Friday, 24 February, 2017
I slept better during the night than so far on the trip, but this made me slightly groggy when I woke up in the morning. I dragged myself into the shower and then packed my luggage so I could check out of the hotel. I went down about 08:00 so I had plenty of time and checked out, then left my main bag at the luggage counter, and then booked an airport shuttle to Haneda for the evening after determining that it only cost 720 yen, almost the same as the train fare and a lot simpler. The shuttle I selected left at 18:17, getting to the airport around 19:00 for my 22:00 flight. The shuttle bus also took payment by Suica card, so I made a note to charge my card enough to cover the fare.
Then I went to the meeting rooms to check emails and stuff before the final sessions of the ISO meeting. These sessions went fairly quickly and smoothly, being mostly the final summaries of the ad hoc group discussions and then going through the action items and resolutions, before saying farewells and looking forward to the next meeting in San Jose in June.
Sushi in World Porters
With the meeting closed by lunch, I had the afternoon free. First order of business was lunch, and this time we formed a group of six for sushi: me, Margaret, Jonathan, Dietmar, Ari, and Neelam. Instead of the one at MARK IS, we went to the other sushi train place at World Porters. The menus and pricing were identical, which made us think it might have been some sort of chain, but when we finished the waitress wrote down our bills on paper rather than scanning the RF chips inside the plates, so maybe it was different but similar.
After the sushi, I wanted to try the crepes at the place we found near the Melon-Pan ice cream burger place. These crepes looked similar to the amazing ones we’d had in Sapporo, and which Neelam had been craving all week. I got one, a banana chocolate custard one which had a small piece of chocolate cake in it, but it wasn’t as big and stuffed as the ones in Sapporo. The others actually passed, saying they were spending a few more days each in Japan, so had opportunity later, unlike me flying out tonight. Margaret and Jonathan got bubble drinks though, although Margaret thought she was just getting a peach tea and was surprised when it came with the tapioca pearls in it.
Banana chocolate crepe in World Porters
From here we walked over to the Cosmo World amusement park, where Margaret, Neelam, and I decided to ride the Vanish! roller coaster. Dietmar wanted to go for a run, and I think Ari had already left us by this point too. Jonathan waited and held some of Margaret and Neelam’s things while we rode the coaster. It cost only 700 yen, but really it wasn’t worth much more as it was quite a short ride and not especially thrilling compared to some more extreme coasters I’ve been on.
After the ride Jonathan and I said bye to the women, who had decided to catch a train into Tokyo to check out some shops somewhere. I led Jonathan to the nearby 7-11 in Landmark Paza since he needed to get some cash out, and the. said bye to him as he returned to his hotel in the Landmark building, while I went off to spend the rest of the afternoon at the Yokohama Museum of Art.
Hiroshima bombing aftermath photos, Yokohama Museum of Art
This was just across the street from the Landmark Plaza, and a place I had visited last year. I wanted to see what exhibits had changed since then. As it turned out, nearly everything had been changed. The main general exhibit was now a retrospective of photographs of Japan taken before, during, and after World War II. This filled almost all the permanent exhibition space, and there were quite a few visitors inspecting the photos and spending a good amount of time contemplating each one. There was also a special exhibit of photography by one artist, but this cost extra and I didn’t bother with seeing that.
Lightbox of slide photos, Yokohama Museum of Art
After spending a good couple of hours in the museum and its shop, I returned to the hotel via the adjacent MARK IS shopping centre. This time I took a good look around, realising just how big it was and how many shops where there, which we hadn’t really appreciated just coming here for lunch before. There were several floors of shops, and descending into the basement level I found a wondrous food hall full of little stalls selling all manner of delicious treats. One place was making what looked like waffle fish, filled with different things: caramel, red bean paste, chocolate.
Chocolate (I think) filled waffle fish, MARK IS shopping centre
After this I returned to the hotel to sit and rest in the bar there for an hour or so before the airport shuttle pick up time. I got a table by the window, with a bit of a view of the bay, and ordered a Heineken, the only beer they had on tap. It came with a free bowl of nuts and soy crackers. I used the WiFi to message M. a bit.
