Japan Part 18: Coming Home

This morning was both a sad and an exciting one – though I was sad to be leaving Japan, I was excited to return home and have some time to rest after our constant travels. I packed my bags (and yes, I was able to fit in all the food as well) and headed down to the lobby to wait for my group.

Once we were in the station, we just had to go buy some tickets for the Narita express. Once we were on that, it’d be smooth sailing to the airport. Unfortunately, Sarah’s irritating antics knew no ends – even at the end of our trip. Headphones blasting in her ears like always, she walked out the wrong gate and used up her ticket. I was shouting at her, but of course she could not hear me. Had I not been paying attention to her, we would have left her behind and she would have had no idea where to find us.

I’d had it with her – that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Once she’d caught up with us, she put her headphones in and stood around waiting for Sensei to buy her ticket. She was standing out in the open in everyone’s way, not even trying to move, making people trip.

All right, that’s it.

You should have seen the look on her face when she felt my fist connect with her right shoulder blade. I glared at her and, white knuckling her shoulder, shoved her out of the way.


She said nothing. With her headphones in, she probably didn’t even hear me.

With Sarah still completely oblivious (but by then safely at Sensei’s side) we went off to get some snacks for the train. I grabbed a bean bun, some French toast, and a donut, all of which I ate on the express.


I watched Japan fly by outside the windows, thinking that there was still so much that I hadn’t seen.

That’s the way it should be. If we saw all we could see, life would be no fun.

Once we got to the airport, we hovered around at the shops for a little bit and I finally bought a Japan T-shirt (everybody’s got to be a tourist at some point). We dropped off our luggage and waited around until our flight boarded.

Once we were on the plane, I eagerly flipped to the selection of movies…to find they were exactly the same crappy movies we’d had on the way out.

Oh well, I’ll just listen to my MP3 player instead. I put 10 hours of Two Steps from Hell music on there. I should be good.

MP3 is dead. WHAT? I hadn’t listened to the thing since it had been fully charged on the way over. How did this happen?

But wait. I, ever the resourceful traveler, can fix this. I fished around in my bag and, wouldn’t you know it, I knew myself too well – there was a USB in the front pocket of my backpack.

I took out my laptop and plugged my MP3 in to charge and played Hanafuda until the laptop was ready to die. By then, my music was good to go for the rest of the 11-hour trip.

Once we got off the plane, we were given a bright orange express ticket and told to go to the front of all lines – our plane would not wait for us. As far as I knew, we still had plenty of time, so I didn’t know why everyone was panicking. We went to wait for our luggage, which I assumed was express also.


Our luggage was THE LAST to come out of the belt.

Okay…why would you give someone an express ticket telling them their flight will leave without them if they don’t hurry and then don’t bother to give them their luggage first?

We had waited for our luggage for nearly an hour; long enough that a security guard came over and started whistling and dancing to keep us entertained (for real!).

Once we got our luggage, we RAN to customs and got through as fast as we could. During the typical customs question-answer time, my checker said, “What were you doing in Japan?”

“Oh, we were studying,” I replied. “I’m a Japanese major, and that’s my sensei over there.”

He looked. “So if she’s your sensei, does that make you a grasshopper?”

That, good sir, was epic.

Once we got through customs, we got completely lost. There were no signs for American Airlines, and we were all running around like headless chickens before Sensei finally found an airport worker and got directions. Of course, because we were going to miss our flight, we had to leave the airport and walk quite a ways and take a subway and all that jazz. At one point, Sarah was leading the way, and I asked her where she was going.

“I don’t know.”


Finally, we found our luggage dropoff point. We all wheeled her suitcases to her and then started to run off, but she stopped me and Amy.

“Oh, sweetie, you need to push these under the railing.”

Okay, PUNK. What is your job? Standing here doing nothing? We’re going to miss our flight, so how about you do YOUR job and push them under there!?

So we had to stand there and filter our luggage 2 MORE INCHES under the clogged railing. Sorry. Didn’t want to make you actually do your job, airport lady. We’re not in a rush or anything.

Once we got to security, there was an officer shouting, “Passengers for Chicago come to the front of the line! Your flight is leaving soon! The flight will NOT wait for you!”

You think?

I bullied my way to the front of the line only to have a large African American woman hold out her hand and smack me in the neck. “YOU NEED TO WAIT BEHIND ME, HUN! I be sick’a all your friends gettin’ in front’a me!”

I glared at her and held up my express pass. “Do you have one of these?” I growled.

“Yes I do,” she said but didn’t show it.

Lady, I can see your flight ticket. You don’t have one. Whatever, you have one? Go.

She then proceeded to NOT go until the security guard grabbed me by the shoulder and shoved me into the spot in front of her. Yeah, that’s what you get. Now I get to go in front of you too.

We were in such a rush that I didn’t even get to tie my shoes before we had to leap onto the plane. It was a close call.

Once we were on the flight, I settled down and watched Jack the Giant Slayer. The woman next to me (an African American woman that looked strangely familiar…) acted like she was in first class – taking up both arm rails, covering my headphone jack, ordering wine, and taking out an entire box of pizza to eat on her tray table.

Thankfully, once that flight ended and the final one began, things were much easier. Less than an hour after takeoff, we landed back in good old Grand Rapids. Some family reunions took place for those lucky enough to have family in the area, and the rest of us said goodbye to each other, got one last group picture, and then grabbed our luggage and went our separate ways. I had a free shuttle back to campus, where I checked in to the conference center and sprawled on the cool, crisp bedsheets. I called my mom for the first time in weeks, then settled down to go to sleep, the faint sounds of Monsters, Inc mumbling in the background on TV.

America. Home at last.


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