Daily Archives: June 11, 2003

The Japan travelogues – I

Ok.. so this is the first article of the travelogue series.. What do i write about? Not that I am very well travelled. Guess, it would make more sense in enlightening others about a very less frequented place .. like Japan! Had been there for 2 months last November.. and got a taste of the (brrrr) japanese winters…In fact I even spent my new years there, which was quite an experience in itself :-).
First Impressions
To start with I reached Narita Airport (Tokyo) on 19th November. It was freezing cold, much more than what Delhi had me accustomed to. Oh, before this I must give some background. I had gone via Singapore, through Singapore Airlines and these folks had delayed the flight at Delhi itself, by more than 4hrs on that chilly Novemeber night. The reason being some patient, (in the previous incoming flight) who was suddenly taken ill and he and his whole family had to be offloaded along with their luggage. As a result all subsequent SIA flights (via singapore sector) got delayed. That made the starting time of my flight as 3am from Delhi itself which meant that I would have reached Tokyo at a time when the only option for me to get to my final destination would be to go by train, which involved changing 3 trains from various platforms with all that luggage with me (help!). Cabs are of course available but they are as costly as 140$ for that distance and we guys had already been prohibited their use (After all I was being sent on official purposes). I decided to try my luck and went to have a chat with the SIA ground staff. After explaining my situ and also touching upon the fact that had it not been for the delay I would have conveniently taken a “Limousine bus” from the airport, I was finally granted a taxi till my destination! That was a great load off my chest, back and every other place, literally!
So to get back to the starting, (I’ll skip the plane journey bit, though it was my first time) I arrived at Narita airport and there was this English speaking (This is a VERY important point) lady attendent waiting for me to guide me through immigration etc. With her, the whole process was like a waltz, smooth and perfect. It was already night (BTW it gets pitch dark in Japan by 5pm in winters) and I could barely see anything on my 1 hr long drive to my hotel. I was in an absorbing mode, taking in everything I saw. The fact that I *was* in Japan had still not sunk in. But from whatever little I could see, I could make out that the roads (and even the houses) were *very* small, and the traffic very well organised. (They drive the same way, or should I say we drive the same way as them :-P) There were no animals or crowds on the streets ( I felt so outta place!) and I didnt see those typical monument kinda structures that one associates Japan with. Their houses were like an array of small matchboxes, lined in perfect coordination with the neighbouring matchboxes. All the cars I saw were so familiar, what with most of the leading car manufacturers in India being Japanese companies. I saw all Maruti models courtesy Suzuki, also saw various models in Honda, Mitsubishi, Toyota, Kawasaki.. name it and you have it! Even their bikes were like the bike in that TV serial we used to watch loooong time back – Night rider or something.
Anyway, I was soon at my hotel “Kashiwa Plaza” and had a tough time thanking the driver…was just practising my newly acquired limited Japanese you see :-).. Thank You is “Arigato Gozaimashita” in Japanese. The hotel room was again *Very* small. It was just about as much space as a bed would need. There was a small attached bathroom with the same “speciality”. Keeping my luggage in the room took up all the breathing space that was left. There was one small window which opened into the backside of another building, literally coz the backside wall was all I could see…it was *so* closely built. Finally I called up folks back home and informed them about my safe arrival. Had called up Sumit from the airport. He was waiting downstairs to show me a couple of convenience stores and the way to the station for getting to office the next day. After seeing all that I just conked off in the “just fitting” bed still trying to make myself realise that I was in Japan after all.