Day 0 - You know when you go without sleep for so long... - 3:00 AM CST

I have been awake now for almost 24 hours with only about 3 hours of napping on the plane. We are currently on the Shinkansen bound for Okayama. Depending on the size of Okayama, I might regret going to Hiroshima and coming back the following morning.

The arrival on the AA flight was not too bad. A smooth landing was a nice ending to a rough decent. Customers was by-in-large much easier than I thought it was going to be. I was expecting lines a mile long that moved very slowly. However, customs was broken into 2 parts. The first is the form. The second (which was after you obtain your luggage) was another individual whom checks the passport & asks the question “What is the purpose of your visit?” All said, we were off the plane and through customs in about 20 minutes. Then the fun really began.

At this point I’m about 2 for 4 in having a successful conversation in Japanese. The first attempt was when I needed to exchange currency. I tried asking the currency individual for $1000USD to be changed to Japanese yen in what could be described as chicken-scratch Japanese. I managed to get $1000 in travelers cheques converted to JPY and we thanked the attendant for his patience.

The second failed attempt was when I was changing the JR pass exchange order for the actual JR pass. The cute girl asked me where we were going, and I was able to get out today’s and tomorrow’s destinations. Past that, I locked up. We were speaking Japanese back and forth to where I was lost. We eventually got our reservations made & our JR passes issued. It wasn’t a hassle, but scary nonetheless.

My first successful attempt was when I talked to an officer downstairs next to the Narita Express. I was concerned because the doors had shut & the PA system announced the train would be leaving soon. The nice elderly gentleman informed me to wait with a kind smile. My second successful attempt was aboard the Narita Express when I needed to order a drink & buy an international calling card. I was able to order everything, but somehow also got a coke (ie: Coca Cola), which I didn’t order.

My conclusions are that I need to be more strong-willed about my conversations and not give up. As the saying goes, ganbattane. Hopefully having this type of attitude (and trying to get into the Japanese mindset) will help me converse better.

Once the Narita Express reached the Tokyo Station, we got our first glimpse of what Tokyo traffic (people-wise) is like. If you will imagine Grand Central Station in New York on steroids, you’ll only half-way describe Tokyo station. It was so loud and so crowded I couldn’t even think. I don’t know how I was able to get us to the right train rail stop, but I did. Train #383 on line 18. Plenty of stops on the way to Okayama. :-)

Instant Update: I’m 3/5 now. I just ordered an Orange Juice. When I asked the lovely woman (in what I thought was perfect Japanese) she put on a big smile and promptly rang me up. Hyakugojyuuendesu was her reply. I turned to Nissa asking her for change and handed her the 150 yen she requested. She thanked me, and I her, and it was complete. 3/5.

BTW, it was about 16:00 Tokyo time when I got on the Narita Express and it was fairly dark already. However, one thing contributing to this was the fact that it was not partly cloudy as our captain had said: it was total overcast with lotsa rain. Thus, the train ride has involved us looking out to observe only the lit areas and signs. Some areas there is nothing to see, while other areas it’s a bonanza of lights & advertisements.

So far, I’ve seen locations & ads for:

  • 711
  • Circle K
  • Red Lobster
  • Shell
  • McDonald's
  • Century 21
  • Toyota
  • Honda
  • Mitsubishi
  • Kyocera
  • Minolta

Well, Melissa and I are exhausted, and we have a long way to go (another 4 hours) before we are done with our travels (for today). I am going to try to do something entertaining until we reach Higashi-hiroshima.