June 16th, 2006

Tokyo, Olympic Memorial Hotel

Wow. I really like this 30+ hours in one day idea. There's enough time to do everything you want to do, plus enough time to sleep.

I got up this morning (technically the 15th) at 6:30am, CA time. I woke up, made sure I was really ready to go, and took the 8:15 BART with dad, for the airport. We arrived at 9:30, and approached the two fairly short United checking lines. One was labeled "First Class", and the other "1K Club". The first class ticketer directed us around the corner, to the ~500 foot economy class check-in line. The whole check-in process was nevertheless painless, but the money exchange had a ridiculously marked down rate... 103 yen to the dollar, as opposed to the actual current national rate of 114 yen (in addition to their ~$10 fee). Didn't have much choice, so I went for it.

Getting on the plane was easy, there was assigned seating. I happened to be assigned the best economy seat in the plane, 32-A on a Boeing 747-400 if you want to look up a map and see. I t was a window seat next to a nice japanese woman, who had apparently done what I'm doing, 20 years ago (only backwards). She proved a nice conversationalist until lunch showed up. The flight attendants were nice enough to get me a vegetarian lunch, even though I hadn't called it in ahead.

There were three in-flight movies; Hoodwinked (somewhat of a cross between Red Riding Hood and Phoenix Wright), King Kong (theoretically a good script, but it wasn't much fun to watch), and Wimbledon (crappy movie with some really nice bullet time tennis shots).

I was going to try and take some pictures of the ocean, but I couldn't open the window shade. Whenever I tried, the super brilliant sunlight would blind everyone is the cabin... that sun is freaking bright at 32000 feet. Takeoff and landing didn't work either, as they wouldn't let me use my electric digital camera then.

Coming in to Narita, I could see nothing but clouds, until about 400 or so feet. The first thing I saw was a country highway, with all the cars driving on the left side of the road. We landed, and I went through the immigration stuff, then got my bag, then went through customs. Narita is the nicest airport I've ever been in...

After coming out into the lobby and meeting Shanti, I set for a 2 hour wait in the lobby. More Labo people were coming out to join me, and all of them are very friendly and agreeable people. Nick Saira in particular is pretty cool, and Emily seems to be obsessive-compulsive towards my hat... not unlike myself. I bought a strawberry iced tea (I think), and a "potato bun" at a snack place. The potato bun was potato bread filled with a kind of baked potato filling. I think it had some fish in it too, I didn't feel so hot after eating it.

Emily snagged my hat for the bus ride to the dorm/hotel thing. Shanti was nice enough to have a vegetarian bento for me (and apparently someone else, though I didn't catch who). The ride back was awesome... all the cars in japan seem to have run into a brick wall or something. Makes me think of bulldogs.

We arrived and had a short orientation, and then went to our dorms. We decided to do the bath thing one at a time, partly because the bath room was tiny, but mostly cause none of the guys would want to go in together. I spent some time watching Japanese TV while waiting for my turn, and... well, if the commercials were like that in the US, TV would be a lot more worthwhile.

Once I got into the tub, I understood why this method of bathing is so popular. It's like a hot tub, only... well, japanese. Japanese bathing is nice. Now it is time for bed, after the first full-length day in my life. Oyasumi!