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Old 05-06-2009, 09:59 PM
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Tekknikal Tekknikal is offline
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Default StreetSeen in Japan | 1. Departure

January 2009.

The journey to get there would be long, crossing nearly half of the world with something like 19 hours of flight time over the course of three calendar days. Due to a last minute emergency, I hadn't spent as much time preparing as I'd hoped and literally, that morning, I decided that I was, in fact, leaving for Japan. Today.

On the tarmac an American Eagle turboprop ATR72 was waiting to take me to San Juan, Puerto Rico. From there I would be going to Newark New Jersey on Continental Airlines. And from Newark, the next day, I would be going directly to Tokyo, Japan.



But as I walked out to the aircraft I realized I had nowhere to stay in Newark. I would have to make the arrangements when I stopped in San Juan. A baggage handler for American Airlines offered to take my bookbag. It was heavy, but I couldn't let it out of my sight.

My bag was my mobile command center. It held my laptop, digital SLR camera, two smaller digital cameras, my ipod, and my cell phone. It also held all of my accessories. That included a lot of things, such as batteries (five for the laptop, three for the SLR camera, three more for the two mini digital cameras) and international chargers. It also held USB cables, which my cell phone and hard drives all benefited from. For good measure I also brought an international USB charger. Not that it would really matter for my cell phone though: Japan doesn't use the same type of network that Sprint does. Sprint users cannot roam in Japan, not even internationally. You will get no signal. The Diamond did however, have WiFi and GPS. And I had preloaded it with maps of the greater Tokyo area, hoping to make use of it on the ground there.

It was a lot of equipment, but having been there before, I knew that all of it would be useful. And it would help to pass the estimated 20 hours I would be spending on airplanes over the next few days.

The flight to San Juan was smooth, but late. Very late. Not that this was uncommon, but it was a big problem because there was a real risk that my checked bag might not make it with me to Newark...and if my baggage didn't make it to Newark that was a problem because the next day I was leaving Newark for Tokyo. If I didn't have my bags by the time I left Newark, I wasn't sure how I'd get them in Tokyo. The bags were tagged, but didn't have any indication of how to reach me in Japan. Instantly I realized the mistake I had made...after the fact.

As I left the Eagle in Puerto Rico I asked one of the baggage handlers on the ramp if my bags would make my connection to Continental airlines, which was leaving in less than an hour. The first handler didn't seem sure, and frustratingly, didn't seem to care too much. So I asked another handler. He said Continental might be coming by - but might not be. He would try to call them. I thanked him but saw that if left up to them, my odds were slim.

Inside the airport I hurried across the terminal. With just minutes to spare I arrived at the gate and explained the situation to the gate attendant. She promised she'd look into it. To say it was important was an understatement. I didn't want to be faced with not having any clothes during a two week trip to Japan, in twenty degree weather. It would have been something of a crisis. I tried to explain the gravity of the situation to the agent.

She seemed to care, and made some calls. Meanwhile I had arrangements to make. In minutes I tethered my laptop to my phone, went online, found a place to sleep..and booked it, thanks to Sprint's CDMA wireless coverage at the San Juan airport. Moments later, it was time to board and I was seated in the back of Continental flight 429.

I thought the flight attendants had closed down the aircraft. The storage bins had been closed. I figured something had gone wrong when a flight attendant started walking to the back of the plane, looking at the passengers. I thought that by then, we should have been getting ready to push back. She stopped in front of me. I thought maybe there were a problem.

Mr Patton?
Yes?
May I see your passport?
Sure...
(I hand it to her, she takes it and starts copying down information from it)

I'd like to let you know we found your luggage and it made the flight.

I tried to thank her. She returned a simple you're welcome, as if she were holding the door open to a restaurant or something.

Her name was Sheila Rivera.

If, on that day, she decided to be anything less than stellar. It would have cost me greatly. But for whatever reason, on that day, she and her team decided to be great. I couldn't adequately express my gratitude. Saved from certain misery, I fell back in my seat and put my passport away. Moments later the aircraft pushed back and lined itself up for a night time departure out of San Juan.

