Tokyo To London…

After hopping off from the bus at the north wing, Narita Terminal 1, I scurried to a hand-over counter of Yamato Logistics in order to pick up my suitcase and complete checking in…

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I love Narita Airport, especially their departure lobby, because it’s airy and orderly…

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A vast expanse of the lobby definitely has a calming influence when one is stressed or anxious before boarding.

Colourful vertical tail fins against a cloudless sky of Chiba…

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Another brownie points Narita earns is a selection of shops which portrays the scene of contemporary Japan.
While Heathrow only offers bog standards fast food chains and high street stores before passport control, Narita provides yet more ample opportunities to indulge last-minute craving for retail therapy Japanese style.

How about treating yourself to a bag by Porter aka Yoshida Kaban (吉田カバン)…

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Or how about ogling at Akihabara shop if you couldn’t get enough of AKB48 or anime figures at the Mecca of Otaku…

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This souvenir shop stocked more conventional gifts…

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This shop was dedicated for Japanese style beauty products…

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A Japanese beauty trend of the past two decades is “whitening”. Japanese women are doe-hard crazy about protecting their skins from ultraviolet rays and they go to extraordinary lengths to avoid sunshine. Some years ago, I encountered a woman with a gigantic sun visor. The visor was shielding her face completely and the appearance reminded me Darth Vader! Unfortunately (or fortunately) I moved to the UK before this whitening craze captivated Japan and never experienced a skin brightening beauty regime and therefore my face is covered with freckles which has started to resemble constellations nowadays. Oh well, what should I do?

Anyone for green tea?…

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Ito-en is a well-known Japanese green tea brand. The shop was stocked up with not only their tea in various forms (loose leaf tea, tea bags and powdered tea) but also boxes of beautifully wrapped up cakes, paper fans and dainty knick-knacks.

This shop wasn’t typically Japanese…

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They collect products from less developed parts of the world and introduce them to a Japanese audience. I found the shop location very fitting because their colourful offerings would be sure to inspire the Japanese to travel more.

How about getting a pre-flight massage while you watch planes taking off at the observation deck?…

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A row of massage chairs were found on Level 2. 100 yen for 10 minutes of massage. Are you tempted?

A gigantic column clad with coloured glass tiles stands in the middle of the lobby…

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The decoration was elaborately executed and beautiful. It could have been even better if the column wasn’t surrounded by all those gadgets such as automated check-in terminals or fire-extinguishers…

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A view from the departure gate…

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Feeling a sense of relief as well as sadness, I slumped in one of the chairs overlooking the gate…

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I felt those three weeks with my mum in Japan flew past too quickly but also knew that I would never find it long enough no matter how lengthy my stay maybe.

A flurry of activities were going on around the boarding gate. Ground staffs were busy trying to allocate passengers who were not yet accounted for.

Eventually, all the passengers seemed to have turned up and so had our captain…

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A view from my window…

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We flew over frozen plains of Russia but the ground was covered with low hovering clouds.

A familiar scene greeted me when the plane touched down at Heathrow…

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A lead-grey sky tinged with pale blue spread above the wet runways.
Hello, my home. I am back.
With a sigh of relief, I grabbed my bag and joined a queue towards the exit…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

Hakozaki to Narita

One January morning, I headed to the Narita Airport via T-CAT (Tokyo City Air Terminal) Limousine Bus service. My cab sped through virtually nonexistent Tokyo traffic and delivered me to the bus terminal building which stood right next to the entrance of Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway (首都高速). As my suitcase was already at the airport – thanks to a highly efficient & trustworthy Japanese courier service by Yamato Logistics, I was with just a handbag and a fold-all to tug along and therefore it allowed me to trot through the lobby and dive into the lift which conveyed me to the departure lounge, pronto.

The bus left the terminal on time, carrying a mixture of Japanese and non-Japanese passengers.
Good bye, Tokyo until the next time…

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Tokyo Skytree in the distance.
A newish landmark of Tokyo which opened its door to the public just over two years ago. I shall visit their observation deck with my mum one day, I thought. Then, I wondered if she manage to rendezvous with her friend safely. She arranged to meet her old school chum so my departure might not sadden her too acutely. Otherwise, how could I bear to imagine her being alone in the hotel room I just left?

Humongous apartment blocks sporting endless rows of balconies in a whitish hue were dotted along Wangan Expressway (首都高湾岸線), silently gleaming in the morning sun…

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A scene of everyday life built on a reclaimed ground over Tokyo Bay, being consisted of a school building with a huge sports ground…

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Or a chimney of refuse incinerating plant…

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A car carrier trailer laden with bland new cars overtook our bus. In the distance, another chimney, painted in red & white, belonged to a refuse incinerator could be seen…

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Multi-storied junctions at Minami Funabashi (南船橋)…

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Momentarily, the expressway ran side by side with Keiyō Way (京葉道路)…

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Time to time, the view from the bus was blocked by the fence made of noise-reducing boards…

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After a little shy of one hour journey, the bus had reached to the perimeter of the airport…

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I had a lovely time in Japan. However, all good things had to come to an end…

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The bus stopped at Terminal 1 first and half of the passengers disembarked…

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Ever courteous staffs bowed low as our driver manoeuvred to pull out, heading towards Terminal 2, my destination…

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The dry and cold air, typical of sunny wintry morning, slapped my cheeks as I stepped out from the warm cab and it helped me to snap out of contemplative mood. Oh well, no time to curl up with sentiment. I’ve got to get on with the task. So I went, with my right hand rummaging through the contents of the wallet, looking for a receipt for my suitcase…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

London To Nagano

Sitting on the stool by a nondescript coffee stand in the arrival lobby at Narita Tokyo Airport, I had a first gulp of latte in Japan. While sipping at hot milky coffee, I admired the air of serenity and orderliness in which the airport was awash with.

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On the contrary, the Heathrow, from where I started my 13 hours journey, was in a chaos. I was aghast at the sight of a long queue at the security gate. Even though it was more like an organised chaos, rather than a pandemonium, I was worried if I would have any time left for gift-hunting at the duty-free.
Apart from a long wait on the tarmac which followed by a rather bumpy take-off, the flight was mainly event less…

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I must say the take-off was rather hairy. I was more than happy when I felt the plane eventually started trundling towards the runway. The initial crawling quickly changed to sprinting and once the sensation of the wheels hurtling down the tarmac disappeared, I was treated with a sharp jolt as the plane struggled to be airborne. I could see the wing tips appeared and disappeared in rapid succession through the windows, indicating the plane was rolling, and couldn’t help feeling nervous. So when the captain finally turned off seatbelt sign, the relief amongst the passengers including me was visibly palatable.

For my outbound journey, I ordered gluten-free meals and snack…

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For lunch, I was given some chicken and carrot with loads of potato. I was fed on more potato, accompanied by baked bean and mushroom, at the breakfast before landing. I was not at all gluten-intolerant but was curious about what I would be given. And my curiosity splattered in my face this time! A gluten-free roll I ate was one of the worst I ever tasted. It was like chewing on a cardboard. I would never ever order their gluten-free flight diet again…

Anyway, I am in Japan in one piece, safe & sound. Nagano is very cold and we are expecting some snowfall later…

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Still, being able to be with my mum is priceless and I am gonna enjoy it after a 2-year absence…

Kaori by Kaori Okumura

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