Welcome back! Okay so you either know me and/or have read my previous logs, or you have stumbled upon this newest excursion, looking for something interesting. I canít guarantee anything interesting reallyÖ I donít even know how much Iím going to keep up with this log, but hey. There will be pictures though, lots and lots of pictures, and I guarantee that. So at the very least go click on the image gallery link on the top left, ne?
That being said, Iím stuck on a ridiculously long plane ride, so I might as well write *something*, particularly in light of the fact that I have to stay awake, and the in-flight entertainment system is between bits at the moment. So, here goes.
Once again I find myself on a plane to Japan, for the sixth time. Previous adventures, as you may have read, have been mostly for just sightseeing, but this particular visit has an actual purpose. My friend Alex, who moved to Japan about three years ago, met a perfectly wonderful Japanese girl, Mizue, and they began dating. You can read a little about them on my Japan5 site. As time passed, they fell in love, and the time finally came that Alex decided to propose. They chose January 14, 2006 as the date of their nuptials, and Alex asked me to come to the wedding.
Now, I wouldnít again choose to go to Japan in January, thatís for sure. I mean, Iíve been here for two New Yearsí now, and by golly, Japan is outright boring during this time. If you can avoid it, Iíd recommend going later in the year. However, I wouldnít miss Alex and Mizueís wedding, so I naturally accepted the invitation and have been planning to go for some time now. I had enough airline miles put aside to make a nice round trip ticket, and even enough for two, if I got the ticket early enough. When this first came up, I wasnít sure if I knew anyone who really wanted to go with me, so it was basically just me again headed to Japan.
However, those of you who know me also know I have since met the Love of My LifeÖ a girl by the name of Terri. I asked her a few months back if she wanted to go with me, and of course she accepted. We got tickets about two months ago for a two week trip, which would give us some time to go to the wedding and then run around Japan a little.
However, circumstances beyond our control have forced Terri to bow out of this particular adventure, so we put our tickets on hold, and I decided to shorten the trip remarkably down to the bare essentials. I didnít want to waste vacation time that we could spend together later, so I got a new ticket, returning in only a week. It kind of works out, in the long runÖ January is not that great a time to visit anyway, and who knows, we might be able to stay longer later. I still have to be apart from my love for a little whileÖbut itís short. I will miss her immensely, she is my life, so I apologize in advance for any periods of waxing poetic. 
I think the general rule of thumb for me and preparing for a trip to Japan is lack of sleep. My record is only 1.5 hours beforehand, and I think the longest was about 5 hours. This one fell right in the middle. I had available to me a mere 3.5 hours before it was time to get up and ready to go. Sadly, I couldnít sleep for the first hour of that, so I am starting off with a handicap. Terri loaned me her uber-nice Travelpro suitcase to take with, so really the only crisis was that I couldnít find the charger for my DSLR battery. Oh, Terri also got me an awesome new camera bag for Christmas, yay! I needed it, too, cause my friend Tim loaned me this awesome 10-20mm Ultra-wide angle lens, and there wasnít room in my current bag. It also solves the problem of squeak-squeak-squeak as I walk due to plastic clasps on the old bag. The battery charger is going to be an issue though; Iíll have to buy one in Japan for sure.
Terri drove me in bright and early to the airport. We parked and she walked in with me to check in, then we walked together, hand-in-hand, to the security gate. It was excruciating, saying goodbye. I mean, itís only a weekÖ but itís so far away. We hugged. We kissed. Eventually Terri said I should go, and I headed into the gate. Security was light at this time of day, and I was through in only 5 minutes. As I began to wonder where I should spend my time before my flight, my phone rang. It was Terri.
ďHi, honey, whatís up?Ē
ďI love you. <sniffle>Ē
That was all it took, and I was sniffling myself. She just wanted to call and say that again on the way home to get some more sleep with the pugs. We said another tearful goodbye, and said weíd talk again after a bit. Gosh, Iím going to miss her.
The plane boarded shortly thereafter; my gate was across from an entire store devoted to UT paraphernalia. I noted that the 2005 National Champion shirts were only a couple of dollars more than Iíd paid for the one Iím wearing, which surprised me. We taxied out onto the tarmac, and we knew something was up when the engines shut off. Bummer. The pilot announced that Houston was backed up, and weíd have a 30 some-odd minute delay. No big deal. We were allowed to break out our cell phones to call, and the woman behind me took the opportunity with fervor. She was loud and obnoxious, and bitching about something and someone with a fair amount of unrestrained color, considering the close proximity to other people who might really be offended. I think, at this point, I had decided be in favor of *not* allowing cell phones on aircraft. She was still blabbing on after we took off (off the phone) with her girl friend next to her, talking about all the men she could be sleeping with, and lots of intimate details about her sex/dating life. Reeeeallllyy wanted to hear all about it.
