It’s been another quite while since the last time I have visited Japan, and almost 10 years since I have come to the U.S. for the first time. There’s been a lot of changes, like friends from junior high school all have job and working hard, my only high school friend still in contact is getting married this year, and the most importantly, my grandfather has not been eating solid food since last Wednesday. I am planning to visit home over one weekend to meet my family and friends in Nagoya, hoping that I could see my 94 years old grandfather whose life long journey is about to end.
I woke up at 4:00am, it was still cold. I guess I need to set the heater at the lowest and leave it on to prevent water pipes from getting burst. Took a quick shower after stretched my body, and the finished packing. I left my apartment a little before 5:00am, drove on the highway with snow falling a bit. Arrived at airport around 5:40am and had to wait in a line for a while. I did not know this place gets so busy.
I checked in my baggage and proceeded to the screening. They now have a chemical analyzer from Smiths. I thought it was cool but I have never get to try. Must be a frequent, safe flier then.
AA1991 at Gate B1
Other airplane also waiting
Arrived at the gate B-1 and the boarding was already in progress. I had a seat at 9A, which is a quite convenient for boarding. I had no one next to me so it is a bit comfy. Old ladies in front row did not know how to open the air vents, so I thought them how they work, and functions for other buttons.
The aircraft departed on time but had to be deiced before leaving the spot. Took off and cruised at FL240, the pilot said it usually fly in the mid 30,000s but the wind there was 100+mph. So they decide to fly low. The air got bumpy around 7:45am. Because it was cloudy, I could not see the outside. The condition at DFW is expecting freezing rain. Considering the tomorrow’s low at Indianapolis is 9 degrees F, I think I am lucky to get out of the U.S. On the way to DFW, I took some short naps, arrived at DFW at 8:30pm. Took a Skylink to concourse D from C. Checked to make sure that the flight is not canceled since the weather is not too well. Before boarding, I had to stop by to get my identity confirmed at US VISIT program staffs. They got my finger print checked and the face.
Getting the plane deiced
I boarded American Airline AA125, a Boeing 777 on time. It is always the most exciting time getting into a big two isled plane. The cabin is, well, clean and see the blanket and pillow available at the seat with audio visual entertainment system. I sat there and thought, here I go. The outside was about -2 degrees C, so the airplane had to be deiced. Although the plane left the gate on time while explaining all the safety procedure and stuffs, the whole process took about one hour so the takeoff time was about 1:00pm at CST. Considering the boarding started from 11:30am, I waited for 1 hour and 30 minutes. (The plane also burnt that much fuel too...)
Soon, we got served with lunch which I had chicken. I watched a movie called Proud and Privileges. It was a fun one. The good thing is that I do not have a passenger right next to me so I can relax with more room. The cloudy weather finally ended near Dodge City, flew over Spokane, WA. I was taking many power naps so I missed Vancouver and soon it reached to the Pacific Ocean. Flew near by Anchorage. But not too close due to a volcano activity, as passing the International Dateline, we were served with a small sandwich, and I watched another movie, the greatest game ever played. It was a movie about golf players long time ago. I have still 5 hours more to go. The plane started to fly at FL300, then 320, and now it is 380. The outside temperature is about -50degrees.
Flying over Midwest, somewhere on western Kansas
Some mountains by Montana
Had a thought of dinner about 1.5 hours prior to arrival at Osaka. I had choice of chicken curry or pizza. I picked chicken, of course. The plane is flying over Japan now. Dry foot near Iwaki, flew between Nagoya and Hamamatsu and went all around the south of Kii Peninsula. Approached KIX from the south and landed around 6:30pm. KIX, Kansai International Airport is positioned in a middle of ocean, the flight computer on the display says it landed at -21feet. Below sea lever??? After taxing a while, my long journey has been completed. Went through immigration and customs, after exiting the facility, I exchanged USD to Japanese Yen. The rate was $1=115Yen so I had a quite much, hope to survive for two weeks.
