Japan – The Journey/Day 1

At long last, I’ve decided to tackle this sordid saga – one day at a time. Each day of the trip will comprise a separate entry, but I already anticipate them being sporadic as I don’t really feel like expending the emotional and mental energy to reflect on everything all at once in any type of compact or immediate time frame.

In any case, without further adieu, I now begin the story of that time I did one of the dumbest things I’ve ever done:

Once upon a time in Suburbia, in the wee hours of a mildly temperate Sunday morning, there was a foolish girl wide awake at 3 a.m. on the verge of completing some extensive packing. That girl was me, and I was putting some finishing touches on preparations for my long-awaited trip to Japan to finally meet Reed, the dashing Navy pilot I matched with on Tinder in mid-August and had been in fervent contact with ever since. We were so obviously perfect for each other based our mutual complicity in concocting the foolish scheme for me to travel to Japan, where he was stationed, to meet for the first time. And from there we were going to fall in love and have babies and live happily ever after. It was all very simple.

I Ubered to the airport at 4 a.m. for a 6 a.m. flight to Canada. From Canada I had about a 3-hour layover, during which I had some breakfast and some alcohol, all the while messaging with Reed about my impending visit and feeling the mutual excitement start to simmer to a boil. After 7 weeks of continual texts and extensive emailing, there we were right on the verge of something glorious. That afternoon I boarded a flight to Tokyo on a jumbo jet and off I went on my longest flight ever – 13 or so hours. It was also my very first time flying alone. On Japan time, I wouldn’t be landing until about 24 hours later since I’d be flying forward in time (across the International Date Line).

The airplane was pretty nice. It had TVs in the headrests with a variety of current movies or TV shows available freely for your viewing pleasure, and even a flight tracker that showed you exactly where you were and how long you had left in the flight. I brought a couple of NyQuil sleeping pills with me to put me to sleep for most of the flight. I (A) didn’t want to spend the whole flight being bored and anxious, and (B) wanted to try and stay a step ahead of impending jet lag. Landing the next afternoon in Japan would mean it’s the very early morning hours at home, so I would most likely be sleepy. I figured I could quell that by sleeping as much of the flight as I could to try and match my sleep patterns up to Japan time.

I waited until they served the first round of food, gazed out of the window somewhat (I always opt for a window seat, given a choice), then once I felt appropriately settled a couple of hours into the flight, I took the NyQuil, wrapped myself up in my blanket, and drifted off to a peaceful sleep. They usually help me sleep undisturbed for a good 7 to 8 hours and thus I figured by the time I woke up we wouldn’t have long to go until landing. When I woke up I was so excited to check the flight tracker which would surely indicate another 1 or 2 hours at the most until landing. NOPE!  Way off…still 6 hours to go. Drats! No matter…I entertained myself the rest of the time by watching movies. Whatevs.

My first glimpse of Japan.

Before I knew it, Nippon was looming underneath me and we descended smoothly into Narita airport. As soon as I disembarked and my phone could connect to WiFi, I messaged Reed to let him know I was there safe and sound, hoping he had made it without problems to pick me up (he lives almost 2 hours from the airport). He messaged back and said he’d be waiting right at the exit. After stopping to use the restroom and getting acquainted with the most delightful toilet I’ve ever used (it plays music), I navigated my way through the portentous maze that is any foreign country’s customs procedures. All-in-all, it went pretty swimmingly. My only source of irritation stemmed from the fact that I was handed a customs form on the plane in complete Japanese, which I do not speak and hence could not decipher the meaning or purpose of.  I perplexedly handed it completely blank to a customs agent and shrugged; he handed me the English equivalent and promptly sent me back to the end of the line. Damn you.

Reed said he’d be standing just outside of the exit doors to the left. I trudged out nervously to a sea of Japanese faces, scanning, scanning, scanning…and there he was! Reed. Finally. In person. I knew him right away – no surprises. I knew those big turquoise eyes and that dimple in his left cheek by now. Plus, you know, he was, like, one of the only Caucasians in the immediate vicinity, so that was a dead giveaway. I walked over and we greeted and hugged and I took his arm for him to escort me out of the airport, but not before stopping at a vending machine. I asked for anything with caffeine in it and he bought me a Coke. We made our way out of the terminal and across the parking lot to his car. It felt bizarre getting into a passenger’s seat on the left side instead of on the right.

