first impressions

My experience at Narita airport was a pretty good example of Japanese bureaucracy at its best. First, you had to fill out a health questionnaire and submit it to a `health officer` who checks it out. He then gives you a card, which says that if you get sick anytime soon you should present it to any hospital and they will treat (quarantine) you. I didn`t really get it, but I didn`t think it would be a good idea to ask. Anyway, next of course was immigration.
It is known among people who frequently travel to Japan that the Japanese have *ehem* less than fair immigration procedures where certain foreigners are concerned, so I have to admit I was kind of worried I was going to have to go through THE screening process – they basically take you into a separate room and screen (interrogate) you. So, while I was waiting in line I scanned the immigration counters. There were two guys on the right who looked nice enough, welcoming even, and they finished their people quicker than the others. On the left was a serious looking old guy, didn`t want him. Finally I looked at the person in the middle and…forget the old guy, this lady was a Japanese version of Miss Trunchball, the godzilla of all immigration officers.
Of course with my crappy luck, no guesses as to who I got. Seriously, she looked like she was going to pull a whip out or something. Anyway she asked me a couple of questions and then told me that I had forgotten to write my flight number on my immigration card, “Please write it down”. For the life of me I couldn`t remember it, and I couldn`t find my boarding pass either. “Uhh..I forgot it”. Bad move. Something flashed in her eyes, and it didn`t look pretty. The screening room, the screening room…”How can you forget it?” Think dammit think. “Eeto sumimasen deshita, hontou ni obeimasen”. The language switch transformed her face into an almost smile. She told me to remember it next time, and then with a final admonishing look let me go through. Ooookay.
So I got my bags and went to the customs counter where the guy opened my bag. He kept saying “Thank you for cooperation” in a way that I suspected that was all the English he knew. Then the funniest thing happened when I tried to put my suitcase back on my trolley: one of the officers standing to the side gave a hell of a shout, came charging towards me, flung my suitcase onto the cart, gave me an impressive bow and ran back. Awesomeness.
When I finally reached the arrival lounge, I gave my suitcase to a baggage delivery company, because I just didn`t have the energy to drag it on and off a train. I took the Narita Express train which goes to Shinjuku and except for an embarrassing episode when I tried to pay with singaporean money it was pretty easy to get around. Plus, the people were very friendly and helpful; one old train attendant actually walked me down to my car and even showed me my seat.
Shinjuku station was really something: it was extremely crowded (it was 9.30 in the morning so I guess it was near the end of the rush hour – I shuddered to think of what it was like just an hour before). It also had all these brightly lit shops and kiosks and the walls were lined with vending machines. For those of you who don`t know, Shinjuku is located almost smack dab in the middle of Tokyo and is a major commercial powerhouse with loads of shops, department stores, restaurants, hotels etc, so its not surprising that it is home to one of Tokyo`s busiest stations.
From Shinjuku I took the Chou line to Mitaka-shi where my host mum lives.

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One response to “first impressions

  1. Dea Chris (or Ezz?)!
    Greetings again!
    I couldn’t help smiling!
    Welcome!
    Cheers,
    Robert-Gilles

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