Japan Trip 2008 Part 1 - Hospitalization (Last updated on 2008/07/30)


Since I am the only one in the family living in the U.S., rest are in Japan. The beginning of this trip was an email from my dad back in June 24th, telling me that my mom need to go to a hospital. By June 30th, it became clear that she will be hospitalized. So, I had to plan a trip to Japan with very short notice to go see her. I tried to use my miles but there is no returning tickets available until August, so I went to the web to shop for a cheap tickets. I was able to allocate $1,700 for the round trip and bought it on July 2nd. Soon after I bought my tickets, the price for the cheapest one went up to $2,200. That's something I cannot afford easily. Anyways, I am going home for a week!

2008/7/4-5 Going to Japan

Going to the airport

In the evening of July 3rd, I was still coming back from a business trip in Mexico. I arrived to Detroit Metro airport around 12:30am on the 4th. The plane to go to Japan will leave on the same day, so I don't have much time left. I hurried to the parking lot and get my car. The parking lot had many empty lots, so I thought the parking will be easy here tomorrow (maybe not many people travel for the July the 4th holiday...?!). Drove in sleepy eyes but was thinking that it is no way missing the flights!

Stopped by at the office to pick up a company cell phone on the way back to the apartment. I arrived there around 1:00am but a couple of coworkers were STILL there. (When do they go home?) Took care of packages before heading home, which I arrived at 2:00am. Unpacked my bag and took out clothing and throw them into a washer, then took fresh changes from the closet. Finished packing around 3:00am, put the washed laundry into a drier, logged on the net and put the USPS mails on hold until I come home. (I just picked up the mails which was held until today!).

Hit the bed at 3:30am, and scheduled to wake up at 5:30am, I have only two hours before get going again. I set two alarm clocks... When I wake up, I could tell my body got very little or no rest, and my head was heavy and sleepy. I felt like my brain is like a big rock, made me concern that if I could drive in this condition. I feel so dizzy and even when I stretch my body, it was almost numb... Again, I told myself that I cannot afford to miss the flights, so I took a quick shower, pulled out a few polo shirts and jeans pants from the drier which just finished turning. The rest of stuffs still in it... I can take care of them when I get back!

Left home at 6:30am, I first drove to Meijer nearby. Bought a bottle of wine and other small stuffs still unchecked on the list. Drove to the airport, but the parking lot was almost full. Had to drive to level 6 of the parking building, which is the roof top. I never expected the parking was going to be like this... Since I had to check in two hours before departure of for the international flight, I arrived at the check in counter at 8:00am sharp.

To Chicago: JL5437 DTW(10:25am EDT) - ORD(10:35am CDT)

After passing the security, I walked to the gate. Although the flight has the designation of Japan Airlines, American Airlines operates this one. The boarding was smooth and took off to the north then to the west toward Chicago O'Hare. During the flight, I get to see a plane drawing a smiley face in the air at Battle Creek, MI. I guess there is an airshow going on. I have seen it from the ground before, but this is my first time from the sky. The flight was smooth, arrived very much on time but had to land from west maybe due to the wind.

JL5437, operated by American Airlines

Taxing under a partly cloudy sky There seems to be an air show going on in Battle Creek, MI

To Narita: JL9 ORD(12:15pm CDT) - NRT(3:00pm JST on 7/4)

When I get off the previous plane, the time was around 10:30am, so I had some free time but needed to move from Terminal 3 to Terminal 5. Many international flights are arriving and departing from there. I got out from the Terminal 3 once, then took a train to the Terminal 5. I could buy some duty free items once I pass the security but after passing the security again at Terminal 5, I found out that they do not have much of stuffs at duty free stores. I should have bought stuffs at the duty free before leaving the Terminal 3...

As I was passing the security, I was given a piece of paper saying that I have to get my boarding pass checked. So I walked up to the gate, they took my I-94 and gave me another ticket issued by JAL. I still had time so I kinda walk around the terminal. They had a historical development map of Chicago, as well as some paintings and pictures of the town. I have seen some places but not all of them. The boarding began a little after 11:50pm. The had to process first and business class first so my turn came around 12:15pm. I am not sure why they are so picky about checking the passport but they did the check at ticketing counter, and also at boarding. I guess the plane was carrying a sick person so certain seats were folded to make a stretcher secured. The plane was pushed back from the gate at 12:35pm. I am ready to head home, also to sleep but did not want to miss meal!

