LAX – NRT Redux

LAX-NRT – Redux

Back at LAX for what I hoped would be the last time until my return. I once again took my seat on the Dreamliner. Take off was again smooth and quiet but all of us anxiously waited for the familiar sound of the landing gear retracting. When we finally heard that, people started applauding, knowing that there would be no more circling around Catalina Island.

The flight was relatively smooth except for the decent into a rainstorm at the airport. By the point, I just wanted to get the eff of the plane so it didn’t really phase me that much. Despite it being a large international long haul plane, the exit was at the far front, causing a major traffic jam for people trying to deboard. I was able to push my way through and made a bee line for customs. I picked up the pace even more when I was another large mass moving toward the customs area and secured my place in line before it started really getting bad.

A short 30 mins later I headed to the JR East Center to get my 7 day Japan Rail Green pass. The line was slow-moving due to a lot of people asking questions but I had come prepared with my exact route I wanted and was out of there fairly quickly. I had yet to get any yen but had read there was a Citibank ATM I could use, but of course it was broken. I decided I would just deal with it when I got to Osaka and made my way to the Narita Express to get to Shinagawa Station, which a local had told me was the best route to get the bullet train to Osaka as you don’t have to go downstairs.

I went to my assigned car and waited in line for cleaning crew to finish. The first thing I noticed that almost made me cry was the sheer amount of leg room the green car had. Best decision ever getting the green pass. The car was also almost completely empty whereas as the regular cars were jammed. The winds that had made my landing a bit more memorable than it should have also played havoc with the train. There was a notice that one line was stalled due to wind but thankfully my train was just a bit more bumpy.

I transferred at Shinagawa to the Shinkasen bullet train, once again a green car and once again fairly empty. Surprisingly though, there was actually a bit less leg room than the Narita Express due to a foot rest. The seat reclined so that made it there still be a fair amount of room. As the bullet train reached its top speed of 100 kilometers, it didn’t seem to be the smooth ride I was hoping to experience. The fast speed made any gradations on the tracks way more pronounced and when a fellow train zoomed by, the whole car jolted to one side. The combination of these things made my much needed nap short lived.

With 90 minutes to go to Osaka still, I had reached my usual long travel breaking point of 15 hours. This was exacerbated by the fact that I didn’t have water or any kind of liquid as I had no yen yet. I tried as much as possible to push that out of my mind and reach a zen like state. I zoned in on the sing songy voice of the women pushing the carts of food and drink I couldn’t partake in yet as well as the whooshing sounds of the passing bullet trains. Soon, I was finally at Osaka Station and pushed my way through the throngs of people to grab a taxi.

I had read in advance that not many cab drivers spoke or even understood a lick of English. What I didn’t realize was how difficult even trying to give a specific address would be. I had written it down for him and the driver kept staring at the address over and over again. I was well past my breaking point but was stuck with this taxi so all I could do was wait for him to finally know where to go.

Chris had mentioned in his blog that Osaka is a huge city and he wasn’t kidding. We crossed the river into what seemed to be their equivalent of 5thAvenue – with a Maclaren dealership no less and finally made it to the hotel. I had now been up for almost 21 hours and I was falling apart rapidly. Chris had gotten us a reservation at a place that served Kobe beef but I was so fried by that point, it simply wasn’t in the cards for me. Luckily, he told me about a decent ramen place across from our hotel – part of a popular chain called Ippudo where you could get a big bowl of ramen for $8.00. That proved to a godsend and soon after I was drifting off to sleep in a bed that didn’t exactly fit but would do just fine for now.

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