We headed northward to New Jersey.

At about that time, the stress of planning and work for the last few days took its toll and outweighed the excitement of the trip. For the first time in days I was knocked out.

Largely asleep, the first four and change hours of flying were uneventful and before I knew it, I was in Newark. It was cold there, compared to St Croix at least, being below 50 degrees. I took it in stride though. In Japan it would be even colder. The forecast in Tokyo was calling for 20 degree weather and the next day, that's where I would be going. It seemed difficult to believe that's where I was headed as I made my way to my hotel. It was almost surreal...




I'll admit it. 14 hours is a long time to spend in a plane. Too long, almost...

That morning I got up to face the day with a cautious excitement. It was exciting to know what lay ahead for the next couple weeks, but I was being cautious, knowing that I wasn't in Japan yet, and it would be a very long flight before I did get there.

At the gate I was checking my email for the last time before leaving. I had made my last phone calls, letting everyone know they'd hear from me in a couple weeks. That felt odd.

I watched as the GMail progress bar slid across to reveal several new and unread messages from Chuck (Chuck_H here on the Seen). One said "Read Me Before You Leave"....

I wasn't going to be in Japan alone. I would be meeting with Chuck and John (the man behind Samurai Speed) on arrival. I had heard that someone John works with would be there as well, whom I didn't know. I also heard that there were a couple others I'd meet in Japan. Chris (Duttyman here on the Seen) would be arriving a few days after Chuck, John and I.

I clicked the message. It turned out that the other individual traveling with John, Gavin, was on the same flight as me. Chuck enclosed his number. Good thing I checked my email before leaving. An hour before take off, still in the terminal, I put the number in my phone and immediately dialed.

Gavin hails from Orlando and works with John, specializing in audio/video wizardry. He showed me a GT-R intro he did, amazing stuff. It turned out he was assigned to sit in the row behind me on the plane. And while I thought I was a last minute mover, finalizing my decision the day prior, Gavin only learned about the whole Japan trip the night before, when he happened to stop by John's place. Never having been to Japan, he signed up on the spot. I had to laugh at that.

So he, Chuck and John had been liming all night, leaving their upcoming flights as opportunities to catch up on sleep.



But not me. Now inside the 777 and getting briefed, I was getting excited.

To be honest, the flight from Newark to Tokyo ended up being a nice one. It was almost enjoyable even. While I had enough battery life to entertain myself with my laptop for several hours, it turned out to be unnecessary. The 777 that Continental was using to fly from Newark to Narita had an advanced Audio Video on Demand system installed. They call it AVOD.

AVOD is an abbreviation for AWESOME. It allows you to browse a collection of movies that the airplane has available over its internal network. By my estimates there were well over 340 movies in all ranging from drama to comedy to recent releases to classics. There were also shows, and good ones too- for instance, there was a decent selection from the HBO library, including several Band of Brothers epsiodes. On most airplanes that have individual screens, you change the channel and watch it like normal TV, but on an AVOD equipped flight, you watch whatever you want WHENEVER you want. You can start, stop, pause, fast forward and rewind anything in the library.



There's more too, AVOD also delivers a music library to you. And you can make your own jukebox (playlist) that you can manage throughout the flight. That way, you dont have to move from one album to another. You can find everything you want, tag it as you see it, and it gets added to your playlist. AVOD also has games loaded, and they're network supported. So you could preload games like checkers or chess and play against anyone else on the plane. There's even a lobby where you can see other gamers on the flight, and can call out "Jimmy23C" for a round of Battleship. If you can't find anyone, you can always play the computer. AVOD also has traditional options as well, including other TV, radio, and flight status screens. It may all sound simple, but if you're sitting in a seat for 14 hours its a godsend. I didn't go through a single battery on the flight, thanks to AVOD I even had a power port under my seat(!) Yes, the trip was long, but thanks to AVOD, it was quite manageable.





