Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

A travel day. After checking-in for my flight last night with a short walk to my local tube station I am on my way to the airport. I have a single bag to check and a rucksack to carry onto the plane. The bag is well under weight but I am not so sure it will be on the way way. My wife, Mel, is not coming with me to the airport because she is working and finds it difficult to get away. I will miss her a lot and wish she was coming too but since she is not really a skier and these are really “mother and son” trips…Though I swear the next time I am in Japan it will be with her!

I am flying with Virgin Atlantic and this was my preference as I have flown them several times now and have found their customer service quite good. When I have checked for flights to Tokyo in the past I have found that Aeroflot has always been the cheapest with a stop in Moscow but (a) I am not that keen in seeing, let’s face it, just the Moscow airport and (b) I still think back to the communist days and the laughing-stock that was Aeroflot (I have been told it is much better now but I can’t get this out of my head). Virgin is a bit more expensive (not much) and offers a direct service so I can’t fault this.

After the 25 minute trip on the Piccadilly Line train I arrive at Heathrow Terminal 3. Check-in was a breeze with my walking straight up to a desk then security was quick as well. I checked my email using the free wi-fi in the terminal as I was quite early then made my way to the gate when it was called.

Looking outside of the terminal it is depressing: Rain. Some might say it is a typical England winter but I generally find it is often simply overcast rather than raining. I took a final picture of the plane before we left (posting it quickly to Facebook) helped myself to several of the free magazines on offer at the gate before boarding and making my way to my seat.

View of My Chariot

I am on the left side of the aircraft with an empty seat beside me then the aisle. I am hoping I can get some sleep but I somehow think I will not be able to. I have a bit of a history here: I end up on these long flights and end up unable to sleep meaning I arrive a big mess though, mind you, I think with the 9 hour time change and the 12 hour flight I will be a mess regardless…

I am very much looking forward to this trip. Though we have arranged a certain amount our time is pretty much our own outside of some big things like, of course, the skiing. We have had to book a trip back to the Ghibli Museum and we will have to arrange our transportation but much of the exact details have yet to be finalized. We did pick up the JR Rail pass again this trip which should make some of our more long-distance travel a lot cheaper though at something like £300 each we will need to do a fair amount of travel before it pays for itself - Having said that, there is something to be said for the simplicity of presenting a card and being given train tickets to wherever in the country we fancy…

I have a number of travel books with me on the trip including one that my wife won at a Japan show we visited in London “Japan by Rail” which is interesting in that it gives you a lot of information about rail travel around the country but also things to see and do at every stop along the way. A lot of practical advice such as what exit to leave by, local maps and accommodation close by as well.

The entertainment system on this plane is not very good - Looks like it comes from the 1990s - It is not even play on demand! Ok, lots of movies, but you have to wait for when they start! It looks like I will either be reading, attempting to sleep and/or listening to music…

>> Next: Day 2