Narita to Chitose, first day in Japan. The heat and humidity, 28°: a smack in the face! Why did I think travelling in Japan would be straightforward?
Up at 4.15am, bus to Terminal 3. No one around. Rather than try the impossible and take several flights of stairs with my bike bag, other bag etc I finally found the lift for the third floor. It’s 5.15am.
Terminal 3 is domestic so very little English on signs. Where to go? No, B, now is not a good time to panic, I say to myself. Finally find the counter. Checked bag in. Round to Oversize, checked bike through. On to personal security check, bike shoes a problem. Off with them for another security check.
Thru and on my way to gate a million miles away, and hear my name called. So traipse all the way back to checkin- down, down, round and round – then to Oversize. A lighter they say??? No, I say. Oh no, my carefully packed baggage picked over and in disarray with only 10 minutes to catch the flight.
Mosquitos are a problem so I brought Bug Click to calm any bites. It pulses a small electronic flash on the bite and stops the itch. This is what alarmed the security people.
Precious minutes ticking away.
After some time my bag is cleared. On thru personal security again to board the flight, when I hear my name again, over the speaker system. Oh no! I can’t make out what they are saying… an official comes running towards me. Quick, quick, they are holding the plane for you… whaaaaaat I think, there’s still 5 minutes. I rush on worrying that my re-checked bag might not make it.
Chitose Still hot and humid at 4.30am
Both bike and bag arrive in Hokkaido, yay! Probably won’t do a bike build at the airport again !! With MY bike bag I have to disassemble the bike greatly so it takes time with no stand, etc to reassemble. Spent an hour and a bit outside the airport, all hot and sweaty, assembling my bike and sorting stuff. Stuff stuff stuff!! The frequent question : Now where did I put that?? Not helped by a ‘search and destroy’ security reorganisation. Fortunately most things taken out by security were in my bags even in disarray, it was all there. Relief, relief, relief!!
Then off to Chitose to see if I can dump stuff at hotel before riding uphill to Lake Shikotsu. Like any airport with many oneways, I went the wrong way a couple of times. Found the cycleway, the right one, and really enjoyed the forest glades. And the Lake? Magnificent. No bears, two snakes 🐍 and a deer 🦌 jumped across cycle path .
Now dinner? Slightly problematic not speaking nor reading the language. Wandering the streets of Chitose I see a man sitting in the road. He has two people near him, on phones. As I pass, he looks up. He has a wound on his face. From the top of his shaven head to the bridge of his nose, there is this vertical, jagged and bleeding gash. An ambulance comes, I move on, distressed.
Following my nose for food, found a cool place. It’s been a long day so I tuck in with two beers. It’s run by three older women and one male sushi/sashimi master. The women run from table to table of mostly men, loudly enjoying themselves. Helped by endless mugs of beer. The sushi/sashimi master plies his trade. I am sitting on a bench in front of him, fascinated. He notices my attention and makes small sashimi plate with the most exquisite fish designed as art on a plate. I am so lucky.
At the hotel, I discover there is a public bath. Not an ‘onsen’ as it’s not filled with mineral spring water, but it’s hot and soothing for my tired limbs. Just the thing to end a long, long day.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this first day in Japan. You come along with me, you know. I think of all of you at different times, wondering how you might enjoy this country, ride, food etc. Thanks for reading…