JAL 9, at Chicago O'Hare JAL 9, arrived at Narita after a long hour of flight

The plane took off, since I was sitting in an aisle seat, I don't get to see outside. However, JAL's B747-400 has a set of on board cameras so I can see the outside. Soon after reaching to cruising altitude, Chicken Curry was served around 2:00pm in Chicago time. A scary thing happened right after the lunch. I saw a man stood up, going to the restroom then fell backward, passing out. The passengers around the guy had to call a flight attendant, then soon he was administrated with portable oxygen. One concern I had was maybe we are going to make an emergency landing, which may delay the arrival to Japan, making too late in the day for me to see my mom. Well, he recovered soon and we can go on... Soon I fell sleep. During the flight, I thought about my mom because I was so worried, tears keep flowing out my eyes if I think about the how much time left to be with my mom. I still had my time set at Chicago time, so I remember been served with a couple of sandwiches around 8:00pm, fell back sleep, and breakfast around 2:30am. The plane readied for landing and touched down at Narita International Airport at 2:20pm local time. Another passport check as stepping outside. I walked toward the immigration, passing with no problem and waited for bags to come out at the baggage claim. Seems like all the bags not coming out soon enough so everybody had to wait for a long while. When the bags finally came out, I noticed that it was wet, maybe from the moisture but first I thought it was from broken wine bottle inside... Since the new regulation requires everybody to fill out a custom form, I filled one and took it to the customs. No question asked and I walked out the door.

Arrived at Narita at 15:15 on July 5th, 2008...

Coming home (Narita -> Tokyo -> Nagoya -> Home)

After exiting from the airport terminal, I exchanged $500 into Japanese Yen at currency exchange. Walked to the counter and bought tickets to Nagoya. The trains I got was from Narita Airport to Shinagawa on Narita Express 32 then transfer to Nozomi Super Express 47 to Nagoya. It was recommended by the person at ticketing office for transfer convenience, but come to think about it, currently preparations for G8 summit was underway so maybe it was the reason I change the train at Shinagawa, instead of Tokyo, not only because it was easy to transfer, but also reduce the number of people with big bags at Tokyo station...

Narita Express 32 at Narita Station: Narita Airport(15:48) - Shinagawa(16:52)

Looking hot and humid... Edo-Tokyo Museum, can be seem right before the train goes under ground

After going down to the lower level to the platform, I had some time before I get on the train so I took out cell phone and readied it. The train operation was smooth as usual. The outside I could see from the train was cloudy and looked very hot. I hate Japanese summer, but I know I have no choice avoiding it. Arrived at Shinagawa station, changing the trains were easy, I just needed to go to upstairs and walk few hundred feet then I can pass through the gate for the super express. I wanted to buy my dinner at the station before getting on the connecting train. I even asked for 30 minutes extra time to the guy who was getting the tickets for me. Well, I only found out that Shinagawa station did not have a place to sell dinner. I could only buy snacks and drinks... That's a lesson I learned. Oh, and the security at Narita and Shinagawa was tight. I see many security guards (mainly railway police) at the station, as well as a couple of security roving inside the train.

Nozomi 47: Shinagawa(17:17) - Nagoya(18:56)

I pulled up my cell phone and called my dad to let him know that I am coming. The train from Tokyo arrived to Shinagawa station on time. I walked to my seat, I bought my dinner from the in train service for 1,000Yen. Unlike the last time I came home, which was December '07. The outside was still bright so I get to have a good luck outside. When the train arrived on time at Nagoya, the outside was still bright.

My dinner "Tokusen Bento Tokyo" for 1,000Yen The contents Alcohol boiled corbiculae on top of steamed rice, seasoned horse mackerel, broiled  clam, egg, shiitake, pumpkin, lotus root and others

After getting to Nagoya station, used a subway to go to the station nearby my home, switched to public bus. I come home around 7:50pm, my dad answered the door, used to be my mom's job. Looking at tired looking dad, must be very stressful for the last few days, my grandma was as usual, don't remember anything about me. Unlike last time, she was curious instead of worry while she was watching me. Her autism is progressed greatly, I guess. Had hot bath, chat with my dad, went to bed around 10:00pm.