The plane landed and taxied to E9 at Intercontinental in Houston. I realized my departing gate was E7Ö so as we pulled up to the gate, I realized, ďhey, that triple-seven over thre is my plane!Ē I snapped a picture with my cell phone. As we pulled into the gate, the pilot asked if those passengers who didnít have connecting flights soon would wait for those who did. Half the plane was out of their seats, way before the plane was still moving. At that point, only a few of us actually stayed behind. They thanked those of us who did stay when we got off. Air travel is really obnoxious. Everyone thinks somehow theyíre better than everyone else, or more in a hurry than everyone else, and itís really rare when you meet someone who is willing to give a damn.
I stepped into the terminal and I could see my gate; itís officially the shortest distance Iíve ever had to go for a connecting flight. I talked to Terri for a moment, who was going to get a little more sleep in, and then I talked to my sister Lizzie to pass the time. One quad grande no-foam latte and one ham quiche later, it hit me that I really needed to get on the Internet, as I still didnít have a hotel in Tokyo for the first night! I managed to find a decent location for wi-fi, and had to pay $10 to enable access for the ten minutes I would be using it. Bleh, itís free in Vegas. I checked my email, and I was happy to discover that my Kyoto reservation is at least set. Phew! However, after several frantic attempts, I discovered there wasnít much I could do by way of a hotel in Tokyo proper. I might have to say out by the airport after all. I was hoping to at least get into the city without activating my rail pass, but I donít know if thatís really going to happen. Bummer. Maybe I should just blow a wad on a room at the Park Hyatt. Yeah, right.
Terri and I talked again as I waited to get on the plane. Iím up in 17L, which means Iím next to the front row, and I was seated nearly last. This only sucks because people like to take up the front overhead storage. Fortunately I found some space for my camera (although Iím a little nervous about when it opens) and took my seat. As I sat down I got a text message from Terri; she sent me a picture of herself and the pugs sheíd just taken. I love cell phone cameras now. 
The entertainment looked promising. Brothers Grimm, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Iron Giant, a comedy channel, a House,M.D. channelÖ Have lots of things to watch. I ended up working on the website some, so youíre seeing the outcome now. Looks the same, huh? Minor tweaks.
Brothers Grimm, which I watched while I ate, was sadly not all that interesting. It wasnít really holding my attention. Oh! So interesting thing Ė apparently GPSes are on the approved electronic devices now, so just for fun Iím using mine. Weíre going about 528MPH and just left the continental US near Seattle. Still 4500 miles to Tokyo. Bleargh.
About to cross the date line up near Siberia. My GPS says 2253 miles to go. Weíre traveling about a mile every 7 seconds it looks like, although weíre not headed in a beeline to Tokyo, either. The Vietnamese man next to me has been extremely nice. We have a seat between us, but heís been letting me know when heís getting up so we can coordinate our bathroom and leg-stretching trips. Every time heís motioned me into the lavatory first, despite my insistence. Logically, it makes sense, since I would have to get back into the aisle first anyway. I helped him learn how to use the remote for the in-flight entertainment, so itís been a fair trade.
Weíve had two meals now Ė steak and rice with a salad, plus tres leches, which wasnít bad in taste, albeit soggy. They gave us a breaded chicken sandwich later, along with a personal-sized Haagen-Daas ice cream. Nummy.
Iím running out of entertainment choices, having watched the House Channel, Comedy, Brothers Grimm, and whatever else I could catch the tail end of. In between segments Iíve been playing my casino game to pass the time, which is kinda fun, since the audio sounds just like a real casino, taking me out of this confined plane seat. (Comfortable though, I love 777s.) I miss you, Terri. Ah! 2 minutes until the Japanese movie starts. I donít know if there will be another round, so I might as well catch that one now, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory at the tail end I suppose. Still wondering what Iím going to do about the hotel situation. The hotels next to Ueno seem to have rooms availableÖ If I were really a gambling man, I could just go there directly and walk right in. Of course, if they *donít* have anything, then Iím just stuck in Tokyo with nowhere to stay. That would be bad. I guess Iíll see if I can get a reservation for something in Tokyo proper from the reservation desk in Narita, but if notÖ then I have to make a decision about what I plan on doing. Iíd really like to get into town to look for my charger, and would be nicer to be at Tokyo already to go to Kyoto in the morning as early as possible.
Movieís starting. Back later.
Entertaining movieÖ was called Nana. I need to look it up on IMDB and see if the girl in it is the daughter of the mom in Shall We DanceÖ she looks exactly like her! Just filled out me embarkation card, although Iíll probably have to get a new one; I think I filled in some things I shouldnít have. Itís nearly 11:30PM at home and 2:30 in the afternoon here. Iím trying to convince my body that Iím not sleepy, but thatís a futile gesture. We were just fed teriyaki chicken as the final meal of the flight. I really want some buns and dumplings from the place in Shinjuku. Man that would be cool.
Welp, looks like weíre running out of flight here, so Iíll break it off here. Wish me luck on finding a hotel! Next stop, Narita.