Turning Japanese

Turning Japanese,
I think I’m turning Japanese.
I really think so.

The Vapors

There were a few songs that sprung to mind when thinking of a title for today’s blog; as well as Turning Japanese by the Vapors, I could have had Big in Japan  by Alphaville or Japanese Boy by Anneka.  So maybe that might give you a bit of a clue as to where we were going to start our next epic cruise!  😊

Yes!  Today we were flying from Newcastle to London Heathrow at 11.30am, then onwards to Tokyo, Japan at 3.45pm.  We weren’t really looking forward to the long-haul flight and the 8-hour time difference, but these things are a fact of life when you want to visit exciting locations, and fewer places could be more exciting or exotic than Japan.

We drove through to Newcastle and left the car in the long-term car park before joining the British Airways queue inside the terminal. We checked our bags right through to Tokyo, then went through security and into the Metro bar, where Trevor enjoyed a pint and I had a large cup of Americano coffee, hot and strong. Then it was time to make our way to the gate for flight BA1327 to the capital.

On arrival 45 minutes later, we proceeded to the connections area in Terminal 5, then made a beeline for the ‘Crown Rivers’ pub there, which is a Wetherspoon’s pub and was doing a lively trade in meals and drinks.  It was lunchtime by now and we were quite hungry, so I used the Wetherspoon’s app to order and pay for a couple of pints of beer, plus some traditional fish and chips for Trevor and a plate of chilli con carne for myself.

The service was excellent; the drinks arrived in three minutes and the meals only three minutes after that.  It was certainly a contrast from the last Wetherspoon’s pub we’d been in, the ‘Lord Chief Justice of the Common Plea’ in Keswick, where we’d had to wait a full half hour before we received any drinks.

We each enjoyed another round of drinks before it was time to go along to the British Airways departure gate, where we could see our aircraft, a B789 Dreamliner, waiting for us on the tarmac.  Boarding did not take long at all, and we made ourselves comfortable in our seats to endure the 11-hour flight to Tokyo.

The aircraft soared off into the skies and we settled back in our seats, looking out of the windows at the receding London landscape below. Then, once the ‘fasten seatbelts’ sign had been switched off, the cabin crew came around with pre-dinner drinks and snacks, and we passed the time looking at the interactive AVOD screens, reading, listening to music and all the other things you need to do to try to keep the tedium at bay.

The Dreamliner aircraft windows do not have the usual pull-down shades that you find on most aircraft.  Instead, they have a dimmer switch below which serves to lighten and darken the glass, a bit like those ‘Reactolite’ sunglasses you could get.  As we had the sun on our side of the aircraft and we were heading in a north-easterly direction, we dimmed the windows a little to make it more comfortable on the eyes to look out.

It was a strange time to be flying; it was neither a night flight nor a day flight.  We were due to arrive in Tokyo at 11.10am local time, which would feel like 03.10am British time, and we wondered how the jetlag would affect us.

As we were travelling north-east and into the daylight, we noticed a very unusual phenomenon; it never really got dark.  I managed to get some fantastic photos out of the aeroplane window of a blood-red sunset, with the silhouette of the aircraft wing against a deep blue sky but then, instead of the sun disappearing below the horizon, it started to come up again!  Looking at our sky map, we noticed we were flying over Sweden and then Finland, so we concluded that because we were so far north and flying east, we enjoyed the sight of the sun being constantly in the sky.  Against our blackened windows, it looked like a deep red ball, and it reflected into the interior of the plane as a warm red glow.

I can never sleep at all on a plane, so I just passed the time reading and watching a couple of episodes of Fawlty Towers, which is still funny after all these years.

Time passed in its usual way and soon the cabin crew came round again with our breakfast of Spanish omelette and fresh fruit salad.  Our sky map told us we had a couple of hours to go, and passengers around the aircraft were getting up and stretching their legs and using the restrooms.

Eventually the announcement came for us to return to our seats and fasten our seatbelts, and the words “cabin crew prepare for landing”.  We looked out of the windows with interest at the Japanese landscape, buildings, roads, traffic and gardens, as the aeroplane glided into Narita International Airport, Tokyo, and touched down at 11.00am local time.

We had arrived!

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