Additional notes: I guess this is the most emotional evening. I saw my dad looked tired, depressed. He said it's his fault and half crying. I did wanted to cry, too.

2008/7/6 (Sunday) Visiting my mom

I woke up around 1:00am, due to jetlag and I could not fall back sleep. While I was awake in the night, I could hear some sounds of mopeds running around, guessing that they are delivering newspapers. The daybreak was around 4:30am, when blackbirds began making noise and the surroundings get slightly bright.

I had breakfast at 7:00am with my grandma and dad. That used to be done by my mom all the time but now it is different; my dad was making one. Took easy in the morning but since I have not done any unpacking or reorganizing, I had to open my bag up. Took a cold bath in the morning because it was already hot outside and headed to a local community center to meet with my mom. I was walking with my dad on the path newly organized by the river. My mom came to the community center by a taxi. She looked okay but has a couple of tube inlets sticking out of her left wrist. They looked painful. My dad took a picture of me and my mom. We had to leave before meeting starts and also I needed to take care of house work. I came home around 10:30am, made wheat tea for the family. For the lunch I started cooking around 11:45am, made rolled egg and wheat noodles. While I was cooking, my mom called me, telling me that she could not get a taxi back to hospital, so I made a reservation for her. She went back okay.

For the afternoon, I typed up trip notes and then left home around 2:30pm. The visiting hours at the hospital on weekend days are between 1:00pm - 7:00pm. I heard from my dad that my brother was asking if I want to meet him at his apartment then go to hospital. Sure thing. So I took a bus and subway to my brother's place and meet him and his wife. It was my first time visit him so I had hard time finding a way. The map my dad wrote me had a missing street, so I missed a turn and went no where. It's hot, you know... Please don't make me take a meaningless walk. Chat for a while then decided to go to the hospital. I had no worries but I kept hearing thunderclap and feeling a little breeze with moisture. Are we getting some rain?! First we walked to a department store near by a subway station to buy flowers. When I leave the house, my dad told me that he brought a flower vase. So, we bought several different kinds of flowers, including sunflower, a good representation of the summer. Picked up a taxi and went to the hospital. It was my first time going to there so all of us had to check out the procedure. When we entered the room, my mom looked okay, not much change but look a little bored or tired. Left around 5:30pm, and went home by a taxi with meals cooked by sister-in-law. I called my dad to let him know that we are coming. Dad ordered some fishes from a local restaurant nearby, and he went to pick it up with containers. Had dinner together, my grandma, dad, my brother and my sister-in-law. It was a fun dinner with all the chairs employed. They left around 9:00pm. I took a cold bath and hit the bed around 10:30pm.

2008/7/7 Visiting my mom

July 7th is Tanabata, in Japan. It's a Chinese origin myth that lady called Orihime and man named Hikoboshi get to meet each other once a year. The basic story is like that Orihime was a handloom operator making textiles and Hikoboshi was a cowboy. They met each other and fell but then start neglecting their duties. A god got angry and separated them, telling  them they can only meet once a year, on the day of July 7th. Japanese celebrates this holiday by hanging a piece of paper writing wishes to a bamboo tree to hope their wishes come true. Usually kids thing. I remember I used to wish my writing will be neat. Well, it never come true though...

I woke up around 2:00am, stayed in futon bed until 4:30am without going back to sleep again. Went for a log in the morning. I missed a turn which I could not recognize the landmark due to scenery change in a couple of years, and I ended up reaching to the river a bit away from the turning point. Come home and took a cold shower. I felt good. I called the company office in the morning, and discussed about the visit on Thursday. Rain started from 10:00am, but over by the afternoon. My dad wanted to go out so I stayed home.

In the afternoon, I went to see my mom again. This time I used a subway. The Meijo line was extended so now it passes right by the hospital. I made a short visit but my grandma was there. We discussed about a visit on Wednesday.

Some media criticize that E-mobile mocking Obama...

