The first leg of our trip to Japan was a quick flight to Chicago and an overnight stay at the O’Hare Hilton. Once we checked in and dumped our luggage, we decided to take the airport tram to Terminal 5 to scope out our point of departure for the morning. This seemed like a good idea but turned out to be a mistake. For some odd reason, All Nippon Airways departs from Terminal 1 and lands in Terminal 5 (international). So when we went looking in Terminal 5 there was no departure desk for ANA. Okay, back on the train to Terminal 1. ANA shares a departure desk with Lufthansa. We asked the nice lady there to look up our flight and she was able to tell us that it did show as leaving from terminal 5. All of that killed about an hour.
After the worst night’s sleep in a long time, we were up at 5:30 and back at Terminal 5 by 6:55 for our 9:45 AM departure. Now of course, there were signs indicating where to check-in for our charter flight. One team had arrived ahead of us. The Target team came in right behind. Most of the people had flown in from Indianapolis that morning. Considering the lousy sleep we had at the hotel, it would have been nice to have that option.
It was an interesting flight. There was a group of people that stood in the back and drank beer for most of the flight. The Target crew member that sat at the window next to me did not get up once during the entire 12 1/2 hour flight. His butt must be made of steel. I was up 4 times and felt like I should have done it more often. Zero sleep of course. I did get through 2 books and ran out of reading material about an hour before the flight ended. I took the Japanese Bento Box option for dinner, which turned out to be a huge mistake. It was the worst airline meal I’ve ever had, loaded with sodium. Mostly I just ate the rice and noodles. Since the food was so bad, we went through 14 fun size candy bars during the flight. I felt a little nauseated from all the sugar.
Landing in Narita is a little like getting booked into prison. You need to have your index fingers printed and a photo taken. Prison mug shots are more flattering. Plus I got slapped for trying to stay with Tim while we went through this process. After going through customs and collecting our luggage, we were loaded on a bus for the drive to Utsunomiya. Another 2 1/2 hours in an ass-numbing seat. We were treated to some beautiful scenery along the way, including the sight of white cranes feeding in the rice fields.
After we checked in to the hotel, we went out in the rain to try and find some food. We heard there was a McDonald’s nearby but were unsuccessful in locating it. We finally settled for buying some yogurt and water at a small grocery store in the lower level of a mall. By the time we got back to the hotel, we were soaked, exhausted and not really hungry. I was sound asleep by 7 PM.
Welcome to Japan.