PS: The Return Trip

What's the worst part about going to Japan? The "going to" part. The "going back" part is just as bad, though. Here's how I survived, and, as a bonus, how about a hint to what the future of this blog holds?

Stuffing the last few trinkets into my bags, I began dragging them towards the train station. The way to Haneda airport required taking the subway below the train station I usually used. It was one of the most confusing paths I ever had to figure out, but once I got onto the platform, the map made everything clear. I guess you could call it the miniboss of the last level of my adventure.

Aboard the train, there were a few people carrying luggage, but I had the most. I can't imagine the contemptuous looks I would have received if the train was more crowded.

The train platform was underneath the airport, and was pretty cool looking. There was also lots of Engrish.

While KIX was very unique and colorful, it was no match for HND in beauty. Huge vaulted ceilings, sleek statues, and interesting architecture surrounded me as I acquired my boarding pass and checked my duffle bag. I just prayed that I would get it back in one piece.

I stopped by a 7-Eleven to buy my final Japanese meal, for about 4 bucks. Well, most probably wouldn't call it a meal. Up until the very end, I was stingy with my time and money when it came to food. I don't regret it too much, either, because it was delicious. A salmon-stuffed rice ball and sweet azuki bean anpan was pretty much my ideal Japanese food. I was about to board an international plane, so the (not pictured) can of Chu-Hai was an important part of my balanced meal, as well.

After passing through TSA with no problems, it was less than an hour until my flight would leave, so I made my way straight to the terminal, but not before stopping by the restroom. It was probably the nicest restroom I had seen during my travels in Japan. There was even a nameplate for the janitor. I guess they really take it seriously there at Haneda International.

I didn't have to wait long for boarding to commence. We passengers took a shuttle to the airplane which was parked in the middle of the runway, then boarded via some portable stairs.

These were the last glimpses I got of Japan.

Poor guy looks pretty bored.

As I sat in my uncomfortable, cramped, pseudo-leather seat, waiting for ascent into 11-hour hell, I examined the meager offerings for sustenance, presumably for maintaining the passengers' sanity.

When the in-seat entertainment system finally booted up, it hit an error and booted into some kind of Linux shell, complete with a little smiling Tux.

An hour or so into the flight, we got our "snack." I chose the sushi roll, which was pretty lackluster even compared to the "dinner" I already had at the airport, but it wasn't bad.

After several more miserable, coccyx-destroying, mind-numbing hours of twiddling my thumbs and needing to disturb my neighbors just to use the lavatory, I was greeted with some microwave-heated things resembling breakfast items, some orange juice in a shallow pudding container, and some surprisingly fresh slices of assorted melons.

After munching my meager meal and solving the supplied sudoku, I was overjoyed to see the North American landscape out the frost-covered window. It was almost time to get out of the frying pan.

...And straight into the fire. I had traveled back in time, to just a bit before I left. And, just like a man forced to relive the same painful trial over and over again in his own, exclusive version of hell, it was time to do some more waiting, in another horrible place.

I spent about 10 minutes figuring out what to declare for customs, and I nervously approached the desk, hoping I wasn't going to have to disassemble my bag. The agent asked me one simple question about the purpose of my trip, glanced at the small book I had written about my purchases in Japan, and just waved me through. All that fuss over nothing.

I stopped by a small shop in the good 'ol Bradly International building, and bought myself a snack and a neck pillow. I was going to try and get some sleep, even if it killed me. But first, I wanted to check my bags and see if everything made it through okay.

They mostly did, but unfortunately, my posters were bent to hell. I felt a little heartbroken, but not too surprised. Next time I'm bringing a tube.

I managed to secure the padded sofa-like seats, and I even got an hour or two of sleep, I think. it wasn't fun, though. Even with the blanket, it was cold, and those obnoxious announcements could be heard slightly even through my earbuds.

When my final flight time closed in, I first stopped by the now-open McDonald's for a sandwich. I then checked in, and handed over my duffel bag, but this time I kept the posters hanging out of my backpack. I was still pretty pissed off when the disgruntled check-in agent grabbed it by the "fragile" tag-endowed handle and nonchalantly tossed it over her shoulder in the general direction of the conveyor belt behind her. I've exaggerated a lot in this post, but she really was a piece of work.

The final flight wasn't really anything special. Two hours of sitting around and I was back in Utah.

When I first got off the plane and descended the escalator where a bunch of rosy-cheeked sign wielding Mormons were standing to greet their beloved return missionaries, my family was nowhere to be seen. I decided to run over and retrieve my baggage while I waited. As I paced the airport's massive lobby, trying to get a phone or internet connection, I spotted my mother and brother, Dylan waiting at the bottom of the escalator. I decided to take a picture of them.

She was a little disappointed that she missed the moment of my elevator descent, so I climbed the stairs and redid it so she could get a picture.

After a short drive home, my journey was undeniably at its end. My parents had created a welcome home poster, complete with Japanese characters they copied from the books on my shelf.

They also told me that the package I shipped to myself had arrived! I wasn't expecting it for another week or so, but it was already there! After taking a shower and crashing for the first in a series of long, long naps, I pulled all the stuff from my luggage and that box, and put it on display. It still stands as a monument to the greatest time of my life.

But it won't be known as the greatest time of my life for long. Because part 2 is coming. Summer of 2015, I will be taking a 3-week trip. My plans are awesome. My plans are big. Prepare yourself.

Never fear, though. This blog will be updated in the meantime. I will elaborate on my plans, and I will post compilations of the best parts of my trip. Perhaps you've noticed from my last few posts, but I'm working on my format, and I promise to make it more and more interesting. Any positive criticism would be appreciated.

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