(it’s a really long post, because I didn’t have internet access before)
For once, nothing went wrong with my flights. In the past, I’ve had trouble with every flight, but this time, everything went perfect. This time, I went with KLM and honestly, I don’t have any complaints.
Brussels Airport was alright, it took less than 10 minutes from check-in to the gates though the airport was buzzing with people going off to sunny destinations. I was surprised that it all went so smoothly, and I wondered whether I didn’t go through border control last time either. I only had to scan my ticket and let my hand luggage get checked. That was all! I was confused…
An unfortunate part here, was that I would only know my gate number 45 minutes before departure, and there was not really a place to sit down while waiting. I said to my mom, “I’ll go already, because you never know how long it takes to the gates!” so I was at the gates at 9 and my flight was only at10:35. So I waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, at 9:50, gate 60 appeared next to my flight number, which was –indeed- the farthest gate possible. It was far, but I had enough time. Boarding started only around 10:20 in the end, anyway. A pity about Brussels Airport, is that you only get 1 hour of free WiFi. So sad!
My first flight was to Amsterdam. Yep, Amsterdam! It’s only a good 2 hours by car, and there’s a high speed train available, but no, the airline decided I should take a plane there. My ticket said it was a 1-hour flight but it turned out we only flew for 21 minutes. Isn’t that incredible? A flight of 21 minutes! Most of that time was obviously spent on take-off and landing, the actual flight (when the seatbelt signs are off) was about 11 minutes only.
Going from my arrival gate to my departure gate went smoothly in Amsterdam as well. I arrived around quarter past 11 am, my next flight being only at 2:40 pm, I had enough time to … wait. I don’t understand why people run around the airport, looking at massively expensive tourist trap shops, lugging around their hand luggage. I just go to the gate and wait. I usually have too much to carry as well. So I sat there, waiting at the gate, listening to music. “Gate change, gate change. Passengers with flight number KL…, your gate had been changed to…” Turns out my gate is over 10 minutes away, I hate airports! Why are they so huge?!
Finally, we all lined up when boarding was announced. We had a 10-hour flight before us. I had checked the inflight entertainment offer online beforehand, so I knew I could keep myself busy during that time. First things first: I finally watched Big Hero 6! From the moment RocketNews24 announced the film, I had been looking forward to seeing it, and now, over a year later, I finally got the chance to see it. And it was good, really good. I hadn’t seen a (new) Disney movie in a while, because they’re not really attractive anymore, but this one! Wow, really good. Weird though, with the SanFran and Tokyo elements mixed together, like the bridge and the tram topped with temple ornaments… But I loved the story, the humor, the emotional parts (oh yes, you can be sure I had tears in my eyes several times). I’m glad I finally got to see it, and I might buy the DVD for once.
I tried a few other movies on offer, but gave up within half an hour. Then I found Mortdecai, with Johnny Depp. I had never heard of it, but I thought ‘Hey, it’s comedy and it’s Johnny Depp, that can’t be bad!’ And boy, was I right. Depp once again fit the role perfectly. It was absurd. I recommend it, you should watch! I listened to some music and watched Night at the Museum 3. Then there was ice cream from IJsboerke (a Belgian brand), so delicious. In the end, I gave Elementary and Sherlock another chance. I still think those series are a horrible adaption of the original Sherlock Holmes and I was annoyed the whole time. It would’ve been a lot better if they had used different names. A female Watson, for example, is just not done. Where did they get that idea?! It’s so lame.
