Sorry for the lack of posts! I uploaded all of the previous blog posts before I actually came to Japan, so once I got here I had to wait to get my internet sorted out and didn’t finally get it until a few days ago, so my posts weren’t as consistent as I wanted.
Today I thought I’d cover the actual journey to Japan. I had planned to post about Tokyo Orientation in this post as well, but as it got a bit long before I even started that part I’ll leave it to another post.
My assigned flight was with Qatar Airways from Heathrow, stopping at Doha Hamad International Airport to change planes for Tokyo. From Heathrow to Doha was 6 hours, then from Doha to Tokyo was 10 hours(!)So, my group met up at the airport at 1pm for our flight at 4pm or something, then when most of us had arrived we got told where to go to get our passports back and get our tickets (the whole having-to-get-your-passport-back-in-one-of-the-busiest-airports-in-the-UK thing had been worrying me a bit but it was actually really painless), then we checked in our bags and had some time to have lunch with whoever was seeing us off at the airport before we had to go through security and get our carry-on stuff checked etc.
A note on going through security: if, like me, you’re taking most of your games consoles and stuff in your carry-on bag, be aware that you probably will have to take pretty much all of it out of your bag for them to look through it properly (even though the signs kinda indicate that you only have to take your laptop out). I had my laptop, my Nintendo Switch, my Nintendo 3DS and DSi, my laptop, my hard-drive, my phone, my portable charger, and various plugs and cables for all of the above, in my carry-on rucksack, and with that much electronics in it they couldn’t see what was in my bag clearly enough so I had to empty it out for them to put through the machine in a tray, and then repack it, which obviously made it take longer to get through security.
You can get ‘bag organisers’ from places like YesStyle, and I actually had one of these (though my stuff wasn’t packed into it as well as it could’ve been) in my bag, so when I repacked everything I made sure most of the electronic stuff was in there, as it has handles so you can just lift it all out easily and then put it back in afterwards.
So then was the flight. For mine all us CIRs were sat together in what seemed to be alphabetical surname order, I don’t know about the ALTs. Since it was such a long flight, I used it to catch up on movies I’d wanted to watch but missed at the cinema. I tried to sleep but between being woken up for each of the at least 3 meals it felt like we got on that first flight and not having enough legroom to get comfortable, I couldn’t really get any proper sleep, and the same was true of the second flight. The second flight dragged so much I don’t even know what I did to keep myself entertained, I might’ve just dozed as much as I could, and watched another movie.
When we got to Tokyo, all the JETs gathered in one place near arrivals to fill in disembarkation slips and customs things etc. I filled mine out, but then decided to go to the bathroom and when I came back out the group of like at least 20-30 people had gone. So I then had to go through immigration by myself, which meant I didn’t get the memo that their zairyu card (a.k.a residence card)- making machine had broken, so we couldn’t receive them at the airport. Having unintentionally been separated from the group, I lined up only to be told when I got to the booth that they couldn’t do it, then being told to go over to the window where the flight attendants were all going through. I stood aimlessly there for a while waiting to be able to tell someone my problem, only for someone to come over to me, tell me I was in the wrong place and try to escort me back to the queue for immigration. I explained in nervous Japanese that the machine was broken and they couldn’t make my card, and they, with no explanation, sent me into a separate room and told me to stay there until someone came.
This was terrifying and I will admit I was so confused and worried I had a bit of a cry, I couldn’t help it. I was in there on my own for at least 15 minutes (but felt more like 45…) worrying I’d get left behind in Narita airport until someone came in, stamped my passport and said I could go. ‘That was it?’ I thought, but awkwardly trundled through the flight attendant gate as directed anyway. I then quickly found my bags and finally made my way outside to where everyone else was loading their carry-on luggage onto the coach and sending off their big luggage. The amount of relief I felt in that moment was unreal.
Once everything was loaded up, we set off for the hotel. It took about an hour, hour and a half to actually get to the hotel in Shinjuku from Narita airport. We finally arrived at the hotel at about 9-10pm Sunday evening, shuffled through the orientation-pack collection (picking up the wrong bags from what should’ve been the right section and being given the exact same wrong bags when we queried this…) and went to our rooms exhausted.
So yes, as far as advice goes: bring a lot of stuff to keep you entertained if you can’t sleep on planes. It is a ridiculously long flight and it does drag on. By the second flight even playing on any of my games consoles couldn’t keep me awake, but the more you bring, the better chance you’ll have at not being bored, ’cause the in-flight movie selection is okay, but not great? Most of the movies I would’ve wanted to watch I’d already seen and didn’t really want to watch again so I could only find 3 I wanted to watch.
Also, if you do get sent to a separate room at the airport with no real explanation, it’s hard, but try not to worry, it’s probably not even your fault if it’s anything like my experience, haha.
Next time: Tokyo Orientation!