The day I decided to postpone my childhood dream

The morning has arrived. I looked out of the window seat to see the clouds are hanging clear, reflecting the beautiful sunrays.

"What would you like for drink, sir?" a stewardess asked me in fluent English.

"Mizu," I glanced at her nonchalantly.

Probably the first non-Japanese who spoke Japanese to her, she smiled, surprised.

Pretty, not bad, in my opinion. No wonder JAL staff are widely renowned.

Then I opened the inflight TV for a number of channels I could flick over. Uncle R was half-awoken beside me.

"Good sleep?" I asked him.

"Yeah. Ah, I can't believe I'm finally coming back after 35 years away!"

"For a transit", I reminded him tersely.

"Yes, but still..."

Our conversation was interrupted with her bringing back my water. It was iced.

"Ah...oyu kudasai..gomen ne, wasureta!" I changed my order.

Assuming that I spoke the language fluently, she answered in rapid Japanese.

Greaat. Hence I answered in a simple "Hai", totally clueless of what she was talking about.

30 minutes later, after a breakfast of sashimi and small bowl of udon (you could still choose to have the standardAmerican breakfast if you abhor those raw food), I could finally see one of the most beautiful man-made landscape I've ever seen. Streets after streets are neatly arranged in neat blocks, as if made for a Lego.

We arrived around 8.30 in the morning, when we straightaway proceeded to the baggage check. All passenger baggages were quickly checked out, but it was only my suitcase was stopped.

"Doshita no?" I asked the security holding my suitcase, ready to latch it open.

She explained about me having a sharp object inside my suitcase.

"Stupid Singaporeans", I grinned at Uncle R, "How could they miss that cutter on the luggage check there? What if I was a terrorist?"

"Heh. Singaporeans are good Toshi, but these folks we're having here are much better"

After getting my cutter confiscated without much hassle, we proceeded downstairs, where we could take a Skyrail to Terminal 2.

"What time is our next flight?"

"Let me see... 4 o'clock local time", he answered.

My (Indonesian) clock was saying 7.35, so it was around five hours to spare.

On the skyrail, I turned back my cellphone back from flight mode. No signal. Apparently, people back home were true...they're using CDMA only here. Or perhaps another band of GSM, whether it was Tri-band or Quad-band, I wasn't sure.

I tried to open a wifi connection to no avail. There was an unlocked wifi, an NTT-Docomo paid connection for 1000 yen a day. No, thanks.

Terminal 2 looked like some kind of a shopping mall, smaller than Changi's but acceptable enough. Since it was not 10.00 yet, most of the shops are still closed.

I glanced at the check-out exit, to outside air of Tokyo.

"Toshi"

"What?"

"You wanna experience Tokyo for a while? You can walk out of that door if you want to..."

"Aren't you coming with me? I mean, this country is totally foreign to me"

"Nah, my passport doesn't allow me to. But yours would"

I considered that option for a sec. There was something else I was thinking of that time.

"Hmm...maybe later."

"Okay. Just make sure you make it before 2 o'clock though. Our flight is at 4"

We unanimously agreed to go back to the terminal where we first came from.

There, Uncle R and I took pictures around the hallway and the underground floor where we could see the bottom of those mighty planes.

The Japanese time showed 10.00 when Uncle R took a doze while I went to look for a free hotspot, or anywhere else where I could find some free internet connection.

I really couldn't live without the internet.

I found a Yahoo! internet cafe where Japanese and foreigners alike can browse for free. You are supposed to show your identification though.

Pondering which passport number should I list, I jotted down my American.

There were around 30 computers inside, with a lounge next door where one can watch the planes taking off. The computers had a USB-lock each, which meant that the computer could never be accessed without one.

I opened my e-mail and Facebook while taking a look at some of the high school girls in uniform there. They really shattered those myths...the myths which say that the cutest high-schoolers in the world are in Japan.

