I’m not a bad flier, but when I’m in a plane I find myself still partially unconvinced of the physics of flight. I realize the chances of plummeting out of the sky are highly remote, but this doesn’t keep me from clutching the armrests and sweating profusely during turbulence.

It follows, then, that my flight to Tokyo was particularly bumpy. It started off bumpy, and it continued to be bumpy long after the captain had (inexplicably) turned off the “fasten seatbelt” sign. It wasn’t until both the captain and the flight crew came on the PA system to warn us of “severe turbulence” ahead that the flight smoothed out, and remained smooth until we were on the ground at Narita Airport. Sometimes I get the overwhelming feeling that I’m being fucked with.

Immigration at Narita Airport was so backed up that there were signs indicating how long the wait would be from that point, just like in an amusement park. I waited in line for almost forty-five minutes.

I stayed with my friend Jenn, who I know from my days with the (now defunct) Second City Cleveland. She gave me detailed directions on how to get from the airport to Shibuya, where we planned to meet. The directions involved one long subway ride followed by one shorter subway ride, which all told took about two hours. By the time I finally arrived at Shibuya at about midnight I was fairly exausted from five hours of travel.

Shibuya, though, is a place that wakes one up. One of the most crowded pedestrian crossings in the world, this is the place they film when they want to show how crowded Japan is. As soon as the crosswalk sign goes from red to green, a flood of pedestrians from almost every direction swarms into the intersection — it’s pretty cool, really. Also cool are the signs and video screens and flashing lights that surround you, reflecting off the cars and the buildings and the glasses-wearing-people. It was almost exactly what I’d imagined when I’d imagined Tokyo, and there I was standing right in the middle of it. (The picture from yesterday’s post is of the Shibuya intersection.)

Jenn had brought two friends with her to meet me, a big American guy from Idaho and a skinny Japanese woman from Tokyo — both teachers who she works with. After wandering around looking for places to eat or considering ways to get to places to eat, we finally decided to stay in Shibuya and ended up spending the next few hours eating and drinking in a restaurant down the street from Shibuya Crossing. I was very hungry and thirsty, so this worked out well.

A taxi-driving friend of the Japanese woman offered to drive us back to Jenn’s apartment for some reason, so at two in the morning I found myself in the backseat of a taxi riding through the outskirts of Tokyo. They drive on the wrong side of the road in Japan, and the steering wheel is equally misplaced.

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