A blow-by-blow description of what is necessary to get from Shinagawa, Japan to Jersey City, New Jersey:
1/3 11:30 AM JST (1/2 9:30 PM EST) – checked out of the Prince Sakura Tower Tokyo. Discovered that the Airport Limousine bus would not be running due to a marathon. Directed to use the train system instead.
1/3 11:50 AM JST (1/2 9:50 PM EST) – with two heavy suitcases in tow, departed Shinagawa Station on the JR Yamanote, bound for Tokyo Station.
1/3 12:15 PM JST (1/2 10:15 PM EST) – arrived at Tokyo Station. Purchased two Narita Express (“NEX”) train tickets. Proceeded to platform.
1/3 12:33 PM JST (1/2 10:33 PM EST) – boarded NEX.
1/3 1:27 PM JST (1/2 11:27 PM EST) – arrived at Narita Airport. Queued up at Air Canada ticket counter.
1/3 2:00 PM JST (1/3 12:00 AM EST) – ticket counter opens. I am told I should check my coat since I may not be allowed to bring it onto the plane to Newark. Despite both suitcases being full, I manage to do so.
1/3 2:20 PM JST (1/3 12:20 AM EST) – while going through security, I am forced to throw out my can of FFXIII “Elixer” soda. The only reason I had it with me was because, as a duty free item, I was supposed to have it with me in case Customs wanted to see it. I discard it, sadly. I am happy to note that Japanese airport security does not force you to remove your shoes.
1/3 2:30 PM JST (1/3 12:30 AM EST) – we pass through Japanese immigration and customs. I am not asked to show my duty free items, meaning I’m not needlessly carrying an extra bag full of things.
1/3 2:40 PM JST (1/3 12:40 AM EST) – I purchase a new set of headphones at “DUTY FREE AKIHABARA”, having misplaced my regular iPhone earbuds. An hour later, I would find them again.
1/3 2:50 PM JST (1/3 12:50 AM EST) – we settle down to eat at one of the three restaurants in the terminal. I have a cheeseburger; it is acceptable. I am fascinated by gum syrup.
1/3 4:25 PM JST (1/3 2:25 AM EST) – we begin boarding for our flight. We are in row 42 out of 44, troubling for someone who needs to catch a connecting flight less than two hours after landing (4:45 PM EST). Our legroom is less than ideal, and I miss being in an exit row.
1/3 5:10 PM JST (1/3 3:10 AM EST) – we take off. Watching a video about Toronto arrivals, I learn that I have to clear US customs while in Toronto, rather than in Newark – which includes claiming my baggage and then re-checking it post customs. Again, troubling given the amount of time we have for the connection, never mind the unknown additional security.
1/3 8:10 PM JST (1/3 6:10 AM EST) – I begin to get scattered amounts of sleep, in two to three hour pockets. I am frequently interrupted by food service.
TIME ZONE SWITCH ... JST -> EST ... -14 HOURS
1/3 2:30 PM EST (1/4 4:30 AM JST) – the pilot announces that we are being asked to hold in the air for an extra 15 minutes, which means we probably won’t reach the gate until 3:30. I notice that the in-flight map says we’ve gone 15,000 miles, which would mean we had been traveling over 1000MPH on average. You would think a navigation system could deal with the international date line and the fact that we’re now in the past, but seemingly not.
1/3 3:45 PM EST (1/4 5:45 AM JST) – we deboard and speed walk towards immigration.
1/3 3:55 PM EST (1/4 5:55 AM JST) – we arrive at the US connections baggage claim. I notice that our flight is delayed by two hours to 6:45 PM, thus replacing the fear of not making the connection with the frustration of not getting home when we had intended.
1/3 4:15 PM EST (1/4 6:15 AM JST) – our luggage finally appears. I withdraw my coat and replace it with the bag of goods I had needlessly been carrying. We clear customs without incident.
1/3 4:25 PM EST (1/4 6:25 AM JST) – we go through another regular security screening. This time, the shoes come off.
1/3 4:30 PM EST (1/4 6:30 AM JST) – on the way to the gate, we see two large gender-separated lines. The one additional measure that has seemingly been added post-Christmas scare, the “Enhanced Search” is an individual bag check and pat down. I am asked to turn on each electronic device once (phone, Kindle, PSP). I am asked to undo my belt, to lift the soles of my shoes, to spread my legs and grab the table. I am asked how the David Foster Wallace book (Broom Of The system) I am reading is. (I am unclear whether that was a security test, small talk, or a sincere question from the guard.)
1/3 4:50 PM EST (1/4 6:50 AM JST) – I finally clear the screening, having been in a longer line than Katie and opting to go to the bathroom before queueing. It is noted that had our flight been on time, we would have missed it.
1/3 5:00 PM EST (1/4 7:00 AM JST) – we spring for an hour of Boingo wifi. Twitter updates are quickly sent, email is checked.
1/3 6:00 PM EST (1/4 8:00 AM JST) – flight is pushed back again, this time to 7:45. I get in line at Tim Horton’s and buy a 10-pack of Timbits. They make me feel much better.
1/3 7:30 PM EST (1/4 9:30 AM JST) – an announcement informs us that the plane has arrived, albeit at a different gate, and it will be here shortly. We remain incredulous.
1/3 7:45 PM EST (1/4 9:45 AM JST) – flight is pushed back to 8:00. The crew heads down to inspect the plane.
1/3 8:05 PM EST (1/4 10:05 AM JST) – we board. We are in the last row. The pilot informs us that the plane picked up a lot of ice on the way in, so we have to stop at the central de-icing station before we can take off.
1/3 8:35 PM EST (1/4 10:35 AM JST) – we take off, having been de-iced. We are offered free headsets and free drinks (including wine/beer/cocktails) as an apology from Air Canada.
1/3 10:10 PM EST (1/4 12:10 PM JST) – having just passed the 24 hour travel mark, we touch down in Newark. The pilot informs us that we are being held on the tarmac for 15-20, though, because our gate is not available. There is a collective groan. During this time, we learn that Terminal C at Newark is shut down due to a security situation. I am happy to be traveling to terminal A.
1/3 10:45 PM EST (1/4 12:45 PM JST) – we deboard.
1/3 11:05 PM EST (1/4 1:05 PM JST) – our luggage appears. We get in the taxi line, doing that wonderful NYC thing where you avoid having a conversation with the illegal limo hacks trying to prey on unsuspecting tourists. A man behind me tells one of them off, to which the driver gets defensive, saying he’s just “trying to do us a favor” since it is cold out. I laugh, while mentally noting that it is about 40 degrees colder than it was in Japan.
1/3 11:30 PM EST (1/4 1:30 PM JST) – we arrive at our apartment building. We collect our mail, unlock the door, begin unpacking, and invite over Bruce and Alanna to exchange gifts and catch up.
It has been exactly 26 hours of physical time passing since we left the hotel.