The food on the flight was as good as it needed to be- with plenty of options - chicken, steak, fish, pasta, and so on... we got two meals, each with a choice of what we wanted, and a decent snack (which worked for me as an added mini meal). I'm a picky eater but was very satisfied and never hungry. You can also drink as much as you want as often as you want. It did help that I brought my own skittles and gummy bears though...



Before long the plane had entered into its decent and landed at Narita International Airport, Japan.



We'd arrived. It felt good to be back.

Before long we were off the plane, and walking through one of the more updated wings at Narita's international airport. It definitely felt good to be on the ground again. We made our way through immigration and soon found ourselves in the main terminal of the airport. John and Chuck were supposed to have been there already but their flight arrived a little later than expected. I suppose that when you're in the air for over ten hours, a very small difference in wind will have a large impact on arrival time. Regardless, it wasn't long before Gavin got a text from John that they'd landed, and shortly thereafter we all met up.

Meanwhile, I went to find a cell phone to rent. In Japan they're not that expensive. Calls are under under a dollar a minute outgoing and free incoming.

I wanted to have some time to find out what constituted a good deal, but with the gang ready to get into Tokyo, I cut my search short after checking with only a two places. In a typical Japanese fashion, the ladies behind the counter seemed to have sensed what had happened and suggested I shop some more, asking if I was sure. Wow, when was the last time a business sales representative asked you if you were sure and comfortable about the purchase you were making? and suggested you examine the competition? Needless to say I was impressed. I wanted to take them up on their offer to shop some more, but short on time I trusted my business with them. Moments later I had a fully charged and activated Japanese cell phone in my hands and we made our way down to the trains.

After a few more minutes of recalling some Japanese - and getting some help- we had figured out which train we needed, and soon after we were on our way for our hotel, the Cerulean Tower, in Shibuya, Tokyo. An hour and a half away.

The sun was setting...

and we were in Japan...
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Old 05-06-2009, 10:24 PM
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Default Re: StreetSeen in Japan | 1. Departure

Wow excited trip....
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Old 05-06-2009, 10:57 PM
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Default Re: StreetSeen in Japan | 1. Departure

sweet i was actually into this vybz as if it was me who was flyin lol...
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Old 05-06-2009, 11:29 PM
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Chuck_H Chuck_H is offline
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Default Re: StreetSeen in Japan | 1. Departure

^--Jealous
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Originally Posted by Tekknikal View Post
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  #5  
Old 05-07-2009, 04:51 AM
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DomesticChiney DomesticChiney is offline
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Default Re: StreetSeen in Japan | 1. Departure

Damnit..... how come everyone goes to Asia except me..... And I supposedly came from that part of the world.... lol


Great write up Tekk! Please keep us updated!

Oh and see if you can pick me up a Geisha for me. I emailed ERD Model Chick an application to be my Geisha but she hasn't got back to me.
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Old 05-07-2009, 07:38 AM
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Tekknikal Tekknikal is offline
I put on for my city...
 
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Default Re: StreetSeen in Japan | 1. Departure

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Originally Posted by Chuck_H View Post
^--Jealous
i set it up so you could book the same flight
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Old 05-07-2009, 08:40 AM
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Chuck_H Chuck_H is offline
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Default Re: StreetSeen in Japan | 1. Departure

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tekknikal View Post
i set it up so you could book the same flight
Did have this sweet screen lol.



This is what i want next year!

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Old 05-07-2009, 09:35 AM
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freddie_vi freddie_vi is offline
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Default Re: StreetSeen in Japan | 1. Departure

now that is G...!
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Old 05-07-2009, 10:04 AM
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Default Re: StreetSeen in Japan | 1. Departure

Damn dogg! this is my dream trip right here. i want to go over there so freaking bad it aint funny. one day it will happen
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Old 05-07-2009, 10:09 AM
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Tekknikal Tekknikal is offline
I put on for my city...
 
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Default Re: StreetSeen in Japan | 1. Departure

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Originally Posted by Chuck_H View Post
like i said, i made an itinerary just for you chris and john...
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