My Most Intense Travel Experiences #2

February 14, 2018

Flying from Japan to the US for a wedding

This was #1 in my book for five years until it was eventually bumped by an experience in Turkey. At the time I was working as an international liaison in Kagoshima and made plans to return to the US for my cousin’s wedding. Though this sounds like it should have been a relaxing escape from work and Asia, the schedule was as compact as it could have been.

I arrived at my office Thursday morning with a bag ready to go. Because I worked in a rather remote location relative to Kagoshima City, it would have been impossible to finish work, head to my apartment, pick up my bag, and catch the airport shuttle before the last flight to Tokyo departed. Instead, one of my older coworkers had graciously agreed to drop me off as he was planning to meet some company guests arriving around the same time.

Kagoshima to Haneda Airport, a short flight. I immediately hopped on the train, checked into a hotel in Ueno, and inhaled a quick dinner. Only about six hours’ sleep until I had to catch the train to Narita for my flight to Dallas. Nothing in Narita stands out, though I was sure to pick up some chocolate and make a note to buy some shiroi koibito on the way back.

Arrival in Dallas, the same day I left. I had about three hours before my connecting flight to Chattanooga, and was running on very little sleep. My parents arranged to be on the same flight going out, while my brother was already in Tennessee preparing to meet us.

It’s one matter to fly internationally and just kick back in a hotel room at your own pace, but quite another to do so and be expected to attend events with family in which you must be “on”. The evening I arrived we had the rehearsal dinner before I completely passed out. The following day was final tuxedo fittings and a pseudo-bachelor party that lasted far longer than it should have.

After the wedding and a full evening of food and fun, I had to be ready for an afternoon flight right back to Japan. From Chattanooga to Dallas. Dallas to Narita. Having been delayed in Texas, I wasn’t panicking on arrival, but I remember practically sprinting with my bags on the moving walkways. I had booked a local flight to Kagoshima, but it departed out of Haneda, easily a 90-minute journey by train.

When I checked in at what should have been too late a time, I received an escort through security, my liquids and restricted items allowed to pass because there simply wasn’t time to get my checked bag on the plane. Imagine that – Japanese airports just saw a panicked foreigner unwilling to part with his shampoo, and waved him through.

By the time I reached the gate, the flight was scheduled to depart in less than fifteen minutes. Even then, it was slightly delayed and I managed to get home to my apartment in time for some much-needed sleep.

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