On the way back, I stopped by at Yamada Denki, an electronics retailer store, to check on what's new in these days. I already cooked dinner for dad and grandma so I was not in hurry but made it back by 6:00pm. After the dinner, washed the plastic containers used to contain meals my sister-in-law prepared. I guess I was finally relaxing but felt so tired today. I had trouble standing up in the evening, but somehow able to finished washing the dishes. I think regular workout is the best way adjust the time so I will run tomorrow morning also. Finished up with the day and went to sleep around 10:30pm. Tomorrow I will be hearing what's going on with my mom from doctors.

2008/7/8 Going to Osu


Last night, I fell sleep while I was reading a cookbook, so woke up around 2:00am, then I fell sleep again and did not wake up until 6:00am. I used to hear my grandma mumbling something all night but I don't remember a thing. So I must be very tired. Stretched my body, and the outside was just about to have rain, as well as thunders sometimes. My mom call me after breakfast to check on us, and gave me some advise on shopping at local farmers market, which will be swarmed by 40 Japanese housewives at the opening at 10:00am. Did a load of laundry after taking a bath. Since I was going to the market in the late morning and Osu in the afternoon, I find the time called my supervisor and another coworker to check on the progress of the work.

Under light shower, I went to grocery shopping around 10:30am I had to greet with my mom's coworkers. Bought tomato juice, eggplants, and milks. I could not find a pack of 6 eggs so I guess I have to buy them at nearby drug store. Walking back to the house, realized I forgot to buy the eggs so I ran to the drug store and picked up the eggs, and some towels which was requested by mom. I thought she may not be able to walk around freely, because her joint hurts sometimes so I also bought a wet towel.

It was almost noon so I hurried to cook lunch for three. Everybody get to eat on time.


Finish cooking and went to Osu. I went to a bus stop to catch one. The one came had a bit different route from what I know of. So I was a bit confused of how they go. I feel like it took longer than the other route which is more familiar to me. Arrived to Osu anyways, I just needed to buy Nintendo DS software so I stopped by at a couple of places. They always have more choice than Yamada Denki nearby my house. I also grabbed a USB card which can go into my dad's PC. Finished shopping and headed back to the house.

The meeting with doctor was scheduled from 6:30pm, so we planned to leave home at 5:30pm. The taxi company called and telling us that the taxi was late for 10 minutes. Soon they came and made it to the hospital on time. I had to get my grandma a wheel chair. Going to my mom's room and waited. Finally met with the doctor and he explained what's going on with my mom and what are the options. According to him, my mom has cancer in bladder and almost 95% of it is affected, in addition, cancer has spread over her body, like her lungs and hips. The doctor will try to cut bladder out from the body, hopefully it is not merging with (shikyu) then try to undergo with chemotherapy The meeting lasted for a while, and I got dizzy for a while... Anyways, everything was over by 8:00pm. Saying good night to mom and we all headed home.

First we take a taxi to the station nearby where my brother lives, I got off with him, while my dad and grandma heading home. With the help of him, I bought some ready to eat groceries. Said good bye to him and I ran to a place where I can catch a taxi. Soon I arrived to the home and had dinner with my dad and grandma. A bit depressed of hearing about the condition of my mom. But went to bed around 11:00pm.

2008/7/9 Visiting grandma

Woke up at 2:00am again. It was cooler in the morning than any other days in the past. Got out of the bed and walked outside. I found that a local grocery store now operates 24 hours a day, so without any hesitation, I bought groceries for the next couple of days, carrying back them to the home. I am glad I had some cash with me. Had breakfast. Got a call from my grandma, asking for confirmation for a visit. I should have given her a call yesterday but was too busy. Hmmm.

After the meal, I cooked a couple of dishes for the lunch at home and left around 9:30am. Took a public bus and subway to Nagoya station. Took Mei-Tetsu (Nagoya Railways) to a station nearby which was renovated a while ago but first time visit for me. First I lost the directions. Arrived at my grandma's house around 11:15am then move to my uncle's house to have lunch together. Stayed until 2:00pm, explained about my mom's condition.

Special Rapid I used

My uncle took me back to the station so I did not have to walk. Took a train back to Nagoya station and stopped by at Midori no Madoguchi to buy a round trip ticket to Kobe for tomorrow.
Come home around 3:30pm. I found my dad filled the bathtub by mistake, so I took a cold bath with it. Relaxed for the evening. For the dinner, I added a rice noodle dish on top of the couple of what I cooked today. My dad wanted to put some shrimps into the dish so I had to be creative.