He warned that it’d be a long car ride back home, but assured me that once there he had a good dinner planned. I drank my Coke and took in my surroundings in between making small talk. He rubbed my leg as he thanked me for coming, and that made me feel comfortable. Welcomed. He wasn’t recoiling from me, so I took that as a good sign. There was no overt awkwardness, but I’m sure in both our minds we had to let this reality absorb in some – here we were, in the flesh, finally. I’d just come off of a long flight and he’d just resumed the second leg of a long drive (not to mention his previous week), so I’m sure there was some weariness on both parts. At one point he told me his neck gets stiff while he’s driving sometimes, so I rubbed it for him for a little while. He was really appreciative and thanked me. I ended up falling asleep for a little while (so much for Coke). I’m not sure how long I was out, but when I woke up again it wasn’t much longer until we were parking at his 2-story duplex in the suburbs of Tokyo.

Car Ride
On the way home.

Once inside, he carried my suitcase upstairs to his bedroom for me and showed me around. His place was orderly and cozy. A couple of bedrooms, a kitchen, a living room, a den/office…the standard fare. What I wasn’t used to was the bathroom situation, which is actually pretty neat. The Japanese apparently like keeping toilet and bathing facilities separate, so there was no “full” bathroom, so to speak. There were two small rooms (one on each floor) with just toilets, and then there was one actual bathing room on the upper floor comprised of a double sink, a tub, and a shower, with the tub and shower being partitioned off within a smaller room with a drain in the middle of the floor, meaning it was basically a giant shower because everything in that room could get wet. So instead of taking a shower in a tiny stall, you’re actually taking it in like an 8’x10′ space. Pure magic.

While Reed got dinner going, I gave him the bereavement card I got him for his grandmother and headed upstairs to freshen up a bit. I washed up and changed into some yoga pants (the most comfortable item of clothing on Earth). And from there I had my first encounter with one of his toilets, which took some brief readjustment. I noticed during the tour that these toilet rooms didn’t have sinks, so I just figured you were supposed to go to the bath room right after to wash your hands. But when I flushed, water starting running out from a faucet positioned right above the tank cover into a hole leading into the tank. HUH?! I hadn’t noticed this before. Thinking I might’ve broken it and not really getting where the water was coming from or where it was going (give me a break, I was a little tired), I yelled to Reed. He explained that the water coming from the faucet is fresh water used to refill the tank, and in the meantime you use it to wash your hands with as well. Oooooooh! Pretty nifty. Those Japanese…so darn clean and efficient. No wonder Japan is absolutely beautiful.

Not Reed’s toilet, but the general concept.

When I got back downstairs, he had a glass of wine waiting for me, and the delicious aroma of simmering pasta sauce permeated the air. Wine and pasta – sold! He certainly knew the way to a girl’s heart (and as it turns out, to her utter scorn and bitter hatred, but I’m getting ahead of myself). It all felt, despite the obvious insanity of the circumstances…normal. Serene. I was happy I had come and looking forward to what lies ahead. And it seemed like he maybe felt the same. Maybe we had made a good call after all. Maybe, just maybe, this would be one of those one-in-a-million kinds of love stories (but of course, there’s a reason why they are one-in-a-million).

We ate dinner and drank wine and talked about a little of this, a little of that. Just a relaxing, chill evening, which was exactly what we’d planned on given my extensive travel. After dinner, I helped wash the dishes and then we settled in on his couch to watch a movie. I forget what we decided on but if I recall correctly, I think it was something I had seen but he hadn’t. Or maybe we had both seen it. I don’t remember. I wish I did for some reason. Whatever it was, we turned off the lights and snuggled up a bit to watch, but I soon felt myself growing pretty disinterested in movie watching and I formed another plan instead.

Excusing myself under the guise of going to use the restroom, I went upstairs and changed into “something more comfortable” AKA a black lacy babydoll, and then sauntered back down with my surprise. I didn’t say anything to him when I walked in the room and I didn’t have to. One glance in my direction and his eyes lit up and he immediately scrambled to turn all the movie equipment off and head upstairs. I took his hand and led him up to his bedroom and from there a couple of rounds of sexual activity ensued…once right then and then again in the middle of the night after we’d slept a few hours.

It wasn’t anything mind-blowing by any means – he was very quick, but I figured it had just been a while for him, so it was nothing I was going to get my panties in a bunch about (even if I had had some on to get in a bunch in the first place). I didn’t care about that for the time being – it was only our first time together – I just felt content falling asleep next to him that night.

Day 2

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