Japan 2018 – Narita to Seattle

Sunday 8th July 2018

After getting the last of our bags all sorted we checked out of the Park Hyatt and got a cab over to the station. We could have taken the free shuttle but it would drop us on the whole opposite end of the station. We would have two ways of getting over to the New South Entrance to Shinjuku station. The first would involve crossing numerous platforms going up and down, more than likely stairs, to get to the platform we needed. The second option would be to wind through either streets or department stores. Taxi it is!

The taxi dropped us on a higher level than the train but a quick elevator ride and we were there. Pretty simple really. The platform for the Narita Express was well and truly on the other side of the station compared to say the Yamanote line. It felt closer to Yoyogi station than to Shinjuku. This was also the same platform for all the limited express trains that were used (so anything with a seat reservation). We got there just as the previous train was pulling into the station so we stayed out of the way as everyone piled on and the train departed. Mere seconds later our train rolled into the station and terminated. The cleaning crew went on so we would have to wait a little bit before we could use it.

Soon enough though we had access to the train and we got situated. The train was going to be relatively full with plenty of people getting on. Thankfully we were in the train in the first group of people as the train filled up people had problems storing suitcases (it only holds so many large suitcases but the racks were all full. The train rolled out on time to the second and off to Narita we went. The train followed the Yamanote line through to Shibuya to pick up more people and kept going all the way to Tokyo where it joined the rest of the train (we were the back half). From there the train picked up speed and ran express to Narita.

When we got to Narita it was a matter of a long long walk through to the station and a giant line of people at the ticket gates. Lines were a mess as people were lining up to have Suica cards refunded or fares adjusted and a lot of people were getting mixed up as they thought this was the line for rail passes to get out. It was a total mess! After winding our way up all the escalators to the departure level (numerous times i heard people say “should have taken the elevator”) and found our way to check in. Lines moved quickly and we were checked in quickly as well.

Soon enough we were off to security after checking the prices at the currency exchange (why didn’t we change it for the fantastic rate in shinjuku..why!). Security was easy and I didn’t have any troubles (i’m looking at you TSA) and then down to immigration we went. I tried to figure out how to fix up my tax free purchases with customs (apparently you just through the receipt in a box) and joined the extremely long lines for outbound immigration. After making it through the lines we headed off to relax in the lounge.

The ANA lounge was a shit show. People everywhere, crowding, very little in the way of seating, it was like being back at work, ugh. After finding a couple of seats and having to walk the entire length of the lounge to get a glass for a drink (again… ugh). We settled in to try and relax a little. We both were stressed over the environment and after a little while the lounge emptied out some so we found some more comfortable seats. Soon enough we left the lounge to head towards the gate via some final souvenir shopping.

We went to small shop that has always had good candy choices by the lounge. Without fail this place has always had choices that were not available elsewhere. Low and behold today was just like always. We managed to pick up a packet of Tokyo Banana kit kats and some pocky for Heidi before making the long trek to the gate.

The gate (58B) was all the way at the very end of the 50 pier and was both up a set of escalators and back down some stairs. Why… no idea! We got down there and went through a secondary security check (three times for me for some reason) and ran into some of Heidi’s friends we had drinks with the other night. We chatted before boarding was called and it was time to head over to the gate.

All Nippon Airways – NH178
Tokyo Narita to Seattle Tacoma
Boeing 787-8 (JA814A)
Business Class – Seat 9A

Boarding: 1751 (Gate 58B)
Push Back: 1815
Take Off Roll: 1840 (Runway 16R)
Top of Descent: 1028
Touch Down: 1100 (Runway 34R)
Shut Down: 1106 (Gate: S11)

Boarding was called for pre boards, though they didn’t go far as you could see them trapped in the jetbridge. A couple of minutes later boarding officially began with the traditional bow from the staff. Moments later after all of the top tiers were through the gate they let us on. Onto the exact same aircraft we had flown over on. So far this year I am 2/2 for registrations…. That isn’t all that much to talk about, but what is scary is that of 3 different flights on 787-8s with ANA, two out of three have been on the same aircraft. That is kinda of strange. If it had of been the same aircraft for all three, I would just give up!

This time Heidi was stuck sitting near me onboard, so there was no having to go back and forth between cabins. Thanks to Japanese efficiency they had the aircraft boarding right quick. Even with the fact that all of the economy class passengers were walking past us, it still felt pretty easy. Pre Departure beverages were served in plastic (but that is more of a need to be done quickly thing I think) and with a choice of OJ or Champagne. I took an OJ since I wanted to keep my single drink for something else later in the flight.

After they closed the door and came around to get all the cups we started to push off the gate. We pushed back and made the long long trek to the other side of the airport following a long line of other aircraft. As we taxied out to the active there was a long line of aircraft taking off right outside my window with an amazing sunset as well. Watching the aircraft take off gave me chances to practice some panning shots with my point and shoot camera. It went pretty well in my opinion.