My brother called me to check on the house, I thank him (or his wife) for the side dishes. Needed to prepare materials for tomorrow's meeting so I was working on the PC until evening.

2008/7/10 Going to Kobe

This time I did not wake up in the middle of night. Woke up at 4:30am. Stretched my body and then cooked a couple of meals for my dad and grandma. Had breakfast but my grandma was not behaving well, and took almost half hour to just have her get up from futon and move to the dining table. Usually I finish breakfast around 7:30am but this time was different. I washed the dishes and made another plate for the lunch since I will be out. I finish everything by 9:10am. Took a quick shower and headed out to catch a bus.

From Nagoya to Kobe

Arrived to Nagoya station and jumped in Hikari 405, which leaves Nagoya station at 10:22am. A female driver was at control, which was a kind of curious thing because most of the time the driver is a male. The train stopped at most of the stations, and each time we do, a Nozomi train passed by. Arrived to Shin-Osaka at 11:30am, Switched to Shin-Kaisoku (Special Rapid) train from there leaving at 11:39am and arrived at Kobe, switched to a local train to get to Hyogo station. Arrived to Hyogo at 12:18pm, had lunch at Yoshinoya, which serves beef bowl. Walked to the office around 12:45pm to receive a pass but the person who should be giving me one was still on lunch break so I had to wait.

Hikari 405 Nagoya(10:22am) - Shin-Osaka(11:30am) Super Rapid at Shin Osaka

Went into the office after 1:00pm. Had meeting until 2:30pm, then worked on emails. I received almost 100 of them and needed to organize them. At 3:50pm left the office, returned the badge.

Going back to Nagoya

Arrived at Hyogo station, left at 4:11pm on a local train to Kobe station. After arriving there, I had to wait for a while so I went down stairs to buy some gifts and dinner. Change to Special Rapid train departing at 4:36pm, The train was not that crowded and I was talking with a couple of guys speaks English. Soon arrived at Shin-Osaka at 5:05pm. I am not sure about the connecting train so I just looked up the monitor and decided what I want to get on, the one I picked was Hikari 426 leaving at 5:13pm. I had to run up stairs to get on it. The car I was in had almost nobody, so it was relaxing. I get to see outside, including Kyoto station and other places. Arrived to Nagoya at 6:22pm.

Super Express Type 100 (2nd generation bullet train) Dinner I bought at a convenience store for only 380 Yen
Countryside Hikari 426 Shin-Osaka(5:13pm) - Nagoya(6:22pm)

After getting out from the station, I needed to switch to subway so I used the one leaving Nagoya station at 7:01pm. Arrived at the station nearby and catch a bus leaving at 7:24pm. I come home around 7:40pm. Relaxed, typed up the meeting minutes and then went to bed around 10:00pm. My dad was making a reservation for a taxi for Saturday for me in the evening.

2008/7/11 Visiting my mom, getting ready to go back to the U.S.

Woke up at 4:30am, went for a short run in the morning. We forgot to prepare rice so we had to eat bread instead of rice. Did a load of laundry by washing at home and took them to a local Laundromat to get them dried. It only takes 20 minutes (for 200 Yen) so it's quick. Come home, and begin packing the stuffs. I wanted to reduce the number of bags, so after throwing a couple of stuffs away, my wish was granted.

My dad had to go out for the evening so I took care of chores for the morning, prepared lunch for three. My grandma was behaving well today, phew... Washed dishes and left home around 2:30pm to get on a bus to a subway station. The visiting hour for weekday is between 3pm and 7pm so I got there around 3:00pm. I brought my snack from Kobe, but forgot the newspapers. Talked with my mom until 4:45pm, when I have to head back to pick up delivery of grocery.  Today we just talked. She told me about how she was bad with English but good in Math, as well as how she was raised a bit. I am sure she wanted to tell me more but maybe next time. I said my mom good bye, and told her I will be back. Jumped on subway and bus to come back. I was late a bit so my dad was coming out just as I was coming back home. I put the groceries in the refrigerator.

