Thursday, September 4, 2008

Getting a JR Rail Pass in Seattle

OK, perhaps it's just panic that I'm nowhere near being ready for my trip, but I am getting crazy excited. I can't get over the fact that I'll be in Japan in less than a week! My heart is racing!

Of course, it could just be from the sheer terror I got from plopping down $500 for a piece of paper.

Yes, after weeks and weeks of debating, I finally went downtown to get my JR Rail Pass.  It's my first rail pass. Since I had been working the entire 3+ years I was in Japan, I was never actually considered "a tourist" there. Therefore I had never been eligible for one of these bad boys.

Before my parents came out for their second visit to Japan, I convinced them to each buy a rail pass which meant that, while they were there, I got to silently resent them every time I had to shell out a few thousand yen at every station while they flashed their rail passes like a backstage ID card.

It didn't help that my dad would rub it in:
"So, let me get this straight... I can use this here pass and go all the way from here to, say, the northern tip of Japan... and it won't cost me a cent?"
"Yes, dad."
"Or, if I wanted to go all the way down to the southern tip... from the northern tip... that wouldn't cost me anything extra either, right?"
"Yes, dad."
"Just checking."
Considering how much I'm saving by flying to Japan using my air miles, I figured I'd splurge and get the 3-week pass. Theoretically, I can get from Ibusuki in Kyshu to Wakkanai in Hokkaido by train. And it would only take me, like 28 hours! What a deal!

Anyway, if you're in Seattle and you're thinking of getting a rail pass, instead of sending away for one (which doesn't work if, like me, you put it off until the last minute), you can pick one up at Senkai Travel. (2nd floor of the "Active Voice" building, on the left.) Aside from having a super-friendly staff, the agency also does that really cool thing where, when you walk in, you feel like you're actually in Japan (something I had experienced on my first flight to Japan).

Plus, while I was there, I got to have some much-needed, pre-Japan ego-stoking.  Particularly when I started conversing in Japanese.  The agent perked up.

"Oh, you speak Japanese!  Why do you speak Japanese? Are you studying?"
"Actually, I lived in Japan for around 4 years."
"Is that so? Teacher?"
"No," and then I took a dramatic pause (mostly to prepare my tongue for the mouthful of awkwardness that is
"Universal Studios" in Japanese), "I worked at Yew-ni-baaa-su-ru-Su-ta-ji-o."

Gotta love the irony that the hardest Japanese words to pronounce are the ones borrowed from English.

Now, usually it's only the people familiar with Osaka who realize that I'm talking about the Universal theme park and not some "University of Stadiums" but this girl is a travel agent, so she gave the official sound of excitement for Japanese citizens (and Scooby Doo):


She then asked me something which could have been anything but I've become excellent at pretending to understand what people say and then just replying to what I think they want to hear.
"I did a show for Back to the Future."
She allowed herself another "Ehhh!" before getting back to work.

Later, when I was signing the credit card slip, she picked up the conversation where we'd left off.
"But your show, it was in English, yes?"
"No, Japanese."
She looked skeptical so I gave her a quick taste, "'Hello, I'm Doc Brown. This is my DeLorean. I'm going back to the future now!'"
She let out a nice, loud natural laugh before clapping and saying "That's it! That's it! Wonderful!".

This trip is going to be so cool.

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