Aircraft Spotting in Japan - Narita
Day 0, Munich, 29/10
After a long preparation the day has finally come - we are going to Japan!
I pick up Florian and we are driving to the airport to meet Patrick there who will arrive from Cologne and fly with us to Tokyo from Munich.
At the check-in we get some strange views because of our luggage which includes some stepladders. These were properly cut to a length of 119cm, as 120cm is the limit where bulky luggage begins ;) But we had no problems either with our ladders or with the heavy photo bags as hand luggage. Thank you, Lufthansa!
However, we would not have planned everything exactly on the minute to get shocked at the last second: while checking in our bags the nice lady at the counter says that there is a message for us on her computer: Patrick was not able to fly to Munich because of fog in Cologne, so he would take a later flight from Frankfurt and arrive at Tokyo 4 hours after us. All right, bad luck, the first visit to Hyakuri can already be cancelled…
A bit depressed we boarded Lufthansa flight LH714 and took-off at around 15h30. The flight onboard the A340 was fine, and already for dinner we had Sushi and could try to eat with sticks. Welcome to Japan (Yokoso Japan)!!! After a nice drink I had a long sleep while Florian was watching some strange movies (e.g. The Beetle Herbie) and got fascinated by the Japanese woman sitting opposite on the aisle with her mouth mask and playing a computer game non-stop during the 11h flight. What a preparation for the next 17 days...
Day 1, Tokyo - Narita Airport, 30/10
At 09h49 we landed on rwy 34R, finally got out of the aircraft, passed the immigration formalities and saw even more people wearing these masks (we should get used to it during the next days…). That took some time, but due to that we did not have to wait long at the baggage claim for our bags and our two ladders which arrived immaculate. After another short stop at the customs (due to our ladders *no comment on that*) we finally entered Japan.
Our first task was to get the rental car. Looking for a Hertz counter we have been quite surprised as we finally discovered the rental car counter for the whole Tokyo International airport: about 3 meter wide and with 3 nice ladies behind the desk. Conversation was not very easy but after no more than 10 minutes we had arranged everything and one of the ladies accompanied us to the car and checked everything. What an excellent service! At first we have not been that sure about our Toyota Isis Minivan which should be our trusty companion for the next three weeks, but it offered just enough space for all of our luggage (including Patrick's, who was still in the air at that time) and, fortunately, had a navigation system. Even if it was in Japanese, we at least had one and knew where we are. Next we had to find the Shobunsha Road Atlas for Japan, which had been recommend to us. So we took the shuttle bus to the other terminal and even before entering the described shop I already saw the map from outside. So far everything was perfect, despite the small delays the mood improved a lot, as not everything was sooo strange as we still thought some hours ago. Time for some spotting!
The weather was far from being perfect but we had to pass the time until 15h, that's why we decided to go on the observation deck on Terminal 1. During the two hours waiting and photographing there we already got controlled by the security twice. But please do not ask me what they might have thought from the two Europeans who just got out of the plane after 11h and spend their time spotting on the deck while it was cold and nearly raining…
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After several 747s Patrick finally arrived, we packed him in the car and tried to make our way to Sendai, where we had already pre-booked a Youth hostel for the first night.
The way from Narita to the Joban expressway was a mess and confirmed the warnings from others that on country roads, even if they are well build, an average of more than 50km/h is not possible. I don't know why, but I had the impressions that the Japanese were keen to put a traffic light at every single crossing on the way… Driving on the expressway was OK however, even if the (official) speed limit there is 80 (eighty!) km/h. On the expressway we also had our first encounter with the 'Japanese cuisine' and one of the many food ticket distributors.
As we did not know how everything works we took the cook without further ado out of the kitchen and showed him what we wanted to eat. He looked quite irritated, did not understand us but managed to show us how to choose our food: choose your plate, go to the ticket machine, pay, choose the appropriate photo, get your ticket and give it to him. The food was ready soon and we needed to get used to our first soup in Japan, but at least we had some warm food that we would need for the rest of the drive.
Even that we had the GPS-coordinates of the youth hostel at Sendai it took us a really long tome to find the small house in the middle of the city. We nearly managed to approach it via the GPS but unfortunately we came out on the wrong side of a rail track or in some narrow lanes. When we finally arrived, we took a hot Japanese bath and layed down on the rice mat for a short sleep.
The adventure began!!