So much time, so little to do

Posted in Japan, Life at 7:25 am by Acorns

I would have written here sooner but today was packed; the times which I had free I didn’t have internet access or the will to sit and write. It has been very busy, but in a calm and organized manner. Registration, housing, etc at UNI seemed hectic. Here, it seems much less so.

There is far too much to write about! I will have to make 4 or 5 posts just to cover today, and the new experiences won’t stop anytime soon! The post I can make tonight I mostly wrote on the final leg of my flight. Pictures are being uploaded now, and should start appearing within 12 hours as I have time to link them in.

The night before the trip we went over to my father’s apartment in Waterloo. He is renting it from the college because he and my sister are constantly in Waterloo and always need a place to stay there. For beds they have blow up air mattresses, which I have spent a lot of time on but still find uncomfortable. Between the sleeping arrangements I wasn’t used to and the excitement of setting out the next day I was only able to sleep for about an hour and a half. Not good when your next day will be a 22+ hour one! (27 hours, as it turned out)

We left the house at about 5:30 CST and arrived at the airport shortly after that. We were one of the first few people to arrive for the only flight going out that morning. One of my luggage pieces was held back for a hand check, but they were quick and we were on the plane in plenty of time. With two rows on each side it was rather small, but the flight only lasted a little over and hour. The flight attendant didn’t even have time to serve everyone drinks.

Since the plane was a small one we had to check one of our carry on pieces of luggage; this would have been fine, but apparently my piece got loaded with the normal checked luggage. When we arrived in Minneapolis the bag was no where to be found. First they looked over the plane, then sent me down to baggage claim to retrieve the bag. After spending an hour there, I had to leave and hurry to make the next flight. They said that they would forward the luggage if they found it with the rest of my checked items. I’m writing this while on the last plane, so I don’t know yet if I will ever see it again. (Note: It didn’t arrive, of course. The person at the baggage counter barely spoke English, and I had to meet up with the Kansai Gaidai people so I didn’t make a claim at the airport. This probably means the bag is lost to me for good.)

Fortunately (I think) the second plane was delayed by almost an hour. The odd thing was that it was in the NWA computers as delayed but never showed up as delayed on the screens. At 10:45 it was still showing ‘On Time Departing 10:10’. After finally boarding we took off quickly. With two seats on one side and three on the other this plane was quite a bit larger, and had multiple sections. For the first two flights I didn’t even have time to take out my laptop, just read a bit of a book on a PDA. After landing I was only a short walk from my next gate, so I took the extra time (of which there was plenty, even with the delay) to buy a set of cheap headphones and grab something to eat. The best deal was McDonnalds, which was serving food for their normal prices. I hadn’t eaten in several hours so I bought a large lunch; this turned out to be a mistake as the final flight would serve a good sized meal shortly after boarding.

The final flight from Detroit to KIX was on a 747-400, which dwarfed the other planes. I think it is amazing the amount of fuel this plane must consume, and more than that how much it must be able to carry to fly 13 hours nonstop. Unlike the other two planes this one had armrests for each person, although the seats were still quite cramped. I can’t complain about the food though, they served plenty of it! With five hours and 30 minutes left in the flight currently it is starting to get a little long. I was able to doze off for a while, but can never really sleep while in a plane/car. After arriving I still have a two hour ride to Hirakata city.

The rest of the flight was mostly uneventful. They had us close the plane windows so people could sleep, and put some movies on the front screen. I disliked this; before the movies the screen was displaying various info about the plane, including altitude, distance traveled, distance to go, etc. It also showed a map with the location of the plane, the route flown, and the planned route.

I can never sleep on planes, and this flight was no exception; I do not, however, have any problems sitting for 13 hours. Must because I sit at the computer so much. Instead of sleeping or watching NWA’s crappy movies I watched the movies I had brought with me on my PDA and laptop. I also re-read ‘The Deathly Hallows’, and worked some on one of my websites.

