Yeah I was right.
What I didn't expect, however, was how much I would also love other parts of Japan and how much I would fall in love with the culture. I've never been in a place so...civilized. Everything is clean, everyone is polite and beyond respectful. No one stared at us even though we clearly stuck out, and people were super helpful. You never worry about theft, never see drunk frat guys having fights...even the policeman are apologetic to the drivers they have to stop at traffic crossings. Everyone has slippers for you to wear so the floors stay pristine, there are white doilies covering the seats in cabs and busses. People bow to you... it was incredible. They even have a word ("gozaimasu" sounds like go-zy-moss) that adds extra politeness to things. It's almost like it means "respect." "Good morning, I respect you." "Thank you, I respect you." "Welcome to this really strange store with animal heads on people's bodies, I respect you."
But let's start at the beginning. Like so many of my trips, the adventures started even before the trip really began. I was travelling with my friend Rebecca [the same friend who forgot her ID on the way to Miami a couple years earlier HERE (though her actual name is Rebecca. I give up trying to hide my friends' identity on here...)] and we were going to meet several more friends in Japan. And this time, it was my turn to forget something.
We get our first flight done, land in New York, and I realize – I forgot my glasses at home.
And you know what is the worst thing you could possibly forget to bring on an overseas trip?
For a normal person, this might not be a big deal. But I’m legally blind without contacts or glasses. And I wear hard contact lenses which get stuff in them all of time. Which means I often have to frantically pop them out of my eye (which involves pulling the corner of my eye and blinking, which sometimes sends the lens flying off in all directions. So there’s a risk in losing them. All the time.).
So I’m now going to be paranoid my entire trip that I’ll lose one and be blind in Japan. I also don’t want to keep my lenses in for the 14 hour flight we are about to get on from NY to Tokyo.
So Rebecca and I try to figure out a plan.
We had a several hour layover in New York, so first we looked into the possibility of overnighting my glasses to me in Tokyo. When that turned out to be unfeasible, we tried to find an eye doctor in the airport.
We actually do find one on a map and set out on a series of trains, walking, and golf cart thingies
(did not know you could flag those things down like cabs! so clutch!)
here we are in one
then a train
then another golf cart
then randomly I was barracaded in the bathroom by the cleaning lady immediatly after Rebecca had just walked out (is anyone surprised?)
And we went through all that, only to hit dead ends in each terminal we visited. So we try plan C.
I start calling local eye doctors near the airport.
From the only seat we can find at the time.
Which was a race car video game.
Rebecca is already tired of me now:
But I actually get eye places to entertain my crazy idea. One even calls my doctor in D.C., gets my prescription and starts planning how to deliver glasses to an airport. But sadly, by the time we got to that point, it was too late for them to get to me before we departed. So we move onto plan D -- explore Japanese eye doctors.
So this is funny because I have a history of needing doctors while away from home, although it's always been dentists. I had a tooth infection while studying abroad in England, and I had a root canal by a dentist in West Virginia while I was studying for a semester in D.C. (and they ended up doing a root canal on the wrong tooth. Sigh.). So going to see an eye doctor in Tokyo actually makes perfect sense.
But that still left me with the issue of needing to take out my contacts before the flight, yet not being able to see after doing so. So as Rebecca and I walked back to our gate, we saw an advertisement featuring a man in a business suit pulling a wheeled carry-on with a Teddy Bear strapped to it inexplicably.
We then passed a hat store selling ski caps featuring various animal heads. Which gave us an idea for how to get me safely through the airport once I took my lenses out.
And so began our Japan Adventure. More in the next post!