Tali and I have set aside six weeks for traveling throughout parts of Japan, from mid June until the end of July. It is a journey of discovery to places we have not as yet seen, with people we have not as yet met, from Okinawa and Miyakojima in the extreme South, to Tohuku and Hokkaido in the extreme North.
Long-term traveling is not very much like a vacation, which has a sort of mad-cap notion of jamming in as many activities or countries as possible in the few days or weeks that are available each year to most vacationers. Living among people from another cultural heritage for more than a few weeks at a time, if undertaken with an open heart and mind, and a spirit of adventure and spontaneity, can be a life changing experience…a journey of self-discovery, of spiritual healing and growth, of letting down our social barriers to feel deeply, as if new. And that is what we aim to do on these adventures of ours.
Still a bit groggy, we got out of bed at the very comfortable Novotel Airport Hotel at about 4:15 am, and we were at the Jetstar check-in counter well before 5:00am, about two and a half hours before our scheduled departure time. Everything went just as pleasantly and smoothly as at any other airline we fly with around the world, despite the warnings we had read online about this discount subsidiary of Qantas – more proof that we create our own realities, and it is silly and wrong thinking to take to heart anyone else’s experiences as our own.
The first leg of the journey, to Brisbane, was easy and comfortable, especially since we were sitting in the very first row, which was also an exit row. For the second leg, to Narita, we had taken advantage of an offer from Jetstar to upgrade to Business Class for a little less than NZD$250 each, and that made for a very comfortable flight indeed, with better vegetarian food than we are served on most Air New Zealand or United flights!
After we arrived at Narita, we went through the very efficient Immigration check, and then picked up our backpacks. We easily found the Limousine bus to Haneda, Tokyo’s domestic airport, which left Narita less than ten minutes after we had gotten our packs. We walked over to the Haneda Excel Hotel from where the Limousine Bus dropped us off, just a few minutes’ walk, but long enough to see that at this hour, about 9pm, all of the restaurants and shops in the airport were already closed or closing. We checked in at this clean, very comfortable hotel, and picked up our Internet hub and cellphone, which we had rented for the trip – it was delivered at our request directly to the hotel. We ordered room service, which was delicious, showered, and tried to check for updates about the rapidly approaching Typhoon Guchol, a major storm scheduled to skirt Okinawa tomorrow, just when we are to fly there!
We had a long conversation about what to do, whether to cancel Okinawa and Miyako-jima entirely, and travel in Central Honshu or Kyushu instead, or to delay the trip there by a day, and spend a day in Tokyo, or to try and fly out as scheduled. We didn’t really make a decision, except to be open to see how Spirit moves us tomorrow. We did feel that we had put a lot of energy and effort into the itinerary that we had worked out for this journey, and we didn’t want to make a decision to change it too lightly…this trip wasn’t about the weather, after all, it was about our adapting with good humor and flexibility to all sorts of unexpected conditions.
When we awoke the next morning, we decided to check out of our hotel earlier than we needed to, at about 7:30am, and take the bus over to Japan Airlines in Terminal 1, to see what they were going to do about our flight, as it still looked as if Okinawa was going to experience some high winds and lots of rain later today and tonight.
As it turned out, JAL decided to fold our flight into the one leaving an hour earlier, which we were just in time to catch! So Spirit had guided us after all to make this trip to Okinawa, and we soon took off for Naha. Before we did, I called Kenny, our host at Akachichi Guesthouse, who had alerted us to the Typhoon in the first place, to let him know we were coming after all. He sounded excited that we were not canceling our stay, and so are we!