Finally it was time to go, and I collected my luggage and then waited for the shuttle. The lady at the luggage counter told me to wait outside five minutes before the scheduled time. It was cold out there, and not a peasant wait despite my coat and gloves. But the bus arrived on time and took me to Haneda airport with maybe a dozen other passengers.
At the airport I checked in, which took some time as the queue moved slowly. One couple were at the check in counter the whole time I was there waiting and were still there by the time I was done. It seemed there was some issue with their luggage and they were arguing with the staff about something, but I don’t know what. Going through security and immigration was incredibly easy as there was no queue at all for either of them! It was no doubt the fastest I’ve ever been through those formalities.
I found a food court area inside the terminal to get some dinner since I was hungry. I chose a small dish of assorted sushi and sat down to eat and check messages using the airport WiFi. The first thing I noticed was a message from Matthew suggesting we get some dinner together at the airport! I messaged back saying I was already eating sushi. In the end I didn’t actually see him until we were on the plane.
Sushi at Haneda Airport
I went to the gate a little bit early, but it appeared that most passengers were still lollygagging around in the food court or shops, as very few people were waiting at the gate, even as they announced boarding had begun. I was standing right near the economy boarding area and a staff guy herded me into the front of the queue, saying they’d be boarding soon. After a dozen or so business class passengers went through the fast line, they opened the economy line and I was the very first one to go on! I figured the pane must be nearly empty or something, but as I sat in my seat and watched more and more people come on board, it became apparent that the flight was actually very full. So I don’t know what happened there, but I was happy to be on board nice and early and grab enough room for my carry on bags on the overhead lockers right by my seat.
I have a middle aisle seat next to three giggly young Japanese women who seem to be travelling with three more across the other aisle. When our dinner meal was served, the girl next to me didn’t seem to realise that it was a choice of three hot dishes, plus the bread roll and mango pudding dessert listed on the menu card, and asked just for the mango pudding. When the flight attendant said the dessert came with a choice of the three meals, she seemed delighted and picked the chicken teriyaki (the same thing I had). After eating all of that, she started the mango pudding, but dropped her spoon on the floor. I wasn’t planning to eat my pudding, as I was rather full after the sushi and now the teriyaki, so I offered her my clean spoon. Then when she was finished, I offered her my pudding as well, which I thought she might share with her adjacent friends – but after accepting gratefully she ate the whole thing! She did thank me and say it was delicious.
The meal over, now it’s time to try to rest for the remainder of the flight.
Written later, events of Saturday morning
The flight was eventless… until we attempted to land in Sydney. The weather was bad, and the cloud deck was low. As the plane descended to the runway, it burst through the cloud layer just a couple of hundred metres or so above the ground. We were approaching the runway with landing gear down, and must have been maybe 50 metres from the ground, when suddenly the plane pulled up into a steep climb again. It took a few minutes before an announcement was made, with the co-pilot informing us that a runway inspection had found a “hole in the runway” just befor we touched down, and had instructed the pilot to abort the landing and go around for another landing.
We ended up landing on the shorter second runway about 20 minutes later, after circling around, avoiding the potholed one. This was followed by an unusually long taxi for Sydney airport.
I got off the plane quickly and through immigration in a flash, as there appeared to be no other flights having landed recently, so there was no queue whatsoever. I thought I’d make a clean exit of the airport in under 10 minutes, but I got selected for a random bag search at customs, which took a while. Once done with that, I was out and into a taxi quickly, but the driver somehow failed to get the taxi over the one-way spike barrier at the exit of the taxi rank. He then insisted on backing up, and I thought he was going to blow his tyres on the spikes and I’d have to change taxis! But he managed to get free and circled around, and then drove straight over an identical barrier in the other lane, without a care in the world!
But I managed to get home, safe and sound after another trip!