My Trip to Japan – 2015

Ok, so this blog is way overdue!  I am writing this blog on the 4th of March and it is going to be sorely lacking in creativity! But here goes…

I embarked on a trip to Japan after winning a $1500 travel voucher from Marlin Travel Alliston, at the Nottawasaga Fundraiser Golf Tournament.  After ten years of playing in this tournament, I suppose it was high time that I win the top prize.  Needless to say, I was ecstatic.

Two years later my brother applies for and lands a job as an English teacher in Japan, through the JET program.  He takes his leave of Canada and my friend Melanie promptly encourages me to visit him.  My first thought was: There is no way I can afford that!  She gently reminded me that I had the gift certificate and that if I booked in late 2014, I could fly to Japan with no money out of pocket.

Naturally, I contacted Melissa at Marlin and found that I could indeed use my certificate and that it would cover the cost of the flight and trip insurance.  The only thing left was to convince my family that it was a good idea…

I approached my husband and mentioned that it would mean a lot to me, and he supported (perhaps reluctantly, since I think he had plans for us to travel together on that $1500).  He was gracious about it, that is all that matters.  So I completed my notice of intent to travel with my employer and submitted a leave pass.  Once they were approved, I confirmed with Melissa and booked the flight.

I was originally supposed to have my nephew join me, but his passport was not ready, so my trip was to be a solo one.

My brother prepared an excellent itinerary for me and gave me tips and tricks via email and his blog regarding what to expect and how to navigate the extensive transportation system in Japan!  Shout out for his blog  “Mr.W Jetting in Japan”.

My goal is to present this blog in a day-to-day format…so please look forward to the next blog which will (if I can figure out how to do it), include pictures 🙂

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Day one – Japan Trip 2015

Thursday Feb 12/Friday Feb 13

Andrew and I left the house a little later than we should have and hit the Toronto commuter traffic at the most inopportune time! Andrew had a little bit of a panic, as my flight was an international one and Air Canada likes to have your baggage checked 90 min before a flight.  Thankfully, because it was a connecting flight, I could get away with the 1 hour cut-off.  So we made it to the airport just in the nick of time.  Thanks to my the GPS on my phone, I was not stressing, as it was telling me we would be on time…

So I kissed and hugged my dear husband good bye, and toted my baggage to the Air Canada counter.  I had done an online check-in on the way in the car, so it was pretty seamless once I was at the kiosk, printed my boarding pass, checked my luggage and proceeded to the gate with plenty of time to spare.

I boarded the aircraft and found my window seat and settled in for the flight to Vancouver.  Like a true tourist, I took pictures along the way, starting with the view from my seat…

Ah the wing seat.
Ah the wing seat.
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the computer map, showing the trip from Toronto to Vancouver

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Because this trip was only 5 ish hours, they did not serve a meal, and I was starving, so I got the sushi platter on the way to Vancouver.  Yummy. I also enjoyed watching “The fault in our stars” movie.  Wow what a tear-jerker!  I also watched the movie “Chef”.  That one was really good!

At some point during the trip I decided to look out the window and we were flying over the mountains, and because I am curious and wanted to know which mountains, I pulled up the map screen and found that we were flying over the Purcell Mountains.  Beautiful views!  What a beautiful country we live in and how amazing that I got to see it from this altitude!12 Feb Thursday 256

Smooth and somewhat comfortable flight…arrived in Vancouver and it was raining, but a balmy 10 degrees (Celsius).

Arriving in Vancouver approx 12:30pm local, 3:30pm EST
Arriving in Vancouver approx 12:30pm local, 3:30pm EST
Beautiful British Columbia
Beautiful British Columbia

Having never been on a connecting, international flight, I inquired with an airport employee about whether or not I needed to grab my baggage for my connecting flight and she said yes and proceeded to instruct me where to go.  I headed to the carousel and waited a good 30 min until all the luggage had gone around, then asked at the kiosk and they told me that for connecting flights within Canada I didn’t need to pick up my baggage, that it would already be on the connecting flight…grrrr….

the view waiting for my luggage (which was already on the next aircraft)
the view waiting for my luggage (which was already on the next aircraft)

So I go to another airport member and get directions for where to catch my connecting flight and they direct me.

