Japan Trip 2004 (Introduction)

Dates: 2004/03/18-29(3/19-21 Stay in Tokyo, 3/22-28 Nagoya)

It has not been a year since the last time I went home, but I was thinking about doing internship here in the U.S. therefore I will have some restriction going back and forth of two countries.

This is going to be my fifth time I am going home.



2004/01/20 Called IACE Travel to find out the price for a round trip ticket between Wichita-Tokyo

2004/01/21 Purchased ticket ($759.02), I get window seat for all flights.

2004/03/07 Purchased new travel bag (the old one is retired since the wheels came off), sleeping bag, pillow...

2004/03/16 Got my I-20 signed, international drivers permit acquired. ($18.50)

2004/03/18 A day before leaving.

I had to work on my project, run 316 cases, save the result in a CD so I can work on it at home.

Had lunch with my friends at Thai tradition.

Called several of my friends (for the time permitted)

Came home at 8:00pm, cooked dinner, got to my friend's house around 9:40pm. Did laundry, went bed at 11:00pm. I did not know how to turn off one of the lights in that room so I had to sleep with the light on.


Day 1 (3/18, Sunny, Cold)

Going Back to Japan

I woke up a little before 5:30am since the temperature dropped to the level below I feel comfortable. My friend's husband took me to Wichita Mid-Continent airport. It has been quite warm days for past few days, we even had the daily high of 80 in a couple of days ago but this morning was a bit different. I was told that Tokyo may not be that warm due to rainy weather over the weekend. After arriving to the airport and saying good bye to my friend, I checked in my baggage at the counter. Not like other times I used the American Airlines, there was no line so I get attended immediately. Since I am visiting the U.S. as a student, they checked my passport and I-20, making sure that I have all the required document to travel. They also asked my contact number in Wichita. After TSA worked out for the post 9/11 stuff, they need "someone" here. (Hey, what if I am traveling alone?) Everything went fine so I went to buy some water and newspaper before heading to the gate.

A long line for the security check. People are blaming students who are on spring break, but I think I was the only student there.

I lined up around 6:40am at the very end, waited for 20 minutes for my turn. I took out my laptop computer, placed in a container, put my backpack... and so on. They thought my padlock is an explosive device so they run my bag twice. (Lesson: Do not carry in your padlock in your bag.)

This is my "suspected" IED (Improvised Explosive Device)

I had about one hour of waiting. So I ate my breakfast while I was waiting at gate 5. Since I was wearing WSU jacket, there is always someone who realized I am a student at Wichita State. I talked with a guy who retired form Raytheon. He earned his degree from WSU, worked on guidance system for air-to-air missile. The Raytheon Co. in Wichita used to have another name, which was famous of making either AIM-7 or AIM-9. Inside of the airport, I have seen several desks provided for people who wants to use their laptop computer (they have power outlet but LAN cable not provided). I think we need to carry Cat5 cable all around the places in these days. Anyways, there were not over booking or anything so I can get onboard now...


S-80 at Wichita

The American Airlines flight AA2091 bound for Dallas Fort Worth was an S-80, departed the gate at 8:40am. It tookoff from runway 1L, headed south bound. The weather was nice, just too much of sunshine and was pretty hard to look outside. My seat did not lock into the up right position so when the plane was taking off, the seat started to lean back and so as at the landing. I am glad that no accident occurred... In addition, the 26th row is not good since it is right before the restroom and too closed to the engine so it was pretty noisy at climbing. On the way to Dallas Fort Worth, I could see Ponka City and other cities along the way. At the landing, I realized that the guy who was flying the plane is not really good. The pilot could not keep the airplane on the glide slope so we were almost at full power for more than 10 seconds right before the landing. We could have landed about half miles short...

The airplane arrived on time at gate B20, in order to catch the connection flight, I had to move to gate A24. Because the next flight is going to last for 12 hours, I thought I needed to do some workout so I walked to the next terminal. I arrived at the gate at 10:10am, more than 1 hour before the departure so I decided to look places around. There are some stores selling Texas stuffs, restaurants, bookstores... The last time I was here was quite long time ago so I could see many changes. This internet portal, for example.

Internet Station, You can either use this computer to log on the internet, or use your computer with an Ethernet cable. Wichita also had internet access but you had to bring your own computer. I think this one is better except for the poor looking keyboard. This one takes both credit card and cash.


I checked myself in at the counter. They took my old I-94 away since it is a required procedure, they need to know that I left the U.S. The American Airlines flight AA61 departed from the gate at 11:50am on time, took off, and headed to the south first then made left turn to north, flew over Dallas. This is the beginning of long flight. When I get to Japan, it will be the next day. They had movies such as Dirty by the Dozens, the Matrix Revolutions, Something Gotta Give, and so on. I was tired from yesterday's hard work, so I decided to take a rest without watching movies.

Flying over Dallas

The guy who sat next to me was already drunk when he got into the plane, and kept drinking from his Sierra Mist bottle filled with whiskey or brandy. Each time he opens it up, I could smell strong odor and then he took a half cup of it, started to feeling bad, go to restroom and come back. (Repeat this process more than 10 times over the 13 hours period of flight) This guy should know that the only alcohol beverage passengers can consume in the airplane the one served from the flight attendance. This is a law.

In air shot. I had some opportunities to see other planes flying around.

