaka subway system, at less than a 10th of the price of a cab ride, was painfully clear. And “braving” was most definitely the operative word. But, yet again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

In my roller suitcase (one of two pieces of luggage that American Airlines decided would enjoy a later flight than its owner) was my winter jacket. Yes, that’s right, it is winter in Japan. When the plane landed, the pilot happily announced that the weather was “nice” in Osaka, which was enjoying partly cloudy skies and 52°F temperatures this evening. (Did I mention that I live in Puerto Rico, and, on the day that I left, it was a slightly windy 89°F?) This, ladies and gentlemen, was when I realized that the “whim” of a purchase in St. Louis turned out to be a hide-saver, because the pullover fleece provided me with the much-needed warmth as I headed out in the Osaka winter evening. Now, this is where the “braving the subway system” story comes in.

Let me begin with the fact that my Osaka guidebook was in my roller suitcase. (I know…bad move, especially since I wasn’t born with a lost-suitcase immunity gene.) Regardless, I was then faced with the reality that I had to use my limited Japanese to figure out how to get to my hotel. Contrary to what I remember the guidebooks had stated about Japanese signage, those that surrounded me at the Kansai International Airport’s Japanese Railway station were devoid of Roman alphabets. Instead, I had to rely on asking strangers for assistance. “Tasukete kudasai.” (Can you help me please?) and “Eigo-ga hanashimasu ka?” (Do you speak English?) will only go as far as the recipient of those statements either saying “yes,” “sukoshi” (a little bit), or “no.” The two people who responded “yes,” evidently only knew how to say “yes” in English because, after I explained to them (in painfully broken Japanese) that I needed to make sure I took the right train to Osaka, each then bombarded me with rapid-fire Japanese, the likes of which can be seen in any anime video with the subtitles feature turned off. One of them even took me to the route map, and effortlessly explained to me in full Japanese, what to do in order to get to Osaka, even using and pointing (rather emotionally charged, I might add) at several items on the route map. I nodded as I heard “blah-blah-blah-Osaka-blah-blah-blah…” resonating in my head. It took asking an unassuming Station Stop Announcer at one of the stops to finally figure out how to get to my destination, because, unlike the previous two would-be-Good Samaritans, the Station Stop Announcer (I truly don’t know if that was really her job title, but it was certainly her function) actually spoke “a little English.” To make an already long story short, I managed to get to my hotel approximately two hours after leaving Kansai International Airport. (The word on the street is that the trip was supposed to take only 38 minutes tops.)

Now, after a comical stop at a couple of convenience stores, which ironically sold the clothing items that I needed, and even being scolded by a store clerk for asking him to confirm if the deodorant I was buying was “otoko ni” (for men), to which he offered me a babble of Japanese words with clear disdain—saying something I’m sure to the effect of “Hey, if it’s strong enough for a man but ph balanced for a woman, it shouldn’t matter, should it? You, stupid foreigner!”—I settled down for a bowl of hot udon noodles, at one of dozens of mom-and-pop restaurants that I discovered littered several alleyways between the high-rise office buildings that define the downtown Osaka landscape. And, I am now safely tucked in the confines of my beautiful room on the 36th floor of the hotel in which I’m staying, admiring the marvelous view of the city lights and the Dojima-gawa River.

Sleep is beckoning me to savor the experiences of the day and allow them to flavor the events of the days to come, as if to guarantee that my brief visit in the “Land of the Rising Sun” may yet prove to be more adventurous than it already is. So, as they end the night the Japanese way, I bid you “Oyasumi nasai” (Good night).


Here We Go!

I am right now in Seat 24B of American Airlines Flight 125 from DFW to Kansai-Osaka. All around me are a bevy of mostly Japanese passengers, obviously on their way home or, possibly, going to their homeland for the first time or a brief visit. Announcements on the PA system are being made in English and followed promptly by Japanese translations. Each seat is equipped with a high-tech remote control designed to operate the small individual viewing screen directly facing the passenger, which affords him TV, movies, games, travel info at a touch of the button. (And here I thought I had to upgrade to First Class in order to have such frivolities!). The sounds of Japanese nationals speaking their own language comfortably and freely all around me fills me with excitement and anticipation for this leg off the trip’s final destination. In less than 15 minutes, the plane will take off and start its 14+ hour journey across the Pacific Ocean. My next entry on this blog will be while I’m already on the other side of the world. Dewa mata ne!

St. Louis: Gateway to the East…the Far East!

It’s Tuesday morning, and I am awaiting boarding my plane in St. Louis en route to Osaka, by way of Dallas/Fort Worth. I had a great time hanging out with Dave and Sara last night at Max’s, a local a restaurant/pub near the hotel where I’d stayed for the night. I arrived at the airport extra early so that I can begin to relax. I had only 3 hours of sleep last night, brought on partly by restlessness and by anxiety. The good kind of anxiety. In less than 24 hours, I will be stepping foot on Kansai International, just a short distance from downtown Osaka as much as I’ve read ahead about traveling to Japan ahead of this trip, I really don’t have any idea what to expect as soon as I exit the breezeway onto the airport in the other side of the world. But, I can’t wait! Logging off for now, since I don’t believe my BB will be working in the land of the rising sun, but check back in a couple of days for further information about my trip. Ja mata!

November 2005
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