Phew…I was a lucky girl…the other fellow that had been standing with me at the carousel watching baggage go around, found out he had missed his flight to Calgary. They kindly booked him another flight, but a little explanation at the baggage check in Toronto would have saved both of us a lot of grief.  Bah, customer service is not up to par, if you ask me…

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Map of the entire flight.

Finally on the flight to Narita! Japan bound!

So this aircraft was twice the size of the first one…or at least it felt like it…but at least on this flight I was going to be fed and be able to sleep? Kind of…ate yummy food, but the sleep wasn’t the greatest…not as many movies this trip…”Theory of Everything” and part of “the Judge”…fell asleep (kind of), decided I could watch the rest on the way home.

The view from my seat.
The view from my seat.
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The length of my flight.
MMmm food...
MMmm food…
Crossing the international date line...and moving into the future! Friday now!
Crossing the international date line…and moving into the future! Friday now!

It was disappointing that the pilot didn’t mention when we were crossing the international date line, I had to keep checking my map screen to see…but when I figured it out, I celebrated with a picture of the dark…

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Almost there…
Arriving in Japan
Arriving in Japan
Landing at Narita Airport (check out the gardening!)
Landing at Narita Airport (check out the gardening, it spells out Narita)

I had been diligently reviewing the itinerary that Rodger sent me, as it contained instructions on how to find transportation to his current town of Iwaki.  So when the flight landed I was better prepared to go through customs and just find me a train! oh and my baggage too.  The airport was beautiful, but I didn’t have much time to look around as I was time pressed and had to catch my train.

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Everything went smoothly.  I found the ticket booth for the trains, got my ticket and proceeded as per detailed instructions from Rodger, and I was finally on my train to Ueno station.

Ticket from Narita Airport to Ueno station on the Keisei Skyliner.
Ticket from Narita Airport to Ueno station on the Keisei Skyliner, with Rodger’s detailed itinerary and instructions in the background.  The price in Yen is on the ticket as well…and since it is about .01 Canadian dollars, I paid about $12.30 for the train and $12.40 for the seat reservation…because you can’t get on the train without a reserved seat.
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Window seat!
A little late night snack.
rice crackers to tide me over…
This was just the map for the airport trains! But see how they are colour coded! Beautiful - it all made sense.
This was the map for the trains from the airport! But see how they are colour coded! Beautiful – it all made sense.
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close up of above map, I wanted to make sure I knew which stop was before Ueno so I would know when to get off
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thank goodness things were in English as well as Japanese

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Rodger had warned me that it would be extremely busy at Ueno station.  It was like Union station on drugs! Crazy! The transportation system in Japan is immense! But his instructions were fabulous and enabled me to find my way through the craziness to another ticket booth to get my train ticket to Iwaki station.  I had some pictures of the craziness at Ueno, but they were too blurry to include here.  But I made it safely to Iwaki and was elated to see my brother when I had reached the top of the stairs and turned the corner!  Yeah!  I made it!  Your directions were fantastic and easy to follow! You rock!

So after hugs and some introductions to a sensei that Rodger knew, that happened to be at the station at the same time…we grabbed a taxi.  Ok so the taxis are so clean and the driver can open the door from the driver seat by pressing a button…way cool, and the trunk…I know this seems like I am crazy but you have to remember I was exhausted and this was all fresh and crazy and new!  Beautiful cab… 🙂

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Rodger, being silly, ah, but notice in the background, bands! you go bro! This is a skewed view of his living room and we are seated at a kotatsu (small table about a foot and a half off the floor, with a built-in heater and blankie…so cozy…and bamboo floor matting under our tooshies

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When we neared Rodger’s apartment, he asked the driver to stop at the 7/11.  We picked up some snacks and then walked the 200 meters to his apartment. Four flights of stairs later…lol…We arrived and settled in for the night with some umeshu and some roasted chicken Pringles.

