OPERATION: DOWNFALL (The Invasion of Japan for Otaku Purposes [aka ODTIJOP])


Day 2: Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

The airport was completely fucking empty. I had never seen Hartsfield like that before. I had been to the San Francisco airport at an ungodly hour (and slept on a pleather airport couch for a few hours) before, but Hartsfield is NEVER empty. Creepy. It was good though, seeing as security was only 5 minutes (that was the longest cavity search I'd ever participated in... No, wait, I forgot about Julie in 2002. Well, it was the longest ever performed on me.... No, junior year in college, that time it was Mary Lynn... Well, it was the longest time a stranger groped and prodded me without my consent... No, I forgot about that time in the Toys R Us bathroom. Wow, that was just last week!)

We boarded our tiny, shitty plane that took us to our connecting airport (ugh... Newark) for our then non-stop flight on an actual REAL (and big) jet to Tokyo, Narita Airport. That first dinky flight from Atlanta to Newark was godawful... I'm 6'4" and had to lift my knees four inches off the floor just to sit due to the seat in front of me being 6 inches away from my face. I tried to sleep, but the douchebag in the seat in front of me kept slamming his chair back, then forward, then back again the whole flight, despite my desperate pleas for him to stop his asshattery and my continued punches.

We got to Newark at around 8, but then we had 3 hours on our hands before the final flight to Japan. But surprise of all surprises, we found that the international concourse was really fucking NICE! It was filled with tons of restaurants and mini convenience shops, and it was super wide, and clean! What happened to the shitty Newark Airport that I knew and hated?

I got a burger and shake from SMASH Burger for breakfast (which gave me the old familiar New York heartburn I'd almost forgotten about after living in the South for so long), and then tried to sleep.... but that creepy guy in short shorts, black socks and sandals, a wife beater that exposed his midriff, and a Yankees hat kept staring at me... I could FEEL it even with my eyes close,d and I kept waking up with the hair on the back of my neck standing up and a cold sweat on my skin. It didn't help that Mehve kept holding up a sign on notebook paper so that midriff could read it saying "Kisses $1" above my prone form. Mehve made $15 that morning.

Sleepy time

Mehve didn't catch Creepy Midriff Guy in this picture, but he was there... Oh yes, he was there. And I like to think that a little bit of Creepy Midriff Guy stayed with me, and now lives in my nightmares every night. That's just something I took from all this. Something positive.


Soon we were surrounded by other passengers waiting to board the flight (we knew we were in the right place after a group of 50 elderly Japanese tourists appeared [their tour guide holding up a flag for them to follow as they slllllooooooowly walked down the terminal]), but because a bunch of Turd Fergussons with assloads of carryon items jumped in front of us we got dicked on being able to put our bags in any overhead compartment near us (we splurged on the extra cost of bulkhead exit seats so that we could actually stretch our legs for the 13 hour hang time.... soooooooooooo worth it, but because of that we didn't have any space under any seats in front of us). People are selfish dicks. I had to cram my heavy bag into the same compartment as some gift-wrapped mirror (at least I think it was a mirror the way it shattered and made twinkling noises as I shoved my shit in there) halfway up the plane! Assholes...

HaikuAnyway, all things considered the flight wasn't that bad. I got some on-again off-again sleep for around 6 hours, read some of Terry Pratchett's Snuff, listened to an audio book of the 4th in the Codex Alera series, and played a lot of Tetris. The meals and snacks they kept serving us (every hour and a half or so) were pretty decent too. I was quite surprised. What shocked me the most about the flight though, was that the individual 9-inch screens that every seat had were all interactive, and you could choose to watch any of over 160 movies, and about 50 TV shows on it, and they were mostly uncut and unedited! I first watched Bridesmaids and was awesomely shocked to find that the first 2 minutes of it is nothing but that dude from Mad Men pounding the R-rated shit out of Kristen Wiig's character in every way that a movie (that isn't a straight-up porno) can show... Right there on the plane, just a couple of seats over from a 10 year-old kid playing Pokemon on his DS. God I love Continental! And Bridesmaids had me laughing my ass off too.

After that I put on Showtime's Dexter (still hadn't seen season 4, which the plane had in its entirety), and got Jr's attention just as John Lithgow bludgeoned the bloody fuck out of some poor schmuck in an empty office building. The kid's eyes went as wide as Sailor Moon's. I think I gave him nightmares for a month. At least I can hope — otherwise I may have just given him some ideas to shut up his annoying mother who wouldn't stop telling him how to sit, eat, use the pillow... Well, good luck to the lad either way I guess.

Eventually we landed at the Narita Airport, and got through customs despite the fact that I was tired, confused, and my ears were ringing from the change in altitudes when I got up to the counter, which somehow made me start giggling whenever the man on the other side of the window asked me stuff in English with a super heavy accent, straight out of a racist movie!

"How rong-u wirr you be in Japan?" he asked.

"*Giggle!* Uh, what?" I asked politely.

"How RONG-U wirr you be in Japan? And wirr you be stay in hoter-u, or somepurace-u erse-u? A residence-u perhaps-u?"

"*Giggle, giggle!* Seriously, how do you guys not laugh when you talk all the time?"

After getting out of the airport holding cell (after Mehve convinced them that I was just drunk and not any kind of a security threat) we then headed off to the airport trains, but first we stopped by the Japan Rail office and we each picked ourselves up a SUICA Rail Pass with an initial ¥1500 on them (for use on all of the trains and subways around Tokyo, instead of paying for each ticket every time we wanted to ride. This turned out to be immediately and INCREDIBLY useful). Then we looked at the free Tokyo subway map that was included with our purchase. Then we shit bricks.