Cooked dinner, while I was the only one with my grandma, she was listening to me and went to bed quickly. Initially I was going to visit my brother's house but felt tired so I called my brother to let him know that I cannot make it, and asked my dad to hold on to the snacks for my brother. Double checked my bags, made sure I have my passport and wallet... Going to bed around 10:00pm. I need to leave here at 6:00am tomorrow.

2008/7/12 Coming back to the U.S.

Leaving home

Wake up at 5:00am, with a little help of alarm clock. Stretched my body, and left home at 5:30am via taxi. I plan to leave home at 6:00am but my dad found that the car was already waiting at outside, and I was ready. Got a ride to a subway station, paid about 1,300Yen. Arrived at subway station at 5:45am, took a train departing at 5:58am and arrive to Nagoya station at 6:20am. Carried up the bag to upstairs, and went to the ticket window but had long lines, so took a while before I can buy a ticket. There was a monitor at the top showing the reservation condition of the trains, it would be bad if I was told, "... sorry sir but the seats are sold out and you cannot go to Tokyo" Anyways, I got my ticket to Narita Airport, passed the gate and went up to the platform. (If I don't have to use credit card, I don't have to wait here and use vending machine instead...)

To Shinagawa: Nozomi 200 Nagoya(6:57am) - Shinagawa(8:32am)

Nozomi 200 coming to Nagoya station

The train I used from Nagoya to Shinagawa was Nozomi 200, which departed on time, running through a hazy, sunny path. I don't have much things to do so I was reading magazine and eating breakfast. The train stopped at Shin Yokohama, then Shinagawa.

Hazy morning Looking at Mt. Fuji, you could only see the summit in haze

My breakfast, two rice balls, one bottle of tea

To Narita: Narita Express 13 Shinagawa(8:49am) - Narita Airport(9:59am)

Narita Express 13

After Arriving at Shinagawa, I changed the train to Narita Express 13, which arrived on time at 8:49am. While I was waiting for the train, I get to see around. I am glad this is a weekend day. If not, then the time around now will be filled with lots of people going to work... Arrived at Narita Airport Terminal 2 station at 9:59am. I got off the train, then going up to the third floor which has the check in counter. I had to use one for Japan Airline, and had trouble using the automated system because I was not familiar with it. Passing the security gate, and arrived at the gate 95 at 10:30am.

Narita International Airport 2nd terminal

JL10 NRT(12:30pm JST) - ORD(9:30am CDT), AA4452 ORD(11:05am CDT) - DTW(1:30pm EDT)

The waiting area was occupied with many students for some kind of exchange program. I hope they had a good time, some wearing Japanese happi jacket... I went to book store and convenience store at the terminal to get myself a book to read, as well as water for the long trip. The boarding to the aircraft started around 11:45pm, The plane was getting pushed back around 12:15pm, and took off in the air without much of wait. Lunch was served around 1:30pm, and then I fell sleep, briefly woke up around 5:00pm due to turbulence, and stayed up until 7:30pm when the snack was served. At 10:00pm in Japan time, I woke up again, realizing I missed the breakfast and plane was very closed to land. Arrived at gate at 9:35am.

Passing the immigration which I was asked about my visa status. Ah, I know it. I will be allowed to stay until the end of August. Walked out from the terminal after checking in the luggage, and headed to Terminal 3 for connection. I did not have much of time left so I had to go through the security quick because I wasted time while waiting for the bag to come out. Got on a tinier plane for Detroit. Arrived without an incident so I am back!

JAL 10 at Narita International Airport at gate 95 AA4452 at gate G2A in Chicago O'Hare

Coming Home

Stopped by at Jimmy John's for lunch. I was hungry. I come home around 2:45pm, took a shower and partially unpack my bag and headed to bed for rest.

Spending afternoon at home

I woke up around 5:00pm. Went to Akasaka Japanese restaurant around 7:00pm for dinner with my coworkers. Most of them were drinking beer but I did not feel like it so I kept eating some good Japanese dishes. The party was over around 10:30pm and it was long enough for me to stay. Went to bed around midnight. I only wish my mom will be fine.

Cost: Total: $2,270


Go to Home / Top / My mom's final days (#1: Hospitalization / #2: Surgery / #3 Visa Renewal / #4 Homecoming / #5 New Year / #6 Funeral / Extra: Hatsubon)