Well, they might be pretty and fashionable, but not that enticing to me. I prefered the JAL stewardess.

After spending two hours there, I went back to Terminal 1 where Uncle R was.

I took a couple of narcisssistic snapshots myself before deciding that I don't want my memory cards to be overloaded.

So I woke Uncle R up.

"Hey, let's take lunch", as I woke him up, "I'm staarving"

"No prob. Any good place?"

I pondered for a while. On my way back, I've seen a lot of restaurants with signboards in front of them, but none are offering prices for below 1500 Yen (or US$15).

"Hmm...lots of good places, but none of them have good price", I told him.

"But we have no choice, eh?"

We laughed.

So it was a search for a good money changer first, because we didn't have a single Yen on our pockets. I asked Uncle R to exchange most of our Rupiahs off, since we're not going to need it for quite a while anyway.

At the money changer booth, there are several pieces of origami-animals in an open jar, located just in front of the booth hole.

"Are these free?" Uncle R asked the woman at booth.

"Yes please, you can take one. They're from the kindergarten students around here", she smiled.

So Uncle R and I took one each. There is a dog-shaped origami which was the cutest one methinks, so I took that one.

Terminal 2 had skyrocketing prices, and the least expensive menu, we could find was a 1000 Yen Japanese fried rice (the kind of fried rice with omelette and Ketchup).

Yuck.

There were several food stalls in Terminal 1 too, so we decided to go back there anyway.

Before we proceeded to the skyrail again, Uncle R called me.

"Toshi"

"Yes?"

"Here here...where's your camera? Take a picture of me with that policewoman on that security booth...You know, just as a memento"

I glanced at him with a big "Hmm?"

So Uncle R asked her for a picture together.

She seemed confused, so I offered to translate "Sasshin..sasshin o totte kudasai"

But she refused with a broken English, "No, cannot. Sorry, no. But I...I can picture you!"

She wasn't allowed to have her pictures, then.

"Ah no, thanks!" I refused her back. Uncle R shrugged.

So high was the standard for Japanese police force that they're not even allowed to have their pictures taken.

When we approached the skyrail, it announced that there would be a five-minute delay for the next skyrail to come. It didn't became apparent to us until later: The janitors here are supposed to clean the skyrails once every two hours.

Once every two hours.

Can you imagine that? Back in Indonesia, they don't even clean their Transjakarta busway once every two months.

After stepping back to Terminal 1, we had a lunch in an Oriental restaurant which offered a mix of Chinese, Japanese, and Korean meals. Uncle R and I chatted while having until our stomachs are filled, then we went to the departure gate at 13.00 local time.

There, I dozed off for around 45 minutes in an empty sofa while Uncle R read a newspaper.

By the time both of us are awoken, Uncle R reminded me, "Toshi..you have an hour chance to get out of that gate if you want to. You can do it now, otherwise you'll have to wait...perhaps years from now."

I pondered again that offer.

Because for the record, I didn't even know what Japanese summer breeze felt like yet.

No, not yet.

I was only inside the air-conditioned spaces of Narita airport.

"Nah, I'll pass this time"

"Why not?" he asked me for the last time, "That has been your childhood dream, right? To visit Japan?"

The airport speaker announces in Japanese and English that the chek-in line for American Airlines flight to Los Angeles had been opened.

"I've visited Japan. But I'll only get out of that gate after I'm done with another dream too"

I glanced at that gate again sadly. I saw an African family had just went out of that door.

With a mixture of bliss and a tiny speck of regret, I rescinded my one and only chance to experience Tokyo that time.

I decided to postpone my childhood dream of stepping into Japanese soil. But it was because I had made a promise to myself to return there with a purpose.

A purpose and promise that I have altered slightly after the months to come.

Hence I will return.

akhlis  – (29 November 2009 at 01:40)  

Can you tell your readers why Japanese land is so to-die-for for Toshi? nOstalgic reason like what Obama has when he plans to pay a visit Menteng next year?

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