I’ve started to figure out that the more you try to plan out life, the more life pushes to be unexpected. Starting off on my grand adventure, I had imagined out exactly how my trip would go. I would sleep on the 13 hour flight from Minneapolis to Tokyo and then have lots of energy to go explore the city- which I’d already bought a fast train ticket for- during my 12 hour layover. Here’s what happened instead. The 13 hour flight was chasing the sun the entire way. It was morning to early afternoon my time so try as I might, I could not fall asleep. Upon arriving in Tokyo, I was directed back through security only to find out that if I wanted to leave the airport during my layover I should have gone through customs. I had to wait for Japan air officials to approve my change of plans. Luckily the girls I met were so kind! Only twenty-two, they were kind and understanding as they escorted me the back way through security and to customs. That took about an hour and a half. I was sweaty and exhausted but I was determined. I went to the first information center I could find asking where to get on my fast train. She explained to me that the ticket I had bought was for another Tokyo airport. Somehow someway I thought I would be arriving in the Narita airport when really I arrived at Haneda. So that ticket pass was completely useless.
Feeling dejected but nevertheless determined still, I pressed on. This airport was closer to the city anyhow so I would make up for lost time! The next step was to buy a one day subway pass. It was super cheap-but cash only. I went to an ATM only to find that it accepted neither my debit nor my credit. I went to ATM after ATM finding the same conundrum until I finally found one that worked! …Except it would only deploy bills of 10,000 yen or more. I needed about 1,500 for the whole day and I didn’t even have the money in my debit account so it was denied. Fun fact: never try to transfer money to a new account near labor day. It took the entire weekend to clear my money transfer and then informed me that the money would be placed on a four day hold.
After that it was clear that no matter how much I wanted to, I would not be leaving this airport. I felt sad for a few minutes and definitely shaken up. I’d been awake for well over 24 hours by this point. However, the book I’ve been reading on vagabonding mentions the importance of a good attitude and how plans will always change- you have to be flexible and enjoy the changes! So that’s what I did. I went to the bathroom and spent a glorious amount of time changing, brushing my teeth and hair, and playing with the 500 fancy settings on the Japanese toilets (features included a butt washer and dryer- ooh!). After I emerged I felt so much better and I set about exploring the airport.
The good news about being on the public side of the airport is that that’s where all the cool stuff was. The terminal was a massive glass and steel enclosure that housed several floors. The top floor was open and had traditional japanese features such as a long curved wooden bridge, paper lanterns, and small temple recreations. Following the path, I found a large observation deck that looked out onto the airplanes and Tokyo beyond. The weather was wonderful so I sat outside for awhile. Then I went down a floor and found myself amidst a market street reconstruction. It looked as if I had stepped into an alleyway in Tokyo as restaurants lined up side by side, each with their own front and lit paper lanterns lining the way. As I walked past these delectable restaurants (not your typical airport food!) I realized I had a bit of a dilemma. Without a way to get yen, how would I eat? Everything around me was cash only. Good thing my mom sent me away with $20. It got me enough for a modest but delicious meal. I had to get sushi- even though I could only afford three pieces it was SO worth it) and then I got this soup with noodles and beef. It was really filling and for the first time all day I felt calm, satisfied, and relaxed. I wandered into a temple recreation. High wooden columns held a traditionally shaped roof. The center of the room was taken up by a stunning floral display and wooden backless benches lined the edges of the room. I saw one person already laying down on one so I thought what the heck. If I didn’t get some sleeps soon I was bound to pass out. Clutching my valuables, I laid down on the hard wooden bench and fell fast asleep. I slept on that bench for about an hour before moving on and finding a row of airport waiting seats to sleep on. When the time came to check in for my 1am flight, I was feeling like maybe I could do this thing after all. Travel can be scary and confusing and even when you ask all the right people you can still end up in the wrong place. You really do have to go with the flow and trust that everything will be alright.
Now here I am in Thailand, so close to my final destination. One plane ride and a three hour bus ride stands between me and Pai, me and my dream internship. Lets see how this second leg of the journey goes.