I was thinking of a smooth, straight flight but it was not like in the way I hoped. We flew over the Garden City, KS then toward the Colorado, passing the north of Denver. The flight started from FL250 (25,000ft) but climb to FL310 (31,000ft). When the airplane reached to the Pacific Ocean, the plane climbed to FL360 (36,000ft). By the time the airplane reached to coast of Alaska, the B777 was flying at FL390 (39,000ft). The guy who sat next to me was making noise and I could not rest well al the way.

Glacier in Alaska

I like watching outside when flying over Alaska. It is beautiful but I have never seen the summer time of it. In addition, I always do not like the region between Alaska and northern part of Japan since the air is always turbulent. This time, it was not so bad. When I started to see the Japanese soil, I was glad. As usual, the plane flew along the Japanese coast and I started to see some ships. The approach to Narita Airport is mostly from the SE of the airport from Pacific Ocean, but since we had south wind, the plane had to flew over the airport then go to NW of the airport to turn back. There was a JAL B747 flying right next to us and I was amazed to find out how slow the airliners can fly and still can maneuver into the right position. The airplane landed safely, few minutes ahead of schedule.

AA61 arrived at Narita Airport

I am not sure which runway we used but it was such a long taxi. The plane had to be towed to the gate since the surrounding area of the gate was under construction. I thought we ran out of gas after such a long taxi. I could see some part of the building was covered by vinyl sheet. I bet it could be a big deal when one of those get sucked into a engine...

The first thing arrival passengers have to do is to go up one floor by an escalator, usually that's the place you can take the picture shown in above. I went through immigration. Narita Airport usually have 50% of the counters for Japanese so we always have short wait but foreign nationals has to wait longer (Sorry!). The immigration officer asked me when the last time I came home. Well, it has been a long time ago so I had trouble answering it (and I am tired too.) so he got suspicious on me but no more questions were asked.

After the immigration, I had to get my baggage before I go through the custom. When I picked up my bags at the baggage claim, I found that one of my bags got a big leap on an outer pocket. I cannot use it anymore (Stupid baggage handlers...). It was a brand new when I left my apartment. Luckily, no item was missing from the pocket. I went though the custom and walked toward the exit. I am back in Japan now.

At the exit, you see many people waiting for their friends and family members although it is not my kind of stuff. I exchanged currency at Resona Bank at the hallway which is also serve as meeting area, coin lockers, and ticket counters of ground transportations to the outside. The rate for today was $1 = 103 Yen so I got about 41,000 Yen out of $400. I realized that the Travelers Checks gives a little better rate so I might buy the T/C next time. The guy who was behind me was here for business in Fukuoka had problem guessing T/C stands for traveler's check. The form only says "Toraberahzu Chekku" in Japanese...

After I get some Japanese money, I bought a "Teleca (Telephone Card)", a calling card which can be used in NTT (Nippon Telephone and Telegram, like Japanese version of AT&T) public phones in either green or gray color. There are several other telecommunication companies in Japan so don't get confused. I promised with my friend to meet up in Tokyo, so bought Japan Railways ticket to Tokyo station. I needed to call my friend also but I had only 7 minutes to get to the platform to catch Narita Express so I gave up. To get to the station, I have to go about 4 floors down so it takes a while. The Narita Express is the one of the fastest way to get out of the airport and usually available every 30 minutes. I thought I won't make it but I have been here many times in the past so I knew the way and made it on time. I even managed to take a picture before getting in..

Narita Express #32

I arrived at the platform 2 minutes before the departure. The train left Narita Airport Terminal 1 at 15:13. The train takes about one hour to get to Tokyo (The cost for this train is 1,280 Yen for boarding, and 1,660 Yen for the express fee). You can take other kinds trains but may take more time. This train is operated by the JR, Japan Railways, and other kind of train is operated by Keihin and it is a cheaper but I heard it is kind of inconvenient. The interior of Narita Express is like inside of an airliner. It has independent bucket seat and the overhead storage bins just like you see in the airplanes. There were some Latino looking kids in the same car. I hear them speaking either Portuguese or Spanish...

After arriving in Tokyo at 18:17, I finally called my friend for the first time. I had to try several times since the line was busy. I talked with my friend and find out where I should go. Our plan was to meet up at Higashi Jujo. The place is just 30 minutes away from Tokyo station by JR Keihin Tohoku Line. I missed the station once but I finally made it to the right station. It is always nice to see friend who I knew for a long time. I dropped off my baggage at my friend's apartment and headed out for dinner since we are both hungry. The neighborhood in that area does not look like Tokyo people imagine. It was very quiet in the night and actually nice to be away from all the commotions. We tried at a Chinese food restaurant, but there was a reservation so we had to eat at other place. We found another place where had some of the items on the menu half priced. So, why not take advantage of it? We had about five dishes...

The price, about 2,400 Yen, and my friend paid for it. You might think it is cheap, but it the amount of food is about half of what you get in Chinese food restaurants in the U.S. and you have to buy steamed rice, and no free drink refills. After got back to my friend's place I had a bath in Japanese style which I have not had it for a long time. Ahhhh...

My friend was watching some Chinese Sit-Com so I did not understand what was going on, but many cases I will see the subtitles on the bottom so I could read out some Chinese characters. We went bed around 11:00pm. My friend is planning to go to an overnight party tomorrow so won't wake up until tomorrow noon... (That means I have to go see places around by myself). I borrowed futon bed and used my pillow and sleeping bag. It was quite comfortable.

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Last Updated on 2004/04/01

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