Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Yokohama Trip Part 1

After spending 6 days either flying or riding around Japan, I am still playing catch up with everything at home which is a good thing because it has allowed me a better chance to digest the trip.

It started Monday Jan 21st with a drive to Seatac for my flight scheduled to take off just before noon.  I was still in the rental so I dropped it off at the Hertz Station and shuttled over to the United terminal. I was originally scheduled to be on a All Nippon Airlines  787 Dreamliner but the batteries (kinda figures ya know...) started acting up and the plane was grounded along with my chance to fly in a brand new plane.  The trip is not starting out so well. strike one

Nissan was nice enough to fly us business class allowing me to do the short lines thru check out, TSA screening and passport control which means I got to the airport 3 hours early since I never thought to adjust for my "elite" status.  strike two

Anyway, I get to my gate and notice that I cannot see a thing out the windows due to fog. I mentioned this to someone sitting next to me and she stated that her flight was originally scheduled to fly out Saturday but fog had grounded her forcing her to wait.  Luckily she was on a ski trip so her return was not very time sensitive.  Sure enough, as soon as she said that; my flight status flipped from "On Time" to "delayed" with take off changed from 1150 to 1430 and then later to 1550.  strike three

Well that last strike kinda filled me with relief since there were no strikes left to use for things like crashes and stuff, so naturally I did what everyone else does is commiserate my miseries on Facebook to which someone immediately replied "at least you can get food in the lounge for free"  to which I said "What??" this naturally ignited a brief flurry of FB exchanges and 15 minutes later I was sipping on a Coke and eating trail mix in the "United Sky Lounge" an area reserved for First and Business Class customers.  Life was getting better.

I finally got on the plane (a 777 so not too bad) and settled in for the 11½ hour flight. I quickly realized that the one movie of five that I had not already seen might not keep me busy for the entire flight, so decided sleep was the best course. The pilot did advise that he would be flying higher than scheduled and that would allow us to cut down on the flight time. I was originally scheduled to take off Monday morning at 11:50 AM and land at 4:15 PM Tuesday afternoon in Tokyo (crossing the international dateline really plays havoc on your Circadian Rhythm) which would have provided me enough time to bus it to Yokohama, check in, get settled a bit, take a shower and get dressed for the kickoff Dinner at 8 PM.  Well, the plane delay insured that that would not be as convenient as that.

Departing the plane in Tokyo, I was ushered and somewhat guided towards Immigration and realized that English is not as common in Japan as I had hoped. It;s funny how we complain about "Press one for English" but expect people to understand basic English in their own country, or maybe its just me...Either way, I vow to press one with a smile from now on.

But despite my trepidation, the process went smoothly and I was out front getting onto a bus within 15 minutes but it was already 7:30 and hopes of getting to the hotel were not very high. To top it off, the Airport is in the North end of Tokyo and  Yokohama is a Southern suburb... Figures.

The bus took me to Yokohama Air Station which is basically the transportation hub in town combining High speed rail, airport shuttles, buses and subways into a huge connection terminal, where I was met by a Nissan appointed rep.  From there we took a 10 minute taxi ride that took me essentially across the courtyard to the Hotel's front.  (the courtyard faces the Hotel's front. We pulled up to the "Yokohama Bay Sheraton Hotel and Towers".  I was checked in and in my hotel room in less time than it took to taxi the few hundred yards from the Yokohama Station.

I changed clothes and went down to dinner on the 8th floor walking in and seeing 10 hungry faces anticipating my late arrival. (Only about 45 minutes late...)

There I met Chelsea, (from "Who Killed the Electric Car" for the 3 people who dont know)  who organized the group; George from Virginia; Don from Georgia; Kathleen from LA; Darell from Northern CA (Davis near Sacramento) ; Fran from Florida; Jeffrey from the UK; and Mark from France.  (We were joined by Ruud from the Netherlands the next day)

After an introduction and a wonderful dinner, we bid goodnight and I retired to my room to organize a bit and go to bed. By then it was 1 AM local time and I was tired. I slept but could not sleep past 4 AM. Now the real meaning of jet lag was starting to set in.

(To be Continued)

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