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I am home.
It has been an outrageous day of travel, but my biggest challenge was time. This is the longest day I've ever lived: August 17, 2002 started for me at 12:00 midnight Japan Standard Time (11:00 AM on Friday, August 16 Eastern Daylight Time), making it 37 hours long for me.
I was all packed by the time my alarm rang at 6:00 AM in Japan, and I surprisingly got right out of bed, downstairs, and into the shower. After a horrible breakfast of iced tea and a toasted roll taken from the freezer, we were off to Ogikubo station. I wished my older brother goodbye at home before he left for his Saturday work shift, and said goodbye to my host father at the station. My host mother graciously helped me with my huge luggage all the way to Shinjuku station and the 8:03 AM Narita Express, which got me to the airport without any problems. Narita Airport is huge: I had to ascend four stories from the basement-level train station to the third-floor departure lobby, but I was good once I got a cart to hold my luggage.
The first of three security checkpoints was at the station itself: before leaving, I showed my passport and plane tickets to a woman at a security counter. She waved me through.
The second security checkpoint involved two of my bags being scanned before I could even check in for my flight. This took very little time, although I had to surrender my cart, and produced no problems.
Everyone spoke to me in English at the airport, although not too many words were exchanged. After a light semi-real breakfast and a trip to the duty-free shop to blow my last 2,500 yen on gifts and plum-flavored gum, I was ready to go. The third security checkpoint, at the metal detector to enter the gates, was a breeze.
For a 12 1/2 hour flight, there really wasn't much to speak of. I actually got to sleep for a couple of hours, thanks to the little bottle of wine I drank with lunch/dinner/meal0 on board. There were nine movies being shown on my little personal monitor, but I only watched one in full. It was a drama about the team of engineers at Victor/JVC who developed VHS. At times it was pretty sappy, but overall I found it more enjoyable than "The Time Machine" or "The Scorpion King."
By far, the weirdest part of the whole day was the time angle. I left Tokyo at 12:00 PM local time on an eastbound flight across the Pacific Ocean. About three hours into the flight, I opened the window to see a beautiful sunset. A couple hours later, it was a beautiful sunrise which signaled the start of the same day. Since we had gone back in time, effectively cancelling out all the food I had eaten, we had to eat again. I spent most of the remaining time watching snippets of movies and listening to music. The flight was slightly turbulent at the start, but smoothed out quickly.
In New York, I expected the toughest checks, but I cruised past Customs with nothing to declare and no need to open my luggage. My brand-new passport now has two stamps, and I have no bitterness about the experience.
My parents met me at the airport, happy to see me. I plucked them out of an almost exclusively-Asian crowd, tossed my bags into the car, and we were out. I was surprisingly alert for the rest of the afternoon, had "dinner" at 4:00 PM, then got to bed at 5:00 PM. I woke up not 20 hours later like I expected, but rather 6 hours later at about 11:15 PM. I write this now at 3:30 AM EDT on August 18, but I might want to try sleeping again. Sunday will be spent unpacking, regrouping, readjusting, and getting back into a New York state of mind.
It has been a fantastic six and a half weeks. I hope you have enjoyed all of these writings: over 40,000 words of my thoughts and experiences. Over the next month or two, these writings will be combined with hundreds of photos and more information to make an all-purpose supersite about my trip to Japan. Stay tuned. For now, I'm going to head back to bed. Good night!