An Impromptu Stopover in Japan

Airlines are notorious for swiftly shifting schedules caused by delays, changes in course and even cancellations.  We arrived at the Norrita Airport near Tokyo, Japan, after a lengthy 12 hour flight from Chicago and explored the immediate vicinity of the airport, including the bathrooms (in which everything is automated, even the small hip-height fountain that spewed a violet liquid) and the long, thin hallways filled with human conveyor belts. Having settled into a grandly humid hall, we prepared to wait for three hours as per the scheduled layover.  However, after several card games and ice cream, the plane still had not arrived.  The rumor of its cancellation spread, and was confirmed when we shifted operations to Gate 77, our new home for the next five hours.  Due to thunderstorms, our flight to Beijing was entirely canceled, and it was up to the valiant leaders to find us a short-notice hotel.

(Incidentally, a team of Argentinean basketball players was stranded as well; they’ll come into the story later.)  This was duly done, but the night was just beginning.  It may be noted here that select Japanese people here were very intimidating.  As a fashion statement or self protection or both, many workers wore hospital masks.  All the police officers were dressed in identical monochromatic uniforms and assumed an extremely stiff manner of walking that bespake business in every stride. We presented our passports to them to get out of what might have been compared to a holding dock and began the long march across the airport to retrieve our baggage.  Again assisted by conveyors, I decided to just accept whatever happened that night – how many people can say they’ve been detained at a Japanese airport en route to Beijing by way of Chicago?

The Immigration area happened to be immediately adjacent to Quarantine; many comically graphic images of sickness and sneezing greeted us as we filled out customs cards, waited in another line, had our fingerprints and head shots taken by more workers in masks, marched down a flight of stairs, found our baggage, gazed curiously at the Plant Quarantine area, and gradually congregated near the exit.  Finally, more than seven hours after we arrived at Norrita, we breathed fresh air and joined a bus to the Hotel Nekko Norrita.  I will skim over hotel experiences (including chandeliers, light switches outside of the bathrooms, squid for breakfast, an exploding drink called Baobob Pepsi, and a rock garden underneath the staircase) in favor of an inspiring reverie on the experiences.

Despite the inconveniences, we still got to experience a part of the world apart from the schedule, and that made it all worthwhile. Tomorrow, I will present a delightful anecdote on what happened the next day (look forward to the Argentinean basketball player story, a frightening experience involving a policeman and a passport, and Frenchmen), but, for now, I bid you good night.  Until tomorrow, then…ciao.


Michael at Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan


3 Responses to “An Impromptu Stopover in Japan”

  1. Judith Behrens Says:

    Wow! All I can say is WOW and we are glad you are now safely in Beijing with the rest of the group! Happy trails!

    Judi Behrens
    Tina’s Aunt

  2. Elaine Kolodziej Says:

    Appreciate the updates. You are going a great job on the blog. Can’t wait to read the next episode!

    Elaine Kolodziej
    Jacob’s Granny

  3. Jenni selph Says:

    Great writing. Good luck over there!
    – Jenni, Chris Collins’ sister

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