I was wide awake and alert when we arrived at Osaka. The city is different from any I have seen from the air before; I think I will save this discussion for a later post though. After disembarking (the pilot kindly thanked us for flying with NWA; from his tone I don’t think he enjoyed 13 hour flights any more than the rest of us) we followed a series of signs and boarded a monorail which took us to the main terminal. The airport serves a lot of traffic, but is very compact building wise. The buildings are also spread quite widely apart. The first step was to pass through the foreigners line, showing passports and some little slips we had filled out while on the airplane. This went quickly, and we proceeded to the baggage claim area. Osaka airport provides carts to carry baggage, but I chose not to use one (for which I would later be glad). People crowded around the baggage pickup, although everyone was good about standing behind the red line. I missed my bags the first time they went around, due to not being able to get near enough to the conveyor. I retrieved them the second time with no problems, only one had been opened and inspected (the one with almost nothing in it, at that). Unfortunately, my previously lost bag never came around. I tried to inquire about it at the baggage desk, but the person there spoke very little English. It was probably a mistake to not stay and try to file a claim; there is a lot in that bag I will miss!

After retrieving the baggage I could I proceeded to customs. There were huge banners stating that “intense” inspections would be made to help prevent terrorism. Unfortunately I was not allowed to take pictures in this area of the airport. Fully expecting a 20 minute wait and an extended search, I went to the customs line and took out my PDA to stand there and read. Much to my surprise, it was my turn within 2 minutes. The person behind the counter took my slip, read it briefly, looked at my passport and stamped the slip. He then waved me through without so much as a glance at my luggage. If only everything was this easy!

After going through customs I was immediately met by someone holding a “Kansai Gaidai Students” sign. It was a great relief that they were there, and I was in the right spot! We stood around for a few moments, and then proceeded out to the bus. I was glad I had not used a baggage cart as everyone who did had to stop, unload, and then carry their baggage normally anyway. The bus was air conditioned, had comfortable seats, and best of all had people who we knew were exchange students (I had met several I suspected were on the plane; but very little was said while flying. The Japanese passengers seemed to prefer complete quiet, and none of us wanted to break the silence). Another interesting thing on the bus was the seatbelts, which rolled up into little cylindrical containers when not in use. The 2 hour ride was quite exciting, my first true look at Japan. All the roads are brightly lit! Like so many other things that are actually done here, lit roads are something I have wanted in America for a long time. When we finally arrived we first went to seminar house 4 (which is separated from the rest of the houses) and then walked for roughly 10 minutes to the other houses (which are all grouped together). The neighborhood is amazing; I will describe it in my next post, or the one after that.

Check in was short; sign here, take a key, and go. We were led to our individual houses, shown where to put our shoes, given the floor number of our rooms and then bade goodnight. Not quite what I was expecting, but I appreciate it a lot. I found my room with no problems, unpacked a little, took a shower, attempted to connect to a few wireless access points (none of the ones I could would serve me pages, for reasons I would learn the next day) and then went to bed. Unlike everyone had warned me, I slept fine. Either I was not affected by the “jet lag”, or it hasn’t kicked in yet. I’m perfectly used to keeping insane schedules though, and adapted to the one I am on now easily. The apartment is…. huge, and I will post about it next.

There is a lot I meant to write up to this point which I have forgotten, I may remember some later but tonight I must get to bed.


  1. SigmaJargon said,

    August 30, 2007 at 5:24 pm

    Sounds like you got through more-or-less intact. I’m glad to hear that you’re getting settled!

    Kansai Gaidai, though, hm? I didn’t ask you before what university you were headed to (I thought it might’ve been too nosy x3) but I’m somehow not surprised. I looked at Kansai Gaidai back when I thought I might be able to study abroad before I graduate, and though the place really looked wonderful I dismissed it because their curriculum seems entirely focused an Asian Studies. That’s great, but not in my direct line of interest, so I looked elsewhere. Point is they seem to crop up whenever Japan and study abroad are mentioned.

    Be sure to go out and see some of the sights! I’m probably not going to ever make it to Japan in any reasonable time-frame, but I can enjoy it vicariously through you, neh? 😀

  2. Acorns said,

    August 31, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    Kansai is indeed completely focused on Asian Studies. However if one is coming here to learn Japanese they are the best! I wish they offered a few other courses though; maybe a math or comp sci one!

    I’m the only Computer Science major here :/

    It was also a good choice for me because my University offered an excellent program for attending Kansai.

    You can make it to Japan! It is not extremely expensive; apply for scholarships, work with your ‘Study Abroad’ or equivalent department! Its really to bad you couldn’t have come over this semester, it would have rocked to have another computery person here!

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