Arriving at KIX
I took an airport limousine bus from KIX to Sannomiya, Kobe. Purchased a ticket for 1800Yen from a vending machine right by the bus stop #6. The bus departed around 7:30pm and arrived at Sannomiya around 8:30pm. Had to carry heavy baggage form here on. I walked crossed a road so I can use a ramp to the station. I paid 160Yen for JR (Japan Railways) ticket to Hyogo station, where the company reserved a hotel room for me. The hotel I stayed, Kobe Luminous Hotel was less than 5 minutes from the station to the north. Checked in at the hotel and found out the room is quite, well, small. It was about half the size of regular motel in the U.S. There is a room key holder by the entrance and I had to put the card in to keep the power ON. I forgot to do that and the room became very dark. I had hard time finding the key! Anyways, I walked out from the hotel once I put down all the baggage and stopped by Lawson, one of Japanese nationwide convenience store, to get some food before I go bed. I came back to the hotel around 9:00pm, took shower and had dinner. I tried Melatonin and headed to the bed.
I woke up around 3:00am. I guess I should have taken more sleeping pills because I have a whole week to deal with. Because my body is sore from the all day sitting yesterday, I stretched my body and stayed in bed until 5:00am. Checked email and updated my journal. The breakfast is from 7:00am so I don’t know what to do…
The temperature in the morning was 45F, expecting some rain today. Oh well… I took shower then headed down to the restaurant for the breakfast buffet. It was very funny that they were playing classical music on the background while I was eating some Japanese food. Headed back to my room, got ready for the day. I should be able to catch a shuttle bus to work.
Since I did not know the way to the company, using a transportation was quite helpful. The problem was that they only took me in front of a building belongs to the company I work for, so I needed to ask people on the road where is the front gate is at. Finally arrived at the company, had to checked in at security gate, after several time of trying to get to the office I belong to, I finally got there okay.
Got help on getting uniform, temporary ID badge and paperwork done. I don’t know where and how, so I had to be taken to my coworkers anywhere. I even don’t know where the cafeteria is and so on. Oh well. Had lunch with a coworker I met in the U.S. After the lunch at the office, I had to come up in front of people and give a speech, I was not prepared but went okay, phew. Whole day busy doing many small things, I stayed there until 8:00pm to work on the assignments and headed to the company owned restaurant with a general manager of the group. had a quite a lot of dinner. Came back to hotel drank, but not too much.
I woke up again at 4:00am. Somehow I still cannot sleep too late. Spent time working on the assignments. Had breakfast at hotel, since I was told the direction to the company, I decided to walk today. Arrived at office on time, worked whole morning and afternoon. Had dinner with my coworker at a restaurant nearby Hyogo station. He used to work for a small automobile company D but switched his job because he wanted to do some engineering work. (I guess that’s every engineer’s dream)
Came back to the hotel, took shower and went to bed.
Today’s the day I have to leave office on time. Or maybe I don’t have to since I am working for a company in the U.S. branch. I don’t get paid for any over time. Finally managed to call home before heading to work. My mom answered the call and I asked about my grandfather's condition and told that he's not even taking water. I have never thought of what is going to happen in the evening at that time. Worked for another busy day. Had dinner with my coworker at a weird restaurant. It was a Chinese place but the location is under the railways. It is funny that people own a store like this.
Got a call from my father around 9:30m, telling me that my grandfather passed away. So I have to go home on Friday to attend the funeral over the weekend. The first thing I did was to write an email to my boss in Japan and the U.S. for the permission. I already know what could happen so I just gave a little thought of my grandfather.
