It was the best of flights, it was the worst of flights.
After the drama of the day before we were glad that Alex slept through the remainder of the night, but it was oh too short. We rolled our luggage out of the hotel at 6am and along the road to the domestic airport terminal under black skies. Alex was on my chest, snuggled into a Baby Bjorn carrier, as we had decided not to take a stroller with us. His stroller was too heavy and he isn’t old enough to use a small umbrella stroller.
Terminal 2 was surprisingly busy for this early on a Sunday morning. We couldn’t use the automatic check-in kiosk, so the process was completed manually by a cheerful Jetstar representative.
Passing through security was a pain in the neck as I had to remove the Baby Bjorn. And my belt. And I forgot to pick up my belt on the other side.
We barely had time to eat a quick muffin and shake breakfast before boarding our Jetstar A320 to Cairns. We were given an extender seatbelt for Alex and settled into seats 3A and 3B, Alex on B’s lap at the window seat with myself in the middle seat. A young female Japanese pre-school teacher sat in the aisle seat, she was very excited to meet Alex.
I love staring out the window, but B needed the privacy to breastfeed Alex. It was also my job to get up and change Alex’s nappies. Fortunately, the toilets, with change table, was just in front of us.
The black leather Jetstar seats were surprisingly comfortable, the legroom okay. We took off across Botany Bay and into a clear morning sky. There were fantastic views of Sydney city to the left of us, then it gradually changed to the sandstone ridges of the Hawkesbury. B fed Alex during take-off in order to equalise the pressure on his eardrums.
It was a clear and smooth flight until the final moments of our descent into Cairns, as the mountain waves flowed over the tropical beaches, mangroves and muddy water. Two nappy changes later we were on the ground in Cairns. As we walked out through the airbridge and into the tropical heat Alex was smiling his head off at anyone who looked at him.
Cairns airport was in the middle of a renovation and it was a long walk through the construction site to collect our luggage. We met the Japanese pre-school teacher and her friends by the baggage collection belt and they went gaga over Alex. I think he’s going to pull in plenty of Japanese chicks this trip!
Another walk to the very blue international terminal, where another cheerful member of Jetstar’s ground staff checked us in. Time for another feed in a parent’s room, then upstairs to the departure lounge. I like Cairns airport, it’s got real tropical feel to it with just that taste of age. I noted that our Jetstar A332 to Narita was the same as we had flown back from Kuala Lumpur last year, the odd white VH-EBC.
It was a relaxing three hour pause in flights, then we were boarding our flight to Narita. We were given the bulkhead seats on the left side of the aircraft at the front of economy. This meant that we had a bassinet for Alex. With only two seats, I had the aisle and B again the window.
We lifted off into the clouds over Cairns and out across the ocean. So began our flight from hell, which conversely was one of the best flights we’ve had to Japan.
Why the dichotomy? One name: Alex. Friends had led us to believe that flying with young infants was easy. The aircraft noise would lull them into sleep.
The truth for us was so different. Apart from an hour where Alex slept on B’s lap he was awake and whinging. Normally he’s a quiet, happy child, but these past two days have been dreadful. The only times he would be calm and quiet were on B’s breasts. And the number of times I had to get up to change pooey nappies! Three in flight, and one after landing!
I was already stressed due to a lack of sleep over the past few nights. Also, Alex has a cold and this makes me worry more. Then I was fearful of turbulence as the northern route is usually rough and there was a nasty jetstream over southern Japan. I spent the entire flight in a state of agitation and I couldn’t even stare out the window or listen to music to calm myself.
The fears of a bumpy flight were unfounded. For the first time in many, many jet flights the seatbelt light was lit only for take-off and landing. It was a smooth flight with only minor shakes.
What I did see out of the window were clouds far below, the brown rivers of Papua New Guinea. We had tasty meals of teriyaki chicken and pork curry for lunch, and meat pies for dinner. Alex had endless feeds of mummy’s milk.
B shut the blind for the latter part of the flight, opening it only as the sun set. Mount Fuji was visible as a grey pyramid as we descended into Narita.
I have to complement the Jetstar crew, especially Steven who tried to entertain Alex and Larissa who couldn’t do enough for us.
At a familiar Narita we exchanged our Japan rail vouchers for the passes and caught the N’Ex to Tokyo station. Seated in his Baby Bjorn on my chest Alex finally slept and we had our first bit of relaxation for the day. Japan’s cities are fascinating places at night, the red lanterns of the izakayas, the flashing lights of the pachinko parlours and shopping centres. It was exciting to be back!
At Tokyo Station we had to transfer to the Yamanote suburban line to Ueno. Following B’s shouted instructions I jumped aboard a train, but she was left behind as the doors closed. Fortunately, it was only took another 5 minutes for her to catch up, because she had our tickets!
Ueno Station is big and more than a little confusing. I had forgotten to print out the map to the hotel, but, having stared at the website long enough I recognised enough landmarks to lead us there.
Ueno seems like homeless central, with Tokyo’s destitute lining the overpasses from the station. Our hotel was in a nondescript back street and seems like nothing special from the outside. Inside, the rooms are clean, comfortable nd cosy and thankfully do not smell of smoke. They have 32-inch LCD televisions and nice deep baths as well!
After dumping our luggage we ventured out for a quick meal, Alex still attached to my chest. We found a little sushi shop, which was the perfect food for the situation. Every plate that passed us on the conveyer belt was the same price and it was much cheaper than the Australian equivalent.
Finally we returned to the hotel room and settled Alex and ourselves into bed.