Travelling to Europe

I was going to start this post by saying that travelling is no fun.  But that’s not true.  There are lots of aspects of travel that are fun, but getting to the place where the the fun starts can be grim.  At the minute I am in Narita airport.  My flight to London has been delayed for a couple of hours, but at least I get to wait in comfort.  I am feeling a little stressed as I could easily miss my connection to Belfast in London.  And even if I arrive on time to make the connection I could still end up spending the night in Heathrow as British Airways are cancelling flights because of the weather.

Getting to the airport this morning was stressful.  When we arrived at the train platform we had no hope of boarding the train.  It’s hard to explain just how full trains become in Japan.  I have been in other countries where people have complained about the train but you could easily get on and still move your arms and feet when inside.  This train was so full that people’s faces and bodies were smashed up against the doors and windows.  When the train stopped and more people attempted to get in they did this by walking on backwards and pushing as hard as they could.  When that failed they started to run at the passengers who were spilling out of the train to see if that helped to push them further in.  The train was late leaving the platform because people got stuck in the doors.

I could not have gotten into the train on a normal day but trying to do so with a couple of suitcases was a horrific concept.  We ended up buying a ticket for the first class car and waited on another train.  We did not get seats but we were able to at least get on to the train and stand in the corridor beside the doors.  Then we had to get off the train.  The platform at Nippori Station is old and narrow.  It’s really hard to get off a train with the people waiting to get on.  And incredibly difficult in rush hour to walk down the platform to the exits.  To get to the Skyliner we had to walk past the exit that most people want to use and there were hundreds of people pushing and shoving all attempting to not fall off the platform on their way to the stairs.  And I do mean stairs and not an escalator.  I carried my case up the stairs hoping that I wouldn’t get pushed over by the crowd.

After that things got easier.  My train ticket didn’t work but that was fixed by asking for help and did not involve being worried that someone would knock me off the platform.  At the airport there was no queue at all.  I assume that some of the passengers decided to come late because of the delays.  I did managed to get confused again, but that’s because of my understanding of Japanese.  I didn’t understand what was being said to me at the automated immigration gate. Being a foreigner I can sign-up for this service but my passport can’t be read correctly and I have to go through the line that is staffed.  It’s not exactly automated but it’s still quicker and I use it because it means you can ask for no stamp in your passport.  My last passport was filled up in 5 years and I would like this one to last a bit longer.  I asked for no stamp and the person behind the desk just said “sorry, you have stamp”.  It took me much too long to work out that she had made a mistake and stamped my passport before asking if I wanted this or not.  We both did a lot of apologising and I rushed on to the lounge so that I could sit and wait and try to think of something other than travel.  As you can see I failed.

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