Not the G7 – Back again to Japan

I think it somewhat ironic and hopefully not portentous that I was watching London has fallen on this flight. Tomorrow is the first day of the G7 summit, being held in Japan this year, with seven major world leaders, including US president Obama in attendance.

Fortunately, the summit is Ise Shima, nearer than Nagoya, while we are flying into Tokyo.

I have no doubt that Air Force One is also more luxurious than the Jetstar Boeing 787-8 flight. Not that I’m fussed mind you. This is perfectly adequate, except that it’s not hypersonic.

To fly between Sydney and Tokyo in an hour or two would be a joy. Perhaps Alex can look forward to that when he’s my age.

And yes some people (ie me) talk about teleports to Japan.

As I type this part I can see the anvils of cumulonimbus and feel the odd bumps. But then there are always storms near Guam. Hopefully they and the high cloud will disappear again soon.

I have no faith in the sky.

I didn’t sleep well last night, too concerned about leaving for the airport on time. That meant setting the alarm clock for 4:30 AM.

We barely made it on time, just 10 minutes before  check in closed for a 6:40 AM departure.

As our first leg was a simple domestic flight up to the Gold Coast there wasn’t much more to do than make our way straight to the gate.

Jetstar’s workhorse, the Airbus A320 was tasked with delivering us to our Northern neighbour. This one’s wings were equipped the old-fashioned sharklets.

While we waited to depart the sky turned from deep blue to salmon and cyan, to pale orange and grey.

The sun, a flaming orange ball, rose above the horizon as we taxied out towards the third runway. We took off towards the North, into the clear skies.

A right hand turn saw us flying to the East of Sydney’s CBD with its famous landmarks of the Opera House and Harbour Bridge clearly visible to the left. A magnificent start to what was a near perfectly smooth flight North.

We had beautiful views of the Northern Beaches of Sydney, of the Central Coast and then Northern New South Wales.

Our fares included $5 credit each for meals, so I pooled Alex and my credit to buy him a kids activity and snack pack combo. B had a banana muffin and hot chocolate, the usual.

The approach into the Gold Coast is one of my favourites. Mount Danger and the other imposing mountains to our left as we swing across the coast and past the long beaches for a u-turn and approach from the North.

Fantastic flight, and I hoped that it heralded more of the same during the whole day.

Once we collected our sole checked in bag we quickly checked in for our onwards Jetstar flight to Tokyo Narita. I had already received a message early in the morning that it was running an hour late. No surprise.

The bonus was that we now had more time to enjoy the Gold Coast. Previous experience had taught me just what to do. Under perfectly clear and warm blue skies we walked out of the airport precinct, across the main toad and down to the beach.
There we played in the broad white sand, our feet squeaking with each step. Alex managed to get his shorts wet, I practiced my kata.

When we eventually tired of the beach we returned to the airport terminal and passed through security to the Qantas Club.

Though there wasn’t much a selection of food it was pleasant to relax on a couch for a while. The call came through to make our way across to the international departure gates, a very painless experience compared with the usual queues in Sydney.

We still had to wait a while. The aircraft was delayed leaving Wuhan due to engineering requirements according to the announcement. I slept a little, Alex did some homework.

Eventually it was time to head outside and board our beautiful orange, silver and white 787. The stairs made me realise how large the aircraft is compared to the A320 we’d flown up on.

The 9 across cabin configuration means you are packed in tightly, but with Alex and B along for the ride there were no concerns for me. Legroom was ample for us.

What excited them were the screens. Our last trip was flying Scoot 787s without any on-board entertainment, so a selection of movies and games was very welcome. For one thing it meant not having to fill iPads with movies prior to departure.

The take-off from the Gold Coast is almost as good as the landing, as we arc from the south and over the Tweed River, then out across the water, the skyscrapers of Surfers Paradise making me think of some exotic Middle Eastern city though I’ve never been there.

Soon afterwards we are flying by the Port of Brisbane and the city’s airport. As in New South Wales the air is hazy with the smoke of burnoffs. Peeking through the haze are the volcanic cores of the Glasshouse Mountains. We continue up the Queensland coast before it swings away south of Gladstone.

Cloud hangs over Central Queensland and the air becomes a little rougher. Naturally, this is also when lunch is served. Sadly the meals weren’t as good as last time. Alex and B had chicken cacciatore with risoni. I had beef teriyaki which tasted as brown as the black-brown sauce. Salty and sweet, but nothing subtle.

In many ways this flight followed much the same script as my last Jetstar flight up to Tokyo. High cloud over the Torres Strait, bumps, then somewhat calmer over Papua New Guinea despite the thick cloud. I was surprised when the cloud parted and I could see the rivers to the north. Once we left PNG there was more high cloud and more bumps, but around the equator it calmed down and the flight become really pleasant.

It was then I started watching London has fallen, though with plenty of interruptions. Meanwhile Alex had already completed The Lego Movie and B watched four movies throughout the whole flight. Alex also played various games on the screens, challenging me to a game of chess. It’s been years since I last played. It was pleasing to see that he has already learned many moves.

As we approached Guam more high cloud appear and the flight got bumpier. It stayed that way for a while. Alex had attacks of “Are we there yet.”

With a couple of hours to go we flew through another patch of high cloud which continued all the way into Tokyo. Having movies, the flight map, USB charging, it all helped.

The sky turned grey, the sun set orange, briefly repeating the colours of the morning in reverse. A supper of ham, cheese and tomato calzone was served, quite nice, along with a Tim Tam chocolate biscuit and a tub of water.

I’d coped well with the flight so far, despite a few bumps. The 787 does a good job of cushioning them. But the descent into Narita was scary. It felt like we were racing down through the clouds and it was a very bumpy ride.

Finally we slowed down and things became calm again. Again, a turn around the Boso Peninsula for a landing into Narita from the north.

The windows hazed up as we dropped down through the last kilometre of sky and touched down in Japan. At last the flight was over! It is long and tiring. For the most, a good flight, but that turbulent descent was an affirmation that I cannot say a flight was smooth until we are on the ground.

Terminal 3, the newest at Narita, is only for the low cost airlines and requires the use of stairs rather than air bridges. We clambered down and quickly made our way to immigration where there was already a queue from an earlier flight.

The ladies managing the queue were from the Philippines and, saying it would be faster, they separated Alex and B into one, and myself into another, desk. But my line was behind a couple of elderly mainland Chinese ladies who had no clue what to do, so I was quite delayed compared with the other two.

It’s a long walk down a racetrack to the station at Terminal 2. There we exchanged our JR Pass vouchers for the passes and booked seats on the Narita Express to Shinjuku.

Alex was over tired now and slept as we travelled in comfort on the one and a quarter hour train ride to Shinjuku Station. I typed the blog, using the free JR East Wifi. Outside was mostly black until we passed into the colourful neon of Greater Tokyo. I normally love this country at night, but I was too tired.

It was after 11pm when we arrived in the hotel, quickly crossing the neon canyons of Shinjuku, so familiar to us now. Check in, a quick trip across the road for some late night food from Sakura Sushi, then a wash and collapse into bed.

A long day, but at least we are back in Japan.

(Going to post better/more photos later)

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