Sunday, May 2, 2010

Saying Good-Bye to Japan

Well, that ends that. Japan is all behind me now, as my butt is sitting against the cold tiled floor of the Beijing International Airport. This is a lesson in not believing the internet, and doing proper planning, and just one of those learn as you go type things.

I had a ticket to Hong Kong that transferred through Beijing. I thought about ditching the second half, and just going straight to Beijing to start my Chinese adventure – hit up Hong Kong on the way out. However, when I checked the internet it said that you couldn't claim your luggage if you had an ongoing ticket. The reason for this, baggage claim was after customs – and you couldn't get through customs without a visa. And since, when you were checking in, they asked where you were going, (back in Japan) you couldn't say you wanted the claim your luggage, as in theory you'd never be leaving the airport.

Still with me on this? Well it's a lie. A bold faced lie. Against all odds, China offers a one day visa to people passing through the airport. So if you want to say you've seen China, without getting a visa, just get a layover here and go explore for the one free day allotted to you. Just be sure you make it back on time, yeah?

So in theory I could have got out, grabbed my gear, and been done with it. I have a hostel booked in Hong Kong, but I could cancel that and then start here anyway – however, I have an exit flight booked, and more importantly, my bags are checked through to Hong Kong (in theory – I'm always a little worried about these things.)

So here I sit on the floor of Beijing International Airport (by the way, there's a stamp here – so potentially the stamp madness that began in Japan will continue through China) hoping not to be disturbed, or – you know – kicked out. I don't know where they'd kick me – but somewhere?

I'm not sleeping, so I should have that going for me. I have enough computer videos to keep me occupied, and I slept on the four hours from Tokyo to here – I figure I stay awake seven more hours now, and then sleep the four to Hong Kong and I'll be set.

All I need to do is hang out here, and make sure I don't doze at a terrible time, thus leading to a missed flight.

There's an hourly hotel in the airport, but it's in a currency I've never seen before (It's not CNY, maybe it's another three letters for it, but I don't want to guess at that.) Even if it was Yuan, it would still cost one hundred American for six hours of rest. A Japanese Love Hotel in the heart of Shibuya would have cost less.

And would have come with see through hot tubs, and themed... items.

So no thanks hotel.

Now, it's not like I started my day here – no, it started way back in Japan, closing out what had been a fantastic almost-four-weeks.

Around ten I dragged myself out of bed, kicking and screaming, and thrown myself into the shower. The shower, heated by a gas... thing... hidden somewhere. All I know is I press a button on a plastic remote, set the controls to 40, and watch as a little red flame dances back and forth, indicating that the water is heating. Then the shower. The warm warm shower, in the otherwise chilly house. Not that it was actually chilly, but compared to my sanctuary buried under woolly blankets, and giant duvets, anything not in perfect equilibrium with my body temperature would be considered cold.

And there I sat for quite some time, trying to get my head back together after the previous night. Curse you karaoke, curse you! Tempting with your offer of song, and good times. But always making waking up the next day a little more difficult than it needs to be.

And I had things to do. Important things. Like pack. Packing is a pretty big deal before saying good-bye to one country, and heading into the next. Mostly this was just stuffing clothes into bags, and putting bags into other bags. All freshly washed clothes, too, I must add. Yes I was very graciously given the opportunity to have my clothes laundered on a regular basis. Why I nearly wore a new outfit every day. I even cycled through my two pants and shorts within a two week period. I don't think that had happened yet on this trip.

Clothes, check – random items strewn along coffee table over the past two weeks? Check. What was left? Ohh yeah, printing off all my flight information, and all my hostel directions. The best part was the hostel that instructed me to “print off a map” to it, as the walking directions were simply, “get off at this subway station, and walk.” That map was nowhere to be found. I'll deal with that later, that's still a week or two away.

I did have to compress fourteen pages of text down to six, as that's how many sheets of paper were in the printer (I later learned more existed... but I knew nothing of this at the time. Plus, as it happened, I needed exactly six after squishing, so using more just would have been wasteful.)

With that done, I was ready. Ready to book on out of this area. The time? Twelve Thirty in the afternoon. Time to move out.

Calling my buddy to get him up, out of bed, in similar condition to myself was a hard thing to do. I'd rather have left him sleeping, but after being a great host I needed to say good-bye and wish him well, and all that jazz. So handshakes, promises to return, and all that and I was out the door.

Of all the places I've told myself I'll come back to, some day, I realize that it's probably only Japan to which I'll actually return.

All the places in Europe that I loved? It would be great to see them again – but there are just so many other places left to go to. Alright – maybe Germany, Germany was pretty sweet. And Paris – that was a good town. A pretty big deal. Still, if I never set foot in Germany or France ever again, I won't be shocked. This is a somewhat upsetting realization. The reality of what's going down.