Being the excellent brother that he is Rodger also bought me a Joko Bus Card, this was so that I could get around Iwaki without the hassle of having to find change for the bus.  You thought of everything! So I now have to go to bed…just like I did that night.  I will try to blog more tomorrow so I don’t forget too much…this was day one/two…for me…but the official day two is in the next post!

Joko Bus Card, this is the one I got to keep, as he had bought a brand new one, I just kept the old one when it expired :)
Joko Bus Card, this is the one I got to keep, as he had bought a brand new one, I just kept the old one when it expired 🙂
He also played some guitar for me.
He also played some guitar for me. Nighty night, sleep tight.

The youngest child…Daily rant Aug 12, rather monthly if you look at my last post…

Ok so granted, I do not know what it is like to be the youngest child in the family, but I need to understand the position!!!!
My little man is so discouraged. Everything he endeavours to learn is overshadowed by my older son’s ability to do everything…’better’ (according to youngest). So what to do? I have tried to encourage him…but he is right…fortunately or unfortunately, when DS2 learns something, his older sibling, DS1 masters it almost immediately…Guitar, drums, piano, hockey… my dilemma in trying to console little DS2 is that he is better at other things, namely art, collecting, math, writing, organizing, cleaning… to which he replies, “those aren’t cool things”. What do I do??? I tell him, keep practicing, one day you will be much better at these things if you keep practicing…but that does not allay his disappointment and disgruntled attitude…any suggestions??? anyone???

Daily rant July 11.

Ok so, not always necessarily going to be a rant 🙂

First day, new blog…hmmmm what to write about?!?

By the way, If this is a blog that you just happened upon and you don’t know me personally, this is going to make for boring reading 😉 heck, even if you do know me it might (probably will), but that is what you get for effectively reading someone else’s thoughts 😉

Well, my son David is a good start. He is at camp. LITE (leadership in training education) to be exact. He has been there for a week and tomorrow he has a day off. He called and asked me to come visit him. He sounds so grown up. Who am I kidding? He is a little grown-up. Almost 14. I am really proud of him. More on our visit tomorrow.

David is one that has magical hugs that can melt away hurt and anger like butter on a hot cob of corn and a way about him that reminds me of my dad and my brother. He can smooth over a situation like nobody’s business and has this innate ability to help me right my wrongs.

I often worry that he takes on others’ emotions too heavily.

Highly active , immensely encouraging, and fiercely protective, David lives up to the meaning behind his names. David = beloved! William = desire to protect!, Mason = stone worker! (In my mind = hard worker).

Travis, my youngest son, is a wonderfully comical character! He has a way to make me smile everyday. His dimples, his funny voices, comical faces and expressions, and his sheer love of everything weird and awe inspiring making him a joy to be around.

His name Travis means “At the crossroads” Grafton, means “grove settlement”. And of course same last name.. He seems like a destination 🙂 but his name implies he will one day be very wealthy, of his own accord!

Andrew, my faithful husband, lives up to his name also. All man, all warrior!
His middle names Douglas meaning black water (very fitting, as you never know what is going on underneath his surface), and John meaning God is gracious (Amen!), couldn’t be more fitting! This man who has stood beside me through some pretty tough times (for both of us), has done some incredible things in his life. I am immensely grateful for the changes he has made and look forward to continuing to grow with him.

Dylan, my step-son, has a good heart. Over many years he has tried my patience (not one of my virtues), but brought me joy, by allowing me to mother him as only I knew how. It was sketchy for a few years and revealed my many imperfections. However, the hugs and kind words he offered, allowed me to forgive my inadequacies and have made me the mother I am today.

His name means great tide or flow, his middle name is Andrew (man/warrior). He certainly lives up to it.

So now we come to my name.
We shall leave that for tomorrow as well…..