Sunday, August 12, 2007

Newbie in Nagasaki

Every day here in Japan feels like the first day of kindergarten. I don’t know which carpet square is mine and I am constantly afraid that there won’t be time for a potty break.

Aside and Disclaimer
Traveling like this is kicking my organizational butt. It is an enormous challenge to keep track of airline tickets and flight times, train tickets and schedules, passports, hotel locations and reservation numbers in a foreign language, for 5 people, all the while photographing and chronicling the events of this trip, then turning it into a clever, informative, and factually accurate story to put on the website.

Not to mention the physical and verbal gymnastics I have to perform to wrestle the internet computer from my three friend-starved children. So forgive me when I ramble, misspell, and “almost” get the facts about a city straight. I promise – I’ll rewrite for the book.

We left our Kyoto hotel for the train station early – six hours early. That ought to be enough time to find our way to the airport for our 4pm flight right?

Knowing that we were going to the “other” airport in Osaka, we surmised that we should get off at the “other” Osaka train stop. And so we did.

The problem was, when we arrived and I asked various people which train goes to the ITN Airport, they just looked at me like I had said “Good morning, how are your underthings?”

Mike found a young man who spoke some (and by some I mean virtually zero) English. He told us that the trains don’t go to that airport and that a taxi is “not possible”. He said we would need to take a subway and then a monorail and then listed the Japanese names for the stops. We looked at him with what I am sure was the exact same expression we’d seen dozens of times on the faces of people we’d asked for directions. “My underthings are fine but I could use a good washing” I almost replied.

So we did the only thing we could do – got to the front of a very busy line of ticket machines and sweated on it.

The kind (but probably annoyed) Japanese woman next to us took pity and bought our tickets for us – pushing the incomprehensible buttons and taking the correct combination of coins from my open palm. She handed me our 5 tickets and bowed. I nearly wept – with appreciation.

We got on the train and discussed which of the 8,000 symbols on the subway map could be out stop. It was then that I began to think that we might be cutting it short on time. I looked at my ipod. It was already 1:45pm. Good thing our flight didn’t leave until 4pm. Or…..was it that the flight ARRIVED at 4pm? A frantic search through my backpack for my now creased, torn, sweat-stained flight schedule confirmed it. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 3pm.and we were still on the subway. Seconds ticked, stops flew by and we sweated.

Delayed by an unfortunate attempt to purchase monorail tickets at what turned out to be a dress shop - there was that expression again on the face of the poor shopkeeper - we got to the monorail station literally 3 minutes before the train departed.

We flew to the ticket counter; mimed 5 tickets for the airport (complete with arms outstretched and engine noises).

We tumbled onto the monorail and checked and rechecked our ipods for the time – convinced that fretting about it would get us there faster.

And then we arrived – at the airport – a full 45 minutes before our plane took off. We made the flight and flew to Nagasaki.

We were advised by the staff of the hostel where we had reservations to take the bus from the airport into Nagasaki. But by this time we’d had all we could take of trying to find the correct bus, train, or vehicle. We opted for a taxi – which proved to be an expensive mistake. The airport is more than 30k from Nagasaki – and being “very large Americans” we required two taxis.

Finally arriving at the Nagasaki Catholic Youth Hostel, we spent the very last of our cash on the taxis. We asked at the desk where to find a bank and walked down to use the ATM. Again, more buttons in Japanese, and both of our credit cards came spitting back out at us without dispensing any money at all.

The kind staff at the youth hostel told us we could pay in the morning, when we were able to cash some traveler’s checks. But, dinner that night was bought from the market with whatever coins we could scrounge from pants pockets and coin purses. We had a picnic of fruit, crackers, and tic tacs.

I know this sounds like an awful, stressful, anxious day. But when it was all over we had such an enormous sense of accomplishment. We’d done it. We were able to bumble our way without a map in English, directions, or a clear sense of where we were supposed to be.

I felt like I’d mastered the lunch line, remembered my lock combination, and found my very own carpet square. Until tomorrow…


Blogger japaneriffic said...

Cheers for checking out my blog! Your's, too, is quite amazing... three kids and traveling the world, you are a better man than I, hahaha!
As far as music in Osaka, when and how long will you be in town? Also, you mentioned you'll be in Nara day after tomorrow? Too bad you can't come in earlier to Nara, because there is a big Matsuri(festival) going on that ends tomorrow(Tues) near Todaiji(The Big Buddha)temple. Also, all over Japan in is Obon, Japanese celebration of dead ancestors, so watch out for stores being closed early or trains running on different schedules for the next couple days.
Music in Osaka... hmmmm. I can look into that, but let me know when and where you'll be. Shoot me an e-mail at onegaishimasu(please)
Hope to hear from you! Safe travels.

ps. if you're craving some "real" food like pizza and burgers, you'll be hard pressed to find in Japan, if you haven't noticed yet, but there's a great bar that I perform at called Tin's Hall that serves great burgers and pizzas. It's in Tennoji, Osaka near the Tennoji JR Station, here's a link:
The people there are friendly, the manager's name is Nori, a Japanese surfer dude, super cool guy. The food here saved me after being in burger withdrawl after the first few months living in Japan. Kids are welcomed there too, I think he opens up around 5 or 6pm. Burgers run around 1,000 yen, plus he's got other sandwiches and food on the menu.

August 12, 2007 at 6:10 PM  
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