Saturday, August 30, 2008

Like everything else in Japan, the airport is just a bit off

We caught the train at the Nagoya Marriott, heading down the tracks to the Central Japan Airport located on an island a few kilometers off the coast. One last experience with the ticket choices this time facilitated by a helpful gate agent guarding the machine.

The ride was a local for a couple of stops and then shifted to an express. I waited patiently for the giant Buddha I had seen on the way in, hoping to get a photograph. And I did, but not a good one, with Buddha serenely looking down upon the corner of a car dealership.

We arrived and checked in and went up the escalator to the food court and Starbucks. Looking around I noticed that no one had luggage and it finally dawned on me, not only was this an airport, but it was a regional mall. Suddenly I had an explanation for all the people on the train without bags - they were heading out to the mall for some shopping and lunch. The crowds made it very difficult to move around with a carry on bag, and every time I ran over someone's foot I got a look as though to ask "why the heck do you have that stupid bag here in the shopping center?"

Having had a coffee to increase my sense of stress I made it easily through customs but I was shaken down by security. This is twice now since I bought that Chinese GPS that I have had to unload my bag, apparently I have crossed some threshold. And I suppose I do look odd with two cameras, two iPods, a computer, a Blackberry, a power supply, a computer, a Sony eReady and a bag of candy bars. The young woman checking my stuff found it pretty amusing that I kept producing item after item. She ran them through and I passed and she came back and repacked my bag precisely the way I had it, which is something in itself. In the US they dump it on the table and walk away.

I traded in what was left of my Yen because I had far too many of them and then went to the lounge where I now sit eating Lindt truffles and watching the planes take off. Business class again for me on this ride home, which might make it a bit more tolerable. Well, that and the fact that it's two hours shorter than the haul from Shanghai.

Japan surprised me in many ways, some good and some bad. It's an interesting country, very wrapped up in tradition and trying to break free in what often appears to be unproductive ways. My final assessment is that I will almost certainly come back if only to see the remainder of Kyoto and perhaps the more northern regions. While my trip didn't leave me excited about a future visit, it certainly left me interested in one.

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