I’m sitting at gate 62 in Terminal 2 at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. I was in the UK and needed to be in Melbourne so I decided to continue on around the globe. One of the stopovers was here in Tokyo.
Though thoroughly modern, the culture is quite different than that we find in the US, or other English Speaking Countries. The advertisements seem to be posters, filled with Kongi — the Japanese writtten language, of course. The walls are covered with signs which are full side to side, top to bottom, with words. When you see English translations under the Japanese characters, they seem to take half the space. I spent 3 years here in Japan nearly 40 years ago. Perhaps time has dimmed my memory.
This place bustles — there are just about as many people as there are square feet of space. They are polite — the aged (that seems to include me) go first. They say excuse me, and there is a lot of bowing going on. Nice and helpful folks, these Japanese.
I did have a problem with the Japanese Keyboard on the computer in the internet cafe, provided free by Yahoo. It took a while and then I began to understand how it works. I think the Japanese type in a word that is "close" to the word they want and then they are given a bunch of "near" choices.They can then select the choice that is closest to what they want. It does the same thing when you are typing in English. Took me a while to figure it out but it works fine once you are used to it. (I’m paying a fee and using my laptop now — I tied my fingers in knots on the one supplied.)
Tokyo is a stopover on long haul fights (LA – Singapore — London Sydney, etc). So a lot of people at stuck in the airport for 10 hours or so. They have little, closet sized, rooms that you can rent by the hour (wipe that silly grin off your faces) There is a bed (one person only) a shower and a hangar. Its great. I got six hours for $38 and had a nice nap, took a shower, put on clean clothes. What more could you want? Of course this is a "smaller" country than we Westerners are used to. The Bath was three feet deep and three feet square and for the first time in my life, I was looking over the top of the bathroom mirror while shaving. All in all, though, it was a grand experience.
I normally fly steerage — I can’t see spending all that money to get somewhere at the same time as everybody else. However, this trip, I splurged, and used some of my frequent flyer miles to upgrade to First Class. I was in seat !A. It was terriffic and those of you who are fortunate enough to be in first (not Business, but first) know what I mean. Since this was my initial indoctrination to the upper classes, I made a tactical error.
First of all, there were a lot of gifts. I just put them aside for later — however that was a mistake., It seems that one of them was a pair of pajamas. The restroom was large enough to change in, and since the seats made up into beds (complete with douvet and mattess) it only made sense to change. However I didn’t know what to do until in the morning when I noticed I was surrounded by a bunch of people in their jammies. There was a closet to hang up your clothes, and everything.
The food was good, the service excellent. The purser came over and introduced herself and chatted for about five minutes. I got the feeling that was most of her job. Keeping the folks who paid 10 times what those in the back paid happy. The First Class lounges at the airports serve food, have showers, are reminiscent of the Victorian Clubs where someone is always at your elbow, ensuring everything is perfect. That carried on to the plane. Too bad I slept through most of the great service.
Back to steerage and Air New Zealand on the trip home. First time on that airline. Looking forward to it.