We're setting out today on a month-long trip to Japan. This day will be quite short for us; our trans-Pacific flight took off at about 1:30pm, so we set our watches ahead to 5:30am Tuesday. It's like living in the future.
Because of the date change, there isn't too much to write about today's travels. We caught the first bus which goes near our house, transferred to light rail, and got to the airport with enough time to grab drinks at Dilettante. The incoming plane was a bit late, so we left Seattle a little late.
After landing in Vancouver, we went what seemed like a decision tree, whether flying in from the US or elsewhere, whether staying in Canada or transferring out, etc. We had already filled out our customs declaration card, so got in the line. It was somewhat long, and there was only one customs agent processing people. She redirected people away if they were staying in Canada, getting a bit short with the third or fourth person in a row. A couple women hadn't filled out customs declarations, so she asked the airport agent, to please help them fill out the forms; he ended up just pointing them to the table.
After customs, we found our gate, working our way through several shops. We figured it was time to have lunch, since we were going to be served a meal not long after our flight took off. Back to the gate, and we hung out until our flight.
The Vancouver airport is definitely designed to support international travel. Once we got off the plane, we immediately went up some stairs to a series of skywalks. Once we were through customs (and others coming from non-US countries went through security screening) we went down to the main level, where you can walk through most areas (other than the gates for US destinations). The level below that had ticketing agents. Looking at the upper skywalk level, it's possible it was retrofitted. It does seem to make things flow pretty well.
I ended up having an empty seat next to me, which was nice since the space under the seat in front of me was very narrow.
We've been thinking about a trip to Japan for several years. We thought that 2015 would be our year, but found out about Melody's family reunion in the midwest. It was a good opportunity to take a couple weeks in the area to meet her family, in addition to playing tourist and visiting some of my family.
This year there was quite a bit of travel in the summer (Southern California twice, and once to Bellingham). Each of those trips were only over the weekend, so we decided to take the plunge.
The first decision was whether to do a tour, create our own itinerary, or go with a service which booked transit and hotels but no sights. Melody's good at itinerary planning, and after taking a look at what some tours were doing, she decided it would work to take on the task. We settled on going to Tokyo, Hakone, Kyoto, Miyajima, Hiroshima, Kanazawa, Ainokura, and Takayama. It's kind of a clockwise circle within Honshu, the main island of Japan.
After figuring out how many nights we would want to stay in each palace, booking lodging was next. We were pretty lucky to be able to secure all of those online, and only one place wasn't available (it was easy to book an alternate place).
We knew we wanted a Japan Rail pass to use between cities, but the maximum length for one was three weeks. Fortunately, the dates worked out well for us; we'll start using the passes as we leave Tokyo, and they'll be good for our last ride back to Tokyo before we fly out.
We also arranged to have a wifi hot spot shipped to our first hotel, so we'll have data as we traverse the cities. We won't have it on the trip between the airport and the hotel, but we've got several maps which should help us with that.
We had planned what food we had at home so we would get rid of perishables. The kids took quite a bit of produce, and we managed to finish up all our leftovers, milk, eggs, etc. The fridge looked pretty empty other than the snacks we set aside for the plane.
Have we been to Japan before? Neither of us have been to Japan. The closest we've come is Melody went to South Korea once.
Do I speak Japanese? I don't. Melody has tried to pick up some, trying to learn hiragana and some simple phrases.
Will we be visiting family? I know I do have some family in Japan, but I don't know them. As far as I know, we'll also not be going near where they live.
What's the time difference? We'll be 16 hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time. We'll be one more hour ahead when the US changes to Standard Time.
How long is the flight? When we booked it looked like almost ten hours, but as we took off, it looked closer to nine.