My plane landed at Tokyo’s Narita Airport on October 21st, 3:20pm. The airport was throbbing with people. At customs, I entered the long line for those of us with Foreign Passports. Nostalgia hit me when I glanced over at the relatively empty lines for Japanese Nationals and Foreign Registration. I used to glide through that line with no trouble at all, flashing my passport and Alien Registration Card. Not so anymore. Everything took a long time. At customs they check your passport, disembarkation card, take a photo and get your fingerprints. By the time that was finished, my bag was already waiting for me next to the carousel. A new flight was already unloading its baggage. Before you can leave the airport, you must go through the inspection line. It makes me smile every time, because I’ve never seen them open a bag up to check its contents. You just hand them your declaration paper and walk right through. I walked past the throng of people on the other side holding up signs and waiting eagerly for their awaited to appear. I’ve been among them on a few occasions, but today I had other business. The two Currency Exchange offices had long lines of people, so I went to a corner of the airport and found an ATM that gave me a better price than either of the others: 101.44 Yen to the Dollar. Close enough to treat it with the easy $1 to 100 ratio.
There were plenty of trains leaving the airport, but which to take? There was speed, frequency, cost, and number of transfers to consider. In the end I chose the cheapest, figuring that the currency I had the most of was time. It certainly cost a good bit of it, taking just under 2 hours to cross Tokyo to the Western suburbs.
My stop arrived. I got off and found the McDonalds near the station with expectations of using the wifi. To expect wifi anywhere in Japan is very hopeful. Too much so for this situation. Luckily my hosts had a rough estimate of when I would arrive based on my departure from the airport. Just as I left the McDonalds and was in search of a phone booth, there they were walking toward me. I was too relieved at the time to consider what a miracle it was that they found me with no communication.
They welcomed me to back to their sparkling new apartment and set out my bed in a spare room. We caught up over a delicious, home cooked dinner including sashimi (raw fish slices) and karaage (fried chicken). N and I met in Minnesota while I was studying Japanese. My teacher introduced us so that I could interview a Japanese person for an assignment. After the interview, she and S invited me and my parents to their home for okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake/pizza). From there we enjoyed more get togethers and sharing “Minnesotan” activities. It was a shame when work forced them to move back to Japan, but allowed for this happy meeting.