It was finally our turn and we turned quickly onto the active and off we went. Although coming out of Narita is usually pretty bumpy, this evening it wasn’t that bad. Not saying there was no bumps, because there was a couple, but it was pretty easy. As we climbed out it was a matter of getting comfortable for what was slated to be a quick flight. Although it’s normally a 9 hour or so flight heading east, we apparently had some good tailwinds tonight as the flight was dropped down to just over 8 hours. Pretty slick, but it meant no real time to relax and sleep or enjoy more than the two meals… no snacks tonight apparently!

As we climbed out the service started with the handing out of menus, when they came back around to take orders they took drink orders and also the meal orders at the same time. One thing I noticed with ANA is that when they have a full cabin, they tend to take a while to get the service moving. When they do it is slow, but it’s very determined and thorough. This is not always a bad thing, but on a flight that may be short like tonight, sometimes you just want to get through the service. I guess you could just order a smaller meal like a bowl of the ramen and get some sleep, however that was not what I wanted to do tonight.

I went with the Japanese course as it would give me a final chance at some kaiseki. Although not as extensive as the first course option, the business class meal looked pretty impressive. There was some conger eel on it, which I never really enjoy, but I would still give it a go. The meal was delicious, extensive and just downright fantastic. But by the time it was almost over it had been 2.5 hours since we took off. This is a loooong time! When dessert came by I was a little greedy and asked for both options (but I didn’t have any cheese, if that helps). This got a strange look but I was the last person in the cabin to be served so i guess it was fine. I tried to use the provided spoon for the blueberry tart and it cracked in half. Thankfully I had already eaten the cassis parfait (which was delicious!).

After dinner was finished I had a cup of coffee and a sake. Yep… sake. I got chastised by my wife for having sake when I shouldn’t have, but I didn’t care. I sat down and enjoyed it with the coffee and slowly sipped away at it. It was pretty delicious! By the time it was all said and done I was almost through my second movie of the flight. The FA came to take away all of the items and i put the seat back to try and get some sleep (though it never really came). I drifted back and forth between rest and awake for a number of hours and eventually got up about 3 hours out.

I didn’t bother to try and get some food when I woke up, because I knew that at two and a half hours out, they started to offer the final food options throughout the cabin. So i fired up a final movie and just waited it out. As the time progressed towards Seattle you could smell the food begin to be heated up. The smell of warming bread just filled the cabin, so that was a great chance for me to get myself all sorted. When they came around to check on us, I took the option of the western breakfast with some cereal as well, because I had not had any in weeks… I was desperate!

The western breakfast was a great spread and included a lovely omelette. None of these fake crappy omelettes from the USA, this was a true, french style omelette, something the japanese do well. It tasted fantastic and was a good breakfast/early lunch as we would touch down just close to lunch time.

As the meal was cleaned up we were about an hour out from Seattle so I got myself sorted for the remainder of the flight. Getting my shoes on, getting the earplanes in and situated, cleaning up around the seat. We passed Victoria BC just as we started descent into Seattle. It was a nice sunny day in Seattle as we began to head down the Olympic Peninsula towards Tacoma and having to head back up. We passed over Bainbridge Island which meant out my window you could see downtown Seattle. You could see the three ships in port picking up boatloads of tourists up to Alaska.

It was sad to have the flight end which meant the vacation to Japan was finally over. We turned over Tacoma to line up for SeaTac and the end of this adventure. As we came into SeaTac there was a giant smackdown and a bounce to the left. Way to finish the flight with a bumpy landing. But the roll out wasn’t too bad and the taxi back to the S gates was relatively quick. We pulled into the gate and low and behold right next to us was a 777 from British Airways starting to be unloaded. This meant a rough time during immigration with a whole 777 load of people right ahead of us. Joy!

Leaving the aircraft, thanking the crew, it was off into the FIS at SeaTac. I have been through there once in the past, on ANA back in 2013. Back when there was not as many flights into the airport. 5 years ago half of the international flights into SeaTac didn’t exist. Now it can be an awful experience. When we got down there though, the lines didn’t look too bad. We skipped all the way through to the Global Entry area which had no one there at all.

Global entry for Heidi went off without a hitch. For me though, not so much. For one, the machine refused to read my green card without the help from one of the CBP agents. From there it just started going downhill, not that I didn’t expect it. So because i am in the waiting period again, apparently Global Entry isn’t valid for me (not that anything anywhere says that). Apparently I also need to have my own customs form and need to go through the main line. Thankfully the CBP guys took pity on me and put me through the process without having to go back over to the other side with all the giant lines. Thank god!

They were all nice about it, which is perfect for me, but for next time I will make sure to do it the right way, rather than the way it happened. Hopefully this will all be sorted out soon enough so that there isn’t too much of a problem. Once through immigration we spent more time waiting for our bags to come out, so I guess it was fine to take a little bit longer. All the bags arrived intact and customs was a non issue. When asked what food we had the answer was “kit kats” “but you can get them here” “not these ones” “how many did you bring back” “too many”.

Onto the train back to the main terminal, Lyft ordered and by the time we got out to the pick up point, we only waited a few minutes before the driver was there. Minutes later we were home, into the house, with Darcy in heidi’s arms within seconds.