Oniko's Travel Diary:
The Saigoku Pilgrimage

(July 20-August 16, 1999)

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August 16, 1999
I got up and packed my stuff; a little before nine, I ran down to the pay phone on the corner and connected my computer to send snd get email; ironically, I just recieved the names and phone numbers of about four people who are willing to let stay at their homes for a day or so each... good timing, eh? Anyway, I returned to my room, packed away my computer, and left the last hotel of this trip. I don't know how, but next year I want a place of operations; be it a hotel or ryokan room I get for the whole trip, or an apartment (though I don't know how), I want some place I can return to each night, and leave my stuff for a day or two at a time and know it's safe. I'll have to see what I can arrange over the next few months.
Anyway, I took the trains part of the way to Kyoto station, stopping early at Gojo -- lit: "Fifth Street" -- where there was a nice little post office branch. I mailed off the box I've been carrying all weekend, but decided not to mail another; my cash is low, but enough to finish out what's left of this trip.
So I headed to Kyoto station, planning to take a train to Osaka, then to Kansai airport... but, it turns out, there's a train that goes directly from Kyoto to the airport with only two stops, and my JR rail pass entitles me to fill an un-reserved seat on it. So I don't have to switch trains. Knowing that, I took a moment out to get a Nishi Soba for breakfast -- soba noodles in broth, with dried fish marinated in soy sauce; delicious!
I got on the train at eleven-sixteen, and arrived here at the airport at a little past twelve-thirty. I found my check-in area (on the fourth floor, where all international flights check in, by the way), and now I'm just waiting for my plane... which won't be boarding until five-fifteen or so. I have a nice, long wait here in the airport.
As I'm typing this, there's a news special on... somewhere in Japan called Kurokura (accordinging to the woman I asked) a dam broke and overflowed a delta with several camping areas last night, and a big rescue effort is now underway. So far, they've found eleven bodies, and eighteen people injured; and the rivers are still overfull and flowing fast, so a combination of boats and helicopters are being used. Four people -- including a five-year-old -- were found clinging to a steep slope just above the waterline, and were rescued. Elsewhere, a cluster of about eight people were found standing in a waist-deep area in the middle of a much deeper river, helping each other resist the flow until someone could rescue them.
That, and typing this, is pretty much all I'm doing. I have a big bag full of books for the long flight; and, unless anything else intriguing occurs, I think this trip -- and this chronicle -- is now officially finished. But I'll be back, next August if not sooner!

. . .

Spoke too soon, naturally. After I finished typing, I bought a gift box of cookies to take home to my family; this left me with about 2000 yen (about $19), which was enough for dinner and sodas untill it was time to catch the plane... or so I thought.
It's been a year, so I forgot; Japanese airports have something they like to call the "airport service fee", which is basically just another small fee you have to pay before you can reach your plane. I needed to buy a ticket to go from the waiting area I was at to the passport/customs area beyond. Price of said ticket: 2600 yen for one adult. I was short by about 600 yen.
After I stifled the intial panic, I walked to the ATM area and got lucky... I found an ATM that looks exactly like the ATM in Ikebukuro that accepts my Washington Mutual ATM card; and it was the same, run by the same company. That makes a total of -two- ATMs in the entirety of Japan that will take that card. Unfortunately, it would only pay out in 10,000 yen notes... and both my accounts had less than that in them.
But the Citibank ATMs will pay out in 1000 yen notes; and I'd remembered seeing one in the airport when I first arrived. That was on the first floor, of course, so I had to make my way down from the fourth; and, after searching around awhile, I managed to find it. I pulled out one 1000 yen note, was able to pay for the ticket, and had enough to have a curry rice for dinner (though it was pretty nasty tasting).
At six, I walked through the gate to where they were checking bags. Before I walked through the metal detector, I emptied my change, took off my beaded bracket -- which has a metal cord holding it together, and -- despite their protests -- removed my boots. I stepped through without a beep, and, although they thought I was crazy, it was easier then having them scan me with their little detector wand until my boots beeped.
I stepped through the passport check area, then past another waiting area -- with more stores -- and onto the train that took me to the section of the airport with the actual gate I needed. Here, there was another waiting area -- with more stores. I'm thinking that the only reason my check-in time was six hours before my boarding time is that they wanted to hold tourists -- and their money -- captive in the airport for six hours before they leave the country.
But from here, I was able to board my plane, and it was a smooth ride home (though one of the stewardesses thought it cute that I spent the whole time reading Japanese comics). Now the trip really -is- done. Catch you next time.

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