Down the rabbit hole in Kansai

So here’s how it goes. Someone inconveniently dies on your airplane just as it is about to take off. You experience an odd mix of feelings. On the one hand, you sympathize with the family and feel bad for their tragic loss in the least dignified of circumstances. No one should have to die in the economy class of a non-moving airplane. On the other hand, you think to yourself, man, is my connection screwed. You are a bad person and will burn in hell.

But first you will burn in Kansai. Kansai is the international airport in Osaka. That is a lie. Kansai is the international airport that is somewhere in the same general vicinity of Japan as Osaka. On a clear day, you might see Osaka in the distance as you fly into Kansai. Or, then again, you might not. Kansai is where you are supposed to change planes for Hawaii. You want to be in Hawaii. Hawaii has warm breezes, palm trees, and girls in bikinis. You have packed clothes for Hawaii. They are thin clothes.

Kansai is on an artificial island they built somewhere in the general vicinity of Osaka because to build an airport on existing land near the city would have been a silly idea, and not used enough concrete. Kansai is apparently sinking slowly. This must really piss people off. Or, then again, maybe it doesn’t. After all, keeping the airport from sinking will keep construction companies busy for decades. Japan likes to keep its construction companies busy. Japan invented the idea of the “bridge to nowhere”. Most places build a useless bridge from somewhere to nowhere. In Japan, they build a bridge from nowhere to nowhere. They are that committed.

There is a bridge from Kansai Airport to Rinku. Rinku is nowhere. It is certainly not in Osaka. Arguably the airport is somewhere, but it’s nowhere you would want to be. The bridge from Rinku to Kansai is a bridge from nowhere to nowhere. It also has a train. Eat that, Gravina Island.

You need to take a bus over the bridge to nowhere. A young lady from the airline meets you at the jetway, escorts you through the airport and puts you on the bus. She bows and scrapes constantly. She is a professional bower and scraper called into service to apologize for the inconvenience of your delay. She bows and scrapes so hard that she leaves a scuff mark from the jetway through the terminal, through quarantine, through immigration and through customs. She is, however, incapable of arranging meal vouchers for you. This leads to more bowing and scraping. Your back gets sore as you watch her. You are disarmed but feel like an idiot for it.

Waiting for the bus you realize that clothing for Hawaii is inappropriate for late winter in Osaka. Or Rinku. Or wherever the hell it is you are. You are cheered, however, by the fact that the bus is full of pretty ANA stewardesses. ANA has very pretty stewardesses. And they can do CPR. This may be useful if you pass out from the cold while waiting for the bus. On the other hand, it didn’t help the guy on the plane you were on earlier. They told that guy not to fall asleep, and look what happened to him. If you hear a stewardess telling you not to fall asleep, panic.

The bus drives you and the stewardesses over the bridge to nowhere and drops you in front of a splendid, gleaming hotel. This is not your hotel. This is the stewardesses’ hotel. Your hotel is across the street, over a footbridge that you must drag your bags over. It is not tall and gleaming. It is short and squat and looks like a Chinese hospital with a Japanese convenience store embedded in it. There are no stewardesses staying there. There is apparently nobody staying there except for you. The convenience store is useful because the restaurant is closed. Who would want to eat dinner in the evening? Who stays in Rinku? Only the stewardesses, and they’re in the nice hotel across the street. Tough shit, hombre.

The hotel room is small. It reminds you of the single-occupancy dormitory room you stayed in twenty years ago in college except with a tiny, little, Munchkin-sized ensuite bathroom with an intergalactic toilet in it. They spared no expense on the toilet. The pillows, however, are apparently stuffed with something that gives them the consistency of sacks full of Tylenol gel-caps. This does not seem restful. There is a bilingual New Testament and a bilingual Teachings of Buddha. If you’re an atheist, you’d better have brought your own reading material.

The room has a view of Rinku. Rinku is nowhere. From this room you cannot even see the bridge. That is one of the room’s redeeming features. Another redeeming feature is that it has a television. The guide on the desk says that channel 1 is the BBC. This is a lie. Channel 1 is showing an infomercial for Japanese lingerie. This is not as exciting as it sounds. This is your grandmother’s lingerie. This is almost certainly not the lingerie that the stewardesses are wearing. The BBC is nowhere to be found. There is Internet, however. Thank god for that, because this is Japan and your mobile phone and Blackberry are only good for talking to the voices in your head. Those voices are telling you to turn off the TV.

The mini-bar is not a redeeming feature. It is empty. Foreigners are not trusted with a full mini-bar. They might get drunk and head for the stewardess hotel across the street. This would be disorderly. You flip through the hotel service guide in the desk. There is an entry for the mini-bar. It says “Room refrigerators have no drinks.” No shit, Sherlock. I guess the money for the toilet had to come from someplace. You are referred to the convenience store. The Japanese have an answer for everything. But they still have no meal vouchers.

Breakfast isn’t until 9 tomorrow morning and you are in Rinku in winter watching an infomercial for bad Japanese lingerie in a hotel room with an empty mini bar and James T. Kirk’s crapper. You should be on your way to Hawaii. Travel is great.


Phasers on kill.

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