Woke up around 4:00am again. I guess I just cannot adjust to the Japanese time quite well this time. I want to workout to reset my internal clock but I don't have time for it! Had breakfast and headed to work. It is still a warm day but always a bit hazy so I cannot see far. Worked whole day and had dinner with my coworkers at Yakiniku place. I had a glass of beer, while one of coworker I worked with in the U.S. had 4 glasses. Came back to the hotel a bit tired and went to bed around 11:00pm
I woke up at 6:00am for the first time in a week. I used to got up around 4:00am because of the jet lag. Stretched my body, headed down to the restaurant to have my breakfast in Japanese style. Walked to the company, worked whole morning. Headed back to the hotel. I had to stop by at a post office to buy Expack500, which is like a FedEx package for my visa processing. I tried to find a bank so I can pay the fee for visa application, but seems like not finding one. Hyogo is not a big city environment, it is like a rural factory area so I have to go to either Kobe or Sannomiya stations. Because I was getting behind of schedule, I packed my baggage and headed to the train station. I had some changes so I called home but because they were so busy, I had to get the name of the place for tonight's viewing. Stopped at Kobe station to go to a bank to pay processing fee for my visa, but because I was carrying such a big baggage, the security officer there was watching me with certain levels of alert, until I asked him some questions about the procedure to use automated teller. After I paid the fee, I carried all my baggage again to work toward the station. I stopped by Midori no Madoguchi, an agency for Japan Railway which can direct you to the best travel planning to buy tickets to Nagoya. I had 10 minutes before the train arrives to the station so I hurried up to the platform. Jumped on a Special Rapid train, or Shin-Kaisoku in Japanese, arrived at Shin-Osaka station and transfer to a super express train arriving few minutes after I got to the platform, I bought a drink and snack right before I jumped on the Nozomi 84. The train only stopped at Kyoto before arrive at Nagoya around 4:00pm. I had to buy some funeral clothing which is mainly in black. I tried to find something but was not cheap so I had an idea of buying one at a local department store back home, so I used subway and bus to come back to my house, dropped off my stuffs and walked to the store. It took a while to adjust the cloth and made me a bit frustrated. I finally arrived at the funeral home after 6:30pm, the people were just about to get out. My dad took me to the room where my grandfather’s body is placed. He looked very thin, especially his cheeks were all the way to the bone. After seeing it, my dad placed a white cloth over grandfather’s face and shut the window of the coffin. I move to the family room and talked with my family members and cousins.
Came home around 10 or 11pm? Tomorrow’s a funeral so I need to get ready...
Notes from Kosuke:
Tsuya, is like Japanese viewing. People came talked with my family members and friends about the person passed away, traditionally family member has to sleep with the dead person in a same room, but well, people don’t do that these days. One of the reasons people need to stay with the dead is to keep incense burning so the soul of the dead know where the person need to stay. Because the funeral has not been conducted and the soul could lose the way to the heaven if the one go without a guidance from the monk. (I think it is a belief of the Buddhism)
Woke up around 6:00am. It’s kinda nice to be at home. Waking up in the same environment like I used be in, long, long time ago. I had breakfast, then got changed in to formal cloth. I need to be at the funeral home by 10:40am so I walked there with my brother. Arrived on time. There is a package (I don't know how much... but seems expensive) for funeral and a professional photographer was on site. So, we took a family picture for the last time. (The photographer was around during the funeral and took a lot of pictures. It just drove me nuts!)
After the photograph, had lunch and waited a bit. The funeral ceremony started at 1:00pm, the whole thing took about 2 hours. At the end of the ceremony, we have placed pictures he draw, and flowers around his face before shutting the coffin and carried out to put in the hearse. Then we moved a place to cremate grandfather’s body. Because of the city law, you can only have 10 people to participate the "bone picking" event and 10 more.
We had to wait for about one hour, and I get to see him, but it was a wired scene, you could see him in bones. I see his skull, some leg and arm bones but not many back bones since his back became so weak in his late years. We had to pick his bones in pair, meaning two people using 2 pairs of chopsticks, since I have not used them for a while, working together with Japanese doing it was a hard thing. After we finish collecting the bones, we headed back to the funeral home. Did a bit more of Okyo thing, dinner then headed home. My grandmother got tired so he had to go home early.
I had to be at a party with my friends from junior high, I stopped by a local drinking place around 7:30pm, and stayed there until midnight. In Japanese culture, I should be staying home and be quiet for next 7 days, but my family let me do that because I have not seen them for almost 20 months.