Map make me go HORY SHIT!

Goddammit so much, Japan. Really? Is this just the train map you give to gaijin? Are there really over 30 train lines in Tokyo alone? You just fucking with us? If so, you got me, Japan. Heh, you got me good.


We caught the next train from the Narita Airport to the Shinagawa Station, and along the way caught our first glimpses of Japan proper with our own two eyes... And because of all the pines and kudzu vines it looked just like Georgia. But THEN we started seeing vending machines EVERYWHERE, and cute, little Japanese houses, just like in anime! Sugoi! But that's when I looked up at the TV monitor at the front of the train car and saw something that shocked me even more than the Tokyo subway map! We had traveled almost precisely one day into the FUTURE! GREAT SCOTT!

Gotta get Back in Time!

I don't know what caused the time leap (whether it was science, magic, or a love of pudding), but it BLEW. MY. MIND. Japan is amazing.


Day 2 3: Thursday, October 13th, 2011

We had fun staring out the windows and absorbing all the Japan we could for the 60 minute ride (where we kept chanting "Where we at?! We're in JAPAN, mothafucka!" over and over, to the general annoyance of the stuffy businessmen all around us), and then we found ourselves at Shinagawa Station. As soon as we stepped outside of the car with our luggage I began to understand just what the MegaPlayboy was talking about in regards to me sticking out — I was on average a full head and shoulders above everybody else. And although I got some immediate stares they didn't last long, and anybody who came within a 10 foot radius of me did in fact try to pretend that I was a 7 foot-tall invisible rabbit and did their best to just look straight ahead as they rushed past me. Only the children stopped and stared, some pointing — the looks on their faces reading "WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT?!"

MasksuOh, and before I continue, I must point something out to the MegaPlayboy: 1/4th of the ENTIRE Japanese population wears those surgical masks (for fear of either spreading or catching SARS, the bird flu, or gaijin air) ALL THE GODDAMN TIME. What the hell are you smoking? Did you never go out in public even once? Did you really visit Tokyo? Were you lying about everything? I'm serious, they were EVERYWHERE. Okay, I'm done. Now back to my journey.

Although the SUICA Card map of the Tokyo subway system scared us at first, Mehve and I found that getting around the busy station was relatively easy. They have signs for every line color coded, and as long as you know which one you want to take to get to where you're going, it's pretty simple. We noted that pretty much all the big areas of Tokyo that we wanted to hit were on, or accessible through the glorious Yamanote Line (which conveniently ran through Shinagawa). All hail the Yamanote Line!

Anyway, the only hard part about the Japanese stations was rolling our large suitcases around with us and cramming them on the escalators and into the train cars (where my head was bending all the ceiling advertisements that were hanging down) whenever we moved from town to town. Not that the cars were crazy packed at all times of the day, but we learned that every train in Tokyo at ANY time of day (even late night) was always close to full. Tokyo is in-fucking-sane, man. And I LOVE it! But I'm getting way ahead of myself.

So, okay, we arrived at Shinagawa, got lost a bit, but eventually made it out to the street... then we began to look around like the lost gaijin tourists that we were for our hotel.

"It's the Prince Hotel. North Tower," Mehve said.

"Oh goddammit, we look like total touristy tools standing in pedestrian traffic like this, looking at maps and shit..." I said. "Oh fuck, here comes some guy trying to get us to use his taxi or something. Ugh, he may be homeless, look at him. NO! Don't look at him, ignore him. Maybe he'll go away."

The bum in question approached us saying something like "Sumimasen! Herro! You two guys. Herro!" but we turned and walked the other way for a while until we noticed that there really was nothing in that direction. Then we started back, wheeling our shit with us the whole time, pissing off everybody else who was walking with conviction all around us.

"Shit," Mehve profaned. "It has to be around here somewhere. The map says it's like right here... Maybe we got out on the wrong side of the station?... Where's West?"

It was kind of cloudy (couldn't tell where the sun was setting), and my iPhone didn't get any reception, thusly its compass app was fuck-useless, and I said as much. But that's when the bum caught up to us again.

"Herro, you two guys," he said.

"Oh Christ. Look fella," I said, "we just got here, we no have no money for Japanese beggars. Hell, I don't even give to American hobos back home. What do you want?"

He just pulled Mehve's map away from him and asked, "You look for Pu-rince-u Hoterr? Yes?" We nodded. "Ah, very good." Then he pointed across the street at a giant tower that rose high above the other buildings that said "PRINCE."

"Gooooooooooddammit," I said. "Arrigato, bum-u-san. You are awesome... Errr, SUGOI!" And I gave the man a thumbs up sign.

"Don't you feel like an ass?" Mehve asked as we walked with the herd of short people across the busy intersection to our hotel.

"No. Never. Nice people just freak me out. Nice people and hobos. I get them confused all the damn time. Shut up."

It was around 4PM when we checked in, but the sky was already getting dark (how far North IS Tokyo for this to happen in mid-October?). We figured we'd check out the room and then go for a walk, and hopefully find some dinner. We was both pretty damn tired.

Bang your head!

I kept count. This was ONE. There were many more "head-banging" incidents to come, and not in a cool 80s Metal kind of way.


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