I’m back! I had a wonderful time in Korea with my old friend – and with her boys out of the house, we girls had a great time dancing. Or, more accurately, drinking…
The trip itself was not as smooth as I hoped it would be. From Kyoto to Kansai airport it is roughly a two hours trip, and I usually take a group taxi, as this is the most convenient way. This time on the way to the airport, there was only one more person to share the taxi with, but for some reason there was some delay, and we needed to wait for her quite a bit. Then, almost predictably, we ended up in the rush hour traffic jam somewhere before Osaka, but the driver was smart enough to get off the highway and to circumvent it on normal streets. However, as we did not make the usual stop somewhere in the middle, I guess we were still quite pressed for time.
On the airport, after the machine check-in, I unnecessarily spent about 20 minutes in the queue for those who wanted to check in luggage… Oh well, Terminal 2 is tiny anyway, and there was still enough time to eat some udon – the low-cost carrier I flew with does not even offer water during the flight, but then again, it’s only 90 minutes anyway.
Interestingly, I had quite some problems with my luggage check. For some reason I had to run my bag (already emptied of toiletries and the laptop) through the X-ray machine three times, and then they asked me if they could hand search it. I have no idea what triggered the whole thing, but in the end they took away my toothpaste, a 160 mg tube that was not even 1/4 full anymore: “The container is too big…”
On the way back from my friend’s place in central Korea, the highway bus was 30 minutes late and I panicked a little, but I did make my plane. I stood in line for the usual luggage check, and again, they checked my carry on bag three times and then finally conducted a manual search. My pencil-case was a problem (why I still don’t understand), and they took away the best of all my friend’s gifts. Or, they tried to do so – only over my dead body would I give up that 650 gram jar of Nutella!
So, to educate the rest of you: Nutella apparently counts as a liquid in Korea. And you are not allowed to bring it on board except in 100 ml containers. Thanks America! The young woman at the luggage check was very friendly – “I understand, but there are so many CCTV cameras here, I cannot let you have it!” – and suggested check-in, or sending it by mail, or repackaging. Being a bit pressed for time, I went for the first option and paid 3000 YEN extra; that was the most expensive jar of Nutella I ever received as a gift…
In the end, the plane was delayed just enough to make me worry about my taxi home, but I found the information on their homepage to be inaccurate. I finally made it home, dead tired, at about 1:30 on Sunday morning, and dropped into bed immediately; I only opened all the windows to thoroughly air my apartment during the night.
The most interesting part of the whole trip was the special paperwork I had to go through as a resident of Japan. Usually, when entering Japan (and many other countries), you have to fill in a “disembarkation card for foreigners”, giving your personal data and details about the trip.
As a resident of Japan I don’t need to do this anymore. However, those like me living in Japan and intending to return have to fill in an “embarkation card for foreign residents” on their way out of the country. It is essentially the same thing, a piece of paper stapled to your passport, and you have to retain it during your trip abroad until you reenter Japan, where the paper will be removed again.
On top of this, everybody who enters Japan has to fill in a customs form. This time, because I have asked that all my boxes from Germany are delivered, I had to fill in two forms – one for customs at the airport and one for me, or rather: my shipping agency. It was straightforward, the officer was friendly, although he gulped a little when I told him the number of boxes that would be coming. I hope I did not make any mistakes, Japanese bureaucrats can be very literal…
Even though the trip was not very relaxing, the time spent with my friend was certainly worth it. We had great food together and talked a lot and we drank wine and had chocolate. I met some friends, did some shopping, and I could even finish some administrative stuff. Altogether, a very nice holiday indeed!