Well, we're here! After what seemed like the slowest month in our entire lives and the fastest and busiest, we are finally in JAPAN!
The last week really flew by as we got the house packed up, finished working, and said goodbye to some pretty amazing friends. Don't forget the piles and piles of paperwork that needed to be filled out! And then out of nowhere, we are on a plane with bilingual directions for everything, headed for Tokyo!
After 19 hours of flight time, we arrived at Narita Airport in Tokyo and took the shuttle to the main terminal. Having never traveled with enough belongings to last a month or two, we had some trouble getting all of our luggage where we needed to go! Luckily, customs wasn't too far away and we made it through without too many hitches.
After getting through customs, we found the counter that takes care of Takuhaibin shipments (they will take your baggage and deliver it to you the next day, anywhere in Japan) and from that point it was much easier getting around. We only had three bags instead of six, and I honestly don't know how we would have gotten through the rest of our trip if we hadn't done it!
After the Takuhaibin counter, we took an escalator down to the train station and bought the first of several sets of train tickets to start our rail trip to Misawa. The first train we took was the Keisei express to Tokyo - it was about 45 minutes on the quietest train I've ever been on. It felt like a really fast version of the monorail at Disneyland! Passing through Tokyo was AMAZING. There were so many buildings, cars, and people everywhere!! It's definitely a city I want to spend some good time exploring.
From there, we navigated our way through Ueno, which is Tokyo's main train station. It was quite a feat, since we had to leave the station we were at and head to the Shinkansen (bullet train) station down the street. This station was also in the middle of a Japanese shopping mall, and it was PACKED. We passed by a Starbucks (which we had been craving, big time) but weren't sure we'd have time for it. We found a ticketing agent and purchased our Shinkansen tickets that would take us up to Hachinohe. The tickets cost about ¥ 16,000, (about $200) -- still have to spend time trying to calculate the conversion rates in our heads! Good thing we have an app for that ;)
Finding our way to the terminal was a pretty crazy experience - I'm pretty sure we went up and down about 10 escalators at the station - one of them has got to be the longest escalator I've ever seen. It just kept going and going and going. It seemed like we had to be a mile underground by the time we got to our platform.
The Shinkansen was a great experience. There was a nice old lady sitting behind us who had a great time trying to explain to us how to get the seats to recline. She demonstrated the whole thing for us and then watched us do it. There was a family traveling from Omiya to Morioka and they had some young daughters who were entertaining to watch. The youngest was fascinated by the motion-sensor directed door between the cars and would try to sneak up on it to get as close as she could without opening it (or opening it at the last minute and running into the car before her parents could catch her!)
We got to Hachinohe at 8 pm and had exactly 8 minutes to get off the train, ride the escalator up to the gate, put our tickets in the machine to leave the terminal, find the ticket office, purchase tickets to Misawa, go through the terminal gate, ride the escalator down, and get on the train. We almost didn't make it, but the captain of the train saw us and waited for us to board! (wheww!)
The last train ride was only about 20 minutes or so. We got there around 8:30 pm and Denise and Ben were waiting for us at the Misawa station. From there, we entered the base, checked in to the lodge, and collapsed into our bed!
We are loving it here already!