Japan - October, 2011

Sometimes it seems that the most difficult part of a journey is the very beginning when the time comes to lock the door and take those first steps away from the house. All my OCD tendencies come out. Is the iron really off? Did my passport somehow vanish from my purse?

Walt is trying to be patient, but he's anxious to beat the morning traffic. I wrap the cord around the iron and move it across the room far away from the electrical outlet - an action that I sincerely hope will keep me from worrying that I left it plugged in. I check on the location of my passport for about the 50th time, take a deep breath, and plunge out the door.

At the airport, Walt gets a free upgrade to business class, but I'm jammed into economy plus, surrounded by grumpy tourists who would rather not return home. The man beside me keeps leaping to his feet and standing in the aisle, confounding the flight attendants. Finally, he changes seats with a young woman who immediately falls into a deep sleep.

After partially consuming a meal that I consider to be mostly inedible (although the sleeping woman awakens and devours every bit), and enduring the requisite amount of turbulence, we finally touch down in Tokyo.

Walt sails through the passport stamping procedure, but I am told to move to the side and complete the 4 questions on the back of the form which I somehow forgot. Why? Other people in line have also forgotten to answer these questions yet they are allowed to formulate their answers as they slowly move forward. And what's with these questions, anyhow? Would someone actually admit that he has weapons or narcotics in his luggage? At the front of the line, I am gruffly told to move from one position to another and then back, and when I finally reach the actual passport stamping official, he speaks sharply to me because I don't press down hard enough on the fingerprint taking device.

By the time we reach the JR train at Ueno station that will take us to Shinjuku where we will switch to the somewhat obscure private subway line that will finally deposit us near our hotel, I'm feeling abused and unhappy, but when the musical jingle announcing the arrival of a JR train plays, all my frustrations dissolve. Ahhhhhh. I finally feel like our vacation has begun.