International travel

It’s the “he” part of the blog team, and today I’m writing about international travel from Japan.

As often as possible, my wife joins me on international trips. On this trip to Mumbai, India, that wasn’t possible so I’m going solo.

I’ve learned that just about any trip from Japan is a long one – with the exception of  places like South Korea and China. My trip to Mumbai is about 10 hours. Trips to Europe and the US are at least as long, crossing multiple time zones.

Today, I started by walking from our apartment to Tamachi Station, then taking the subway to Shinagawa Station to catch the NEX – the Narita Express to Narita Airport. The NEX is a fast, comfortable, high-speed train. Nice comfortable seating, space for luggage. At 3900 yen, it’s more expensive than the subway – but it is a great way to go to Narita.


Except today, my train didn’t arrive.

For some reason, the 8:19 train I was scheduled for didn’t come. There were a number of announcements over the PA system, but all in Japanese and too much, too fast for me to recognize. So, ticket in hand, I went to the JR Rail office to see what had happened. Unfortunately, the staff there spoke little English – I got the idea that the train I was supposed to be on was cancelled, and it was possible for me to take a different train to another station, then transfer. But ultimately, I asked for rescheduling on the next NEX, which was to come at 8:49.

After some discussion, I was sent to another JR Railways ticket office to exchange my ticket. After waiting in line a few minutes, I found myself at the ticket window with a very friendly ticket agent. Between his marginal English and my little Japanese, I was able to get reassigned to the next NEX train. And, fortunately, this train arrived as scheduled.

However, things don’t always go as planned. It seems the seat I had been reassigned was already occupied. What to do? I decided rather than try to get my assigned seat, I would just take another seat that was empty across the aisle. Fortunately, that worked – on the next stop, several people got on the NEX, but none were assigned my adopted seat. I was safe for the remainder of the trip to Narita.

Once at Narita, check-in was smooth and easy. There was no line at the ANA ticket counter, and the friendly ticket agent checked me in and took my bag. She spoke a little English, and I did my best in Japanese. I was checked in, an on my way in just a few minutes.

suitcaseNarita is always a pleasure to go through. Security was smooth and efficient, and it took only a few minutes to go through Immigration. The Immigration person was very friendly, and I even recognized her question in Japanese about when I would return to Japan. Ju-hatchi. And with that, I was on my way to the gate.

The rest, as they say, is history. At the gate, they called my name to come to the ticket counter and verify my Indian visa. No problem there, and soon it was time to board. ANA – like other Japanese airlines – has a smooth and efficient boarding process. It’s so easy here. Hard to understand why boarding can sometimes be such an ordeal on US airlines.

ANA at airportMy trip to India is still ahead of me. India is a fascinating place, and this will be my third experience there. This time, I will go outside of Mumbai for the first time. I’m sure it will be an interesting trip.

Overall, I have found that travel from Japan is invariably long, and the trips are often tiring. But the Japanese do their best to make travel efficient and pleasant. From the friendly ticket agents at the check-in area, to the immigration officers, to the flight attendants, the Japanese are consistently efficient and friendly, and try to make travel as painless as possible. I greatly appreciate their efforts.

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My husband and I were both born and raised in Kansas, but for the past 20+ years we have been living in Atlanta, Georgia. Now, with our children grown and out of the house, we have the opportunity to spend two years living in Tokyo. My husband will be working with the Japanese counterpart to his American company. UPDATE 2023... After 4-1/2 years in Tokyo, we returned to Atlanta. Now we are heading to London for a three year job assignment!

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