My first home base in Japan is my friend Chas’s apartment in Ota, a city north of Tokyo. While I was still in Detroit waiting for my plane, he was furiously typing me instructions for me to get to his city. It was disconcerting when he told me about my choice of either making three train transfers or making a bus reservation, being careful of course to ask for the right Ota (Gunma Prefecture) since there are several where I could accidentally end up in. While the flight itself was long (13 hours), I had a good time eating (the mid-flight snack of flatbread pizza and an ice cream bar was my favorite), sleeping, and watching TV. It wasn’t tough going through immigration or customs but I was anxious because I told Chas I’d let him know when I landed so that he could meet me at a transfer station. Fortunately, I was able to buy both a SIM card and a bus ticket. My favorite part of the three hour ride was seeing that the gym “Curves” had a location here.
I was pleased to see my friend waiting for me at the bus stop. This excitement was helped by the opportunity to finally get a shower after 28 hours of traveling. After I settled in, we walked to the nearby ramen shop to enjoy choshumasen (salty yet buttery ramen), gyoza (dumplings), and Suntory highballs. While the government makes sure that airport workers speak English, it sure felt like an accomplishment to make it there in one piece.