And then, I set foot to the country I had been looking forward to for so long. It felt good, really good (not taking the sticky weather into account ;)). I bought my ticket for the bus to Tokyo, bought a bottle of tea and konbu onigiri (rice triangle filled with seaweed) and sat on a bench waiting. Maybe I should’ve bought the earlier ticket, but since I told my host I would arrive at the station around 12 or 1pm, taking one bus sooner might not have fitted their schedule. So I didn’t, and waited for about an hour, when the Keisei bus staff showed up and tagged my luggage. I was the only person getting on, and pretty much the only foreigner. I guess foreigners take taxis or trains to get to Tokyo, but the bus is an easier way to get to Koiwa. And, as far as I know, a lot cheaper than other transportations. Once off the highway, I started taking pictures whenever we halted at a red light. Just to show what ‘real Japan’ looks like. I think most people will think of skyscrapers and temples when they imagine Japan, but of course, that’s not what real Japan is. That’s why, these completely random pictures:
I arrived at Koiwa at noon, and first thing is said to my host? I need a toilet! There was no toilet on the bus, so after more than an hour’s drive I really needed a toilet. Sounds stupid, doesn’t it! I left my luggage with my host and went into the station, where I had to run through a whole shopping mall, to the basement (where all the food is!) to find the toilets. And there was a line, like 10 people before me, which if awful when you’re in urgent need for a toilet. At least I didn’t have to pay to use the toilet! (in Belgium, it’s usually half a euro)
After stopping at my host’s house, where she gave me food. And more food. And more food, we went to the company. ‘The company’ is where pretty much half the household works. My host father, my host mother and their two sons (out of three), and my host mother’s brother. Other than the family members, I think about 5 other people are employed, so it’s a small company. I’ve been there before, but it was still awkward to be there because suddenly all eyes are on me and they start asking questions and all of a sudden I don’t know a word of Japanese anymore and I’m so frightened of people and of getting attention and oh dear, I don’t like it. They’re nice people and all, but I feel embarrassed and awkward.
We stayed there for about half an hour, and then visited one of the daughters-in-law and grandchildren, who live next to the company. Another son lives about 3 houses away from the parents’ house. Yep, all three sons live within 1 km from the parents. It’s pretty cool. I hadn’t met this daughter-in-law before, so she was really surprised. And the kids were scared of me. She said my Japanese was good and she asked about Belgium and about my plans in Japan. It was fun.
On our way home, we met the other daughter-in-law and her kids outside on the parking lot next to the house. They were playing with the water hose, because it was hot. About 35 degrees C. After my host mom parked the car, she said I should go to the kids. But the kids were scared, again. What is this creepy foreigner doing here? :p But the mother talked to me, in English, and a hung out there for a while. At 3 pm, the kids wanted to go to the parent’s house, and since they’d all go there in the evening anyway (the other daughter-in-law and kids as well), we just went a bit earlier.
I helped out preparing the food, while chatting with … Wait, I should at list name the people, so that it won’t be too complicated. So, we have my host mom and dad, then there’s Eri who lives next door, with kids Yui and Yuma. Yuki, who lives next to the company, with kids Eito and Kuriha (I’m not sure about the names, it’s the first time I met them). The third son is married to a Korean girl, whose name I don’t remember. They’re visiting Korea right now, so they weren’t there. They have two kids as well; Harukana and … I forgot the boy’s name. Will ask! The three sons are On, Kei and Dai, but I honestly can’t remember which son is which. Maybe because of the short names. Maybe I should ask and write down a family tree or something!
So, I helped out preparing the food, while chatting with my host mom and Eri. We made shrimp spring rolls, among a few other things. I don’t like shrimp, but I tried one. I still don’t like shrimp. 😉
Around 6, Yuki came with the kids so my host mom started putting the food on the table. The table was so full of food! A little bit of this and a little bit of that, in many bowls and plates. Some time later, the guys came home as well. I was already have asleep on my chair by that time, so a bit before 9 I decided to finally get some sleep. I hadn’t slept since I left home the day before, so I had been awake for 30+ hours. It was time to sleep. One of the sons was kind enough to help me get my luggage upstairs and after brushing my teeth I fell asleep immediately. No, no shower, I’m too tired! I would’ve fallen asleep in the shower, probably… I didn’t sleep well, I woke up twice and then around 5 am I was completely awake. The sun rises too damn early in Japan, and there’s nothing to keep out the light. And it’s too warm as well. So, I wrote all this at 5 am, and I’m ready for a new day. 😀 Okay no, I’m still really tired. And I wrote too much, I’m at 1800 words now.
By the way, did I mention that it’s hot in Japan? 😮