This blog entry is about my trip to Japan at the beginning of April, to study calligraphy at Shikoku University as a Monbusho scholar. At that point my ankle was on the mend from an injury sustained in January, and I could put weight on it and get around with a cane. But it was still quite tender.
It was a long trip; I flew from Minneapolis to Chicago via American Airlines, then Chicago to Tokyo via Japan Airlines, and finally flew from Tokyo to Osaka. I spent the night in Osaka, and then took a bus to Tokushima, where my school is located.
At the airport in Minneapolis, I rejected an offer for a wheelchair at the ticket counter. As we walked towards the security line, my dear old dad recommended that I take any assistance that I get from then on.
At that point I bid my dad adieu, and went through security. I was wearing a walking cast with metal buckles on it, so to clear security I had remove it so it could be sent through the x-ray machine. I was then patted down and checked with the wand metal detector before I could put the cast back on and be on my way. It took a while, needless to say.
When I got to Chicago, I ignored my dad’s advice and opted to find my own way to my connecting gate, which I mistakenly thought was just a short walk away. As it turned out, my connecting flight took off from a completely different concourse. By the time I figured that out, I didn’t have much time left to catch it. Due to the design and apparent remodel-in-progress of the airport, I had to leave the secure area, hobble my way down winding hallways with poor signage, take a shuttle, and then find the new security line, all while carrying a ton of carry-on luggage on my back. Then I had to re-clear security, take the cast off, get patted down again, etc., etc., all the while the clock ticking away…
I caught the connecting flight, but after that ordeal, I decided to take Dad’s advice, swallow my pride, and get wheeled around whenever I could. Luckily, the Japan Airlines staff took good care of me. First off the plane was half empty, so I was able to occupy two seats. And when I got to Tokyo they had a wheelchair and an escort waiting for me, allowing me to zip ahead of everyone at customs, and have one of my checked bags shipped directly to Tokushima. I was then delivered right to my connecting gate. In Osaka, the airport staff saw me as far as the hotel shuttle. Once I arrived to the hotel, I was on my own.
At that point I only had one suitcase, my laptop, and a backpack. Even managing just that from the front desk to my hotel room was almost impossible; I would have been completely screwed if I had both checked bags with me. My hotel room was in an adjustment building from where I checked in, and to get there I had to cross an alley, and climb a very mild slope. Mild though it was, I could barely do it, with my laptop and backpack constantly falling off my shoulder, all while dragging a 70lbs suitcase behind me.
When I got to my room, I unzipped the suitcase to its largest size, and stuffed my laptop and the heavy stuff from my backpack into it. It was now the size of a college dorm refrigerator and must’ve weighed close to ninety pounds, but it simplified my life a little bit. With that I went to bed, my bad foot swollen and purple.
The next day, I opted to take a taxi from my hotel to the bus station; it cost about ten times as much as taking a train there, and took about the same amount of time because of morning traffic, but I was in no condition to lug my suitcase around a train station and then try to find the bus station after that. The taxi driver and I had a nice little discussion about American politics and Creedence Clearwater Revival along the way. The taxi dropped me off right in front of the ticket counter. Even then, it was a battle of navigating mild inclines and the like to get from the ticket counter to where I caught my bus. But I made it somehow. Once I arrived in Tokushima, I took another taxi to Shikoku University. With that, the worst of it was behind me.
And I’ll cut it off here. Check back next week for an introduction to my school.