Muschamp Rd

Traveling to Japan

June 6th, 2003

When ill, especially when suffering from fever, particularly during a sudden heat wave, I've found it to be unwise to board an airplane for a trans-Pacific flight. Additionally tissues and throat lozenges are not adequate medication for a such a venture. Water consumption, even copious amounts, can not compensate for the dehydration suffered through a relentlessly running nose. A faulty air jet and a malfunctioning headset are not sufficient of a placebo to allow your mind to relax and reflect on the artistic merits and sharp wit of an Ashton Kutcher film.

Normally when all else fails I'd recommend "drinking heavily" as in the Ivan Reitman film, however sufficient inebriation can be difficult to achieve while airborne during an inflight film. Your solace must be found in repeated trips to the bathroom for emergency cold water splashes.

Upon arriving at your destination I've found it best to walk right into the quarantine area look at the heat camera and ask, "Am I too hot?" If the camera does not respond proceed as best you can into the appropriate queue for immigration.

Immigration is fun, all countries want visitors, who have fevers from recently World Health Organization travel advisory listed countries. Doing so shows they are open minded, sympathetic, and buy into the global village mind set. Mind sets like headsets can easily be removed should they suddenly become uncomfortable.

My advice for immigration is to present your passport and provide minimal responses to any questions posed. Do not attempt humour, joviality and/or gestures of good will. Regardless of country, officials have been carefully bread to remove their sense of humour using a top secret government controlled process. This can in some cases require a partial lobotomy.

Immigration and customs are not the same. Immigration is where someone you've never met decides if they'll let you into their country. Customs is where someone you've just met decides if they'll let your stuff in to their country. As Tyler Durden would say "You are not your stuff."

If they want something give it to them with a smile and hope you do not have to see immigration or any additional law enforcement officials.

After a particularly traumatic plane flight it is best to take another plane as soon as possible. A connecting flight to a regional airport is ideal. The body craves regulated air, cramped seats, sharp turns, turbulence, and of course cabin pressure. Why deny your body the simple pleasures?

A preflight ritual, of the confiscation of your letter opener in you Swiss Card, several liters of water consumption, drenching your head in cold water, plus ample time spent watching the clock and flight arrival information, although enjoyable will not fully prepare you. Slowly becoming more and more like a walking corpse will make you the but of conversation of your fellow passengers. You'll know they're talking about you, because you'd be talking about them if the situation was reversed.

Sitting on the runway is fun. Sitting on the runway with a fever is funner. Sitting on the runway with a fever and a bladder full of two litres of water is funnest. Substitute "Taxiing on the runway" and "Waiting for the seatbelt light to go off" for "Sitting on the runway" for additional amusement.

Keeping a good outlook will allow you to overcome many obsticals, whether it helps your bladder control is still the subject of considerable research at the University of California, Berkley Campus.

When you arrive at your final destination, so you'd though, the words you want to hear are "Hi, we have to wait for the others." That said sitting in a small regional airport, after emptying your bladder in a cramped, airplane washroom is more enjoyable than flying Thinking like that is what you need to triumph over adversity.

Everyone else feels better than you, everyone else is happy, everyone else enjoyed their flight. They probably even like Ashton Kutcher movies. These are your new teammates.

Names are a blur. Yours probably has not changed since customs and immigration but may have. Consult the voices in your head. Do not panic and bit down hard on your right rear molar. The Baron Harkonnen is not yet in your sight.

You may not be Duke Leto Atreides, in some sort of torture drug induced quasi consciousness, you this because fat men do not float.

Outside, there are buses. Your bus you are told is not here. Standing and waiting for buses is amongst your favourite pastimes so your cheerfully engage in witty banter with people you've just met.

Thirty six hours of total incapacitation should start you on your road to recovery.

If you are in a room that is swealteringly hot, your air conditioner is not on but there is a console on the wall with a single visible button. It is wise not to press it for a day or two until you've fully appreachiated the heat sans A/C.


Training is as stressful as your preparation partners make it.


The train system in Japan is a model of efficiency. You will find people who prefer to stand rather then sit next to a foreigner. Use this to your advantage to limit idle chit chat so as to concentrate fully on the endless countryside full of cookie cutter houses, rice patties and small hills which the Japanese may refer to as mountains.


Foreigners in Japan are prone to making fools of themselves while drinking. You can either laugh with them, laugh at them, or reread the paragraph.

Vending Machines

No matter what you need the Japanese probably have a vending machine for it. The most common item to be found is cold drinks. The Japanese have a baffling array of juices, sodas, waters, tonics, pops, iced coffees, teas, elixirs and other sundry potions. Many of which have lists of benefits and vitamins and minerals which have been added for your benefit. Some are tasty, some are satisfying, some are vile concoctions best left for the locals.

Return to journal excerpts index. Read more about my time in Japan.
Words and Images © Andrew "Muskie" McKay.
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