Friday, 27th of march 2015
It’s 05:00am when my alarm goes off for the first time. What a good idea to go out for some drinks the night before leaving to Japan, I am completely hungover. After pressing the snooze button for the probably 10th time I finally get up. The airport taxi will pick me up in half an hour already! Taking a shower, repacking my hand luggage a thousand times, grabbing some cosy clothes and there I go. Completely ignoring my pack list which I’ve prepared months ago already. It’s a 3 hour drive from my apartment to Munich so I try to sleep in order to get rid of my hangover. After sitting in the airport for 5 minutes, Malie steps in and we check in our luggage. How is it possible that my suitcase weighs 20 kilos already? Damn you Nutella!
We’re both pretty nervous because of the Germanwings Aircraft which has crashed into the Alps a few days before our departure. At security control the airport staff completely freaks out because of Malie’s DSLR for no understandable reason. After some tests they wish us a save flight. What was that for? Malie is vegetarian, that’s why I’ve ordered vegetarian food for her on the plane. Since I’m sceptical about chinese food I ordered vegetarian dishes for myself too, just to be sure. Shortly before boarding time I am lining up at a bistro to get some rolls, just in case that the vegetarian food is also not tasting too good. It seems as if the people ahead of me are being slowly on purpose. I need to get on the plane!!! After some more minutes of waiting I can hear the following “Attention please, this is the final call for CA828 to Shanghai Pudong International Airport”. Goddammit! Why can’t I be on time just once in my life? What would have been our excuse? “Umm well, we missed our flight because of some rolls.” We’re almost the last passengers boarding the plane and I’m pretty exhausted. It’s 11:50am local time when the plane departs.
I have already reserved seats for us in advance and as always I’ve accidentally picked the most inconvenient ones. We’re sitting next to the wings of the aircraft and we can’t see much. This time I thought it’s super smart to reserve seats just ahead of the toilet so that we can lean back without having any other passenger’s knees in our backs. Clever, right? Not really actually. A pity that the toilets aren’t only loud but they also stink. Malie is sitting on the window row and I’m beside her. Everyone starts to go to the toilet as soon as I decide to take a nap. And since I’m sitting on the aisle row everyone is pushing me aside when walking by. In addition to that the toilet flush wakes me up whenever I just managed to fall asleep. After six hours of napping I decide to stay awake and to watch some movies from the bord entertainment. Malie seems to be quite amused but I’m bored as f’ and I’m just waiting for this flight to be over soon. We’re packing some pillows into our hand luggage because japanese hotel room pillows are mostly quite uncomfortable. After 11 hours on the plane we finally approach Shanghai. At least we’re in Asia, finally!
Saturday, 28th of march 2015
It’s 06:00am local time when we arrive at Shanghai Pudong International Airport. The first thing we want to do is finding the right gate for our connection flight, my nicotine addiction is urging me to do so in order to find a smoking area. After checking our boarding passes, the Air China staff kindly asks us to wait for all of the other passengers. Not only for those who are going to Tokyo like we do, but also for all the other transit passengers going to any other airport, yay! We are somehow treated like children in elementary school, after everyone’s boarding passes have been checked, we are allowed to walk to security control, all together in single file! The uniformed Chinese somehow scare us, everything seems so intimidating. Most of them remind us of a quite popular north korean resident, but that’s probably because we can’t differ between asian faces properly.
By the way, here’s a short reminder for you: When I was in Tokyo in december 2013 there was something wrong with carrying lighters in my hand luggage. The japanese lady, who was a Narita Airport staff, politely explained that I’m allowed to carry only ONE lighter. “One lighter per person” were her words, just to be more precise.
Since then I have always followed this rule – one lighter per person (I can still hear her voice in my head) which has never caused any problems again. But in Shanghai everything seems to be different. The staff at security control harshly tells me to hand him my lighter. I explain, that it’s the only lighter I’m carrying with me, but he demands it. When I ask him WHY the hell I have to give him MY ONLY lighter he laughs and answers: “because chinese regulation.” Fine, just fuck off then! After a long haul flight there is nothing my body demands except for a cigarette! And how should I frickin light a cigarette without a lighter??? Malie can almost feel my anger and tries to calm me down. We are looking for a smoking area, maybe there’s someone who can give me their lighter. And finally we find one. There’s nobody inside but on the wall there’s a strange looking installation which has four lighters in it, trapped by a lock. I don’t know how to explain so here’s a photo.
Finally. With a huge smile on my face I am spending some minutes in the smoking box. Malie wanders around the airport and is fascinated by all the souvenir shops that sell kawaii stuff. When she asks me if there’s enough time to buy some souvenirs I remember that we are carrying japanese Yen and also Euro with us, but not a single RMB note! I hope we can pay with yen or else we’re screwed. We’re walking over to Burger King in order to buy something to drink. When sitting in the gate we’re slowly getting tired. We’ve been awake for so long and still there are so many kilometers we need to travel until we can finally take a shower in our hotel in Kyoto.
We don’t remember our three hour flight from Shanghai to Tokyo, all we do is sleeping. At 01:50pm local time we finally arrive at Narita International Airport and we’re both almost bursting into tears when leaving the aircraft. First of all we’re taking the obligatory photo in front of the “Welcome to Japan” sign and then we’re heading to the immigration desk. We’re picking up our luggage and realize that there’s a wheel missing on Malie’s suitcase – applause for Air China! Her suitcase is constantly rolling over and we feel that this is gonna be a lot of fun in the upcoming days. After a cigarette we change our clothes at a toilet. We’ve been awake for 27 hours and not a pretty thing to look at anymore. We’re picking up our mobile sim card from the post office and try to make it work on our phones, but it doesn’t, so we’re looking for a Docomo helpdesk. We run into another Gaijin who seems to have the same problem as we do, so we’re looking for the shop together. After some tries of the japanese staff the problem is solved and all three of us are having internet access, yay! Would have been pretty easy actually. Since we’re late we are now looking for the JR counter in order to exchange our Japan Rail Pass voucher.
It’s 04:00pm already and we need to hurry up! There’s a bunch of people queueing up in front of the counter and we’re getting kind of nervous. Our shoulders start hurting because of our heavy backpacks, our arms are tired of carrying the baggage and Malie’s suitcase is rolling over again after every two or three meters. After 45 minutes we finally manage to exchange the JRP and to reserve some seats in the N’EX and the Shinkansen afterwards. After about an hour we arrive at Shinagawa Station where we change into the Shinkansen which brings und to Kyoto within 3 hours. We FINALLY arrive at Kyoto Station and now we need to go to… well… what was the station called? Fushimi, Inari or Fushimi-Inari station? I remembered the JR Nara Line so we decided to go to Fushimi-Inari which was the right decision, thank God!
Some obviously drunk teenagers ask where we come from and want us to do a high-five. It’s past 10:00pm and we really want to reach the hotel soon, we’re almost dead by now. We want to walk through the ticket gate but there’s no staff around. Holy fuck. A japanese lady can see how desperate we are and helps us to open the gate. There’s a camera and microphone in the gate and a JR staff member is asking us to put the JRP on the camera so that he can open the door for us. Freaking Japan, everyone! We see the first torii on the other side of the road and almost burst into tears again. Finally we’re here! Well, almost, because we still need to walk to the hotel. Thanks to my Google Street View skills we’re pretty lucky and on the right way already. After 20 minutes or so we arrive at the hotel and check in. Before going to bed we try an Asahi Sakura beer which tastes nothing like Sakura so we’re pretty disappointed. At around midnight we can finally get some sleep, finally!!!