Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Tadaima! (I'm Back!)

Greetings from Osaka!

I still can't believe I'm back in Japan.

I'm currently at Kansai International Airport. (Yeah, I missed the bus. Whatever. Gave me chance to change into shorts and flip-flops. Oh, and I got some green tea from a vending machine. A vending machine!! Heavenly!) The last time I was here was exactly 2 years ago, down to the minute. Needless to say, I'm in a much better mood this time.

I'm using one of the computers they have here. 10 minutes for ¥100 (around a dollar, although I'm afraid to check the actual exchange rate). Take that, AT&T!

I typed a few posts on my laptop during the flight (after finally getting some sleep) and could upload them on the wireless they have available here (same price) but, by the time I figure out how to use it, I'll have missed another bus. I'll post them later.

I will say that I somehow managed to get a 2-seat section to myself. Made for a great flight and gave me some much-needed rest.

Anyway, first impressions on being back:

When we landed, the American stewardess gave the usual speal. "Welcome to Osaka... Thanks for choosing United... Glad none of you were terrorists." What surprised me was how the Japanese stewardess gave the same speech. I couldn't catch all of it (my already rusty Japanese is even rustier), but she used "taihen" and "ostsukaresama deshita" which means she started off by saying something like "We realize that this flight has been difficult but we thank you for your hard work and exhaustion!"

You'll notice a slight difference in tone.

Another amazing thing: when the plane stopped, nobody unbuckled their seatbelts until the sign was lit. Remarkable.

I was fairly giddy during the walk to immigration as I kept being reminded of all of the little differences.

"Hey! The clock says '15:14'! Military time!"
"Red triangles in the windows! That's for firemen!"
"Christ, I'm TALL!"

My thrill was slightly dampened when I arrived at immigration. It seems that, in the 2 years I've been gone, some good, old-fashioned American paranoia has made its way out East. I was greeted by a big yellow banner with red letters saying:

"Strict Inspections being carried out for the prevention of terrorism".

Then, for the very first time, I was fingerprinted and had my picture taken. Strange. (Even weirder was that the computer they used had Windows-themed wallpaper.)

But, once I got through, I was back on Cloud 9.

"Everything is so clean! I don't have to pay for luggage carts! Such polite announcements!"

Even better, in the 20 minutes it took me to get through customs, I was noticably eyed-up by at least 3 really attractive Japanese women.

It's going to be a great month.

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