Monday, 24 January 2005


I went to narita airport today to meet a bunch of new teachers who were arriving to take over from a load leaving at the end of the month. I don't mind going to the airport as it means I get to get out of the office, sit on a train and read for a good hour or two - or you could just call it having a skive and getting paid for it, I suppose. It's a tough job etc. Although now I have changed jobs I am getting out and about a lot more - did I mention I've changed jobs? Well, temorarily at least as I am looking after a job due to maternity leave, which means no longer do I "do something in HR", now I have to manage the director's of studies, which is, well, not what I was doing before. Anyway this means I won't get to go to the airport and meet the newbies as the person who is looking after "my" job is doing that for the duration, but today was rope showing day.

The oddest thing, I think, about Narita, is that once you get off one of the various trains that run there, you go through a kind of pre-immigration screening. So you stroll up to one of the counters, stop and hand one of the police-type bods your alien registration card (or, and I'm glad they're not rascist about this, your passport if you are Japanese). The bod then looks at the card, confirms that you are indeed a card carrying alien, gives it back and allows you to proceed. That's it.

What is the point?

They don't search bags, they don't ask questions, they don't do anything except look at your card and then let you go through. It seems such a waste of time and effort but everyone is stopped and held up for the minimum designated time allowed by the govt for annoying people. And why do they need to check the alien registration card of a person going to meet people and not go anywhere near a plane? I don't know.

Other than that I like Narita airport, though it seems I am in a minority on this one. I remember reading this, or something like it a while ago and it got me thinking. More than one article has gone on about the soullessness of Narita, that it is sterile with no character. Well, every time I go back to the UK I have to experience the sterile Narita and the characterful Heathrow and, well, give me Japan everytime please. Also, as the article in the link goes on about how Narita is a good way out of Tokyo in the rice fields of Chiba, but apparently this is a bad thing. Last time I was in the UK I took the tube from Balham, where I was staying with a friend to Heathrow, and the trip was at least the equal in terms of time of any of the ways from Narita to the center of town. And I've never used the super speedy and plush Narita Express, which at about 3000yen, or 15 quid, is a far better deal than the one from Paddington to Heathrow, so I reckon there is an even better way than I normally use.

For soulless and sterile read lots of space and speedy through times. I mean, who really wants 'character' at an airport anyway? Personally I want the quickest processing time so I have to spend the minimum amount of time there after which I can get on with what I'm doing. If you want character at an airport, go to the third world, or Heathrow, for that matter, which is probably the worst airport I've ever had to use. I rememer when the guru and I were having the UK leg of our extended wedding and her mother and brother came over. We met them at the airport and, after the 12 hour flight, they wanted to use the toilet facilities. The only place we could find was a rickety wooden portacabin outside a terminal as all the ones inside were closed for cleaning or refurbishment. It was embarassing to say the least.

The plushest airport we've been through was Kuala Lumpur, when we went on holiday to Langkawi island. The only problem was that we arrived at about midnight and our connecting flight was at something like 6am, so we had some time to kill. After wandering around for bit we decided to get a few hours kip on a bench, but, and here was the problem, they had the aircon cranked up to arctic mode and we, with our bags in a hold somewhere, had nothing but the t-shirt and shorts we were wearing. In the end we both did our best homeless person impressions by using newspaper as a blanket - rolled up in yesterday's daily yomiuri we must have looked a sight but at least we were warm...

So anyway, Narita, I think you're doing ok.

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