I arrived at Narita International Airport in Tokyo at around 4:15 on Tuesday afternoon. The flight was pleasant. Thanks to some Lunesta my Dr. prescribed for the trip, I was able to sleep for almost 6 hours on the ride over. That has softened the effects of jet lag, and I arrived feeling rested.
I followed Amy’s directions and purchased train tickets from Narita to Amita with a stop to change trains in Shanagawa station. No problem at the airport. I found that train without a hitch. Shanagawa became a challenge though. As I stepped off the train (after a 70 min ride), I found an attendant who spoke English and showed him my ticket. He sent me to track #11 (there were 24 tracks in the station). Everything was marked clearly and I stepped up to the platform to board the train with about 10 minutes to spare. As the train to Amita pulled in and opened the doors, I turned to the person behind me and showed him my ticket – just to be sure I was boarding the correct train. He looked at my ticket, wrinkled his brow, and said, “This not your train. Don’t get on train.”
I looked confused and pointed to the sign above my head that said “Amita” and then to my ticket that also said “Amita”. He repeated, “This wrong train. You no get on here.” At that point, he stepped on the train and the doors closed. I wondered if I had just watched my train pull away!
I walked to a nearby snack bar and got the shopkeepers attention. He was an elderly man. I showed him my ticket and pointed to the sign. He was obviously very concered and wanted to help, but he spoke not a word of English…but he tried. He talked for no less than 5 minutes (nonstop)! When he finally took a breath, I looked at him, nodded, and said “aragato” (thank you). He beamed (as if he’d been great help) and bowed. I walked to the only other person on the platform…who spoke some English. He looked at my ticket and explained that this was indeed the wrong track. I had a ticket for the “super express” (the bullet train) and needed to be on track #23. Had I gotten on that first train I would have indeed arrived in Amita, but the trip would have taken something like 4 hours instead of the 40 minutes on the super express. That first guy saved me!
The bullet train was quiet and smooth. Only 40 minutes to Amita. The bus had stopped running up the mountain by the time I made it to Amita, but no worries – Wayne and Amy were waiting on me with a car. We wound up the mountain riding on the “wrong side” of the road (they drive on the left here).
Several of the members of the team initiated me last night by introducing me to the “men’s bath”. I’ll let you use your imagination on that one for now. However, I assure you it was G rated…well, maybe PG!
Suffice it to say that Tuesday was a day full of adventure!