Thursday, September 1, 2011

Planes, Trains, and Typhoons

The night before I left for Japan I started flipping through a travel guide and found myself skimming through visa requirements when something caught my eye.  Apparently you need a valid return ticket to gain entry into Japan.  I had not really paid attention to the visa requirements this time around since I’ve been to Japan twice before and never had a problem getting in as a tourist.  Your airline is supposed to check for a return ticket before you board your plane and then you get checked again when you go through customs in Japan.  I looked on a few web boards and some people were actually forced to buy a return ticket when they got to Japan.  I was a little worried with my one way ticket, but not worried enough to buy a return ticket.  It turned out that when I boarded my plane they never asked for anything other than my passport and when I arrived in Japan they just asked me how long I was staying.  No problems.

My flight was pretty smooth.  Alex was nice enough to drop me off at the airport so I didn’t have to deal with BART and MUNI while dragging around my 45 lbs suit case and backpack.  The flight was probably only 80% full which makes me think that there must be something wrong with United’s pricing system.  They’re charging way too much for this flight right now, but it made for a pleasant trip. 

While we went through the customs area on arrival I remembered how I was stuck here for 12 hours waiting for Typhoon Jangmi to pass over Taiwan.  This time around, when I was waiting for my bag I started talking to a guy who was going to a conference in Kyoto.  He wasn’t sure if it was going to happen anymore since Typhoon Talas is about to hit the entire region.  Yup, the category 1 storm is about to score a direct hit on Osaka in the next day or so.  I wasn’t even aware of it but now I’m just glad I got in before it hits.  What is it with me, Osaka, and Typhoons?

As I walked outside the airport I was met with a rush of heat, rain, and humidity which reminded me of Houston.  Unfortunately, I’ve been ruined by San Francisco’s year round 60 degree weather so I started sweating up my own storm.  It didn’t help that I was dragging around all my stuff through a bunch of transit.  I managed to get a train ticket into Namba station and from there navigate the Subway to the Tanimachi-4-chome station which is the stop for my neighborhood, Izumimachi.   Then I wandered around in the rain for an hour looking for my apartment building.  When I finally found it I was huffing and puffing and soaked from the rain.  Yeah, it was pretty exhausting with the Jet Lag and the 12 hour flight. 

As I was walking in the door, a Japanese woman was walking out and I asked her if she worked there.  She said, yes, but she was closing up for the day.  I told her I was supposed to check in and she seemed confused.  Even though I had e-mailed a few days earlier to remind them I was coming and what time I would be there (I was right on time too), she had no idea I was coming and had no record of me.  If I had showed up 5 minutes later I would have been screwed.  She didn’t speak a ton of English so it was a bit difficult to communicate.  She made some calls and I guess figured out I was supposed to be there and then showed me to my room.  It was surprisingly larger than expected.  I immediately took a shower and then started unpacking my stuff before crashing.

I think the heat and humidity is going to be rough on me.  I have an air conditioner, but it doesn’t seem to do very much.


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