Getting There

Let me learn at you a word in Japanese: jisaboke. Translation: jet lag. Literal translation: time difference stupid. No joke.

I believe our English definition is too specific. It just doesn’t take into account—like the Japanese word does—how completely screwed up one becomes after 16 hours on planes and three in cars. It was lady luck who guided this exhausted traveler to greener-than-expected pastures in Kyoto, Japan my first day abroad.

Pre-flight

Let me also introduce another word: reddit. Reddit is the internet hive-mind of good advice (as long as you’re asking in the right place). I went on Reddit’s Kyoto sub-forum and asked how to take the train to get from Kansai Airport in Osaka to Kyoto Station, then from Kyoto Station to my place for the night. I just assumed this is how people get to Kyoto from the nearest international airport, which is not a bad assumption. What I didn’t assume was how people with two huge suitcases get from Kansai Airport to Kyoto.

Well, I was told not to bother with the trains right away and to take a shuttle service instead. Oh, and the shuttle will drop me off anywhere in Kyoto for cheaper than train fare plus taxi. Hallelujah.

After reserving the shuttle online, it was finally time to set off for Japan.

Hour 0

I never understood what Kesha meant by waking up in the morning feelin’ like P-Diddy until I had to wake up at 3:30 a.m. for traveling. I figured I’d appreciate how tired I was on the long flight to Osaka, Japan, but that was dumb. I’ve never been able to sleep on a plane, and I didn’t for the entire 16 hours of sitting.

After kissing San Antonio a sweet, sweet “Suck it!” goodbye, I soon arrived in the other San city in California for my connecting flight.

Hour 7

I got to ride the Boeing 787 Dreamliner for my half-a-day flight out of the country. This thing is incredibly quiet, the seats are noticeably more comfortable, and the movie selection (arguably the most important part of any international flight) expansive. Craziest part of the Dreamliner is the windows, though. It doesn’t have shutters to block out the light; the Dreamliner has electric tinted portholes. Press the down button, and the glass turns a dark blue. Awesome stuff for those of us easily amused.

The person sitting next to my window seat was a fellow college student, though not the study abroad kind. She’s taking two months off school to travel Japan with her friend. How she’s pulling it off without knowing much Japanese—she’d only just started studying—and no help from a university, I don’t know. Talking to her was like seeing a younger, more wide-eyed version if myself doing what I wish I had had the funds and freedom to do back then.

Hour 22

Immigration and customs were a breeze. Trying to stay together with my new friend in a longish line, I was quickly pulled away due to my student visa and had my shiny residency card in-hand. Customs was a joke; if you’re a college kid with only some money to declare, Japan lets you in lickedy split.

Exiting the customs area, I proceeded with completing two tasks I had set out: exchange money & get to the shuttle. After taking advantage of the excellent exchange rate and finding he shuttle desk, something unexpected happened: I got an email. It was from the International Services Office giving me the number of the dorm I was assigned to. Originally, since I’d be arriving just barely too late to make it to the dorm for check-in, I suddenly had the opportunity to bypass the hostel that wouldn’t return my emails.

Only problem: I’ve never used a Japanese pay phone. I rushed over to the conveniently placed green phones and tried what I could to get them to work. dialed the number several times, each time ending up trying to place an international call to a domestic number. After the fifth time the automated voice told me I had screwed up, I punched in the number one more way. Finally, a ring. A pleasant-sounding woman, who turned out to be the dorm caretaker, was on the other line who spoke pretty good English. I told her my situation, and she nonchalantly said, “Sure, you can come in late as long as you get in before 7!”

While it was nerve wracking waiting while the van passed semi-familiar streets as I anticipated my arrival, it paid off. An official from my new dorm went out of his way to check me in that evening, and I slept in the bed that will be mine for the next several months—not just for the night.

Sometimes things just work out for those of us who end up time difference stupid.