Wednesday/Thursday, July 24/25 (lose a day in flight!)
Off to Japan we go!
The plane ride wasn’t that bad. It ended up being a little over twelve hours instead of the fourteen we had all thought.
The airline food was much better than expected and the flight staff was fantastic. The plane itself was a treat, it was sleek and fairly comfortable. There were fancy devices that let us choose from many different movies, games, and music choices to keep us entertained on the journey. The feature I was most impressed with was the ability to track our flight, the time of our departure location, the time of our destination, the ground speed of the plane, the remaining miles to go, and the exact amount of time we had left.
Customs was almost laughable, I was dreading it but the process was simple and quite quick for us.
We left the airport and made our way to the Haneda airport via bus. Even though we were detached it was an awesome experience to start off our journey into Japan.
The Hanenda airport was a lot of fun, we exchanged some money into yen and finally had a chance to buy some stuff. The joy of that quickly wore off when we realized we still had to wait for, board, and endure ANOTHER plane ride.
I slept for the majority of that ride, which was nice because at that point I was getting very tired of plane rides. Getting off in Aomori was a relief, we were greeted very excitedly by Cindy’s host mother, Atsuko Kudo, who waved around a sign saying “Welcome to Aomori.”
After being reunited (in a few cases introduced) with Jake Derector, the Coordinator for International Relations here in Tsugaru and a native of Bath, we made our way onto the bus that was rented just for us (so nice to have our group all by itself after that long day!) and were given our guidebooks to our adventure in Japan.
We stopped by a convenience store and were told we could get anything we wanted, Jake and the others would pay for it, but that ended up being less than anyone expected. Seven exhausted travelers told to go shopping for food we had never tried and had no way of understanding because of a language barrier (though we had several talented translators with us) might have been a bit much at that point. I really enjoyed the salmon onigiri (rice ball) I chose, it was an exciting option since I’d always wanted to try one.
FINALLY! We made it to our hotel in Tsugaru! The group was split by gender and sent off to their rooms for the night. After chatting and eating (and a slight toilet malfunction), myself and the other ladies headed downstairs to the onsen (hot spring bath).
I can understand why bathing in front of others could be an embarrassing prospect, but once you sit on that stool and have warm water rushing over you it’s easy to forgot. The bathing part was new, and I have to say I preferred it over Western bathing habits, but the hotspring itself was incredible! It’s so easy to describe these things, but you don’t really understand until you yourself are soaking in a mineral hot spring.