Last year, many of life's stresses mixed with the uncertainty of spending a month in an alien country with no comprehension of its language to perform research that I was not totally prepared for, left me anxious about the whole experience. Now, with that experience under my belt, familiar faces on the other side and better health (screw you, glandular fever), I was ready.
I won't bore you with the travel details, so here are the highlights of my 56 hours without a bed:
- Japanese airplane food. Dinner was a Salmon, rice and carrots. Fine. Together with the side of wasabi spaghetti, potato salad and prociutto ham, meso soup and French cheese for dessert. What? Alongside the croissant, fruit cocktail and yoghurt (surely enough already) for breakfast, there was a main course of pizza with sides of broccoli and whole mushrooms.
- Customs and immigration. I had a mini Japanese lesson from the immigration officer after he allowed me through. The customs guy who searched my bag was initially scared for his personal safety and not of his country's from the truly suspicious-looking chemical samples I had brought with me. Once I said "scientist" he was impressed and let me through, before also teaching me some Japanese and walking from behind his desk specifically to shake my hand. So nice.
Difference between Japan and the West: No. 7)
It seems perfectly socially acceptable to drink beer before noon in Japan. I know there are vending machines with beer everywhere, but still.
- Quite a few passengers had a beer with breakfast on the airplane. On the bullet train from Tokyo to Nagoya, a perfectly-respectable Japanese man next to me cracked open a brew at 9.30am! It was just one though, not like the Edinburgh-London trains on the weekend.
Shinkansen (bullet train), Tokyo Station.