Sunday, March 30, 2014

Japan Trip, Part II: Immigration

If you ever fly to Japan, do yourself a favor and make sure your plane arrives sometime during the day late afternoon at the latest. Unless you have a car available, the cheapest way to get around is the public transit system, but that all shuts down at around midnight. After that, all you've got is taxis, and that gets real expensive real fast.

So, as our plane landed at 10:30PM or so, we were in a big damn hurry to get through customs. Unfortunately, it seems like every international flight landed at once, just in time to make sure we weren't getting out of that airport until well past midnight.

Those of us who paid extra for good seats got out of the plane early, walking down a stairway onto the tarmac, where a fleet of buses were waiting to take us to the immigration facility. It was cold, waiting there next to the plane for the rest of the group to come down.

And thus began our habit of counting people in our group to make sure we hadn't lost anybody. At that time there were nine of us: myself and Laura, Lindsay and Dan, Steph and Steve, Jack and Jenna, and finally Jeff, our ninth wheel.

The buses took us to a blessedly warm building with a very long line. The facility seemed to be understaffed at 11PM, and by the time we got through to our luggage it was already past midnight. The process involved giving digital fingerprints, taking a picture, and just generally explaining yourself briefly. It wasn't a very long process, really, but there were a lot of people to check, I suppose, and relatively few people to handle us.

After that, we picked up our luggage and prepared to go through customs, but not before Steve went to use the bathroom. We eventually went through without him, but when he caught up with us he had a new goal: to purchase one of those Japanese toilet seats and bring it home. Luckily, Lindsay was familiar with that process (we have one in our bathroom), so it was just a matter to including that in Steve's budget.

Had we gotten out sooner, we would have probably skipped the currency exchange. Since it was already late, though, we went ahead and transformed our dollars for yen. We had each brought ~$500-700 for the week, and apparently the best place to exchange money is at the Japanese airport.

After that, we got in line for taxis. The line was long, and taxis were rare. Eventually, though, we split up into three groups of three and hopped into cars.

Luckily, Lindsay had printed out papers with our address on it, so we were able to direct our drivers without needing to actually speak to them. The drive was over an hour and cost us ~12,000 yen. Our driver was particularly efficient since, although another group that left after us beat us to the house, our trip cost 3,000-5,000 yen less than everyone else, saving us the equivalent of $10-20 per person.

Along the way, we all finally got some real world practice using katakana. We felt a sense of accomplishment every time we figured out what a place was--a dance studio, a ramen place, etc. However, we eventually gave into exhaustion and slept through most of the ride.


  1. Oh man, my arrival to Japan was the worst part. Before I get into it I thought it was funny how you said the building was blessedly warm. It was the opposite for my being in the middle of the summer. It was 80 with crazy humidity at 10:30 at night. Anyways back to my story. It was my first major trip I had ever done without someone else planning it and guiding me. So of course me and my friend made a few mistakes. First was me not having the address to any of the places we were staying. The plan was for my friend to meet me at the airport and we go to the places he had set up (He is a marine stationed in Okinawa). But little did I know they wouldn't let me through unless I had a place to label for where I was staying. Of course I didnt have cell service in Japan and he didnt have a cell phone there to begin with. So I finally remember at least the name of one of the places we were staying and thankfully that was enough. So I finally get out with my stuff and I go look for him. And I kept looking. And Looking. After about 20 minutes I started to panic. I couldn't find him, I told him terminal 1. So there I was in Japan, without anywhere to go and no contacts. I wandered around for another 20 minutes or so and asked the information lady if this was the right terminal. Turns it out it was terminal I. For international. And terminal 1 was local flights. I asked her how to get there but she wouldnt tell me because it was nearly midnight and the local terminals close at midnight. So I just waited. Thankfully my friend finds out about the International terminal and finds me around 12:30. It was the scariest hour and a half of my life. But everything after that was smooth sailing thankfully.

    1. I don't know what we would have done without Lindsay there to guide us all.

      Thanks for sharing~

  2. I didn't find the cab fare to be outrageously expensive (it was pretty average for a private ride from an airport), but it just sucked that we had to do it in the first place. We'll be more prepared next time! :D

    1. I'm not saying it was weirdly expensive, just that it was expensive. Taking a cab is pricey no matter where you are.