I would like to point out that after sitting on a way too hot Air China flight, I'm now in a delightfully frosty airport. It's my perfect temperature, and I'd like to give a big thank you to PEK for knowing how to set your thermostat.

Out the door, down to Lawson's to buy a bottle of Shampoo (the one I bought in the States really did not last all that long.) It was not a two-in-one and for the next few weeks, while it lasts, I will have to suffer through unconditioned hair that feels stringy and strawy. And it will be upsetting. Oh sure, I'll get used to it. Get used to it like sleeping on buses, and airplanes, and on cold tiled floors. And maybe one day I'll think – hey – I never need conditioner again. But somewhere, somewhere deep in side, the desire for soft touchable hair will be screaming, screaming, screaming!

My last meal at Lawson's was kinda sad too.

Onto the train for Shibuya station. What a great change-over station. Nothing like Shibuya crossing to make you realize you're in Tokyo. The tourists were out today. I don't know where they're coming from? Maybe University is ending and they're starting to get out and about, but I'd not seen that many white people all in one place for weeks.

I took a few last photos, and then headed off to the JR line, over to Ueno. On the way I finished reading Shopaholic takes Manhattan. Yes, I'd not mentioned that I was reading this book – just one of the exciting details to get lost in the shuffle of the one day, three week, blog writing marathon. But I had been. And now I'm finished it. And as much as I know it will make me angry, I want to read the third one.

I hate this character – this... Becky. I do, she's an idiot who somehow knows financial stuff, but aside from that is a complete fool who is prejudice, and petty, and suffers from terrible addictions that no one has ever tried to help her through. Everything she gets, she falls into – she's lucky. That's all. But at heart, while she wants to be a good person, she deserves every terrible thing she gets.

I think she may make me more angry than Frodo – all those dead Hobbits are your fault, you Ghandi-esque mini man! Well I'm not sure on that count. Frodo made me pretty mad too.

Anyway, that's over with now.

From Ueno I walked to the Keisei Ueno station and grabbed the 1000yen train to Narita. This is the cheapest way to the airport, and not highly advertised. Make sure you look it up. It takes seventy five minutes, rather than an hour – but the savings... the savings.

I slept most of the way to the airport, unable to read Jurassic Park (which I've been slowly making my way through – not wanting to finish it, as I needed it for the stamping. But now that I know there may be stamps here in China, it begs the question: do I really want to finish it now? Or do I need to take it with me still? We shall see how often these stamps are discovered.)

At the airport I discovered that the economy check in for AirChina was shut down. Why? It looked, at first, like an important person was on their way to check in. Clustering around him, as he walked, they held cameras and were shouting questions. This seemed a reasonable hypothesis at first – but when the exact same thing happened a second, then a third time, and I noticed another camera man trailing behind, I realized they were filming a movie. Ugh – whatever, just let me check in!

Finally let through, I then discovered my flight was delayed, and headed off for my last McPork, and Shaka Shakas (unless they have them here in China – oh what a magical dream that could be.)

Alright, what's going on? The same woman has walked past me three times. She always walks from my back, to in front of me, and then enters a door just past the phone bank in front of me. She never walks the other way. There mst be an alternate exit – but still, it's weird. And now that I check I can't really see the door. It must be there.


With my remaining six hundred yen I was going to go and buy some more McFood – normally it goes to earrings. But no one in this country wears or sells them.

Seriously – she walked by again!

Hello Kitty earrings would be popular, what about little paper crane earings? I'd buy those too – cute, right? But no. They don't sell them. They're not for me, by the by. I don't believe in punching holes through my flesh. But I have no problem supporting people who do. Ouch.

So on my way to buy McFood I saw a capsule machine selling these little Star Wars things. Stew, back in the Tokyo HMV, got the best one (in my opinion). It was the Angry Han and cute Chewie. I was not so lucky, but at least I didn't get '3POed. I ended up grabbing the Luke and Leia, and the super-secret Vader and Anakin. Sure it's the rare one, and all – but what matters about that once I leave Japan? No one will know. All they will know is that Haden Christianson has invaded my toys! Noooooo! (Just like he screamed at the end of that third bloody movie. Ugh. Yes I know it wasn't his voice, but it was his stupid shaking motions.)

This was better than McChickens.

Then onto the flight, silence in the air, and down on the ground. Welcome to China!

All the people who had been so quiet, and so polite on the flight were now feeling their way back to their home country. Let the screaming, the shouting, the pushing, and the rushing begin. My god. China. First impressions? It's like Japan gone mad.

Well, off to watch some Venture Brothers now. I hear a can of soda open, and it strikes me that even if I wanted one (I do) I can't get one... I have no money from this country. Sigh.

Go team Venture!

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