Notes from Kosuke
In old age, Japanese used to bury the dead in a tomb, but it is not common practice these days since it take up space. Like my grandfather's case, the body to be cremated and some pieces of bones to be stored in a container which goes to a tomb.
I woke up around 6:15am. I could tell that outside is raining from the sound. Decided to go to the laundry again to dry up the clothing which I could not finish yesterday. Since I needed to get a picture for visa, I called a photography place to get appointment on 1:30pm. I had to go to Sakae, which is the middle of the city. I called up my friend from high school, hoping to see him before I leave Nagoya. I spent afternoon there, just chatting and talking, walking around the blocks where we used to hang out over the high school years. The place I was in, Osu, used to be my favorite place because they had all the electronics equipment and parts, as a high school student back then, it was a must to go place over the weekend to check out the coolest stuffs I have seen on the magazines. Today, the place is no longer the same. The appliance stores moved out and now funny used clothing stores are all over the place. The town has changed.
Nissan Skyline GT-R
I bid farewell to the friend and headed home. I had to go buy some groceries
View from Nagoya station at night.
I used Nozomi super express 33 leaving Nagoya at 20:43, Arriving Shin-Osaka at 21:27. Changed train to special rapid form Shin-Osaka to Kobe station, used local train to Hyogo station. Came back to my hotel around 11:00pm, going to be straight I have another week of training here.
Woke up at 6:00am. I thought I may have woke up too late because I have to go to General Consulate of the U.S. at Osaka by 9:00am.
View from my hotel room.
The weather was quite nice so I took a picture. I only see either cloudy or hazy ones.
Walked to Hyogo station, took a local train to Kobe, then switched to Special Rapid train to Osaka station. It took about 30 minutes so I arrived at Osaka around 8:30pm. Walked for 15 minutes to the USGC. There was a line of people already. With the documents needed I lined up behind the last person. There was an announcement that there's been problem with the computer system (yup, Monday thing) and the delay is expected. I waited for a while but able to go in by 9:45am, went through security and door, had my paper checked and interviewed through a bullet proof glass. The person in front of me got her application denied since she divorced recently. I did not know there is a such rule
Woke up with the sound of alarm clock. I am able to live in Japanese time now. Made it to the office on time, attended a workshop whole morning, then worked on another assignment. Let work at 9:30pm, I could not find many places to eat so I went to Gyoza No Osho. Come back to the hotel around 10:30pm, went to bed straight.
The first day of March. There's nothing special about the day but just feel a bit fresh. Had to visit IT department since I am in charge of the office network. Had lunch with my coworker. Hand made product I am working on for the first time. Had dinner with my coworkers at Okonomiyaki place. We stayed for about 2.5 hours at the place, had almost 7 different kind of them. Came home very late but I was happy.
Almost to the end of the training. I worked on assignments whole morning to rush through everything. I had lunch with my coworkers, worked again to take care of more stuffs. My, I am so busy! I had dinner with the GM of the group I am in. It was a very expensive restaurant but enjoyed delicious food. I had 2 cups of beers and I think the overall cost went to like $200...
Woke up at 6:00am, went to work on time. Because today is the last day, I spend whole afternoon taking care of very important mission. Got out from the company around 8:30pm. My coworker took me to Akashi, where Akashi Kaikyo Bridge is located. Akashi Kaikyo Bridge, is a structure connecting between main island and Shikoku island. There are few more bridges to get to the other side. I was told that to just cross the bridge, it will cost about 4000Yen, which is like $37. If I drive on Kansas Turnpike system, I could make a round trip between Kansas City and Oklahoma border and still get some change…
3,911m long suspension bridge
For the 5 minutes after the hours, the color changes Another view of the bridge Akashi city
Had noodle at a restaurant nearby. then my coworker took me to Akashi city, where had a beach by the station. This is a very bad place because this manmade beach has caused some fatalities in the past. One was the waterproof seat caused erosion underneath of the surface and a part of beach concaved when a girl was walking by, swallowing her. The other case was after the firework show, people rushed back to the station and caused a stampede and killed number of people, mostly are young or elderly.
Woke up at 7:00am. Had breakfast at cafeteria. Talked with the staff at the front office to see if they could keep the baggage for me while I am going outside for sightseeing. They said it is okay so I am glad. Checked out the hotel around 10:00am, I have some places I wanted to go.
The first place I went was Sannomiya, where I need to find the place get on a bus to the airport. I was told by my coworker that there is a place I can buy a ticket for a discounted price. I paid 1700Yen which is 100Yen less. There was a shopping mall in that area so I took a walk. Japanese have neat laptop PC and other portable electronic devices, like mp3 player, dictionary containing about 80 books in a small piece.
Sannomiya surrounding, click to enlarge
I later moved to Kobe, as I walk toward the bay, I took some pictures.
Ukiyoe of Kobe
Modern day of Kobe
Port Tower at Kobe
When I got to the bay, I saw a crowd taking pictures. Not the Kobe port tower, but there was a cruise ship called Aska II, which recently christened and ready for the first voyage.
Mosaic, a shopping mall Asuka II, a newly christened cruise ship in Japan
Kobe port picture with Asuka 2 at the center
Kobe port picture with Mosaic at the center
I also walked around the check the place out. Kobe tower cost me 700Yen to the observation deck. I bought some cookies for coworkers there.
Hayate - Techno Super Liner Experimental Vessel Yamato 1 - Superconductive Propulsion System Experimental Vessel
Had lunch at a Chinese restaurant by the tower, the soup I ordered was very hot, I should picked maybe a fried rice instead… I came back to Hyogo station but before going back to the hotel to pick up my baggage, packed all the stuff I needed and here I go. I walked to Hyogo station and caught a local train, arrived at the bus stop in Sannomiya. I was there about 30 minutes earlier than planned and I saw a bus was just leaving as I got there, so I waited for 15 minutes for the next one. Later I ended up seeing the same bus when I arrived at the airport because the one I missed had to make a stop at other place. One hour ride to the airport was okay, no accident, or delay.
Kansai International Airport
After arriving to the airport, I went to the ticketing counter, the airport itself was not that busy so I easily proceeded to the immigration for the departure.
Reflection of a tram system at the airport
Moving to the south wing
I spent about 2 hours walking around the terminal. I bought some water and snacks for the trip. Thought about buying a electronic dictionary but gave up because I might have too many stuffs already. I could purchase on somewhere in the U.S.
Air New Zealand B747, arrived to the KIX.
AA124, readying for departure with Osaka on its background
I got on the airplane bound for Dallas Fort Worth. The plane had to go all the way to the north and took off. The plane was set to go south of Kii peninsula then fly north of Hawaiian island, over Santa Barbara, CA. I watched Chicken Little then I fell sleep and did not wake up until the captain announced that we are 30 minutes from landing. The length of flight was about 11:30 so I must have slept about 7 hours. Oh well, it worked out. I am well rested and good to go.
Flying under overcast weather in Dallas, TX
Got off the plane and proceeded to the immigration. Things went very smooth, he asked me just few questions, while there is a bag containing passport and some documents besides his PC. It made me think of the movie “Airport” at least they weren't mine. I retrieved my baggage, went through the customs. The lady say, "another non-immigrant worker". I just smiled and say "yup", but I honestly wanted to beat her up. Some people believe the U.S. doesn’t need people like me.
I rechecked my baggage, then proceeded to the security before going to the terminal C, where I need to catch a flight to Indianapolis.
AA1760 getting ready for departure
The flight AA1760 was already start to board as I was walking toward the gate. Since I missed a meal at last flight, I needed to grab something so I stopped by Chili’s To Go so I won’t be hungry and I can simply hit the bed when I come home. Because I entered the cabin late, a passenger on the same row already took my window side seat but since he put his kid in the seat, I just let it be that way. The temperature in Dallas was 19C, not like 0C last time. It was warm.
The flight was okay and came back to Indianapolis. I think the plane landed to south so I did not get to see places around. Paid parking fee of $97! It was very expensive but had no other choice. The company will pay for it anyways. Came back home and finally relaxed, but stayed up until midnight.
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